Raul Castro Calls for Savings and Denounces US "Neoliberal Offensive" in Latin America

Ex-Governor Raúl Castro with President Miguel Díaz-Canel in Santiago de Cuba. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 26, 2018 — Raul Castro returned to the limelight, making an appearance at the main event celebrating the sixty-fifth anniversary of the assault on the Moncada Barracks, considered by the government to be the start of the Cuban revolution. In his first speech since giving up power on April 19, the former president spoke once again the nation’s tense economic situation, called for maximum savings and described recent electoral defeats of leftist Latin American leaders as a “neoliberal offensive.”

Castro, who remains secrectary general of the Cuban Communist Party, referred to the current constitutional reform process, stating its success “wil depend on Cubans’ active and committed participation.” He urged that all necessary steps be taken to ensure that “every citizen understands how profound and sweeping the proposed changes in the text are.”

At the beginning of this month five Protestant denominations made public statements opposing marriage equality, which the proposed constitution defines as the “union between two people” rather than “between a man and a woman.” For this reason several religious communities are calling on their members to reject the constitution. continue reading

Some opposition groups are also calling for a “no” vote in the referendum in protest against an article in the document which identifies the Communist Party as of the nation’s guiding force and reaffirms the “irrevocability” of the socialist system. Numerous dissident organizations have begun to campaigning for a negative vote.

“We cannot ignore the complicated nature of the current internal and external situation,” Castro acknowledged during the commemoration of the 1953 assault on the Moncada Barracks — at the time the most important military fortress in eastern Cuba — in which he took part with his brother.

The political event was broadcast live by state radio and television and was attended by more than 10,000 Santiago residents, who began arriving at the site sometime after midnight on Wednesday.

Castro warned of “an ongoing, tense situation in foreign earnings as a result of anticipated economic impacts from sugar exports and tourism” and blamed the problems “a prolonged drought, a devastating Hurricane Irma, unseasonably heavy rains and tropical storm Alberto.”

The former leader also cited the U.S. embargo, a standard talking point in his speeches, and denounced its “tightening” in recent months, which coincided with the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House.

“Despite these adverse factors, as previously reported, there was a slight growth of the economy in the first half of the year,” he said, referring to the 1.1% of GDP growth between January and June 2018, an insufficient figure for a real improvement in the lives of Cubans, according to some economists interviewed by this newspaper.

Castro described this result as “encouraging” but said that “it is necessary to ensure exports and reduce all non-essential expenses to allocate the amounts available to production and services that generate income in foreign currency.” The phrase was received with very serious faces among those present.

The memory of the economic crisis of the 90s, officially named the Special Period, has resurged with more intensity in the last year with the cuts of oil shipments to the island from Venezuela, the worsening of the shortages of products in the network of retail stores and the return of power cuts in several cities in the country.

The former president defined savings as “the main source of resources” in these circumstances and, as is traditional in these speeches whose style was coined by his brother Fidel Castro, he did not detail the figures for productive achievements or future projects.

In relation to the retreat suffered by the left in Latin America, the former president blamed Washington and its “methods of unconventional warfare,” in addition to describing as “fraudulent” some successes of the right in Latin American elections for having benefited from “support of the hegemonic media.” It is, according to him, “a neoliberal offensive.”

Castro did not miss the opportunity to reiterate Cuba’s “unwavering solidarity” with Nicolás Maduro and Daniel Ortega, in addition to demanding the freedom of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and “his right to be the presidential candidate of the Workers Party” in the upcoming Brazilian elections.

Relations with Washington occupied a good part of the speech in which Castro reiterated the phrase that “Cuba should not be expected to renounce the ideas for which it had fought for more than a century in order to improve relations with the United States.”

This week the Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, Paco Palmieri, met in Havana with officials of the Foreign Ministry, who once again denied the attacks and accused the United States of seeking political ends. In his speech this Thursday, Raul Castro defined the alleged attacks as a pretext for the Trump Administration to cool relations with the island.

When he finished speaking, the first rays of sun had not yet come out in Santiago de Cuba.

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

Cuban Economy’s 1.1% Growth is Not Felt on Cubans’ Dinner Tables

Residents walking near the entrance of Barbacoa, in Guantánamo. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Pentón, Miami | 25 July 2018 – Cuba’s 1.1% economic growth the first semester of 2018, announced by President Miguel Díaz-Canel, will not reach the kitchens of the Cuban people, nor will it be felt in the already reduced purchasing power of their wallets, according to various economists consulted by 14ymedio.

The island, crippled by the crisis of its greatest ally, Venezuela, has not been able to recover in light of the reduced number of tourists, the fall in exports, the impacts of tropical hurricanes and the incompetence of governmental officials.

“I am alarmed by this statistic. I am quite worried because I believe the Cuban economy is quickly getting out of control. Various Latin American nations have current growth rates above 4%. Cuba is below average. It is usual [for Cuba], but it indicates that the motors of the economy are turned off,” says the Cuban professor and economist Elías Amor Bravo from Valencia, Spain. continue reading

Amor Bravo explains that the low economic growth rate is produced by the fall in tourism, which is not registering the figures that were anticipated. In the first semester of the year, the number of tourists that traveled to Cuba fell by 5%. In the case of Americans, the reduction was of 24% (some 266,000 people) compared to the previous year. President Donald Trump’s new policy, which promised a hard stance against the tourism enterprises owned by the Cuban military, has struck the country’s economy.

The economist says that foreign direct investment continues to be paltry with respect to the 2.5 billion dollars that the country needs annually. In addition, the sugar harvest has been quite poor, one of the worst in an entire century in fact (1.1 millions of tons), coupled with the damage caused by hurricane Irma (13.585 billion dollars) and tropical storm Alberto. The trade balance (the difference between exports and imports) in 2016, the last year for which statistics are available, is of -7.953 billion dollars.

“The uncontrolled public deficit has snowballed from year to year and is fed by an ever-increasing debt,” cites Amor, in addition to “the government officials’ failure to manage the economy.”

Cuba received crucial aid in 2014 with the pardoning of 90% of its debt of 35 billion dollars to the former Soviet Union, of which the Russian Federation was on the receiving end. In 2015, the Paris Club and Havana reached an agreement to forgive 8.5 of the 11.1 billion dollars Cuba had accumulated in debt and interest since 1986. Mexico also pardoned 70% of the 487 million it had loaned to the island. Japan forgave almost one billion dollars of an outstanding debt in 2014.

“The symptom of the illness is a fever, but the illness is what a doctor must study. If you only fight the fever you don’t solve the problem. The illness in the Cuban case is the disequilibrium due to a lack of exports and the uncontrollable spending of the State,” he says.

An increase in blackouts, more shortages in shops where items are sold in Cuban convertible pesos (CUC), as well as in the rationed markets, are the result of the island’s current economic situation. This has led to a resurgence of government control over the private sector. According to economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago’s calculations, the average Cuban’s purchasing power is barely 51% of what it was in 1989.

The signs of deterioration have also been felt by the pharmaceutical sector due to various liquidity issues related to paying suppliers of raw materials. In an industry that imports 85% of the ingredients for the fabrication of drugs, the crisis has led to shortages of 45 basic medications.

The picture is the same for the supplies of ice cream, soft drinks and beer which have fallen sharply in recent months in stores and manufacturers. The problems in buying packaging and raw materials abroad has led many industries, such as Cuba’s iconic ice cream maker Coppelia, to reduce their production and temporarily close some plants.

Mesa-Lago concludes in a recent study that the average growth of the economy between 2016-2018 will be 0.6%, a very poor figure compared with other countries in the region. The International Monetary Fund forecast 1.6% growth for Latin America this year.

Emilio Morales, director of The Havana Consulting Group, also doubts the Cuban president’s figure. “A growth of 1.1% of GDP is questionable due to the poor economic results of this semester. At this moment the country is going through a tense financial situation and a profound lack of liquidity, which has delayed payments to a group of important suppliers of raw materials and products,” says Morales.

Cuba managed to boost its economy after Hugo Chávez came to power in Venezuela, which allowed it to find an alternative to the subsidies it had received from the former Soviet Union.

The signing of a collaboration agreement with Caracas at the beginning of this century and the sending of tens of thousands of professionals to work in Venezuela, for which that country paid Havana directly with subsidized oil, was like giving Fidel Castro’s government an oxygen balloon. However, the crisis facing Venezuela has caused this to change.

According to the latest published official figures, trade between both countries fell to 2.224 billion dollars in 2016, the historical minimum since the beginning of Chavismo, after having exceeded 8.2 billion in 2012.

Left side: Percentage of oil imports by Venezuela. Right side: Venezuelan exports to oil to ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas) countries.

Venezuela, which in the best years of its “Bolivarian revolution” sent around 120,000 barrels of oil per day to Cuba (at a value of about 4 billion dollars a year), has reduced the shipments to about 55,000 barrels. The vertiginous fall of petroleum production in Venezuela has forced it to go to international markets to buy crude oil that it later sends to Cuba by an annual cost of around 1.2 billion dollars.

Cuba-Venezuela Trade Figures. Red line: Imports from Venezuela to Cuba. Green line: Exports from Cuba to Venezuela. Blue bars: Total trade. Source: Cuba’s Office of National Statistics

According to the economist Omar Everleny Pérez, “the government’s plan is still not being met every year, and the plan itself is already low.”

“For the economy to achieve the takeoff it needs to grow steadily between 5% and 7%, and for the last four or five years the Cuban economy has hit a plateau of 2%,” he told this newspaper by phone.

Pérez, who directed the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy at the University of Havana, believes that there is a vicious circle that blocks growth from resuming.

“A 1%  growth in the case of an economy with a level as low as Cuba’s is nothing, it does not reach the population, it has no impact,” he says.

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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.

An Old Discourse / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 20July 2018 — At the close of the Tenth Congress of the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC), the new President of the Councils of State and of Ministers said, “Cuban journalists deserve the indisputable credit for having sustained the voice of the nation during the most adverse circumstances and periods, with admirable loyalty, strong sense of responsibility, talent, intelligence, and contagious enthusiasm that always generates interesting proposals.”

A clarification is in order: In reality, the only voice that they have sustained has been that of the sole party and of the government, not that of the nation. continue reading

At another point in his speech, he asserted, “I understand the anger of those who are not invited to the table because they are not part of UPEC, nor of the Cuban society that won, with sacrifice and effort, the exclusive right to discuss how to design the future.”

Another clarification is in order: Who decided that to make current journalism one must be part of the officialist UPEC? Who decided that to discuss how to design the future, one must be part of the exclusive governmental civil society?

A requirement so permeated by dogmatism and intolerance, of a restrictive and sectarian character–so foreign to José Martí’s thinking of “one Republic for all and for the good of all”–is shocking in our day when information no longer is institutional and, in the case of Cuba and similar countries, governmental, before it is civic: Twitter, the iPhone, Instagram, blogs, tablets, laptops, and all the new technology, has placed in citizens’ hands the means to democratize information. The era of official and sealed information, and of one opinion, has passed, and nobody cares about it anymore.

Too bad that the supposed “new discourse” is so like the old one, which seems taken from a moth-eaten archive.

Translated By: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Corruption and Mistreatment in the Ruins of the Old Hotel Rex in Havana

Yudiris Caridad Cintras with her three children leaving the Hotel Rex. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 26 July 2018 — The two hotels have the same name but have had very different destinies. The Hotel Rex in Santiago de Cuba, where some of the protagonists of the assault on the Moncada barracks stayed, can boast of three stars. The ruins of what was once the Hotel Rex in Havana, on the other hand, at number 64 San Miguel Street, are home to several families who live with the fear of an imminent collapse or eviction.

The deterioration of this four-story building with its formerly beautiful Art Deco facade adorned with balconies has had different stages. The worst came to pass in the late 80s, when it stopped being an inn that was rented by the hour for love affairs and became a shelter to accommodate families who had lost their homes due to building collapses, fires or because the buildings they previously lived in had simply deteriorated to the point where they were declared uninhabitable. continue reading

Each of the small rooms with bathroom, suitable for the shelter two lovers for a couple of hours of passion, welcomed large families who installed kitchens, laundry rooms and ‘subdivisions’ made from whatever material was available. Everyone believed that their stay would be for a limited time and under the logic of provisionality exploited their spaces without mercy.

Finally, the stigma of uninhabitability fell on the Rex and its inhabitants were relocated. However, despite the unfortunate state in which negligence left the building, it remained a space with a roof and this, more than a minimum, was a luxury for the most needy, willing to do anything to obtain and maintain housing in the capital of the Republic.

Exterior view of the Hotel Rex in San Miguel street in Centro Habana. (14ymedio)

They come from all the provinces — hustlers, workers joining the “heroic construction contingents,” policemen to persecute criminals, and thugs to evade the police– with every square meter of surface disputed every day, along with every stretch of cable through which the electricity circulates, and each pipe through which the water flows.

The network of procedures required to obtain a permit to live in this lion’s den includes the recognition of ‘exceptional circumstances’ that legitimizes some cases and, although it is difficult to prove, many of the previous procedures that resulted in the authorization to live there bear the unmistakable stench of corruption.

Yudiris Caridad Cintras, from the municipality of Antilla, in Holguín, had to escape with her three children from the house where she was mistreated for more than 7 years by her husband, an ex-cop who was never convicted of any of the numerous complaints she filed for threats and abuse.

This took place in May 2017, when she was 30 years old, and led her to qualify for the category of a “social case,” for which she receives economic aid of 300 Cuban pesos (roughly $12 US): 135 to pay for meals, and 165 for two of her children who do not receive maintenance from the father.

The delegate for this district of the municipality of Centro Habana, Ramón César García, alias El Yardo, was assigned the task of housing her and he placed her in a room on the second floor of the Rex that did not even have a toilet. For months she had to relieve herself in bags. Some neighbors sympathized with Yudiris and helped her move to the third floor, where there was a room with better conditions. They improvised a door for her and there she settled with what she could pick up off the street. Now she sleeps on the floor with her children, after burning old mattresses infected with bedbugs.

Currently, relations between Yudiris and the delegate are very difficult. According to her, this representative of the People’s Power, also a former cop, “has in his house the control of the water pump that supplies that liquid, subject to his own pleasure.” She hasn’t forgotten the occasion when she went to complain that she had been without water for days.” He mistreated me verbally and physically in the presence of my children, I had the youngest of the children in my arms when he knocked me to the ground by punching me in the face.” In addition, Yuridis denounces that he is accusing her of being a “human rights” person or a member of the Ladies in White, in order to isolate her.

Yudiris Caridad Cintras her rights in the offices of the Municipal People’s Power of Centro Habana. (14ymedio)

As recounted by Yudiris herself, and as 14ymedio was able to verify, also living in the Rex are around a dozen police friends of the delegate, who support him unconditionally in gratitude for the authorizations he has provided them without legal grounds. “I’m surrounded,” says the woman with a mixture of humor and anguish

Yudiris has gone to every government agency to raise complaints. In each office she tells her whole story and each one adds the new steps to her ordeal.

Her case is now known to the Ombudsman Office of the Council of State, in the military prosecutor’s office, the provincial prosecutor’s office, the provincial Committee of the Party, the Federation of Cuban Women, and the Municipal Assembly of Centro Habana. “I have been promised mattresses and a kitchen but the only thing I have achieved is that they allow me to have one of my children in a Children’s Circle.”

Yudiris de la Caridad is just one of the many cases caught between the quarrels and shared solidarity in this lodging that has become a pigsty. The human birds of prey among the ruins dehumanize some and make others better, but they are all victims equally, even the victimizers.

This Thursday July 26, in the revelry of the celebrations for the attack on the Moncada Barracks so many years ago, some of the veterans of that “historical feat” will remember the hours they spent at the Rex Hotel in Santiago de Cuba, maybe they will visit it and admire the good state in which everything is preserved. Probably none of them knows about the Havana Rex, nor do they need to.

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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 About the Constitution / Fernando Dámaso

Arlequín. Héctor Catá.

Fernando Damaso, 12 July 2018 — The 1940 Constitution, considered one of the most democratic, advanced and well-balanced constitutions in the world, was prepared by important and well-known representatives of Cuban society, politics and economics, selected by way of free and honest elections, to form the Constituent Assembly, in order that each party could publicly set out its constitutional programme.

It ended up with seventy-seven selected delegates (42 opposition and 35 government), including statesmen, intellectuals, lawyers, polemicists, parliamentarians, experts in international law, workers’ leaders, and political leaders, representing all ideological and political perspectives, from the most radical to the most conservative. Although some historians say there were eighty-one, I am going on the figures provided by Dr. Carlos Marquez Sterling, which I consider the more accurate. In the end it was signed by seventy-one delegates. continue reading

All the debates were public and transmitted on the radio, with the press giving its opinions and debating the issues, putting things before the public and creating an atmosphere of patriotic fervour and real popular participation and discussion.

What is happening now, as in 1976, and its subsequent reforms, ends up as a totalitarian reform, with a project put together by a chosen group of Party and government officials, whom the people don’t know and, most of them having no public reputation apart from representing the different current national ideologies and politics. The process is run by the ancient Party and government directors, like an updating for the present day economic situation, without touching the policies, which are dogmatically maintained, with the objective of holding onto power for as long as possible.

They consider that a Constitutional Assembly is unnecessary because the National Assembly of Peoples’ Power has within its functions that of drawing up or reforming the Constitution. It is well-known that this doesn’t serve present-day Cuban society, but only the monopoly Party, to which it is completely subservient.

The public don’t know what is being debated either, as discussion is held behind closed doors, with only skimpy information provided later by the official press. Everyone knows that the so-called popular participation, opinions and suggestions, are swamped by a massive formal exercise, so that most people have no idea what the Constitution stands for, and, even less, its legal complications, having to just get on with accepting without question whatever is proposed, as has been the custom for the last sixty years.

It seems to have been forgotten that constitutions are not academic documents or bureaucratic formulas, but wide-ranging social pacts, which are routed in vigorous controversy, and in which consensus may be found. It is by way of such processes that constitutions are validated and acquire their relevance.

The current process, which excludes any democratic debate or participation by all Cuban social points of view, makes for a second rate constitution, incapable of achieving the importance of the 1940 version.

Photo: Arlequín. Héctor Catá.

Translated by GH

Colombian Navy Rescues More Than a Dozen Cubans on the Caribbean Sea

The group of immigrants rescued by the Colombian Navy. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14YMEDIO, Miami | July 23, 2018 – The Colombian Navy rescued 21 “undocumented” immigrants off the coast of the San Andrés archipelago, more than 400 miles from Colombia’s Atlantic shoreline, according to a statement issued by that country’s military.

Thirteen of the immigrants were Cuban nationals, while the other eight were Ecuadorians.

“The undocumented immigrants were being transported by two Colombian nationals aboard a motorboat named ‘Black Moon’ traveling in the area south of the island of San Andres,” the authorities said. continue reading

According to the statement, the migrants received medical attention at a military health facility when they reached land.

The migrants were turned over to Colombian Immigration, while the alleged traffickers were handed over to the country’s Attorney General, and the boat in which they were being transported was confiscated.

The border guards at San Andrés Station have rescued 38 undocumented migrants this year and captured five people allegedly linked to immigrant trafficking.

The Colombian coast is part of the route undertaken by thousands of Cubans, Haitians, and Africans who every year try to reach the southern border of the United States. Although the “wet foot, dry foot” policy was repealed by former President Barack Obama, many Cubans continue to arrive on U.S. soil hoping to get political asylum.

Two weeks ago, 62 emigrants from Bangladesh, Brazil, Cuba, Eritrea, and India were thrown into the waters of the Colombian Caribbean by traffickers who were transporting them on a boat to Central America. A Cuban died on the dangerous crossing, authorities said.

Translated by Tomás A.

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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.

Methodist Church Distributes Bibles on La Rampa to Denounce Equal Marriage

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana | 17 July 2018 – The shouting and singing of a hundred evangelicals who prayed in defense of the “design of the original family” was heard two blocks from the Methodist church located between K and 25th Streets in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood. A live band accompanied Pastor Lester Fernandez as he spoke to his flock in a ceremony broadcast live on the internet that lasted several hours last Saturday.

In the pews there was no room for anyone else. From the crowded seats everyone raises their arms and sings, and at times they stand up and dance. “We know that this fast is not a fast without answers but with answers,” says the pastor and the believers give him a big ovation. continue reading

Speculations that the Constitutional reform now in progress will open the door to marriage between people of the same sex, and statements “especially by Mariela Castro,” specifies the pastor, are the reason for this fast. And he asks: “Do you imagine that when our children go to school and study Civics, our children are told blatantly and openly: you have a penis but you can figure out if, instead of being a man you want to be a woman, can you imagine a class like that?” Everyone responds “Nooooo,” and again applauds.

Fernandez said that in several countries in Europe laws have been passed to regulate unions between people of the same sex, which he attributed to a supposed weakness of the Church in those places. “Thanks to the Lord, our churches in Cuba are not like that and the Lord has prepared us for this moment, today more than ever, because we are a well-defined Church and the sin that is abhorred, we abhor,” he said.

On June 28, five Christian denominations issued a statement in which they expressed their rejection of a constitutional reform that would allow for equal marriage. Since then, opinions for and against have appeared in the independent press and social networks. “There are people who have confused what we are saying. There are people who believe that we are getting into politics or we are going to get into politics because we are going to hold a demonstration against the government. Today the Party is very nervous. We have people from State Security and independent journalists who are recording us but I am not afraid,” he tells his audience.

The pastor asked those who were present to “make it clear to the Government” that they were not afraid of them “because the Church is not going to depreciate itself, that our getting into politics is depreciating us.” He also said that they were not going to “sit idly by” in this matter, which, he said, will be solved with “fasting and prayer.”

Fernandez placed the number of people attending the fast at 800 — though this newspaper calculates it was about 500 — and said it was the largest congregation ever in the church.

It is still unknown how unions between same-sex couples will be regulated, but Mariela Castro, director of the National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex) and daughter of Raúl Castro, said that the issue would be promoted in the debates of the National Assembly, as a part of the constitutional reform.

The pastor explained that “more than 3,000 churches” prayed that day in their temples because they did not get permission to march on La Rampa. “How about if we pray for the National Assembly, How about if we pray for Raúl Castro, How about if we pray for Díaz-Canel and for Lazo? And even for Mariela Castro we are going to pray,” he encouraged the congregation. Fernandez asked the Cenesex director to “instead of what she is defending today, defend the true family bond.”

The march, called by the Assemblies of God, the Eastern and Western Baptist Conventions, the Evangelical League and the Methodist Church, was suspended, they said in a statement, because it overlapped with other activities. Although they said they are also working “with government leaders” to find a date and place for another “massive event” in the future.

“At this moment the churches in Cuba are carrying out this fast in favor of the family” closing the doors “before any attempt and every intention to make homosexualism and lesbianism (sic) formalized or legalized in Cuba,” he affirms. The pastor quoted passages from the Old Testament asking for a death sentence for homosexual relationships.

Methodists distributed Bibles to passersby after fasting in their Vedado church. (14y medio)

The pastor called on the faithful between the ages of 17 and 31 to go to La Rampa, the area of the capital in which, in his opinion there are more homosexuals, and to distribute bibles for free. “The young girls are given one of the pink ones and give the men the black ones,” he exhorted, while through a side door two boys left with several boxes full of Bibles of both colors.

The convocation took place minutes later when dozens of young people walked throughout La Rampa to fulfill the pastor’s request. Under the summer sun that embraced the city, at noon, some of the passers-by directly said that they did not want to know anything about the word of God, others listened with lowered heads and almost none showed the slightest enthusiasm.

The fast was copied in other municipalities of Havana and in several provinces of the country. In Holguin, dozens of faithful gathered at the entrance of a church to shout “viva!” while waving posters with a picture of what for them represents “the original family.” Similar scenes were repeated in Guantánamo and Pinar de Río.

Designer Roberto Ramos Mori feels that the posters that have appeared stuck on some electric posts and bus stops and that were displayed this Saturday in some churches, are “inciters of hatred and discrimination.” He asks, “If they [the government levies a] fine on me for doing it, shouldn’t the same thing happen to them?”

The Facebook page of the Afro-Cuban Alliance, an independent organization that fights against LGBTI discrimination, published some images of these posters warning that the intention of this campaign is “to go against the legalization of equal marriage in the constitutional reform.”

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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.

Proceedings to Draft New Constitution Lack Transparency

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, July 10, 2018 — We now know that at its seventh plenary session the Communist Party Central Committee reviewed the draft of the new Cuban constitution. It was reported that the text of the document is now a fait accompli. In the coming days deputies to the National Assembly will approve what is still a draft. It will then be released for public comment after which the final draft will be submitted for a referendum.

In the time that has elapsed since the commission was formed to come up with a preliminary draft, no media outlet, political leader nor any government official has indicated what changes will be allowed in the revised constitution, or even if the current one will be completely reformulated. continue reading

The only thing that has been confirmed is that there will be no change to the “irrevocable” status of the socialist system and that Article 5, which proclaims the Cuban Communist Party to be the “guiding force of society and the state,” will be preserved.

As happens in any mystery, information is being replaced with speculation. Among the issues generating the most speculation are how this new Constitution will treat the issue of private property and whether same sex couples will be allowed to marry. Substantial changes to regulations governing foreign investment, government control of the economy and some new item having to do with citizenship are also anticipated.

To a lesser degree there is also speculation about a constitutional change limiting high-ranking government officials to two five-year terms, the recognition of the new provinces and a probable modification to the makeup of the National Assembly.

During the period when delegates have been drafting this document, not one of these issues has been the subject of public debate. We do not even know what was debated behind closed doors much less what arguments the advocates for various positions have used.

Considering that all the commission’s delegates are members of the Communist Party, it is worth remembering the debates held by the constituent assembly which drafted the 1940 constitution. That body was made up of seventy-seven elected members, with the governing coalition’s thirty-five participants in the minority. The opposition had forty-two, some of whom were communists.

Those historic proceedings were broadcast live on radio. Everyone knew what was being debated and what each delegate’s position was. Labor unions held daily demonstrations in front of the National Capitol, where the debates were being held, to make sure that their demands were heard. In a age before either television or social media, editorial writers from the nation’s most prominent newspapers made their own proposals and questioned others.

There is not an even minimally convincing argument to justify the lack of transparency surrounding the working sessions of this commission. One of the most striking results of this lack of transparency is the public’s indifference. People are not talking about it in the bread lines nor at the bus stops nor during informal chats at the workplace, where the World Cup and the latest installment of the nightly soap opera are what capture people’s attention.

In order to win approval for the new constitution in the upcoming referendum, the government must make sure the gears of tedium are well-oiled. The Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) will summon voters and go through the usual process. During a hasty but brief campaign with no counter arguments, it will insist on a yes vote for the fatherland, for sovereignty, for a bright future.

The current silence is not the result of negligence nor is it an oversight. It has been meticulously planned in order to minimize the time citizens need to become aware of the value of their vote.

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

Cuban Phone Company’s ‘Comprehensive Repair’ Affects Email and Internet Services

The interruption also affected Internet navigation on WIFI access points (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14YMEDIO, Havana, July 20, 20108–Another interruption in Cuba’s Nauta email and Internet services left thousands of users without communication on Friday. The failure is the second in less than three weeks that affected several official digital sites, like the newspaper Granma, the national email Nauta, and the WIFI zones of Internet connection, according to 14ymedio.

“They’re doing a comprehensive repair on the whole cellphone service to improve the network,” an employee of the state communications company Etecsa explained to this newspaper. “Many clients have called because they’re having problems, and we’re asking that they don’t try to access the WIFI network for the moment to avoid leaving the session open and continue consuming their balances without really being connected,” he added. continue reading

According to the employee, “The repair work started on Friday morning and is expected to take up to Monday night,” although the only telephone company in the country didn’t issue a notice to alert its clients nor did it apologize on social media for the inconvenience.

The interruption in service has unleashed a barrage of criticism of the State monopoly and also has generated some hope that the repairs are related to preparations for cellphone Internet service.

Cuba is one of the most backward countries in this hemisphere as far as Internet connectivity is concerned. Only 4.5 million citizens, around 40 percent of the population, can access the Web, according to official data, and independent experts find even that figure very questionable.

This past July 3, another Etecsa failure left the country without the company’s Nauta email service, and technical problems also affected the official newspapers, Granma, Trabajadores and Juventud Rebelde, which are hosted on national servers.

At this time the company is not clarifying what kind of problems they are confronting, but technical failures in the State monopoly are common, although it’s not often they affect newspapers like Granma, the offiicial voice of the Communist Party.

One week earlier, a fire in an Etecsa building caused a blackout in mobile telephone service in the provinces of the center of the country and Pinar del Río. More than 1.5 million cellphone lines remained sithout service after the disaster in Santa Clara.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuban Phone Company ‘On the Verge’ of Offering Mobile Internet, But No Date Has Been Announced

Two women look at their phones while walking in Havana. (Luz Escobar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 July 2018 — The technological infrastructure for the arrival of internet service to mobile phones is “almost there,” according to Tania Velázquez Rodríguez, a senior official at the state Telecommunications Company (Etecsa). Although she did not disclose the start date, her statements are consistent with a pre-launch “integral repair” that has caused failures in the company’s email and Nauta navigation services.

During a press conference, Velázquez called for “customers to prepare for the technological leap,” according to the official press. She said that Etecsa “is getting ready for this process with the decision to operate cellular telephony networks for 900 MHz, 1,800 MHz and 2,600 MHz.” continue reading

Currently there are more than five million cell phones in Cuba and Etecsa is preparing its commercial offices throughout the country to respond to the problems that the arrival of the internet will cause. “Everything is designed so that people can self-manage the configuration of the service without having to go into the offices,” Velazquez said.

Velázquez, Etecsa’s Vice President of Business Strategy and Technology, said access to the Internet through mobile telephony is among “the main objectives of the company” which has “the technological conditions to guarantee the quality and security of the service.”

Since Friday morning, Etecsa users have reported interruptions in Nauta email and navigation services. The failure is the second in less than three weeks affecting several official digital sites, such as the state newspaper Granma, Nauta national email service, and WIFI internet connection zones, as 14ymedio has found.

A customer service employee explained to this newspaper that she was doing “an integral repair on all the cellular telephony for the improvement of the network.” An interruption that many clients read in an optimistic key as the preparations continue to open internet browsing on cell phones.

For weeks, some privileged users have been enjoying web browsing from their mobile phones, including official journalists, foreign businessmen and diplomats.

The rest of the Internet users use wifi access areas installed in the squares and central locations of the country, in addition to the Nauta Hogar (Home) service which, this year, should reach 52,000 homes.

The official figures counted more than 4.5 million Internet users in 2016, most of them from the Wi-Fi zones installed after 2015, or from the internet rooms managed by Etecsa with terminals belonging to the company.

These data are questioned by experts who say that the government includes users who connect to intranet services, national e-mail and other portals hosted on local servers.

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

Cuban Artists Arrested Protesting in Front of the Capitol Against Decree 349

Left: Yanelys Núñez, after covering her body with excrement as a protest for the new controls on cultural diffusion. Right: The moment of the arrest of the other participants. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 July 2018 — Artists Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Amaury Pacheco OmniPoeta, Iris Ruiz, Soandry Del Rio and José Ernesto Alonso were arrested on Saturday afternoon in front of the Capitol in Havana after an attempt to protest against the recently approved Decree 349 that regulates artistic presentations in private spaces.

According to Yanelys Núñez, a curator, the artistic action consisted of Luis Manuel Otero “covering his body with human excrement” and displaying a sign with the words “free art.”

When Núñez arrived at the Capitol, she saw that a police patrol was holding the five artists in custody and decided to do the performance on her own. “I’m covered in shit now but I’m on my way to the police station at Cuba and Chacón to ask if they are there,” she told this newspaper by telephone.  continue reading



At six-thirty in the afternoon, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara also denounced the arrest to 14ymedio by telephone from the Zanja Police Station and confirmed that Iris Ruiz, Amaury Pacheco and Soandry del Río were arrested along with him. 

Upon arriving at the station at Cuba and Chacón at around 8:30 in the evening, Yanelys Núñez was able to converse with José Ernesto Alonso, who had recently been released after having been detained there, and Iris Ruiz was also released shortly afterwards.

However, at the Zanja Street police station in Centro Habana, the officers informed the curator that Luis Manuel Otero, Amaury Pacheco and Soandry del Río were transferred to Vivac (detention center in Calabazar, south of Havana) “accused of public disorder,” and all three of them must await trial behind bars. Otero was also charged with “assault” against the police, for allegedly hitting one of them.

During the protest that took place in front of the Capitol, the curator shouted that they were against Decree 349. “We are artists, we want respect, we ask to meet with the Minister of Culture,” she said. He also claims that Otero Alcántara was beaten to put him in the patrol and that Pacheco was taken away because he refused to show the identity card to the police. 

Several artists have denounced that Decree 349, published on July 10 in the Official Gazette, limits the free creation of Cuban artists and their presentations in public spaces.

The new decree, included in a larger package of measures, is intended by the Ministry of Culture (Mincult) to control the presentations of artists and musicians and to leave the door open to institutional censorship. The text establishes fines, seizures and even the possible loss of the self-employment licenses of those who hire musicians to perform concerts in private bars and clubs as well as in state spaces if they do so without having authorization from Mincult or the recruitment agencies.

In the same way, the decree punishes painters or artists who commercialize their works without state authorization. It also allows punishing those who project films that contain scenes of violence, pornography, sexist or vulgar language, use national symbols in a way that goes against current legislation or have messages that discriminate against other people because of skin color, gender, sexual orientation, disability and any other trait that is “harmful to human dignity.”

According to the letter of the decree, state entities or private businesses that broadcast music or program artistic presentations in which violence is promoted “with sexist, vulgar, discriminatory and obscene language” will be sanctioned in the same way. The decree also applies to literature by prohibiting the sale of books of “natural and legal” persons that include “contents that are harmful to ethical and cultural values.”

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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.

Paya Denouces the ‘Theater’ of Constitutional Reform on Sixth Anniversary of Her Father’s Death

A Mass for Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero was celebrated this Sunday at the Copper Hermitage in Miami. (RosaMariaPaya)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, Miami, 23 July 2018 — Cuban Dissident Rosa María Payá stressed to EFE that the legacy of her father, Oswaldo Payá, is still alive six years since his death and the constitutional reform under way in Cuba is, in her opinion, both “theater” and a “trap.”

“My father’s words are especially relevant today, as they denounce the attempt of the Castro family and the group of the dictatorship’s generals to perpetuate their power through what my father calls ’fraud change,’ which is exactly what they are seeking with this theater of constitutional reform,” said Payá.

Payá, who leads the Cuba Decides movement, spoke some hours before the celebration of a thanksgiving mass in Miami, held in honor of the sixth anniversary of the “double state crime” whose victims were Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Payá (1952-2012) and Harold Cepero (1980-2012). continue reading

The Payá-Acevedo family and the Foundation for Pan American Democracy invited the community to attend this Mass that took place in the chapel of La Caridad in Miami, a place of devotion and gatherings for Cuban exiles.

Payá and Cepero died on July 22, 2012 in Bayamo (Cuba), when the car in which they were traveling left the highway. The car was being driven by a Spanish politician, Angel Carromero, who survived and was convicted in Cuba of reckless homicide.

Rosa María and her mother, Ofelia Acevedo, affirm that it was not an accident, but that Cuban State Security agents hit the car with another vehicle from behind, causing the car to crash.

The daughter of the opposition politician said that the goal of the mass was to “honor” the lives of her father and Cepero and to “thank them for their legacy.”

The family, she added, is encouraged by the recent publication of the first book by the creator of the Christian Liberation Movement, La noche no será eterna (The Night Will Not Be Eternal)(Editorial Hypermedia, 2018), and by the fact that the United States Senate has taken up an initiative “to change the name of the street in front of the Cuban embassy in Washington to Oswaldo Payá Way.”

This initiative dates back to 2015 and is supported by senators such as Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, she said.

With regards to the constitutional reform announced by the Cuban government, she affirmed that “the dictatorship desperately needs to legitimize itself before the great discontent of the people” and the “imminent physical disappearance of the so-called ’historical leaders’.”

It has also influenced, she says, “the support won by the citizen demand for a plebiscite to change the system,” which the Cuban movement she leads proposes.

The government’s constitutional reform will be submitted to a referendum but, according to Payá, the whole process is a “fraud” and “lacks guarantees.”

She emphasizes, in this regard that, the “drafters of the preliminary draft,” members of the National Assembly, “have not been elected by Cuba’s citizens,” and that “(political) campaigning is not possible (because it is outlawed), nor are independent observers (allowed to be) present), nor is parallel counting (i.e. citizen oversight of the vote count),” nor is there  freedom to not vote without being coerced” in the  announced popular consultation.

But in addition, she added, “Whether YES wins or NO wins, the result is the same: the Communist Party in perpetuity,” because “the dictatorship” has already made clear the irrevocability of socialism and the continuation of the communist party as “governing force of society and the state.”

Oswaldo Payá, winner of the 2002 European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, will also be remembered this week at a ceremony in Miami with the the official presentation of his book La noche no será eterna, which has been available on Amazon since July 5.

The book is subtitled Peligros y esperanzas para Cuba (Dangers and Hope for Cuba), with a prologue written by Payá’s widow, Ofelia Acevedo, and its purpose is none other than, as the author explains, “to help discover that we can live the process of liberation and reconciliation and walk to the future in peace.”

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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.

There Will Be No Transition in Cuba… Not Even of Communism

The primary school children who every day recite the slogan “Pioneers for communism, we will be like Che,” should start looking for a new motto. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 22 July 2018 — The classic definition that socialism is a transition stage towards communism has historically generated theoretical debates and has been the watershed between the political movements located on the left of the ideological spectrum. It has also prompted flashes of humor, such as the statement: “The worst thing about communism is the first 500 years of socialism.”

That long-yearned-for moment, when “material goods will rain down like water” and humanity could inscribe on its flags the golden rule “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs,” no longer appears as an explicit goal in the next Constitution of the Republic of Cuba. The word communism has been deleted from the project.

This omission, or more accurately, this erasure, comes as no surprise to those who had carefully read the Conceptualization of the Model approved at the Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communism Party (PCC). In that text, simmering now for nearly ten years, it is not mentioned that the final result of the model is the arrival of the communist society, nor even the purpose of “eliminating the exploitation of man by man.” continue reading

Only among those who have reached, or exceeded, the third age is there any memory of the times when Fidel Castro chose a different heresy by proclaiming that it was possible to build socialism and communism at the same time. It was the decade of the 60s and in the town of San Andrés, in the municipality of La Palma in Pinar del Río, the experiment was intended to do away with money and make everything free for the benefit of its 500 inhabitants.

It was also the time when Nikita Khrushchev promised in Moscow that “the present Soviet generation will live in communism,” and in Cuban universities and other centers of thought there were predictions of the fortunate moment when the red flag of the proletariat would fly over Washington DC.

In Saturday’s session of the Cuban parliament, where the elimination of that word was discussed, the president of the National Assembly assured that its absence “does not mean that we renounce our ideas, but in our vision we think of a socialist, sovereign country, independent, prosperous and sustainable.” Later he argued that the current situation of the island and the international context are very different from those in 1976 when the first Constitution of the revolutionary period was written.

If anyone had had the audacity to suggest the annulment of the term communism in any of the party congresses presided over by Fidel Castro, he would have been accused, at least, of being a revisionist and probably of being a traitor. Even today it must be assumed that many old militants find it difficult to accept this suppression and at this point are wondering how it is possible that the socialist road is “irrevocable” but the end point of the trip, the obligatory destination of that route, is not mentioned.

Primary school children, who every day recite the slogan “Pioneers for communism, we will be like Che” should start looking for a new theme in September, under penalty of being in opposition to the constitution.

The communist society is unfeasible for two fundamental reasons. First because the resources of the planet do not support it; and second, because personal ambition is an indissoluble part of human nature.

Raúl Castro should be congratulated for having the political courage or at least the pragmatism to avoid commitment to an unattainable goal. But to be consistent with such a decision, he would also have to eliminate, in the preamble, that we Cubans are “guided by the political-social ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin” and, ultimately, change the name of the party that he leads. For that he would have recourse to appeal to the adjective “fidelista,” a doctrine based on voluntarism and the necessary absence of scientific rigor that allows the validation of any solution, any change.

Frequently slow in his decisions, Raúl Castro never decided to inscribe the Cuban system under the imprecise definitions of “socialism of the 21st century,” and left everything hanging from the plural possessive “ours.” He has dismantled most of the chimeras imposed by his brother while swearing allegiance to his legacy. Now, when his final retirement seems to be no further than five years off, he has made it clear that the final destination of this experiment will have to be defined by others.

For many communists this change can be as traumatic as it would be for a Catholic to hear the pope confess that there will be no life after death, that the messiah will never return, or that the heavenly paradise will be erased from the scriptures. That was the thought of two thousand years ago, now things have changed.

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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.

Cubalex Demands the Immediate Release of the Artists Luis Manuel Otero, Amaury Pacheco and Soandry Del Río / Cubalex


Arrest of Luis Manuel Otero

Cubalex, 22 July 2018 – Peaceful gatherings and demonstrations are essential for public participation

On the afternoon of July 21, 2018, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Iris Ruiz, Amaury Pacheco, Soandry del Río, Yanelys Nuñez Leyva and José Ernesto Alonso met in front of Havana’s Capitol building, contrary to the regulations of Decree 349 / 2018 that violates and restricts the freedom of artistic creation.

Luis Manuel Otero “covered his body with human excrement” and in a poster he demanded “free art. No to Decree Law 349” adopted by the Council of Ministers. With the exception of Nuñez Leyva they were all arrested. In the case of Otero Alcántara the arrest was carried out with an excessive use of force and along with Iris Ruiz, Amaury Pacheco and Soandry del Río, they were transferred to the police station located on Zanja Street in the capital. continue reading

Along with José Ernesto Alonso, Iris Ruiz was released four hours later, accused of creating public disorder. Luis Manuel, Amaury and Soandry were transferred to the Vivac detention center, where they are accused of public disorder and aggression.

We remind the Cuban State that the freedom to comment on public issues without censorship or limitations, as well as to inform public opinion, is indispensable to guarantee the full exercise of participation in public affairs, which includes the freedom to hold peaceful demonstrations and gatherings, to criticize or oppose the government, and to publish political material.

The arrest of the artists is arbitrary, irrational, unnecessary and disproportionate, because it violates recognized international standards in relation to the guarantees of due process.

The procedure for legal detention in Cuba allows for arbitrary detentions, currently used by state agents as punishment for the legitimate exercise of freedom of opinion and expression, assembly and association, recognized in international human rights law.

States have the obligation not only to abstain from violating the rights of people who take part in a meeting, and to respect and guarantee the rights without any discrimination for prohibited reasons or of any other nature or any other condition of political opinion. The freedom to organize and participate in public meetings must be guaranteed to all natural persons, groups, non-registered associations, legal entities and companies.

In Cuba, access to public participation spaces is excessively and abusively restricted, as a result of which the full and free exercise of the freedom of peaceful assembly is practically impossible.

Cubalex demands that the Cuban State immediately release artists Luis Manuel Otero, Amaury Pacheco and Soandry del Río, and adopt urgent measures to protect human rights defenders against reprisals and eliminate undue restrictions on the use of public spaces.

"One ‘Yuma’ Less, Two Cubans More," the Arithmetic of Cuban Tourism

The majority of domestic customers are people with hard currency income. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernández, La Habana |19 July 2018 — Sand, sun and Cubans. The three elements prevail these days in many spas on the Island where national tourism takes advantage of school holidays and fills the gap left by the fall in foreign visitors. The employees of tourist facilities are least enamored with the domestic tourists, these expert seekers of the best deals and big eaters in the all-inclusive hotels, nationals are already the majority in many accommodations in the country.

The image differs greatly from what could be seen just a decade ago, when Cubans living on the island were prohibited from entering hotels that charged in hard currency. Ten years later, the local accent has become frequent in the formerly forbidden rooms and recreational areas, and a robust market of private excursions has grown that orgnizes everything from transportation to lodging and entertainment. continue reading

On a corner of in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood last Friday, at least twenty families waited for the bus that would take them to Cienfuegos. Loaded with bags and several baby strollers, the holidaymakers greeted the bus with applause of joy. They had made reservations for at least two nights with everything included at Hotel Jagua in that city in the center of the Island.

“On the same date last year there was no chance that we would manage to fit such a large group in a hotel in one of the most visited areas,” says Luciano, a private guide who has been organizing trips for eight years covering all the Island’s provinces. “Since foreign tourism bgan to increase it became more difficult to organize this type of travel for Cubans.”

“We are not fishing in troubled waters but in a calm river, if more people come from abroad we can not squeeze in our customers,” says Luciano. In his extensive catalog, some offers are marked with a red checkmark. “These are the most attractive but also the hardest to get, because foreigners like them a lot.”

“Cayo Santamaría, two nights with everything included for 160 CUC,” reads one of the promotions. Luciano organizes the transport with buses that work for state companies during the week, but that have permission from their administrations to make tourist trips from Friday to Sunday. “We leave the clients in the hotel lobby, they pick up the key to their rooms and start enjoying themselves.”

Luciano is one of the few who rejoices in the fall of foreign tourism and the increase in those who arrive on cruises, and sleep on the boat rather than occupying hotel beds. Between January and June, around 50% of American visitors who arrived on the island did just that. In Cuba, 17 cruise companies operate, including Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruises, with a growth of 28.6% in the first quarter of this year.

Although the latest data on US tourism, released on Wednesday from sources cited by Reuters, are more optimistic than those of the same period last year, with an increase of 5% (68,000 Americans of non-Cuban origin), the outlook is still negative. Even more so if one takes into account the post-thaw euphoria.

Global tourism figures, about 2.5 million visitors to Cuba, fell by more than 5% between January and June 2018. The figures include cruises for the first six months, which brought 379,000 people to the island, 45% more than in 2017. Taking into account only American tourists, the fall for the period is 24%.

The impact on business in the most tourist areas has not been long in coming. Restaurants that barely manage to fill half their tables, rental houses that previously were occupied 80% of the time now looking at their almost empty rooms, and state rental car business that just a year ago couldn’t cope and now have parking lots full of cars.

“One yuma less, two Cubans more,” explains Luciano in a simple arithmetic. “When Americans arrive on cruise ships they do not rent accommodation and as a result of that pressure hotels that were no longer providing capacity for the national market are forced to do so and even lower prices. What before one foreigner would pay for one night, I can reserve for a national couple.”

“Another influence is that we are in the off season right now. For foreigners its too hot but for Cubans these are good dates to go to the beach.” Among the examples, he mentions the exclusive resorts of Varadero.

“These were places that were sold exclusively through foreign companies, but now appear more and more in our catalogs,” he explains. “The hotels that are run by Spanish companies or from other countries are those most requested by Cubans, because they know that the they willbe treated better and the facilities and supplies are better,” he says. “This is the time to catch a place like that.”

Tatiana, the daughter of Cuban and Russian, agrees with that opinion. “I have everything already reserved for this summer, but I am waiting for more offers to come available,” she explains to this newspaper by phone. With contacts in state tourist agencies such as Cubatur, the joung woman resells in-inclusive packages to Viñales, Trinidad and Varadero, to which she adds transportation and pick-up, “on the corner of their house.”

“I’ve worked with Cuban clients for three years and I prefer them despite everything,” she says. “It is true that when you arrive at a hotel with ten or fifteen Cuban families, you’re not treated as well as foreigners, but this is a clientele that does not depend on the arrival of a plane, on the arrival of a cruise, that is sold a reservation in another country, these customers are already here.”

“For another thing, I can communicate very easily with them and the clients I’ve been working with for some time know the rules.” Tatiana believes, however, that for a four or five star hotel with everything included is very likely that a Cuban guest will cost them more. “They eat a lot more and also want to try a lot of drinks they don’t get to have very often, like expensive wines, whiskey and even champagne,” she says.

The majority of Tatiana’s clients are the “new rich.” Cubans who receive remittances from abroad, are engaged in private businesses, have benefits through the sale of art or are part of musical groups. “Every once in a while an occasional client arrives who wants to book a trip paid for by a relative who is coming on vacation from Miami,” she explains. “They are all people with convertible pesos, from one side or the other.”

People with fewer resources frequently resort to Popular Campismo (People’s Camping), a plan created by Fidel Castro in 1981, to “open up valleys, beaches and mountains, a form of accommodation and enjoyment available to everyone.” The option, with very modest accommodations, does not enjoy a very good reputation among the social sectors that already aspire to more comforts.

“I sell tourist packages to Cubans but I treat them as people. Just because are nationals they don’t have to be given a worse product,, explains Tatiana. “In the end, they are the ones who support my business, and it’s better for me that foreign tourism keeps falling because the hotels are not going to close because of that, if they offer more affordable packages for those from here.”

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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.