With Water Chest-high / Camilo Venegas Yero

Playing dominoes in Cuba after Irma.

Camilo Venegas Yero (from his blog “El Fogonero”), Dominican Republic, 11 September 2017 — I found this image on a Facebook wall. It illustrates today’s Cuba like few others. In it, it is clear that the ruined country survives from catastrophe to catastrophe, without producing anything that makes it move in any direction (when you’re stuck any movement is better than nothing).

The sea, driven by Hurricane Irma, fills the streets of Havana. It would seem there is no time to lose, however this group of Havanans wastes it playing dominoes. Shortly before I saw this photo, I read a dialog between Dominicans. They commented on “the great discipline of the Cuban people.”

“It is admirable,” one of them said, “everything the Revolution does to minimize the impact of these natural disasters.” Another noted the million people evacuated, and even that a group of actors had performed to ease the stress of the refugees. continue reading

Is it perhaps that there is not a great concentration of victims in Cuba? The problem for Cubans is not the tensions of a storm, but the poverty-stricken daily life that awaits them after its passage. I was tempted to share this image with the Dominicans, but these kinds of discussions already exhaust me.

Tomorrow, when the waters return to their level, they will steal something, or buy something stolen, or – if they are fortunate enough to have a family member in exile – call them to resolve their problems. Today the sea is chest high, tomorrow it will be reality that causes the same feeling of suffocation.

That is why they can’t think of anything better to do than to sit in the water and shuffle the dominos.

Cuba Awaits Irma, One of the Most Powerful Hurricanes in its History, With Empty Markets

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez/Mario Penton, Havana-Miami, 6 September 2017 — After devastating Antigua and Barbuda, Hurricane Irma continues to approach Cuba with sustained winds of more than 180 miles/hour. The islander’s residents are anxious buy food, candles and materials to reinforce doors or windows but the chronic shortages of the last weeks are aggravated by the increase in demand.

In Baracoa, one of the cities that is most afraid of the approach of a new hurricane because it has not yet recovered from the previous one, people took to the streets this morning in search of food that does not need refrigeration and that can withstand the scourge of humidity, but found very little to buy. continue reading

“There are no cookies nor milk powder, nor are they selling candles and the bakeries have had very long lines since dawn,” Humberto López, a resident of the town whose home lost its roof during Hurricane Matthew, lamented on the phone, adding that he did not want “that monster come here.”

The Cuban economy has suffered since the beginning of the economic crisis in Venezuela. This year Raúl Castro’s government announced a cut of US $1.5 billion in imports in the first half of the year, with a direct effect on the retail market.

Despite an increase in remittances and tourism, the Cuban economy depends to a large extent on contracts signed with Caracas, which supplies some 60,000 barrels of oil a day in exchange for thousands of Cuban specialists camped out in its territory.

Cuban authorities have declared a hurricane alert for the center and east of the country, the step that precedes the hurricane alarm, just as the winds begin to beat the island. So far this century, Cuba has faced about 15 hurricanes with losses of more than 26 billion dollars, according to official figures.

Hurricanes that have hit Cuba by region. Source: National Meteorological Institute.

In the market at 3rd and 7th streets, in the west of the Cuban capital, the number of customers has not yet increased significantly, but in the the stores refrigerators this Wednesday there are only chicken pieces, hotdogs and a few packets of ground meat. The most cautious are, for the most part, owners of private businesses who don’t want to run out of supplies.

“There is no toilet paper, there are only small bottles of water and milk there is nothing for days,” laments Yusnier, a young entrepreneur who helps his mother rent three rooms to tourists. “We have to guarantee the foreigners breakfast every day and this hurricane puts everything at risk.”

These were the shelves of Nuevo Milenio market in La Timba this Wednesday. Without milk, tomato sauce or tuna, dozens of Havanans came to the store to stock up on provisions. (14ymedio)

If Irma were to hit the island as a category 5 storm on the Saffir Simpson scale, it would enter the record books as one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the largest of the Antilles; since records have been kept, starting in 1791, only three hurricanes of this intensity have reached the Cuban coast.

According to data from the Institute of Meteorology, 115 hurricanes have hit Cuba since 1791. Of these, 14 hurricanes had an intensity in the winds between 130-156 mph, corresponding to category 4 an the scale and about 16 reached category 3 (111-129 mph).

In the main agricultural markets of the capital, people’s anxiousness to store food is already apparent. A pound of black beans, which costs the official salary of a working day in places such as San Rafael Street or 19th and B in Vedado, were selling like hot cakes as of yesterday afternoon. “It’s something that does not spoil and that can withstand rain and wind,” said a customer this morning in front of a display of chickpeas.

Left: Hurricanes that have hit Cuba by category. Right: Months in which hurricanes have hit Cuba.

On a tour of hotels near the coast of Havana it is not yet possible to see the warning signs. “The city has not yet been formally put on alert so we do not have the authority to allocate resources to cover the windows or take other protective actions,” an employee of the Deauville hotel, who preferred to remain anonymous, told this newspaper.

The cays located in the north of the island, one of the main tourist centers of the country, are among the most affected. At a time of increases in tourism, Irma could force the authorities to carry out mass evacuations of travelers from the areas in greatest danger and move them to other tourist centers, in a country with a hotel capacity, as of the end of 2015, of only 63,000 rooms.

The authorities have warned that the main dangers associated with Hurricane Irma are wind, rain and sea penetrations. In 2008 the penetration of the sea in Baracoa, the first city founded in Cuba, completely destroyed its malecón and the first row of houses of that city. That image was replayed with the scourge of Hurricane Matthew and could be repeated with the approaching passage of Irma.

Set Fire To Havana In Order To Hide The Body? / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Fire at the store “La Mezclilla” (Photo archive)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 21 February 2017 – People say that when an event happens repeatedly it stops being an accident. The fire that took place on Monday, February 20th, 2017, in “La Mezclilla” store, in the neighborhood of San Leopoldo (Municipality of Centro Habana) is the third one in less than a month in a State-owned business in that municipality.

The first incidents occurred in an establishment dedicated to the assembly and sale of paintings and mirrors (Subirana Street, Pueblo Nuevo neighborhood); while the second, which took place a few days ago, started in the appliances department of the commercial complex known as La Feria de Rayo (Calle Rayo, in Chinatown). continue reading

So today’s fire adds to the mysterious tendency of “spontaneous combustion” that is becoming viral in State stores, which most suspicious Habaneros tendentiously attribute to the offensive the Comptroller General has been carrying out In different companies and that are exposing numerous pilfering, shortages and corruption, especially in centers dealing in Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) or the Cuban pesos (CUP) equivalents.

Fans of Mathematics cannot avoid the temptation to relate fires directly to the offices of the comptroller, as summarized in the following axiom: “An increase in in controllers is directly proportional to an increase in state-owned businesses fires”

True or not, the causes of these strange fires have not been clarified by the authorities thus far. In fact, these fires have not even been reported in the national media, perhaps because they are attributed to an accidental and “local” character, or because – in the midst of all the material deprivation and social discontent- it is wiser not to stoke the flames.

Some residents of the buildings adjacent to the fires point out that firefighters and other specialized forces that have acted in these cases have offered them the questionable explanation that it’s possible that the buildings’ aging electrical systems have not withstood the overload caused by the “high consumption” of these establishments, which sparked the initial fire in the wires. This explanation does not convince anyone, especially taking into account that the wiring of foreign exchange stores is independent and much newer than the systems for the municipality’s residential sector and, in theory, was previously calculated on the basis of electricity usage for this type of premises.

Additionally, the plan of rigorous savings in electricity that has been applied to the foreign exchange stores for a little more than a year suggests the opposite: a decrease in consumption. For example, it is well known that all stores are required to comply with a plan of “energy indicators” which the stores cannot surpass, under penalty of losing certain bonuses. This forces store employees to turn off the air conditioning equipment according to a schedule previously established by management, and as a result employees and customers alike have to withstand the suffocating heat in the stores, which are not well ventilated, since they were designed for the constant use of air conditioning.

The chronic shortages in these businesses of late has also lightened the burden on consumption, since many freezer/refrigerators, where frozen products were once stored have been turned off and are out of service, which also tends to weaken the version of the “electrical overload “as the cause of fires.

But it happens that, in addition, there are notorious antecedents that reinforce the malicious comments at the popular level, and are feeding the rumors. No one has forgotten that a few years ago there was a big fire in the “La Puntilla” store, and it was well known in the street that the incident was initiated by a few employees who were involved in an enormous embezzlement. Setting fire to the store was the swiftest recourse they found to have the evidence for the crime disappear.

A similar case, equally silenced by the authorities, was the fire which some sources considered intentional that took place about a year ago in the basement of the popular Yumurí store (formerly known as “La Casa de los Tres Quilos [The House of the Three Pennies] located at the corner of Reina and Belascoaín Roads, also in Centro Habana, right in the marketplace department.

One does not have to be overly surprised. Cuba’s own history shows more than one example of how the displeasure of criollos has been expressed by flames. Thus, we have episodes like the Bayamo fire by the Independence Forces, the one in the city of Cárdenas, by Narciso López, and the incendiary torch that ruined the economy of not a few property and land owners in the 19th Century, among other notorious events, fruit of the pyromaniac national tradition.

In summary, whether or not the rumors are true, the fact is that several state businesses from different parts of the capital are suffering in these days a kind of fiery epidemic. If there really were a relationship between fires, embezzlement and bad management, the whole island of Cuba would be close to burning from one end to another.

Just in case, it would be advisable that, going forward, controllers begin to consider the possibility of carrying out their rigorous controls while supported by teams of firemen, cisterns and fire trucks… to see if at least they are able to do it before the flames.

Voices From Cuba: Obama Yes And Trump Too / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata

President Obama has lost popularity in recent days on the island, following his change in immigration policy. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 20 January 2017 – There were two Donalds that Cubans associated with the United States: the cartoon duck and the famous hamburger chain. Starting Friday, added to the list will be Donald Trump, the new president of our neighboring country. Not as nice as the Disney character nor as addictive as fast food, the magnate also incites passions on this island.

After two years of a thaw between the governments of Washington and Havana, the process of normalization has come across as a obstacle in its path. The election of the controversial businessman to rule the fate of the United States threatens to alter the plans of the Plaza of the Revolution and shake up daily life on the island. continue reading

“If he manages to fix the economy of the United States, that will help us as well because there will be more money and tourism from there,” said Victor Manuel, a 28-year-old pedicab driver in the Fraternity Park area of Havana. The young man thinks that “Trump campaigning is one thing and it is something very different when he is in the White House.”

Not as nice as the Disney character with the same first name nor as addictive as the similarly named fast food chain, the magnate-become-president also incites passions on this island

In 2015, remittances to Cuba reached a record $3.35 billion, according to The Havana Consulting Group. The new relationship between the two countries has mainly favored this type of transfer. Limiting them would be a very unpopular measure among nationals.

Trumpmanía has come to the island and has many ways to express itself: if two months ago carrying an American flag could be read as a nod to Uncle Sam, today it can be a much more personal message and addressed to one man.

“That’s the guy that we needed, so he can put things in their place,” said Eduardo Mesa, who on Thursday connected on the wifi of the Latin American Stadium to inquire about the fate of two friends stranded in Colombia on their way to the United States.

Obama contributed to Trump’s popularity on the island in recent days. A few days after the White House tenant eliminated the wet foot/dry foot policy that benefits Cuban migrants reaching US territory, the popularity of the outgoing president has fallen to its lowest in eight years.

“He deceived us, he came and behaved like one of us to end up hurting us,” says Román, 27, a resident of Guanajay, who had his raft ready to launch into the sea to try to reach the American shores.

“I had the hydration salts, the engine, the canned food and a GPS bought clandestinely” to start the trip, but the departure date was scheduled for January 14, two days after the immigration benefits were suspended.

Lucia Pereira, a retired teacher and resident of Havana’s Lawton neighborhood, believes that Cubans will always remember Obama as “the American president who helped both countries reconnect and leave behind so many useless hatreds.” After the thaw, her son living in Miami has visited twice.

Norma is among those disappointed with the outgoing president. The 76-year-old woman has come to the parish of Calle Reina to buy a new bible because she gave the previous one to her daughter, who is on a medical mission in Venezuela. “She did not want to benefit from the [American] Parole program for doctors, but a very close friend yes,” they should do it, she says. The elimination of the program that benefited Cuban doctors who applied for residency in the United States was, in her opinion, “an Obama prank before saying goodbye.”

The elimination of the program that benefited Cuban doctors who applied for residency in the United States was, in her opinion, “an Obama prank before saying goodbye.”

Outside a church, Manolo, who asks for alms with a small image of San Lazaro, doubts that his luck will change with the new tenant of the White House. “Here poor people will remain poor, because it has nothing to do with what the US president does,” he told 14ymedio.

Dressed in a gray uniform and attentive to all who climb the steps of the University of Havana, a custodian, who prefers not to give his name for fear of reprisals, seems uninterested in the details of the government of the northern neighbor. “It does not matter, Obama or Trump is the same,” he says reluctantly. Nevertheless, he thinks that that difficult times are coming for Cuba because he doesn’t see any progress. “Trump can be good or bad, but what we need most is for the ones here to loosen their hands and take a breather, because we are drowning,” he concludes.

“Here poor people will remain poor, because it has nothing to do with what the US president does”

The island’s businessmen and merchants are feeling concern about the decisions of the new White House tenant.

At the market at Infanta and Manglar Streets the new president generates some expectations. “Last year we had many problems with the supply of products,” says an employee, “but if this man is as entrepreneurial as they say, he will improve business with Cuba and more products will arrive.” Among the “made in the USA” goods customers there prefer are “the frozen chicken, corn, beans, vegetables, tomato sauces and oats,” she details.

At the exit of El Presidente private restaurant, in the centrally located G street in the Vedado district, Christian was waiting on Thursday afternoon for a friend to eat together. “Havana is full of tourists thanks to Obama, but with Trump that can come to an end,” the German traveler visiting the island for the first time fears.

But there are those who cannot avoid looking at the internal key and turning their eyes into the Island. Yunior, 41 and unemployed, reflects: “The only thing I know is that since I was born I have seen eight American presidents and only two Cubans. Why is that?”

Karina Gálvez: “I Knew a Lot of People Were Watching Over Me” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Karina Gálvez, editor of the magazine Coexistence in Pinar del Río (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 18 January 2017 — When she got home, she kissed her mother and took a long, intense shower, like the one she dreamed during the six days she was detained. Karina Galvez let the water run to take away her weariness and the hopelessness that the imprisonment had caused her. Outside her home, neighbors welcomed her with hugs on Tuesday, after she was released on a 2,000 Cuban peso bond, still facing charges of alleged tax evasion, linked to the purchase of a home.

During his first hours out of the cell, Galvez knew that the Cuba he had left a week before had changed. She learned, only then, of the end of the United States’ Wet Foot/Dry Foot policy and she knew that the international solidarity around him had been much greater than she could have imagined. Surrounded by her friends and trying to recover every missing minute, the economist answered some questions for 14ymedio via telephone.

Yoani Sanchez: What is your current legal situation? Is there a date for a hearing?

Karina Gálvez: They haven’t told me a date for the trial. The only thing I have is the document known as the “auto” that describes the case, so I can name a lawyer. continue reading

Yoani Sanchez: What were the main emotional supports you had in your days of confinement?

Karina Gálvez: I confess I had moments when I felt emotionally broken. I had never slept in a cell before. The anguish of being unaware of what was happening outside, of being cut off, was quite strong.

At one point I asked God to give me a sign that he was there with me and a few minutes later Major Odalys came in and brought me a bible that my sister had brought me. I was very shocked by that moment.

It has been one of the most difficult things I have ever experienced, although I felt sure of solidarity

It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever experienced, although I felt sure of solidarity. I knew a lot of people were watching over me and that my family was not alone.

Yoani Sanchez: And on leaving did you confirm that impression?

Karina Gálvez: I fell a little short in my calculations… last night when I left I found out that the solidarity had been immense. Support has gone beyond friends. I have to thank all those who supported me and tell them that all the energy of knowing that people were with me helped me a lot in there.

Yoani Sanchez: What were the conditions of the place where you were detained?

Karina Gálvez: I can not complain about my treatment, because it was – within the injustice that I was there – respectful and without offense. But the material conditions were difficult. Especially the bathrooms, water and food, which are difficult anywhere in Cuba. On the other hand, in an situation of anguish I found it difficult to eat. Although I was willing to so as not to get sick and to preserve my health.

Yoani Sanchez: The arrest took place a few days before the second part of a meeting of the Coexistence Studies Center, this time in Miami. Will you be able to participate?

Karina Gálvez: No, because I have a pending case I cannot leave the country.

Yoani Sanchez: Have you been unable to access your home from where you were arrested?

Karina Gálvez: The house is still “occupied,” with a seal placed on the door and almost all things that are inside are also “occupied.”

Tinder Turns La Rampa Into A Catwalk For Love / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez

Young people connect to the WiFi on La Rampa, in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 30 December 2016 — “You have to show yourself like a peacock, with all your colors,” Tito, 22, explains to a friend who just downloaded the Tinder application onto his phone. The social dating network is sweeping the island and among young people it is one of the most used apps in the wifi zones, where it competes in popularity with IMO, Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp.

“I signed up two months ago and I have already met several girls,” a young man with a degree in accounting and a job as a waiter in a private restaurant tells 14ymedio, as he looks for a connection under the screen name Victor Manuel. Every night Tito goes to La Rampa to “hunt for chicks with my cellphone,” he says. In his profile photo he wears a tight T-shirt and a thick gold chain around his neck. continue reading

The success of Tinder, created in 2012 in the United States by Sean Rad, Justin Mateen, Jonathan Badeen and Ramón Denia, is due in large measure to that it has simplified the act of making contact

The success of Tinder, created in 2012 in the United States by Sean Rad, Justin Mateen, Jonathan Badeen and Ramón Denia, is largely due to the fact that it has simplified the act of making contact. Unlike other dating tools such as OkCupid, Match, Meetic and eDarling, this tool avoids long questionnaires and algorithms that seek affinity between one user and another.

In its interface, translated into 24 languages ​​and available in 196 countries, you only need to take a quick look to select or remove a candidate. Tinder was chosen as 2014 App of the Year at the Enter.Co Awards. At that time it was estimated it already had more than 50 million users.

Tito’s routine includes reviewing photos and small biographies of network users around him. When he sees a profile he likes, he touches the image with a finger and swipes right to ‘like’ it. If the woman does the same with his photo, then they can begin to interact. With a swipe to the left, profiles that are not of interest are discarded.

Mobile dating apps and erotic chat rooms are gaining ground among Cubans. At first people connected through Facebook Messenger, sent hot photos through Zapya, or chatted in matchmaking forums, but increasingly they use services created specifically “for these purposes,” says José Ramón, an engineer who graduated from the University of Information Sciences (UCI).

Ramón says that “there have been several attempts to make a national application to connect couples, but in the end those that have an international reach haven’t taken hold, because many Cubans want contact with foreigners and with people who have emigrated.”

On several national classified ad sites there are ads for “boy seeks girl” with all the possible variations of gender and number, but José Ramón believes that the Tinder experience is totally different, since it gets the adrenaline flowing because you can the users who are connected nearby and who are looking for a partner.

“From the beginning of the exchange of messages to the first kiss, it can be less than half an hour”

“That means that from the beginning of the exchange of messages to the first kiss, it can be less than half an hour,” he says. “No need to go slowly because everyone who has set up an account on this service is looking to find someone as quickly as possible. Even the timid ‘start off running’.” he jokes.

With the diplomatic thaw between Cuba and the United States, many Internet services have included the island in their services. Now tourists can book accommodation through the popular website Airbnb, and Cubans on the island can download utilities from Google Play while local applications have also flourished.

Country maps, private restaurant recommendations, guides for rental houses and tools for buying and selling products abound among the creations of national developers. But Tinder offers something different: an intuitive and fun platform to flirt, date and get into bed with someone who an hour before was a perfect stranger.

Prior to having Tinder, Tito used to hookup the old fashioned way. “I would stand outside the clubs or on the wall of the Malecon until I would see some woman alone.” But he confesses that getting out the first word embarrassed him and it was difficult to break the ice. Now he seems decided while he right swipes the profile of a nurse, age 23. “This is like choosing a flavor of ice cream: sometimes you are surprised by a good chocolate and other times you have to make do with vanilla.”

There have been several attempts to make a national application to connect couples, but in the end those with an international reach are successful, because many Cubans want to connect with foreigners. (14ymedio)

Alberto and Andrea Orlandini, authors of the Dictionary of Love, published by Editorial Oriente, believe that when relationships are sought through the network or other digital tools “deception is common” but “it is not unusual to find cases of genuine love which can end in a good marriage.”

“I can only count to 15,” a recently arrived tourist confessed in his Tinder account. It was an ingenious way of saying that he was missing a hand. His sincerity, on a network where exaggerations about physical attributes abound and photos are commonly retouched, earned him several right swipes among a group of young people connected near the Cuba Pavilion.

“Sometimes, when you meet the person, they don’t look like the profile picture,” complains Ana Laura, 19. “It has happened to me several times that the guy was older, fatter or uglier in person.” In her account, the girl shows herself with wet hair, her lips painted a deep red and with the gesture of giving a kiss. She says she is looking for someone to “have a good time with without worries.”

“Everyone who opens an account does it because they want to get something, because they are looking to have a good time, so you don’t have to try too many times”

Official statistics show that Cubans are increasingly thinking less of alliances in the style of “until death do us part.” In recent years there has been a decline in legal unions. Between 2014 and 2015, marriages dropped from 63,954 to 61,902 nationwide, while divorces increased from 32,934 to 33,174, according to figures published in the 2015 Statistical Yearbook.

Tinder has helped solve the problems of shyness. The application makes the first encounter easier and gives the dates a certain ease. “Everyone who opens an account does it because they want to get something, because they are looking to have a good time, so you don’t have to try too many times,” says Tito, who has introduced several friends to the application which, until a few months ago, was practically unknown in Cuba.

“The more people open a better account, the more the rumor gets out and the more cuties sign up on the network,” he speculates in a macho tone. Having solved the problems of his shyness thanks to the app, Tito already looks like a conqueror and expresses his desire that by the middle of next year, “Tinder will be the talk of Havana.”

Mary, a fictitious name, is Peruvian and this December she came to Cuba for the second time in less than a year. A few months ago she had an intense relationship with a young woman from Matanzas living in Havana and has since made many friendships in the city’s LGBTI community. “The days I spend here I go to many parties and I drink a lot of rum,” she says. But her great goal is “to find sex, all I can, in the shortest possible time.”

This Tuesday, Mary had breakfast in the cafeteria of the hotel Habana Libre while connecting with her tablet to the La Rampa wifi. “I go into my Tinder account and look for women who are closest, it’s a question of waiting.” Her preference is “thin mulattos,” but a few days ago she met “an impressive blonde,” she says.

So far no one has asked for money directly, but the Peruvian has given them all “good gifts and paid for dinner”

Swipe right to accept. Swipe left to discard. “Then I read more details about their biography and see if there is something I especially like.” So far no one has asked her for money directly, but the Peruvian has given them all “nice gifts, and paid for dinner.”

Mary has just discovered the profile of a 20-year-old girl who is studying medicine and presents herself as “very affectionate and ready for everything.” The Cuban has also swiped right on the visitor’s profile and they begin to exchange messages through the application. They make an appointment to meet at the corner of 23 and M half an hour later.

“It’s very good news that this is taking hold here, because it helps a lot to people who come for the first time and want to meet others who have the same interests,” said Mary. Tuesday is her sixth date in less than a week since she arrived on the island. “I have to get the most out of it every day, because I’m leaving on Sunday,” she explains.

Jessica, 28, had to spend more than six months freeing herself from a pimp, who had taken control. The woman has been engaged in prostitution for more than five years and had always done it on her own, but a boyfriend offered her protection and ended up extorting her. Fortunately for her, the man was picked up in a drug raid and is now in prison.

Jessica, has signed up on Tinder so that she can find “another kind of client, a higher level.” Her profile on the social network does not explicity state that she is a “sex worker,” but in the photo she is wearing very sexy clothes, and her description promises “fun without commitment” and adds that she likes “mathematics” as a way of suggesting a monetary transaction. She has already gotten two dates through the application.

While many digital sites with critical content on the government are censored, dating services operate without restrictions

“I do not have to worry so much about the police, I just sit around and connect to the wifi,” she explains. “I then go with the person to some place, not on the street, and the operation is much safer,” she says. She has several friends who are also in the business and recommended the tool. “This is a gain for us because it allows us to sell the merchandise faster and better.”

Authorities have not reacted to Tinder’s progress among young Cubans. While digital sites critical of the Government are censored, dating services operate without restrictions in wireless connection areas, within the Youth Clubs, and one the public terminals installed by the Cuban Telecommunications Company (Etecsa).

At the moment, the application is mostly used by young people between 16 and 30, with a more relaxed attitude towards love relationships. “Not for anything in the world would I put myself on one of those services,” says Monica, age 42 and divorced. Her biggest fear is that they would find out at her work that she is “looking for a husband on the internet.”

A fear that doesn’t even enter Tito’s head, as he has already selected six possible candidates for his next date. “This is incredible, before I had to spend a tremendous amount of saliva and wear out the soles of my shoes to sleep with someone, and now I just need to be here at La Rampa, looking at the screen of my mobile.”

Fidel Castro Dies / 14ymedio

Fidel Castro dedicating himself to the cultivation of moringa. (EFE)
Fidel Castro dedicating himself to the cultivation of moringa. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana 26 November 2016 — Cuban leader Fidel Castro has died at the age of 90, his brother, President Raul Castro said today in a speech on Cuban state television.

“With profound pain I appear to inform our people, the friends of our America and of the world, that today, 25 November 2016, at 10:29 PM, the commander-in-chief of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, died,” said Raul Castro, visibly moved.

The president added that the remains of the historic leader of the Revolution would be cremated according to his “expressed will” and that in the coming hours he would offer the people “detailed information on the organization of posthumous homage to pay tribute to him.”

The last images of Fidel Castro are from 15 November, when he received at his residence the president of Vietnam, Tran Dai Quang; and the last time he was seen at a public event was August 13th, on his 90th birthday at an event at the Karl Marx Theater in Havana.

On that occasion Castro appeared fragile, dressed in a white track suit and flanked by his brother Raul and the Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro.

Since his birthday he has also received at home other leaders such as the president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani; that of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa; and the prime ministers of Japan, Shinzo Abe; China, Li Keqiang; and Algeria, Abdelmalek Sellal.

In April, at the XVII Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, Fidel Castro also reappeared and gave a speech that sounded like a farewell in which he reaffirmed the strength of the ideas of the communists.

“To all of us our turn will come, but the ideas of Cuban communists will remain, as proof that on this planet if you work with fervor and dignity, you can produce the material and cultural goods that human beings need, and we must fight relentlessly to obtain them,” Fidel Castro said on that occasion.

The New Man Does Not Know How To Lose / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

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Protests in Austin, Texas against Donald Trump’s election as US president (AP)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 14 November 2016 — A friend, a US citizen, once told me that it does not really matter who wins the US elections. “It does not depend so much on who heads the government, because the system is what really works.” I have heard that phrase from more than one person, which prompts us to apply the phrase to the so-called communist regimes, where something similar happens, but in reverse: it doesn’t matter who is in power, because the system itself is what doesn’t work.

However, for some American society sectors, it doesn’t seem that the latter is sufficiently clear, as reflected in the photograph that heads this writing. It is just one image among many others reported by the media about the demonstrations — some with certain violent nuances — that have been taking place in several major cities throughout the United States. continue reading

At first glance, the photo may look harmless, and perhaps even a little naive: a large group of students in Austin, Texas marching in protest of the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, a few hours following the announcement of the election results, after one of the most ferocious and vulgar electoral campaigns in American history.

Nevertheless, in spite of numerous Trump-adverse survey forecasts, and against the media attacks that the campaign endured; in spite of the awful projection of his aggressive, racist, xenophobic and misogynist discourse; in spite of his inexperience in politics and the lack of support of his own party; in spite of all these things the controversial tycoon rose with devastating victory in the electoral college. Like it or not, Trump deserves recognition.

Now, sympathy aside, Trump won in good faith, without cheating and without tricks, by virtue of the same electoral system that produced Democrat Barrack Obama – who is black, for an added description — as winner on the two previous occasions without provoking marches and riots by the Ku Klux Klan or the more conservative sectors of society and of the Republican wing.

It so happens that the mere act of going to the polls implies acceptance of the rules of the game; win or lose. In any case, there will always be a new opportunity to reverse the results every four years. One may ask whether, had the Democratic candidate won, Republican voters would have considered it right to attack the system and ignore the confirmed election results.

Because what is involved in these demonstrations is precisely that: an onslaught against the system, masked after the onslaught against the much-vilified businessman. The marches in question are not really naive. Suffice it to note in the Austin photograph the prominence of the Soviet flag, with the hammer and sickle, which heads the protest of the angry youths, several of them with their faces covered. They must have a reason for the need to conceal their identities, for, whoever believes in the justice of their demands in an open, democratic and plural society should have no reason to hide.

In other cities, students have worn T-shirts or carried posters bearing the image of the famous guerrilla and Argentine assassin, “Che” Guevara, a prime example of the revolutionary violence of the radical left in this hemisphere, which is proving to be like a Hydra of a thousand heads. It would seem that we are witnessing the birth of the “New American Man.”

One might wonder, if pro-Soviet and guerrilla longings are the ideals of young marchers in the US, what comes next? Could it be that the worst and most reactionary of the left flinched in Latin America and was overthrown in Russia decades ago only to nestle shrewdly in some university niches full of these outdated children, bored of their cushy existence under the American way of life?

Obviously, youth is not enough of a condition to represent the most renewing of social thought. Here are lots of fresh faces, many of them with unmistakable Hispanic features and other ethnic and racial backgrounds, who today assume the symbols of the most retrograde of universal progression to combat the system that sheltered them, where they enjoy the opportunities that they would not have under “communist” regimes.

“He’s not my President,” their posters brandish. Well, he is the president who has been democratically elected and will govern for the next four years. It would good for them to come to terms with it. In fact, in the face of this outbreak of Marxist bad habits, Republicans will more likely have greater chances of re-election to the presidency of the country.

Perhaps these exalted young people should seek “other lands of the world that beg for their modest efforts” and pursue their dreamed dreams outside their country, just as their fathers and grandfathers did when they arrived in the USA, mistakenly thinking they were forging a better destiny for their families.

And as the sprouts want something else and not what they have at home, it would be best for these neo-communists to depart to more promising lands for their misunderstood aspirations. I propose Cuba, for example. They do not have to settle definitively; it would be sufficient for them to experience at hand the benefits of the system erected under the same breath as the hammer and sickle – though only the hammer is used now, to crush any outbreak of freedom – and where their admired Che began his pristine social experiments.

I would love to see these anti-system youths living under the firm guidance of the communist party and the governing of the never-elected, hand-picked octogenarian in the presidential armchair, the co-founder of a fiercely capitalist family clan that will rule every small detail of their destinies. Let’s overlook the sordid details related to compulsory ideological fidelity, the absolute absence of citizen liberties, the material deprivations, the living conditions in permanent survival mode and other similar trifles. These insignificant nuances should not be obstacles for those who are fulfilling their dreams.

If they don’t like the way things are done in irreversible communism, then I would love to see them launch demonstrations in front of the Havana University staircase or in any of the capital’s avenues or key Cuban cities. They should remember to carry Soviet flags and the beloved images of the emblematic guerrilla. They might even add old photographs of Castro I in his early years as a guerrilla warrior (current photographs are not convenient). Let’s see what happens, and then they will certainly experiment in their hides, in the most convincing way, what Marxist democracy is, symbolized in Che and the Soviet flag.

This might be the best way to learn how to value, in its right dimension, what they have in their own countries. Trump will certainly then look like an adorable archangel.

But let us not be too naïve. There will always be useful fools… or communist agents suitably planted. Let’s not neglect or lose sight of the signs. Sometimes the most insignificant-looking bacteria turn out to be the most harmful.

Cuba Has Only 250,000 Daily Internet Connections, Despite a Tripling of WiFi Zones / 14ymedio

A group of young people connect to the internet in a Wi-Fi zone in Havana (EFE)
A group of young people connect to the internet in a Wi-Fi zone in Havana (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 September 2016 — Every day around 250,000 connections are recorded in the 1,006 internet public access points enabled on the island, according to data the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) released Thursday to the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth). Although the country has tripled the number of wireless access zones in parks and central streets in some cities, the density of service remains low for a population of 11.1 million people.

During the year, Cuba went from having 65 Wi-Fi zones to the current 200 in the month of September, according to ETECSA’s director of communications, Luis Dias. The provinces with the greatest increases were Havana (29 places), Pinar del Ril (19) and Granma (16). With the exceptions of Isla de la Juventud, Cienfuegos and Artemisa, the other provinces have installed more than 10 internet zones. The customers in the Wi-Fi zones complain about the poor infrastructure conditions in the parks and plazas for connecting, the congestion of users with the resultant slowing down of the access speeds, and the danger of being robbed of tablets, smart phones or laptops in public places. continue reading

Some 80% of the daily connections are made on a 2.4 GHz bandwidth, and barely 20% are made on the better quality 5 GHz bandwidth.

Cuba currently has 193 ETECSA navigation rooms, as well as 613 more located in different sites such as hotels, airports, Youth Computer and Electronic Clubs, Ministry of Health sites or Post Offices, among others, which account for about half the internet traffic.

Ana Maria Mendez Piña, senior specialist for Marketing Operations with ETECSA, told the official newspaper that in 2016 they have sold more than 590,000 Nauta permanent service accounts, plus 5.3 million hourly connection cards.

Cuba is one of the poorest countries in the rates of internet access. In 2015, 348 people out of every 1000 had Internet access, according to official figures, mainly due to the high cost of service (at two CUC* per hour), although Etecsa lowered its rates.

*Translator’s note: Two Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) is the equivalent of about $2 US, or as much as two days wages.

Report: Phone and Internet Service in Cuba, How it Works / Anne Nelson

Graphic from the report
Graphic from the report: Click to enlarge to make it more readable.

Download the report here: CUBA’S PARALLEL WORLDS: DIGITAL MEDIA CROSSES THE DIVIDE
By Anne Nelson

Note: Translating Cuba posts this graphic and the link to the larger report, as we post everything on our site, without any “guarantee” that what the authors say is accurate or even true. However this report is getting good reviews by people “in the know,” and the graphic appears to be an excellent and easy to understand summary of the current formal arrangements for phone service and internet in Cuba.

Cuba Must End “Apartheid Against Its Citizens” / Oscar Arias, Laura Chinchilla

Oscar Arias and Laura Chinchilla, signed the appeal along with dozens of Latin Americans. (TicoVisión)
Oscar Arias and Laura Chinchilla, signed the appeal along with dozens of Latin Americans. (TicoVisión)

The undersigned, Latin Americans and diverse in our allegiances, professions and interests, but united by a common aspiration for freedom, democracy, equality and well-being throughout the hemisphere, address our fellow citizens and governments, especially those in Cuba, to express the following:

We celebrate the growing process of normalization in Cuban-American relations and the willingness of other democratic states to increase their interaction with the authorities in Havana. We see an opportunity in this process to encourage a greater inclusion of Cuba in the world and to improve the living conditions of its citizens. continue reading

At the same time, we condemn the systematic and continuous violation of human rights on the island; the persistence of a political model centered on the control of a single party; the open repression against those who deviate from the official line, and the continuing discrimination against Cubans in favor of foreigners, in areas ranging from economic rights to free access to communications and information.

The time for an act of reciprocity with the democratic world has come, but above all, as an inescapable duty to its own people, it is time for the regime headed by President Raul Castro to begin a genuine process of political and social openness and to listen to the initiatives for change from its citizens, and to reactivate the timid economic changes announced with enthusiasm, but paralyzed amid rigidity, fear and bureaucracy.

The time has come for Cuba to open itself to its own people.

There is no justification to continue preventing Cubans from asserting the basic rights and freedoms that belong to them, and that are widely recognized by universal instruments of human rights. Many of which, paradoxically, have been signed by their own government.

The road to full democracy must be taken without delay. Each new setback prolongs the precariousness and limitations of the people, hinders the chances of success and raises the risks of internal conflicts. Thus, it is time to begin to open the path, recognizing, at least, the following guarantees for all Cubans:

Freedom of expression, understood as the right to seek, receive and impart information, opinions and other content by any means without limitations, censorship or subsequent repression.

Freedom of association, assembly and demonstration.

Freedom of movement inside and outside the country.

The right to petition the authorities and public powers.

The right to elect and be elected in a multi-party environment for all public offices.

The right not to be arbitrarily arrested and detained, to have fair trials before independent courts and have mechanisms for an effective defense.

The right not to be discriminated against in education, employment or social areas because of political or religious beliefs, or for any other reason.

The elimination of ideological control over education.

The freedom to undertake professional, labor and business initiatives without restrictions, and for Cubans to have at least the same opportunities offered to foreign investors or traders. The virtual economic apartheid, but also social and political apartheid, prevailing on the island against its citizens must end without delay.

None of these very basic rights, which are part of everyday life in the vast majority of our countries, can be exercised in Cuba. Worse still, those who dare to claim them are the targets of open repression and systematic marginalization.

In its 2016 World Report, the NGO Human Rights Watch highlights and documents several cases that “in recent years have significantly increased the short-term arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders, independent journalists and others.” Between January and October 2015, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and Reconciliation, declared illegal by the government, received more than 6,200 complaints of arbitrary arrests, which were exacerbated prior to the visit of Pope Francis to the island in September of the same year.

The report also reveals the existence of a difficult to determine number of political prisoners, given the absence of reliable information; beatings and assaults against non-governmental protesters in the street; prison overcrowding; case-by-case restrictions on travel within and outside of Cuban territory; the inability to form independent unions; and the refusal to recognize the defense of human rights as a legitimate activity.

The sad conclusion is that, despite the world and particularly the United States, increasingly having become more open to Cuba, the regime has not opened to its own population, which, with some exceptions of privilege, remains mired in insecurity, controls, lack of opportunities and political and social asphyxiation. This closure must be dismantled; the political, economic and social embargo of the Cuban regime against Cubans must be eliminated.

Direct responsibility to end this situation belongs to the elite that has dominated Cuba since its one-party and monolithic state. However, it extends to the governments of Latin America, so far passive actors and even accomplices to chronic arbitrariness and paralysis of the regime.

“Our America” which the hero of Cuban independence José Martí proclaimed as an ideal of Latin American unity, cannot become reality as long as there persists in Cuba a government that is impervious to citizens rights, and that displays a double standard before the world.

In proclaiming these concerns, we express our desire for Cubans to be able to build, in peace and freedom, a new democratic, peaceful and inclusive order.

Oscar Arias (Costa Rica), former president and Nobel Peace Prize in 1987. Laura Chinchilla (Costa Rica), former president. Graciela Fernandez Meijide (Argentina), was Secretary of the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons. Jaime Malamud Goti (Argentina ), jurist and one of the masterminds of the trial of the military junta in Argentina. Eduardo Ulibarri (Costa Rica), journalist and former Ambassador to the United Nations. Ricardo Gil Lavedra (Argentina), lawyer and politician, member in 1985 of the court that sentenced the military juntas of Argentina’s dictatorship. Beatriz Sarlo (Argentina), essayist and journalist. Carlos H. Acuna(Argentina), political scientist specializing in State and public policy and member of human rights organizations in Argentina from 1977. Roberto Gargarella (Argentina), lawyer and sociologist, CONICET researcher and teacher. José Manuel Quijano (Uruguay), Economist and former director of the Sectorial Commission and the General Secretariat of Mercosur. Sergio Fausto (Brazil), political scientist and Executive Superintedent of the Fernando Henrique Cardoso Institute. Roberto Ampuero (Chile), writer, columnist, former Minister of Culture and former Ambassador of Chile, lived in Cuba between 1974 and 1979. Rodolfo Rodil (Argentina), former vice president of the national Chamber of Deputies. Facundo Guardado (El Salvador), former member of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front and former presidential candidate. Daniel Sabsay (Argentina), professor of Constitutional law at the Faculty of law of the University of Buenos Aires. Liliana Riz (Argentina), sociologist and senior researcher of CONICET. Luis Alberto Romero (Argentina), historian, National Academy of History. María Matilde Ollier (Argentina), political scientist, teacher and researcher. Eduardo Viola (Brazil), professor of international relations at the University of Brasilia. Hector Schamis (Argentina), political scientist, teacher, researcher and columnist. Aníbal Pérez Liñán (Argentina), political scientist, teacher and researcher. Vicente Palermo (Argentina), sociologist, writer and researcher with CONICET. Marcos Novaro (Argentina), sociologist, professor and researcher with CONICET. Alejandro Katz (Argentina), essayist and editor. Roberto Garcia Moritán (Argentina), diplomat and former Vice-Chancellor. Fernando Petrella (Argentina), diplomat and former Vice-Chancellor. Jorge Edwards (Chile), writer and diplomat. Osvaldo Guariglia (Argentina), philosopher and researcher with CONICET. María Sáenz Quesada (Argentina), historian, writer and former Minister of Culture of the City of Buenos Aires. Lilia Puig (Argentina), Congresswoman in Parlasur and former national Congresswoman. Juan Octavio Gauna (Argentina), lawyer and politician, former Attorney General and National Deputy. Fernando Pedrosa (Argentina), historian, teacher and researcher. Raquel Gamus (Venezuela), anthropologist, political scientist and journalist. Patricio Navia (Chile), political scientist, teacher and researcher. Adolfo Garce (Uruguay), political scientist, teacher and researcher. Daniel Muchnik (Argentina), journalist, historian and writer. Carlos Gervasoni (Argentina), political scientist, teacher and researcher .Armando Chaguaceda (Cuba), political scientist, teacher and researcher. Daniel Perez (Argentina), designer and painter, published a testimony on the Cuban military intervention in Latin America during the 60s and 70s. Jessica Valentini (Argentina), lawyer and former Ombudswoman in the city of Cordoba. Sabrina Ajmechet (Argentina), sociologist, teacher and researcher. Jorge Elias (Argentina), journalist, writer and researcher. Alejandro Oropeza (Venezuela), political scientist, teacher and researcher. Francisco Quintana (Argentina), lawyer and legislator of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires. Luis Gregorich (Argentina), journalist and writer. Manuel Mora y Araujo (Argentina), sociologist and communications consultant and public opinion relations. Marta Velarde (Argentina), lawyer and former Congresswoman. Carlos Facal (Argentina), lawyer and former president of the Citizens Power Foundation. Andrés Cañizález (Venezuela), journalist, teacher and researcher. Eduardo Amadeo (Argentina), National Deputy, diplomat, economist and former Minister of Social Development. Gabriel Palumbo (Argentina), sociologist, teacher and researcher. César Ricaurte (Ecuador), journalist and activist for freedom of speech and the press. Nicolas Joseph Isola (Argentina), Doctor of Social Sciences and columnist in various media. Romeo Pérez Anton (Uruguay), political scientist, teacher and researcher. Ignacio Labaqui (Argentina), political scientist, teacher and researcher. Aleardo Laría(Argentina), lawyer and journalist, political exile during Argentina ‘s military dictatorship. Antonio Camou (Argentina), Sociologist, teacher and researcher. Javier Valdez Cardenas (Mexico), journalist. Alejandro Páez Varela (Mexico), journalist. Rolando Rodriguez (Panama), journalist. Maria Sirvent (Mexico), human rights activist. Jose Ruben Zamora (Guatemala), journalist. Rafael Rojas (Cuba), historian, teacher and researcher. Leandro Dear (Argentina), political scientist, professor and head of the NGO electoral transparency. Fernando Ruiz (Argentina), political scientist, teacher and researcher. Martin Landi (Argentina), political scientist and activist freedom of expression. Hugo Machin (Uruguay), journalist and former political prisoner during the military dictatorship in Uruguay. Rogelio Alaniz (Argentina), journalist.