Havana Grabs Onto The Cricket Theory To Discredit The "Acoustic Attacks"

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 8, 2019 — The audio disseminated in October of 2017 by the Associated Press agency which supposedly reproduces the strange sound heard by the staff of the American embassy and which presumably caused brain damages in almost forty officials of Washington and Ottawa, matches the calling song of the short-tailed cricket, according to a study published by scientists from the University of California at Berkeley. The official press didn’t take long to echo the news and published the results of the study on Saturday.

The study, which is not intended to settle the damages caused nor the supposed attack, focuses on analyzing the sound, and determines that there are up to six lines of evidence that it is the noise produced by this insect typical of the Caribbean and common on the Island, whose scientific name is Anurogryllus celerinictus. continue reading

The academics Alexander L. Stubbs and Fernando Montealegre, from the Biology Department and the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology of the California university, say that “the calling song of the Indies short-tailed cricket of the Caribbean matches, in nuanced detail, the AP recording (…)” in terms of “duration, pulse repetition rate, power spectrum, pulse rate stability, and oscillations per pulse.”

The study’s conclusions may call into question the origin of the audio or its possible relation with the injuries caused to the diplomats, although they do not question whether these occurred.

“This provides strong evidence that an echoing cricket call, rather than a sonic attack or other technological device, is responsible for the sound in the released recording. Although the causes of the health problems reported by embassy personnel are beyond the scope of this paper, our findings highlight the need for more rigorous research into the source of these ailments, including the potential psychogenic effects, as well as possible physiological explanations unrelated to sonic attacks,” maintains the study.

“The line of evidence supports the conclusion that the sound recorded by US personnel in Cuba is of a biological origin and does not constitute a sonic attack. The fact that the sound in the recording was produced by a cricket does not rule out the theory that Embassy personnel were victims of another type of attack,” adds the document.

The mystery of the sonic attacks, as the US refers to them, thus continues without being solved. American authorities maintain that at least 24 members of their staff stationed in Havana suffered migraines, nausea, and brain damage between the end of 2016 and August of 2016, which were, in their view, caused by advanced acoustic devices.

One of the most recent and elaborate scientific theories published was that provided in March 2018 by Kevin Fu, an expert in computer science at the University of Michigan, according to which the health problems of the officials had no relation with exposure to an acoustic attack, but rather with interferences caused by electronic devices.

Fu, in collaboration with professor Wenyuan Xu and his doctoral student Chen Yan at the University of Zhejiang (China), provided this theory based precisely on the audio of the Associate Press.

The frequency of that sound reached 7 kilohertz (kHz), far from the range of between 20 and 200 kHz typical of ultrasound frequencies, which are inaudible and which at an early stage were believed to be the causes of the intriguing event.

Through a series of simulations Yan showed that an effect known as intermodulation distortion could have caused the sound that was heard on the recording and that the Berkeley scientists now categorically affirm is crickets.

Intermodulation distortion is a phenomenon that occurs when two signals of different frequencies combine to produce synthetic signals.

Chen used two ultrasound speakers: one of 25 kHz and the other of 32 kHz. When he crossed the signals of both devices it produced a sharp sound of 7 kHz, which matched the difference in frequency between the two devices and which was the same that was heard in the AP audio.

“If ultrasound is the culprit, then a possible cause is two signals that accidentally interfere with each other, creating an audible secondary effect. Maybe there is an ultrasound blocker in the room and an ultrasonic transmitter,” suggested Fu in an alternative that led to the consideration that the devices that reacted to each other were microphones.

ProPublica had affirmed in February of 2018 that all the hypotheses dealt with until that point were ruled out except for the Russian clue. The digital outlet gave a detailed account of the events after listening to the testimony of various American officials. At the time the sound was heard, the possibility was mentioned that it might have an animal origin, but those affected were divided on the matter.

“I’m very sure that they’re cicadas,” said one of the officials. “They’re not cicadas,” responded another. “Cicadas don’t sound like that. The sound is too mechanical.”

The sounds were described as sharp and disorienting and the diplomats thought, initially, that they were usual episodes of surveillance or harassment that their compatriots have denounced since the United States Interests Section opened in 1977.

What appears beyond all doubt is that there are dozens of diplomats affected by a cause yet uknown but that the United States attributes to a sonic attack.

The options most used in cases of this origin are ultrasonic weapons, those of ultrasound and microwaves, although the first have been imposed because of their matching the symptoms described by the victims.

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.

Despite its Shortcomings and High Cost, Cubans Celebrate the Arrival of Internet to Cellphones

On December 6 the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (Etecsa) enabled web browsing on cellphones. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 6 January 2019 — A month into Cubans’ ability to connect to the internet from their cellphones, users are complaining of the high prices of the service and the shortcomings of the 3G but, at the same time, many appreciate the advantage of being able to connect from anywhere.

On December 6 the Telecommunications Company of Cuba enabled web browsing on cellphones. However, a considerable number did not get the capacity because of the incompatibility of their devices, lack of 3G coverage, or the high cost of the packages.

Yordanys Labrada, resident of Songo La Maya, is one of those to whom the technology dealt a raw deal. With a very modern phone, made in 2018, this young Santiago native laments that the device cannot connect at the frequency of 900 Mhz, that chosen by Etecsa for sending and receiving web data. “My phone works in 2, 3, and 4G, but with the problem of the frequency I can’t do anything,” he explains to 14ymedio. continue reading

Now, to connect, Labrada has to keep visiting the wifi zones that began to be installed in plazas and parks all over the Island beginning in 2015. One of the most evident signs that internet has come to mobile phones is, precisely, the lack of crowding in these areas, traditionally full of customers wanting to check the worldwide web.

On La Rampa in Havana the number of internet users has decreased in the past month. “Even though it can be a lot more expensive connecting on mobile versus on wifi, people really value being able to do it in the peace and privacy of their home,” believes Jean Carlos, a young man of 21 who says that since the beginning of the service for cellphones he has used two packages of 2.5 gigabytes, for a total of 40 CUC, the equivalent of an engineer’s monthly salary.

Browsing on cellphones is sold through data packages and its price goes from 7 CUC for 600 megabytes up to 30 CUC for 4 gigabytes. Jean Carlos can afford those expenses because he works as a ’mule’ bringing merchandise to the Island. “Via email and WhatsApp buyers tell me what they want me to bring them.” His informal business depends on being connected the majority of the time.

For Lorena Rodríguez the view is very different. The high school student describes the price as “still very expensive” and she became sad when the first package of 1GB that she purchased ran out in two days in which she only used Imo, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

Others lament that there are areas of bad or no coverage. Yusef Hernández complained on Twitter because in Cárdenas (in Matanzas province) the connection “is very bad and it’s a lot of work to access the internet.”

Something similar happens on Calle 14 near the centrally located Avenida 23, in Havana, where the residents insist they are in a “zone of silence.” Some of them have commented ironically on social media about the nearness of the cemetery and the “dead spot” of connectivity in which they live.

Other criticisms arise from the ineffectiveness of the additional voucher for 300 megabytes which allows users to browse only on domestic sites, and comes with the purchase of any package. Technical difficulties and little interest in visiting these websites, all in the hands of the government, mean that the option has not had a great popularity according to what this newspaper was able to confirm after investigating among numerous customers.

“I’m still using the principal data package even when I visit a .cu website,” complained a reader of the official newspaper Granma. The response he received from Etecsa officials boils down to the fact that, even though Cuban pages are housed on domestic servers, they have elements or modules inserted that come from foreign services.

“The majority of the people I know don’t use this service to visit any domestic website, but rather to interact on social media and look up information from other independent or foreign media,” 14ymedio is told by a young man who has found a business gold mine in configuring Access Point Names (APN) in mobile phones.

“The customers who come also want me to set up their Facebook accounts, help them understand how messaging or chat services work, or install some application to control data use,” says the computer specialist, who has a small mobile phone repair place on Calle San Lázaro in Havana.

“Mainly older people come because young people know how to do all this on their own,” he explains. “Now with internet on cellphones, many people over the age of 50, who before lived with their backs turned to new technologies, have realized that they need to learn in order to communicate with their children or with other family members abroad.”

In the first week Etecsa recorded “up to 145,000 simultaneous data connections from the mobile network.” Although there have not been new updates of those figures, on social media a larger volume of posts coming from the Island is noted, as well as a greater immediacy in response or interaction times.

In the last three weeks almost all of the ministers and members of the Council of State have opened Twitter accounts after the head of the Government did so. But the officials still seem awkward on social media and merely repeat slogans or retweet news from official media.

The arrival of internet service has coincided with a worsening in shortages of basic products, like flour and eggs. From their cellphones internet users have discovered that they could denounce the absence or poor quality of rationed bread and show the empty shelves in stores.

The referendum on the new Constitution, on February 24, is also material for the Net. The government has determinedly thrown itself into promoting the vote for “Yes” on all its digital sites and on the social media accounts of its officials. The supporters of the “No” vote and of abstention have done likewise, lacking access to mass media within the Island.

The ideological battle experiences moments of commotion on the internet and connections from mobile phones seem to have contributed to heating up the debate.

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.

Wealth Doesn’t Only Come From Work, There’s More

In their analysis of the economy, Marxists spurn human motivation as an element in the creation of wealth. (Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Miami, January 6, 2019 — The communist newspaper Granma devotes an article in today’s edition to the economy, and specifically, does it with an untruthful title: “Wealth will come from work.” I have nothing against the journalist who wrote this pamphlet because certainly it will have been dictated to her. But since it commits some very serious errors of elemental economic analysis, this blog will dedicate its first entry of 2019 to commenting on its contents.

To begin, since many years ago, so many that memory doesn’t reach so far back, economic science has known that work, as a factor of production at the macro and micro level, is fundamental for a productive system. But obviously it is not the only factor capable of creating wealth, and with time, economists have stopped speaking of work, homogenous and generic, typical of Marxist teachings, and have started to establish talent as the most adequate measurement of contribution to productivity and wealth.

They are different things. For example, the article assumes a grave error, and I cite from the text: “having more resources, including monetary, for the sake of satisfying growing needs and more quality of life (…) will only come from work, and from individual and collective efforts being directed toward developing the economy.” continue reading

False. This only happens in economies of societies of poverty, of subsistence, in which salary only exists as income, and the population does not have alternative assets that would permit them to generate wealth.

In modern economies, the means that allow people to enjoy a greater standard of living come from work, but not only from work. Above all, of all that can be gained by capitalizing on work, an effort to save, identifying opportunities and risks, and taking positions for the future.

It’s not difficult to observe that in Cuba “activating all the potentials to produce more and with efficiency,” is unthinkable with the current model, because it lacks a fundamental element for that: human motivation.

In their analysis of the economy, Marxists spurn human motivation as an element in the creation of wealth. For them, social uniformity is the priority. Social justice focuses on lowering aspirations, reducing individual motivations in favor of certain collective objectives that are difficult to measure and assess, but scarce and limited. And in this postulate resides the failure of the model. On the other hand, people are driven by incentives that guarantee them the ability to access a better standard of living, to fulfill their dreams, to see realized a better future for their children and grandchildren. That is the motivation.

And so, in addition to the fruits of labor, although only a small part is saved, the fruits of those resources allow access to other goods and services, or supplemented with bank credits they allow investment in one or several homes, in land, buildings, machines, patents, etc, any lawful thing that allows more wealth to be generated.

The capital factor, in Cuba harassed and extinguished by the communist regime for 60 years, hasn’t been used to fulfill its important role in the generation of wealth. Cubans have to flee from Cuba to establish that economic reality, in Miami, Madrid, or wherever destiny takes them.

Economists know that the life cycle of human consumption is conditioned by human wealth, which comes from work throughout one’s life, and non-human wealth, which has to do with the property rights that people have over certain assets, like land, homes, plots, savings, investment and pension plans, etc.

In advanced economies, work is just one factor of the many that generate income and wealth, and governments know that for a country to get out of underdevelopment and firmly direct its evolution toward prosperity, it is necessary not to place obstacles in the way of factors associated with non-human wealth, as happens in Cuba.

Additionally, the article in Granma doesn’t take into account the fact that we live in a global world, in which technologies associated with the fourth industrial revolution are changing the forms of producing, consuming, investing…of working. By now work is not respresented by those gray and uniform human masses of the Europe of the Iron Curtain, Soviet Russia, or the Chinese of Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

Work in this new century is measured in terms of talent and skill, which is nothing other than a measurement of the quality of the work. Fidel Castro once spoke of rewarding work according to its quality, and there is his legacy: Cuban salaries, some 30 dollars per month, are among the lowest in the world. Without skill businesses cannot function, and for that reason they fight over talent and pay elevated wages to those workers who provide that distinguishing element of competence.

Unskilled workers have to make an effort not to miss the train of the future and opt for a strategy of learning throughout life that, in many cases, encourages businesses to be more productive and efficient. Educational and training systems must be reoriented to contribute in a decisive manner to this process, demand less social prominence, and opt for professional skill.

The problem is that the world has changed — a lot — and the communist regime of the Castros has remained in an artificial bubble since the 1950s, and the worst thing is that they want to make us believe that they are right. An absurd disaster.

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.

Is Fraud Possible in the February 24 Referendum?

The suspicion of a possible fraud has a demobilizing effect among the promoters of “No” in the Constitution referendum. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, January 2, 2018 — The possibility that some type of fraud could be committed to distort the results of the constitutional referendum, which will take place on February 24 in Cuba, is one of the most frequent worries in conversations among activists.

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: assume that possibility as a reasonable risk or trust that fraud will not be committed.

The most effective vaccine to keep this threat from dissuading voters from visiting the ballot box to vote “No” is arriving to the understanding that little is risked and much can be gained. continue reading

After all, what is being risked (in addition to wasting a few minutes in vain at the ballot box) is that the Government is able to show the massive participation of citizens as a great success and that the “No” vote remains defeated in face of the crushing majority of the “Yes.” But those who propose abstaining, in order to not play into the hands of the feared fraud, should reason that it is much simpler to doctor the figure of participation than the number of negative votes.

Articles 116 and 117 of the current Electoral Law introduce an element that favors the lack of transparency in information of voting results. In both paragraphs the law obligates the members of the electoral tables, after finalizing the count, to place in the public view “a sample ballot” with the result of the vote count that exhibits how many votes each candidate received. The ballot does not have space for other information.

It is at least as striking that in a country where models and plans proliferate for any procedure, it has never occurred to anyone produce a document to dump all the information resulting from the suffrage. As a consequence of this “paper saving,” the data about how many voters attended each polling place and how many abstained did not remain in public view, nor did the number of canceled or blank ballots.

Only those voters who are present at the moment of the vote count in each polling place will be able to know those numbers. But after that process it is no longer possible to visit all of a municipality’s polling places with the intention of collecting data and being able to contrast it with the official information that is usually offered at the end of the process, broken down by municipalities and provinces. Those who do it will only find a ballot put up, probably on the door of the place, with the numbers obtained for either “Yes” or “No.”

The possibility of manipulating these data at the provincial or national level thus remains in the hands of a reduced group of people of the utmost trustworthiness to the Government.

In the electoral processes carried out for district representatives and members of the National Assembly, it’s unlikely that the result of the vote count will be the product of a fraud committed in the polling place.

The image of members of an electoral table shamelessly marking blank ballots, or changing what the will of voters reflects in the presence of witnesses, is difficult to believe. The massive complicity necessary to carry out an act of this nature in the almost 25,000 voting sites that could be authorized on February 24 requires a number of discreet and absolutely trustworthy persons that the Government does not currently have in its ranks.

The citizens who carry out the work at the election sites at a basic level can be docile, obedient, and absolutely convinced that socialism is what is best for the country; they can be “Fidelistas” and vehement admirers of the current president, but that doesn’t automatically make them into a multitude of inveterate cynics lacking ethics and decency.

That type of fraud does not seem to have occurred to date in the elections for representatives and assembly members, among other reasons, because it has not been necessary. For this something more sinister was invented: pre-fraud consisting of the intimidating nomination process which is carried out by a public show of hands for candidates for district representatives and the existence of the Candidacy Commissions that make up the list of names that will appear on the ballot for members of Parliament, with one name appearing for each open position.

When those tricks were not sufficient, then the activists of the neighborhood met to discredit “uncomfortable” candidates and, if persuasion was not enough, then the agents of State Security came out from their quarters to arrest the most dangerous.

The Government’s propagandists contrast these elections, guarded by young pioneers — that is elementary school children — with those from before 1959 which, they say, had to be guarded by armed men to prevent a party from assaulting a polling place with its supporters and stealing the ballot boxes.

If in the next referendum the results of the count are put up outside each polling place using one of the remaining ballots, the real number of absentees will never be able to be collected, nor will the blank or nullified sheets — it will only say how many votes for “Yes” and for “No.”

With a little perseverance and a minimum of organization, if the activists cover on foot or by bicycle the polling places of each municipality and leave graphic proof of public information, it will be very complicated for the Government to doctor the sum of votes obtained in each municipality. They would only be left with the ability to change the mathematics if they intended to distort the provincial and national data.

Is it perhaps impossible that fraud be committed? No, it is not impossible, but the risk that it would be discovered is enormous and it is unlikely that they dare to carry it out, even in the absence of independent observers.

It was they who created a mechanism of voting and counting practically armored, based on the popular belief that every civic act is useless and that they have it entirely under their control.

It’s enough for each nonconformist voter to have the minimum courage required to mark a vote for “No” in the intimacy of the voting cubicle. Obligating them to commit a shameless fraud would also be a victory.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

The 14 Events That Marked 2018

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

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 1, 2019

 

1. Return of the Mais Médicos doctors

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

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

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

2. Investiture of Miguel Díaz-Canel as president

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

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

3. Constitutional Reform and the campaign for “No”

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

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

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

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

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

5. The arrival of Alberto and Michael

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

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

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

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

6. Cubana de Aviación flight crash with 112 deaths

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

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

7. The controversial Decree 349

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

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

8. Failure of the sugar harvest

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

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

9. Increase of shortages in food and medicine

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

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

10. Stagnation of GDP

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

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

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

11. Arrival of internet to mobile phones

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

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

12. Continuation of the “sonic attack” controversy

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

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

13. Visit of Pedro Sánchez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also: Orbiutes

See also: 14ymedio Faces of 2018

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also: 14ymedio Faces of 2018

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

14ymedio Faces of 2018: Eduardo Cardet, Political Prisoner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See also: 14ymedio Faces of 2018

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

Dozens of Passengers Protest at a Bus Stop in Havana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

Civil Defense Warns of Possible Coastal Flooding in Eastern Cuba

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

Marriage Equality Eliminated From the Constitutional Reform Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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