Translating Cuba English Translations of Cubans Writing From the Island Fri, 06 May 2016 01:27:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mexico Is Not Deporting Cuban Migrants Despite Minrex Announcement / 14ymedio, Mario Penton Thu, 05 May 2016 18:57:33 +0000 Continue reading "Mexico Is Not Deporting Cuban Migrants Despite Minrex Announcement / 14ymedio, Mario Penton"]]> A group of Cubans show the exit permits they received today in Tapachula, Mexico.
A group of Cubans show the exit permits they received today in Tapachula, Mexico.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 4 May 2016 — Mexico continues to grant “exit permits” to Cuban migrants arriving in Mexican territory from Central America, according to comments made to 14ymedio by an official of the National Institute of migration in Tapachula, Chiapas. On Tuesday, the Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Minrex) released in a statement saying that a memorandum of understanding between the two Nations to “ensure a regular, ordered and safe migration” was now in effect.

The document Minrex is referring to is part of a set of agreements signed by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, during Raúl Castro’s last visit to Mexico with the purpose of strengthening relations between the two countries.

The publication of the official note triggered alarms among the thousands of Cuban migrants scattered across the continent, for whom Mexico is a necessary stage on the way to the southern border of the United States. The media never had access to the document, signed last November during Raúl Castro’s visit to Mérida, although the note of the Cuban Foreign Ministry clarifies that its purpose is to “enhance the cooperation between the two countries in the fight against illegal migration.”

This newspaper got in touch with Chiapas’ 21st Century Immigration Station, and an official who asked not to be identified said that they have no instructions to stop granting exit permits to Cuban migrants.

Mexico’s Foreign Secretary confirms that he is aware that the agreement has taken effect, and said that it is an update of what was already in effect. However, officials were surprised by the Minrex announcement and said they are considering issuing a public statement.

The official “exit permit” that Cuban migrants continue to receive from Mexican authorities.
The official “exit permit” that Cuban migrants continue to receive from Mexican authorities.

Luis Enrique Pastrana is the owner of the Plaza Emmanuel Inn in Tapachula, Chiapas. He has devoted himself for some years to hosting dozens of Cuban migrants seeking to reach the immigration station. As he said to 14ymedio, “Cubans fear that the exit permit will be withdrawn but so far everything remains the same.”

According to Pastrana, on Tuesday 21 Cubans who were staying in his hostel received the document, and this Wednesday another 11 guests have arrived who plan to follow the same path.

“Every day many Cubans arrive and replace the ones who leave, although people are fearful since a rumor is spreading saying the laissez-passer, as they call it, won’t be issued anymore,” he said.

After crossing the Guatemalan border, Cuban migrants gather outside the immigration offices from six in the morning and into the afternoon to receive the document authorizing them to travel through Mexican territory, with the condition that they must leave the country within 20 days.

Rosmery Valledor is a Cuban architect who was stranded in Panama. From 2012, she lived in Venezuela but she decided to emigrate because of the difficulties she was going through there. As she says, “the situation in that country is unsustainable.”

Valledor spent more than one month in Panama until she succeeded in continuing on her journey across Central America in a clandestine way.

For her, the most difficult thing about the journey was “the terror to which we are subjected by the coyotes (guides).” The young woman says it is “a journey for which you need not only money but also a lot of courage.”

“We were afraid that once we got there they would not want to grant us the laissez-passer, but we went to the immigration station and they agreed that the next morning we would be assisted without any problem,” she added.

According to the Mexican daily La Jornada citing IMN (Mexican Immigration), since the end of October of last year 7,455 Cubans have appeared before the country’s immigration centers, an unusually high number since records have been kept. Of these, 243 were sent back to the island.

Contacted by telephone, an official of Cuba Embassy in Mexico said he knew nothing about the matter and referred it to the press officer, who did not answer calls.

Translated by Alberto

“Translating Solidarity”: About Translating Cuba Thu, 05 May 2016 18:23:11 +0000 Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 11.12.57 AMThe above article, recently published by the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), can be read by clicking on the image, or here. The article describes how and why came to be.

Wendy Guerra: The Most Unbearable Thing in Cuba is Lack of a Free Press / EFE, 14ymedio Wed, 04 May 2016 22:15:34 +0000 Continue reading "Wendy Guerra: The Most Unbearable Thing in Cuba is Lack of a Free Press / EFE, 14ymedio"]]> The writer Wendy Guerra. (EFE)
The writer Wendy Guerra. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (from 14ymedio), Barcelona, 4 May 2016 — The Cuban writer Wendy Guerra, who has just published the novel Domingo de Revolution (Revolution Sunday), a sort of autofiction on her imagined Cuba, said with regards to the future of her country, “to be healed, the wounds must be named.”

Guerra has revealed that she began writing the novel on the death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to whom it is dedicated and whose death she received as ‘the death of an intellectual left,” and she finished it when Raul Castro reached an agreement with United States president Barack Obama.

“Obama, an African-American, but also, in the end, an Afro-Cuban, came to the island, charmed us, and now we have to find another enemy, one who is not Cuban,” adds Guerra, who was born in 1970 in Havana.

The writer, who continues to live in Cuba, considers herself fortunate to have been a student at Garcia Marquez’s workshop “How to tell a story,” in San Antonio de los Baños: “Gabo gave me the gift of his literature, as he did to everyone, but to me he also gave the gift of a trip to the world.”

Her relationship with Gabo and with Silvio Rodriguez has been “the only proof of democracy” she has had in Cuba, she confesses, and adds, “They have a way of talking with me and my own point of view, and I want my country to work this way.”

Guerra believes that “blogs and local papers have exposed many pains with this provincialism, but we have to prepare something and have something to talk about anywhere, because if we don’t we get together and we can’t put forward what our country should be.”

Aware that in Cuba “they will not allow us that,” Wendy Guerra writes these books, which are “spaces for dialogue.”

During her presentation in Barcelona, Wendy Guerra did not tire of demanding “dialogue and dialogue” and she hopes that, as has been said many times, “in the future, the Cuban exile and Cubans on the island are condemned to understand each other.”

The author of Everyone Leaves, winner of the 2006 Bruguera prize, believes that something is changing in Cuba and pointed to a possible turning point that occurred “at the moment (Leonardo) Padura asked why Trotsky’s murderer went to live to Cuba.”

She expressed her gratitude to her Spanish publisher and its Latin American branches, because “they are greatly helping the discussion in Cuba of what cannot be discussed,” and “the value of Domingo de Revolución has been to find a poetic voice to explain such difficult things.”

Domingo de Revolución (Anagram) began as a short story, which was entitled “The Spy” and sent to Ana Maria Moix, who invited her to turn the story into a novel.

The starting point was “the belief that there was a CIA agent on the island, while the exile thought he was being trained by Cuban intelligence to blow up the intelligentsia in exile.”

Guerra speaks of her country from autofiction and plays with the reader using the confusion between the author and the protagonist of her novel, Cleo, a young woman poet living in Havana who has found international success and who narrates the end of a long revolutionary process of nearly 60 years.

“Cleo could have existed from the 60s to now; she is a contemporary Joan of Arc, a domestic heroine,” summarizes Guerra, who shares with her character, “a great respect for the exile, because it hurts us,” but distances herself from her protagonist: “I am neither a heroine nor a victim, I have a great deal of fear.”

Of the difficulties Guerra experiences in her country, the least bearable is “not having a press that reports the reality,” and when she travels to promote her novels outside the country, she feels Spanish journalists represent “their own point of view, in the face of this absence at home.”

As a good poet, she uses lyrical images to describe her narrative. “It’s like when, at the end of summer, you go back to a deserted beach filled with footprints and in my writing I try to identify these footprints, to know who they belonged to.”

Ghost Ship Arrives In Havana / 14ymedio Wed, 04 May 2016 20:46:15 +0000 Continue reading "Ghost Ship Arrives In Havana / 14ymedio"]]> Cover of the Communist Party newspaper 'Granma' for 3 May 2016, on the arrival of the cruise 'Adonia'. Headline: US Cruise ship arrives in Cuba without a single tourist on board.
Page 5 of the Communist Party newspaper ‘Granma’ for 3 May 2016, on the arrival of the cruise ‘Adonia’. Headline: US Cruise ship arrives in Cuba without a single tourist on board.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 4 May 2016 — In its Tuesday edition, the official Communist Party newspaper Granma commented on the arrival of the Carnival Lines cruise ship Adonia in Cuba, with the headline: “US Cruise ship arrives in Cuba without a single tourist on board.” The contrived phrase refers to the prohibition on Americans traveling to the island as tourists.

The artist Lázaro Saavedra has created a satire on the title in a text, which is circulating by email. According to the controversial artist, this information was written by “a phantom journalist for a phantom newspaper. The phantoms of the phantom cruise ship Adonia are received in the phantom city of Havana and walk through its streets.”

The funny thing is, that while the United States government does not permit the travelers to behave like tourists, but rather like citizens who are fulfilling the mission of bringing the two peoples together, the Cuban government does not accept that a foreigner coming to the island on a tourist visit can have interactions with “politically incorrect” people and, thus, is forced to play only the role of a “pure tourist.”

Cuba-Mexico Agree on Return of ‘Illegal’ Migrants / 14ymedio Wed, 04 May 2016 20:23:35 +0000 Continue reading "Cuba-Mexico Agree on Return of ‘Illegal’ Migrants / 14ymedio"]]> Cuban migrants arrive in Mexico on Wednesday. (INM)
Cuban migrants arrive in Mexico on Wednesday. (INM)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 4 May 2016 — The memorandum of understanding between the governments of Cuba and Mexico that governs migration between the two countries is now in force. The agreement allows, starting now, automatic deportations from Mexico to Cuba to “strengthen cooperation between the two countries in the fight against illegal migration, human trafficking and smuggling.” Signed on 6 November of last year, the agreement went into effect on 1 May, as confirmed in a statement from Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday.

Starting now, Cuba agrees to accept the return of citizens who enter Mexican territory illegally, or who are in Mexico “irregularly” after emigrating illegally to countries in Central America, or “who are temporarily abroad within legal terms established by its immigration regulations and have an ‘irregular immigration status’ in the Mexican territory, except those authorized to travel to the United States of America.”

Returns will be made by air, or as an exception where appropriate by sea, and the cost will be borne by the sending country. Irregular migrants who are intercepted should be reported to their countries of origin, which must respond within 15 days to initiate the return. This will take effect a maximum of 15 days after receiving a response.

Since 2008, Mexican immigration legislation provides for deportations involving the interception of boats, the capture of traffickers and the “realization of operations to return the nationals of both parties by sea.”

In practice, however, the Mexican government is awarding legal status to a good part of the irregular Cuban migrants detained in their territory, sheltering them under the “law of refugees and complementary protection,” approved in 2012, and guaranteeing the undocumented the chance to not be returned to “the territory of another country where their life was threatened or they were in danger of being subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment,” even if they were not recognized as refugees.

In the last migration crisis, Mexico participated actively in the agreement with Panama, Costa Rica and El Salvador, receiving more than 6,000 Cubans who were offered provisional documents on humanitarian grounds to stay in the country for 20 days and continue on their way to the United States. Despite the agreement that has just come into force, solutions like this could continue to happen under Article 19, which provides for the suspension of the agreement “for reasons of protection of public order or state security, as well as for health reasons or force majeure,” that is circumstances beyond the control of either party.

The memorandum also states that citizens of any country who are not covered in the agreement of 1994 for the abolition of the visa requirement, must obtain the relevant documentation and both Cuba and Mexico agree to exchange available information.

Relations between Cuba and Mexico have strengthened in recent months, particularly since the visit of Raul Castro to the that country in November 2015. One result of the trip is the Binational Chamber of Commerce, presented this Monday, which involves several collaborative programs (academic-diplomatic, tourism and food) and a letter of intent for technical collaboration in basic education.

Private Kindergartens Are Growing In Numbers / 14ymedio Yosmany Mayeta Labrada Wed, 04 May 2016 19:18:33 +0000 Continue reading "Private Kindergartens Are Growing In Numbers / 14ymedio Yosmany Mayeta Labrada"]]> 2016 marks the 55 years since the founding of Day Care Centers. (14ymedio)
2016 marks 55 years since the founding of Day Care Centers. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Havana, 28 April 2016 — Kids play in the living room with pieces of legos, wooden toys and some soft toys. The place is bright and two specialized assistants keep each infant under their watchful eyes. Behind the door, the license of the self-employed owner hangs in a frame. Due to the deterioration of state-owned day care centers, private kindergartens are growing in number, supported by the new law.

The Government proposed to reverse this situation at the 55th anniversary of the founding of children’s day care centers. To achieve this, it not only seeks to significantly expand the capacity, but also totally renovate many of the sites and raise the quality of staff training working in such a sensitive sector.

At the end of 2014, 1,078 private kindergarten were running under state control with an enrollment of 139,878 children. As of the middle of last year, at least 49,000 families who had applied for an opening at one of these centers still had not gotten a response, according to insight provided by the National Director of Preschool Education for the Ministry of Education, Maria de los Angeles Gallo Sanchez.

The official, however, said that each year the enrollment for day care centers increases with more than 2,000 openings, although she acknowledged that there is insufficient growth to meet demand in the country. Various specialists consulted by this newspaper believe that issue is also one cause of the country’s low birth rate.

In 1978, the global rate of fertility in Cuba fell below the 2.1 children per woman and in 2012 reached a worrying rate of 1.69, a figure that it threatens to turn Cuba into the ninth most aged country in the world. But even that fall in the birth rate has not eased the problems for families seeking to access a place in the day care centers.

In order to be enrolled at this level of education, a child needs as an indispensable requirement that her mother is actively working. However, complying with that requirement does not guarantee a space. Municipal commissions charged with allocating spaces analyze each case and grant the opening in correspondence with the demand for economic and social development of the territory.

Once the opening is obtained, the family must pay an almost symbolic monthly fee for the service, which in the case of very low-income households may be practically null.

Carmen, the electric company worker, is one of the cases of mothers who have not yet succeeded in getting access for her daughter to one of these state-own centers. “I filled out the application when the baby girl was six months old, so that she would be able walk, feed herself, and say a few words at the time of admission, but so far I have not received a response.”

With a salary that barely exceeds 500 Cuban pesos a month (about $20 US), Carmen is thinking of opting for a place at a private house dedicated to the care of infants. It would be a significant economic sacrifice but she says she will feel “more calm” because “there are many well-prepared people that have left the State sector because of poor conditions and have built their own child care businesses.”

At the end of June 2015 there were 1,726 people devoted to work as “child care assistants” in the non-state sector in the country, and 34% of them are in Havana. They range from more modest places, like that of Juana Núñez, a retired teacher who has opened one of these private day care centers in her home.

“I’m retired and now I care for 12 children,” comments the lady, who lives in Arroyo Naranjo. “Here I teach them how to walk, talk, eat alone, in addition to the basic school subjects for their age,” she explains while showing some books with illustrations, learning games and colored crayons she has for the children to use.

The monthly fee for hiring the Juana’s services is a 20 convertible pesos ($20 US), the monthly salary of a professional. Despite the high price, the caretaker says that she does not have enough room to respond to the high demand. “Sometimes parents arrive and assure me that they can pay more, but I have no space,” says the educator.

The more expensive places are also almost full. A private kindergarten under the direction of Cárdenas Yaquelin is located on the central 23rd street in Havana. On-site employees have degrees in their respective specialties and give courses in language, theatre, and other skills. In addition to that they are proud of their nursing services.

The place is divided into three rooms according to the age. “Each area can have up to 10 to 12 children with their caretaker and their assistant. The infant room is air-conditioned and has an educator with 3 certified nannies. We take infants from their first month,” details Cardenas.

The prices for a service like that can reach up to 80 convertible pesos a month, according to the service agreement, which may include lunch, snacks, uniforms and transportation.

However, Cardenas is not accepting new candidates until she does some renovation to expand the place. “The only thing I am hoping for is that after the end of my investment there will be a baby boom and clients will come in abundance,” she speculates. But in the Cuban case, the stork seems to be unreliable. The most popular nest–the State-owned day care centers–lack the space and conditions to respond to an eventual increase in births.

Translated by Alberto

Rights Commission Counts 1,380 Political Arrests in Cuba in April / 14ymedio Wed, 04 May 2016 02:54:24 +0000 Continue reading "Rights Commission Counts 1,380 Political Arrests in Cuba in April / 14ymedio"]]> A police operation outside the home of a regime opponent. (Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca)
A police operation outside the home of a regime opponent. (Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 May 2016 – A report released on Tuesday by the Cuban National Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) announced that during the April there were “at least 1,380 arbitrary arrests for political reasons” in Cuba. A situation that “confirms the ultra repressive policy adopted at the highest level of the government of the island,” says the document.

The independent entity questioned the attitude of the authorities which is “aimed at trying to silence dissenting voices and any form of peaceful public demonstrations of discontent.” In the introduction to the report an estimate for politically motivated arrests during the first four months of the year is provided: “At least 5.351.”

The CCDHRN comments on “the inability to quality the acts of repression and the climate of intimidation against all society, a victim, also, of massive campaigns of disinformation and diversionary propaganda.” A situation that keeps the Cuban people “in a state of complete defenselessness and hopelessness” it says.

On 25 April, the CCDHRN published its most recent partial list of prisoners currently incarcerated for political reasons, which included the names of 82 Cubans imprisoned for so-called “crimes against the state.” However, in the report released Tuesday, it is reported that a few days later that figure “had increased with four other women,” members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) found in “provisional detention.”

The four activists added to the list are Xiomara de las Mercedes Cruz Miranda, Yunet Cairo Reigada, Yaquelin Heredia Morales and Marieta Martínez Aguilera.

Two of them “are also members of the harshly repressed Ladies in White movement,” says the text.

The CCDHRN submitted a request for opposition detainees to receive an “international recognition as prisoners of conscience.” A request that will extend also to “at least 20 peaceful political prisoners.”

The Commission, chaired by dissident Elizardo Sanchez, will continue demanding the “release, for purely humanitarian reasons, of 22 other prisoners classified as counterrevolutionary who have been in the Castro regime’s prisons for between 24 and 13 years.” The text details that these prisoners are being held “under inhuman and degrading conditions.”

Jose Antonio Torres: “Only International Pressure Will Get Me Out Of Jail” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez Wed, 04 May 2016 00:29:07 +0000 Continue reading "Jose Antonio Torres: “Only International Pressure Will Get Me Out Of Jail” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez"]]> The United States Department of State selected Cuban journalist Jose Antonio Torres to begin the campaign for the World Press Freedom Day.(14ymedio)
The United States Department of State selected Cuban journalist Jose Antonio Torres to begin the campaign for the World Press Freedom Day.(14ymedio)

For background on this interview read: The Spy Who Never Wanted to Be One

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 3 May 2016 — Last week the United States Department of State chose Cuban journalist Jose Antonio Torres to lead off the campaign for International Press Freedom Day, this May 3rd. The initiative denounces the crimes and abuse against information workers in several countries. The reporter was sentenced in 2011 to 14 years in prison for the crime of espionage, and this week spoke from prison by phone with 14ymedio.

Yoani Sanchez: Did you know that your name was included on the list of journalists who have suffered an attack on freedom of the press?

Jose Antonio Torres: I did not know, but I know now. I want to thank those who have made this effort to help me here in prison, where I have spent five years and two months. The inclusion of my name in this campaign is proof that the Cuban press, especially the critical press [i.e. non-Party], is doing everything possible about the injustices, to resolve them and to resolve them immediately I am very grateful, as a journalist and as a human being, because what has happened to me and my family is inhumane.

YS. Does a gesture of this nature from the US government benefit you or complicate your situation?

JAT. I can’t be any more complicated that I already am. Being a journalist with the leading newspaper in the country, with work considered excellent and even being congratulated by Raul Castro himself, what happened to me makes no sense. Having a contrary opinion in this country is, at times, very difficult, but there has to be space for all opinions. In Cuba we have to resolve our differences.

YS. Have you experienced difficult moments in prison?

JAT. I never should have been in prison with people who have nothing to do with my conduct, with kleptomaniacs, traffickers, assasins and murderers. I should never be with those people, because I have not committed any crime.

YS. What prison are you in at the moment?

JAT.  I’m in the so – called “trusted program” in Santiago de Cuba, which is on the road to Mar Verde. It is called Mar Verde Trusted Work-Study Center Work – Study Center.

Jose Antonio Torres journalist convicted of espionage in 2011. (14ymedio)
Jose Antonio Torres journalist convicted of espionage in 2011. (14ymedio)

YS. What is your prison regimen today?

JAT. It is a regimen of low severity and I stay here for two months, between 45 and 60 days, then I have a pass for 72 hours to spend at home. I have been held under these conditions since April of last year, when Barack Obama and Raul Castro spoke at the Summit of the Americas [in Panama].

YS. Do you harbor hopes for a reduction in the sentence?

JAT. A reduction in the sentence is very difficult, I do not think they will do it. Only international pressure will bring me out of jail. It is precisely the press, my colleagues, who so far have been silent, those who could do it, those who hold the key against intolerance.

YS. Are you still maintaining your innocence?

JAT. Absolutely. Here they have said many times that there are no political prisoners. But if there are no political prisoners in Cuba, what am I doing as a prisoner here?

YS. Have you kept doing journalism?

JAT. I have a long article titled The Weight Of Hope that I would like to send to the American press. Also other texts from prison on various topics such as the rapprochement between the United States and Cuba, from the perspective of a journalist who is captive.

YS. Do you still consider yourself a man faithful to the Cuban government?

JAT. I consider myself loyal to my country. Cubans have been talking in Miami, Washington, Madrid and France because they do not let us discuss the issues we have to discuss in Santiago, Santa Clara, Camagüey and Havana. To the Government I have nothing to say, there is a phrase: decent people can not accept a government that ignores them.

YS. What journalistic media would you like to work in in the future?

JAT. (laughs) Maybe 14ymedio would be a good space. Anyway I have an additional sanction that says I can not practice journalism… at least in the official press. I would like to work as a correspondent for a foreign press, I have no other choice. To publish in The New York TimesEl Nuevo Herald or Spain’s El País, that is among my aspirations.

YS. Do you plan to leave Cuba once they release you?

JAT. Where we have to live our life is here in Cuba. I have a lot of pressure on me, but I will do everything possible because it is right here in Cuba where one can put up a fight.

Cubans Cheer the First Cruise Ship From Miami / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada Tue, 03 May 2016 20:15:40 +0000 Continue reading "Cubans Cheer the First Cruise Ship From Miami / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada"]]> The Carnival Lines cruise ship 'Adonia' arriving at the port of Havana. (14ymedio)
The Carnival Lines cruise ship ‘Adonia’ arriving at the port of Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Havana, 2 May 2016 — The clock struck nine as the cruise ship Adonia entered the bay of Havana. Dozens of people enthusiastically welcomed the first pleasure boat to come to the island from Miami in the last 50 years. The government did not need to issue an official call for citizens to gather there, Cubans showed up spontaneously to welcome the boat.

Traveling on the ship was Univision journalist Tony Dandrades, and the crowd welcomed him with cheers. They shouted out his name and called out in chorus “we love you.” The greeting was a show of admiration for his work which comes to Cuba by way of “the antenna” (satellite dishes) and “the weekly packet.” Dandrades shared a few minutes with the public and said he was “very happy” to be here. He then assumed his role as a journalist and said, “Now I’m going to interview you,” and gathered impressions of the day from those present.

Ana, a CubanAmerican who had been in the US for 48 years without visiting the island, told 14ymedio she was “very emotional.” With tears in her eyes she repeated, “I am Cuban,” and was received by dozens of Cubans to whom she said, “I am optimistic about the future of Cuba and its people.”

Mily Gonzalez Martinez said she left Cuba when she was four. Born in Ciego de Avila, she has been living in the United States for 46 years. Also in tears, she said: “I am very excited, very happy and glad to be here in Cuba.” And then she said: “Although I live in Miami, I grew up Cuban, my mother would not let us speak English at home.” On the changes that have recently taken place between the two countries, she said: “We have a lot of hope that these changes are good for the future and that this means they are beginning to open more doors for the people of Cuba.”

The United States firm Carnival carried about 700 people on the cruise, including some dozen CubanAmericans. This is an unprecedented event. In 1999, the government decreed a ban on Cubans entering or leaving the national territory by sea, with the aim of avoiding and preventing “terrorist actions” of which “Cuba has been a victim on numerous occasions since the triumph of the Revolution in 1959.”

The arrival of the cruise ship on the island has been marked by controversy. Members of the Cuban exile community in Miami filed a lawsuit for discrimination against the cruise company Carnival, the world’s largest, when it announced that on its new route to Cuba tickets would not be sold to Cuban Americans.

The protests against the giant of recreational ocean travel led it to reverse its decision, and on April 18 it was announced that there would be no distinctions, all passengers would be welcome regardless of national origin. The Cuban government also relented and allowed Cuban Americans to arrive by sea to the island.

Travelers on the Adonia requested visas for cultural, sporting, religious or academic purposes, given the existing restrictions in the United States on tourist trips to the island. The cruise will also visit the Bay of Cienfuegos, on the southern coast of the country, and Santiago de Cuba in the east of the island.

The spontaneous welcome of the cruise passengers this Monday occurs 24 hours after the May Day parade of “confirmation and commitment” to the Revolution, held in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution.

Monday morning the story came to a happy ending when a crowd cheered the 'Adonia' entering the port of Havana with Cuban and US flags. (14ymedio)
Monday morning the story came to a happy ending when a crowd cheered the ‘Adonia’ entering the port of Havana with Cuban and US flags. (14ymedio)

On the newly opened floating dock at Paseo de Paula, there were handshakes and tears of emotions. It is an event that marks a before and after in the long separation of the Cuban family.

An individual with an American flag was removed from the crowd by a group of people who appeared to be members of State Security, according to what this newspaper was able to verify

People also swarmed around the area from the Muelle de Caballeria to the San Jose warehouses, where there is currently a huge artisan and souvenir market. From there, many shouted with joy, captured the historic image on their digital cameras and cellphones, and waved Cuban and American flags.

The cruise ship 'Adonia' entering the port of Havana. (14ymedio)
The cruise ship ‘Adonia’ entering the port of Havana. (14ymedio)

The ship was escorted by several boats with 590 people on board, of which about half were representatives of media, according to the newspaper El País.

Passengers aboard the cruise ship disembarked after noon, facilitated by a worker from Cuban Customs. The employee said that the “Cubans and crew members” would be subjected to “rigorous control” to verify their visas.


Rafael Alcides, Chapter 7: The Stranger / Miguel Coyula Tue, 03 May 2016 19:05:09 +0000 Continue reading "Rafael Alcides, Chapter 7: The Stranger / Miguel Coyula"]]>

This video is the 7th in a series of vignettes extracted from a four-hour interview of Rafael Alcides conducted by the filmmaker Miguel Coyula. Below are links to the previous Chapters.

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 1: The Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 2: Artists and Politicians / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 3: Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 4: Once Upon a Time in Biran / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 5: The People / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 6: Capitalism in Cuba – Before and After / Miguel Coyula

Nobody Is Welcome At The Hotel New York / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar Tue, 03 May 2016 18:42:57 +0000 Continue reading "Nobody Is Welcome At The Hotel New York / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar"]]> The bricked-up entrance to the Hotel New York, a few yards from the Capitol Building in Havana Capitol. (14ymedio)
The bricked-up entrance to the Hotel New York, a few yards from the Capitol Building in Havana Capitol. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 2 May 2016 – The roots of a bush have grown up between the stairs and weeds hang over the marquee. The Hotel New York, a few yards from the Capitol Building in Havana, is the very picture of abandonment. For more than a decade its doors have been closed to the public and since then no strains of orchestra music are heard, no sounds of glasses clinking in the bar, no smooth sliding of suitcase wheels across a polished floor. The “Big Apple” in the heart of the capital city is rotten.

Until a few years ago, brass letters told passersby on Dragones Street, between Amistad and Aguila, that the air-conditioned accommodations had been built in 1919. The building was originally the property of Jose H. Martines, a rich rancher who spared no expense in its design, while the project was carried out by the firm Tella y Cuento, Architects and Engineers. The building was leased to Jose A. Morgado to manage as a hotel.

That story can barely be glimpsed in the ruins that remain, although some of the lost glamor remains in the memories of the hotel’s oldest neighbors. Eduardo, a retiree who proudly shows his ID identifying him as a “combatant,” has lived in the area since 1959. He tells how, when they closed the hotel at the end of the last century, “there were many who took away the bathroom fixtures and even the tiles.”

According to the old man, it was for that reason that the authorities in the area “bricked up all the entrances with cement and blocks.” But the incursions have continued and now, “it has been converted into a public restroom.” Barely a single Venetian blind remains, the metal railings around the interior balconies have been torn off, and not a single piece of glass that used to crown the doors is left.

There is a rumor in the neighborhood that the City of Havana Historian, Eusebio Leal, rejected several offers from European companies to repair the Hotel New York. (14ymedio)
There is a rumor in the neighborhood that the City of Havana Historian, Eusebio Leal, rejected several offers from European companies to repair the Hotel New York. (14ymedio)

To the left of the building, where before there was a recreational area for guests, there is now one of those cafes where the underworld reigns. Some tourists approach attracted by the music and end up as “prey” for the agile denizens who populate the place. The offers can range from an out-of-tune bolero, to a round of beers paid for by the naïve visitor, to the most sophisticated sexual acrobats.

From that hovel one can see almost 100 rooms that sheltered the guests staying there, arranged around two parallel courtyards. The press of the era reported on the luxurious furnishings and an elegant ground floor restaurant, in the style of the grand American hotels.

At the entrance, embedded in the granite floor that has resisted the neglect, you can barely make out the initials of New York. On some of the stairs of the stately entrance the complete name remains, standing out amid the grime.

Across the street a modest café sells juices and snacks. The employee says the building “is about to fall down and it could kill someone.” She remembers when it closed “several men came in trucks and took away everything of value inside.” Later, it waited to be restored by the Office of the Historian of the City, but it was delayed so long that “there’s no longer anything to save,” opines the lady.

There is a rumor in the neighborhood that the City Historian, Eusebio Leal, rejected several offers from European companies to repair the Hotel New York. However, despite several calls to his office, it was not possible to confirm this information. “No one was willing to pay the amount he was asking for,” says Eduardo, an elderly combatant whose wrinkled face resembles the cracks in the wall in the hotel. “They wanted so much that no one was interested,” he says.

The façade, which is still impressive despite the deterioration, has four rows of windows and independent balconies. Five large Corinthian pilasters give the exterior wall a touch of grandeur, and a ledge on the 4th story was built when the building was expanded. The whole place seems like a little scale model of its gigantic cousins in Manhattan.

Gone is the time when you had to book in advance to spend a night in the Hotel New York. Today, only the rats fight over the space with the tramps, who have managed to introduce several holes in order to spend the nights in its dark interior.

At all the “Accountability Meetings” held in the area – a routine of taking stock of the achievements of the Revolution – residents argue that the building has become a focus of disease and a danger to health. Nothing that makes the People’s Power delegate flinch in an area filled with buildings on the point of collapse.

Scattered around the city, objects that were part of the Hotel New York adorn the room of an apartment, are resold in the informal market or end up in the trash. An old custodian of the place keeps a screen and an antique grandfather clock that he claims he saved from the looting. “One day when they reopen the hotel, I will return them,” he says with a sly smile, but nobody believes that music will once again echo within those walls.

The Next Day / Rebeca Monzo Mon, 02 May 2016 22:05:11 +0000 Continue reading "The Next Day / Rebeca Monzo"]]> Rebeca Monzo, 2 May 2016 — The owner of the media owns the country as well: This phrase is corroborated daily here in our “captive island.” We must make an extraordinary effort to follow radio and television newscasts, and to try to interpret the other side of the news. It is really an insult to the intelligence, the repetitive crass way of manipulating information they exercise.

Of course, a large part of the population stay away from it “not to complicate their life” but the saddest thing is that, when faced with cameras and microphones of reporters on the streets, fear paralyzes them and unscrupulously, they lie to “caress the official ears” and stay out of trouble. Unfortunately this is a comfortable attitude, lacking of civility and within their inner circles, usually express themselves critically against the regime.

Every year on May 1st, meek like frightened lambs, they will act like professional simulators, smiling when facing the cameras, showing off a false joy and support for the regime and its “eternal leader,” an attitude that will change drastically when at the end of the parade, back at home, they meet with an empty refrigerator and begin to rummage through their meager pockets, looking for some coins in CUC (hard currency) to buy a bag of milk powder in the “black market” to ensure a glass of milk for next morning, for their children (if they are still in Cuba) or for their elderly parents , aware that the present is slipping through their hands, in a country WITH NO FUTURE.

Translated by: Rafael

“Venezuela Is Worse Than Cuba” / 14ymedio, Henry Constantin Mon, 02 May 2016 21:59:05 +0000 Continue reading "“Venezuela Is Worse Than Cuba” / 14ymedio, Henry Constantin"]]> Delsa Solórzano opposition lawmaker (c), with Mr. Angel Medina (r) and Richard Blanco (l) in the "Perspectives of the Opposition" forum in the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington DC, United States. (EFE)
Delsa Solórzano opposition lawmaker (c), with Mr. Angel Medina (r) and Richard Blanco (l) in the “Perspectives of the Opposition” forum in the Inter-American Dialogue think tank in Washington DC, United States. (EFE)

14ymedio, Henry Constantin, Washington, 2 May 2016 — “There is nothing: No power, no water, no supplies in hospitals, there is no aspirin, no food, no security,” said Venezuelan Deputy Angel Medina in a debate on Venezuela organized last week by the Inter-American Dialogue Center of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

“Venezuela is worse than Cuba,” added Delsa Solorzano, another of the six deputies from different parties grouped within the Democratic Unity Roundtable, which won an absolute majority in the last general elections but which does not control the executive power in Caracas. These parliamentarians are participating in a tour to seek solidarity for the release of political prisoners and for the desperate situation Venezuela is experiencing.

“In one of the neighborhoods where we went to campaign, I visited fifty houses, and all of them I asked to look, first of all, in the refrigerator. All had empty fridges. One lady told me she had only a piece of sausage, and six children to feed, ‘How do I do that?’ she said,” recounted one of the deputies present.

“In some places the government has threatened people that if they sign for the recall [of Maduro], they will take away the things they received.” And people tell them, “But we don’t have anything, what are you going to take?” said another of the deputies present.

Included in this tour, undertaken by opponents of the Maduro government, is a meeting scheduled with Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States—who has also been critical of the anti-democratic stance of Maduro’s government—as well as a meeting with the Washington Post, which has published strong editorials against the Venezuelan government.

“We believe in diversity [of opinion] and in Venezuela we want diversity of opinion to no longer be a crime. Right now we have people who are political prisoners simply for writing a tweet,” said deputy Solorzano, who at the end of the event was very warmly by many of the Venezuelan émigrés present.

“Venezuela needs everything. Right now, if you can participate in donating medications that would be very good. And also, those of you who are bilingual, you can translate our messages to that more people can learn what we are experiencing and support us. This is very important,” commented Solorzano, who is also the vice-president of the Domestic Policy Committee of the National Assembly and a member of the opposition party A New Time, which receive the most votes in the last election.

“You have to stay united,” urged members of the audience, mostly made up of young professionals and students. “We are and we will be after the victory, it is not enough to win an election. We must rebuild Venezuela. We make decisions unanimously and discuss all our differences, but we always make it clear that we must act together.”

“But you have to have a strategy, what is your strategy?” protested a lady in the audience, to whom Delsa Solorzano responded, “We have a strategy, and every step that has been taken as been thought through very carefully. What we do not want to do is announce our strategy. And stay tuned, because in peace, without violence, in the coming months very good things are going to happen.”

Living Near A Wifi Area Is Like Winning The Lottery / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada Sun, 01 May 2016 21:55:10 +0000 Continue reading "Living Near A Wifi Area Is Like Winning The Lottery / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada"]]> Santa Amalia Park in Arroyo Naranjo, Havana, one of the wifi areas enabled in the Cuban capital. (14ymedio)
Santa Amalia Park in Arroyo Naranjo, Havana, one of the wifi areas enabled in the Cuban capital. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Havana, 30 April 2016 – Like an arbitrary lottery, Havanans dream of having a WiFi zone installed near their homes. These outdoor places to connect raise the price per square foot of real estate in the immediate vicinity and help local businesses flourish. Speculations about where the new wireless antennas will be placed absorb everyone’s interest.

The local division of the Cuban Telecommunications Company SA (ETECSA) told local media on Thursday that they are currently working in different districts in the capital to open ten new public WiFi areas, in a first step to meet the commitments for this year.

Engineer Iris M. Duran Fonseca, a specialist in ETECSA’s Marketing, Communication and Business Management Support division, said the new service will benefit the municipalities of Plaza de la Revolucion, La Lisa, Centro Habana, Habana del Este, Arroyo Naranjo, Boyeros and 10 de Octubre.

Arroyo Naranjo currently has one of these areas in Santa Amalia Park, where hundreds of people connect to the internet daily to communicate through social networks or by Imo, an application that lets you chat in real time with family abroad.

Alejandro, a young student in high school, told 14ymedio the advantages offered by this connectivity, despite the high price, which is 2.25 CUC (about $2.25 US) per hour of navigation. “I come every day,” he claimed, since he discovered that he could connect near his house. “Always in the evenings, because I go to school in the mornings and then I communicate with la pura (his mother) who lives in Spain,” he said.

The Mantilla Council in Arroyo Naranjo has been one of the outlying areas visited by ETECSA’s WiFi implementation specialists. El Parque de la Leche, on Caballero Street, between Pizarro and Ponce de Leon, is where the new technology will be installed. To that end, the park is in the first phase of a total refurbishment.

Yolanda, a retired teacher and resident of the area, says that since they put the first WiFi antennas in the capital she has been able to communicate with her son who lives in the United States. “Now with this Samsung phone he sent me I can see and talk to him; he left in 1994 and since then has not come over to the island,” she explains.

Neighbors near the park highlighted the need to rescue this completely abandoned place. “This may be a better option,” said Sergio Mendez, who feels happy because the “area is coming alive.”

“They will have to light the place well and also fix the access roads, because they are in poor condition,” insisted Elena, an executive member of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR).

The custodian of Mantilla park criticized the instability of the builders in this first phase. “They come one day then don’t come the next, and so the work scheduled to be completed later this year will never be completed. If they aren’t consistent in their work, the effort will be in vain,” he said.

Food vendors see the WiFi zone as a chance to improve their businesses. “There will be more people here, so soft drinks, food and the navigation cards will be in greater demand,” said Rosi, who sells sandwiches and milkshakes a few yards from the park.

The ETECSA communication specialist said it was necessary to “evaluate a set of elements according to the Board of Management of each territory and other agencies such as the National Police, the Electric Basic Organization and local representatives of Communal Services.” However, she said that neighboring towns have been included, some rural, in order to improve the communication services of their residents.

A director of the Arroyo Naranjo Council of the Municipal Administration told this newspaper that Mantilla Park was selected because it was located in a marginal area and has considered very dangerous. “Now we have to take steps to eliminate crime a little, lighting the area, putting surveillance cameras and constant control of the police in the area, which will reduce the tragic reports quite a bit,” he said.

So far, in Havana there are 17 public WiFi areas already equipped with lighting and with improved amenities. In early February, the newspaper Granma reported that the capital will have 30 new WiFi areas this year, two more for each municipality.

ETECSA also announced that in the coming months it will enable connectivity in at least three parks for each province and in other sites with a large influx of people, such as recreational and cultural centers. However, managers clarify that it will be done when the conditions exist to install the necessary technology and when they can guarantee both the comfort and security of Internet users.

May Day In Cuba: Many Commitments, No Demands / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata Sun, 01 May 2016 17:53:29 +0000 Continue reading "May Day In Cuba: Many Commitments, No Demands / 14ymedio, Zunilda Mata"]]> From the early hours of the morning thousands of people gathered around the Plaza de la Revolution in Havana for the parade on Labor Day.(14ymedio)
From the early hours of the morning thousands of people gathered around the Plaza de la Revolution in Havana for the parade on Labor Day.(14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 1 May 2016 — With the slogan “For Cuba: Unity and Commitment,” massive Labor Day parades were held across Cuba. The march in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution started at 7:30 in the morning, with the presence of some 600,000 people and was marked by references to the recently concluded 7th Communist Party Congress and ex-president Fidel Castro’s 90th birthday, coming up in August.

Among the thousands of posters on display, none addressed workers’ demands or wage increases. A peculiarity of the May Day parades that have taken place on the island for the last half century has been that their principle motivation was to show the commitment of professionals and workers to the political system.

On the podium greeting participants in the parade, which lasted about an hour and a half, were Cuban president Raul Castro, recently re-ratified in position as first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC); first vice-president Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez; Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, second secretary of the PCC Central Committee; and Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento, director of the Cuban Workers Center (CTC), the only union organization permitted in the country, with a membership of 3.4 million state, private and retired workers.

In the speech that began the parade, Guilarte de Naciemiento, also a member of the Politburo, described as “maneuvers” the problems threatening several of the leftist governments of Latin America. In particular, the protests or legal processes challenging the executives in Venezuela and Brazil, as well as Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

The union leader also referred to the process of normalization between the governments of Cuba and the United States, which he said could not be completed as long as “the economic, commercial and financial blockade against our country continues,” and as long as there is a US presence at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

From the early hours of the morning, Havana workers from the city’s various districts and areas close to the Cuban capital began to gather. The majority of them were brought on buses belonging to their workplaces and some 3,257 vehicles that serve urban transport routes in the city.

References to the upcoming 90th birthday of former President Fidel Castro also marked the day. (14ymedio)
References to the upcoming 90th birthday of former President Fidel Castro also marked the day. (14ymedio)

The march was opened by a representation of 40,000 teachers in reminder of the Literacy Campaign which is celebrating its 55th anniversary this year. According to the official Cuban press, also participating were 1,600 guests representing 68 countries and 209 trade union organizations. However, unlike previous years the event was not attended by any foreign leader and on the foreign grandstand the highest ranking figure was a deputy of the Venezuelan ruling party, Elias Jaua.

“We will not forget history,” different speakers repeated at several moments to encourage the parade, a direct reference to Barack Obama’s speech in the Gran Teatro de La Habana, when the US president said he knew the history between Cuba and the United States but refused to be “trapped by it.” A reference that especially bothered the Cuban officialdom.

The parade proceeded as planned at the close of Party Congress last April 19, when Raul Castro called on workers to show “the world” through an “enthusiastic and massive participation,” their “unity and support for” the agreements reached at the Congress and “the socialist and independent course of the Fatherland.”