There Were Close to 3,000 Arbitrary Arrests in Cuba in 2018, According to CCDHRN

The activist Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco was tried for the crime of “precriminal dangerousness.” (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 2, 2018 — In 2018 there were 2,873 arbitrary arrests counted in Cuba, some 240 each month, according to the report published this Wednesday by the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN). The independent entity condemns the harassment of activists who only “tried to exercise elemental civil and political rights.”

The report also includes data from December and confirms “at least 176 cases of arbitrary arrests, generally of a short duration” during the last month. The majority of the arrested were peaceful members of the opposition.

CCDHRN additionally documents “49 cases of police harassment against an equal number of opposition members and two cases of physical aggression against anti-totalitarian activists, ordered or executed by agents of the secret political police.” continue reading

The entity publishes a partial list of political prisoners, between “130 and 140 people” interned “under cruel, inhumane, and degrading conditions” in some of the 150 prisons and internment camps on the Island, specifies the text.

“Every month they release a small number of political prisoners and intern a somewhat higher number of opposition figures,” reveals CCDHRN. For example, it details that in the last month of December the activists Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco, Carlos Rafael Aguirre Lay, Omar Portieles Camejo, Glenda Lovaina Pérez, and Edilberto Arzuaga Alcalá were imprisoned.

Amnesty International and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have indicated that Cuban law punishes, with sentences of one to four years in prison, citizens for a supposed crime that they have not yet committed, according to articles 73 to 84 of the Penal Code.

According to the independent lawyer Laritza Diversent, the persons sanctioned under this legal concept “are not proven to have committed a crime [since] authorities, protected by subjective criteria and ideological parameters, judge that their conduct must be reformed.”

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 14 Events That Marked 2018

Thousands of doctors returned to the island after the cancellation of the Cuban participation of the Mais Medicos (More Doctors) program in Brazil. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 1, 2019

 

1. Return of the Mais Médicos doctors

The victory of Jair Bolsonaro in the Brazilian presidential elections will have economic consequences that are as yet unforeseeable for the Government’s coffers because of Cuba’s withdrawal from the program Mais Médicos (More Doctors), which has meant so much revenue for the Island since its beginning in 2013 under the mandate of former president Dilma Rousseff.

The export of Cuban doctors came to an end when the future Government of Brazil declared its will to change the current conditions of the agreement with Havana, among them stopping the paying of salaries to the Cuban State and paying the professionals directly.

Cuban authorities believed that the announcement harmed their interests and questioned the professionalism of their doctors and decided to break with the agreement by which more than 8,300 health workers provided medical assistance in the most remote areas of the country. The repercussions, additionally, affected migratory and legal aspects that will be defined in the new year.

2. Investiture of Miguel Díaz-Canel as president

The first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba and former president Raúl Castro raises the arm of Miguel Díaz-Canel after his appointment. (EFE / Alexandre Meneghini)

On April 19, 2018 the naming of Miguel Díaz-Canel as president of the Republic of Cuba, the first without the surname of Castro in 50 years, was formalized. His predecessor, Raúl Castro, who saved for himself the general secretaryship of the Communist Party, declared that the election of the new president had not been “a product of pressuring nor of chance.” Previously first vice president, Díaz-Canel headed the nomination list put forward by the Commission of National Candidacy, which was submitted to a vote in Parliament. The new president received 99.83% of votes, 603 of the 604 representatives. Díaz-Canel has slightly modified the style of the Government (he travels more, uses social media, and lets himself be seen frequently with his wife in official acts). Ethics, on the other hand, seem to remain unchanged in regard to the Castro dynasty. continue reading

3. Constitutional Reform and the campaign for “No”

The bill to reform the Cuban Constitution has been debated for months and will be voted on in a referendum in 2019. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

In 2018, after a long wait, the process of constitutional reform began. The principal changes of the draft presented to the citizenry were the elimination of the term “communism” and the acceptance of private property and incorporation of certain economic reforms of “Raulism.” After the citizen debates, the text has passed to the Communist Party and must be approved and submitted to a vote in 2019. Various organizations of the opposition promote the campaign to vote “No” to not legitimize a system that continues to lack multiple parties and public liberties for its citizens.

4. Controversy over the inclusion of Article 68 in the constitutional reform

The LGBTI community will have to wait to see if the Family Code defines whether people of the same sex can marry. (14ymedio)

The draft of the Constitutional reform opens the door to marriage equality by modifying the definition of this type of unions, which would be between two persons rather than between man and woman. This change set off an important controversy between gay rights organizations and Christian churches. The Catholic church has positioned itself against it, but the evangelicals are the ones who have decided to mobilize more and start various campaigns and signature gathering to try to block this change. In the end, the draft will not include the planned change in the constitution, which establishes that marriage is a “social and legal institution.” The Family Code will be what establishes, in the future, who can engage in it.

5. The arrival of Alberto and Michael

Hurricane Michael caused visible damage in the province of Pinar del Río. (Radio Sandino)

In May, the subtropical storm Albert flooded the central area of the Island, causing four deaths and grave damages to infrastructure, homes, and crops. The provinces of Cienfuegos, Sancti Spíritus, and Villa Clara received the worst of the flooding that left cuts in communication and the evacuation of thousands of residents.

Months later, at the beginning of October, Michael grazed one end of Cuba as a category 1 hurricane on the Saffir Simpson scale. The Island didn’t have to lament a single death, although numerous material damages were recorded, particularly in Pinar del Río, where 87% of the population was left without electricity and tobacco harvests were severely damaged. The floods delayed the sowing of the plant in the province with the greatest tobacco production.

Isla de la Juventud also suffered the battering of the cyclone, whose rains flooded homes, infrastructure, and crops and caused electricity cuts. On its route toward the United States the impact was greater and Michael left 18 deaths in Florida and Georgia.

6. Cubana de Aviación flight crash with 112 deaths

The plane operated by Cubana de Aviación crashed when taking off from Havana airport when it was heading to Holguin. (EFE)

Fifteen minutes after taking off from José Martí International Airport in Havana en route to Holguín, Cubana de Aviación flight 972, operated by the Mexican airline Global Air, crashed with 113 occupants on board. Of the three initial survivors only one remains, young Maylén Díaz. The vast majority of the deceased were from Holguín, although also lost were the lives of two Argentineans, one Mexican, and two Sahara natives, one with Spanish nationality. The entire crew was Mexican. The company had been accused of various irregularities by some of its workers and the pilots’ union of that country. The causes of the accident are still to be determined and the investigation continues coordinated by Cuban, American, and Mexican authorities.

7. The controversial Decree 349

T-shirts against Decree 349 seized by Cuban Customs at the José Martí International Airport in Havana. (14ymedio)

Independent artists saw how their creative possibilities outside of State organizations were limited with the approval of Decree 349, which went into effect December 7 although pressures have obligated the government to not implement all the controls over the culture they were planning. Some of the artists decided to go to battle with protests that resulted in multiple arrests, but they had a small triumph when the minister of culture, Alpidio Alonso, announced a few days ago that the decree will be applied in an “agreed” and “gradual” manner.

8. Failure of the sugar harvest

The sugar distributed this September as a part of the basic market basket in the rationed market comes from France. (14ymedio)

The last sugar harvest produced a little more than a million tons of raw sugar, far from the 1.6 million that the sector’s authorities had suggested. The repercussions have not been small. Cuba, previously the sugar-producing country par excellence, has seen itself obligated to import this product from France for the basic market basket. The sector, whose weight was essential in the Cuban economy, has for years seen spectacular falls, remaining far behind revenues received from the export of medical services, remittances, and tourism.

9. Increase of shortages in food and medicine

Customers at the pharmacies shout and shove each other in the face of the lack of medicines. (14ymedio)

Since the beginning of the past year the shortage of food and medicine has been worsening on the island. The lack of cash flow to buy raw material had a bearing on the lack of medicines in the network of state-owned pharmacies, especially those meant for chronic patients. Food products were also scarce and in the second half of 2018 flour, oil, and eggs were missing from the shelves of stores. Authorities blamed the problem on delays in imports and difficulties with infrastructure.

10. Stagnation of GDP

An old woman shows the ration card that every year has fewer products subsidized by the Government. (EFE)

The economy of Cuba, according to data released by the minister of economy and planning, Alejandro Gil, shows that the gross domestic product (GDP) has registered a growth of 1% in 2018, well below the 2% that was officially predicted. The Government attributes this poor result to the failure in export revenue, the high level of debt, the international context, and the weather, but independent experts think that the problems are deeper.

According to the Cuban economist Pavel Vidal, who lives in Colombia, “the shortage of basic products and the dynamic of prices of consumer goods match up less and less with the official statistics of GDP and of the Index of Consumer Prices.”

11. Arrival of internet to mobile phones

The Government fulfilled the promise to connect mobile phones to the internet in 2018, with barely 25 days left in the year. (EFE)

After years of waiting, on December 6 Cuba’s state communications company, Etecsa, fulfilled, almost at the last moment, its commitment to bring internet to mobile phones in 2018. During the summer various tests were done to check the functioning of the system, but it ended up being a fiasco that made people fear that the announcement wouldn’t meet the deadline. Although the price of navigation packages is rather high, 4 gigabytes of connection costs around 30 CUC, the equivalent of a monthly salary, the new functionality opens up a new path for activism and entrepreneurship.

12. Continuation of the “sonic attack” controversy

Lines have become common around the United States Embassy in Havana, due to the reduction in personnel staffing because of the alleged sonic attacks. (EFE)

The United States and Cuba remain entangled over the matter of the supposed “sonic attacks.” Throughout the year and after several investigations in both countries, the cause of the harm (which in fact was proven) suffered by various diplomats stationed in Havana between 2016 and 2017 has still not been able to be determined. Also this year complaints of affected Canadians have come to light, and the Canadians have lamented that their Government has not given them a treatment equal to that of Washington to its officials. The last episode of this crisis has been the closure of consular services in the US embassy on the Island, which have now come to be processed mainly in Guyana.

13. Visit of Pedro Sánchez

Pedro Sánchez and Miguel Díaz-Canel shake hands after the signing the memorandum for holding meetings that will address, among other things, human rights. (EFE / Juanjo Martín)

On December 22 and 23, Pedro Sánchez, president of the Spanish Government traveled to Cuba on an official visit, the first of this level from a leader of his country in 32 years. Although economic relations between both countries have been the best — under the mandates of José María Aznar, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and Mariano Rajoy — political ties have been limited. In Cuba Sánchez had meetings with the president and authorities as well as with Spanish businessmen and part of civil society, but he did not meet with anyone from the opposition. Both parties agreed to meet annually to go over cultural cooperation agreements and bilateral reviews. Among the principal deals reached, the installation of farms to provide chicken to Cubans was one of the most discussed.

14. Historic agreement of the Cuban Baseball Federation with the Major Leagues of the United States

The U15 team fell unexpectedly and in a very bad performance against Panama, the United States and Taiwan. (Newspaper 26)

In the middle of December it was announced that the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB) and Major League Baseball (MLB) signed a historic agreement so that the Island’s ballplayers could be signed in the United States. The agreement opens the doors so that athletes who play in the National Series and other local circuits can join the 30 teams of the MLB, and arrives during a year of disastrous results for Cuban baseball.

In 2018 Cubans won only a bronze in the Panamerican U-12 and a silver in the Games in Barranquilla. In U-15, Cuba came in fifth place. In the Caribbean Series, the Alazanes fell in the semifinals. In U-18 they didn’t manage to pass the super round of six in the Panamerican series and Cuba will not be in the next World Cup.

All the same, the public has attended with astonishing interest the National Series, filling the stadiums despite the apathy. On a more human level, sanctions and conflicts because of the bad conduct of some players and managers have not at all helped the image of the game.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

14ymedio Faces of 2018: Maykel Gonzalez Vivero, the Fearless Journalist who Founded ‘Tremenda Nota’

Maykel González Vivero was also arrested when he was working covering the damages caused by Hurricane Matthew in Baracoa. (El Estornudo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 29, 2018 — Maykel González Vivero has had a hectic year. In the last twelve months he took the first steps on the difficult path of directing an independent publication, fought a tough battle on social media for marriage equality, and his name was definitively inscribed on the Government’s list of “enemies.”

Although at first this young man, born in 1983, thought of becoming a philologist, he ended up graduating in 2012 with a degree in Sociocultural Studies and entering journalism. His first steps in the profession were as a reporter at the radio station of his native Sagua la Grande, Villa Clara, where he learned the rudiments of the press but also saw firsthand the face of censorship.

In 2016 this journey through the official editorial offices ended abruptly when authorities annuled his contract for collaborating with independent media. From then on his signature became common on various alternative digital sites, but González wanted to go further and form a new publication, where he could combine his two passions: the press and LGBTI activism. continue reading

Thus in December of 2017 Tremenda Nota was born, a publication that he directs and describes as “the magazine of minorities in Cuba,” which they produce in the difficult setting of a province, far from the capital. From there, and along with his team of reporters, he has covered controversial subjects like discrimination and racism, opted for graphics to accompany the most complex issues, and managed to become a reference in the extensive ecosystem of independent media.

Tremenda Nota also devoted wide coverage to the controversial Article 68 in the draft of the constitutional reform project, which would have opened the door to marriage equality and which, ultimately, was withdrawn. A monitoring done with journalistic quality and without fear. On balance, Maykel González Vivero has paid all the social and professional costs possible for writing. Arrested for his work during Hurricane Matthew, vilified by his former colleagues, and watched by State Security, now he does journalism without a gag, as he likes it.

See also: Orbiutes

See also: 14ymedio Faces of 2018

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

14ymedio Faces of 2018: Yanelys Nunez, the Artist Who Stands Against Decree 349

Yanelys Núñez, independent artist publicly confronts the Government over Decree 349. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 27, 2018 — A graduate in Art History in 2012, Yanelys Núñez Leyva (b. Havana, 1989) has this year been one of the most visible faces on the independent art scene of the Island.

Along with Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and another group of artists she defied the country’s cultural authorities by inaugurating the #008Biennial of Havana. Núñez was one of the principle curators and organizers of the independent event that took place at the headquarters of the Museum of Dissidence, a project for which she was expelled from her position at the magazine Revolución y Cultura.

Through the Museum of Dissidence, Núñez sought to define via art the term ‘dissident’, also leaning on the meaning that the Royal Spanish Academy grants the word. In the same place, the curator mixed personalities from the history of Cuba, in the style of Hatuey, José Martí, and Oswaldo Payá. The project, which initially functioned in a digital format via a webpage, materialized between the walls of a house at 955 Calle Damas, Old Havana. continue reading

The place has also served as a headquarters for the festival Endless Poetry, the presentation of Enrique Del Risco’s book, El compañero que me atiende, and even a reading of censored authors, which was scheduled to happen in parallel with the Book Festival and was boycotted by State Security.

Since Decree 349, which regulates artistic dissemination, was published on July 10 in the Gaceta Oficial, Núñez has been an active part of the San Isidro group, which took a stand against the Government to ask for its repeal. The Decree lists up to 19 violations of the law, many of which directly affect the independent scene, like organizing cultural events without the Government’s authorization or disseminating contents that are “violent, pornographic, discriminatory, or offensive toward national symbols.”

The campaign against the law used texts and artistic actions to condemn its exclusionary character and reported that it had been written without previously consulting artists. Núñez headed a protest against the controversial text in front of the Capitol of Havana, covering her body with human excrement while she demanded respect for free art.

Although the decree was meant to go into effect on December 7, part of its contents has been suspended while a dialogue process has been opened up with pro-government institutions like the National Union of Writers and Artists (Uneac) and the Saíz Brothers Association (AHS) in which the writing of some complementary laws for its future implementation is being discussed.

The organization Amnesty International as well as the State Department of the United States have declared themselves against Decree 349, believing that it contravenes the right to liberty of expression and could be used to censor content.

See also: 14ymedio Faces of 2018

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

_____________________

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

"Artistic creation in Cuba is free," says Diaz-Canel After Controversial Law

At the beginning of this month several artists who tried to carry out peaceful protests against Decree 349 in front of the headquarters of the Ministry of Culture were detained. (Nonardo Perea)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, Havana, December 23, 2018 — Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel insisted this Saturday that “artistic creation in Cuba is free and will continue to be so,” after Decree 349, intended to regulate the cultural industry on the Island, put a good part of that sector on a war footing.

“Some tried to twist the reach and objective of the regulation, and associate it with an instrument to exercise artistic censorship,” pointed out the leader during his closing speech at the final annual plenary session of the National Assembly, where the text of the new Constitution was approved.

This is the first time that Díaz-Canel has referred publicly to this controversial matter, which in recent weeks set the leaders of the country against artists and intellectuals who criticized the government for not having reached an agreement with them on Decree 349, whose contents they also considered a potential tool of censorship. continue reading

The leader recognized, this Saturday, that the decree “should have been better discussed and better explained because of its importance” and called “on artists with a proven and committed work” to discuss with the Government “the means of implementing this law.”

Although the decree was intended to go into effect two weeks ago, a part of its contents has remained suspended while a process of dialogue has opened with the pro-government National Union of Writers and Artists (Uneac) and the Saíz Brothers Association to prepare supplementary laws for its implementation.

Díaz-Canel insisted that the Government must protect the values of national culture faced with “pseudoartistic productions that present an image of a country that we have never been” and emphasized that the only objective of Decree 349 is “to protect the culture from false artists and from the pseudoculture that creates false values.”

Additionally, he indicated that among those waging a campaign against the new law are “entities alien to culture, those who never cared about it and remained silent in face of the proliferation of vulgarity, banality, violence, discrimination, and sexist and racist attitudes.”

At the beginning of this month, during the week prior to the law’s taking effect, various artists who tried to carry out peaceful protests in front of the headquarters of the Ministry of Culture were detained and later set free, among them the activist Tania Bruguera.

Both Amnesty International and the State Department of the United States have declared themselves against Decree 349, believing that it contravenes the right to freedom of expression and could be used to censor content.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

14ymedio Faces of 2018: Eduardo Cardet, Political Prisoner

The opposition’s Eduardo Cardet is still in prison after the sentence of three years which was imposed on him. (Captura YouTube/MCL)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 December 2018 — In November Eduardo Cardet marked two years in prison. The leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) was arrested November 30, 2016 at the door of his home, in Holguín, and later was sentenced to three years of prison for the crime of attacking authority, in a trial that his family and other activists label “manipulated.”

Born in 1968 and with a degree in Medicine, the activist was chosen as the national coordinator of MCL after the death of Oswaldo Payá in 2012.

In October of this year the dissident was awarded the Patmos prize which has been granted by the institution of the same name for the past five years to committed Cuban Christians. A few weeks later he won the Pedro Luis Boitel 2018 Freedom Prize in a ceremony held in Miami. continue reading

In recent months Cardet has seen his conditions in prison worsen. In May his family members were informed by authorities that the opposition figure had been prohibited from receiving visitors for “spreading fake news” about his case.

At the end of July, MCL asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, Jean-Yves Le Drian, to intercede on behalf of Cardet during his visit to Havana, but so far, the petitions of human rights organizations, national and international, and political parties have fallen into a black hole.

The NGO UN Watch presented a complaint to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to demand that the island’s authorities free Cardet. The organization’s lawyers registered the case against the Cuban State on July 23 in front of this body of the UN made up of five jurists and experts in human rights.

See also: 14ymedio Faces of 2018

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.

"100% Noticias": A Stone in the Shoe of the Dictatorship

High up on the front part of the building facing the old Military hospital is a sign for 100% Noticias, but the bigger, the more visible sign, says “Jehovah.” (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Guillermo Cortés Dominguez, Managua, Nicaragua | December 25, 2018 — For the dictatorship, Miguel Mora became a “stone in the shoe.” For that they treated him mercilessly: high-profile smear campaign, stealing television cameras, beating reporters, intimidations, harassment, and threats against him, his wife, journalists, and other workers, as well as visitors to 100% Noticias, a violent raid of the media outlet, destruction of equipment, his kidnapping, that of his wife Verónica, his colleague Lucía Pineda, and four other employees, confiscation of the channel, the closing with zinc — like a tombstone — of its facade, the transport to El Chipotle and in less than ten hours to a court dressed in the blue of prisoners.

An aggravating circumstance for such malice is that for years the regime perceived him as “pro-government,” given that he was an activist for the FSLN party and he carried the agenda of the Government to 100% Noticias. They considered him one of their own, despite his lack of “discipline,” since he also reported events that from the perspective of Nicaragua’s First Lady Rosario Murillo, only done by “contaminated” media outlets. continue reading

For years, Mora distinguished himself by his pluralism, since on the channel there were non-“Orteguista” programs like “Jaime Arellano en la Nación” and “Café con Voz;” and on “IV Poder” critics of the regime were invited for debates. The complete dissidence, the spectacular “somersault” of 100% Noticias bumped into the beginning of the social explosion of April, the attack on a journalistic team, and the theft of a valuable TV camera, and later the press censorship for refusing an order of the regime not to report on the rebellion. Then its owner transformed the programming, and the outlet turned into the voice of the peaceful insurrection of the Nicaraguan people.

The channel dyed itself blue and white and its audiences, in an amazing manner, multiplied by the millions inside and outside of the country. Six months later the marches ceased due to the increase of the repression, but they continued daily on 100% Noticias, whose images of those oceans of flags of the homeland fed us and encouraged us.

For the Ortega-Murillo family this outlet became dangerous because it belligerently spread the popular fight and showed the abuses of the dictatorship. Going against national and international laws and the high cost it signified, now they silenced it, although not on social media.

In parallel to his political conversion that went along with concrete aspirations, like being President of the Republic, Mora experienced another one, spiritual, to the point of extremity, since he, his wife, and his Chief of Press daily showed themselves not only as devout Christians, but also as religious fundamentalists. He even made appearances on his outlet, as if he were an evangelical preacher. This is from his private reserve, but to bring it to 100% Noticias gave it a public connotation.

It was so cool that perhaps it was December that night, at a house where there was a party in one of the alleys of the Centroamérica neighborhood. A group of journalists was outside, on the sidewalk, passionately arguing — as often happens among colleagues — about the aspects of professional practice, when a “bold” youngster interfered in the chat and began “to spit in the circle.” We weren’t geniuses, but we were already established in journalism, and he intervened with audacity. It was Miguel Mora.

Later he made a brilliant career, graduated, began to work, was left so impressed with Ted Turner’s idea (CNN) to offer news 24 hours a day, that he proposed to do something similar, first creating a program and later realizing his idea, briefly interrupted by a fire in the location from which, paradoxically, through the economic help of persons from different political and economic sectors, he emerged strengthened.

Several times Miguel Mora invited me to his IV Poder Original, with Adolfo Pastrán, Xavier Reyes, and William Grigsby, the latter of whom insulted me verbally because he didn’t know how to debate. Strangely I remained calm and he got out of control. Miguel couldn’t do much to stop him, as it was his place to do as host. El Chele is a magnificent analyst, also an “Orteguista-Murillista” on short-circuit, who has broken with them several times, but who always returns to the fold. Mora also had differences with the power and the party and a lucrative state publisher even suspended him, but he knew how to sort it out.

With the imprisonment of Miguel Mora and the ultra fast political trial that they are already putting together; and the closure of the 100% Noticias channel, the citizenry suffers a strong loss, the absence of a daily companion that we are already missing a lot, and national journalism has received a stab wound from which much blood is flowing, which has left us stunned and several days later, we still haven’t gotten over the stupefaction and the pain of this hook to the kidney that sent us for a moment to the mat and from which we are sitting up with a grimace of pain and trembling in the legs.

High up on the front part of the building across from the old Military hospital is a sign for 100% Noticias, but the bigger, the more visible, the one that stands out, is one with enormous uppercase characters that says “JEHOVAH,” which gives the appearance that the place is an evangelical church and not a television channel.

Perhaps the religious ideas of Mora — that don’t combine at all with his political ambition nor with the professional practice of journalism — give him strength and hope to resist the rigors of prison, although what is most important is that a whole people accompanies him morally and that the international community of journalists, communicators, and defenders of human rights have made a cry to heaven about the barbarous repression against him and his TV channel. His freedom will depend on the reactivation of the peaceful resistance of the people.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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Editors’ note: This text has been published by the Nicaraguan digital outlet Confidencial, which has authorized us to reproduce it.

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.

Supporters and Opponents of Gay Marriage Both See a Government Maneuver on the Constitution Referendum

Cuba’s Family Code will be what determines who will be allowed to marry, after this issue has been removed from the constitutional reform. (David Himbert)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 19, 2018 — Religious groups that were pleased by the announcement of the National Assembly’s announcement that Article 68, which would open the door to marriage equality, would be removed from the constitutional reform, have announced this Wednesday their intention to mobilize against the Government’s project to include, within two years, that same concept in the Family Code.

“The news that the National Assembly of People’s Power has discarded the proposal of Article 68, because it was shown that a majority of the Cuban population rejected it, gives a measure of how strongly the thinking of the Evangelical Church of Cuba represents the Cuban People,” the Methodist Church of Cuba wrote on its Facebook page. continue reading

This declaration is a response to National Assembly deputy Mariela Castro, director of the National Center of Sexual Education (Cenesex), which has explained via its Facebook account that Article 82 will now define the institution as a fundamental union “in free consent and in equality of rights, obligations, and legal capacity of the spouses.”

The daughter of ex-president Raúl Castro assured that the “new formula retains the essence of the formerly proposed article (68), since it erases the binary of gender and heteronormativity with which marriage was defined in the Constitution of 1976. There’s no going back, the essence of Article 68 remains, the fight continues, now let’s say YES to the Constitution.”

Mariela Castro attributes the confusion of recent hours to poor communication from the National Assembly. “The Commission proposes deferring the concept of marriage, that is to say, that it is removed from the Project of the Constitution, as a form of respecting all opinions. Marriage is a social and legal institution. The law will define the rest of the elements,” said the Parliament on its Twitter account.

“Unfortunately the message tweeted by our legislative body mutilated the new proposal and with an inappropriate approach threw into the fray what many people are interpreting as a retreat,” clarified Mariela Castro.

The news had fallen like a bucket of cold water among the defenders of marriage equality who viewed the decision as a step back.

One of the first to react was the journalist Francisco Rodríguez Cruz, who has the blog Paquito el de Cuba. “Neither between man and woman nor between two people: the Constitution will not say what marriage is. The future Law will,” he detailed on Facebook. “To say it politely: take your marriage and shove it!” the activist also added.

The new wording opens, also according to Mariela Castro herself, the door to legalizing other types of couples. “It places domestic partnerships as a novel element, without tying them to a specific gender; this form, in the long term and according to statistics, is [currently] the most used in our society,” she reminded.

From Placetas, Villa Clara, on Facebook Live the journalist and LGBTI activist Maykel González Vivero said that the news had not taken him by surprise. “Some people close to Cenesex had notified us that article 68 wouldn’t be in the project of the Constitution.”

“It’s clear that the Family Code as well will be submitted, within a period of two years, to a popular consultation. At the end of the day what the National Assembly has done is prolong and delay the moment in which the right to marriage will be established for everyone in Cuba,” laments González, director of the independent publication Tremenda Nota.

Pastor Bernardo Quesada, one of the most fervent opponents of article 68 as it was worded in the project of the Constitution, doesn’t feel satisfied with the change announced in Parliament, although he minimizes its importance.

“More important than the issue of marriage, it worries us that neither freedom of association nor freedom of religion is specified,” reports Quesada to 14ymedio. The pastor recognizes that there is “much confusion” with the news that has been coming out in recent hours about a parallel popular consultation, to include the definition of “marriage” in the Family Code.

“It’s a maneuver to seek the approval of the Constitution in the referendum, because of that our churches are going to reject that. At least those of us who have five senses are not going to be tricked nor convinced to approve this Constitution,” he explains.

In July five Cuban evangelical denominations made public a declaration against marriage equality. The document affirmed that the “ideology of gender” had no relation with Cuban culture “nor with the historic leaders of the Revolution.”

In temples and Christian churches all over the country article 68 was openly criticized, a situation that made the Government fear a massive No vote against the Constitution. Evangelicals have had a rapid growth in recent years and it is calculated that the Methodists alone count more than 80,000 faithful in the entire country. Additionally, the Cuban Episcopal Conference also rejected allowing persons of the same sex to marry.

With this turn, the Government postpones the controversy and casts off an issue that could have brought No votes to the constitutional reform.

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.

Dozens of Passengers Protest at a Bus Stop in Havana

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 20, 2018 — This Thursday afternoon dozens of people circled a bus that was traveling on Calle Monte in Havana to demand that the doors be opened and that it transport those who were waiting at the stop. The passengers positioned themselves in front and on the sides of the bus to keep it from continuing its route and, a few minutes later, the police intervened to break up the protest.

The events occurred before it started to rain in the city, affected by the arrival of a cold front that has brought abundant rain and the danger of coastal floods to the west of the country. The passengers demanded to be transported toward their destination after the bus driver did not stop at the bus stop. continue reading

When the downpour started the people ran to the covered sidewalk to keep from getting wet and the driver took advantage of that to depart, leaving the passengers at the mercy of the rain.

An hour after the incident several police cars were continuing to circle around the area to avoid a second protest.

In the last few weeks the public transportation situation in the Cuban capital has gotten worse after the Government implemented on December 7 a series of measures to regulate private taxis. The self-employed transport workers responded to the new regulations with a strike that paralyzed the country’s biggest city for 48 hours.

Although in recent days some of these private vehicles have started circulating again, transportation is still very affected because hundreds of drivers refuse to take up the job again under the current circumstances.

The drivers are demanding freedom of movement, right to work all over the country, access to a wholesale market, the ability to import parts, and permission to have independent unions, among other demands.

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.

Civil Defense Warns of Possible Coastal Flooding in Eastern Cuba

Hurricane Michael left widespread coastal flooding this October in Cuba’s Artemisa province. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 20, 2018 — The Forecast Center of the Meteorology Institute warned of possible coastal flooding in eastern Cuba with the arrival of an extratropical storm formed on Wednesday morning. Since early Thursday morning the winds from the south, between 30 and 45 kilometers per hour and with higher gusts, will affect the eastern provinces and Isla de la Juventud.

Faced with this situation the National General Staff of Civil Defense issued an “early alert” warning and has called on all governing bodies, state bodies, economic entities, and social and territorial institutions to “fulfill the planned measures in your respective plans for risk reduction in disasters.” continue reading

Civil Defense insists in the call that the population be alert, “pay attention to information from the Meteorology Institute and Civil Defense, and obey with discipline the guidance of local authorities.”

According to the report from the Forecast Center, this weather situation will cause swells on the southern coast from Pinar del Río to Cienfuegos, including the special municipality of Isla de la Juventud, causing coastal flooding.

The sea could penetrate up to a third of a mile inland in Batabanó, and two-thirds of a mile in the low zones of Artemisa province.

It’s expected that, with the advance of this system, early Friday morning the winds will persist for a period of approximately 24 hours, with strong coastal floods predicted in low zones along the coast, including the Havana breakwater, starting the same morning.

In a broadcast from the Havana Channel the forecasts warned that the coastal flooding in the city could reach as far as Calle Línea in the lowest areas.

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.

Marriage Equality Eliminated From the Constitutional Reform Project

Cuba’s Family Code will determine who can marry, as this issue has been dropped from the constitutional reform. (David Himbert)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, Havana, December 19, 2018 — The commission preparing the draft of the new Cuban Constitution eliminated the article that would open the door to gay marriage, after the opposition to this matter that surfaced during the popular debates on the reform of the Constitution, which have been taking place for the past three months.

“The Commission proposes deferring the concept of marriage, that is to say, that it has been removed from the Project of the Constitution, as a way of respecting all opinions. Marriage is a social and legal institution. The law will define the rest of the elements,” reported the Cuban Parliament on its Twitter account. continue reading

#ConsultaPopular #Cuba adds a chapter only for the family, where legal and current ties are recognized, and the right of each citizen to start a family, without distinction to their nature. #ReformaConstitucional #HacemosCuba @DiazCanelB @anamarianpp pic.twitter.com/1iCZ82oc0M — AsambleaNacionalCuba (@AsambleaCuba) 18 de diciembre de 2018  

The initial proposal aimed to change the concept of marriage that appears in the current Constitution (1976), where it is defined as the union between a man and a woman, a meaning that it proposed placing with “union between two persons with the legal capacity for it,” without specifying gender.

This change of direction was made known this Tuesday during the commissions prior to the plenary session of the National Assembly on Friday, in which it is anticipated that the constitutional draft, to which has been added suggestions received from citizens during the process of debating the text, will be submitted to a vote.

According to the account of the Assembly on the Twitter, in the new Constitution “a chapter is added only for the family, where legal and current ties are recognized, and the right of each citizen to start a family, without distinction to their nature.”

Via this means, the Cuban Parliament also specified that “in the Family Code it will have to be established who can be subjects of marriage” and a popular consultation and referendum will be held “within a period of two years from a proposed transitional provision in the project itself.”

The constitutional modification that would have supported a future law of gay marriage had opened an intense debate in Cuba, with campaigns in favor by the LGTB community but also against from the Catholic and evangelical churches, the latter of which have more and more followers on the Island.

In accordance with the report that the secretary of the Council of State of Cuba, Homero Acosta, gave to the deputies yesterday, that article (number 68 of the constitutional draft) was the one most tackled in the popular consultation, considering that it came up in 66% of the meetings.

192,408 opinions on the matter were gathered, of which 158,376 proposed “substituting the proposal with what is currently in force” (the definition of marriage as the union between man and woman).

The draft of the new Constitution will be voted on in the National Assembly of People’s Power this Friday, and once approved will be submitted to national referendum on February 24.

The proposed text, which doesn’t incorporate changes to the political system, recognizes private property, eliminates references to communism, and establishes the position of prime minister, among other changes.

The constitutional Commission that prepared the initial draft and that has modified it introducing some of the proposals made by Cubans during the popular debate is headed by the ex-president and leader of the Communist Party of Cuba, Raúl Castro.

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.

Tania Bruguera Sues Official Media for Defamation

Tania Bruguera during her “performance” during the XII Bienniel of Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 18, 2018 — The artist Tania Bruguera made public this Tuesday a text in which she reports on a lawsuit she has brought against various official press outlets and against some of their most visible spokespersons.

“Tired of suffering defamation by the country’s official press outlets like Granma and Razones de Cuba (“Cuba’s Reasons,” apro-government blog) and of websites backed by the Ministry of Culture, like La Jiribilla, I have decided to bring a lawsuit against the actions of all legal and natural persons who have affected me and my family psychologically, professionally, and socially,” said Bruguera in a statement accompanying the lawsuit brought on December 11.

The artist told 14ymedio that she filed the penal lawsuit at the Old Havana municipal police station against the citizens who have signed any of the texts of those publications as is the case of Arthur González; Antonio Rodríguez Salvador; the director of the website Cubadebate, Randy Alonso Falcón; the director of La Jiribilla, Anneris Ivette Leyva; and the director of the newspaper Granma, Yailín Orta Rivera. continue reading

Bruguera claimed in her text that the campaign of defamation against her has not taken place only in media outlets, but also in executive meetings of the Ministry of Culture and of the Ministry of the Interior, of the directors of national museums and other leaders and cultural agents of the Government, with young artists, students, curators, and creators, with the objective of discrediting her.

The artist told this newspaper that after making the complaint she delivered copies of all the documentation of the legal action to the Attorney General of the Republic and the public services office of the Council of State. She also reported that in the public services office of the National Revolutionary Police they confirmed to her that the case was registered in the “national system” of complaints.

“They didn’t tell me anything about the period of time to receive a response but I asked a lawyer and she told me that it must be within 30 days,” she detailes. “What I am asking for is not economic compensation, but rather the retraction in the same media outlets where the articles originally appeared, and that they put an explanatory note on those that are on the internet,” clarified Bruguera in the text.

The artist told 14ymedio that she consulted with various lawyers on the writing of the text and that they told her that it is very possible that there are no precedents of a similar legal action to this one and that it would be the first of its kind in Cuba. “So then let it be the first of many and let it mean that, for next person who makes them uncomfortable by saying or doing what they think, the officials reflect on it better,” before defaming that person publicly, she added in her statement.

After this action Bruguera believes that other artists and citizens may be able to use the legal structures that exist in the Government for their protection against defamation.

According to the current penal code, defamation “requires the complaint of the offended party” and the crime takes place when a person, in front of a third party, “imputes to another a conduct, an act, or a characteristic against their honor, that may damage their social reputation, lower them in public opinion, or put them at risk of losing the confidence required to carry out their charge, profession, or social function.” It is sanctioned with “deprivation of liberty for three months to a year or a fine of 100 to 300 ’shares’* or both.”

The Government’s official media outlets, equally in printed form, digital, or telivision, frequently accuse leaders of the opposition, artists, journalists, and independent members of civil society of being “salaried employees of imperialism.”

“The Cuban Government cannot keep using the laws as they please, nor only to protect those who work for their political ends. The Government cannot be exempt from responsibility,” she said. Tania Bruguera supports the campaign against Decree 349 that a group of artists initiatated after it appeared published in the Official Gazette on July 10, along with a package of measures directed at limiting the work of private businesses.

The first week of this month the artist was detained in Havana along with other independent art figures, and advocates of the campaign, like Luis Manuel Otero, Yanelys Núñez, Michel Matos, and Amaury Pacheco. The arrest occurred after Bruguera, on December 7, participated in a “peaceful sit-in” in front of the Ministry of Culture in Havana to demand the repeal of Decree 349. That day she was released after some hours but later, on two other occasions when she attempted to reach the scene of the protest, she was arrested by State Security officials.

Bruguera believes that it is time to be in one’s country when it is going through a moment that is “crucial for freedom of expression in Cuba and also in the world.” The artist recently declined an invitation to participate in the Bienniel of Kochi, in India. “Although, in the circumstances in which we live in Cuba today, they have made us feel that asking for your rights is a useless act, all of us as citizens must be listened to, our rights to be compensated, and to receive a response when defamed, as is anticipated in Article 63 of the current Constitution of the Republic,” said Bruguera. In her statement she expressed: “A nation only exists when the rights of its citizens are respected.”

*Translator’s note: The Cuban penal code establishes fines in terms of a number of “shares.” This is done so that, instead of having to amend every fine established in the code, the amounts can be changed in all instances in the code simply by amending the value of one “share.” 

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.

’Cuban Food Stories,’ the Island Told Through its Flavors

Asori Soto brought his film to Cuban screens as part of the 40th International Festival of New Latin American Cinema. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, Yeny García, Havana, December 16, 2018 — A country rich in culinary traditions and diverse in flavors, even faced with scarcity and shortages, is the surprise revealed now in Havana by ’Cuban Food Stories’, a documentary that traces the map of the island through the stomach and the nostalgia of a Cuban filmmaker.

Eating before going to the cinema is almost an obligatory requirement to see this film, which debuts on Cuban screens as part of the 40th International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, fruit of a “debt” of its director, Asori Soto, an expatriate who has used food as a pretext to rediscover his country.

“Some people were asking me, why are you going to make a movie in Cuba, if in Cuba there’s no food? And I said to myself, even if that was the reality, in the absence of food there is also a story. But what we discovered was something totally different,” explained Soto to EFE. continue reading

The serious economic crisis of the 1990s sunk the country into one of its worst moments, desperate to survive in face of the scarcity of food and forgetting its rich culinary heritage, in a lethargy that seems to still exist today, when shortages still exist as a brake on creativity in the kitchen.

After 45 days traveling around the island — and 12 extra pounds — the filmmaker proved that “even though there is scarcity,” in Cuba there exists a world of flavors that go further than the traditional duo of congrí rice and pork.

“Cuban cuisine is extremely rich, what we haven’t known how to do in recent years is represent it onscreen. If something is not represented, it doesn’t exist,” pointed out Soto, who took around two days to film each story in the movie.

In what is almost an anthropological investigation of what makes up Cuba culinary identity, the documentary takes the spectator by sea and land, from cities to places as remote as the banks of the river Toa or the almost isolated Baracoa, the first Spanish town in Cuba, both in the eastern region of the island.

’Cuban Food Stories’ is not a “film about food, but rather about people,” who still jealously guard dishes inherited from their elders, the majority of which have nothing to do with the idea that many have made of the island’s cuisine, “in which exists a place like Baracoa (east) where they cook with coconut milk.”

The film shows native dishes of each region, but strangely little known beyond their borders, like cornmeal with crabs and shellfish in coconut milk, all without forgetting the eternal roast pork, the jewel of the crown in the island’s festivities.

Passing through, the spectator can also catch a glimmer of Cuban folklore, beyond gluttony, and get to know one of the best-kept traditions of the country, in the Christmas Eve dinner filmed in the famous parrandas — food and drink fueled celebrations — of Remedios, declared in November to be an Intangible Heritage of Humanity by Unesco.

“In the film they only visit one restaurant, the rest are people in their houses. Is there anything better than eating shrimp from the river, caught 30 yards away, cooked in coconut milk that was just extracted in front of you?” insisted Soto.

However, beyond representing inherited and little-known flavors of Cuban cuisine, ’Cuban Food Stories’ has turned into an initiative that tries to promote the practice of a “’leveraged” cooking, taking advantage of what is available, sustainable, current, and very necessary.

“Cuba is a country with economic problems and even so, food is wasted. (…) Dishes have more than one life. It’s not necessary to throw away bread because it has gotten hard. Our mission is to try to change that mentality, better understand our culinary culture, and that we start to create, taking that as a base,” he added.

Exchanges with cooks from countries like Vietnam, which has an “extremely rich cuisine marked by famine,” various social and development initiatives, are some of the projects that Soto has in mind, and on which he is still working “one by one” before launching them.

“We would love it if people would try. It’s complicated to cook when sometimes you don’t have the elements, but if you feel proud of what you are doing and keep trying, you’re going to succeed,” he insisted.

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.

Police Raid Against Illegal "Almendrones" On Two Wheels

The motorcyclists of Santiago de Cuba are the main private transportation in the city. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ernesto Camué, Santiago de Cuba | 17 December 2018 — Authorities in Santiago de Cuba are determined to impose order on mototaxis (motorcycle taxis), the main method of transportation in the city. In the last few weeks, an expanded body of inspectors and police officers has been trying to check the illegal motorcyclists, around nine out of every ten circulating around the city.

The profession laments that, in a context of new regulations for the private sector, the controls in the transportation of passengers are significant. The worst nightmare of these drivers is the motorized police, caballitos, who in the last few weeks have determinedly pursued motorcyclists to demand that they show their licenses.

The peculiar topography of the city, with steep streets, means that mototaxis are the best solution for passengers who want to cross it rapidly and without having to wait too long for a bus. Consolidated for decades, mobility on these two-wheeled “almendrones*” was legalized in 2014, but convincing the motorcyclists to formalize their activity has turned out to be an almost impossible task. continue reading

Of the 15,000 bikes providing service in the city, less than a tenth have a license to practice the occupation in a self-employed manner, according to the local press.

The majority prefer to do it outside of the law to evade the monthly payment for the permit which, along with the social security fee, can reach around 400 CUP (Cuban pesos, about $16 US), in addition to paying 300 CUP for the operating license once a year. The motorcyclists, additionally, justify their position by arguing that local authorities haven’t fulfilled the initial promise of providing them with spare parts and fuel at preferential prices to perform their work.

A mototaxi makes at least ten journeys a day, according to various motorcyclists consulted by this newspaper, from which the weekly earnings can top 3,000 CUP. However, these freelancers allege that spare parts and private maintenance garages have very elevated prices and that fuel, at 1 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos, about $1.00 US) per liter, is an unsustainable price.

Four years ago, Maira Pérez González, vicepresident of the Provincial Administration Council, assured that maintenance and repair garages would be authorized with facilities for these motorcyclists and that they would be sold oil, greases, body work, paint, and electricity.

“They told us that they were going to open a store where we could buy cheaper parts and tires to repair the motorcycles, but the supply lasted a very short time,” details Yunior, a 32-year-old motorcyclist who has spent seven years “evading the police” to avoid the fines of up to 500 CUP that they impose on illegal drivers.

The motorcyclist believes this is the only advantage of legalizing the business. “Everything else with being self employed is about obligations to the State, not rights: you have to pay more and the earnings are very little. We would have to set prices that customers aren’t willing to pay,” he tells 14ymedio to justify his decision to work outside the law.

If until a few months ago there was a certain permissiveness with the illegal motorcyclists, the outlook has radically changed at the end of 2018. “Before they would stop us so that we would wear a helmet and so we would carry another one for the customer, but now it’s a hunt to give us fines and even threaten to confiscate our motorcycles,” says Jorge Valdivia, a motorcyclist who had a license for several years until, in April of 2017, he decided to return it and continue “at his own risk” in Santiago’s streets.

“Now we have to tell the customer to pay discreetly because if the police see us accepting money they give us fines,” he adds.

Valdivia rides a bike of the MZ make, which along with Jawa and ETZ motorcycles are the most common ones in private transportation in this part of the country. “I bought this one from a Cuban who studied in communist Germany and brought it with him when he came back,” he tells this newspaper. They are among the few motorcycles with fuel motors that have been permitted to enter the country in half a century.

Currently customs laws only allow the private import of electric motorcycles, nor are models that consume fossil fuels sold in national stores. On the informal market one of these vehicles can cost 7,500 CUC or more, depending on its technical state and on the improvements made by its owner.

“I bought this Jawa a year ago and I still haven’t managed to recoup the investment, so I can’t pay for the license,” explains a young rider who preferred to remain anonymous. “If I get my license I will have to pay almost 500 CUP each month between one thing and another, so there would remain very little for me,” he details.

Along with the advantages in mobility that motorcycles offer in Santiago de Cuba is the price. There are rates by section and a standard trip costs 10 CUP, but one can also negotiate with the driver for longer distances or to use the vehicle to transport shopping, furniture, and even raw material for other private businesses.

“Without the motorcycles this city would be paralyzed because not even the guarandingas (a truck fitted out to operated a bus), nor the Diana buses (assembled on the island) manage to offer an efficient service,” says Carmen Rojas, a resident in the vicinity of the central Alameda of Santiago de Cuba. “Although not everyone can afford a moto, what’s certain is that they alleviate the transport problem a lot.”

*Translator’s note: The vehicles used in private, shared and semi-fixed route taxis in Cuba are commonly classic American cars from the 1950s or earlier, which are called “almendrones” in reference to their “almond” shape.

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.

Dengue and Zika Advancing in Cienfuegos

A doctor attends a child with fever in one of the attached rooms of the hospital in Cienfuegos. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Justo Mora / Mario J. Pentón, Cienfuegos/Miami, December 12, 2018 –Winter hasn’t managed to contain the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is grazing freely in Cienfuegos. 198 people have been seen in the past week under suspicion of dengue, and 22 suspected cases of Zika have been recorded, which makes the province one of those most affected by the presence of the mosquito, according to official figures obtained by 14ymedio.

“We have around 200 patients with symptoms of having contracted zika or dengue,” one of the doctors directing the fight against the epidemic explained, under condition of anonymity. “Additionally, the confirmed cases in the same period of time are 33 of dengue and 25 of zika. The epidemiologic situation is difficult in the province and the population doesn’t doesn’t realize the risk.”

The most affected municipality is Cienfuegos, with 118 cases of patients with fever, because of which they have had to equip rooms and annex hospitals to attend the flow of patients. In the province, 45 sources of the mosquito Aedes aegypti have been counted, of which the majority, 40, are in the city of Cienfuegos. continue reading

Areas of Cienfuegos where the mosquitos that transmit dengue and zika are common. (14ymedio)

The city’s newspaper, 5 de Septiembre, published an article at the end of November warning about the presence of a type of dengue in the province that hadn’t been seen since 1977 and that can cause death.

Authorities classified the health situation in the province at that moment as “alarming.”

“We have some shelters in the Faculty of Medical Sciences, in the Cinco de Septiembre polytechnic, and in other areas like Caunao. We were thinking that in 15 days the situation would be resolved, but to date the outlook remains very complicated,” he added.

The majority of the annexed rooms and shelters in which the patients with fever are being hospitalized don’t have the necessary conditions for good care. The patients are being crowded together, with terrible hygiene conditions and bad food, as 14ymedio was able to confirm during a tour of those spaces. Added to this are a lack of medicine and the bad state of the equipment, some of it in a deplorable condition.

Despite the growing number of cases of dengue and zika the water leaks continue to proliferate in many neighborhoods of the city (14ymedio)

In Cienfuegos there are 25 confirmed cases of zika, a virus that causes the appearance of reddish spots on the skin that may be accompanied by mild fever, headache, conjunctivitis, muscular pains, diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

In the case of pregnancies, it is believed that zika can cause microcephaly, because of which health authorities warn pregnant women to avoid traveling to areas where the virus is present. In Cienfuegos, so far there have been confirmed 12 pregnant patients.

“The Aedes mosquito reproduces in clean waters. In Cienfuegos we have a precarious situation with the water supply, so people use tanks, buckets, barrels, and whatever they have on hand so that they don’t run out. There are areas where there has been no water for up to 15 days. This is the perfect place for sources to be generated,” warns the doctor.

“Luckily we have a health system that has its faults, but in coverage is very effective, otherwise, the situation would be worse. Until now we have not had to mourn deaths due to dengue or zika,” he added.

Numbers of cases of dengue and zika by area in Cienfuegos. (14ymedio)

Yamilka Portuondo, a Cienfuegos resident who lives in the Buena Vista neighborhood, doesn’t even remember the mosquito bite, but one morning she woke up with fever and her whole body hurt. “It was as if I had been beaten,” she explains. She spent almost a week with high fevers, abdominal pains, and weakness.

“Late at night is when the mosquitos start to go out and no one can escape them. Here there are many water leaks, that’s where they bred,” she says via telephone.

“I was in bed at home for a week. I had to commit to staying in my room with a mosquito net and not going out*. My dengue wasn’t the worst case, because of that a doctor friend of mine let me stay at home, but the majority of people have to go to the hospital,” she comments.

Her family got meat, oil, and vegetables for her diet, a luxury for the poorly supplied local markets. “My family members in Miami sent me a package of food that also helped. Dengue makes the platelets go down a lot, so doctors order a reinforced diet. Without my family I don’t know what I would have done.”

*Translator’s note: Patients can become a link in the transmission chain if uninfected mosquitos bite them, catch the virus, and then pass it on by biting other people.

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.