Cuatro Caminos Hasn’t Recovered

It is necessary to line up for almost half an hour to access the Cuatro Caminos market. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 13 January 2020 — Although it is less than two months since the reopening of the Cuatro Caminos market, it has already suffered two temporary closures. This Saturday, the establishment reopened completely after five days with the food area closed.

The state corporation Cimex confirmed to this newspaper that the market suffered breakdowns that made it difficult to provide services, so on January 6, a partial closure was carried out to perform “maintenance work, troubleshooting, refueling and inventory.”

In a note spread through its main communication channels, Cimex had already explained that the main actions of the maintenance process were in the areas of freezing and refrigeration and that, in addition to polishing floors, the entrance door had to be repaired by Arroyo Street, plus other electrical arrangements. continue reading

A neighbor of the central market, which has a private cafe in front of its entrance, confirmed to this newspaper that “it was only five days that that part of the food market was closed” and it “never” closed completely.

However, little has been noted of the alleged resupply promised by Cimex.

In the agricultural products part of the Cuatro Caminos market, in Saturday there were only cabbages, tomatos, pineapples, pumpkins and papayas. (14ymedio)

Walking this Saturday through some of the departments, with their polished, bright and spacious corridors, resembled walking through a museum of modern art.

“I do not know why so money was spent on this super-space. Look at some of the agricultural products right now, there are only cabbages, tomatoes, pineapples, pumpkins and papayas,” said an employee of that section to 14ymedio.

To enter the mall you had to wait in line for at least 25 or 30 minutes, all  to not find on the shelves the products you wanted, such as butter, chicken breasts, and eggs. The cleaning and household tools department also exhibited great poverty in its supplies.

“Inside the market is a shame. I have sometimes seen the empty windows, or the same product repeated to infinity. Today there is not a quarter of everything that the leaders of the country showed proudly on television on the day of its reopening for the [celebration of] Havana’s 500 years,” another neighbor of the property told this newspaper.

Around the market there is a large police presence and a large number of surveillance cameras. In each building entrance you can see between two and four officers controlling the passage of customers, who let in ten at a time to prevent a large number of people from entering in the same period of time.

The installation, reopened on November 16 after years of total repair, closed its doors on the same day of its official opening due to the incidents that occurred as a result of the crowds. Several unfortunate incidents were baptized by Internet users in social networks such as the Battle of Cuatro Caminos, and the situation caused great economic losses and managers were forced to decide to close their doors to repair the damage caused.

Walking through the establishment is like touring a museum of modern art. (14ymedio)

Presented before the national television cameras as a modern market and the high point so far of this century, the space ultimately proved unable to escape the same problems that any other store in the country is experiencing.

Recently, during some rains in the capital, images of floods that partially affected the market circulated on Facebook. A neighbor who also saw his house under water last week summed up the situation: “Many invested in the building but the surrounding infrastructure is still the same.”

See also:

The Cuatro Caminos Market Closes Until Next Week Due To Social “Indiscipline”

The “Resurrection” of the Cuatro Caminos Market and Free Trade in Cuba

Why the Reopening of the Cuatro Caminos Market Failed

The Cuatro Caminos Market Will be a Museum

Without Its Market Cuatro Caminos Seems Lost

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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.

The Controversy Over The Identity Of The Clandestinos Is Growing

The nature of the group that calls itself “Clandestinos” is unknown, and it’s not clear if it really committed the actions promoted on its social networks.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar/Mario J. Pentón, Havana/Miami, January 9, 2020 — Doubt, controversy and passion surround the Clandestinos, an anonymous group that through social networks says they have dumped pork blood on several busts of José Martí in Havana. The Government says it detained two of the members on Wednesday but the organization says it doesn’t know them.

The official newspaper, Granma, said the police detained Panter Rodríguez Baró, 44, who had a record, and Yoel Prieto Tamayo, 29, for “the profanation of some busts of José Martí,” but without mentioning the name of the group.

“The offense was a dirty media ploy to create the belief that there is a climate of insecurity and violence in Cuba,” said the article, which was read on the news on television. continue reading

The information, read on Primetime News, also questioned the speed with which the news spread on social networks and independent media. “The photos that showed the busts of the national hero covered in pork blood were posted on the Internet a very short time after it was done,” the text pointed out. “Several alternative media that posted the story support those who try to orchestrate lies about the Cuban reality.”

The Clandestinos immediately denied any connection to those arrested. “We don’t know these people. No member of our organization has been detained,” said one of the members, without revealing his identity, in correspondence with 14ymedio and el Nuevo Herald.

“We’re not a political group,” added a presumed member of the Clandestinos, which claimed responsibility for throwing pork blood on Martí because “his image has been very manipulated by the dictatorship.”

“It’s an outrage that his name is used to reproach and abuse people,” he added. According to his version, the group chose the figure of Martí because “he is loved by all Cubans.”

“He’s our national hero, our apostle, and whatever action is taken with his figure has a great impact,” he added.

Since the beginning of the year, the Cuban internauts have been debating whether their actions were a form of protest or vandalism, or if it’s a strategy of the omnipresent State Security to justify its repression against the dissidents, but up to now there is little evidence and few witnesses.

In a tour by 14ymedio of several places where the Clandestinos said they carried out actions, there are few certainties. On January 4, the fence located on one side of the Ciudad Deportiva, where the faces of José Martí, Fidel Castro and Lázaro Peña can be seen, doesn’t show any intervention or traces of having been changed, although two days before, in a video of the Clandestinos, you can see a red stain.

Bust of José Martí outside the Ministry of Transport. On the left is the photo taken by Enrique Sánchez on January 1, and on the right an image by 14ymedio on January 4. (14ymedio).

It wasn’t possible to find a bust with blood outside the Latin American Stadium, where the group said they poured blood over one of the sculptures. Nor were there traces of any action two days later outside the police station on calle Infanta near Manglar.

Attempts to obtain the exact locations of the stained busts from the Clandestinos didn’t help locate them. In addition, the authorities could have cleaned and painted many of them in the meantime.

The group’s name comes from a Fernando Pérez movie that addresses the clandestine struggle against the regime of Fulgencio Batista and it is careful not to give details that would allow identification of any of its members. One of them appeared in a Facebook video covered with a hood, and the press could only speak with him through chatting, and for a short time.

The official Cuban press has given free rein to its indignation but has been very frugal in releasing information concerning the facts, including the content of the arrest warrant. The personnel of the reviews Bohemia and Verde Olivio, whose writing is close to the buildings that are most emblematic of power in Havana, promote an act of repudiation against the Clandestinos, calling them “vile and unpatriotic counterrevolutionaries”.

According to Bohemia, a bust of Martí made by the now-deceased Cuban sculptor, José Delarra, had to be restored after the group’s action, but they didn’t show any photos of the action.

Vague opinion columns, texts of claims around the figure of the national hero, references to expected sanctions in the Penal Code against those “who don’t deserve to be called Cubans” have appeared in media like Cubadebate and Granma and have been replicated by members of the Government, including Miguel Díaz-Canel.

The Clandestinos assert that the photos give them recognition. “Why would the Government complain about something that didn’t happen?” they said, after many Cubans didn’t believe the photos and thought they were a hoax or something that was photoshopped on the social networks.

Anonymity makes it easy for people who don’t initially have ties to the Clandestinos to join the cause, whether by following or even by imitating them. Some Facebook posts are sharing the slogan “We are all Clandestinos”, placing the group in the predicament of having to claim or refute actions that can be carried out independently.

“We want to send a message to the dictatorship: this is war. We are tired of bowing our heads. And to the people the message is clear: The time has come,” said the supposed leader of the Clandestinos.

The organization has members in Cuba and in exile, added the spokesperson, refusing to reveal the number of militants. But he did say that they were mainly young people who were “tired of the dictatorship”.

One of the few witnesses of the Clandestinos’ actions was the meteorologist, Enrique Sánchez. “I was walking through the area of the Ministry of Transport and what called my attention was the stained, vandalized bust,” Sánchez told this newspaper.

“It was on January 1, in the afternoon, when I saw it. It made me mad so I took a photo in order to complain on Twitter about the lack of punishment for whoever was responsible,” he added. Sánchez stated that he didn’t agree with “desecrating national symbols as a mode of protest”.

A little later, this newspaper could confirm that the bust had been cleaned and painted and that an offering of flowers had been placed at the pedestal.

From Miami, where he was visiting, the dissident, Guillermo Fariñas, spoke about the subject with the América Noticias network. He showed an exchange of messages that he had with an internaut who identified himself as a member of the group. “What they’re doing is exercising the right of rebellion,” said the winner of the European Parliament’s Sakarov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

“It’s a group that doesn’t use our same nonviolent methods,” Fariñas said. “Other dissidents and I go down one path, but the right to rebellion exists, and they can go down a different path.”

Bust of José Martí just outside the Cerro Police Station, one of the places the Clandestinos said it carried out its actions. (14ymedio)

Meanwhile, the journalist and director of the magazine Tremenda Nota, Maykel González Vivero, wrote on Facebook, “The problem is that the bust is not alive and cannot defend itself. Martí is one thing, otherwise open to criticism, and the busts and pedestals are another. They speak about who erected them, not only of Martí himself, and they are something dead,” he added.

The dissident, Antonio González Rodiles, criticizes the Clandestinos movement. “In a time where it’s impossible for the opposition to hide anything from the Regime, it will do wonders for showing them as misfits, riffraff, vandals, incompetents–the Government  has always used this line,” he wrote on his Facebook page. Several followers of the dissident said that the actions might be a provocation orchestrated by the Government.

In the last decades in Cuba there have been frequent cases of graffiti on walls and storefronts denouncing the acts of the authorities, with slogans like “Down with Fidel” or “Down with Raúl”. However, actions around the figure of José Martí have been more circumscribed on the artistic scene.

At the beginning of 2018, an intense debate erupted over the censorship of the film, I want to make a movie, directed by Yimit Ramírez. The Cuban Institute of Arts and Cinematography (ICAIC) removed the tape from the ICAIC Youth Show because one of the characters “says something unacceptable” about José Martí, calling him a “turd” and a “faggot”.

“This isn’t something that can be accepted simply as an expression of creative freedom,” said the institution in a statement published on Facebook, which further fuelled the debate over the sanctification of the figure of Martí.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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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.

Clandestinos, Legitimate Protest or Provocation by State Security?

Since the first days of this year, the Clandestinos group has been spreading images of busts of José Martí covered in pig blood. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 January 2020 —  On January 1, coinciding with the most emblematic date of the Cuban Revolution, which celebrated its 61st anniversary that day, a group called Clandestinos emerged on social networks to take credit for a protest campaign that consists of pouring a red liquid on the busts of José Martí.

“It is not an outrage to the Apostle [as Cubans of all persuasions are wont to call José Martí] but a shout of war against the dictatorship,” Clandestinos explained on Twitter and Facebook, where it posts the photos and videos of stained busts in various cities and other actions against posters of Fidel Castro or graffiti denouncing the “chivatos” (informants).

“This weekend let’s have a red tsunami in Cuba. Let there be no province unmarked. Every town. Every neighborhood,” they announced last Friday in a video. “This is a war. […] The time has come. Change is now.” continue reading

These actions have provoked an intense debate on social networks. Some approve them, although many dislike the desecration of Marti’s image. However, others fear that it is a State Security strategy to discredit opponents and repress them more forcefully.

The official press accuses the group of staining the national hero and calls its members “counterrevolutionaries,” “vile” and “traitors.” On January 9, the authorities announced that two members of the group had been arrested and investigated for vandalizing busts and billboards, but the organization says it does not know the prisoners.

The movement has disseminated a manual with its procedures and has asked those who sympathize with their cause to unite and act. “Wearing a mask, acting as a oartner,” and using anonymous accounts on social networks to upload the images of the actions, are some of the recommendations offered.

Clandestinos in Cuba, sounds like a diversionist construct of the DSE (Department of State Security), to discredit the opposition and justify the repression,” says the former diplomat Pedro Campos, who adds that these events “can divert attention from: repression, prisoners, no democracy or rights, censorship, high prices and other things.”

A thesis that is repeated in a recent issue of Primavera Digital, entitled The Last Play Clandestinos!, which points out that for the authorities “it became a priority to divide and discredit the internal peaceful opposition (…) for this, nothing would be better than to accuse those who fight for the ideals promoted and exposed in his time by Marti.”

Miriam Celaya is another of the voices that questions the movement and the fact that they act with their faces covered. ” By nature, I am suspicious of masked faces that evoke the Tupamaros (Uruguayan Urban Guerillas), the ETA (Basque Country and Freedom members) and other denominations of ominous remembrance and equivocal causes.” The journalist is committed to “frontal and open-ended resistance against the Castro regime,” in a text published in Cubanet.

Clandestinos has also called to “mark the house of an informant,” a tactic that some do not understand, like music producer Adrián Monzón. “To make them known? To summon the ‘enraged people’? To start a civil war? To raise the passion of those who woke up and no longer inform? To recruit cannon fodder that protects DSE (State Security)?”

The group has reiterated on several occasions that it is not “political” or “opposition,” marking their distance from the dissident movement of the Island, but some support their activism and believe that their tactics are a fresh breeze after the exhaustion of previous strategies.

“There is no other option better than Clandestinos. Open opposition does not lead to anything without access to the media, when the government controls the judges, the prisons the courts… insisting on the same after six decades of failures will lead to to the same result, to nothing,” a commentator responded to Miriam Celaya’s article.

Actor Roberto San Martín is enthusiastic about the Clandestinos, with whom he is in “100% agreement with their ideas…They are trying to bring down the indifference and have achieved the perfect balance between action and how to get attention,” he said in an interview.

The actor justified the use of blood on busts, because Marti “has been manipulated by the dictatorship [that] has used the name of the Apostle for reproach, against the people and for abuse.”

Guillermo Fariñas has been one of the few opposition leaders who has so far spoken on the subject. From Miami, where he was visiting, the dissident said of the members of the collective, “what they do is exercise the right to rebellion.”

“It is a group that does not use the same non-violent methods as ours,” said the winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. “Other opponents and I go on one path, but the right to rebellion exists and they can go on other paths.”

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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.

To Compete in Arguments

Telesur was an initiative of ex-president Hugo Chávez to extend his ideological line to Latin America. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 19 January 2020 — Just a few days ago, Miguel Díaz-Canel has come out in defense of the Telesur chain and has spoken on the practice of attacking the media. The Cuban president crossed swords on the channel, whose programming began to be partially transmitted in Cuba in 2007 and whose short-term future is going through moments of uncertainty.

“Why do they try to boycott it, why do they try to attack it? Why are they who are the so-called ’defenders’ of the famous and who talk about freedom of the press and freedom of expression are not able to really compete in arguments with that medium?” Diaz-Canel questioned in reference to the recent statements by Juan Guaidó regarding reorganizing the channel.

The proposal of the interim president of Venezuela has caused an avalanche of criticism and accusations from the Island, starting with a strident statement by the official Union of Journalists of Cuba (Upec) and continuing to the demands of the president himself, who has chosen to establish himself as a defender of a plurality of information, in a country where only the circulation of media subordinated to the ruling party is allowed. continue reading

Díaz-Canel believes that the content transmitted by the network gives Cubans something to compare “with what they see on social networks” and “with what other media say,” a contrast that in his opinion “is the way in which we have to face these situations.” He then added: “but not from a position of attacking a medium, of throwing unfounded slander on a medium, I believe that this is also perverse, it is provocative, it is dishonest.”

For those who turned on the TV in the middle of the president’s intervention, they must have doubted whether the expected public commitment to respect information freedom on the Island was taking place. Had the time finally come power recognized that citizens have the right to access different news sources, to choose the press they prefer and to have plural publications?

But no, Díaz-Canel was not talking about Cuba, where numerous independent media are blocked, boycotted, their journalists threatened, persecuted, interrogated, detained, stripped of their tools of the trade, ’regulated’ to prevent them from traveling and confined to their own homes so that they cannot cover information. He meant only Telesur.

“We are going to put Latin American content in Telesur and we are going to see who is following people and we are going to see who is following Latin America and not threatening, because we do not threaten the Yankee media or the international media,” Diaz-Canel continued. “We try to generate our content, put out our content, so that people have all the visions, the monopolizing visions, the colonizing visions and the visions that for us are emancipatory and exalting.”

Any of these phrases could be used by the many newspapers, digital magazines and independent publications that have emerged in recent years on the Island, but which unlike Telesur do not have the approval of the Plaza of the Revolution, much less access to national screens that have offered that foreign network more time given to spread propaganda than realities.

When you have a discourse for an external audience and a discourse for an internal audience, contradictions occur that touch the ridiculous. When the freedom of information is used to support a political ally, while the scissors of censorship are sharpened to cut the rights of nationals, it becomes a rhetorical rant, of tragicomedy incongruities.

To accept as valid the rule of “competing in arguments,” which Díaz-Canel calls to respect to save Telesur, would be the end of the press monopoly of the Communist Party of Cuba. Complying with it would lead to allowing within the borders all that is demanded of other governments.

Independent media are ready to accept the challenge of submitting to a comparison between what they do freely and what official media produces under censorship.

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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.

Cuban Prosecutor Asks for Nine Years in Prison for Jose Daniel Ferrer, His Wife Denounces

Family members and opposition groups have demanded the release of José Daniel Ferrer. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 January 2010 — The Office of the Prosecutor of the Republic of Cuba has asked for nine years in jail for José Daniel Ferrer, general coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), for the alleged crime of injury, as reported by his wife, Dr. Nelva Ortega, in a video disseminated by the opposition organization.

Ortega visited Ferrer on Thursday and received a document from the Prosecutor’s Office detailing the petition. A penalty of seven years each is asked for the other detainees, also Unpacu activists, with the exception of José Pupo Chaveco, for whom eight years are requested.

“Once again they refused to give us medications that he (Ferrer) needs and they did not let us deliver that they had already allowed on previous occasions. We saw that he is very thin, more so than on the last visit, because he is refusing to eat. He is demanding that the food be improved for all general prisoners. He takes a a glass of milk, water and cookies daily,” Ortega added. continue reading

Ferrer, Pupo Chaveco, Fernando González Vaillán and Roilán Zárraga Ferrer were arrested on October 1 in Santiago de Cuba and accused of causing serious injuries to an individual whose wife has denied the charges.

A video broadcast by official television on the Star News sought to damage the image of Ferrer, but its manipulation and editing raise questions, as did as time jumps throughout the footage.

José Daniel Ferrer spent almost eight years in prison after his arrest in 2003, as one of the 75 dissidents who were victims of the Black Spring.

This Friday marks 108 days since Ferrer’s arrest and a campaign on social networks trying to secure his release.

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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.

The Cuban Government Updates Its Blacklist

The list of prohibited pages updated this week, also includes some  that have been censored for some time including the daily 14ymedio [Intro Text: For the naive, for the uninformed, for those new to social networks, for those who still believe that the media war against Cuba is a digital story, for those who believe everything they read on Facebook, listed here are the most reactionary sites. It is not surprising that among those are those you have “liked” and “followed,” rectifying this is wise. This is a message from Radio Progress, the station of #FamiliaCubana. If you know of others, send a message.]
14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 20 January 2020 – All models that are authoritarian and closed to change have had their list of prohibited readings, censored authors and banned texts. From the inquisition, through Nazism, to the strict Soviet censorship, these models of citizen control have needed to constrain the limits of human knowledge and, thereby, of the written word. In its six decades Castroism has not lacked its blacklist, its catalog of the stigmatized or its punishment of whomever approaches certain titles banished from the pantheon of the trustworthy.

This has happened with literature, with authors such as Guillermo Cabrera Infante and Reinaldo Arenas; with musicians like Celia Cruz and Paquito de Rivera… and, of course, with independent media. This week, the list of digital sites that annoy the Cuban government has expanded again and now includes El ToqueBarrio PeriodismoLa Joven Cuba and even OnCuba. New additions to the glossary of the forbidden. Some radio stations and blogs are accompanied with a warning: “For the naive, for the uninformed, for those who still believe that the media war against Cuba is a digital story.”

It is an honor to be on that list of forbidden, but also the authorities display an infinite clumsiness by spreading a catalog of the media that should not be read. Nothing is as attractive as the forbidden.

Because to all authoritarians citizens are like naive children who must be told what to do, what to read, what to eat, how to think. A paternalistic and controlling model like Cuba’s cannot accept that individuals choose how they are informed. Accepting that reality would be like recognizing that the system failed, that the ‘New Man’ created in the laboratories of social alchemy, indoctrinated since childhood and forced to behave as a soldier or as a monk, now wants to decide what he reads, what he hears and what he sees. continue reading

The updated list of sites banned this week, also includes the list of what has been censored for some time, among them the daily 14ymedio that we produce as a group of colleagues from within Cuba. It is an honor to be on that list of forbidden, but also the authorities display an infinite clumsiness by spreading a catalog of the media that should not be read. Nothing is as attractive as the forbidden.

Now, readers have a detailed list of where they should look, by what channels they should be informed, what web addresses they should visit and what content they should be sure not to miss. Censorship is terrible and dangerous but also awkward. Forbidding ends up consecrating, harassing ends legitimizing, burning books at the stake or blocking digital pages ends up exalting them and making them more visible and visited. It has happened on many occasions throughout history and it is also happening with Castroism.

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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.

Without Liquified Gas, "Lighting the Firewood, Like Our Grandmothers"

This Thursday at the point of sale of Estancia y Lombillo, of the Municipality of Plaza de la Revolución, the line to buy liquefied gas formed as soon as the Cupet truck unloaded the canisters. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 18 January 2020 — After one in the afternoon last Thursday, Eloísa and Miguel were preparing lunch for their grandchildren who were about to return from school when they were moved by a noise they felt in their window. It was the liquefied gas truck. The roar of the canisters crashing into each other put the entire neighborhood on the run and in a few minutes the line was in place at the point of sale ay Estancia and Lombillo, in Havana’s Nuevo Vedado neighborhood.

Both grandparents went down the stairs of the building without thinking twice and in a few minutes were already, rationbook in hand, asking who was last in line*. “I turned off the kitchen and ran down because after listening to what they said on television one cannot afford to miss a delivery. There are four of us. Before the gas came every 21 days and it was enough for us, but now it comes every 32 days and we have to make do, there isn’t any more,” says Eloísa.

Now, “to make it last longer,” there are “small luxuries” that can no longer be enjoyed, she explains. “No chicken roasted in the oven, or baking my bread, which I like so much. The gas will be only be enough to cook the basics, the day to day.” Eloísa was just over 30 years old when the Special Period came into her life and she says she “stresses” at any event that reminds her of those times in which she raised her children in the midst of “so many needs.” continue reading

Also in line is Justo. In a wheeled cart he brings 12 canisters, as the messenger for many families who work all day and they pay him to be aware of the arrival of rationed products sold through the rationbooks. “I’ve been coming for two days, yesterday I spent the whole afternoon waiting for the truck but it didn’t arrive. I left empty-handed,” he says.

“My clients are on tenterhooks since they reported on television about the shortage of gas and the new measures for its sale. They all insisted I hurry and I’ve been here since before the truck arrived, ready to buy,” explains the man, who is number one in a line of about 14 people.

The state-owned company Union Cuba-Petroleum (Cupet) and the Ministry of Energy and Mines announced that the inventories currently on the Island “do not cover consumption, so there have been effects” in the sale of liquefied gas to the population. According to its website, this company is responsible for “ensuring the supply of fuels and lubricants” and “complying with the importation of fuel at the levels agreed to in the supply contracts.”

Since this product began to be sold off the ration book in 2013, in parallel to the “rationed” system, it has become the fastest growing form of energy in homes in Cuba. Today it represents approximately 60% of total fuel consumption, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics and Information.

At the end of the year, not only was the rationed delivery of liquefied gas regulated but also the delivery of new contracts was halted due to an “increase in capacity.”

Four months ago, Raúl García Barreiro, head of Energy and Mines explained that, in the context of the “new energy situation,” although in August and September there were problems with the provision of liquefied gas, the full supply for the population was “guaranteed for the whole year.”

However, just at the beginning of 2020 there was an announcement of the need to take “measures to reduce consumption” of liquefied gasuntil there is “a stable supply” and Cubans have been called on to adopt “saving” measures and “efficient use” of this energy source.

In the line are some messengers with their carts loaded with up to 12 canisters for their customers. (14ymedio)

After Monday’s announcement, many have lost hope. This is the case of Abel Cartaya, in Matanzas, who asked the Minister of Energy on Twitter for the reasons why he has not been allowed get a contract for liquefied gas.

Cartaya tells this newspaper that a year ago he was able to assume ownership of his partially complete house, although it is still “under construction” and that from the first moment he went with his ration book to get a contract for gas.

“In the offices where the procedures are carried out, they informed me that the contracts were halted until further notice. Last year I went on three occasions and they answered the same thing. Last week I spoke with an employee of the gas sales point below my house, and I asked him the same question and the answer was similar to the others. They won’t give me any date,” he tells at 14ymedio.

At the liquefied gas sales point that Cartaya visited, employees are “directed” to organize a sale “every 60 days,” one of the workers informed him on Tuesday.

“Right now, the contracts for unrationed sales are halted, since the country does not have the necessary means for it, whether it comes by hose, regulator, cylinder or canister, there is currently a shortage of the product due to the blockade [American embargo]. The containers the country currently has are intended to guarantee service to customers who already have a contract,” explained Cupet.

In Santiago de Cuba, in the neighborhoods of Altamira, Ciudamar, Antonio Maceo and Versailles — although “the comment is on the street so it came out on the news” — they still have supplies and nobody is without gas, a resident of the area told this newspaper.

“The point is that all this is reminding people of what happened in the Special Period when there was nothing to cook with. Some have burners, electric pots or rice cookers, but there are those who do not have that and it is logical to panic. Nobody wants to have to cook with coal or firewood again, it is inhuman,” he added.

In other locations near the capital, such as Candelaria or San Cristóbal, “nobody has a contract,” said a Artemis resident by telephone. “Only the elderly who have some health problems or the sick. Right now we are looking for how to fill the spare we have before the desperation of the people grows and the product is gone, because everyone already saw what was said in the news,” added the woman, who said that in her house they alternate between the electric burner and the little canister to make it last longer.

“What I see that is happening is a ’situation’ with energy, more than anything, but I do not understand how you can save on liquefied gas. If you have to cook, you have to cook, the water must be boiled so as not to get sick**, in short, we will return to the firewood… well, if you have a patio [i.e. can cook outside]. And those who don’t will have to look for coal which is not easy to acquire,” she laments.

Ivón and Nadia Linares, two sisters residing in the municipality of Güira de Melena, are preparing to return to the years when most of the food in the house was cooked with firewood. Based in an agricultural area but with little wood vegetation in the province of Artemis, the two women have to walk long distances to collect fragments of branches and trunks.

“Those who are going to win are those who sell coal and they have already raised the price of the bag,” says a woman from Artemisa. (14ymedio)

“Those who are going to win are those who sell coal and they have already raised the price of the bag, now it is very difficult for you to find one below 50 pesos,” laments Ivón, who says she has become accustomed to cooking with the cylinder of liquified gas. “I kept it for cooking beans, rice, heating the children’s milk and left the wood to boil the towels, heat water for the bathroom or cook the root vegetables.”

Nadia does not believe that electricity is a substitute for liquefied gas. “The electric bill goes up a lot if you cook with the burner and also here all the equipment we have has been breaking down little by little,” says the woman in reference to a small kitchen, a very rustic water heater and a water heating device sold to the residents of their community during the years of the so-called Energy Revolution promoted by Fidel Castro.

“In this neighborhood almost no one has a working electric burner,” says the woman. “Here we are cooking as our grandmothers cooked, lighting the wood, blowing a lot of air into it to keep it going and with all the soot-filled cauldrons, it’s the same as a hundred years ago.”

Translator’s notes:
*In Cuba people establish their places in line relative to those just ahead of them and just behind them, and then are able to move around, and even leave and come back (if the line is very long), and so on.
**Cubans must boil their tap water to make it safe to drink.

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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.

The Arrogance of Cuba’s Political Police

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 17 January 2020 — In the last decade there have been several recordings of police interrogations that Cuban activists have managed to make and bring to light. In many of them, State Security officers are heard intimidating, threatening and behaving themselves like the owners and lords of the whole country, above the law, above human life and above citizens’ rights. But the audio achieved by the photographer Javier Caso during an “interview” with the political police is invaluable as a testimony and as an X-ray of an entire era.

The Cuban, who lives in the United States and is the brother of the renowned actress Ana de Armas, recently visited the island and repeatedly contacted actress Lynn Cruz and film director Miguel Coyula. It was enough for him to meet with his friends of a lifetime to receive a summons from the Department of Immigration and Foreigners. Once there, a script was developed that was well known to dissidents, opponents and any independent journalist who has ever been summoned to this type of police trap.

The audio recorded by Caso, who by the mere fact of recording the voices on a device shows great courage, manages to convey the absurdity of the situation, the arrogance of the interrogators and that atmosphere where the individual is at the mercy of a surveillance device and control capable of ignoring the Constitution, the Criminal Code and whatever legal resolution there is on this Island. The young photographer met two men who personify the true power that controls Cuba, above deputies, ministers and presidents. continue reading

It is a grotesque and cruel face that springs from the impunity of a repressive institution that has been running freely for decades

The officials are ridiculous, they mouth barbarities such as that the Cuban police are the fifth best in the world or dare to decide who can be called an artist or not, although they themselves may not know one iota about creative expressions or contemporary art.

The great triumph of Caso is to take, with apparent naivety but with much intelligence, the conversation to a point where the seguros have to take off their masks and show the true face hidden under bureaucratic formalities and an apparent respect for order. It is a grotesque and cruel face that is born from the impunity of a repressive institution that has been running freely for decades and whose arrogance ends up opening it to ridicule in this conversation.

Since new technologies broke into the Island, there have been many testimonies (photos, audios, videos) that attest to the lack of a framework of rights in which we Cubans live, but this recording has a special merit. In addition to the quality with which one listens and the equanimity of the person being questioned to get the officials to expose themselves, this testimony causes an outrage that is not easily placated. The more we hear of it, the greater is a rage that grows and becomes a decision and a conviction: we cannot allow the political police to continue ruling Cuba.

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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.

Clandestinos: Heroes or Collateral Damage? / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

(Facebook/Clandestinos)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana resident currently visiting the US, 15 January 2020 — A new year has just begun and “its Cuban peculiarity” is already being revealed to us in all its glory — that wicked vice of losing ourselves in sterile digressions around minutiae that characterizes us so much — elevating to the category of “event” what hardly deserves the nickname of scam. Thus, while there are events in the world whose deep political implications occupy and concern citizens, institutions and governments, we Cubans remain tied to what seems to be our irreversible village destiny.

Not merely satisfied with the fractures and polarizations harvested after 61 miserable Januarys, the natives of the captive Island have found a new reason these days for vernacular discord. And what is worse, in the absence of anything more substantial, the dispute this time revolves around what until today remains a cybernetic fable: the group so-called Clandestinos.

Among the apologists and the detractors of these new social media stars, insults have rained and passions have been exacerbated. But what really is Clandestinos beyond the uncertain images of red stained busts and other quite questionable presentations in terms of authenticity? Who can provide evidence that it is a “group” and not a manipulation by the media of uncertain origin or a colossal tease? What bases of reality hold so much hectic patriotism and so much confidence of its cyber-followers? So far, none of these questions has any convincing answer. continue reading

That is why the foolish enthusiasm unleashed in the networks is so much more unfathomable, where simply inquiring over the existence or not of these imaginary (and imaginative, we must admit) rebels, whose righteous and audacious actions have filled so many hearts with hope, is sufficient reason to be mistreated and even accused of being an agent of the Castro regime: the explosion of Cuban idiosyncrasy in its purest state.

Because Clandestinos, in addition, has that charm of a soap opera and of theatrical drama heroes that hypnotize the masses: masked men who act secretly against the villain under cover of night, video messages with a mysterious central character wearing a ski mask, daredevils in paint-splattered  busts of Martí and apparently also in communist screens, and above all, a profusion of labels in social networks with libertarian cyber-concepts. And according to the most enthusiastic fans, these are “actions that have the dictatorship in check.”

In summary, it turns out that, after decades of resistance and the efforts of several generations of opponents who have suffered repression, harassment and banishment as a result of their direct confrontation without masks against the Castro gang, the final solution for Cubans has magically appeared with an intangible prodigy that nobody knows either its form or its content, but one which has, nevertheless, managed to conceive an extraordinary capital of faith, especially among certain groups of exiles.

Who could have told us that a few disguises and a bit of red paint would be enough to make the Cuban autocracy tremble? In fact, the heroes of the moment feel so imbued with their leadership that they have even disseminated an Instruction Manual on the internet that summarizes the key to success in their “fight”, the cornerstone that will boost the Cubans to end six decades of the Castro regime in a short time. All that is needed is to follow the elaborate tactics step by step: study the area of operations, carry on the usual ration of crimson dye, don’t step on the paint and act in pairs.  Thus, each oppressed Cuban can make his own heroic graffiti. There is no doubt that we will bring down the dictatorship in 2020!

We are definitely not a serious people.

However, if there really is a group called Clandestinos, if they truly were this sort of new age urban guerrillas who define themselves as “non-opponents” but who say they fight against the dictatorship – which makes their discourse even more incoherent – and if it were true that this group arose in an autonomous and spontaneous way (and not a fabrication that has emerged from twisted minds with no one knows what clumsy intentions), we would have to admit that, in addition, we are facing a genuine consequence of six decades of deterioration of a bogged down and failed nation.

Clandestinos would be, in a good skirmish, more than the ridiculous staging shown on the networks, the reflection of our own inability to find possible and sensible solutions to the serious Cuban crisis. More than heroes, they seem like collateral damage. But they would also be a good reason to reconsider the levels of absurdity we have achieved and to win in common sense. The latter is the only truly positive thing that should be recognized so far to this entire saga.

For my part, I refuse straight up to applaud or endorse ghosts. Which is what Clandestinos amounts to until proven otherwise. By nature, I am suspicious of masked faces that evoke the Tupamaros (Uruguayan Urban Guerillas), the ETA (Basque Country and Freedom members) and other denominations of ominous remembrance and equivocal causes. In any case, I prefer the frontal and open-ended resistance against the Castro regime because I have the stubborn conviction that the right to have a free, democratic, plural and inclusive Cuba is not, and should not be, a clandestine matter, but quite the opposite.

The aspirations of millions of Cubans have been hidden for too long, for the benefit of the dictatorship. It is time to banish all the masks.

Translated by Norma Whiting

How Does The Cuban Government Keep An Eye On You? / Cubalex

Cubalex, 6 January 2020 — After the publication of Decree-Law No. 389/2019, special techniques of investigation were introduced, including undercover operations, successful collaboration, the use of electronic or other types of surveillance and controlled deliveries.

The same Decree-Law establishes that these techniques are appropriate or necessary for the investigation of criminal acts, which, by their gravity, connotation or organization require them, including operations whose origin or destination are outside the country.

Although the use of these measures is not new in the Cuban context, in the particular case of electronic surveillance there has been a surge in their application now that more people have access to cell phones and Internet accounts, and it’s the first time it has been legalized. The benefit of this new reality is that at least the general guidelines for their application are now published. continue reading

Another positive element is that, at least formally, the Ministry of the Interior is required to guarantee confidentiality of the information obtained through electronic surveillance if it has no relation to the crime. The information will not be divulged and will be destroyed. In addition, conversations between the accused and defense counsel cannot be recorded.

However, there is a big drawback to the regulation, because it can even call into question the constitutional recognition of due process (Article 95), the right to privacy (Article 48) and the inviolability of correspondence (Article 50).

The use of the above-mentioned techniques will not be authorized by the court but by the prosecutor. According to Article 110, paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Law of Criminal Procedure, whatever is drafted after the new modifications will allow prosecutors to authorize the application of the special investigation techniques.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Yasel Porto and Cuban Baseball: The Messenger Must Always Die

Porto already had to defend himself against the accusations of Víctor Mesa, to whom he said he expressed his opinions “as long as possible, there, in the places where the decision makers will see them.”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ernesto Santana, Chicago, 11 December 2019 — The  “reappearance” of Yasel Porto on Cuban television, in what turned out to be just program re-broadcast, is revealed as a crude and typical trick of disinformation, but it is also a sample of the nature of the expulsion of the popular sports reporter and commentator, which is not just the result of a clash between a journalist and a senior sports executive.

Yasel Porto was removed after asking that the Cuban baseball manager Higinio Vélez be replaced, which made him suspect this was the cause for which he was punished. But it has not been essentially because of it, nor because he has expressed only an individual opinion. Maybe not even because he stepped over the red line. Simply, he was already classified as a target to demolish. His elimination had already been planned, and then the right time came along.

Among the notable aspects of this scandalous injustice is, above all, the fact that the suggestion the presidency of the Cuban Baseball Federation (FCB) should replace Vélez was made by Porto, in passing, and he immediately emphasizied that the determining factor was not to substitute one manager for another, but to make “radical changes” in Cuban baseball “because, if not, whoever comes will be in the same situation.” continue reading

It is well known that, although the depth of the changes requested by observers and specialists varies, the vast majority agree that the role of Higinio Vélez has been disastrous with regards to the results obtained in the national sport in recent years. So we have a message addressed to that majority: the only opinion that matters is that of those who control both the FCB and Cuban television.

It is noteworthy that, in the post-production of Bola Viva (Live Ball), Porto’s proposal will be preserved even if it did not coincide with the opinion of the sports newsroom that scripts the program. And the difference between a Rodolfo García, a former presenter, and the sanctioned journalist is abysmal — thanks to a decision that goes far beyond the administrative.

Only a few weeks ago we could see on the internet a brief interview by Porto of Camilo Rodríguez, the catcher ejected from a game in Havana’s Latin American Stadium, which seems an international record. The expulsion of the uncomfortable is a norm at all levels of the country, although here it is an extremely annoying case for the upper hierarchy.

For several years, Porto has been dedicated to advocating for a unified team with the best of Cuban baseball from outside and inside the country, for demanding honesty and transparency from sports officials and for broadcasting Major League games on television.

He has also promoted the meeting of Industriales players on both shores, has conducted interviews with our stars in the Grand Tent — only published on social networks — and, on top of everything, has related to important major league figures and has produced important audiovisuals with economic independence from the country’s authorities.

Everything, of course, in favor of the glory of national sport, as evidenced by the usual and always awarded Baseball program, where he has dedicated himself to rescuing forgotten facts and figures from our ball with the support of such outstanding and endearing connoisseurs as Ismael Sené.

Just over a year ago, before the accusations from Victor Mesa in Miami, Porto published a reply on his Facebook profile where he detailed the principles of his work and declared that he was “living for baseball and not from baseball.” In addition, he said he expressed his views “as long as possible, there, in the places where the decision makers will see them.”

“For some I am a communist, for others a gusano [’worm’], but luckily, for most, a Cuban who tries to contribute to his country’s baseball,” he continued, claiming to defend his truth over personal relationships and ideological differences. In fact, he described his friends as “very diverse because of their political positions.”

As we see, there are no lack of reasons for him to become a target of the powerful. And not only because he is the opposite of a Vélez who lives at the expense of the players and watches out more for the interests of the Government than for those of baseball, or the opposite of a sports journalist like Rodolfo García himself, so reverent with the political hierarchy.

Yasel Porto became, for that hierarchy, a terrible example for all of official journalism. His colleagues have perfectly understood the lesson. Only one of his colleagues in the sports newsroom of television, Renier González, has supported him through his social networks. “Cuba needs people like Yasel Porto, who are not interested in positions or welfare, people who do things for the good of society,” he wrote. The rest are silent.

Although none of the sessions of the popular consultation on baseball throughout the country has been disclosed, it has been leaked that there is a broad rejection of the permanence of Higinio Vélez at the head of the FCB. But not even if this repudiation was paid attention to would it mean that popular opinion had been taken seriously.

Porto would hardly be vindicated if Vélez were replaced, because one of the journalist’s sins has been precisely to become a spokesperson for a majority. That, in the logic of social control in Cuba, requires severe punishment so that others learn and journalism does not become what it should be, a vigilant and critical entity with power.

Some believe that the messenger has been killed by mistake, despair or injustice, and they do not understand the real point. No message is wanted and this is the premise: the messenger must always die.

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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.

Cuban Regime Has Changed its Repressive Tactics

Since 2018, the strategy of informing activists about their “regulated” status — that is they are not allowed to travel outside the country — at the time of passing through the Immigration window has become more common. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 December 2019 — The methods of the Cuban Government to repress the opposition have grown in subtlety in recent times, as has been denounced on multiple occasions. The most recent organization to call attention to this fact is the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC), which released a statement on Monday that warns of this change and launches a battery of recommendations to address it.

For the FHRC, the new formulas consist of blocking the exits or trips abroad of people critical of the Government (the government defines them as “regulated”), the increase of administrative measures against non-militant critics, the immobilization of activists in their homes to cancel their meetings and activities, and the fabrication of common criminal cases to justify prison sentences. On the upper end of the scale is the ultimatum to leave the country with the threat of more serious measures if they decide to stay.

To address this new strategy, the FNRC is asking the international community and NGOs to readjust the methodology used to collect repression data in order to include these cases that could be omitted: recording house arrests, “regulated” status, accusations of “pre-criminal dangerousness,” and administrative sanctions, in addition to providing a complaints channel for the injured. continue reading

Other suggested measures are the establishment of databases of the individual repressors that include all types of personal and professional data, as well as the accusations they make against citizens; the application of international sanctions on them and their families, which may consist of denying them visas or prohibiting the sending of remittances to them from abroad; and facilitating telecommunications for citizens who show their interest in reporting.

The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba admits that the arrests have clearly dropped, from 9,942 in 2016 to 2,873 in 2018, according to data from the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, whose activity has ceased but whose data gathering been assumed by the Cuban Center for Human Rights.

However, this decrease in arrests is not due, the organization said in its statement, “to the fact that the authorities have become more benevolent, but to the greater effectiveness of the complaints of more and more citizens with access to digital technologies joined with the creation of customized databases abroad with information on repressors, which has already led to international convictions and sanctions.”

According to the FHRC, since the international rejection sparked by the Cuban government’s actions in the Black Spring of 2003, repressive methods have been blurred to lessen criticism while maintaining levels of coercion.

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Challenging Her Dismissal from the Historians Office to Denounce "Arbitrariness"

Genlui is prohibited from entering the office if she is not accompanied by the administrator or a specialist. (Cubanet)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 January 2020 — Claudia Genlui Hidalgo, a worker at the Office of the Historian, was fired at the end of December after giving a talk on independent art at the Embassy of the Czech Republic. Genlui filed an appeal with the Attorney General’s Office this week despite her distrust of the usefulness of the process.

“I do not believe I will get my job back and much less the position that I had within the Office of the Historian. They were very clear and it goes beyond whether or not I committed an infraction. It has long annoyed them that I was in that position. When, in April, I commented on the arrest during the Biennial of Luis Manuel Otero, who was arrested supporting Daniel Llorente, there was already pressure placed on my to step down, but I decided I would not,” she tells 14ymedio.

As she recalls, at that time the pressure also came from her boss, who sent her a message saying she should ask to leave the workplace because she came out in defense of the artist, who is also her partner. “It didn’t seem fair and I didn’t ask to leave. I stayed there, but it generated a lot of tension,” she adds. continue reading

Although Genlui does not have good expectations fpr the outcomes of the process she has started now, she argues that she has decided to carry it out “to give visibility to the process” and to expose “all those cracks and arbitrariness that they have committed and are committing.”

For the curator there are many intellectuals and people who “were once linked to a position within the institutions as workers and, for thinking differently or relating to people who think differently, were subjected being fired from their workplace or other sanctions, as is the case with Oscar Casanella.”

Now the Prosecutor’s Office has a maximum period of 60 days to respond to the art historian, who handed them a copy of the legal document sent by her lawyers on December 30. “In that appeal the facts are narrated as they happened,” she claims.

The workers of Factoría Habana, the art gallery from which she was expelled, reject the measure imposed on her, according to her version. “One of them protested because in the meeting that was held to talk about my expulsion he was not allowed to be present while he was on vacation and only found out about it through the networks. Upon returning he made his position clear, as did my other two colleagues. Even the administrator has supported me at all times,” she says.

Despite this, Genlui is prohibited from going to the office if she is not accompanied by the administrator or a specialist. “The other day I wanted to go up to pick up some things that I had left. The fact that they wouldn’t let me pass was shocking to me, but it’s the order they have been given,” she explained. “Concha Fontenla, my director, neither defended me nor condemned me, just simply sent me a message to tell me that she wished me luck and, more recently, another to wish me a Happy New Year.”

The historian says that the fair thing would be for there to be a trial in which she can state all the reasons why she considers the measure unfair and where she can learn the true reason that she has been permanently fired from her job.

Before being fired Genlui held the position of principal specialist of Factoría Habana, which, in practice, made her director of the institution. In addition, she is part of the San Isidro Manifesto and has carried out several works related to independent art and curatorships such as the Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara project, The Flag Belongs to Everyone.

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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.

Causes and Effects of the Embargo / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, Havana — On the 4th of January, 1959, the Constitution of 1940 was modified without the knowledge of the Cuban people. On the 10th of January, the death penalty and seizure of property was established for “political misdemeanors,” leaving the interpretation of which open to the executors.

On the 7th of February the Basic Law was published, abolishing in actuality the Constitution of 1940, articulated in a completely vengeful and repressive manner. On the 5th of April the CTC (Workers Central Union of Cuba) declared the right to strike “unnecessary,” even though the workers had not been consulted.

On the 19th of April, with Cuban participation, military intervention was undertaken in Panama. On the 13th of June and the 14th of August the same occurred in Santo Domingo and Haiti, respectively. All were failures. On the 23rd of December “post-scripts” began to appear in newspapers, the first limits on the freedom of press. continue reading

Between the 4th and the 13th of February of 1960 Anastas Mikoyan, the Prime Minister of the USSR, visited Havana and signed the first Cuba-USSR agreement. On the 17th of February BANFIAC (Bank of Agricultural and Industrial Promotion), BANDES (Bank of Economic and Social Development), and the FNC (National Financier of Cuba), institutions of the Bank System created under the Constitution of 1940 by the government of Dr. Carlos Prio Socarras and developed under the government of Fulgencio Batista, disappeared. In that same month of February, newspapers, journals, the radio and the television were “nationalized,” totally eliminating the freedom of press.

On the 1st of May “Elections for what?” was set up, approved by the population present during the act of the Civil Square. Between June and the 6th of August, 36 central sugar companies, the Electricity Company, the Telephone Company and 17 banks, all North American property, were nationalized without compensation or with unacceptable offers of compensation (not to be paid before a period of 30 years, through bonuses, with a fund created by 25% of the value of sugar that the United States would buy at a fixed annual quota of over 3 million tons, at a price not lower than 5.75 American cents per English pound).

On the 13th of September the government of the United States announced that, if the program of “nationalization” were to continue, they would place an embargo on Cuba. On the 13th of October, by Law 890, 105 central sugar companies, important industrial businesses (Crusellas, Sabates, Hatuey, La Tropical, La Polar, Sarra, Taquechel, Johnson, large department stores, the railroads, 18 distilleries, among them Bacardi and Arechabala) as well as 376 other Cuban companies and industries, were expropriated.

By Law 891 the Cuban and foreign bank systems and, by another law, 273 more companies, were nationalized, and the Urban Reform Law was passed, lowering rents and, in continuation, eliminating private property beyond housing. On the 19th of October the government of the United States established the embargo, with exception of certain medicines and foodstuffs.

On the 24th of October the Cuban government expropriated the remaining 166 North American businesses. On the 16th of December, the USA cancelled the Cuban sugar quota. On the 31st of December a Cuban military insurgence began in Algeria in relation with its border war with Morocco.

On the 8th of January 1961, relations between Cuba and the USA broke off. Between the 15th and the 19th of April the military action at the Bay of Pigs occurred, ending in failure for the government of the United States of America. On the 25th of April, a total embargo on Cuba was established.

On the 1st of May private education was nationalized, later carried out on the 6th of June. On the 5th of August national monetary reform was undertaken, freezing bank accounts and reducing them to a maximum of 10 000 pesos, handing over only 200 pesos per person. On the 17th of September the priests were deported and placed on the ship “Covadonga.”

On the 25th of January, 1962 Cuba was expelled from the OAS. From the 22nd to the 28th of October the so-called “Missle Crisis” occured, ending with an agreement between the USA and the USSR that excluded Cuba.

On the 13th of August 1968 the so-called “Revolutionary Offensive” was declared, “nationalizing” more than 50,000 micro-businesses, totally eliminating private property.

Between the 2nd of January, 1969 and the 20th of May, 1970, the “Ten Million Ton Sugar Harvest” failed, dealing a mortal blow to the sugar industry.

On the 23rd of April 1971, cultural repression and intolerance was instigated by the First Congress of Education and Culture. On the 30th of July they restricted access to universities to “revolutionaries” only.

In August 1972 “parametración” was established, resulting in the expulsion of around 300 actors and directors for theater, radio, and television from their posts. On the 22nd of November the State reorganized itself along Soviet lines (instead of Ministries there were Committees).

On July 29th, 1975, the OAS revoked the sanctions against Cuba and, in August, President Gerald Ford realized a partial lift of the embargo. Cuba’s military intervention in Angola began on the 12th of October, putting an end to the brief thaw between Cuba and the United States.

On the 18th of March 1977, President James Carter authorized travel to Cuba and established the US Interest Section, giving way to a new opening in relations. In November Cuba sent troops to Ethiopia to participate in the Ogaden War against Somalia, further frustrating this opening.

On the 14th of December 1984, the United States and Cuba signed an agreement awarding 20,000 American visas annually to Cubans.

On the 9th of November 1989 the Berlin Wall fell.

On the 7th of May Cuba announced its withdrawal from Angola and Ethiopia. With the disappearance of the Eastern European Socialist Camp, and the ending of huge subsidies to the Island, a Special Period in Times of Peace was declared, establishing 14 restrictive measures making life even more difficult for Cubans.

On the 8th of December, 1991, the USSR collapsed and on the 9th of December Soviet troops withdrew from Cuba.

On the 12th of March, 1996, the Helms-Burton act was enacted in response to the demolition of planes belonging to “Brothers to the Rescue,” ending the brief thaw in relations during the Clinton administration.

On the 18th of October 2001 the retiring of the spy base “Lourdes” is announced.

On the 12th of January 2002 the liquidation of the sugar industry began, by means of work ironically named “Alvaro Reynoso,” who was defender of the same industry.

On the 18th of December 2014 relations between Cuba and the US are reestablished. During the Obama administration a number of cooperative agreements are reached, despite “Cuban immobility.”

On the first of January, 2016, with the advent of the Trump administration, relations chilled, a process that continues to this day.

 Translated by Geoffrey Ballinger

The UN Expresses Concern for Working Conditions of Cuban Doctors on Missions

Cuba negotiates with third countries for payments for its doctors and then gives the doctors themselves a small portion of that pay. (United Nations)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 6, 2010 — The United Nations expressed concern for the working conditions of Cuban doctors sent on medical missions, according to a document made public and sent to the Island last November. The Cuban Government did not respond.

Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, and Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on human trafficking, sent a letter to the Cuban Government expressing concern after the complaint by Cuban Prisoners Defenders, a European NGO, that accuses the authorities of human trafficking and slavery through its medical missions.

“The working conditions reported could be considered involuntary servitude, according to the indicators established by the International Organization of Labor. Involuntary servitude constitutes a contemporary form of slavery,” the reporters wrote to the Cuban Government, which still has not responded to the missive. continue reading

Cuban Prisoners Defenders, in its denunciation, gives details about the conditions in which thousands of Cuban doctors and professionals work in the rest of the world. More than 75% of their salaries goes into the hands of the Cuban Government.

The exportation of services is the principal source of income for the Cuban economy and has averaged more than 11 billion dollars a year in the last decade, according to official sources.

The Cuban medical missions in the region are controversial. The New York Times reported that medical attention in Venezuela was used to get votes for the Government. Bolivia and Ecuador ended their contracts with Cuba after turbulent incidents, and the government of Jair Bolsonaro, in Brazil, pushed for the removal of the doctors, considering the agreement with Cuba a form of “modern slavery”.

The Cuban Government contracts directly with third countries for payment for its doctors but gives the doctors themselves a small fraction of the pay. The pay goes into their accounts in Cuba, and the funds are frozen to ensure that the doctors will fulfill their three-year contracts. In case of defection from the mission, their pay passes to the Government.

There are no legal work agreements, and Cuban Prisoners Defenders has documented working shifts of 62 hours per week, restriction of movement and surveillance by the supervisors of the program.

“Many professionals reported receiving threats regularly from Cuban State officials in the countries where they are sent, and women doctors have suffered rape while participating in international missions,” says the document published by the United Nations.

The U.N. is also concerned about the punishment for doctors who decide to abandon the missions outside Cuba.

“Doctors considered deserters will not be able to return to Cuba for eight years, and the families who remain in Cuba will be subject to stigmatization and repercussions from government entities,” explains the text.

In the letter, Cuban Prisoners Defenders says that other professionals—teachers, engineers or artists—will also be submitted to similar work conditions and lives.

The U.N. asked Cuba for an explanation about the conditions related by the NGO, but the government of Miguel Díaz-Canel didn’t respond. Cuba has denounced what it considers a U.S. “campaign to discredit” the work that its doctors are doing in the Exterior. Cuba says it uses the doctors’ earnings to sustain the national health system.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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