Artemisa Municipality Records up to 30 Admissions a Day for Dengue

Special school of San Cristóbal, Artemisa, which health authorities have equipped to hospitalize patients with dengue. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Bertha K. Guillén, San Cristóbal (Artemisa), 1 July 2019 — An outbreak of dengue keeps Public Health authorities on alert in San Cristóbal, in the province of Artemisa. Up until now seven people have been confirmed as carriers of the virus, but more than twenty are admitted under suspicion, as an official from the Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology in the province confirmed to 14ymedio.

“We are equipping an admitting room in the special school with a capacity for 40 people, there all the conditions are set up to avoid the illness being spread, the number of admissions suspected of dengue vary between 18 and 23 people daily, although in recent weeks we have reached up to 30,” said another employee of the Institute via telephone.

The symptoms of the dengue virus include rash, muscle and joint pain, migraine, and weakness. The illness can cause hemorrhage and requires hospitalization, especially if the patient has previously suffered the same ailment.

Last year the official press reported on the presence in the center of the Island of a “serotype of dengue” of which there had not been outbreaks reported since 1977 and which required extreme epidemiological measures. In Cuba there are four serotypes transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito present in the country.

San Cristóbal is currently the municipality of the Artemisa province with the greatest number of focal centers of mosquitos that transmit the disease, with around 68 detected in the month of May and another 49 in the first twelve days of the month of June, according to a note published in the provincial newspaper El Artemiseño.

The causes of the growth of the focal centers are attributed to the rains of these months that create a favorable environment for the proliferation of the mosquito, in addition to the lack of personnel to carry out sanitation campaigns and home inspections.

“Although these focal centers are localized, we have not yet been able to exterminate them, many have left this type of work to start their own businesses or work privately, here we don’t make enough, and at this point we no longer ’invent’,” Arsenio Rodríguez, one of the fumigators, explains to 14ymedio, using a common Cuban expression for figuring how to get by on very little. “This week some workers from other nearby municipalities will have to come to help control the situation.”

Rises in the number of people infected by the dengue virus are frequent in the summer months, especially in years with a lot of rain. In addition to the intense heat, in the summer season of 2019 high precipitation levels are being reported above historic averages, according to data provided by the Institute of Meteorology.

In the past few weeks medical students have been displaced from the classrooms to cover the deficit of workers. The young people must make inquiries through the whole community, especially in the zones where the principal focal points of the vector have been located.

“They told us that we would have to be very meticulous and also report any case with fever or symptoms that would suggest a dengue infection, in addition to collaborating with the sanitation work,” explains Susana Méndez, a student in the third year of medical school.

The causes of the increase of the focal point are attributed to the rains of these months that create an environment beneficial for the proliferation of the mosquito. (14ymedio)

Despite the risks many people prefer to go through the illness in their houses and not go to the doctor to not risk being admitted. Although the institutions guarantee they are in good conditions, there are problems in potable water supply and cleanliness and the facilities are in a deplorable state.

“This is still an old woman wearing blush, as they say, now it is a special school, but side by side it’s also a maternity waiting home, a primary school, and high school, before everything was only one thing, imagine so many people together in the same place,” says one of the ex-patients of the ward.

“The truth is that the water situation is really complicated, it comes on Friday for a while and until Monday we don’t see it again,” affirms María Eugenia, one of the nurses.

The doctors do not have a record of the real number of infected persons, “Everything is a question of statistics,” says one of the doctors in charge of the admitted patients who prefers to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisal.

“The patients enter with criteria for admittance out of suspicion of dengue, the follow-ups are done, and later we send specimens to the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine to do the analysis that confirms the diagnosis, but the results never reach our hands, they remain, presumably, in the National Institute of Hygiene, Epidemiology, and Microbiology,” he says.

The majority of the patients find out this confirmation weeks after the illness passes or they never end up receiving the official notification that they suffered from dengue.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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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.

Cubans Increasingly Annoyed by Blackouts and Government Silence

For many Cubans, power cuts also mean greater difficulties in cooking. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio / Mario J. Pentón, Havana, 14 July 2019 —  Despite the government’s commitment not to allow “programmed blackouts” this summer, power cuts of several hours are multiplying throughout the country and causing annoyance among the population. Pinar del Río, Artemisa, Mayabeque, Villa Clara, Cienfuegos, Camagüey, Las Tunas, Holguín and Santiago de Cuba are the most affected provinces.

“Faults can occur as a result of thunderstorms or weather events, but not because of lack of electricity,” said a senior employee of the Electric Union, Elaine Moreno, at the end of last month; words that are now being remembered by customers of the state company.

Candles, matches and fuel to light an oil lamp have become products in high demand these days in the streets of the city of Camagüey and other municipalities of that province. The frequent blackouts of several hours have made many try to equip themselves for a possible upsurge in the power cuts as the summer progresses. continue reading

Do you want to report a blackout in your neighborhood? Tell us in a tweet: – Neighborhood – Municipality – Province – Cut – Time out – Restoration Time  #ReportoApagonCuba #ApagonesProgramados#ApagonesCuba (Report Blackouts Cuba, Programmed Blackouts, Cuba Blackouts)
cc. @ joseraul86 @ norges14 @camilocondis @UneCuba

– Inventory (@invntario) July 14, 2019

“We’ve had several blackouts of about four hours each day and also late at night, Crescencio González, a resident in Guernica cast in Camaguey, told 14ymedio. “When the light goes out in the evening or late at night, you suffer a lot because there is no longer anyone sleeping in this heat without a fan,” he laments.

“In my neighborhood we call the electric company several times to see what is going on but they tell us that there are breakages, although nobody believes it because they are four-hour blackouts, at different times of the day,” González explains. The blackouts are also happening in Cascorro and in Nuevitas, the second city in the province of Camagüey.

In the social network Twitter, several residents in the affected areas with power outages have begun to use the hashtag #ReportoApagonCuba to report the situation. The journalist José Raúl Gallego called on the authorities to respond if it is “programmed blackouts” to save fuel.

The reporter explained on Saturday that in the neighborhood where he resides, Reparto Saratoga in Camagüey, they were suffering the third day of blackouts. In a call to the customer service of the electric company, an employee explained to Gallego that at the moment the circuit is “down due to an emergency in the system, without a schedule to restore service.” However, the official could not answer the question of whether it was “the same emergency yesterday and the day before yesterday?”

Yes, they were saving it for me. They turned off the electricity in my house, 5:33 pm, Reparto Saratoga, Camagüey. Third day of blackouts and before had been out other days in the week. #ReportoApagonCuba #ApagonesCuba #ApagonesProgramados

– José Raúl Gallego (@ joseraul86) July 13, 2019

According to official figures, during the summer 400,000 tons of fuel are allocated to the country’s thermal power plants every month to cover the electricity demand that increases at this time of the year due to a greater use of fans, air conditioners, and other uses that shoot up with high temperatures and school holidays. The residential sector accounts for 56% of demand, while state and non-state clients account for 44%.

Cuba is going through a serious liquidity crisis that has forced it to cut imports. Its main ally and benefactor, the Government of Nicolás Maduro, in Venezuela, has had to face its own internal crisis, as a result of which it substantially reduced oil shipments to the Island.

With less money to buy the oil at international market prices and without the Venezuelan subsidy, the authorities juggle to prevent the island from returning to the years when the blackouts lasted 12 hours, during the euphemistically called Special Period.

“My son bought an air conditioner in Miami because I couldn’t stand the heat of Cienfuegos any more, but I have had to go back to ‘la penca’ [a brand of fan],” says Eloisa, a elderly woman of 71 who lives in Buena Vista.

“On Friday the electricity was out for seven hours and on Saturday we woke up with no electricity, every time they shut it down it, I remember Fidel and his ‘Energy Revolution’.” All my cooking appliances use electricity, so when it goes out, what remains is bread from the bodega,” she added.

1/3 Attention! A friend sent this sms: “In Pinar del Rio since Friday there are blackouts morning and afternoon, today Sunday I called and they told me that there is energy deficit and they do not have the plan but they are rotating the circuits for at least 4 hours … ? # ApagonesCuba #ReportoApagonCuba pic.twitter.com/zKar4cjfh7

— Cesar (@cesarss86) 14 de julio de 2019

Power cuts have also been common these days in Pinar del Río. Several residents have said that when they called the electric company, they received the response that there was not enough generation to supply the customers.

“Where are the photovoltaic panels, the hydroelectric plants, the wind farms and generators?” asked an internet user identified as Alexis_Cuba. The government insists it is working to diversify the island’s energy sources, and hopes that 24% of the country’s consumption will be covered by renewable sources in 2030.

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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.

Cuban Independent Reporter Ricardo Fernandez Now Missing for 48 Hours

Cuban independent ieporter Ricardo Fernandez has now been missing for 48 Hours

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 July 2019 — Independent journalist Ricardo Fernandez Izaguirre, who works with 14ymedio and lives in the city of Camagüey, has been missing since Friday morning, according to information provided to this newspaper by the activist Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White.

Soler details that the reporter was at her home in the Havana neighborhood of Lawton, from where he left around 11 am on July 12 to go to the national bus terminal and travel to the city of Pinar del Río. Fernandez agreed to make a phone call to confirm that he had arrived safely, but never called.

Soler fears that the reporter has been arrested by the State Security since he has not given any sign of life in the last 48 hours. Any attempt to call his mobile phone results in a message that indicates that the cell phone number is “off or outside the coverage area.” continue reading

Soler’s house, which also houses the headquarters of the Ladies in White, was surrounded from the early hours of Friday by a police operation, according to the activist. Fernandez, who also collaborates with La Hora de Cuba and Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), arrived at the house on Thursday afternoon and fell asleep at nightfall.

The wife of the journalist, Yuleysy Ruiz, adds that Fernández wanted to travel from Havana to Pinar del Río to visit his daughter who lives in that city. “The last time we heard from him was Friday at five in the morning. He called his mother but since then we do not know anything else and we are all very worried.”

A report issued earlier this month by the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH) denounced that during the first semester of 2019 there were at least 1,468 arbitrary arrests in Cuba.

The organization, based in Madrid, said it has registered numerous complaints of arrests, as well as detentions at airports, fines and other types of illegal actions that have been committed against opposition leaders, activists and independent journalists.

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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.

14ymedio Headline News Summary: New Trains With Cars Bought From China Begin Operations In Cuba

A woman observes the line of passengers to buy train tickets (EFE)

14ymedio bigger

EFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 14 July 2019 —  The new trains with cars purchased by the Cuban government from China through a 150 million dollar loan, will operate starting Saturday, with the first route between Havana and Santiago de Cuba.

The trains will carry 700 passengers and make the trip in 12 to 14 hours, a significant improvement over current travel times of an entire day or more. Tickets are 95 Cuban pesos (roughly $24 US) in first class (with air conditioning) and 70 CUP in second class.

The cost of Cuba’s plan to restore its deteriorated rail network is estimated to be three billion dollars.

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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.

Mystery Solved: Why Cubans Call Buses “Guagua”

The word “guagua,” which for Cubans means bus, comes from the English Wa & Wa Co. Inc (Washington, Walton, and Company Incorporated) which was the first United States factory to export buses to the island. The logo of Wa&Wa Co. Inc. was a white blue and red hare, colors of the American flag, and figured prominently on the front, back and sides of their buses.

Additional notes: The closest English approximation of the sound of the Cuban word “guagua” is “wawa.” 

Source: Eagle eyed translator Norma Whiting.  Thanks Norma!

The Day Innocence Drowned

The faces of the dead. The dramatic events of that summer ended the final illusions of a subjugated people.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 13 July 2019 — From that year I remember the wait, it was a feeling that filled everything like the unstoppable ticking of a story that was about to end. More than hunger, the heat of summer and the blackouts, the most difficult thing to endure was that prolonged parenthesis that had become our lives. And then July and August of 1994 arrived. The months in which we lost the little innocence we had left.

The news was diffuse, fragmented. “It was there, at the exit of the bay,” pointed out some residents in my Havana neighborhood of San Leopoldo, in the days after that 13 July when 37 people lost their lives at sea, among them 10 children. At first it seemed unreal, one more rumor of a frustrated escape, but little by little the story began to take shape, we knew the names of the victims and we knew the details of their last minutes.

Three tugboats — Polagaro 2, Polagaro 3 and Polagaro 5 — had sunk a ship carrying 72 people who were traveling with their eyes focused on the other side of the Florida Straits. People escaping a deep, dehumanizing crisis, which the ruling party had baptized with the “nice” euphemism of “Special Period in Times of Peace.” But in fact it was a time of material and moral deterioration, when children went to their parents with their hands out to ask for a piece of bread, a time when from the rostrum a delirious Fidel Castro called on us to “resist and win.” continue reading

That morning, 25 years ago, a few kilometers from the bed where I slept my apathetic dreams of adolescence, a terrifying scene developed that has been reconstructed thanks to the testimony of the survivors. The three tugs that were chasing the migrants pointed high pressure water hoses on them, knocking several adults and children off the deck. Those traveling on 13 de Marzo tugboat could do little against the onslaught.

The sea was filled with tumult and shouting a few meters from the imperturbable lighthouse of Morro, the same one that weeks later would again see avalanches of people leaving, this time in fragile crafts. While the water filled the throats of those dozens of people, others sitting along the wall of the Malecón to alleviate the summer heat stared out to sea imagining their dreams of a future in another place.

Then, the official media recrafted the story at will and blamed the tragedy on those who had stolen the 13 de Marzo tugboat and accused them of being irresponsible. They said that “the accident” was due to a collision between the fleeing ship and one of the Polargo tugboats, a version widely refuted by eyewitnesses who spoke of persecution, purposeful ramming of the boat, and water hoses. The state newspaper Granma also blamed the sinking on strong swells, low visibility and the deteriorated state of the boat itself.

The Communist Party militants were ‘oriented’ to tackle the rumors of state responsibility in the action, the Rapid Response Brigades greased their parapolice mechanisms of repression and a slab of silence was placed over that 13 July, similar to that the Chinese authorities have put on the events of Tiananmen Square. Even today, a quarter of a century later, the majority of Cubans living on the island avoid talking about it in public.

In their study circles, the militants of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) denounced the “new hoax of the empire,” while some calculated how to get rid of the red card they carried in their pockets and emigrate to that place where “the enemy” lived. Most of the bodies of the victims were never recovered from the bottom of the waters and, to this day, Havana is missing a monument that remembers them. Despite its seriousness, the event is not studied in any History class in the schools of the Island.

During the days following that morning, the official media did not lose any opportunity to paint the actions of the Polargos as part of the revolutionary militancy that had motivated the crew of the three ships to try to prevent the theft of the tugboat. They exempted the authorities from any responsibility, not one of the perpetrators of the sinking was prosecuted and, instead, their work received copious praise from the Plaza of the Revolution.

With such complicity and without an institutional investigation, the tragedy became a state crime. Especially because it was used to induce fear in a civilian population about what could happen to them if they tried to escape from the “socialist paradise” imprisoning us. But even terror did not work.

Less than four weeks later the Maleconazo erupted and finally Castro opened the national borders for anyone who wanted to emigrate. Thousands and thousands. This time the Polargos did not go out to chase them, but many also drowned. The dramatic events of that summer put an end to the last illusions of a subjugated people.

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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’s Historic Generation is Already a Thing of the Past

If the hypothesis is correct that the legion of the faithful is the human matter that makes up the renowned historical generation, it can be concluded that this group is already a thing of the past. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 12 July 2019 — Although the expression “historical generation of the Cuban Revolution” has been used to define a specific group of people, there is no official thesis through which it can be determined who deserves to be included in that list and what formalities someone must meet to appear and remain on it.

If it were an academic definition without connection to the reality of political power, the title in question could be considered to be defined purely by age and could be applied to anyone born during the first half of the last century with a minimum range of error.

For the “unquestionably young” Cubans born in the 21st century, many of those in the older generation who hold important positions are considered simply old. This is the case for Esteban Lazo, current president of the National Assembly of People’s Power, born in 1944, a man who represents the ‘hinge’ from a generational point of view; as a young man he completed all his tasks and matured among the rugged steps of the intermediate leadership, but he is not included in the political parnassus of the historical generation. continue reading

To be recognized as a member of this elite requires at least three additional requirements: to have participated in the struggle against Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship, to embrace the communist ideology and, what appears to be most important, to have a proven loyalty to the top leadership generation.

In his speech to commemorate the 9th anniversary of the assault on the Moncada barracks, delivered on July 26, 1961 in the Sports City of Santiago de Cuba, Fidel Castro mentioned for the first time in public the idea of creating a unitary entity that would bring together the forces that had fought against Batista’s tyranny: the 26th of July Movement, the Revolutionary Directorate and the Popular Socialist Party.

With this decision, other groups were omitted from the distribution of power, among them the so-called Triple A, which was a derivation of the Authentic Party led by the ousted president Carlos Prío Socarrás, and all those who sought to find a peaceful way out of the dictatorship.

With the entities chosen by the comandante en jefe , the Integrated Revolutionary Organizations (ORI) would be founded as a previous base for the creation of a narrower political group that would be called the United Party of the Socialist Revolution of Cuba (PURSC).

Just two months later the process of dissolution of the organizations involved began, but it was not until March 8, 1962 that the National Office of the ORI was presented with 24 members of the three organizations mentioned. After an acute crisis, on March 26 of that same year, Fidel Castro decided not to wait any longer and turned the ORI into the PURSC and incidentally placed himself at the head of the new party.

Finally, on October 3, 1965, a list of one hundred people who formed the Central Committee of the newly appointed Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) was presented. These one hundred protagonists are the only ones with satisfactory credentials to present themselves as the historical generation of the Revolution.

The oldest of the list was a militant of the old Popular Socialist Party, Juan Marinello, now deceased, who was born in 1898; the youngest, a group of five fighters from the Sierra Maestra born after 1940 whose only active survivor is Leopoldo Cintra Frías, currently two years short of joining the octogenarian club, and today the current minister of the Armed Forces.

Of that list only seven other men remain active, 60 percent have died, more than 20 were defenestrated, the rest vegetated in a dark retirement. There are at least a dozen names that do not even have a file on Ecured, “the Cuban Wikipedia.” If the hypothesis is correct that this legion of the faithful is the human matter that makes up the renowned historical generation, it can be concluded that this group is already a thing of the past.

Raúl Castro is still the first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, his second in command in this organization is José Ramón Machado Ventura; and the only person behind them who has real power is the vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers, the legendary commander Ramiro Valdés. He is also the only one of them who was an assailant at the Moncada Barracks, an expeditionary on the yacht Granma, and a participant in the Invasion of the West. He has a reputation for being a cruel and astute man and maintains an enviable physical form for his 87 years.

If everything goes as planned, in April 2021 the 8th Congress of the PCC will be held. Miguel Díaz-Canel has already been named as a sure successor to Raúl Castro at the head of the Party. From that moment the historical generation will no longer have the physical, mental or legal capacity to sign laws or issue decrees. They will not even have the right to speak or vote.

One can speculate ad infinitum about what might happen in the minds of those who, sitting around the table where decisions are made, look at each other knowing they will all be thinking the same thing: that the historical ones are not there anymore to frown, and a whole nation anxiously awaits a new direction, a different imprint.

But there is not even the certainty that the plan is complete.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in the International Yearbook dedicated to Cuba by the CIDOB Barcelona Study Center .

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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.

Cuban Doctors in Exile in Brazil Will Return to Work in Health Centers

Of the group of Cuban health professionals who stayed in Brazil, approximately 700 have regularized their situation and are able to work in their profession. (OPS)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 July 2019 —  The Brazilian government is shaping a provisional measure so that Cuban doctors exiled in that country can rejoin the health care  field in August, according to the Brazilian newspaper Estadao .

The objective of the authorities is that the Cuban physicians can return to work providing basic care in the Unified Health System (SUS) for a period of two years. At the end of that period, they will have to validate their diploma in order to continue working, explains the note.

This plan is aimed at Cuban professionals who worked in the Más Médicos program and who, after the proposal comes into force, will be able to obtain a special credential to carry out their work in health centers. continue reading

The draft of the measure should be presented to parliamentarians this week and the proposal is expected to advance without major obstacles in the National Congress. There are still some points to be defined, including the new name of the program because Mais Médicos has become a registered trademark of the Government of Dilma Rousseff.

Brazilian authorities estimate that 2,000 of the more than 8,000 Cuban doctors who worked in the South American country remained in the country after the end of the Mais Médicos program, suspended by the Government of Cuba after a criticism from then president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro.

Of the group of health professionals who stayed in Brazil, approximately 700 have regularized their residency situation, because they are married to citizens of that country, but most have not yet been able to validate their credentials.

Last February, these doctors sent a letter to US Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menéndez asking both politicians to continue supporting the efforts to restore the Cuban Medical Professional Parole, repealed by former President Barack Obama in 2017, which granted US visas to Health professionals who leave international missions in Cuba.

A month later, the Brazilian government announced that it sought to regularize the situation of these doctors and the Minister of Health, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, explained that these professionals had been left in limbo because they could not practice in the country but the Cuban government considered them deserters for not having returned to the Island.

However, from Havana the Ministry of Public Health responded to this offer saying that it was in a position to receive Cuban doctors, “including those who decided not to return at the conclusion of their mission” in Brazil and offer them employment in the national health system, according to a statement released by state media.

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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.

"Available," the Official Cuban Euphemism for the Unemployed

Low wages, the desire to emigrate and the informal labor sector are some of the reasons for not having a permanent job. (Pedro S.)

14ymedio bigger
14ymedio, Marcelo Hernández, Havana, 5 July 2019 —  Official terminology in Cuba has its forbidden words. A lot of missing terms that can not be used by national officials, ministers or media. That forbidden vocabulary includes concepts such as crisis, femicide or unemployment. For Cubans who do not work, despite having the age and physical conditions to do so, the Government prefers the phrase “available workers.”

Although the official figures place unemployment below 3% on the Island, it is enough to walk the streets on a weekday during working hours to see the large numbers of people who are doing nothing. Of the 7,173,150 Cubans of working age reported in 2017 by the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI), only 4,474,800 worked, whether in the state, private or cooperative sector.

More than 2.7 million Cubans are in the limbo of unemployment, a situation that they have reached mainly due to the little stimulus that state salaries provide. Other influences, according to testimonies collected by 14ymedio, include the desires to emigrate, which lead people to devote most of their time to paperwork or tasks related to the departure; or involvement with some kind og informal business that provides individuals more resources than legal employment.

They are those who live on the margin, those who do not have access to a paid vacation or a pension when they get older, but who nevertheless boast of not having to “spend eight hours in one place for a few pesos a month,” as described by Pablo, 33, who only worked for two years after graduating from an engineering and spent his required social service in a state agency.

“I was offered a place, but I’ll never again work like that on a a fixed schedule,” he says. Now he devotes his time to the resale of perfumes and underwear through digital classified sites. “There are weeks that I earn more and others that I earn less but I am my own boss.” Pablo does not consider himself unemployed. “What I am is free,” he clarifies.

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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.

14ymedio Headline News Summary: Human Rights Groups Denounces Risk of Famine in Cuba

The document states that “the agricultural policies of the Cuban government — centralized and state — prevent private and cooperative farmers from producing the necessary supply for the country’s diet.” (14ymedio)

EFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 9 July 2019 — The Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH) reports that the social and economic situation in Cuba worsened in the first six months of 2019.  The group also denounced the absence of “positive changes” with regards to citizens’ political rights. The report will be delivered to the headquarters of the European Community in Madrid.

Key findings include: “The population is heading into a new period of famine, the economic autonomy of citizens continues to be diminished, and rates of poverty and indigence are not published by the Cuban government.” Housing shortages are also worsening, the report said.

"What Comes Out of the Pipes Looks Like Coffee"

Camagüey residents complain about how often bad water comes out of the pipes. (La Hora de Cuba)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, 8 July 2019 — The highest summer temperatures arrive and everyone dreams of water. Whether in a glass with ice, in a comfortable pool or in the waves of the sea. These are also the moments when one faces the greatest risk of being infected with pathogens that come from bad handling of what we drink or eat, the experts warn us.

The sanitary authorities remind us throughout the year that the water that arrives through the pipes or water trucks must be treated before being consumed, warnings that are redoubled in the months of greater heat increase the consumption of prepared beverages , ice creams, slushies and cocktails.

With more than a million students on vacation and domestic life also stressed by the imperatives of heat, for many families it becomes difficult and expensive to rigorously maintain the process of water purification for the substance that comes out of the taps or is acquired by some other source of supply near their homes. continue reading

In most Cuban homes residents treat the water in some way, using methods such as filtering it through appliances with active carbon, boiling it, or adding drops of chlorine-based purifying products. But there are also many families who ingest it without subjecting it to any kind of improvement or purification.

A special report published by the University of Miami in 2017, detailing the results of almost 500 surveys of travelers arriving from the Island, determined that one of the most serious problems with the water supply mentioned was: “obsolete pipelines are so rusty that water is often contaminated.”

“Here the water comes looking like coffee, but the worst is the smell of rust,” laments Lianne Céspedes, a resident of the city of Camagüey where problems with the water supply are widely denounced by citizens. “We have two small children and for them we have to buy water from a vendor who has a well,” she tells 14ymedio.

“For the adults of the house we boil the water and filter it and all that takes a lot of work, my mother is the one who takes care of it and dedicates several hours each day to be able to guarantee that the water we drink is moderately safe,” explains Céspedes. “We can not buy water at the ’shopping’, so this is the only thing we can do.”

The purchase of water bottles is a luxury that few can afford and in the networks of state stores there have been cases of employees who falsify these containers by simply filling them with tap water. It is common for tourists to come down with cases of the so-called “traveler’s diarrhea,” a gastroenteritis that is usually caused by bacteria endemic to local water.

“I have not been able to enjoy anything, since I arrived, I’m vomiting and having diarrhea,” says Thomas, a 29-year-old German who was waiting on the weekend at the Cira García international clinic in Havana, from which he left with a prescription to buy ciprofloxacin and the recommendation to also take oral rehydration serums.

“I have no doubt where I got sick,” says the traveler. “The day I arrived I went to a small bar in Old Havana and I had two mojitos, the next morning when I got up I felt bad and I am convinced that it was ice which wasn’t made with safe water.”

Thomas’s story is so common that many private guides recommend to their customers that they notconsume any drink or cocktail with ice. “I tell them to only drink canned and bottled beverages and, preferably, directly from the container because many glasses are also poorly washed,” says Mónica, 24, an English translator who is dedicated to giving tours of Havana’s historic disctrict.

In Cuba, as in other countries of the region, the protozoa of the genera Cryptosporidium and Giardia are the parasites that cause the most common diarrheal outbreaks of water origin. People can accidentally swallow them when they drink water at recreational places, or even at home if, for some reason, it is not completely clean.

Research carried out by specialists of the Provincial Center of Hygiene and Epidemiology in Ciego de Ávila warns that in the case of Cryptosporidium the chlorination of water does not destroy it and it can “survive in incompletely filtered water.” It is transmitted through the fecal-oral route through consumption of unfiltered water, through the ingestion of food, as well as through the water in swimming pools, cow’s milk, and contaminated vegetables.”

Other medical research conducted between 2013 and 2014 in Havana and Santiago de Cuba revealed that Cubans have a low perception of the risk of acquiring Acute Diarrheal Disease (ADD). The majority of respondents said they consume the water as it arrives through the pipes, due to lack of time or resources, especially among those who do not have manufactured or liquefied gas for cooking.

“It is impossible to boil the water because here we cook with an electric stove and sometimes with a little wood in the patio,” says a neighbor from Palmarito del Cauto in Santiago de Cuba. “We had a filter that my daughter bought me the last time she came to Cuba but to keep buying the pieces and the carbon is very expensive,” she says.

Water filters, mainly manufactured in South Korea, which are sold in the network of national stores, require replacements several times a year. The authorities of the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) have also warned that these processors, manufactured with activated carbon and other elements, are not capable of eliminating the most dangerous bacteria and microorganisms.

Nor do customers inquire too much about the quality of the water used in state or private businesses that provide food services. On the central 23rd street in Havana, a small line of users waited this Saturday to buy a ’frozzen’, a light ice cream made mainly of water and flavor extracts.

“This is the cheapest thing you can take on the streets and costs three Cuban pesos (CUP — roughly 12¢ US),” a student at the nearby Faculty of Economics told this newspaper. “Everyone knows that with this price it is very difficult for this to be done with safe water, but we are already immunized,” he adds wryly. “But if I had children I would not give them a ’frozzen’ for anything in the world.”

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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.

"They’re terrified," says Iliana Hernandez About the Repressors Who Arrested Her

The activist Iliana Hernandez has suffered several arbitrary arrests in recent months. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 July 2019 — The activist and independent reporter Iliana Hernández was released this Sunday after spending almost 24 hours in detention after being arrested the previous day at a bus stop in Cojímar, in the province of Havana, while participating through the social network Twitter in the campaign to #BajenLosPreciosDeInternet (Lower the Prices of Internet).

At the time of the arrest, Hernandez managed to send a tweet warning that she was being taken away by the police. “Hey, they’re taking me,” she published in the social network.

A collaborator on the CiberCuba site, Hernandez was transferred to the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) Station in Guanabo. Minutes after being released this Sunday, Hernandez told this newspaper that she was alone in a cell from the time of her arrival at the station and during all that time she was never interrogated. “I’m going to keep moving forward,” she said about her activism and her job as a reporter. “This happens at any time, they [the system ] have tremendous fear,” she added. continue reading

The activist Boris González Arenas denounced on Facebook that from the moment of the arrest it was not possible to communicate with Hernández through his mobile. “I call Iliana Hernandez’s telephone number and the same voice always answers me, which says it’s off or out of the coverage area, a voice that becomes familiar to many mothers and fathers, brothers, couples and children, when they detain their loved ones.”

“I am experiencing today the suffering of the other, that of my wife and my friends when I am locked in a cell. Neither is preferable, freedom for Iliana Hernández,” González demanded.

Taylor Torres Escalona, a journalist and coordinator of the site YucaByte, also joined the complaint and commented that Hernández “has had to deal with arbitrary detention after arbitrary detention, her human rights are constantly being violated.”

In May, during an independent march organized by the LGBTI community, Hernández was violently arrested on the Paseo del Prado. Last Wednesday the activist again suffered a repressive act, when agents of the State Security tried to prevent her from meeting with a group of friends to celebrate her 46th birthday.

Hernández has been one of the most active voices in the call to the Telecommunications Company of Cuba, Etecsa, to reduce and improve the quality of its web browsing services. For five consecutive weekends, thousands of users of the state monopoly have made the hashtag #BajenLosPreciosDeInternet a trending topic on Twitter.

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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.

Governance Without Transparency

The press did not detail the agreements and conclusions, nor any final consensus outlining the future lines of work. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana |7 July 2019 – In forums about the governance of the internet it is easy to determine who represents the governments, almost always in formal clothes, and who represents business, also formal but with more expensive clothes. Then there is the academy, with that mix of athletic shoes, jacket and blazers, and finally, in a group with very permeable borders, those who are concerned with the development of technology and the representation of civil society.

This latter is undoubtedly the most attractive group, with its casual attitude toward dress and in the way it conducts itself. It is also almost always the youngest group. And above all, the most numerous and active group in the panels and discussions. continue reading

Participating in these forums is a great experience, unforgettable the first time, at least in my case, as I had the privilege to start doing it when internet access for citizens in Cuba was scarce, slow and very expensive. The absence of ceremony and protocol between participants from different geographical points, cultures, languages, allows us to acquire and weave numerous affinities and relationships, even though we have different problems.

The essence of these forums is to achieve consensus between competing interests such as cybersecurity in the fight against terrorism and the protection of privacy and citizens’ data, the sale of personal data to third parties by platforms such as Facebook, or the fight against false news, to give recurring examples.

For these reasons, I received with optimism the news that provincial forums were being organized in Cuba for the first time, and that their results would be represented at the National Internet Governance Forum held from June 25 to 27 at Havana’s Palace of Conventions under the title: Social Justice And Sustainable Human Development.

Having participated in May in the Havana Forum, I could see that, at least in the capital, the participants represented organizations such as the Computer Association, the Union of Jurists, the Higher Pedagogical Institute, Etecsa (the state-owned telecommunications company), and journalists from the capital’s media, and they did not have much, if any, information about what Internet Governance is and the nature of these meetings.

I was very active in the event, touching on topics such as the use of proprietary software and migration to open source, which excited the computer scientists, and I emphasized the need to improve the interaction of public officials on their Twitter accounts. Finally, I proposed to raise as a theme for the National Forum the establishment of a University for All course on the Internet, taking into account that we have an educated but aging population that has arrived late to the development of information and communication technologies (ICT).

It was encouraging to converse with very capable people, among them a telecommunications engineer was was a pioneer in the assembly of satellite receivers, or a CUJAE professor with three doctorates, who approached me to thank me for my interventions, because they had provided a glimpse of where Governance is heading.

The topics discussed were the same in all the provinces and in the national meeting: obviating the peculiarities of each region. The topics were very general and, at least in the provincial instance, treated in the form of tedious readings whose content was good for a classroom, not for the dynamic forum that it should have been.

I expressed to the organizer of the provincial forum my interest in participating in the national, but as part of the public, because I did not intend to make a formal presentation, like those representing the state-sponsored organizations. Always in those events there are more participants than speakers, and the organizer found my request logical.

Anyway I tried to formalize my presence by writing to the vice president of the Organizing Committee, since it appeared that a requirement for participation was membership in the Computer Association, or that of Jurists, or to be a collaborator with the Cuban Association of the United Nations, and I did not fulfill said requirements. Instead, I could contribute my experience in seven international forums on Internet Governance, including three global forums. The response was very bureaucratic: since I did not belong to any of the organizations mentioned, I could not attend.

I tried to follow the development of events in the Palace of Conventions through the press and television, since there was no streaming, but it was all very general and repetitive from one medium to another. They highlighted and confirmed the idea expressed by the first vice president of the Computer Union: We need to build in Cuba our own vision of the Internet, a postulate that leads us to ask ourselves in whose name we speak to build that vision.

On Twitter the hashtag #IGFCuba2019 barely reached 60 tweets, and of those only 27 were originals. There was nothing about the development of applications for the national environment. Although the University of Havana and the University of Information Science (UCI) must have been present, there was no information about Etecsa’s service expansion plans and how it plans to reduce rates, a demand that now has its own hashtag and a full news campaign. No original tweets came from civil society on topics of citizen interest.

Given all of this, it is difficult to get an exact idea of ​​what happened at the event. I have not found a repository where video or audio is stored; only the presentation of Rosa Miriam Elizalde, a student, on the topic of the media and internet.

Far from the transparency that characterizes the conclusions in these conclaves, the press did not detail the agreements and conclusions, nor any final consensus outlining the future lines of work.

As I expressed to the Minister of Communications through Twitter (to which, with a custom that is already becoming a trend, he did not respond), the meeting could have marked a milestone, but it was nothing more than the fulfillment of one more task.

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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.

Fidel Castro and The Press As Propaganda

The magazine titled this interview “Fidel Castro in ‘Playboy’: a candid conversation with the bellicose dictator of Communist Cuba.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 6 July 2019 — While in the official media Fidel Castro was presented as an austere ruler, reserved with his private life and little given to worldly pleasures, in the American press the image of him was closer to that of a superhero, a villain and a seducer. In his new book on Fidel Castro, the historian Abel Sierra has traced with precision the contrast between the sober comandante en jefe projected by Cuban newspapers and the sensationalist tints that accompanied his name in most of the media across the Strait of Florida.

The man who upset Cuban history and radiated his willful personality throughout Latin America took great advantage of the fascination he generated among reporters in the United States, using them to export an oversized and irresistible image of himself. That relationship began before the triumph of the Revolution, when he was in the Sierra Maestra. Journalists of the time, such as Herbert Matthews from The New York Times, helped create an epic story about revolutionary exploits, which their readers devoured with delight. continue reading

Castro knew well the importance of using the front pages of newspapers to erect the myth of the system he built. He used the foreign press to reinforce certain clichés about the Cuba of the past — clichés that would justify the excesses after January 1959 — and to charm his ideological sympathizers such that they set aside their criticisms and only applauded. To expand his myth he used publications such as The New York Times, Time and Playboy, but he was also helped in that endeavor by cartoons and comic strips, and these pages were one of the many battle fronts on which he fought for power.

Fidel Castro, El Comandante Playboy: Sexo, Revolución y Guerra Fría (Fidel Castro, The Playboy Commander, Sex Revolution and the Cold War) is the story of a fascination, the meticulous description of how the American press contributed to the creation of a leadership that allowed the authoritarian Commander in Chief to become a figure familiar to the citizens of the United States. With this book, readers now have before them the detailed itinerary of a romance, between the media and the guerrilla; between the editors and the dictator.

Many of the attractions of the ideological theme park into which Cuba was converted, and whose montage Abel Sierra describes chronologically, are born of that romance. A parallel island that is formed not only from a carefully made-up reality, but also a skillful directing of the eyes of foreign visitors and reporters. With overwhelming effectiveness, Castro sends them to see for themselves, but sets a tight schedule that does not let them peer beyond the windows of their air-conditioned car, and rewards them when their articles follow the script of the Plaza of the Revolution.

For decades it has been very difficult for professionals of the press to escape from this warped view and to avoid swallowing whole the information pap fed to them by the Castro regime. Those who did not want to put aside their professionalism to engage in propaganda for socialist Cuba were considered traitors, revisionists or CIA agents, and in most cases they were not allowed to step foot in utopia ever again.

In his book, Sierra also finds the points of contact between the magnetism of the worlds created by Hugh Hefner and his Playboy fantasies on the one hand and, on the other, the revolutionary universe Castro tried to establish on the island. A bubble that has fascinated a good part of the international left for decades. If the American magnate promoted a life of pleasure surrounded by bunnies, the Cuban leader reciprocated with a country of docile militia members ready to die at the slightest wave of his hand.

This world created by Castro attracted comrades from other parts of the planet who arrived eager to find the keys to the materialization of an ideology on the island of Cuba. For them. There was a broad repertoire of statistics that insisted on the superiority of the system, which they found evidence of in their visits to schools and hospitals, the long speeches expounding on “the conquests of the Revolution” and, for the most incredulous, scenes of the leader surrounded by children and chanting young people could always be arranged.

The several interviews that Fidel Castro offered to Playboy also speak of his astuteness in placing himself in one of the most read magazines of those years, a way to reach the average American who came to those pages in search of nudes, celebrities and interviews with controversial personalities. Between an highbrow photo on one page and a photo of a nipple on another, Castro hurled his political darts.

This book shows an impressive sequence of covers of those years in which the Cuban dictator alternated with faces such as Elizabeth Taylor and Elvis Presley on the cover of Playboy. But what follows is not only a collection of covers, references and dates, but a pleasant journey through the years in which Castro’s profile was chiseled for the American people.

Like a jigsaw puzzle, we assist in shaping an image with some pieces that are pleasing and others terrible, but all extremely alluring. The mere mention of Castro’s name was a profitable hook to sell more copies of magazines and newspapers, in addition to the damage that this massive dissemination posed for the present and the future of Cuba.

The media-savvy Commander always saw the press as an animal to domesticate, hypnotize and hold tightly by the reins. Thus, reporters who managed to reach the island to interview him, after having pressed numerous contacts and appealed to influential intermediaries, had to spend long weeks waiting docilely by the phone for the call confirming that they could approach Castro and ask him questions.

Over time, the circle of chosen reporters narrowed and by the end of the last century only figures very close to the Plaza of the Revolution managed to interview the Cuban leader. Beyond interviews, the result of those talks carried all the traces of a sounding board from which only one voice was heard, as in the books published by Frei Betto and Gianni Miná after several meetings.

In one of life’s ironies, the last years of Fidel Castro’s life passed away from the public scene and the press. Only the most trusted fellow travelers, comrades such as Evo Morales, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner or Nicolás Maduro, served as chroniclers who told the national and international public how the former president was doing. They were, at that moment, the “complicit reporters” of his end, and tried to create, like so many others described in this book, the legend of his exceptionality, the false impression that he was an extraordinary man who had to be allowed everything.

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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.

We are on the new host

7 July 2019

Dear Readers: As you may have noticed we’ve had some problems with our site recently so we  moved to a new hosting company to try to ensure these problems don’t continue. There still may be some glitches to iron out.

Karen wants us to give a shout out to Hosting Matters for being a terrific hosting company with super-responsive support and nice people.  She uses them for many of her other sites so she’s had a long time to insure they are good folks and will do a good job keeping Translating Cuba up and running.

Although – like we said – there could still be a few glitches here and there as we shake down.  This is a very complicated site with lots of custom programming.