Film Considered Disrespectful of Jose Marti Rejected By Cuban Film Institute

Cuban filmmaker Yimit Ramírez partially financed his film “I Want to Make a Movie” through crowdfunding. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 14 March 2018 — The movie “I Want to Make a Film,”  by filmmaker Yimit Ramírez, was excluded from the Special Presentation section of the Young Filmmaker’s Exhibition by officials of the Cuban Institute of Art and Film Industry (ICAIC), who said that the dialog during a scene of his trial was not very respectful of José Martí, who “is sacred.”

The scene that has generated discomfort among the censors has been published by Marta María Ramírez. In it, one of the characters declares himself to not be a follower of Martí and describes the Cuban hero as a “mojón” and “maricón” (turd and faggot).

The film was to be screened at the 23rd and 12th Cinema in Havana on 3 April, in the Special Presentation Section, followed by a discussion between the artists and the public.

However, the initial program, designed by the exhibition team, was not approved by the ICAIC authorities, which excluded the film from the section and moved its projection to the small Terence Piard Room, recently inaugurated in ICAIC’s headquarters in 23rd Street, in Vedado.

The idea of projecting the film came from the Exhibition itself, but two weeks after the invitation, its developers knew that the ICAIC officials had to “give the go-ahead” to the film before projecting it in one of the rooms.

“It fell to me to talk to Octavio Fraga Guerra, an official I have known for a long time and who, armed with flash memory, demanded that I copy the film so that he could watch it with the president of ICAIC,” Ramírez explains in a post he shared on his Facebook account.

The post also states that his lack of trust in giving ICAIC a copy of the film on a flash memory came mostly from fear that the film would be “leaked as has happened with other works of Cuban filmmakers” that have been entrusted to that institution. Despite his resistance, the official warned him: “If you don’t give me a copy, if won’t be shown.”

After repeatedly telling him that he would take responsibility if the copy was leaked Ramirez agreed. Three hours later his response was that the film would not be screened in the planned section because the official “had not liked a phrase from the film,” while Fraga Guerra clarified that the ICAIC director had not yet seen it.

“I Want to Make a Film” is the first feature film by Ramírez, who finished it with an 8,000 euros budget obtained through a crowdfunding campaign. The journalist Marta María Ramírez, who designed the communication strategy for the campaign on the Internet, explained to this newspaper that the new screening room “has only 24 seats” and is “small” for the planned showing.

Ramírez explains that the filmmakers “have made tremendous noise with that film and created many expectations” and that it makes no sense to hold a screening where there is only enough space for the team that made the film to attend. “The interesting thing would have been to open a debate with the public,” he says.

“We were asking that it not be a premier because it is a first cut and not the finished film, we wanted to connect with people and talk about other forms of financing, such as crowdfunding, which we don’t know a lot about because we don’t have the internet connection we need,” he says.

The organizers of the show insisted the institution include the film in the planned section with a showing in the 23rd and 12th Cinema, but Roberto Smith de Castro, director of ICAIC, responded categorically that “Martí is sacred” and that the alternative if they wanted to show the film was the Terence Piard Room.

The team putting on the exhibition disagreed in a note posted on their Facebook account, where they said that the decision was made under criteria that they do not share and described as “totally inappropriate” the option to exhibit it in another room.

The outstanding filmmaker Fernando Perez resigned his position as director of the Exhibition in 2010 after a similar maneuver by the ICAIC, when they excluded the documentary made by the filmmaker Ricardo Figueredo about rapper Raudel Collazo, from Escuadrón Patriota. “Not being able to demonstrate in practice the inclusive coherence that I have planned for the Exhibition, I have made the personal decision not to continue at the front of it,” said the director.

Yimit Ramírez, director of the film, is not surprised about what happened and says he expected it. “We did not count on them to make the movie, and we did it, completely independently. It would be nice to see it in the cinemas, but the truth… The truth is that they control only the movie theaters here, there are many other formats in which people can see it.”

In addition, the director has praised the figure of a José Martí that he considers more real than the one promoted by the institutions. “The Martí I love is more human, some like it and others do not, it’s that simple, like the verses,” he said, referring to José Martí’s poetry collection titled “Simple Verses.”

The film team told 14ymedio that the production company will present the film to all competitions in Cuba wherever they are, including the Havana Film Festival, the Nuevitas Hieroscopia Festival and the Almacén de la Imagen  in Camagüey. “Otherwise we will give it away and project it where we can. It’s the price of independence.”

Film critic Dean Luis Reyes expressed his solidarity with the film’s team: “Martí will be a God for some people, but art has to do with doubt, religion is about something else.”


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

What Will Happen in Cuba on April 19, 2018?

The current Cuban president, Raúl Castro, accompanied by his political dauphin, Miguel Díaz-Canel, during an event in the national Parliament. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Dagoberto Valdes, Pinar del Rio, 20 March 2018 — Just one month until April 19, 2018, the date chosen to end the mandate ofRaúl Castro, President of the Council of State and Ministers, many Cubans and friends of Cuba are asking ourselves what will happen in just 31 days. Nobody, not even the ones who are at the highest levels of power at this unprecedented moment, can know exactly what will happen, but predictions and expectations abound.

On the one hand, there are those who say that nothing is going to change and that everything will remain the same in an endless succession. In my opinion, the terms “nothing” and “everything” in politics, as in many other things, do not reflect the reality that is always changing. And this historical evolution in the waters of the river, always the same and always different, can not be stopped completely, even if the will and intentions are immobilized. Otherwise history would have stopped with each of the totalitarianisms, authoritarianisms or dictatorships and it has not happened that way.

On the other hand, there are those who say that everything is going to change in a single moment and they try to avoid a succession occurring within the same group of power. In my opinion, the same logic can be applied to this scenario. One of the most false myths of the political reality is that “everything” can change, the day that “everyone” goes out to make it happen and it would happen in “one” moment. Not even the most radical revolutions have happened like this. They come on by a telluric and deaf current. And they continue with many reminiscences and legacies of the old regime surviving after the change.

One month from this date, I will try to give my personal opinion, based not on assumptions or wishes, but on these facts:

  1. It is the first time in 60 years that we Cubans are asking ourselves what will be the name of the person who will become the representative of the State and the Government.
  2. It is the first time in 60 years that the positions of Head of State and Government and First Secretary of the Single Party will be divided between two individuals.
  3. It is the first time in 60 years that a civilian who has never been a military man will take over the leadership of the State and the Government, while a military man will continue, for three years, as the head of the Party.
  4. It is the first time in 60 years that the Head of State and Government will have a different surname and almost all foreign regulations with regards to relationships to Cuba, specifically reference “while” that surname remains in power.
  5. It is the first time in 60 years that the so-called “historical” generation, that is, the one that made the revolution, accepts a generational change by force majeure.

With all the respect that all the opinions deserve, I consider that these five realities alone are already, in themselves, a substantial change, although the discourse that we will listen to on the 19th, and the following days, will be one of total fidelity and continuity. These attitudes and totalitarian options have not given the expected results in the vast majority of cases, because they are disconnected from the reality in which people live.

Other comments that we hear in the public debate “on the streets” include:

  • Well, we’ve been waiting for 60 years and nothing has changed substantially.
  • All this change of position is true, but the person who comes will be a “puppet” and with the real power “behind” them.
  • The one “behind” will follow the “civic-military” power formed by the triad: Party-Army-Ministry of the Interior.
  • “Something” will have to change because the current “crisis” is simply unsustainable.
  • I think that:
  • To pass from “everything” has to change, to “something” has to change, is another reasonable change.
  • I wonder: If those who today can follow the “front,” what is the point of going “behind”?
  • How long can the people of the nation and the interlocutors of the international community wait to confirm that the person who has occupied the post of Head of State is a “symbolic” president?
  • How long can there be a president who is “symbolic,” assuming and signing, without responsibility or legitimacy, the difficult and traumatic reformist laws as, for example, the elimination of the so-called “double currency” or the closure or tender of unprofitable state companies?
  • In today’s real world, the “correlation of forces” in international relations has changed in a decisive way.
  • Governments and blocs are waiting for this generational change with very high expectations and proposals that should not be disregarded.
  • The subsidies of countries that were available to sustain the disaster of the Cuban economic model do not exist anymore.

That the people of the nation have expectations after April 19 in the midst of so much existential anxiety is very good and I will not be the one to kill those hopes, because although it is true that “high expectations equal great frustrations,” it is also true that Change has been possible if there had not been growing aspirations and “last” hopes.

That the international community has expectations and has postponed, until after April 19, its best positions for the Cuban people, waiting for structural changes, is very good and I am in favor of that, always. The advance of the conscience of the peoples reflected in free and democratic elections, gives me back the certainty that changes are possible, even if they are a reaction to the disastrous economic, social and above all anthropological results of the so-called “socialism of the 21st century.”

I think that after April 19, 2018 that underground river that has already been resurgent that prepare and condition a new stage in Cuba will continue.

I believe that after April 19, 2018, gradually and slowly, orderly and gradual transformations will occur that – if a violent rupture does not occur in the heights because in the lowlands it is impossible, God does not want either of the two scenarios – they will lead to a peaceful and growing transition as long as the “historical” generation can conclude its life cycle in a natural way. This has happened in many sister countries, why should Cuba have to be worse?

I believe that a healthy dialectical tension between order-continuity and changes-renewal, without excesses or shrillness, could be the effective engine to lead Cuba towards truly new times. At the end of the day, all the successful transitions for its people have been balancing in difficult equilibrium, “as on the razor’s edge” and therefore all the sane protagonists, have had to demand and give, in a give and take, with audacity and courage, serenity and patience, tolerance and firmness, all avoiding greater evils of violence and exclusions, avoiding tightening repressions and disorders that increase fear. And fear is always, by repression or turbulence, a bad companion along the way. The climate that we breathe and the life that we lead today, under a growing suffocating repression, does not lead anywhere, or perhaps it does: to a situation of excesses that, by getting out of hand, leads to violence and death. That must stop, for the good of Cuba.

I ask God, and the Virgin of Charity, our mother Cachita, the mambisa virgin, the protector of all Cubans, that Cuba can undertake and continue, from 19 April, its long and winding road to freedom, pluralism, inclusion and democracy.

I ask that the protagonists, all of them, above and below, who know that today is unsustainable, open their doors to citizen sovereignty, protect national sovereignty, maintain order and the gradualness of changes, avoiding all violence, repression and any exclusion between Cubans and Cubans which, I remind us, we all are.

And I am sure that Cuba will give the world an example of an orderly peaceful transition, without a single victim of any of the parties and with the contribution of all parties. Thus, we will be faithful to our best historical, cultural and ethical roots. That is what Varela and Martí wanted.

Dagoberto Valdés is director of the Centro de Estudios Convivencia (Coexistence Study Center), a Cuban think tank based in Pinar del Río. This article has previously been published in the magazine Coexistence and we reproduce it with the authorization of the author. 


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuba Opens First Wholesale Market, For Private Cooperatives Only

Last August, the issuing of licenses to private restaurants and tourist rental businesses was temporarily halted. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Havana, 18 March 2018 — Mercabal, the first wholesale market in Cuba, opened its doors in Havana, initially intended only for non-agricultural private cooperatives but with the promise of extending it to the other self-employed workers of the Island, the official newspaper Granma reports on the front page.

The facility already has 35 customers, who have access to a discount of 20% off the retail price on products such as beans, cigars, soft drinks, beers, sugar, salt, jams, hamburgers and sausages, which are in high demand in private sector restaurants, coffee shops and bars.

Chicken, one of the most consumed foods, will be reduced by up to 30% compared to its price in the retail network, says Granma, which acknowledges that the Cuban government is responding to “one of the most repeated demands of those who exercise the new non-state forms of management in the country.”

“To the extent that conditions permit, this experience will be extended to the self-employed in units leased” to the State, explained the Minister of Domestic Trade, Mary Blanca Ortega.

For now available only in the capital city, the next wholesale markets will open “gradually” in the rest of the island, “once this initial proposal is in optimal operation and depending on the places where more self-employment exist,” said the article.

In Cuba today there are more than half a million private or “self-employed” workers, who are engaged in categories of work permitted by the Cuban Government.

More than 12,000 are members of non-agricultural cooperatives, which already number about 420 throughout the country, the vast majority of them dedicated to food services, commerce, other services, construction and industry.

Located in the Havana municipality of Plaza of the Revolucion, Mercabal will open from Monday to Saturday with products from ten direct suppliers, which will replenish the market according to the customers’ monthly orders.

In order to use the services of the new market, the self-employed person must have updated their client file and have an account with a magnetic card, issued by the state-owned Banco Metropolitano.

The 2010 expansion of private work — which includes non-agricultural cooperatives — has been one of the key reforms of the government of the outgoing Cuban leader Raul Castro to update the socialist model and reduce the overlarge workforce of the state sector.

As of last August, the Island began a process of reordering “cuentapropismo” (self-employment), as a part of which the issuing of licenses to private restaurants and tourist rentals, among other activities, has been temporarily halted to curb illegalities, “deviations” and “correct deficiencies.”

The licenses no longer being issued are precisely those in most demand among the would-be self-employed.

Although it promised that the new measure would not be in effect “for a very long period of time,” the Cuban government has not yet resumed the delivery of licenses to Cuba’s self-employed, who already represent 12% of the country’s labor force.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Future Questionable / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 20 March 2018 — Today the economic theory of poverty and wealth of countries is fashionable, depending on whether they have “exclusive” or “inclusive” institutions. Its authors, Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, thoroughly explore it in their book “Why Nations Fail.”

Consistent with this, as long as there is a government in Cuba with “exclusive” institutions, defenders of the one-party system, that reject citizens’ initiative and private property, prohibit the creation of wealth and discourage investment for development, we will remain in the vicious circle of poverty. To speak of an “efficient, prosperous and sustainable socialism” constitutes a fallacy.

For a nation to be efficient, prosperous and sustainable, “inclusive” institutions are needed, which promote the citizens’ initiative, ensure political and economic freedoms and do not punish the creation of wealth, but, on the contrary, stimulate it.

Until now, the “Cuban scheme,” centralized, dogmatic, exclusive and obsolete, has proved convincingly to be a sovereign failure. In sixty years of the exercise of absolute power, they have not been able to come up with a real solution to any of the great economic, political and social problems.

All their efforts have been concentrated on maintaining an iron grip on the citizens, assuring the collapse of the Nation. Today Cuba is among the poorest nations in the world, with most of its citizens having annual incomes of well under one thousand dollars, since the monthly average wage does not exceed twenty dollars.

They try to hide this widespread poverty by means of the propaganda of supposed free systems of health and modern and efficient education, when in fact both services are of bad quality and, in last instance, are financed by what is not paid to Cubans for their work, given their miserable wages.

These economic and social anomalies, unchanged for six decades, due to the existence of “exclusive” institutions, have led to labor unrest, widespread unproductivity, galloping corruption, social indiscipline, loss of moral and citizen values, violence and the irrepressible exodus of the population, mainly of the youngest.

The authorities, exhausted physically and politically, are unable to propose a courageous and decent exit, insisting, with the sole objective of maintaining power, in their obsolete arguments about “the defense of the independence and sovereignty of the Fatherland,” and manipulating the better feelings of the new generations, urging them to defend the indefensible and to swear unconditional loyalty to those who have always been unconditionally disloyal to the Nation, because, instead of serving it, they have dedicated themselves to living off of it.

Neither the recent electoral farce, nor the battered so-called “guidelines,” nor the absurd plans out to the year 2030, which is written and spoken about daily in the official media, will solve any problem: they constitute simple “soap bubbles” to continue trying to entertain the unwary and ensure a few more years of exercise of absolute power.

"With Obama There Was Hope in Cuba, But That’s Over"

Marta Elisa Deus, raised in Spain, made the decision to return to the island in 2013 to set up an accounting business (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Pentón, 20 March 2018 —  Marta Elisa Deus is only 30 years old and has started three businesses in Cuba. This young Havanan, who lived in Spain for more than a decade, returned to the island “all fired up” to innovate and revolutionize the business world, taking advantage of the timid reforms undertaken by Raúl Castro in 2011 to open the economy to private capital.

Deus’s main concerns now are the pause in the granting of self-employment licenses and the worsening of the business environment for the self-employed on the Island, but she is not giving up in her attempt to help create a community of small entrepreneurs that stimulates the national economy. continue reading

“I always wanted to go back to Cuba and do some work there,” she tells 14ymedio on a recent trip to Miami. In 2013 she made the decision to return to the Island to set up an accounting business. “I talked to a good friend, Irina García, who is a lawyer, and we started the business under the license for bookkeepers, or, and it’s the same thing, accountants,” she says.

The opening to the private sector and the announcement of the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba, which faced off for more than five decades, made her think that the thaw in relations between the countries was irreversible. Cuba became fashionable and an avalanche of tourists flooded the streets, which opened up endless business possibilities.

“At the beginning it was very difficult because in Cuba there was no culture of keeping account books, people opened paladares (private restaurants) and lodging houses, but not accountant offices,” she says. During her company’s start-up they did many jobs for free to make customers see the importance of their function. Deus Accountants, the company she created, became over time a key business for those who keep business accounts in Cuba and today has a team of five employees and more than 20 collaborators.

Self-Employed in Cuba. 22,000 AirBNB accommodations. 560,000 lodging establishments. $40 million dollars. 400 cooperatives. Growth in Self-employment.

Deus remembers that initial time with fondness, especially the dream awakened among entrepreneurs by the thaw. “During  the Obama era in Cuba there was hope, but that’s over,” she says.

Barack Obama visited the island in March 2016, marking a milestone in the history of relations between both countries. The American president met with entrepreneurs and promised support to empower the Cuban people, something that annoyed the Plaza of the Revolution. For Deus, Obama’s visit marked a before and after in the way in which the government viewed self-employment.

“After Obama’s visit, everything changed, and the way the official press referred to the self-employed was no longer positive. Among entrepreneurs there began to be an atmosphere of uncertainty, because nobody was clear about where the reforms were going and what they were doing and they feared for their business,” explains Deus.

In August 2017 the Government announced the freezing of the granting of licenses for more than 20 self-employment activities, of the 200 that existed. Although officials said it was a pause to “perfect and consolidate” small businesses, many fear that it is a turnaround.

Marino Murillo, the former minister of economy who is in charge of the reform process (which the government calls ‘guidelines’), said that more errors had been generated than virtues when tackling the changes. Murillo announced that they would eliminate the ability to have more than one license to perform self-employment, that the permits would only allow work within the province in which they are requested, and that the approved activities would be reduced, from 201 to 122 .

 “I worry that you can only have a license for one activity,” says Deus, who discovered in the mismanagement of Correos de Cuba (Cuban Postal Service) a niche market and created, under the license for messenger services, Mandao Express, a small company whose business is sending documents and parcels instantly. “When you have your own business, you make an effort to move it forward, and on December 31 I myself delivered food until nine o’clock at night,” she explains.

“Mandao Express was a necessity, and many times we wanted to send the documents we processed to our clients and we did not have anyone to do it for us, so as of 2016 we do it with our own company,” she explains.

“I think the State does not see self-employment as we see it, as something positive, which is good for the country,” she says. From her point of view, the law should be more proactive and instead of limiting the exercise of entrepreneurship to the currently defined 122 licenses, establish a structure for each entrepreneur to create a business where she discovers a need.

For Deus, the Cuban state would have had to invest millions in creating the more than 550,000 jobs that self-employed workers have created with practically no support. The businesswoman also points out that the contribution of this sector to the national economy is vital. In municipalities such as Trinidad, the contribution of the private sector to the treasury exceeds that of state companies.

“I would love to see self-employment as a real option so that our young people do not have to emigrate in search of opportunities, for there to be wholesale markets so we can avoid the black market, with laws for small and medium enterprises that recognize us as entities and not as ’natural persons’,” she says.

An assiduous reader of the weekly magazines The Economist and Forbes, Deus realized that in Cuba there was not enough literature dedicated to business. That’s why she decided to create Negolution, a Cuban digital magazine focused on that sector.

Negolution came up at the end of 2016. We combine the words evolution, revolution, solution, with negocios (businesses), and that’s how the name was born. In each issue, we publish inspiring stories of small businesses on the island and give advice so that entrepreneurs can move forward with their business,” says Deus.

Negolution is distributed through the weekly packet. Deus says that on the website the latest edition has had more than 15,000 downloads.

“We received a lot of feedback from our readers, and our mail is always full of messages of support and collaboration,” says Deus, who is proud that her magazine’s digital portal was designed as a free gift from one of the readers.

Deus and Oniel Díaz, another entrepreneur from the island, sent a letter to the authorities expressing their concern about the situation of self-employment on the island. Officials from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security responded to the letter with a meeting in which they discussed issues such as the commercial import permit, the need to maintain spaces for dialogue, and wholesale markets. The authorities assured Deus that the freezing of licenses was a “temporary” thing.

Despite the dialogue with the authorities, Deus believes that self-employment on the island is looked on badly by the authorities.

“There was a group of people who were doing a lot of work in tourism and that has fallen off,” she says. The setback in the reestablishment of relations with the United States has meant the loss of thousands of tourists who were arriving from that country, a strong blow for those renting rooms and houses to tourists and to the paladares, the most lucrative activities within the private sector.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuba: Avoiding Reality / Iván García

From the Central Havana Scenes series, produced in January 2018 by the photo reporter Juan Suarez for Havana Times.

Ivan Garcia, 9 March 2018 — From the loudspeaker of a hot filthy state-owned bar in Diez de Octubre, a thirty minute drive from central Havana, Micha’s voice is blaring out — he sings reggaeton like a dock worker.

“Twist round tight on your toes,” Micha sings. A couple of mulatas with fat stomachs, with their faces stuck in the plastic cups of cheap beer in their hands, move their hips to the rhythm, up close to a fat guy blinged up with chains round his neck. continue reading

They are pissed. Like almost everybody in the windowless stinking bar which seems like a sauna at midday. It’s a working day. But the bar is packed, and, in between shouting and swearing, the regulars discuss the Caribbean Series and Alazanes de Granma getting knocked out. Or talk about under-the-counter business. Or women. Or nothing. And they down one beer after another in the wretched bar in Havana.

Please, don’t discuss politics here. These people have had enough of it. They reply with slogans, like “there is nobody who will fix it, and no-one who will end it.” They take it as read that Fidel Castro’s revolution will last 100 years — at the very least.

“I’m outa here”, says Eduardo. “Plumber in a team with the Havana Water Company”, he repeats with emphasis. When I can, I pinch stopcocks to sell later to a private guy who has a licence to sell plumbing things. Half of the money, 200 or 300 pesos, I spend on food to take home. The rest of it is for drink or cheap prostitutes. Nothing left after that, dude. If you don’t chill out, the system drives you mad,” he adds, while he buys a round of beers, and casts a lecherous eye over the mulatas dancing one reggaeton after another, as if they were dolls on a string.

“They’re happy. When they give you the eye, a hundred cañitas (refers to coins, not drinks in this context), and they all gather round”, the plumber says, as if he’s teaching me something. He looks at the clock and adds, “And if not, you go off with another one. After three in the afternoon, they close in on the guys with no bread and for ten cuc you can have sex both ways”.

The best description for these groups of Cubans who are trying to get away from everything, from misery, from a nothing future, and from the revolutionary chanting (although they make out they are not political), was given by Carlos Manuel Álvarez, probably the best Cuban writer nowadays: he called them the tribe.

There are tribes located on the bottom rung of the poverty ladder. The people who rummage around in the refuse. The crazy street people. The homeless tramps. The incurable alcoholics. The people who touch themselves up in public. The cheap night-time prostitutes. Or the indifferent people who always ask what’s available at the convenience store or the butcher’s, but look vacant when you ask them about anything to do with politics.

These people have switched off. Floating. They survive watching soap operas, dancing reggaeton and boozing. In private, they complain. But, when they are in front of a foreign reporter’s camara, they pretend to talk about other stuff. And, they go and vote, so as to not stick out, and join in the Primero de Mayo processions, because “it’s party time”.

Two kilometers away from the dirty state-owned bar where Eduardo is hoping to make out with a local prostitute, there is an elegant and expensive air-conditioned private bar called Melao, where a Cristal beer costs 2.50 cuc, and a caipirinha made with cane sets you back 5 cuc. In the bar, various girls quietly alert the barman, who yawns if someone comes in, and they flirt with any customer who walks by.

It’s a different tribe to the other one, because it has a slightly better life style and culture than the poor people drinking state beer or cheap rum in the state bars. In this tribe,

you meet football specialists (Florentino, if you are looking for a substitute for Zidane, take a look around Havana). Guys with fitted shirts, tight pants, hairdos with too much gel, and shiny pointed shoes, who closely analyse for you the four-three-four play arrangement and explain to you that Cristiano Ronaldo is now rubbish, and that the future is Mbappe or Neymar.

Perfect jacks-of-all-trades. People skilled in getting you to offer them a  beer. Looking for chicks and drugs, who please whoever has the cash. They are a human equivalent of the iPhone Siri. They talk about anything. Apart from politics.

“What do you think about the next elections? How would you rate the Cuban government? What about Miguel Diaz-Canel? Those topics get in their way. So, they come over as cynics. “Change the record, my friend.I t’s swimming and keep an eye on your clothes. Find out how to make money without getting any mud on you. I’ve had it with politics. I’m into partying and pachanga,” says Adonis, a young night-lifer.

The Miami press is more interested in Gladiador’s problems than analysis of the Cuban political and socio-economic situation. When they emigrate, they don’t change their spots. They remain indifferent, apolitical, and frivolous, just like on the island. They care about buying the latest car or iPhone, seeing if they can come up good in the Miami lottery or win some money in the Everglades casino.

Nearly all of these urban gangs are allergic to talking to dissidents. They look the other way when they repress the Ladies in White, or independent journalists. And, to distance themselves from the Castro opposition, they call themselves socialists, neocommunists, social democrats, liberals, evangelists, masons, followers of santeria cults …

Nevertheless, the security folk, who are always ahead of things, don’t waste any time in labelling them. They are all counter-revolutionaries: they don’t respect the guidelines from the country’s highest leadership.

You can understand the indifference of lots of people, and that they use sex, alcohol, football and reggaeton as an escape valve from the madhouse they have had to live in for 59 years. But, for honest thinking people, the avoidance of reality can only be explained by one word: fear.


Translated by GH

In Eight Years Only 125 Cuban Men Have Taken Paternity Leave

A father in Cuba can claim a postnatal leave benefit to care for his child for 90 days after its birth. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 19 March 2018 — Between 2006 and 2014, only 125 men in Cuba accepted paid parental leave and the majority did so because of the mother’s illness or death, according to official data. Although the legislation provides for paternity leave, its use is still very unusual among men on the island.

At the recent inauguration of the Swedish Dads…Cuban Dads photographic exhibition in the Castillo de la Real Fuerza Museum in the Historical Center of Old Havana, María Machicado Terán, representative in Cuba of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that in 2017 only seven fathers accepted the benefit, in contrast to the 65 grandparents who have used it since the initiative was extended to these relatives, in 2017, as long as ther were working. continue reading

On the opening day of the exhibition, which displays photographs of how paternity is experienced in both countries, the specialist said that the low demand for paternity leave is due to the fact that on the island “stereotypes and a patriarchal and macho culture persist, which limits the participation of men in domestic chores.”

Since 2003, Cuban men can opt for paternity leave to stay at home and take care of their children during the first year of life, while their wives work. The father can benefit from postnatal leave for childcare for 90 days after the birth.

Maternity and paternity leave cannot overlap and only one of the two parents can take advantage of the benefit until the child reaches one year. Even so, both can have between two and five days off work right after the birth. More days are allowed if it is necessary to move.

Men who apply for this benefit may remain off work until the child reaches the first year, and during the period in which they do not work they receive 60% of their total salary.

The measure was approved amid a worrying demographic situation. About 20% of the population of the Island is over 60 years old and the fertility rate is only 1.72 children per woman, far from the figure of 2.1 needed to ensure population replacement.

Yusimí Campos Suárez, vice minister of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, cataloged the new measure as a means to “stimulate the birth rate, the incorporation and reincorporation of women in the workplace, as well as the participation of other family members in the care of children.”

“The mother and father can decide which of them will take care of the son or daughter, the way in which this responsibility will be shared up to the first year of life and who will receive the social benefit (…) and they will communicate the decision in writing to the administration of each of their workplaces,” the law says.

The Family Code of 1975 already established a “shared responsibility between the mother and the father to attend, care for, protect, educate, assist, give deep affection to and prepare for life their sons and daughters, as a right and duty of both.” But in practice the situation is very different.

The persistence of sexist roles in the distribution of domestic tasks, along with a tense economic situation that makes many families prioritize male employment, are some of the causes behind the low rates of men applying for postnatal leave.

A recent survey carried out in 2014 at the national level by the Ministry of Public Health, showed that only 18% of fathers of children between 36 and 59 months participate in the care and education of their children.

During the opening of the photographic exhibition, the Swedish ambassador to Cuba, Jonas Lovén, explained that although his country took the lead in 1974 replacing postnatal maternal leave with parental leave, still today only a quarter of the men in that country take advantage of the measure.

For the diplomat it is “a slow, but necessary, journey that Cuba has already started.”


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Black Spring, The Fertile Repression

Fragment of a protest poster against the Black Spring.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 March 2018 — It was early morning when the police arrived at the door of the first of the opponents who were arrested on March 18, 2003. During that operation, 75 activists and independent journalists were sentenced to long prison terms under the so-called Gag Law, which is still in force today.

Having a typewriter, reporting a violation of human rights through a telephone line, publishing an independent magazine, collecting signatures or simply offering an interview to foreign media were some of the “proofs” that the authorities used to incriminate those arrested. continue reading

There were no lack of stories of uncovered moles, informers who saved their own skins by testifying against their colleagues, nor of police excesses against the families of the detainees. The long night of repression loomed over the whole island.

The Black Spring determined to a large extent what has happened in the last fifteen years in Cuban civil society. The fear of ending up in a dungeon led many citizens to desist from expressing opinions, and exile was ultimately the destiny of a good part of those who had suffered in those dungeons. It was a hard blow for the dissent.

However, this critical point also gave rise to the emergence and development of new groups, tendencies and phenomena outside official control. Fifteen years after that attempt to uproot the opposition, there is a process of diversification and expansion of the critical sector along with greater international solidarity with opponents.

Today’s activists, direct debtors of those 75 prisoners, have broadened the issues in which they work, from groups that demand rights for the LGBTI community to associations seeking greater social spaces for people with disabilities. The Island is a hotbed of independent proposals.

Currently, the journalists arrested that March 2003 are also essential reference points for the new batch of reporters who feed the independent media. Despite the attempt to kill all journalism outside the control of the Communist Party, there has been an information explosion, thanks in part to new technologies.

The date chosen to bury what was left of Cuban civic activism must be remembered today as a chronological point that marks a new beginning. That March when Fidel Castro’s government thought that it was exterminating the dissidence was in fact the beginning of the rebellion, of the social nonconformity and of the inspiration for which we decided to create new media outside the official press.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

How I Remember Cuba’s 2003 Black Spring / Iván García

The old Lourdes Clinic, today the House of Culture, in Carmen and October 10, in the Red Square of the Víbora, is very close to my home. Taken from

Ivan Garcia, 19 March 2018 — On a mid-February day in 2003, a month before the repressive wave against the Cuban dissidence, sometime after 9:00 in the morning it took me almost an hour to board Route 100 bus, which at that time started its route at the corner of Diez de October and O’Farrill, in La Víbora, and ended in the Nautical district in the municipality of Playa.

Public transport, unaddressed by the regime, was chaotic. My destination was the house of Ricardo González Alfonso, on Calle 86 between 7th and 9th in Miramar, in the west of the capital, to deliver a couple of notes that would later be published in the magazine De Cuba, prepared entirely in Havana. continue reading

I had 40 pesos in my pocket: 20 to return to La Víbora in a private taxi and the rest to buy a pizza for lunch. The trip on Route 100 involved a lot of shoving and bad language. I got off at the Comodoro Hotel stop, at 3rd and 84th, and bought a Neapolitan pizza from a privately run snack bar just before 5th Avenue.

I then continued on my way to Ricardo’s home, a sort of itinerant newsroom for Cuba Press, the most professional independent press agency in Cuba, directed by the poet and journalist Raúl Rivero.

Ricardo was a good guy. Demanding with regards to the work, he was always on the journalists to deliver two weekly articles. His house was also used as a press workshop, for literary or political gatherings, always with a thermos of coffee. There, Raúl Rivero taught journalism classes and it also served as a set for interviews with the foreign press.

It was at Ricardo’s home where, in 2000, the Manuel Márquez Sterling Journalists Society was founded, which brought together the majority of the free correspondents in Cuba and where De Cuba magazine was created. The first number came out in December 2002 and the second in February 2003.

The journalists Luis Cino, a friend in good times and bad, along with Claudia Márquez and Ricardo, were in charge of the selection, editing and layout of the articles.

On any one day, in that house in Miramar, there were about ten to fifteen reporters, almost all of them with vast experience in the official press. The most inexperienced always received good advice from journalists like Raúl Rivero, Ana Luisa López Baeza, Iria González Rodiles, Tania Quintero or Ricardo González Alfonso himself.

Harassment and repression by State Security was part of daily life. We promptly denounced it on Radio Martí when they confiscated our money or work material, as well as the summons and threats of the G-2, the Intelligence Directorate. I remember that in those days of February 2003, when I spoke with Luis Cino, I told him that a security guy on a Suzuki motorcycle who called himself Jesus, on the corner of the so-called Red Square of La Víbora, had told me: “You people have little left.” I did not pay particular attention.

The repression was constant and at all times. The official media set the stage for the future raid against 75 peaceful opponents, including 27 independent journalists, by publishing editorial vitriolic against the opposition. At night, I would turn the sound down on the black and white television so that my grandmother, my sister and my 8-year-old niece would not hear the name of my mother, Tania Quintero, nor Fidel Castro’s public threats against the opposition.

At that time, Castro spent hours reading reports and citing the names of journalists and dissident activists who attended receptions and visited European embassies or the United States Interests Section. The atmosphere smelled like something was going to happen. Tania and I carried a spoon and a toothbrush when we went out, in case they stopped us.

On Tuesday, March 18, 2003, I had a difficult day. I lived with my mother, my grandmother, my sister and my niece in La Víbora, I had written an article for Encuentro en la Red (Meeting on the Network) and had to find a way to send it. But in the Sevillano neighborhood I had a daughter a little over a month old and in the afternoon, when I went to see her, her mother was dead tired because the baby was keeping her up at nights. I decided to stay, so she could rest.

I sat with the baby in an armchair was midnight, when she fell asleep. I put her in the cradle, I said goodbye to her mother and when I went to my house, down San Miguel Street, I was struck by the fact that Villa Marista, the political police barracks, was completely lit up.

The most veteran among the dissidents said that when “all the lights of Villa Marista are lit, it means something bad is happening or is going to happen.”

At the little kiosk on Avenida Acosta, I ate two fritters and an instant pineapple drink. When I turned the corner of Diez de Octubre and Carmen and was nearly at our apartment on the first floor, when I saw Tania waving at me from the terrace. I stopped and in a low voice she said: “Iván, they have several opponents and independent journalists. At any moment they are coming to look for us.” I felt a chill of fear.

I took a deep breath, hurriedly climbed the stairs, Tania was waiting for me at the door and I said: “Whatever happens will happen. Better lie down and try to sleep because Security starts its operations at 5 or 6 in the morning. ” The following days were terrible. The list of those arrested was initially a hundred, later it was 75.

It is said that the dictator made an account and arrested 15 dissidents for each of the 5 spies of the Avispa network who were imprisoned in the United States. The trials were summary. The sentences of the prosecution were appalling. For seven of the opponents they asked for the death penalty. Luckily, the autocracy did not go that far.

In November of 2003, Tania, my sister and my niece went into exile in Switzerland. Independent journalism remained in its death throes, but it did not die. Some continued writing without signing the articles. Others waited for the tide to go out to go back to writing.

Five years later, in 2008, journalism without a gag re-emerged with force. Supported by new technologies, various rebellious blogs appeared and the quality of websites on Cuban topics based inside and outside the country rose. International media, such as El Mundo, BBC and El País, among others, began publishing collaborations with unofficial journalists. It was the best possible shield: the regime was careful about repressing those who write in influential newspapers in Europe and the United States.

Today, more than 250 reporters, of different tendencies, write independently from the Island. The harassment and repression of dissent continues. But never at the level of the Black Spring of 2003.

Fifteen years later, Cuba is closer than ever to the road to democracy. It may take six months or six years. But it will happen.

See also:

Who Benefits From the Release of the Cuban Political Prisoners?

Liberation or Forced Exile?

Libertation or Exile?

The "Castro List"

Reasons and Lack of Reasons Surrounding Political Dialogue

Cuban President Raúl Castro tries to raise the arm of US President Barack Obama after a press conference in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 16 March 2018 — When, in December 2014, the US President at the time, Barack Obama, and Cuba’s General-President Raúl Castro unexpectedly announced the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the reactions on both sides of the Straits of Florida were immediate.

As is often the case with Cuban political affairs, there was a strong polarization among those who expressed themselves in favor of dialogue as a way to find a solution to the conflict, which in the end could imply benefits for Cubans on both sides and in particular for those living in Cuba, and the ever-intransigents, who considered the events as an undeserved concession to the Castro dictatorship and as a betrayal to the yearnings for democracy of thousands of our countrymen, who for decades had suffered harassment, prison, persecution and exile for their fight against totalitarianism. continue reading

The schism was even greater among the opposition groups. There were no nuances. Overnight, a war seemed to have been declared: the radical groups not only considered the process of dialogue between the two hitherto opposed governments unacceptable, but also disparagingly pinned the labels of “traitors” and “dialoguers” to those broad sectors of dissidents that considered the new policy of the White House as a more propitious strategy to gradually push the long-awaited changes inside Cuba.

It is worth mentioning that the radicals conveniently ignored one small detail. Many members of that large group of political prisoners and persecuted citizens were in favor of the dialogue proces.

The matter became a defining moment, where the most rabid enemies of diplomacy – faithful to their violent and intolerant nature – used verbal aggression and even attempted physical violence against supporters of dialogue in some cases, although the latter were just being consistent with the pro-relations and anti-embargo discourse that they had been defending for decades.

The very brief period that elapsed between the beginning of President Obama’s policy of flexibilization and his departure from power did not make, and obviously could not have mad a significant shift in Cuban politics, but it did have the benefit of undermining the unbending Castro anti-Yankee discourse and completely exposing the lack of political will of the dictatorship to take advantage of the US measures that, if permitted to be carried out as Obama conceived them, would have meant prosperity for Cubans, in particular for the incipient businesses that emerged under the timid attempt of the so-called “Raúl reforms.”

In any case, the “failure” of a rapprochement policy that did not have enough time to show results – and it is known that time is a category of capital importance – was not due to the supposed ingenuity of the American president but to the inveterate stubbornness and totalitarian vocation of the Castro regime. If the dictatorship responded to the flexibilizations of its northern neighbor with repression against dissent and the suffocation of the private sector, it is an account that we cannot attribute to Obama or the restoration of relations, as certified by decades of arrests, imprisonments, executions and despotism that took place in Cuba under the pretext of the existence of the powerful “external enemy” long before the Obama era.

If the dictatorship responded to the flexibilizations of its northern neighbor with repression against dissent and the suffocation of the private sector, it is an account that we cannot attribute to Obama

And since time is a consideration, it is worth remembering that, in fact, in about a year and a half after the restoration of relations between Washington and Havana, the US measures of flexibilization allowed thousands of tourists from the U.S. to enter Cuba, which brought discrete economic benefits, not only for the tourism industry of the Castro regime, their native entourages and their foreign associates, but also – to the alarm of the olive-tree hierarchs who felt threatened by the sudden rise of self-employed Cubans – for a considerable number of private businesses, especially those dedicated to lodging and food services, which in turn generated many jobs associated with their respective facilities.

The election of Republican Donald Trump in November 2016 and his inauguration on January 20th, 2017 not only put an end to the brief era of diplomacy, but it has constituted a clear setback in the rapprochement initiated by his predecessor, to the delight of the recalcitrant opponents to dialogue.

A delight that, nevertheless, is not justified in certainty, since until now Trump does not seem to have intentions to make the two great demands of the most radical sectors a reality, that is: the rupture of diplomatic relations with the Cuban Government and the reestablishment of the ‘wet foot/dry foot’ policy, repealed by Obama a few days before leaving power.

Interestingly, fundamentalists on both banks remain silent on this point. And in general, whether he’ll act or not, Trump remains the unquestionable hero of the fanatics in Cuba.

The silence of the anti-dialoguers is more outrageous these days, when the arrogant Donald Trump has declared his intention to establish a dialogue with none other than the current North Korean satrap

But the silence of the anti-dialoguers is more outrageous these days, when the arrogant Donald Trump has declared his intention to establish a dialogue with none other than the current North Korean satrap, the mass murderer heir to the long power of the Kim dynasty. And this is not necessarily a political error for Trump. In any situation it is more desirable to resolve differences with words and agreements rather than with missiles, especially nuclear missiles.

Only that, following the logic applied to the Obama-Castro dialogue, wouldn’t this President of the world’s greatest power also be “legitimizing” a miserable dictatorship that represses and murders its people? Where are the angry defenders of human rights who are so offended by the US-Cuba dialogue? Could it be that some dialogues are “good” and others “bad”? And in this last case, who is the referee that defines the appropriate adjective in each case?

For the time being, and until they prove otherwise, everything indicates that the exalted atheists of the Cuban opposition have either run out of arguments or they were never very clear. Perhaps in reality what they understand as “politics” is just the reductionist and sectarian vision of a bench of most passionate sports team fans. And there are still some who think of themselves as presidential leaders for the future Cuban democracy. God help us!

Translated by Norma Whiting


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Police Accuse Journalist Boris Gonzalez of "Harassing Tourists"

Boris González during a time when he was on a scholarship in Germany. (Akademie Schloss)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 March 2018 — After 24 hours in detention, independent journalist Boris González is still in a dungeon at the police station in the city of Pinar del Río, where he was taken under an alleged “tourist harassment” violation, according to his wife Juliette Fernández.

The activist was arrested on Thursday morning when he went to the Municipal Court of Viñales, in Pinar del Rio, to cover a trial against several defendants for invading the property of biologist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, according to blogger Regina Coyula, speaking to this newspaper. continue reading

The activist was arrested on the morning of this Thursday when he went to the Municipal Court of Viñales, in Pinar del Rio, to cover a trial against several defendants for invading the property of biologist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, according to 14ymedio the blogger Regina Coyula.

González, who has also served as spokesperson for the #Otro18 (Another 2018) campaign, which seeks a democratic change on the island through electoral mechanisms, collaborates with several independent media and is the author of the digital blog Probidad Cuba.

In 2015, the journalist was expelled from his job at the International School of Film, Television and Video (EICTV) in San Antonio de los Baños because of his links with groups of activists from independent civil society.

The oral hearing González was going to cover this Thursday was about the accusations made by Ariel Ruiz Urquiola and his family against several residents who allegedly invaded his property and caused damage in the land located in the Sierra del Infierno, belonging to the Park National Viñales.

Oscar Casanella, Urquiola’s colleague, confirmed to this newspaper at the end of the trial that the defendants Yendry Álvarez and Yoel Álvarez (brothers) were acquitted of the crimes of which they were accused, including threats and coercion.

Urquiola settled in Viñales to carry out an investigation into the origins of life in the area, managed by the university of Havana and Humboldt University in Berlin. However, due to his activism and his closeness to government opponents, the Cuban side cut off its link with the project.

The house located on the plot is owned by Urquiola and the land is managed under a form of leasing known as usufruct and an agroecological farm has been developed. In 2008 the Government of Raúl Castro began the delivery of idle state lands in usufruct to try to revive the agricultural sector.

Urquiola has repeatedly denounced the raising of wild pigs in the area where his farm is located, a situation that has produced a negative environmental impact in a park with high natural and tourist value.

Their denunciations have been directed to the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of the Interior and the authorities of the People’s Power of the zone.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Private Sector in Cuba, Defenseless in Face of New Restrictions / Iván García

Source: OnCuba Magazine

Ivan Garcia, 5 March 2018 — The last week was pure hustle and bustle for Yunia, owner of a hair salon in the neighborhood of Cerro, fifteen minutes by car from downtown Havana. After having given birth at 48 to a nine-pound baby girl and while breastfeeding her in an armchair, holding the cordless telephone between her right shoulder and her head, she was talking to a sister who, for two months, had been running her hair salon.

The news on the other side of the line was not good. “My sister says that an official of the ONAT (National Tax Administration Office) informed her that when the state begins issuing licenses again, in the case of hairdressers, the products [purchased for use in the business] must be supported by a purchase receipts in the [legal] market.” continue reading

Yunia explains that in hard currency stores, beauty products are expensive and their sale is irregular. “Sometimes a certain product disappears for months. The best Havanan hairdressers buy their products abroad, either because people have the ability to travel or because their relatives send them. They are also acquired through ’mules’ dedicated to the sale of clothing, cleaning and cosmetics.”

She puts her newborn in her crib and continues explaining: “Hair treatments, extensions and dyes, when using premium products are expensive. In a month, a young woman who carries extensions can spend 30 or 40 CUC in her city. But in Havana there are customers who can pay those prices. For hairdressers there are a variety of options, to try to please all pockets. If now, the State begins to inspect and control the inputs or insists that they be bought in Cuba, the prices will rise, since it will be much more expensive to obtain suitable cosmetics. The worst thing is not the state interference, but that the private workers are legally defenseless. They impose new measures and there is no legal venue where one can take a complaint. It’s a lion-to-monkey fight, with the monkey tied up. ”

Since last week, Martí Noticias and the Reuters news agency revealed details about a restrictive package of measures for private work, the social networks lit up, and inside the old taxis, which have become forums for debate, discontent has been increasing.

The new twist is being openly criticized by ordinary Cubans. “They did it with the roving cart vendors and the private produce markets, and now you walk through the state produce markets and they’re empty,” says Roberto, retired, pointing with his hand to the dirty and empty shelves.

“What will be the solution, that the State takes control of everything again? That has not worked in sixty years. Sometimes I think there are government officials who are from the CIA. They are idiots. If you forbid what works more or less well, to implement what has never worked, chaos returns. The issue is not that individuals charge high prices. The problem is that the State does not pay the wages that are needed. Of course, the easiest thing is to take on the weakest party and put a lot of limitations and kill your business or make you work yourself to death to earn a few pesos,” says Gladys, a state cafeteria worker.

When you talk to any taxi driver in the capital you will notice the displeasure clear as day. “It’s a giant fucking over from this Party of shitheads. Basically what they want is to suffocate private work with the story that we are getting rich. Rich from what?” Asks Eduardo and he answers:

“We have to work twelve, thirteen and even fourteen hours to clear 400 or 500 Cuban pesos. Half the money goes on food and things for the house. The other, saving, to fix the car when it breaks down. For months now, the government has had the idea of putting private taxi drivers into cooperatives and exploiting them as slaves, just as they do with cooperative taxis. Most of us are against it and we will not give in. In good faith I knew that those who keep driving freelance, they will get rid of them with inspections, fines and severe inspections of the car. It is well known that half of these junkers should not be on the street. In the end what they want is to fuck us over.”

René, owner of a fleet of five cars and three jeeps that he rents as taxis, says that through people he knows in the ONAT he learned that “as of April the government will go after us with every thing they’ve got. There is talk that each taxi driver has to own his car. I do not know how this mess will end, but we will look for a shortcut to follow the new rules. It is the State, which is not capable of satisfying the demands of the people, which forces us to cheat to live as God intended. The only ones who are getting rich in Cuba are those who govern.”

The information in the foreign press, not being denied by the regime, has given rise to a wave of rumors and speculation.

“It’s a witch hunt that does not surprise me. History repeats itself. The government has always watched the progress of the private sector and then it takes the repressive scissors and cuts off their wings. That fatso Marino Murillo said that we, the individuals, have caused more harm than benefits. We pay our employees up to ten times more than state salaries and provide better services despite high taxes, and they do not allow us to import food or have a wholesale market, says the owner of a paladar, a private restaurant.

Daniel, an economist, believes that future restrictions on private work is “a terrible strategy. This has already been said repeatedly by other colleagues. What must be fought is poverty, not those who generate wealth. If they want to eliminate illegalities in private work, the State must provide the options so that this does not happen. It is the government that has failed to enable them by not allowing a wholesale market, not allowing them to associate with foreign companies or import directly from abroad. In this war the people lose. The only sector that grows in Cuba is the private sector. They employ half a million people, who by having better salaries, can increase domestic consumption. That is, more oil, clothing and appliances are bought in hard currency stores and one million people are tourists in hotels.

On the street, people ask why the military autocracy (which is guided by the ’scientific theories of communism’), dislikes that a segment of Cubans can prosper by their own efforts.

The answer seems elementary. It will always be easier to govern a herd that depends on an authoritarian state than on loose cattle in open, well-groomed paddocks.

Transportation In Cuba: Multiple Problems For One Solution / Miriam Celaya


cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 16 March 2018 — One of the most pressing and old problems never solved in the Cuban capital has been that of public transportation. There are countless causes, beginning with the extreme centralization that placed in the hands of the State the transportation administration and “control” for decades – with the disastrous consequences that this policy has brought in all spheres of the economy and services – to which could be added a long list of adversities inherent to the system, such as the aging of the vehicle fleet, the lack of spare parts to repair the buses’ constant breakdowns, the incongruence between the price of the (subsidized) fares and the cost of keeping the service running, and the chronic lack of cash that hinders the purchase of new and more modern effective buses, among other limitations.

As if such difficulties were not enough, in recent times, Havana residents have habitually used the most economical mode of transportation, the articulated “P” buses (40 cents CUP per passenger), which cover routes in high-demand and have the greatest passenger capacity. They have recently noticed longer waiting times between buses, which causes the corresponding crowding at the bus stops, the chaos at boarding time and all the inconveniences associated with it. continue reading

This time, however, it is not a problem of shortage of equipment, but of drivers. The truth about a growing popular rumor about this new fatality has just been confirmed by the director of the Provincial Transportation Company of Havana (EPTH), according to the official press. The aforementioned director said that, currently, the EPTH deficit is 86 drivers, which means – always in their own words – that, on a daily basis, 700,000 passengers cannot be transported in Havana, which represents about 60,000 pesos less in revenues and an average of 500 fewer trips.

The matter is not trivial. Among the four terminals most affected by the exodus of drivers are two with the highest demand: the ones at Alamar and San Agustín.

So, following “the vision of the directors of this company,” the (new) problem in the capital’s public transportation service, that is, the shortage of drivers, is due to “more tempting offers of salaries and hours at other work centers, as well as the increase in inspectors’ demands and actions so what is established in the sector is fulfilled.” (The underlined section contains the author’s views).

There wasn’t the slightest reference to fundamental issues that affect the transportation sector, and in particular, public transportation drivers, such as the salary incompatibile with the always ungrateful task of driving a heavy vehicle, loaded with irritated passengers, circulating through obsolete, insecure roads, full of potholes; the constant harassment of state inspectors, and the obligation to follow to the letter the sacrosanct commandments written by bureaucrats far removed from the actual work from the comfort of their air-conditioned offices.

However, the brainy directors of the EPTH have conceived a solution to “alleviate” the crisis: “in the coming weeks, a contingent of drivers from several provinces will arrive from the provinces, and the call for all those who wish to join the workforce will continue.”

All of which demonstrates the infinite capacity of the leading cadres of the socialist state enterprise to create several problems for each solution instead of one solution for each problem. Because one doesn’t need to be a genius to see that – except for the possible existence of inflated records – if drivers from the interior provinces are the solution to the transportation crisis in the capital, wouldn’t that be creating conditions for a transportation crisis in those provinces?

Another vital point of the matter: in Havana, aren’t there enough housing problems and insufficient shelters for thousands of victims who have lost their homes due to building collapses or evictions? How is the State going to guarantee accommodation and living conditions for those provincial drivers who will come to “save” the passengers of the capital for an undetermined period of time?

The experience of decades of massive “contingents” mobilized towards the capital – for example, policemen and builders from the eastern provinces, mainly during the 1970’s, though the practice has not completely disappeared – shows that this is a boomerang strategy: it not only increases the problem that is being solved but also generates new ones, mainly in the area of housing.

Although we must recognize that the topic of contingents in Cuba is all a State policy: in any crisis situation – which is the norm, not the exception – the creation of a contingent is always proposed. A contingent can serve the government (and only it) in all cases. Thus, there have also been contingents of teachers, doctors, sports coaches, cultural instructors, etc., whose common denominator is not having solved any problem, but the complete opposite.

And it could not be otherwise because, as is known, the word contingent defines something eventual, not definitive; which is why you cannot face a crisis – be it public order, housing, transport or any other – with a “contingent.” It is necessary to deeply reform the roots of the system that generates the evil, otherwise the contingent will end up being the one that takes root.

But, returning to the issue at hand, it would be interesting to know how the EPTH managers suppose that keeping an open call to increase the workforce of the company will resolve the deficit of drivers. Isn’t that the same type of negotiation that called for drivers to work at other locations that provided better wages and more manageable hours? So, what makes them suppose that the next influx of drivers will remain faithful before the helm, and facing the ferocious harassment (supposedly “demands”) of the inspectors, for the same salary and with the same schedule that determined the stampede of the previous drivers?

Paradoxically, in this case, as in many of the complex problems that overwhelm Cubans today, the solution is very simple and not at all new: allow the creation of autonomous cooperatives of transportation workers, give the fleet to these cooperatives, allow for those cooperative members to purchase fuel at reasonable prices and import cars and spare parts and apply a fair tax burden that encourages work for the sector. In summary, allow the freedoms and rights of workers in the sector. Only then will the eternal transportation crisis disappear, not in the capital, but in all of Cuba.

Because we Cubans have only one problem: an obtuse and failed sixty-year-old political system, which threatens to become eternal.

And in Cuba everything, even a humble bus driver’s employment post, is a reflection of the general crisis of the political system, and as such, constitutes a potential threat that must be “solved” deep down from the structures at the service of the regime. And while we’re waiting around, we can only exclaim what our grandparents used to say: “what a mess!”

Translated by Norma Whiting

"The Problem Comes When You Remain Silent"

Frank Mitchel Chirino at a concert at La Marca. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 3 March 2018 — Recording a record at age 18 is something that doesn’t happen every day among troubadours. Frank Mitchel Chirino has joined that short list, overcoming censorship and family resistance — his father defined trova as a “chernas (homosexuals) thing” — and has now released the album Bodies of Water.

“Since I started playing in places linked to government institutions I heard the same thing: ‘this or that is censored’,” he recalls now with a mischievous smile on his lips while he talks with 14ymedio.

“Sometimes they made it clear to me that I could not invite certain artists to my performances, like Jorgito Kamankola, and other times they warned me about some song I could not play, then I said to myself, I do not want to live behind this fence.” continue reading

The artist opted for the independent way that opens a path, in spite of the limitations in the Cuban reality. Last year he won a scholarship, A Muleta Música, awarded by Galería-Estudio La Marca to promote young and independent art and, according to the promoters, an opportunity for the “production, management and positioning” of his work.

Chirino believes that the scholarship arrived for “a little bit of luck,” because the designer Roberto Ramos, organizer of La Marca musical space, heard him at troubadour Noslen Porrua’s club in Bejucal and that led to them considering him for the scholarship. At that time his artistic life took a favorable turn and he was able to afford to record several of his songs.

“In the beginning we were going to make the album with just the guitar, nothing else, but then the musicians appeared and together we made the arrangements,” recalls Chirino.

In its beginnings, the musician played in some clubs but later joined others to form the band Náufrago (Shipwrecked), which came to perform regularly at the Old Havana House of Poetry. “It did not last long due to censorship, fear and lack of organization,” he laments, in reference to the guidelines issued by the institutional media about what can and can not be sung.

Censorship also dogged the heels of Chirino on the radio and at festivals. On several stations where he sang he was always warned that some of his songs could not be played. “Everything that is new and seems outside the norm disappears,” complains the young musician, with regards to the prohibitions placed on those musical themes with elements of social criticism.

The clashes with the institutions reached their climax at a trova festival in the city of Bayamo. Before going on stage, Chirino and another troubadour were summoned to the office of a cultural official who demanded that they sing before him, and before going onstage, the songs they had prepared.

For the artist, this constituted a lack of respect but it served to cement his opinion about the official media and the circuit of places where artists can perform. He also believes that the spaces to promote trova in the official media only work for authors who sing “in favor” of the system.

According to his vision, television programs such as Cuerda Viva already “have nothing to do with the idea of those who are starting out” and now “the same faces are always seen.” He considers that the producers have fallen into “mediocrity” and points again to the fear of event space managers about “the consequences” they may face if they move away from what is allowed by the authorities. “It’s a real fear but you have to fight against that,” he emphasizes.

Part of those experiences with officials, terrified cultural promoters and informers, are reflected in the theme “Échate pa ’allá”  included in his recently finished album.

“Censorship persecutes us by stabbing bodies, they are assasins of a sleeping freedom” he warns in one of the verses of this theme that hs considers “an amulet” against this phenomenon. “I was hooked on the truth and the truth is that I do not let go,” says the author of compositions such as Palenque and After the Smoke.

“Rest assured that I do not want to have anything to do with the government and less with the bureaucracy,” he explains in the interview, evoking the feelings that led him to compose the song with Kamankola. “It’s to scare off all of that and to get the powers that be off my back.”

His song circulates in the alternative networks of musical distribution as a kind of hymn against the snitch, the figure of the informant who is so present in Cuban life. “There are many people who do not live their lives, who are just waiting for others to live,” says Chirino.

Trova enjoyed privileged media coverage in the ’80s, but in the last two decades other genres such as salsa and reggaeton, which are more commercial, have been prioritized. Programs such as Cáscara de Mandarina that promoted genres such as trova and rock from the island disappeared from television, while others such as Piso 6, which mainly promote international music, salsa and Cuban pop are shown endlessly on national TV.

As a competent digital native, Chirino considers new technologies essential because they allow him to independently disseminate his work. “If I had to subordinate myself to the conditions of a label, I would never have been able to make Bodies of Water.

“The problem comes when you stay silent, what happens is that people do not want to say what they feel because they are afraid” but “the duty is to relate, in a more direct way, what is happening.”

However, he believes that he began his career in a “hard” way to make it clear that he is not planning to moderate his art or censor his lyrics to win “an institutional space.”


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Security Employee Investigated for Theft of National Heritage Items

The stolen mirror and brush of the Birthplace of Ignacio Agramonte and found by the General Customs of the Republic. (AGR)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ignacio de la Paz,Camagüey, 13 March 2018 — A security employee remains in prison for a robbery committed at the Ignacio Agramonte y Loynaz Birthplace in Camagüey. A Mexican tourist was intercepted at the provincial airport trying to get some of these pieces out of the country, but others remain missing.

An employee of the Ignacio Agramonte Birthplace, who preferred anonymity, told 14ymedio that “the thefts took place during several nights in the art warehouse” to avoid their being noticed. A security employee of the institution has been arrested and is being prosecuted for his alleged involvement in the crime, according to the worker. continue reading

On February 2, coinciding with the anniversary of the founding of the town of Santa María del Puerto del Príncipe, as this city in the center of the island was initially called, local media announced the theft of valuable national heritage objects from the museum dedicated to the most distinguished independence hero of the region.

The media classified the articles as “unique, priceless and irreplaceable” and the museum specialists also considered them “jewels” valuable for their antiquity and for being a part of the national heritage.

Four days later, the General Customs Office of the Republic (AGR) found two of the objects stolen in the robbery in the luggage of a Mexican traveler: a mirror and a hairbrush. The tourist was about to leave from the Camagüey International Airport to the United States when the pieces belonging to the museum’s collection were found.

Both objects were returned to the museum after an intense investigation in which all museum workers were questioned and a thorough review of the inventories conducted revealed the absence of other objects that have not yet been found.

Another stolen monument was dedicated to mothers donated by the Great Order of Perseverance to the city of Camagüey. (14ymedio)

“The police figured out that the night guard tampered with the security seal to enter the warehouse,” explained the employee of the institution. A common practice in state institutions that store goods of some value is to place a string on a piece of plasticine at the door to later determine if there was unauthorized access.

“The warehouse did not have bars or a padlock although now they have installed one,” explains the worker. “Nor do the employees know the list of stolen objects because it is kept secret,” he explains, although they have also detected the absence of “a set of silver spoons and alpaca objects.”

The guard arrested is in preventive detention without bail and awaiting trial. Police investigators are in the midst of the process of collecting evidence to determine if an accusation is appropriate, this newspaper was able to confirm.

“Now they are trying to determine if he acted alone or had a network of accomplices to be able to get the objects into the hands of interested foreign buyers,” a police officer involved in the case told 14ymedio. “The priority is to find what is missing,” he says.

“The place was not violated and there was no sign that the thief or thieves had arrived from outside the institution, so everything indicates that the robbery was carried out in collaboration with someone inside,” adds the official of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR).

The director of the museum has asked the workers not to comment on the investigation and has clarified that none of the stolen property belonged to Agramonte or his family, but were objects from his time, to provide context.

The theft joins a long list of valuable national heritage items stolen in Camagüey in recent years. Among them are several early printed books, volumes from Julio Antonio Mella provincial library, the bronze eyeglasses from the monument to the Spanish aviators Mariano Barberán and Joaquín Collar, as well as numerous funerary sculptures from Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje General Cemetery.

Also stolen were pieces of the monument dedicated to the mothers donated by the Great Order of Perseverance to the city of Camagüey, which was located in the Casino Campestre sand park, and the silver bells of the catafalque of Santo Sepulcher from La Merced Church.

The customs authorities have warned that with the increase of foreign tourism that has been occurring on the island in recent years there has also been an increase in the illicit trade in objects that are considered heritage assets.

In 2014, UNESCO strongly condemned several acts of this type that occurred on the island and added that they jeopardized the integrity of the patrimonial pieces and left them at the mercy of the illicit traffic of cultural goods.

According to an official statement issued in February of that year by the National Council of Cultural Heritage of Cuba (CNPC), a significant number of pieces of art were stolen from one of the warehouses of the National Museum of Fine Arts, in Havana, without access to the premises being violated.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.