Petition of a Cuban Doctor to the Popular Party of Spain

Cuban doctors. (OPS)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Emilio Alberto Pérez Anchía, Santa Cruz de Tenerife | Recently I read in some outlet, that you, in your capacity as representative of the PP to the government, have presented a non-legislative motion (NLM) urging the Spanish government to take a stance before the exploitation of Cuban doctors in the More Doctors program in Brazil.

This NLM urges Madrid to assess (and I quote) “giving political asylum and facilities for entry into the labor market in Spain to the Cuban health professionals who flee from those abusive conditions.”

It praises the training of my Cuban colleagues when it mentions: “It is an immigration that requires humanitarian support and is of very high quality since Cuban doctors are known in many of the world’s countries for their extraordinary expertise, their vocation, and their hard work in extreme situations,” to which I add “in any situation.” continue reading

It also denounces that “all the doctors from the country (Cuba) know that they are prohibited from returning for eight years if they do not return to Cuba after the mission,” which is a reality and it pleases me that it is recognized by the Popular Party, and I dare to add that the Cuban government also doesn’t let the family of that doctor, a “traitor/deserter of the homeland,” leave Cuba for a family reunification in that eight-year period.

I am one of those Cuban doctors, not from the aforementioned More Doctors program in Brazil, but indeed one who emigrated, and I was separated from my family for six and a half long years. When I managed to arrive in Spain, in the last years of the PP’s government presided by Mr. Aznar, I had no other choice but to settle for an authorization as a general doctor and not as a general surgeon, which is my speciality, despite a royal decree having been authorized which was intended to authorize various non-EU specialists, but it never materialized.

It is because I feel myself referred to and even honored by the current concern of the PP, with which I identify for ideological reasons, that I earnestly ask that this letter be given to the highest authorities of the Party with the aim that it analyze the following proposal, and I would complete the request that it makes to the government:

1. – That it include all the Cuban doctors who have emigrated in search of new horizons of liberty and a more dignified life for our families, not only those who have gone to Brazil with the More Doctors program.

2. – That the years working in Cuba by these doctors to achieve a decent retirement be taken into account, at the same standard as any Spanish citizen.

3. – That any medical specialty obtained in Cuba be valued and recognized after being demonstrated and accredited with the required official documentation, as is done with other Latin American countries.

Thank you for your time, you cannot imagine how much I appreciate a receptive ear. I await your response by this means or, if you wish, in person, it will be an honor for me.

Email: epantxia47@hotmail.com

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.

500th Anniversary of the City "Nightmare" / Rebeca Monzo

“If you come to this neighborhood and see it’s filthy, don’t be surprised. Sometimes it’s worse!

Rebeca Monzo, 28 January 2019 — Much is said via the media of the celebration in 2019 of the 500th anniversary of the city of San Cristobal of Havana, but when you go out to the street you see that the destruction of this country, above all the capital, began in the ’60s, as a result of the triumph of the Revolution, when they began to destroy monuments, streets, avenues, sidewalks, schools, hospitals, factories, stores, shops, and all types of private establishments, companies, and businesses that were usurped from their owners as well as some state organizations. continue reading

Carelessness and abandonment seized Havana, which was invaded by people who were fleeing the misery that was growing in their provinces. The government always prioritized the issue of political propaganda and “voluntary work” so that what they did was greatly deteriorate everything whose sole owner and employer was the state.

The lack of love and feeling of belonging, in the capital especially, brought as a consequence the abandonment and mistreatment of all heritage assets. Architectural values have been lost, due to the lack of care and maintenance of them.

In the main streets and avenues deterioration abounds in the sidewalks, the potholes in the street, the leaks of sewer water, the accumulation of waste and trash and even dead animals, the rotten fruit at the bottom of some trees.

Buses are scarce, but they are also dirty and deteriorated, they are no longer cleaned before leaving the bus terminal, as was done in the time of the Republic. Also lamentably, the majority of hospitals and schools are in these same conditions.

Observing Havana’s streets, one doesn’t see brigades of workers repairing them, nor the sidewalks that are in terrible conditions, neither does one observe the restoration of building facades, nor parks, nor schools. It’s a great shame that television announces so many concerts and art expositions in honor of the 500th anniversary and the city has been submerged in a total abandonment and discontent.

Note: Last night the tornado that hit Havana took delight in destroying destruction.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

The Popular Party Asks Spain To Facilitate Political Asylum For Cuban Doctors

The spokeswoman of the Popular Party in Congress and ex-Minister of Health, Social Services, and Equality in Spain. (GPP)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 29 January 2019 — The representatives of Spain’s Popular Party (PP, opposition) this Tuesday presented a parliamentary initiative in which they requested explanations on “the possible evidence of modern slavery” in Cuban medical missions abroad.

In a non-legislative motion that will be debated in Congress, the PP invited the Cuban government to repeal the “impediment to enter the country” from the doctors who left the missions and asked the Spanish government to apply “measures of political asylum” for those professionals. continue reading

According to a source close to the new president of the Popular Party, Pablo Casado, “it’s a proposal that is part of the line taken by the leadership of the PP of keeping pressuring on the (socialist) Spanish government so that it doesn’t give in to Cuba even more and that it put human rights before commercial agreements.”

The initiative, which appeared signed by the spokeswoman Dolors Montserrat and the representative Carlos Rojas García, is based on another motion for a resolution presented in the United States Senate on January 10, 2019 affirming that the Cuban government’s medical missions abroad constitute human trafficking.

In the US Senate’s report are detailed several restrictive measures suffered by the Cubans serving abroad, among them restriction of movement, retention of passports, prohibition from having their families with them, and threat of imprisonment for abandoning the job or not returning to the island after completing it.

It also denounced that “the Cuban doctors received approximately 25% of the amount that was charged for their work in said agreements, with the government of Cuba retaining approximately 75% of the payment received for said work.”

The PP explained in its motion to the Spanish parliament that, after reading the resolution of the United States Senate, it considered “that all of the mentioned assertions, as well as the rest, are scrupulously truthful” and then included other elements that were produced by their own investigations that added arguments to the decision.

As a consequence, it proposes that the Congress of Representatives urge Spain’s government to demand that Cuban authorities explain “the denounced facts constituting human trafficking and modern slavery” and that it recommend the modification or elimination of a set of current legal instruments that violate internationally recognized labor rights.

The initiative of the conservative Parliamentary group proposes that, from confirming the facts or a significant part of them, the Spanish government “commit itself to considering the allowal of measures of political asylum and entry into the labor market (in Spain) to the Cuban doctors around the world who find themselves in this situation.”

The text recognizes that the work of these doctors “has been extraordinary and, without a doubt, has helped save thousands of lives. However, in recent years we have discovered that that tool of diplomacy, that supposed solidarity of the Cuban government, in reality was the front for a source of income that subjected Cuban professionals to subhuman situations.”

The proposal will be debated in the Spanish parliament in the course of the next few weeks. Non-legislative motions generally have a political character and seek to formulate proposals before the chamber that do not have the character of a law, but rather urge the Government to carry out some concrete action or express the feeling of the Congress regarding a particular subject.

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.

Rescuing Jose Marti from His Kidnappers

Part of the image from the cover of the book The One and Only José Martí: Principal Opponent of Fidel Castro.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, January 28, 2019 — Photographs of José Martí were never missing from the offices of any of the Cuban presidents. It didn’t matter if their actions contradicted the ideas of that great master who would have pronounced these words from the prophet Isaiah with respect to the Castro regime’s leaders: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

They considered Martí “the intellectual author of the attack on the Moncada Barracks,” and although many of those who fought and died in that action felt truly committed to those ideals — The Centennial Generation, they called themselves — they were all betrayed when that leadership not only prolonged the wrongs against which they had fought by not restoring the Constitution or holding free elections. continue reading

It deepened with the installment of a military dictatorship with absolute powers and institutionalized the violations of fundamental rights and freedoms, something that they want to reaffirm now with the approval of a spurious Constitution.

Much repeated is this phrase: “Martí promised it to you and Fidel fulfilled it for you.” In my opinion this is the worst mockery and the worst calumny that can be thrown against any honorable man. Now, to top it off, this thing that they call “Revolution” is described as “Marxist, Leninist, and Martí-ist.”

Under this regime the Seminars for Martí Studies are held each year, and a center for the study of his thoughts was created. Although more than a few intellectuals hide behind Martí to make a covert complaint against Castroism, his appropriation by the oppressors was carried out with the pretext of his Latin American and anti-imperialist ideas.

It is true that Martí advocated the unity of the peoples of Our America, for what he conceived as a great homeland (“From the Rio Grande to Patagonia there is no more than one people”), and that he opposed the expansionism of the United States (the “seven-league giants”). But he himself had expressed that he loved “the land of Lincoln” just as he feared “the homeland of [Augustus K.] Cutting,” two interests at odds still today.

These aspects of Martí thought were taken advantage of by the group installed in power with the intention of gathering the support of the Latin American peoples and of maintaining, in the international arena, the idea that the Cuban problem was summed up in the contradiction between a small country that was supposedly fighting for its sovereignty and the aims of a large empire that was trying to subjugate it, to conceal the real contradiction: a group that has turned an entire country into a large fiefdom and a people subjected to the most humiliating conditions.

Many thousands of Cubans have passed through prisons without having attacked or insulted anybody, without destroying even a lightbulb, only for having expressed ideas different from the policy dictated by the ideological secretariat of the governing party, be it under the cause of “enemy propaganda” or that of “contempt,” something diametrically opposed to the ideology of Martí.

In Martí’s conception of democratic revolution, the right to free expression is sacred. This key principle in his thought, which is an insurmountable wall between him and that leadership, can be read repeatedly in his Complete Works. “Respect for liberty and different thought, even of the most unhappy entity, is my fanaticism: if I die, or they kill me, it will be for that,” he wrote. Or: “I feel as if they kill a child of mine every time that they deprive a man of his right to think.”

Another type of Martí’s thoughts that the authorities try to sidestep are those that refer critically to ideological aspects that touch them closely. Of those, the one that they have most dared to cite is that of Martí’s reservations about Marx, because along with the criticism there is some praise, like this: “Profound observer of the reason for human miseries and the destinies of men and man eaten by the yearning to do well.”

But he also declares: “He went in a hurry and a little in the shadows, without seeing that children who have not had a natural and laborious gestation are not born viable, neither from the womb of the people in history, nor from the womb of the woman in the home,” which seems to indicate that Martí reflected upon the importance of a development process of civic consciousness in order to achieve, peacefully, a just social order, which he reiterates when he says: “Shameful the forced turning of some men into beasts for the benefit of others, but a way out of indignation has to be sought, so that the beast ceases without getting out of control and frightening.”

Martí, it is necessary to clarify, was not only an apostle for independence but also of social justice, but he didn’t stop harshly criticizing those who, in the name of that justice, intended to raise themselves up and lord over humble people.

In the article Future Slavery, about an essay by the English philosopher Herbert Spencer, Martí refers very clearly to the model known as state socialism, later incubated in the gloomy Russia of Stalin and which Cubans have been suffering for 60 years.

In these societies where all riches would be under the control of the state, he warns, “the number of public employees [would increase] in a terrible manner. With every new function, a new stock of officials would come.” He adds: “From being his own servant, man would pass to become the servant of the state. From being the slave of capitalists, as they call him now, he would go to being the slave of officials.” And he concludes: “The servitude will be lamentable, and general.”

Another text is the letter to his friend Fermín Valdés Domínguez in 1894. The latter had communicated his participation in activity for May 1 along with socialists and anarchists, and Martí warned him about “the dangers of the socialist idea.” Among them “the arrogance and furtive rage of the ambitious, who to raise themselves in the world begin by pretending to be, to have shoulders on which to rise, fierce defenders of the helpless.” But at the same time he warns him that such objections do not mean the abandonment of the ideal of social justice, because “of how nobly must be judged an aspiration: and not for this or that wart that human passion puts on it.”

Today, when the citizenry is expected to approve by referendum the constitutional institutionalization of the violations of their fundamental rights and liberties, it’s necessary to rescue Martí from those kidnappers with the same bravery with which Agramonte rescued Sanguily in the middle of the scrubland. To make very clear that the emblematic image of those rights and liberties is that of Martí, and that, as a consequence, we, defenders of those guarantees, have more right than they to claim it.

If all those groups opposed to that sacrilege meet in a place of cyberspace in a campaign to vote No on the Constitutional referendum on 24 February, and declare themselves in permanent convention, even to face the tasks that duty will set for us after the referendum, that cause itself must carry the name of José Martí.

No image brings together more Cubans than his does. Martí unites. Martí includes. As far as I’m concerned, that convention in honor of Martí not only must be created, but must not be dissolved until those rights and liberties have achieved a definitive victory.

If its members claim that name before global public opinion and do not respond with insults to their offenders, nor resist arrest before their oppressors, it would be a great victory if the international media reports that the followers of Martí, only because of their being that, are being persecuted and harrassed in the homeland of Martí.

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.

Hundreds of Emigrants Protest in Front of Cuban Consulates In Several Countries

“The Protest for all the Prohibited” promoted slogans like #YoVotoNo (I’m Voting No) to the Constitution and the hashtag #Ni1+ (Not One More) in reference to the years that the Cuban regime has gone on.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 January 2019 — Between Friday and Saturday thousands of Cuban emigrants have protested in front of consular centers for the Island in at least ten countries. The unprecedented demonstrations have focused on denouncing the migratory obstacles, the lack of citizens’ rights, and the new text of the Constitution that will be put to a referendum on February 24.

What began as a spark ended up igniting a vast array of dissatisfactions, complaints, and questioning that for decades has been accumulating in the Cuban exile. Initially the march was going to occur only in front of the Island’s embassy in Washington, but emigrants in other places joined the initiative. continue reading

“The Protest for All the Prohibited” promoted slogans like #YoVotoNo (I’m Voting No) to the Constitution and the hashtag #Ni1+ (Not One More) in reference to the years that the Cuban regime has gone on. Although it also accommodated other demands.

In the American capital, despite the temperatures below 5 degrees Celsius this weekend, more than 400 Cubans answered the call from the Somos+ (We Are More) movement and participated in the march, after spontaneously coordinating the move.

The initiative, promoted by the leader of the movement Somos+, Eliécer Ávila, was also supported by several exile groups, along with the campaign Cuba Decides. Initially it demanded the right for Cubans to “enter and leave” the country “without restrictions, or blacklists.”

Among the organizers of the march in the United States were also, among others, the presenter Alex Otaola, the exile Amaury Almaguer or “Siro Cuartel,” author of the political satire blog El Lumpen (The Underclass). The actor Jorge Ferdecaz also joined the initiative.

Other cities where protests also occurred were Madrid, Sao Paulo, The Hague, Barcelona, Quito, Montevideo, Geneva, Holland, Santiago de Chile, and London. In total hundreds of Cubans protested against the new constitutional reform and demanded “to have a passport at a price accessible for everyone,” the “existence of marriage equality,” a direct vote for the presidency of the country, and the “end of the dynasty.”

The event had a wide impact on social media where its call circulated with the hashtags #NoMasProhibidos (No More Prohibited), #YoVoteNo (I’m Voting No), and #Ni1+ (Not One More). At the meeting point near the diplomatic headquarters in Washington, participants held a symbolic vote that produced 413 No votes for the new Constitution.

For the activist Eliécer Ávila, “Today’s great protagonists were the Cubans and their families who traveled for hours, many 20 hours to be here, many young people, 90% of whom were around 25 or 30 years old,” he explained to 14ymedio.

“It was a huge message of hope and optimism,” added the leader of Somos+. The dissidents called on people to “not let languish” initiatives of this type and “every month do something bigger and we propose that this 2019 Cuba enter a phase of social pressure that brings about a political response.”

Among those joining the march were actors, musicians, and creators like the artist Geandy Pavón, who recreated his performance Nemesis on the facade of the Permanent Mission of Cuba in front of the UN in New York this Friday night.

Massiel Rodríguez, a Cuban who has lived in Spain for a year, told 14ymedio that at the Cuban Embassy in Madrid they sabotaged the activity from the diplomatic headquarters playing music on full blast toward the exterior of the building. “They mostly put on Silvio Rodríguez but between blocks you could hear La Guantanamera and Carlos Puebla.”

The emigree explained that all along the sidewalk there were police officers posted to guard the area to prevent the demonstrators from getting close to the embassy. Inside the embassy there were many older people who as far as it was known were celebrating the birthday of José Martí and the 60 years of the Revolution, she said.

“We hugged each other, there was a lot of cordiality and respect, it was really nice and we made contacts to organize to do this type of thing, that link was good so that there can be an action group for whatever is needed,” Rodríguez said. “There were people who arrived organized in groups that came from other towns, but also some didn’t notice.” The dissident Rosa María Payá, leader of Cuba Decides, joined the action.

In Sao Paulo, several demonstrators reported that upon arriving in front of the consulate they bumped into groups from the Brazilian Communist Party, who with flags and slogans took the place. “They became aggressive and more than 200 people fell upon us to hit us,” an emigrant who participated in the protest told this newspaper.

So far the official Cuban press hasn’t published anything about the demonstrations, which happened a few hours after the Cuban government confirmed that emigrants and temporary residents abroad will not be able to vote in the constitutional referendum unless they return to the Island. Polling places outside the Island will only accept those working on an official mission.

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.

When A People Unites, No Dictatorship Can Prevail / Somos+

Making the sign of “L” for “Libertad,” Cubans abroad demonstrating for the right to vote in the Constitutional Referendum scheduled for 24 February.

Somos+, Richard Shirrman, 27 January 2019 — This January 26 we watched as thousands of Cuban citizens and lovers of liberty and democracy came together with one voice demanding our rights, it was more than one march or protest against that dictatorship that robs us all alike of our liberty, that subjugates, and that represses our people and dissidents who protest peacefully. It was a unanimous cry of NO!! Of Enough already! Not one year more!

All those of us who do not forget our country, we feel proud of each Cuban who raised his voice. It set a standard in the fight for the freedom of Cuba, and it said to the ruling regime on our Island what we Cubans have carried guarded in our hearts for 60 years. This 26th of January history was made, we managed to gather thousands of Cubans in the world and it was shown that united, we can do anything. continue reading

But this doesn’t end here! We will keep working with all our brothers and sisters who want with all their hearts to see our Mother Country free and prosperous, this rebellion is the beginning of the path to follow, because when a people lets itself be defeated by tyrants, any dream and longing for liberty will perish, let us not allow ourselves to be intimidated by lack of faith in ourselves and by external agitators, it’s necessary that every Cuban who loves his Mother fight for the liberty, democracy, and prosperity of our nation.

That is why we ask for the union and cooperation of all for the good of all and to fight until the end of the dictatorship that robs us of our most elemental rights and the peaceful coexistence between our different ideologies, creeds, and positions on life.

The enemy is only one, my friends, it is that criminal and murderous regime that has killed our dreams, our future, and our human dignity. There are never words to persuade when one is fighting for a just and true cause. Let us all unite as children of the same mother! Because if we don’t do it, the dictators and politicians will do whatever they feel like with us.

Cubans, brothers and sisters, José Martí fought in exile for many years until achieving the objective that was always the light in his thoughts, an inheritance that leaves us the path toward liberty, that thought and path that the murderers and vile, ambitious men of power have covered up so that we do not see it, and have placed stones in our path so that today the people of Cuba lives without decency and human dignity.

And today on the eve of the birthday of our greatest Cuban of all time, I dedicate to all those Cubans who protested against the vile and cruel dictatorship that has oppressed us for more than 60 years. And quoting José Martí:

…Thus we want the children of America to be: men who say what they think, and say it well; eloquent and sincere men.

…A man who hides what he thinks, or doesn’t dare to say what he thinks, is not an honorable man. A man who obeys a bad government, without working for the government to be good, is not an honorable man. A man who complies with unjust laws, and permits men who mistreat the country where he was born to tread its soil, is not an honorable man.

…There are men who live content although they live without decency. There are others who suffer as in agony when they see that men live without decency around them. In the world it is necessary to have a certain quantity of decency, as one must have a certain quantity of light. When there are many men without decency, there are always others who have within themselves the decency of many men. Those are the ones who rise up with terrible force against those who rob the people of their liberty, which is to rob men of their decency. In those men go thousands of men, goes an entire people, goes human dignity. Those men are sacred.

Long live free Cuba!

José Julián Martí y Pérez

National Hero of the Republic of Cuba

God, Homeland, and Liberty!

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

The Rigor of Hell: Prisoners in Cuba / Ángel Santiesteban

Ángel Santiesteban, Havana, Cuba, Thursday, October 25, 2018 — Whoever commits a crime in Cuba should be certain that it won’t be enough to complete the punishment that the court decides for him, that isolation and prison will not be sufficient. One who breaks the law on this island has, beforehand, the certainty that the guards will put all their effort into making him feel like he is in a Hell in which the character of a uniformed Lucifer recurs.

The common prisoner also pays dearly in his stay in that diabolical underground, almost as much as he who goes to prison for “political reasons.” There any human rights are not respected, although the official discourse tries to show the opposite and brags of the virtues of Cuban prisons, and even seems to embrace theUnited Nations Charter of Universal Human Rights. That figure known on the island as a common prisoner is used as slave labor, and those who receive some economic benefit know very well the treatment that the military dedicates to them. continue reading

Beatings are commonplaces in those spaces of confinement, insulting the prisoner is the dish that the guards cook best. The beatings never have justification; beating is a right given to them by a government accustomed to repressing and pounding since it seated itself on the throne. A prisoner can be beaten with impunity becaused the uniformed don’t recognize the rights of the inmates. Their frustrations and ignorance are viciously taken out on the convicts.

Didier Cabrera Herrera is now thirty-nine years old and serving a sentence for a homicide he committed in self-defense. Didier was attacked in his own house. Didier used to make yogurt and sell it in his home, until a delinquent from the neighborhood asked him for a tube and later refused to pay for it. The assailant took out a knife and, making a show, attacked the vendor, and from the show passed to a more real aggression, to unforeseen violence. The criminal intended to thrust with the knife; first at one point, then another, without counting on Didier’s dexterity.

Then would come the struggle in which Didier was more skillful and managed to grab the knife from his aggressor and use it in self-defense. Didier defended himself, stuck the attacker with the sharp point, but didn’t compromise any organ, but a blow fractured a rib that damaged some vital organ, according to the determination of the pathologist. Thus Didier went to prison to serve a sentence of five years.

Traveling to the prison with the prisoner were the certified doctors, those who warn that this man suffers from a “personality disorder of emotional instability of a moderate intensity, and of an organic base,” that had already prevented him from fulfilling the obligatory military service. The medications to keep him calm are: Carbamazepine, Sentraline, and Clonazepan, but they are not always administered with the regularity prescribed by his doctor, despite the fact that authorities are aware that the patient attempted suicide before entering prison.

The first prison that received him was “Combinado del Este,” where he kept good discipline, despite how irregularly he was returned to his medication when they moved him away from his mother. Doctors attributed the carelessness to the lack of those medicines, even though they didn’t accept those that his mother, Iris Josefina Herrera López, with many pleas, tried to give them.

Didier was then sent to a prison in Manacas, in the province of Villa Clara. His mother traveled there for each visit, negotiating all the obstacles of the island’s bad transportation. And many were the pleas of this woman for authorities to permit her son to return to Havana or a closer place. She asks and asks at the National Directorate of Prisons at 15 and K, in Vedado, but so far she hasn’t managed to bring her son closer, like Leonor Pérez did achieve in the 19th century, when the Governor General of the island, following the “plea of the mother,” responded to Leonor’s entreaties.

This man is still here, so far from his mother, suffering humiliations in punishment cells and even rape attempts from “Calandraca” and “Calabera,” two dangerous prisoners who scour the prison displaying knives without receiving any punishment. Who was punished was this sick man, who was transferred to Guamajal prison, on the outskirts of the city of Santa Clara, where he spends his days in the atrocious imprisonment of another punishment cell, in which two guards beat him with so much force that his left eye was affected.

To top it all, and despite so much abuse, Major Cepero just informed the mother that he had been denied parole for a year, without letting her know the cause, although she supposes the reason is the many telephone calls her son made saying that they were not giving him his medication. Thus survives this sick young man, faced with the apathy and injustices of the authorities of the law and of Cuban “justice” that isn’t interested in putting right those effronteries that could put an end to the life of Didier Cabrera Herrera, a very sick young man.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

A Microbus Route in Search of Passengers

Stop for the new microbuses at Calle 5B between 164 and 164A, in Alamar, a municipality of East Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, January 24, 2019 — “Come on, get on because we’re leaving…” Thus the microbus driver addresses the only client who this Tuesday morning is at the stop at 1st and 70th street in Havana. The news of the recently inaugurated Route 15 doesn’t seem to have yet reached the inhabitants of the capital, where for decades getting from one point to another has been a headache.

Immaculate, the seats without a spot of dirt, the new little buses arrived from Russia, are the Government’s latest bet in its attempts to get private transport off of Havana’s streets. In the domain of the almendrones [classic American cars, mostly from the 1950s, typically used as private taxis] and the pisicorres [vans or trucks adapted to transport passengers], these 12-seat vehicles stand out and provoke more than one prediction. continue reading

On the route, which begins in Playa and ends in Alamar via Avenida Carlos III and the Monumental, a few passengers get on. The majority ask loudly how long this new experiment will last: “We’re going to see in six months how they are,” is the sentence most repeated by the incredulous riders.

At the stop in the Playa municipality, only one stand with the information for the routes gives away the beginning of “operation microbus,” as some jokesters have nicknamed the new routes. With only one passenger, the driver starts up before the curious glances of passersby.

The passenger, somewhat astonished to be traveling so comfortably inside the vehicle, spends part of the journey reading all the posters inside with the details of prices for stretches of routes, streets through which the microbus travels, and the stops it makes. “That’s so that everyone knows what they have to pay and nobody is ripped off,” thinks the rider while a mother and child get on at a stop.

“It smells new, Mommy,” lets out the boy as soon as he smells the aroma of recently-opened merchandise that still fills the microbus. “We’ll see how it smells in a few months,” responds the mother. The skepticism turns into the “stone passenger” along the majority of the route, as if riders would prefer to not to get too hopeful.

Inside the microbus is all the information on the route and the prices to pay for each stretch. (14ymedio)

Made by the Russian company GAZ, the vehicles run between 6:30 am until 10:00 pm and share stops with almendrones whose owners, a few self-employed drivers, have decided to accept the new rules of the game.

In December the government approved a package of measures to regulate the work of private drivers. Among the new measures is the obligation to establish stops, travel on determined routes, and buy fuel with a magnetic card that allows a greater control on spending and consumption*.

The new rules generated a great dissent among the drivers, who pressured authorities with a strike for several days. As of that moment the flow of private taxis hasn’t stablized again and the Government has kept up the battle of wills with them by importing and putting into service new state vehicles.

The confrontation has challenged the entire city, where an average of almost a million and a half people move about each day, of which a million do so on State-owned buses. With an evident decrease in private drivers, Havanans had an end of the year “where everything collapsed at the same time,” the mother with her son on the microbus laments this Tuesday.

“The lack of flour and eggs, the rise in prices, and also the problems getting around,” explains the woman. “Now we have these microbuses but there’s no chicken anywhere,” she adds with an annoyed look. “It’s like we can’t have complete happiness, either we can get around or we can eat.”

At the top of Calle 42, the microbus now carries six people. A lady with a box full of onions, two young people who only take photos of the interior to put them on Instagram with sepia- and rose-colored filters, the passenger who got on at the beginning of the route, and the mother with her son, who at this point breathes on the window to draw little circles with his finger.

Next to the driver, the conductor is tasked with charging for the passage, which varies according to the stretch traveled. “To travel the entire route, you pay 20 pesos,” exclaims the elderly lady with the onions. “I thought that there was going to be a real reduction but prices are still very high for people.”

After the fascination of the first moment and the happiness of traveling in a clean and new bus passes, the passengers dedicate themselves to complaining about the prices of life.

The driver tries to calm the mood by saying that the advantages of the equipment cannot be denied. “These cars just arrived, I took the plastic off these seats and you all are using it for the first time,” says the driver at the top of Puente Almendares.

A young resident of Alamar recognizes that until then he had to take three cars to get to his grandfather’s house in Playa, but he doesn’t believe he could be a steady client of the microbuses because “you can’t spend 20 or 40 pesos every day on transportation.” He also complains that the initiative still wasn’t well organized and in East Havana he had seen a line of vehicles that were going out “one after another instead of doing it in a staggered way so that it would be more efficient.”

A yell from the lady with the onions interrupts him: “Stop!” she orders the driver. “I’m getting off here, I see that they [the stores] have oil.” With the sudden stop, some onion skins fall on the impeccable upholstery of the seats, and the door opens to return to a reality without novelties.

*Translator’s note: In other words, it prevents drivers from buying fuel on the black market because their purchases from the government are tracked on the card and inspectors can check if they bought enough fuel to operate the miles traveled.

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.

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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