14ymedio Journalist Arrested For Being "Counter-Revolutionary" In Camaguey

Independent journalist Ricardo Fernández Izaguirre was arrested again this Tuesday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, November 13 — Independent journalist Ricardo Fernández Izaguirre was arrested this Tuesday after answering a police summons. The 14ymedio and La Hora de Cuba contributor remains detained in the cells of Villa Maria Luisa, run by State Security in the city of Camaguey, as relatives and colleagues confirmed to this newspaper.

This Monday, Fernández was verbally summoned by a State Security agent who arrived at his home on a motorcycle and didn’t identify himself. The journalist, who is also a religious activist, went to the summons with a backpack with some clothing and toiletries, out of fear that they were going to detain him.

Several colleagues waited outside the police station during Fernández’s interrogation, but the journalist was not allowed to communicate by phone with his wife or friends to clear up the situation that he was in. continue reading

Fernández’s wife, Yusleysi Gil, explained to this newspaper that residents of Nuevitas had confirmed to her that the police detained this Wednesday at six in the morning a man who gave his testimony for the report about the lack of electricity service in a community with several families. “They told me that that will be the witness they will use to accuse him.”

A lieutenant assured Fernández’s colleagues that the reporter was being investigated and that he would remain detained at the station for four days, until Friday. Only then will he have the right to see close family members, warned the official.

In October, Fernández reported that the political police were trying to take him to court for “usurpation of legal capacity” — that is operating a profession without a license* — under article 149 of the Penal Code. He made the claim after several residents of a town in Nuevitas whom he interviewed for a report were interrogated by State Security.

In July of this year Ricardo Fernández was detained for nine days and police gave him a warning letter for an alleged “illegal” stay in Havana (Cubans need a residence permit to live in Havana), which later the reporter managed to get withdrawn after showing that it was arbitrary since he was passing through the city and he had a bus ticket to transfer to Pinar del Rio.

The reporter, who lives in the city of Camaguey, was detained on that occasion when he was leaving the headquarters of the Ladies in White Movement in Havana heading to the domestic bus terminal. Fernández agreed with Ladies in White activist Berta Soler that he would make a phone call to confirm that he had arrived safely at the terminal, but he never called.

The independent journalist also collaborates with the organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) at that time condemned Cuban State Security’s detention of the journalist, while demanding his immediate release.

In a letter sent to the Ministry of the Interior of Cuba, vice-admiral Julio César Gandarilla Bermejo, the IAPA demanded the release of Fernández and warned that “keeping a person detained without the proper process, without a judicial order, and keeping his family and colleagues uninformed and in a state of anxiety about his whereabouts, constitutes a severe violation of civil rights, human rights, and, in this case, freedom of the press and the free exercise of the profession.”

*Translator’s note: Generally speaking professionals in Cuban cannot exercise a profession privately. 

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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King Felipe VI: A Brave and Democratic Speech in Cuba

King Felipe VI of Spain speaking at a dinner in Cuba with Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel seated at left. (es-mb the epoch times.com)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 14 November 2019 — It is possible that some think he should have gone further. It is an equally respectable position. But there is no doubt that the Spanish King Felipe VI has risen to the circumstances, and in his dinner speech before Cuba’s communist president Miguel Díaz-Canel, he offered a brave defense of democracy, noting that this system is the one that “best defends human rights.” And not satisfied with this, he added that “it is the Cuban people themselves who must decide on their future because changes in a country cannot be imposed.”

A very clear message, sincere, direct, timely and must have felt like a jug of cold water to Diaz-Canel at the dinner that the communist authorities had organized for the Spanish monarch with his wife, Queen Letizia. Even Raúl Castro from a distance, because he was not invited to dinner, must not have felt very comfortable with the speech.

The King has lived up to the moment. continue reading

Specifically, Felipe VI defended as “necessary the existence of representative institutions of all citizens so that all different preferences can be expressed” and added “to find in them adequate respect for the integrity of their rights, including the ability to express freely their ideas, freedom of association or assembly.” It is clear that this speech was not agreed to with the communists. They will have wanted to interpret what they want, but the message of the King has been clear, “evolution, adaptation and change are inevitable in the dynamics of events in history.”

Thus, after expressly saying that “Nothing is frozen in time, and whoever resists in its path loses the opportunity to collaborate in the design of that future that is already being born or, even more so, that it is already here,” he said, adding that “The future of the Cuban people must be elucidated by themselves” and that “the changes cannot be imposed, they must be born from internal dynamics.”

Attributing to the Cuban people the role of the agent driving the changes that the country needs, is to go against the flow of a regime that is attributes to itself a superior nature to direct the destiny of the Cubans. Magnificent, the King.

From the impeccable vision of the democratic experience of the monarchy in Spanish democracy, the King told Diaz-Canel and his communist court that “in the same way that a change that does not emanate from within the social forces and the politics of the country cannot succeed, it is equally true that change will not bring consensus and well-being if it does not represent the will of citizens.”

And at this point, Felipe VI came to propose to Díaz-Canel how these decisions for change have to be implemented, by expressly indicating before the heir of the Castro regime, the importance of “agreement, negotiation, consensus and reconciliation” as the foundations of political action, and gave as an example the experience of the Spanish transition to democracy and the 1978 constitution, bastions of the change registered in Spain after the disappearance of Franco.

Specifically, the King said that “from that constitution and their own history, the Spanish have learned that it is in democracy that human rights, freedom, dignity of people and citizens’ interests are best represented and defended.” Nothing to do with the Castroist constitution, an empty shell of communist ideology that takes away power and political rights from Cubans.

As a Democratic King, he said clearly that “the strength that democracy gives to its institutions is what allows the progress and well-being of the people and to facing the risks and challenges that will inevitably arise along the way.” He added a message that reminded many of those who heard that of John Paul II when he said, “May Cuba open itself to the world and may the world open itself to Cuba.”

Felipe VI was straight to the point, “currently no country can live in isolation and it is up to the authorities to give citizens the opportunity to travel and receive people from other countries. Citizens must access new technologies and have rules that allow the full development of creativity in all areas, from cultural creation to the generation of business initiatives.” In clear reference to the “regulated” — Cubans not allowed to leave the country — and the totalitarian monopoly of the State company Etecsa in communications.

Most clearly: an open and shut case. Expressly mentioning words like this before the Cuban communist leader justifies the trip, although some may think that references to political prisoners or the repression of the opponents that exists in Cuba were left out of the official discourse.  The King went on to conclude that, ” Spain wants to continue being part of the economic growth of Cuba and help generate opportunities, at which time it highlighted the work that Spanish entrepreneurs have been doing on the island despite having to overcome enormous difficulties.”

The King could have made a protocol speech, sentimental and of a general nature, referring to what Fraga Iribarne called “the blood ties that unite Spain and Cuba” and the common historical and cultural heritage. With that he would have had enough for an institutional discourse before the banquet. However, far from omitting these issues, certainly important, and even more on the eve of Havana’s 500th anniversary, the King spoke of democracy, freedom, human rights, pluralism, transition, change and respect for everyone’s opinions. Aspects that the Cuban communists should have felt like a shot.

The communist leader was not expected to reply to the King’s speech. But you already know. In Cuba everything is possible. This was not agreed either. So Díaz-Canel again directed his speech to the argument of “claiming its independence and rejecting interference on the road that he says the island has undertaken,” and added to that “on this path that we have chosen by our own will it is important to have the accompaniment of true friends in the world and the Spaniards are among them. We are today an example of what shared will and mutual respect can contribute to a solid relationship.”

And I add that neither elected, nor will, nor friends, nor example, nor anything. The case is not to shut up, and yes, keep in mind that 57 million euros is a crumb but can be used to pay the next term of the debt with the umpteenth Paris Club and take advantage of the visit to place Spain with Cuba in the attack on the US embargo is a short play that can be very expensive. You know, for the Castroists, anything goes.

Someone may think that the King fell short in his speech, that he did not go straight to the point and that he missed a great opportunity to denounce the Castroist stumbling blocks to the world.

For example, I would have liked some emotional and supportive reference to the thousands of Spaniards who, after 1959, had their property confiscated by the so-called revolution and were expelled from the country to a miserable existence at the end of their days. It would not have cost much. It is a pending issue, but involves reaching consensus positions not to the liking of all, allowing it to move forward. And in this case, the King’s speech goes further. Its impact in Havana will remain for posterity. It has not been a trip in vain.

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King Philip VI Praises Democracy; Diaz-Canel Prefers Sovereignty

The King of Spain said in his speech before Díaz-Canel that “change will not bring consensus and well-being if it does not represent the will of the citizenry.” (Casa Real)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 14 November 2019 — “Changes in a country cannot be imposed,” said the King of Spain, Felipe VI, before the Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, in a speech in which he defended democracy, human rights and citizen sovereignty.

The King’s words found an answer from the Cuban president, who vindicated the Cuban model, insisting that it is aimed at achieving the greatest well-being for citizens and whose path, he claimed, Cubans have chosen “of their own accord.”

The differences were clear in the two speeches that took place in the cordial atmosphere of a dinner that the monarch and the queen offered to Díaz-Canel and his wife Lis Cuesta. continue reading

Felipe VI stressed that the existence of institutions that represent all citizens is necessary and that they can express their preferences for themselves and find in them “adequate respect for the integrity of their rights, including the ability to freely express their ideas, freedom of association or assembly.”

In this vein, he stressed that a certain lesson that is drawn from history is that evolution, adaptation and change are inevitable. “Nothing is frozen in time, and whoever resists in its path loses the opportunity to collaborate in the design of that future that is already being born or, even more so, that it is already here,” he added.

It was then that he defended the future of the Cuban people that they must elucidate by themselves.

“The changes,” he said, “cannot be imposed, they have to be born from internal dynamics. But in the same way that a change that does not emanate from within the social and political forces of a country cannot succeed, it is equally true that the change will not bring consensus and welfare if it does not represent the will of the citizenry.”

Felipe VI offered Díaz-Canel the Spanish experience for the process of change in which his country is immersed and highlighted what its current 1978 Constitution meant for Spain, based on agreement, negotiation, consensus and reconciliation.

From that Constitution and their own history, he affirmed the Spanish have learned that it is in democracy that human rights, freedom, the dignity of people and the interests of citizens are best represented and defended.

“And that the strength that democracy gives to its institutions,” he added, “is what allows the progress and well-being of the people and their facing the risks and challenges that will inevitably arise along the way.”

The King also stressed that at present no country can afford to live in isolation and it is up to the authorities to give citizens the opportunity to travel and receive people from other countries.

In the same way, he believes that citizens should have access to new technologies and have norms that allow the full development of creativity in all areas, from cultural creation to the generation of business initiatives.

The King said that Spain wants to continue being part of Cuba’s economic growth and help to generate opportunities, at which time he highlighted the work that Spanish businessmen have been engaged in on the Island despite having to overcome “enormous difficulties.”

The King repeatedly referred to the ties of all kinds that unite Spain and Cuba and recalled that his country brought institutions, ideas and values to the Island, including the foundations of International Law and the conception of universal human rights.

The King’s words had a special section to remember the 500 years that are now commemorating the foundation of Havana and cite some of the milestones in the Hispanic-Cuban relationship as the independence of this country.

“The link between Spain and Cuba is deep, it is not superficial, it is timeless, not temporary,” said the King, who expressed his satisfaction for having starred in the first state visit of a Spanish king to the Island.

It was later when Miguel Díaz-Canel took the floor, whose speech was not initially planned, although it was not improvised, since it was known before the start of dinner. The Cuban president stressed that his country’s society is renewed, evolving and advancing while preserving its traditions and values and defending its rights.

“We are guided by clear principles of independence and sovereignty with the certainty that it is a path directed towards greater well-being for our people,” he added.

It is, he said, a path that Cubans have chosen “of their own free will.”

At the same time, he said that, in order to understand Cuba, its dreams and what they do is necessary to understand everything that the “unjust” US blockade condemns.

It was then that he showed Cuba’s appreciation of the “clear and public support of Spain against the unjust sanctions and unilateral extraterritorial coercive measures imposed on Cuba by the United States Government and how much damage,” he said, ” they cause to the economy and commerce.”

Díaz-Canel also praised that Spain has assumed constructive positions that have favored Cuba’s relationship with the European Union and that it is the main community partner of the Island and its most relevant investor.

In the same way, he recognized and thanked the task of Spanish businesspeople, their commitment and fidelity and their intention to continue strengthening their presence in the various branches of the Cuban economy.

Díaz-Canel thanked Felipe VI as the first king of Spain to make a state visit to Cuba and described it as “historical” and of special significance at a time like the present.

In particular, he said, due to its concurrence with the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the founding of Havana, a city that he said treasures a “multifaceted presence of Spain,” the heritage of its regions and the indelible mark of its cultures.

Díaz-Canel closed his speech with a toast in which he looks forward to the peace and prosperity of both peoples, as well as the strengthening of their ties.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Animal Rights Advocates and Officials Take First Step to a Better Collaboration

On Tuesday, the activists agreed on a new meeting with the authorities for Friday with which they intend to continue moving towards a law against animal abuse. (B.B)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, November 13 2019 — Moderately satisfied, a dozen animal rights advocates met Tuesday with the health authorities to demand an Animal Protection Law in Cuba. The meeting, which took place at the Center for Hygiene and Epidemiology in Havana, was agreed after a protest was held on Monday in front of the headquarters of Zoonosis.

With regard to animal rights, the participants consider that the assessment is positive and “a consensus was reached on the need for collaboration for the sake of human health, animals and Cuban society,” according to Valia Rodríguez. However, the activists lamented that the privacy of their cell phones was violated and the presence of some people at the meeting who, they suspect, could belong to the State Security.

“The sad thing, even though predictable, was to realize that the phones we had given in good faith were checked and searched by other counterintelligence ’friends’. It was not strange, since they never tire of visiting the protectors to find who knows what — or I do know but it saddens me — as they did last night with many of us. They were respectful visits, but it’s hard not to feel like they were harassment,” Rodríguez denounced. continue reading

Beatriz Batista left her mobile phone recording and in the audio “you can clearly hear” the moment in which they take them all to another office and “they separate the cell phones of the officers, the doctors and the animal rights activists.” She added that images were eliminated in some cellphones and that they heard one official say to the other: “toss it,” among other phrases that show that there was a violation of privacy.

The meeting was attended by officials from the Ministry of Public Health and three people who, although they said they were doctors, showed a strange demeanor.

One of them introduced himself as Carlos Ortiz, in charge of the ministry’s communications, although he didn’t say a word. Another identified himself as Michel Torres, allegedly a health promoter, who also did not speak at the meeting. The last one said he was Enrique Gil, doctor in Medicine, but the animal rights activists remembered that the day before, in front of the Zoonosis headquarters, he presented himself as Ricardo Bofill, a ministry official and a graduate in Psychology. When the animal rights activists asked him for explanations, he decided to leave the meeting without saying anything.

The rest of the State interveners were Jusayma González, from the National Directorate of Zoonoses and Communicable Diseases, and two doctors from the Havana Provincial Directorate.

The animal rights group included Beatriz Batista, Gabriel Guerra Bianchini, Odalis Jaramillo Arabí, Sergio Boris Concepción Silva, Sahily Maria Naranjo, Claudia Díaz Romeu, Valia Rodríguez, Yoanne Lisbet Valdés Caballero, Gilda Arencibia, Aylín Sardiña Fernández and someone identified as Filosiraptor Politólogo.

Despite discontent with the ’security’ issue, the activists said they will not let this “low and distrustful act by the Cuban Security apparatus” tarnish the progress that was made with the ministry.

“We were skeptical, given the history of a lack of political will to solve problems pointed out on multiple occasions. We came out more confident that this could be a start and a big step towards doing things better, in a more humane and ethical way. There was talk of collecting dogs that do not represent danger, of the rabies program and how best to contribute to it — without killing healthy animals — of the attitude of the workers of the Sanitary Control car — badly called Zoonosis — of the inhumanity of slaughter with strychnine, of sterilizations as the correct method of reducing street populations and with it the risk of transmitting diseases, among others,” wrote the protector.

The photographer Gabriel Guerra Bianchini described the meeting between the activists and authorities as “historic.” For him it was positive that “with all the pressure that has gone on these days for the rights and care of the animals of the city” there has been “a meeting” in which “all the pains, debates, ideas and solutions were put on the table.” In his opinion, they left “with the feeling that finally, a starting point is marked to begin to build awareness and sensitivity, to those beings who have no voice, but much love.”

According to Batista, Jusayma González insisted that the Ministry of Agriculture is “working” on an Animal Welfare Law and, afterwards activists denounced the use of strychnine to kill stray animals — rather than Tiopental, a much less painful and cruel product. It was argued that strychnine will continue to be used while they attain the anesthetic, since they do not have veterinary technicians to provide Tiopental intravenously.

Health officials also denied that the rounding up of dogs denounced these days is due to the 500th anniversary of Havana or the King and Queen of Spain’s visit to the city, although they admitted having done so on previous occasions, such as during the official trip of former U.S. President Barack Obama.

The participants agreed to a meeting on Friday the 15th of November with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Health because “they are important players in the search for solutions,” said Valia Rodriguez. The idea is to agree a work plan “in the short term” to address issues such as dog collection, slaughter, rabies program and a program of education and awareness in responsible ownership and against abuse.

“We requested the presence of the Ministry of Justice, Higher Education and State Security to mitigate the image of danger and the continuous visits,” Batista said. The 12 activists who were present made it clear that their idea is not to allow any more killings and demanded that we must work “by leaps and bounds” to achieve a legal mechanism to protect the animals.

Last Monday’s protest by some 20 activists in front of the Zoonosis headquarters ended with the adoption of 12 dogs and a commitment that no more will be sacrificed until an agreement is reached between the protectors and the health authorities.

Translated by: Rafael Osorio

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Ceremony, Walk, and a Photo With "Che" Guevara, The Spanish King and Queen’s First Day in Cuba

The welcome ceremony for the king and queen started off this Tuesday in the morning with a floral offering in front of the José Martí memorial at Plaza de la Revolución. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, November 12, 2019 — A walk around Old Havana, an official photo with the face of Ernesto “Che” Guevara at their backs, and the signing of an agreement for 57 million euros in cooperation were part of the intense agenda of the king and queen of Spain during the first day of their state visit to Cuba.

After their arrival to the island on Monday night, on Tuesday Felipe VI and Letizia started the first part of a trip that has, since its announcement, been marked by controversy and, during the first hours, after the king and queen landed in Havana, received only a discreet mention in the official media.

The welcome ceremony for the king and queen started off this Tuesday morning with a floral offering in front of the José Martí memorial at the Plaza of the Revolution and with a photo of the two of them in front of the murals of the faces of Camilo Cienfuegos and Ernesto “Che” Guevara, an image similar to that taken on visits to the island by Barack Obama and François Hollande, among others. continue reading

After the official act, with the anthem and a walk from the headquarters of the Council of State, Miguel Díaz-Canel and Felipe VI held a meeting that lasted around half an hour and during which “everything was discussed,” as the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell told the press.

Dissident groups and various international organizations have asked the monarch to tackle the human rights situation and to intercede for the release of the opposition figure José Daniel Ferrer, arrested in October. A call that has come via open letters and statements to the press, given that Felipe VI will not meet with opposition figures during this visit.

The day also served for the two nations to sign a new cooperation agreement for the next four years, worth some 57.5 million euros in projects in different fields.

However, the historic quarter of Havana was the scene that has raised more comments and allowed the king and queen to get to know part of a city that on November 16 will mark 500 years since its founding. In an area especially tidied up for the occasion, Queen Letizia Ortiz walked with Lis Cuesta, wife of President Miguel Díaz-Canel.

The royal stroll provoked an unusual hustle and bustle of State Security officials and also of uniformed police who cleared part of the area. In advance, the neighboring streets had been asphalted, new plants had been placed in the planters, and in several municipalities street dogs had been rounded up and killed.

At the most important plazas in Old Havana the movement of tourists and passers-by was paused this Tuesday a little before noon when Queen Letizia and Lis Cuesta walked to the Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos Workshop School, founded in 1992 with support from the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation in collaboration with the Office of the City Historian, Eusebio Leal.

Upon leaving the school, the entire press was waiting for them in front of the fountain of Plaza Vieja that until a few days ago was surrounded by a tall fence that prevented residents from taking a dip. In a neighborhood battered by problems with the water supply, this was the solution that authorities found to prevent the place from becoming a public shower.

“We’ve been asking them to take down the bars for a while and the king and queen had to come,” a resident of the area told 14ymedio while Letizia was walking a few blocks and curious onlookers greeted her, took photos with their cellphones, and some applauded during the tour.

Dressed in light clothing, Felipe VI in a guayabera and Letizia in a sleeveless dress, the king and queen walked hand in hand through the streets wearing sunglasses. Part of the same route that King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía took two decades ago when they were in Cuba for the Ibero-American summit of 1999.

“Today the teacher didn’t come to class, so a group from the department went out to take a walk and we met the queen,” a medical student who was walking in the area with a group of friends told this newspaper. A situation that Moisés, a peanut vendor who stayed far from the retinue, described with irony: “This will be a royal visit but not through the real Havana.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

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Around Twenty Activists Protest The Mass Slaughter Of Dogs In Havana

Activists demonstrate in front of the Zoonosis Center of Canine Observation in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, November 11, 2019 — With signs saying “Animal protection law,” “No more strychnine,” and “No more slaughter,” more than twenty activists protested on Monday morning in front of the doors of the state-owned Zoonosis Center of Canine Observation against the massive roundup and slaughter of street dogs that is being carried out in Havana facing the celebration of the city’s 500 years and the arrival of the king and queen of Spain.

According to the activists, after the announcement of the visit of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia to the island, massive roundups of Havana’s street dogs and cats were done until they exceeded the capacity of Zoonosis, for which reason mass slaughters are being performed with “cruel methods.”

Around 9 in the morning, around ten police officers arrived in the area to block the street and prevent the entry of new protesters. The activists also identified several State Security agents who “busied themselves pressuring the animal rights activists,” a young man carrying a sign with the phrase “Down with Zoonosis” told 14ymedio. continue reading

Around 10 in the morning the majority of the uniformed police left the area and a large truck arrived, the “paddy wagon” type used for numerous arrests. Only one patrol car was left with four officers and the State Security agents in civilian dress remained in the vicinity.

Animal rights protest

A little later a group of officials from the local government arrived and met with three of the animal defenders inside the place. Another five protesters joined the meeting for a total of eight people.

“The whole time they were asking us who was leading this protest but we told them that we are all defenders of animals in Cuba,” Beatriz Carmen Hidalgo-Gato Batista told 14ymedio. “After an hour of arduously arguing a consensus was reached and today the Zoonosis car can’t leave from there,” she clarified to this newspaper.

The first of the agreements reached between the two parties is that Zoonosis will not do any more roundups of street animals until the meeting planned for this Tuesday at 9 in the morning at the Provincial Center of Hygiene and Epidemiology at Calle 102 and 31, in Marianao. There, the animal rights activists will meet with Armando Vázquez, the person in charge of the state-owned Zoonosis.

Another of the agreements was to release the animals that were in custody, with the exception of two who remain under observation for aggression in one case and for having been bitten by an animal with rabies in the other. The protesters took twelve dogs that were in captivity and brought them home, with the idea of healing them, getting rid of their parasites, and putting them up for adoption.

One of the killing methods most criticized by the animal rights protesters is poisoning with strychnine, which causes slow and painful deaths. Moreover, the period of 72 hours established between the moment of the animal’s capture and its killing is not being observed, which reduces the time available to rescue pets.

One of the animals rescued after the protest this Monday. (14ymedio)

A Zoonosis neighbor and ex-worker of those facilities told this newspaper that in the time the animals are in custody they don’t receive food, they remain all together in cages, and often there are fights in which the stronger kill the smaller ones. A neighbor with an adjoining patio also complained of the mass burial of bodies that inundates the place with bad smells and sanitary problems.

Tammy Cortina, a volunteer in several groups dedicated to defending animals, sounded the alarm via social media of the presence of Zoonosis vehicles in Old Havana that in the next days the task will continue, presumably, in Playa.

“It’s mistreatment in the way that they pick up the dogs that wander the streets with the argument that they transmit diseases. Why don’t they sterilize them? Why do they have to kill them for no reason?” asked this animal lover, who is currently caring for three dogs and three cats in her home.

Among the known faces at the protest were Violeta Rodríguez, actress, animal rights activist, and daughter of the singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, and Sergio Boris Concepción, member of the Cuban Executive in Defense of Animals.

According to a report published in the official press in 2007, the National Institute of Veterinary Medicine calculated the “controlled canine mass” at nearly two million and cats at 500,000. But there is no update of those figures and the National Directorate of Hygiene and Epidemiology calculates that there is a dog for every ten people, some 200,000 in the capital.

This is not the first time that animal rights defenders have protested in Cuba. Last April a march covered several streets in Havana to demand an end to animal abuse and the approval of a law that protects them. That walk against animal abuse was the first independent march, in the last half century, at which signs were allowed to be carried.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

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One Of The Winners Of Cubacron Cannot Collect Prize Because He Is "Regulated"

Yoe Suárez and Darío Alejandro Alemán hold their winners’ certificates and that of Abraham Jiménez, who was unable to collect his.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, November 11, 2019 — The revolution of the aquatics, by Abraham Jiménez Enoa, was one of the winning reports at Cubacron, although its author was unable to collect his prize because he is one of those on the list of persons “regulated” by the Cuban government.

The reporter from the magazine El Estornudo has a prohibition on traveling  (which is referred to as “regulated”) from 2016 until 2021. Those five years are what the state considers he “owes” for having been part of the “inserted cadets” program, as he was able to study journalism via an agreement by which he would afterwards complete five years of social service.

In addition to that article, two other reports from the independent press won the award: The roosters have no name, by Darío Alejandro Alemán (also of El Estornudo), and UMAP: Nothing, nobody, never, by Yoe Suárez for Hypermedia Magazine. [UMAP=Military Units to Aid Production] continue reading

Cubacron was held by the the Press and Society Institute (Ipys) to award the best reporters on the island and raised a big controversy by nominating the text For God’s sake, when will nitrazepam come, by the Escambray journalist Dayamis Sotolongo Rojas, who also ended up winning despite the fact that the author rejected the candidacy.

Ipys’s decision to put forward articles from the official and independent presses without distinction did not sit well with the Communist Party and the government, which accused the institution of carrying out a “new campaign against the Cuban public system” which “is printed with a counterrevolutionary political seal.”

At that time, the Journalists’ Union of Cuba (UPEC) issued a statement saying that Ipys is “linked to political campaigns against governments and progressive organizations in Latin America, particularly obsessed with lines of attack on the Bolivarian Revolution” [i.e. the Chavista government in Venezuela].

Cuban authorities considered the awards an insult that attempted to demonstrate, in their opinion, a feigned impartiality by putting forward the state press along with the independent press and rejected accepting any ties with an “antisocialist” organization.

Ipys entered the controversy explaining that the award nominations were made by a selection committee choosing among reporters who presented their candidacy and those who had not done so.

The author, despite that, said she didn’t understand why she had been nominated. “I’m not selling my soul to the devil; they can go to…” said the reporter in the media outlet at which she works. Now, it turns out that she has won against her will.

The awards were made known in Mexico City during the closing ceremony of the Latin American Conference of Investigative Journalism (COLPIN) 2019, a meeting of investigative journalists that features, among other things, the best works published in the previous year.

During the conference, Ipys awarded the Latin American Prize of Investigative Journalism to publicly recognize the best journalistic investigations and discuss more efficient strategies to reveal and confront corruption.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. You can help crowdfund a current project to develop an in depth multimedia report on dengue fever in Cuba; the goal is modest, only $2,000. Even small donations by a lot of people will add up fast. Thank you!

Evo Morales Accepts the Asylum Offered by Mexico

Bolivian citizens and police celebrate the resignation of Bolivian president Evo Morales this Sunday in La Paz. (Martín Alipaz)

14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 11 November 2019 — Evo Morales, who resigned from the Presidency of Bolivia on Sunday in the midst of a serious crisis following the October 20 elections, accepted the offer of asylum offered by Mexico, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Monday.

“I inform you that a few moments ago I received a call from President Evo Morales whereby he responded to our invitation and verbally and formally requested asylum in our country,” the foreign minister said at a press conference.

Ebrard defended the principle of non-intervention and said that “Mexico will not recognize the new Government” and therefore respects “the legitimately elected Government until the end of its term.” continue reading

Asked about the “military coup” in Bolivia, the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “in synthesis” is a “serious setback to the democratic life” of the entire region. He believed that people’s rights were “suspended” and said that Mexico is “very worried.”

This Sunday, Ebrard announced that 20 personalities of the Bolivian Executive and Legislative branches had been received at the official Mexican residence in La Paz. The foreign minister said Monday that he has more requests from Bolivian personalities who have expressed “their desire to take asylum in Mexico.”

The citizen movements against Evo Morales decided to remain mobilized despite the resignation of the president because they fear the same thing will happen as happened in Venezuela in 2002, when then President Hugo Chavez was overthrown and resumed power 48 hours later. Neither the rain nor the cold of night prevented hundreds of people from taking different points of the capital, La Paz, amid a tense calm and some uncertainty about what lies ahead for their country.

In Cuba, President Miguel Díaz-Canel has marked the official line, followed by the entire state press, and has fully supported his political ally through Twitter. “We condemn that the strategy of the opposition coup in Bolivia has unleashed violence, which has cost deaths, hundreds of wounded and condemnable expressions of racism towards the original peoples. We support Evo,” the president wrote.

“The right, with a violent and cowardly coup d’etat, threatens democracy in Bolivia. We strongly condemn the coup d’etat and express our solidarity with our brother president. The world must be mobilized for the life and freedom of Evo,” Díaz-Canel added.

In response, John Suarez, director of the Center for a Free Cuba — based in Virginia — has welcomed the news through a statement. “The protesters had been asking to end the 14-year tenure of this autocrat. It was also seen that the police refused to repress the protesters. This is a positive example for the army and the police in Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba.”

The text adds: “Evo Morales and his regime had spent years undermining the rule of law, compromising the independence and integrity of the electoral system that violated democratic norms, ignoring a 2016 referendum and eliminating the limits of the presidential term. The fraudulent election on 20 October 2019 was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Bolivians.”

Singing an emblematic “anthem” from the beginning of the protests “who gives up, nobody gives up, who gets tired, nobody gets tired. Evo again? Hell no!*,” citizens of all ages filled the streets of La Paz.

Bolivians woke up this Sunday with the news of a report from the Organization of American States (OAS), in which it recommended that they hold “another electoral process” given the “irregularities” in the elections of October 20.

Immediately the streets were filled with angry people demanding the resignation of Evo Morales, a resignation that the president announced in a video the same afternoon. Then that rage became a party, hundreds of people waving flags and caravans of vehicles blowing their horns. Then night and rain arrived, and with them, the uncertainty.

The festive atmosphere darkened as several events occurred that gave a glimpse of an uncertain political landscape. The vast majority of people on the streets are aware of this situation, that there is still a lot to do since a battle has been won, but not thear.

The people “don’t yet buy it,” and until they see the signed resignation, on paper and officially handed over to the Legislative branch, they will not believe in Morales’s departure from power.

“We don’t have the paper, we haven’t seen it … The same thing can happen like in Venezuela, Maduro is his biggest father, his greatest teacher, that’s why we’re still here until we have the certainty, the signed paper that Evo Morales never comes back here and goes to jail, we will continue whatever it costs us (…) even if it costs us blood,” a young man who wishes peace for his country told the EFE agency.

“It has been a joy, but it is not a lasting one because this Government has already prepared, this has not been a surprise, its people are already escaping and they are already sending los masistas (from MAS, Evo Morales’s party) to confront us, this already threatens rights, threatens democracy,” said another man.

Bolivia now begins the stage after this historical cycle of the indigenous leader, who during these “thirteen years, nine months and 18 days,” which he referenced in detail in his farewell, was able to astonish many around the world and at the same time awaken the fears of others about his populism.

Carlos Mesa came second in the October election of which there is no doubt that it was fraudulent: the president of the electoral body, María Eugenia Choque, has ended up in detention. But the former president has been losing prominence in favor of Luis Fernando Camacho, leader of the civic committee of Santa Cruz, the largest and strongest region in Bolivia, who has come to La Paz with the aura of a saviour.

Evo Morales had the opportunity to leave power in style, but he was forced to resign in his attempt to continue in the presidency of the country, at a convulsive moment in much of Latin America.

“I denounce to the world and the Bolivian people that a police officer publicly announced that he is instructed to execute an illegal arrest warrant against me; likewise, violent groups raided my home. The coup plotters destroy the rule of law,” wrote Evo Morales on Twitter.

The message was published after the civic leader Luis Fernando Camacho also insisted in social networks that there was an order to arrest Morales.

“Confirmed! Arrest warrant for Evo Morales! The police and the military are looking for him in Chapare, a place he hid,” Camacho said in reference to the area of central Bolivia where he is assumed to be. “The military took away the presidential plane and it is hidden in Chapare, go for it!” he added.

However, the Bolivian Police denied that such an order exists. “I want to let the Bolivian population know that there is no arrest warrant against state officials such as Evo Morales and his cabinet ministers,” National Police Commander Yuri Calderón told the private channel Unitel.

Calderón clarified that it is the Prosecutor’s Office and not the Police that issues arrest warrants and said that “the order has been issued for the presidents of the departmental electoral courts and the departmental members of the electoral courts.”

Also ordered to be apprehended is María Eugenia Choque, until yesterday president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, and Antonio Costas, who resigned from the vice presidency of the electoral body shortly before the end of the counting for the elections of October 20. So far, 25 arrest warrants have been executed against presidents and members of the different departmental electoral courts, Calderón said.

“I don’t have to escape,” because “I haven’t stolen anything,” Morales said, hopeful that it may be only a hasta luego because “the fight doesn’t end here.”

Mexico could be an exit for the president, because last night, after condemning what happened in Bolivia, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard explained that, “in accordance with its tradition of asylum and non-intervention, Mexico has received 20 personalities from the Bolivian Executive and Legislative in its official residence in La Paz,” and added that they would also offer asylum to the president.

In a message on Twitter, the head of Mexico’s foreign policy called for “international solidarity” to respect the integrity and “inviolability” of the Mexican embassy in La Paz, which serves as a refuge for former officials.

Many are keeping a vigil to prevent the “vandals,” as some call the Morales supporters, los masistas, from the neighboring city of El Alto, come to stir up trouble and commit misdeeds like those noted on the eve of this day.

A group guards the road that leads to the imposing building of the headquarters of the Government, giving way only to the Police, which in some way has been one of the key protagonists of the historical moment that the country is experiencing, for its decision to mutiny and join the people.

There was concern about the attacks against groups of people who remain on a civil strike in regions like Potosí, where they say snipers have threatened those who were asking for Morales’s departure.

Throughout the day the officials were targeted by these attacks, and at night it was the turn of politicians, leaders and journalists of the opposition, whose homes were burned or looted.

“The celebration was quiet, it was celebrating the triumph of the people, there were families, children, and out of nowhere they threw firecrackers,” said a man in distress, clearly worried about the moment he is living through.

A taxi driver who was trying to get around the barricades to continue doing his job told EFE that “it was time for the president to resign because they themselves armed this chaos, they themselves called it a coup d’etat, this is the best solution.”

The man who until now was one of the last survivors of “21st Century Socialism” said he said goodbye to make way for peace in his country, but after the initial celebration that his detractors so craved, what was unleashed was chaos.

Police and military commanders called on Bolivians to remain calm, guarantors of the constitutional order. But the feeling is of a power vacuum, having renounced those who could have succeeded the president, such as the vice president and the heads of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, to the point of considering that even come parliamentary opponent could provisionally assume the head of state.

Bolivia has not experienced this uncertainty since 2005, when it was then President Carlos Mesa who resigned under siege from a serious social upheaval.

One solution could be a mixed commission from both chambers that, in an emergency, would study what to do now, explains constitutional lawyer Gonzalo Hidalgo.

*Translator’s note: The original chant, “Evo de nuevo? huevo carajo!” rhymes and is a play on words between Evo (the president’s first name) and huevo (egg). 

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The Waltz of Lopez Obrador and Chavez

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miguel Henrique Otero, Madrid, November 11, 2019 — Months before his electoral triumph was realized, analysts inside and outside of Mexico began to wonder what kind of government they could expect from Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

López Obrador appeared as a marker: his ascension was putting an end to two decades of alternating power between the National Action Party (PAN), which ruled for two consecutive periods, from 2000 to 2012, and the mythical Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI), which returned to rule between 2012 and 2018. Now a new phase was beginning, one whose contents were not clearly outlined.

López Obrador’s victory, with 53% of the votes, was interpreted as a deep political and symbolic stab at the PRI, the party founded in 1929 by Plutarco Elías Calles, whose gravitational force in the political life of Mexico, for nine long decades, was simply crushing. continue reading

One of the theses on display was that López Obrador would have a relatively narrow margin to set a style of government, because there was a series of problems of a large scope that would obligate him to that prudence that complex realities impose.

On the list of matters that were mentioned, standing out was the turn of the foreign policy of the United States under Donald Trump, who was pressuring for urgent solutions to stop the progress of migrants coming from the Northern Triangle of Central America.

It was written that López Obrador’s most important task would be to assure the flow of economic exchanges between the two countries — and also with Canada — and he was called to put into movement an appropriate and even aggressive policy of commercial expansion toward the markets of Europe and Asia, and one of greater penetration in Latin America, which would grant him more autonomy with respect to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

To this first current of optimism were added two others. One of them rose from López Obrador’s own trajectory as a public official.

In the years in which he was the head of government of the Federal District, between 2000 and 2005, he was a moderate administrator, judicious in spending, austere in making decisions.

Thus, what could be expected is that, once installed in the National Palace, he would dedicate himself to meticulous administration, to the fight against corruption, and, urgently, to the question every day more grave of drug trafficking and the uncontrollable spreading of criminal violence.

I’m interested in stopping at that laughable statement made by that left that defines itself as democratic, which then firmly maintained that López Obrador’s references to Fidel Castro, that his reiterated leftist and nationalist exaltations, were no more than rhetorical uses for a purely electoral purpose, and that, once installed in power, pragmatic management would prevail.

In the January 2019 edition (number 208) of the magazine Letras Libres, Enrique Krauze published an extraordinary essay in which he spelled out the books that López Obrador has dedicated to Mexican history. It’s called The historian president. It is especially revealing reading because it exposes, with meticulous argumentation, how, distorting facts, López Obrador uses history for political means. In the words of Krauze himself: “politicizes history.”

Although he was never the author of any book — fortunately — one of the most persistent efforts of Hugo Chávez was that of distorting the history of Venezuela, of Latin America, and of other countries, so that it would serve his purposes and fit with his objective of perpetuating himself in power.

To the mania for Castroism and the deliberate manipulation of history, a third and profound megalomania unites Chávez and López Obrador: that of presenting themselves as milestone figures in a grand history.

While Chávez proclaimed himself as the direct continuer of the liberating work initiated by Simón Bolívar — Bolívar himself would have handed him the baton — López Obrador declares himself the genius of “the fourth revolution” inthe history of Mexico.

According to that narrative, the history of the great Spanish-speaking country of the world gathers around four moments: Independence, the liberal reforms of the 19th century, the Mexican Revolution, and the arrival of López Obrador to power.

These three coincidences are not cosmetic: they shape a like-mindedness, a common messianism that defines their modes of governing. Like Chávez in his time, López Obrador has put into circulation a discourse and practices of tolerance toward drug trafficking and the armed mafias, with the argument that the criminals are victims of capitalism.

Like Chávez, he is working to attain complete control of the electoral institution, and thus have use of a structure that allows him to remain in power for an indefinite time. Like Chávez — under direct tutorial of Cubans — he is politicizing the armed forces, proclaiming people-army unity, while he creates privileges for certain of its sectors. Like Chávez, he has taken the first steps toward establishing a communications hegemony. Like Chávez, he has centered the function of the government in a television program — in López Obrador’s case, daily.

Like Chávez, he has been gathering together around him the most extremist sectors of his party — Morena. Like Chávez, he is moving forward in the paralyzation of the economy. Like Chávez, he makes pugnacious, absurd, and provocative declarations, like, for example, the demand that he made to the king of Spain, Felipe VI, to ask forgiveness for the events of the conquest of Mexico.

Like Chávez, his declarations are full of that ambivalence between truth and lie, certain and uncertain, possible and impossible. Like Chávez, his hostility toward the independent media and the professional practice of autonomous journalism is more evident every day.

Is it perhaps still possible to doubt that Chávez and López Obrador are dancers of the same waltz?

Editors’ note: The author is director of the Venezuelan daily El Nacional.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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Our Annual Summer Dengue / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 22 October 2019 — By the end of Cuba’s colonial period, the country was suffering from a high mortality rate. Malaria, smallpox, childhood tetanus, typhoid, yellow fever and other diseases were decimating the population.

An interventionist government in the United States first assigned General Brooke, then General Wood, the task of quickly improving the country’s sanitary conditions and its overall state of health.

To this end it created the Department of Health, the precursor of the government agency established later under the same name. It was given broad responsibilities and, with the participation of prominent Cuban and American doctors, gradually managed to rid the country of endemic diseases, whose frequent outbreaks were a serious problem. continue reading

The process continued during the Republican era, with major sanitation projects and the organization of an efficient health care system made up of medical offices, relief homes and hospitals, augmented by private medical practices, located in the island’s main cities and towns. In cooperation with the Pan American Health Fund, task forces were set up to provide vector control and prevent epidemics.

Work brigades cleaned out streams, ditches, lagoons, wastelands and sewers. Residents were enlisted to sanitize their own homes. Insecticides such as the well-known DDT and the Yokel-brand mosquito repellant coils were also used along with anti-mosquito screens on doors and windows, and mosquito netting on beds.

Dengue fever was unknown in Cuba until it appeared in 1978 as a result of widespread, unsanitary conditions in urban areas and misguided eradication efforts by work brigades at the time. Once it became an epidemic, authorities were forced to train new teams and equip them with fumigation equipment purchased from Japan and brought in on aircraft owned by the Cuban national airline.

Officials made direct purchases of Malathion, considered the most effective insecticide at the time. They circumvented the U.S. embargo by enlisting Colombian drug runners, operating between Caribbean countries and the United States, to deliver it on their trips home.

Cash payments were made once personnel from the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) confirmed the quality of the product. The drug runners were resupplied with fuel to complete their journeys back to their countries of origin and, when necessary, were provided with lodgings and a place to rest in a marina.

Daily press reports described how Cuba was being sprayed with massive amounts of smoke. Even eggshells were being crushed because it was feared they could become breeding grounds for the dreaded aedes aegypti, the mosquito whose bites transmit the disease.

Fumigations took place around the clock, first with Malathion, then later with smoke from burning petrol. Hoping to contribute to the effort, Soviet military units stationed in Cuba provided authorities with equipment that produced clouds of smoke, which proved to be effective.

There was even an “invading caravan” which began in the west of the country and moved east along the Central Highway, fumigating cities and towns along the way. Epidemiologists leading the effort, however, doubted its effectiveness, suggesting its impact was more psychological than practical.

Then one fine day, sometime after the latest death, the epidemic was officially declared over. Among a few intimates a MINSAP official confided, “Rest assured that, as of today, no one else will die from dengue fever. If there is a subsequent death, it will be attributed to another illness.” In spite of all the measures taken, the epidemic took more than a hundred lives.

Nevertheless, dengue returns every summer. This has been going on for decades. It has unquestionably become endemic. And given the unremittingly poor state of environmental hygiene, it seems the illness is winning its war with MINSAP.

See also: In-depth reporting on Dengue Fever

Ferrer’s Sister And Daughter Demand His Immediate Release In Letter To Diaz-Canel

José Daniel Ferrer during one of the around one hundred arrests he has suffered in his life.

14ymedio biggerAgencies, via 14ymedio, Havana, November 7, 2019 — Martha Beatríz Ferrer Cantillo and Ana Belkis Ferrer García, the sister and daughter of the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), José Daniel Ferrer, have sent a letter in which they demand from Miguel Díaz-Canel, and his predecessor in the position, Raúl Castro, the “immediate release” of the activist and the rest of the members of the Cuban opposition organization detained by the regime.

“We demand the immediate release of our father and brother and Unpacu activists. We demand that, faced with the shame of the world, you dare to reveal what has become of them. Where do you have them? In what conditions? Under what false and ridiculous accusations?” reads the letter from the two relatives of José Daniel Ferrer, who has been detained since October 1.

The daughter and the sister of the Unpacu leader have emphasized that the opposition figure is “detained, incommunicado, and disappeared for more than a month” for his political ideas, “for devoting himself to making the world see” the reality that Cuba lives under the current regime. continue reading

“Our father and brother has been detained for 37 days. His system is so weak that he has to betray himself to be able to survive. And whoever betrays himself is nothing,” they have denounced.

The two family members have said that they received a “manuscript” from Ferrer in which he reports that he has suffered torture and that his life is in danger and that they are convinced that the document is in his handwriting because a graphologic expert has confirmed it and because they know that the regime is capable of acting that way.

After pointing out that Ferrer has been arrested “more than 100 times without charge in the eight years that he has been out of prison [see Cuba: Black Spring],” the two family members have affirmed that the case for which he has been arrested is “theater” invented by the regime, which they have accused of forcing a man who suffered a motorcycle accident to declare that “the person responsible for the injuries must be José Daniel Ferrer.”

“Their theater is over since it began, and you know it, the diplomats of every nation in Havana know it, and the entire serious international press knows it,” they wrote.

The daughter and sister of the activist have reported that, since his arrest, “nobody” has provided the family with the prosecutor’s accusation nor permitted family members to visit the detainee, in addition to rejecting a writ of habeas corpus presented to the provincial court of Santiago de Cuba.

“The United Nations have urged [sic] that you are failing to fulfill all the protocols that you have signed and ratified regarding forced disappearances. You have also betrayed this agreement, this word that was committed to by Cuba before the world,” they explained.

After defending the work that Ferrer has done as an activist defending human rights during recent years, the daughter and sister of the opposition figure demanded from the regime his release and that of the rest of the detainees from Unpacu and they have called to start a dialogue “with the true independent civil society.”

“Walk the path toward a transition, which is the only thing that can save Cuba and Cubans from more years of dishonor, shame, pain, misery, detentions, prison of conscience, labor slavery, family separation, and an endless number of calamities,” they concluded.

The same day, Amnesty International sent a letter to King Felipe VI of Spain asking that, when he travels to Cuba next week, in his bilateral meetings with authorities he take an interest in Ferrer and ask for the immediate release of the six prisoners of conscience that the organization has confirmed.

According to AI, they are José Guía Piloto, president of the Republican Party of Cuba, who is serving a sentence of five years for “public disorder” and “contempt;” Silverio Portal Contreras, ex-activist of the Women in White who is serving four years for “contempt” and “public disorder,” and Mitzael Díaz Paseiro, member of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Front of Civic Resistence  (FNRC-OZT), who, since 2017, is serving a sentence of four years for “dangerousness*.”

The other three are Eliecer Bandera Barrera, activist of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu) and sentenced for “dangerousness” since 2015 until 2021; Edilberto Ronal Azuaga, Unpacu activist, imprisoned, according to reports, for not paying a fine; and Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces, lawyer and journalist for Cubanet, arrested on September 11 after being declared guilty, a month earlier, of resistence and disobedience by the Municipal Court of the city of Guantanamo.

AI, which stresses that Cuba is the only country in the Americas to which it does not have access, demands that they be released immediately and that their sentences be revoked because, according to the organization, they are “imprisoned exclusively for peacefully excercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.”

Secondly, Amnesty International wants the King to ask Cuban authorities to immediately inform José Daniel Ferrer of the charges against him or, otherwise, release him.

On the other hand, the organization asks the King to intercede to put a stop to “the harassment” of the critical artists Luis Manuel Otero and Amaury Pacheco, ’The OmniPoet,’ and that Decree 349, which prohibits all artistic activity in public or private spaces without prior approval of the Ministry of Culture, be repealed.

It also asks for the abolition of the death penalty for all crimes because, according to AI, Cuban authorities are “playing cat and mouse,” affirming that “Cuba, by philosophy, is against the application of the death penalty” but that it will eliminate it “when suitable conditions exist.”

Thus, it is maintained for crimes of murder, death threats, aggravated rape, terrorism, kidnapping, piracy, drug trafficking, espionage, and treason. The last executions — by firing squad — were in 2003 and, as far as it is known, there are not currently any prisoners condemned to death.

For Amnesty International, although “there is no longer a Castro in the presidency of the country, there are no great changes when it comes to human rights,” as was demonstrated by the universal periodic review of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.

The King and Queen of Spain, according to what has emerged today, will travel to Santiago de Cuba on the last day of their visit to “avoid all risk” of running into Nicolás Maduro or Daniel Ortega.

*Translator’s note: The Cuban penal code includes the crime of “pre-criminal dangerousness” — i.e. you have not committed a crime but are in “danger” of doing so — punishable by a sentence of one to four years.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. You can help crowdfund a current project to develop an in depth multimedia report on dengue fever in Cuba; the goal is modest, only $2,000. Even small donations by a lot of people will add up fast. Thank you!

The Cuban Government Receives up to $9,000 Per Month for Each of its Doctors in Qatar

The pediatric ward of the ’Cuban hospital’ in Qatar celebrates International Hospital Infection Control Week. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, November 8 2019 — If the Más Médicos program in Brazil was a gold mine for the Cuban government, its equivalent in Qatar is the crown jewel. For each contracted physician, the small oil emirate pays between 5,000 and 10,000 dollars to Havana, according to information published this Friday by The Guardian.

The British newspaper dedicates an extensive article about the “Cuban hospital” inaugurated in 2012 in the periphery of the capital, Doha, and belonging to Qatar’s government, but whose staff is exclusively Cuban personnel, a total of 475 doctors, nurses and technicians.

According to the newspaper, each doctor is receiving about $1,000 a month, about 10% of what other foreign medical professionals can earn in Qatari state hospitals. The rest, between $4,000 and $9,000, remains in the hands of the Cuban state. continue reading

The agreements signed with Brazil during Dilma Rousseff’s term of office amounted to around $3,000 for the Cuban government coffers and $1,000 for the medical doctors. According to The Guardian, in the last decade Cuba has begun to look for partners in the Persian Gulf countries that have large economies in order to secure one of the most important sources of income other than with remittances; the so-called international missions from which the government obtains close to 8 billion dollars annually.

“I think we should help everyone,” says a Cuban doctor in Doha interviewed by the newspaper. “Based on that, yes, it’s fair, because I know that the remaining amount is used to support our Health and Education system … but if you think only of yourself, of course it’s not fair,” he said.

In response, one of the doctors who could freely express himself for having left the mission said he felt “like a slave” when he discovered that other doctors in that country were paid more than he was. “We were doing the same thing and earning a lot less than they did,” he says.

“Life in our country is very difficult and salaries are very bad,” said another of the doctors at the hospital. “Here we earn money for [Cuba] and also for us … One part for the country and another for each person,” he explained.

Another of his colleagues added, following the official discourse: “Education in Cuba is free. The government educates us for many years and, therefore, it must take some of this.”

The salary conditions that they would have in Cuba make the salary and labor exploitation in international missions even attractive for some of them. “I earn around 1,100 dollars. It’s not the best, but it’s not bad either,” explains one of the doctors.

The doctors confirmed that they are allowed visits from their families, but that family members are not allowed to stay, in the usual government line to deter possible escapes. The “deserters” are punished with a ban on returning to Cuba for at least eight years, unless they consent to join the National Health System.

Annarella O’Mahony, a Cuban resident in Ireland and editor of the website Nosomosdesertores, somoscubanoslibres, (We are not deserters, we are free Cubans) told The Guardian that this use of family ties to prevent doctors from leaving the mission “is cruel, inhumane, unconstitutional and contrary to international law.”

The doctor who left the Qatari mission told the British newspaper that she took advantage of the Cuban Medical Professional Parole, a U.S. program through which she was able to travel to the United States, but which was later ended by the Obama Administration. “I tell my mother when I’m on the phone that, despite all the difficulties and the pain, I would do it again. I will never go back to Cuba. There is no future there.”

In addition to the Cuban doctors, Qatar welcomes North Korean workers who participate in similar agreements.

The Arab country, which has been questioned by international bodies on labor rights, recently announced reforms to its legislation and will for the first time allow workers to change occupations without permission from their employer, although it is almost certain that the measure will not affect Cuban doctors.

Translated by: Rafael Osorio

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The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. You can help crowdfund a current project to develop an in depth multimedia report on dengue fever in Cuba; the goal is modest, only $2,000. Even small donations by a lot of people will add up fast. Thank you!

Cuban Government Gives Way and Modifies License for Private Carriers

The restrictions that were imposed under “the experiment” caused many drivers to turn in their licenses or increase prices. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 November 2019 — A little more than a year has been enough for the authorities to have back down on several measures adopted at the end of 2018 that restricted the work of private carriers in the Cuban capital, a sector that responded to these limitations with complaints and several strikes.

After an “experiment” that began in October last year in Havana, the Government now announces new modifications to the Transport Operation License (LOT). The regulation eliminates several of the limitations that comprised the official strategy of “perfecting” private transport service.

Among the most important modifications is the unification under the “regular” license, of the current “free” and “route” variants for passenger transportation. A duality strongly criticized when it was implemented more than a year ago because it added greater bureaucracy and limited carriers’ movements. continue reading

“The regular mode is the transport of passengers or cargo from a destination in an authorized traffic (…) can perform a door-to-door service (at the request of the user) and can not provide high comfort service or classic” service, Marta Oramas Rivero, First Deputy Minister of Transportation, said, speaking to the national media.

With this new denomination, the prices of fuel in national currency for all individuals under the “regular” license are set at 8 CUP per liter of diesel, similar to that of motor gasoline. While regular gasoline will cost 10 CUP per liter, and special gasoline, 15.

Before making these decisions, the authorities undertook “a broad process of receiving opinions, suggestions, and complaints, both from the population and from carriers,” Oramas explained.

At the end of 2018 the tension grew among Havana’s “boteros” (private drivers) in response to what was popularly called El Paquetazo (“the attack packet”) of measures approved by the local government and that included regulations covering aspects such as the purchase of fuel, routes and money management, with the requirement that drivers have a bank account in the country.

The discontent of the carriers in the face of these controls led them to promote several protest initiatives. One of them occurred in December 2018 with a call for a strike, baptized as El Trancón (The Big Traffic Jam), which was widely disseminated on social networks and independent media and which managed to include a significant number of drivers.

The restrictions that were imposed with “the experiment” also caused many drivers to renounce their licenses or increase fares, which rose even more after the worsening of the energy crisis that is plaguing the Island and causing a reduction in public transport services.

Private carriers have taken advantage of the vacuum left by the state apparatus and are an essential sector in passenger mobility. From horse-drawn cars, through old almendrones (as the almond-shaped classic American cars used as taxes are called) of the last century to more modern vehicles, self-employed taxis are vital so that the island does not come to a complete halt.

Now, the authorities have reversed many of their policies and the prices of the transportation services will be established by the transporters themselves, always taking into account the maximum fares approved by the Administrative Councils.

However, Oramas clarifies that a fundamental objective is to control all of Havana’s fuel consumption through the cards required for private carriers, one of the few measures that has been saved from the current restructuring of the controls.

“Another of the assumptions is that the supply and demand pricing of the basic services, like that provided by these private carriers, will be totally eliminated in the country,” the official added.

Under the new provisions, requirements will be imposed on licenses for the transportation of passengers in trucks, vans and buses. For example, it will be mandatory for the vehicle to have windows or air conditioning, seats fixed to the floor, good lighting and a communication system between the passenger compartment and the driver.

In order to obtain or update this license, it will be mandatory to open a bank account for collection and payment transactions and sign a contract with Financiera Cimex SA for the purchase of fuel with a magnetic card.

This regular license may be requested in the name of the spouse or a family member as long as it is within the second degree of consanguinity, that is: parents, children, brothers, grandchildren, grandparents; or first degree of affinity: parents-in-law, daughters-in-law and sons-in-law.

These regulations are effective as of January 5 of next year. The holders of the license in the free circulating and routed services are already engaged in the update process to change towards the Regular License, which comes without an additional cost and respects the effective date of the license that is being modified.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. You can help crowdfund a current project to develop an in depth multimedia report on dengue fever in Cuba; the goal is modest, only $2,000. Even small donations by a lot of people will add up fast. Thank you!

The Berlin Wall Never Existed

Germans attack the Berlin Wall, 1989 (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 9 November 2019 — For the official Cuban press the Berlin Wall has not fallen, it still stands or it never existed. A brief search on the digital sites and the printed versions of the country’s main newspaper is enough confirm that mentions of this scar which, for years, divided Germany, Europe and the world, barely appear because it is still a topic that is denied and hidden by the ideologues of the “journalism” that is cooked up in the newsrooms controlled by the Communist Party.

This Saturday, the 9th of November, marks 30 years since Berliners began to tear down that absurd barrier and that the Socialist camp in eastern Europe began to fall apart like a house of cards. It is also an anniversary of that 1989 in Cuba, when a generation looked with hope on the changes that shook our “fellow travelers” and the Plaza of the Revolution tightened the screws of its political control to avoid reformists or ‘perestroikans’ from gaining ground.

This November, as they did three decades ago, Cuban officials again hide from us the fall of the Berlin Wall… but we have already learned of, already seen, the images of those hammers and chisels tearing down that wall. On our retina, despite the censorship, there is a young man, a child, a family, a village… that knocks down that strict limit once imposed on them.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by now becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

This Is How Female Journalists Are Suppressed In Cuba / Cubalex

Larisa Diversent, a founder of Cubalex who was forced to leave Cuba under threats to herself and her family. Photo: Tracey Eaton

Cubalex, 1 November 2019 — One day before the 1st of May march in Havana, the reporter from the independent daily 14ymedio, Luz Escobar, was confronted by a State Security official to stop her attending the workers’ procession. The agent of the Cuba political police warned her she could be detained if she went to the Plaza of the Revolution

She had received similar threats the day before a “kiss-in” organised by LGTBI+ groups in support of same-sex marriage, and, on the morning of April 7th, when an animal rights march was organised in the capital.

Luz managed to report both of these events without the threats coming to anything, but in the afternoon of May 8th she was arrested by the national police. From a homeless refuge in Boyeros, where they found her, she was taken in an official car to the military base. Five hours later they let her go. continue reading

Later in that month, on May 22nd, they prevented Escobar from flying to Washington to take part in Independent Art and Journalism workshops, organised by the Cuban Soul Foundation. In the Jose Marti international airport, she was informed by the immigration officials that she couldn’t travel because she was subject to an investigation. As of today they are continuing to prohibit her from leaving.

These attacks on the 14ymedio reporter took place in the context of a wave of repression mounted against the independent press in recent months in Cuba. Up to June 2019, the APLP (Asociacion Pro Libertad de Prensa – Association for Freedom of the Press) has received 54 reports of aggression against independent reporters, 11 of them women. And they have blocked access to three new unofficial press media.

As part of these aggressions, the reporters are intimidated, their houses broken into, their homes kept under observation, they are pestered while walking down the street, and their means of work seized. Another usual harassment tactic in most cases is arbitrary detention for several hours. Although, at the end of March, the Cubanet reporter Roberto Quinones, passed five days in prison in the east of the country, for trying to cover the imprisonment of two pastors who wanted to educated their children at home. Resulting from this detention, today Quinones has completed a year of being locked up accused of resistence and disobedience.

As well as this coercion, they add in prohibitions on leaving the country for random periods of time. At least 196 Cubans have protested against their status as “regulated persons” up to the end of September. This is the category used by the government to limit the mobility of specific individuals after eliminating the white card, or exit visa, in 2013.

The reporters are a group who are most restricted in their movements. In June, for example, the journalists Ileana Colas and Maricel Napoles were not allowed to travel to take part in the General Assembly of the OEA (Organisation of American States). At Havana Airport they were told that they were “regulated persons.” Now, 60% of the reporters subject to these restrictions are women, according to APLP information.

The Cuba Regional Vice President of the SIP (InterAmerican Press Society) Commision for Freedom of the Press and Information, Henry Constantin, in his penultimate report, pointed out that, although it is men who are detained most frequently and for longest, it is the women who are sanctioned  for longest, especially those with children: “Karina Galvez — economic analyst and member of the editorial council of the Convivencia magazine — is serving a sentence of three years for a trumped-up charge, which forbids her to leave her town and requires her to carry out humiliating work in order to not be sent to jail,” states Constantin.

These intimidations of reporters, in the midst of a society which is beginning to get computerised, also happens in the digital sphere. Several independent communicators are victims of different defamatory cyber campaigns. In the month of June, the director of 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, denounced hate and misogynous messages from public officials in the social media.

Independent female journalists on the island suffer distinct types of gender-related violence which men are generally not subject to. Female reporters, for example, have denounced sexual harrassment and compulsory stripping and having to squat down in the middle of the interrogations. They have also suffered mistreatment in their homes at the hands of State Security collaborators, with offensive notices stuck on the outside of their houses.

The main threats against them focus on their families, especially their young children. Dismissing their security guard or care arrangements, depriving them of their liberty, are the most frequent.

Adriana Zamora, a journalist with Diario de Cuba, received threats against her life and that of her baby while she was pregnant. Now she is in exile, a decision which at least 7 journalists monitored by Cubalex have been forced to take this year. Another 3 are inactive.

Elderly family members, or those in poor health who are dependent on medical assistance are also on the receiving end of threats. Those who are mothers or carers are vulnerable.

Translated by GH