Human Rights Watch Urges the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) To Respond To Venezuelan Abuses / 14ymedio

New York | June 26, 2014 — The organization Human Rights Watch, in a letter to the foreign ministers of several Latin American nations, today called on the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) “to urge the Venezuelan government to immediately address the grave human rights situation in the country.”

The letter is the corollary to a report by the organization titled “Punished for Protesting: Human Rights Violations in the Streets, Detention Centers, and Justice System of Venezuela,” about the situation in the South American country since the start of the demonstrations on February 12.

“While various international organizations, including human rights rapporteurs of the United Nations and the European Parliament, have expressed concern about human rights violations in Venezuela, UNASUR has not condemned the serious abuses committed by Venezuelan state agents,” said the letter from José Miguel Vivanco, Director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch. Continue reading

14ymedio As Viewed by the International Press / 14ymedio

How the worldwide media reported on the birth of this newspaper and its subsequent censorship on the island

14ymedio, June 21, 2014

Hours before 14ymedio was born, the Spanish newspaper El Mundo published a column by Gina Montaner, “14ymedio’ against ’55ymedio” contrasting the name of our yet unborn daily with the long years that the island lived submerged not only in a lack of information, but also under institutionalized disinformation. Montaner emphasized one of the challenges to the Cuban press, so different from those faced by the international media: “In Cuba everything is up for grabs and the real revolution—the technological one accompanied by freedom of expression—is one of the great challenges of the post-Castro period.” The Cuban journalist added: “If Cubans get access to ‘14ymedio’, it will be a breath of fresh air compared to the nauseating ‘Battle of ldeas’ of the government media.”

A few minutes after 8 a.m. Cuban time this past May 21st, 14ymedio was visible in all the countries of the world. But on the island it could only be seen for a little over an hour. Then, our website was diverted to another address where they tried to discredit the director of 14ymedio. Continue reading

The Modest Growth of the Cuban Economy Falls Short of Expectations / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana | June 23, 2014 — The Cuban economy is growing at a rate slower than the official forecasts, according to data announced by the Minister of Economy and Planning, Adel Yzquierdo Rodriguez. He said that during the first half of this year the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) will increase by just 0.6%, but will improve during the following months to an increase of 1.4% by the end of the year. However, independent analysts question these expectations and believe they are not a realistic reflection of the state of the economy.

The Cabinet last Saturday presented details about “the difficulties that continue to damage the Cuban economy.” Rodriguez blamed the failure of the Plan’s objectives on the “adverse weather conditions” and “the complex international situation.”

The Minister of Finance and Prices, Lina Pedraza Rodriguez, noted a substantial drop in productivity in 124 companies, which had planned a positive balance but ultimately had losses.

At the meeting, the ministers also addressed the issue of monetary unification. The head of the Permanent Commission for Implementation and Development, Marino Murillo Jorge, explained that this measure “will not by itself solve all the problems of the economy,” but requires the implementation of other policies aimed at increasing the efficiency and level of productivity of labor.

In addition, the officials said that, at the end of May, around 467,000 people were self-employed, but they have not provided any statistics on the high number of the self-employed who have ceased their activities.

Translated by Tomás A.

Antunez Under Cautionary Injunction / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Placetas | June 22, 2014 — The activist Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, known as Antúnez, was released last Friday with an injunction that prevents him from leaving the municipality of Placetas without permission. His arrest last Sunday at 10:30 p.m. generated many expressions of concern and solidarity from the Cuban dissident community.

The activist must answer in court for an alleged crime of “public disorder,” for which a file was opened in preparatory phase, case number 651 2014. Initially Antúnez was threatened with being charged with “contempt for the figure of Fidel Castro,” but that charge was later discarded.

If he fails to obey the injunction Antunez could be imprisoned. His current legal situation also prevents him from traveling outside Cuba.

Translated by Tomás A.

A Ninth Cuban Dancer Defects to the United States / 14ymedio

June 11, 2014 (With information from El Nuevo Herald and EFE) – The number of dancers from the National Ballet of Cuba who have defected to the United States has increased to nine. Jaime Reytor joins the eight members of the company that fled last weekend in Puerto Rico and are already in Miami. The artists revealed Wednesday that they decided to defect from the island because “there is no future for young people.” They will perform next Sunday with the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami at a gala dedicated to the Russian ballet.

Eight dancers (Jorge Oscar Sanchez, Raizel Cruz, Carlos Ignacio Galindez, Ariel Soto, Monica Gomez, Yaima Mendez, Lisette Santander and Yinet Fernandez) participated in a press conference organized by the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami, in which they described their flight from the City of San Juan in Puerto Rico, where they were to participate in the show “The Magic of Dance,” where the Cuban director of art education, Alicia Alonso, was to be present.

“This is the country of the future. There are many options for work and places to choose from. We came here in order to dance and we will dance,” Jorge Oscar Sanchez, age 23, told EFE. He decided not to return to Cuba but to stay in the United States “in search of opportunities,” despite his sadness “at leaving behind family and friends,” because on the island “there is no future for young people.”
Continue reading

Our Own Dangerous “Twin Towers” / 14ymedio, Victor Ariel Gonzalez

Tejas Corner. 14ymedio

Texas Corner. 14ymedio

Havana, June 9, 2014, Victor Ariel Gonzalez — Corrugated fiber-cement sheets and wooden planks form a security fence in the shadow of the two tallest buildings of an iconic Havana site: the “Twin Towers” at Texas Corner, where 240 families live, marooned, as the buildings crumble.

Every day many people walk past, where the sidewalks of Calzada Del Cerro and Diez de Octubre intersect. Life goes on as usual at the foot of the gray structures, 20 floors and 200 feet high, which dangerously dominate the landscape.

A glance behind the makeshift wall leaves no doubt about the problem: chunks of rust-stained concrete detached from the walls are scattered in the grass, evidence of the deterioration of the buildings. If you look up, the poor state of the structural walls, which support thousands of tons, is revealed, with their broken edges and numerous areas where rebar is exposed. Continue reading

At the Train Station We’re All Fighters / 14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz

 Central Station, Havana. (14ymedio)

Central Station, Havana. (14ymedio)

In Havana, travelers bound for the provinces don’t just say goodbye from the platform, they wage a daily battle for survival

Lilanne Ruiz, Havana / June 4, 2014 – It’s seven p.m. in Havana. The train to Guantanamo has just arrived at Central Station. “Let’s go, have your tickets ready!” the conductor shouts, while inching open the gate to the platform.

The travelers push forward, some carrying all their luggage, others squeezing through and waiting for a family member to pass their boxes and suitcases to them through the bars. “Take care, I’ll call when you get there,” says a voice. Only the passengers can get to the cars. No one complains. They’ve never lived the classic scene of saying goodbye from the platform to someone departing on a train.

The Central Railway Station in Havana is an imposing building, built in 1912. The deteriorated ceilings are propped up by wood in the platform-access areas. Despite the neglect, the building endures and impresses.

In the lounge several rows of seats are arranged without a view of anything. It seems like an immense classroom, but without a teacher or blackboard. You can’t see the platform, only the wall. It is a lifeless scene, that gives no sense of movement nor help to make the wait enjoyable. Continue reading

Lies and Deceptions of a Revolution / Tania Diaz Castro

1401662613_fidel-raul-2Havana, Cuba – Because of the many lies and deceptions in Fidel Castro’s history, new generations of Cubans have great doubts about everything that happened since 1952.

Celia Sánchez was one of the key figures of the Revolution. She died in 1980. Her 21 years as personal secretary to Fidel Castro were devoted mainly to gathering “every last scrap of paper,” as she put it, in order to recover the history of that time, as it actually happened. On May 4, 1964, she founded the Office of Historical Affairs of the Council of State. They include, I suppose, the documents recording all the times that Fidel Castro swore up and down that he was not a communist.

A few days ago, on the 50th anniversary of the creation of that Office, Dr. Eugenio Suárez Pérez, its director, told the newspaper Granma that Celia‘s objective was to safeguard the historical memory of the Revolution, from the Sierra Maestra to its eventual triumph, and that they had currently collected more than 56,000 background documents and more than 159,000 photographs. Continue reading

Rebellion Against the Moringa / Tania Diaz Castro

HAVANA, Cuba – Not that my neighbors would agree. It was purely coincidence. While the workers on the state payroll marched in the Plaza of the Revolution, my closest neighbors ran out of patience; they rebelled and demanded that I cut down my moringa tree.

It had been planted in November 2011, less than three years ago, when at the behest of Fidel Castro several trucks handed out saplings in polyethylene bags to the residents of Santa Fe, Cangrejera, Baracoa, Jaimanitas and the residential neighborhoods adjoining the Commander in Chief’s exclusive enclave, known as Ground Zero. Continue reading

Blacks and Mixed-Race Still Marginalized in Cuba / Ivan Garcia

Photo: Juan Antonio Madrazo.

Every summer since 2009, in line with the economic openings of General Castro, Gerald, the owner of a photography business, has rented a room in a hotel in Varadero for 5 nights.

Gerald, a white man married to a mixed-race woman, authoritatively calls attention to the small number of black or mixed-race Cuban tourists. “There are very few. I stay in four and five-star hotels and the blacks that I’ve seen are either employees, or partners of foreigners.” Continue reading

Dancing and Having a Good Time at the 8th Congress with the National Symphony of Birania*!

Another UNEAC* Congress has come and gone and our reality remains immovable. The existential problems do not mutate; the intellectuals continue speaking sotto voce, watching their backs to make sure they are not overheard and then betrayed by their own colleagues, neighbors, coworkers, and even family.

Another useless congress, and the officials are still the same: those who were once persecuted, expelled, marginalized, and abused, today (when politicians hide their prejudices) serve with the joy of the slave who once a week is allowed to bathe in the river and therefore believes he is free. Continue reading