Police Assault National Unpacu Headquarters in Santiago de Cuba

Police during a previous assault on the headquarters of Unpacu. (Unpacu file)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 September 2019 — The headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu) in Santiago de Cuba was assaulted by police at dawn on Saturday, according to Martha Beatriz Ferrer, daughter of opposition leader José Daniel Ferrer, who reported it on her Facebook account. “They arrested 24 people. My father was forcibly prevented from leaving the house,” she added.

“Special troops kept Ferrer in custody as he shouted against the tyranny. The Unpacu Headquarters is still completely under siege and all mobile phones without service,” said the young woman, who lives in the United States.

The police operation occurred at six o’clock in the morning this Saturday, after a Friday in which several Unpacu activists denounced threats and operations around their homes. The headquarters of the opposition organization was besieged by police officers and at least one of the group members was arrested.

Carlos Amel Oliva, youth leader of Unpacu, was arrested Friday morning, after having accompanied his children to school, according to his wife, Katherine Mojena. The activist was Taken to the second station of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) where he was fined 1,000 Cuban pesos (CUP).

“According to them, I violated their security apparatus but my house is not a dungeon,” denounced Oliva on his Facebook account shortly after being released in the afternoon. “As part of the operation we have been able to verify so far that Etecsa cut the service to some thirty mobile phones of coordinators and activists,” he added.

Oliva’s brother, also an activist, Ernesto Oliva Torres, denounced threats against several Unpacu members in the Santiago town of El Cristo. State Security troops threatened José Antonio López and Abel Peña with being arrested if they left their homes in the next few hours.

Stgo #Cuba#UNPACU cell of José M. Heredia under siege by the Political Police and Black Berets. 

These troops are located a few meters from the door, to prevent the activist from entering. @jdanielferrer @FelixLlerenaCUB @Luz_Cuba pic.twitter.com/qPyNbh5V2l

– Ernesto Oliva Torres (@ ernestounpacu1) September 6, 2019

For his part, the leader of Unpacu, José Daniel Ferrer warned about the siege around the headquarters and said on the social network Twitter that “the assault troops are hidden in the corners.” In several published images plainclothes troops are stationed nearby.

Such threats occured shortly after Unpacu and Cuba Decides called for a demonstration on Sunday, September 8, at 10 am in response “to the increase in repression against peaceful opposition and citizenship.”

This citizen action is scheduled to take place on the day dedicated to the Patroness of Cuba, the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, which coincides with the eve of the celebration in Havana of the Joint Council of the Cuban Government and the European Union, which will be attended by the high representative of foreign policy, Federica Mogherini.

The convening organizations have also expressed their solidarity with the Ladies in White movement, independent journalists and artists; defenders of religious freedoms and LGTBI activists and all peaceful people and organizations.

The organizers of the initiative have called for an end to police abuses, to prison sentences for political reasons, to violations of the right to enter or leave the country, the ill-treatment and torture in prisons, police raids on the houses of dissidents and violent detentions, in addition to harassment of activists.

Castroism is so confident that the #UE – #Cuba Agreement is going to be consummated, that a few days after the arrival of @ FedericaMog, they assault, steal and arbitrarily detain. 

These are the NAMES of the detained activists, during the assault on the National Headquarters d #UNPACU , in Stgo #Cuba . pic.twitter.com/dgRzKWrHqx

– Ernesto Oliva Torres (@ ernestounpacu1) September 7, 2019

On the other hand, in Havana, activist Pedro Acosta was arrested at two in the afternoon on Friday at his home at the Casino Deportivo and released four hours later. An officer, accompanied by two State Security agents, took him in a patrol car to the San Miguel del Padrón station where he was subjected to an interrogation for more than an hour and a half, he told this newspaper.

“They told me that they would not allow me or the activist Iliana Hernández to do any public action,” said the activist, who also maintains an informative space on Cuban reality through social networks.

Prior to the arrival of Federica Mogherini on the Island, several organizations have called for suspending the Agreement on Political Dialogue and Cooperation with the Government of Cuba, due to the worsening of the repressive situation on the Island, according to a statement published on Monday.

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

The Official Cuban Press Discovers “Freedom of Expression” Thanks to Twitter

Government linked Cuban journalists union backs the people and institutions that have seen their accounts blocked on the social network. (Letra Nueva)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 September 2019 — The Union of Journalists of Cuba (Upec) called on Wednesday against “the limits to the freedom of expression of Cuban institutions and citizens.” The complaint responded to Twitter’s blocking of several official media and other institutional accounts which is limiting those who, in Upec’s opinion, and trying to “silence the leaders of the Revolution.”

The Director of Global Communications of Twitter, Ian Plunkett, detailed to OnCuba through an email what “the actions” are that the company considers violations within the official accounts of several Cuban media as well as some journalists and officials, accounts which have been suspended.

One of the policies Twitter believes was not respected is its policy regarding manipulation, which was violated by “the artificial amplification of information through several accounts at the same time.” continue reading

Miguel Diaz-Canel’s speech had just begun this Wednesday in which he was announcing the exceptional measures that will be taken in response to the lack of fuel on the Island, when several of the government accounts learned that they had been blocked by Twitter. At first, those affected could access their timeline, but not the message options.

The accounts suspended “for violating the rules of Twitter” are those of Cubadebate (300,000 followers) and Granma (167,000), in addition to those of Mesa Redonda, Radio Rebelde, Dominio Cuba, Cubaperiodistas and Canal Caribe, by Leticia Martínez and Angélica Paredes, from the Díaz-Canel press team; Rosa Miriam Elizalde, first vice president of the Upec; and Enrique Moreno Gimeranez, a journalist from Granma.

The Twitter account of ‘Cubadebate’ early this Thursday.

The accounts of the Ministry of Communications and those of government officials were also closed, such as that of Yaira Jiménez Roig, Director of Communication and Images for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and that of the deputy and director of the National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex), Mariela Castro Espín, Raul Castro’s daughter.

“It seems a concerted operation of false allegations of abusive use and violation of platform policies. Surprising political bias, selectivity of affected users and opportunity (opportunism): when President Diaz Canel speaks,” wrote Elizalde.

Twitter reserves the right to suspend accounts that violate company rules, at the request of users who report them. Frequent reasons for suspension, as indicated by the company itself, include abusive messages or those that go against the rules, involve spam, security (prevention against possible hacking ). It is possible, and frequent, for a Twitter user to recover their account following the procedure indicated on the company’s website.

Although this type of event is not out of the ordinary in the use of the social network, the Upec considers that “what is new here is the massiveness of this act of cyber warfare, obviously planned, which seeks to limit the freedom of expression of Cuban institutions and citizens, and silence the leaders of the Revolution.”

“The Union of Cuban Journalists strongly denounces the disappearance of these spaces for the expression of ideas, in an act of mass censorship of journalists, editors and the media. We demand that the blocked accounts be restored immediately, which in no case have violated Twitter’s policies, while the platform flagrantly tramples on the rights of communicators, prevents them from engaging in their work and tries to muzzle a first-rate informational event in our country.”

The Upec one again demonstrates its militancy by defending the freedom of expression and the rights of communicators only when it comes to those linked to the ruling party. None of the independent Cuban media enjoys government recognition and, since the approval of the new computerization law, last July, this media is penalized for “disseminating, through public data transmission networks, information contrary to the social interest, the morale, good manners and the integrity of the people,” which, de facto, outlaws the digital media that, with the previous analog regulations, managed to overcome some of the restrictions.

The ‘Granma’ Twitter account early this Thursday.

The Upec has not raised its voice for the media blocked by the Cuban Government, including this newspaper, or by independent journalists detained in the exercise of their profession, a job that they cannot even perform since it is prohibited to do so outside the formal Institutions

The organization’s note also accuses the State Department of being involved in this situation. Last June, the Internet Working Group for Cuba, a group from the US proposed to provide more funds to open digital sites, generate “attractive content” on the network and provide scholarships. According to the Upec, these efforts are intended to “finance a cyber-militancy trained in harassment, lies and political assassination, which is not usually affected by these types of Twitter actions.”

The first references to social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, in the official Cuban press, date from 2007 when these spaces were branded as “tools manufactured by the CIA.” At that time, a few independent activists and journalists made use of these networks and it took several years until the official voices began to engage on them.

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

Police Take the Journalist Roberto Quinones to Prison

Roberto de Jesús Quiñones was taken to prison on September 11, 2019. (Cubanet)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, September 11, 2019 — The journalist Roberto Quiñones was arrested this Wednesday and driven to jail by the police, after he didn’t report on September 5 to the provincial prison of Guantanamo to complete a one-year sentence.

Three National Revolutionary Police (PNR) agents arrived at Quiñones’s house after four in the afternoon and arrested him, as his wife Ana Rosa Castro detailed to the information website Cubanet.

“Roberto was prepared. He had his things gathered, so they wouldn’t delay in taking him. They told him that he had the right to a phone call, that way he would give me the details of his exact location. Later they informed me that they took him to the provincial prison,” added Ana Rosa. continue reading

Recently, Quiñones had announced that he would not report voluntarily to the prison. “The president of the court that sanctioned me and the judges of the provincial court that did the other setup of a staging of a supposed act of justice, insisted that I am a dangerous citizen, I have thought that in that case the best thing is to wait for them to come arrest me in my own house,” he argued.

The independent journalist and contributer to Cubanet was sanctioned on August 7 for the crime of resistance and disobedience. He received a sentence of a year in prison substituted for correctional work with internment, during a trial held in the Municipal Court of the city of Guantanamo.

The journalist’s arrest occurred on April 22 while he was waiting to cover the trial against the pastors Ramón Rigal and Ayda Expósito, who refused to send their children to school and opted for the method of teaching known as homeschooling. According to their testimony they were beaten by officials during the arrest.

This month, the US government condemned the prosecution of the reporter. “We urge the Cuban regime to immediately release Mr. Quiñones and cease the abuse and mistreatment against him,” said the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, in statement.

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) also critized the Cuban Government and demanded that it suspend the punishment and “not continue trampling human rights.”

At the end of August Quiñones was awarded the Patmos Prize for Religious Liberty, which the Patmos Institute gives out. The organization recognized the Catholic layman because “in a very critical period for Cuban civil society in general, including for churches, where the majority prefer to remain silent (…), he decided to be the exception and live against the current.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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

The Buses are "Missing"

A bus stop on the outskirts of Alamar was crowded this Tuesday and for hours not a single bus came by. (Jancel Moreno)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 11 September 2019 —  She arrived just before dawn and the first half hour of waiting seemed normal, after 60 minutes passed, dawn broke and the sun began to itch and after two hours at the same stop without a ‘guagua’ — a bus –arriving, Magaly had sore feet and sweat running down her back. In Alamar, this Tuesday morning, hundreds of passengers experienced the same frustration while waiting for a bus to take them to Havana for work or school.

Recent days have been chaotic for public transport in the Cuban capital. The chronic difficulties of moving around the city have been aggravated by reasons not explained in the official press. In the streets there is talk of a deepening of the crisis, the lack of fuel and the most daring talk about when the next “ship with Venezuelan oil” will arrive in the middle of this month, something that supposedly will solve the problem. But all are simply rumors.

What does seem a reality is that mobility within this city is going through one of its worst moments of recent years, while the General Directorate of Havana Provincial Transportation offers no details about the reasons for this deterioration. The sight of buses with people hanging from the doors has returned, something were so common in the difficult years of the so-called Special Period, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the elimination of its financial support for Cuba. The races behind the buses have also returned, with children in uniforms left behind missing classes because the transport never came, and the employees who give up arriving at their offices because the buses never come. continue reading

And when a vehicle with their route number is finally sighted, then the accumulated discomfort overflows and people shout, push and complain. The drivers don’t respond to this flood of complaints and must endure the rest of the trip with loud criticisms and a crowded vehicle where passengers can barely move through the aisles.

From time to time someone remembers aloud the official promises that transport in the capital was going to improve “gradually” and the frequent headlines in the national press about buses donated by other countries or repaired and assembled on the Island.

“And why doesn’t the bus come?” a boy with a school neckerchief and a backpack was heard asking at the Alamar stop on Tuesday, after waiting with his mother for two and a half hours on the A62 route. No one answered but nobody laughed either. Only an old man with a wrinkled face dared to say “for the same reason that nothing works in this country” and not one more word had to be added.

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

Jose Daniel Ferrer Arrested Along With Other Activists in Santiago de Cuba

The activist Katerine Mojena reported via Twitter the siege around her house.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, September 8, 2019 — An attempt to participate in the protest organized for this Sunday ended with ten activists arrested in Santiago de Cuba, among them the opposition figure José Daniel Ferrer. The dissidents were violently arrested outside the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), as residents of the area reported to 14ymedio.

Ten people left the building around 10 in the morning, the hour scheduled to begin the protest organized by Unpacu and Cuba Decides in response “to the increase of repression against the peaceful opposition and the citizenry,” but outside the place a strong police operation prevented them from passing.

“There are black berets and a strong police operation in the entire neighborhood,” a neighbor who lives a few meters from the Unpacu headquarters, who preferred to remain anonymous, detailed to this newspaper. “They went down and they didn’t last even a minute on the street because they were on top of them,” he adds. Among the arrested was José Daniel Ferrer Cantillo, 16, son of the opposition leader. continue reading

 José Daniel Ferrer, Carlos Amel Oliva Torres and dozens of #UNPACU activists and advocates of #CubaDecide in several provinces of the country arrested. Zaqueo Báez disappeared in Havana. The dictatorship attacks demonstrators. 

pic.twitter.com/14RwyLrY7L — Katerine Mojena (@KataCuba) September 8, 2019  

A little earlier Ferrer, an ex-prisoner of the Black Spring had warned on social media of the possibility of being arrested. “If we don’t publish or respond to your messages, it’s because we are incommunicado. And at the latest at 10 AM, we will be arrested,” he wrote.

Ferrer also explained that the whereabouts since Saturday of at least 30 activists from the organization are unknown. “We don’t know where they have them. The families don’t know their whereabouts. There will be more arrests as 10 AM gets closer. At that time we will go out to the streets in many places,” he announced.

For her part, the activist Katerine Mojena reported via Twitter the siege around her house. “I’m surrounded by soldiers. Alone in a house with my two little ones. They’re threatening to assault my home. That’s what the dictatorship fears, a mother who confronts them peacefully,” she wrote.

Other members of Unpacu also reported operations around their homes, threats, and suspension of their cellphone service since long before the scheduled time to carry out the protest, on the day dedicated to the Patron of Cuba, the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre.

The organizers had called for going out to the streets with a sunflower or a yellow article of clothing, symbols of Chachita, as the Charity of El Cobre is popularly known. This Sunday also coincides with the eve of the holding in Havana of the Joint Council of the Cuban Government and the European Union, which the high representative of foreign policy, Federica Mogherini, will attend.

In Miami, Rosa María Payá, leader of the Cuba Decides project, participated in a meeting in the Shrine of the Charity of El Cobre and alluded to the future of the Island, which she defined as “beautiful [because] it’s a Cuba that we are creating among all of us, not just activists and opposition figures,” the dissident told a group of people gathered outside the church.

 #Demonstration massive concentration of Cubans at the Shrine of Charity in support of #CubaDecide and #UNPACU pic.twitter.com/zb18D19D8K

— FNCA (@voiceofcanf) September 8, 2019

The two organizations who called for the protest also expressed their solidarity with the Ladies in White movement, independent journalists and artists, defenders of religious liberties, LGBTI activists, and all peaceful organizations.

Both Unpacu and Cuba Decides asked for an end to police abuses, prison sentences for political motives, violations of the right to enter or leave the country, bad treatment and torture in prisons, police raids on homes of dissidents, and violent arrests, in addition to the harassment of activists.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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

On A Hunger Strike to Denounce the Situation of the 150 "Regulated" in Cuba

The activist Guillermo del Sol decided to stop eating as a protest against the violations on freedom of movement. (Cortesía)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ricardo Fernández, Camaguey | September 7, 2019 — Guillermo del Sol, 53, has committed himself to fighting against the Cuban Government’s arbitrary practice of “regulating” nonconformists by prohibiting them from leaving the country. Twenty-seven days ago he began to fulfill his promise with a hunger strike, which has made him lose 21 kilos, he says via videoconference from his home in Santa Clara.

“It’s not a matter of getting my own benefits,” clarifies Del Sol, who takes the opportunity to cite one of the most well-known verses of the Cuban national anthem of “dying for the homeland is living.” He speaks slowly, taking long pauses to take a breath and recuperate the little energy that the long fast is leaving him. Since he began the hunger strike, he assures, he has only consumed water.

He made the decision to stop eating on August 12 after Immigration officials at the Havana airport announced to his son, Adrián del Sol Alfonso, that he couldn’t board a flight to Trinidad and Tobago, where he was going to participate in an event on religious freedom. The young man found out that he was “regulated” after going to the airline’s counter and checking in his baggage; “regulated” is the euphemism used by the Cuban government that means a person is forbidden from leaving the country. continue reading

That same day, father and son carried out a peaceful protest in the terminal area, which ended with the arrest of both. They were brought to the National Revolutionary Police unit of the Boyeros municipality, where they were fined and later released.

“Indignation, that’s what I felt when I saw that they were treating my son like a terrorist at the border,” explained Del Sol to this media outlet. “Then I understood what so many young people, journalists, religious people, and people whose only crime is thinking differently from the regime are experiencing. It wasn’t only my son who was being humiliated. In front of me I was seeing that sector of Cubans who live according to their own principals and pay for that audacity with being prohibiting from traveling abroad.”

The practice of preventing activists, independent journalists, and political opposition figures from leaving the country has become more common in recent months as a form of repression. International organizations and human rights groups in Cuba have warned about the situation, but authorities continue arbitrarily denying freedom of movement to citizens.

Guillermo is a member of the Old Catholic Church, declared illegal by the Office of Attention to Religious Affairs, attached to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba. Additionally, he directs the independent press agency Santa Clara Vision. He knows that his health is delicate, because he suffers from diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and respiratory problems, but he is determined to continue on the strike.

In more than three weeks without food, he has suffered considerable weight loss, a gradual fall in blood pressure, and pain in the kidneys, legs, and joints. With great difficulty he reads the Bible and converses with friends who visit him.

It’s not the first time that Del Sol has declared himself on a hunger strike. The most recent ended on May 20, 2017, after more than twenty days without food as a demand for him to have some film equipment that the police had confiscated returned to him. On that occasion he achieved his demand.

“The Cuban authorities are going to be silent until I’m dying, that’s if they don’t decide to let me die. But it depends on them,” he says, unhurried, sure. “The only one who comes is the doctor from the office who checks on me in the mornings and informs the agents from State Security about my health.”

In his current situation he tries not to make any physical efforts and his son helps him bathe, in addition to remaining seated until the exhaustion forces him to lie down. “I try to save energy because this is a matter of time.”

He explains that he has received the support of many opposition organizations but laments that “certain religious organizations that suffer from the regulations have not declared themselves.”

“I know that demanding an end to the arbitrary ’regulations’ of the 150 ’regulated’ people that we have been able to count seems like madness and that demanding only the reversal of that condition for my son would have been easier,” he recognizes, but “the world has to know that the Cuban government is trying to turn our borders into bars.”

On social media, that demand is expressed with the hashtag #Ni1ReguladoMás (Not One More Regulated), which helps to raise awareness in public opinion and pressure Cuban authorities to “lift this arbitrariness,” emphasizes Del Sol.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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

What’s Going On with Cuba’s Non-Farming Cooperatives?

Passengers getting ready to board one of the new Rutero fixed-route shared taxis operating in Havana as a part of a cooperative. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, September 2, 2019 — After the 2013 launch of an economic initiative described as “experimental,” Cuba’s communist regime has decided, without prior warning, to pull the plug non-agricultural cooperatives.

The experiment showed Cuban leaders that the impact of cooperatives on the economy was clearly asymmetrical, with results that were not the same in all sectors or activities. Cooperatives focused on construction, personal and technical services and the industrial sector registered the most positive results while wholesale markets and related services did not yield similar outcomes.

Officials have pointed to “deviations in the management of some cooperatives, primarily related to irregularities and legal violations, which distort the principles of cooperativism.” continue reading

Examples of such deficiencies included “misappropriation of resources and income; evidence of corruption; materialization of important elements by management of some cooperatives related to the contracting of the salaried labor force and the purchase of services from third parties; deficiencies in accounting practices; differences in pay between members who serve as managers and those who perform work directly related to the cooperatives’ core functions; use of bank funds for purposes other than those indicated; irregularities in the budgets of construction projects, and in their billing and collections; non-compliance with planned changes in the management and image of food service cooperatives; and a tendency to raise prices.” And so on and so on.

It’s the same old story. When a private-sector economic activity flourishes in Cuba, it is cut off at the root if it cannot be otherwise controlled. The 398 existing non-farm cooperatives which operate in ten sectors of the economy, employ about 18,000 members and generate income exceeding six billion pesos will be “frozen” in time. And it does not look like any more will be approved. Economic freedom is once again being infringed, as it has been for sixty years.

Proposals that were under review have been officially returned to their applicants through the Provincial Administrative Councils, the Central State Administration Organisms and the National Entities. Evidence that Communist authorities are hitting the brakes can be seen in data from the period between 2014 and 2017, when the number of cooperative members went from 5,521 to 17,704. In 2018, however, it fell to 17,539. According to official figures, the number of workers hired by cooperatives also declined, from 61,280 in 2014, to 888 in 2017, to 777 in 2018.

Cooperatives are part of the so-called “social economy” and operate in every country in the world, especially in those with market economies. Their workers decide voluntarily, independently and without political interference how to run their businesses or launch collaborative initiatives. Though cooperatives prioritize labor, that does not mean financial considerations such as capital investments and profit are ignored. They run on the democratic principle of one worker one vote yet are managed by highly qualified, experienced professionals who operate on the basis of profitability, business survival and value creation.

Why aren’t there more non-farm cooperatives in Cuba? There are the usual political justifications but recent reforms published in the Official Ordinary Gazette No. 63, which take effect in November, offer other clues as to what may be going on. Two new regulations confirm, for example, that the regime does not want cooperatives to partner with individuals who are not part of their workforce to avoid a situation in which a director or general manager prioritizes the interests of the organization over communist orthodoxy. The regime is also interfering in the operation of cooperatives in other ways such as setting limits on partners’ compensation. It also holds out the possibility of temporarily suspending a cooperative’s operations for up to six months if management problems or irregularities are found.

In fact, the regime does not want cooperatives capable of expanding into nation-wide operations, preferring those that are locally based. Those that do expand to the national level would be strictly regulated and limited to repair and maintenance of textile manufacturing machinery, technological equipment, weight scales, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment, bowling alleys and aluminum fabrication machinery.There are no reasons given for these restrictions, whose aim is to limit the scope of a cooperative’s commercial production and prevent it from achieving the maximum efficiency that economies of scale would provide.

It is an attempt to improve membership training but also a clear interference in these organizations, which should be free to establish their own training programs without being forced to set up a fund to finance them. It is also an attempt to set the terms for electing a cooperative’s president as well as for his or her removal. This violates the principle of collective, democratic decision making by members to organize themselves in an independent manner in order to establish their business.

In its obsessive need for total control, the regime has instituted a probationary period for new members in order to evaluate them before allowing them to join cooperatives. This betrays a clear ignorance of the role members play in a cooperative and a need to insure there are no differences between them.

More obvious are the limits set on the growth of cooperatives and how they disadvantage the largest ones relative to smallest, as outlined below:

Cooperatives with less than ten members will be allowed to grow until the number of members has doubled.

Membership in cooperatives with 11 to 50 members will be allowed to grow no more than 50%.

Membership in cooperatives with 51 to 100 members will be allowed to grow no more than 20%.

Membership in cooperatives with 101 members will be allowed to grow no more than 10%.

The termination and dissolution of cooperatives is another tool the communist bureaucracy uses on these new entities. Regulations allow the administrative body that revokes a cooperative’s license to also settle its debts and liquidate its assets. There is, however, an indefinite right to appeal an administrative decision to dissolve a cooperative. The administrative body is also authorized to negotiate bonuses, exemptions from rental payments for real estate when a cooperative assumes responsibilities for repairs, and the sale of cooperative vehicles to other legal entities.

Property assets owned by individual members may be made available to the cooperative.  In addition to monetary assets and in-kind payments, personal property may also be placed at the cooperative’s disposal, either in exchange for money or at no cost. This is the only instance in which a cooperative, through its general assembly, has authority to approve the corresponding terms, conditions and remuneration of the operation.

To address what authorities see as the most obvious management failures of cooperatives, there are plans to simplify access to supplies as part of recently approved measures to boost the economy. This would be done through the sale of raw materials and consumable goods. But there are no specific details, only talk about a generic authorization for state-owned companies to market any available products they have to cooperatives at set prices, eliminating the subsidy in corresponding cases.

I do not believe that these measures will allow the development of a social economy in Cuba comparable to those other countries. It will not contribute to the development of small and medium size businesses or reduce the state’s suffocating pressure on the economy. It is yet another plan that will end in disaster. And once again the fault will not lie with the embargo or measurees by the Trump’s administration.

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

Barnes & Nobles Glorifies Che Guevara in the Heart of Miami

The author asked, unsuccessfully, for the library to place the book about Che in a less prominent place. (Maria C. Werlau)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Maria C. Werlau, Miami, 9 September 2019 — Last Thursday, I went into the Barnes & Nobles bookstore at Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, to grab a coffee between meetings and lay eyes on some books, which have enamored me since childhood. To my astonishment, as I walked in from the back entrance, the first thing that caught my eye was a stack of books of Che Guevara in prominent display under a sign for “Reference books.”

I went straight to the book Che, a Revolutionary Icon (by Luis Enrique Martínez, New York: Charwell Books, 2018). Page after page tells a selective and glorified story of Guevara under subtitles such as “The legend is born,” “The messenger of love,” “A revolutionary adventurer,” “The price of glory,” “Che lives forever,” with many glossy photos from many phases of his life. I found no subtitles such as “The killing machine,“ “the butcher of La Cabaña,” “terrorist,” “aristocratic racist,” or other less laudatory labels also used to describe him.

A few brief sentences of the 187-page volume referred to his command at La Cabaña prison but fail to even mention any of the human beings executed there by his order (“just around two hundred”) and missing were photos of the execution wall. continue reading

There is no mention of the camp he created at Guanahacabibes, a remote peninsula in Cuba, to send his underlings at the Ministry of Industry for hard labor as “rehabilitation” punishment for all kinds of so-called transgressions. Missing too were references to his leadership in eliminating free press, destroying the economy, and installing a totalitarian dictatorship in Cuba, of his support for nuking the US during the missile crisis, or of his defiant declaration to the UN General Assembly that “we will continue to execute as long as necessary.”

The page at the end of the volume for “Suggested Reading” had a bibliography with just more adoring works and selective Che writings. This is what Barnes and Nobles offers under “Reference books.”

There is no mention of the camp he created at Guanahacabibes, a remote peninsula in Cuba, to send his underlings from the Ministry of Industry for hard labor as “rehabilitation” punishment for all kinds of so-called transgressions.

Missing too were references to his leadership in eliminating freedom of the press, destroying the economy, and installing a totalitarian dictatorship in Cuba, or his support for a nuclear attack on the US during the missile crisis, or of his defiant declaration to the UN General Assembly that “we will continue to execute as long as necessary.”

The page at the end of the volume for “Suggested Reading” had a bibliography with just more adoring works and selective Che writings. This is what Barnes and Nobles offers under “Reference books.”

I asked the employees if they had any books on Osama Bin Laden, Hitler, Stalin, Mao or other famous world figures known for their revolutionary views or for being leaders of non-democratic regimes. They were helpful but could not find any. All they knew about Guevara was that his image adorns lots of t-shirts.

So, I asked to see the manager and when Andy arrived, I explained to him, very politely, that Miami is the home of a large Cuban American community that is particularly sensitive to the misguided Che cult because many of them suffered directly from Guevara’s actions.  I told him I was not in favor of censorship but that I knew children and siblings of men executed by Guevara who lived in Miami.

Plus, I said, I would have been just as upset had I found a glowing book on Osama Bin Laden displayed prominently at a B&N bookstore in my New Jersey hometown, that lost ten people on September 11th.

Andy was clueless, he told me he was born in Cuba but had left as a young child and knew nothing about Guevara. I politely asked him to at least consider moving the books to a less prominent location. When I walked back from the coffee shop to leave some minutes later, Andy was asking the young woman at the Customer Service desk near the display to move the stack of books to the other side of the table, not visible when customers walk in. She looked annoyed and made a sarcastic comment.

The next day I had a lunch date a block from the bookstore and decided to pass by to look at the books. To my dismay, they were in exactly the same place. Later, I phoned the store and asked to talk to the manager. Diane answered (Andy wasn’t there) and when I explained the situation she said she was close to someone whose relative had been killed by Guevara. She added she would move the books to less prominent location but didn’t feel comfortable removing them.

I did a search on the Barnes and Nobles website, for “Osama Bin Laden” and got 150 results, none of which seem to glorify the “terrorist” (a passionate and committed Islamist to his followers); most had to do with hunting and killing him.

A search for Adolf Hitler had over 400 results, many were Mein Kampf by different publishers and none of the books for sale seemed favorable to the murderer. A search on the “Angel of Death” Nazi, Josef Mengele also returned only critical works. The search for “neonazis” and “white supremacy” did not return volumes that justified or supported these ideologies or movements.

In other words, the personnel at B&N who select the books they sell seem to have a double standard when it comes to mass murderers, and as far as I have been able to find, have chosen only one book that pushes the cult of Che Guevara, “the killing machine,” to use his own words to describe.

Ironically, the book is authored by Luis Enrique Martínez, described as a freelance writer born in Venezuela who “now lives in London after leaving his home country where violence and crime had become so frequent … Che Guevara fascinated him from the time he was a boy when he had a poster of the revolutionary on his bedroom wall.”

Good grief! After Che’s “New Man” finally found a foothold in Venezuela, his “fascinated” fan left for London!!! The edition is from 2018, when the effects of Castro-Chavismo had been patently obvious for years. This Cuban neo-communist modality that Che helped to create was used to transfer the Cuban template to Venezuela.

Sadly, it seems that the adoring fan still fails to understand why the Che lovefest (and the Cuban Revolution) has real consequences.

For my part, I have no intention to  shop at Barnes and Nobles unless the book is removed from sale. (I did buy the book grudgingly, as I needed to research it in order to write about it.)

I know that we cannot undo a multimillion dollar global advertising campaign that promotes the mythology of Che, but at least we can refuse to stand around with our arms crossed when a business or institution that we may or may not patronize glorifies a mass murderer.

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

Self-Employment Under Scrutiny / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 26 August 2019 — The statements made years ago by the first secretary of the Cuban Communist Party in defense of self-employment now seem inconsequential considering how Cuba’s president, his administration, the National Assembly, provincial and municipal assemblies, and public officials at all levels now ignore them.

In real life, self-employment is subject to a wide variety of pressures and arbitrary actions with the goal of preventing its development, and even encouraging its demise, under the ruse that everything is being done to “impose order and prevent illegality.”

Why then, I ask, have officials not concerned themselves with imposing order and preventing illegality in the public sector, where such oversight has been sorely needed for the last six decades? continue reading

The private sector already operates in a precarious enviroment. The absence of wholesale markets, excessive fines, corrupt inspectors and officials who live off blackmail and arbitrary inspections are just some of the problems.

Recent measures enacted against private transport workers — for example, an increase in monthly license fees to operate in some sections of the capital, at a time when tourism is in decline, for the benefit the state-owned hotel chain and its accomplices — are examples of a discriminatory policy against an emerging economic sector that now makes up 12% of GDP.

It seems that socialism, a failed system incapable of competing honestly with the private sector, has condemned private initiative to life behind bars while hope has received the death sentence.

In interviews, many state media officials express support for various absurd laws, decrees and regulations when in reality and in private they reject them and wish everything would change, a reflection of the national sentiment at large. Everything else is just blah, blah, blah.

Early Emigration

A group of Cubans remember the ’maleconazo*’ in Stockholm. (Misceláneas de Cuba)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Leandro Cansino, Stockholm, 6 September 2019 — I dare to assert what is happening to you right now while you are reading me, when you look around and see how much you’ve been robbed of, how much you have accepted losing to  see yourself live in a merely decent way.

The exchange is more than prosperity. Do you remember the day you left? Nothing was the same again, and yes, we live better, we have what we needed so much and even a little more, we have freedom, we have the peace to speak and our voice is heard and we are not harassed for it. How much did you leave behind, how much did you lose?

Every time I pack my suitcase with joy and reunite with my childhood, an intrapersonal dialogue with many questions is born in me and no answer appears to greet me on the road. continue reading

My neighbors are increasingly hunched over. I see that their eyes are lost looking at the ground and they lower their heads, they carry an internal deafening cry silenced by grief. Others have already left without saying goodbye, my friends already have their own families or have moved. I know that they think the same, they will see me older, bald and wrinkled, but yes, I went away facing the possibility of not seeing them again.

Here I am, in Scandinavia, driving a bus along white snowy roads, without salsa or reggaeton; in a reserved, introverted and very methodical society to which I had to force myself to mold to, to learn an unknown language and expose myself to sporadic manifestations of racism.

And it is not a lament, I am happy to see my tribe live better at the same time I think of those who have not been able to emerge and are still under the boot of a few stone souls. Here I am, contributing to the development of a foreign country and the pain of not doing the same for my own.

The only piece of Cuba that I have nearby is called the Embassy. I would call it a Castro savings bank, a den you approach by obligation and pay absurd prices for poorly inked papers, a contradictory passport, an indifferent and despotic treatment.

Do not forget, compatriot, that when you emigrate you make an exchange, you gain in material goods and you lose in spirit, your mind opens and your soul closes, joyful splurges and melancholy swallows. It is no coincidence that your greatest desires are to return to the earth and embrace it, feel the warmth of your parents and not stop looking at them, your tears are your best witnesses. Mother Earth and your family always think of you, and they miss you and pray for you.

*Translator’s note: The “maleconazo” was a spontaneous street protest in Havana in August of 1994.

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

A Young Actress is Beaten in the Street in Camaguey: Her Aggressor is Still Free

The young woman, Virgin Martinez, was assaulted after rejecting the sexual pretensions of a stranger who approached her on the street. (Cuba Time)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 5 September 2019 — A week before she turned 20, actress Virgen Martinez was attacked by a man in Alameda Street in the town of Céspedes in the province of Camagüey.

The events occurred near the town service store, after Martínez greeted an acquaintance who was accompanied by a man. When the actress tried to continue her way alone, the individual began to rudely harass her.

As she initially told the publication La Hora de Cuba, the young woman demanded that the man move away but he continued to approach her while speaking in a disrespectful tone. “He was getting near to me to do whatever he wanted,” she recalls now, still under the trauma of what happened. continue reading

Martinez slapped the subject and kicked him but the man took her by the hair and threw her against the ground. “I hit the sidewalk and cut my forehead,” she says. As she got up, the individual grabbed her and took a bite on her face near her mouth. Finally the young woman was able to escape from the aggressor when he let her go when he saw that a group of people were approaching the place.

Now Virgin has an injured leg due to a blow in the kneecap and in the provincial hospital of Camagüey they put a bandage on her to immobilize the injured part. She will be like this for at least eight days and the doctors still have not given her an exact date of when she will be able to return to work.

The young woman is an actress of the Teatro del Espacio Interior group and in the play they are now rehearsing, directed by Mario Junquera titled La caza del caimán (The Alligator Hunt), there are only three actors. The character played by Martínez is precisely that of a battered woman in a story that takes place in the context of the closure of several sugar factories.

The actress told this newspaper that now her main task is to “lift her spirits” and she has been very worried about the possible scars on her face. “I work with my image, with my body. My knee has to be fine because I need to have mobility in my work, I have to show my face and I have been affected by an ugly bite in the area of my mouth.”

The alleged aggressor, a man of some 35 years, denies the events. He lives in Céspedes, where the young woman goes frequently. In the complaint that the police wrote after Martinez’s statements, they recorded what happened as only “minor injuries.”

Now, she fears that the man will assault her again. “I don’t know how those things work, I thought they should have him under arrest, but he’s still on the street because he paid a bail of 1,000 Cuban pesos,” she says.

In Cuba there are no official statistics of aggressions against women or feminicides. According to National Assembly of People’s Power deputy Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of former president Raúl Castro, these crimes based on gender do not occur on the Island “thanks to the Revolution.”

 However, with the extension of new technologies, greater access to social networks and the existence of numerous independent media, complaints of harassment and attacks against women are frequent.

Recently the public complaint made by Dianelys Alfonso against the musician José Luis Cortés, El Tosco, for alleged verbal, physical and sexual abuse opened the Pandora’s box of the Cuban Me Too and in a few days hundreds of signatures were added to a letter in support of singer.

The current legislation does not specify sexist violence and the Criminal Code does not recognize aggravating factors of this kind. The cases of women who die at the hands of their partners are addressed in court like any other homicide.

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

US Limits Remittances, But Not for Cuban NGOs or the Private Sector

The recipient of remittances cannot be an official of the Cuban Government. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, September 6, 2019 — Cuban-Americans can only send $1,000 every three months to their family members in Cuba according to the new rules announced this Friday by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Department of the Treasury of the United States. However, the restrictions will not be applied to NGOs nor to the Island’s private sector.

The amendments, which are added to the regulations on Cuban assets implemented in recent months by Donald Trump’s administration, had been announced in April and will go into effect on October 9.

The new measures also eliminate donations, which would permit American citizens to send money to friends living on the Island. continue reading

The recipient of the remittances cannot be an official of the Cuban Government, a member of the Communist Party, or a close family member of one of these, explains the statement, although OFAC doesn’t explain what mechanisms it will employ to verify the political or military links of each recipient.

On the other hand, the private sector and NGOs on the Island will not be subjected to those limitations.

The OFAC document stresses Washington’s political will to favor the growth of a private sector independent from the Cuban Government. For that reason there will not be restrictions on sending remittances to self-employed people and certain NGOs, like Churches.

The small Cuban private sector is made up of a little more than half a million people and is developing especially in the sectors of restaurants (“paladares”), tourist lodging, and transportation.

“We are taking additional measures to financially isolate the Cuban regime. The United States holds it responsible for the oppression of the Cuban people and the support of other dictatorships throughout the region, like the illegitimate regime of Maduro,” warned the secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin.

“Through these amendments, the Treasury is denying Cuba access to strong currency, and we are checking the bad behavior of the Cuban Government as we continue supporting the people of Cuba who are suffering so much,” says the official notice.

“These actions mark a continuous commitment to implement the president’s policy on Cuba,” adds the statement. Previously, in June of 2019, OFAC suspended permission for cruise ships and further restricted non-family trips to Cuba by prohibiting educational and so-called people-to-people trips.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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

More than Half of Artemisa Schools are in Bad Conditions as the School Year Begins in Cuba

The biggest constructive efforts regarding materials and labor have been concentrated in the construction of the province’s university. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Bertha K. Guillen, San Cristobal, September 4, 2019 — The enthusiasm to see classmates again and tell stories about their vacations has not prevented Artemisa’s students from seeing the deterioration of the schools to which they returned this Monday. The schools welcomed their students with an evident lack of paint, broken pipes, half-functioning toilets, and damaged school furniture.

The 2019-2020 school year has started in the province with 52.7% of facilities in poor conditions and a deficit of 1,347 teachers. The increase in number of students compared with the previous year, the exodus of teachers, and the limited quantity of graduates in education have aggravated the situation.

Educational authorities insist that they will try to reverse this situation with teachers contracted by the hour and with an increase in the teaching load and students per teacher, according to statements to the local newspaper El Artemiseño by the provincial director of Education, Caridad Cruz. continue reading

Combat High School in Rio Hondo. (14ymedio)

The parents of school-age children are worried because the problem is growing as the months pass and other teachers could leave the classroom, but right now, the priority is the problems with infrastructure in the schools.

Artemisa is in first place in terms of deterioration in schools. More than half of its facilities have been evaluated from fair to bad, double that in Matanzas (25.4%), Sancti Spiritus (25.3%), Havana (22.5%), and Holguin (19.7%), according to data provided by Francisco Navarro Gouraige, director of investment at the Ministry of Education.

The main damages are concentrated in the woodwork of windows and doors, the furniture, bathroom furnishings, sanitary and hydraulic pipes, electric work, and the lighting systems.

Despite everything, the school year began with 385 schools in the province taking in 80,215 students, 1,078 more than the previous year. The salary increase that went into effect in August brought back to the province around 500 teachers. However, the number of departures remains high. Meanwhile the number of graduates from education programs entering the workforce was only 46.

“I read in El Artemiseño that, with the salary increase, 102 of the 197 teachers who asked for leave at the end of last year changed their minds, but people are tired of the bad conditions in which we work, the strictness with which you have to follow orders that have more to do with politics than educating, and the indoctrination, so many leave, it’s just that those figures are barely publicized,” Magalis Rodríguez, a teacher with more than 38 years of experience who preferred to definitively retire, tells this newspaper.

“The biggest motivation to go back is the pension, with the salary increase the number is now a little higher than what we could get if we work for ourselves,” says Rosario, a primary school teacher who is trying to go back to teaching after five years of taking care of children as a self-employed worker.

With their eyes set on a pension according to the new salary scale, many teachers close to retirement age will stay for a short period in the classroom. “As soon as I have the possibility to retire with a little more money I’m leaving,” a teacher who preferred to remain anonymous tells 14ymedio.

The biggest deficit in educators is in high schools, especially in subjects like chemistry and mathematics. The latter is one of the subjects with an obligatory examination to enter any university in the country, which is why many parents have decided to turn to private teachers to complement what is learned in classes.

“Last year was chaotic, the lack of teachers almost cost the school year for a group of students. Of six classes per week in a subject they only give two, many teachers leave in the middle of the year to transfer to the Faculty of Medical Sciences, where they work less and the salary is the same. This year I’m already paying teachers [to tutor my child], we can’t risk failing the entrance exams for university,” says Felicia, mother of a twelfth-grade student.

Combat Urban High School, in San Cristobal, displays a devastating view, but not different from the rest of the municipality’s schools. More than half of the windows are totally destroyed, the perimeter area of the entrance is in bad condition, trash is accumulated in every corner, and students avoid entering the bathrooms.

Parents of the students, worried about their children’s continued stay in such precarious conditions, have taken on some of the maintenance work.

Ground level at the Faculty of Medicine. (14ymedio)

“They told us that each of us is responsible for fixing the desk and chair of our children. We have also had to coordinate to replace the missing slats on window blinds, bring in lightbulbs, paint the classroom, and try to make the environment a little nicer, because in these conditions no one studies,” explains Yusimí, one of the mothers who since Monday afternoon has already seen to these tasks.

In Artemisa, only 37 schools have been repaired, and the students of two schools have been relocated for a major repair. However, the greatest efforts regarding materials and labor have been concentrated in the construction of the province’s university and the pedagogic institutes that are opening their doors this September.

“The partial repairs have been left in the hands of the teaching staff of each school and the administration boards of each municipality, the province’s priority is educational,” insists a worker from Provincial Education.

“Without resources you cannot work. If there’s no cement, wood, or even the barest essentials to unblock the bathrooms, the brigade can’t do anything, nor the teachers, we’re not magicians,” stresses one of the brigade workers staying at Combat High in Rio Hondo.

The administrative staff tries to minimize the importance of the matter. A father worried about the situation received this response from an employee who tried to reassure him: “The school isn’t falling down.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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

Unpacu and Cuba Decides Call for Going Out to the Streets to Protest on September 8

Organizers show their solidarity with the Women in White Movement who, as shown here, are “repressed week after week by the dictatorship.” (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, September 5, 2019 — The Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu) and Cuba Decides have called on the Island’s population to demonstrate next Sunday, September 8, at 10 in the morning, according to a statement. “We will go out to the parks and other public spaces of our country,” reads the notice.

The announcement is these organizations’ response “to the increase in repression against the peaceful opposition and the citizenry” and for that reason they have chosen the day before the meeting of the Joint Council of the Cuban Government and the European Union in Cuba, which the high representative of foreign policy, Federica Mogherini, will attend on Monday.

Unpacu and Cuba Decides intend to denounce “the notable increase in repression for political motives and the violations of the rights of the Cuban people,” and show their solidarity with the Women in White Movement “repressed week after week by the dictatorship.” continue reading

The support also extends to “journalists and independent artists; the defenders of religious freedoms and the LGBTI activists who suffer persecution; and all peaceful persons and organizations” who promote respect for human rights and “change of the system toward democracy in Cuba,” reads the announcement.

The initiative’s organizers ask for an end to police abuses, prison terms for political motives, violations of the right to enter or leave the country, poor treatment and torture in prisons, police raids on homes of dissidents, and violent arrests, in addition to the harassment of activists.

The text which calls for a demonstration on Sunday includes a “repudiation of the implementation of an Accord of Political Dialogue, because it is not conditioned on concrete changes in the political-economic system of the country which guarantees the cessation of repression and respect for the basic freedoms of citizens.”

The document signed by both organizations urges “the participation of civil society and the opposition in any process of negotiation with the dictatorship.” According to both opposition groups, the EU should check “the implementation of the PDCA until the concrete reforms demanded of the regime are made clear.”

Among the petitions for reforms Unpacu and Cuba Decides indicate “the release of all political prisoners and the total cessation of harassment and violence of State Security and the police against human rights defenders and the citizenry.”

To this they add “the right to change the country’s political system in a binding plebiscite to allow the participation of the citizenry in free, just, and pluralistic elections for the first time in more than 60 years.”

The organizers of the call appeal “to the solidarity of the international community to check the impunity of the tyranny that means to attack our coordinators and activists with new assaults, robberies, violent arrests, and prison.” They hope that this time the voice of Europe is raised in the person of its high representative, Federica Mogherini, to support those who defend “the same democratic rights.”

The protest will coincide with the day of the patron of Cuba, the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre, a national symbol that had a big presence in the wars of independence and also in subsequent social movements. As a general rule, on that day in several parishes in the country pilgrimages are made in which thousands of people gather.

In recent years the day of Cachita, as the Virgin of Charity is popularly known, has meant forceful police operations, arrests of activists, surveillance around opposition figures’ homes, and arbitrary arrests.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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

Starting a Business in Miami: A Road With Difficulties and Rewards for Cubans

Madeleydis Mejía, a Cuban entrepreneur who opened her own restaurant in Miami. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yessenia Zevallos, Miami | August 29, 2019 — “Starting a business in Miami isn’t easy. It requires a lot of sacrifice, effort, and patience because the road is long,” says Madeleydis Mejía as she rocks the carriage of her newborn baby. This Cuban arrived in Miami seven years ago to fulfill the dream of her life: to become a business owner.

“Behind every one of these walls there are many hours of insomnia, of tears, of hardships, but also of satisfaction and achievement,” says Mejía, 32, as she looks around her recently opened restaurant.

La Gozadera Pizzeria Restaurant, located on one side of Coral Way, an important avenue in the residential area in Miami, specializes in Italian food, but also has a creole menu that includes classic plates like congri rice and roast pork, in the purest Cuban style. continue reading

An entree at the restaurant.

“Nothing is impossible when you make an effort and have faith,” explains Mejía, also the owner of Trendy Extension Salon, a hair salon located a few meters from her restaurant.

Both businesses are run by Mejía’s family. Her husband, Juan Carlos Blanco, also Cuban, is the chef at the restaurant and her younger brother is in charge of logistics. Her mother and several friends also collaborate.

“I came to this country with nothing. From the beginning it’s been difficult because no bank lends you money if you arrived recently, so you have to start with your own savings,” she explains.

With different tones of gray, and a design exclusively created by Mejía and her family, La Gozadera is a restaurant with a Cuban stamp that is seen from the sunflowers used as decorations to the Latin music that invades every space of the place. A broad mural recreates the Havana capitol and several decorative motifs recall Cuba.

“I called it La Gozadera for the hit by the group Gente de Zona, of whom I’m a fan and friend,” explains Mejía. “The construction of the place was done by a family member. All together we were knocking down the walls of an old pharmacy that was in ruins to build the restaurant,” she adds.

“Now the most difficult thing is to maintain it,” says Mejía. “Having a restaurant in Miami isn’t like having an ice cream shop in Cuba. Here there is a lot of competition and we small businesses have to work very hard to survive,” she adds.

Eduardo Álvarez Rivet, another Cuban who has lived in Miami for seven years, has managed to open a beauty salon. Álvarez, born in Guanajay, started out on his journey as a stylist in Pinar del Rio. There, he says, was born his passion for hairdressing and the desire to get his family ahead.

“I started the Rivet Salon so that my mother’s surname would prevail,” says Álvarez, 44.

Rivet Salon specializes in offering various esthetic services like haircuts, coloring, and ironing, among others, and according to its owner the decoration of the place, full of elegant crystals, was completely his idea. The salon is in West Kendall, a comfortable residential zone located to the southwest of Miami.

Before opening his own business, Álvarez worked for 10 years as a hairdresser for an employer, first in Peru and then in Miami. “Opening a business requires a lot more effort and more time,” says the now business owner. Álvarez hasn’t taken any type of classes on how to manage a business but he mentions that everything he learned came from practice. “In Cuba I learned what it was to work since I was little and in Peru I learned how to treat the client, how to be an administrator and strategist,” he explains.

This entrepreneur left Cuba for Peru in 2007 to be able to improve economically and professionally. Later he decided to migrate to the United States because he saw more opportunity to open his business.

“I have clients who emigrated from Cuba and now I find them in the salon,” he says with pride. Álvarez compares his country of origin with the United States and says that in the south of Florida he has more possibilities to develop his business.

“Having a business in Cuba is very different from having a business in Miami,” says Álvarez as he explains the difficulties that he had on the Island to get products. Starting a business in Cuba is very difficult in face of the lack of supplies and the government bureaucracy, excessive if compared with the limited legal documents to open a business in Miami.

“The most important thing is that I have the possibility to find fulfillment in my profession and that is what gives me more desire to do it,” he says, referring to many immigrants who cannot work in the area in which they specialized.

The main difficulties for this hairdresser have been adapting to the culture and language of the country. Álvarez misses Cuba a lot, but he says that here is where he has more opportunities to better himself.

“Don’t waste time because this country is very big. Keep going forward, with a lot of effort you can achieve your goals,” Álvarez advises anyone who wants to open a business in the US.

Prospera is a state-owned nonprofit organization specializing in offering bilingual assistance to Hispanic entrepreneurs trying to establish or expand their businesses, and has helped various Cuban new arrivals to Miami to start businesses.

“What I most admire about the recently arrived Cubans is that they have a great capacity for recovery, they don’t put off work, they have a desire to learn,” says Myrna Sonora, vice president of Prospera, who is also Cuban-American.

Sonora says that Prospera has served many recently arrived Cubans who want to move forward as mechanics, stylists, or teachers, among other professions. “In the last five years, 13% of Prospera’s users in the south of Florida were recently arrived Cubans and in the last fiscal year of 2017-2018, it went up to 14%.”

“There was a time in which we were seeing very few professionals, but now it has gone up again. We are seeing many doctors and different professions. Also Cubans who enter the United States from third countries,” explains Sonora, who has been working at Prospera for seven years.

The vice president of the organization says that she is “proud of the fact that despite any difficulty that they have had to put up with, that spirit of being successful, of working hard to prosper and achieve the American dream” remains present in her compatriots.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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