Three Opposition Organizations Describe the Referendum on Constitutional Reform as "Enormous Fraud"

Opposition organizations ask citizens to denounce the “farce” of the Constitutional Referendum. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 September 2018 — The United Antitotalitarian Forum (FANTU) together with the National Front of Civic Resistance “Orlando Zapata Tamayo” (FNRC-OZT) and the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) describe the referendum on constitutional reform as a “huge electoral and media fraud” in a joint statement that the three opposition organizations have launched to make clear their position in this debate.

The signatories affirm that the intention of “the Neo-Raulista dictatorship” is “to appear to change something that, in reality, does not change anything.”

They explain in their statement that there exists differences in the methodologies of the opposition and civil society contrary to the “totalitarianism of the military junta that misgoverns” the nation. These positions range from “total indifference, to voting No in the plebiscite (…) passing through publicly burning the Constitutional Project (…) or providing civic seminars to citizens” and they assert that all of these “should be respected.” continue reading

The three organizations believe that it is their “patriotic obligation” to find points of agreement to ensure that these differences are not taken advantage of by the “common enemy: Castroism,” that is why they are sending an invitation “to other pro-democratic opposition leaders or intellectual personalities and independent Cuban politicians, residents both in exile and internally” to join this initiative.

Aware of the damage to the movement caused by the lack of unity demonstrated during decades, the creators of the declaration summon all to look with understanding on their differences, but ask the “distinct anti-Castro actors” to defend their points of view focusing their criticisms on the Government and not on those who fight against it.

“As the Cuban patriots that we are and fighters for freedom and democracy, we are obliged not to give weapons to our enemies,” they demand.

In the document a “unifying phrase” is set forth as “the essence of this joint declaration” and says: “Cubans: do not let Castrismo become legitimate, do not act with indifference to the fraud of the new draft of the Constitution of the Republic, and take action to denounce it as the brazen farce that it is.”

They also propose “to the different civic players (inside and outside of Cuba)” that  they maintain “a level of ethics with respect to their pronouncements regarding the different ways to fight against the Constitution project of the Republic of Cuba.”

Guillermo Coco Fariñas, José Daniel Ferrer and Jorge Luis García Antúnez put their signatures on the declaration, each representing their organizations, FANTU, UNPACU and FNRC-OZT, respectively.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The Greatness and Decadence of the United States

A Honduran family fled to the United States because gangs threatened to kill them one by one if they did not submit to extortion. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami | 17 September 2018 — A humble Honduran lady came to Miami to visit her family. All had fled their country in order to save their lives. One of her sons, a hardworking and decent young man, was assassinated with 38 stab wounds. In Honduras, her daughter was a good teacher and her son-in-law was a high-ranking official of a credit institution. Her three grandchildren were (and are) magnificent students. The gangs threatened to kill them one by one if they did not submit to extortion.

They decided to escape to Miami. The teacher today works as an aide in various homes. The accountant works in construction. It is a variant of the beginning of the American dream. Fortunately, the United States granted them asylum. This happened before Jeff Sessions declared that his country would not take into account the risk of losing your life as a sufficient reason to request asylum and protection from Washington. To me, frankly, I can not think of a more valid explanation to flee from a nation in which you were comfortably installed.

The Honduran matriarch admired the economic picture she found. “We live here like the rich live in Honduras,” she said. And then she explained why. They rent a comfortable house (in a clean and modest neighborhood) with three bedrooms and a bathroom that has hot and cold water. The house has electricity, telephone, TV, air conditioning and internet. They are paying for two small used Japanese cars, also with air conditioning, because they need them to work. continue reading

Everyone eats and dresses reasonably well. They have cell phones and, as they know how to save, have even gone on vacation for a week inside the country. The boys study at a good public high school and the girl, who is the oldest of the youthful trio, does so at Miami Dade College, where she has not gone unnoticed by the educated eye of educator Eduardo Padrón, President of that enormous state university, the largest in the country with more than 160,000 students. She is one of the best. She wants to be a doctor and she will achieve it someday. She has a surplus of talent and tenacity.

The United States was already the largest economy on the planet at the beginning of the 20th century. How did it do it? There is no other secret: it is a country of laws and institutions and not of people. The independent nation surged with the industrial revolution and has grown and expanded little by little, at the rate of 2% per year for two and a half centuries, with the exception of the four years of the Civil War. The thirteen apprehensive states that declared independence, with just under 4 million inhabitants, today are 50 states and have 327 million people unequally distributed in a territory that is 6 times larger than the original.

Never has humanity lived better. Never has it lived longer and with more comforts. It is worth reading Steven Pinker’s books to contrast the data. All the reasoned information is there. The hard-working Honduran family participates in the accumulated American wealth (buildings, roads, sewers, bridges, parks, etc.) and the potential wealth that depends on intangible factors (institutions, rule of law, values and shared principles).

Someday, of course, the United States will no longer be at the head of the planet. It has always happened like that. The history of Greece, Rome, Spain, France, Germany and England proves it. China will probably replace the American nation. It is all in combining military power with technological and economic power. It’s possible it may discover a more efficient way to kill human beings than nuclear war. If this happens, maybe they will use it. It will happen in the middle of this century. I hope we old ones won’t live to see it.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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28 Cubans Captured Tying to Cross Honduras Without Documents

Honduras is part of the so-called “Central American corridor” through which thousands of undocumented immigrants try to reach US territory. (Honduran Police)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miami, 13 September 2018 — Honduran authorities reported Wednesday the capture of 28 undocumented immigrants from Cuba who were trying to cross their country in order to reach the southern border of the United States.

In an initial police operation, 19 immigrants from Congo, 17 Cubans, 6 Haitians and three from Ghana were arrested. According to the National Inter-Agency Security Force (Fusina), the migrants’ objective was to reach the United States but they were arrested for “illegally circulating” in Honduran territory on Tuesday in the sector of Guasaule, on the border with Nicaragua.

The immigrants were taken to the National Institute of Migration’s facilities in Choluteca, in the south of the country, where they will be able to apply for a permit to cross Honduras, otherwise they will be returned to their home countries. In the case of the Cubans, the majority are able to obtain permission, according to several testimonies of immigrants collected by 14ymedio. continue reading

In Bucana, another area of Honduras bordering Nicaragua, authorities also detained another group of immigrants, including 11 Cubans.

According to official data, during 2018 the Honduran authorities have detained more than 1,400 foreigners in their territory.

The arrests of Cubans take place in the context of the second round of migratory talks held in Tegucigalpa. The Cuban authorities indicated their interest in signing a memorandum of understanding in this matter to “stimulate and guarantee the mobility of people in a regular, orderly and safe manner”. The delegation from Havana was also interested in “enhancing cooperation between both nations in the fight against irregular migration, human trafficking and migrant trafficking.”

Honduras is part of the so-called “Central American corridor” by which thousands of undocumented immigrants try to reach US territory. Despite the end of the policy of wet foot/dry foot, which granted legal status to Cubans who reached the United States border, thousands of the islanders continue to make these dangerous journeys in order to seek political asylum.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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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.

"Here We Haven’t Asked for Anything"

Like every other September, parents participated in an assembly to apportion responsibilities and conduct the necessary collections of money. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 6 September 2018 – “Here we haven’t asked for anything” was the most repeated phrase during the parents’ first meeting of the year in an elementary school in the municipality of Plaza de la Revolución, in Havana. The emphatic clarification, accompanied by gestures with eyes and hands that seemed to negate it, was made by the teacher after the authorities of the Ministry of Education called on their employees to not demand resources and money from parents in order to shore up the material precariousness of the classrooms.

Like every other September, the parents participated in an assembly to apportion responsibilities and conduct the necessary collections of money that allows for  purchases from fans to cleaning supplies. However, unlike other years, teachers were warned by their directors that they could not participate in the appeals for, or in the organization of this aid. “You already know that I cannot be here when you collect money, so act like I don’t know about it,” the teacher warned. continue reading

For decades, and in view of the deterioration that public education has suffered on the island, it has become common practice for families to finance part of the resources used collectively in the classroom. These contributions are not only used to buy brooms or trash cans, but also to pay people who clean the classrooms “under the table”. Some of the money can also end up in the hands of the teachers to “stimulate” them to continue with their work despite the low salaries.

Faced with constant criticisms and denunciations motivated by this situation, the Ministry of Education decided to cut it off, but not by prohibiting the parental aid, but by appealing to the ostrich technique. “As I do not know, then it is not my responsibility,” opined the overwhelmed educator in front of those who calculated the amount of money that each household would have to give. “That is your thing and I cannot get involved,” the teacher repeated, but everyone understood that it was a formality to save her from liability.

“She knows that without this money it would be very difficult to keep a functioning classroom, but instead of giving her more resources now the Ministry tells her to look the other way,” criticized a grandmother. “This support will now be more clandestine, but it will continue,” said the lady who was already preparing to hand over about 10 CUC (convertible peso) in the coming weeks.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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

Cuban Policeman, Rafter and Now Confessed Murderer of Two Women in the United States

The bodies of Angie and Elizabeth Rodriguez Rubio, granddaughter and grandmother respectively, were found in Shenandoah National Park. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Pentón / Manuel Mons, Miami | 6 September 2018 – Cuban police captain Hareton Jaime Rodríguez Sariol, who arrived as a rafter in the United States in 2016, is the main suspect in the death of Elizabeth Rodríguez Rubio and her granddaughter, Angie Carolina, whose bodies were found in Shenandoah National Park, in the state of Virginia.

Harrisonburg police confirmed to 14ymedio this Thursday the finding of the bodies of the two Colombians, aged 48 and 12 years, missing since August 5.

In exchange for his cooperation in leading the police to the location of the victims’ bodies, the Cuban will avoid the death penalty. continue reading

Sariol faces a grand jury indictment in Rockingham County on September 17 and could receive a 20-year prison sentence for each crime or life imprisonment.

Elizabeth and Angie were last seen at Dukes Plaza in Harrisonburg on Sunday, August 5. Rodriguez Sariol was going to take them to his home in Maryland, but they never got there. The police issued an alert, on August 7, for the missing child and her grandmother.

The vehicle in which Rodriguez Sariol was driving both women, a red Honda Civic, was found on fire on Interstate 66. After this the suspect drove a 2000 Volvo truck on August 6 and 7 to different parts of the country. Rodriguez Sariol was arrested in Lackawanna, Pa. “The captain was madly in love with that woman and was obsessed with her,” said a source close to the Cuban police officer.

Rodríguez Sariol came to the United States in April 2016 aboard a raft with 25 other emigrants when the wet foot/dry foot policy was still in effect, which granted refuge to all Cubans who stepped on US territory.

The video that recounts part of his journey went viral on social networks because he and another officer, Michel Herrera, arrived wearing their National Revolutionary Police uniforms.

As they said at the time, they did not take off their uniforms in order to avoid being detained when they were moving the boat to the coast in Cuban territory.

“The Captain,” as he is called by his acquaintances due to his rank while in the National Directorate of Transit in Cuba, denied having repressed dissidents or participated in acts of repudiation against the opposition in several interviews given to the South Florida media.

The rafters left Guanabo, east of Havana and were at sea for more than 30 hours before reaching the United States. Once in the country, Rodriguez Sariol received help from the Government and settled in Virginia.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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Cubans and Venezuelans Among The Most Detained and Expelled From Panama

A group of Cuban migrants in Canoa Passages (Panama) during the 2015 crisis. (EFE /Marcelino Rosario)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miami, 6 September 2018 – More than 100 Cubans have been expelled from Panama so far this year, according to figures revealed by the National Immigration Service to 14ymedio.

Cubans occupy fifth place in the number of nationals expelled, deported or voluntarily returned, surpassed only by Venezuela, Colombia, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

According to the National Migration Service’s explanation to this newspaper “the deportation of Cuban citizens maintained an upward form in the months of May (13), June (17), July (18) and August (27), while the largest amount of expulsions of the islanders thus far in 2018, occurred during the month of May. continue reading

The authorities added that the main causes for expulsions are irregular stay and residency in the country and the expiration of visas.

“The foreigner who has been deported may not enter the country for a period of 5 to 10 years,” warns the National Immigration Service.

298 Cubans with irregular status in Panama have been arrested thus far this year. According to official statistics, Cubans occupy second place in the number of arrests only behind Colombia, a border country, and Venezuela, which is experiencing an unprecedented exodus.

Panama, along with Costa Rica, are countries of transit for thousands of Cubans who come to the United States border every year seeking refuge. In 2016, both countries were the epicenter of a crisis when thousands of Cubans were stranded in their territories. After an agreement with Mexico and economic aid from the United States, more than 9,000 Cubans were transported on two airlifts to the southern border of the United States.

In January 2017, a few days before the end of his term, President Barack Obama put an end to the wet foot /dry foot policy, which provisionally welcomed Cubans arriving in the United States. Although the number of Cuban migrants to the United States dropped drastically, thousands continue arriving at the border to ask for political asylum. Some Latin American countries have experienced a rapid increase in Cuban emigration.

Panama is also one of the main destinations for “mules”, Cubans who travel legally to buy products and resell them in the island’s large black market. So far this year more than 25,600 entries have been recorded coming from Cuba.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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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.

Four Cuban Rafters Rescued on the High Seas

Cuban rafters being repatriated by the United States Coast Guard. (EFE /Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 5 September 2018 – A Norwegian Cruise Line ship rescued and handed over to the authorities this Sunday four Cuban-born rafters, a spokesperson for the company confirmed to 14ymedio.

After leaving Miami, and about 40 miles from Key West, the cruise ship found four people in danger who “were safely and immediately taken to the medical installation of the ship for evaluation and were provided with clothing and food.” continue reading

The Bahamian Maritime Authority and the Coast Guard were informed by the captain of the vessel, who received instructions to disembark the rescued people at the port of Costa Maya, making them available to the Mexican authorities.

“We are very proud of our team for executing a successful rescue of these people,” said the Norwegian Cruise Line spokesman.

After the end of the dry foot/wet foot policy in 2017, which allowed Cubans who reached dry land in the United States to legally reside in the country with protective measures, the number of people who throw themselves into the sea fleeing Cuba has decreased drastically.

I am currently on Norwegian Getaway and some passengers noticed a flash in the middle of the ocean. They then told the cruise workers and they stopped and it turned out to be four people from Cuba which they rescued. Other videos coming now @OfficialJoelF pic.twitter.com/nc6XeaQis5

— Pico (@alberto__rpr) 4 de septiembre de 2018

Since last October 1st, 331 Cubans have tried to emigrate to the United States by sea compared to the 1,989 recorded in the entire 2017 fiscal year, according to figures from the Coast Guard

The authorities have warned that all Cubans who try to enter the country clandestinely, either via the land border or by crossing the Straits of Florida, will be returned to the island.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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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.

Dissident Group Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) Denounces 23 Arrests this Sunday in Cuba

Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, is arrested during a demonstration in Havana. (Damas de Blanco)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, Havana, 27 August 2018 – The Cuban dissident movement Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) denounced on Monday the “harassment” by authorities and the temporary detention of 23 of its members in Havana and the western province of Matanzas, after attending Sunday Mass in different churches or upon leaving their homes.

In Matanzas 17 women were arrested as were six others in Havana, including the leader of the opposition group, Berta Soler.

Soler explained that for more than two years the authorities have not allowed the women to reach the Santa Rita Church in Havana, where the group attended mass weekly since its formation in 2003, and at the conclusion of services demonstrated for the release of political prisoners on the island. continue reading

Given these circumstances, she explained that they decided to attend different churches separately, but often cannot do so because they are unable to evade police operations such as the one routinely held Thursday through Sunday around  the headquarters of the Ladies in White in the Lawton neighborhood, in the capital city.

Soler described as “terrible” the current situation of the Ladies in White because they are not allowed to exercise their “rights of expression” and said that the “harassment” against its members is on-going.

In addition, she denounced that four women from the group are imprisoned, among them Martha Sánchez, sentenced to five years in prison August 21 for “public disorder, resistance and attack” after having protested in front of a polling place in the general elections held in March.

She remarked that, in the cases of Nieves Matamoros and Yolanda Santana, they were sentenced to one year in prison for non-payment of fines and a fourth detainee is awaiting trial.

Berta Soler (b. 1963, Matanzas, Cuba) is one of the founders of the Ladies in White movement that emerged to advocate the release of the 75 dissidents imprisoned in the “Black Spring” of 2003, including her husband, Ángel Moya, all of whom were released and, as of today, remain out of prison.

After the death of Laura Pollán in 2011, Soler has headed the group, one of the most active of the internal dissidence of the island.

The Cuban government considers the dissidents “counterrevolutionaries” and “mercenaries.”

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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

Cuban Poet Carilda Oliver Labra Dies, One of the Principal Lyrical Voices of the Island in the 20th Century

Carilda Oliver Labra won the National Literature Prize in 1997. (escritores.org)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 August 2018 – The poet and writer Carilda Oliver Labra died in the early morning hours this Wednesday at 96 years of age, according to the official press. This matancera (i.e. woman from Matanzas)  was one of the most important voices of the Cuban lyric of the twentieth century, with a notable individual style and a great passion for the promotion of culture.

Born in Matanzas in 1922, Oliver Labra graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degree from the Institute of Secondary Education of that city and her first book, Lyrical Prelude, was published in 1943. Later she became part of the Peña Literaria Matancera, where she held various positions, including President of the group.

The Cuban writer garnered second place in the International Poetry Competition, organized by the National Broadcasting Co. of New York, and in 1949 published Al sur de mi garganta (South of My Throat). In 1952 her texts appeared in the anthology Fifty Years of Cuban Poetry, compiled by Cintio Vitier, and she married the lawyer and poet Hugo Ania Mercier, whom she divorced in 1955. continue reading

In those years Oliver Labra worked in the First Festival of the Décima organization in the Sauto Theater, published in her city the Canto a Matanzas (Song to Matanzas), worked in the newspaper El Imparcial on the feature Saturday’s Poem and also served as Director of Culture in the municipality of Matanzas. At that time she wrote one of her most controversial poems: Canto a Fidel (Song to Fidel).

After January 1959, she worked as an English teacher in Matanzas, participated in the literacy campaign and married in second nuptials tenor Felix Pons Cuesta, of whom she would be widowed in 1980.

In the decade of the 80s she received the Distinction for National Culture, the National Literature Prize and the “José Vasconcelos” Hispano-American Prize. The 13th International Book Fair of Havana was dedicated to her, most of her volumes have been published and reissued and an international colloquium about her work was held at the “Camilo Cienfuegos” University of Matanzas.

At the end of that decade the poet experienced an incident little mentioned in her official biography. She was injured in the abdomen during a presentation at the Pensamiento de Matanzas bookstore, to which she was invited, and which was busted by the combined action of extremists and agents of State Security. The gathering was dedicated to the theme of perestroika in the Soviet Union.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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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.

UNPACU Activist Pressured by Police to Accuse Jose Daniel Ferrer

Ebert Hidalgo Cruz (right) says he was interrogated four times and threatened by the agents with keeping him in jail. (Video Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 August 2018 – Activist Ebert Hidalgo Cruz has been released without any charges, according to a video released Sunday by the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) shortly after the dissident was released from prison. Hidalgo was imprisoned on August 3 together with the leader of the organization, José Daniel Ferrer, who is still in prison accused of the attempted murder of a State Security agent.

“They were forcing me to say that José Daniel was guilty, that he had run over the officer with the car,” the activist explained before the camera. He says that he was interrogated four times and that he was threatened by the agents with keeping him prisoner.  “I told them not to pressure me anymore, that I was not going to say anything else,” he said about the agents’ insistence that he confirm that José Daniel’s aggression against the agent was deliberate. continue reading

Hidalgo and Ferrer were arrested after an incident involving the Interior Ministry official, Dainier Suárez Pagán, who was allegedly run over by Ferrer while driving without a driver’s license.

Agent Suárez Pagán is known by the dissidents of Palmarito de Cauto, in the province of Santiago de Cuba, for being violent and attacking the activists. According to the judicial version, Ferrer intended to run over the agent while he was crossing the street, a statement that was denied by the two dissidents shortly before they were arrested.

In the video, Hidalgo explained that he spent six days in the Penal Instruction and Criminal Operations Unit, in the Versalles district (Santiago de Cuba), unable to change clothes and in a cell in terrible conditions, which according to the activist, had hardly any light but had plenty of mosquitoes, rats and cockroaches. He received only a brief visit from his daughter during his prison stay.

Before Hidalgo was released from Micro 9, as the prison where he was held is also known, he was warned that he could not talk at all about the case with relatives.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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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 US Resumes Consular Services for Its Citizens in Cuba

The US embassy staff in Havana continues working at minimum levels after the evacuation of its non-essential personnel. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana | 24 August 2018 – The US embassy in Havana announced Friday that it has resumed consular services for American citizens. Renewal of passports, notary services, authentication, consular reports of birth abroad and emergency assistance are available as of today in Havana, without the need to travel to another country, as had been the case.

The diplomatic headquarters published this decision in a statement released on their social networks. Many Cubans took the opportunity to request the restoration of the family parole reunification program, which has been postponed for nearly a year.

Some people also demanded the return of consular services for family reunification currently taking place in Guyana. Residents on the Island who are interested in visiting the United States must obtain their visa in a third country. continue reading

In September of last year, the United States reduced by 60% the diplomatic personnel in the Island, after twenty-six of its officials were allegedly attacked with a “sonic weapon” which affected their hearing and caused other related problems. Relations between Washington and Havana deteriorated rapidly after the arrival of Donald Trump as president. The United States accuses the island of knowing who is behind the alleged attacks on its diplomats, while Cuban authorities say it is a pretext to derail the process of reestablishing relations undertaken under the previous administration.

Recently, the US Congress published a report questioning the embassy’s ability to keep abreast of Cuban affairs. “The ability of the United States to follow the situation in Cuba, defend human rights, carry out consular activities and comply with bilateral agreements is being undermined by a drastic reduction in the staff of the embassy in Havana,” reported Reuters, which had access to the document.

The document, issued by the Congressional Research Service, affirms that the decision to reduce the number of diplomats from 50 to a maximum of 18 on the Island due to the mysterious ailments that affected 26 US and 10 Canadian officials since 2016, has resulted in there being more work than those who remain on the island can complete.

According to Reuters, not a single refugee visa has been processed this year because the office responsible for doing so remains closed. Last year there were 117 people who benefited from receiving these visas in Havana.

The Cuban government has expressed its concern that the minimum 20,000 visas for Cuban migrants will not be reached this year, an agreement that both countries signed in 1994 to end the crisis of the rafters.

This Thursday, the United States lowered the level of alert for those who intend to travel to the island. The State Department placed Cuba in category 2, which recommends exercising caution due to the acoustic attacks against employees of the US embassy. At the end of September, the State Department had placed the island in category 3, recommending that the Americans “reconsider” a trip to the the greater of the Antilles.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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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.

Judge Denies Bail to Cuban Independent Journalist Serafin Moran Detained in Texas

Cuban freelance journalist Serafín Morán Santiago, 40, has been accused in the island of spreading propaganda and being a paid agent of the United States government.  Now he is in an immigration detention center in Texas waiting for a response to his asylum application. (Courtesy of Serafín Morán Santiago)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miami | 24 August 2018 — An immigration judge from the State of Texas denied bail to independent journalist Serafín Morán Santiago, who has been detained in that state since last April after requesting political asylum at the border with Mexico.

Morán must remain in custody until his case is decided at an asylum hearing in October, journalist María Fernanda Egas, of the Fundamedios organization, which monitors freedom of the press in the United States, said via telephone to 14ymedio.

Both Fundamedios and Reporters Without Borders launched an alert on Morán’s situation, who in their opinion must be “immediately released” and under no circumstances repatriated to Cuba. The reporter, according to both organizations, would face on the island “a real risk of death,” denounced María Fernanda Egas. continue reading

Serafín Morán Santiago turned himself in to the agents of the Border Patrol on April 13, after traveling a complicated route from Guyana, the first country he visited after leaving Cuba. This passage is made daily by dozens of Cubans in order to reach the southern border of the United States.

After the implementation of President Trump’s policy known as “zero tolerance” for undocumented immigration, asylum seekers can remain detained until an immigration judge determines whether or not their case is eligible to receive this status.

In the current fiscal year, which ends in September, 364 Cubans have been returned to the island, most of them after being detained in facilities of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Cuba pledged to the United States that it would accept all of its nationals with deportation orders starting with the new migratory agreement signed by both countries in 2017.

According to Morán’s complaints, agents of State Security (Cuban) “kidnapped” and “punched” him in June 2016. On September 2, 2017, he was again arrested and his work equipment confiscated. The journalist says he tried to seek refuge through the US embassy in Havana, but his case file was rejected twice.

In the event that Morán fails to prove that he is being persecuted by the Cuban government, he could be repatriated to the island. The journalist, 40, has collaborated as an independent reporter for media such as Univisión 23, Telemundo, Hispano Post, Primavera Digital, Cubanet and TV Martí.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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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.

United States Reduces the Alert Level for Travel to Cuba

The US embassy in Havana continues to staff at minimum levels after the evacuation of its non-essential personnel. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana | 23 August 2018 – The United States on Thursday reduced the alert level for travel to Cuba, a surprise decision after relations between both countries were frozen after the mysterious “sonic attacks” suffered by 26 US diplomats in Havana, reports the Nuevo Herald.

Cuba is now found in category 2, which recommends exercising caution due to attacks directed against employees of the US embassy in Havana. At the end of September, the State Department had placed the island in category 3, recommending that Americans “reconsider” a trip to the Greater of the Antilles.

After the departure of 60% of the US diplomatic personnel deployed in Cuba and the reduction in the services of the embassy, relations between Washington and Havana deteriorated rapidly. The United States accuses the island of knowing who is behind the alleged attack on 26 of its diplomats, while Cuban authorities say it is a pretext to derail the process of reestablishing relations undertaken under the previous administration. continue reading

The Cuban economy has been affected in the past year by the fall in the number of tourists visiting the country, which dropped by 5.67% according to official figures. President Donald Trump in June of last year toughened the conditions for Americans visiting the neighboring country, so that their travel to Cuba fell by 23.6%.

The Havana Consulting Group, a company specializing in analyzing the Cuban economy, considers that the first half of 2018 has been “traumatic and devastating” for the Cuban tourist industry due to the combination of “countless accumulated unresolved problems,” among them the low influx of tourists from the USA.

According to Orna Blum, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs of the US State Department, the change to level 2 was due to a new assessment of the risk of traveling to Cuba.

“The Department conducted a comprehensive risk assessment for US private citizen travelers in Cuba and decided that a Level 2 travel alert was appropriate,” the spokeswoman told the Nuevo Herald.

The United States reiterated that it does not yet know the weapon used to harm its officials or what country or group is behind the alleged attacks.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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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.

Every Effort Against the Dictatorship Seems to Me Appropriate and Inevitable / Ángel Santiesteban

Ángel Santiesteban, 12 May 2018 — Every effort against the dictatorship seems appropriate and inevitable to me. I believe fervently that in all of them is the pushback on the wall of dictatorship; but the actual reality does not lie there, at this stage of the championship contest we can’t believe in siren songs.

In particular, I believe in all of the opponents, in the Ladies in White, in Rosa María Paya, whom I respect and admire, in Antonio Rodiles, in Guillermo Fariña, UNPACU, Antúnez and all the others, just to mention those that come to mind now. continue reading

What I don’t believe is in the regime, in that some opponent can count on the Castros and his minions compromising and accepting any exigency that does not include them.

It is simply about agreeing or not, with one or more projects. I think it is unnecessary that five years can pass by only for them to tell us, this is not the way, we better rectify it.

From now on, and we see it in the example of Venezuela where Cuba is the ideologist, they won’t permit anything. The demand it seems to me, must be direct: that the regime abandon power and allow the road to a democracy where the people are the ones who govern. Accept that they will not be actors in that transition, and that it can only be achieved, of course, with pressure from the concert of nations.

By then we will have saved several years, that our generation has already missed, to see if we can have the experience of freedom in our beloved islands that make up the Cuban archipelago.

Hopefully the opponents who are leaders of projects will sit down to talk and find a roadmap, between all of them, the best path, the most united, in time and in form, as to what the dictatorship needs in order to leave power. This is like religion, each one contains a little bit of truth, of reasons and needs, none alone has all the answers and all the knowledge.

And for that I think that the artists and intellectuals should have an active role. As you well know, no political movement has been achieved without a prior cultural movement of art and of developed thought. I lend my voice so that it can be achieved.

About the author

Ángel Santiesteban

(Havana, 1966). Graduated in Film Direction, resides in Havana, Cuba. Mention in the Juan Rulfo contest (1989), National Prize of the Writers Guild UNEAC (1995). The book: Sueño de un día de verano [Dream of a Summer Day], was published in 1998. In 1999 he won the César Galeano award. And in 2001, the Alejo Carpentier Prize organized by the Cuban Book Institute with the set of stories: Los hijos que nadie quiso [The Children Nobody Wanted]. In 2006, he won the Casa de las Américas prize in the story genre with the book: Dichosos los que lloran [Blessed are Those Who Mourn]. In 2013, he won the Franz Kafka International Novels of the Drawer Prize, organized in the Czech Republic with the novel El verano en que Dios dormía [The Summer God Slept]. He has published in Mexico, Spain, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, China, England, Dominican Republic, France, USA, Colombia, Portugal, Martinique, Italy, Canada, among other countries.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

ETECSA Performs Another Test of Mobile Internet but Limits it to 70 Megabytes per User

Two women connecting to the state WIFI network. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 August 2018 – The Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA), this Wednesday, is carrying out another test of Internet browsing on mobile phones but, unlike the prior one that was unlimited, this time users can only consume one package of 70 non-renewable megabytes, according to the state monopoly.

From eight in the morning until midnight today, customers have “access to the Internet for prepaid cellular services,” a statement from ETECSA indicated. “During the period of time foreseen for the test, it may be partially or complete stopped depending on the behavior of the network and the adjustments of technical parameters that are being evaluated,” the text adds.

In the first test, this past week, customers complained about the excessive slowness of web browsing from mobile phones, the constant crashes and the lack of prior notification. continue reading

The company clarifies on this occasion that “those customers who use email from their cell phones should consider that their use of the email will count against any remaining limits in their active accounts.”

The connection this Wednesday has been marked by slowness, frequent loss of the data signal and congestion in the service, despite the fact that, like the prior test, a pre-announcement was not made in the national media. Users can barely check their email accounts, use chat services and social networks such as Telegram or Facebook but are unable to play videos online or download applications.

On August 14 ETECSA ran the first public test of internet access from mobile phones, which includes some 800,000 users. The prices for connecting at public wifi points (equivalent to one dollar per hour) and in homes (between 15 and 70 dollars for a 30-hour package) are still very expensive for Cubans, whose salaries average the equivalent of 30 dollars a month.

Results of an internet “Speed Test” during Etecsa’s test on Wednesday of internet-by-mobile connections. (14ymedio)

As information about the test spread and a larger number of people  began using the data package, the connection became slower and access to the MiCubacel portal became almost impossible. “In the middle of the morning I was able to download a small app from the Google Play store but after noon I couldn’t even open my Gmail account,” lamented Brandon, a 17-year-old who found out because a friend called him from Trinidad and Tobago to tell him that he had read about the test on the internet.

Some users in Sancti Spíritus told this newspaper that they had been able to make video calls through the IMO in the morning and others in Havana also confirmed the information although “with avery low quality image.”

The 70 megabyte package can be acquired by dialing *133 #, then following the menu and selecting the appropriate option number: Data (1), Daily Use (2) and Send (1) and also by accessing the MiCubacel portal (https://mi.cubacel.net) after registering as a user.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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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.