Holguin repairs a street after a hundred residents threaten not to vote in the elections / 14ymedio, Fernando Donate

Open sewers dddddd

Open sewers in the street (Fernando Donante)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Fernando Donante Ochoa, Holguin, 23 March 2105 – the Holguin municipal government decided to hurriedly solve the problem of sewage running down 8th Street between 29th and 35th, in the La Quinta neighborhood, after having received a letter signed by more than 100 people who threatened not to vote in the elections for delegates to the Municipal Assembles of People’s Power on 19 April, if their demand for a solution was not met.

A commission composed of government functionaries went to visit the residents, according to Lino Rubisel Almira García, one of the signatories. “They visited us two days after they received the letter, at the end of last October. The committee wanted to make us desist from the decision, but when they failed to achieve their objective they agreed to approve an investment as soon as possible.

The speed with which the work was begun surprised even those who didn’t trust in the efficacy of a letter with political content adverse to the government to resolve a historic demand, raised since the early eighties in every “Renditions of Accounts Assembly” of the delegates with their constituents. Continue reading

The Problem Is Not the Packaging / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 23 March 2015 — Many years ago when I worked at an advertising agency named Marketing, Research and Public Relations, Inc., its head — Enrique Cuzco — would often say, “A bad product won’t sell no matter how good the advertising is.”

In an effort to get young people to actively participate in the current electoral process, the National Electoral Commission recently decided to give responsibilty for the entire public relations campaign to a group of young journalists, designers and artists, figuring they can speak a common generational language.

Cuzco’s words immediately came to mind.

If anyone thinks that by designing more colorful and attractive “packaging” he will better be able to sell a low-quality “product” such as the Cuban electoral process, he is wasting time and resources. Continue reading

Chango defeats the Institute of Physical Planning / Juan Carlos Fernandez

Removing Gisel's roof (Juan Carlos Fernandez)

Removing Gisel’s roof (Juan Carlos Fernandez)

From the Tail of the Caiman blog, Juan Carlos Fernandez, Pinar del Rio, 20 March 2015 — As usual, Grisel got up early, made coffee. Afterwards she looked out over the back of her apartment – on the ground floor of an ugly concrete block – where, like many of her neighbors, she had added a room thirty years ago. No family member lived in her room, rather it was the “foundation room” where many of the faithful came every day “to consult with her.”

An enormous image of Changó dominates the place. Grisel Arteaga is Santeria. After bowing before her orishas and sprinkling a little brandy on them, she began her housework.

Around noon there was a knock on her door. It was a man who presented himself as the head of the demolition brigade for Physical Planning, and he tells her he has come to tear down her added room. Grisel can’t believe it and quickly calls, on her cellphone – blessed technology, her son Idael Marquez. “Mi’jo, come fast, the wreckers are here to tear down the foundation room,” she says. Continue reading

A Robinson Crusoe-like Singularity / Yoani Sanchez

An illustration of Robinson Crusoe.

An illustration of Robinson Crusoe.

Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 23 March 2015 — A young Panamanian told me in detail about the two weeks he spent in Havana, the new family that welcomed him here, and his surprise at a coastal city with almost no boats. His story resembled those of many who arrive on the Island for the first time, ranging from amazement to happiness, passing through tears.

However, his most astonishing conclusion was that that, thanks to the country’s disconnection, he had been able to live that long without Internet. Fifteen days without sending an email, reading a tweet, or worrying about a “like” on Facebook. On returning to his own country, he felt as if he’d been at a technology rehab clinic. Continue reading

Five Years of the Blog “From Havana” / Ivan Garcia

Ivan Garcia, 8 March 2015 — When I decided to write a blog, at the end of December 2008, my pretensions were minimal.

I had decided to take a break in order to dedicate my time to my daughter, Melany, who was then two years old. Although I wasn’t writing, mentally I continued to be focused on journalism. Those were difficult times. Repression from the hard liners of State Security was at its highest point.

In March 2003, a choleric Fidel Castro had ordered the imprisonment of 75 peaceful dissidents. Among them, 27 free journalists. Independent journalism was going through its worst phase. Continue reading

Roberta Jacobson Queries the Castros’ Crime / Rosa Maria Paya

Screen shot from the Twitter account of one of the regime’s aliases

A subject we always include

Rosa María Payá

I have only been in Washington DC 12 hours. Time enough to take up Senator Marco Rubio’s kind invitation to go to President Obama’s State of the Union Address.

It’s winter in DC, but as it gets late, the monumental silhouettes are turned on, giving the capital a warm appearance. In the Capitol I was able to talk to various Democrat and Republican senators, all of them wanting to hear about Cuba. The points in question continue to be fundamental ones:

1) The United States is having high level conversations with a government which has never been chosen by its citizens. And therefore we hope they will put on the table some support for the constitutional petition put up by thousands of Cubans in favour of a referendum for free and multi-party elections. Continue reading

Cubalex states that its work is in ‘danger’ / 14ymedio

The lawyers of Cubalex Laritza Diversent and Barbara Estrabao day the report on the Commission.(14ymedio)

The Cubalex lawyers Barbara Estrabao (L.) and Laritza Diversent (R.) on the day the report to the Human Rights Commission.(14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, 22 March 2015 – Last Friday the Cubalex Center for Legal Information circulated a statement in which they report that their work is in “danger.” The independent entity said that after their presentation of “a report about Cuban prisons, the campaigns of defamation and harassment increased” toward their members.

In the text there is reference to a robbery that occurred in Cubalex’s offices on March 12, when “unidentified people broke in and (…) stole a laptop, a tablet, an iPod, a modem, an external hard disk, several flash memories and computer parts.”

The statement goes on to say that “the fact that no other objects of value were stolen, only those that could contain information about the work of the organization, leads one to assume (…) that the aggressors came on the part of the state authorities.”

In recent months Cubalex has reported being a “target of a smear campaign that includes libelous notes accusing the organization of corruption.” The texts are published on the Internet, most of the time anonymously or without specifying the source of the complaint.

Laritza Diversent, attorney and member of Cubalex, reports that since 2013 there has been “increased surveillance, harassment and threats against members of the team.” The lawyer explained that the pressure on the group increased after the presentation of the report on the detainees in Cuba, before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The harassment includes “threats to prosecute the family members of the Cubalex team and to confiscate the building where the office is located.”

Given this context, in its statement Cubalex demands that the Cuban government “guarantee and protect the work of organizations and leaders engaged civil society of in defense of human rights.” In addition, it asks “the international community to rule in favor of the guarantees of our work.”

The Cubalex Center for Legal Information is headquartered in Havana and is considered a non-profit organization not recognized by the Cuban state. It has offered free legal advice since 2010, concerning the legalization of housing, immigration procedures, inheritance, labor, criminal review processes, constitutional procedures and the defense of civil and political rights of Cuban or foreign citizens who ask them.

Berta Soler believes that conflicts in the group are due to ‘infiltrators’

Berta Soler in a file photo

Berta Soler in a file photo

(EFE) 21 March 2015 — The leader of the Cuban dissident movement Ladies in White,BertaSoler, is “convinced” that“Cuban State Security is hiding” behind the conflicts within the group and which led to the separation of some of its members.

Soler pointed to a History student, Alejandro Yañez, as the person who leaked a video that shows an angry internal conflict and stated that the one responsible for the leak is “someone sent by [Cuban] State Security” since 2007, to gather information and “promote misunderstandings in the group,” as affirmed by the newspaper El Nuevo Herald.

The incident earned the dissident criticisms, especially within the Cuban exile community in the United States, after which Soler decided to submit her leadership to a referendum held this month in Havana in which she was ratified as the movement’s leader.

“I think it doesn’t end because the Government has stuck its hands and body into this,” said Soler, who nevertheless affirmed that the experience taught her to rectify.

In the video in question, several members of the group, Soler among them, demonstrate with shouts against Alejandrina Garcia de la Riva, an activist who was “suspended” and who appeared at the group’s site as a “provocation.”

The leader of the movement also said that on her return to Havana she would personally deliver the keys to the group’s site to Laura María Labrada Pollán, daughter of Ladies in White founder, the deceased Laura Pollán, whose home has been the movement’s headquarters since its founding.

Last Thursday, Laura Labrada announced in Havana that she would create a foundation in honor of her mother and would not authorize Soler to use the name Laura Pollán, after criticizing the “unfortunate events that have raised questions” about the prestige of the organization.

Soler said she “respects” Labrada’s decision, and although the movement could continue to use its current name, Laura Pollán Ladies in White Movement, she would not “get into this family problem.”

Soler said that “respect” the decision of Labrada, and although the movement could continue using its current name, Laura Pollán Ladies in White Laura Movement, she will not “get involved in this family problem.”

“We are against the Cuban government, not against anyone of the people. Laura will always be present in us,” said Soler.

In the interview, the dissident preferred not to give details about the use of the 50,000 euros that the movement received from the European Parliament when, in 2013, it received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, among other reasons because she doesn’t want to “reveal information to the Cuban government nor to State Security.”

The people who have placed their trust and monetary incentives in the movement, “know how the money is used,” she added.

The “Ladies in White” movement was created by women members of the families of the 75 dissidents condemned to prison during the “Black Spring” of 2003 (now released), among whom are Angel Moya, Soler’s husband, and Hector Maseda, Pollán’s widower.

Cuba: Potatoes from the Ration Book (When Available) / Ivan Garcia

policia-controlando-cola-de-papas-_mn-620x330Ivan Garcia, 15 March 2015 — The dirty, dilapidated produce market — its floor covered with red dirt and its shelving rusty — in Cerro’s crowded El Pilar neighborhood is ten minutes by car from the center of Havana. Sandra, a housewife, has spent two nights in line here waiting for potatoes.

“At three in the afternoon the truck arrived. It took an hour to unload them and, when they went on sale, the line was a block long. The commotion was incredible. The police had to come to restore order. There was a ton of people in line and I ended up not being able to buy potatoes. The manager and his employees kept a lot of bags for themselves to sell on the side,” Sandra says, who was able to buy twenty pounds of potatoes two days later after spending another night in line.

Neither American comedian Conan O’Brien’s show in Havana nor the selfies of Paris Hilton and Naomi Campbell with the local playboys nor the predicaments of President Nicolas Maduro have kept the average Cuban from attending to her pressing daily needs. Continue reading

In Cuba Drought Wreaks Havoc on World Water Day / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez

Artesian well (14ymedio)

Artesian well (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Havana, 22 March 2015 — Spring has officially arrived, but without the rain. Every day the drama worsens in the Cuban countryside, especially in the East. Throughout the length and breadth of the country, the private agricultural sector is experiencing a very difficult situation, because of the precariousness of resources and the lack of methods to transport water.

While the world celebrates International Water Day many farmers look to the sky to try to predict when the rains will come. The year has begun with negative omens. Between November 2014 and the end of January an accumulated shortage of rain has affected 52% of the country. Among the provinces most affected are Pinar del Río, Artemisa, Cienfuegos, Villa Clara, Camagüey, Las Tunas, Granma, Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo.

Camagüey, which provides a quarter of the country’s production of milk and meat, is in a state of emergency because of the rainfall deficit and the low level of its reservoirs. Keeping the livestock fed and the crops irrigated has become an almost impossible task. The problems do not stop there. Continue reading

Heavy Police Operation against Merchants and Carriers / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Santiago de Cuba, 21 March 2015 — Since early this Saturday, a heavy police operation had as its objective self-employed workers, street vendors and private carriers in Santiago de Cuba. The forces of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) reported that the raid was aimed against high meat prices in the farmer’s markets and the sale of potatoes in illegal distribution networks.

Most of the arrests and fines occurred in the Venceremos and Altamira suburbs of Santiago de Cuba. The uniformed agents arrived in the first hours of the morning and demanded the vendors show their licenses for engaging in commercial activity. Until midday, the toll of the operation was the seizure of dozens of kilograms of pork meat and thousands of pesos in fines.

Romilio Jardines, vendor of meat and agricultural products, was fined 700 Cuban pesos, although he said that his merchandise was not removed. Nevertheless, he affirmed that “they came prepared in case one refused.” The operation included special forces known as “black berets” who surrounded the area’s markets and the main streets of both suburbs. Continue reading

Internet in Cuba, I’ll believe it when I see it / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

 “If you want to free a country, give it the internet.” Wael Gonium

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 25 February 2015 — A vice president who gives an assurance that the country “… is committed to social information” but who then automatically sees it as being led by the communist party, and who sees it as “…a key weapon for the revolutionaries to get participation in the social project we desire“: who at the same time emphasises that “… everyone’s right to the internet presupposes the duty to use it properly and in accordance with the law, and also presupposes the responsibility to be vigilant about the defence of the country and its integrity“, and a Deputy Minister of Communications assuring us that along with the economic development of this sector there must also be running in parallel the “political and ideological strengthening of the society,” are indications that we will not see anything different anytime soon after the recent Information and Biosecurity workshop ends.

The underhand warning which indicates the presence in the front row of Col. Alejandro Castro — implied candidate to inherit the family throne — and the silence whenever the subject turns to his father, President Raúl Castro; Comandante Ramiro Valdés’ permanent position in charge of the Ministry of Communications — twice ex-Minister of the Interior, the most rancid relic from Cuba’s Continue reading