Fights and Domestic Violence Soar During Quarantine in Cuba

Family coexistence and interpersonal relationships are strained these days with the measures adopted against Covid-19. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, Marcelo Hernández, 8 April 2020 — He’s been sitting in the park all morning. Although being at home is the best thing to do to prevent the spread of Covid-19, for 24-year-old Yunior, it’s a nightmare to have to stay in the Los Sitio apartment where he lives with three brothers, an alcoholic father and his grandmother. “Every day there is a different fight,” laments the young man.

The coexistence forced by confinement due to the coronavirus is not that easy to cope with for all families. In addition to the housing conditions, which are already difficult in Cuba due to the overcrowding and poor conditions of a large number of properties, there are also family conflicts that arise from forcibly spending more time together.

The problem is universal. Recently the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, called for measures to be taken to face “a shocking global spike in domestic violence” against women and girls which has occurred in recent weeks, due to the confinements decreed in the face of the pandemic in most countries. continue reading

“We know that confinements and quarantines are essential to reduce Covid-19. But they can cause women to be trapped with abusive partners,” said the UN official.

Mileydis, 46, her name changed for this story, has experienced it firsthand. This week she ended up at the Zanja Street Police Station because her husband beat her to the point of cutting her skull. The trigger for the fight was that “he wanted to see one channel on television and the children wanted to see another,” she recalls.

After the screaming, the blows came and the launch of a chair caused an injury that required six stitches. Upon leaving the nearest emergency room, she went to file the complaint. “When I arrived, the police at the entrance to the station told me that it seemed that someone had been ’throwing powders’ on the houses because cases like mine had been arriving all day.”

“When I leave for work these things do not happen because I am away for many hours but now you have to be looking at each other’s face all the time,” laments Mileydis, one of the few women who dares to file a complaint in Cuba, where male violence is not considered aggravating nor is there a specific law on it. “Very few complaints are registered and they are not classified by the gender of the victim,” explains lawyer Laritza Diversent.

In general, when women go to the police station to make complaints about violence, the agents hinder the process with the argument that it will be the word of one against the other, according to a report by Cubalex, the legal advice center directed by Diversent.

But there is another type of domestic violence. The sociologist Elaine Acosta warns that “it is carried out particularly on the most vulnerable groups: women, children — girls and boys — and the elderly.”

“The precarious living conditions of many homes, multi-generational coexistence, added to the stress of loss of income, situations of poverty, the excessive concerns, among others, have an impact on the increase in abuse and domestic violence,” acknowledges a researcher at the Cuban Research Institute, at Florida International University.

Although official statistics in Cuba on elder abuse are scarce and there are few studies on the subject, Acosta recalls that “the last National Survey on the Aging of the Population (2017) reported that 11% of people over 60 consulted, said they have been victims of situations of abuse by their cohabitants or those responsible for their care.”

Claribel, an 81-year-old woman who lives with her daughter and grandson under the same roof, lives on Salud Street in Central Havana. Before the pandemic, the old woman went out to do some shopping and talk to the neighbors, but since the first case of Covid-19 was detected on the Island, her daughter has not allowed her to go through the door to avoid the contagion.

“All the time they spend yelling at poor Claribel,” a nearby neighbor tells this newspaper. “They shout at her from the time she gets up until she goes to bed, because the house is very small and they are bothered by everything the old woman does. If she turns on the radio it bothers them, if she starts sewing it bothers them and we are afraid that they will end up hitting her.”

Until now, Claribel’s daughter worked Monday through Friday and the grandson was at school. “That family didn’t meet, but since they are all there under the same roof all day, it has become a madhouse,” explains the neighbor. “Even the family doctor had to intervene because the other day Claribel’s blood pressure went up amidst such screaming.”

The old woman’s daughter feels alone with her responsibility for her mother’s care and very tense with the whole situation. Until the end of March, she paid a lady to take care of her mother for several hours a day, but now the woman has not come any more for fear of catching the coronavirus, so all the household chores, the cooking and the care of the old woman have fallen on her shoulders.

In Cuba, “about 68% of the people who provide care for the elderly are women and the majority are over 50 years old,” says sociologist Elaine Acosta. This burden will involve “episodes of increased emotional and physical stress. In these circumstances, the type of care they can provide can be seriously affected.”

Mileydis has decided to take her children and go to her mother’s house to wait for the pandemic to pass. “I don’t want to go back to my house because with my husband there all day this is not going to end well, if the coronavirus doesn’t kill me he will kill me.”


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Doctor at Havana’s Calixto Garcia Hospital is Critically Ill with Coronavirus

The official account for the day is as follows: 457 confirmed, 1,732 admitted, 12 deceased and 27 recovered. (Europa Press)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 April 2020 — A doctor from Calixto García Hospital, in Havana, has been admitted in a “critical condition” with Covid-19 to the Luis Díaz Soto military hospital, according to an official report released this Wednesday. The report does not indicate the profession of the patient and merely points out that he is a 42-year-old Cuban citizen who “had contact with a traveler from Lombardy, Italy.”

According to sources consulted by 14ymedio at the Calixto García hospital, he is a doctor from Cárdenas with the initials C.J.D. and works in the Intermediate Care Unit (UCIM). Those same sources denounce the serious deficiencies in the protection materials for health personnel and the lack of control of those infected admitted to various institutions.

The official report indicates that the patient presents “acute respiratory distress and is reported in critical condition.” Patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) are unable to breathe on their own and require the assistance of a respirator. continue reading

After maintaining absolute silence about the health personnel affected by the coronavirus, the authorities have finally recognized this Wednesday that there are now 25 health professionals who have tested positive for Covid-19, including 14 doctors and 8 nurses. As for the general population, the official account for the day is as follows: 457 confirmed, 1,732 admitted, 12 deceased and 27 recovered.

“It is evident that we are experiencing an in-hospital outbreak,” says one of the medical sources at Calixto García. “Even the director is isolated, we have had positive cases in the hospital but the doctors have not carried out the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test. There is no special protocol for doctors at this hospital, we end up just like everyone else.”

He complains about the enormous workload. “I have 31 patients, I have not slept in 26 hours. So I had to go talk to the epidemiologist because 11 patients came with inflammatory lesions that came out in the lung plates but no transfer. Here there are no [appropriate] conditions, we are all together in a small room with no air, no distance between us, half a meter. There cannot be cases with respiratory symptoms in this hospital, there has to be a hospital for that.”

Last week alarms also went off at the Fajardo hospital in El Vedado when a patient tested positive for the virus after being hospitalized for several days. According to the established protocol, anyone with suspicious symptoms should be immediately isolated and referred to a center dedicated to the treatment of Covid-19. As a result of that incident, on the night of 30 March 38 Fajardo employees were referred to an isolation zone for testing.

As confirmed by this newspaper an employee of Fajardo whose test was negative, five of the 38 workers tested positive for Covid-19. “The following Thursday and Friday, the rapid tests were carried out on all the hospital staff and luckily no one else tested positive. We are all upset that the managers authorized the admission of three patients despite the fact that we insisted that they were suspicious cases, and one of them died later,” he explains. “We found out afterwards that they had contact with a relative who came from Spain but they did not say so at the beginning.”

This week seven employees of the Calixto García Hospital tested positive, including the chief of angiology, several nurses and a cleaning assistant. “The situation is not just here in my hospital. One of the deceased was a kitchen assistant in the González Coro maternal hospital. I have learned of cases in the National Hospital, in Emergencies, and in the 26th Clinic.

There is no infrastructure to support an increase in cases in Cuba, says the same medical source. “There are no means of protection, we only have one pair of gloves, one facemask and one gown when in fact we should change every so often.” A donation from China, which delivered 200,000 face masks and 2,000 disposable suits on Monday, among other things, could ease the situation somewhat.

Since his isolation at the Higher School for State Cadres, near the National Zoo, the doctor from Fajardo recounts the conditions in which he has been for a week. “Most of us, as in my case, are alone in a room, we are all health workers, doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians and administrative employees. We all had contacts in one way or another with the deceased patient or his relatives.”

He says that the five colleagues who tested positive were taken to the Salvador Allende hospital, known as Covadonga, in El Cerro, which is one of the centers prepared to receive suspicious cases. “They are medicating them there, they are given Kaletra (Lopinavir + Ritonavir), Hydroxychloroquine and Interferon.”


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Spain Rules Out Hiring Cuban Doctors, According to ’El Mundo’

Spain is beginning to get the contagion under control after almost 20 days of confinement, although the death numbers remain high. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 3 April 2020 — The Spanish government has ruled out contracting for Cuban doctors to reinforce its healthcare system in the face of the Coronavirus, according to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo on Friday. Nor do they contemplate purchasing the Cuban-made antiviral Interferon Alfa-2B, which is being used as a Covid-19 treatment in some countries.

According to the Madrid newspaper, sources close to the presidency indicate that President Pedro Sánchez wants to avoid any action that could be interpreted as a political nod to Cuba and bring more criticism from the opposition.

In recent days, several autonomous communities, including Catalonia, Valencia and the Balearic Islands, have asked the Foreign Ministry to promote the hiring of Cuban doctors. continue reading

The autonomous regions control their own healthcare systems (although during the state of alarm decreed on March 15 in Spain, workers are under the command of the ministry), so each one is trying to organize its resources to reinforce itself in the face of the pandemic , but it is the function of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to carry out these contracts or to enable non-EU foreign professionals to work in the country.

This Monday, the Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, said in an appearance that he appreciated the offer of other countries but ruled out resorting to them because they have already hired at the national level. “At the moment we have not activated them, if necessary we would,” he admitted so as not to completely close the door.

In Spain, 7,915 professionals (including retirees, students and professionals without positions) have been brought on to reinforce the healthcare system in the face of the crisis, which totals 117,710 infected people this Friday, 10,935 dead, 56,637 hospitalized and 30,513 recovered. In recent days, strict containment measures have begun to be reflected in the contagion data, smoothing the curve, but the pressure is now shifting to hospitals. Those affected in a moderate to severe way usually enter about eight days after becoming infected, the critical phase, if it occurs, is reached at two weeks and, in the worst cases, death comes at three weeks.

Although the mobilization of resources and the reorganization is providing a relative respite, the country still lives under severe stress on its hospital which has led several regional presidents to indicate to the government their interest in accepting the Cuban proposals. But the reluctance of the central administration is reflected in statements such as those of Ximo Puig, president of the Valencian Community (of President Pedro Sánchez’s party), who admitted that he does not want “any kind of contraindication or conflict.”

The Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), which governs in coalition with Podemos (the radical left), fears that any collaboration with Cuba will become ammunition for the opposition, which has been criticizing the government’s management for days, not only of the pandemic, but also of the economic and social support measures aimed at alleviating the consequences.

The government’s refusal applies to Cuban doctors already living in Spain who, weeks ago, opened a petition to request approval to be incorporated into the National Health System to support it in the face of the coronavirus. The National Health System maintains that it has promoted the hiring of some 200 foreign professionals, a quota that these Cubans can be a part of if they meet the requirements demanded of everyone else.

 Spain is working on its own vaccine. The Minister of Science and Innovation, Pedro Duque, said this Thursday that “there is still the possibility that the vaccine will be discovered in Spain” and explained that a team from the National Center for Biotechnology (CNB) has very advanced work and “probably before end of April there will be a first world-wide vaccine candidate with complete virus,” to start animal testing.


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Day 19 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba: ‘Weekly Packet’, Video Games and Movies as a Refuge in Quarantine

In the midst of the pandemic’s advance, informal content distribution networks are the only ones growing. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 8 April 2020 — Glued to the screen all day, that’s how a neighbor of my building has decided to spend the quarantine. With face-to-face classes suspended, the young university student fulfills the old dream of doing nothing but watching TV series and enjoying video games. The family lets him be at ease, “if he is entertained he eats less,” his mother tells me by phone.

In the midst of the advance of the pandemic, informal content distribution networks are the only ones growing, on an Island where food is increasingly lacking and the economic situation is bottoming out. Despite the closure of private cafes and restaurants throughout the city, the weekly packetwith its compendium of audiovisuals continues to come out religiously every week.

Piracy reaches impressive levels and what premiered on Netflix yesterday will be on the black market tomorrow. Even the challenge that circulates on social networks to recommend several movies to watch during confinement, has become a reality on this Island where friends call each other to suggest titles, comment on a performance or issue a criticism of a film. continue reading

There is everything. Materials to make one laugh, to escape the stress of the pandemic and even to learn about historical events or social dramas. The imperative of many is to avoid turning on the official television that addresses the coronavirus with the same rhetoric of the confrontation that until recently they used to talk about the United States or the dissidents.

“Combat,” “win,” “battle,” “trench,” are some of the words that officials repeat in front of the microphone. So much strain has led many people in my neighborhood to only turn on the national channels when the Ministry of Public Health is going to announce the daily update: today’s figures are 12 deceased, 457 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 1,732 people confined for observation in the country.

Those who can afford a web browsing package from their mobile, alternate movies and video games with occasional dives into social networks, while trying to save every megabyte because the state telecommunications monopoly, Etecsa, has not offered any price reductions for connections from cell phones during daytime.

There is a rare tranquility on Twitter. The network of the little blue bird. Where before, for each account of an independent citizen, there were thousands of anonymous profiles that repeated pro-government slogans and launched attacks against critical voices, now the cyberclarias (‘cybercatfish’ or official trolls ) have almost disappeared. With classes suspended at the University of Computer Science and at many state job centers, the “revolutionary” momentum has deflated.

I confess that it is a little boring not to see that avalanche of “handsome men” (thugs) on the Internet, who hide behind a false photo, a manufactured name and access to the subsidized website that they must pay for – part – by engaging in acts of repudiation in the virtual village. To me, who has been stalked by these combative tweeters with special viciousness for 12 years, this absence seems to me as speakers that had been blasting into my window were suddenly turned off.

To remember them, and to exorcise them, I have bought a folder of documentaries on the black market that addresses the Great Chinese Firewall and the strict censorship of the Beijing regime on the publications its citizens post on the networks. I spent hours looking at several of them and yes, as my neighbor would say, while I was glued to the screen I skipped lunch and almost forgot about food. Tomorrow I repeat… to save food.

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Cuban Government Reverses Plan for Total Closure of Havana’s El Carmelo Neighborhood

The updated official information emphasized that “the residents of El Carmelo must remain at home, except for those who do essential work outside.” (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 April 2020 — While residents in the El Carmelo neighborhood in Havana were preparing this Friday for strict isolation of the area, local authorities reversed the initial plan and decided not to fully apply a quarantine that originally included a requirement for passes to enter and leave the area.

The measure announced by the capital’s government on Thursday regarding the isolation of the neighborhood has been softened after fear spread among the residents of a possible worsening of access to basic supplies, at a time when the country is suffering from a food shortage.

The president of Havana’s Provincial Defense Council, Luis Antonio Torres Iríbar, calmed the spirits and provided new details on the ways in which the isolation will be carried out. Safe-conduct passes will only be implemented if positive cases are found to have increased after inquiries that are being carried out house by house, the official said. continue reading

El Carmelo, located in the central district of El Vedado and with a population of more than 29,000 inhabitants, is also an area with many houses that rent rooms to tourists, and numerous private restaurants and leisure spaces. These factors may have influenced its becoming the place with the highest number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Cuban capital, according to Tribuna de La Habana.

Torres Iríbar said that since eight o’clock on Friday night social isolation measures have increased, but that more stringent measures that would be considered quarantine have not yet been applied. At first, there was talk of installing “four to six” entrances and exits through which public transport buses could not pass. But this measure was revoked.

“Last night it looked like they were going to close the neighborhood, they brought metal fences in several trucks and deployed a large number of police officers. Then, at around seven-thirty they retreated on that,” a resident of the area told 14ymedio. “They explained that they are no longer going to limit entry and exit, that they are going to leave it to people’s consciousness.”

According to this resident, Friday was a day when the entire neighborhood took to the streets to stock up on food and basic necessities. “In less than four hours I stood in three lines, one to buy food, another to buy vegetables and another to buy soaps and shampoo which weren’t in any other store.”

The troubadour Ray Fernández, a resident of the neighborhood, improvised some verses in which he reflects the concern for food and suggests to the authorities that they offer the population the resources destined for hotels. “We are not asking for songs / We are not being selfish / But now that there are no tourists / Give the people the shrimp / Send cheeses and hams,” the singer-songwriter posted on his Facebook account.

The updated official information emphasized that, “the residents of El Carmelo must remain at home, except for those who carry out essential work outside. It was clarified that all basic services in commerce, food services, the food industry and drinking water, collection of urban waste, offers from CIMEX, Tiendas Caribe and Palmares are guaranteed.” A bank, ATMs and mail will also continue to operate.

In addition, the disinfection of the bus stops that are located in that area has been arranged. According to a note published this Saturday in the state newspaper Granma, social isolation will also extend to the Cerro municipality “taking into account the appearance of several confirmed cases of Covid-19.”

Torres Iríbar said that isolation measures would also be evaluated in “the places with the highest incidence in Eastern Havana,” although he did not specify which areas these would be.

So far in Havana there are 427 suspected and 71 diagnosed cases; of these, 19 cases are residents of the Plaza of the Revolution municipality.


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Day 18 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba: In Quarantine and Playing Soccer

Many of those suspected of having Covid-19 are being held at the Hotel Tulipán, in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution municipality. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 7 April 2020 – Years ago in my neighborhood they built a hotel to house patients from the so-called Miracle Mission, but today it houses suspected cases of Covid-19. The building, built in the years of the Venezuelan oil subsidy, had become a place to receive Parliamentary deputies and the athletes of the National Baseball Series.

“Give me the ball!” shouts a shirtless young man from the other side of the fence that leads to Tulipán street, in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution municipality. The ball has crossed the wire fence and fallen a few meters from where I pass with my facemask, on my way to look for bread. “Don’t touch it much!” they tell me, an absurd recommendation.

It is a group of young people, without masks, who move at full speed through the grass that separates the ugly building from the street. They are isolated and live their own quarantine, shouting with an Argentine and Cuban accents, as I manage to discern. On the other side, nothing moves, everything is dead. Ironically, there is more animation within that perimeter where the infected are being held. continue reading

The void around the place has its explanation.

As always when “the little hotel” — as my neighbors call it — is filled with some delegation or official group, the custodians who watch the place let passersby know that they cannot access the store inside, nor the cafe and much less use the paid wifi zone provided by the Cuban Telecommunications Company (Etecsa). Without that, the place loses all grace and remains as an ugly mass on the landscape.

The second reason for so much emptiness is that the authorities have decided to close the cafe located across the street, known as El Trencito. The state sales premises are located at the 19 de Noviembre Station, which commemorates that day in 1837 when the first section of the Cuban railway opened for operation. For me, who come from a family of railroad engineers, stokers and machinists, the slow death of the place hurts me.

A decade ago they swept away the private vendors waiting with their fried snacks and sweets for the passengers; then the number of trains decreased and now, finally, they have closed the musty cafe that continued to sell soft drinks, ice cream and drinks to the people of the neighborhood. The current reason, according to neighbors, is that they want to prevent quarantined people from leaving the hotel, crossing the street and trying to buy alcoholic beverages on the other side.

That’s what we call in Cuba throwing out the sofa*. When, in order to solve a small problem, other situations and services that had nothing to do with the difficulty are eliminated. It’s like throwing the whole living room out the window. More or less what is happening in my neighborhood.

So I picked up the ball. I threw it back to the other side of the fence, I wiped my hands with a cloth with alcohol that I take with me on the few incursions that I make to the street right now. I continued to the bakery but it was already closed. I returned home.

When I entered, after taking off my shoes in the hallway and washing my hands, I reviewed the latest official statistics: 11 killed by Covid-19 in Cuba, 396 positive cases and 1,752 admitted. Numbers that, even made up, are deeply alarming.

I still had some flour left and improvised some cookies. Hard, but enough to “entertain” as my grandmother would say. We are fine, much better than those young people I saw playing soccer this morning, but with a question mark over their heads. They are in medical isolation in our neighborhood, we live in a country in permanent quarantine.

*Translator’s note: Briefly, the expression comes from a Cuban joke where a man comes home and finds his wife on the sofa getting it on with another man. His solution? He throws the sofa out the window.

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In Santiago de Cuba They Are Recommending Anamu Tablets to Fight the Pandemic

The shortage of basic products is also forcing people into the streets despite the risks.(Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, April 2020. Even before hot weather starts in Santiago de Cuba, official measures to counter Covid-19 haven’t discouraged residents from going outside. The need to buy food combines with a sense that risks are low, thereby worsening the situation.

Many Santiago residents find it hard to comply with guidance in the local press to not go outside after 7 PM. The Provincial Defense Council’s resolution was announced on April 3, but pedestrians and groups were again taking to the avenues and plazas last weekend.

“People in Santiago aren’t compliant,” Luis Ponce, a young Santiago resident who runs an electrical appliance repair business. “On Saturday, the police had to come out with dogs to get people out of the parks.” In his opinion, the population has not yet accepted the seriousness of the situation. continue reading

Overcrowded housing is one of the key factors that makes Santiago de Cuba a city that lives with its doors open to the outside. “Putting the domino table in front of the house, spending the night sitting on the sidewalk to cool off, letting the kids play in the hallway, that was our life until a little while ago,” says Yampier, a young man in the San Pedrito barrio.

“The only thing to do here for fun at night is to go down to the park or stay in the barrio with your friends, but now the police want us inside the house, but there are eight of us in mine,” he says sadly. “After spending an hour cooped up in my house I can’t take it any more. If it’s not my sister’s little boy crying, it’s my grandmother complaining, or my father drunk.”

“Anamú tablets versus coronavirus,” is the headline in the state-run Sierra Maestra newspaper over a text promoting the pills.

“The situation is very critical,” Nelva Ortega, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba and a resident of the Altamira neighborhood, tells 14ymedio. “Food is lacking in every one of our homes, because there is a supply shortage.”

“I went out last Sunday and when I was looking for some kind of meat the only thing we found was really expensive ground turkey, and they don’t let you buy more than two packages,” the medical school graduate says. “When there were sausages, which now there aren’t, they only let you buy one package. Chicken, when they had it a few days ago, which led to kilometer-long lines, they only sold you one package.”

Ortega notes that “there were people who had been in line since the day before. At 5 in the afternoon, you can see people in line to buy for the next day. Right now, you can’t find toothpaste in any store, and when soap is for sale you can only buy two.”

A third factor is aggravating the problem of crowds in the streets. Although Santiago de Cuba Province has received major investments in recent years to upgrade the water and sewage system, water delivery is still a problem in many neighborhoods. Distribution cycles have been spread out, and in some areas, water is not being delivered once a week, as it had been.

“The situation is tending to worsen,” said Sierra Maestra, the official newspaper. But the prolonged drought has made increased use of tanker trucks necessary for Santiago residents. Long and closely packed lines in front of the tankers, as people wait to fill up their buckets and containers, create conditions for the spread of Covid-19.

In an effort to lift peoples’ spirits, official media don’t hesitate to promote natural products, such as Anamú, to fight the pandemic. Tablets produced in the Laboratorio Farmacéutico Oriente (Oriente Pharmaceutical Laboratory) stimulate “the body’s production of interferon, an essential protein to fight against different pathogens and viruses, in this case an effective measure against Covid-19,” Sierra Maestra said.

Translated by Peter Katel


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Day 17 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba: Whole Families In The Lines To Buy More Products

The trick to buying more than one product is to get in line with family members, something counterproductive in times of coronavirus. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 6 April 2020 — The shouts of a neighbor brought me out of my midmorning stupor, provoked after trying for a whole hour to call one of those customer service phones that rings and rings but nobody answers. “You have to go with your son and husband, because they are giving out two per person!” the lady bellowed from the fifth floor of our building to someone on the 12th floor.

I peered out for more details. In a neighborhood store they were selling “ground turkey meat” from Canada on Monday. In order to avoid hoarding, the authorities rationed products that until recently were sold freely. But the trick to buying more is to go with family members, something counterproductive in times of coronavirus.

From my balcony I saw them, including the grandmother, leaving to go to the store where the line began to form. A while later a friend, who had marked his place in line since the early morning, called to tell me he was outside another place to buy chicken and invited me to join him. No way, I told him, even Reinaldo has chosen to be a vegetarian these days, in the face of the dangers that lurked in these crowds. continue reading

The situation is very serious.  Covid-19 has taken nine lives on this island, while 350 people have tested positive for the disease and 8 patients remain in critical condition while four are seriously ill, according to official data. Said like this, they only seem like numbers, but in reality they are lives abruptly terminated and people who died, in the majority of cases, without being abe to say goodbye to their families.

How many were infected while standing in line? It is difficult to specify, but the today in Cuba the lines are one of the main “risk areas.” The other danger is our own recklessness. The person who is not aware of the danger and continues to move through the streets without a sense of urgency, the one who believes that nothing will happen to him if he doesn’t wash his hands frequently and the one who insists that the consumption of supplements will prevent him from getting sick.

A text with the title “Tablets of Anamu vs coronavirus” promotes the consumption of this product against the pandemic in the government-run ‘Sierra Maestra’ newspaper (Capture)

The Santiago de Cuba government-run newspaper, Sierra Maestra, is one of those that promotes natural supplements to avoid contagion. Under the title “Tablets of Anamu vs coronavirus,” this local medium says that it is “a drug that stimulates the production of interferon in the body, an essential protein to combat the presence of various pathogens such as viruses, in this case effective against Covid-19.”

The most dangerous thing about this information, similar to the announcement of homeopathic drops promoted by the Ministry of Public Health (Minsap) to “prevent contagion,, is that it comes from an official source and is endorsed by the almighty State. That someone wants to use these “therapies” as a personal decision is one thing, it is another for them to be promoted as effective in a country where a public debate on their relevance in this case has not been allowed.

Reading, researching and searching for information can prevent us from falling into the clutches of false illusions and supposed miraculous cures. One of the few positive things about this pandemic is that many of my friends and acquaintances have returned to reading, after years when finishing a book was almost impossible due to lack of time and exhaustion at the end of the workday. So, at least, let’s enjoy the books!

Today I returned to the pages of The Language of the Third Reich by Victor Klemperer, a book that takes on special meaning at the moment. My philologist colleague describes in this volume how the fascist regime exalted a rhetoric in which all the products that came out of their industries were shown as “the most modern,” “the most efficient,” “the most powerful.” It immediately reminded me of the headlines in Cuba’s national press these days.

Meanwhile, in the real dimension of life everything is less grandiose but certainly more extraordinary. The pepper seeds I sowed have sprouted on my balcony, the new dog that we picked up from the street has already destroyed her first shoe, and every day that we wake up without breathing problems we celebrate, without triumphalism but with joy.

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Cuba Released Ferrer. It Is Not Enough.

José Ramón Bauza (center) and Rosa María Payá, (second from left.)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, José Ramón Bauzá, Brussels , 6 April 2020 — The release of Cuban opposition figure José Daniel Ferrer last Friday was a rare piece of good news, among a stream of bleak reports. Together with three other activists from the Patriotic Union of Cuba, Mr. Ferrer had been illegally detained since last October by Cuban authorities, despite calls for his release.

But this humanitarian gesture should not divert our attention from the true nature of Cuba’s regime, lest we invite the next crackdown on independent civil society. For if Ferrer’s case illustrates one truth is this: whenever the communist regime wants something from the international community, it takes the Cuban people hostage.

After six decades of communist rule and international isolation, Cuba is falling apart. Sadly, this is more than a metaphor. Last January, three young girls died on their way back from school when a derelict building collapsed on them in the touristic heart of Havana. continue reading

The political order too was crumbling in Cuba until the EU threw a lifeline to the regime. With the revolutionary fervour fading from the memory of new generations, the regime was in dire need of legitimation and international support. This help came in the form of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement – PDCA – signed in 2016 between the EU and Cuba.

Since the “common position” adopted in 1996, Brussels made relations with Cuba conditional on regime change. This approach was abandoned in favour of political engagement, hoping that a deepening of ties would persuade the regime to improve its human rights record. The arrest last October of José Daniel Ferrer, on politically motivated charges, showed how misguided this approach was. Emboldened by the legitimisation provided by the EU, and the block’s reluctance to suspend the PDCA even in the face of blatant violations, Cuban authorities have ramped up the repression of independent civil society.

The EU’s response to these breaches of the human rights provisions contained in the PDCA has been bland. For the Spanish and Latin American public, this comes as no surprise, especially since the appointment of Josep Borrell as High Representative. Prior to his role as Europe’s top diplomat, Mr. Borrell served as Foreign Affairs Minister for Spanish socialist PM Pedro Sánchez, whose flirtations with the leftist regimes in Venezuela and Bolivia have been widely criticised. Sanchez’s group in the European Parliament even voted against the November resolution that called for the release of José Daniel Ferrer, and a recent delegation to Cuba led by S&D’s head Iratxe García was criticised for visiting the island while many MEPs continue to be denied entry.

With the release of Mr. Ferrer, many in Brussels and Madrid will try to present this gesture as a sign of changing attitudes in Cuba, wanting to resume business as usual. This would be a serious mistake which will only further the misery of the Cuban people.

Whenever Diaz-Canel wants to divert attention from his regime’s shortcomings, the authorities resort to the imprisonment of opposition figures, just to release them later in a show of goodwill from Havana, and of ‘successful diplomacy’ from Europe. In the meantime, any discussion about the lack of real progress in the island is buried under this vicious cycle of illegal imprisonment, international condemnation and ‘welcomed steps’.

If we are truly committed to promoting the rule of law and human rights in Cuba now is the time to demand further changes in the island, starting with the release of all political prisoners, and the inclusion of independent civil society in the EU-Cuba human rights dialogue. Otherwise, the way to Cuban’s hell will continue to be paved with the EU’s good intentions.


José Ramón Bauzá is Ciudadano´s Member of the European Parliament. He is on Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

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

Day 16 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba: Homeopathy Will Not Save Us, Even If Official Television Says So

On watching official television, you may think that we live in California or Sao Paulo, due to the amount of reporting dedicated to them. (ACN)

14ymedio biggerYoani Sanchez, Havana, 5 April 2020 — I’m annoyed. Anger rises in my throat. Today I have learned that the coronavirus knocked on the door of another friend, this time a Cuban poet living in Madrid. After years of experiencing repression and censorship within the Island, Spain has been for her a terrain where she no longer had to look over her shoulder to see if the political police were following her. I hope she gets better, but the news of his situation has hit us hard.

A couple of days ago I began to look more frequently for testimonies of overcoming and survival that would help me in these dark hours, but not ones contaminated with the gruesome triumphalism of the Cuban press. That false optimism is of no use to me, because it is not impregnated with the desire to find a way out of this dark tunnel that the pandemic has created, but rather tries to score, all the time, a political gain from the emergency.

On watching official television, you may think that we live in California or Sao Paulo, due to the amount of reporting dedicated to them. The flow of negative news about the situation in other countries is staggering. With no ethics or humanism whatsoever, the broadcasters of prime time newscast even seem to gloat at the rise in victims in Madrid or Milan, something they attribute “to capitalism,” even if the scientific community points to a diminutive coronavirus. continue reading

To make matters worse, from the initial arrogance of believing that the virus was not going to affect us in Cuba as it does in other countries, officialdom has moved towards the stage of searching for the holy grail of healing. And having exhausted the hoax of the supposed effectiveness of the interferon alfa 2B is produced on the Island, that have moved on to a homeopathic solution. It would be laughable if it were not so dramatic, because we have already reached eight dead and 320 infected, according to official figures.

In a recent press conference, Francisco Durán, national director of Hygiene and Epidemiology of the Ministry of Public Health, promised that Prenvengho-Vir, a preventive homeopathic medicine, will begin to be applied on the Island as a “prophylactic measure” to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. The doctor stressed that this product helps prevent different conditions such as influenza, respiratory diseases, dengue, and emerging viral diseases or infections.

There are many serious researchers who consider homeopathy a false therapy. Although in our universities they even teach it and our health system includes it in therapeutic guides, all this is done without a scientific endorsement. Right now, speaking out against homeopathy in the Cuban Academy of Medicine is practically looking for a political problem.

In the current situation, when it is taking so long to raise awareness about the need to maintain social isolation, it seems dangerous to me to speak of prophylactic homeopathic therapy. “Don’t worry if in a few days we have a little drop,” a retiree in my building said when I went to throw out the trash today. “This is the greatest, you take it and it protects you from dengue or the flu,” he assured me. I ran scared before he wanted to make me try some concoction.

When I returned, I remembered that Sundays are cleaning days at home, whether or not we are in quarantine. But today, plans to wash, mop the floor, and give the kitchen a once over were put off until further notice. The water supply problem has gotten worse and we have to save every drop, so cleaning was reduced to the stove, a broom over the floor, and a brief swiping of dust from the furniture.

The few informal vendors that haunt the neighborhood no longer want to enter buildings. They advertise their merchandise from the street and when someone asks them to come upstairs they refuse. Today, from a window on the 14th floor, Reinaldo yelled at the top of his lungs at an informal onion vendor who was walking down the street. The shout served to guarantee our meals will be seasoned and incidentally proved to us that Reinaldo’s lung capacity is still good.

The applause at nine o’clock at night has been gradually perverted. What started in Cuba as a citizen initiative, heir to other similar ones in Italy and Spain, has ended up hijacked by officialdom. It is not surprising, but already in our neighborhood, newly voices, recently raised, try to impose political slogans on the ovation, drown the “thank you” dedicated to the doctors with cheers for the Revolution and Díaz-Canel. Regrettable.

So today, at nine o’clock at night, I will choose to recite some verses. On behalf of my sick poet friend in Madrid. For my neighbor who believes in the strength of homeopathic drops, I will have to invoke the complete Vademecum.

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Day 15 of the Covid 19 Emergency in Cuba: My Doctor Friend Has Become a Patient

Saturday, the authorities have updated the figures of Covid-19: six deaths and 288 testing positive. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 4 April 2020 — Today has been a bittersweet day. At home we have all felt good but a doctor friend is isolated and suspected of having Covid-19. He has spent years saving lives in a dilapidated Havana hospital but now it is his that is in danger. Very prepared and committed to his profession, he has now become a patient. My applause tonight will be dedicated to him.

This Saturday, the authorities have updated the figures for Covid-19 on the Island, which has caused six deaths and 288 people testing positive. Of particular concern are the eight critically ill patients and the three seriously ill people, confirmed by sources from the Ministry of Public Health. The incidence of the disease in medical personnel is still a question mark.

My friend, a doctor, now isolated, tells me that the official warnings came late, that the protection measures took too long to arrive and that by the time he began to feel the first symptoms, he had been crying for more work gloves for weeks. “Before this, I received three or four a day to treat all patients, but with coronavirus you can’t do it that way,” he tells me on WhatsApp, his only current link with his family and friends. continue reading

I think about him, in an place of isolation where he cannot offer attention, but receives it, and it makes me sad. As a journalist, when I imagine a situation in which I couldn’t report what is happening, the feeling I get is thoughts of impotence. The forced and necessary quarantine is not just a hard blow for the economy and mobility of a country, but also for the professions that need to be in contact with people and with reality.

So among my great proccupations, along with the health of my loved ones and my own, is the situation of people like my medical friend who has become a patient and that of so many independent reporters that I know for whom the emergency has significantly reduced their ability to work, while the repression does not spare them. There is no scheduled applause at nine o’clock every day for the press, but it turns out that without them we would know little or nothing about the sacrifice of doctors, the agony of the sick or the resilience of societies.

Personally, today I have dedicated a brief tribute to all those journalists who keep us updated. It has not been complicated, because from the time I get up, my coffee has the flavor of reporting, my life revolves around the news and up to eight out of ten calls that come into our telephone line are from someone who wants to report an event fact, a mishap or get details of some happening. Our professional life is totally merged with our personal space.

On this 14th floor we try to stay healthy for our family and for our readers. Industries stop, roads empty, discos close their doors but who could imagine a world without news right now. We have a tough challenge and an immense responsibility: Who is going to tell us what is happening?

Years ago, when my son was young, I realized that as long as I had to take care of him, I hardly got sick. If any discomfort came, it would last me a few hours, hardly a day. I understood that when you are aware that you are looking out for someone else or others, it helps to strengthen us, at least emotionally and mentally to overcome adversities. It does not mean that we become invulnerable or immune, but that we learn to cope with difficulties knowing that someone urgently needs us to be healthy.

Readers are anything but children or patients, anything but vulnerable beings, anything but people who depend on us journalists. But while they are there with their voracity for information, their criticism of each of our reports, their harsh opinions when we are wrong and their words of encouragement when we are right, getting sick in a newsroom is something that we can hardly afford.

Today the onion that I planted a few days ago on the terrace of the Editorial Office has sprouted, we have named the new dog Chiqui because she is still small although she threatens to become Maxi, and we ate the last egg we had left from rationing. “We are breathing, no one with a fever, no one with a cough,” we optimistically respond to all the friends who call.

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We Need Your Help to Report on the Covid-19 Crisis in Cuba

In Cuba, the independent media suffer the limitations on movement imposed on their reporters, the collapse of the networks and the intensification of censorship. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 March 2020  — These are difficult times for everyone and journalism is also being badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. In Cuba, the independent media suffer the limitations on movement imposed on their reporters, the collapse of the networks and the intensification of censorship.

Our collaborators cannot come to our Havana Newsroom to deliver their work and, in many cases, they can’t go to a Wi-Fi zone to send updated content. They have to resort to mobile communications, which are very expensive on the Island.

For this reason, our communications expenses have increased at the same time that advertising revenues and readers’ contributions to our membership program are decreasing due to the uncertainty that is spreading throughout the world.

In these circumstances, continuing to prepare updated reporting on the Cuban reality, and providing you with quality and truthful information, becomes increasingly costly, as well as difficult. Hence, we are making a special call asking you to support us in these “times of coronavirus.”

You can contribute any amount you decide, through our PayPal account. Below is the “Donate” button that you can use or, if you prefer, access the link. Thank you very much in advance!

Please click on the image.

(Note, the ‘comma’ in the payment screen is a decimal point. Your choices are $10, $20, $50, or any amount you choose.)

Day 14 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba

“Maybe that’s why, now, when I hear sirens again and again, I have a feeling that reality is collapsing around me.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 3 April 2020 — The Covid-19 emergency in Cuba has its own sound or rather its “no sound.” If, before, from our house we heard the constant roar of the nearby Rancho Boyeros Avenue, now there is a rare stillness that fills everything. A “collateral benefit” of the drama we are experiencing with the emergence of the coronavirus in Cuba is the decrease in vehicle traffic on the streets.

Occasionally, with increasing frequency, that calm is broken by sirens, as happened this morning. We were sitting around the table and heard the haunting sound. “If before it was once or twice a day, now it’s every hour,” said our son. We continued sipping our coffee, but the idea that in a vehicle traveling at full speed, running all the lights without stopping, there might be someone whose life was in danger, we choked on breakfast.

When I was a little girl and official television broadcast serials where Cuban intelligence agents infiltrated the exile, sirens abounded in scenes representing the world on the other side of the Florida Straits. There were almost always older men, surrounded by young, scantily clad women, a glass of whiskey in hand, perhaps a swimming pool, and the background noise of an ambulance, fire truck, or police patrol. continue reading

That was such a used dramatic image, that in my childish mind, outside of Cuba people were always one step away from being carried away on a stretcher, seeing their house burn down or being arrested. A small sonic detail became effective ideological propaganda to tell us that it was better to be inside the Island, safeguarded by that authoritarian father who is Castroism.

Maybe that’s why, now, when I hear sirens again and again, I have a feeling that reality is collapsing around me. If we add to this that the city is quieter than usual, the alarms are more prominent and seem even more dramatic. In a country where, as of today, official figures count 269 positive cases for Covid-19 and six in critical condition, there are reasons to be concerned.

This Friday I did not have to leave home. I made some croquettes, I stretched the rice I got yesterday and some carrots, also bought on Thursday in a nearby market, saved me and I could make a very tasty sauce. The canine and feline herd had to settle for a “vegetarian” proposal and one of the onions I planted a few days ago began to sprout. Life goes on, even though the city is sunk in lethargy.

The paralysis of transportation, the closure of many industries and some of the services, has meant that this morning we woke up with a clear and beautiful sky… at least in apart of the Cuban capital. Towards the south, the airport area and Santiago de las Vegas, it looked blue and clear, but in the direction of Central Havana, Old Havana and the Bay a cloud of smoke covered the city.

The Ñico López refinery continues to spread a dark stain over the neighborhoods as a result of the processing of hydrocarbons. In a territory where other industries are idled, that language of contamination is much more noticeable. That and the sound of sirens.

I continued planting this afternoon, attentive to the noises coming from the balcony. Today, I added some coriander seeds and also transplanted some positions of aloe vera, known in Cuba as sábila, which is the species of which we have the most specimens on this 14th floor balcony. The plants will germinate, grow and we will harvest them with that ” musical band,” with the background sound of anguish.

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The Communist Regimea€’s First Measures for Cuban Entrepreneurs: A Small Step

Passengers getting out of a private shared-taxi operated by a ‘botero’ in a time before the Covid-19. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerElías Amor Bravo, Economist, March 21, 2020  — Gradually we are learning about some of the measures the communist Cuban government is using to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the activity of the private sector on the Island, led by the small businesses of self-employed workers.

In particular, apparently the Regime has approved a series of tax, work and lending measures that, generally, resemble those that other countries have adopted for self-employed persons and independent professionals. The details are given below.

The measures have already received positive reviews by some Cuban businessmen on Twitter and are considered “an important support for the thousands of enterprises that right now are completely affected by the world epidemic situation,” says Oniel Díaz, co-founder of AUGE and MP de Kreab in Cuba, which does consulting for private businesses. continue reading

“Furthermore,” he adds, “it was a wise decision for the prime minister to obtain cooperation from the private sector to make it possible for the more than 11,000 tourists who are staying in private rentals to leave Cuba. It’s not a minor detail.”

And, he emphasizes finally, that “cooperation, alliances and dialogue are the tools we have at hand to face together, in addition to this challenge, everything  ahead of us on the national economy front.”

I’m afraid that we must greatly lower expectations and say that with these measures, what’s most probable is that the entire Cuban private sector will have to struggle with an elevated mortality rate for small businesses and establishments. I have the impression that the measures have been designed specifically for the tourism sector, and they haven’t taken into account the fact that self-employment in Cuba is really much more diverse and varied, fortunately. What we need is reflection and a more accurate approach.

I understand that mortality won’t happen, for example, in the case of the high official of the Regime who rents rooms in his residence in Havana’s Plaza or Miramar neighborhoods to foreign tourists, because the income he gets from this activity complements his salary, which is higher than average. And he can even benefit from the fiscal cuts announced, because foreigners are not going to be arriving in the next months and his income will be temporarily crushed. The renegotiation of a loan, for those who are credit-worthy, can also benefit him.

In the case of many retired business people, the impact of COVID-19 and the measures detailed below can be inconsequential if the government keeps their employment and salaries intact.

Those Cubans who bet exclusively on self-employment activity and not only on tourism will have problems.

We are thinking, for example, about the thousand brave Cubans who travel every day with Spanish passports to the duty-free zones in Cancún, the Dominican Republic and even Haiti to bring back every kind of provision to be sold on the island. The brakes will abruptly be put on this channel because of the general closing of borders, and this was the main way for many small businesses to get goods and services. Without this supply, more small businesses will fail, since we can’t wait for the Communist Regime to improve the logistics of distribution in Cuba.

And what can the tenant farmer hope for when he can’t find the supplies he needs for production in the local economy? He has been forgotten, except for his debts with the bank which could be renegotiated. The crops will have to be harvested and brought to the markets, and in a situation of isolation and extreme hygiene measures, you have to ask what will happen to the small business workers who bring the merchandise and food to homes, like the pushcart vendors.

Even the brave taxi drivers (known as “boteros” or “boatmen”) in the Havana tourist zones could benefit from the planned measures for the reduction of income or exchange for credit, if they existed. In this case, the question is that if the boteros not only drive tourists but also a good part of the population, why is adequate public transport lacking? When isolation begins and the demand for national trips no longer exists, the situation will be much more serious. It won’t seem fair to the boteros, and they are right to ask why their monthly taxes aren’t reduced by 50% like they are in the case of food service activities. Why not them, too?

With these considerations, what I want to convey is that the measures of the Cuban Communist Regime are interesting for private tourism and are focused on something less than 3% of the economy’s GDP. The private activity in restaurants and lodging are important, but the reality is that most tourists stay in the hotels owned by the conglomerates of State Security and the Army, and they use the services of these networks.

The rest of the rich and varied private economy of professionals, designers, sellers and providers of personal services, in the spheres described and in others, find themselves abandoned and with an evident lack of response on the part of the authorities, who should be planning as the crisis advances. If this continues, the emerging private sector in Cuba will be pitiful after COVID-19.


  • Extend the time for tax payments for businesses that suspend activity on their own or by governmental decision.
  • Reduce by 50% the payment of monthly fees for food service activities.
  • Authorize a reduction in monthly fees for administrators of tourist centers and sites with a high concentration of tourists.
  • Decrease to one single minimum payment the tax on bank accounts.


  • Protect the salary for contracted workers who continue to work at no less than the minimum wage of the country.
  • Extend the period of authorization for designated workers who fill in for an owner who is out of the country and unable to return for 3 months.


  • Stop collecting on authorized loans that can be restructured.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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

Day 13 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba: The Daily Fight for Food

The Covid-19 crisis has only just begun on the Island, with 233 positive cases and six deaths, but the problem of access to food is already more serious. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 2 April 2020 – A mask can be a protection and a shield. When part of the face is covered, it is easy to outwit the police. Something that shouldn’t normally matter, but that in Cuba can be vital. Now, when I blend into the crowd with my mask, I manage to mislead those who have been given the job of following me every day. Facemask and wig, facemask and hat… indecipherable formula.

So today I ventured out as a curly redhead with a ‘durako’* facemask. The neighbor who spies on me didn’t even realize it was me. I went out because we no longer have bread, we no longer have milk, we no longer have enough food for the herd that is made up of, in addition to three humans, two dogs and a cat. So, as the daily war cry on this island says: To battle!

I went out to the daily struggle, the one that those who run this country have not experienced for years, conscientiously ignore, and know that they cannot publicly acknowledge. It is the jungle, “every man for himself.” With my red curls I stand in line for chicken in a store on Calzada del Cerro. I must confess that when I faced the brawl necessary to enter, I restrained myself and missed my turn, lacking the aggressiveness to throw some elbows. I can’t do it anymore. continue reading

A crowd rushed in front of me. I tried to invoke the times when I fought, nearly coming to blows for food, but I did not succeed. I lacked the oomph. My neighbors in the Cayo Hueso tenement where I was born would disown me if I told them this. I even invoked my years, in the middle of the Special Period, when I was a boarder at the Socialist Republic of Romania High School and lived many days in which the “law of the strongest” prevailed, but today I did not manage to release my inner beast.

In the girls’ dorm where I lived in the 90s, we invented a lot of recipes to survive. I remember the day I stole an eggplant from the field where we worked and, after cutting it into slices, I put the electric iron on it, the one we used to remove wrinkles from our school uniforms. I added lemon and coriander. It was delicious. My classmates, who slept in the nearby bunks, called this “generation Y grilled steak,” in honor of the letter with which most names began at that time. That was the embryo of a blog that I founded years later.

Only he who has been hungry knows what hunger is. It is not just the howling in the stomach, the anxiety and the weakness caused by a decrease in one’s food intake. Hunger is an attitude and an emotional state: if you lack food, it is all you can think about it over and over, as happened to me and my fellow teenagers between the four walls of a concrete block in the municipality of Alquízar. Neither libido nor family mattered, we woke up and fell asleep thinking about what to put in our mouths.

Many in Cuba have spent decades feeling hunger, but all this can flare up now. Something as basic as chicken has become a luxury product. The Covid-19 crisis has only just begun on the Island, with 233 positive cases and six deaths, but according to what we read, the problem of access to food is already more serious than in the epicenters of the pandemic which Milan, Madrid and New York have become. They are living through dramatic days from the health point of view, but in our case with regards to the emergency in supplies, it’s out of the frying pan into the fire.

I no longer have an iron. Years ago I stopped trying to smooth out my clothes. Is it of any use? But today I remembered the eggplants that I ironed out in a dorm with narrow beds where nobody dared to sleep in the lower bunks because at night rats invaded all the spaces attached to the floor. Once I left some shoes and books down below and they’d been nibbled in the morning. After remembering that, I repeated to myself that I could face almost anything.

It does not matter if I am wearing a red wig and a mask that covers my entire face, I am a survivor, because I say so; all that’s left to see is what the last word is that the coronavirus has for me.

*Translator’s note: “Durako” refers to a kind of cosplay popular among young Cubans.

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