Number of Unpacu Activists on Hunger Strike Rises to 111

The strikers are concentrated in three spots in Santiago de Cuba. Some are in the Antonio Maceo suburb, others in Vista Hermosa, and the rest in the principal headquarters of Altamira. (Unpacu)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 20, 2019 — The leader of the opposition group Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), José Daniel Ferrer, reported this Wednesday that 111 members of that organization are now on hunger strike. The action, begun on February 11, is aimed at “calling attention” to the repression of the government against activists promoting the No vote to the new constitution that will be submitted to referendum on February 24.

 We are now 111 activists on hunger strike. #HungerStrikeVsRepression

– José Daniel Ferrer (@jdanielferrer) February 20, 2019

Since that same February 11, Unpacu’s headquarters in Santiago de Cuba has been surrounded by police, who control the passing of residents and visitors. As the Unpacu activist Jorge Cervantes explained to 14ymedio, those participating are “covert forces from State Security dressed as civilians, motorized police and patrol cars, and paddy wagons from the special forces.” He also said that the neighbors “are really upset” because the officials are blocking access to 9th Street in the Altamira neighborhood “to anyone who they suspect of being an Unpacu activist.” continue reading

The first to begin the hunger strike was Ferrer himself, a few hours after the exhaustive search of two of Unpacu’s headquarters and eight homes of that organization’s activists. The police action was condemned by the United States embassy in Havana and the Organization of American States (OAS).

The strikers are concentrated in three spots in Santiago de Cuba. Some are in the Antonio Maceo suburb, others in Vista Hermosa, and the rest in the principal headquarters of Altamira.

The number of strikers grows daily and their names and photos with a No painted on their shirts are updated via social media with the hashtag #HuelgaHambreVsRepresion (Hunger Strike Vs. Repression).

On Monday Ferrer broadcast live via Facebook from Céspedes park in the capital of Santiago province, but he was immediately violently arrested by several police officers. “Of course my voice fails me, I’ve had seven days without eating, only water,” said the opposition figure during the broadcast. Additionally, he explained on his Twitter account that he had escaped from the police blockade that they have at the headquarters “to continue with the #YoVotoNo [I’m voting no] campaign.”

According to the young leader of Unpacu, Carlos Amel Oliva, the hunger strike will conclude at midnight on February 24, hours after the closing of polling places. “So we will not be able to go vote, but we are calling on Cubans to vote No and many of our activists will go to vote No that day, and will also be there as observers.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


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.

Official Press Sees Electoral Advantages in the Tornado

The head of the information department of Solvisión, Yaneysi Nolazco, requests “taking advantage of the response the state has given to the disasters caused by the tornado.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerMario J. Pentón/14ymedio, Miami/Havana, February 20, 2019 — The official press on the island has received guidance to take advantage of the tragedy of the tornado that, at the end of January, devastated Havana, in order to advance propaganda for the Yes vote in the February 24 referendum on the new constitution.

This newspaper has had access to an internal communication from the Solvisión telecenter, in Guantánamo, which gives instructions on coverage of this upcoming Sunday’s vote.

In that email, the head of Solvisión’s information department, Yaneysi Nolazco, requests “taking advantage of the response the state has given to the disasters caused by the tornado to claim that only a socialist state is capable of acting in that manner, [of] mobilizing workers […] raising awareness of young people, children, and women to offer its efforts in solidarity.” continue reading

The government has been heavily criticized for the response it gave to the tornado, which left seven dead and thousands of victims. Authorities have sold food and construction materials to the victims, which has triggered protests, some of which have spread to social media.

Nolazco asks Solvisión’s journalists to avoid the presence of electoral propaganda at the polling places, because calling for a Yes vote “isn’t the job of electoral authorities.” In the case that there are banners of this type, journalists should focus the camera “in another direction.”

The head of information asks the journalists to show the leaders “lining up to vote.”

“Right there take their statements, while interacting with residents, in some cases going forward with them inside the polling place and we’ll show everything that is happening,” she specifies.

Official journalists should interview young people and “demonstrate” that the new generations are “participating” in the referendum “not only as voters.”

Cuban authorities have promised “jail cells” to independent observers and promoters of No, who in an unprecedented and rudimentary campaign have used social media to champion their position against the ratification of the constitution approved by parliament.

In exchange for the recognition of the little private property and of foreign investment, the new constitutional text leaves intact the control of the Communist Party, postpones the decision on marriage equality, and guarantees the monopoly of the state over communication media, healthcare, and education, while at the same time affirming that “Cuba will never return to capitalism.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


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.

Victims Without Rights

Isbet Acosta Valle had been in Havana for three years when the tornado destroyed the home where she was living. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, February 19, 2019 — There are those who lost everything or almost everything in the tornado, but there are also those who can’t even legally prove that the winds on that January 27 took everything they had. Before that night, Isbet Acosta Valle lived with her daughter in a borrowed apartment but her identity card didn’t say “Havana.” She is one of the many “illegals” who live in the city, who can’t ask for help to rebuild their homes.

Born in Las Tunas, Acosta arrived in the capital with the dream of making it there. A friend offered her a modest house and told her: “Stay for however long you can.” Three years had passed by the time the storm destroyed everything and flew off with her dreams.

“I can’t make claims because my name isn’t on the papers,” she tells 14ymedio. “Unfortunately the house was made of wood and the roof of fiber cement. It was in really bad condition but at least it was something, now I’m left on the street with my seven-year-old daughter.” continue reading

In the first 19 days, no authority came by the improvised warehouse in which they were sheltering. (14ymedio)

According to data on internal migration gathered in the 2012 census, the province where the most people live who were born in another province is Havana, with 462,677 (41.6% of the emigrants).

In 1997, authorities toughened the law on the settlement of inhabitants originally from other regions of Cuba in the capital. The regulations have led thousands of them to live in illegality or settle the matter via irregular methods, like paying a landlord who adds them as a resident in a home or marrying for convenience.

Frequently the police carry out raids and check the place of residency on identity cards. If it doesn’t match a Havana address, the person can be deported to their original province. Many of them live without access to the rationed market, higher education, and jobs in the state-controlled sector. Havana natives sometimes refer to them, derogatorily, as “Palestinians.”

Isbet Acosta has become familiar with all those vagaries in the past few years, and now her conditions have worsened. She stayed in an old warehouse of interprovincial buses in the days after the tornado along with other families who have been left without a roof, but living together is complicated and privacy is null.

In the first 19 days, no authority came by the place. “We’re trying to find a solution for our housing because here we don’t have the proper conditions and there are small children, pregnant women. The state needs to give us an answer, I don’t care if it’s land to build on or materials to repair what’s here.”

In the warehouse where they spent the first days there was neither water nor electricity. (14ymedio)

The government has agreed to subsidize the price of construction materials by 50% for families who suffered total or partial collapses of their homes. However, an indispensable requisite to access these subsidized prices is being able to demonstrate ownership of the affected house, something that Acosta has never had.

To regularize her status in Havana she must first have her own home or the consent of the owner. The owner must register her at a private address, but the process includes procedures in several offices, verification of whether the house has sufficient square feet to accommodate another person, and numerous documents. In some neighborhoods an additional authorization is needed because they are considered “frozen zones.”

Without those formalities, Acosta cannot have a Havana address on her identity card, and without that requisite she remains on the margin, as well, of the possibility to request a bank loan or ask for some social help given her economic precariousness.

Despite her condition, every day the young woman appears at the Processing Office on Pedro Perna street in Luyanó, set up after the tornado, but they answer her that her case “is complicated” and “she has to wait.” At night, she sleeps between three moldy and chipped walls of the old warehouse, where she keeps her belongings in a strict order, as if she wanted to stop the chaos at least in the small space around her bed.

It wasn’t until last Friday that local authorities came with a concrete proposal for the victims sleeping in the place, the majority of them illegal. “They came early and told us to gather all our belongings because we were going that very day to a shelter in Boyeros and that’s what we did.” Everything that they had they put in small cases and they even gave away some things that they couldn’t carry.

“It was a total humiliation, we were waiting all day for the bus to come get us and nothing happened, at night another official came to tell us that we were no longer leaving for the shelter and that we had to wait.” The woman laments that they just have to “keep waiting” after the passing of the tornado.

On Friday night Acosta was desperate. She had given away her mattress because she didn’t have transportation to take it with her and she didn’t have anywhere to sleep. Saturday passed in the same way until on Sunday they were finally moved to the shelter. “We don’t have anywhere to go and for two weeks the state didn’t worry about whether we ate, whether we were alive, nothing,” she says.

As she recalls, there were days in which people came by bringing water, clothing, or food of their own initiative. “The water that some people have brought us as a donation is what we were using to clean ourselves the days when there was no water from the sink. With my daughter I had to live asking favors from neighbors to bathe her with lukewarm water because we didn’t even have electricity.”

The desperation of not having an answer has already passed, now she and her daughter are situated in a shelter that, although it doesn’t have all the conditions of the home that she lost, at least has the minimum necessary to spend the days. But Acosta is still an illegal and she fears that her situation will surface when she begins to complete some legal procedures and they will return her to Las Tunas.

Her dilemma is whether to make herself noticed and make claims to get a roof, or to keep quiet to avoid detection of the irregular status of her residency in Havana. To be or not to be, that is her quandary.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


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.

Authorities Promise Jail Cells for Those Promoting a No Vote

Zelandia de la Caridad Pérez and Juan Moreno were detained in the municipality of Bauta when they were trying to carry out a campaign for No. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 18, 2019 — “The next time they will end up in a jail cell,” the Ministry of the Interior official warned two activists who had just given a workshop on voting observation this past Saturday in Bauta (Artemisa).

The electoral process does not need “independent observers because the Revolution has its own observers,” added the official.

The message was clear in the form of a threat that Zelandia de la Caridad Pérez, national coordinator of the Cuban Commission on Voting Protection (COCUDE), and Juan Moreno, executive secretary of the organization Candidates for Change, received. continue reading

That is the trend of the campaign undertaken by authorities to silence those attempting to carry out a campaign for No and, with barely a week left before the vote, seems to be intensifying.

Arrests, threats, and raids on homes are some of the strategies employed against those promoting a position that differs from the Yes backed by the government and for which an intense campaign has also unfolded in national media, schools, and public transportation.

This Sunday, in Santiago de Cuba, the opposition figure José Daniel Ferrer was detained while he was promoting voting against the constitution in the central Céspedes park. The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba is on a hunger strike along with more than 70 members of his organization who have been uniting in protest over the raid that they experienced in eight of their homes last Monday.

During the police search, Ferrer was also arrested, and two police officials, who were identified as Dayron and Quiñones Zapata, explained to the ex-prisoner of the Black Spring that the raids and the seizure of numerous work resources were motivated exclusively by the campaign that Unpacu is carrying out to encourage the No vote in the referendum.

Adriano Castañeda Meneses, municipal vice-coordinator of the United Antitotalitarian Forum (FANTU) in the city of Sancti Spíritus, has also just had a similar experience. His house was raided this Sunday by the police in order to, allegedly, search for propaganda from the Write Down No campaign that the opposition organization is promoting. The initiative explains in 16 points the reasons to reject the new constitutional text on February 24.

The pressures have led the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH), headquartered in Madrid, to once again reject, this Sunday, “the wave of arbitrary arrests, raids on homes of human rights activists, and confiscations from activists who have publicly demonstrated their reservations and questioning of the new constitution.” The organization specifically highlights what happened last week at the Unpacu headquarters and denounces that, among the items being confiscated in the searches are “all the tools and resources of work,” in that particular case, for example, “623 registers of observers from civil society for the referendum.”

The OCDH also laments in its communique that “during seven weeks of campaigning for the referendum, not one article recommending No or abstention has been published in the official press,” which “violates international standards for voting material.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


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 Government Needs More Than Four Million Yes Votes

DIIE officials can calculate that the illegal operation of omitting the names of travelers will go unpunished, among other reasons because the eliminated will not be on the island to demand their presence on the list. (Heriberto González)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, February 15, 2019 — The referendum on February 24 is not a formality, it is a requisite for the new Constitution of the Republic, approved by parliament on December 22, to come into force. And the rules of this popular consultation do not protect the government from a possible surprise.

Unlike other electoral processes in which district representatives or members of parliament are chosen, the will of the electorate is not determined in referendums exclusively counting valid votes. According to what is established by article 137 of the constitution, still in force, reforming the constitution requires “the ratification by favorable vote of the majority of citizens with the right to vote,” or what is equal to more than 50% of those registered in the electoral register.

So the Yes option could only triumph if it exceeds the combined number of those who opt for No, blank ballots, annulments, or abstentions. For example, if on the register there were eight million voters with the right to vote (there were 8,639,989 voters authorized in the March 2018 parliamentary elections), they would need four million plus one for Yes for the approval of the new constitution and its entrance into force. continue reading

The campaign #YoVotoNo (I’m Voting No), initiated in the middle of last year, has managed to surpass any other that has been carried out from the environment of the opposition. No banging on pots and pans (cacerolazo, in Spanish), request to strike, call to march or to not participate in activities promoted by the government has found an echo as massive as the invitation to mark a civilized little cross in the square that indicates that the voter does not wish to ratify this new constitution.

For the first time, the opposition, or even better, “the oppositions,” have a single and agreed-upon candidate. It has as its name a monosyllable of two letters: No. Evangelicals who believe that the new constitutional text opens the doors to marriage equality are going to vote for that “candidate.” Along with them, paradoxically, those who identify with the LGBTI community, and believe that an opportunity has been wasted postponing for two years the possibility of legalizing marriage between persons of the same sex, will do the same.

People aspiring to start a business, those who are not happy with the acceptance of private property and see in the new text more limitations than openings, will vote No. Believers unhappy with the absence of a true freedom of religion that allows a more widespread evangelization will do the same. Those who aspire to one day live outside the country and have the right to double nationality: No. Those who want a union to demand their rights or to associate freely to share customs and ways of living: No.

Obviously those who have had the clarity to realize that it is unacceptable to institutionalize the dictatorship of a party that intends to keep being the one and only one and impose an irrevocable system will vote No.

For more worldly motives it would be necessary to add those who have spent years waiting for the housing issue to be solved, those whose salary isn’t enough, those who are daily driven to despair waiting for the bus to come to take them to work. The thousands of Average Joes who have by now lost their patience.

Those voters mean many votes and could be rounded to 20% of the hypothetical figure of eight million. Or what is equal to 1,600,000 citizens.

In parallel, and for similar motives to those who will vote No in the referendum, there is a considerable number of Cubans who will opt to not visit the polls, whether out of indifference or because they think that their simple presence in what they consider to be a farce only serves to legitimize the process. Of course, only those who are enrolled in the electoral register can be considered as abstentionists. That group could amount to another 20% of the electorate.

Recently Alina Balseiro, president of the National voting Commission (CEN), confirmed that Cubans who are temporarily out of the country for personal reasons will not be able to exercise their right to vote in the 1,051 polling places that will be set up abroad for the use of those who are fulfilling an official mission of the government. However, she affirmed that these citizens could vote in their country on February 24 because if less than 24 months have passed since their leaving the country, all their rights remain intact.

It is difficult to calculate the number of people with the right to vote (over 16 years old) who left the island between February 25, 2017 and February 23, 2019, and who have not yet returned. Since their names must appear on the voting register, they will swell the number of abstentions. They could be around 2% of the electoral register.

It’s necessary to warn that this figure is easy to cover up, because the responsible body for the voting register is precisely the Office of Identification, Immigration, and Alien Status (DIIE) of the Ministry of the Interior, which has a thorough control over the entries and exits of the country. The DIIE officials can calculate that the illegal operation of omitting the names of travelers will remain unpunished, among other reasons because those eliminated will not be on the island to demand their presence on the list.

To facilitate these exclusions they rely on the argument that any voter who does not appear on the registry, having a right to it, can be added in an almost immediate manner by showing their identity card at the appropriate polling place.

Finally there are the undecided who leave the ballot blank, and the nonconformists who wait for the opportunity to send a message to power by writing an anti-government slogan on the ballot or by drawing something like an obscenity. If added up they reach 800,000, a worrying balance opposite the positive vote could be produced, one that could only be hidden by resorting to a crude fraudulent operation.

Although the champions of No would not win independently, those who propose abstention, annulers, and undecideds could celebrate together the defeat, unimaginable for many, of Yes.

It goes without saying that the government has a wide margin to manipulate the results. However, they could not get rid of the fact that they remain in power supported by a minority.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


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.

“If Maduro Falls, in Cuba We’ll Return to the Special Period” / Ivan Garcia

Stove similar to that used by many Cuban families during the s0-called Special Period in the 1990’s. Taken from the blog Vertientes Camaguey.

Ivan Garcia, 7 February 2019 — John Bolton, Donald Trump’s National Security advisor, is asking autocrat Nicolas Maduro to renounce power in Miraflores and to enjoy a political retirement on a Caribbean beach.  Otherwise, he forecasts a terrorist prison cell for him at the United States’ Guantanamo Naval Base, more than 1000 kilometers east of Havana.

So far, forty nations have stopped recognizing Maduro.  The European Union gave him an ultimatum to carry out free elections, and Juan Guaidó, the self-proclaimed president, is trying to flip the last Maduro bastion: the armed forces.

“I believe that it is necessary for the military to cede and leave Maduro all alone and thus to avoid greater ills, at least the mid-level commanders, because those higher are corrupt and very committed, and they know that their heads will roll next to the president’s.  Let’s hope that is not delayed much because Maduro is already considering the idea of new elections, though not presidential elections, but to restore the National Assembly, and we already know how elections are there, the same as here.

“In fact, that company that was in charge of the technical side of the elections, and was paid money for it, denounced the filth of the process.  Maduro intends a new election in order to manipulate and erase the opposition as usual.  For Venezuelans, it is NOW or NEVER,” says Reinaldo, a retired former history teacher who has followed the events in Simon Bolivar’s homeland since the first coup attempt on February 4, 1992. continue reading

With exceptions, like that of the former history teacher, in Cuba the Venezuelan soap opera is watched without much passion.  The Castro brothers were always allied unconditionally to Hugo Chavez, and currently the neo-Castroite Miguel Diaz-Canel keeps offering military and intelligence advice to Nicolas Maduro.  But there are other political actors involved in Venezuela.  Each one seeks to guard its interests, like Russia, Turkey and China, who have invested billions of dollars in the mining and energy sectors.

In the cases of Turkey and China, if the opposition guarantees a slice of the future economic pie, it does not matter to them how Maduro’s luck may run.  Putin has other interests.  He is looking to establish Russia as a center of world power and in geopolitical strategy to create a conflict in a United States zone of influence.  But if the Trump administration promises to lift economic sanctions on Russia after the annexation of the Crimea or to guarantee it will not lose its investments in Venezuela, the Russian president wouldn’t mind changing his posture.

Several Caribbean islands back Maduro because he guarantees them oil for the price of peanuts.  The US and the EU are counting on a democratic system and on having a partner and not an enemy in Miraflores, for political and economic reasons:  Venezuela has 25% of the world’s oil reserves, in addition to tantalite, gold and fresh water sources.  Cuba supports Venezuela for the simple reason that the late Fidel Castro was the progenitor of Chavismo.

The Cuban dictatorship paved the way to Miraflores without firing a shot or causing a coup.  With absurd ideological prescriptions and erroneous political doctrines, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez drove the country to its current precipice.

Maduro’s Venezuela is the best example of what not to do in political and economic terms.  Submerged in poverty, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the governing party, is incapable of producing enough petroleum to permit feeding a population that, thanks to the “Maduro diet,” has lost on average from 22 to 33 pounds  each due to lack of food.

It’s too much.  An oil country with constant blackouts.  If Venezuela does not change, it will suddenly enter a primitive stage, plagued by criminal gangs.  Startled, the world has seen how a nation that used to have inequalities but was immensely rich, after the arrival of Chavez and Maduro has retreated to the extreme of shared misery, turning survival into a way of life with hyperinflation that raises the price of food every three days.

What is happening in Venezuela is not a priority among ordinary Cubans who have spent decades subsisting on the ration booklet, surrounded by penury and limitations.  In spite of the state media’s deployment of its campaigns and panegyrics to rescue its soldier Maduro, Cubans haven’t been aware of the Venezuelan context.

According to the German newspaper Deutsche Welle, “Thanks to the arrival of the internet to mobile phones, in Cuba citizens can more immediately compare the news about Venezuela published by the foreign and independent outlets, reports quite distinct from the triumphalist and totally biased fanfare of the official press.  The Telesur channel, controlled by the PSUV and broadcast on the Island, has shown a pathological blindness when it comes to counting demonstrators and protests.”

Roger, a nurse who worked in Caracas a year ago, insists that he is better informed than most Cubans.  “The Venezuela that Telesur and [Cuba’s state newspaper] Granma describe is not what I knew.  Eighty percent of Venezuelans demand Maduro’s head, they are fed up with a guy fatter than a mother-in-law, always shouting, insulting and accusing everyone of plotting to assassinate him.  Every time he speaks on television people grab some rum, go out on the street and hit the bottle.  Cuba is very bad, but Venezuela is much worse.”

Jaime, a state taxi driver, asserts that he is more or less up to date on what is happening in Venezuela from listening to international radio stations on short wave.  In his opinion, “The western democracies have rushed to support the claims of Juan Guaidó, a guy very well know in his home.  I don’t like Maduro, nor do I like Trump, but both, although we don’t like them, they are official presidents until they leave or they ‘go’ legally.”

Dagoberto, a baker, does not understand the role of the two presidents.  “Why doesn’t Maduro put the other one in jail?  Didn’t he win an election?  In Cuba no one elects the president, and no one opens fire on us.  The Cuban government supports him because he gives it oil.  Maduro thinks he’s the hottest thing on the planet, but if Venezuela is fucked, in Cuba we’re going to be living in the dark.”

Laritza, employed in a private cafe, says that her mother spent two years on a mission on Venezuela.  “She said it was in flames.  Teens with machine guns on the corners in the poor neighborhoods and at night you can’t go out in the street.  If you drive a car, you can’t stop at the lights.  In Venezuela, everything is lacking, but they have industrial quantities of petroleum:  Give it a kick anywhere, and it spouts black gold.  If they knock Maduro off his horse, in Cuba we’ll return to the Special Period.”

Orlando, a private hairdresser, comments:  “Maduro is a shit cocktail; fat and gaudy, he is unbearable when he speaks and disgraceful when he starts dancing with his wife, who looks older since she dyed her hair blonde.  If they get him out of there, he will surely come here.  I imagine him driving a bus in Havana,” and he lets out a laugh. [Ed. note: in Maduro’s pre-political life he was a busdriver.]

Analysts and economic experts predict that Cuba will enter a cycle of economic decline if Maduro steps down.  “But never like in the Special Period of the ’90’s, when the GDP fell some 35 percent.  Now the economy is more diversified and in spite of the obstacles and regulations, self-employment has been consolidated (recently the Ministry of Labor reported that more than 1.4 million Cubans work in the private sector, 13% of the population).

“Anyway, with or without Maduro, the country is going to enter a recession because there is no substitute for Venezuelan oil obtained by barter.  The Cuban government does not have enough liquidity to spend two or three billion on buying oil on the international market,” underscores a Havana economist.

Occupied in the odyssey of getting food and solving daily problems, with few exceptions Cubans do not have the time or the opportunity to be informed about Nicolas Maduro and Juan Guaidó through foreign or independent media outlets.  With other undertones, Venezuela seems to them too much like what they have experienced.  A deja vu.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Building After the Tornado

Yudelmis Urquiza with her young son, six months old. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, February 14, 2019 — Diana Curbelo has spent 15 days sleeping in her neighbor’s entryway. She passes the hours seated on a red armchair that she has put out on the sidewalk of Teresa Blanco street and at nighttime she goes into the entryway to be under a roof. A resident of the housing complex at number 118, Curbelo shares an address with another ten families.

In the building, where a month ago there were precarious little rooms, the majority of them with a light roof, piled up on one side of a hallway are the construction materials that the government provides, and on the other side the debris that they are taking out.

“The materials have come quickly, they brought everything, a brigade of workers who came here the other day and who already have everything needed. They’ve moved a lot. In total there are 11 apartments here, I live with my son and a nephew with his wife and they have a three-year-old son. They haven’t yet told me to pay anything, I haven’t signed a single paper, I only know that they are fixing my house,” says the woman. continue reading

Diana Curbelo observes the work on her house and helps where she can. (14ymedio)

At her side, one of the workers, who wears an olive green T-shirt, rests a few minutes leaning on the railing to take in a little shade. “Here they have given us all the materials we need: tools, boots, hard hats, rope. We also have everything we need for security, we cannot complain. We have on site 70% of the materials we need, and we are going forward. I think that by April we will have this finished,” he maintains.

The brigade working on the complex comes and goes through the narrow passageway that leads to the place where they are building the apartments. “They are going to build apartments with everything: bathroom, kitchen, living room, bedrooms…” explains the worker before returning to work. “The objective is that each one of these victims has their new house as soon as possible,” he adds, convinced that his labor will mean a “great improvement for all the residents” who before were living in very bad conditions.

Diana Curbelo remains seated in front of the entrance, watching the coming and going of the builders and helping where she can. “All the neighbors have been worried, they have even offered to have me stay in their houses to sleep but I have to take care of my own. If I don’t do it, who will?” she says.

The tornado surprised her family outside, celebrating the birthday of one of the children. “We were all in the middle of the party when it began to sound. We went to run to the back of the passageway and we went into the house of a neighbor who has a roof and we stayed there until everything passed. I wanted to die when I went out and saw everything destroyed. I lost the mattresses, the fans, and the kitchen. The rest I was able to recover,” she remembers.

Curbelo explains that they have not yet passed through her street to bring the new mattresses. “They tell me that I have to save the old one but imagine, I have it there among the debris. If they take it, what can I do?” she asks.

Solange Faizan and her family have also not managed to get new mattresses and the only one that survived they have lent to an elderly lady. (14ymedio)

Turning from Teresa Blanco and entering through Pedro Perna street, the view is the same. In the middle of the street are mountains of blocks, gravel, sand, steel bars, roof beams, and water tanks. On the same corner, an enormous crane demolishes a building while a man plasters a wall, another, shovel in hand, prepares the mixture and bends some steel bars.

Luck has been unequal in the distribution of materials and labor force. On Armenteros street, between Luyanó and the railroad tracks, lives Solange Faizen with her family. After the tornado their home suffered partial damages, which left the house without a roof and some walls in a bad state. Meanwhile, in the kitchen they have put down some tiles that they have been finding but explain that it is a provisional solution to be able to be in the house. “We want to put on the roof as soon as possible, because we have a little girl here with asthma and a bedridden elderly lady,” she says.

“We already have the roof, you can see it there. The architects passed by, measured, and with the paperwork they prepared for us we were able to buy the tiles and beams, the problem is that they didn’t give us cement or sand, and the builder that I contracted told me that to put down the tiles he needed those materials because he couldn’t attach those tiles without materials.

“The architects returned yesterday to see an affected wall that they hadn’t included in the report. I complained and they told me to go today at eight in the morning to the Processing Office, but now my forms don’t show up and I have to finish putting on the roof, because rainy days are coming. We told them everything, but I don’t know what they wrote down on their paper,” she explains.

Solange Faizan and her family have also been unable to get new mattresses and the only one that survived they have lent to an elderly woman, who is the one who needs it most. “I have saved here the two old and stinking mattresses, waiting to see if finally they come with the new ones they promised.”

Yudelmis Urquiza has prepared a space to be able to cook in her new home. (14ymedio)

The worst, with everything that has happened, is going from one place to another without resolving the necessary procedure. “What bothers me most is going back and forth. I don’t want them to give me anything extra, I want them to give me what I’m meant to have, but without having such a hard time. In the processing office they make you go from one table to another and you always hear the same thing: ’that is nothing to do with me’ and they pass you from one person to another without anyone resolving anything.”

The EF4 category tornado that passed through several municipalities of Havana on January 27 with winds of around 300 km/h left a toll of six dead, some 200 wounded, and around 10,000 displaced. According to the latest official figures, more than 7,700 homes were affected, including 730 total collapses; among the damage to roofs, 1,109 were total and 1,950 partial.

One of the Havanans who suffered the total collapse of her home was Yudelmis Urquiza Fernández, a young woman of 29, with two children of 11 and 6 months, respectively, on Concha street, between Infanzón and Pedro Perna. “I lived here at 909, but everything collapsed, only this part was left,” she says, pointing out what was a few days ago her house and now is only a few walls without a roof.

Bathroom of Yudelmis Urquiza’s improvised home. (14ymedio)

“It’s been more than fifteen days and nothing has happened, we’re still on the street. Many people have come and written things on paper, but they don’t give any reponse. Not Bárbara [Agón Fernández, president of the Municipal Assembly of Popular Power of the Tenth of October], not anybody. They haven’t even given us shelter,” she laments.

The first days, she says while holding the baby in her arms, she slept in front of what was her house, in a doorway. “That was only one time, because I couldn’t stay there. On the other block I found a place to go, in a business that was also affected, but the manager there allowed me to be there a few days.”

The place doesn’t fulfill even the most minimal conditions of hygiene and protection necessary to accommodate a mother with two young children. “Only a person who is in a lot of need like me would go there, what I cannot do is sleep in the street with my children. If they let me stay and they give me what I need to fix it and create the conditions for ’self-help’ I will arrange it, or if not let them give me a shelter, but it can’t go on this way,” denounces the young woman, annoyed with the institutional lack of support.

“Bárbara, every time I go to see her, tells me to stay here and not worry, that she will come to see me. But I’ve spent two weeks like that and nothing. Until when?”

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


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 Indignation of a Cuban Who Will Not be Able to Vote on February 24

The only message permitted on billboards, television, radio, printed media, and in all public spaces, without exception, is Yes to the constitution. (14ymedio)

The author, who writes under a pseudonym, directs her letter to the opposition and to international bodies.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Guamacaro Canada, February 13, 2019 — An open letter from a common Cuban citizen, to all the member groups of the opposition, inside and outside of Cuba, as well as all the international bodies that maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba.

The proposal of some members of the Cuban opposition to abstain from the referendum on February 24 has no sense without having received, previously, international support on the illegitimacy of the process.

At these moments, facing the indifference of international actors, the only course that could provide salvation to the Cuban people is a massive No vote in the referendum.

In the first place, I invite all the participants of Cuba’s opposition to declare themselves in front of all the pertinent international bodies on the antidemocratic character of the upcoming referendum and to make a formal petition for the constitutional process led by the Communist Party of Cuba to be declared illegitimate. continue reading

I ask those same international bodies to take a position, since they will be the voice that defends an oppressed people, which, unlike the Venezuelan people, does not go out to the streets en masse to protest against its government because, in the course of the last 60 years, it has lost all hope of having a better future.

Cubans show a silent resignation in face of their numerous problems, starting with food of a low nutritional quality subsidized by the government via a provision card that is an instrument to gag the people.

The healthcare system, free but very precarious, and education based on indoctrination from early childhood are other instruments that fulfill the same function, in addition to the miserable salaries, which are around $30 per month on average.

The referendum will not have the presence of impartial international observers because the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) does not permit them.

At this moment there is within the country a massive repression of the No campaign, according to statements from the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights, at the same time in which the PCC is carrying out a massive campaign for Yes. A countless number of banners promoting Yes, distributed by the PCC, invade the public space. The march of the torches, which was held at the end of January in the middle of a natural disaster in Havana, was dedicated to guaranteeing the vote for Yes, as is the televised campaign.

To this it’s necessary to add the immediate destruction of any banner alluding to No, the beatings of peaceful opposition figures who attempt to promote a campaign for No, as well as the constant censorship of telephone messages, of websites critical of the PCC, and of private mail that does not reach its destination if it contains any allusion to a position contrary to Yes.

A few days ago the PCC said that citizens who live or find themselves temporarily outside of Cuba will not have the right to vote. On the other hand, those who find themselves abroad fulfilling some mission for the government of Cuba will be able to vote. The excluded denounced this measure in protests in front of Cuban embassies in several countries.

The illegitimacy of the process of constitutional reform is reflected in Article 224 of the draft, which declares “the irrevocability of socialism and the political and social system established in Article 3.”

Rarely has the world seen a form of repression that guarantees the gagging of all the citizens of a country, against 11 million Cubans who maintain ties of blood and friendship with more than 3 million emigrants spread out all over the world, by denying them the right to enter and leave the country without restrictions.

This is the greatest emotional blackmail in modern history, when thousands of mothers see themselves deprived of seeing their children on or off the island because of having expressed their ideas. Because more than political prisoners inside jails, which unfortunately exist in the present in Cuba, those who are on the island live in reality in a psychological imprisonment, the same in which the 3 million relatives who live abroad find themselves.

What is happening in Cuba at this time is not a physical genocide, although many deaths are consequences of the policy of repression of the government, but rather a moral genocide, committed by a sole party against the people, snatching from them the right to mobility inside and outside of their country by means of blackmail, denying them the right to the free expression of their ideas.

This fact must be denounced in front of international authorities. A country in which the most minimal protest turns into a labor of titans needs to be defended in the face of the imposition of a shameful constitutional text on its citizens.

I ask for the same understanding toward Cuba that the international community now has toward Venezuela, where it has recognized the right of citizens to fight against communist doctrine to get out of famine and return to democracy.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


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 "Self-employed" Represent 13% of the Cuban Population

Private restaurants are the business with the most “self-employed.” (Cal)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Havana, February 11, 2019 — Cuba recorded a total of 580,828 self-employed workers at the end of 2018, of which 29% are young people, 34% are women, and some 10% retirees who have joined the private sector, according to statistics published this Sunday by state-controlled media on the island.

The provinces of Havana, Matanzas, Villa Clara, Camagüey, Holguín, and Santiago de Cuba contain 65% of the private or self-employed workers in the country, according to the statement of the first vice minister of work and social security, Marta Elena Feitó, in an interview with the newspaper Juventud Rebelde.

The activities most represented are still those related to food (9%), transport of cargo and passengers (8%), renting of homes, rooms, and spaces (6%), telecommunications agents (5), and contracted workers (26%), employees in the areas of food and transport, specified the vice minister. continue reading

Feitó noted that the principal changes in the issuing of licenses applied since December 7 eliminated the capacity cap of 50 seats for service in a restaurant, bar, or cafe, and license holders are now allowed to establish more than one activity of this type in the same home, and even the possibility of selling non-alcoholic drinks in bakeries was included.

The announcement of the new rules regulating private work — which in theory had been expected to restrict to only one the number of licenses and limit the capacity for private restaurants and sparked discontent among its targets — was, in the end, settled with a reworking of those measures.

The last inventory made of the exercise of private work after the set of new rules went into effect found that 15,466 people do more than one activity, especially in the food sector.

However, the vice minister pointed out that the new measures are still “incipient” in light of the change in the control, but she assured that there are some aspects of the laws established that “were fulfilled” and others “are being fulfilled.”

In that sense, she mentioned that at the close of last December, 793 measures were enforced for breaches of the current legislation and specified that of that number, 610 were preventative notifications and 183 were fines, 18% of these for performing labor activities in an illegal manner.

The director emphasized that there are still people exercising activities in an illegal manner, in the majority of cases on public roads and on the outskirts of state-controlled bodies, and expressed the opinion that those “cannot face an inspection body alone” but rather it must be done in a “comprehensive” manner.

She stressed that it’s necessary to preserve this form of non-state management in a “framework of legality” because she recognized that it is an “important” type of employment that increases the supply of goods and services, frees the state of non-fundamental activities, and the taxes that are collected by that route are a source of income for local budgets.

In Cuba, with a total population of some 11.2 million inhabitants, self-employed people now represent 13% of the population, almost quadruple those recorded in 2010 when the island’s government increased private activity in a number of sectors and freelance workers surpassed 150,000.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


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.

Bukele and How to End Poverty, Exodus, and Violence

Nayib Bukele would have to create in his people reasonable hopes of prospering. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, February 10, 2019 — Nayib Bukele swept to victory in the presidential election in El Salvador. Bukele is an outsider who used GANA as an electoral vehicle, a party of the right that split off from ARENA. He used it, despite the fact that its founder, ex-president Tony Saca, is imprisoned and sentenced to ten years in jail, accused of misappropriating $300 million. That circumstance did not matter to anybody. GANA was only a ticket. The party barely got 11 out of a total of 84 representatives.

Bukele liquidated the communists of FMLN (23 representatives) and the liberal-conservatives of ARENA (37). Salvador Sánchez Cerén (FMLN) will leave the presidency with the disapproval of 80% of Salvadorans. He lost some 47% of the votes obtained in the penultimate contest. He is the worst-assessed president since Alfredo Cristiani inaugurated his presidency in 1989, initiating the four ARENA governments. After Saca, the last ARENA president, came Mauricio Funes of FMLN, exiled in Nicaragua accused of stealing $351 million, and, lastly, the repudiated Sánchez Cerén. continue reading

Through what crack did the outsider “sneak in?” First, he was no stranger. He had been mayor of San Salvador and voters did not blame him for the poverty or violence, the two main evils afflicting the country. Second, voters are tired of the parties’ empty promises, of corruption, of clandestine “bonuses,” and of traditional communication methods. Bukele barely went to meetings in the capital or in the towns of his tiny country and he avoided debates. He established, to be sure, his distance from Nicolás Maduro and Daniel Ortega, whom he described as “dictators.”

The new president is 37 and has a youthful aspect. If the Spanish poet Rafael Alberti asked for respect because he had been born with the cinema in 1902, Bukele and the young politicians of his generation, in all latitudes, can repeat that call because they were born with the internet, with computers, with Facebook and Twitter. They have another manner of communicating with voters and use it profusely. It is the story as well of Alexis Tsipras in Greece and of Pablo Iglesias in Spain, both Leninists fortunately hobbled by the moderate bourgeois reality of the European Union.

To combat social violence and its countereffect, local desires to emigrate, Bukele would have to create in his people reasonable hopes of prospering. After all, from Panama and Costa Rica, two Central American countries, almost no one leaves. It’s the other way around: they are full of immigrants who share the Panamanian “dream” and the Costa Rican “dream.” They are escaping, instead, from Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

How is this miracle achieved? Investing in “human capital,” that is to say, in education and healthcare, but creating sources of work that allow a surplus to be produced over a couple of decades to be able to realize that investment. There are no shortcuts, but the secret is to be a little better each year that passes and forget about charismatic leaders. Freedom, the law, and institutions are irreplaceable. “Poor are the peoples who need heroes,” said Bertold Brecht, although he did not always obey his fair warning.

As for prosperity, all the information available on Bukele makes one think that he trusts in public spending to achieve it. He was a populist mayor, and it is a shame, because that path leads to disaster. He would do very well to dedicate five minutes to a brief YouTube video produced by the Liberty and Progress Foundation of Argentina entitled Productive Work vs. Unproductive Work.

Argentina is one of the few countries on earth that has gone little by little underdeveloping itself and conquering poverty without pause or truce. There he would learn that the growing prosperity is the result of the constant increase in productivity generated by the creativity almost without obstacles of entrepreneurs.

It is not even worthwhile for Bukele to hide behind the size and population of El Salvador to justify a hypothetical failure. They are the same as those of Israel, only that the successful Jewish state is surrounded by enemies, while El Salvador has the advantage of counting on the sympathies and the desire to help of half the planet. Let us hope that common sense enlightens Bukele. If he is not successful it will be terrible.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


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.

Parents of the Doctor Murdered in Brazil Want to Bring Her Baby to Cuba

The husband of Laidys Sosa, identified as Dailton Gonçalves and of Brazilian nationality, confessed to the crime upon being detained by police. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, February 10, 2019 — The parents of Laidys Sosa, the Cuban doctor who was murdered last Sunday by her husband in the state of Sao Paulo, traveled this Monday to Brazil to claim custody of the young woman’s baby, as 14ymedio confirmed from sources close to the victim.

The doctor, 37, was attacked in the home where the couple lived, in the town of Mauá. According to official sources, her husband, identified as Dailton Gonçalves and of Brazilian nationality, confessed to the crime upon being detained by police.

Gonçalves, 45, fled in a vehicle after committing the murder, but he was arrested hours later by authorities on a highway several kilometers from his home. Upon being interrogated he said that he killed his wife by striking her at least 10 times with a screwdriver. continue reading

The man, who was taking medication for anxiety, said that the murder of his wife had not been a sin, “but rather a sacrifice.” After killing her, he hid the body in a wooded area.

The doctor’s parents traveled from Cuba to Brazil to ask for “the custody of the baby and to be able to bring him to the island as quickly as possible,” explained a member of Laidys Sosa’s family, “because this is the most important thing at this time.” Several colleagues and friends “raised funds to pay for the cremation” of Laidys Sosa’s body and several legal matters.

The source added that at this time the child is with the doctor’s parents and that on February 18 they have a meeting with a Brazilian judge to resolve the custody of the minor. “The paternal grandparents already signed a legal paper in which they accepted that the maternal grandparents would have custody,” pointed out the source.

The Brazilian lawyer André De Santana Correa told 14ymedio that the minor’s maternal grandparents have “every right” to assume custody if becomes impossible for the parents to protect the child.

“Without a doubt, it is a very painful case, but the right of family protects them. They are the ones who must protect the minor,” added De Santana Correa, who has several cases related to Cuban doctors in Brazil.

“She was a woman who was full of life and very hopeful for her future in Brazil,” a Cuban doctor who preferred to remain anonymous told this newspaper. The doctor, who also lives in the state of Sao Paulo after having decided not to return to Cuba, says that a few weeks ago he exchanged messages via social media with Sosa.

“She told me that she was already coming out of the most complicated moments of having had a baby and that she was eager to return to her profession,” says the doctor. “She was a very positive woman and also very caring because she used to give lots of advice about how to settle in this country, for those of us who had legal questions to resolve.”

Sosa was one of the more than 2,000 doctors who decided not to return to Cuba after Havana’s decision to withdraw from the Mais Médicos program in response to statements from the then-president elect of Brazil. Jair Bolsonaro demanded that the doctors revalidate their titles, be able to bring their family members to that country, and be given their entire salary. The Cuban government was keeping 75% of the $3,300 that Brazil was paying the doctors.

Brazil has the seventh highest rate of femicide in the world, with 4.4 murders for every 100,000 women, according to study done in 2012 under the headline Map of Violence.

In 2015 the law of femicide went into force, which provides for graver punishments in cases of crimes motivated by “discrimination against the condition of being a woman.” However, despite a greater legal rigor, 4,473 women were murdered in 2017, some 6.5% more than in 2016. Of that total, at least 946 were considered cases of femicide.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


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.

Police Raid Unpacu Headquarters in Response to Their No Campaign on the Constitutional Referendum

Image of a previous raid, in March of 2016, against the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Cuba in Santiago de Cuba. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 11, 2019 — The opposition leader José Daniel Ferrer was detained for more than five hours this Monday along with several members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu). The detentions occurred during the police raid of the headquarters of the opposition organization and the homes of activists in Santiago de Cuba starting at 6:30 in the morning.

“They told me that what happened was in response to the campaign to vote No on the Constitution [referendum],” Ferrer told this newspaper a few minutes after being released around 11:30am. Unpacu is carrying out an intense promotion for a vote to reject the new constitution via social media, and also distributing documents on the subject among Cubans.

The opposition leader revealed that the police transferred him with his hands cuffed behind his back and that the forces entered the organization’s headquarters “with violence, breaking the door first with instruments and then with kicks.” continue reading

The search also included the house of the opposition figure Carlos Amel Oliva. “They’ve been at the headquarters and at Carlos Amel’s house since 6:30 in the morning,” declared the activist Ovidio Martín to 14ymedio. The forces of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) and of State Security burst into both buildings that are still “totally besieged” and “it’s impossible to approach,” he added.

Initially the detentions were confirmed by Luis Enrique Ferrer, brother of the ex-political prisoner and representative of the opposition organization in the United States. On the list of detainees are the dissidents Fernando González Vaillant, Ernesto Oliva Torres, and Carlos Torres Romero, in addition to Nelva Ismarais Ortega (around 25 weeks pregnant) and her grandmother.

All the landlines and mobile phones of the activists from the opposition organization in Santiago de Cuba are still disconnected, confirmed this newspaper, which was only able to communicate with Martín via social media.

The activist Ebert Hidalgo reported on his Facebook account that there were minors at the home of Carlos Amel Oliva at the time of the raid. “The street is full of patrol cars,” he commented, adding that an official from State Security, named Julio Fonseca, warned him to stay in his house and not report the events.

So far eight homes have been raided and among the confiscated objects are “five laptops, four mobile phones, a printer, a wifi antenna, twelve USB memory sticks, three hard drives,” in addition to other personal belongings like bags and T-shirts, detailed Luis Enrique Ferrer.

The entire neighborhood of the national headquarters of Unpacu “is besieged” and “they aren’t letting anyone in or out,” he added.

In the last five years the members of Unpacu have reported more than 40 assaults on their headquarters and on other homes of the organization’s activists, which is considered the biggest opposition group on the island and has a higher number of political prisoners. In July of 2018 the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) calculated that there were some 120 political prisoners in Cuba.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


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.

Nehanda Abiodun, Wanted by the FBI, Dies in Havana at 68

Nehanda Abiodun, formerly known as Cheri Laverne Dalton, was one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 February 2019 — Radical U.S. activist Nehanda Abiodun, charged in 1981 for involvement in the robbery of an armored vehicle that resulted in the deaths of two police officers and one security guard, passed away in Havana on the 30th of January at 68 years old, according to The New York Times.

The death of Abiodun was confirmed by Henry Louis Taylor Jr., a historian who interviewed the activist for a biography he was writing in collaboration with research fellow Linda McGlynn of the University of Buffalo.

Abiodun spent over 30 years living on the island as a fugitive. In her youth she joined the Republic of New Africa, an organization that sought to create an independent black nation in the southern United States. Authorities suspect she formed part of the self-titled Weather Underground and Black Liberation Army, radical groups that committed a series of bombings and abductions in the 60s and 70s. continue reading

On the 21st of October, 1981, the group to which Abiodun belonged attempted to rob 1.6 million dollars from an armored vehicle in New York. A band of armed individuals conducted an ambush on three security guards, killing a guard by the name of Peter Paige. During the escape, they exchanged gunfire with several police officers, ending the lives of officers Edward O’Grady and Waverly Brown.

Since this incident, Nehanda Abiodun, formerly known as Cheri Laverne Dalton, was on the FBI’s most wanted list for conspiracy and organized crime, among other charges.

Adiodun never admitted to having participated in the crimes, but did defend the perpetrators. In an interview in 2000 she expressed her lack of sympathy for the police officers who died in the robbery, as “they were upholding the genocidal and oppressive policies of the United States” which made them “soldiers who were at war with us.”

After several years of living underground, the activist fled to Cuba in 1990, where she received political asylum alongside others on the run from criminal justice in the U.S.

For years, the U.S. government has solicited Havana for the extradition of Adiodun and the rest of radical activists who are refugees on the island, but the Plaza of the Revolution never agreed to the request.

Translated by Carly Nicole Dunn


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.

Prohibited From Attending Childbirth

The strict regulations for the entry of men into Cuban maternal hospitals limit the attendance of fathers at births. (Cadena Agramonte)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ricardo Fernández, Camagüey | February 8, 2019 — The strict regulations for the entry of men into Cuban maternal hospitals ruined the plan that the new parents had imagined: she, still exhausted by the birth but happy, while he takes the first photo of the baby to show the family.

Despite the fact that the general regulations of hospitals, in force since 2007, don’t include limitations on a father accompanying a woman during the birth and recuperation phase, in the country’s maternal centers men are only allowed access, for an hour each day, to the rooms where mothers rest after giving birth.

Outside the Gynecological-Obstetrical Provincial University Hospital of Camagüey, this week fathers were crowding to enter for visiting hours, planned between five and six in the evening. Some had not yet met their babies and, in their conversations, complaints about the restrictions on access were mixed with expressions of happiness for the new child. continue reading

Outside the maternal hospital of Camagüey, this week fathers were crowding to enter for visiting hours. (14ymedio)

“Fathers are totally prohibited from staying in the birth rooms and access to the [recovery] rooms is only permitted during these visiting hours,” repeated the security staff. While the wait lengthened, some men recounted details that had reached them by telephone. “They say that the baby was born with a tuft of hair,” said one, full of pride. “They told me that the girl is just like her older brother,” added another.

“Let’s use logic. This is a women’s hospital in which the privacy of the mothers has to be respected,” a nurse from the hospital explained to 14ymedio under condition of anonymity. “The rooms where the mothers go after giving birth are shared, and doctors have to treat the wound from the episiotomy, so they need to protect the privacy of the patients,” she added.

For Yilber Durán, a young man from Nuevitas who was waiting in front of the hospital to meet his third baby, these rules are, at least, “arbitrary.” The lack of public transportation after six o’clock in the evening from Camagüey to the municipalities of the interior didn’t allow him to meet his baby until now.

“Since I can only see my wife between five and six in the evening, I had to figure out who to leave the other children with to be able to come and stay in the city after visiting her, because I don’t have my own transportation to return to Nuevitas,” he explains to this newspaper. Durán spent the night in the entrance hall of the maternal hospital, nodding off in a seat, like other fathers in the same situation.

According to official figures, almost 80% of the childbirths of the province happen in this hospital, which records some 6,000 each year. The scenes of fathers waiting outside or in the cramped lobby, popularly known as The Stork, have become common. Some can be seen early in the morning trying to find a clean bathroom near the hospital and others with a toothbrush sticking out of a pocket.

“I wanted to take care of my wife when the girl was born. It is my right as a father, but no matter how much I explain and ask, they don’t allow me,” complains Reinier Menéndez. “The height of the phobia against men is that at hospital admissions where they do the entry process, we can’t go through to the consultation area and there aren’t even bathrooms for us,” he laments.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) promotes responsible fatherhood and insists that this implies “being involved in all the key moments of development” of the child: “from family planning, pregnancy and prenatal health, preparation for the birth, childbirth, early childhood, childhood and adolescence, and for the entire life.”

“Men can’t stay here because there aren’t the conditions for that. It’s not a whim of the institution, we are defending the privacy of the women,” an employee of the Public Service Department at the hospital who only identified herself as Miriam explained to this newspaper. “From the time the woman enters for the birth she has a female companion who will help her until she is discharged,” she specified.

Some fathers can be seen early in the morning trying to find a clean bathroom near the hospital and others with a toothbrush sticking out of a pocket. (14ymedio)However, the situation becomes complicated when the future mother has no female family member or friend who can accompany her in the process. In several testimonies gathered by this newspaper of cases in which the pregnant women were not able to arrange female company, the hospital administration did not soften the restriction on access for a male companion.

In a telephone inquiry with more than ten maternal hospitals all over the country, the response was invariably the same. “Fathers cannot enter for the birth for reasons of hygiene and privacy,” “men are not permitted to accompany their wives during the birth phase,” and “they cannot stay in the rooms where they are placed after giving birth.”

Hundreds of kilometers from Camagüey, in Havana, Ronald, 34, just had a similar experience. “Ever since my wife started having the first pregnancy consultations, we told the doctor how important it was for me to be able to be there at the birth,” he explains.

“I wanted to experience the arrival of my first child,” he says. “I even got the clothes to enter the birth room and I prepared myself for that moment.” When Ronald’s wife began to feel the first contractions and they arrived at the hospital, the plans went to pieces. “They told us that it’s not done that way in Cuba and that men cannot go in for the birth, it was a big frustration.”

In statements to the official press, Dr. Ramón Rivero Pino recognizes the problem: “For many fathers it is frustrating arriving at the hospital accompanying their wives at the moment of birth” because “they feel that the entire shared experience, the good and bad times together as a family in relation to the child on the way is lost (faced with the access restrictions for them).”

“The demands of the hospital system place a barrier, an obstacle that doesn’t allow this work of three that was being done until that moment to continue,” emphasizes Rivero.

In Ronald’s case, the frustration of not being able to “be there for such a special moment” is even greater because he saw how two of his friends managed to access a birth room, “one because he is a doctor and the other because he paid to be there.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


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Eduardo Cardet Receives his First Visit at the Minimum Security Facility Where He Was Transferred

The prolonged confinement of Eduardo Cardet generated protests from international organizations such as Amnesty International. (

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 February 2019 — Yaimaris Vecino, wife of Eduardo Cardet, visited the national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement and prisoner of conscience for the first time at the minimum security prison to which he was transferred last Friday by the authorities.

The visit went “fairly well”, according to Vecino as she explained to 14ymedio, and she believes that Cardet’s living conditions have improved in the new prison. “Everything is better there: the ventilation, the food, it’s less overcrowded … they call that place La Aguada,” she explained.

“His mind is a bit more calm, there he is also still under lock and key, nor can he walk around. He’s still in prison, but there has been a slight improvement in his conditions,” said Vecino. continue reading

Although Cardet has the option of working, he has not been able to do so thus far due to a lack of documentation that is on the way to being solved. “Soon he will have that resolved,” said Vecino.

The new jail administrators will allow Cardet to spend some weekends at home with his family, although before that occurs he will be on probation for 60 days before receiving an initial leave pass.

“Now I can go to see him every fifteen days, everything is more flexible. Phone calls as well; there they are able to make calls whenever they want,” his wife emphasized.

Cardet’s lawyers, according to Vecino, have again solicited his conditional release. “This is the fourth time, the court denied previous requests, objecting that he was not in a minimum security regimen, there is no reason for the court not to agree to give it to him now that he is no longer in that situation. Hopefully all will end well and soon.”

The Cuban criminal code establishes that a prisoner can “receive the benefit of parole” after having completed part of his sentence while showing good behavior or when due to the details of the of the case, it is presumed that the purpose of the sentence can be achieved without its full execution or with only a partial execution”.

Cardet, born in 1968 and a physician by trade, was violently detained in November 2016, five days after the death of Fidel Castro, accused of the crime of assault against an official and sentenced to three years in prison in 2017 by the Provincial Court of Holguín.

Last year, at a ceremony held in Miami, Cardet was named the winner of the Pedro Luis Boitel Freedom Award. Amnesty International declared Eduardo Cardet a “prisoner of conscience” and launched several campaigns urgently calling for his “immediate and unconditional release.”

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria


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.