Havana’s May Day Rally Moves to the Anti-Imperialist Platform, a Venue One-Fifth the Size of the Plaza of the Revolution

The main event of the International Workers’ Day will not be held at the Plaza de la Revolución to save on fuel 

The Anti-imperialist Platform, which is completing remodeling works that began in 2019, is just over 13,000 square meters. / Cubadebate

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 15 April 2024 — The celebration of May 1, international workers’ day, once again dispenses with what was its usual venue for decades and moves to the Anti-imperialist Platform in Havana. The news was given by Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento, general secretary of the Cuban Workers’ Union (CTC) this Sunday, who pointed out fuel savings as the reason for moving the event.

He indicated that, “There, we will ratify that the Cuban working class will continue to pay particular attention to everything related to the recovery of the economy, efficiently taking advantage of the resources we have to increase the supply of goods and services, as a way to rescue the purchasing power of salaries and pensions.”

The leader of the CTC, also a member of the political bureau of the Communist Party, explained that the intention this year is to celebrate the date “with gatherings in squares, towns and work centers that do not require massive use of transportation”. For this central event in Havana, the authorities are counting on the assistance of 200,000 workers and their families, residents of the municipalities of Plaza, Old Havana, Centro Habana, Cerro and the closest areas of Playa. continue reading

The CTC leader explained that the intention this year is to celebrate the date “with gatherings in squares, towns and work centers that do not require massive use of transportation.”

“This is another scenario in which we have demonstrated the spirit of unity, rebellion and struggle of the Cuban Revolution,” he stressed in relation to the location of an event which, in most countries of the world, serves for workers to demand from Governments the labor rights that they do not yet enjoy.

This is the second consecutive year in which the authorities renounce the traditional celebration at the Plaza de la Revolución for economic reasons, after last year’s event transformed into a march along the Malecón and small events in other municipalities and cities. On that occasion, Guilarte de Nacimiento attributed it to “the complex economic situation (…) and, in particular, the limitations of fuel assurance.”

A year ago, the leader called to “reformulate the celebration, maintaining its commemoration, but in conditions of rationality and maximum austerity”, but it is not the only problem that is resolved with these changes. The Anti-imperialist Plaform’s size is just over 13,000 square meters, compared to the 72,000 square meters of the Plaza de la Revolución, one of the largest in the world. Reducing the stage to a fifth of its former size makes it possible to overshadow the lackluster nature of an event in which there are fewer and fewer attendees, despite that the vast majority have been transported to the capital.

In 2016, about 600,000 people attended the event, according to official data, of which 200,000 (the same total number expected for 2024) were self-employed. Even in 2018 there were about 800,000 participants.

But just a year later, the event had visibly deflated and the cancellation of bus routes used to carry the marchers did not go down well with the population. On that occasion, to make matters worse, there was not even a speech: Díaz-Canel, already President, did not speak; nor Raúl Castro, dressed in a military uniform and saluting; nor even Guilarte de Nacimiento, head of the only union allowed in the country. The only thing that was heard was a speech by the deceased Fidel Castro played through a loudspeaker.

The arrival of the pandemic forced the day’s celebration to be suspended in 2020 and 2021, until its return in 2022, when an attempt was made to recover its lost brilliance without achieving much, despite having mobilized all the buses, which Cubans had not seen in months.

For this year’s event, Guilarte de Nacimiento foresees “a moment of reaffirmation of the unrestricted support of the vast majority of the people for their social project”

For this year’s event, Guilarte de Nacimiento foresees “a moment of reaffirmation of the unrestricted support of the vast majority of the people for their social project.” In addition, he wants it to be used to “denounce the criminal nature of the [US] blockade*, the main obstacle to Cuba’s economic and social development.”

The Anti-Imperialist Platform, where an event in support of Palestine was also recently held, is about to wrap up remodeling works that have been dragging since 2019. The renovations have undergone a myriad of calamities, among them, a shortage of cement.  Last week, TV’s Canal Caribe dedicated a brief report explaining that the project is in its final phase, after native plants have been added and having completed the last modifications, though the exact day of the project’s completion is not known.

*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 US embargo. Originally imposed in 1962, the embargo, although modified from time to time, is still in force.

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.

Cuba: The Head of Comunales de Santa Clara Was Arrested for Reselling Garbage Containers

The trash collection containers were resold for up to 15,000 pesos, reported the official Fuerza del Pueblo website.

Citizens arrested for the diversion of garbage cans / Collage

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, April 15, 2024 — The head of Comunales de Santa Clara, in Villa Clara, has been arrested for diverting garbage collection cans for resale in the informal market. According to the state Fuerza del Pueblo page on Facebook, the official, Dianel García, was arrested along with three other individuals who collaborated with him.

The information indicates that García provided the containers to someone named Jorge Luis, presumably one of the detainees, who marketed them in the informal market at 12,500 pesos. Another citizen, whom they name as Felix, and his son-in-law, whose identity they do not reveal, sold them for 15,000 pesos. Fuerza del Pueblo points out that the origin of the containers is being investigated and if others are involved.

Among the many comments that the publication received, that of user Nancy Alemán stands out, who indicates that she resides in Santa Clara and works in Communal Services. “These garbage containers were stolen in areas of the Pastorita and XX Anniversary Buildings. I hope that the police will act on this case,” she says. continue reading

“Yes, there are containers. They should control the garbage more so that these things don’t happen”

Another citizen, Omar González Rojo, uploaded a photo showing a mountain of garbage in the middle of the street. “Look, we have gone through all the channels to solve the problem of the micro landfill on Peña Blanca Street [in Santa Clara], and they tell us that they don’t have any containers. Where did they go? Yes, there are containers, and they should control them more so that these things don’t happen. Isa’s Alley is still waiting for a dumpster to help the community,” he said.

Several users also commented that the garbage cans are bought by the so-called plastic collectors. After melting them, they use plastic to make various items: hangers for clothes, food storage containers (pots or storage containers) and broomsticks, which they then market.

The situation of solid waste collection throughout the Island is critical. On repeated occasions 14ymedio has reported the shortage of fuel and measures to collect garbage and the proliferation of landfills.

The residents of Playa and Luyanó have contacted, more than once, this newspaper to denounce the serious situation of the garbage dumps which smell bad and are overrun with rats. Another risk is that the mountains of garbage are being set on fire, causing serious consequences to the community.

On March 12, the official newspaper Escambray published that in Sancti Spíritus, the lack of personnel to collect the garbage is turning the province into a giant landfill. They also do not have enough transport: only eight of the 21 vehicles and none of their 25 tractors operate.

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.

Vietnam Donates 1,650 Tons of Rice to Cuba

Díaz Canel met with the first deputy minister of Vietnam, Tran Luu Quang, who has spent two days on an official visit to Cuba / Revolution Studies

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, April 16, 2024 — Cuba and Vietnam agreed on Monday to a protocol that covers more than 50 new agreements to strengthen bilateral cooperation in numerous sectors of the economy, trade, investment and other areas, such as education and science. The document is the result of the 41st Intergovernmental Commission for bilateral economic and scientific-technical collaboration, finalized by the first deputy ministers of Vietnam, Tran Luu Quang, and Cuba, Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz.

“The occasion is propitious to reiterate the most sincere gratitude from the Communist Party of Cuba for the Government for Vietnam’s donation of 1,640 tons of rice, which will soon arrive in our country,” said Cabrisas, who is also head of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment.

The arrival of the product has been celebrated by all the senior officials of the Government, starting with the Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero. “I want to thank you on behalf of the Party, the Government and the people of Cuba for the announcement of the new donation of rice for our country. It is an issue that has a lot of impact for the people in this complex moment that we are going through and is also part of that sensitivity that the Vietnamese leaders have had to contribute to the food sovereignty of our country,” he added during his meeting with Tran Luu Quang. continue reading

“It is an issue that has a lot of impact for the people in this complex moment that we are going through and is also part of that sensitivity that the Vietnamese leaders have had

Also in the appointment with the president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, reference was made to the donation, as well as to a credit granted for the purchase of the grain – “a very important gesture for us,” he said – which has guaranteed the distribution of the rice for several months through the family basket.

Although not enough to solve the demand for a fundamental product in the Cuban diet, free shipments of Vietnamese rice are common. In 2023, the official press announced at least three shipments, one of 5,000 tons in May, another of 2,000 in September and 1,200 at the end of October, in addition to the cooperation for grain production until 2025.

However, the collaboration of Vietnam’s technicians in the municipality of La Sierpe, in Sancti Spíritus, failed. The Asian professionals, who had come to Cuba 20 years earlier with equipment and machinery, never achieved the expected returns and ended up departing the Island in mid-2022, leaving the project mortally wounded.

Despite this, Díaz-Canel praised “the sensitivity and support of Vietnamese entrepreneurship, which has bet on its business in Cuba, despite all the financial difficulties” and reflected on its common history. “We are two nations that have heroically confronted our enemies; we are two nations committed to socialist construction; we are two nations that respect, love and admire each other,” the president said.

The rest of the agreements extend to all kinds of areas: from agriculture and fishing to biotechnology, health, construction, transport, finance, science, technology and environment; from culture, tourism, sports and education to industry, energy and mines; from information, communications, higher education and finance to customs, work, social security and justice.

“We are two nations that have heroically confronted our enemies; we are two nations committed to socialist construction”

In addition, it was agreed to promote the development of Vietnamese investment projects in Cuba, mainly those established in the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM).

Cabrisas highlighted the purpose of increasing commercial exchanges with Vietnam on a “mutually beneficial” basis and contributing so that Vietnamese companies invest in priority sectors, such as agribusiness, tourism and renewable energies.

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.

Residents in Manzanillo, Cuba, Receive Water Every 30 Days, and a Part Is Lost Due to Leaks

Puddles under the new plastic pipe are accumulating and now begin to fill with foam, stones and grasses / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Matos, Manzanillo (Granma province), April 11, 2024 — With orders from the municipal company Aqueduct, a backhoe opened a long ditch in the central Martí Street, in the port city of Manzanillo. The objective: to install a new central pipe to replace the old one, which had multiple leaks. But the cure, say the neighbors, given the ditch and debris that make the street impassable – is worse than the disease. In its path, the vehicle not only tore off the pavement and the remains of the old pipe but also broke the secondary connections that take water to the houses. Asked by 14ymedio, the workers brush it off: “Those  connections aren’t a priority; we’ll see what to do with them later.”

According to the workers, “a lot of water is lost in the main pipes,” which is why the State managers have made their replacement an objective. “We have positioned ourselves to eliminate the leaks so as not to lose water in the pumping process,” they explain.

Commenting on the shortage, the government’s Round Table TV program said this Wednesday that the water cycle – the frequency with which it is pumped into homes – is 10 days. The reality, however, is that the water is arriving once a month. The interval is painful and forces families to carry the water or, if the pocket book allows, to buy it. The replacement of the connection on Martí and other streets in the city center complicates the situation and has caused multiple complaints in the neighborhood.

The backhoe not only ripped off the pavement and the remains of the old pipe but also broke the secondary connections / 14ymedio

“They finished with the pipes of all the houses,” says Orlando, 47, while pointing to small tunnels on both sides of the ditch. The connections for each household passed through there, and in many of them you can still see fragments of the pipe. “I don’t know what problem they solved. The main continue reading

pipe water keeps leaking and doesn’t get to us,” he says. In fact, puddles are accumulating under the new plastic pipe and are now beginning to fill with foam, stones and grass. The neighbors know what they have to do until the arrangement is finished: “Carry water,” says Magaly, a housewife and resident of Martí Street. What many fear, she adds, is that the State will delay the solution of the problem and, in the long run, those who live there will have to solve it.

Nearby, at a neighbor’s house with a well, a group of boys gathers around the pump to fill gallon-jars and bottles, which they then transport back to their homes in construction trucks.

“They haven’t told us when they are going to redo what they have destroyed. As prices are today, it is impossible for us to fix this with our own means,” he says. Others look at the plastic structure with suspicion and predict little future. “There are still leaks there,” they insist, among the mountains of excavated earth that have already been blocking traffic on Martí for several days.

The neighbors know what they’ll have to do until the arrangement is finished: carry water / 14ymedio

The water situation, fueled by the terrible state of the pipes and the inefficiency of the Government, goes from one end of the Island to the other. The crisis does not reveal any leader, to whom – desperate for the lack of supply – the neighbors can come in the first place. In Santa Fe, one of the poorest neighborhoods of Guanabacoa, in Havana, officials do not agree on the reasons for the shortage. From the drought of the reservoirs to the pollution of the water, they spare no excuse for those who demand an explanation. In the mouths of leaders in whom no one believes, multiple causes are attributed to the same phenomenon. In the hard way, families have learned that the leaders only react when the same vessels they use to conserve water resonate during a cacerolazo*.

The hope of many is the water trucks, which the State sends sporadically and without the necessary equipment to pump to the tanks that families usually install on the second floors. The elderly of the neighborhood go to the tanker truck, without hoses, and carry what they can as they can, because they don’t want to resign themselves – neighbors told this newspaper – to “drinking from the puddles.”

In the case of Santa Fe, water comes more frequently, but the service is unstable. It’s “abusive,” the neighbors explain, that the State sends only one pipe for a whole block. From Santa Fe, on the outskirts of Havana, to the eastern municipality of Manzanillo, the feeling is unanimous: “Their pipe is worn out”

*Translator’s note: A common form of protest in Latin America where people beat on pots and pans

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.

Only Half of the Cuban Population Receives Water in Adequate Condition

4,500 people, spread over five rural communities in the municipality of Yaguajay, have to resort to costly water trucks or buckets. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 11 April 2024 — Barely 48% of the Cuban population receives water daily in conditions of quality, availability and accessibility. Despite the fact that the Government is committed by article 76 of the Constitution, which establishes that all people have the right to it and obliges the State to “create the conditions to guarantee access,” only 5,400,035 Cubans of the 11,089,511 who, according to official statistics, resided on the Island in 2022, enjoyed this human right.

The official media Cubadebate has convened for this Thursday at 10 a.m. an open forum in which readers are invited to leave their impressions, complaints and claims on this subject. There is no expectation of complacency; after the publication last March of a report on the water supply situation in Cuba, protests rained down on the newspaper.

To prepare the ground, State TV’s Round Table program – produced by Ideas Multimedios, the same group mentioned in Cubadebate – reviewed on Wednesday some indicators that make clear the bleak panorama. In part: 79.4% of the population has a supply, a total of 8.8 million people – always taking into account the official population data. Of these, 94.8% have intra-home service, 5% have reliable water trucks and 0.07% have easily accessible sources. continue reading

Some 94.8% have intra-home service, 5% have reliable water trucks and 0.07% have easily accessible sources

But in turn, we must break down the data of those who have service in their home, the “privileged,” which amounts to just over 8.3 million people; divided among those who receive it daily, just over 4 million; every other day, 2.1 million; in cycles of three to nine days, 1.6 million people; and, finally, the 566,000 who have it every ten days or more.

But there is still a worse rung on the ladder than the latter, those who do not have any supply service. That group is made up of 535,876 people, 6.1% of the population, who in turn are divided among those who do not have it because of: an “eventuality” (299,000); those with a service cycle greater than 7 days (386,530); those affected by catchment works (79,681); lack of electricity (4,110); and, finally, the large group: those who receive it intermittently in water trucks: 475,404 inhabitants who have water in periods longer than 15 days.

José Antonio Hernández Álvarez, president of the OSDE Agua y Saneamiento, offered all these data in last night’s broadcast and gave details about what the plans are to solve such a serious situation. “The main problems are in the eastern areas of the country, while in the center we have difficulties, especially in some mountainous territories and in the city of Santa Clara. Right now, the number of people affected in Cuba is around 500,000, although well below what was reported at other times.”

According to his explanation, there are three programs underway with investment – no figures provided – to replace the pumping equipment, improve the measurement and change the energy matrix.

“The main problems are in the eastern areas of the country, while in the center we have difficulties, especially in some mountainous territories and in the city of Santa Clara”

The official devoted part of his screen time to regretting that the water supply depends so much on electrical energy and only a few pumping systems have generators. “These systems are located in densely populated areas, but in recent years they have worsened due to their exploitation and present important problems related to the electricity supply,” he said.

Hernández Álvarez explained that these systems, unlike electricity, take hours to recover after a blackout, since the pipes must be filled first and then the pressure rises and is distributed over distances of several kilometers, which complicates the situation. To alleviate this, batteries have been bought that support the generators and that, in his opinion, have moderately improved the problem.

Despite this, the solutions seem to come more from outside, since the official spoke of the “acquisition of pumping equipment,” the response that produces the most impact. “So far, 1,063 pumps have arrived, and we have already installed 803 of them in several areas of Cuba. The arrival of other equipment is expected in the coming months. In addition, we have had success in recovering 733 pieces of traditional pumping equipment since the previous year.”

One of the most common reproaches of citizens is that, since the Ordering Task*, the price of water has risen seven times, an excessive cost for the terrible service received. Hernández Álvarez gave signs of understanding the annoyance but argued that the cost for the entity has increased 16 times and for fuel, 19 times.

“This results in a real cost of more than 200 pesos, while the population only pays about 7 pesos

“The cost of one cubic meter of water is around 70 pesos, and one person consumes approximately three cubic meters. This results in a real cost of more than 200 pesos, while the population only pays about 7 pesos. This affects the company’s liquidity, and at the end of February there are nine companies that are registering losses,” he added.

The conglomerate, created in 2009 and employing about 24,000 workers, was made up of 29 companies of which 24 were in charge of water and sanitation and five of construction activities. Since 2022, two international economic associations, two subsidiary companies and state-run private companies have joined them, one of which “has the task of repairing the sanitary lines inside the homes.”

Leonel Díaz Hernández, general director of the Water Company of Havana, was there to talk about the specific situation of the capital, which has experienced many problems in recent weeks that improved, he said, after the rains at the end of March.

“We continue with the projects related to the use of renewable energy sources, and in the coming months we will acquire two other power generators from solar panels, while we introduce other equipment such as water trucks that work with this type of energy,” he added.

In 2020, the Mission of Cuba to the United Nations responded in writing to a note from the Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment in which he asked about “human rights and related relations related to water pollution, water scarcity and floods.”

In it, the regime gave all kinds of details about the many measures (plans, programs, legislative incorporations, etc.) taken by the Government to provide water to the population and thus guarantee a service that in 2010 the UN declared “essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.” However, the last three paragraphs were dedicated to holding the United States responsible for limiting the Island’s resources, and this time not because of the “blockade” but “due to the illegal usurpation of our territory by the United States Government, with the imposition, since 1903, of a naval base in the province of Guantánamo.”

The text detailed: “One of the consequences of this illegal usurpation for the full enjoyment of the right to water and sanitation is that we cannot comprehensively manage the surface and groundwater that form in the mountains of the Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo provinces because they conclude their journey in the occupied area.”

*Translator’s note:  The Ordering Task was a collection of measures that included eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso (CUP) as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency, which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and a broad range of other measures targeted to different elements of the Cuban economy.

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.

Cubans, Between the Battle of Ideas and the Cultural Battle

The majority of Cuba’s young people — those who left and those who stayed — are no longer interested in mass rallies

Almost all the speakers whom Fidel Castro thrust into stardom later faded under the brightness of the four stars on his little brother Raúl’s shoulder straps / Centro Fidel Castro

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, 13 April 2024, Madrid — Those open mass rallies in which Hassan Pérez Casabona stunned the crowds with his rapid-fire barrage of words are still fresh in the minds of many Cubans. At the end of each Saturday, the streets were a sea of trampled flags, empty plastic bottles and chewed-up chicken bones. People went home not understanding why these events were called “open.” In reality, they were a closed circuit in which every speaker just repeated what the previous one had said. A highly rehearsed monologue of multiple voices, it was the culmination of the Castro liturgy. Almost all the speakers whom Fidel Castro had thrust into stardom later faded under the brightness of the four stars on his little brother Raúl’s shoulder straps.

The vast majority fell into disgrace. For example, Otto Ribero, the former first secretary of the Young Communist League and vice president of the Council of Ministers went into a drunken, downward spiral before going through a public catharsis on Facebook. He proudly confessed on that platform to having personally signed the regulation preventing Cubans from leaving the island even though his children were already living overseas. Never before has the expression “other people’s shame” made more sense. That poor devil was full of praise for his executioners from the Ministry of the Interior, thanking them for every slap in the face, every kick in the groin.

Hassan Pérez Casabona managed to survive by sneaking away, lowering his profile by retreating into the basement

Hassan Pérez Casabona managed to survive by sneaking away, lowering his profile by retreating into the basement. He emerged two weeks ago in an appearance on the Venezuelan state television network Telesur, spouting the same rhetoric as before but now breathing like someone with chronic continue reading

asthma. He appeared gray and gaunt but with a belly acquired in the Communist Party Central Committee dining rooms. Hassan’s tongue has lost its former horsepower, which once allowed him to go from zero to a hundred in a matter of seconds. Instead, he attempted to distract the interviewer with quick hand gestures like those used by katas in Shotei-style karate.

Over a five-year period, dozens of these rallies were held, wasting the flow of oil that Hugo Chávez had given us. The last one took place on March 12, 2005, in Caimanera, thus concluding the cycle of a larger project: the Battle of Ideas. The emperor’s last act of madness worked like a temporary suppository. For five years the country had been entertained by demands for the return of a shipwrecked boy and the release of five would-be spies. From time to time Díaz-Canel tries to resurrect this ethos but, with no causes of his own, he has to inspire people by pretending to be Palestinian.

The majority of Cuba’s young people — those who left and those who stayed — are no longer interested in mass rallies. However, some have enthusiastically signed up for a new crusade: the Cultural Battle. Now the rhetoric is coming from the other end of the spectrum. Dozens of Cuban social media users spout paleo-conservative slogans with religious zeal. Some have become shepherds  — instructing their flocks in the theories of some Austrian economist — with the same effusiveness with which others previously indoctrinated us with Marxist ideas. New mirror-images of Otto and Hassan have emerged, trying to impose absolute truths, worshiping new commanders-in-chief, or shouting “we don’t want them, we don’t need them” at those who do not think like them.

New mirror-images of Otto and Hassan have emerged, trying to impose absolute truths

First of all, I consider the ideology of these Cubans to be as valid as that of anyone else. I also believe they have every right in the world to passionately defend it with arguments, to choose the leaders they prefer, to share beliefs as a group, to participate in whatever public discussion they desire and even to win out in the end. However, the alarm bells go off when democracy stops making sense for them, when they reject pluralism or when they try to present themselves as the only possible option in a future Cuba. We have suffered from authoritarian thinking for too long. The best antidote to decades of dictatorship would be a diversity of opinions, a search for consensus between opposing views, and political alternatives.

Believing that we are right and everyone else is wrong is as human as blushing. But killing the tyrant we carry within us is essential to overcoming this long totalitarian period and building something truly different. Nothing is more boring than a meeting between those who think the same way and share the same opinions. Nothing stagnates a country more than the imposition of a single doctrine. That most beautiful word, freedom, should not be limited to discussions about economic freedom. It has to also be about freedom of mind and body.

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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.

Ceballos, the Declining Company That Tries To Impress the Cuban Government

After four years “without honoring its commitments,” the fruit exporter of Ciego de Ávila has little success

In 2022 Ceballos had losses of 70 million pesos and another 75 million were stolen or wasted / Invasor

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 April 2024 —   It is rare for the official press to retreat in its predictions of success for a state-owned company. But the collapse of the exports of the agro-industrial Ceballos, in Ciego de Ávila, made Invasor admit this Saturday that the entity had not been able to survive the “blow to the chin” that was given to it by the Ordering Task* in 2021.

Since then, when 426 state companies were ruined by the umpteenth recipe for economic salvation for the Island, the provincial newspaper of the Communist Party put its hands in the fire in favor of Ceballos. “But they didn’t just end that period in the red but also in 2022,” it now says, when the managers struggle – with average success – to return to the “path of efficiency.”

The “very adjusted mathematics” with which Ceballos returns to the game is a bad omen  

The “very adjusted mathematics” with which Ceballos returns to the game is a bad omen: in 2022 they reported 70 million pesos in losses, and another 75 million were stolen or wasted, information that Invasor hides after a verbal pirouette: they didn’t have the money, and “at the time, the accounting by the country’s management had the consequent impacts.” continue reading

The Government was not happy about the waste, judging by the litany of obstacles it imposed on the company in 2023. To this was added the failure to export a shipment of coal that no international buyer wanted, and that was “stalled” in Mariel while Ceballos managers saw a multitude of “competitors with less expensive products” closing deals abroad.

Havana also did not allow them to enter the group of companies that could carry out transactions enjoying an exchange rate of 120 pesos for a dollar, a decision that the managers described as “contradictory,” Ceballos being “a leader of the Avileño exporting pole.” The solution was to cut heads: from 12 floors they went to eight; they fired workers in charge of “indirect work” and “centralized resources” to tackle corruption.

From October to February there were 310 employees of Ceballos, most of them professionals or directly involved with production / Invasor

A few days ago, “after four years without honoring their commitments,” they achieved a figure of which they are proud: 1.1 million pesos, in terms of foreign sales of coal, hot pepper and mango puree. They regained, they say, the confidence of the Government, which allowed the French Development Agency to approve the delivery of 4.9 million pesos this year to buy supplies that have not yet arrived. Their star product: the pineapple, on whose success they have bet everything.

Its “young general director,” Exnier González, regrets that 60% of its workers are old and 30% are women, who “look for options other than strong field work under the sun.” Many have left for “other sectors that offer greater benefits, such as private forms of management.” From October to February, there were 310 employees of Ceballos, most of them professionals or directly involved with the production.

Invasor again resorts to euphemisms to say that, unlike what happens with the leaders, they can’t afford to pay for certain employees, who must leave: “The competition is very unequal, because while the state entity obeys control systems that do not allow it to overcome certain limits in the formation of wages, the private sector can increase payments from the inflation of the sales and marketing prices, an aspect of great weight when the real possibility of satisfying the basic needs of the worker and his family is relevant.”

González’s plan: a “dignification and rescue program” that will work by offering the worker food and future “payment systems that respond to the increase in production.” All this appears, for the time being, on paper. No decisions have been made, and the manager admits that he is “still far from compensated for his needs.”

Of those 3,170 gallons of fuel that the entity received, the figure fell drastically to about 185   

Now, the head of Ceballos demands from the Government “a little more fuel.” “Of those 3,170 gallons that the entity received in times of bonanza and that literally allowed ’bathing in oil’, the figure dropped drastically to about 185 in most days and become a real headache when it came to allocating them,” the newspaper explains.

Resentful, with a small workforce and little money – a business system that González calls, with optimism, “a new type” – Ceballos has 27,182 acres at its disposal over which it is difficult to “maintain control.” It is “a changing scenario, exposed to multiple factors, where there are no certainties of resources,” says the newspaper.

The truth is that, compared to the agro-industrial entities of neighboring provinces, Ceballos is almost a successful company. In Sancti Spíritus, for example, the official press activated the alarms this Saturday for the catastrophic collapse of potato production. In an article of consolation for the losses, Escambray revealed the magnitude of the failure: the total production amounted to 1,392,881 pounds of potato, “far below what was expected.” Conclusion: the tuber is not expected to “reach everyone in the province,” who are now accustomed – like most Cubans – to its intermittency.

*Translator’s note: The Ordering Task was a collection of measures that included eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso (CUP) as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency, which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and a broad range of other measures targeted to different elements of the Cuban economy.

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 Hard Life of a Cuban ‘Mule’ to Supply her Business

María travels to Guyana, Russia, Peru, Colombia or Venezuela to sell Cuban products and buy as cheaply as possible for her store in Camajuaní

Cubans who travel to Caracas look for shops that offer good prices / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yankiel Gutiérrez Faife, Camajauní (Villa Clara Province, Cuba), 13 April 2024 — At age 42, María does not allow herself to waste one second. She gets up at 7:30 am, prepares breakfast for her children and runs to open her store, “L & B”, on Camajuaní Boulevard. With the trips she makes as a mule to different countries – bringing clothes, shoes and perfumes to Cuba and carrying rum, tobacco and wines to other destinations – she has managed to set up a business that she tries to keep well stocked.

Her years of experience as an entrepreneur have earned her a reputation as one of the best business people in the area and she has gained a fairly loyal clientele, who trusts her to purchase quality products.

Before her apparent success, however, María had to make many sacrifices and work very hard. A few years ago, she found the opportunity to travel to several countries and buy wholesale merchandise to resell in Camajuaní. This idea came accompanied by her desire to start her own business, and she had to save every penny for months to pay for tickets and have money for purchases.

In the La Hoyada market you can buy cheap clothes such as overalls, coats and shorts for 5 dollars each / 14ymedio

After going once to Guyana (in 2017), twice to Russia (in 2018), three times to Peru (in 2019) and two more times to Colombia (in 2022), this year she left for Venezuela with a detailed list of what she was looking for: blouses, pants, shirts, perfumes, appliances and everything that is difficult to find in Cuba or is in high demand. continue reading

Through Facebook groups she found accommodations for the four nights she was in Caracas and, although the place was not in very good condition, she decided to stay with a Cuban residing in Venezuela who rents rooms and offers an affordable rate.

At 20 dollars a night for a room, the price also covered breakfast, lunch, and shuttle service to and from the airport was available to her. However, those days she had to take the nine-kilometer journey by buseta, the Venezuelan bus, to go to the stores.

María knows that on this type of trip she must moderate her expenses and not waste money, since the increase in the price of the dollar in Cuba reduces the economic benefit that the merchandise she acquires gives her. However, she always looks for attractive items that are not on her list and that might interest her clients.

In Caracas, she explored shops and markets in search of the best deals, which are not difficult to find. The shops that offer good prices, and where Cubans go, are often managed by Chileans, Colombians, Chinese, Turks and Arabs. Each seller has their own trick, and travelers like María create their own map of the places that can be approached and which ones will try to overcharge.

At the La Hoyada market, for example, she can buy cheap clothes: overalls, coats and shorts for $5 each, or three sweaters for $10. On Sabana Grande Boulevard, however, it is better to buy shoes. There you can find brands popular among young people, such as Jordan, New Balance, Nike and Adidas at bargain prices, between 15 and 35 dollars, while the originals can cost up to 200 dollars.

Those days, María had to travel nine kilometers from the stores to the rental at her expense in a ‘buseta’ / 14ymedio

One goes to Arab stores in search of fragrances. Perfumes that are popular among customers, and that are highly valued in Cuba, can be found for up to a dollar. On the other hand, in Chinese stores it is better to buy cosmetics and jewelry.

In the streets surrounding the Cemetery Market there are also many different things to buy: sets of sheets for 8 dollars, mixers for 15, Reina-brand pots for 50, fans for 12, hair dryers for 10, irons for 20, and they are sold by Turkish merchants.

After the last search, and after loading the merchandise into two 23-kilogram suitcases, María does not know if she will ever repeat the journey again. The trip back to Cuba is full of anxiety and stress, especially when passing through the eyes of airport officials and customs restrictions. At times, she recounts, she has been mistreated, or, in addition they have made her lose part of the merchandise.

Once the controls have been cleared comes the “hardest” part: selling the products in Camajuaní.  Arranging the goods on display, making calculations and examining the goods – which sometimes arrive in poor condition – do not always guarantee success.  María knows that she competes with mipymes (MSMEs) and other Camajuaní merchants who, like her, travel and sell for a living.

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.

The Cuban Regime Erases ‘Barbarroja’ from State Security History

Manuel Piñeiro died in strange circumstances while preparing his autobiography

Comandante Manuel Piñeiro, known as ‘Barbarroja’ / La Pupila Asombrada

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Izquierdo, 26 March 2024, Havana — This Tuesday, not a single official newspaper alluded, in the eulogies dedicated to the anniversary of State Security, to its most famous founder, Commander Manuel Piñeiro, known as Barbarroja. On the other hand, there are many tributes to the “true heroes of silence” – such as centenarian Julio Camacho Aguilera and Abelardo Colomé Ibarra, two incombustibles – and reports of numerous awards to active agents in various provinces.

This was the case of a group of ten G2 officers in Sancti Spíritus who received medals for their work as “outstanding combatants” in surveillance at the local level. Of those decorated, only three colonels “with high responsibilities” in State Security allowed themselves to be photographed and identified. In a speech by Julio Jiménez, from the provincial bureau of the Communist Party, there were quotes from Fidel and Raúl Castro, in addition to Ramiro Valdés, but Piñeiro was also omitted.

Crossed out of official history and having died in suspicious circumstances – an alleged accident while driving his own car– in 1998, Fidel Castro’s spy chief also did not find his place in the delirious history of the regime’s counterintelligence published by Cubadebate and the official state newspaper Granma, which seeks its antecedents in none other than the War of Independence of 1895. Back then, a certain “agent Luis” received instructions from José Martí to develop “original methods” to outwit Spanish intelligence.

 Having the Military Leader leave the Sierra Maestra unharmed was “the most important mission” of a group of agents who, in the long run, constituted the Rebel Intelligence.

After multiple historical ramblings – which also turned Julio Antonio Mella and Carlos Baliño, among others, into spies – Cubadebate insists that State Security meant, in its origins, the security of one man: (Fidel) Castro. That the leader left the Sierra Maestra unharmed was “the most important mission” of a group of agents who, in the long run, constituted the Rebel Intelligence and its “peasant observation service,” in charge of interrogating guajiros (rural farmers) suspected of collaborating with Fulgencio Batista. continue reading

Although Barbarroja – who was part of the column led by Fidel Castro himself and then by his brother Raúl – had a leading role, before and after 1959, in the creation of Cuban espionage bodies, the regime’s role in the infiltration of Batista’s troops.

The Cubadebate text alludes to other “protagonists” of the State Security foundation, such as René de los Santos Ponce, Camilo Cienfuegos – to whom it attributes the dismantling of Batista’s espionage bodies – and Ramiro Valdés, Prime Minister of the Interior, of whom Piñeiro was vice minister.

The regime describes Havana’s Columbia Camp as an “idyllic residence surrounded by trees” where Castro’s spies set up their headquarters, later moved to the centrally located Fifth Avenue in the Miramar neighborhood of Havana, under the command of Colomé Ibarra.

After multiple historical ramblings, Cubadebate insists that State Security meant, in its origins, the security of one man: (Fidel) Castro 

In the eyes of Granma, the Army and State Security are “twin brothers” of the regime, “under the direct attention of Fidel and Raúl.” It asserts that 108 Cuban spies have died in the exercise of their profession and that thousands more have neutralized “terrorist plans” and “subversive activities” within the Island.

The writing concludes with a warning. State Security currently remains “vigilant”, especially on social networks and “especially” around young people. Infiltrators, alleges Granma, quoting Fidel Castro, “have the very bitter task of passing themselves off as counterrevolutionaries to serve the Revolution.”

This past February 8, Cuban Television very discreetly premiered a documentary by Rebeca Chávez dedicated to Piñeiro. The audiovisual piece, titled I’m Still Barbarroja, was not published – as is usual with the content of its programming – by the Educational Channel on YouTube.

Chávez, to whom Cuban counterintelligence has previously offered unpublished recordings (those of the self-incrimination of poet Heberto Padilla, for example), used fragments of an interview that Barbarroja gave to CNN in 1997, shortly before he died. The material describes Piñeiro’s role in the kidnapping of several US Marines – the so-called Anti-Aircraft Operation of 1958 – and alludes to the time he received training from the KGB, under the false name of Celestino Martínez, in the Soviet Union.

State Security continues “keeping a close watch” currently, above all on social networks and “especially” near young people.

Videos of the former head of the Departmento América of the Communist Party had not appeared on national television since 2023, when cultural commissioner Iroel Sánchez tried to rehabilitate him on his program La Pupila Asombrada for the 25th anniversary of his death. His biographical sketch published by the official encyclopedia Ecured – another Sánchez project – suggests that he stepped away from political life in 1997 to undertake “with great intensity and enthusiasm” an autobiography that has never been published.

The son of wealthy Galicians – his father was the manager of the Bacardí Rum Factory – he studied at Columbia University, in New York, and collaborated with Castro from the beginning of the July 26 Movement. Bloodthirsty during the trials against former officers of Batista’s Army, starting in the 1960s he took to sowing guerrilla movements throughout Latin America and Africa, devised from Havana.

He was close to senior officials of the German Stasi and the Soviet KGB, whose structure inspired the Cuban State Security. The official version of his death states that he “crashed into a tree while driving to his house, in the middle of an episode of diabetes.” The “loss of consciousness” occurred while he was returning from a reception at the Mexican Embassy in Havana, although Ecured omits the party, and insists that he had previously participated “in a tribute and commemoration” to the second Eastern Front.

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.

In Cuba Couriers Have a New Scam To Sell Cooking Gas Cylinders

Sonia explains how the ‘balita’ — gas canister — business works in Sancti Spíritus, Cuba

The business is more effective if the courier has more balitas (cooking gas cylinders) / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes García, Sancti Spíritus, 13 April 2024 — The first time the seller brought Sonia a balita (cooking gas cylinder) that wasn’t hers, so that she “could cook for a few days,” she was uncomfortable but accepted it. A resident of Sancti Spíritus, retired, with two grandchildren for whom she frequently prepares lunch, it took her a while to understand how the “business” worked: postponing the deadline for returning the deposit – and with a smile on his face – the courier used the empty cylinder to sell gas on his own. The business is more effective the more cylinders the courier has. If the cycle is kept alive, the cylinders go from hand to hand, and the dealer will be able to shorten the waiting times and attract less attention from his customers. If something fails, there are always “tricks,” Sonia explains, like telling a sob story so that the person doesn’t lose patience.

When this happens, even the most skillful of dealers must get their act together and knock on all the doors. They have to go to the point of sale, to state employees or to emergency reserves, such as the provisional balita that Sonia received. Time is, like in no other profession, gold.

“A neighbor explained to me what was happening, and I changed couriers,” says Sonia. “He started well. He arrived at eleven in the morning and returned with the balita at eleven thirty. But it began to take longer and longer, until he brought me that one from his home. I told my neighbor, and what happened happened.” continue reading

“He started well. He arrived at eleven in the morning and returned with the balita at eleven thirty. But it began to take longer and longer”

Now, she hopes that the person who is filling his orders will not fail him. The last time she went to look for the gas herself – several days ago – using the Ticket application, the experience in line was overwhelming. “I returned with a headache,” she says. She had booked an appointment with the application since the beginning of February.

Her pension of just over 2,000 pesos is not enough for Sonia to pay a “high rank” courier, who for 1,000 pesos makes his way quietly in the line and, through contacts, gets a privileged position. The line was a “disgrace, a disaster,” says Sonia, who saw twenty people ahead of her who, she knew, had already taken their turns a few days before.

“They sold 20 places in line ‘on the left’ and gave them the balitas. The line, if you do it by Ticket, doesn’t move. Where did they get those 20 positions from, if I bought my turn in February?” she asks. Between the crowd and the corruption, Sonia’s case is frequent among Cubans who must go through official channels – or by “economic” means, such as hiring cheaper and unreliable couriers – if they want to acquire a gas cylinder.

If they are lucky they will make money, but often even that is not enough. On the other hand, in Holguín, 14ymedio found, the lines to buy gas are formed in the usual way: you buy on a first-come, first-served basis. Virtual platforms have been inactive for more than a month.

But from Pinar del Río to Guantánamo, the same law prevails: fighting for a turn in line is only the first step. Then comes the sun – more inclement as the summer approaches – and the endless wait among overwhelmed young and elderly people who threaten to faint at any moment.

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.

In Cuba One Egg, a Common Food, Now Costs More Than the Daily Pension of a Retiree

Eggs cost 3,500 pesos per carton of 30 in the informal market, compared to 2,000 a year ago

The shortage of eggs in the rationed market has pushed consumers into informal trade networks / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 April 2024 — In the ’80s, when the Soviet subsidy had created the mirage of prosperity in Cuba, in primary schools, along with names and mockery for physical appearance, it was common to insult each other by saying “in your house you only eat eggs.” The product accumulated in the markets and was rejected with disdain in the labor canteens. No one could foresee its conversion into an exclusive and longed-for food.

Four decades have passed, and there is nothing left of that stigma attached to the egg. Instead of disdaining it or making it a target of children’s jokes, now many Cubans long to have it on their plate, whether it’s fried, boiled or poached. This April, a carton with 30 eggs costs 3,500 pesos in the informal market of Havana, while a year ago the same carton cost 2,000.

This Saturday, at the Galiano Street fair in Centro Habana, customers raised their eyebrows when they read the price on the egg carton. “But last week I bought it for 3,000 pesos; how did it go up by 500 all of a sudden?” a woman protested in front of one of the many kiosks that exhibited very white eggs, apparently imported given their size and cleanliness.

“I need my daily retirement and a little more to be able to buy one egg” 

“Are these the Colombian eggs?” asked another possible buyer, but the seller only shrugged her shoulders without knowing what to answer. “I ask because the last time I bought Cuban eggs the yolk was so pale that it was confused with the white, and I read on the internet that Cuba is buying eggs from Colombia. I hope those aren’t as anemic,” she said sarcastically. continue reading

“I have a pension of 3,400 pesos per month, so I need my daily retirement and a little more to be able to buy an egg,” complained a man who also came to inquire about the price of the product. “To top it off, you have to buy the whole carton because they don’t sell them one at a time, so I don’t even have enough in my pension.”

Indispensable in multiple recipes, the egg affects the price of many other products. When it gets more expensive, so do the offers of pastry, birthday cakes, cold salads, breaded dishes, croquettes, meringues, tortillas and whatever mixture you need that requires some white or yolk.

“People complain because the small marquesitas (cheese pastries) cost 180 pesos and the large cost 250, but because of the price of eggs, I have had to raise everything,” the owner of a small sweet shop on Primelles Street in the neighborhood of El Cerro explains to 14ymedio. “Right now, for example, we are not making cappuccino cake because it needs a lot of eggs, and we can only make two or three meringue sweets a day.”

Evolution of the price of eggs in Cuba during the last year in the informal market and ‘MSMEs’ / 14ymedio

“I have several suppliers who give me a discount if I buy more than ten cartons, but I don’t like to have so many eggs at once because they spoil, and if a long blackout occurs I lose everything,” explains the entrepreneur. “I’ve bought some dehydrated egg but it’s not the same; it’s good for some recipes but not for all.”

“Imported eggs at 3,000 pesos a carton. Minimum purchase of ten cartons,” reads an ad on Facebook. “We are located in Playa and don’t have transport at home,” added the classified with a photo of some light brown eggs, most appreciated by Cubans who associate them with the Creole product that was once available from farmers or non-industrialized farms.

The shortage of eggs in the rationed market – there are places where the product has not reached the State stores for months – has pushed consumers to the informal trade networks and private companies. In all of them, the price has increased by 75% in one year, and the supply varies according to the imports that arrive in the country.

Plump and fragile, the egg now appears at an excessive cost. Those who grew up laughing at a friend who only had scrambled eggs for lunch at home now swallow their jokes and dream of an intense yellow yolk into which they sink a piece of bread. Then, when they are about to put the delicacy in their mouth, they wake up suddenly with the screams of a street vendor who proclaims: “Let’s go, the eggs have arrived, at 3,500 pesos the carton!”

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.

Converted Into a Company, the Propaganda Section of the Communist Party Sells ‘Stamps’ and Flags

The new status means more money and resources, in addition to brand-new printing machines

To make wholesale banners, the company has modern printers from the Japanese multinational Roland /  La Demajagua

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 13 April 2024 — The purpose is to “market the image of Cuba,” and the means are furnished by the Communist Party. Protected and paid for by the highest authority of the country, the Propaganda and Events business unit, with its main factory in Granma province, doesn’t disguise its objective: to supply the entire Cuban East with banners, flags, slogans and portraits of leaders.

Although it is still attached to the Central Committee, the eastern section of the former Propaganda Department has just been converted into a company. The new status means more money and resources, suggests La Demajagua, the provincial digital newspaper, which showcased the business in an elaborate report. Before the cameras, the brand-new company took out the artillery: modern printers from the Japanese multinational Roland, electric saws to create “awards and diplomas” for the leaders, giant posters, shirts, fence panels and dozens of “symbols.”

In the video published by the newspaper there was also a collection of “stamps” with the faces of Fidel and Raúl Castro

In the video published by the newspaper next to the report, there was also a collection of “stamps” – similar to those sold in Cuban churches – with the faces of Fidel and Raúl Castro, Miguel Díaz-Canel, Che Guevara, Vilma Espín and Camilo Cienfuegos.

The workers aren’t complaining. “We get a good salary. There are months that I earn 6,000, 7,000 pesos, depending on the content of the work. I like the craft,” says the company’s carpenter, who says “the equipment is modern, which makes the job easier. Now we are waiting for an assembler, because the workmanship must be very good quality,” he adds. continue reading

The designers play with one motif in their designs: the Cuban flag. They make sure that the symbol “waves” at events, on shirts and “along the roads.” They use the image with abandon, and despite the Government’s tension over the “improper use” of the banner, which has cost years in prison to activists Aniette González and the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, they make sure that the work is “proper.”

The company states that it provides services not only to the local governments of the eastern area but also to natural persons “who contract with us.” However, it does not clarify what type of customers – national or international – buy, for personal use, the revolutionary fanfare produced by the entity.

The workers aren’t complaining. “We get a good salary. There are months that I earn 6,000, 7,000 pesos, depending on the content of the work”

A moment of pure effervescence, they say, is when an event is approaching. “The work is constant,” of course, because in a country like Cuba there are more than enough historical dates, such as the imminent May 1. The Workers’ Parade is a prosperous time for Propaganda and Events, which must hire more employees “because companies demand many items in order to ensure the colors of their workers.”

In cash or by card, the company is open to any method of payment. They feel, their managers say, “a high responsibility” and consider themselves “makers of history.” They themselves have a place in the parade; they pronounce harangues using microphones that they have installed and fly banners that are printed in their workshop. Propaganda and Events marches with such a favorable wind that the authorities, not knowing what more they can do to honor the entity, will even dedicate the parade itself to it.

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 Hiring of Cuban Doctors Violates the Constitution of Honduras

Furthermore, it is a violation of national regulations that only allow free foreign medical brigades

The arrival of Cuban doctors in Honduras has alarmed local health workers / La Prensa

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, April 13, 2024 —   The Medical College of Honduras (CMH), which has spoken out on several occasions against the hiring of Cuban medical brigades, published a statement on Thursday accusing the Government of Xiomara Castro of violating the Constitution. According to the guild, the authority of the CMH itself in the hiring of foreign health workers who, in addition, do not have the necessary accreditation to practice in the country, has been overlooked.

The statement, shared on social networks, recalls that the Constitution establishes that “professional membership is mandatory,” and that it is the Professional Colleges that are authorized to regulate the exercise of the profession, something that the Government, says the guild, violates with the hiring of the Cuban doctors.

To this is added, the statement continues, the violation of the Organic Law of the Medical College of Honduras, which establishes that the CMH is the “only authorizing entity for medical brigades in the national territory,” and that they must be free. In addition, all professionals must have their degrees accredited, and, finally, they must not provide services for more than 90 days. continue reading

“The Cuban doctors who arrived in our country have not complied with the requirements of the Law”   

“The Cuban doctors who arrived in our country have not complied with the requirements of the Law, so the Medical College of Honduras does not endorse the activity and professional practice of these colleagues in the national territory,” says the statement. It also denounces the fact that the Cuban health workers receive a stipend in exchange for their services, which disqualifies them from working in the country’s hospitals.

This alone, they add, is a violation of Honduran labor regulations, and they ask the Ministers of Health, Carla Paredes, and of Labor, Sarahí Cerna, to “intervene in the solution of this problem that violates the legal powers of the Medical College of Honduras to the detriment of the entire Honduran medical guild.”

Last February, the Ministry of Health of Honduras announced the arrival of 89 Cuban doctors that same month, after the signing of an agreement with Cuba. The doctors “will be distributed throughout the hospital network, according to the needs,” the institution stated.

Paredes, asked by the Honduran guild for explanations, then clarified that although she was in charge of signing the agreement, the Secretariat of Strategic Planning was the person in charge of the hiring. At no time have the Honduran authorities said how much will be paid to the Government of Cuba for each specialist, but the minister pointed out that it would be less than what Honduran doctors think.

“We don’t know if these Cubans are really doctors; we don’t know who endorses their profession”

The Central American authorities also stressed that “the Cuban humanitarian brigade does not affect Honduran doctors, because they are specialists in deficient branches in the country: surgeons, orthopedists, neurosurgeons, vascular surgeons, oncologists, internists, psychiatrists, epidemiologists, family doctors and geriatricians” – a clarification with which an attempt was made to counter – unsuccessfully – the criticisms of indigenous professionals and unions, including the CMH, which denounced at that time the dismissal of 30 workers for ideological reasons.

Months ago, in November, the CMH launched an alarm about the arrival of Cuban health workers without their being informed as a professional organization, and it left doubt about whether they were really doctors. “We don’t know if these Cubans are really doctors; we don’t know who endorses their profession,” said Helga Codina, president of the collective.

On that date, and in contrast to what the Minister of Health recently said, Codina explained that for each Cuban, the corresponding amount would be paid to two or three national professionals, although she did not elaborate on whether this was only for salaries or included accommodation and other expenses.

Other aspects, such as the training of the medical contingent, were also questioned by the CMH. “Many are giving consultations, and we have sometimes detected problems of mismanagement. This is the risk we run by bringing in foreigners without going through the country’s proper channels,” Codina criticized at the time.

A similar situation is happening in Mexico, where the Government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador has begun to dismiss national health workers claiming that “there is no money” to pay their salaries, when between July 2022 and May 2023, $9,667,115 was delivered to the Island in payment for a contingent of 718 Cuban doctors.

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.

Despite the Threat of Fines, Most Cubans Delay or Avoid Paying Their Taxes

Though the deadline is April 30, the number of people who have filed their tax returns is still very low / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 9 April 2024 — With just twenty-one days to go before the Personal Income Tax Return deadline, not even half of taxpayers in Sancti Spiritus province have filed their returns. Though 17,700 people are required to file, according to an article published on Tuesday in the provincial newspaper Escambray, only about  8,000 have done so, a situation that is becoming increasingly common across the country.

Those required to pay personal income taxes include self-employed workers, artists, social media entrepreneurs and employees of foreign-owned banks. Some workers in the agricultural sector are also required to pay income tax but the compliance rate is about same as in other fields. Of the 12,600 required file a tax return, only 45% have done so. Those failing to pay their taxes include emigrés who did not register at the National Tax Administration Office (ONAT), a very common situation among those who move overseas.

The article confirms fears that have been widespread since the early filing period ended on February 28. Anyone filing a return by that date would have seen their tax burden reduced by 5%. At that time, state media complained that only 58,936 of the total 462,445 taxpayers had filed returns, a mere 12.7% of the total. The situation was even worse in the case of agricultural workers: Of the 163,558 required to file tax returns, only 10,324 (a paltry 6.3%) did so. continue reading

State media complained that only 58,936 of the total 462,445 taxpayers had filed returns, a mere 12.7% of the total

These numbers are based on returns from seven provinces: Havana, Cienfuegos, Sancti Spíritus, Ciego de Ávila, Holguín, Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo. In other words, half the island. As ONAT head Mary Blanca Ortega Barredo pointed out, non-compliance occurs in all sectors of the country’s workforce but the cultural sector’s numbers stand out.

According to Escambray, the deadline for state-owned companies, as well as micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), to pay their taxes was March 31. This year, they are also required to file a tax return. The tax exemption for newly created companies ended in January and has not been extended.

The article points out that corporations have shown the highest level of compliance. Though it does not provide figures, it states that most of these 792 companies, along with the owners of all the MSMEs, filed tax returns. Together, they account for 83% of all taxes the country collects.

There were more than 400 tax audits conducted in Sancti Spíritus in 2023, which resulted in thirty-million pesos in fines. Since then, there have been ninety such investigations, which revealed a shortfall in tax payments of approximately 8.5 million pesos that should have gone to the state.

Although the article contains informative data on current tax collection efforts, its main focus is on raising awareness among taxpayers about the importance of paying their taxes and what might happen to them if they do not. For example, if tax authorities reach an agreement with someone accused of tax evasion, there is no further legal action. This is not what happens if the issue goes to court, where there are currently ten such cases underway.

In addition to fines, tax evaders face the prospect of not being allowed to leave the country, a penalty that currently imapacts some two-hundred people who refused to comply with Cuban tax law

In addition to fines, tax evaders face the prospect of not being allowed to leave the country, a penalty proscribed by Cuba tax law that currently impacts some two-hundred people who refused to fulfill their tax obligations.

This year, it is expected that 338,999 million pesos will be collected in taxes – including fees and contributions –  “all of which guarantee the support and development of social programs as important as public health, education, social assistance, sport and culture,” the article explains.

Some taxpayers have been critical of ONAT for delays in issuing refunds to which they are entitled. It is not uncommon for people to wait until December or beyond for their refunds to arrive.

Cuba’s low rate of tax compliance is nothing new. Experts point to the expansion of the informal market, a tradition of tax avoidance and widespread distrust of financial institutions as the principal causes. This is exacerbated by the lack of transparency in how  public money is spent. Government budgets lack the detail necessary to determine how much is allocated to each specific spending category.

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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 Official Cuban Press Criticizes the Lack of Public Data on Migration

The Cienfuegos newspaper 5 de Septiembre mentions the figures published in the independent press, without giving credit

Humanitarian parole was approved for 69,000 Cubans in its first year of operation / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 April 2024 –The immigration stampede faced by Cuba is no secret to anyone, not even to the official press, which this Friday published an unusual article on the subject. The Cienfuegos newspaper 5 de Septiembre lashes out at the authorities for the “scarce public data” about the exodus and even alludes to figures published by the independent press, although it progressively lowers the tone by attributing all the evils to the blockade*.

According to the newspaper, the data to which it has had access “indicate that today more than 11% of the Cuban population is outside the Island. Counting the migratory wave unleashed from 2021 to date, the press reports indicate that in a period of 18 months, about 400,000 Cubans were intercepted at the U.S. border.”

The real figure, about 425,000, has been disseminated by the independent press, which the official newspaper avoids mentioning and which has a precedent: the number of femicides recorded by observatories and independent media in 2023, which was cited by Periódico 26 as coming from “unofficial sources.” continue reading

The data “indicate that today more than 11% of the Cuban population is outside the Island.”

To the illegal entries through the southern border of the United States are added, in addition to those who migrated to other countries such as Spain or Mexico and the more than 69,000 Cubans approved for humanitarian parole in the United States in only the first year of that program’s operation, figures that the official newspaper does not mention either, since it prefers to focus on the “emotional damage” of migration.

“Apart from the worrying scenario that derives from such figures for the fate of the nation, we are actually talking about something more than numbers. Every digit is our parents, siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts, partners, friends,” it says.

As for the causes of the migratory wave, the newspaper points out what the ruling Center for Demographic Studies defines with an understatement: “a crisis of expectations: the perception of an uncertain future.” The causes of that uncertainty are “the search for better wages and living conditions, desire for personal fulfillment” and – “to a much lesser extent, political issues.”

However, the article omits other fundamental causes pointed out by specialists and by the emigrants themselves, such as the lack of freedoms of all kinds, which makes life unsustainable on the Island.

In line with the official version on migration, which explains that migrants come and go, 5 de Septiembre insists that “many still anchor their dreams of prosperity and growth on Cuban soil.” But, it emphasizes “the effects of the suffocating U.S. economic blockade and the incentive for irregular departures through the Cuban Adjustment Act, along with the severe internal difficulties – largely derived from the blockade – for the migratory behavior that Cuba is currently experiencing.”

“Faced with the widespread idea that the only way to breathe is to leave, the challenge of generating opportunities prevails”

The question “How does the heart of a country beat with so many children scattered around the world?” which the newspaper itself poses, is answered only half-heartedly: “Faced with the widespread idea that the only way to breathe is to leave, the challenge of generating opportunities prevails (…), without having stones thrown or abuses.”

Despite the unusual text, officialdom strives to silence the exodus, which is increasing. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office recorded the arrival of 22,946 Cubans in January. The figure is almost double the 11,909 that arrived by air, land and sea in January 2023. In the first four months of the fiscal year alone, which began in October, 86,139 Cubans have entered the United States.

In 2022, the National Institute of Statistics of Spain revealed that 198,639 people born in Cuba then lived in Spain, a figure that exceeds by more than 30,000 the number in 2020. The figures from 2023 are not yet available.

Other reports reveal that, before investing their money in the Island, emigrants prefer to dedicate their assets to trying to get their relatives out of the country. In 2023, it is estimated that the diaspora spent between 1.8 and 2.2 billion dollars in the procedures and the costs of transporting and maintaining those who emigrated to the United States. On the other hand, Cubans abroad sent remittances of only just under 1.973 billion, the same amount as in 2010 and a decrease of 47% compared to the 3.716 billion of 2019.

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 US embargo. Originally imposed in 1962, the embargo, although modified from time to time, 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.