The Governor of Puerto Rico Invites Diaz-Canel To ‘Liberate the Cuban People From Communism’

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel during his speech at the Ibero-American Summit, where he spoke about the independence of Puerto Rico. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 27 March 2023 — Miguel Díaz-Canel’s passage through the Dominican Republic during the XXVIII Ibero-American Summit resulted in a dispute with the Governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi, who was upset on Saturday night by the Cuban President’s allusion to the independence of that territory associated with the United States.

“We reaffirm the historic commitment to the self-determination and independence of the people of Puerto Rico,” Díaz-Canel said in a speech in which there was also no lack of defense of the absent leaders of Nicaragua and Venezuela, ideological partners of Havana, or support for the recovery of the Malvinas [Falkland Islands] for Argentina.

The words did not sit well with the Puerto Rican governor, and, a few hours later, he showed his discomfort on Facebook. “Last night I was at the inaugural events of the Ibero-American Summit at the invitation of my friend, the President of the Dominican Republic, Luis Abinader. I returned to Puerto Rico early this morning and did not participate in the work of the Summit because, as Governor of Puerto Rico, I am not a member of it,” Pierluisi began.

“Although my presence was limited to such activity, I cannot ignore the words of the President of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, calling for the independence of Puerto Rico in today’s session,” continued the leader of the New Progressive Party and the Democratic Party of the United States.

After this preamble, Pierluisi defends the current status of Puerto Rico and lashes out at the Cuban president. “Here we believe in democracy, and the desire of the majority of our people in favor of Statehood and Equality under the flag of the United States must be respected.”

“I recommend that you focus on freeing your own citizens from the yoke of communism, which has only brought poverty and pain to the Cuban people,” he said.

A few hours later, Díaz-Canel went to vote this Sunday at his polling station in Santa Clara where a Puerto Rican journalist from the newspaper Claridad asked him, not about the controversy with Pierluisi, but about the position of the United States against the vote on March 26 to elect the new deputies of the National Assembly. The Cuban president was, as usual, indignant with Washington, to which he attributed a “hostile narrative that is imaginary, slanderous, a fantasy, provocative and untrue.”

The Cuban leader considered that the United States is annoyed that Havana does not follow its dictates as, he let drop, happens in other countries. “We are so sovereign and so independent, so our own… that we do not have to submit to an opinion of the US embassy because for us it does not influence anything that we are doing; we work from our convictions,” he added.

The Cuban press omitted information this Sunday about the dispute, but at midnight on Monday, Prensa Latina did release a statement from the Hostosian National Independence Movement (MINH), a Puerto Rican left-wing and pro-independence organization closely linked to Havana and with little political representation in its own territory. In that text, the MINH reproaches Pierluisi for his words towards Díaz-Canel and is grateful that he attracted attention to “the colonial case of Puerto Rico and its inalienable right to self-determination and independence.”

“Governor Pierluisi should feel embarrassed because Puerto Rico cannot participate in that important event [the Ibero-American Summit], due to its status as a colony of the United States,” says the report, which describes the “unconditionality” of the governor toward the United States as humiliating.

“His pathetic denial of the Caribbean and Latin American condition of our Homeland provokes the contempt and rejection of the governments of independent countries participating in the Summit,” the statement adds, without giving a single example of his assertion.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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

Cuba’s Regional Media Want Paid Advertising and Less ‘Verticalism’

With this change, “economic support” for the official press will be distributed from the income it receives from the state budget, from allocations for “special treatment” and as a communication company. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 March 2023 — The official press will begin to incorporate advertising in the midst of the economic crisis that Cuba is experiencing, Escambray reported on Monday, and it describes this new stage as an “experiment” in which 15 other state media will also participate. Although the newspaper insists that there will be a change in editorial management, it also says that the press will continue to be governed by the political model of the Revolution.

Escambray says that “sooner rather than later” the possibility of having advertising or including in its business portfolio the elaboration of campaigns and communication plans for legal companies and natural persons will materialize, although it does not specify what type of companies could advertise. Radio Sancti Spíritus will do the same and will have an air-conditioned room and a recording studio for “its potential customers.”

With this change, the “economic support” for the official press will be distributed from the income it receives from the state budget, from allocations for “special treatment” and as a communication company. Until now, the Government has maintained the discourse that advertising in newspapers, radios, television and any official media are practices of capitalist media and associated with the Cuban Republican past.

However, the newspaper wonders if the conditions are now in place for that change, since “the public media system, which worked in another context, is barely on crutches in the 21st century.” continue reading

Despite the fact that the media insists that the change “is a wide open window” and occurs in a context that cries out for a new model of management of the public press, it recognizes that the official media will remain aligned with “Cuban-style socialism,” around the “solid foundations and strong forces” of the Revolution.

The official press is part of the government machinery aimed at extolling the political and economic model, in addition to disseminating its slogans. From time to time, however, the regional media publish relentless reports on the deterioration of the economic and social activity in their territories. Pressured by social networks, the media have also had to deal with issues little addressed by the regime, such as the wave of violence suffered by Cuba and the migratory exodus.

Even so, Escambray considers that the press has been an “essential pillar” in state management, but that the new strategy will try to “remove from its letter and spirit” the “vertical, unidirectional and dusty paradigm of the mass media,” which “fulfilled its mission in another context.”

The article constantly defends the idea that the incorporation of advertising into its content “will enrich” its purposes but also states that this poses “ethical challenges,” such as defining how the media will deal “with a market for goods and services not explored by most Cuban media.”

The new “ideological paradigm” poses another challenge: to regain the credibility of the public media, in a context where the audience has grown for “informal communicative channels” associated with information technology, a clear allusion to social networks.

Nor does the newspaper miss an opportunity to blame the “permanent economic and media hostility of the United States,” which, in its opinion, conditions the press as a mechanism of political control.

Finally, Escambray recognizes that the much-acclaimed “modernization” also involves integrating into digital media, a space that is not taken advantage of “optimally” due to the lack of technological infrastructure and professional knowledge of the collaborators.

The change in the management of the state media is the prelude to the XI Congress of the Union of Journalists of Cuba, which will be held this coming July and where the progress of the model will be discussed. Escambray issues a warning that if these changes do not contribute to raising the “credibility of journalism and social authority… we will not even be halfway on the road to transforming the Cuban press.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


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

Baseball Player Who Left Cuba in 2022 Signs with the Saint Louis Cardinals

Yadiel Batista pitched a no-hitter at the Cándido González de Camagüey stadium in August 2022. (Twitter/@francysromeroFR)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 March 2023 — Cuban baseball player Yadiel Batista made the Major Leagues less than six months after he left the Island. At 18 years old, the player reached an agreement with the Saint Louis Cardinals of the United States. According to journalist Francys Romero, “this Friday he signed the contract” and “received a bonus of $250,000.”

Since he settled in the Dominican Republic, last October, the athlete from Ciego de Ávila was observed by recruiters. At 6’3″ and 189 pounds, Batista’s main quality is a powerful arm; he is capable of throwing the ball at a speed of 88-91 mph.

Before leaving Cuba, on August 3, 2022, this left-handed pitcher won a no hitter at the Cándido González de Camagüey stadium. “This was the sixth no hitter — a game without hits or runs — in Under-23 National Championships since the beginning of these tournaments in 2014. Batista got 7 innings, 4 strikeouts,” Romero published in Baseball FR!

The Cardinals, the same team that hired Randy Arozarena in 2016, “have been scouting Cuban talent lately, especially in the area of pitchers,” the reporter said. continue reading

The news about Batista was given a few days after he received the free agency, necessary for him to sign with a team. After that he underwent physical examinations, which went smoothly. In his process to enroll in a Major League team, he was represented by Edgar Mercedes.

Francys Romero saw him a year ago as “a rotation pitcher” with an impact in the near future in the National Series. “He also has plenty of tools to throw in professional baseball,” wrote the Cuban baseball specialist.

This Thursday, Cuban catcher Alfredo Fadragas was declared a free agent by the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball (MLB). The 23-year-old left the Island after he was suspended for life from the sport following an unsuccessful escape attempt in Mexico.

“When it seemed that Fadragas’ successful career was inside the darkness of a tunnel, the catcher was able to leave the country for the Dominican Republic,” published Baseball FR! Now Fadragas hopes that the interest of the Major League teams will be realized in a contract.

As part of his career, Fadragas joined the Cuban team in almost all categories: Under-15 World Cup (Mexico) and Under-23 Pan American 2022.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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

Cuba’s Official Press Criticizes the Managers Who Squander the State’s Money

The Deputy Prime Minister of Cuba, Ramiro Valdés Menéndez, during a visit in 2017 to the steel company Acinox, one of those mentioned by the local press. (ACN)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 March 2023 — Of the 63 Cuban state companies that operate in the province of Las Tunas, 25 received million-peso payments from the Government without any productive support. The fact, which the local press unequivocally described as a “scam,” addressed the total expenditure of 29,924,000 pesos [$1,246,830] in January alone and motivated a meeting of local leaders, but the analysis was “not at all rigorous” considering the seriousness of the crime.

It’s not the first time that the province “bleeds” the allocated budget, details the official newspaper Periódico 26. In 2022, the numbers were similar, and the managers of the companies did not have to answer for the contrast between investment and results.

The list of non-compliances is long and involves the most important companies in Las Tunas. Although the newspaper does not provide the production data, it does reveal the amount that each one received. The Poultry Company received 3,551,000 pesos [$147,958]; the Pharmacy and Optics Company, 3,394,800 [$141,450]; the Construction and Assembly Company, 2,534,700 [$105,613]; and the Acinox steel company, which presents itself as “the leading company in Cuba in world exports of products offered by the metal industries,” 2,363,800 [$98,429].

Other companies that paid the salaries of their workers with hardly any profits in January were the Agroforestry, Twisted Tobacco, Acopio, the Wholesaler of Food, Raw Materials, Duralmet and even the Electric Company of Las Tunas. In addition, each of the Commerce companies – and several sugar and agricultural companies – are in the same situation in the municipalities of Manatí, Jesús Menéndez and Amancio.

The worst, complains the report, is not the waste of public money, but the inaction of the directors and their provincial and national supervisors. “Anyone without the required responsibility can make an improper payment of that magnitude, but he immediately has to answer for it,” the newspaper says. However, the reality is different: “The directors of those entities still do not respond with the rigor that the matter entails.” continue reading

The newspaper asks that those responsible be “prosecuted by the competent courts” for squandering the state budget. However, there does not seem to be any will either in the provincial government or in the “cores” that the Communist Party maintains within each company.

“Literally it is not happening,” says Periódico 26, arguing that paying million-peso amounts to unproductive companies is a violation of Resolution 6/2016, the enforcement of the forms of payment in the state sector.

“No control,” “lack of demand” and scams by the boards of directors are some of the characteristics that the report attributes to business management in Las Tunas. “It’s true that there are companies that for various reasons have seen their management limited and their workforce decreasing production, which sometimes becomes almost zero, but it is necessary to find formulas to reorient the work and find other options that sustain wages. And that is rarely done,” it admits.

Without mentioning at any time the US embargo — the preferred excuse of the Cuban media and leaders to justify their inefficiency — the article defines a clear cause for the loss of the almost 30 million pesos destined for Las Tunas in January, but it does not dare to call it by its name: the corruption of businessmen and their impunity before state supervisors.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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

Amnesty International Denounces the Hundreds of Prisoners in Cuba for Exercising ‘Their Human Rights’

Hundreds of people participated in a multitude of spontaneous protests over last summer’s blackouts. (Captura)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 28 March 2023 — The NGO Amnesty International (AI) denounced on Monday in its annual report the “hundreds of people” in prison in Cuba for “the peaceful exercise of their human rights” — including “three prisoners of conscience” — and the “repression” of “dissidence” and protests.

In its document, which summarizes the most relevant violations of the year by country, it also notes that the new Cuban Criminal Code consolidates “limitations on freedom of expression and assembly as is customary” and represents “a disturbing panorama for independent journalists, activists and anyone critical of the authorities.”

It also highlights the social problems due to the “food shortage” suffered by the country and the “frequent” power outages. It says that the State has the “obligation to enforce the economic, social and cultural rights” of citizens.

The NGO points out that at the end of last year “hundreds of people who had suffered the repression of the July 2021 protests were still in prison,” the largest in decades. continue reading

The demonstrations were spontaneous and mostly peaceful at a time of serious economic crisis due to the concurrence of the pandemic, the tightening of US sanctions and errors in national economic policy.

AI also recalled that in September and October, after the passage of Hurricane Ian, “there were protests throughout the Island against widespread power outages,” in which “the authorities responded by deploying military cadets to suppress the protests and used arbitrary detentions.”

The authorities “interrupted access” to the Internet “deliberately,” said AI, which is an “increasingly common tactic to limit communication in Cuba in delicate moments from the political point of view.”

The NGO indicated that the Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, “undermined the importance of the widespread nature of the protests,” attributing them to a “minority of counterrevolutionaries with connections outside Cuba” and reducing them to acts of “vandalism” that would be confronted with “the rigor of the law.”

“Three prisoners of conscience remain in prison, a figure that represents only a tiny percentage of the total number of people who were detained for the peaceful exercise of their human rights,” the report adds.

AI was referring to the artist and activist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, the musician Maykel Castillo Osorbo and the opposition leader José Daniel Ferrer, for whom it denounced the periods that Ferrer passed in “solitary confinement” and “incommunication” in prison.

The document also mentions the strong migration that the country suffers, the approval in September of the Family Code — which legalized marriage and adoption for homosexuals — and the non-inclusion of femicide in the new Criminal Code.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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

Cuba’s Ministry of Economy and Planning: ‘In Six Months, It Will Be Worse Than Now’

Cuban Ministry of Economy and Planning, Alejandro Gil (Cubanet)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 24 March 2023 — Prime Minister Manuel Marrero was present last Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Ministry of Economy and Planning, headed by Alejandro Gil. The extensive participation included the communist leader of the party’s productive economic department, Joel Queipo; the Minister of Finance and Prices, Meisi Bolaños; the Minister of Labor and Social Security, Marta Elena Feitó; and the new Minister-President of the Central Bank of Cuba, Joaquín Alonso Vázquez. From this economic conclave of the leadership, several conclusions can be obtained that are highlighted in this blog.

First, Gil and all his ministries are mistaken in proposing a GDP growth of 3% in the Cuban economy in 2023. Without reforms there is no possibility of growing, except by manipulation. What is needed are In-depth structural reforms that eliminate the obstacles and impediments that prevent the effective linking of sectors and productive activities. They have been proposing this type of message since they launched the Guidelines, but the results are not seen. In addition, growing by 3% is an unambitious figure, which not only prevents the economy from returning to the pre-pandemic situation, but is insufficient to correct serious problems, such as inflation and currency depreciation.

Second, according to what was stated at the annual meeting, the Cuban economy will stagnate in 2023, and this will take place because of the adverse effects of the dollarization of the economy, retail inflation, centralized access to foreign exchange, the insertion of new economic agents and the adverse results of companies with losses, still more than 400, which will remain unresolved. These effects are not the only ones, because blackouts, lack of food and deterioration of infrastructure have an continue reading

even more negative influence. The Cuban economy has been dragging for several consecutive years for cyclical and structural reasons, and this can make it more difficult to correct imbalances and to slow the growth of them.

Third, the recipe proposed by Gil, based on consolidating the restructuring of the currency allocation mechanism of the economy, the decentralization of competences to the territories and the integral transformation of the socialist state enterprise is not what the Cuban economy needs at the moment. It falls short, and this may be due either to technical ignorance of the rules of operation of an economy or to the lack of effective instruments to face problems. Or both at the same time.

The Cuban economy needs a more effective policy mix of monetary and fiscal policies to promote growth. Delaying  decisions over time can further aggravate the current scenario. For example, the idea of decentralizing spending to the territories may further increase waste, deficits and indebtedness, which is exactly what is not needed at the moment. Similarly, the Cuban communists say they want to advance in the macroeconomic stabilization of the country in 2023, but they neither adopt measures nor know in which direction they have to move to do so. The result will be a failure.

Fourth, Marrero said that there are still distortions that must be corrected to continue developing the economy and active participation in society, a disturbing message if they do not specify what those distortions are. In any case, they have their origin in the interventionist model of the regime since they are only found in Cuba. In that sense, Gil’s proposals for economic actors, consisting of creating an institute and a general direction of the ministry for attention, coordination and control of economic actors, more bureaucracy and intervention, have as its main objective to further subordinate the performance of economic actors to the decisions of the regime. Farewell to economic freedom.

The announcement of fiscal stimuli only to economic agents dedicated to producing and importing goods and raw materials in the Cuban economy to create productive chains within the socialist state company seem more like an unproductive expense that is useless, than like a program aimed at consolidating the productive structures of the economy. Why don’t they stimulate everyone? In reality, this type of asymmetric and partial measure, instead of improving the general functioning of the economy, cause negative effects with dangerous intersectoral transfer of resources.

Fifth, with regard to the transformation of the socialist state enterprise, Gil said that in order to advance in this area and achieve effective performance as the main actor of the economy in the production of goods and services, two things are required: to start the classification of state companies, which has all the aspects of a bureaucratic task, and to present the proposed law of companies that, clearly, seems to show a preference for state companies without any glimmer of hope for the private sector. The 400 companies with losses will not see their situation improve.

Sixth, and closely related to the design of economic policies, it is useless for Gil to defend maintaining the principles of more equity, social justice and benefits to the population if this does not produce more and better. This will not be achieved if the priority is not set correctly. And it seem sthat in this balance-sheet meeting, the importance of production and supply is is not taken into account.

Conclusion, more of the same, without being able to see signs of improvement in the Cuban economy. In six months the Cuban economy will be much worse than now. What’s the point of voting on March 26?

Translated by Regina Anavy


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

Police Arrest an Activist in Camaguey for ‘Insulting’ the Cuban Flag

Aniette González was arrested on March 23rd in Camagüey for posting photographs of herself dressed in the Cuban flag. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 March 2023 — Activist Aniette González was arrested on Thursday in Camagüey after posting her photographs during a performance with the Cuban flag. Accused of “insulting the symbols of the homeland,” she was transferred to Villa María Luisa, the headquarters of State Security in the province, according to reports of several users.

The news came to light after the Facebook profile of Mambisa Agramontina demanded freedom for González and gave an account of the events. “Enough of the repression, down with the dictatorship,” she wrote.

The post was also shared by journalist José Raúl Gallego, who reminded readers that the prison cells of Villa María Luisa are used by police to torture the opposition and stated that González “is in danger” every second she remains in the cell. “Whatever happens to Aniette inside there is the responsibility of the State Security officials,” he tweeted.

González’s last activity on social media was precisely on March 23, when she shared a video of user Guillermo Sierra Conda who denounced the authorities for the arrest and torture of his brother, who suffers from psychological problems.

González joined La bandera es de todos [The Flag Belongs to Everyone] campaign in solidarity with artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who is imprisoned in the Guanajay maximum security prison in Artemisa province, for insulting the symbols of the homeland, contempt and public disorder. continue reading

In 2019, the artist carried out Drapeau using the flag as revindication that it is a symbol of the Cuban population. Immediately the regime arrested him and, after several complaints from human rights defenders, was freed, but the harassment did not cease. On 11 July 2021, he was arrested before he could join the protests that took place that day throughout the Island, although it wasn’t until June 2022 that the People’s Municipal Tribunal of Centro Habana sentenced him to five years in jail.

The number of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience remains high in Cuba. Prisoners Defenders (PD) reports that as of the end of February, 1,066 Cubans were detained, among them are 34 minors — the minimum age of criminality is 16 — who are charged or have been convicted for sedition, with a five year jail sentence.

The Madrid-based organization, registered that 116 women (including several trans women) are serving sentences for politics or conscience. According to the report, 210 prisoners are protesters accused of sedition and 208 have been sentenced to an average of 10 years in prison.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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

An Election in Cuba: ‘Not a Day of Reflection’ and Electoral Messages at the Polls

A session of Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power, showing the deputies voting unanimously, as is the norm.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist,27  March 2023 — Ahead of the election results in Cuba on Sunday the 26th, it is worth reflecting on some aspects of the process that was followed. Specifically, the practice of asking for votes up until the time people arrive at the polls is one controversial aspect of Cuba’s communist electoral system where plurality does not exist. Furthermore, there isn’t even a day after campaigning finishes to provide a day of reflection.

The electoral throng designed by communists to get their way has little do do with usual democratic practices. Actually, Díaz-Canel who aspires to subsequent reelection launched a grand election speech in front of the state media cameras in an attempt to influence participation up until the last minute. All rather undemocratic, of course.

And what did the leader speak of in front of the cameras? Well, more or less, the same as always. In district number 44 in Santa Clara, where he cast his vote very early at one poll — which justified his hasty return from the Iberoamerican Summit in Santo Domingo — before entering the poll, Díaz-Canel launched into a speech, the content of which had little to do with what democrats tend to do at polls during voting.

In effect, he said he was convinced that “the candidates have had the opportunity to dialogue with the people about Cuba’s challenges facing the economic blockade and unjust inclusion on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.” A claim that continues to transfer responsibility for the country’s dire economic situation to its northern neighbor, despite the fact that its government’s decisions explain, to a great extent, the disaster which has occurred. Furthermore, the dialogue with the people has been non-existent. continue reading

After announcing that the National Assembly “should change it’s system of working to facilitate the exchange with people and advance the legislative agenda” during an announcement of government action that conveys the communist leader’s absolute conviction that he will be selected once again o continue until 2028 by the delegates chosen in these elections. Later, he expressed his confidence that “the Cuban people will defend the future, the homeland and unity of the revolution with their conscious and optimistic vote.” It is crystal clear.

Not satisfied with weaving this into his speech, Díaz-Canel resorted to pontificating upon the phenomenon of migration in the context of the current global crisis. Surprisingly, he said, “Cuba is not immune to the problems faced by migrants in the world,” but that he is “also confident that many of the young people who have left the country will return.” A coded message that was for internal consumption directed at all the families torn apart by the rupture, that has displaced in just one year more than 200,000 Cubans.

Then he continued on the domestic messaging, revindicating “the role of young people in Cuba’s development and the importance of offering them spaces for their academic and professional training, as well as for their participation in innovative processes and social transformation.” A lot of grandstanding, but young Cubans are leaving the country. They do not accept the misery in which their parents and grandparents have lived, and are searching  for a better life, far from the empty ideological messages. From there, Díaz-Canel’s next message was to call for “unity and dialogue among all sectors of Cuban society,” and to reiterate his “commitment to the defense of the revolution and national sovereignty.”

He later hailed “the diversity and representativeness of the unique candidates running for Parliament,” which is nothing but a contradiction in itself. He justified it by saying that “in these candidates, all the sectors are represented and the majority are women, that is important because it allows us to have better representation from the country’s social fabric.” But that already happens in all countries around the world and there is no reason for Cuba to be an exception.

He ended by referencing the economic and social challenges the country faces and reiterated his “rejection of any external interference that aims to undermine Cuba’s sovereignty and independence.” Díaz-Canel rejected that “some could prioritize the economic situation,” which leads us to ask what the vote should depend on. He then said that, in his opinion, “most people know that despite the difficult economic situation if we were once again a colony of the United States the problems would only grow, if everything were privatized. What would be the future of the young people?” The eternal obsession since the times of Fidel Castro. Of course, a hodgepodge of tantrums that was possibly not correctly picked up by the media, since everything seemed like absolute nonsense.

Leaders of democratic countries rarely make these types of allegations at the polls when they go to vote. At most, they congratulate themselves on that day, rejoice that everything functions and trust that the day will turn out for the best. There is no room for lowbrow speeches and demagoguery. In Cuba there is.

In the single-party democracy, as Mogherini defined it, the maximum leader says whatever he wants at the polls when he goes to vote, and there are no limits. The playing field is his and no one else’s. He is even allowed to announce the priorities of his government, before he is elected by those whose mission it is to elect him or not. It is an international embarrassment however you view it.

The socialist democracy in Cuba is lightyears away from international practices. The power is highjacked by a farce, which resists advancement.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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

Left Alone Without Jorge Edwards

Edwards reopened the Chilean embassy in Havana in 1971. He left just three months later and was declared “persona no grata,” which became the title of perhaps his most famous work. (Author’s file)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Franz, Madrid, March 28, 2023 — I am looking at a black and white photo. It is 1960 or 1961 and Jorge Edwards is standing in front of Chillon Castle on the shores of Lake Geneva. He is wearing a jacket and tie, and bends down slightly to hold onto the hand of a little boy who can barely walk. I am that little boy. No doubt, my father’s diplomatic colleague had asked him to hold me while he took that photo. Edwards does so with obvious reluctance. I repay his mistrust by pouting and squirming to free myself of his hand.

Our next encounter occurred some eighteen years later and was more auspicious. In 1978 or 1979 we met aboard an Argentine merchant ship anchored in the port of Valparaíso. A Buenos Aires playwright, who was also a sailor, was having a barbecue on the ship. Predictably, it was attended by a crowd of established and novice writers, guests and cast members.

We consumed huge chorizo steaks, good wines and a huge bottle of Chivas Regal, which the navigator-playwright had brought along from some truly free port. As evening fell on deck, I found myself comfortably talking one-on-one with Edwards. This time he welcomed me without hesitation. I discovered that it was typical of him to create sudden bonds of trust, circumventing age differences and other superficial disparities. I felt like we were becoming friends.

I, whose only desire was to leave Chile, asked him why the hell he had come out of exile in Barcelona to join the Pinochet regime. For me, that capital of the Latin American literary boom was nothing short of paradise. He answered me something like this: “Not everything is so great there either. “I would later get used to these relativizations of his, products of a natural skepticism, of a stoic equanimity. If the most perfect place is the one we see from afar, that would explain why Edwards was always leaving.

In other essays I have reflected on Edwards’ books and his political courage. Now I prefer to spin anecdotes the way Jorge often did. Remembering events is a way of keeping alive his memory, which gave us so many hours of entertaining stories, both written and oral.

A few years after that meeting on the Argentine ship, I heard him speak at a book fair that was being held under the oriental plane trees in Parque Forestal, in Santiago de Chile. A caustic writer of my generation whispered in my ear: “It’s just so smug, this pensée anecdotique.” At the time, I did not know how to refute the charge. I suffer from l’esprit de l’escalier* and only later did it occur to me that, in the case of a storyteller, anecdotal thinking may be the most appropriate and the least pretentious approach. The narrator sees individual cases. People matter more to him than groups or classes. That particularist viewpoint reflects a distrust of theories and generalizations. In the story, in the anecdote, contradiction and ambivalence coexist.

If Edwards made lavish use of anecdotes in his lectures, it was not out of smugness, as my caustic friend claimed, but rather the opposite. A good writer tells the story as he saw it or imagined it, with its disjointed details and its unresolvable ambiguities. The conclusions, the ideas, are left to the readers. The author abides by a motto attributed to Montaigne (Edwards’ patron saint): “What do I know?”

Several decades of friendship passed. In 2018 Edwards and I were both invited to participate in a series of summer courses held at the Escorial. He was 87 years old and mentally he was not the same. He was easily sidetracked. I gave my talk and then went to hear his. He began improvising as usual, without notes. I feared the worst. But it turned out that, once on the podium, he found his bearings.

He spoke for an hour and half. About Stendhal, about the pianist Claudio Arrau, about quirky people in his family. He spoke about a Santiago de Chile where the streetcars were once so piercingly loud they screeched. It was an implausible hodgepodge. But he made it sound convincing. He wandered without getting lost. His memory went back and forth like someone at a loom weaving a tapestry of free associations. Despite its apparent disorder, that class at the Escorial gave us privileged access to the ways in which a storyteller’s imagination works. From the fortuitous contact with incoherent data, the spark that illuminates an original idea can sprout.

Jorge Edwards was not an easy person. No true artist is. He knew how to be sociable and welcoming. Yet he could also be cold. He would open his house and his bar and his rich memory to almost anyone. He was even generous in what he forgot, easily burying recent insults he had received. But it was difficult for him to express affection. In 2001 he stayed for a few days at my house in Berlin. We strolled around and enjoyed ourselves. As he was leaving, I went with him to hail a taxi. At the corner I leaned in to hug him but his reaction was too quick. He turned his back to me and walked away, waving a hand over his shoulder. A hand that said, “No emotional goodbyes!” That was Jorge.

He had to die for me to have my revenge. Two hours after his death, I arrived at his house with a group of friends. His body lay on the bed, still warm, waxy, as thin as a figure in an El Greco painting. Taking advantage of a minute we had alone, I put my hand on his forehead and caressed his skull, that “noble skull.” He couldn’t refuse, nor could he make impatient gestures that meant “no emotional goodbyes.”

Later my friends and I shared a toast. If not for the slight inconvenience of being dead, I am sure Jorge would risen up from his bed to join in. And he would have begged us not to get sentimental. But he couldn’t do this. So now I am taking advantage of his silence to be unabashedly sad. And I will refute that line by the Spanish poet Gustavo Bécquer: “How alone the dead are left.” Not true. We are left even more alone.

*Translator’s note: a French expression that describes the act of thinking of a witty response only when it is too late. It was coined by Denis Diderot (1713-1784) in Paradoxe sur le comédien.


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

Images of Empty Voting Centers in Cuba Belie the Official Participation of More Than 70 Percent

The attendance was low in the capital’s polling stations  and in other provinces. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 March 2023 — A lack of enthusiasm marked Cuba’s parliamentary elections on Sunday, March 26, which even with the official data available so far already point to the lowest turnout since 1959. The 14ymedio team was able to verify in different polling stations in Havana that not many Cubans came to vote. In the provinces, where it is more complex to be recognized as having abstained, greater encouragement was noticed.

The low attendance is confirmed by collaborators of this newspaper in different provinces and is also suggested by the coverage of the official press, which has not been able to show photos of voters standing in line. The newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba, Granma, has been inaccessible since the closing of the polls.

According to official data, by five in the afternoon, 70.34% of the electoral census had voted, which is 8.23 points less than in the 2018 elections, which had the least participation at the time. Alina Balseiro, the president of the National Electoral Council (CEN), is expected to appear this Monday to give the first definitive data.

The polls remained open two more hours until 7 p.m., since the CEN extended the deadline by one hour without further explanation. Manuel Cuesta Morúa was one of the opponents who said that the extension was “without causes of force majeure,” as happened in the referendum for the Family Code, held a few days after the passage of Hurricane Ian.

The opponent also questioned the growth of participation between 9:00 and 11:00, when the jump went from 18.15% to 41.66%. The official data of the 2018 elections reflect the same trend, but it was not the case in the municipal elections of 2022, when fewer people voted in the time slot from 9:00 to 11:00 than in the time slot from 7:00 to 9:00. In 2018, the campaign in favor of abstention was not as intense as in this last election, but, nevertheless, the regime now presents higher attendance data. continue reading

The lack of international observation missions was one of the biggest criticisms of the opposition and different NGOs, such as Electoral Transparency. “The results issued by the National Electoral Council cannot be disputed” and go in the opposite direction “of the abstentionist trend that the CEN itself reflected” in past elections, the organization said in statements to the Spanish news agency EFE.

Electoral Transparency called for “an independent audit so that the announced results are reliable.”

Despite everything, even the official data do not point in a good direction for officialdom, which has turned more than ever to trying to activate the vote. Participation in the parliamentary elections on the Island has been historically high. Between 1976 and 2013 it was always above 90%, and only in 2018 did it fall for the first time below that barrier, to 85.65%, even though the campaign for abstention was not as active and mobilized as it was this time.

In comparison, the abstention in last year’s voting in Cuba was greater than what the CEN offered at 5:00 p.m. In last November’s municipal elections it reached 31%, and in the referendum on the Family Code held in September it stood at 26%.

The authorities have stressed that voting participation on the Island is much greater than that of countless elections in Western democracies, starting with the United States itself. However, the Cuban government knows the peculiarities of its own system and knows that it can only compare to itself, so the decrease in voters who go to the polls is bad news that is difficult to hide.

Image of a polling station in Sancti Spíritus this Sunday, March 26, during the elections to the National Assembly. (14ymedio)

Last Thursday, in the propaganda program Con Filo [Cutting Edge] on Cuban television, the presenter himself explained it as follows: “The suffrage in Cuba has a double significance: not only are future deputies elected to the National Assembly but, as in every election, our political system is subjected to a tacit referendum. That’s how we see it and that’s how our enemies see it.” Abstention and null or void votes will be fundamental in analyzing the loss of support for the Revolution on the part of Cubans.

The NGO Cubalex, in addition, pointed out this Sunday different acts of repression against independent journalists and opponents who tried to exercise observation tasks in the elections. By 9:00 p.m. it had identified 27 cases, with about 30 affected.

In this Sunday’s elections, 470 candidates were presented for the same number of seats, almost all of them militants of the PCC, the youth organizations and others related to the government. The authorities urged a block vote for all the candidates proposed by each district in messages reproduced in a loop in the state media and disseminated with the hashtag #YoVotoXTodos.

On the ballot, voters could put an “x” in the box for all the candidates (following the official call), or imply next to some of the names, or even leave the ballot blank.

This call for a “united vote” led the most fervent followers of the Government to vote for unknown candidates from their district.

“We don’t know all the candidates, but we voted for the Revolution,” Rafaela, a 67-year-old Cuban near the polling station in Havana, told EFE.

That age group was one of the few still relatively mobilized, according to the information collected by 14ymedio in the previous days. Young people are, again, the ones who expressed the most disinterest, either because of their perception that the Revolution doesn’t belong to them, or because their only thought is to leave an Island that is in a worse condition than ever.

The progressive fall in participation since 2018 has been read by the Government as a response to the economic crisis. The president himself, Miguel Díaz-Canel, went so far as to speak of a “punishment vote” during the referendum on the Family Code.

After voting, the president dismissed the possibility that abstention  will continue to gain ground in elections: “I don’t think so, because this hasn’t been the only moment with difficulties and economic complexities.”

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez, expressed himself in the same way in statements to the press at a polling place in Havana: “Cuban elections will continue to be different in the sense of greater participation and democracy than the majority you see on the planet.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


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

Musicians and Dancers at Risk of Electrocution Due to Leaks at the Havana’s National Theater

Exterior of the National Theater of Cuba on Wednesday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodriguez, Havana, March 23, 2023 — The leaks that flooded the stage of Avellaneda Hall at the National Theater in Havana, where the Cuban National Ballet performed last Sunday, created more than just an “uncomfortable moment,” as musician Osmany Hernandez noted in a social media post on Tuesday.

The accompanying images on Facebook illustrate the magnitude of the disaster. A thin thread of water runs across the top of a music stand and drops of water fall from its lamp as the Symphony Orchestra of the Gran Teatro de La Habana accompanies the ballet. Water can also be seen filtering through the ceiling between the spotlights.

“A piano, stringed instruments, conductor, musicians and wet electrical equipment.” Hernandez notes all are impacted by “the routine leak that appears whenever it rains.”

Witnesses told 14ymedio that even the artists were in danger, with ballerinas dancing on a wet stage near high-voltage equipment. They reported that leaking water could also be found throughout the building: “On the tables, above the musicians, in the basement and on windows. “Even the musicians and the instruments got wet.” Despite these conditions, the performance went on, uninterrupted.

In a social media post, Osmany Hernandez, a bassoonist and instructor at Havana’s Guillermo Tomás Conservatory, asks authorities to take action “to safeguard one of the few theaters we have left.”

He took the opportunity to remind readers that the Karl Marx Theater and the Grand Theater of Havana are “closed due to termites,” and that the Amadeo Roldán has been closed for years due to construction problems resulting from “a terrible repair job.” continue reading

“Our National Theater is now overrun with termites and there is growing deterioration of the facilities and musical instruments, such as harps, that are kept there,” he continues. It is a claim that is corroborated by his colleagues.

One of them is Igor Ernesto Corcuera Cáceres, director of the National Concert Band and professor at the Higher Institute of Art in Havana “And that’s in Avellaneda, which is the space in the best shape… Imagine what that says about its step-sister, the Covarrubias Hall, which is infested with bats and termites. The ONLY harp the National Symphony Orchestra still  has is in serious danger of being ruined, not to mention double basses and other instruments.”

“Inconceivable indifference and deterioration,” adds René Gacives. “To the list, add the Sala Dolores in Santiago, which is now closed and in danger of collapse, and the International Choir Festival center in Santiago de Cuba.” Hernandez’s reply: “And nothing is happening.”

“The cultural budget is being cut. The complaints by our soloists, concertmasters and alternating soloists are not being taken into account under the new model, which is discouraging to those of us who choose to stay. And on top of that, we’re not allowed say anything.”

In another post, Hernandez mentions that he was ordered not to reveal anything on social media about the complaints. “And when exactly will some of these urgent problems be taken into consideration? Is it better to stay silent than to point out problems that threaten our professional existence? I don’t think everyone in a position to solve this problem knows about it. I know that those who are truly interested in culture are bending over backwards to resolve this.”

“I know that the staff of the National Theater of Cuba are dedicated and go out of their way to help,” Corcuera Cáceres concedes. “But things at this point are now more than they can handle. They don’t have the budget or resources to solve this problem. It takes investment at a higher level (so to speak).”

Water soaks a music stand in the orchestra of the Cuban National Theater’s Avellaneda Hall. (Screen capture)

The flutist Alberto Rosas is even harsher in his comments: “This is the result of the incompetence, fraud, ineptitude, inefficiency and corruption of a failed system that plagues the Cuban people. This is the the sort of thing has always been condemned and denounced by conscientious citizens. I am fully aware of that. But because the theater does not have an owner, no one suffers the consequences. Its leaders wash their hands of it to safeguard the meager benefits they get compared to ordinary people for their poor performance. Cuba is falling apart. This is what they’ve done to what was once known as the Pearl of the Caribbean.”

The National Theater of Cuba opened in 1979 to coincide with the Sixth Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement. However, the authorization for its construction dates from 1951, before the Revolution. The original plan was inspired by the Radio City Music Hall in New York but that vision never came to fruition.

The musician who published the original post ended the thread by reporting, “Today they began to repair the roof. I hope it turns out well. Many of us who work there really need it.” On Wednesday, 14ymedio confirmed that some sort of repair is being carried out. At least there was a workman on the roof.

The musicians’ complaints coincide with the publication in official media outlets of a report acknowledging problems of inefficiency and corruption at state cultural organizations. Artists consulted for this article interpret the report as an attempt to do away with these organizations and allow small or mid-size private companies to take over their operations.


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

Two Cubans Arrive in Key West on a Motorized Hang Glider

The motorized hang glider in which two Cubans arrived in the United States. (@mcsonews/Twitter)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Miami/Havana, 25 March 2023 — Two Cubans were arrested this Saturday at Key West International Airport, in southern Florida, where they arrived aboard a motorized hang glider, police sources confirmed.

Adam Linhartd, spokesman for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, said that the two Cuban citizens, about whom he claimed to have no information, were handed over to the Border Patrol.

The arrival occurred around 10.30 am local time, and apparently the Cubans had not suffered any injuries during their flight.

The Border Patrol limited itself to reporting the detention of the two migrants without giving details and thanked the Monroe Sheriff’s Office for its support.

The tourist island of Key West is located 90 miles from Cuba and, like the rest of the Florida Keys, is an area where Cubans land in rudimentary boats.

Arrivals by air, like today’s, are unusual. On October 21, 2022, Cuban pilot Rubén Martínez Machado fled Cuba in a Russian-made Antonov aircraft and landed at the Dade-Collier Training and Transition Airport, located in the middle of the Everglades. Originally detained, heis now free, after a judge granted him political asylum.

One of the arrivals was a 29-year-old pilot of the Cuban Air Services Company, belonging to the Cuban Aviation Corporation, and he left the Island from Sancti Spíritus.

Customs agents interrogated the pilot as soon as he landed, and he was immediately put in the custody of the authorities.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuba’s Elections for Parliament Start With Low Attendance and Less Enthusiasm

In the bus station of the city of Camagüey, a polling station for travelers was established, but it looked empty this Sunday morning. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 March 2023 — The low attendance at the polling stations is marking Sunday in Cuba, where this March 26th the polls have opened early to ratify the 470 candidates who will occupy, for five years, the 470 seats in the National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP).

Although more than 8.1 million people are eligible to  participate in the process, in many of the 23,648 polling stations the images of few lines were repeated this morning. Most of these were in the early hours but the numbers have diminished as the day progresses, according to reports compiled by 14ymedio.  

In several polling places in the municipalities of Centro Habana and Diez de Octubre, in the Cuban capital, at the stroke of nine in the morning, the volunteers who work at the polling stations and the children dressed as pioneers who traditionally guard the ballot boxes, were barely visible.

“Here the only ones I have seen go to vote are the organizers of the election and a neighbor who is an official of the Inder [National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation],” a young artist living in the Cayo Hueso neighborhood in Centro Habana told to this newspaper, having decided herself not to vote this Sunday.

An polling place in Havana opened its doors early to ratify the 470 candidates of the National Assembly of Popular Power. (14ymedio)

The travelers who arrived this morning at the bus station in the city of Camagüey also found a polling station located on the premises to provide facilities to voters who are far from their areas of residence. However, 14ymedio verified that very few of the passengers approached the table to obtain a ballot. continue reading

“I came to visit my family because now I was able to get a ticket from Havana and if I wasn’t going to vote in the place where I live, I’m not going to do it here,” claimed a retiree who was waiting at the station to buy a ticket back to the Cuban capital.

Nor, in the city of Sancti Spíritus, has enthusiasm to participate in a process in which parliamentary candidates need to receive the support of more than 50% of the valid votes cast to occupy their seat in the ANPP been perceived in the early hours of the day.

The only polling place where more than a dozen voters were seen waiting to vote is located on the Zaza Highway and its residents are mainly military. “In my neighborhood, even the elderly say that they are not going to vote because that doesn’t solve anything anyway,” says Yania, a young resident of the city’s historic center.

The low attendance that is perceived so far does not surprise anyone. The two previous occasions in which Cubans have participated in an electoral process have been in the referendum on the Family Code, last September, when the abstention was almost 26%, and in the municipal elections in November, in which it reached a historic high of 31%.

A polling place with few voters on Avenida Acosta in Havana’s Die de Octubre municipality. (14ymedio)

On this occasion, several opposition organizations and activists of various political colors called on people not to participate in the elections, with the hashtag #YoNoVoto. The abstention campaign was answered by the Cuban regime, which filled the official media with calls for a “united vote” to guarantee that the 470 candidates are elected.

Since early hours, the political police have prohibited several elections observers from leaving their homes, according to a complaint by Zelandia Pérez, coordinator of the Cuban Commission for Electoral Defense and a resident in Havana. State Security placed a police patrol outside Pérez’s house to prevent her from observing the electoral process.

Where long lines have not been lacking on this day is outside the bakeries, shops and other commercial premises dedicated to the sale of basic products. So far, Cubans seem more interested in getting something to put on their plates than in ratifying the parliamentarians of the next legislature in their seats.


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

A County in Northern Ireland Requests Doctors From the Cuban ‘Henry Reeve’ Brigade for a Hospital

The South West Acute Hospital, in the Northern Irish city of Enniskillen, closed the emergency surgery room in November due to a lack of staff. (HSC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 24 March 2023 — Given the lack of staff in one of its hospitals, a local government in Northern Ireland (United Kingdom) is asking Cuba for doctors. As reported on Thursday by the BBC on its news website, the authorities of Fermanagh County have sent a letter to the Embassy of the Island in London in which they ask if the Henry Reeve Brigade “could provide assistance” to the South West Acute Hospital, in Enniskillen, “so that it can meet the required staffing standards.”

The center had suspended its general surgery service in the emergency room last November due to a lack of healthcare workers.

As is the case throughout the United Kingdom with its National Health Service, the management of the hospital budget and the hiring of personnel are carried out by trusts that are distributed throughout the country. In this case, the Western Trust is responsible.

On March 15, the county’s policy and resources committee extended an invitation to this trust to accept the proposal, but the local media has not reported whether it has responded or not.

The Fermanagh Herald mentions that the problems of this trust “to recruit and retain medical personnel” in that hospital have caused a crisis, which local councilors are trying to remedy by importing Cuban health workers. continue reading

The diplomatic headquarters responded to the politicians immediately, indicating that the request for medical personnel had been transferred to the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba. A letter signed by Marta Castillo, who is in charge of cooperation matters at the Embassy, asks for as many details as possible about the staff and specialties required by the County Council, and also suggested holding a video call with the councilors about it.

Not all members of the Fermanagh Council, however, are satisfied with the hiring of Cubans. The most enthusiastic is independent counselor Eamon Keenan (from the left, judging by his social networks), who is responsible for the initiative and stated that he “never had any doubt” that Cuban doctors would take the county’s request seriously. He alleged that the Western Trust itself had expressed its willingness to hire staff “at the international level,” so this was “a great opportunity.”

“Cuba, a country that lives under strong economic sanctions from the United States, can and is willing to send medical support to us, the poor people of Fermanagh,” Keenan said.

Counselor Victor Warrington (of the Unionist Party) was more skeptical and pointed out that they need “permanent responses to our problems and not a Band-Aid.” In addition, he specified that the imported Cubans “probably would be temporary.”

For his part, Donal O’Cofaigh (of the Labor Party), said that even if Cuban doctors were there for only one or two years, their presence could help “stabilize” the situation until they found “permanent surgeons.”

The Henry Reeve Brigade, defined as an “international contingent of doctors specialized in situations of disaster and serious epidemics,” was created by Fidel Castro in 2005, as propaganda after the passage of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Since then, it has intervened in different countries in cases of floods, earthquakes and outbreaks of diseases such as Ebola. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it acted in a total of 40 countries, according to data from the Cuban Government.

Unlike other missions in Havana, it boasts of being “charitable,” and has even been proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize. According to the NGO Cuba Archive, the Henry Reeve Brigade is simply an “exportable product” of the military dictatorship, and, as it warned the award committee in Oslo in a public letter in 2020, “it is an intrinsic part of a human trafficking scheme” that violates international law.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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

World Press Baffled by Cuban-Style Democracy

Cuba does not hold real elections but all the trappings — campaigns, rallies and propaganda — are there.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 24 March 2023 — Two days before elections for Cuba’s National Assembly, the world press is watching the lead-up to the vote with bafflement. The conclusion: no one really votes in Cuba but all the trappings — campaigns, rallies, and propaganda — are there to serve as staging for Cuban-style democracy.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) describes President Miguel Díaz-Canel’s appearances during the run-up as an “unusual political campaign,” especially in Santa Clara, the city that nominated him for national office and from which he has been re-elected “more than a dozen times.”

The French news agency describes Cuba as a “communist country unaccustomed to electoral campaigning” as exhibited by its current president, who is trying to contain growing voter apathy in a “dissatisfied society.” It also cites Cuban electoral law, which prohibits “all forms of individual electoral propaganda,” something none of the candidates – praised to a fever pitch by their local media outlets – have complied with.

The Associated Press (AP), an agency which generally takes a complacent attitude towards the regime, has adopted a more critical tone in its analysis of the electoral process. “The day’s result seems inevitable, though one closely-watched indicator will be how many voters abstain,” it says.

AP notes ironically that Cubans will elect 470 representatives from a list with the same number of candidates. “There are no indications that the current president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, will leave office and, for this reason, is expected to be re-elected,” it adds bluntly, underscoring the predictability of the result. continue reading

The Spanish news agency EFE describes the situation as “relevant and controversial,” indicating that what is really at stake is not the parliamentary election itself but the legitimacy of the system, which widespread absenteeism will call into question. “The fact that Cuba does not allow international observers to monitor these elections is, to say the least, troubling,” it finds.

“In the absence of public opinion polls, one group to follow is young voters, among whom disenchantment and political disaffection are widespread after years of severe economic crisis,” it says, noting that 13,000 Cubans over the age of sixteen will be going to the polls for the first time.

In a lengthy article, Al Jazeera recounts the history of the last six decades from the official point of view, highlighting the embargo against Cuba and extolling achievements in education and health. It avoids criticizing the system but it does address the potential issue of low turnout. “Voter absenteeism has become a feature of recent elections in Cuba. Participation in the November 2022 municipal elections, for example, fell below 70% for the first time, indicating a disconnect in a political system that depends on public support,” it explains.

Argentina’s digital newspaper Infobae refers to to a “decline in credibility” of both the regime and the electoral process. It believes social discontent, which has worsened since the protests of 2021 and 2022, will take its toll on the Cuban government’s international image. “The living conditions that underlie both the defiance and the mass exodus, probably along with low voter turnout as well, remain unchanged,” it says.

The Mexican digital news site Sin Embargo [Nevertheless] accuses the regime of perpetrating an “electoral simulation.” It notes that, at a minimum, a democracy should ensure certain conditions: “multiparty participation, competitive elections, freedom, accountability, rule of law.” It argues the absence of these reveals the iliberal and autocratic nature of the island’s system.

Meanwhile, government-controlled news outlets such as Prensa Latina and allied organizations such as Venezuela’s Telesur continually present this Sunday’s elections as “a show of support for the socialist social and political model.” Despite describing the technical aspects of the voting  process, none of these outlets, nor Cuban officials themselves, explain the inconsistencies international analysts have pointed out, or the intense campaigns candidates have waged in recent weeks.

Parties, extended periods without blackouts, somewhat better stocked store shelves and an overwhelming call for a “united vote” — the pro-government slogan intended to discourage low turnout and encourage people to vote for the pre-selected candidates — are failing to alleviate the tension, felt both inside and outside the island, that already characterizes the run-up to these elections.


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