Newspaper Readers Denounce the ‘Ruthlessness’ Against Sancti Spíritus in the Distribution of Blackouts in Cuba

“Let’s stop fooling ourselves, we all know the almost obsolete state of Cuban thermoelectric plants, built more than 30 years ago,” says an ’Escambray’ reader.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 2 December 2022 — The call this Thursday of the Escambray newspaper to its readers to leave a “question, reflection or opinion” for the Sancti Spíritus Electric Company immediately had angry responses.

The official media announced that the state company will appear on December 7 in its newsroom “to clarify, as far as possible, the doubts, concerns and disagreements” of the citizens, given “the delicate energy situation that Cuba has been experiencing for months.”

“I have several questions, the first is why Sancti Spíritus, being the least densely populated province in the central region, suffers the worst blackouts,” says Ricardo, who says that he is aware of “another reality” in other provinces and also questions whether there is “ruthlessness” with some of the “blocks” into which the distribution of scheduled blackouts is divided and which suffer more than others from power outages.

The reader Rey follows the same line, but is harsher: “The electric company has social networks, telephones, etc. They have communication channels to give answers to the population. Do you think it is necessary for the press to be a mediator? If you analyze only this, you will already realize that everything in the electric company is malfunctioning.”

The man from Espiritu makes a request to the provincial newspaper: “You, as the press, should be a little more on our side. For example, investigate why the current is not turned off in Havana, publish about it, and ask for answers. Should we from the field assume the entire deficit?” And he concludes: “This is not the time for photos and explanations, it is time to have light. Almost a whole year of blackouts that instead of being solved are getting worse. December has arrived. It will be another broken promise.”

“Blackouts and alumbrones* are the main topic of daily conversations, and no matter how much the corresponding entities explain in terms of limitation in thermal generation, capacity deficit, units under maintenance, breaks, lack of fuel… of the only thing Cubans understand is the 10 hours or more that goes by without power,” says Maydelis, who asserts: “The situation Cuba is experiencing with fuel is not a secret to anyone, but let’s stop fooling ourselves, we all know the almost obsolete state of the Cuban thermoelectric plants, built more than 30 years ago, which no longer can be maintained.”

For the reader Chino, Escambray’s call is useless: “What is the point of posting questions in this way if the Sancti Spíritus UNE [Cuba Electric Union] has a channel and a Telegram group with more than 51,000 members and they keep it private, that is, that we cannot comment or publish anything? In the end we all know that the country’s energy situation is not going to be resolved or improved considerably before December 31.”

*Translator’s note: Alumbrone is a word coined to mean the often unexpected times when the electricity is on.


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 Removes a Coach From the National Team After Accusing Him of ‘Illegal Exit’

Donal Duarte retired last April at the Capitán San Luis stadium in Pinar del Río. (Guerrilla)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 November 2022 — The experienced baseball player Donal Duarte, El Lobo Mayor, was excluded at the last minute from the coaching staff of the Cuban team that will participate in the 2022 Caribbean Baseball Cup in the Bahamas. The National Commission accused him of “illegal exit” from the country, an argument that the athlete rejected. Duarte told Pelota Cubana magazine that he “would request his removal from the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (Inder).”

Duarte denied that alleged abandonment, as well as “a fight” in which he allegedly participated. “Both things are completely uncertain,” stressed Duarte, who is also director of the Pinar del Río Under-23 team. “It’s disrespectful what they just did to me.”

The coach was considered on the preliminary list of the national team, hence his surprise when he saw that Ricardo Eizmendiz appeared in his place, and that he was also accused of indiscipline. “I’m one of the few left in this country, I live for baseball and look what they do to me,” he said.

“What was the use of playing baseball in Cuba for 18 years? What was the use of working so hard? They are alleging things against me, I really don’t deserve it, I can’t admit it,” Duarte lamented. continue reading

The journalist Francys Romero described this as an “injustice,”  since Duarte “had no illegal exits either as a player or after his retirement.”

“Let’s hope that the Cuban baseball authorities will publicly pronounce on this new injustice. It is something that the fans demand,” published Swing Completo. “To trust the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB), you have to be part of its circus and paint your nose red,” it said.

For its part, the magazine Cubana Pelota denounced that the baseball player “does not deserve that treatment… You can’t play like that with the figures of this country in the field of sport,” the outlet stated.

The official press limited itself to announcing the Cuban roster for the Bahamas Caribbean Baseball Cup 2022, which highlighted “three catchers, six infielders, five outfielders and 10 pitchers, among the youngest and most talented players in the I Elite League.”

The summoned are the receivers Yunior Ibarra, Iván Prieto and Richel López. As infielders are Guillermo Avilés, Santiago Torres, Rangel Ramos, Luis Vicente Mateo, Cristian Rodríguez and Rodoleisis Moreno, as well as outfielders Leonardo Argüelles, Héctor Labrada, Yoelkis Guibert, Yasiel González and Alexquemer Sánchez.

For their part, the pitchers are Ariel Zerquera, José Rodríguez, Alexander Valiente, Yunier Castillo, Pavel Hernández, Andy Vargas, Javier Mirabal, Franklin Quintana, Leodán Reyes and Yeudis Reyes.


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.

Fire Destroys a Load of Tobacco on a Train from Pinar del Rio

The Fire Department and residents of the Los Palacios municipality, in Pinar del Río, helped put out the fire on the train loaded with tobacco. (Radio Guamá)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 30 November 2022 — A fire that occurred on Tuesday afternoon consumed the load of a wagon with tobacco on a train from Pinar del Río, the province that produces the best cigars in the world. The authorities confirmed that the fire was extinguished by the Specialized Fire Forces, but they have not offered data, for the moment, on the possible causes or how much the losses amounted to.

The incident occurred in the municipality of Los Palacios, in Pinar del Río. The Accidents and Trucks Facebook group reported that the train was heading to Havana loaded with tobacco, while the local radio station Radio Guamá added that to control the incident, the help of the neighbors was required to support the firemen.

In videos shared on social networks, firefighters are seen putting out the fire from the roof of the wagon. The photographs of the local station also show the damage to the tobacco bales that were removed from the unit before the fire consumed them.

Pinar del Río was the province most devastated by the passage of Hurricane Ian, where it was exactly the necessary infrastructure for tobacco cultivation that was greatly affected. According to the local press, there was damage to 14,000 of the 33,000 tons of leaves stored. continue reading

The Empresa de Transporte Agropecuario, a division of Tabacuba, indicated at the beginning of November that it was an urgent task to safeguard some 6,000 tons of raw tobacco before it spoiled, for which it was planned to transfer most of it by train to the provinces of Sancti Spíritus, Matanzas, Villa Clara and Cienfuegos.

Emilio Triana Ordaz, general director of the Agricultural Transport Company, explained to the Guerrillero provincial newspaper that each train could store up to 300 tons, with a loading time of four days. According to estimates by the authorities, these tasks would take a month if there were no delays.

The tobacco sector is facing one of its worst moments. In addition to the losses due to the hurricane, the item came from one of its lowest production cycles due to the lack of basic supplies, logistical problems and machinery breakdowns.

At the end of last October, tobacco planting began in some 6,300 hectares of Pinar del Río , a product destined for export. This process will last until January 31, 2023. During these three months, the work will be concentrated in the municipalities of San Juan y Martínez, San Luis, Pinar del Río and Consolación del Sur, considered the “tobacco massif” of the province that produces half of the highest quality tobacco leaf on the Island.


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.

About to Turn 100, Cuban Actress and Playwright Herminia Sanchez Dies

The actress graduated from the Dramatic Arts Seminary of the University of Havana in the 1950s. (ANC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 December 2022 — Cuban actress and teacher Herminia Sánchez Quintana, National Theater Award winner in 2019, died this Thursday in Havana at the age of 99. Her imprint on the island’s dramaturgy, cinema, radio and television accredits her as one of the most notable faces of the Cuban scene.

Born in Barcelona in 1923, Sánchez graduated from the Havana University’s Dramatic Arts Seminary in the 1950s. She worked at the National Theater, the National Dramatic Ensemble, and the Estudio Theater.

From her youth, her performances in Electra (1951), by Sophocles, and in La casa de Bernarda Alba (1953), by Federico García Lorca, are remembered. She is also known for her founding work at the Escambray Theater, where she wrote and premiered her first play, Escambray mambí (1968), which stages various passages from the diary of General Máximo Gómez and from the Episodes of the Cuban Revolution, by Manuel de la Cross.

The historical theme and the sociological study as tools of theatrical fiction would mark Sánchez’s work as a playwright at the Teatro de Participación Popular. With this group, the actress promoted different initiatives in the coastal neighborhoods of Havana, together with her husband, the actor Manolo Terraza, which had their synthesis in the staging of Loma del Ángel (1975), based on the homonymous novel by Cyril Villaverde. She shared the stage with Rosita Fornés, Adolfo Llauradó, Raquel Revuelta and Abelardo Estorino. continue reading

During the 1980s, she worked as a teacher at the Instituto Superior de Arte and worked in film, television and theater. He acted in important films like LucíaHello Hemingway and Habana Eva. As for her writing, she published the volumes TeatroDe pie and Monólogos teatrales cubanos.  

As part of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, she negotiated several cultural contracts with the countries of the Soviet bloc and appeared as a lecturer in Germany, the US, Bulgaria, Spain and Latin America. She was also invited to participate as a jury in the Casa de las Américas Award and in various contests organized by the Armed Forces.

Having been born in Spain and carrying out her cultural work on the Island, she received the title of Distinguished Emigrant by the Society of Spanish Residents, as well as that of Adoptive Daughter of Old Havana. She also received the Alejo Carpentier Order and the Distinction for National Culture, in addition to the Caricato Award, in 2017, and the National Theater Award, in 2019.

Sánchez’s death was announced on the official Twitter account of the University of the Arts, where she worked as a tenured professor. Her book De ella Teatro de fuerza y ​​candor, a kind of autobiography, summarizes her almost hundred years of life and her passion for theatrical fiction.


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.

Saudi-Financed Fidel Castro Museum Has Few Visitors

Entrance to the luxurious Fidel Castro Ruz Center in Havana. (Centro Fidel Castro Ruz)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 November 2022 — Though the Fidel Castro Ruz Center celebrated its first anniversary on November 25, the museum has little to celebrate. Its website states that the facility, located on the corner of Paseo Avenue and 11th Street in Havana’s Vedado district, has received some 77,000 visitors from 140 countries in the 365 days that it has been open.

Government media outlets’ own numbers, however, are at odds with these figures. On Friday Escambray reported that the museum has seen 2,646 foreigners from more than 70 countries. Adding to the confusion, Prensa Latina quoted its director, René Gonzalez, saying that “more than 80,000 people” have visited the center.

Even assuming that the most optimistic figure of 80,000 is correct, it seems clear that the museum has not attracted a lot of interest, either from tourists or from Cubans. The lack of statistical transparency in Cuba prevents an adequate assessment of the contradictory numbers. But if the Che Guevara Mausoleum in Santa Clara is any guide, the late guerrilla leader is putting his former comandante to shame.

According to official figures, during its first twenty years of operation, more than five million people visited the memorial where the government claims the remains of Ernesto “Che” Guevara are buried. In 2019, the state-run press reported that, in the two decades following the inauguration of the sculptural complex dedicated to the late Argentinian revolutionary, it received an average of 684 visitors a day. In 2016, a year when four million tourists visited the island, official sources reported that the Villa Clara monument received 374,900 visitors, which translates to 1,024 people a day.

With respect to the Fidel Castro Ruz Center, if one assumes the highest official figure of 80,000 is correct, that means that 219 curious individuals a day would have visted Castro’s shrine. This presumably would include students visiting the center as part of their program of studies. continue reading

The figure pales in comparison to the Santiago de Cuba mausoleum where Castro’s remains lie. The official communist party newspaper Granma reported that, in the first two months after the former president’s ashes were interred in the Santa Ifigenia cemetery, 150,000 people — both Cubans and tourists — visited the site, an average of 2,500 people a day.

Although 2022 has so far proven to be a disastrous year for tourism, with barely 1,198,402 foreign visitors as of the end of October, the comparatively small number of those curious enough to visit Castro’s “cathedral,” as Escambray dubbed the museum a few days ago, is striking, especially considering that it is in the capital and admission is free. Moreover, given the fascination that the revolutionary leader holds for a large part of the world’s population, the small number of visitors must have come as a surprise.

The museum is located in a mansion built in the last decade of the 19th century for a captain who fought in the war of 1895. It is surrounded by a large garden which contains more than 11,000 plants from Cuba as well as other countries, such as Venezuela and Argentina, that were important to Castro. Its interior houses a large museum dedicated to the life of Fidel “from his childhood to his physical demise,” as one guide working there described it to 14ymedio.

Its walls display objects and images of Castro during the Revolution as well as interactive exhibits where visitors can read and listen to writings and long speeches by their leader as well as hear tributes to him from famous like-minded personalities.

But the big mystery is how much the museum cost and who paid for it. At its official opening, which was attended by the international press, the head of Documentary Heritage Preservation for the Palace of the Revolution, Alberto Albariño, refused to answer this question when one journalist posed it. The only thing he would say was that a substantial part of the costs were covered by “donations that were received from other [unnamed] countries” and that, therefore, it had not required a large expenditure of state funds.

A source at the Office of the Historian of Havana told 14ymedio that part of the money came from Saudi Arabia. “It was supposed to be used for housing but they took some of it for the center and also for the Capitol,” she says. In 2017, Cuba received a 26.6 million dollar loan from  the Saudi Fund for Development to be used by the Rehabilitation and Construction of Social Works Program, from which funds for the pharaonic project were set aside.

The independent digital news platform Cubanet also reported that executives from the Iberostar and Meliá hotel chains provided generous donations to get the museum up and running. One official went so far as to say that Miguel Fluxá, the president of Iberostar, provided five million euros himself in one lump sum and even offered to ship materials to the island that were difficult to obtain due to the embargo. The company is reported to have put up roughly twelve million euros in total, a little more than Meliá (the size of whose donation was not specified) and much more than the French firm Accor, which put in another two million.

There is also the money contributed by ICAP (Institute of Friendship between Peoples), which Cubanet estimates could be roughly fifteen million dollars. The current return on investment must certainly be demoralizing.


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.

Fears Are Justified as Cuba’s New Penal Code Takes Effect

Is it the intention of the dictatorship, from now on, to severely penalize any discrepancy? (Cuba debate) 

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 30 November 2022 — There are at least three ways to analyze Cuba’s new Penal Code that comes into force this first of December.

The first is paralyzing and ends in the acceptance of the idea that everything a citizen does that deviates one millimeter from what is convenient for the Government or the Communist Party represents a reason to be sentenced to prison. Here, especially inscribed, is the gaze of those who are political opponents, social activists or independent journalists.

This analysis pays attention to Article 119, which punishes with the death penalty anyone who uses force to change the system; Article 120, which penalizes anyone who demands the same but exercising “arbitrarily any right or freedom recognized in the Constitution of the Republic” with up to ten years in prison; and Article 143, which also punishes with ten years anyone who receives funds or finances for activities against the State and its constitutional order.”

The second way of reading the new Code is based on the optimistic belief that the principle of social injuriousness (Article 1.3) will be fully applied, through which, “in order to impose a sanction, it is required that the act produce an injury to legal property of entities protected by law, or endangers them or risks causing it.” If the damage caused is not demonstrated in court, there will be no crime for which to be convicted.

This point of view pays attention to Article 180, which penalizes the official who maliciously promotes the persecution of a person “whose innocence is known,” or to Article 181, which punishes the public official who “applies or orders the application of a security measure without an order from the competent court,” which is supposed to nullify the prohibitions against leaving the country or the limitations on movement to which dissatisfied people are arbitrarily subjected.

The third way of facing the Code is from the point of view that regardless of what is written in the document, “these people,” those who are in charge in Cuba, will always do whatever they want, and it makes no sense to try to determine the degree of threat or relief that the new legal body represents.

Beyond the views on the Code, the bets on what will happen with the new regulations move between two options: the dictatorship will severely penalize any discrepancy; or, simply, it calculates that the icy breath of a terrible threat will be enough to neutralize the opponents, reduce them to silence or incite them to moderation. We will know soon.


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.

US Court Recommends Preventing an Undersea Cable Connection with Cuba

The existing undersea cable system in the Caribbean area.

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 1 December 2022 — On Wednesday, United States Department of Justice recommended to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it deny a permit for the installation of the first submarine telecommunications cable that would connect the United States with Cuba.

The Cuban government represents a “counterintelligence threat” to the US and, since Cuba’s state communications company Etecsa would manage the cable landing system, Havana could “access sensitive US data traveling through the new segment,” explained the Justice Department in a statement.

“As long as the Government of Cuba continues to be a counterintelligence threat to the United States and is allied with others who are the same, the risks to our infrastructure are simply too great,” Deputy Homeland Security Attorney Matthew G. Olsen said in a statement.

According to the Department of Justice, Cuba’s relations with other “foreign adversaries” such as China or Russia represent a risk for the US Government if such a connection existed.

Olsen pointed out that the US, however, “supports the existence of a secure, reliable and open Internet network around the world, including in Cuba.”

The ARCOS-1 USA Inc. undersea cable system applied to the FCC to adapt its network to include the first and only connection of its kind between the US and the Island.

The ARCOS-1 network connects 24 landing points in 15 countries on the continent, including the US, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua and Mexico.

The US has criticized the Cuban government for limiting internet access on the island, especially after the protests of 11 July 2021 (known as ’11J’), and the power outages this summer.

Havana alleges that the economic and commercial embargo of the United States “has prevented it from accessing any of the dozens of cables that pass through areas near its coasts.”


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.

The International Boxing Association Owes Thousands of Dollars in Prizes to Five Cuban Medalists

More than a year after winning the gold medal in the World Boxing Championship, Julio César La Cruz has not received the $100,000 prize money. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 December 2022 — The gold medalists at the 2021 World Boxing Championship, in Belgrade, Julio César La Cruz, Yoenlis Hernández Martínez and Andy Cruz Gómez and the bronze medalists, Osvel Caballero and Herich Ruiz Córdoba, still have not received the cash prize offered by the International Boxing Association (Aiba).

La Cruz, Hernández and Cruz, who received the medal, earned $100,000, while for Caballero and Ruiz, the prize is $25,000. The reason for the delay, according to the president of the organization, Umar Kremlev, is due to the economic embargo. “The problem is complicated. There are many banks that cannot make the transfer to Cuba,” reported Play-Off Magazine.

Visiting Havana, the manager did not specify whether the money is granted directly to the boxer or is paid, as usual, through the Cuban regime. He limited himself to saying that the monetary part serves the athletes so that they “invest in their future and families.”

“I will share this money with my family. I think I will manage to spend it wisely and find a good purpose,” Cruz said after beating Turkey’s Kerem Özmen in the 63.5kg category.

A year after that episode in Serbia, Andy Cruz’s situation changed. He was expelled from Cuban sports and from the Domadores in July after being exhibited for his escape attempt and being repudiated for undisciplined. The champion in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is in the Dominican Republic where he is preparing for his professional debut.

The case of Herich Ruiz is similar, he escaped last March “after the weigh-in for his fight” against the American Arjan Iseni. The fight was part of the Continental Championship cartel, in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The bronze medalist at the 2021 World Boxing Championships in Serbia is owed $25,000 by Aiba for the bronze achieved in Belgrade.

Umar Kremlev did not elaborate on the $125,000 of these two fighters are owed nor did he deny the possibility that they will receive the prize. He trusted that the solution will be resolved before the end of this year. “Although I know that for Cubans the payment is not the most important thing, but the fact of getting into the ring and representing the country with its flag and anthem. That is the dream of every boxer.”

The next World Boxing Championships will take place in Tashkent, Uzbekistan from May 1-14, 2023. For this event, the gold medalist will be awarded $200,000, the silver medalist $100,000, and the bronze medalist $50,000.


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 ‘Fight Against the Coleros’ Continues, Despite Official Announcement in Havana to the Contrary

A store in San Nicolás street, between Zanja and Cuchillo, in Centro Habana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerHavana, Juan Diego Rodríguez, 1 December 2022 — Although the Government of Havana insisted that the Lucha Contra Coleros (LCC) [Fight Against Coleros*] operations would end as of this very Thursday, a tour of the capital shows that the measures are still in force. In Plaza de Carlos III, for example, the LCCs were working normally. “But hadn’t they said that they were going to shut down the bandits?” asked a customer at the doors of one of the stores in the mall. “I wonder the same thing, when are they going to remove them,” replied another.

And this, explained a resident from Centro Habana, despite the fact that last month the new system announced, which requires each shopper to have a card or ticket that identifies them, was already im place in the municipality. The cards distributed to each person or family include the name of the purchasing establishment, the ID number of the bodega (ration store) and the details of the family nucleus and its number of consumers.

In a store on San Nicolás street, between Zanja and Cuchillo, where they announced that they would put chicken out for sale, the “cash” of the fight against coleros was also at the door. The same scenario was found in the establishments of Cayo Hueso, where the LCC conversed with a police officer in the most natural way.

In Luyanó, in the store on Melones street, at the doors of which the death of an elderly man occurred, which uncovered a network of corruption between the employees of the establishment and the controversial LCC, the new “chief” of the operation told this newspaper that she did not know when the newly announced system would launch.

“All this is going to take at least fifteen days,” assured the employees of another business in Luyanó, in Concha y Fábrica. The people of Havana were stupefied this Thursday: “But then why did they announce anything?”

Translator’s note: A line or queue in Cuba is called a ’cola’ (literally ’tail) and ’coleros’ are people who others pay to hold their place in line, lines that can be hours, or even days, long.


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.

Full When They Leave Cuba, Aeromexico Flights Return to Havana Almost Empty

Most of the passengers leaving the island do not return despite having a return ticket. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 November 2022 — Safety instructions could be heard on the loudspeaker as the plane accelerated on the tarmac during takeoff. Aeroméxico flight 451 was headed for Havana on Saturday with an almost empty cabin. Only a dozen people were traveling to the Island. The rest of the passengers never boarded the plane though they had paid for return tickets to Cuba.

Since the Mexican airline resumed flights to Cuba, with a route from Havana to Managua that included a stop in Mexico City, most passengers have chosen not return to the island despite having a return ticket. As a result most of the seats on flights to Havana remain unoccupied.

“Notice how they’ve come around three times to give us drinks. That’s something I’ve never seen on an airplane before,” joked one mother who was traveling with her teenage daughter on a Boeing 737 on November 26. “We were able to choose our seats and there are people who’ve been sleeping the entire flight because no one is sitting next to them,” she explained.

Among those flying to the island were a couple who were prevented from traveling on to Managua. “When we got to Mexico, we realized our passports expire in December and Nicaragua requires that they be valid for at least three months,” said one of them. “We’re going back to get new documents as soon as possible so we can leave again.” continue reading

In November, Nicaragua dropped its visa requirements for Cuban nationals, unleashing a torrent of travelers from the island who use the Central American country as a port of entry to the United States. A wide network of accommodations, drivers and coyotes are part of a journey in which robberies, extortion and kidnappings are not uncommon.

The woman stated the journey from the Cuban capital to what is popularly known as “the three-volcano route” cost them 2,800 dollars apiece. “A contact is waiting for us in Managua. He has already helped my brother to get from there to the U.S. southern border with the United States,” a path followed by most of those onboard the Aeroméxico flight to Nicaragua.

“They told us that we have to pay again for the trip from Havana though we did manage to change the date for segment from Mexico City to Managua. The problem is that our passports expire in a month and we no longer have a place to live in Havana. We sold everything before we left,” she explains. “We’re going to stay with some relatives until we can leave again.”

Among the few passengers were a Dutchman, a Cuban man based in Chile who was going to visit relatives and a Mexican couple who wanted to spend a few days at the beaches east of Havana.

Last week 14ymedio reported that Cuban travelers with tickets on flights to Managua, with stopovers in Mexico City, were required to surrender their passports before boarding the plane to prevent them from seeking asylum or refuge in Mexico. As an additional measure they were prevented from leaving the plane during their stopover at Benito Juarez International Airport.

Back at the Havana airport, airline staff in the boarding area collect passengers’ travel documents and give them a card with a number they can use to retrieve their passports upon arrival at the final destination.

In this instance, a flight attendant confirmed the procedure. “We are forced to do this based on our experience with this type of travel,” she said. She declined, however, to clarify whether the instructions to retain passengers’ travel documents came from Mexican, Nicaraguan or Cuban authorities.


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.

Ktivo Disidente, Sentenced to Jail for Asking for Freedom for Political Prisoners in Cuba

Ktivo Disidente has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison, as requested by the prosecutor. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 November 2022 — On Tuesday, Cuban activist and opponent, Carlos Ernesto Díaz González, known as Ktivo Disidente, was sentenced to two years and six months in prison for disobedience and contempt. Díaz González had spent almost seven months in Ariza prison, in Cienfuegos, after he asked for freedom for political prisoners while standing atop the wall of a playground in the San Rafael boulevard in Havana.

The tribunal ratified the request of the Provincial Prosecutor in Cienfuegos, according to a Tweet by El Toque Jurídico, for “standing on a wall and protesting.” In July, authorities denied the 10,000 peso bail for the opponent, at the request of the prosecutor.

According to Manuel Gómez, a friend of Díaz González interviewed by Diario de Cuba, the tribunal systematically violated the judicial procedures to which the activist was entitled.

After enduring mistreatment, confinement in a punishment cell and several hunger strikes, Díaz González demanded that he be classified as a political prisoner, refusing to use the same uniform as common prisoners. continue reading

“The fact that Ktivo is being accused of contempt and disobedience complicates the denouncements of his case,” predicted attorney Eloy Viera Cañiva in an article published on Tuesday. This charge, he explained, doesn’t force the prosecutor to provide a “provisional conclusions” document, which provides a record of the facts of the case against the defendant and lists the evidence.

In the absence of this obligation, and as such the document, human rights organizations are denied access to the information they need to demonstrate that it is an unjust sentence.

“In the case of Ktivo (as in that of many political prisoners that have been tried via what was once called a summary procedure) secrecy has prevailed,” denounced Viera, who also bemoans that that observers and the press were not allowed at the trial.

Cubalex has also complained that while the activist faces two and a half years in prison, the officialist singer-songwriter, Fernando Becquer, accused of sexual abuse by about thirty women, received five years without internment and “is on the street running errands.”

Carlos Ernesto Díaz González protested on December 4, 2020 asking for the release of Luis Robles, known as “the young man with the placard.” Later, he joined Archipiélago and was arrested in November 2021, the eve of the Civic March for Change, for putting up protest posters in Cienfuegos.

His entry into prison finally occurred following a protest on the San Rafael boulevard in April of this year, when he yelled, “There doesn’t have to be violence, there doesn’t have to be bloodshed, but they must let us participate in the country’s political life. Whoever is communist can be so, but he who is not should be respected,” while passersby recorded on their cellphones. Finally several officials brought him down from the wall and drove him to a police station. Shortly after, he was transferred to Cienfuegos.

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.

Even the Stamps for Paperwork Have Disappeared From the Post Offices in Cuba

Line at the post office at Carlos III and Belascoaín this Tuesday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 29 November 2022 — A long line of people winds around the corner of Carlos III and Belascoaín and crosses the door of the imposing building located in that central point of Centro Habana. The reason for the tumult is not the purchase of frozen chicken or the much sought-after cigarettes, but to acquire stamps for processing paperwork, an increasingly non-existent product in the Cuban Post Offices.

“In recent days there has been a deficit of stamps for processing paperwork in the Cuban Post Offices, due to the increase in the realization of procedures by the citizens and state entities of the country,” begins a note released by the Tax Administration Office (Onat) and the Correos de Cuba Business Group (Gecc).

Both entities classify the situation as “unforeseen” and blame “increased demand” for the impact on the service. Although the text doesn’t mention the reasons for the increased interest in these stamps, everything points to the mass exodus that the Island is experiencing and the need for migrants to have documents such as birth certificates or criminal records for their departure, among other things.

“My son arrived at the United States border a few months ago. He has already managed to enter, and now he needs to prepare everything for when he has to appear before a judge for his asylum request. They asked him for several documents, including a birth certificate,” said Juan Carlos, a Havanan who this Tuesday passed through the Post Office on Infanta and San Lázaro Street in search of official stamps.

“They didn’t have any kind of stamp. The employees stood with their arms crossed but unlike other times, they didn’t put a sign on the door clarifying that there were no stamps of 5 or 10 pesos, which are the most sought after,” he explains. “In the few minutes that I was there, other people came in asking for the same thing, but we all left empty-handed.” continue reading

In its official note, Correos de Cuba has called for calm, assuring that this week “the existing reserves in the different territories have been circulated, in order to ensure a balance between them,” and that “a new stamp is being printed.”

To avoid hoarding and reselling the stamps, they have established strict rationing. “The limit of sale allowed per person will be up to three units of stamps of the denominations of 10, 20, 40, 50, 125, 500 and 1,000 pesos. For the stamps of 5 pesos the limit allowed per person will be 5 units,” they clarify.

But the measure has not managed to alleviate the despair of those who are against the clock in some paperwork that needs to be processed. “I have to present an exchange at a notary and I don’t have the stamps,” said one of the clients on Tuesday, who was waiting outside the Correos de Carlos III and Belascoaín, where the 20, 40 and 1,000 peso stamps were for sale.

“They are going to close at 11 and don’t open until 1:00 pm because they have to do the mandatory blackout to save electricity at that time,” a woman complained. “People are protesting because they say that, even without electricity, stamps can still be dispatched, but employees refuse, so I will have to stay until the afternoon, because from here I have to leave, no matter what, with the stamps.”

Correos de Cuba assures that in the month of December “the printing of another seven million stamps will begin, in order to stabilize the sale in all units,” and will have “the main post offices of each municipality” as the priority. But distrust in state institutions is deeply rooted.

Together with the General Customs of the Republic and the telecommunications company Etecsa, the Cuban Post Office is one of the entities least valued by citizens. The frequent loss of letters, the violation of the privacy of parcels, the delay in attention to the public in their offices and other ills have made their official announcements unbelievable.

“The one of 500 comes out in 1,000 and the one of 5 I have in 80,” explains briefly and quietly a young man with a folder, who hangs out a few feet from the post office in Centro Habana. “I’m already out of 50, but tomorrow I’ll bring it again,” he added to the interest of several customers who weighed whether to stay in the line or opt for the informal market to get that tiny piece of paper with its holographic band and its watermark in the light, indispensable for fulfilling their dreams.

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.

First Warning Signs of the Cuban Economy in 2022

Some Cubans survive by selling rum and beer bottles to individuals. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 29 November 2022 — There is just over a month left until the end of this fateful year 2022, and in all countries, the time comes when economists begin to make the first estimates of what happened during the year.

##In the case of Cuba, this task is conditioned by the overwhelming scarcity of data for the analysis of the situation, which, exposed in concrete terms, means that only tourism information by month is available from the CPI.

For the rest, it is necessary to accept longer time periods, the quarter or the semester, and even in most indicators the statistical production is addressed annually. This makes the task of carrying out the analysis of the economy complicated and forces us to formulate proposals that, in many cases fall short, lacking the support of the objective data of reality.

In any case, and based on information already known and contrasted, what seems evident and recognized is that economic growth in Cuba has been declining significantly during the year.

The initial forecasts of the economy plan had established for this year a GDP growth of 4%, which remained until a few weeks ago, when the authorities (in this case, a director of the chamber of commerce) recognized at the inauguration of Fihav that the growth of the economy plan was not achievable, revising the figure by half, 2%. continue reading

It should be remembered that this data had been included months earlier in a ECLAC forecast report, where the Cuban economy had one of the lowest growths in Latin America during 2022, and was headed for a scenario even more negative  in 2023, with a lower increase of 1.8%. The regime, given the evidence of its data that it rarely discloses to the state media, was forced to recognize that the growth of the economy was reduced by half, with the impact that this has on most activities and productive sectors.

Yeilis Torres and 21 other Cubans are at Guantanamo Base Awaiting Resettlement in a Third Country

Activist Yeilis Torres Cruz has been at the Migrant Operations Center (MOC) in Guantánamo since last May. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 November 2022 — The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed that 22 Cubans are waiting for “resettlement in a third country” at the Migrant Operations Center of the Guantánamo Naval Base (MOC). Among them is activist Yeilis Torres Cruz, who spent ten months in prison under investigation for the crime of attack after she was assaulted by the official announcer Humberto López.

The former prosecutor, who was ’regulated’ [the term for being formally forbidden to leave the country], found a way out and escaped on a raft with seven other people, but on their journey to Florida they were intercepted, and only she was given to opportunity to stay at Guantánamo because of “a credible fear.”

With a six-month stay in Guantánamo, Torres “remains in migratory limbo,” her husband, Pavel Pérez, explained to Radio y Televisión Martí. “Basically, the disciplinary regulations are rigorous. They have restrictions on free mobility, lack internet access and must be escorted when going to the nearest beach.”

On November 18, the day she turned 35, Torres received a video call from her husband, who showed her a stuffed animal and chocolate candy as a gift. As he revealed, among the rules to follow in Guantánamo is the possibility of making three five-minute calls, “always under the presence of a custodian” and having a bicycle to take tours. It’s forbidden to talk to the media and receive money.

Those detained in Guantánamo were rescued by the Coast Guard between October 1, 2021 and September 30, 2022, according to Radio Martí.

According to an official from the same publication, the balseros [rafters] were interviewed by staff of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). “They demonstrated a credible fear of persecution and torture,” noting the risks they ran in case of being returned to the Island. continue reading

The State Department provides for the custody and care of migrants in the MOC until the time of their resettlement in a third country.

A spokesperson for the US Department of State assured the BBC that 445 people had been relocated to third countries through the Migration Operations Center based in Guantánamo since 1996. The vast majority were Cubans.

In addition to the 22 Cubans, there are three Haitians and three Dominicans in the Migrant Operations Center who, according to USCIS, “are not detained and can request return to their respective countries whenever they wish.”

This Monday, the Border Patrol rescued two migrants who were about to drown in the Florida Keys. The chief officer of the Miami sector, Walter Slosar, specified on his social networks that 18 people were rescued, without publicizing their nationality.

On Saturday, Slosar reported the landing of eight rafts in the Florida Keys of 180 Cubans in the last 48 hours. All were placed in the custody of the Border Patrol to continue being processed.

That same Saturday, 53 people were repatriated to the Island aboard the William Flores ship. “The Coast Guard and partner agencies are patrolling the Straits of Florida, the Windward and Mona Passages to stop illegal migration,” reiterated non-commissioned officer of District Seven, Nicole Groll.

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: Most of the Potato Harvest in Alquizar Rotted Because of the Blackouts

Only about 40 hectares of potato cultivation managed to escape excess moisture. (The Artemisian)

Natalia Lopez Moya, Havana | 28 November 2022 — Earlier this month, the Cuba-Mexico Friendship Agricultural Production Cooperative began planting potatoes in the municipality of Alquízar, Artemisa. However, the cold season got off to a bad start, and the power cuts forced changes in the irrigation cycles that have ended up damaging most of the crop.

“This crop occupies 12 caballerías* [161 hectares/398 acres] of land divided into four quadrants. Three of these quadrants were damaged, only one survived,” Mauricio Díaz, a resident near the planted fields, explained to 14ymedio. “It was because of the blackouts,” he added.

“For everything to have gone well, it would have been necessary to maintain irrigation for several hours and with a certain intensity,” Díaz details. “But since they are cutting off power almost every day, it was decided to reduce the time to avoid the blackouts and add more water in fewer hours. The result was that the land was flooded and the potatoes rotted.”

Only about 40 hectares of the crop managed to be saved from the excess humidity. “We have had to start dismantling the rest and the townspeople are coming to try to get the rotten potatoes, even if it is to feed them to the pigs,” says the farmer. continue reading

“There are some people who have gotten lucky and have managed to find a few potatoes in good condition among the others that were spoiled, but that is hard work because the stench around here doesn’t even let you breathe”

There are some people who have gotten lucky and have managed to find a few potatoes in good condition among the others that were spoiled, but that is hard work because the stench around here doesn’t even let you breathe and there are flies everywhere,” he remarks. “The worst thing is that this planting was already small compared to other years and now with this situation, Alquízar will hardly be able to harvest the product.”

Beginning November 1, the cooperative began the operation with the planting of 68 hectares of potatoes and the initial proposal was to plant 170 using national seed on 83 of the hectares, and to obtain the rest of the seeds from overseas, according to what the director of the agricultural entity, Pedro Miguel García Velíz, told the local press.

“Currently, we are working on preparing the land for the sowing of the imported seed, which should end in the first days of December,” clarified García Velíz, who acknowledged that the province of Artemisa had only planned to plant 450 hectares in this cold season operation, 150 less than in the previous year.

The main territories for potato cultivation in the province are Alquízar, Güira de Melena, Artemisa and San Antonio de los Baños. Harvesting is scheduled for the first days of February, but the chances of recovering the damaged hectares are remote. “This is going to be the worst year for potatoes that I can remember in a long time,” warns a worker at the Cuba-Mexico Friendship Cooperative.

“We had to choose between two evils: either add more water in less time or have our crops dry up due to lack of water”

“We are going to have big losses because most of the seeds we are using are imported and paid for in foreign currency,” he told this newspaper. “But what could be done if the blackouts did not allow for things to be done as they should be. We had to choose between two evils: either add more water in less time or have our crops dry up due to lack of water.”

The bad news seems to haunt a production that has fallen to historic lows. The 2021-2022 operation barely achieved a harvest of 93,650 tons, the worst in the last 30 years, with the exception of 2014, according to a report released by the Ministry of Agriculture. The negative numbers have forced the sale of the potatoes in a rationed way in recent years.

Last February, the retail price of the product almost doubled when it went from 3 pesos a pound to 5 pesos, and a new price for refrigerated potatoes was created, which is now 6 pesos. The official argument for this increase was the rise in the cost of agricultural raw materials and the increase in the labor cost per employee.

In the black market, a three-pound bag of potatoes currently costs 250 pesos, but even at that price, the product often disappears from informal trade networks. With the catastrophe that occurred in Alquízar, it is very likely that its price will continue to rise and its presence will become more and more sporadic in the coming months.

*Translator’s note: The caballería is a unit of land measurement in the Spanish viceroyalties in the Americas during the times of the Spanish Empire in the 16th through 19th centuries in the Spanish West Indies. One caballería = 111.19742 acres. 

Translated by Norma Whiting