About 60,000 Havanans Receive Water via Tanker Trucks / Rosa Lopez, 14ymedio

At the end of February the situation got worse because of leaks and electrical problems (14ymedio)

At the end of February the situation got worse because of leaks and electrical problems (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Havana, 25 May 2015 – A sound that is inseparable from the streets of Habana Centro (Central Havana) is the screech of the trucks filled with water, with their metal wheels on the asphalt. This symphony of necessity has become more intense in recent months because of the frequent cuts in supply that the city has undergone due to repairs, breakages and a drought affecting the entire country. More than 58,760 people receive water through tanker trucks, as affirmed, this Monday, in the Trabajadores (Workers) newspaper.

In Havana more than half of the water being pumped is lost in leaks, 20% of which are located in the so-called household networks, inside homes and buildings. For the engineer Antonio Castillo, Deputy Director of Operations for the Havana Water company, the situation is unsustainable in the medium and long term. “Supply basins are like bank accounts. If you deposit, but take out more than you deposit, you have less and less, and if you stop saving, one day you’ll have no money. That happens with the water,” he declared to the official press.

In late February the situation began to worsen because of the disastrous combination of leaks and electrical problems that caused large losses at La Cuenca Sur reservoir. About 45,000 residents of Habana Vieja, Plaza de la Revolución, Diez de Octubre, Centro Habana and Cerro municipalities in Havana were severely affected.

In order to reduce leaks, sector specialists propose to continue with network rehabilitation plans and impose a new fee on the charge for service for the residential sector. Meanwhile, capital residents are demanding shorter water delivery cycles and a higher quality of the precious liquid. “The water is very hard and this damages the pipes and bathroom iron fittings, that’s why there are so many leaks,” says Ruben, a self-employed plumber in La Lisa municipality.

Capital residents are demanding shorter water delivery cycles and a higher quality of the precious liquid

Others demand, as soon as possible, the enactment of a water law to regulate the consumption of this important natural resource. “Although in December the Council of Ministers approved a stricter policy, they are still indiscriminately wasting something that should be treated as a real treasure,” expressed Yaquelin de la Osa, engineer and promoter of a more focused policy on caring for the environment and natural resources.

Apart from the specialized opinions or those with in the environmental field, the main demands come from a population sector that needs to bring the water into their homes with wheelbarrows, buckets and bottles. “I don’t remember when was the last time that I could take a shower, because for several months I have had to bathe with a pitcher,” says Xiomara, resident of a tenement room at Marqués González street in Centro Habana.

Everyone agrees that repairs to the hydraulic networks are necessary, but the slowness and lack of efficiency with which they are tackled causes discomfort among many Havanans.” This seems like a city after a bombing,” said an owner of rooms for rent for tourists located in Amargura street in in Habana Vieja, who must deal with the holes and trenches in the street every day to find customers. The municipality is being subjected to a replacement of the water networks which will be completed in 2017 and which has a budget of more than 64 million.

I don’t remember when was the last time that I could take a shower, because for several months I have had to bathe with a pitcher

The water that should fall from heaven hasn’t performed as expected in this rainy period. Downpours that flooded parts of the city in late April and early May failed to fill the cachement areas supplying the city. Precipitation was not abundant in the southern provinces of Artemisa and Mayabeque, which are the main sources of supply, nor in the Almendares-Vento basin, which supplies 47% of the water which is destined to Havanans.

As the situation worsens, Havanans wake up trying to detect clouds on the horizon and fall asleep with the sound of the trucks on the pavement.

Translated by Alberto

State Inefficiency, Convenient Business / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang

Selling yields no benefits (photo by the author)

Selling yields no benefits (photo by the author)

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 22 May 2015 — Attestations about poor or non-existent attention in Cuban state businesses are so abundant that few pay attention to them. In order to offer a response to the indignant, the island’s official press searches for causes of such abuse not in the inefficiency of the state enterprise but in other absurd factors like poor education or lack of professionalism, which do not reveal the corrupt essence of a system that, in spite of the proof of its uselessness, will be kept in place by government will, as is expressed in the Guidelines of the Sixth Congress of the Communist Party.

Why do we receive better treatment in a private restaurant or cafeteria? Why do customer demands bother the clerk and managers of a state eatery and why do they not improve the quality of their offerings? Why do they hide behind any justification in order to remain closed or to reduce their public service hours to the minimum?

According to Vladimir Rodriguez, owner of a busy little restaurant in downtown Vedado, the problem is in the objectives of each:

“As the owner of my business I seek to attract more customers, to offer more variety. I listen to the opinions of the people, the suggestions, I serve them like they were kings because it winds up as earnings. In a state restaurant the earnings do not come from the clients’ consumption and satisfaction but in that quite miserable thing that happens in the warehouse, in the sale to the black market of everything that arrives to be produced and sold to the customers, who turn into a nuisance. What little gets to the table is only to justify the work in case an inspector comes, but the clerks as well as the manager live on the black market. Continue reading

“True Intentions”: Brief Sketch of a Long Relationship / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Raul Castro with Barack Obama at a press conference at the Summit of the Americas

Raul Castro with Barack Obama at a press conference at the Summit of the Americas

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 14 May 2015 — Few sentences of the Cuban official discourse have been as well-worn as one that refers to “the true intentions” hiding behind the actions of the US government.

This explains the discomfort that the “Paused General*” feels about the American Interests Section in Havana teaching courses to independent journalists or when they hold teleconferences about digital journalism, among other activities. These “illegal activities” that the US government promotes through its Havana Section even award certificates of studies to its graduates. Because “the true intentions” of the government of that country is for these journalists to undermine the strength and ideological unity of our people, piercing it with the intimidating US influence. Continue reading

They Murdered My Son in the Streets of Camaguey / 14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco

Mandy Junco killed last Saturday in Camaguey.  (Pedro Junco, Fury of the Winds blog)

Mandy Junco killed last Saturday in Camaguey. (Pedro Junco, Fury of the Winds blog)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco, Camaguey, 22 May 2015 – Pedro Armando Junco Torres, alias “Mandy,” 28 years of age, was stabbed to death in Camaguey in the early morning of Saturday, May 16, a day before the beginning of the rock festival Sounds of the City. Mandy would have participated in it as guitarist and leader of the band Strike Back. His father, writer Pedro Junco, Thursday posted on his blog, The Fury of the Winds, this open letter in which he asks for “true justice.”

They Murdered my Son on the Streets of Camaguey

By Pedro Armando Junco

It is very difficult for me to write. All you mothers and fathers who read these lines, put yourselves in my place. Just for a minute think that it was your son who was stabbed to death in the street at the hands of four killers who did not even know him, who did not even do it to steal from him or to settle accounts. They think that the motivation was to kill, the pleasure of killing. Put yourself there for only one minute and then assimilate what you have felt in your hearts. That is what I am enduring and will endure until the end of my existence. Continue reading

“If I had someone to sponsor* me…” / Cubanet, Rafael Alcides

colasss

cubanet square logoCubanet, Rafael Alcides, Havana, 19 May 2015 – This morning I woke up pessimistic. There was no milk in the house, and the kind they sell at the “shopping” [hard-currency* store] is priced out of reach for anyone who is not an executive at a firm or who does not have relatives out there who love him very much and are well-off.** But at the bakery where I purchase the bread allotted to me via the libreta [ration book], I ran into somebody who today was more pessimistic than I am. He is a retired teacher and, without taking into account his age, one of those characters who pride themselves on being well informed told him that the ration book is about to be discontinued, that in fact it would be eliminated before August.

The teacher understands that this book weighs heavily in the pocket of the government, but he also thinks that instead of taking it away, the government should make it selective. Neither the powerful musician, nor the executive, nor he who receives remittances from abroad, nor any other characters of the New Bourgeoisie, need the ration book. The teacher, however, retired on a pension of nine dollars per month (that is, less than 30 cents a day), and with no one abroad—what would he do without this small assistance? There are just four little items that the ration book now subsidizes, but these four little items keep him from begging in the streets. The teacher spoke to me very badly of the Revolution, to which he had dedicated his life. Continue reading

What the Wind Left Behind* / Cubanet, Rafael Alcides

Dawn in Havana

Dawn in Havana

cubanet square logoCubanet, Rafael Alcides, Havana, 10 April 2015 – Havana sixty years ago was a pretty city—clean, young and with no thieves of any consequence in the neighborhood. Around 9:00 at night the garbage truck would make its rounds. It was a regular truck, not one of those modern-day versions that look like interplanetary spaceships. It carried four workmen—two standing and holding on to the rear of the truck, flanking it—the other two at the top. Upon hearing the bell signaling the truck’s approach, the neighbors would hastily place the garbage can at the door, the two men from the rear would toss it with great flair to the ones at the top of the truck, those men would fling it back with equal style, and the can would be placed once again by the door. It was painful to watch them do this work that would cause the street to be enveloped in the stench of rotten melons. However, these men, with the elegance and precision with which they went about their task, made it seem like they were playing an individual basketball game. How many of these vehicles the city possessed, I don’t know, but your neighborhood truck would show up every night, through rain, a cold snap, or the coming of a hurricane.

This was not all.

In the afternoons, a crop duster would fly overhead, fumigating against flies and mosquitoes, and at dawn, Havana smelled clean. Overnight, its streets had been washed down and whisked with the metal brush that was applied between the road and the sidewalk by a powerful machine. The sewer manholes had their covers, the sanitation system was inspected every week, power outages were unknown, and Havana gave the impression of a city inhabited by people who had never done harm to anyone and therefore could live without fear, despite this being a time when the din of sudden gunfire was commonly heard along with the eruption of firecrackers. In the residential neighborhoods open planting beds were common, and in the traditional El Vedado neighborhood, the little foot-and-a-half high wall was established by municipal ordinance. Continue reading

So Many Lists Having Nothing to Do With Obama / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Raúl Castro with Barack Obama at a press conference during the Summit of the Americas.

Raúl Castro with Barack Obama at a press conference during the Summit of the Americas.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 27 April 2015 — A few days back, a commentator on Cuban state television found it “interesting” that Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinan, speaking on behalf of her party, said there would be no opposition in the U.S. Congress to removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terror.

This time, the Cuban-American Congresswoman was not disparaged as a “wild wolf,” as the official media christened her back in the days of the campaign for the return of the little boy rafter Elián González to Cuba. If everything goes according to plan, on May 30th, after the 45 days required for the U.S. Congress to ratify the President’s recommendation, Cuba’s name will be erased from the list. Continue reading

Deportees in Their Own Country / Cubanet, Reinaldo Cosano

In Cuba, if you do not have permission to reside in Havana, they deport you to your province of origin (internet photo)

In Cuba, if you do not have permission to reside in Havana, they deport you to your province of origin (internet photo)

Cuban Apartheid, suffered by families who abandoned their homes and went to Havana in search of a new life

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Reinaldo Emilio Cosano Alen, Havana, 15 May 2015 – Rodolfo Castro, from Santiago de Cuba, met with three other young men detained at the Guanabo police station east of Havana. Driven to the Central Train Terminal in a patrol car – so that they could not escape – they were put on the train and deported to their provinces, following imposition of a fine of a thousand Cuban pesos – some 50 dollars – each. So says Osmany Matos, of Guanabo, arrested for a traffic offense who witnessed the incident.

The “Palestinians” (as they ironically call those who come from the eastern provinces) Yordanis Reina, Maikel Cabellero and Edilberto Ledesma, from the rural area El Parnaso; and Amaury Sera, from the Manati township, all in the Las Tunas province, explained to Graciela Orues Mena, independent trade unionist: Continue reading

Exclusion as a policy / 14ymedio, Fernando Damaso

The Cuban flag serves as a symbol of the nation (14ymedio)

The Cuban flag serves as a symbol of the nation (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Fernando Dámaso, Havana, May 17 2015 – The Cuban government, since it seized power on January 1959, has maintained an authoritarian and exclusive approach to politics. Patriots, Cubans and citizens are considerations that have only been extended to those who unconditionally support the establishment. Those who do not or who simply criticize it are deemed unpatriotic, traitors, and anti-socials.

This system is primitive in its simplicity, but it has been useful. This absurd and unnatural positioning has been applied to everything: democracy, liberty, human rights, unity, opposition and many other terms have been redefined according to the ideological and political interests of those who govern, giving the impression that the Island exists in an unreal political and geographical space, outside of planet Earth. Continue reading

No Leader is Interested in the Rights of Cubans / Hablemos Press, Eduardo Herrera

Cubanos

An old man selling newspapers on the streets of Havana (Elio Delgado)

Hablamos Press, Eduardo Herrera, Havana, 16 May 2015 — In recent weeks, meetings between Raúl Castro and various heads of state have attracted the attention of national and international public opinion.

During his visit to Algeria, Castro met with Abdelaziz Buteflika, who at 78 years of age has been president of his country for 16 years. Later, Castro travelled to Russia to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Second World War. Continue reading

Fidel Castro’s “Hardships” in Prison / Cubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones

Fidel Castro’s mug shot (photo from the internet)

Fidel Castro’s mug shot (photo from the internet)

“We sleep with the lights off, we have no roll calls or formations all day, we get up whenever (…) Plenty of water, electric lights, food, clean clothes and all for free”

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, Guantanamo, 15 May 2015 – This May 15 marks the 60th anniversary of the release of the Moncadistas. The attack on the Moncada barracks is characterized by many as a terrorist act. Beyond the adjectives, always debatable, those who have been charged with praising the rebellious generation and denigrating the army officers of the time say nothing about the soldiers killed that Carnival dawn. Nineteen officers fell, but their names do not count for the official historians.

What would happen today if a group of Cubans, tired of political discrimination and abuses, were to attack a military unit? Would they receive sanctions as benign as those applied to the Moncadistas? Would they be allowed to meet in jail and be separated from the regular prisoners? Would they be granted amnesty? Continue reading

The Reconversion of the Devils / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

papa-Francisco-raul-castro
cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 12 May 2015 — Yesterday, Tuesday May 11, 2015, the front page of Granma, the official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), showed a photograph of the Cuban President General amicably shaking the hand of Pope Francis in Vatican City. Quirks of politics, to convince us of the survivability of the Castro regime, represented by another member of the same caste that in the decade of the 70’s and 80’s harassed members of religious orders, reviled priests and marginalized the faithful. Now, just like that, the Castro regime perfumes its stubborn Marxist conviction with myrrh and frankincense, and it is almost hard to believe that this seemingly respectable octogenarian who visits with the Pope is one of those guerrilla leaders of that Revolution that was anticlerical, antireligious and church-phobic even before declaring itself Marxist.

In retrospect, the war against religious faith in Cuba was not just a momentary attack, but a policy of systematic and ongoing state-sanctioned persecution or discrimination against individuals for reasons of their religious beliefs, while, at the same time, Marxism-Leninism, that other fake religion, kept spreading with the aid of the Kremlin’s petro-rubles. Continue reading