Flour Shortage Affects Thousands of Private Businesses in Cuba

The Cuban milling industry is going through a bad time because of the lack of raw material and problems with infrastructure. (Imsa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, November 18, 2018 — First eggs went missing, then it was sugar’s turn, and now it’s wheat flour that has been added to the list of products that are lacking in Cuban markets. The valuable ingredient is the basis of many recipes that are sold in private businesses, like sweets, breads, and pizzas, and so its absence puts the menus of these cafes and private restaurants in crisis.

The problems started in the middle of this year, when the lack of spare parts for mills and a drop in the arrival of raw material caused a shortage of wheat flour, as Jesús Rodríguez, first vice president of the Business Group of Food Industry (GEIA), told the official press at that time.

After the crisis generated by the deficit of the product in the markets for several weeks, authorities decided to import 15,000 additional tons to guarantee the preparation of bread for the rationed market and bread bound for social assistance. However, the hard currency stores remained secondary in the distribution. continue reading

Without a wholesale market to go to, the self-employed must buy from the network of retail businesses. “A few months ago we could still find a 5-kilo bag of flour but now not even the 1-kilo is available,” laments Jesús Ruiz, a vendor of sweets on Calle Infanta in Havana.

“For our business flour is the main ingredient, because pastries, cakes, and all the other sweets that we sell are made from flour,” the entrepreneur explains to 14ymedio. “When there is none, we can only remain open selling soft drinks and shakes, so we have a lot of losses, it’s as if they have taken away the oxygen that allows us to breathe as a cafe,” he points out.

Traditionally many owners of private businesses go to the black market to stock up on flour. The product arrives in the informal business network after being diverted [i.e. stolen] from bakeries on the rationed system and other state centers. However, the deficit of the past few months has sharpened the administrative controls and notably diminished the illegal sale of flour.

The shortage of the crucial ingredient “isn’t going to have a short-term solution,” according to an employee of the José Antonio Echevarría mill in Havana, one of the principal wheat processing centers in the country. The source, who preferred to remain anonymous, attributes the deficit to the “terrible situation of the infrastructure” of the industry.

“The spare parts that we were waiting for haven’t arrived, and the mill is far below its capacity, it’s only milling to satisfy the demand of the subsidiary services, like the one-pound loaf and whatever is bound for schools or work centers,” he clarifies. “From the 500 tons daily that we were expecting to be processing by this time of the year, we aren’t doing even a fifth of that.”

“But it’s not only a problem of parts, but also that the transporting of cereals via Cuba Railways and other methods isn’t functioning well,” adds the mill worker. “Sometimes the merchandise stays in our warehouses and deteriorates because they don’t come to pick it up in time.” Nevertheless, he emphasizes that the whole situation has worsened in the past few weeks because of the lack of raw material.

“There’s no money to buy wheat and even if we had a great industry with all new equipment, we can’t make miracles if there aren’t products to put through the mills,” he specifies. “Wheat flour is considered a strategic line of goods and it is like this for us, what will remain for other industries that aren’t prioritized,” he questions.

Something similar is happening at the Turcios Lima plant, also in the capital, which for the past few years hasn’t managed to regain the 130 tons of wheat that it obtained once a day. The other three mills, out of the five in the country, are located in Matanzas, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba, all of them in a deteriorated technical state.

In the portfolio of opportunities for foreign investment is included the assembly of a wheat mill for processing 300,000 tons of flour each year at a cost of $120 million, but the offer has generated little interest until now.

“Most affected are the businesses that sell Italian food,” says Ricardo Valdés, courier at a restaurant specializing in pizza and pasta in Havana’s Chinatown. “The flour reserves that we had for some emergency are running out and we don’t know if we are going to be able to remain open by the end of the year,” he tells this newspaper.

In the Milling Factory of Havana, located in the Regla municipality, the telephones haven’t stopped ringing in the last few weeks with calls from self-employed people worried about the supply of the product. The joint-venture, specializing in flours, semolina, and wheat bran, processes the majority of the merchandise that ends up on the shelves of stores that sell in convertible pesos.

In the last year packages of flour of a foreign make, originating primarily in Italy and Spain but also Mexico, have also arrived at these businesses. “We don’t have foreign flour now, either, because we ran out even though it’s more expensive than the nationally produced kind,” assures an employee of La Puntilla market, one of the best stocked in the capital.

“When we put out a few packets they run out right away because the self-employed take them,” says the employee. “We’ve had to put limits on purchases so that people don’t take 10 or 20 packets at once, but this doesn’t solve the problem.”

A few meters away, a private business offers empanadas, pizzas, and churros. “We are going to stay open until we run out of our last bag of flour but after that we will have to close,” says the owner. The self-employed man believes that a solution could be allowing people to import the product in a private manner. “But that would be asking a lot because they don’t allow us commercial import.”

The entire vast framework of businesses, small shops, points of sale, and the most sophisticated restaurants that operate on a basis of flour wait for the state to manage to revive production or permit private people to bring in the basic ingredient from other countries.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Housing In Cuba / Somos+, German Gonzalez

Somos+, Germán M. González, 11 November 2018

Absolute power equals absolute responsibility: the socio-economic situation of the country is disastrous, party & government admits it: Who will answer for that?

In the final days of this October, several references to the subject of housing appeared in the official Cuban media. Published first is that Pinar del Rio lacks more than ten thousand homes in order to fully recover from “prior hurricanes,” we are talking at a minimum of at least 10 years, and later, in the public version of a meeting of the council of ministers the “president” announced the proposal of building homes at a rate of 50 thousand per year. Let’s look at some background.

The universal right to decent and adequate housing is reflected in international and multilateral documents and agreements, as well as in the legislation of many countries, including national constitutions. Recognized in this manner, the human right to adequate housing — and its environment – is of fundamental importance for the enjoyment of all economic, social and cultural rights. Let’s look at the current situation in Cuba according to official sources.

The official newspaper Granma (January 25, 2018) reports that 47% of homes are inadequate, only exceeded in Latin America by Brazil (64%) and far higher than Argentina (22%) and Chile (23%). In addition, in the latter two countries, due to their climate, considering a home adequate implies many more requirements than in our sub-tropical archipelago. continue reading

The pace of construction has declined in the last twelve years, from more than 111,000 units in 2006 to fewer than 22,000 in 2017 (denying the claimed efficiency of the raulista term of office) according to the Cuban Statistical Yearbook (AEC), the smallest amount since statistics became available. Graphic view:

In its June 1st edition, Granma offers chilling data:

Housing pending solution: Grand Total/Total Collapses — Hurricanes prior to Sandy (2012): 42,000/25,000; Hurricane Sandy (2012): 36,000/14,000; Hurricane Matthew (2016): 8,000/7,000; Hurricane Irma (2017): 115,000/15,000.

In total, there are 201,000 homes affected; of those 61,000 were total collapses; 42,000 and 25,000, respectively, occurred before 2012.

In summary, if the pace expected by Díaz-Canel is reached, it would take four years to replace the homes affected by hurricanes and then ten years to repair the “not adequate” ones, plus an indeterminate period for impacts from new hurricanes and the currently adequate homes that, due to the passage of time and the poor quality of construction of the last 60 years, will inevitably deteriorate.

Add to this that the projected Diaz-Canelian pace is 2-1/2 times greater than what was achieved in the last five years as an annual average, plus the aforementioned unpredictable destructions and deteriorations, and the hopes of decent housing for most Cubans is more than remote.

A problem without a solution? For sure, under the current mandate of the “five” and their dogmas that are only effective for maintaining power.

The liberalization of the economy, the creation of a real estate market with modern credit system included, and above all the restitution to millions of Cuban diaspora members of their civil, political and economic rights with the consequent financial injection would surely give better results — in this and any other socioeconomic spheres — than the diffuse Díaz-Canelian dreams, which are nothing more than a badly copied version of the thousands of similar promises made by the Castro brothers… and look where we are after sixty years of listening to them.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

Nobody Knows How To Eradicate Pollution From Cuba’s Agabama and Sipiabo Rivers

The official press criticizes the obsolete infrastructure, which contributes to the poor state of the waters. (Escambray)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 November 2018 — Three months after the local press in Sancti Spíritus denounced the contamination of several tributaries of the Agabama and Sipiabo rivers, surrounding the municipality of Fomento, swimming has been banned in those waters by the authorities,  due to the lack of action and the exchange of accusations between different institutions that have not yet resolved the situation.

“What have the main entities done to take action to counteract the pollution of the aquifers? What factors have contributed to the phenomenon that instead of  improving it is getting worse?”, questions an article in the Escambray newspaper, which notes that about five years ago bacteriological analysis of the water began.

Last July, the Provincial Center of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Microbiology reported that they had carried out analyses of 10 water samples in the swimming areas of Balnerario, Ramblazo and Campismo Popular La Hormiga, whose waters are fed by the Agabama and Sipiabo rivers. In all of them  “the presence of total coliform bacteria and fecal coliform over the permissible parameters” were found, the official media reports. continue reading

Among the causes of the pollution reported by the Ministry of Public Health in October are the discharge of domestic wastewater and the excrement of pigs raised by individuals in their homes. Although experts from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (Citma) maintain the hypothesis that the Agabama River is contaminated from Santa Clara.

The local press argues that, according to the provisions of Law No. 124 of Terrestrial Waters that governs the management of this resource and guarantees its protection and quality, the power to ensure the quality of water is the responsibility of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH), Citma, the Ministry of Public Health, and the local bodies of the People’s Power. These organizations do not know how to come to agreement in order to to solve the water problem in Fomento.

“I was unaware of the magnitude of the closure of the swimming areas due to the contamination of surface waters,” the Provincial sub-delegate for Hydraulic Resources,Yusliadys Lorenzo Coca, told Escambray.

The Hydraulic Utilization Company does not seem to know anything about the situation, either. The technical director of the entity, Francisco Hernández Lorenzo, said that he also did not know about the imbalance, alleging that they are responsible for the sources of the supply. When the local journalists reminded him that the company is the owner of the water, the manager placed blame on a higher institution. “Public Health should have communicated to do a joint study, because this has an impact on the population,” he replied.

Citma, for its part, placed the responsibility on other institutions. “Who is responsible for taking action?, those who use the water and manage it: Hydraulic Resources, Agriculture, Azcuba, local bodies of the People’s Power,” said Néstor Álvarez Cruz, director of the Environmental Unit in Sancti Spíritus.

“While in the law there are many that bear responsibility, in practice few take action on the matter, and the solution may take as many years as the pollution lasts,” the Escambray article points out in conclusion, while denouncing the lack of knowledge on the part of the competent authorities, the lack of organization and the obsolescence of the infrastructure.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The US Coast Guard Repatriates 37 Cuban Rafters

The passengers on the boat consisted of 29 men and 8 women. (US Coast Guard)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 November 2018 — The 37 Cuban migrants traveling in a boat heading north towards the United States were intercepted on Sunday by the Coast Guard Service of that country and repatriated to Cuba. The passengers of the boat, which was located by an air patrol, were 29 men and 8 women, according to a statement from the rescue service.

The Coast Guard patrol boat William Trump intercepted the rafters after they were located and the crew proceeded to embark them onto the ship, where they received food, water and medical attention. One of the migrants was treated for headaches.

“Many times these intercepted vessels are overloaded and unsafe, and the risk is simply not worth the possible reward,” said Lt. James Hodges, of the Coast Guard’s Seventh District, who said he was proud of those who participated in the mission.

The US armed forces’ rescue service notes in the statement that, since the 1st of October, 82 Cuban migrants have tried to enter the United States illegally by sea. During the 2018 fiscal year, which ends on September 30 for the administration of that country, 296 migrants tried to illegally migrate to the United States.

“These statistics represent the total number of interceptions in the Straits of Florida, the Caribbean and Atlantic waters,” the institution explained.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Independent Media “Open The Doors Of Imagination And Creativity”

Carlos Alejandro Rodríguez graduated in 2015 from the University of Marta Abreu in Santa Clara and went on to work at the newspaper ’Vanguardia.’ (Yariel Valdés González)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Miami, November 11, 2018 — Two years after several young journalists from the newspaper Vanguardia in Villa Clara wrote a letter strongly criticizing the operation of the official media, 14ymedio spoke with one of the signers of that document to discover the motives that led them to write it and the consequences that it had in their professional lives.

Carlos Alejandro Rodríguez Martínez graduated in 2015 from the University of Marta Abreu in Santa Clara and went on to work at the newspaper Vanguardia, the provincial organ of the Cuban Communist Party in the Villa Clara. Now, when he speaks about the letter that changed his life, he makes clear that he does it in a personal capacity and not in the name of the group of writers. continue reading

The recent graduates arrived at the newspaper “with the desire to change everything” but they collided with censorship, which he calls “terrible.” The editorial disorder also affected them and in that environment of hostility they decided to write the letter in which they ennumerated their concerns and criticisms regarding the official news spaces.

In the text they reported, among other subjects, that many media outlet bosses rejected articles on social problems because the ideas expressed in them were not in line with “the interests of the country at the current time,” or because they were “too critical.”

Today Rodríguez believes that the only error was signing the letter in the name of the Foundation Committee of the Union of Young Communists (UJC) of the newspaper and he believes that it would have been better for it to appear signed only with the names of each journalist. “The structures of the UJC, at the municipal and provincial level, harassed us and tried to convince us to sign and publish a mea culpa,” he laments.

The text of the retraction was written but never saw the light of day because it didn’t placate the authorities, since it only regretted that the missive had been leaked. “We wrote that letter not to publish it on the internet, but rather to read it in the framework of the Provincial Plenary Session of the Cuban Journalists’ Union in Villa Clara in 2016,” explains Rodríguez.

The publication of the document had the effect of a fragmentation bomb among the journalistic and literary circles of Villa Clara. Various intellectuals circulated emails asking that the young people not be harassed and standing in solidarity with the proposals, but the official Cuban Journalists’ Union (Upec) considered it an intolerable act of “protest.”

The director of the newspaper ’Vanguardia’ warned the young reporters not to collaborate with independent media. (Capture)

“It was hell,” recalls Rodríguez. Following the letter’s publication in various digital media outlets, representatives of the municipal and provincial UJC reproached them for having violated the procedures of the organization, although they were never able to prove that they were responsible for the leak of the text to the independent media.

In reality the letter had been conceived for the Provincial Plenary Session of Upec and sought to reaffirm, specifically, the right of reporters to continue collaborating with independent media in the style of El Toque and OnCuba. “The director of the newspaper told us that we couldn’t collaborate with them but we responded that the laws don’t prohibit it.”

Rodríguez recognizes that it wasn’t only a question of publishing in spaces with greater editorial liberties. “Working in other outlets also helped us to live because with 345 Cuban pesos a month, around $14, nobody lives.” With the salary he was receiving at the Vanguardia newspaper he didn’t have enough “even to pay for the trip from home to work.”

Now, he recalls the moment during the meeting with Upec when one of the signers of the letter rose, began to read it, and all the others put themselves behind her so that she would not be alone. After that in the hallways the other reporters moved away when they saw them or watched them with looks of fear as if they had done something very dangerous.

The climate of pressures became oppressive and as soon as Rodríguez finished his social service he asked for leave from the Vanguardia newspaper. The majority of the other signers who stayed “were leaving sanctioned for different reasons” and the authorities “used very different pretexts” to get rid of them.

Currently Rodríguez is part of the team of Tremenda Nota, a magazine focused on minorities, where he works as editor and reporter. “The advantage of working in independent media is that it opens the doors of imagination and creativity.” Contrary to when one works at an official newspaper where “the doors are shut and you crash into impassable walls.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

From Minint Official To Political Prisoner Incarcerated For “Espionage” / Luis Cino Alvarez

Luis Cino Álvarez, Cubanet, Havana,  5 November 2018 —  The temper tantrum and bunkhouse scene put on recently by Castroism’s anti-diplomats, who grew indignant that the issue of political prisoners in Cuba was brought up at the United Nations, brought to mind a case of which I learned a few days ago via an inmate of Guanajay prison, of a young ex-officer of the Interior Ministry (MININT) who also is confined there, serving a 25-year sentence in terrible conditions.

His name is Jorge Frank Iglesias Fernández. He is 29 years old and was a lieutenant in State Security until February 2015, when he was detained and tried for “espionage.”

Iglesias Fernández refused to commit what he considered to be an injustice, giving warning of the imminent arrest of a Cuban American woman and a North American man who were visiting Cuba and whom State Security were investigating for presumed “counter-revolutionary activities.” continue reading

The authorities also linked to the case the ex-lieutenant’s brother, Víctor Eduardo Iglesias Fernández, 18, and sentenced him to five years in jail – which sentence was later commuted to “limited freedom,” with the added requirement to periodically appear before the enforcement judge.

After being detained for a year at Villa Marista, the head barracks of State Security, where he was subjected to continuous interrogations and enclosed in a cell measuring 3×2 meters, Jorge Frank Iglesias was sent to the maximum security area of Guanajay prison, in Artemisa. They have been holding him there in solitary confinement for almost the last two years. He has no phone privileges. His parents can visit him once a month, for two hours, and always in the presence of a guard.

My source tells me that in Iglesias Fernández’ cell, the guards have not turned off the lights for even one minute since his confinement. This continuous exposure to light has affected his eyesight and he suffers from frequent and intense headaches. When for such reasons they have had to transport him to the prison hospital at Combinado del Este, he has been taken in handcuffs and in the custody of an impressive team of armed guards.

I supposed that in any other country, a crime such as that committed by ex-lieutenant Iglesias Fernández – whom it would be a stretch to classify as a spy, being that he never was recruited by the North Americans – would be punished, as well, but not with such despicable and inhumane viciousness.

Could it be for cases such as this that the regime’s anti-diplomats refuse to speak about political prisoners?

The Cuban government refuses to admit that there are political prisoners in Cuba, and even less, prisoners of conscience. And don’t even mention the conditions of their confinement. The official spokespersons, when they deign to speak of the matter, provide assurances that these prisoners are convicted of crimes referred to in the Cuban criminal code – especially violent criminals, hijackers of planes and ships who had the good fortune to not serve as a lesson by being executed, or various ex-military personnel or intelligence agents convicted of espionage or revealing “state secrets” (which would be the case of  Jorge Iglesias Fernández).

This in a country where a state secret can be how many bushels of plantains were lost in Alquízar, or of tomatoes in Consolación del Sur, because of there being no trucks or fuel to collect the harvest in time.

It would be fitting, so as to evade international pressures, for the governmental cheerleaders to keep in mind the hundreds of peace-loving individuals who, in a country governed by moderately normal and just laws, would not be in prison but in Cuba are locked away, in terrifying conditions, for legal aberrations in the Cuban penal code that are frequently applied against dissidents, such as “contempt,” “disobedience,” and “pre-criminal dangerousness.”

Author contact: luicino2012@gmail.com

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

A Doctrinaire Constitution / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 15 September 2018 — A constitution is not a doctrinaire document, but is rather the result of consensus among differing political, economic and social positions.

Throughout the current project to revise the constitution, the effort has been made — using other language — to introduce the Party’s political, economic and social guidelines, so as to endorse them constitutionally and pull one over the eyes of the Cuban people. A single ideology permeates each article — sometimes at the start, others at the end. It’s like the master pastry chef who deems it necessary to add a drop of lemon to each one of his creations.

The 1940 Constitution, free of ideological adornments and respectful of Cuban history and traditions, when analyzed today — 78 years after its promulgation — continues to dazzle for its responses to the moment in which it was drawn up and its foresight about the immediate future, without imposing straitjackets on succeeding generations. Without a doubt, the delegates to the Constitutional Assembly of 1939 achieved a Constitution for “with all and for the good of all,” as the Apostle would have exhorted.* continue reading

The 1976 Constitution and the current project do not come close to it in depth nor transcendence — but rather remain as simple doctrinaire documents, far from the conviction and needs of the Cuban people — what with both being focused on maintaining one Party’s hold on power, at all costs and with no regard for the country’s development nor its citizens’ wellbeing.

Herein is the reason that, in the current draft document, are found so many restrictive and discriminatory measures in the political, economic and social order — which will only be greater in the new laws that will complement it.

*Translator’s Note: Refers to a phrase spoken by Jose Martí (christened by Cubans as “the Apostle”) in 1891. It has since been invoked by countless orators and writers to convey the spirit of the ideal Republic.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué  Ellison

The Lack of Water Hits Several Hospitals In Central Cuba

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara Cardiocenter in the city of Santa Clara. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Justo Mora / Mario J. Pentón, Cienfuegos / Miami | November 09, 2018 – The deterioration of the hydraulic infrastructure in the center of the country is hitting hard at several hospitals in the region, which cannot function normally as they suffer from daily rationing of the water supply to complete cutoffs in the supply lasting more than three days, a situation that workers and users of these centers point out.

“We have a problem with the water supply. The authorities are trying to solve it with tanker trucks, but no surgical operations have been carried out in the past three days,” a worker of the Ernesto Che Guevara Cardiocenter told 14ymedio on condition of anonymity.

This hospital complex, located in Santa Clara and the only one of its kind in the center of Cuba specializing in heart disease, has been paralyzed for more than 72 hours due to the lack of potable water. continue reading

The Cardiocenter serves patients from Villa Clara and Cienfuegos up to the province of Camagüey. The same employee explained that the problem not only affects the Cardiocenter but also all the hospital facilities in that city.

The country’s water networks are very deteriorated, authorities have said, so that other hospitals in the region also suffer similar problems. This is the case of the Cienfuegos Gustavo Aldereguía Lima Provincial Hospital and of the Camilo Cienfuegos Hospital, in Sancti Spíritus, which have had to ration water to avoid interruptions in the service.

A worker at the hospital in Cienfuegos complained that, at night, there is no water in the emergency surgical rooms and that the surgeons have to wash their hands with bags of saline. Last August, the inhabitants of this city had to face the lack of water not only in hospitals, but also in their own homes.

The facilities at these medical centers have several decades of use and have never, for all practical purposes, been repaired. This is coupled with a serious water leakage problem that is common throughout the country.

The former president of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources, Inés María Chapman Waugh, noted that every year more than 3.4 billion liters of water are lost through leaks in the country. The loss from pumping this water that ends up in puddles and small streams in the streets is valued at around five million euros, according to the official press.

“My sister is waiting for a heart valve replacement, how is it possible that they cannot operate because there is no water?” laments Luis, who waits outside the Cardiocenter.

The official press points out that in the Camilo Cienfuegos Hospital in Sancti Spíritus the 400,000 liters that are stored in the cistern are not enough to satisfy the needs since it is wasted. A recent report by the newspaper Escambray indicates that “cascades” are heard during the day, in reference to the leaks that spill all the water accumulated in the storage tanks into rooms and offices.

The director of the hospital, Eduardo Pedrosa Prado, also explained the water restrictions they endure. When the company Acueducto stops pumping water to the medical center, the decision is made to cutoff the internal pumping at 10:00 at night. The hospital runs out of water until 5:00 in the morning because otherwise the water stored in the cistern would not be sufficient for the next day.

The same routine used by the Gustavo Aldereguía Hospital in Cienfuegos is carried out in Sancti Spíritus. The nurses wash the hands of the surgeons with glassfuls of water that they extract from the gallons that they save during the day.

“We have become accustomed to this situation, but it is unhealthy and it endangers the lives of patients. We spend our lives in front of the world saying that we are a medical power and we send aid to other countries, but the truth is that nobody knows the sacrifice of those of us who work in public health,” a surgeon tells this newspaper.

The state of the bathrooms in the rooms of the provincial hospital of Cienfuegos is “lamentable”, says Ernestina Guzmán, a companion of a patient with kidney problems.

“The toilets do not have tanks. To flush you have to load a bucket of water and throw it into the toilet, and often there is not even water, so the bad smell stays around all day in the room,” she details.

Guzmán laments that the cleaning of the facilities “does not meet the needs of the hospital.” She maintains that even inmates are sent “to clean the rooms because nobody wants to work for the salaries paid by Public Health. They clean up badly and  do not even use the appropriate disinfectants for a hospital,” he complains.

“I already know that healthcare is free, but even though it is, or precisely because it is everyone’s right, hospital centers should have quality,” she adds.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

A Sip in The Versailles: Coffee and Elections

Exiles from five decades ago, young people who mix English with Spanish and newcomers from the island gathered at the famous Cuban exile restaurant in Miami. (Luz Escobar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Miami, 8 November 2018 — The Versailles smells of coffee, intense and short like those drunk copiously by some of those who on Tuesday night awaited the election results in Florida. Exiles from five decades ago, young people who mix English with Spanish and newcomers from the island who finished a sip as the results became known, little by little, about the numbers from the ballot boxes.

Autumn does not exist in Miami and on this Tuesday night, sweat ran down the forehead of Julita, a Cuban woman who has been in Florida for two years after entering through the border with Mexico when the wet foot/dry foot policy was still in effect. On the outskirts of the most emblematic Cuban exile restaurant, the woman laughed, danced a few steps and waved a small flag of the island.

The joy of Julita, 68, did not spring from the fact that her favorite candidates had won at the polls, because in reality she does not yet have a US passport and cannot vote in the elections. However, it was the first election she lived in the land of Uncle Sam and it was all a surprise for her, a former militant of the Communist Party who now avoids talking about her past. continue reading

With two naturalized children already in the United States, the Cuban woman has had intense weeks. “I had to tell my family that we were not going to talk about politics at the table because we always ended up fighting,” she says, surprised by the passion that these mid-term elections have unleashed, but at the same time enjoying “the heated discussions that occurred.”

Cuban Americans in Florida experienced a tense environment before legislative elections in which there were several surprises and numerous disappointments. “I voted for María Elvira Salazar because she is very charismatic and she is also Cuban,” says Rodolfo Morejón, another Cuban who was finishing coffee outside of Versailles while waiting for the final tally to be published.

Social networks had boiled over for weeks in a real pitched battle where many friends came to insult each other, lifelong acquaintances were blocked and every demonstration for or against a candidate raised disgust on all sides.

Salazar, a well known figure inside and outside the island due to her long career as a journalist on Florida television, was one of the losers on Tuesday, where the pulse for the 27th district was won by her opponent Donna Shalala, former president of the University of Miami. The victory of the latter can be read in terms of a “de-cubanization of politics” in the city with the most exiles from the island.

Shalala met to celebrate with her supporters at the Woman’s Club of Coral Gables. From there she spoke to her followers who did not take their eyes off a huge screen that was broadcasting the results and shouted euphorically every time there was a victory for the Democratic Party and an area of the map of the United States was colored blue.

“The best one won,” shouted one of her voters assembled in the The Versailles and who was adorned in the blue color of the Democrats and wearing a baseball cap with the flag of the solitary star. “It does not matter if you are Cuban or American, young or old, more charismatic or less charismatic, what matters is that you are a decent and hardworking person,” he added loudly.

Donna Shalala, former president of the University of Miami, won the race for the seat in the U.S. Congress from Florida’s 27th District. (14ymedio)

Annie Betancourt, a 70-year-old Democrat, was also pleased that Shalala won the seat that Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen had vacated. “She conducted a positive campaign based on her knowledge, she is a person with government experience and in the political issues that matter to the voters of the district, such as health and education”, says this Cuban resident of the United States since 1960, who was a state representative in Tallahassee.

The tumult also reached the island, where through illegal satellite dishes many followed the step by step process, more out of curiosity than real interest. In the neighborhood of Centro Habana, María Eugenia and Gerardo, both retired and with children living in Florida, stayed all night glued to the television so as not to miss “the spectacle”.

“We do not understand much, but at least you see that the people care about who will be their representatives and are going to the polls enthusiastically,” says María Eugenia, who after midnight saw the last part through a cable that a neighbor, 200 meters away, rents for 20 dollars a month to enjoy totally American programming.

“Now when my daughter calls me I can comment as if I had been there,” says the retired woman who admits she has not participated in the neighborhood discussions about the new constitution. “No, why, going or not going will not change anything, that’s why it’s so different.”

Hundreds of kilometers away from the banned satellite dish and the retirees who were watching  the elections like those who watch a show, the Versailles café loses neither the heat nor the intensity. To the extent that losers and winners are confirmed, it tastes more bitter for some and sweeter for others.

The night is finished off by a young Cuban-American girl who carries in her hand a stamp that says “I Voted”. She mixes her words in Spanish and English and celebrates the importance of going to vote because for her “every voice is important” and “although we do not all think alike, it is good to go out and express what we want with the vote”.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Empty Nest

The work ‘Medialuna’ reproduces the concept of the empty nest in a country with high incidences of emigration. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 8 November 2018 – There are parents who cross their fingers that their children become independent and others who sigh in the distance because their offspring have emigrated or have moved away from home. In a country where there is a deficit of more than 800,000 houses and the housing problems force several generations to live together under one roof, it is easy to think that nobody suffers from the empty nest syndrome, but it is not so.

According to the Population and Housing Census conducted in 2012, 12.6% of Cuban households are made up of single adults. Many of them have seen their children leave to go abroad or start a new life together with their partner in another house. Loneliness, depression and questions about the meaning of one’s existence appear in many of these parents. For social and medical services, recognizing these symptoms and helping those who suffer from them is essential.

“There are elderly people who come here more for the company than the food,” an employee of the Pío Pío Comedor of the Family Service System, located in the Havana municipality of Playa, tells 14ymedio. The locale offers breakfast, lunch and food to retirees with low resources in the area, but another of its functions is “to serve as a meeting place,” says the worker who works in food preparation. continue reading

Many of the elderly people who eat in Pío Pío live alone or with other older adults. “They are people who dedicated a good part of their lives to the care of their children and in a moment they were left alone,” laments the employee. In the living room, which functions as a dining room, several old people converse and one shows the photos of a son who lives in distant Hamburg.

The Cuban family has been scattering in recent years with the upturn in travel abroad and emigration. Often younger children leave in search of new horizons and with the promise of helping their parents financially.

In the case of women, the effects of this separation can be expressed with greater severity. 49.1% of older adults living in single-person households are females with a median age of 69 years. For the psychologist Miguel Lugones, mothers feel “that the home is lonely, that their children have grown up and become independent and she feels that she has lost her leading role socially.” The empty nest seems wider and more alien for them.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Stranded in a Colombian Airport is Forced to Return to the Island

This video is not subtitled

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, November 4, 2018 — The Cuban Lázaro Miguel Gutiérrez Bacallao had to board an airplane bound for Cuba this Friday after remaining stranded in El Dorado airport, in Bogotá, Colombia, since October 14, as confirmed to 14ymedio by an official of Colombian Migration.

The source explained that Gutiérrez Bacallao was not deported because he never entered Colombian territory and specified that he had only been “returned” to the Island. “Not having a Colombian visa, he never entered our territory and so he was not deported but rather transported to his country. Cuba did its procedures to verify that indeed it was a matter of a countryman of theirs and then accepted his entry,” he said. continue reading

A friend of Gutiérrez Bacallao told this newspaper that the migrant was already home in Cuba, with his family. “They let him enter without any problems at José Martí airport. He’s calm, apparently happy. In a few days he’ll have his identity card. He let me know yesterday in a voice message at 9pm,” explained the source.

Lázaro Miguel Gutiérrez Bacallao spent 20 days sleeping on chairs in the waiting area of El Dorado airport. The loss of Cuban residency, after spending several years living away from the Island*, and the rejection by Mexican authorities of his entry to the country, placed this Pinar del Río native in a legal limbo that has been resolved this Friday.

Cuban migratory legislation determines that a national loses his permanent residency on the Island if he spends more than 24 months abroad. From that moment he needs an entry permit that the Government may or may not grant arbitrarily and based on motives that may be economic but may also be political.

Gutiérrez Bacallao lived for six years in Ecuador and, at the beginning of this October, decided to embark on the route toward the United States to reunite with his current partner.

He passed trhough Peru and Brazil before arriving in Cancún (Mexico) from Bogotá but Mexican authorities, upon finding irregularities in part of his documentation, decided to reject his entry into the country and returned him to Colombia.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba

What “Armaments” Can the Castro Regime Buy in Russia? / Miriam Celaya

Defense Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergei Shoigu, visits a tank unit in Havana, Cuba

Miriam Celaya, Cubanet, West Palm Beach, 4 November 2018 — When, at the end of last October, it was learned through various media outlets that Russia would grant 50 million dollars to the Cuban government for the purchase of weapons, alarms went off.

Immediately, nervous headlines began to appear, stirring the old unburied ghosts of the Cold War: Russia was preparing to “rearm” the Havana regime, the credit would allow the dictatorship to buy from the Russian military industry “all kinds of weapons and military material”, and – of greater concern – the event is taking place in the context of increasing tensions in the relations between Cuba and the United States, and it is accompanied by the announced return of military units to the Cuban territory as part of the narrowing of “Russian-Cuban” collaboration relationship that has been taking place recently, which includes the signing of 60 Russian capital investment projects in Cuba.

Thus, the aforementioned loan credit contract for the alleged “re-armament” and military modernization of Cuba was signed in Havana at the bilateral meeting held on October 29th and 30th, in which the Deputy Prime Minister of Defense of Russia, Yuri Borisov, participated, and on the Cuban side the Vice President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba, Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz. continue reading

Now, beyond the suspicions and the resentments – not exactly unfounded – that the intermittent love affairs between the Kremlin and the Palace of the Revolution can awaken in us, a credit of $50 million is an absolutely ridiculous figure if it is a question of a “re-armament”. Suffice it to note the real costs of current military technology to conclude that the aforementioned figure would barely be sufficient to replace the exhaust pipes of some obsolete armored vehicles from the magnificent Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces.

In other words, it is absurd to seriously believe that with such a meager loan Cuba could acquire modern military equipment and materiel, especially when the Russian side lists a fabulous list of potential purchases for its miserable Caribbean allies: tanks, armored vehicles, ships (we don’t know if aerial or marine) and maybe even helicopters. Technologies that, objectively, would be possible to buy for $50 million only if they were from World War II.

Although the Cuban-Russian flirtations are neither novel nor exceptional – remember that the military cooperation agreement signed between the two for the period 2016-2020 is in force, which was preceded by other agreements related to the “defense” of Cuba, including the granting of credits – the facts don’t need to be magnified.

Traditionally, the confrontational rhetoric of the US administration has had as its response these Havana warlike headlights, which – except for the distances – mimic the thorns that The Little Prince attempted to defend himself with, against a tiger that came close to attacking him. Because it is known that US troops have no intention of invading Cuba, that in the very unlikely case that it did the US firepower would overwhelmingly prevail against Cuba’s, and that, finally, Cuba is not anywhere near such an important element for Russia or the United States as to unleash a war between both giants.

So, is it wise to be alarmed? Maybe it is. But not because of the supposed risk of an international war confrontation that is not going to happen, but because of what the dictatorship would be able to acquire with $50 million and what it would mean for Cubans here if in fact that amount were invested in repressive equipment with a view to controlling possible outbreaks of discontent in the face of a worsening economic and social crisis in the interior of the country.

Because it is not a secret for the power elite that every day a collective feeling of frustration grows among Cubans of all sectors, in the face of a scenario that condemns the population of eleven million human beings to poverty and despair as they face the impossibility of building a better future, in particular because of the lack of political will on the part of a government that refuses to allow the development of their capabilities.

Paradoxically, the process of “popular debate” of the constitutional reform proposed by that same dictatorial power has exposed the fracture of the “unanimity” and the alleged “close connection of the people with the Revolution and its leaders”. For the first time in 60 years, there have been strong questions from all sectors about some of the proposals endorsed in the Constitution project, many of which directly attack what had been the “sacred” foundations of the system until now: the single party system and the supremacy of the Communist Party as “superior leadership force of society”.

When we are almost at the second anniversary of the definitive death of Fidel Castro and only seven months after the symbolic departure of his brother from his position as Head of State and Ministers, both the criticisms and disagreements, as well as the demands for participation in Cuba’s destiny cover all social strata, from retired people who live on miserable state pensions to workers, artists, entrepreneurs, LGTBI groups, the clergy, young journalists graduated from Cuban universities, doctors who have completed missions abroad and, more recently, the “revolutionary intellectuals”.

This time the demands don’t start from the opposition groups and other dissident voices that can be accused of being “mercenaries” or “sellers of the motherland” by the propaganda machinery of the official press monopoly. Ordinary Cubans want to know why they cannot directly elect their President, why they cannot invest in their own country, why they cannot acquire more than one license to work as self-proprietors, why they cannot import consumer goods and products from abroad, why freedoms are not recognized as citizens’ rights, such as those of association, free hiring and freedom to remain abroad for an indefinite period, among others.

The weariness seems to have spread throughout society along the whole Island, and the Power knows that better than anyone.

And this puts us back at the starting point. What if, as has happened in the protest demonstrations in Venezuela and Nicaragua, the Cuban regime decides to impose itself through blood and fury against the defenseless Cubans? How much anti-riot weaponry, gas, or other repressive devices against the crowds can be acquired with $50 million? Undoubtedly, in this case the figure would not be so negligible.

A reflection that does not aim to alarm, but to alert about a drift that can be extremely dangerous. We can only imagine how far the late stage Castro Regime is willing to go to preserve its power. It is more prudent to follow the signs in advance and drink from the experience of others. Venezuela and Nicaragua are there to show us the price of trust. Let us not be too trusting.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Bolsonaro Harvests the Failure of the Politics of the PT*

Jair Bolsonaro followers celebrate his victory in Sao Paulo. (EFE / Fernando Bizerra)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 29 October 2018 — Just as the surveys indicated, Jair Bolsonaro achieved victory in Brazil’s presidential elections. A few weeks ago, Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, had called on the Brazilian people to vote massively for his comrade Fernando Haddad, the Workers’ Party (PT) candidate, belatedly thrown into the ring in a desperate attempt to retain political power for his party.

“Haddad is Lula,” the popular leader wrote to his supporters, urging them to support the PT’s new ace at the polls, in a letter written from jail, where he remains locked up awaiting trial for corruption allegations.

However, the poll results this Sunday, October 28th, showed, beyond a doubt, that either Lula’s message did not go down as well as expected in an electoral mass that until recently seemed inclined in his favor, or the dissatisfaction generated by the corruption scandals that have undermined the standing of the political leadership, the increase in violence in recent years, the decline in social standards and in the economy, the specter of poverty that has once again spread through the most humble sectors and the loss of faith in leadership have finally caught up to politicians of the left. In fact, the voters voted for a change in the most radical sense of the word. continue reading

It will probably never be known to what extent the weariness of a difficult socio-economic and political panorama or simply the desire to punish the PT caused more than 55% of voters to vote in favor of the opposite extreme.

It may never be known with any degree of certainty to what extent the weariness of a difficult socio-economic and political panorama or simply the desire to punish the PT – more than real sympathy for Bolsonaro – resulted in over 55% of the millions of Brazilian voters going to the polls, but they voted quite in favor of the opposite extreme – the Social Liberal Party – thus blurring, once and for all, the few hopes that the most stubborn advocates of the regional left had in terms of demonstrating their popular roots at the polls.

An icy editorial published in the digital version of the Sunday evening edition Cuba’s main state newspaper Granma, under the meddling title of “Jair Bolsonaro won, and Brazil?”, reflected the displeasure and impotence of the Palace of the Revolution for “a result that represents Brazil’s return to the extreme right at the end of the 1985 dictatorship.”

And the Castro regime’s contrariness is not a small thing. Since his election campaign, the Brazilian elected president, who will take office on January 1st and who will complete his term January 2022, had announced his intention to send back to Cuba doctors who are serving missions in Brazil, and by virtue of whose semi-slave work the Cuban Government realizes juicy profits.

The suppression of another source of income in foreign currency can be a serious blow to the Cuban government in the midst of an economic situation that the authorities themselves have defined as “very complicated”, after the decrease in Venezuelan oil subsidies, in addition to the accumulation of external debt, the slowness and inadequacy of foreign investment and the pressures imposed by the U.S. embargo, among other adverse issues.

That beloved people – always hostage to extreme policies – now suddenly ceased to be “the hope” that would demonstrate through voting, their lucidity and their confidence in the leadership of the PT, to become a kind of amorphous and confused mass, easily deceived by the siren songs of “the far right”, manipulated by the “smear campaign” against the PT and its historical leader, a whole herd of imbeciles who did not know how to defend, as should have been done, incredible achievements of the PT, at the head of the Government between 2003 and 2016.

The most rancid liberals do not realize that the worst they can reap from this election day is that many of the voters voted, not so much for Bolsonaro as against the PT, which implies a much more adverse scenario to the left than they are capable of acknowledging.

The suppression of another foreign currency income source can be a blow to the Cuban government in the midst of an economic situation that the authorities themselves have defined as “very complicated”

Unquestionably, with its usual bad loser attitude, that left will send to the defendants’ bench the social networks, the interests of the national oligarchies, the “extreme right wing and conservative” press, the Yankee imperialism, with Donald Trump at the helm, its villain par excellence, the people’s information deficit, and even WhatsApp used as a means of misinformation of the masses, which they have taken to calling methods of “alienation of progressive thinking.”

In spite of everything, it is an announced defeat. It is worth remembering that just hours after finding out the results of the first electoral round on October 7th in Brazil, which was also favorable to Bolsonaro, one of the “genius analysts” of the Cuban official press summarized the criteria of some intellectuals of the Latin American left on the issue of the leadership retreat suffered by the progressive ideology in the region, and came to the conclusion that the left has underestimated the change that the internet implies “as the main instrument of the so-called new economy and of communication and relationships between human beings”.

That innocent slip, and not its terrible performance, seems to be its biggest sin, and the supposed reason for its regional political breakdown. Perhaps that schematic, childish and reductionist view of the matter alone explains the electoral result of this October 28th.

*PT:  The Workers’ Party (Portuguese: Partido dos Trabalhadores) is a left-wing democratic socialist political party in Brazil. Launched in 1980, it is one of the largest movements of Latin America.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuba Looks for Investors Ready to Take Risks

This Monday Díaz-Canel inaugurated the 36th edition of the International Fair of Havana (Fihav). (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, October 30, 2018 — “Now it’s a high-risk investment but I hope that in five years everything changes for the better.” That’s the hope expressed by an Italian businessman who has invested in the Island, stumbling over the habitual difficulties of doing business in Cuba.

“Since I first became interested until I was finally able to start work here, two and a half years passed,” laments the investor who has opted for the sector of hygiene and skincare products. “This isn’t a market for people who come trying to do business quickly, and you have to use the official language very well,” he specifies.

With the 36th edition of the International Fair of Havana (Fihav), the authorities want to present the image of a country open to foreign capital in the middle of an especially complicated panorama for the Cuban economy, which faces once again the challenge of attracting a greater number of foreign investors to the Island to solve the liquidity crisis. continue reading

After the approval of a foreign investment law in 2014, businessmen have been very timid and, instead of the $2 billion annually that the Government was expecting, only $1.3 billion had come at the end of 2016.

In 2017 authorities announced that $2.3 billion in investment had come in during that exercise, but not even the arrival of that capital managed to lift up the economy suffering from the cuts in petroleum shipments from Venezuela and the inflated debts with numerous creditors.

The slowness in the approval of investments burdens the arrival of cash, to which is added a complex bureaucracy in which “there are many civil servants of the third or fourth level who don’t decide anything but waste a lot of time,” continues the Italian businessmen who prefered to remain anonymous.

The businessman insists that, right now, the Cuban side owes him “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in late payments, but that he has continued importing merchandise to the Island in the hopes of being able to recoup his money and remain in the country with his sights set on the future.

In an interview with the official press, the Minister of Foreign Business and Investment in Cuba, Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, insisted on the protection of sovereignty in the policies of investment. “We, nevertheless, are not going to sell the country. We are going to develop this process in agreement with our laws, and with our policies,” he warned.

Malmierca urged that people not despair in face of the slow results of the ZEDM and clarified that “it is conceived for a long-term development” and is “a project for 50 years of development.” His declarations have increased skepticism among Cubans, tired of waiting for the economy to experience an upturn.

The signature work of ex-president Raúl Castro, the Special Zone of Development of Mariel (ZEDM), has also not offered the expected fruits. Until now the place anticipates investments from 15 countries and 37 approved business projects, much less than projected.

The increase in shortages of food, the rise in prices of agricultural products, and the new restrictions for the private sector complicate still further the internal scene of the Island.

Expocuba, created as a showcase in the 80s during the greatest closeness with the Soviet Union, now takes in 2,500 businessmen from more than 60 countries and also the presence of the mandatory Miguel Díaz-Canel, who made the inaugural speech and has developed an intense agenda of meetings with representatives from delegations, among them the Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami, and Yuri Borisov, Vice Prime Minister of the Russian Federation.

Spain is the most-represented country in Fihav with 112 businesses, 63 of them grouped in the official pavilion, 29 in the Basque country pavilion, and 20-something distributed among the rest of the exposition’s perimeter. The Spanish presence is also accompanied by the recently named ambassador, Juan Fernández Trigo, and in a few days the president of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, will come to the Island.

The Cuban economist Elías Amor, settled in Spain, has a very critical opinion on Fihav. “If the Cuban economy wants to export more, it must forget about parties and fairs and dedicate itself to increase productivity,” he says in his blog Cubaeconomía.

For the specialist, the Island “needs to increase its exports of products if it wants to correct the grave deficit in its external accounts,” but since 2011 the number of sales abroad “has done nothing more than fall” in a nominal drop of 59%.

Amor recommends that to raise exports, Cuba must “produce better and know how to sell what is produced, they have to train the working population, introduce modern technologies, and do things well and not more cheaply.”

The mammoth state socialist business continues dominating the economic landscape of the Island, where the existence of two currencies also slows down many interested in investing. Failure to pay and judicial insecurity are some of the other motives that dissuade foreign businessmen from putting their money in the country.

For the economist Omar Everleny Pérez, more flexible legislation to favor the arrival of foreign capital is not enough, but rather Cuba needs “a new mentality in orientation of the economic policymakers and of the risks that need to be taken for Cuba to join the international circuits of business and investment.”

Recently the Havana Government made a small payment of the third installment of a renegotiated debt of 2.6 billion to 14 countries. The initial amount of 11.1 billion was restructured to be paid until 2033, of which $60 million has already been paid in 2017 and close to 70 in 2018 so far.

Fihav is also developing amidst the debates in neighborhoods and workplaces in which the project of constitutional reform is discussed. One of the most-questioned points in the text has been, exactly, that which doesn’t include nationals among the businessmen who can invest in the Island.

Numerous voices have been raised across the country to demand recognition of the right of Cubans living inside and out of the country to invest in industry, tourism, services, and other key sectors.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.14ymedio bigger

Migration Crisis: Authentic Caravan or Managed Maneuver?

Honduran immigrants charging the first security border gate by force and entering Mexican soil. Internet photo.

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 24 October 2018 — The new Central America migratory wave that has resulted these days in violent actions at the Mexican southern border, where the migrants forced the official fence and invaded that country’s territory by force, is monopolizing the media’s attention and threatens to become the new crisis point of the already complex relations between the US and its southern neighbors.

This Monday, October 22nd, the US President has considered the advance of the migratory caravan as a “national emergency” and has warned about the possible use of armed forces, if necessary, to prevent the passage of illegal immigrants into US soil.

Simultaneously, as a response to the passivity of the governments of the region, which have not stopped the migrant movement, the US president has also announced, through his Twitter account, a cut or substantial reduction of the aid that Washington allocates to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. continue reading

Meanwhile, social networks are a hotbed of debate these days, most of them moved by prevailing emotions. No one seems indifferent to the images of men, women and young children crossing vast distances, dragged into the uncertain adventure of a journey full of risks and hardships that is a hard experience even for any young adult. The fear reflected in the innocent faces, helpless victims of both the misery of their lives in their countries of origin and the manipulations of unscrupulous politicians and their parents’ irresponsibility, is truly moving.

And in the absence of coherent explanations or sufficiently verified information in the meantime, there has been growing speculation about the origin of this new migratory avalanche – organized and apparently led by certain characters in regional politics – which, like a stubborn herd, continues its march towards a destination, though it knows the doors will be closed. It is really hard to believe that so many people have spontaneously succumbed to what, by all accounts and beyond the real deprivations that afflict millions of the poor in Latin America, is revealed as a political maneuver.

As often happens behind each human drama, passions are polarized among those who ask to allow the caravan march to continue and be offered entry to the US, for humanitarian reasons, and those who are vertically opposed to the avalanche. The former invoke the human right to emigrate and find better living conditions, and appeal to their own experience as argument (“we were also immigrants, the US is a country built by immigrants”, etc.); while the latter point out the dangers of uncontrolled immigration, the overload that immigrants pose, as recipients of benefits that, in the long run, will affect taxpayers, etc. And, of course, there is no shortage of cries from xenophobes and racists, ready to put their poisonous note on the matter.

Bridge at the international frontier between Guatemala and Mexico. Internet photo

The worst part of the case, however, is that regardless of the reasons that everyone believes they have, there isn’t the slightest possibility of escaping this crisis. That is, there is no politically correct way to solve such a problem. Because allowing the passage of this migration wave not only creates a succession of crises in the economies of the host countries – where even without receiving this large a number of immigrants, numerous social ill exist for their nationals, such as unemployment and poverty – but it creates political tensions in the relations between these countries and in the relations between of all of them with the US.

On the other hand, if the US accepted such a situation and allowed entry to this (other) caravan, it would be setting a terrible precedent, since it would open the possibility that similar successive invasions would continue to become an unstoppable torrent.

Not even an economy as powerful as the one in the US could withstand such pressure or escape unharmed. This, without mentioning that it would open the doors to racial violence in the interior of the country, in a spiral of hatred from which nobody – neither nationals nor immigrants – would come out as winners, but quite the contrary.

The European experience with migrants from Syria and other nations involved in violent conflicts, which have entangled the political and social environment in that small continent, is a pattern that shows the economic as well as political consequences that such an uncontrolled and constant migratory flow that has ended up turning the borders into areas of tension can produce in the receiving countries. At the same time, they have been causes of social confrontations, of tensions in the relations between countries, and between the governed and governments.

Until now, the crisis arising from the heat of this migratory avalanche towards Europe shows no signs of ending, but continues to stir hatred and rejection in open confrontations with the most permissive and tolerant positions.

And it is also not possible to deny the impact that the clash of cultures produces when it happens massively and on a large geographical scale. Because, while we are in an era where everyone talks about “globalization” – on the basis of human solidarity, tolerance, respect for differences, etc. – the truth is that there is no ideal recipe that minimizes the adverse effects of what already seems more a phenomenon of continuous and infinite stampedes than a natural and gradual process of migrations, where cultural insertion and mutual enrichment takes place between those who emigrate and the society that welcomes them.

Hondurans on their way toward the United States in the migrant caravan. Internet photo

Without wishing to tilt the scales in favor to one or the other side, we must understand that the human right to emigrate cannot ignore the right of receiving nations to establish the rules of the game, to choose what immigrants and how many of them will be accepted in their country and how many will not, according to their own interests and the administration of their own economy and social order. No one allows the expedited entry into their home, or dispenses its resources to anyone who demands them just because of the decisions someone else makes.

And this brings us to another important point of the case in point: the current migration from Central America to the USA, the violence at the outposts of this human torrent, added to the demands that the US government be responsible for solving a problem they created, are elements that suggest the work of third parties, cleverly hidden behind the scenes.

There are those who say that it is a dirty maneuver plotted and managed by the villains of the region: the failed regimes of the Castro-Chávez alliance (Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba) with the intention of diverting the attention from public opinion and the forums of international organizations of the deep crisis in those countries, reflected in the growing migrations of millions of people who are fleeing, frightened by the trail of misery of “XXI Century Socialism”.

The truth is that these continuous avalanches from south to north – and always with only one final destination: the USA – are not plainly and simply explained as a result of the congenital poverty of our nations or as the always romantic dream of conquering the American dream; but as the sum total of the failure of the Castro regime experiment, expanded to the continent, and the manipulations of a defeated ideology that refuses to go away.

Because what all this convulsive and difficult scenario overlaps is the intention to create a crisis of great magnitude between North and South and not the vindication of the rights of the “exploited and dispossessed” peoples, which regional radical leftist ideologues so often proclaim. These are, in short, the dangerous throes of a twisted system that tried to conquer the continent and that now agonizes, victim of its own inefficiency. Possibly, the best thing for everyone would be to help it die.

Translated by Norma Whiting