A Chavez Supporter Denounces “The Castros’ Deception” / 14ymedio

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Advertisement greeting arriving passengers at Havana’s José Martí International Airport Terminal 3. Poster reads “Cuba: A Healthcare Destination for All.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Havana, 29 July 2015 — On June 30, 2015, the pro-Chávez website Aporrea posted a disturbing testimonial about the Cuban healthcare system, with a title that says it all: “Ninety Days in Havana: You Have to be There to Know The Truth.” The Venezuelan Nelson Jesús Lanz Fuentes, a regular contributor to Aporrea, and a great admire of Hugo Chávez, narrates the ordeal he went through first in his country, and later in Havana, where he accompanied his son with the hope that Cuban doctors could save his leg.

A traffic accident left the son of Lanz Fuentes, a resident of the Venezuelan city of Guarenas, with severe injuries to one of his legs. His tibia factured in three places and the doctors from Venezuela’s public health system inserted a plate in his leg to help regenerate the bone. However, the operation caused an infection resulting in a terrible diagnosis: infected pseudoartrosis and osteomyelitis of the right tibia, and a dermoepidermal ulcer with bone exposure. Venezuelan doctors in private practice recommended a very expensive treatment that did not guarantee good results.

Lanz Fuentes, who in recent years has been very critical of Nicolás Maduro’s administration (which he accuses of false socialism) posted an open letter to the President on Aporrea, complaining bitterly how Venezuela dares call itself a socialist country when his son might lose his leg “because of commercialized private healthcare and an ineffective public health system.”

In the same missive, he asked the Venezuelan government to give him permission to exercise his right to travel with his son as stipulated in the healthcare agreement between his country and Cuba because Lanz Fuentes sincerely believed that “Cuba is the only country in the world where the leg could be saved.” He was convinced that “socialism only really exists in Cuba, where every citizen receives free healthcare regardless of medical condition.”

Lanz Fuentes wish came true when on March 30, 2015 he flew to Havana, after being “fast tracked” with the backing of a bureaucrat for the Cuban–Venezuelan Healthcare Agreement.

Like all Venezuelans, Lanz Fuentes’ son was sent to La Pradera International Healthcare Center (built as tourist center at the beginning of the century), which receives patients in accord with the Cuban–Venezuelan agreement. From there, patients are dispersed to different medical facilities according to their pathology. Upon being diagnosed with acute osteomyelitis and infection of the tibia, Lanz Fuentes’s son was transferred to Havana’s Frank País Orthopedic Hospital where he was to undergo emergency surgery as per the Cuban doctors’ recommendation. The diagnosis was completely confirmed at the center, but the urgency ended there.

Thirty days after being admitted, Lanz Fuentes’ son had yet to be operated on. His treatment was reduced to treating the infection with antibiotics. The official rational was a lack of a bed in sterilized room. After complaining for several days and promises broken, Lanz Fuentes reports that a doctor finally confessed that “the truth is my son will have to wait between three and five months. Foreigners who pay in cash and in US dollars get preference.”

Disillusioned, Lanz Fuentes admonished the doctor for his response, and argued that the Venezuelan people already pay the Cuban government with their oil. So since Cuba has incurred a debt of billions of dollars with his country, Venezuelans should receive care first. Lanz Fuentes’ angry reaction resulted in his son being transferred to Havana’s Fructuoso Rodríguez Orthopedic Teaching Hospital in El Vedado.

“We spent 45 days locked up in a beautiful resort. We were allowed to move around freely within the compound, but we could only leave it on Saturdays, from 2:00 to 6:00 PM, and on Sundays from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM. From Monday to Friday we were locked in there,” protests Mr. Lanz as he recalls the days he spent at La Pradera International Healthcare Center. On top of being confined, Lanz Fuentes had to accept the fact that patients who paid in cash and in U.S. dollars enjoyed priority over Venezuelans, since their care was “free of charge.”

But with all that, the worse was the “bill.” Although he had been assured in Venezuela that the agreement with Cuba guaranteed free healthcare, Lanz Fuentes was charged for antibiotics, medications and vitamins, as well as for all meals and hospitalizations. He was handed two bills for US$7,800 each his son’s expenses, and another one for US$4,800 for his. Lanz Fuentes states: “What this means is that, for the stays of all of us who turn to Cuba, the Cuban government is very well compensated by its principal ally and pimp, our Venezuelan government.”

It took just a few months in Cuba for Lanz Fuentes to fully understand “the absolute truth about the current Cuban reality, all the lies that the Maduro Government tells us about the Cuban government, and the fantastic propaganda machine that the Castros use in order to keep deceiving the rest of the world.”

Translated by José Badué

Eighty Percent of Las Tunas Province Is Facing Soil Erosion / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 July 2015 — Experts have just confirmed what peasants in Las Tunas Province already knew due to the declining yields of their harvests and the degradation of their land. Eighty percent of the province’s arable land has already eroded, and another 28% is facing desertification. According to reports appearing in the official Cuban press on July 28th, this problem is a result of “changes in rain patterns, and inadequate management of the province’s farmable lands.” Continue reading

Cancer from High Levels of Metals in Reservoirs? (II) / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang

In spite of the contamination of Cuban bays, health authorities do not prevent fishing and bathing (photo by the author)

In spite of the contamination of Cuban bays, health authorities do not prevent fishing and bathing (photo by the author)

Cubanet.org, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 28 July 2015 – Between the years 2004 and 2007, 65 children from the Los Sitios neighborhood in Central Havana, 7 to 10 years of age, underwent testing in order to determine their degree of lead poisoning. The research, conducted by a team of researchers from the Cuban National Institute of Health, Epidemiology and Microbiology (INHEM), found that 46.2% of the children exceeded the acceptable levels for adults according to the World Health Organization (10.0 mg/dl) and that 67.7% already were demonstrating learning difficulties associated with poisoning from this heavy metal.

According to the scientists, who recommended extending the investigation to other areas of the capital, the group of those affected presented with “diminished reading abilities, more limited vocabulary, poor reasoning, very slow reactions and poor psychomotor coordination.” Also, concern about the long term consequences was raised due to lead exposure being associated not only with reduction in academic performance but with changes in hearing, behavior, low self esteem, suicide attempts, depressive syndromes, aggression, and even mental retardation or death. Continue reading

Time for Compensations / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Who will compensate the thousands of Cuban boat people who lost their lives in the Florida Straits? (Mexico, Department of the Navy)

Who will compensate the thousands of Cuban boat people who lost their lives in the Florida Straits? (Mexico, Department of the Navy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 22 July 2015 — After the media foreplay stirred by the opening of the Cuban and US embassies in their respective countries, some outstanding issues on the agenda of negotiations between the two governments begin to surface as matters that should, in short order, get the attention of the media and of public opinion.

Statements by senior officials on both sides have made reference to cardinal issues that marred the Cuba-US relations for half a century, whose solution – requiring very complex negotiations and agreement — will depend on the success of the standardization process that has been occupying headlines and raising expectations since this past December 17th.

One such point refers to compensation claims from both sides. On the US side, for the expropriations suffered by large American companies in Cuba, whose assets have remained in the hands of the Cuban government, and the demands of Cuban citizens who emigrated to the US, who were also stripped of their properties under laws introduced by the Revolution in its early years which remained in place for decades. The total amount of compensation demanded by those affected is estimated at about 7 or 8 billion dollars. Continue reading

Havana’s Pools: That Blue Water Yonder / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez

The José Martí Stadium Pool, on Havana’s Avenue of the Presidents. (14ymedio/Javier H.)

The José Martí Stadium Pool, on Havana’s Avenue of the Presidents. (14ymedio/Javier H.)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Havana, 21 July 2015 — Now 67 years of age, Juan Carlos recalls how when he was a kid he climbed up on a roof and from there spied on the pool of an adjacent exclusive Havana hotel. He was fascinated by what he saw, but Juan Carlos’ family’s financial limitations kept him from enjoying all that magnificence. The slogan “The People Have a Right to Sports” had firmly taken root by his teens and early adult years. Consequently, Juan Carlos got to splash around in several pools, and for free. However, his memories of those blue waters now come back to haunt him. Today, all the pools near Juan Carlos are either in a state of total ruin or way beyond his budget.

Currently retired, Juan Carlos insists that “access to pools in July and August should be a human right.” When summer heat waves make Cubans sweat so profusely, “there’s nothing better then taking a dip to cool off,” he says, with a confident half-smile. Continue reading

New Embassy for an Old Dictatorship / Miriam Celaya

Inauguration of the Washington embassy with officials from Cuba and the US (picture from the Internet)

Inauguration of the Washington embassy with officials from Cuba and the US (picture from the Internet)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 22 July 2015 — The reopening of the Cuban embassy in Washington finally took place amid extravagant fanfare, and, judging by the profuse media coverage, with catchy headlines and photos on the front pages of almost all the newspapers, it seemed that there was nothing more relevant taking place in the world.

The (re)opening of the Cuban embassy was the recipient of movie star treatment in some of the news media: photo galleries with pictures of before and after, instant ones — not as offensive — of the first opening of the building during the Cuban Republican era, a construction worker, proudly posing outside the newly renovated headquarters, showing off his Che Guevara arm tattoo, an indoor plaque to be unveiled at the time of the opening, and the flag hoisted on the mast; just like all flags at embassies around the world … Undoubtedly, the Island’s proverbial vanity was on a high.

A large official delegation traveled from Cuba, at public expense, to attend the merriment that joyfully celebrated the Castros’ capitulation and which – with that skill for euphemisms — the government discourse coined as a “victory of the Revolution.” These included several representatives of the government “civil society” who offered the embarrassing spectacle of rallies of repudiation orchestrated during the last Summit of the Americas in Panama, who now were awarded a trip of encouragement to the Empire of Evil which provides so many goods. Continue reading

Contaminated Aquifers, Cause for Alarm / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang

High levels of lead and other metals harmful to health have been detected in reservoirs intended for human use

High levels of lead and other metals harmful to health have been detected in reservoirs intended for human use

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 23 July 2015 – Although they have not been properly disclosed, in spite of their great importance, numerous studies carried out repeatedly by teams of Cuban scientists have raised the alarm about the critical state of Cuba’s main aquifers.

The detection of high levels of lead and other heavy metals harmful to human health in lakes and reservoirs intended for human use and for work related to agriculture and fisheries suggest that this could be one of the main causes for the increase among the Cuban population of cancer and other illnesses related to prolonged exposure to toxic substances.

The Ejercito Rebelde dam receives wastes from the nearby Antillana de Acero (photo from the internet)

The Ejercito Rebelde dam receives wastes from the nearby Antillana de Acero (photo from the internet)

While the phenomenon afflicts all the country’s provinces, Havana is the region most affected because, first, it is surrounded by several landfills capable of leaking highly toxic elements into underground waters that feed sources destined to supply the capital; and, second, most industries do not comply with international norms for the treatment of wastes and the filtering of harmful gas emissions, and they even discharge wastes directly into river basins like the Almendares, which crosses the capital and whose waters are used on farmlands. Continue reading

Twenty Families in Güines Endangered by Imminent Collapse / Hablemos Press, Raul Ramirez Puig

The structure is propped up and bears a sign that warns of danger from collapse.  Photos taken by the author.

The structure is propped up and bears a sign that warns of danger from collapse.
Photos taken by the author.

Hablemos Press, Raul Ramirez Puig, Mayabeque, 25 June 2015 – Residents of the building located on Habana Street and Esquina de Teja, in the municipality of Güines, Mayabeque province, are making known the imminent danger they are facing.

The structure was built in 1735, according to data from the Municipal Library. Other buildings dating from that era, such as the Güines Villa, have not had any maintenance since 1959.

More than three months ago, barricades and signs were put up warning passersby of the danger, but there has been no move to repair the damages.

Güines is one of the most productive municipalities of Mayabeque province. It is also one of the most forgotten.

About Hablemos Press

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Restore Sovereignty to the People If You Want To Avoid another Revolution / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The Moncada Barracks. An attack on the barracks  in 1953was the opening move of the Revolution

The Moncada Barracks. An attack on the barracks on 26 July, 62 years ago, was the opening move of the Revolution

A pandemic of freedom floods our senses.
Juan Carlos Cremata

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos and other authors, Havana, 25 July 2015 – It will soon be 62 years since a group of young men headed by Fidel Castro attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba, an event that catapulted that figure to the foreground of national politics and definitively buried the possibility of a peaceful and political outcome to the situation created by Fulgencio Batista’s coup a year before.

The armed struggle prevailed and managed to oust the tyrant from power. But the violent way in which it was achieved marked until today the political fate of Cuba. The Encampment triumphed again over the Republic.

That same character who organized and led that assault and who then headed a rebel military movement capitalized on the popular triumph of the 1959 Revolution, made and supported by the great majority of the Cuban people in order to restore the democratic system. Continue reading

Authority as Exemplified by Elpidio Valdés / 14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenechea

Elpidio Valdez

Elpidio Valdés

14ymedio, José Gabriel Barrenechea, Havana, 18 July 2015 —  I remember it as if it were yesterday when my old man took me to see the first Elpidio Valdés feature film in 1974. Having just debuted in the city of Santa Clara, we had to jump through hoops to find a taxi willing to take us all the way there from the town of Encrucijada. Thanks to the help of one of my father’s many friends, we were able to sneak into the Cubanacán Cinema, now long gone. Around the corner and in front of an improvised ticket booth set up for these types of events, a large police unit tried controlling half of Villa Clara Province that had descended on the Provincial capital for the movie’s premiere.

I have seen that film around fifty times. I doubt there are many who can beat my record. Whenever it played in Encrucijada’s movie house, I would go see it the four nights in a row of its run.

I was and still am a fan of this fictional military leader of the Cuban Wars of Independence. It is no wonder I stored all the Elpidio Valdés animations from before 1990 on my computer. On top of that, I also own a copy of the quickly-forgotten series Más se perdió en la guerra, or Más se perdió en Cuba,* the title changing depending on whether it was distributed on the island or in Spain. Continue reading

A new case of fraud shakes Cuban universities / Mario Lleonart

A new case of academic fraud this Thursday has shaken the universities. A group of first year medical students in Villa Clara province were able to see in advance the answers to the morpho-physiology exam, which was sat Thursday July 2nd. According to various witnesses, the sale and circulation of the test was so widespread that it occurred in other venues, such as Sagua la Grande.

The immediate solution they are going to arrange is to get all the first year students to repeat the exam next Monday July 13th. At this stage it is not known whether any penalties will be applied to those who committed the fraud, nor whether they have made public the source of the leak. The only details which are known have come from those who have to retake the exam, with some students  complaining they are paying for the guilty ones.

This type of scandal in the academic world has occurred frequently in all educational levels. In July last year this daily paper reported the leak of various final tests in Medical Faculty Number 1 in Santiago de Cuba. On that occasion 23 students were directly involved in the leak and distribution of the contents of the second year anatomy and statistics exams, 4th year English, and the so-called State Test. On that occasion, the Teachers’ Board at the centre called for a sanction of two years’ suspension from higher education for the students involved in the act.

Translated by GH
9 July 2015

Among Thieves: Who Robs Whom? / Hablemos Press, Yixander Doimeadios

Entre ladrones_MG_3749Hablemos Press, Yixander Doimeadios, Havana, 25 July 2105 – Theft is institutionalized in Cuba. It is a pseudo-culture, endured and practiced from one end of the Island to the other, and the excuses for it are: “I have to live, life is hard….” as if the parasitic “living” were something that must be accepted.

The fees tacked on to products sold in the hard currency stores* are insulting. Discounts on them, even hours before their sell-by dates, are notable in their absence.

And what to say about the private-sale merchandise added to the inventory by the shopkeepers? Nothing is direct from the producer or manufacturer, and everything has a shady provenance because it comes in “under the table.” Continue reading