At Least Four Students in Cuban School Wounded with Knives

Students of professional technical education in Cuba. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, September 17, 2018 — This Monday morning at least four students were wounded at the Olo Pantoja Technological Institute in the La Lisa municipality in Havana. As an employee confirmed to 14ymedio, four people entered the school, opened the classroom doors, and “started stabbing,” explained the source.

According to the testimoney of this employee, who preferred to remain anonymous, at least six students were wounded, five males and one female, by knives. The Pediatric Hospital of Marianao confirmed that four adolescents received emergency treatment, among whom one had cuts in the face.

“Of the four treated only one remains hospitalized for a previous injury,” said a spokesperson from the hospital. continue reading

The wounded were transferred first to the Cristóbal Labra Polyclinic, near the center, to receive first aid. A school employee said that once in the clinic an individual tried to attack the students again, but was detained by police. According to this source three of the four attackers have already been detained.

14ymedio tried to speak with the police station of La Lisa but did not receive a response to multiple calls. Official media sources have not reported on the incident.

“The school’s problem is that it has no security. People enter without being asked for identification,” said the employee by telephone.

The center’s administration has asked parents to come collect their children because the school is “being evacuated.” Classes have been suspended until next Monday. According to one of the employees who spoke to this newspaper, various parents have said they will ask for “the removal” of their children from the school out of fear that violent events like this Monday’s will be repeated.

The Olo Pantoja school is located on Avenida 51 and Calle 222 and offers technical vocational training in construction with specialties in carpentry, brickwork, and others. Its name is an homage to Orlando Pantoja Tamayo, one of the men who accompanied Ernesto Guevara in the guerrilla war in Bolivia where he died on October 8, 1967, one day before the death of Che Guevara.

The Government maintains a strict censorship over the violent or criminal acts that occur in schools and the official press rarely addresses these topics. The few reports on school violence, prostitution, and bullying are done by the Island’s independent press.

At the beginning of the year it became known that a hidden shelter at a high school in Camagüey was being used as a meeting and leisure area by a group of young people aged between 13 and 23 that have been involved in a case of corruption of minors and drug use.

Six girls and one boy between 13 and 15 years old would meet in the shelter with young people between 16 and 23 years old to allegedly drink alcohol and take controlled medications like Carbamazepine and Dyphenhydramine.

Cuban education, considered for decades to be one of the principal banners of the Government, has not escaped the crisis experienced by the nation since the end of Soviet subsidies at the beginning of the nineties. The exodus of teachers and the low qualifications of personnel have forced massive recruitment of young people in training programs for teachers.

In 2008 a 12-year-old student died after being hit by a school chair by his teacher, who was 17. The murder, which happened in the Domingo Sarmientos high school, in Lawton, received no coverage in the official press.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

In Cuba Sugar is Imported from France

This September the sugar that has been distributed in the “basic basket” of the rationed market comes from France. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernández, Havana, September 23, 2018 — This September the sugar that has been distributed in the “basic basket” of the rationed market doesn’t come from Cuban fields, but rather from far-off France. The poor performance of the last sugar harvest forced the Island’s Government to import a product that, until a few years ago, was the symbol of the country.

In impeccable white bags, the sugar that has arrived in Havana stores is bringing satisfaction to consumers for its quality and cleanliness. “It’s fine, it’s not damp, and it doesn’t have any dirt,” is how Norberto, a grocer from Havana’s La Timba neighborhood near the Plaza of the Revolution, describes the product.

“We’ve had sugar from Brazil but this is the first time that we’ve gotten it from France,” adds the state employee, a fact confirmed to this newspaper by a worker from the Sugar Business Group (Azcuba) who prefers to remain anonymous. “We’ve had to buy French sugar because we’ve committed the majority of the national sugar harvest to international buyers,” he details. continue reading

Cuba has a high sugar consumption and needs around 700,000 tons annually to satisfy the demand of the rationed market, local industries, and the self-employed sector. The Island has a commercial agreement with China to sell it 400,000 tons each year, but this year the production wasn’t enough to cover both internal consumption and exports.

In the 2017-2018 sugar harvest the Island produced a little over one million tons of raw sugar, far from the 1.6 million that sector authorities had forecast. “Which didn’t permit the fulfillment of what was planned,” indicated the president of the state-controlled group Azcuba, Julio García.

The Cuban sugar industry, for decades, was the flagship of the Island’s products and the leading export. In 1991 it reached 8 million tons just before the collapse of the Soviet Union sank the Cuban economy and caused particular damage to that sector.

In the present, sugar production has been lagging, far behind tourism, remittances from emigrants, and the sale of professional services, principally in healthcare, which have displaced the former economic driving force of the Island.

In 2002 and under the mandate of Fidel Castro, a process of dismantling of dozens of sugar production centers began, under the argument that the fall in prices of the product in the international market was making the industry unsustainable. In 2011 the Ministry of Sugar was eliminated and its functions were assumed by Azcuba.

Three five-year-periods after that offensive, 64% of the centers remain closed; their workers were relocated to other positions, and the majority of the sugar plantations have been directed to other crops.

In the previous sugar harvest only 54 centers operated and the rains affected the harvest that should have finished before what was predicted, due to intense precipitation in the spring, which made the harvesting of the cane in the fields more difficult and contributed to a rapid deterioration of the product.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

Venezuela: And if Almagro is Right?

Luis Almagro made some controversial statements during a visit to the Divine Providence canteen and temporary help center for migrants in Cúcuta.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Malamud, Madrid | 17 September 2018 — The statements of the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OEA), Luis Almagro, went around the world and caused a great scandal both internally and externally. On the Colombian-Venezuelan border, ground zero of a migratory catastrophe turned into a regional drama, Almagro was asked about a possible intervention. His response, blunt and without room for subsequent nuances, was the cornerstone of the scandal: “As for a military intervention to overthrow the regime of Nicolás Maduro I believe that we should not discard any option.”

The enemy camp felt his words to be an open provocation and accused him of subordinating himself to the plans of the United States. Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez said that he was looking to revive the “worst measures” of “imperialist” military interferences in Latin America and even announced a complaint in the UN for “promoting a military action.” continue reading

The Chavista accusation against US imperialism is paradoxical considering Venezuela has just sold its soul in oil to Xi Jinping. This way, China will intervene to “finance development” and also to influence “the form of governing this country.” Even if, as Maduro reminded us, the biggest difference from Yankee imperialism is that China wants a future “without hegemonic rule that blackmails and dominates.” And if he says it, you have to believe him.

The bewilderment among the sectors most critical of the Venezuelan regime was great. Eleven of the fourteen countries of the Lima Group rejected any military intervention in Venezuelan territory. There were also those who branded Almagro’s words as undiplomatic. It’s true, his statements were not an exercise in subtlety, nor do they allow the possibility of keeping open negotiations, neither regional nor multilateral.

However, the diplomatic option was closed a while ago, and not by the international community, but rather by the constant insults and declarations of a regime that refuses to negotiate both inside and outside of its borders. The imposition of an unconstitutional Constituent Assembly or the aggressive conduct of Delcy Rodríguez when she was the Minister of the Exterior and triedto firce herway into a meeting in Buenos Aires where the suspension of her country from Mercosur was being discussed and to which she had not been invited, are only a few examples.

Almagro could not be diplomatic where there was no space for diplomacy. Nor did he encourage, as his critics claim, a military intervention, but only said that it could not be discarded. Venezuela is at a dead end. No short-, medium-, or long-term solution is in sight. The most complete catastrophe has installed itself in the country and not even Chinese patience can solve it.

In the current conditions it is difficult for anyone to promote or sustain an external intervention. From within is another thing, but here it seems complicated, given the Cuban infiltration in the military and the complicity of its chiefs with the regime. In reality they are the regime. The civic-military alliance is by now more military than civilian and it is the heaviest legacy of Hugo Chávez. This, along with his supposed “Bolivarian Revolution,” was the path chosen to destroy Venezuela.

 Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

Cuba’s Independent Artists Denounce the "State of Exception" They’ve Faced Since 1959

Yanelys Núñez, Nonardo Perea, Amaury Pacheco, Iris Ruiz, Luis Manuel Otero, Soandry del Río, and Michel Matos in a protest action against Decree 349. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana | 17 September 2018 — The group of independent artists who since July have been carrying out a campaign against Decree 349 reports that “since the triumph of the Revolution, in 1959, there has existed a state of exception when it comes to the freedom of artistic creation and expression” in Cuba and that a considerable number of “creators and cultural projects have flourished from their own will and creative capacity, but then been taken down by the powers and the official institutions that rule national life.”

The text is part of the San Isidro Manifesto, presented this past Wednesday by the group as one more of their actions against the rule that regulates artistic presentations in private spaces and against which they have been mobilizing since July. The document, which is circulating on media, is signed by Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Yanelys Núñez, Amaury Pacheco, Iris Ruiz, Michel Matos, Hamlet Lavastida, Soandry del Río, Verónica Vega, Lía Villares, Yasser Castellanos, and Tania Brugera, among others. continue reading

Its launch took place at the venue of the Museum of Politically Uncomfortable Art (MAPI), in the San Isidro neighborhood of Old Havana, and musicians, poets, writers, audiovisual directors, producters, and plastics artists joined the act.

Yanelys Núñez read the text, which invites “any individual who feels like part of this phenomenon that today we call ‘the independent'” to participate in the campaign aimed at the repeal of Decree 349, and urges a dialogue that will allow the review of cultural policies that the State institutions are attempting to impose.

Later, the attendees made a pilgrimage to the Malecon to ask the patron of Cuba, the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, for the annulment of the law.

The manifesto mantains that the law “legitimizes the use of judicial action to punish the free creation and determination” that belongs to them as artists and individuals and says that it “stimulates corruption” through the creation of the figure of the supervisor-inspector “taking into account that inspectors are one of the most corrupt sectors of the regulatory apparatus of the State.”

On July 10 the Council of Ministers approved Decree 349, focused on “the violations regarding cultural policy and over the provision of artistic services” which will enter into full force in December.

The artists who defend the repeal of the law believe that this “is destined not only to control and intimidate artists and creators from various branches of the national culture, but also in the private business sector, to impede a natural and organic relationship inside the different spheres of Cuban society.” In addition, they believe that it “threatens with legal warnings, fines, and seizures of equipment or property used as a platform for the creation and dissemination of independent works.”

The decree grants to the “supervisor-inspector,” they emphasize, the authority to suspend immediately any performance or show that he understands to violate the law, having the ability to go to the extreme of canceling the self-employment license to practice work.

“We understand exactly that any nation in the world must regulate its internal activities, receive taxes if those become lucrative, just as they must safeguard internal order and peace,” point out the artists. However, in their view it is “inadmissable to accept the existence of a confusion of laws” that only aims to control the artistic sector and “punish it for its independent expression and action.”

The group of artists believes that the “only logical aim” this law appears to have is to maintain “the ideological primacy in a highly centralized state.”

Some of the artists complain that the official press has tried to distort the intention and origin of the campaign against Decree 349 and clarify that they are only asking institutions to listen to them and that they are not calling for “either neither anarchy nor confrontation.”

However, they maintain that these laws and rules are impossible to comply with because “they don’t adjust to the national reality at the present time” and because they are “abusive, disproportionate, and they violate international norms and agreements.” For this they direct their proclamation “to all men and women of good will” and invite their support.

“We are determined to come together as a group to begin a collection of sociocultural actions like this as calls for international attention to halt the imposition of a complex of laws that insults all Cubans,” they state.

On more than one occasion this group has suffered political repression for trying to carry out public acts to support and defend their campaign against the decree. On August 11 various artists who wanted to participate in a concert at the MAPI venue suffered the repression of police who showed up at the place along with officials from State Security to stop the action. On that day, which ended with the detention of several of the artists, neighbors from the San Isidro neighborhood went out to the street to condemn the conduct of those in uniform.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

The Exodus in Cuban Chess

Leinier Domínguez, who currently lives abroad, was expelled from the Cuban national team this spring. (Baku World Cup 2015/Susan Polgar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ernesto Santana, Havana | 17 September 2018 — The last movements in Cuban chess have been three great escapes—in consecutive years, Yuniesky Quesada, Leinier Domínguez and Lázaro Bruzón—something that could be called the “American exit.” The game is in check, but in reality it is in keeping with the logic of all Cuban sports, where emigration and decline don’t stop.

That the official declaration announcing his expulsion from the national squad contained lies, as Bruzón claimed, is nothing new. “A fabricated note to make them look like heroes and me like a villain,” wrote the chess player from Las Tunas in his response to the National Chess Commission. Rather, it’s normal that the authorities lie about their own responsibility and denigrate the athletes. continue reading

Bruzón wonders where these words full of “negativity and hate” came from. The higher-ups only know how to throw trash onto the lower floors, in INDER (The National Institute of Sports, Physical Education, and Recreation) and in the whole community. It seems that they have no other methods. The athletes who decide to emigrate are, for the bosses, deserting soldiers, not people who want to make a change in their lives.

The expulsions of the three best current Cuban chess players—among the most notable in Latin America—is a devastating blow for national chess. It is even the end of a kind of myth, of a pleasant legend: the rivalry between Leinier Domínguez, from Güines, and Lázaro Bruzón, from Las Tunas, has come to its end, at least inside the country.

Born a year apart—Bruzón in 1982 and Domínguez in 1983—the two were friends since childhood, when they threw themselves into the tough dream of triumphing in the world of chess. Soon they began to receive laurels in Cuba and abroad, and they passed from FIDE Masters and International Masters to become Grand Masters. 2002 was the year of the takeoff of the two friends and rivals. Fifteen years later, the one from Güines settled in the United States. Now the one from Las Tunas is doing it. The dream was lovely while it lasted.

But this “American exit” is not exclusive to the three best. Even as of several years earlier, the United States had become the destination for other good Cuban chess players. In fact, that country is the one that has received the greatest number of these born here in the 21st century so far, and there are already several Cuban Grand Masters in the American ELO ranking.

However, it’s not only there that the exodus of our chess players is aimed. In the field of this sport in the world, more than a few who manage to change their national federation, but it is notable that, for example, in 2014 alone, of the 37 transfers approved by FIDE, five were of Cuban players. Currently, in addition to the United States, dozens of Cubans compete in countries like Ecuador, Paraguay, or Colombia.

The authorities brag that they are continuing to train chess players, but it’s clear that, despite a lot of talent, the new ones don’t end up being included in the elite. This sport is in check, on the verge of checkmate. Unless those above—those always worried more about themselves than about the athletes, and who believe themselves more important than them, although they live off of them—adopt a more realistic attitude.

In chess it is easier—in comparison with other sports—to allow athletes to compete for Cuba even though they live in other countries. They must come up with a solution more or less like this. There is no other path. And they need to do everything possible so that the most promising chess players can raise their ELO. Is it so difficult to offer them internet service, essential for them, which the Government provides to any mediocrity?

The board speaks clearly: there are no more moves and time is up.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

Animal Protection… Also for Oxen

The economic crisis has meant that for decades most work on the land is done with oxen. (A. Bielosouv)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernández, Havana, September 13, 2018 — One of the subjects that has come up most frequently in the meetings where the reform of the Constitution is being debated is the necessity to have a Law of Animal Protection. The majority of the people who have launched the proposal are thinking especially about the infinite number of abandoned dogs and cats in Cuba’s cities, the violence they are victims of, and the irresponsible abandonment that they suffer at the hands of their owners.

The bad working conditions of thousands of horses used for passenger transport all over the country is also on the minds of many of those demanding an end to such bad treatment and the establishment of a law that prevents excesses. However, few think about the many oxen used for farming labor all over the country, made invisible as a matter of course, but in a situation many times worse than that of those horses who pull coaches packed with people or of abandoned pets.

The long economic crisis in the country and the lack of a market selling agricultural machinery has meant that for decades the majority of work on the land is done with these animals. Without the plow, with its corresponding yoke of oxen, it wouldn’t be possible to produce many of the products sold on the stands in markets. With the lack of tractors and mechanized combine harvesters, a large percentage of the harvest in rural areas rests on the backs of these animals. continue reading

In the Matanzas plain, Rigoberto takes care of his two oxen like they are the apple of his eye. He raised them from birth and they answer to the names General and Florentino. “Without these animals my family would be even worse off,” recognizes the farmer, who grows greens and vegetables. “I take care of them like they were my own children,” the farmer shares, although he recognizes that his story isn’t very common in the surrounding area.

“On the closest cooperatives and on the state-owned farms, these animals are exploited and so they have a short life, because they aren’t given time to rest nor the food that they need,” Rigoberto believes. “When a guajiro (Cuban farmer) is the one who has a yoke of oxen, he tends to take care of them more, because it is very expensive and it will take a long time to get others.” General and Florentino sleep under a roof in an improvised shed that Rigoberto made. “You need to have a veterinarian look after them and give them fresh grass along with enriched fodder,” he points out.

However, another view appears as soon as one leaves this Matanzas man’s farm. Ribs sticking out, snouts injured by a badly placed nosering, and workdays that never seem to end is the most common lot of the area’s oxen. Those that hope, along with dogs, cats, and horses, that legislation is passed in their favor.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

A Supposed Historic Right / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 15 August 2018 — The supposed historic right of the current Cuban Communist Party is fairly questionable.

In the first place, it is not the continuation of the Cuban Revolutionary Party (PRC), founded by José Martí to organize and carry out war against Spain for Cuba’s independence, which, according to its statutes, ceased to exist once that ended, leaving its militants free to found new parties, according to their economic, political, and social interests. Martí never demanded that the members abandon their political ideas to belong to it, but rather only that they desire and fight for independence.

The first Cuban Communist Party was founded on August 16, 1925 by Carlos Baliño and José Antonio Mella, on the base of the so-called Communist Association of Havana, founded by the former on March 18, 1923 with only fifteen members who later increased by organizing communist associations in other places. It was always a minority party. continue reading

Expelled from the party for not sharing some of its political aspects, when he was assassinated in Mexico in 1928 Mella was not fighting in it, but rather was a member of the Central Committee of the Mexican Communist Party.

Under the direction of Blas Roca, it turned into a party affiliated with the Third International, subject to its policies and those of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union under Stalin, which brought as consequences a complete gap from the situation at producing the fall of Gerardo Machado’s regime and the so-called Revolution of 1933, with calls for the occupation of the factories by the workers and of the central sugar plantations by workers and peasants, just like in the USSR.

To avoid chaos this erroneous policyhad to be repressed by the Ministry of the Interior (Antonio Guiteras) of Dr. Ramón Grau San Martín’s government, who turned into the target of the party, conspiring against the unity necessary at that moment to consolidate the revolution, assisting their own downfall and the rise to power of Colonel Fulgencio Batista.

In 1940, after the start of the Second World War, six of its directors (Juan Marinello, Blas Roca, Esperanza Sánchez, Salvador García Aguero, Romárico Cordero, and César Vilar) formed part of the Governing Coalition in the Constituent Assembly, selected to write the new Constitution of the Republic. They played their role, like those of other parties, among the 77 delegates to the Assembly, achieving the historic and never surpassed Constitution of 1940.

Later, the Communist Party formed part, along with other parties, of the so-called Democratic Socialist Coalition, which brought to power Fulgencio Batista, who ruled between 1940 and 1944. In this government Juan Marinello and Carlos Rafael Rodríguez participated as Ministers without a Portfolio.

During the governments of the Authentic Party (1944-1948 and 1948-1952), the first with Dr. Ramón Grau San Martín and the second with Dr. Carlos Prío Socarrás as Presidents, the party, by now called the Popular Socialist Party, formed part of the opposition and centered its attention on dominating the unions, which in a large measure it achieved.

After March 10, 1952, when Batista carried out a coup, the party inserted itself in the political fight against him, but without participating in the armed fight, which it criticized until nearly the end of the fall of the regime, when it created a small group of gunmen in Las Villas under the command of Félix Torres and, at the same time, situated, both in the Sierra Maestra and the Sierra Cristal, some of its leaders in the respective guerrilla leaderships, but without direct participation in combat.

At the triumph of the Revolution, it participated actively in its consolidation, as in the formation of the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations, of sad remembrance because of its manifest sectarianism, creating problems with the 26th of July Movement and the Revolutionary Directory of the 13th of March, principal organizations in the fight against Batista.

Separately, Aníbal Escalante and his followers in 1963 formed part of the United Party of the Socialist Revolution (PURS) and later, in 1965, of the Cuban Communist Party, Blas Roca delivering the banner of the party to Fidel Castro as its leader.

Both in the pre-1959 stage as well as later, the Communist Party has shown signs of mistaken assessments of the situation and of enormous errors in economic, political, and social management, which have affected the country and the citizens, incapable, in sixty years of exercising absolute power, of achieving its development and solving old and new problems. The facts are too many and known by everyone, and it’s not worth repeating them.

All this invalidates it, from the so-called “historic right,” from setting itself up as “the superior leading force of society and the State.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

The Original Sin / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 21 August 2018 — In the current project of the new Constitution one finds the original sin, which has been present in Cuba since the year 1959: confusing Homeland with Party and Nation with Revolution.

The bishiop of Santiago de Cuba, Monsenior Pedro Meurice, warned of this publicly during Pope John Paul II’s visit to that province in January of 1998.

The Homeland and the Nation are concepts that come up with nationality, and they hold up over time until its disappearance and, because of that, enjoy a long life. The Party and the Revolution are temporary concepts, corresponding to specific moments in the life of the Homeland and the Nation and, because of that, their life is limited. continue reading

Mixing them and manipulating them, with the dark purpose of prolonging the existence of the latter, and granting them a role and importance that they lack, only serves to confuse citizens and make them commit errors in assessment and analysis on the questions that concern the country and themselves.

Its application in Cuba demonstrates it: here the Party and the Revolution occupy the foreground and the Homeland and the Nation are simple catch-alls. Everything that is carried out, in any sphere, is an action or result of the Revolution, which prolongs itself indefinitely over time, while everyone knows that it is simply a temporary phenomenon, framed within a start and a finish (the time of transformations), which then gives way to the establishment of its precepts in a government.

Here nobody says “the government did such and such,” but rather “the Revolution did it,” adding, furthermore, “under the direction of the Party.”

This induced confusion of concepts has served to dismantle the characteristic public-spiritedness of Cubans, during the second half of the 19th century and the first of the 20th, that made them active subjects of society, substituting it with a fanaticism, also induced, responsible for the loss of values and the current civic passivity, waiting for the problems of the Homeland and the Nation to resolve themselves, worried only about surviving, whatever it takes.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

Panamanian Arrested for Transporting 10 Cubans Over the Border With Colombia

Cubans cross the Darien forest to reach Panama. (Courtesy / Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miami, September 10, 2018 — The Panama border police announced this Sunday the detention of a Panamanian who was transporting ten Cubans through a zone of the border with Colombia, in an alleged case of human trafficking.

The Panamanian, whose identity was not revealed, was driving a truck containing the ten Cubans, and was detained at the Agua Fría control post, in the province of Darién, bordering Colombia, the National Border Service (Senafront) reported this Sunday. continue reading

“It was coordinated with the Deputy Prosecutor’s Office of Primary Care for the corresponding procedures in this proceeding” after the arrest “of those involved in the alleged crime of international human trafficking,” added Senafront in a statement.

Illegal migrants who seek to reach the United States come from all over the world arrive in Panama, the doorway to Central America, after a route of thousands of kilometers, transported by international human trafficking mafias, in a business that generates hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

The massive arrival of Cubans a few years ago created a humanitarian crisis in Panama and Costa Rica, considered a consequence of the thaw in relations between Cuba and the United States and the end of migration benefits for Cubans in the US.

More than 100 Cubans have been expelled from Panama so far this year and 298 have been arrested for being in the country illegally, as the National Migration Service reported to 14ymedio. According to official statistics Cubans occupy the second place in the number of detentions, only behind Colombia and Venezuela, both bordering countries.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

"A Spaceship Fell in Our Neighborhood"

The Packard, with 312 rooms, has wide glass windows, sharp corners, and an entranceway that is integrated into the promenade. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernández, Havana, September 11, 2018 — Gerardo Carbonell chews tobacco, seated in the doorway of a housing complex on Calle Prado, as he says that in his neighborhood “a spaceship fell.” The dazzling object in fact is identified and is no other than the recently inaugurated hotel Grand Packard, the second five-star-plus hotel in Cuba.

The facade shines under the September sun and although one does not yet see the coming and going of tourists, the accommodation is already causing a stir. “In the last few days many important people have come to see it and participate in the inauguration,” says Carbonell, although “they don’t move much, they don’t walk this way,” he laments.

The housing complex where this retired Havanan has lived for 60 years is only meters from the impressive construction but they seem two worlds apart. “This is like the sun and the moon, day and night,” he believes. “Now these houses are looking more deteriorated because in comparison with this new thing everything seems much older.” continue reading

By “old” Carbonell doesn’t refer only to the age of the colonial style building where he lives with his wife and three children, but also to its facilities. “On this site the pipes collapsed years ago and all the water that we consume has to be taken in buckets from the cistern or carried to the rooms by our own power.”

However, the least of their problems is carryong the water from one part of the complex to another, the most difficult is getting it to the complex. “We have a supply once a week, maybe twice. The rest of the time you have to pay for pipas (water trucks) or take care of your needs elsewhere,” he maintains.

The retiree points out the places in the area where he frequently goes to use the bathroom. “In the Hotel Inglaterra there are good bathrooms and they aren’t such a pain about it, also in the Parque Central they have a good supply of toilet paper, but in the Telégrafo you can’t even enter because the security is really strict,” he explains.

The Grand Packard, developed by the Spanish company Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, will not have problems with water. This Monday the water trucks supplied it very early, in a routine carried out by all the hotels in the area, which has among the worst water shortages in Havana.

With ten stories and an exceptional view, the accommodation promises its visitors the chance to get to know an historical and well-trafficked part of the city. The shopkeepers in the area hope to benefit from the clients who venture out to eat and have a few drinks outside of the hotel facilities at a time when the drop in tourism worries everyone.

“We are on the same sidewalk and we’ll get a slice of this cake,” predicts an employee at the nearby private cafeteria La Tatagua. The place, small and well designed, has a view of the Paseo del Prado and a wifi connection that clients can use as they eat. “Although the Packard has all types of luxuries, there are always those who want to touch reality with their own hands,” he adds.

Reality is a vague concept in one of the most touristy areas of the country. On one hand, there are the spectacular old cars, many of them convertibles, that offer trips through the most famous areas of the urban landscape, but a few meters away are buildings, miracularly still standing, in which dozens of families are packed.

The floor of the central promenade has recently been polished and this week various workers continued working on the streetlights that line the route. “The whole area has made itself beautiful for the occasion, especially the green areas just in front of the hotel,” assures one of the guards, in a perfect suit and tie, who watches over the entrance.

Property of Gaviota, the state-owned hotel business controlled by the Armed Forces, the Packard has come to underline the contrasts in a area where the hotel Manzana Kempinski was already viewed as “something fallen from the sky,” as Carbonell jokes.

“This was a ruin, because before that the Biscuit hotel was here, which was inaugurated in 1911 and which my grandfather told me was a marvel,” insists María Eugenia, who lives in another housing complex on the opposite side of the street “with a direct view of the new hotel. Now I wake up and when I look out the window I feel like I’m in another country,” she remarks ironically.

The Packard, with 312 rooms, has wide glass windows, sharp corners, and an entranceway integrated into the shady promenade, typical of the area. Its impressiveness and size — it occupies almost an entire block — have few rivals in the area.

The facade, however, has its detractors. “Although part of the original exterior structure has been preserved, the majority of the elements are modern and break with the dominant aesthetic in the area,” believes Laura Fumero, graduate in architecture, who works with a small private design firm.

“The height of the entryway seems to make the building look big, but my major concern has to do with the demand for energy, water, and other resources that this hotel will have when it is fully operational. It is not much use to have something so luxurious in a place with general infrastructure that’s over a century old,” she points out.

The architect goes further and calls into question the need for hotels of “high volume.” The decision “would be more accepted if we were experiencing a dramatic increase in tourism, but that’s not the case,” she specifies. “It’s also a matter of a type of accommodation aimed at high income visitors, but right now we’re experiencing a fall in the number of Americans who come and they are the ones who are, for the most part, most likely to spend more,” she believes.

In the first half of the year global tourism numbers, about 2.5 million visitors, went down more than 5%. Taking into account only American tourists, the drop in that time period was about 24%. Between January and March, 240 groups of Americans cancelled their reservations due to the new restrictions that Washington has placed on trips to the Island.

In June, the nearby Manzana Kempinski was down about 20% in occupancy, according to testimonies given to 14ymedio by various employees. “It’s a difficult gamble to make, because in this area there is already a large saturation of rooms and we are in a difficult moment,” confirms a tour operator who preferred to remain anonymous. Despite that, the general director, Xavier Destribats, assured that the Swiss hotel group that manages it has various other projects in conjunction with the state-owned Gaviota.

“Every inauguration increases the pressure and urgency to attract more tourism, but we don’t see another boom happening like what happened with the rapprochement of Barack Obama,” explains the specialist in reference to the diplomatic thaw between the two nations that began in December 2014. “It would have to change somewhat drastically for the number of tourists to reach what it needs to be,” he affirms.

Further from the worries of architects and tour operators, the Grand Packard hotel’s closests neighbors, like María Eugenie and Gerardo Carbonell, fear that the building’s demand for resources will harm their delay routines.

“We will have to get used to the noise of the water trucks from early in the morning and the coming and going of supplies, security in the area area will increase and that will affect the black market,” he points out.

“Many people are afraid that this way of opening luxury hotels will continue and that Calle Prado will end up completely dedicated to tourism,” she warns.

Above their heads, on a brilliant terrace filled with attractive offerings, the first curious people look toward the horizon and once in while turn their gazes down.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

"The Work of the Century" is Now a Ghost Town in Cienfuegos

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Justo Mora, Cienfuegos, August 30, 2018 — Pedro Albaladejo arrived in Juraguá 31 years ago. At that time he didn’t have as much gray hair as he does now, nor did he let his beard grow more than five days. He was a strong young man, with a tanned complexion, who at 35 made his living as a builder.

One day he received an offer to be part of the group that was going to build “the work of the century” in Cuba: the nuclear power plant that would provide electricity to the industrial center of Cienfuegos. He exchanged his ranch in Las Tunas for a temporary hostel and ever since has lived in the vicinity of what the locals call the CEN, the ruins of the mammoth project of the National Electronuclear Plant.

“Before, this place was full of people who came to work. Trucks never stopped arriving. It was another time. The Soviet Union supported us and here there was hope that life would get better,” he says as he pastures a herd of goats among abandoned blocks of concrete. continue reading

“So many people without houses in this country, and here they have left a ton of apartments unfinished. That’s a crime, boy,” a neighbor laments. (14ymedio)

$1.1 billion was invested in the construction of the reactor, and more than 10,000 workers, engineers, and architects worked on the project. Dozens of Russian specialists worked together with the Cubans on the projects of the Nuclear City.

Fidel Castro made an agreement with the Soviets in 1976 to build two nuclear reactors of the VVER-400 V316 type, but the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 slowed down the Russian nuclear program, and the end of Soviet subsidies to Cuba ended up paralyzing the project in 1992.

The first houses in the Nuclear City, developed in the Soviet style, were turned over in 1981. “We built these buildings ourselves,” says Albaladejo, pointing out a block of five-story apartments. Empty. “So many people without houses in this country, and here they have left a ton of apartments unfinished. That’s a crime, boy,” he laments.

Around him are the ruins of what in the past were hostels, warehouses, offices, dozens of buildings abandoned and cannibalized by the “stonepickers,” as the locals call the people who devote themselves to pulling out blocks, rods, and slabs from the ruins.

“Homeland or death! We will win! Socialism or death! Resist and win!” The old slogans painted on the buildings and the portraits of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara resist the passage of time. A completely abandoned 18-story building and various apartment blocks without doors or windows remind one of Pripyat, the nuclear city that the Soviets built nearby Chernobyl which was evacuated and abandoned after the explosion of a reactor on April 26, 1986.

“No one wants to live here. Young people leave for Cienfuegos or abroad because there’s only work here as a guard, in the private hospital, or as a teacher. There’s almost never water and in the buildings it rains more inside than out because of all the leaks,” he laments.

In the Nuclear City and its vicinity around 9,000 people live, according to the most recent official figures. After the disaster of the atomic plant, the Government created a tobacco factory and promoted agriculture as a source of jobs.

“A while ago the Government built a hydroponic facility here. They figured that we would be able to eat vegetables from there at low prices. The only thing remaining from the venture is the name because there’s not even a plot, no way,” says Albaladejo.

Yasniel was born in the Nuclear City and has never left the province. He’s 13 and has the look of someone who has already lived a lot, despite his young age. In the afternoons he goes out to fish with two friends on the pier. He dreams of having his own boat when he’s an adult, but the prices are through the roof, he says.

Yasniel was born in the Nuclear City and has never left the province. He’s 13 and has the look of someone who has already lived a lot, despite his young age. In the afternoons he goes out to fish with two friends on the pier.

“I sell the fish to other fishermen, and they resell it in Cienfuegos. The truth is that there’s not much to do here. Sometimes at night I go to the Circle (a recreation center) to listen to music.”

His school is destroyed. After Irma, the last hurricane that affected Cienfuegos, pieces of windows and part of the structure are on the ground. “It [the school] is a disaster. There aren’t even teachers,” he says. Where there used to be laboratories and classrooms, there are now only piles of debris.

Yasniel says that he would like to be like the Olympic boxing champion Robeisy Ramírez, native of the Nuclear City. “That kid was a great boxer, but here they don’t give life to anyone. He did well to stay in Mexico.”

When he gets together enough money, Yasniel takes the opportunity to connect to the internet in one of the City parks.

“There’s nothing else to do around here,” he says resignedly. “Whenever I can, I chat with friends on Facebook. A bunch of people from the CEN live in the US and some were friends of mine before they left.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

Much More Damaging Than a Hurricane: Expropriations Without Compensation

House destroyed in Caibarién by Hurricane Irma. (Pedry Roxana)

The Cuban Economy, Elias Amor Bravo, 27 August 2018 – Someone asks a naive question in Granma today: “Can a policy be more harmful than a hurricane?” The answer is yes, of course a policy can cause irreparable damage to a society by its application.

The most obvious example is the policy practiced by the Cuban communist regime against its people. Don’t look at “the blockade or the US embargo,” because however many measures one can cite of concrete cases of the application of that legislation, the harm caused by communist policies is infinitely worse. One in particular, the worst of them all: expropriations without compensation.

In any case, as has already been pointed out on this blog on numerous occasions, the matter of the embargo has an easy fix: pay what is owed by the Cuban regime. When one of the parties is unwilling to assume its responsibilities in a dispute, normally the other one will not make a move either. continue reading

It has been almost 60 years, certainly, but many more could pass, because I insist that the damage that the poorly-named ’blockade’ causes the Cuban economy is miniscule compared with the waste, lavish spending, nonsense, and accepted bankruptcies over six decades of the Castro regime.

Cuba has done business, received investments, obtained credits and loans over decades, without any limit, but nevertheless, that did not mean an improvement in the living conditions of Cubans, but rather the complete opposite. It’s time that demagogy be set aside once and for all, and that they begin to assume responsibilities for the many votes that they obtain from the countries of the United Nations.

Even a hurricane, as the Cuban residents of south Florida well know, with all its destructive force, can still create economic opportunities in recovery that over the long term end up being positive. To this end, it is the financial sector, savings and insurance, whose development on the island is practically nonexistent. The Castro blockade of an activity essential for the functioning of an economy, in terms of connection to disasters, is an example that confirms the terrible quality of the economic policies implemented on the island.

Playing dominoes in Cuba after Irma.

In Cuba, cyclones are devastating, among other things, because there is no space for private or public savings. Basically, because Cubans scrape by on the lowest salaries in the world, incapable of saving for old age and with a notable suspicion and distrust toward the banks belonging to the state, which on occasions have shown that, when the time comes to defend interests, they never put first those of their depositors, but rather those of the ones in charge. The Cuban economy has neither the rigor nor the confidence necessary for the damages of a hurricane to be fixed as happens in any other country in the world. To that end, the consequences are bigger and it takes much more time to return to the levels of prior to the natural disaster.

History is what it is. After the property confiscations decreed by the communist revolution at the beginning of the 60s and until the “revolutionary offensive” of 1968, the hereditary private capital of Cubans passed to the hands of the state without any compensation.

A hurricane of massive destruction. It’s possible that the Granma columnist doesn’t know it, or that the report that is sparingly made every year for the United Nations doesn’t want to refer to it, but those uncompensated expropriations by the state from their legitimate owners (many of them citizens of the US whose government sees itself as entitled to defend their interests) meant the absolute impossibility of every again reaching their prior levels of income and wealth and, for this reason, they ended their days in the most absolute misery.

Perhaps it doesn’t matter to the communists what could happen to these people, their assets, and their companies, but what they had to endure as a result of these “revolutionary” actions was much more destructive than the worst of hurricanes: exile, rupture, the loss of family ties, or simply fleeing abroad in search of freedom.

What Granma calls “the economic, commercial, and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba” is a joke compared with the harm caused by that communist greed to change the structure of property in the Cuban economy. The impact of this was well over $140 billion. In practical terms, this is the total value of all the homes and savings that were expropriated suddenly in two or three neighborhoods in Havana. If what they want is to compare, let them do so.

I insist again. The “blockade” has an easy fix. Pay. Once done, let’s see if it’s true that the Cuban economy can straighten itself out. I greatly fear that it won’t be possible if one considers the design created in the so-called “constitutional reform.” One step forward, but two steps back. This is the real check on any real advance in the Cuban economy and in the improvement of the population’s living conditions.

For a responsible government, throwing a stone and hiding the hand isn’t the most appropriate conduct. If the communist regime wants to normalize economic, commercial, and financial relations with the United States, it knows well what it has to do.

I don’t see the US government especially interested in maintaining a policy whose sole responsibility belongs to someone else. The recent toughening of sanctions by president Donald Trump in 2017 is a good point in the game to try to put a definitive end to the dispute. Above all because it means not accepting a Castro “snub” from which US citizens and companies never should have suffered.

The United States does well to defend its’ people’s interests. It’s a message that, transferred to the rest of the world, has a very clear and valuable meaning, possibly quite superior to that given by other countries to their citizens who are victims of communist expropriations.

History is there to be told. Frequently, the communist regime in Havana tends to create a history that never existed, or to cut from it scenes that by now turn out to be unviable, like the arguments offered to oppose a democratic and pluralistic multiparty system. This is typical of authoritarianisms, because they only want one culture, one economy, a political system based on one ideology: socialist or communist, it doesn’t make a difference.

If the General Assembly of the United Nations really wanted to help in this matter, it would be easy. Maybe in Havana they are more interested in permanent harassment of their neighbor to the north. Maybe they want it to continue this way for another 60 years.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

More Than 20 People Tried for Alleged Falsification of Internal Migration Documents

The trial against the alleged network began this Tuesday at the Provincial Court of Havana. (tsp.gob.cu)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, August 29, 2018 — This Tuesday at the Provincial Court of Havana, the trial began against more than 20 people accused of participating in an alleged network of migration document falsification so that provincial residents would be able to reside in the capital of the island, Diario de Cuba announced today.

The network, which allegedly operated between 2013 and 2016, “was centered around the Housing Office of the municipality of Cerro, according to the official record of the case,” said the independent medium in the statement.

According to authorities, this group’s procedure consisted of identifying individuals who needed to go through the process urgently and who were exhausted by the bureaucracy necessary to complete it. “Many people arrived at the workplace of the accused officials and agreed on an amount that, in general, would be paid in two halves: the first at the beginning and the second once the required Resolution was delivered,” explains DDC. continue reading

The main defendents, Sonia Milagro Barban, a lawyer at Cerro’s Municipal Housing Department since 2012, and her friend, Iluminada Machada, ex-employee of the Havana Provincial Administration Council, allegedly charged between 40 and 150 dollars, mostly to young people seeking to reside permanently in the capital or who needed an address change to be hired for a State job, as is required by law.

Both women face sentences of between 8 and 15 years in prison for the crimes of falsification of public documents and bribery. Another five accused, “among them office workers and citizens who allegedly benefitted economically from the group engaged in corrupting documents,” may also be sentenced to 3 years in prison, in addition to being disqualified from future employment in public administration.

According to the Attorney General of the Republic’s report, Machado and Barban joined together “with the purpose of making an illegitimate profit, with Barban taking advantage of the power of the position which she held.” In this way, the applicants, some of whom are also accused in the trial, arrived at the workplace of the officials facing trial in order to settle the process.

A third member of the alleged plot, a technician withTerritorial Planning Marily García, could not be tried, as she committed suicide in Havana in November of 2016, a few days after being notified that she would be subject to an inestigation regarding the internal migration records that she managed.

The fall of this group was preceded by complaints of irregularities by officials of the Offices of Housing Processes and supervisors of the Offices of Identity Cards in the municipalities of Regla, El Cotorro, San Miguel del Padrón, La Lisa, and East Havana.

Additionally, according to the case file, the quality of the falsifications was poor, due to having been made on household printers, without the reliefs or special inks required for the official emblems. Finally, the criminal expert’s report was able to confirm that the network had made at least more than twenty false change of addresses, but according to a lawyer consulted by DDC there could have been more, given the high demand for this process.

According to the Population and Housing Census conducted in 2012, 11.2% of the Cuban population is made up of interprovincial emigrants and almost half of those are settled in Havana. 24.8% of the Cuban capital’s population is made up of immigrants from other parts of the country.

Since 1997 a Legal Decree has established internal migratory regulations for Havana that prohibits Cubans who come from other areas of the country from establishing residence or living permanently in the capital without authorization. The strict legislation has created a framework of marriages of convenience, false work permits, and bribes to get identity cards with Havana addresses.

 Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

The Cuban Economy is Not Taking Off, According to Cepal

Vendors at the Vedado Farmers’ Market in Havana (El Nuevo Herald)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, August 29, 2018 — Cuban experts consulted by 14ymedio agree that the predictions of Cepal (the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) confirm the stagnation of the national economy. Some even doubt that the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) reaches the 1.5% announced last week by this body of the United Nations.

According to Cepal’s report, GDP will grow an average of 1.5% on the whole continent, far from the 2.2% that it predicted in April.

“Instead of surpassing 2017 figures, Cuba is stagnating,” says the economist Elías Amor Bravo, who also points out that the Cuban government itself has set 3% as the necessary growth to overcome its external and internal structural problems. continue reading

For Amor Bravo, president of the Cuban Center for Human Rights (OCDH), based in Madrid, there are two causes that have led the Island to have one of the lowest prospects of growth in the region: on one hand, there is deficient investment in infrastructure, communications, energy, or housing, and on the other, there is a high public deficit, more than 11.5% of the GDP in 2017.

The Cuban researcher Pavel Vidal, professor at the Universidad Javeriana de Cali (Colombia), warned during a conference in Miami that the decapitalization of the Island’s economy and the fall in productivity have opened a “breach” with Latin America that can only be closed with a raise in the investment rate to around 10-15% of the GDP. This figure is far out of reach according to Amor Bravo, who maintains that the prominence of investments in the Island’s GDP has been only around 9% between 1995 and 2017.

2018 has been a difficult year for the Cuban economy, especially due to a 6.5% fall in tourism in the first half of the year, attributed by the Government to the fall in trips from the United States because of the restrictive measures of Donald Trump’s Administration, especially the restrictions on American nationals staying in hotels managed by the Armed Forces.

In contrast, the number of visitors arriving on cruise ships has grown, but this is a tourism that generates little income in the country. If, in 2016, a foreign tourist spent on average $765, a cruise passenger would spend only around $50, according to a report from The Havana Consulting Group.

“This year is going to be very negative for Cuba, especially when you start to notice the fall in oil shipments from Venezuela, in remittances, and especially a very bad tourist season. Combining all these factors, the Cuban economy is going to experience a growth that is practically nothing, or maybe even negative,” predicts Amor Bravo, president of OCDH and also a university professor in Valencia (Spain) and author of the blog Cubaeconomía.

Nor will the sugar harvest be able to help improve the battered national economy, now that it can’t manage to overcome the downhill slope it has been traveling for years. In the sugar harvest of 2017-2018 the Island produced a little more than a million tons of raw sugar instead of the expected 1.6 million, a steep drop from the all-time high reached in the last century of 8 million tons (plus or minus).

For the economist Jorge Sanguinetty, who directs the Latin American Program in Applied Economics at American University and currently resides in Miami, the prospect of 1.5% growth for the Island is a realistic figure even though Cepal uses data provided by Cuban institutions to make their predictions.

“In any place where there are economic statistics, you know where your data is coming from and how it is calculated. In Cuba that is not the case. They only have large-scale estimates,” says Sanguinetty. This statement is shared by Amor Bravo, who points out that the Island does not have data to predict the behavior of the economy in the short term, which makes it difficult to make accurate predictions.

“Whatever the growth of the economy may be doesn’t mean that it is a growth in consumption. The economy can grow by 10% and the spending of the Government can absorb all the growth so that it is not reflected in people’s lives,” says Sanguinetty.

From Pinar del Río, where one must face the difficulties of real life every day, the independent economist Karina Gálvez confirms this perception: “The GDP is not just a number, it’s basically an indicator that should be reflected in the economy of families and should mean something in everyday life in people’s pockets.”

And, “with nominal salaries that leave people practically destitute,” adds Amor Bravo, private consumption, which is key to economic growth, cannot be stimulated.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

Extrajudicial Executions Are Still Happening on the Island, According to Cuba Archive

Alejandro Pupo Echemendía, presumed killed by Cuban police officials (courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Pentón, Miami, August 27, 2018 — The NGO Cuba Archive claimed this Monday that extrajudicial executions are still happening on the island, and they cited as an example the case of Alejandro Pupo Echemendía, 46, “killed by officers at a police station” in the city of Placetas (Villa Clara).

Pupo Echemendía died on August 9, two days after being detained for an offense of illegal horse racing. According to Archive Cuba, citing Abel Santiago Tamayo, another detainee, as a source, Pupo Echemendía “was demonstrating a strong attack of nerves when a police officer handcuffed him and others proceeded to beat him with sticks, canes, kicks, and crashes against the floor.” continue reading

The human rights activist Jorge Luis García Pérez, known as Antúnez, was the one who denounced the alleged murder of Pupo Echemendía via social media. Various photos published on the activist’s account show signs of violence on the corpse. Pupo Echemendía’s wife as well as other family members testified to the state in which they received the body in the morgue.

Cuba Archive claims that this case is barely the “tip of the iceberg.”

“It’s only a window into the systematic killing in Cuba’s dungeons for nearly six decades,” adds the report published on their website. Cuba Archive asserts that it has documented some 509 extrajudicial executions, 22 deaths from hunger strikes, 312 deaths from lack of medical treatment or health reasons, and 107 suicides or supposed suicides, some of which may hide other executions.

“The vast majority of prisoners’ deaths are not reported, but it is thought that the victims add up to hundreds every year. The conditions in Cuban prisons are horrifying and they don’t permit monitoring or access for independent human rights organizations, they silence witnesses and victims’ family members, and they persecute human rights defenders,” adds Cuba Archive, which says that among the cases that it has documented are those of women and children.

Cuba keeps secret the number of prisons in the country and the number of people locked up. Cuba Archive estimates that there are more than 500 prisons, not including work camps, reformatories, and facilities for minors.

The NGO, based in Miami, claims that State Security is currently developing a campaign “of threats and intimidation to cover up the murder of Alejandro Pupo.”

On August 21 Abel Santiago was threatened by the authorities and forced to record a video where he declared that “he had been manipulated.” On August 22, Pupo’s niece and her husband were detained, threatened by State Security, and forced to sign a declaration denying the events. Various human rights defenders from Placetas, including Antúnez, Arianna López Roque, and Loreto Hernández García, are being harassed and threatened by the authorities, says Cuba Archive.

The report also accounts for the death of Daniela Ramón Rodríguez, 4 years old, who died on March 26, 2013 in Juan Manuel Márquez Hospital in Havana “after a health crisis caused by police mistreatment.”

According to Cuba Archive, the girl was forced to remain with her parents who had been detained by police, accused of the crime of burglary.

“The police threatened them and insulted them in front of their daughter. Two days after the traumatic incident, the health of Daniela [who had had an open heart surgery and suffered from congenital heart disease, an enlarged heart, and aggressive pericarditis] suddenly worsened; she was in intensive care until she died two months later,” adds Cuba Archive.

“This is the Cuba hidden from the world that we must continue to make known,” concludes the document.

 Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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