Creditors Grow Impatient with Cuba’s Nonpayments

The liquidity crisis in Cuba is extreme and, although the authorities do not want to stop payments, their creditors do not trust them. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 February 2020 – Cuba was to reimburse its creditors of the Paris Club between 32 and 33 million dollars last year, of the total of 82 million dollars owed, according to the information provided to Agance France-Presse by diplomatic sources.

The irritation of the creditors is evident in the statements made to AFP by several sources. “They said they would pay their debts. There is no plan, and there is a lack of credibility,” a diplomat informed the agency.

“We met [Ricardo] Cabrisas earlier this year,” says another source, who explained that the Deputy Prime Minister showed a defeatist tone, but expressed that the Island’s intention of not entering into a debt moratorium. continue reading

In an official letter addressed to the Director General of the French Treasury and President of the group of creditor countries of Cuba, Odile Renaud-Basso, to which AFP had access, Cabrisas promised that Cuba will pay in May. The nonpayment in February by the Island could result into a 9% surcharge on the debt.

“They have to propose a precise schedule,” an Ambassador, who admits that the Cuban government “is having a bad time,” informed AFP, adding, “They have no liquidity.”

Since Cuba entered into a debt moratorium, in 1986, access to international markets was closed until 2010 when the outstanding Chinese debt of 6 billion dollars was forgiven; as was that of Mexico, for 400 million dollars and finally Russia, its biggest creditor, for about 35 billion dollars.

In 2015, the Paris Club, consisting of 14 countries, forgave Cuba 8.5 billion dollars of the 11 billion owed. The rest was restructured in payments until 2033 and in investment projects in the Island.

Ever since then, the European Union has been one of the biggest investors and business partners of the Island, with an exchange of 3.47 billion dollars in 2018; however, the situation has become complicated in recent times.

Cuba’s main ally, Venezuela, has fallen and the pressure by Donald Trump’s administration has increased with the use of sanctions; furthermore, problems in the main economic pillars of the Government are added. On the one hand, the sale of medical services suffers due to the changes in political parties in several governments in the area, such as Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia. These countries hired professional services from Cuba, primarily medical, but have now broken the agreements, or demanded from Cuba a variation in the conditions of the professionals if the nation wants to keep them; something that Havana refuses to do.

Tourism is another area that has shown a great weakness this year affected by the tightening of the embargo, but also by the decline in the European market. In 2019 Cuba’s revenue in this sector dropped 9%.

According to the latest official numbers, the external debt has increased by 53% between 2013 and 2016, reaching 18.2 billion dollars.

According to AFP, Spanish companies are owed for nonpayments totalling 300 million euros, about 325 million dollars.

The London Club has also been trying to negotiate an agreement with the Island for years without success. Last week it turned out that the CRF I Ltd investment fund has taken the case to court, according to the Bloomberg economic agency.

“The board of CRF have made clear that the legal process now underway will not be halted unless there is a satisfactory prior negotiated settlement with the Cuban government,” the company announced in a statement.

The amount of the claim is unknown, but the company has been waiting for thirty years for the debt to be paid. “We are losing our patience,” said chairman David Charters.

“If [Cuba] wants to regain access to the international financial market, they have to fix this.”

Translated by Francy Pérez Perdomo

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Participants of the Lynching Attempt in Santiago de Cuba Are Arrested

The events took place last Saturday, when the minor was attending a birthday party from where she was taken by the alleged aggressor, a friend of her parents’. (Facebook / Leonar Rente)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 14, 2020 — The many videos that have circulated on social networks about the attempted lynching of the person who raped a minor in Santiago de Cuba have had a double effect. Thanks to these images, the authorities have identified the citizens who intervened in the events and have begun to arrest and prosecute them.

“From the videos seized, we have begun to identify the people who attacked the Police and the arrests and prosecutions by the criminal investigation body of our province have started,” Lt. Col. José Luis announced on Thursday on Tele Turquino, the local TV channel of Santiago de Cuba.

“The people who assaulted the law enforcement officers taking advantage of this circumstance will be presented to the Prosecutor’s Office,” said Rolando Reyes Speck, a prosecutor in the Department of Criminal Justice. continue reading

The interviewee said in the broadcast that the minor remains hospitalized, however her condition is not life threatening; meanwhile, the alleged culprit has confessed his crime and “the full weight of the law will fall upon him”. According to the official statement, the alleged aggressor was identified by the residents of the area after committing the crime and “the moment of great sensibility was used by unscrupulous and opportunistic elements” to alter public order.

The officers insisted that the cause resulting from the investigation in this case of rape will have all the guarantees and that no one should take justice into their own hands as this process is in the Constitution “which every decent Cuban”, said Antomarchi, voted on last year.

The events occurred on February 8 when the victim, an 8-year-old girl, attended a birthday party and was taken by the detainee, an acquaintance of her parents, to rape her. The crime was immediately discovered by the neighbors, who went after the rapist to beat him and stone him, at which point the police had to intervene.

The authorities explained that the presence of the riot police was required when the agents were overpowered in their attempt to prevent a lynching. They explained that the law enforcement officers “never attacked the people” and simply tried to cool down the situation, but several individuals charged at the police and firefighters.

“The investigation and process shall be carried out applied equally to every accused person in our country,” said Reyes Speck, and assured that both the rapist and the protesters can count on the “legal guarantees that every defendant has.”

“For every person who commits a crime, however aberrant it may seem, the rule of law establishes procedural guarantees,” the prosecutor insisted.

Darina Ortega León, professor of Law at the Eastern University (Universidad de Oriente, Spanish name), participated in the program quoting Martí to defend the respect for the rule of law and privacy. In recent days, several images of the alleged aggressor, as well as some comments, many of them unconfirmed, have circulated on social networks and some media about the alleged health condition of the minor.

The hostess regretted that the videos of the lynching attempt presented a bad image of the citizens. “It is very unpleasant that the population of Santiago has been exposed in social networks in the way it was presented, because that goes against what we are defending as a social project.”

Ortega urged “not to follow the lead of these individuals that could damage the image of the people” and “encouraged the population to be very careful with things that are uploaded to the social networks (…). We have to avoid damaging, the image of our people in particular, who do not deserve it.”

The official media has taken several days to report this news and has only done it to accuse those who have informed the population and to proclaim that these events are isolated, that Cuba is a safe place and that this incident “responds to a campaign orchestrated from abroad”. The Tele Turquino hostess finished her presentation with a solemn phrase: “The truth is like the light, no matter how much you try to conceal it, it always blazes”.

 Francy Pérez Perdomo

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A Prime Minister with Doubtful Results as a Minister / Somos+

The photo of Manuel Marrero Cruz surrounded by officers in uniform at the time of announcing his appointment to the plenary perhaps explains this inexplicable designation.

SOMOS+, Germán M. González, 6 February 2020 — Reviewing the results of the tourism sector in the current year, we have the following outcome:

The arrival of visitors decreases, the official explanation is the restrictions the Trump Administration has put on Americans’ travel to Cuba, including stopping the cruise ships, but the truth is that destinations having little or nothing to do with the coercive measures of the US government are decreasing. Let’s look at this from January to October according to the National Bureau of Statistics and Information www.onei.cu:

Only the visitors from the community (larger every day) and from Russia are increasing, representing 3.5% of the total and those from Europe and the rest of the world are decreasing by -280 thousand visitors, 210 thousand more than the decrease of those from the USA (-70 thousand). In this issue, as in others, if there were no “blockade” (embargo actually) it would necessary to invent it. continue reading

These trends continued in November and from January to September, we noticed that stays per visitor were only 4.4 days and revenues 503 CUC, in both cases, below the total of 2018.

The average occupancy rate is 38%, 1.7 percentage points below the percentage accomplished in 2018 and the most serious problem: since the early 2017 there is no occupancy over 60% in any month of the year.

In general, both absolute and relative levels in the indicators of the rates in 2019, are lower not only than 2018 but also in 2017; that is to say that the alleged locomotive of the Cuban economy has been in recession for two years.

According to the Cuban News Agency (ACN, for its acronym in Spanish), the first Deputy Minister of Tourism (now Minister), Juan Carlos García, reported in the recently concluded session of the National Assembly of the People’s Power that there are 11,000 empty rooms due to “insufficient preventive maintenance, lack of priority to prevention, solution and control fulfillment of the designed plans.”

In general, he acknowledged important breaches in maintenance and remodeling issues and listed a series of deficiencies, such as a deficit of suitable investors, technical documentation and equipment completion; insufficient preparation of the construction works; changes in the original projects; failure to fulfill the executive schedules: deficit in the supplies of the national industry; failure to accomplish the import plan; lack of skilled labor force, fuel shortage.

There were also problems in the operation of the elevators in the hotels that were not a cause for shutting rooms down, but impacted the service quality.

The performance of the other sectors must have been really poor for the minister Manuel Marrero Cruz to be designated as Prime Minister! Or is it that they took into account — as it usually happens in the system copied from the Soviet Union — considerations outside the efficiency and effectiveness in management.

This promotion recalls those made in favor of Inés María Chapman and Roberto Morales Ojeda, both with lower results than the usual inefficiency. Or worse, J.R. Balaguer’s promotion from Health Minister to Secretary of International Relations of the Party when the death of over twenty patients of Mazorra Psychiatric Hospital (from cold and starvation) resulted into prison sentences for staff of that hospital.

And how is it possible to justify that the investment program for 2019 foretold a hotel capacity growth of more than 3,800 rooms and the restoration of another 5,000? Why, considering the 38% occupancy rate that only exceeds 50% during one month of the year?

If parliament members were not appointed based on their unconditional support for the leaders, as the President of the Assembly has just proclaimed, if they were representatives of the Nation, they would have asked these and many other questions instead of unanimously approving every document presented before them and the decisions taken of which they are, like the cuckold of the story, the last ones to find out.

Translated by Francy Perez Perdomo 

Arbitrary Detention in Cuba of Somos+ Coordinator for Uruguay, Lidier Hernadez Sotolongo / Somos+

Lidier Hernández Sotolongo

SOMOS+, 16 February 2020 — Lidier Hernández Sotolongo, coordinator of Somos+ (We Are More) in Uruguay and a human rights activist, was arrested today in Cuba when he was going to fly back to Uruguay (Lidier’s current country of residence).

Lidier has already been released and is at his relatives’ house; however, he was served an official subpoena for Monday from MININT (Ministry of the Interior) in addition to being denied his return to Uruguay.

It is important to highlight the active work of Lidier within our movement as well as other groups, such as Actions for Democracy; and his strong political work in Uruguay, where he has actively participated in several protests despite the hostile position and harassment of communist groups.

Somos+ demands the immediate release of our coordinator, and once again reports the intolerance of the Cuban dictatorship.

Executive Board
Somos+

Translated by Francy Perez Perdomo

"Now You Will See What Legality Really Is" / Somos+

Adalberto R. Mes Duarte

Part I

SOMOS+,  Adalberto R. Mes Duarte, LLB, 7 November 2018

Now you will see what legality really is … And these were the exact words of the Head of the Municipal Unit of the National Revolutionary Police in the City of Cienfuegos, Captain (I don’t even know his name), when he showed up in my house, at exactly 06:55 hours in the morning, accompanied by more than twelve policemen, three patrol cars, a Jeep and two motorcycles, handcuffing me and indicating, without a probable cause, my arrest and driving me heavily escorted, in front of my family and neighbors, like an extremely aggressive and dangerous criminal.

WHAT VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE CONCEPT OF LEGALITY WERE COMMITTED?

I was arrested (again, without previous explanations) at 06:55 hours on October 26, 2018, at my front door, in the presence of my family, by a dozen uniformed men and several vehicles of the above-mentioned institution. However, due to strange, and so far, unknown reasons, my detention appears registered on that same day, but at 09:50, that is THREE HOURS AFTER the scandalous and public police operation.

In this case, I hope that nobody comes up with the stupid idea of altering, or forging the document that I signed the first day of my arrest, and to which I had access on the seventh day of my confinement through the Chief Prosecutor of Criminal Procedures of the Provincial Prosecutor of Cienfuegos, who, above all, gives the impression of being a serious person. continue reading

For about an hour and a half, of the THREE DARK HOURS in which I remained NOT OFFICIALLY DETAINED but indeed, “LEGALLY DISAPPEARED” I endured PHYSICAL TORTURE, as some of my captors tightened the cuffs so strongly, that the metal penetrated in my skin and created injuries that left scars that I still have today.

If you ask yourselves: Why this bad blood? Well, the policemen who were in the place where I was held captive, approached me from behind and looked forward to a complaint or a groan of pain, which of course, would never happen.

Then, a policewoman came in and ordered them to take off the cuffs from me, and to take me out of there. All this was in the presence of the Police officer in the charge who remained unaffected, as if nothing illegal was happening around him. I showed him my hands totally swollen, bruised and furrowed by the metal and blackened as well, and told him: this is a reflection of what you commit every day to the defenseless citizens! … In response I only received silence, total silence.

This very same officer did not allow me to use my eyeglasses to read the statements that irrationally and incoherently made up around what was already seen as an absurd manipulation of the Judicial System by the Ministry of the Interior. According to this same officer, I knew that I stood accused of being “alleged perpetrator of crimes of Slander and Disobedience” (I will talk about this in the second part of this document)

The Police officer in charge himself,a young man seriously affected by his poor grammar and spelling knowledge of the beautiful Spanish language, refused at all times to grant me the right to phone my relatives so they would know in which police station I was.

I was denied the right to have access to the Experts of the provincial Department of Legal Medicine so that, prior to the body examination, they could certify the physical injuries that I presented in my hands.

From the moment the officer in charge made my detention official and made me sign an Arrest Certificate, without clearly stating the crime or crimes for which they kept me under arrest, besides the fact that I was detained after 09:50 hours, therefore leaving almost three hours in which I do not physically exist as detained anywhere, I declared myself on a HUNGER STRIKE until my rights are restored and I strictly demand the presence of a Prosecutor to whom I could inform on all the physical and mental mistreatment that I was enduring so far.

At approximately 10:20 hours on October 26, 2018, I was transferred from the Municipal Station to the Station of Region No. 1 for Criminal Prosecution, where I remained for twenty-four (24) hours. And according to Lieutenant Colonel Franklin, the reason why I was there is because one of my brothers was under custody in the Municipal Station and we could not “be together”; furthermore, I had to give up my Hunger Strike so that I could be granted all the rights I was claiming.

 In the afternoon of October 27, the Police officer in charge appears (I do not know his name because he did not say it) and notifies me that there is a court order for  “Preventive Custody” imposed against me by the Municipal Prosecutor, Aimara Almeida, and that later in the afternoon I would be transferred to the Provincial Unit of Criminal Procedure, where the perpetrators of the most serious crimes committed in the jurisdictional area of the province remain detained. I want to make clear that this is the most rigorous military institution of imprisonment and prosecution in Cienfuegos, even higher than the Provincial Prison in terms of the regimen.

 In this military unit, I was confined to Cell No. 12, alone, isolated, incommunicado and identified as inmate No. 494. A completely sealed place, with artificial (electric) light twenty-four hours a day, two steps and a half wide by three steps long, where it is not allowed to speak or shout under penalty of punishment.

Here the damage or torture is psychological. Although there were never complaints of my behavior, from the moment I entered that place, I declared my political position against the government, as well as my only demand: “to restore my freedom and my rights.”

I would be lying, if I said that I was physically or verbally abused there. The health and security staff kept an eye on my condition, and constantly asked me if I wanted to eat any kind of food, or if I wanted to drink water, something that I emphatically refused. Many of them expressed their knowledge that my stay there was totally unjustified, but that they were only following their superiors’ orders.

Once my demands were known, the Head of the Criminal Prosecution Unit, informed me in an interview that he can only agree to bring me a Legal Physician to certify the bodily injuries that I presented, but he would keep the Certificate that the expert would issue, meaning that he was not going to deliver it to me, and that there was no other guarantee he could offer me since: “I WOULD NOT HAVE ANY RIGHTS FOR AS LONG AS I AM ON A HUNGER STRIKE, FURTHERMORE, IF SOMETHING HAPPENED TO ME, I WOULD BE THE ONLY ONE RESPONSIBLE; THEREFORE, I WAS TO REMAIN IN SOLIDARITY CONFINEMENT AND WITHOUT RIGHTS FOR AS LONG AS I KEEP MYSELF IN VOLUNTARY INANITION, WHICH WHAT THEY CALLED THE POSITION I HAD ASSUMED.”

On October 31, I cannot specify what time it was, they took me to one of the interrogation rooms, and finally: “What I assumed from the first day appeared, that was the engine that was moving all the threads for my detention, permanence and status there.”

The Department of State Security showed up in the person of one who called himself First Lieutenant Daryl, a decent individual, very temperate and interested in my demand, but with the double intention clearly visible, to tell me that I could be convinced that he was there on behalf of the prosecutor that I was demanding so insistently. That the complaints for which I was being prosecuted were already in court, and that he had the ability to have access to them and destroy them, as well as the power to solve the situation of my brother and the rest of my relatives.

After about an hour or more, of fruitless discussion, the conversation ended up in these two points, by the Department of State Security:

a)  I would immediately suspend the Hunger Strike and commit myself that once released, I would not make any new complaints against the National Police;

b)  The Department of State Security promised to immediately release my relatives and impose administrative fines (they did not define amounts).

On November 1, 2018, in the afternoon, I was taken to one of the interrogation rooms where the Chief Prosecutor of Criminal Proceedings of the Province of Cienfuegos awaited. He confirmed to me that my brother had only been detained for 48 hours, and the rest of my relatives had not been arrested. My IMMEDIATE FREEDOM was decided, and this official is the one who assured me that my official detention had started at 09:50 hours on October 26, and not from 06:55 when it actually happened.

To get an idea: I am 1.85 m (6’ 1″) tall. At the time of my arrest, I was in perfect physical and mental shape. I entered the police criminal detention and prosecution system, with 115.0 kilograms (253 pounds) in weight. I only suffer from high blood pressure (controlled), Bronchial Asthma and Chronic Allergy. When my IMMEDIATE FREEDOM was decreed, after only SEVEN DAYS, according to the daily weighing and the vital parameters measured by the Ministry of the Interior (MININT, for its acronym in english) Medical Service experts, I barely reached 104.0 kilograms (229 pounds).

I left that place suffering from a strong flu, provoked by the conditions of permanent humidity inside the cell in which I was held, which is why I am now under antibiotics treatment. I am suffering from sleep disturbances, as well as severe abdominal pain, and persistent dizziness. From these, I am still recovering today.

To be continued…

End of Part I

 Translated by: Francy Perez Perdomo

The Economy of the Venezuelan "Bodegones"

“The phenomenon of bodegones* is the most visible expression, but not the only one, of the economy of money laundering,” says the author. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miguel Henrique Otero, Madrid | 8 February 2020 — The increase of bodegones* in some cities of Venezuela — convenience stores supplied with food and a wide variety of other personal and home items, all imported — during 2019, is being used by the propagandists of Maduro´s regime, as evidence that a sort of return to normality is taking place in the country.

The display of videos showing shelves and refrigerators full of products also leads to a false conclusion: if the market offers so much merchandise of the best quality, then it is possible to assume that basic goods must also be available for the primary needs of Venezuelan families.

All these premises are profoundly distorted. On the contrary: the phenomenon of the bodegon is the most polished expression of the model to which Maduro’s regime aspires: a state of affairs whose foundation is the most extreme inequality. continue reading

A society divided in two: an immense majority dependent on the food packages sold by the Local Supply and Production Committees (CLAP for its acronym in Spanish), (which, during the same year 2019 with the boom of the bodegones, made deliveries of fewer and fewer products, products that were of the worst quality), which translated into a subdued majority, dependent upon the commissioners that the power and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV for its acronym in Spanish) have distributed all across the country.

And then a minority, below 1% of the population, that has unlimited purchasing power at these bodegones. I am talking about people who can pay $8 or $9 for half-kg of pasta, $25 for 300 grams of Dutch cheese, $45 for a package of Danish cookies, $150 for a 225-gram tray of serrano ham, $500 dollars for a prime cut of meat of almost 3 kg.

These prices have no relation whatsoever, neither to the costs of production, nor to the commercial operation of taking them to Venezuela. Why does the regime facilitate the existence of these bodegones where prices are absolutely disproportionate? This is due to the chain of corruption that stands between the seller of the merchandise at the point of origin, and the resigned customer who gets to the cashier and pays a deranged amount, knowing that the product is not worth it. Between these two ends, there are the hidden costs of corruption, the numerous procedures and sales taxes that traders must go through, impacting the final price of the product in a simply grotesque way.

But this economy of bodegones is not an isolated event. Vehicles for more than one hundred thousand dollars, nightclubs where you pay 50 dollars for a drink, restaurants where the cost per guest exceeds 300 dollars. All this not only contributes to build this fable, but also leads us to the mandatory question: Where are the dollars that make possible these settlements coming from? Because they are no more than that: settlements, minimum settlements — serving less than 1% of the Venezuelan population

The first thing to remember is the most obvious: Venezuela, which has been an essential and exclusively oil economy, is less and less so. Chavez and Maduro have destroyed what was the third largest company in the world, and dismantled it to the point where it is today: every day more unproductive, every day closer to massive and irreversible collapse.

However, between Chavez and Maduro there is a substantial difference: while the former dedicated himself to using oil rent for his political purposes: buying diplomatic wills in the hemisphere, illegally financing related politicians in Latin America and Europe, corrupting politicians and institutions within and outside Venezuela, which prevented PDVSA from complying with the most basic of its requirements — reinvestment in maintenance and new production — Maduro has changed that policy: He has turned Venezuela into a money laundering economy.

The phenomenon of the bodegon is the most visible expression, but not the only one, of the economy of money laundering. Also, but to a much lesser extent, the economy of remittances; because what once was the fourth largest economy of the continent, has been reduced to this: a country that is sustained by legitimizing capital and receiving remittances.

Money is being laundered from the illegal and destructive extraction from various minerals from the Amazon, an operation that has the Colombian guerrilla of the National Liberation Army (ELN for its acronym in Spanish) as its main partner and foreman. Money is being laundered from the shameless smuggling of fuels, wood and exotic species of our fauna.

Large amounts of dollars and euros are being laundered as benefit from drug trafficking operations, not only cocaine, but also marijuana and heroin. Money is being laundered from payments made by terrorist groups in the Middle East, so that some of its members receive protection for long periods in Venezuelan territory.

Money is being laundered as a result of the illegal sale of oil in international waters, transactions that are made in cash and that seek to evade the sanctions of international organizations. Hard currencies, especially dollars, are being laundered from the numberless methods that corruption has developed in Venezuela, and now are encountering more difficulties to fly to other markets.

In conclusion, bodegones are not symptoms of well-being or economic prosperity. They are the coup de grace on the destruction of the country’s productive capacities, now replaced by a concentration of businesses and activities outside the law.

*Translator’s note: Bodegones is the common name given to convenience stores in Venezuela supplied with imported products that are not present in the convencional internal market and that are offered to the Venezuelan people in US dollars intead of Venezuelan Bolivars.

Editor’s note: Miguel Henrique Otero it the Managing Director of El Nacional Venezuelan newspaper.

Translated by: Francy Perez Perdomo

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.