Bachelet Kicks Off Her Official Visit to Cuba With a Gathering of Artists / 14yMedio

The president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, attended a meeting with Cuban intellectuals at the headquarters of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) where she was hosted by its president, Miguel Barnet. (Alejandro Ernesto / EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, Yeny García, Havana, 8 January 2018 — Chilean president Michelle Bachelet began her official visit to Cuba on Sunday — her penultimate trip abroad as head of state — with a gathering of the island’s leading artists and the signing of a collaboration agreement in film restoration and promotion.

Bachelet arrived in Havana in the early hours of Sunday and later visited the headquarters of the official Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), where she met behind closed doors with its president, the writer Miguel Barnet, and the famous actor Jorge Perugorría.

Barnet, author of the acclaimed Biography of a Cimarron (1966), had a short private meeting with the union president, who showed her the gardens of the house occupied by the organization in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood. continue reading

Later, at the Villa Manuela Gallery, Bachelet attended the signing of a collaboration agreement between Chile’s National Council of Culture and the Arts and the state-run Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC).

Chile and ICAIC agreed to collaborate in the identification of patrimonial films to be restored, in addition to promoting the exhibition of Cuban films in Chile, ICAIC president Roberto Smith explained to the press.

Smith highlighted the “historic links” between the cinematographies of both nations, especially the Viña del Mar Film Festival of 1967, to which Havana’s New Latin American Film Festival “declares itself indebted.” Strengthening the alliance between both countries’ filmmaking is “an old aspiration” of Cuba, stressed the official.

This Monday Michelle Bachelet will start her second and last day of her official visit to Havana with the inauguration of a business forum at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba.

Businessmen traveling in the presidential delegation in search of new opportunities for Chilean investments in the Island, which currently amount to 52 million dollars, will participate in the bilateral meeting.

Bachelet will also visit a school of education named after the former Chilean president Salvador Allende (1970-1973), where the signing of a bilateral collaboration agreement in the healthcare sector will take place.

The Chilean president will meet Monday afternoon with her Cuban counterpart, Raúl Castro, who will receive her at the Palace of the Revolution, the seat of Government.

Before that meeting, the Chilean president will offer the traditional tribute at the monument to José Martí, in the emblematic Plaza de la Revolución.

Cuba is the penultimate country to which Bachelet will travel as head of state; her final trip will be to Japan. In March she will hand over her office to former president Sebastián Piñera, the winner in the most recent Chilean presidential elections.

Bachelet’s trip to Cuba has generated criticism among both the opposition and government sectors in her country, who do not see the reason for it and demand that the outgoing president reject “the violation of human rights” on the island.

The Chilean government’s spokesperson, Paula Narváez, disagreed with the reproaches, saying that Bachelet “is exercising her faculties as president of the Republic visiting a country where there is a bilateral agenda to be addressed which has been clarified by the foreign minister.”

Cuba and Chile have relations dating back to the 1960s, when Cuba sent doctors to help the victims of the tsunami and earthquakes in the Chilean town of Valdivia.

Cuban emergency brigades also traveled to Chile after the earthquakes of February 27, 2010, in Rancagua, and April 24, 2017, in Valparaíso.

The visits in the 1970s of Cuban President Fidel Castro to Santiago, and from Chilean President Salvador Allende to Havana, are among the milestones of the bilateral relationship.

Michelle Bachelet visited the Cuban revolutionary leader, now deceased, in his retirement during her trip to Havana in 2009, the first by a leader of her country to Cuba since 1972.

The president of Chile also attended the signing of the historic bilateral ceasefire between the Government of Colombia and the FARC guerrillas in June 2016, which took place in the Cuban capital.

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Wifi, Another Opportunity To “Resolve Things Under The Table” / EFE, Yeny Garcia

People of all ages connect to the WiFi from the center of Pinar del Río. (14ymedio)
People of all ages connect to the WiFi from the center of Pinar del Río. (14ymedio)

EFE, 14ymedio, Yeny Garcia, Havana, 28 September 2015 – For the last three months Cuba has experienced an unprecedented, although still limited, increase in Internet access with 35 new WiFi points, a boom that engages Cubans and that has led to the proliferation of services “under the table.”

Many “bisneros” [businessmen] or street traders have taken advantage of the inability of the telecommunications monopoly, ETECSA, to maintain a stable supply of recharge coupons, high prices and the lack of knowledge among neophyte users, to offer services outside the legal to meet demand.

“It’s like it’s always been, we try to resolve it however we can, we don’t worry too much about how, the problem is to resolve it, to connect,” says Gerardo, a young man who has settled with his laptop on a bench on Boulevard San Rafael in Old Havana, where one of the wireless internet areas operates. continue reading

Almost always this Cuban “resolve” goes one way: “under the table,” which explains what this young Havanan intends to do to be able to challenge the restrictions.

For Gerardo “the world moves through the Internet” so the access to the web brings “many benefits to Cubans,” although for some it is still very difficult to pay the 2 Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) fee for one hour of internet (over $10 US or one-tenth or more of the average monthly wage).

The eagerness of Cubans to surf the web has resulted in 55,000 individual connections from the 35 WiFi points spread across the island

“The price for the cards is very expensive, because we cannot do much in an hour, the connection is very slow, you have to keep reconnecting, and in the end it is not economical for us,” he said.

Cuba is one of the countries with the lowest rates of connectivity in the world, with only 5% of people connected to the internet (that is, not the island’s own intranet), which is reduced to 1% for broadband.

The eagerness of Cubans to surf the web has resulted in 55,000 individual connections from the 35 WiFi points spread across the island, 8,000 of them simultaneously, according to the official data.

“Many people connect and ETECSA isn’t equipped to sell the recharge cards, the lines are very long, they’re only sold during working hours. So you have to go to the black market,” a “bisnero” who offers the service told EFE, asking for anonymity.

Reselling the cards, generally at 3 CUCs (one above the official price) means having “the police always on top of you,” and so this business has shifted to “installing software,” to turn cellphones into WiFi hotspots.

Several local media, among them the main official newspaper, Granma, criticize these WiFi “merchants” who sell to users via middlemen who use their devices to create alternative wireless networks that can be accessed for half the official price.

“People often do not have the money to take advantage of what is offered, but they’re aware of all this and have increased the surveillance; I myself have been picked up by the police, for no reason, and they had to let me go,” says this young man who recognizes that “the wifi is something that has not been developed as it should have been.”

“ETECSA isn’t equipped to sell the recharge cards, the lines are very long, they’re only sold during working hours. So you have to go to the black market”

Another user, Grisel, welcomes the opportunity to connect, but is concerned about the consequences, “You have to keep your eyes open, so that someone doesn’t take your cellphone,” recognizing that the price will continue to be “elevated” if you take into account the average Cuban salary.

Hundreds of people, focused on their phones, tablets and computers, accommodate themselves as best they can on sidewalks, benches, stairs and curbs within the WiFi zones, including Yainiel, who travels from Santiago de las Vegas, about 12 miles from Havana, to connect.

“I come from far away,” he tells EFE, while affirming that “when so many people with phones and computers are outdoors, robberies increase the insecurity.”

The young engineer acknowledges the poor quality of the connection, “when there are a lot of people it is very slow and that’s money that it’s costing you,” he said, noting that this is why many people prefer to pay half-price, even though it is illegal.

“If ETECSA lowers prices (…) and expands the sale of cards, this (the illegalities) will eventually fall,” he said, while excusing himself saying that in Cuba “time is money.”