Those Who Vote Yes and Appear to Support the Cuban Regime / Ivan Garcia

From Cubanet.

Iván García, 18 January 2019 — He always believed in God or in some deity from the Afro-Cuban list of saints. He never read Marxist literature nor did he like the soporific war films of the disappeared USSR. Germán, 51, is who he is. A midlevel official of the Ministry of Internal Trade with a communist party card that has made money and carved out a privileged status, looting with more or less pretense the state warehouses of provisions.

He’s the owner of a 1958 Chevrolet, updated and impeccable to the detail. He’s a fan of Made in USA products, from an iPhone to Guess jeans. Through El Paquete [The (Weekly) Packet] he follows American television series and Major League Baseball. With religious punctuality, every day he plays 200 pesos in the illegal lottery known as el bolita [little ball]. He drinks more alcohol than is recommended. He has two lovers and he likes to visit with his buddies in a rented house at the beach, where they don’t lack for fried pork and young women. continue reading

In the two decades that he has been an official (manager) he has learned to have his cake and eat it too. The complicated system has allowed him to have a comfortable house with air conditioning and he never lacks food. He doesn’t get his quality of life by means of his salary. No. He maintains it profiteering and operating like a financial expert he covers it up with accounting tricks.

Cubans, experts in rearranging the Spanish language to their taste, use different metaphors to camouflage a word as cutting as “stealing”: striving, inventing, being in the “tíbiri tábara* “…Over and over, when the tide rises and the olive green regime begins to audit the state’s businesses, Germán goes into hibernation mode.

The nets of corruption that have been woven in six decades of Castroism are vast, functional, and methodical. Germán himself says that “in the barters between companions money never plays a part. For example, I get ahold of a leg of pork and three cases of beer for an official from the municipal party and, in exchange, when I need it, the guy arranges a house on the beach for me or supports me for a promotion within Internal Trade.”

That dissipated existence has an inviolable point: “When the Party or the Revolution needs you, one has to take a step forward.” That means you must participate in the marches called by the government, vote in favor of whatever electoral fakery, shout insults at whoever, whether dissident or not, tries to bring about a change in the country. The profile of Germán is repeated on the Island with different stories and strategies.

These imperturbable bureaucrats, who may add up to one or two million people, move within all of the institutions of the State. In return for silence, convenience, or simple opportunism, as if they were a cancer, they metastasize in the economic, social, and political structures of Cuban society. They aren’t ministers or high-ranking leaders. They’re the screws and pawns that allow the system to function. Like parrots they repeat the slogans of the moment and make up a caste that supports the leaders and back the national economic disaster.

From that singular class, similar to that of other totalitarian systems, the black market stays supplied and gasoline flows for private transport. In return, loyalty to Fidel, Raúl, and irrevocable socialism.

Thanks to them, the regime is assured of some 20% of the votes for support of its cause. The managers of the system represent another similar figure: ministers, advisors, officials of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) and the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), leaders and officials of the first level and their family members, who detest democracy because they would have to be transparent, account for themselves, and wouldn’t be able to unlawfully hold power indefinitely.

Another class are the indifferent, people who justify their apparent support for the government with endless sophistry. “At the polling places there are cameras that capture the vote of each person. If I don’t go to vote I stand out at my workplace and if I vote No, I can cause problems for my son who studies at university,” they say. In general, they are men and women who work in hotels and companies with foreign capital.

And there are the revolutionaries, although far fewer than before. Cubans who continue believing in the Revolution and are going to vote Yes in the February 24 referendum. They are the so-called “comecandelas**,” Cubans between 60 and 80 years old who don’t need favors in exchange for loyalty. They live badly, eat worse, and their homes are threatening to fall down. They’re already in extinction, like the duck-billed platypus, but for those who remain, their neighbors brand them as crazy, sclerotic, old grouches.

Almost all of them are heartfelt communists and have read Lenin and Marx. They were or still are militiamen and some fought at Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs), Ethiopia, Angola. It’s difficult for them to believe that now they are useful fools. When you show them photos of the children and grandchildren of the main leaders, eating seafood, sailing on yachts, vacationing in Europe, and dressed in brand name accessories from the “imperialist enemy,” they affirm that it’s part of a CIA conspiracy.

It’s these, essentially, who for one reason or another maintain the olive green autocracy. Excepting the high civil and military posts and a small sector of bullet-proof Castrists, the majority of the population applauds the official narrative without questioning anything. For 60 years, the survival instinct has forced them to pretend.

It’s those people whom Cuba’s opposition has to convince if we want to take the first steps on the path to democracy.

*Translator’s notes:
*A Cuban expression that appears to have many dueling meanings (and so is not translated here!).
**Literally “fire-eating,” or in English “fire-breathing” a word that conveys a total revolutionary commitment.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

The ‘Every Voter An Observer’ Campaign Invites Citizens To Exercise Their Rights

Credentials for election observers (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, January 23, 2019 — Separate from the heated debates between the supporters of YES, NO, and abstention in the February 24 referendum, a group of activists is preparing to watch over the process so that the norms are followed. The Cuban Association of Electoral Observers (ACOE) tells 14ymedio that so far 400 people in 76 municipalities have joined the initiative, but they hope for more.

Despite the fact that the association, a part of the Cuban Commission for Voting Protection (COCUDE), has not yet received a response to the request for recognition that they sent to the National Assembly of People’s Power, they haven’t given up and have launched the Every Voter An Observer campaign, with which they want the entire citizenry to participate in watching over the vote to prevent irregularities. continue reading

Zelandia de la Caridad Pérez, coordinator of the Cuban Commission for Voting Rights, and Frank Abel García, national coordinator of the Cuban Association of Electoral Observers. (14ymedio)

Zelandia de la Caridad Pérez, national coordinator of the group, explains that several observers “are backed by regional bodies.” Although the law provides for voters to participate in the vote count, few dare to do it out of fear of being seen as people who distrust the electoral process and not as individuals exercising their rights.

“Citizen action from electoral observation is always going to be legitimate,” explains Juan Manuel Moreno, executive secretary of Candidates for Change. In his view, and against those who believe that voting legitimizes the regime, “the system is corrupt, dictatorial, and totalitarian, but it has an army, a currency of legal tender, it issues passports that are recognized at the immigration windows of the rest of the world. Although it’s difficult for us, the system enjoys legitimacy.”

Juan Manuel Moreno, executive secretary of Candidates for Change. (14ymedio)

His opinion is shared by Frank Abel García, national coordinator of ACOE, who thinks that Cubans cannot expect “to live one day in a democratic society without mechanisms that defend the popular will,” something that must begin to be “practiced starting now.”

ACOE seeks to transmit to each voter a sense of accompaniment, of the presence of independent individuals who can keep watch so that nobody is coerced, is impeded from exercising their right to vote, or is discriminated against for choosing one option or another. They cannot change the course of the process but they can track it.

The points that these observers will have to review include from checking that all citizens with the right to vote are on the Electoral Register, to that the established schedules are kept and that the members of the polling places are properly accredited and have whatever is necessary to guarantee the day’s events.

The privacy of the cubicle, the state of the ballot boxes at the beginning of the vote, and that voters have pens to mark their option with indelible ink are other aspects that must be supervised by the observers, who will be witnesses to the count and to the writing of the final record.

Other bodies, like Citizen Observers of the Electoral Process and Observers for Voting Rights, are also planning to monitor the referendum. Whereas the independent organizations Somos Más (We Are More), the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights, the Cuban Nationalist Party, the Autonomous Pinero Party, and Citizens for Development, will give information to the ACOE.

In one month, the Cuban government will not only have to deal with the possible figures of abstention, the volume of annulled ballots, and the numbers of NO to the new Constitution, but also will feel the weight of the gaze of these citizens ready to defend their votes with civic responsibility.

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.

It Wasn’t Revolution, It Was Dictatorship

Francisco Larios assures that “many of those who today oppose Ortega-Murillo in Nicaragua were part of the movement” that brought them to power. (Carlos Herrera/Niú)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Francisco Larios, Miami, January 22, 2019 — I don’t know with what words, nor with how many amplified speakers, email messages, publicity posters, speeches, and pleas, to recommend “Connecting the dots between totalitarianisms,” a magnificent work by the painter and writer Otto Aguilar.

My motivation is this: I believe that the massacre of 2018 and all the crimes that are being committed in Nicaragua come from the lie that has been lived since 1979, the year in which we believed that we were touching heaven with our hands, and in a blind ectasy we allowed a gang that was not fit for power to accumulate it in excess. continue reading

I know that it’s painful for many, still, at this stage, to confront that brutal reality. Many of those who today oppose Ortega-Murilla, and are even their victims, were part of the movement, like an enormous number of people that at the time acted out of principal and decency.

Many of them cried, and I don’t say that in the figurative sense, when the dictatorship of the FSLN fell in defeat in 1990. It even cost them years, after that defeat, to break completely with the mother tree.

They have attempted later, instead of facing the truth, to create another myth, that of “before the ‘piñata’ — the idealistic revolution and its achievements — and after the ‘piñata,’ the hijacking of the party and the decline.”

But the evidence that has accumulated for more than 30 years is overwhelming, and should force them to return to the lost path, not only for themselves, but at some point for all of us: the path of truth.

To begin, one has to put the “Sandinista revolution” between quotation marks and throw the key into the trash.

It’s quite certain, there was a popular insurrection against the dictatorship, also genocidal, of the Somozas. The rebellion was full of heroism and desperation, and of a passionate desire to build a utopian future.

Then they arrived, the same ones as always, the foxes of power.

In such a manner that from the revolution there was guillotine, and privileges for a few. Of equality, fraternity, and liberty, very little. Much Hollywood and Bollywood, much revolutionary tourism, affectation, and high-profile Machiavellianism, at the same time lots of torture, robbery, crime; and the rest, the same as our entire previous history.

If before it was the peons of the haciendas who were the “volunteers with rope,” the cannon fodder of the oligarchs and caudillos, during the Frentista dictatorship (that one goes without quotation marks) such disgrace touched an entire generation of young people, kidnapped by the totalitarian state and used as pieces in their chess game of blood.

For that reason I also was struck by the book Perra Vida, the memoirs of the adolescence of the writer Juan Sobalvarro, in which he beautifully narrates, from his own experience as a recruit, what the kids who at that time couldn’t evade conscription lived through.

That’s why I repeat my message to the translators and communicators of the story that still clings to the myth of the “Sandinista revolution:” the most revolutionary thing they could do, the bravest, the most beautiful legacy, the one that can change history for the good (not “revise it”) is to denounce the root of the tragedy: having let the tree grow twisted since the beginning, despite having been irrigated with so much generosity by so many.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

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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.

I’M VOTING NO, a Campaign Attempting to Make History in Cuba / Ivan Garcia

Source: CubaTV.

Iván García, 14 January 2019 — “That cold morning of February 15, 1976,” recalls Sergio, a retired worker, “I was one of the first to vote in the referendum that was held to ratify the drafts of the Constitution and the Law of Constitutional Passage. I believed blindly in Fidel Castro and neither I nor anyone else considered voting NO. The internet didn’t exist, access to information was limited, and we Cubans would sign whatever blank paper the government gave us.”

Forty-two years later, some things have changed. Sergio no longer supports the government, because he assures that it hasn’t done a good job in its obligations in the economic and social spheres. “The money from my retirement and the salaries of my three children are barely enough to eat, and for that reason I go out to drive an almendrón [old American car used as a taxi] that a neighbor rents me, so I can try to get a few extra pesos. I’m going to vote NO for several reasons. The main one, I don’t want to validate a government that in six decades has been incapable of guaranteeing food for the people or offering quality public services.” continue reading

Sergio is not a dissident. Neither is José Manuel, a computer specialist. “When the government proposed a new Constitution, my gang of friends, almost all of them intellectuals, musicians, and designers, showed interest in studying it and comparing it with the previous one, from 1976. We were in favor of Article 68, on gay marriage. They were intending to vote Yes and I was thinking of abstaining, in order to not go against the gays. But when they withdrew 68, I moved from abstention to voting NO.

“I don’t care if this Constitution is better than that of ’76. If they haven’t fulfilled the obligations of the previous one, what will obligate them to fulfill those of this one? So, with Article 68 gone, it’s clear to me that it’s no longer about choosing between two Constitutions, but about a referendum of support for the government. I don’t want socialism to fall, but I do believe that the government deserves a good whack on the head,” he says and adds:

“Eliminating Article 68 not only changed my position, but also that of my friends and many people. A few days ago I took a survey at a family party. There were 20 people between 25 and 50 years old. I expected half and half approval for the Constitution, but the result surprised me: 16 responded that they were going to vote NO and 4 still hadn’t decided. I told them that for the first time I was noticing an agreement between ’the worms [derogatory term for Cuban exiles and opposition] and the intellectuals.’

“It’s an unprecedented situation: Díaz-Canel, the current president, didn’t storm the Moncada Barracks, he didn’t sail on the Granma, and he didn’t go up to the Sierra Maestra with the guerrillas, he doesn’t have the same legitimacy of the Castro brothers. He’s just one of us. The people don’t see him as a sacred being, and that is noticeable in the nerve with which the government is criticized on social media, by people who live in Cuba and don’t belong to the dissidence.

“Whatever intentions he has, Díaz-Canel is closely watched. I believe that the government should be worried about what will happen on February 24. I think that the result will be 60-70% in favor and between 30-40% against. Although in the end the government will win with the usual 90%. Cuba is crazy like that.”

The Constitution of 1976 was ratified by 97.7% of Cubans. “I was born in 1959 and in 1976 I was 17. I was studying at a technological institute and was openly gay. It was the first time I voted in my life. I was scared shitless, but when I was alone in front of the ballot paper I put down a giant NO. If at that time, when everyone supported the Revolution, I was capable of voting against, now that people are lying in the middle of the street, I’m also going to vote NO. I’m tired of so many lies and promises. I don’t want socialism at all,” confesses Adolfo, a private hairdresser.

Rolando, an accountant, sees the February 24 referendum “as another pantomime by the leaders, to try to legitimize not only the future to which they want us to bow, but also, as always, to confuse and entangle the world with a false democracy that in Cuba has never existed. I no longer remember the last time I went to vote, I got tired of so much show a long time ago. When I used to go I would annul the ballot, but this time I’m planning to go and vote NO,” he says and adds:

“I would like to be surprised and for them to say that the percentage of approval was 80 or less, but that would be a reality that I believe they are not prepared to admit. They neutralized the greatest danger that they had by withdrawing the famous Article 68, they knew that they would have a large protest vote, because of that article and to demand the Direct Vote [to elect the president] that, incidentally, were both debated at the assembly in my neighborhood.

“One lady mentioned that in numerous countries people voted to elect their president, and she too wanted to elect our own. Due process of law was also debated, that citizens have the right to an attorney from the very moment of their arrest and until the lawyer is present, not to be obligated to make a statement, as is seen in movies.”

The political indifference among ordinary Cubans, those who breakfast on coffee without milk, is tremendous. On corners, in lines at shops, or inside shared taxis, there are people who speak frankly about their voting intentions. In the neighborhood where Rolando lives, in the west of Havana, “people prefer not to have an opinion, apathy is significant, although some say that they won’t go to vote. I try to convince my friends of how dangerous and irresponsible it is, at this stage, to play the government’s game, how the best thing is to go and vote NO. Even if afterward they falsify the results.”

Carlos, a sociologist, believes that “the government has attempted to raise a curtain of smoke, legally modernizing the future Constitution by introducing Habeas Corpus and recognizing private work, but it keeps the disrespect toward those who think differently. It’s abnormal to sustain a dysfunctional system for life. In one of the articles of the new Constitution the use of arms is authorized if someone intends to change the system. Accepting that Constitution is jeopardizing the future of our children and grandchildren.”

Julio Aleaga, an independent journalist and spokesman for Candidates for Change, points out that “the best strategy is voting NO. The regime isn’t prepared to execute a massive fraud. Any citizen, in agreement with their own regulations, can observe the vote count after the referendum. We are preparing dozens of activists to perform that function on February 24. Voting NO is a better proposal than not going to vote. Abstention or leaving the ballot blank doesn’t specify what was the intention of that person’s vote. A NO has a marked political intention. If we follow the voting trends of past elections, now, when we have alternative journalists, independent artists, private workers, and citizens upset with the performance of the regime, I’m convinced that the vote for NO will be notable.”

Juan González Febles, director of the weekly Primavera Digital [Digital Spring], supports the group of opponents whose strategy is not going to vote. “It’s the State that counts the votes and whenever we are talking about dictatorships, it’s not going to hold an election to lose. If the Neocastro regime senses that it could lose, there will be a widespread fraud. If those who opt to vote NO lose, as will surely happen, they will have no other choice but to recognize their defeat. Then they will be legitimizing an autocracy.”

Reinaldo Escobar, editor-in-chief of the newspaper 14ymedio, is in favor of NO. “A miracle would have to occur for that proposal to win by majority. But I believe that it’s worth trying,” he emphasizes. In a recent article, Escobar writes that “the suspicion of a possible fraud has a demobilizing effect among the promoters of NO. The most effective antidotes to cancel out this paralyzing pessimism are assuming that possibility as a reasonable risk or trusting that fraud won’t be committed.”

With fewer than forty days from February 24, when the popular referendum that would approve the new Constitution of the Republic will take place, the regime, which according to its own electoral laws prohibits carrying out advertising campaigns, “in the next weeks, in high schools, universities, and work places discussions will be held with the objective of encouraging the people to vote YES,” assures a party official.

The battle is set. The government wants to cover up its inefficiency with the worn out anti-imperialist discourse and insulting those who think differently. The activists for NO, without public spaces to discuss their arguments, seek that the greatest number of Cubans over age 16 join a political process where votes are as powerful as any weapon. Adding people is the premise. Change is only possible if the citizenry mobilizes.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

Healthcare in Cuba Doesn’t Discriminate, it’s Bad for Everyone

The state of Abel Santamaría Hospital during the hospitalization of the writer’s friend. (Yosvany Hernández)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yosvany Hernández, Pinar del Río, January 21, 2019 — The deplorable state of many Cuban hospitals and the dreadful nature of their services is no secret. But there is a false conception in the popular imagination that if you have money, life flows, even when it comes to hospital treatment.

I want to share with you the story that shattered that myth for me. It is the experience of a friend who was in a car crash and spent three days in Abel Santamaría Hospital, in the city of Pinar del Río.

My friend is German. Although I was convinced that the service would be costly, I thought that she would have the best treatment, because of that widespread belief that foreigners have priority. continue reading

Upon her arrival, the emergency room was packed with patients and she had to be seen in a room with no privacy (nor beds). I don’t know whether because of protocol or lack of management, she remained stranded on the same stretcher on which she arrived, right next to an open and overflowing wastebasket.

The first checkup was the most similar to that song about elephants balancing on a spider’s web, only that these white-coated elephants would touch, go, come, whisper, wait, et cetera, to, once in a while, ask one or another bilingual question (half Spanish and half sign language).

They did some routine procedures: ultrasounds, x-rays, and blood analysis.

Then “the attending comrade” appeared, that is to say the person responsible for counting and charging every movement of personnel and resources moving around the foreign patient. My instinct as a good Cuban senses mystery and adult language like in the Saturday movie.

So far nobody had addressed her to explain what was happening, nor what the procedures would be, but the accountant comrade managed to inform the patient that the hospital didn’t have a connection with her insurance and that, to avoid delays in treatment, she should pay in cash for the services she was going to receive. Despite this not being an appropriate conversation for a moment like this, the patient, who luckily was conscious and wasn’t traveling alone, agreed.

The first diagnosis was encouraging, only a fracture of the collarbone, immobilization, eight hours in observation, and she could return home. The rooms meant for foreign patients were full and, after 3 hours, they put her in another room with worse conditions for which she had to pay the same price, 10 CUC per hour.

Each consultation 30 CUC, 25 CUC for x-rays, and the ultrasound, which in the words of the little economy comrade was a little more expensive, 300 CUC; plus 50 CUC for a gauze bandage to immobilize the shoulder.

After eight hours during which there was very little observation, due to protocol, two exams with their respective additional costs had to be repeated. The same ones had to be examined by a second orthopedist, which meant waiting until the next day.

The second orthopedist suspects a fracture in the spine and suggests an MRI. At this point my friend had been in pain for 18 hours, without cleaning herself up nor understanding how, after charging her for so many x-ray exams, there still wasn’t certainty about her health status.

An incomplete MRI (400 CUC) produced a spinal fracture, and after repeating it (300 CUC), another break appears. Hours pass and the bill rises.

She had read many good things about Healthcare in Cuba, and she wasn’t expecting that her situation could be complicated, but faced with the dreadful appearance of the place and with such a diagnosis she decided to transfer to Havana.

After resolving the bureaucratic problems and with a pinch of persistence, now that the official who attended foreigners claimed that it was not necessary to transfer her, it was 6:00 in the evening. And interprovincial ambulances don’t run at night.

On the morning of the third day the ambulance finally arrived.

During the entire stay not even an orderly appeared. It was necessary to do two MRIs and, each time, someone had to go to look for the technician at his house. Even more disappointing than the lack of medications, inappropriate conditions, and several references to the economic blockade was the apathy of the majority of the doctors, the bad treatment, and, above all, the evasion of responsibility.

After paying $1,697 at the ambulance door for terrible service and an unreliable diagnosis, she was left with only the hope of that hospital in Havana where all the foreigners go, and which, as they told her by telephone, was the best.

We Cubans don’t have that hope, because what we’ve got is that one, that of mistreatment, that of the horror movie.

It is very difficult to preserve, after hearing this story, the image of the eternal humanitarian, the good Samaritan of so many international medical missions.

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.

Only 70,000 Cubans are Connected to the Internet From Their Homes

The commercialization of Nauta Home is part of a government strategy seeking to close the technology gap with the rest of the world. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, January 19, 2019 — Only some 70,400 Cubans — out of a population of more than 11 million — are today connected to the internet from their homes, a service that has grown timidly since its beginning in 2017, compared to the popularity of the recent activation of mobile data with 3G technology, which has exceeded 1.8 million customers in a little more than a month.

Cuba, one of the most disconnected nations on earth, offers the Nauta Home service for individuals in 115 of the 168 municipalities of the country, according to information received from the state telecommunications monopoly Etecsa, published this Saturday by the official newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth). continue reading

95% of Nauta Home users use a 1 megabit connection, the cheapest of the four available packages, which cost from 15 to 70 CUC, high prices compared with national salaries, the average of which doesn’t exceed 35 CUC per month.

Until two years ago, connection from home was a privilege only granted to officials linked with the Government, and professionals such as doctors, journalists, and university professors. The service had subsidized prices but very slow speeds when it came to sending and receiving data.

At first, the commercialization of Nauta Home was seen by customers as an alternative to browsing from the wifi zones with wireless connections that began to be installed on the Island in 2015. However, the slow expansion of the domestic service frustrated those early hopes.

The breaks and cuts in service have also been frequent in Nauta Home, which on January 14 was out of service for more than six hours because of technical problems that affected the entire country.

The arrival of internet to mobile phones on December 6 has caused many to place their hopes in the possible technical improvement and the price reduction of the service from cellphones. Currently browsing packages for 3G technology cost between 7 and 30 CUC, a price much criticized by users.

Until the appearance of mobile data, 60% of the 5.9 Cuban internet users accessed the net from their workplaces or schools.

In Cuba, with 11.1 million inhabitants, there are more than 5.3 million cellphone users.

In December, the Cuban Minister of Communications, Jorge Luis Perdomo, announced before Parliament that this year they would begin to test the mobile service with 4G technology in large cities, although he did not specify official activation dates.

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: Now or Never

Caption: Juan Guaidó is part of a brilliant group of self-sacrificing ex-student leaders. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos A. Montaner, January 20, 2019 — The destiny of Venezuela is probably in the hands of Juan Guaidó. It involves a young representative of 35, linked to Voluntad Popular (Popular Will), a party founded by Leopoldo López. The presidency of the National Assembly came to him, which is something like winning a tiger in a raffle. As President of the Assembly he has turned into, de facto, the acting president of the country in the face of the total illegitimacy of Nicolás Maduro.

Venezuela, then, has two presidents. One legitimate and constitutional, which is Juan Guaidó, and the other absolutely fraudulent: Nicolás Maduro. In any case, in the fourteenth century the Catholic Church had three popes simultaneously. Two were declared antipopes. By that measure, in the future Maduro will be declared antipresident. continue reading

Those who know Guaidó tell me that he has the maturity and the common sense necessary for that job. By means of television he projects a good image. He is endorsed by Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS, 13 of the 14 countries of the Lima Group (excepting the ineffable AMLO’s Mexico), María Corina Machado, Antonio Ledezma, and the US State Department. He has his back well covered.

On the table is even the possibility that Donald Trump’s administration continues buying the 500,000 barrels of petroleum daily from Venezuela, the only influx of fresh cash coming into the country, but with the condition that that money be deposited in an escrow account that only the National Assembly can access through its president. What sense would it make to pay it to an illegitimate government?

But who is this young politician? Guaidó is a graduate in industrial engineering from the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, with postgraduate studies in public policy at George Washington University and IESA, a management school accredited in several countries.

Engineers have an advantage over lawyers: they’re used to incorporating the factor of time into the work they plan. They’re usually the best in “management by objectives,” something that is urgently needed in a country that has been thrown into such chaos as this one.

Guaidó, in short, has sufficient training and information to straighten out his country. At the end of the day, Venezuela has been devastated by Chavism ($300 billion was stolen) and, recently, by a half-idiot individual who talks to birds and doesn’t know where his right hand is. (Especially the right).

Guaidó is part of a brilliant group of self-sacrificing ex-student leaders that includes Yon Goicoechea, Juan Requesens, a political prisoner, Stalin González, and Freddy Guevara, protected since six months ago in the Chilean embassy in Caracas. They are the new generation. In 2017 the National Guard filled their backs and necks with shot. That is to say: they have risked their lives in the streets, something that is important in a society in which heroic gestures are valued.

Guaidó’s immediate task is about precisely that. He must assume the role of acting president. He must call on the people to demonstrate in the streets. He is also the natural chief of those in uniform. In theory, general Vladimir Padrino López, Minister of Defense, must stand at attention in front of him and accept his orders. Soldiers and minor officials are desperate for this to happen.

According to what viceadmiral Mario Iván Carratú told the Venezuelan journalist Carla Angola, the Armed Forces are demoralized, like the Portuguese army was when the Carnation Revolution happened in 1974. Soldiers are hungry and lacking medicines just like the rest of the country. If Maduro gives the order to attack the demonstrators, Carratú thinks that they wouldn’t comply.

And what would the Cuban Government do? Of course, it would recommend resistance to any change toward democracy and liberty, but the regime of Havana doesn’t have the power to rescue and sustain the dictatorship. It suffers from its own weakness. It would recall its troops and its personnel, much hated in Venezuela, and they would clear off for Cuba, perhaps offering asylum to a handful of their Venezuelan servants.

Can Guaidó promise Chavism something that gets the game unstuck? He cannot promise anything that the Constitution doesn’t allow for. Perhaps a referendum for the country to decide on a law that decrees an amnesty for crimes committed during these years of abuse and vile acts. Only that, but not as his own agreement or that of the National Assembly, but of the whole society.

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 "Deserters" of Mais Medicos Program Ask to Remain in Their Positions While Their Qualifications are Validated

Cuban professionals arriving in Brazil at the beginning of the Mais Médicos program.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 16, 2019 — Yury Leydi Durán Sánchez, a Cuban doctor who worked in the Mais Médicos program in Brazil and decided to remain in the country after Havana’s break with its agreement with Brasilia, has written an open letter to president Jair Bolsonaro to ask that he permit the return of her and her colleagues to the health system pending the validation exam.

“I believe that we have sufficient training to fulfill the ’more health’ program, this time with a just remuneration and without chains or bonds of slavery, until the relevant exams are done,” she argues in the missive. continue reading

The doctor, who says she speaks in the name of more than 2,000 doctors who decided not to return to Cuba, reminds that the Island’s professionals who have participated in Mais Médicos since 2013 have fulfilled the requirements that were asked of them upon joining.

These, she reviews in the letter, were to be certified in comprehensive general medicine, have international experience in two countries, basic knowledge of two courses of Portuguese, complete the welcome program, and proven knowledge of Brazilian health protocols, in addition to participating in a specialization course with a thesis and final exam. Added to this, she highlights, they had to be residents of Cuba, something that excluded “deserters” (as Havana describes them) from previous missions.

Durán Sánchez asks that, based on fulfillment of these requirements and the experience they accumulated serving in the remotest areas of the Amazon, they be permitted to continue working as before and refers to the norms of other countries that facilitate similar situations.

One such situation is that of Chile and Peru, “which agree to the authorized doctors working for a year under supervision until the validation exam is carried out.” Another case is that of Spain, which allows doctors who are pending authorization in their specialties to work in primary care.

The doctor appeals in her missive to the Brazilian people and to Bolsonaro himself, whom she personally flatters on several occasions. “Never before has a people, and much less a president, had the courage, like you and your people had, to defend our rights. And for that reason we are eternally grateful,” she maintains.

Additionally, she accuses the Government of Havana of taking away their certifications to punish them. “The Ministry of Health which once validated and authorized our documents, recognizes that…we are denied any certificate of our profession, to keep us that way, our hands muzzled and our freedom taken away.”

The letter has been shared on the Facebook page of the Associação de Cubanos Livres no Brasil (Association of Free Cubans in Brazil), which has worked since October 2017 to demand the rights it considers violated by the Cuban Government.

The doctors who did not return to the Island after the official call are sanctioned with the loss of their salary in national currency (CUP) that was accumulating in a bank account in Cuba and additionally with a penalty of eight years without being able to enter Cuba.

According to statements from Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel, 836 doctors did not return to Cuba out of the 8,471 professionals who were in Brazil participating in the Mais Médicos program.

 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.

Tens Of Thousands Of Cubans Abroad Don’t Know If They Will Be Able To Vote

At this point it’s still not clear in what conditions voters who are abroad will be able to vote, or even if they will be able to. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, January 17, 2019 — In a country with a high number of emigrants who have a vital influence in the support of their families on the Island, it’s inevitable to ask if Cubans who live or are temporarily abroad will have the right to vote in the February 24 referendum, a question that official institutions have not yet cleared up.

Per the effects of the country’s current migratory policy, there are three forms in which Cubans can find themselves abroad: those fulfilling an official mission, those who find themselves outside on a temporary basis for personal reasons, or those who, after remaining more than 24 months abroad, are no longer considered permanent residents of national territory. continue reading

The current Electoral Law only mentions the possibility of opening polling places abroad regarding referendums, but it doesn’t specify who will have the right to vote. The issue is a law preceding the migratory changes of 2013 that doesn’t consider the current diversity because it was conceived at a moment in which there were only two forms of being abroad: as “scum” with a permanent departure, without the right to vote, or on an official mission (athlete, merchant marine, and diplomatic).

Faced with the questions arising in the new circumstances, authorities have not helped to clear up what procedure will be followed in this case. Recently Ernesto Soberón, director of Consular Affairs and Cuban Residents Abroad of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, published on his Twitter account a “clarification” that, instead of providing answers, has sown greater confusion.

The official assured that “all Cuban citizens above age 16 — in full enjoyment of their political rights and who are not included in the exceptions anticipated by the Constitution and the Law — who find themselves abroad, will be able to exercise their right to vote in #Cuba this February 24.” But his statement violates the laws of physics, since if those individuals are abroad it is impossible that they be “in” Cuba for the date of the referendum.

All Cuban citizens above age 16 — in full enjoyment of their political rights and who are not included in the exceptions anticipated by the Constitution and the Law — who find themselves abroad, will be able to exercise their right to vote in #Cuba this February 24 #SomosCuba (#WeAreCuba) pic.twitter.com/1fwnvwrzds

-Ernesto Soberón (@SoberonGuzman) January 15, 2019

The question is greater with those citizens who are temporarily and for personal reasons outside the Island, a figure that could reach hundreds of thousands of individuals if those who left the country after February 24, 2017 and haven’t yet returned are counted. In the case of those who have been abroad for more than 24 months, the current electoral law does not recognize their right to vote in any circumstance and it is unlikely that the Government will make short-term changes to expand their rights.

So far, Cubans who have been temporarily abroad have not been able to cast a vote to elect their district representative. Something that is understandable, since it would be necessary for consulates to handle hundreds of different ballots representing all the districts of those voters. Something similar happens with the elections for members of Parliament, given that the list of around 600 candidates is broken up into municipalities and electoral colleges from all over the country.

However, with the referendum everything changes, while it is the same question for the participants. Additionally, article 164 of the Electoral Law establishes that the National Electoral Commission, in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, must arrange “what is necessary to guarantee the casting of votes by voters who find themselves outside of national territory” the day that the election is held.

Precedents of Cubans participating in the constitutional referendum of 1976 only include, without a lot of precision in numbers, the votes that were cast in Angola, organized by the respective political sections of the military units which, at that time, were fulfilling “international missions.” They even ended up opening special ballot boxes on February 15, 1976 on the ships filled with soldiers headed for Africa.

This week the Government has announced that it will carry out a similar process with Cubans who are fulfilling medical and professional missions in Venezuela and one can hope that the initiative will be repeated in those countries where there are numerous delegations of nationals sent by the Government.

But authorities still haven’t publicized the procedure that those other Cubans who do not belong to official missions will have to fulfill in order to participate in the referendum without being bodily present in the national territory. If the Plaza of the Revolution intends for the process to enjoy a greater legitimacy, it must promote and facilitate that participation, especially that of those who have been abroad for less than 24 months.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs must avoid spreading confusing information that tends to discourage participation, and must detail, without ambiguity, how the rights of those Cubans who are temporarily outside the country will be recognized. Time is passing, and at almost a month until the referendum, any hold-up conspires against their participation and any delay is a violation of the Electoral Law.

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.

No, No, and No!

The definitive text of the new Constitution of the Republic of Cuba will go to a referendum on February 24. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luis Tornés Aguililla, Fort Worth | January 17, 2019 — Deep down, this Cuba will have been an intellectual aberration. I say that thinking about my long conversations in Berlin with German friends who lived 40 years of bitterness in the forever defunct German Democratic Republic (GDR).

They spent those four decades asking the only question that at that time seemed rational: “How is it possible that we can stand so much humiliation?” When the Wall fell, the odious mask of the freedom destroyers also fell, along with the pathetic mask of those who accommodated them, some more and others less, in order to survive in that inquisitorial hell. That collapsed in the blink of an eye. continue reading

In Cuba, ’the armed band’, ’the firm’, ’the little group’ or whatever they want to call themselves, at the end, will be defeated because it failed in every order and because the dialectic of any absolute power slides it toward the abyss by its own weight.

Cubans must take advantage of the referendum that the regime is organizing in February to send a clear message, even though we already know that the trap is set and well set. In such a way that “the inflamed majority of the revolutionary people will vote Yes.”

A massive No will be a strong signal to the terrified halberdiers who, within the same Castroist system, understand that the country is sinking at the hands of a small group of individuals intending not to answer for themselves in the face of that history that will absorb and forget them in a mix of hate and horror.

We know, it always happens that way, that practically all of the personal destinies of the vitrified pontiffs of the Soviet bloc countries disappeared from the world without weapons nor ammunition, if there were exceptions, they were those who were able to sell something to the enemy.

Cubans, vote NO! in the February referendum.

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 Triumph and Defeat of the Cuban Dissidence

Photo taken in the Combinado del Este prison, in Havana, during a visit made in 2013 by the national and international press on the Island. (EFE/Archivo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, 14 January 2019 — The dissidence, as an organized civic movement, wasn’t born in Cuba until 1983. At the beginning of October of that year, I found myself in Combinado del Este prison, serving eight years for a manuscript critical of the political system, when I met a new prisoner: Ricardo Bofill had been active in the Youth of the Popular Socialist Party and had already been in prison in 1967 for the charge of “Microfaction” (expressing differences with the Party line). For several weeks, we exchanged impressions and ideas.

At that time I was worried about the subhuman situation of a friend in solitary confinement in the walled off cells and Bofill said he had connections with foreign press agencies to send them a complaint. He even offered to help me write it, but he maintained that we had to sign it with our own names so that it would have credibility, something that was until then inconceivable in political imprisonment. continue reading

We wrote it, on the back he wrote his name and underneath I put my own. To my surprise, at the end Bofill added: “Cuban Pro Human Rights Committee.” Then, next to his name he wrote “president” and next to mine, “vicepresident.” I didn’t attach any importance to that.

I didn’t make a note of the day as a memorable date. For me it was only about helping a friend, but when the information reached abroad, the headline wasn’t his case, but the creation, for the first time in Cuba, of a committee of human rights.

Right away, Bofill sent messages to Gustavo Arcos Bergnes, who had participated with Fidel and Raul Castro in the attack of the Moncada Barracks and who was isolated in a separate cell, and to Elizardo Sánchez, social democratic activist, who was in Boniato prison in Santiago de Cuba. Both responded positively. Three more prisoners in Combinado joined up.

The Committee was already created, but repression didn’t take long. Some were put in isolation, among them Bofill, who was then admitted to a room in the prison hospital. He remained there for a long period of time until they took him out for an unknown destination. We didn’t know if they had taken him to another prison, to his home in Cuba, or abroad, which is why in a meeting of the Committee members, I was elected, on a provisional basis, acting president.

Then began the development of a strategic plan. Prison became an immense laboratory, a model for what could later be the dissident movement throughout the country.

We helped to group together many political prisoners according to their activities: an association of writers and artists, another of religious figures from different churches, and the Liga Cívica Martiana [Martí Civic League].

The writers’ group created their own magazine, El Disidente, which we used to write by hand and came to number more than 60 pages, so perfect that it seemed printed. Various copies circulated around the prison, and some were even covertly taken out and circulated through the streets, others were sent abroad and some extracts were published in El Nuevo Herald in Miami.

Sometimes, State Security raided our cells and we had to start again, so we had to hide each page we produced really well. All the groups ended up working in such a united way in the interest of the prisoners that, one way or another, each and every one did some type of job, so that the authorities had to rely on us for any change in the criminal division.

That was how, more or less, we wanted it to be on a societal level. A support committee should have been founded from every social sector in defense of its interests: for journalists, for teachers, religious figures, artists, self-employed people, and so on.

When all these committees were strengthened with the support of their respective branches, they should have joined together in a federation of social self-defense to peacefully confront, in the name of all of civil society, the totalitarian power. We calculated that, carrying out this plan like we intended it, it would not take 10 or 15 years for the great changes that we desired to be made. And we were in 1985.

Our complaints led to an international scandal and the Government found itself obligated to allow the inspection of prisons by representatives of different international bodies.

In 1988 I accepted an offer of freedom on the condition that I left the country, a form of unofficial exile. On the afternoon of August 4, a little more than a month before a UN commission would enter Combinado del Esta, they took me out of my cell and I was brought to José Martí International Airport.

The Cuban Government was condemned at the United Nations. The movement spread all over the country and has been the only one in the opposition, in six decades, that has managed to remain without being destroyed despite threats, harassment, persecution, arrests, and long sentences.

This meant a great victory. The answer is that new dictatorships, whether they are communist or of the so-called socialism of the 21st century, prepare to confront their adversaries on a level of violence, but when faced with nonviolence, they are disoriented.

However, the movement failed in the most important thing: obtaining the support of different social sectors. What went wrong?

The main reason was a shift of discourse in many groups. Abroad, until the middle of the 90s, a great majority of exiles viewed the dissidence as a governmental trick to fabricate an easily manipulated opposition. Among the few who believed was the activist and actress Teté Machado. Together we founded the first center of support for dissidents, the Buró de Información de Derechos Humanos [Information Bureau for Human Rights] (Infoburo).

For several years Teté was the voice of the entire dissident movement at the most important conclaves all over the world. But when some dissidents overshadowed the leadership in exile, powerful political organizations offered material and media support to several of their leaders in exchange for support for their own demands, like supporting the embargo and opposing travel and remittances.

Those who accepted, by adopting a rhetoric totally contrary to the interests of the population, lost contact with her and were moved to social marginalization. Other groups, although they did not adopt that rhetoric, did not fully assume their social commitment.

So we arrived at a dead end: neither the Government was capable of exterminating the dissidence, nor was the dissidence capable of defeating the Government. Only those groups — very few — loyal to the original commitment, received large support and became the most numerous.

With these reflections I would like to invite others to make a critical analysis.

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 Final Opportunity Is Being Opened To Ortega. There Won’t Be Any More Than That."

Vivanco believes there are the  votes to expel the Ortega regime because there is a consensus about its ” widespread and systematic abuse.”  (Johanna Zárate/Flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Carlos Bow, Washington, January 14, 2019 — The extraordinary session of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) on Nicaragua was closely followed by José Miguel Vivanco, director of the Division of the Americas at Human Rights Watch. He was in the same room with the ambassadors and representatives of the American countries, which this Friday carried out a “collective evaluation” as a first step to implement the Inter-American Democratic Charter to the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.

For the expert, “an opportunity, a final opportunity, is being opened” for Ortega to redirect the course of Nicaragua. To “move from a dictatorial system to a democratic system,” before the OAS expels the regime from the regional body, for which – Vivanco believes – there are the 24 votes necessary, given that among the countries “there is a greater consensus” that the situation in Nicaragua is one of “impunity, brutality, and widespread and systematic abuse” against the opposition. continue reading

“If the Government doesn’t show signs of being ready to agree to the petitions that can be made within the scope of the OAS, then there will be no other solution than the definitive implementation of the Democratic Charter,” assured Vivanco, who spoke to [Nicaraguan digital outlet] Confidencial from his office in Washington.

Confidencial: What is your assessment of the extraordinary session on Nicaragua, in the Permanent Council of the OAS? Did they initiate the invocation of the Democratic Charter?

José Miguel Vivanco: It was really important because thanks to this meeting being held, the OAS initiates the implementation of the Democratic Charter to Nicaragua, to Ortega’s government.

The Democratic Charter demands in Article 20 that for it to be implemented, some sort of collective evaluation must be done of the conditions of human rights and public and democratic freedoms in any country of the member states of the OAS. That was precisely the objective of this meeting.

As of this session, political and diplomatic procedures can be carried out by member states, by the Working Group that currently exists for Nicaragua, and also by the secretary general of the OAS. For example, freeing political prisoners, putting an end to censorship and persecution of independent media outlets, reestablishing democratic order and public liberties, the independence of the judiciary, or a petition so that human rights bodies from the United Nations or OAS can be allowed access to the country.

If the Government doesn’t show signs of being ready to agree to the petitions that can be made within the scope of the OAS, then there will be no other solution than the definitive implementation of the Democratic Charter, for which 24 votes are required.

Confidencial: Do the political conditions exist to get the 24 votes in the OAS with the new position that López Obrador’s government in Mexico has adopted?

Vivanco: It’s not going to be easy for that quorum to be reached, but I don’t see it as impossible. I understand perfectly that Mexico has changed its position; that under the current government of Manuel López Obrador, which controls and guides Mexico’s foreign policy, is the principle of non-intervention in internal affairs, whether or not they violate human rights. Something that is really archaic, belonging to the principles of the last century. Mexico demonstrated it today (Friday) because it stood out by its absence, didn’t open its mouth, didn’t make the smallest comment. It was in total silence throughout the entire session.

I believe that despite the new position–lamentable, reactionary–of the current government of Mexico, the votes may indeed be there, because there is a greater and greater consensus that the situation in Nicaragua is one of impunity, brutality, and widespread and systematic abuse against those who don’t agree with the current regime.

Confidencial: How are the political terms of the OAS planned in relation to Nicaragua, if Ortega has made it clear that he has no political will to hold talks?

Vivanco: Indeed, Ortega in fact has demonstrated a dictatorial attitude, typical of a despot, that he is not prepared to exercise power in a manner respectful of legal values and of the obligations appropriate to the rule of law, to a democratic state.

Here an opportunity is being opened, I would say a final opportunity, there won’t be any more than that. Once again, they implement, in the OAS, the Democratic Charter to anyone.

The other country that is under the implementation of the Democratic Charter is Venezuela, in that case so far the quorum–that is, the 24 votes–has not existed, because of the pressure that Venezuela exerts on the countries of the Caribbean. But it is a country that is more and more isolated, discredited, and with less and less support.

Nicaragua is not Venezuela, it’s not an oil power. It doesn’t have the political muscle that Venezuela has so far shown, even in ruins. For Nicaragua, the road becomes more difficult.

Confidencial: Will a new commission be created or will it be the same Working Group of the OAS, which Ortega’s government refused entry, that carries out the diplomatic procedures in Nicaragua?

Vivanco: The OAS already created the Working Group for Nicaragua, made up of 12 member states of the OAS, including Mexico, which has not withdrawn from that group.

I don’t believe that a new group will be created, that one will arise. The Working Group for Nicaragua is precisely the one that has the mandate, the obligation, and the duty to continue reporting, to the rest of the nations of the OAS, the advances and setbacks experienced in political matters and human rights in Nicaragua.

Confidencial: The Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI, for its Spanish acronym) concluded that “crimes against humanity” have been committed in Nicaragua. How can they be prosecuted if that country doesn’t accept the International Criminal Court?

Vivanco: It’s true that, not having ratified the Rome Statute, Nicaragua, unlike Venezuela, cannot be brought before the International Criminal Court, even if there is evidence that crimes against humanity have been committed, but there are other ways, like for example the Security Council of the United Nations, where a debate can be opened. I know that among the permanent members of the UN Security Council are Russia and China, which could serve to veto any effort against Nicaragua, but that remains to be seen. International relations, assessments that are made at a multilateral level, are always very complex and depend on innumerable factors.

I believe that GIEI’s report can be very useful before the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.

Confidencial: The resignation of the magistrate Rafael Solís from the judiciary and from the FSLN [Sandinista National Liberation Front] has surprised the leaders in power in Nicaragua. What international effect will this break have?

Vivanco: It depends on what the Supreme Court magistrate can provide. It’s necessary to understand that this is someone who until yesterday was part of the Supreme Court and who was in his position while atrocious acts were being done and committed in Nicaragua, and he continued participating as a magistrate of the Supreme Court.

We’re still lacking information to better understand the role he played during those months. Whether or not there was an internal debate; he says that the decisions that affect the courts are made by the Executive, it would be good for him to provide more information that would serve to better understand the responsibilities of certain other authorities, other than Ortega and Murillo, who we obviously know are, in the end, the ones who control the country and run it as if it were their private estate.

Confidencial: The sanctions derived from the Nica Act and the possible authorization of the Democratic Charter can weaken the regime, but Ortega clings to power like Nicolás Maduro. Is the situation of Nicaragua comparable to that of Venezuela, to project that Ortega could remain in power until 2021?

Vivanco: The Nica Act, which is a kind of Magnitsky law dedicated exclusively to Nicaragua, allows sanctions of the corrupt and violators of human rights, where it turns them into practically toxic personages. That is to say, the sanctions can be really draconian, and we believe that many of those who make up part of this dictatorial regime deserve it, because of the responsibilities that they have for extremely grave violations and for covering up these acts.

It’s an extraordinary tool, that is not available for Venezuela, that is not available for other nations in the world. It has the support of Democrats and Republicans, here there is no doubt in any sector that we are facing a ruthless regime. In that way, I have great hopes that the Nica Act can serve to compel the regime to move from a dictatorial system to a democratic system.

Confidencial: So you don’t see a parallel between Nicaragua and Venezuela, do you see it as a possibility that Ortega can leave before 2021?

Vivanco: I don’t see any, there is no relation between one case and the other, except that the atrocities are similar. We are talking about two populist dictators, who they say are leftwing and who seek to remain in power at any price, where they are prepared to use brutal repression, if that is the only way to preserve power, and where additionally power is totally concentrated, there are neither authorities nor judiciaries nor democratic institutions to anticipate or sanction abuses.

But, they are two cases that do not have points in common, from the point of view of what are the strategies, and of what will be the future of these two dictatorial regimes and their relation with the rest of the world.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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Editors’ note: this text was originally published by the Nicaraguan digital outlet Confidencial, which has authorized us to reproduce it here.

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 "Yes" Campaign Invades Cuba’s High Schools and Universities

The Government is seeking to attract Yes votes among the youngest voters for the February 24 referendum. Shown here: Young people in front of the famous steps of the University of Havana.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernández, Havana, January 11, 2019 — Meetings, morning assemblies, and talks in high school courses and university faculties all over the country are some of the strategies that the Cuban Government has put into practice to promote the Yes vote among the youngest voters, especially those who, in the February 24 referendum on the new Constitution, will cast a vote at the polls for the first time.

Since classes resumed in January, after the end of year break, the official Yes campaign for the new Constitution has landed in upper secondary and university classrooms via conferences, discussion groups, and classes. Professors call for the ratification of the Constitution in order to “maintain the achievements of the Revolution” and “keep the country from falling into the enemy’s hands,” according to students’ testimonies gathered by 14ymedio. continue reading

The promotion of the Yes vote extends to activities organized by the Secondary School Students’ Federation (FEEM) and the University Students’ Federation (FEU).

Additionally, the subject has come up at school morning assemblies in all State institutions, where harangues and calls to “support the Revolution” with a Yes vote are abundant.

“They informed us of the new content of the Defense Preparation course last Monday at the morning assembly,” a 12th grade student in a high school program in Old Havana tells this newspaper. “We already had the first class and the whole time they talked to us of the importance of voting Yes because that was the only way to protect the homeland from its enemies and to be able to keep healthcare and education free,” he adds.

The teenager, who turned 16 in November, assures that the professor teaching the material asserted that “a No is counterrevolutionary” and those who “vote No want to destroy the country and all the achievements of the Revolution.” The class segment on this subject lasted 45 minutes and “the whole time was about the importance of attending the referendum and not letting oneself be influenced by those who are calling for a No vote.”

Other testimonies gathered in Santiago de Cuba, Villa Clara, and Sancti Spíritus confirm that it is a strategy at the national level of which the Ministries of Education and of Higher Education refused to give details to questions from this newspaper.

In Santa Clara, Jean Carlo, 16, has already heard two talks on the subject in his high school program. “At the first one a man dressed as a soldier came and joined the professor and said that from the United States they were financing counterrevolutionaries to promote the campaign for No,” he remembers.

“The other time it was taught by the history teacher and she explained to us that we are in a very important moment for the Revolution, and if it was the responsibility of some to attack the Moncada Barracks and of others to fight in Girón (the Bay of Pigs), it’s our responsibility to fight so that Yes wins in the referendum.”

In universities all over the Island, which in the 2018-2019 school year have some 240,000 students, the official Yes campaign has also begun in classrooms, even though until the last days of January, students in higher education take their final exams of the semester and only come to the institutions to do reviews or take exams.

“Every day they say something, in some review (for exams) or in some appeal from the FEU,” says Brandon, 21, who is enrolled in one of the faculties of the iconic University Hill in the nation’s flagship university in Havana. “The students listen but almost nobody asks or says anything, they only hear,” he emphasizes.

The situation recalls the so-called Battle of Ideas, an ideological turn of the screw that Fidel Castro pushed at the beginning of this century. The intense campaign included weekly public actions, known as Open Forums, the creation of a red guard of very aggressive young people, known as “social workers,” and more political activities in schools.

However, with Raúl Castro’s arrival to power many of those programs broke up for lack of resources. “It’s not that ideology has been relaxed in schools, much less in universities, but that there weren’t funds to sustain all that propagandistic machinery,” believes Katty, a recent graduate in pedagogy.

In the last week the Cuban Government has intensified its Yes campaign on national media and has placed advertisements for Yes at baseball games and in the news on national television. However, promoters of No or of abstention do not appear in any of these settings.

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 Babalawos Predict a Bad Year for Agriculture

Babalawos gathered for the announcement of the Letter of the Year. (Facebook/Juan Blanco)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 2, 2018 — Cuban babalawos [Yoruba spiritual title for a Santeria priest] have again predicted a year of difficulties, especially in the agricultural sector, but also for natural phenomenons, venereal diseases, and migratory conflicts, according to the Letter of the Year published by the Yoruba Cultural Association of the Island (ACYC).

The prediction, which since 2016 the ACYC has made jointly with the independent Commission of the Letter of the Year, was shared this Tuesday after a foretaste was announced at the end of the year, and afterwards the babalawos met for the opening ceremony of 2019 that was presided over by the priest of Ifá Ángel Custodio Padrón. continue reading

The Letter of the Year, the series of predictions that priests of the Yoruba religion make every January, is much anticipated by practitioners of Santeria and by the population in general. This year it explains that the orisha Oshún–syncretized in the Catholic religion with the patron saint of Cuba, the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre–will reign. The deity will be accompanied by Oggún, who represents blacksmiths, wars, technology, and surgeons.

In the recommendations included in the text, the babalawos call for respecting elders and seeking religious training; avoiding problems with the law; making better use of agricultural resources; and avoiding confrontations and quarrels.

The Letter predicts an increase of sexually transmitted diseases, along with malignant diseases of the colon, and rectum, among others.

In January of last year an intense controversy was sparked after the publication of the Letter of the Year of 2018, for its calls to “not conspire” and to respect authority, something that various babalawos branded as taking the side of the Government.

The Free Yorubas Association, an independent group made up of priests of this religion, classified that Letter as “totally manipulated and keeping with the interests of atheist materialist tyranny” and labeled the babalawos who wrote it as lacking “moral religious authority to speak in the name of Yorubas and publish predictions that affect the present and future” of the country.

Letter of the Year 2019

Ruling Sign: Oshe Ogunda

First Witness: Ika Ogunda

Second Witness: Osa Kuleya

Prophetic Prayer: Osorbu Iku Intori Ogu.

Orula Onire: Adimu (a yam cut into two halves and rubbed with red palm oil, along with a coconut split in two and two candles)

Otan Onishe Ara: Sarayeye with a chicken and it is given to Oggun, with the other ingredients and it is bathed with herbs of Paraldo.

Otan deity that rules: Oshun

Accompanying deity: Oggun Otan

Flag: Yellow with green borders

Ebbo: 1 kid (for Elegba), 5 small gourds, to which is added indigo, honey, palm oil, bone breaking stick, and blood of the goat, and it is hung on the door, and the other ingredients.

Other ingredents: (Later bathe with ewe still alive)

Governing divinity: OCHUN.

Accompanying deity: OGGUN.

Flag of the year: Yellow with green borders

Sayings of the Sign:

– It is not finished with the same knife.

– The arrow is not let fly without first going to the battlefield.

– What is left is not returned to and collected.

Illnesses which increase in rate:

-Illnesses of the stomach and intestines

-Increase of the rate of sexually transmitted diseases

-Impotence at a young age, as a consequence of prostate problems in men

-Malignant diseases of the colon and rectum.

Events of Social Interest:

-Problems will continue in the agricultural sector fundamentally in the production of food, produce, and vegetables as a consequence of the poor fertilization of the soil.

-Incursions of seawater that can produce floods and landslides. Increase of migratory conflicts.

-The danger and threats of natural catastrophes of all types will continue.

Recommendations:

-Sign that warns of the danger that wastefulness can cause.

-It is recommended to avoid the poor utilization of chemical products in agricultural production.

– Caution with epidemics and illnesses.

– Avoid confrontations and quarrels.

– It is recommended to maintain an adequate religious ethic.

– It’s necessary to seek cooperation and help one another to achieve the outlined objectives.

– Respect elders and seek religious training.

– Avoid problems with the law.

– Increase of venereal diseases as a product of sexual debauchery.

– Make better use of agricultural resources.

– An equilibrium is recommended in all spheres.

– It is recommended to strengthen oggun. (look to godparents for this).

– It’s necessary to be careful with excessive consent of parents with their children.

– Parents must pay careful attention to the care and education of children.

– Self medication is prohibited.

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 Constitution to Institutionalize the Dictatorship

More than three million copies of the constitutional text are for sale. The referendum will be held on February 24. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, January 10, 2019 — A close reading of the final version of the new Constitution of the Republic, which will be submitted to a referendum on February 24, allows the conclusion that none of the 760 changes made by the drafting commission does anything to alter the negative opinion that was held of the draft.

Perhaps the best example was the change suffered by Article 5 and not just because of the return of the concept of communism that generated so much discussion, but the mocking introduction of the conjunction “and” to substitute the hyphen in the word “Marxist-Leninist.” According to the explanation, “in the opinion of various academics it was a formulation with a Stalinist tinge.” continue reading

In second place is the balancing act performed to make the controversial Article 68 disappear and in its place introduce similar precepts in Article 82. The celebration that the most conservative anticipated for the supposed victory was frustrated upon realizing that the door that would open the path to marriage equality had only changed places.

However, for the LGBT community the new article also has a bittersweet flavor since it sets a period of up to two years to define who can get married. This postponement evidently seeks to prevent a negative vote in the referendum from those opposed to these unions.

Another change that has passed unnoticed is that regarding legal rights (Article 49), which previously indicated that “no person can be obligated to testify against himself, his spouse, or relatives up to the fourth degree of consanguinity and second of affinity,” while now (Article 95) “common-law partner” is included.

In Article 95 itself the order is expressed that in a penal process, persons can have access to “legal assistance from the beginning of the process.” This has perhaps been one of the most-exhibited aspects as a demonstration of the respect toward rights in the future, but it shows the lack of due-process guarantees from which numerous citizens have suffered since that precept was eliminated.

It would be worthwhile to do a study of the ups and downs that the concept of “concentration of ownership” has been subjected to. Since its appearance in the guidelines of the VI Congress, passing through what was added in the VII Congress’s version and later in the Conceptualization of the Model project, the topic arrived at the final version of the Constitution rather decaffeinated.

Article 22 of the draft said: “The State regulates that no concentration of ownership exists in legal persons or non-state entities, in order to preserve the limits compatible with the socialist values of equity and social justice.”

In the new version Article 30 says this: “The concentration of ownership in legal persons or non-state entities is regulated by the State, which additionally guarantees a more and more just redistribution of wealth in order to preserve the limits…”

Having maintained the concept of the irrevocability of the socialist system and the position of the only Party as the ruling political force justifies the assessment that the main thing that should have changed has not changed.

With the validity of those two pillars any attempt to compare the draft submitted to debate with the final version approved by Parliament is a true waste of time, even when one has the noble intent of itemizing the details that can be considered positive to contrast them with the negative. In addition to a sterile exercise it can be considered a pernicious habit.

The truly useful thing seems to be using space, energy, and talent to find a way to prevent the definitive insitutionalization of the dictatorship. There remains little time and it’s necessary to hurry up and settle on a consensus so that Cubans don’t suffer the same fate as the unsuspecting rabbits from the fable, who wasted their precious opportunity to save themselves debating over the breed of the hunting dogs drawing near.

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.