Two Books Point Out That the ’11J’ Protests Put an End to the Idyllic Vision of the Cuban Revolution Abroad

For the Regime, “nothing happened” that day, not even in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, said Francis Matéo, sarcastically

People protesting on July 11, 2021 in Havana / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Xavier Carbonell, Salamanca, 10 July 2024 — Three years after the massive protests of 11 July 2021 (’11J’), many Cuban readers wait to read two books: a historical study that defines the caliber and meaning of the demonstrations and an anthology of the chronicles, reports and photographs that – regardless of ideological position – were published during those days. Now, on the eve of its third anniversary, bookstores have received valuable personal testimonies and many studies about the event that changed the citizen landscape of the Island.

One is the Spanish edition of Cuba… Homeland and Life! (Ecúmene Ediciones), by the French reporter Francis Matéo, whom 14ymedio interviewed about his “chronicle of a revolt.” A year after that conversation, Mateó explains to this newspaper the need to “not forget what happened” on 11J.

“It has been weeks, months and years (we should add: days and hours) of suffering and agony for the victims of the repression that followed these demonstrations. Thousands of families were mistreated, violated and destroyed by the harassment inflicted on their loved ones. Innocent victims were imprisoned or condemned to exile, if not to the despair that continues to worsen on the Island,” he says.

“Innocent victims were imprisoned or condemned to exile, if not to the despair that continues to worsen on the Island”

The situation, he says, “has only become worse.” Many of those who were arrested in those days “continue to languish in prison” and “almost 600,000 Cubans have emigrated since the summer of 2021.” continue reading

In his book, the journalist undertakes a study of the root causes of the crisis that led to the eruption, including the erosion of the methods of control of the Cuban regime, the indebtedness of the leadership and the collapse of the economy.

According to the press release that accompanies the launch, the book recounts a series of events for which citizens “paid dearly. For the first time in more than sixty years, the Castro dictatorship is openly condemned in the streets of the entire Island, and the fear imposed by the repression of any form of protest yields to the courage of the peaceful but determined demonstrators,” he summarizes.

Matéo traveled to Cuba after the coronavirus pandemic and collected the testimonies of dozens of demonstrators, including several from the Havana neighborhood of La Güinera, one of the main focuses of the protest and where Diubis Laurencio Tejeda was shot dead at the hands of the police. He also came into contact with journalist Iliana Hernández, who at that time lived in the capital under strict police surveillance.

Matéo’s book represents a critical trend within European journalism that, according to the author himself, seeks to counteract the idyllic vision that many have of the Island. Annihilating the “romanticism about the Revolution” is the declared objective of Cuba… Homeland and Life!, which takes its title from the song that became the soundtrack of the protests.

Matéo traveled to Cuba after the coronavirus pandemic and collected the testimonies of dozens of demonstrators, including several from the Havana neighborhood of La Güinera

In 2022, a few months before his death, the Uruguayan journalist Carlos Liscano wrote about the idealization of the Island, which crumbled for many foreigners on 11J, and the silence over Cuba’s reality. In his book, Cuba: Better Not to Talk About It (Fin de Siglo), he settled accounts with a Revolution to which he himself dedicated much enthusiasm; he was a Tupamaro guerrilla in his country and a political prisoner, in addition to covering the invasion of Playa Girón [Bay of Pigs]. He defined the complicity of Latin American intellectuals about the Island in one sentence: “We didn’t know because we didn’t want to know.”

The demonstrations of 11J broke the silence for many “ideological tourists,” a term with which Liscano defines those who travel to a Havana that is decorative and prepared by the regime, diametrically opposed to the real life of the Cubans who protested. Cutting the internet, arresting journalists, beating citizens and imprisoning thousands of people are among the methods that made the difference – according to the Uruguayan – between silence and denunciation.

An attempt at an academic approach to 11J was made by Alexander Hall, compiler of Cuba 11J: Counter-hegemonic perspectives of the protests (Marx21.net). The volume brings together a group of voices, mostly left-wing or with some degree of commitment to officialdom, who in recent years have radicalized their positions on the Regime. This is the case of the historian Alina Bárbara López or the economist Miguel Alejandro Hayes. The volume also includes essays by intellectuals of such disparate approaches as Julio César Guanche, Mauricio de Miranda, Zuleica Romay, José Antonio Fernández Estrada, Dmitri Prieto and Leonardo Romero Negrín.

The book, which aimed to point out the birth – or at least the awakening – of a “critical left” on the Island, lamented the country’s poverty but subscribed to some of the causes that the regime attributes to it, such as the US blockade.* It was right, however, to define the economic triggers of the protest – the package of measures imposed in January 2021, accelerated inflation and the financial defenselessness of citizens in the face of the pandemic – and to diagnose the moral bankruptcy of the Regime.

The value of the book lies in the fact that it collects documents issued by the Regime during those days, which attest to the calls for repression by Miguel Díaz-Canel

The Cuban government itself promoted the drafting of an official history of the protests – Cuba 11J. Protests, responses, challenges (Elag) – in which it totally blamed Washington for the outcry and washed its hands of the debacle by pointing to the person responsible: Donald Trump. The value of the book lies in the fact that it collects the documents issued by the Regime during those days, which attest to the calls for repression by Miguel Díaz-Canel.

In addition, there are the speeches given by the president, “with Raúl Castro by his side,” in the so-called acts of revolutionary reaffirmation after the protest; the messages of several writers and artists in defense of the regime; an interview with Silvio Rodríguez in which he criticizes the demonstrators; and the opinions of citizens close to the leadership.

For July 11, the Government had a slogan from the beginning: “Nothing happened.” Nothing happened in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, says Francis Matéo, sarcastically. “It is true that nothing seems to have changed in Havana, apart from this palpable and increasing sense of despair,” he admits. The reality, however, is different: there is growing “anger and resentment” towards the Government of Díaz-Canel, Patria y Vida has become an alternative national anthem and the country is ready – with the spirit that began on 11J – to achieve its liberation.

*Translator’s note: There is, in fact, no US ‘blockade’ on Cuba, but this continues to be the term the Cuban government prefers to apply to the ongoing US embargo. During the Cuban Missile Crisis the US ordered a Naval blockade (which it called a ‘quarantine’) on Cuba in 1962, between 22 October and 20 November of that year. The blockade was lifted when Russia agreed to remove its nuclear missiles from the Island. The embargo had been imposed earlier in February of the same year, and although modified from time to time, it is still in force.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuba’s Population Drops 18 Percent between 2022 and 2023 According to an Independent Study

The island’s current number of residents stands at 8.62 million, a loss of almost 1.8 million in one year

Among the consequences of mass migration is a growing number of homes for sale / 14ymedio

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, July 9, 2024 — Cuba’s population fell 18% between 2022 and 2023, due mainly due to migration, and now stands 8.62 million people according to an independent, soon-to-be released demographic study to which EFE had access.

The figure is based on the number of Cubans arriving in the United States between October 2021 and April 2024, a total of 738,680 people according to information released by U.S. officials. This includes those entering the country through visas, family reunification (the so-called “humanitarian parole” program) and irregular means.

The figure is based on the number of Cubans arriving in the United States between October 2021 and April 2024, a total of 738,680 people

This figure was used to extrapolate the total number of Cuban migrants, taking into account the percentage of Cubans traveling to the United States relative to the total number of people who leave the country for other destinations. Based on historical precedents, the author estimates this to be 33% for 2022 and 2023.

That would amount to 1.79 million people in one year, an unprecedented number in recent Cuban history. continue reading

By comparison, previous large waves of emigration following the Cuban revolution — these include the initial wave (the so-called freedom flights), the Mariel boat lift and the rafter crisis — produced a total of 620,000 people leaving the island according to various estimates.

When mortality rates are taken into account — in 2022 as in 2023, there were many more deaths on the island than births — the author comes up with a population figure of 8.62 million people.

Albizu-Campos calculates a different number of inhabitants than the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI), whose reports indicated 11.11 million were living in the country as of December 31, 2021.

The author believes this number to be “fictitious” based on his own calculations, which relied on the 2013 and 2023 electoral rolls as a point of reference. In his opinion, the figure should be 10.48 million.

“Hundreds of thousands of people, often with the financial support of family members overseas, notably in the United States, have accepted the challenge. They have joined the uncontrollable flow of migrants trying to escape poverty, political intolerance or both,” says Albizu-Campos.

“Hundreds of thousands of people. . . have joined the uncontrollable flow of migrants trying to escape poverty, political intolerance or both

Official figures do little to shed light on the recent migratory phenomenon because the government does not currrently consider someone to be an emigrant until he or she has been out of the country for at least twenty-four months.

The country’s ongoing economic crisis has also caused the 2022 population census to be postponed The pandemic and the fuel crisis are other reasons the government has cited for successively delaying the date.

The deputy director of ONEI, Juan Carlos Alfonso, claimed in a recent interview with EFE that his department is committed to carried out the census in 2025. He acknowledged that they have emigration estimates but that ONEI has not published them.

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

Cuba Draws Close to an Unprecedented Social Catastrophe

The only living founders of the Dissident and Human Rights Movement in Cuba, created in 1983, make an appeal in view of the grave situation in the country on the anniversary of the 11J protests.

Hundreds protest on May 17, 2024 in Santiago de Cuba / Facebook

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miami, 10 July 2024 — Cuba is rapidly accelerating towards a turning point where any event could occur, including a major social catastrophe of unprecedented magnitude, before which the lynchings and looting at the end of the Machado regime could appear to us as mere childish brawls.

We are not exaggerating. On January 1, 2021, both signatories published and warned that government leadership, in what we called Conclusions from a balance sheet on Cuba at the end of 2020, that if radical changes were not made immediately, the discontent “could explode massively with serious irreparable consequences.” And yet, instead of following that advice, they made the situation even worse with measures that aggravated the already deplorable state of the people.

Then, the demonstrations of July 11 of that same year, with thousands and perhaps tens of thousands of people — if we add all the participants from the different cities of the country– were peaceful. The violence was then initiated by the repressive forces.

But now we have enough reasons to fear that this time, the protest will not only not be peaceful but, most likely, catastrophic. There is already too much suffering and resentment among the population to believe that new reforms as inefficient as those already implemented will solve the country’s serious problems. “Reform,” as the word itself indicates, means only a change in form and not in the essence of these problems. continue reading

The argument of this leadership to deny radical changes is that they would mean the end of the “revolution.” The answer to be given them, once and for all, is that this revolution has not existed for more than fifty years, if we are to use the term as defined by the Royal Spanish Academy – “profound change, generally violent, in the political and socio-economic structures of a national community”- because in 1968, when they finally ended up expropriating the people themselves in the so-called revolutionary offensive, confiscating all the small landowners, including the most humble independent workers such as shoeshine boys and hamburger sellers. There was no longer, since then, any other profound change.

So what has there been in Cuba for more than fifty years? The political and socioeconomic system that was the product of that revolution, was a totalitarian dictatorship that imprisoned or took by arms former comrades in arms who tried to prevent the betrayal of failing to fulfill the democratizing goals they themselves had promised — restoration of the constitution and free elections — to impose by force a regime that made real the darkest fears that José Martí had harbored almost a century before in a letter to Máximo Gómez. He wrote about a possible “caudillo” (authoritarian) who, “at the head of an enthusiastic and grateful people, with all the trappings of victory,” would turn the Republic into a command-and-control camp.

The suffering and resentment of the population is already too great to believe that new reforms as inefficient as those already implemented will solve the serious problems of the country.

Let us speak properly: there is no longer a single revolutionary in the ranks of the Communist Party or the State. The true revolutionaries are demonstrating in the streets, or in prisons, like Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, José Daniel Ferrer and Maykel Castillo Osorbo, who, like hundreds of other prisoners, only expressed peacefully their yearnings for a better Cuba, a right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

However, they were sentenced to longer prison terms than those received by the assailants of the Moncada barracks, who carried firearms and left many dead. And more than that, the Moncada assailants were amnestied two years later.

That economic-social system, which in spite of everything is still called a “revolution,” has been responsible for the destruction of the whole country. Because that leadership, like Frankenstein, created a monster that it was not able to control, a corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy of thousands of officials elected not by their ability but by political trustworthiness, with no real interest in productivity; a model, therefore, that only generates a permanent crisis.

That crisis is only alleviated when there is an external ally capable of subsidizing it, and when that ally is missing, that is when the system really shows itself as it is. It is in those cases when they resort to mass exoduses to alleviate internal social tensions, a resource that only serves to buy time while they look for a new ally capable of supplying the resources the country needs to stay on its feet. And that is precisely what they are desperately looking for since the collapse of the Venezuelan economy.

But that ally has not yet appeared and, if it does not, the system will collapse definitively. In general, the magnitude of these exoduses is directly proportional to the magnitude of the crisis, and this last exodus has been the largest ever, which indicates that they are facing the deepest crisis in their entire history and the tensions relieved by this great exodus tend to be reproduced in the very short term, while the international situation would not allow, in such a short time, another exodus like the previous one.

All together they would constitute a moral force with enough convening power to peacefully and harmoniously displace that failed leadership.

We have arrived, then, at a definitive and decisive point where the alternatives present themselves very clearly: either that leadership makes a profound change in the immediate future, or the desperate multitudes will sweep away that leadership in the worst fashion.

But if this leadership continues to turn a deaf ear to the demands that have been made to it to make these changes, if it has neither the interest nor the courage to face the serious conflicts of the country in a radical manner, there is no other alternative but to appeal to the most serene and fair-minded sectors of the people so that they may become the guides of these crowds.

We therefore call for dissidence, for a unity of all those alliances that have been taking place in the last few years; we likewise exhort many the honest and sensible intellectuals to exert their influence. All together they would constitute a moral force with sufficient convening power to peacefully and harmoniously displace that failed leadership to avoid tragedy, and to lead the people, for the good of all, including the physical integrity of those same current leaders, without revenge or vindictiveness, towards a profound process of social transformations.

Cuba will rise from its ashes, and will be, for the world, a paradigm of freedom, peace and prosperity.

Translated by Hombre de Paz

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

Cuban State Security Warnings for the Anniversary of the 11J Protests Reflect “The Power of the Date”

Independent journalist Yunia Figueredo has been on guard at the door of her house since Tuesday. / Yunia Figueredo

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 11, 2024 — The third anniversary of the massive protests of 11 July 2021 (11J) takes place for the Police and State Security like the previous ones: with the harassment and surveillance of activists, dissidents and independent journalists. Since the day before, the editorial staff of 14ymedio has been incommunicado, as have many other Cubans who have expressed in one way or another their disagreement with the regime.

Among the cases, that of Dagoberto Valdés stands out, who was summoned on Tuesday for an interrogation this Wednesday at 9 in the morning. The director of the Center for Coexistence Studies was summoned to State Security headquarters in Pinar del Río, where he waited five hours for the officer, Major Lázaro, who gave him a warning citation.

The objective was to inform Valdés that he could be charged with six crimes defined in the Criminal Code, including “incitement to violence, association to commit crimes, destabilization of international peace and violation of constitutional precepts,” he explained on his departure. The officer indicated to him that there was “nothing to celebrate” on 11J because “the 2021 demonstrations were violent acts,” and the activist rejected both the possibility of committing any of the aforementioned crimes and any other, in addition to signing the citation. continue reading

The officer told him that there was “nothing to celebrate” on 11J because “the 2021 demonstrations were violent acts”

Then Major Ernesto, who “takes care of [the group] Coexistence,” joined the interrogation and insisted, in the same vein, about the inconvenience of Valdés attending any activity scheduled for this Thursday or Friday, recalling the anti-government protests that also continued on July 12, 2021.

Both agents told the activist that he should not be “influenced by people and associations from inside and outside Cuba that intend to involve him in the organization of events against the Government,” and they complained about his attendance at the reception on July 4 organized at the US Embassy in Havana, because, they said, “it was a meeting place for people financed by the enemy to destabilize” the country.

Raymar Aguado Hernández, writer and activist, was another of those who raised his voice this Wednesday over a summons from State Security, which urged him to appear at the Cayo Hueso Council, located at 55 Infanta Street for an “interview.” Thirty minutes later he was in the Key West Council Sector of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR).

As he said on his departure, First Lieutenant Rogelio and Officer Mía asked him what he planned to do this Thursday, to which he answered with another question: “What can’t I do tomorrow?”

The agent replied: “Do you remember what happened a few years ago? That’s what you can’t do tomorrow.” The rest of the interview took place with questions about his absence from Pride, how his friends’ families were in Gaza or if he had met with the La Joven Cuba team, but nothing was as relevant as what surrounded the anniversary.

“Do you remember what happened a few years ago? That’s what you can’t do tomorrow”

Aguado Hernández points out that these facts indicate the “powerfulness” of the date, turned into an “emblem that makes the authoritarianism of the Cuban State nervous,” and although he says he does not know his plans are for today, he warns: “In the face of an explosion from below: proletarian, popular, anti-authoritarian… I don’t know, I won’t be able to resist.”

Among the activists who have had the internet cut off are Manuel Cuesta Morúa, of the Plataforma Nuevo País, activist Marthadela Tamayo; María Elena Mir, of the Independent National Workers’ Confederation of Cuba and rapper Osvaldo Navarro (Navy Pro).

Independent journalist Yunia Figueredo has reported on social networks that she has been on guard at the door of her house since Tuesday. “Why, instead of repressing and guarding and putting us under house arrest, don’t they release all political prisoners on 11J? They are such rats that the only thing they show is fear,” she wrote this morning, tired of the threats. The agents approached, she says, to tell her that if she leaves her house before the 14th she will incur a crime of contempt.

In addition, journalist José Luis Tan Estrada was already called on July 6 for an interrogation in which he was warned that he must refrain from making any publication on his social networks, as well as attend public places, under threat of being imprisoned for disobedience and contempt.

Also on June 28, Roberto Álvarez, one of the founders of the Democracy Movement, was prevented from entering Cuba. The activist was going to travel to Villa Clara from Miami to visit his father, who was very ill.

Meanwhile, Marta Perdomo, mother of the prisoners of 11J, Nadir and Jorge Martín Perdomo, denounced on Facebook that she has not heard from the latter for two weeks. “This is one more crime, like so many others. What they are doing is torturing Jorgito and the whole family for the simple fact of raising our voices for all the injustices that have been done to them and continue being done to them,” she proclaimed.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Remodeled for July 26 Celebrations, the Zaza Hotel Has No Shortage of Workers or Fuel

More than 250 workers have been hired, including brigades from two MSMEs from Morón and Trinidad

Repairs include the facade, rooms, bars, disco and swimming pools / Escambray

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 July 2024 — After Manuel Marrero’s visit at the end of June, the Zaza de Sancti Spíritus hotel underwent a marathon to restore it before the July 26 celebrations, whose main act will be held in this province. With a “progressive deterioration” and “very bad condition” from years of disuse, the authorities intend to revitalize the facility in less than a month, not without the criticism of the people of Sancti Spíritus. The restoration of its 124 rooms – 32 will be prioritized for the holiday and then the others will be repaired – the change of the waterproofing, the repair of the facade, the remodeling of the swimming pools, the construction of the villa – which was demolished – and other minor tasks such as the installation of the perimeter fence: this is what the builders must accomplish in the few remaining days.

However, the authorities have not skimped on resources and a “large investment” – of which the official press does not reveal the origin – has made it possible to bring more than 250 workers from five provinces: Matanzas, Villa Clara, Ciego de Ávila, Sancti Spíritus and Havana. Brigades of builders from two MSMEs have also been hired: D’Obras (from Morón) and Génesis (from Trinidad).

“So far we have not had serious problems with the resources or with the fuel to ensure the work, and when an obstacle has arisen, it has been cleared,” the logistics managers of the works told Escambray, which is surprised, like the workers, that the works are beginning at a good pace, contrary to the usual experience. continue reading

The workers insist that they have lacked nothing while rebuilding the hotel.  / Escambray

The workers insist that they have not lacked anything while rebuilding the property / Escambray

“Generally, we have not had problems with building materials nor with food, despite the difficult situation that, as we all know, the country is going through. I think that anyone who complains does it because he wants to,” concludes one of the employees. “The intervention being made to the Zaza hotel is very useful and necessary because it will bring back to life this facility that for so many years was distinguished in this province. Upon arrival we found it in a degree of total deterioration, but I assure you that when it is concluded it will look like new,” says another of the workers. The citizens of Sancti Spíritus, however, are not so sure that the remodeling is as beneficial as the authorities promise.

In the comments section of an article in Escambray a few days ago, many readers highlighted the irony of “letting a hotel be lost and then spending millions to restore it,” money, by the way, that could benefit other facilities in the province that were not included in the “touch-ups” for July 26. In addition, Internet users point out, the speed of the work leaves doubts about its quality. They fear that they form part of the makeup that is traditionally put on the host cities of the event.

The official press glosses it over: “In the Zaza you have to do everything well, out of elementary respect for the work, for those who this summer will partially enjoy it again and, above all, for the territory to guarantee materials that are as as scarce as they are expensive, which several works and projects would appreciate no less in sectors such as health, education and others of high social impact as well.” Even so, doubts persist.

The property experienced several repair attempts and served as an isolation center during the pandemic

“What will they do to market it? The hotel was destroyed as a result of its decommercialization when the hunting and fishing tourism on which it depended ended, and it is not attractive for national tourism due to the competition from Rancho Hatuey and Los Laureles, with similar offers and a closer location. What are they going to do to make it attractive and at the same time profitable?” asked another user, to which commentators responded with sarcasm: “Soon it will be filled with foreign tourism because surely the price will not be within the reach of the ordinary Cuban.”

For their part, Escambray and Granma insist that the hotel, in its years of splendor, was the insignia of the province and one of the most demanded by the inhabitants. However, they do not clarify whether the “national” character of the facility will be maintained, to which – suspiciously – too many resources have been dedicated in record time.

The property has undergone several attempts at repair. In 2023, the local government promised an investment of 80 million pesos for the Zaza, which had been used as an isolation center during the pandemic. However, by March, the deadline, the work was still unfinished and only a quarter of the money had been spent. The mass of socialist architecture was not lucky either that February, when a Russian company came to manage the Jatibonico plant. The workers, they said at the time, would stay at the hotel, which was closed to the public. The “capital repair” that was promised did not take place.

A week ago, 14ymedio portrayed in an article the adornment of the capital city for the event on July 26. The facades of pharmacies and ration shops, painted in bright colors, contrasted with the ruined interiors and the empty shelves of the stores. Many of the remodeled shops remained closed, and the 10 kilometers of road whose repair was completed was all in the section that the officials will travel when they arrive in the province.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Layers of Paint and Hype in Sancti Spíritus, Cuba to Celebrate July 26th

The residents, meanwhile, only hope that the city buildings will benefit from the paraphernalia of the event.

Newly painted pharmacy in Sancti Spíritus due to the events of July 26 / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes Garcia, Sancti Spíritus, 4 July 2024 — Even in the midst of the most painful crisis that the Revolution has faced, the Cuban regime insists on remembering its “rebellious lineage” every year by granting one province primacy in the events for July 26. Since last June 14, Sancti Spíritus has held the headquarters, an “acknowledgement” that Cubans see more as an opportunity to renovate the city than to honor the assailants of the Moncada barracks.

The authorities “put their foot down” – as Ramiro Valdés recommended in the province days ago – and, since the announcement that the central event of the anniversary will take place in Sancti Spiritus, the problems seem to have disappeared. 100% of its taxpayers paid their taxes in 2023, infant mortality in the first half of this year is – suspiciously – the second lowest in the country, and Construction, one of the worst sectors on the Island, advances thanks to mini-industries.

That is, at least, the Sancti Spíritus that the official press is selling, decked out to receive senior government officials and, with luck, Raúl Castro himself.

The entrance road to the province was also paved / Escambray

From the interior of its streets, however, a different reality is felt. The 10 kilometers of asphalt that were dedicated to repairing the province’s roads are all focused on a single section: the road that connects the municipality of Cabaiguán and the capital city, and that also connects with the National Highway. That is, a brand-new tar carpet through which the ministers and officials will enter the city for the event.

The same has happened with the facades of state restaurants, such as Dinos Pizza, to which they added umbrellas and seats in the doorway, but inside, the bottles on display are empty and the prices do not drop below 200 pesos.

They added chairs and umbrellas to Dinos Pizza, but the rest remains the same / 14ymedio

Other “beneficiaries” of state paraphernalia have been pharmacies and bodegas (the ration stores). Those closest to the center and, of course, to the routes that the officials will take, boast blue, pink and red colors on their facades that still smell of fresh paint. The leaks from the interior and the shortage of products, however, have not changed. “Paint, a lot of paint. But no supplies,” a resident of Garaita, one of the “retouched” establishments, complained to 14ymedio.

Many state establishments, some of them on the boulevard, remain closed to preserve the touches until the 26th, when their doors will open with offers of food and entertainment that the people of Sancti Spiritus have not had at their disposal for a long time, and which is doubtful will be kept after the festivities.

Some grocery stores have their facades painted again, but they are still without food / 14ymedio

The local press has also not been shy about granting a certain “joy” to the “people of Sancti Spiritus,” alleging that the Central Committee of the Party has granted a great “honor” to the province for “the work that its cadres, management structures, workers and people in general, as an expression of the popular will to move the country forward in the midst of a particularly complex economic situation.”

Many leisure and gastronomy venues remain closed / 14ymedio

To commemorate the distinction, on the same day of the announcement, local leaders celebrated the event with the people of Sancti Spiritus, who “spontaneously” carried drums and Cuban flags.

For the Sancti Spíritus residents, however, being the venue for the July 26 events is only equivalent to avoiding blackouts for a few days or finally seeing public transportation working. For the rest, the arrangements seem few and superficial compared to those obtained by other provinces in previous years.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

Capped Prices in the Private Shops in Holguín, Anarchy in Havana

Many stores do not have any of the six items for sale with established prices.

Pelican, a private business in Holguín, this Tuesday / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miguel García/Juan Diego Rodríguez, Holguín/Havana, 9 July 2024 — Curiosity and need come together in the private shops of Holguin, which this Tuesday have had a greater influx of customers than on other days. At the entrance to the premises, a board showed the new prices, which have been capped for basic products since July 8.

In one of the many points of sale visited by 14ymedio, the employees had just learned about the new regulation and changed, in view of the buyers, the numbers written next to each item . Although the oil and pasta were below the new amounts, the powdered milk went above the 1,675 pesos per kilo established by the Official Gazette.

In the kiosk managed by the MSME Bodegón Holguín, the line filling the sidewalk in front of the premises did not respond, however, to any of the six products that have been exempted from taxes on imports and which have capped prices. The crowd, in fact, was waiting to acquire the newly discounted instant soft drink packages, which are mainly intended for the school snack.

The capped price “is not going down because if that’s what’s legally allowed why sell it cheaper?”

This Monday, vegetable oil at 990 pesos per liter was now in line with the new regulation. But the price, instead of satisfying consumers, raised criticism among those who believe that once set at that limit, “it will not go down because if that is what is legally allowed, why sell it cheaper?” asked an elderly woman who arrived at the Bodegón. continue reading

With a pension of 1,420 pesos per month, she can’t benefit from the new prices. “There is a lot of disorganization with this measure. At the Chinese Fair there were several kiosks that have not even heard about it and still have cooking oil at more than 1,000 pesos per liter,” the woman complained. “I found chopped chicken at 370 and 380 pesos per pound in several places; it seems that they have not realized that it’s at 340.

In Havana, the panorama has not been very different. Some central businesses have opted for caution, while several places in El Vedado and the neighborhood of Cayo Hueso did not even have for sale what popular humor has already baptized as “the magnificent six.” Others displayed the new prices on their boards.

The EJT market shelves of 17 and K, in El Vedado, returned to their usual appearance / 14ymedio

On Reina Street, in the municipality of Centro Habana, on Monday the line was extended in front of a private business that announced a pound of chicken at 310 pesos. What was saved in money was lost in time, because the line could take up to two hours between getting a number and accessing the counter. The main cause of the delay, according to an employee, was that “we have to wait for them to bring more supplies.” They were exhausted due to the multiplied demand.

In Havana, the shelves of the Youth Labor Army [EJT] market at 17 and K, which last week appeared surprisingly empty in the face of the confusion due to the entry into force of the capped prices, returned to their usual appearance. However, they didn’t sell chicken. “The chicken is still kidnapped,” an old woman said with a sneer.

The prices in the informal market, through home delivery applications on social media groups that market everything from spaghetti to beef, were the same as a few days ago, unrelated to the new official guidelines.

“The big chicken thighs: I’m not lying. If you want quality, this is your option at 380 pesos per pound and we charge home delivery separately,” said an ad in a WhatsApp thread dedicated to food and cleaning products. In the photo that accompanied the ad you could see a package with the colors of the American flag and three letters: USA.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Close to 40,000 Cubans Applied for Spanish Nationality at the Havana Consulate

As of April, the majority – some 40% – of the 301,121 applications were from Argentina. The Council of Ministers extended the deadline for the procedure by one year.

Cubans line up in front of the Spanish Consulate in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEP/14ymedio, Madrid, 9 July 2024 — Consulates in Argentina and Cuba account for 50% of the 300,000 applications for Spanish nationality submitted between October 2022 and March 2024 under the Democratic Memory Law, which allows descendants of exiled Spaniards to enjoy this benefit, according to data revealed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation. As explained by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement, since the law entered into force on October 22, 2022 and until March 31, 2024, the Consular Civil Registry Offices had received 301,121 applications for the option of Spanish nationality by origin. In the first year of the measure, according to the data collected at the time by Europa Press, more than 102,000 Spanish nationalities had been granted.

More than 95% of these applications were received at the consulates in Ibero-American countries, as well as at the Consulate General of Spain in Miami. In the specific case of Argentina, the five consulates general in the country accumulated 40% of the applications, and if those received by the Consulate General in Havana are added, the figure rises to 53%. This puts the petitions on the Island at 13% of the total; that is, 39,145 up to that date.

The Council of Ministers authorized this Tuesday, as already announced in February by the Minister of Territorial Policy and Democratic Memory, Ángel Víctor Torres, the extension by one year of the period to exercise the right to qualify for Spanish nationality contained in the eighth additional provision of the Law of Democratic Memory, which gave two years. continue reading

In all consular offices “there are a number of applicants who can’t be summoned and attended to before the end of the planned two-year period”

The Department of Foreign Affairs, headed by José Manuel Albares, has explained that in all consular offices “there are a number of applicants who can’t be summoned and attended to before the end of the two-year period provided for” by law.

For that reason, the Government has decided to extend the deadline by one year “in such a way that all appointment requests already submitted and pending requests can be met, as well as all applications that are submitted and cannot be met in the first two years of application initially provided for in the law,” said Albares.

Specifically, the aforementioned additional provision of the Law of Democratic Memory guarantees that Spanish nationality can be applied for by those born outside Spain to a father or mother, grandfather or grandmother, who would have originally been Spanish, and who, as a result of having suffered exile for political, ideological or reasons of belief or sexual orientation and identity, would have lost or renounced Spanish nationality.

It also includes sons and daughters born abroad of Spanish women who lost their nationality by marrying foreigners before the entry into force of the 1978 Constitution as well as the sons and daughters of legal age of those Spaniards who were recognized for their nationality of origin by virtue of the Historical Memory Law of 2007.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The Four Stages of Peaceful Transition to Democracy

Initially, the so-called dissidents or civic activists seem to be acting alone

Creating a unified front to defy a dictatorship or to promote democratization does not require a shared ideology but a shared strategy. / Marcos Evora

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 6 July 2024 — The stages of peaceful resistance to totalitarian rule vary from country to country. However, by analyzing liberation movements we can identify common characteristics because, in every case except that of Yugoslavia, there was a centralized economy in which the state held the reins of economic production. This required the creation of a huge bureaucracy that had no real interest in producing things and was incapable of effectively controlling the process. This led to structural economic crises, which led to public discontent.

In the first stage, dissident groups can expect only minimal support from the public. For the most part, the so-called dissidents or civic activists seem to be acting alone. They are, as Vaclav Havel would say, “generals without soldiers.” However, they represent a large silent majority afraid to say publicly what the dissidents are saying. During this period, the vast majority might participate in massive public rallies in support of the government or even join organized mobs besieging the homes of dissidents in public acts of repudiation.

The main task for dissidents at the beginning of their struggle is to denounce the violations perpetrated by the regime as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the Helsinki Accords. However, it later becomes clear that, rather than just denouncing the oppressors’ violations, it is more important to create an awareness of human rights in the minds of the oppressed. This is the first step in the peaceful struggle against a totalitarian regime, to create in the public’s mind an awareness of civil rights, not just because these rights have been proscribed but because they, the people, are entitled to them as human beings.

The main task for dissidents at the beginning of their struggle is to denounce the violations perpetrated by the regime

Dissidents also begin circulating leaflets or clandestine statements. They then move on to staging lightning-strike demonstrations, though not often and usually with no more than twenty or thirty people. Curious onlookers take note but are not willing to participate and the demonstrations usually end in arrests a short time later. continue reading

Little by little, the public begins to become aware of the dissidents’ existence (or in the case of Cuba, of “the human rights people”) — usually through shortwave foreign radio transmissions — and the concept of human rights. One could say this is the beginning of the second stage.

In this period, when someone becomes the object of abuse by authorities, there are often accusations of human rights violations or, in the case of some eastern European countries, of the Helsinki Accords. This is a sign that what the dissidents have been preaching is beginning to sink in. A larger number of people begin joining the various dissident groups.

Little by little, people stop playing by the government’s rules. They skip meetings and public gatherings but do not openly challenge the status quo. They become less and less fearful as the number of like-minded people increases. They are now in the prelude to non-cooperation, still proceeding but with great caution and not yet ready to completely abandon the pretense that they support the regime.

At this stage the vast majority of the population is not willing to engage in acts of civil disobedience. Many are, however, willing to make legal appeals or apply pressure in the name of socialism or, in the case of Cuba, in the name of the Revolution. They call upon the regime to follow the rule of law, or abide by the constitution, which the government presents to the world as evidence that it is democratic but which, in reality, it is not inclined to follow.

At this stage the vast majority of the population is not willing to engage in acts of civil disobedience

In the third stage, a large portion of the public has lost its fear. Though the regime might continue holding mass rallies, it has lost its ability to summon as many people as it did before. It compensates by exerting pressure at workplaces and schools, encouraging attendance during working hours or class times.

It is also not as easy for authorities to drum up public support for acts of repudiation against dissidents and it is forced to use its own plainclothes security forces instead. In fact, it is common for such repressive police actions against individual citizens to be met with widespread public rejection. Public protests also begin occurring when authorities impose unpopular measures. These could include, for example, strikes or riots by transportation workers, or sit-ins in front of public buildings, and even acts of solidarity with a group of dissidents who are engaged in some type of protest such as a hunger strike. Something similar happened in Cuba with strikers of the San Isidro Movement in November 2020.

This is also when the first public demonstrations begin. They start spontaneously, without dissidents having to organize them. Generally, they are violently repressed by authorities. The demonstrators demanding change do not number in the dozens but rather in the hundreds or even the thousands, which destroys the myth that everyone supports the regime. This helps raise awareness even more among other segments of the population, which heralds the start of what we could consider to be the fourth and final stage.

At this point, we begin to see more dialogue among dissident groups as they begin to coalesce. We could even see a discreet rapprochement between dissidents and some reformist elements within the regime. To create a united front against a dictatorship, or to promote a process of democratization, the various factions do not need to be aligned ideologically, only strategically. This is akin to two people walking in the same direction even though their destinations may be different or they may ultimately go their separate ways. It is not terribly important if they are social democrats, conservatives or liberals. What draws them together is their goal of democracy and a shared strategy of non-violence. Together they can now call for demonstrations with a preconceived plan.

In Romania, a group of older die-hard communists who were part of the Ceaucescu regime was defeated by a coalition of parties of different stripes. We have also seen this happen with dictatorships on the other end of the political spectrum. In Chile opposition groups joined forces against the Pinochet regime to campaign for a plebiscite and free elections despite the fact that there were subtle ideological differences among them. Ultimately, they won.

This is also the stage at which activists draft manifestos and many people sign letters demanding the release of political prisoners

This is also the stage at which activists draft manifestos and many people sign letters demanding the release of political prisoners. Ultimately, amid new and much larger marches, a new united civic front emerges and calls for a general strike.

It is at this point, under these conditions, when a dialogue can be begin to either agree on a transition or to present an ultimatum to the regime. The opposition is confident that it has widespread public support and that the regime cannot manipulate them. The duration and timing at which these stages occur differ depending on conditions in each country.

In Czechoslovakia, for example, Charter 77 was the first important initiative that brought dissidents together to form united front, which greatly increased their chances of victory, which Civic Forum achieved twelve years later. In Poland, however, it took only five years from the emergence of Coss-Kor till the birth of the Solidarity trade union movement because there already existed in this country a deep-rooted Catholic faith that was incompatible with Marxism’s atheist ideology. At this time there also happened to be a Polish-born pope pope, John Paul II, who instilled a strong will for change with his phrase “Do not be afraid.”

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Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from El libro de la Liberación [The Book of Liberation]. 14ymedio is publishing it with the author’s permission.
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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

An NGO Requests Acquittal for Those Convicted by Cuban Judge Melody González, Who is Now Requesting Asylum in The United States

Amnesty International (AI) designates Professor Pedro Albert Sánchez of Prisoners Defenders (PD) as a prisoner of conscience and urges the German Government to intercede for its citizen detained in Cuba

Former Cuban judge Melody González Pedraza / OCDH

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Madrid, 8 July 2024 —On Monday, the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH) requested the acquittal of those convicted by Judge Melody González Pedraza, who is currently in a political asylum process in the United States. In a statement made public the same day OCDH — an NGO headquartered in Spain — reported on an interview with González Pedraza by Diario de Cuba, in which the judge herself claimed to have received instructions from the president of the Provincial Court of Villa Clara and the president of the Security Chamber to convict Andy Gabriel González Fuentes, Eddy Daniel Rodríguez Pérez, Luis Ernesto Medina Pedraza and Adain Barreiro Pérez.

All of them were sentenced by the Popular Municipal Court of Encrucijada, Villa Clara, which González Pedraza presided over, for the crime of attack. The first three were sentenced to four years in prison and the fourth to three years.

The Observatory believes that the judge’s statements give “new grounds for acquittal and revocation of the sentence”

“They gave me precise indications; I said that the defense lawyers had presented important evidence, especially from witnesses. But the order I received was that the evidence of the Prosecutor’s Office was sufficient and had more value. We had to maintain pre-trial detention and sanction them,” said the former official in her interview with the Madrid-based Cuban newspaper.

The Observatory believes that the Judge González Pedraza’s statements give “new reasons for acquittal and revocation of the sentence,” since “it is evident that it was not legal and just to pronounce a criminal sentence.”

The NGO’s report, with six recommendations, is addressed to the appellant appointed lawyers of the ruling of the Municipal Court of Crossroads, issued last January, and to the members of the Governing Council of the Provincial Court in Villa Clara, among other institutions. continue reading

“There was a violation of guarantees and fundamental rights to the detriment of those convicted, as well as the absence of a crime and serious judicial misconduct without the least minimum of evidence. We believe that there are sufficient elements for imminent release measures to be adopted in favor of the appellants, as a definitive and just measure,” says the OCDH.

Amnesty International urged the Government of the Island to release Pedro Albert Sánchez “immediately and unconditionally”

In addition, Amnesty International (AI) — an NGO based in London — designated Cuban professor and activist Pedro Albert Sánchez as a prisoner of conscience on Monday. It urged the Cuban Government to release him “immediately and unconditionally,” along with all the “unjustly imprisoned people” in the country.

The NGO stated that in December a judge revoked the sanction of “limitation of freedom” – the fulfillment of the sentence out of prison – that weighed against the activist for having participated in the massive anti-government protests of 11 July 2021 (’11J’).

The 68-year-old professor, who also suffers from cancer, had been sentenced to five years on charges of “contempt” and “public disorder.” Last November he was arrested when he tried to go to the headquarters of the European Union in Havana to deliver a letter to the High Special Representative of the European Union for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore, who was in Cuba on a working visit.

The Government’s “repressive tactics” have also increased with practices such as “criminalization, arbitrary arrests and harassment”

“Since this imprisonment, Pedro Albert has been confined for more than 50 days in punishment cells and has been denied adequate medical care, including access to medicines,” AI reproached.

In addition to Sánchez, the AI recognizes as prisoners of conscience in Cuba the opponent José Daniel Ferrer, the artists Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel Castillo Osorbo, and the Yoruban officiants Loreto Hernández García and Donaida Pérez Paseiro.

AI also stressed that on the Island, which is on the eve of the third anniversary of 11J, the protests “have not only continued, but have increased.”

However, AI continued, the Government’s “repressive tactics” have also increased with practices such as “criminalization, arbitrary arrests and harassment of activists, journalists and human rights defenders, along with general and selective internet cuts.”

AI added that in the last three years, organizations such as Justicia 11J, Prisoners Defenders (PD) and the OCDH have documented “that between 963 and 1,113 people are detained for political reasons” and that at least “671 remain in prison for their participation in the protests of 11 July 2021.”

AI asked the Cuban Executive to repeal the articles of the Criminal Code, which went into effect in December 2022, which “criminalize dissent and violate the right to freedom of expression.”

“It is unacceptable that the Cuban authorities continue to use repressive tactics to silence those who dare to raise their voices in defense of their human rights. This constant repression to try to stifle any form of dissidence must be stopped once and for all,” said Ana Piquer, AI Director for the Americas, cited in the document made public on Monday.

“It is very important that the German Government first becomes aware of what is happening”

Also this Monday, and from Berlin, Prisoners Defenders urged the Government of Germany to become aware of the situation of Luis Frómeta Compte, with dual Cuban and German nationality, sentenced to 15 years in prison for the crime of sedition, for filming the demonstrations of 11J with his cell phone.

“It is very important that the German Government first becomes aware of what is happening” and “that it takes responsibility for its duty with respect to German citizens,” the president of the Spanish NGO, Javier Larrondo, told EFE.

The German Government can argue that as Frómeta has dual nationality and has committed crimes in Cuba, Germany cannot do much, he said after a press conference in Berlin focused on the recent unprecedented condemnation of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) for the arbitrary arrests of 11J.

“But when the United Nations certifies with an opinion and condemns Cuba to release him, to compensate him and to remedy all the problems it has caused to Mr. Frómeta, the German Government already has a debt to Mr. Frómeta” that it has to fulfill as with every German citizen.

He stressed that Frómeta, 61, who has been living in Germany since 1985 and who was arrested on 17 July 2021, is not convicted in that country in a legal way, “but illegally, as if he were kidnapped by a mafia or a mafia clan.”

“Luis Frómeta has been kidnapped; Luis Frómeta is being tortured and killed by criminals, according to the United Nations,” he said when referring to the WGAD ruling.

“Luis Frómeta has been kidnapped; Luis Frómeta is being tortured and killed by criminals, according to the United Nations

In addition, while the Spanish Government is a priority for Cuban politics, Germany is very relevant at the political level and has an important capacity for influence, just as do Italy and France.

“There are four countries that have a lot to say about Latin American politics and in particular Cuba’s policy,” he said in a clear appeal to the respective governments.

PD emphasizes that, in its ruling, the UN strongly condemns the arrests of 11J in Cuba and demands compensation and the release of the 17 accused of “sedition” in a single sentencing, something unprecedented for Cuba.

Among the seven most common patterns in the 520 criminal cases studied between 2022 and 2023, the NGO cites deprivation of liberty without judicial protection; lack of independent lawyers; dependence on government prosecutors and judges; experts and witnesses of the State as the only sources of accusation; criminalization of the exercise of fundamental rights; insufficient crimes; military courts used against civilians; and summary proceedings.

Larrondo believes that this opinion can be of great help “because the dictators are aware of the political cost of these opinions against them and that political cost restricts the freedom of repression that they would like to exercise.”

In addition, he added, in case of fruitful negotiations for the release of political prisoners, these people who according to the opinion must be released and compensated would be on the list.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Capped Prices for Chicken and Five Other Products Take Effect This Monday in Cuba

The Cuban Government will update prices when necessary and may include other goods

Prices in the private market Flores, at Escobar and Reina, Central Havana, this Monday / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana/Madrid, 8 July 8, 2024 — The Cuban Government has acted to exempt from tariffs the import of six basic products whose prices will be high: chicken, powdered milk, cooking oil, sausages, pasta and detergent powder. The resolution was published in the Official Gazette on Monday, July 8 — though dated Tuesday the 9th. It will go into effect “from its publication” so beginning this Monday the products should be sold at no more than the maximum price marked.

According to the table that accompanies the Resolution, the cap on the price of chicken is 680 pesos per kilo; a liter of oil (except for olive oil) should cost 990 pesos; a kilo of milk powder 1,675 pesos; pasta, 835 pesos; sausages 1,075 pesos; and detergent 630 pesos.

“In the formation of the retail prices of these products, economic actors recognize up to thirty percent (30%) of profit margin on costs and expenses, provided that they do not exceed the defined prices,” the text says. It also specified that, if at the time of the regulations go into effect, an establishment has prices lower than the maximum allowed by the State, it “does not imply or justify an increase in the prices of these products,” although there is no prohibition either. continue reading

The measure’s purpose, the document states, is to “contain the price levels of certain products of high impact on the population, through the exemption from the payment of the Customs Tax for their imports and the central establishment of maximum retail prices.” It took center stage at the end of June, when the Government wanted to cap the prices of those six products in private stores.

If at the time of entry into force an establishment has prices lower than the maximum allowed, “it does not imply or justify an increase in the prices.”

The announcement spread like wildfire on independent and local administration networks, and July 1 was given as the date of entry into force. Although nothing had been announced about the tariff exemption, it was one of the demands made by the entrepreneurs in their meeting with the authorities. The confusion meant that most of the products with allegedly capped prices disappeared, at least between Monday and Tuesday of last week, according to 14ymedio.

On Tuesday night, the state press confirmed that the measure had not yet entered into force, but that it would do so sooner rather than later. The Deputy Minister of Finance and Prices, Lourdes Rodríguez, said on Canal Caribe that the decision was made, but they still had to “continue the exchanges with the economic actors, about the realities they face in their import, transport and marketing processes, as well as attend to the opinions of the population.”

Although no specific date was offered, people felt that the rule was imminent. In addition, on Wednesday, an audio of one of the meetings between the official and the private sector was leaked, in which the businesspeople showed their concern about the high cost of acquiring the goods and fuel for transport. The state press pointed out that when the measures became official, they would be published in the Official Gazette to inform the population, which happened on Monday.

Despite the fact that the initial impression given was that prices would be determined in each territory by the local administration, the caps are completely centralized, although the Resolution warns that they will be reviewable.

“The Ministry of Finance and Prices, in coordination with the Ministries of Foreign Trade and Investment and Internal Trade, is responsible for periodically observing the behavior of the import prices of the goods referred to in this Resolution, to determine the corresponding updates in their maximum retail prices and to include other goods,” the text says, highlighting the possible price volatility, with the corresponding uncertainty this may bring.

Imports of chicken from the United States amounted to 23.99 tons, 17.8% more than in April

In Havana, chicken had returned to the stores after two days of being “hidden” because of doubts about the price cap. According to this newspaper, the approximate price per kilo was around 630 pesos, below what it may be from now on.

The information comes on the same day that the data on chicken imports from the United States for the month of May became known, whose volume amounted to 23.99 tons (17.8% more than in April). The increase in the cost of a pound to $1.34, compared to $1.20 the previous month, caused the value to grow by 32%. The figures reflect, according to Cuban economist Pedro Monreal, “the usual oscillating trajectory of monthly exports of chicken meat from the United States to Cuba.”

The expert has observed that between January and June 2024, the purchase volume decreased by 2.6% (106,368.5 tons) compared to the same period of 2023 (111,583), although the cost increased by 15.9%; that is, fewer tons at a higher price in the first five months of 2024. “The instability in U.S. chicken exports to Cuba in a context of an upward trend in the unit value (dollars/ton) could be aggravated due to an eventual decision of fixed caps on profits and prices in Cuba,” the professor warned minutes before the Resolution was made public.

Among the businesspeople, who are afraid of this measure, last week there was a great fear of not being able to come to an agreement with their suppliers. On the street the concern is that the products will go to the black market, where they will be even more expensive. Pending the reaction of the private sector – and while the extension of the measure to state foreign exchange stores is still not announced, despite the discourse of unitary policy “for all economic actors” – the price of the dollar on the black market continues to fall and stands today at 340 pesos. In the words of an entrepreneur – before the exemptions were known – “if you sell dollars, no one here will care anymore.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

If You Want the Rice From the Cuban Ration Book, You Have To Go Unload the Ship

In the absence of stevedores, the authorities summon the population and the Army

The port of Vita currently has only one-third of the staff needed to unload cargo / Ahora!

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 8, 2024 — The Cuban authorities have put the population to work unloading rice from the ships due to the lack of stevedores in the ports. This is recognized in articles in the official press published this Monday, one in Granma and one in Ahora!.

In the port of Nuevitas (Camagüey), where 5,000 tons of rice arrived to be distributed in Ciego de Ávila, Camagüey and Las Tunas, they took workers from various sectors, “young people from the territory” and even soldiers of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR). Although the ship is on time, the unloading must be completed no later than Tuesday.

As he admitted in an interview with the newspaper Granma, Mario Martínez Mora, director of the Puerto de Nuevitas Base Business Unit, “our own force” is “very limited. We currently have one-third of the staff of stevedores. That’s why the support we receive is essential, especially in the unloading and cleaning of the cargo holds.”

The fundamental activity of the territory, at the moment, is the transport of rice

Meanwhile, at the Vita pier, in Holguín, the authorities are using “all means” to unload, as soon as possible, the 2,360 tons of rice that arrived on Friday. A few stevedores and workers from other sectors participate in the chore, brought from the eastern provinces and even from the center of the continue reading

country, to distribute the rice in the province. “The fundamental activity of the territory, at the moment, is the transport of rice,” explained the director of the port, Manuel González Cecilio, to the newspaper Ahora!.

To ensure that the rice is distributed as quickly as possible in Holguín, vehicles and carriers were also mobilized for the work, despite the fact that fuel in the area is scarce. “Vita is 50 kilometers from Holguín; therefore, we must quickly mobilize everyone and have a lot of fuel for the operation, despite its shortage,” said Rosell González Pérez, Transport coordinator of the provincial government.

The Vita authorities anticipate that another ship will arrive on,Tuesday from Santiago de Cuba, with 2,440 more tons of food, presumably rice, in addition to 360 tons of peas. With this second shipment in just a few days, the authorities of Holguín intend to completely cover the rationing system’s family basket of June and a part of that of July.

“The unloading will not stop, regardless of whether it is Saturday or Sunday; for those of us who have this responsibility, the days are all the same. We will not rest until the families of Holguin have rice on their plates,” González Pérez said.

Havana has requested the assistance of its allies, such as China, to solve the rice shortage

The lack of stevedores on the Cuban docks can be explained by the fact that, in the face of low wages, many workers have left the country or simply moved to the private sector, in search of better living conditions.

Havana has requested the assistance of its allies, such as China, to solve the shortage of rice, which is part of the basic Cuban diet. In April, Beijing pledged to send more than 20,000 tons of rice to Cuba throughout the year, mainly by sea. This type of donation, although usual, has not been enough to resolve the demand, although China carried out some shipments by air after receiving an urgent request from Havana.

Another ally that has responded to requests for help from the Government to supply the population with the precious grain is Vietnam, which this year will send 1,640 tons of rice, at a date yet to be specified. The Communist Party of Cuba went ahead and thanked Vietnam in April, after the donation was announced as part of 50 new agreements to strengthen bilateral cooperation in numerous sectors.

In a search carried out by 14ymedio on satellite tracking platforms, such as Vessel Finder and Marine Traffic, it was not possible to determine the origin of the cargo ships that arrived full of rice this weekend in Nuevitas and Vita. For reasons of national security, the Cuban authorities do not publish in their press the details about ship movements, both for oil and for food products, whose massive import tries to alleviate the deficiencies of national production.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuban Ministers Meet to Discuss Measures to Address a ‘War-Time Economy’

The cap on maximum profits for the private sector on sales to state-owned companies comes into force on Monday

Experts point out that price controls have done nothing to help the Cuban economy. / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, Monday, July 1, 2024 — Today, just as a cap on private-sector profits from sales to state-owned companies takes effect, the official communist party newspaper Granma opened with an article devoted to the most recent Council of Ministers meeting. The gathering was called to discuss what were describes as “issues of vital importance,” specifically ways to for stabilize the country’s “war-time” economy. Nothing in the article, however, indicated what measures might have been adopted that would put an end to the country’s inflationary crisis, nor is the meeting even being billed as such.

“Among other measures, a single, inclusive pricing policy will be established that will be applied equally to all areas of the economy, including both state and non-state sectors,” is as specific as the article gets. However, one need only take a quick trip back in time to see the same phrase being used on at least two other occasions. One was in 2020, when it was announced that efforts were being made to create a single, inclusive pricing policy that would apply, in equal measure, to all areas of the economy and that would serve as the core principal for generating products and services.

After Cuba abandoned its dual currency system and adopted a single currency in 2021, the same idea was trotted out again during a similar meeting. At that time, Prime Minister Manuel Marrero stated, “An update of Cuba’s pricing policy, which was intended to be a single, inclusive policy, equally applicable to all areas of the economy, was one of the ongoing priorities of the Ministry of Finance and Prices.” continue reading

Four years later, the announcement remains the same even though the economy is now even further underwater

Four years later, the announcement remains the same even though the economy is now even further underwater. President Miguel Díaz-Canel pointed to delayed deliveries of essential rationed goods, the instability of the National Electrical System and excessive inflation as being among the worst repercussions of the crisis. In his opinion, however, these are “not always a the result of supply and demand but something of a totally speculative nature.” In any case, his claim cannot be proven since supply and demand — to say nothing of economic productivity — are not features of the country’s economy, which Cuban authorities have themselves acknowledged and for which the National Office of Statistics and Information has provided ample documented evidence.

The prime minister, who attributed much of the problem to bureaucracy and insufficient oversight, called for implementing measures the government has designed to address the issue. Nothing is known, however, about what macroeconomic stabilization package the government might have prepared and few people believe one actually exists.

Mildrey Granadillo de la Torre, first deputy-minister of Economy and Planning, said there is a set of measures intended to “correct macroeconomic imbalances, increase the country’s foreign exchange earnings by different ways and means, encourage domestic production (with an emphasis on food production) and regulate the operations of non-state forms of management,” a euphemism the regime uses when referring to the private sector.

One of these measures, in fact, takes effect today. It limits profits from purchases by the state sector from the “non-state” sector for products and services. It also is intended to “promote partnerships and not cede productive capacity [to the private sector].” In the meeting, Díaz-Canel urged local administrators to continue making purchases from private companies based on the particular needs of their regions but “in an efficient manner,” noting that he believed the state was making “excessive payments” to itself.

During his frequent tours though the country’s provinces, the president has claimed that he always finds examples that indicate things can be done well, adding, “Let each of them multiply, with the conviction that all of us are here to save the Revolution and to save socialism.” Díaz-Canel, who always arranges a visit to a successful producer or businessman, does not seem to have noticed, however, that these cases are the exception, not the rule, and are generally due to privileges granted these operations by the state.

“Let each of them multiply, with the conviction that all of us are here to save the Revolution and to save socialism”

Attendees at the meeting discussed the next national budget, which is already being drafted even as the current one is being urgently revised to address “war-time economic conditions.” This phrase simply confirms the dire state of the economy which, rather than recovering from the damage caused by the pandemic, continues to worsen. The minister of Economy and Planning, Joaquín Alonso Vázquez, said in 2023 that there had been “a decline compared to the previous year and to the estimate for the first half of 2024.”

Exports targets for of biopharmaceuticals, processed tobacco, charcoal, lobster, eel and other fishing products were met, but neither nickel, nor honey nor raw tobacco met quarterly forecasts. Income from overseas medical services and tourism also improved, though the latter was below expectations. On the other hand, income from telecommunications fell.

“Rather than focusing on what happened in the first six months, it would be better to identify the causes in order to determine what we should do in the second half of the year,” said Vázquez.

There was no data on the fiscal deficit though one can assume the worst since there were warnings that the first quarter figures would be high.

“Taking into account that the economy needs more resources than it generates, the broad objectives were set” with the the usual good intentions, which has never produced good results.

14ymedio found only a few instances in Cienfuegos where inspectors visited private businesses to tell them that they had to limit their prices

Meanwhile, there are growing rumors on social media about small and medium sized businesses being hit with price controls. Upon further investigation in several provinces, 14ymedio found only a few instances in Cienfuegos where inspectors visited private businesses to tell them that they had to limit their prices if they wanted to avoid being fined. So far, officials have not commented on the matter.

On Sunday, economist Pedro Monreal commented on the price lists circulating online. “I am not disclosing them because I am not sure the they are reliable but they are figures that the government should be reporting,” he wrote. “The measure is a repeat of the same mistake the Ministry of Finance and Prices made. It relies on a flawed methodology to determine prices at the local and national level. It is an attempt to impose a predetermined profit that fails to take into account the actual relationship between supply and demand,” he points out. “If Cuba’s experience with price caps has taught us anything, it is that they do not work well. The ’contained prices’ we see in official reports are a form of ’repressed inflation’ that shows up in the form of shortages and black market prices.”

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

Havana’s Famous Sloppy Joe’s Bar Falls Victim to Government Apathy

The situation is unsustainable in a place that Gómez Fariñas describes as “iconic, recognized in the world” / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez/Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 6 July 2024 — Sloppy Joe’s Bar, an alcoholic refuge for the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Errol Flynn, used to be one of the culinary temples of Havana but has fallen victim to state apathy. A shortage of bread and other products is impacting its quality of service and the only ones finding anything to eat there are termites, gnawing away at its famous dark wood bar.

On Wednesday, state media finally took note of its decline. Silvia Gómez Fariñas, who writes an unlikely recipe column for Cubadebate, bemoaned the lack of bread there during a recent visit when she was hoping to impress “some Spaniards” who had accompanied her. A 14ymedio staff writer — an avid follower of Gómez Fariñas — immediately decided to pay a visit to Sloppy Joe’s, located just a stone’s throw from Old Havana’s Central Park.

Gómez Fariñas admitted that she did appreciate the politeness of the staff as well as the roast pork finger-sandwiches. “So far, so good,” she noted, but the happy feeling “did not last long.” Things started going downhill when she was unable to order anything from the “selection of ’bocaditos’ and sandwiches,” all around 500 pesos. When she asked why, she was told bluntly, “We’re out of bread!” continue reading

Sadly, the term “sloppy” is an apt description for the bar’s bathrooms / 14ymedio

Reporters from this publication had better luck than Gómez Fariñas. On Wednesday morning, they were able to order items from the menu that included bread but were warned that, within a few minutes, it would be sold out. The accompanying beverage was an imported Turkish orange juice with a high proportion of artificial ingredients.

The situation at a place that Gómez Fariñas describes as “iconic” and “known the world over” is unsustainable. The government, she says, is “letting it go to pieces ” and wonders if they are doing it on purpose. Of one thing she is certain: private owners would never let this happen.

Prohibition in the U.S, which lasted from 1920 until 1933, forced many famous drinkers — most notably Ernest Hemingway — to look for a bar where they could enjoy a mojito and a Cuban cigar. The place became even more famous after the release of the 1959 British film “Our Man in Havana.” Fidel Castro appropriated Sloppy Joe’s a year later and its celebrated clientele never returned. The establishment, which was founded in 1917 by a Spanish immigrant, José “Joe”García, has a twin in a nearly perfect condition in Key West, Florida

The display cases, which once provided an escape from the restrictions of Prohibition, now only hold bottles of Havana Club rum / 14ymedio

In those days, Sloppy Joe’s offered a bun topped with minced beef that became famous in Havana and that Gómez Fariñas, understandably, misses. “Those who visited before 1959 say that it was like ’ropa vieja’ but very finely minced, a ’picadillo’ that was made with a knife,” a technique similar to the one used to make steak tartare.

The 14ymedio reporters had to settle for a “bodega” bread with tuna, at 400 pesos, which came to the table without any cutlery and had been topped which a thick layer of oil. Notable also was the repetitious selection of alcoholic beverages. The display cases, which once provided an escape from the restrictions of Prohibition, now only hold bottles of Havana Club rum.

Customers are grateful that Sloppy Joe’s has kept the air-conditioning on, though it operates only intermittently, part of the “war-time economy” measures the government has implemented. The display cases hold photos of better times and the listless waiters try to remain seated as long as they possibly can.

The food menu includes sandwiches that cost between 350 and 500 Cuban pesos / 14ymedio

Under the tables, a squadron of mosquitoes goes about its business. Only moving to a table in a better lit area, or one nearer the street, mitigates the risk of contracting Oropouche or dengue fever, both of which are on the rise in Havana. Without insecticides or the means to combat the swarm, employees shrug their shoulders and make the table swap as smooth as they can.

Unfortunately, the bar’s bathrooms do sad justice to the English word “sloppy,” a synonym for untidy, careless or disheveled. There is a hole in the ceiling, a non-functioning urinal, the usual absence of paper, and toilets in poor condition.

No one – not even Gómez Fariñas – seems to care about the bar’s most serious and silent threat: termites. The grooves left behind by the insects as they devour the establishment’s wood are visible under the glass and old advertising signs for Heinz ketchup, Bauzá tobacco, various brands of liquor and products of all kinds. They evoke a past that Sloppy Joe’s, which Eusebio Real had restored in 2017, will never see again.

One customer, who stops briefly at the bar on his way out, offers his assessment: “Lots of reminders of capitalism but no actual capitalism.”

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

Carlos Espinosa, An Essential Look at Cuba

I want to think that death surprised him while he was reading, with his eyes shining when he found some clue, some lost piece in the puzzle of our culture

Cuban intellectual Carlos Espinosa passed away this Saturday in Madrid at the age of 74 / Facebook

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 8 July 2024 — In one of the presentations of the play Jacuzzi [written by the author of this article] in Madrid, someone from the group came running to the dressing room with the news that Carlos Espinosa Domínguez was in the audience. If there had been a nerveometer to measure the ensuing panic, it would have broken instantly. But not because of the fear that fierce critics provoked; we already knew that Carlos was very elegant when it came to giving a professional opinion, even if it was negative. What triggered our anxiety was the privilege of acting before one of the most authoritative voices of Cuban theater, whose name was synonymous with rigor, wisdom and excellence.

At the end of the show, the actors approached me: “Did you see him? Did he tell you anything about the play?” Nothing, I answered them. And we all felt low, and neither the audience’s applause nor the congratulations could raise our spirits. Nobody confessed it that night, but each of us went home with the terrible feeling that he didn’t like the play.

However, the next day, I received a call. On the other side of the phone, a soft and slow voice said good morning to me. It was Carlos. He had gotten my number through a mutual friend and wanted us to know that he had been deeply excited about Jacuzzi. He apologized for leaving the theater in such a hurry, but he had to return to Aranjuez, almost 50 kilometers from Madrid. After that he didn’t write just one, he wrote two articles for Cubaencuentro about the show. The second carried a title where it positioned itself without hesitation: The dream of a free and inclusive Cuba*. continue reading

Since that day we haven’t stopped talking. He wanted to know everything. He wondered with a child’s curiosity about details that I hadn’t even noticed myself

Since that day we haven’t stopped talking. He wanted to know everything. He wondered with a child’s curiosity about details that I hadn’t even noticed myself. I went to see his apartment in Aranjuez, a retreat where he avoided any distraction that would take him away from what was important: to investigate, rummage through the bowels of Cuban culture until he found what they call soul. I was surprised how up-to-date he was, especially about what was happening in Cuba. We conspired. We confessed terrible experiences suffered on that Island, but we did it more with hope than remorse. He himself proposed to me the publication of a volume of five of my works for the Verbum Publishing House. And that was his penultimate job.

This Saturday, when I left the flamenco show where I earn my bread, Maestro Carlos Celdrán called me to give me the news of his death. Another friend of his, the journalist Carlos Cabrera, also called to share his pain. I couldn’t believe it. I called him immediately and his cell phone was busy. It seemed like one of those hoaxes, Chomsky-style, but on the networks there were publications from serious colleagues who also talked about his death. The rest of the times I insisted on calling, a long ringing with no answer confirmed the worst.

I learned later, from an article by Carlos Cabrera, that a neighbor of his warned the firefighters, surprised because Espinosa did not respond to his calls. He lived alone, with that loneliness of the alchemist whose research has become a sacrament. I know that his last work, Así Siempre los Tiranos [Thus Always Tyrants], had become an obsession that required him to stretch every minute. And anyone who knows the size of his work, knows that Carlos was like those men of other centuries who make you wonder how the hell they could write so much. That’s why I don’t want to think about the sadness of his solitude but about the freedom that the word also implies.

I want to think that death surprised him while reading, with his eyes shining when he found some clue, some lost piece in the puzzle of our culture or our history, if they are different things. I want to remember him with his shy smile, despite the daring of his writing. I want to stay with his absence of anger, which did not imply any absence of character. Carlos Espinosa was, like few others, a man with judgment, but his opinions about the political situation in Cuba went beyond the immediate. They were much more comprehensive and profound.

I am not at all surprised by the silence of some institutions in Cuba to which he contributed a lot, nor the silence of some of his colleagues. There remains his work, tremendously immense.

I didn’t want to refer to Espinosa’s biography in this article. Other voices, more authoritative than mine, have already written excellent obituaries. Also on the networks, several artists and intellectuals have expressed deep sorrow at his loss. I am not at all surprised by the silence of some institutions in Cuba to which he contributed a lot, nor the silence of some of his colleagues. There remains his work, tremendously immense, which speaks more than anything else.

My main reason for this article is to be able to say goodbye, as if he could read it. In his last message he scolded me big time for taking so long to answer his calls. I didn’t have time to talk to him about my telephone phobia. I couldn’t thank him enough for his effort to bring out a book that we couldn’t present together. I didn’t get to tell him in the most sincere way how much I owed him, how much we owed him. Carlos knew how to look at Cuba as you look at the things you love. And his look – time will be in charge of confirming it – has been an essential look.

Translator’s note: The review closes with this: On his Facebook account, Carlos Celdrán, National Theatre Award winner, wrote: “Since I saw it, some time ago, in Havana, I assumed that Jacuzzi , by Yunior García, was a tremendous, sincere, unusual, highly accomplished work. Last night, and this time in Madrid, Jacuzzi has shaken me again. Not only me, but the entire audience that filled the room and gave a standing ovation, moved at the end of this performance that, I can assure you, has been a high point, very high, in Yunior’s theatre. The show crossed time, distances, the accumulated pain of these last years to arrive purified, whole and leave us with what only the theatre with its stripping down can achieve.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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