Cuban Government Opponents Were Imprisoned When They Planned a Meeting with US Officials

Benjamin G. Ziff took over this summer as head of the US embassy in Havana. (Kyiv Post)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 1 February 2023 — The US charge d’affaires in Havana, Benjamin Ziff, recounted in an interview with the Associated Press that talking about human rights with the Cuban authorities is very complicated and that there have been arrests of opponents with whom his embassy wanted to meet, although he declined to give names.

“It is our number one priority, to ensure that the Cuban population can have a future without repression and with economic hope,” Ziff alleges, however he is very clear when it comes to putting the fate of Cuba in the hands of its own citizens.

“The change in Cuba comes from Cuba, from the Cubans, it does not depend on anyone else. The United States can support, help, encourage, advocate, pressure, everything, but basically the future of Cuba depends on the Cubans,” he says.

A few days have passed since the visit to the Island of two members of the Delaware state government who, from Havana, asked President Biden to return to a thaw like that of 2014. “The hope is that eventually we can return to where we were in the Obama times,” said Democrat Michael Scuse. Ziff, however, sets out why “it’s hard to go back,” as he puts it.

“The world has changed since Obama’s time and now we have to deal with the world of today,” he says. The senior official indicates that the Biden Administration is taking measures in areas that he considers can improve the lives of families, but confesses there are tensions with the regime. continue reading

“The relationship with the United States for historical reasons, political reasons, human rights reasons, is difficult,” says the diplomat, who defines it as correct and pragmatic.

During the Obama administration, the embassies in Washington and Havana were reopened, travel from the US to the island was authorized in various categories, as well as commercial flights between the two countries and direct money transfers. In addition, some measures were taken that stimulated commercial exchange or, at least, its expectations.

However, the arrival of Donald Trump to the presidency reversed the situation: flights were halted, the provision of consular services was reduced to a minimum, remittances were prohibited and, most importantly, Cuba was once again included on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism, from which it has not yet emerged despite the expectations created by the change of Administration in 2020, fueled by the fact that Joe Biden was Obama’s vice president.

Ziff touches on another of the core issues of diplomacy between the two countries: emigration, which has become a priority issue for the US, with more than 310,000 Cubans arriving in the United States in 2022. This represents the highest number in history, including the 1980 Mariel Boatlift, during which roughly 125,000 Cubans arrived.

“The lack of hope is what is driving the rate of irregular migration,” says Ziff, who confirms that the authorities still do not accept repatriations from Cuba but will do so “soon” if they fulfill their commitment.

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Cuba’s Artemisa Bacteriological Laboratory ‘Does Not Comply With Any Biosafety Standard’

The Artemisa Microbiology Laboratory does not have the necessary materials to carry out tests for infectious diseases. (El Artemiseño)

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14ymedio, Havana, 1 February 2023 — The deterioration of the facilities of the José Suárez Blanco Microbiology Laboratory, in Artemisa, Cuba, and the shortage of medical materials make it difficult to diagnose infectious diseases in the province. A publication of the official newspaper El Artemiseño presents a string of misfortunes since the creation of the center, which has not worked at its maximum capacity in almost five decades of operations.

The laboratory, for example, ran out of nasal swabs when it was most required, due to the increase in Covid-19 infections in 2020, recalled its director, Adilis Palacios Cristi. Although the shortage of cotton swabs affects the entire Cuban Public Health system, the official acknowledged that it is more serious in this center, because it is in charge of this type of test in the province.

This lack led it to concentrate it services on fertility, pregnancy and child exams. “For the rest of the population, we process urine cultures, fecal samples, and analyze water and food, acute diarrheal diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, sanitary surveillance, tuberculosis, and syphilis.”

The creation of the laboratory dates back to 1967, when it was a meeting place for doctors from Artemisa. That year it was declared a microbiology laboratory to deal with infectious diseases in the municipality, but its beginnings were marked by abandonment and the precariousness of supply.. In 2004, it had to close and was reopened four years later after completing repairs in the sterilization and scrubbing area. continue reading

“It did not meet any biosafety standard” due to the poor state of the infrastructure, acknowledged Dr. Yasmín Hernández Carpio, who was in charge of the institution for 19 years. Under her administration, the story continues, a proposal was presented to the municipal and provincial governments to improve the conditions of the property, but it was not approved because “the idea of ​​installing the provincial microbiology laboratory in Mariel and San Antonio de los Baños prevailed.”

Those plans did not prosper and currently the laboratory covers the municipalities of Artemisa, Caimito, Guanajay and Mariel, including the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM).

The Maintenance Company carried out partial repairs in the waterproofing of the roof and painting in 2019, but these were not enough to contain the leaks that affect the Tuberculosis Department and a hermetically closed room, which since 2013 has had a hole in the wall where the air conditioning was removed.

Carlos Milanés Segura, director of the Municipal Hygiene and Microbiology Unit, confirmed to the provincial newspaper that the works were not completed in 2019 due to the lack of waterproofing resin, and the tanks were not changed due to lack of pipes. The doctor added that, for this year, the management of materials and the repair of a turbine that has been damaged for years is already planned.

Humidity and lack of ventilation make disease analysis difficult. In addition, “there is no adequate flow diagram for the cultivation of molds and yeasts in the food area, despite having an incubator,” added Hernández Carpio.

Another factor that adds to the deficiencies of the laboratory is that the water stored in two tanks is not enough to install a still, so they must request support from the hemodialysis plant of the Ciro Redondo García hospital, located in the capital of the province.

Similarly, Pedro Sánchez Machado, head of the Microbiology section in Artemisa, complained that they are the only territory without a laboratory of this type. He added that thanks to the financial support of a French organization, whose name he did not reveal, this year they have the necessary money to purchase equipment for sanitary analysis of water and food, which will go to the Mariel bacteriological laboratory, which has a larger capacity, by decision of the Ministry of Public Health

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Signatures of 10,000 Cubans Sought for the Legal Right to “Assemble and Demonstrate”

Protest against the blackouts on Línea street, in El Vedado, Havana, last October. (14ymedio)

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14ymedio, Havana, 1 February 2023 — Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP) has responded in writing to the request of the Council for Democratic Transition in Cuba (CTDC) to include an assembly bill on this year’s legislative agenda that addressed the right to assemble and demonstrate. The response, however, is not encouraging and is limited to stalling.

A document made public this Wednesday by the Council itself, was signed on January 24 by Carmen Aguilar Martínez, the ANPP’s Director of Attention to the Population, and addressed to Julio Alfredo Ferrer Tamayo, a member of Cubalex, a legal NGO. In the document, Aguilar Martínez claims that Parliament  “received and analyzed the letter that you and eight other people” sent to the president of the legislature, on December 9, in which, in her words, “they offered a group of considerations related to the regulation of rights assembly and demonstration recognized in article 56 of the Constitution of the Republic.”

The ANPP says that “at first” the legislative schedule was planned to include “the elaboration of a law to develop these important rights,” but that “the very dynamics in the legislative activity have not made it possible to materialize it.”

The chamber highlights the petition received by opponents who “recognize the legislative work carried out by the National Assembly,” having approved “several regulatory provisions related to the rights and guarantees of people.” That would demonstrate, the text continues, “the interest in continuing to regulate aspects of this nature,” but, it warns, “when appropriate.”

Finally, they argue that the requirement to approve a demonstration and assembly law as soon as possible does not follow the proper procedure “for its materialization,” for which they suggest “get proper advice and direct your request as legally appropriate.” continue reading

In the statement that accompanies the letter from the Assembly, the Council for the Democratic Transition in Cuba notes that the petition made by nine citizens but “on behalf of another 500” was protected by Article 61 of the Constitution and referred to the “reinclusion” in the legislative schedule for the first quarter of 2023 of the draft “Law of Demonstration and Assembly,” which should regulate some of the rights included in article 56 of the Constitution.

The opposition platform regrets that the possibility of its discussion in the Assembly is postponed “to an indeterminate date” and anticipates that they will include within the “Cuba11J* Initiative” the collection of: “10,000 citizen signatures, protected by Article 164 Subparagraph k), to ensure that the debate and consequent approval of a Law be included in this year’s legislative schedule, we quoted ourselves, ‘that implements and develops the fundamental rights, endorsed by the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba in Article 56, to the meeting and demonstration for lawful and peaceful purposes.”

Cubans residing on the island who have signed or are going to sign any of the Council’s initiatives are asked to request the “certification accrediting their status as voters,” a requirement established by law for legislative initiatives promoted by citizens.

*Translator’s note: “11J” refers to 11 July 2021 and the nationwide demonstrations that occurred on that day.

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‘Yo Si Te Creo’ Denounces Two New Femicides in Cuba

Independent observatories verified 34 gender-based killings in 2022. (Alas Tensas)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana | 1 February 2021 — The independent feminist collective Yo Sí Te Creo [Yes I Believe You] in Cuba lamented, this Wednesday, a new femicide on the island and once again called for “effective mechanisms to prevent gender violence.”

In the absence of official statistics on sexist murders, the platform posted on Twitter that the case “is under police investigation, but the disappearance and characteristics of the attacks indicate femicide.”

The family of 36-year-old Yailanis Pérez reported her disappearance on January 28 in the province of Matanzas. The young woman’s body was found two days later, according the activists who, along with other organizations such as Alas Tensas, are the main source for accounting for these crimes.

This Wednesday the discovery of the body of Yoilén Acosta Torriente, an 18-year-old young woman who was reported missing on Sunday, January 29, was also confirmed. According to La Proa del Centro, the body was found in a cane field in the area known as Tumba Saco, in Cruces, Cienfuegos.

Four people have been detained for this crime, according to the media, for their alleged involvement, including two women and two men. However, the authorities have not confirmed or provided details about these two events. continue reading

Independent observatories verified 34 gender-based killings in 2022, 36 in 2021, and 32 in 2020.

“We reiterate our claim for effective mechanisms to prevent gender violence so as not to reach its extreme manifestation, which is irreparable,” said Yo Sí Te Creo in Cuba.

The activists also stressed the need for “early warnings of disappearances, which help to avoid these extreme violent outcomes.”

The new crimes occur at a time when there are several reports of disappeared women in Cuba, including minors. The activists are demanding a law against Gender Violence and criticize the Cuban government for not classifying femicide as a crime in the new Penal Code, which came into force last December, although it contemplates gender-based violence.

The most recent official statistics appear in the 2016 National Gender Equality Survey in which 10,698 women participated.

The survey showed that 26.7% of Cuban women between the ages of 15 and 74 have suffered some type of violence in their partner relationship in the 12 months prior to the study. Only 3.7% of the assaulted requested institutional help.

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Alquizar, Cuba, Feels Abandoned Since the End of the Year, With No Coffee, Sugar or Oil at the Ration Store

A ‘Bodega’ (Ration Store)  in Alquízar, in the Cuban province of Artemisa. (The Artemisian)

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14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 1 February 2023 — “Before, here people could use lard to cook, but there is almost no one who raises animals and to make matters worse, since last year they have not sold oil through the bodega [ration store],” complains Liubis Torriente, 32, a resident of the municipality of Alquízar, in the province of Artemisa. “Nor has sugar or rationed coffee arrived, we are about to have to eat red earth.”

In the Liubis bodega, nestled in the center of the small city to the southwest of the Cuban capital, the employee spends her days sitting idly by waiting for the products that do not arrive. “I’m tired of everyone coming and venting their discomfort on me because no merchandise has arrived, but it’s not my fault,” the woman told 14ymedio, on condition of anonymity.

“Here they have forgotten us, we do not have the importance of Havana and nor do we have the emergencies of those affected by hurricane [Ian] in Pinar del Río, so we are in no man’s land, we do not matter,” says Liubis. “My sister lives in Havana, in the Plaza de la Revolución municipality, near the Council of State, and they did sell sugar there,” she says.

The shortage situation fundamentally affects those who live in the urban areas of Alquízar. “At least the farmer who has a piece of land can solve some food with his crops, his laying hens or his cows, but those of us who have a house here in the town don’t even have that,” says this mother of two children at primary school. continue reading

And the three missing products can hardly be produced for self-consumption. “We stocked up on the fat we needed for day-to-day life with the pigs we had, but more than three years ago I stopped farming because we couldn’t get food for the animals anymore,” explains Arturo, a farmer who lives in the town of Pulido, on the outskirts of the urban center.

“Without the pork fat, we are completely dependent on the oil from the bodega or the one we buy off the shelf [in the informal market].” Arturo’s family has been eating “plantain fufú” — fried mashed plaintain — for weeks, he says. “There isn’t even enough fat to fry a little onion and what my wife has done is put the chicken skin in the pan so she can cook with it.”

The vegetable oil that is sold by as a part of the ‘standard basket’ in the ration store is mostly imported or soybean oil, which is refined and bottled on the Island. The rationed coffee and sugar come from national production, which is mostly state-owned, and the marketing of both products constitutes an official monopoly.

“When there is a lack of sugar or coffee, you have to deal one way or another with the black market or with the stores [that only take payment] in MLC [freely convertible currency]”, emphasizes Arturo. “You can use some honey to sweeten, and stretch the coffee by adding roasted peas, but sooner or later you have to end up buying them in hard currency.”

“Before, any house you entered here they would offer you a little cup of Hola coffee, the kind that comes from the bodega. If you were lucky, you would have a Cubita or Arriero colada bought in the mall, but now when people manage to have coffee it’s Bustelo or La Llave that their Miami family sent themor they bought it from a mule, very expensive, by the way.”

The lack of sugar especially outrages the residents of Alquízar, a region that in the past also made cash with typical sweets such as guava bars that were sold on the side of the roads. Now, in the absence of the ingredient, all the private production of sweets, fruit smoothies and preserves has come to a standstill.

According to Leticia Ojeda, commercial director of the Food Group of the Ministry of Internal Commerce, at the end of last year, with the plummeting of the harvest, it was decided to protect the “regulated [rationed] family basket” and social consumption destined for the Education and Health sectors, but the Alquizareñas wineries do not seem to be included among those prioritized.

In mid-January, Ojeda pointed out that four provinces had not been able to finish the distribution in some of their municipalities. He mentioned Artemisa, Matanzas, Pinar del Río and Havana, whose sugar deliveries in February were only 60% guaranteed, up until then. An announcement that makes the residents of Alquízar fear that it will be weeks before the empty bodegas have those products again.

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‘Let Them Lock Me Up if That Will Make Them Happy,’ Writes One of the Editors of ‘La Joven Cuba’

On Monday, Jorge Fernández Era did not show up for the summons after claiming its nullity. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 31 January 2023 — Jorge Fernández Era, a writer and collaborator of the digital magazine La Joven Cuba summoned to an “interview” with State Security on Monday in Havana, presented a claim that it was null for violating the Criminal Procedures Law and did not attend the meeting.

The editor took the same route as professor Alina Bárbara López Hernández, a coordinator at the same publication with whom the Prosecutor in Matanzas sided in a similar situation last October.

Yesterday Fernández Era shared on his Facebook profile the verbal clash he had last Friday with First Lieutenant Manuel Fernández García, who from the street called him down to the ground floor of the building where he lives in Santos Suárez (Havana) when he had just finished the humor column he publishes in La Joven Cuba on Sundays. The First Lieutenant informed him that he was now the one who “attends” to the publication.

“He handed me a little paper, so sloppy one number was written over the other with a certain air of, ’just use that one, there are no models to follow’,” said the journalist about the moment the official handed him the summons for Monday. Fernández confirmed that the date as well as the time are clear, but disagreed about place for the meeting, as it is a different municipality from where he lives (Plaza de la Revolución).

“That has nothing to do with anything,” responded the agent. “You say so, and as a citizen I have the right to doubt,” replied Fernández who noted how his observation made the lieutenant uncomfortable. continue reading

The collaborator explained that the official reminded him that he should not be inspired by the case of Alina Bárbara López Hernández, warning him that “Matanzas is not Havana” and assured him that in that case, laws were broken. “And how many have been prosecuted for that?” replied Fernández, according to his own account, highlighting the lack of sense of humor with which the lieutenant took his comments.

On Monday, the writer went to the Prosecutor in Havana to present a claim requesting the nullity of the summons and announced that he would not go of his own accord to the office on Zapata and C to be interrogated. “The transportation is already pretty bad,” he joked.

Fernández asked himself why, if the Revolution is backed by most elite intellectuals, can’t they sit and have a civilized discussion with the “confused” and “wayward” in a place more suitable than a police station. “How could they refer to it as a battle ’of ideas’ if they do not include everyone who possesses them, but only those who say ‘yes because yes’, ‘yes but no’ and ‘yes because if I say no. . .’?” he bemoaned.

The writer also reproached that there is a presumed press worthy of calling itself revolutionary if it never questions the politics of the government “that decides the destiny, dreams, and personal and collective accomplishments.” Fernández also requested that they acuse La Joven Cuba’s collaborators of whatever they want, but at least, “have the decency and the courage to publish without deletions any one of our articles.”

Lastly, in his allegations of Monday morning, the collaborator stated ironically that his style of writing is sarcasm. “What fault is it of mine that I was born in a such a fun country, and with such sympathetic leaders? Let them summon me, arrest me, handcuff me, interrogate me, let them lock me up if that will make them happy. The difficult part will be to mutilate my freedom to laugh at the joke that I will keep silent.”

Hours later, the writer returned to social media to calm the many people who worried about his situation and shared that no one had bothered him since he posted the claim, although he is now awaiting the decision of the Prosecutor, who has 60 days to decide.

Fernández who thanked those who have supported him during these tense days, hopes to enjoy the same luck as the professor and joked about the alternatives in case he is unsuccessful in his claim. There’s always the option to move to the Athens of Cuba, where, judging by his declaration, laws are blatantly broken and summons are not what they once were. Who knows? The peanut vendors might have even declared independence from the rest of the national territory.”

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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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.

Fidel Castro’s Eldest Grandson Continues to ‘Square the Box’ to Rescue His Father’s Memory

Tombstone of Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart, in the Colón Cemetery, in Havana. (14ymedio)

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Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 1 February 2023 — On February 1, 2018, excluded from the leadership of Cuban power and victim of frequent depressive episodes, Fidel Ángel Castro Díaz-Balart committed suicide. He was the only child from the first marriage of Fidel Castro, who had died a year earlier, and both the official press and the authorities avoided giving prominence to the event.

Five years later, the same silence is repeated. The only person who has taken care to remember Castro Díaz-Balart is his son, Fidel Antonio Castro Smirnov –professor of Nuclear Physics in Havana – who for months has been determined to claim the role of his family branch through tweets and media parachute jumps that he dedicates to his grandfather and father.

“Five years ago I lost my best friend, my paradigm of a man and an intellectual. His example was enough, but he was also an extraordinary father,” Castro Smirnov wrote this Wednesday , without referring to the “attack on life” after months of medical care for a “deep depressive state” as indicated by Cuban Television. “With us today, Professor Dr. Cs. Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart breathes, thinks, walks, does and feels,” said the young man, who always refers to his father with his title.

Castro’s “cursed heir” was buried in a dark, wine-red granite tomb, in a pantheon belonging to the Cuban Academy of Sciences, as this newspaper recently verified.

It is the same place where French scientist André Voisin was buried in 1964; Fidel Castro was obsessed with this ideas on cattle raising. The pantheon is discreet and was decorated with a small tombstone containing the full name of Castro Díaz-Balart and his birth and death dates, as well as his titles of Professor and Doctor of Science. It is also far from the memorials dedicated to the heroes of the country, which gives an idea of ​​the place the Revolution reserves for suicides. continue reading

Through Twitter, at scientific conferences in Cuba and abroad, and even in the official press, Castro Smirnov frequently refers to his family’s relationship with Fidel and Raúl Castro and defends his father’s scientific legacy.

The “rescue” began on the first anniversary of his grandfather’s death, in 2017, a few months before his father’s suicide. In a tearjerking article published in Cubadebate, he wrote: “I am Fidel. My father is Fidel. My grandfather is and will always be the eternal and undefeated Fidel. My name is Fidel, and my life is called Fidel. My thoughts, my dreams, my desires, are also called Fidel.”

In the same article, he affirmed his need to speak “often” with the deceased, defended Castro’s “physical” survival, his “strength (stronger than nuclear forces),” as well as “Fidel’s dynamics, the wave of Fidel, Fidel’s light (the most beautiful and intense), Fidel’s movement, Fidel’s magnetism.” All of this, according to the young scientist, “endures” beyond death, since “everything is Physics.”

Since 2016, Castro Smirnov has been “jumping for Fidel,” expensive skydiving maneuvers in different parts of the Island, which, together with the private photos of his family that he publishes regularly, have made him one of the most media-prominent members of Castro descendants.

Along with the commemorative tweet of his father’s death, Castro Smirnov today revealed several photographs where his great-uncle Raúl Castro poses with his mother, Mirta Díaz-Balart, who was divorced from Fidel Castro in 1955, as well as several images of his father smiling with Fidel Castro, in uniform.

In none of his frequent messages does the grandson allude to the distance between Fidel’s eldest son and the children of Dalia Soto del Valle, Fidel Castro’s second wife. The widow and her children were the ones who went first during the caudillo’s funeral, while Castro Smirnov and his father had to present their tribute in second place.

Various media outlets and observers around the Castros have pointed out that, despite appearances, Castro Smirnov was not excluded from the family’s life of luxury and comfort. In addition to the parachute “jumps,” photographs of him at parties and receptions have been revealed where he is accompanied by Professor Marxlenin Pérez, host of the official program Cuadrando la caja [Squaring the Box], who uses the last name Castro when she accompanies the young scientist.

Discreetly, Castro Smirnov has been rehabilitating his father’s image. Five years after the death of Castro Díaz-Balart, he is the only one of Castro’s grandchildren who can boast of a notable academic background and media talent that, without a doubt, he knows how to take advantage of.

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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: Deaths From Traffic Crashes Rose 18 Percent in 2022

In all of 2021, 8,354 claims occurred, which represented an increase of 8.32% (632) compared to 2020. (Amed Hermano/Facebook)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 1 February 2023 — A total of 700 people lost their lives in Cuba in traffic crashes in 2022, which represents an 18% increase compared to those who died from this cause in 2021 (589), the state press reported on Tuesday.

According to the head of the specialized Transit body of the General Police Directorate, Colonel Roberto Rodríguez, quoted by the Granma newspaper, the island registered 9,848 traffic crashes last year, an increase of 17% compared to 2021, a year of lower mobility due to measures to mitigate the spread of covid-19.

Pedestrians run over accounted for 22% of the deaths, according to the newspaper, the official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC). In total, the injured totaled 7,547, an annual increase of 28%, added the official, who mentioned as causes, as usual, social “indiscipline” and the “additional irruption of nearly 300,000 motorcycles and mopeds on the same road axis.”

“More than half of the crashes (53.2%) were due to collisions with moving vehicles, even though only 7.6% (753) had unfavorable road conditions, with potholes or cracks,” the newspaper stated.

Just two days ago, the official newspaper of Matanzas, Girón, published a contribution by a journalism student who denounced the influence of the poor condition of the roads on the high accident rate on the Island. continue reading

“It is impossible to separate these facts from the marked deterioration of the roads, primary and secondary, as well as the deficient presence of signs on the different sections of the roads. For their part, public lighting and traffic lights on the busiest arteries, sometimes, do not work properly,” read the note.

The criticism did not stop there and, based on data from the National Information and Statistics Office (Onei), the fall in investments in transport, which decreased from 11.7% in 2021 to 10.2% in 2022.

The article also mentioned the Cuban automobile fleet. “Although there are no statistics in this regard, at first glance it presents a high degree of antiquity. A good part of the cars date from the 1950s, the so-called almendrones*, or from the 1990s of the 20th century, brought from the former Soviet Union,” it added.

Idael Valdés Martínez, author of the article, also blurted out: “No one doubts the financial limitations of the country and, especially in the transport sector, but one might wonder if a truly appropriate job is being carried out in the technical inspections of vehicles, since in many cases people approach them and, at first glance, realize that they do not meet the conditions to drive on the road and thus put at risk the safety of pedestrians and drivers.”

According to the data provided yesterday, Havana, Holguín, Villa Clara and Santiago de Cuba registered the highest numbers of reports and increase in accidents by province.

The mortality rate was 6.2 per 100,000 inhabitants; while Sunday was the deadliest day, with one death for every 10 crashes. The age of the victims ranged from 26 to 35 years.

*Translator’s note: Almendron borrows the Spanish word for ‘almond’ to refer to old American cars, derived from their ‘almond-shape.’

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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.

Horoscopes, Divorces and Bikinis

Vogue’s iconic new year cover in 1974, photographed by David Bailey, featuring actress Anjelica Huston and the designer Manolo Blahnik. (Pinterest)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Xavier Carbonell, Salamanca, 29 January 2023 — It must be 15 or 16 years since I last flicked through the pages of a celebrity magazine. I remember the sparky covers with their 1990’s celebrities — Liv Tyler, Uma Thurman or Andy García — a bikini on the front page and the headlines were always about the mysterious reappearance of some actor, or a duchess’s secret, or a millionaires lover, or the second to last royal scandal.

These days, all serious and grown up now, I go down to the news kiosk in search of some bread or a literary supplement, and when I see the celeb mags I feel a wave of nostalgia. The covers no longer feature Angelina Jolie but Ana de Armas. Princess Diana has been replaced by Princess Leonor, Cher by Dua Lipa and Tom Cruise by Thimothée Chalamet, which, if we are even half awake, is almost an improvement.

I don’t know how all the mothers, grandmothers, aunties and their friends used to get all these mags through the customs and the censorship of the Island. To run their fingers over the dazzling pages, to admire Brad Pitt’s biceps or catch up with the latest diet to beat hypertension was their way of being transgressive, of staying young and of defying their parents, husbands or grandparents with this rather chaste print-based version of sexuality.

We too, still young boys, hoped that no one saw us cutting out a lingerie advert or a centrefold poster of Kate Moss, Claudia Schiffer or some chick in Karl Lagerfeld’s service. All those exotic names, the perfect face make-up, the long suntanned legs, the supernatural cleavages and the feline eyes, they fixed themselves upon our retinas and, I can guarantee, they will never leave them.

But it didn’t stop there. The models, singers and actresses, the scandals and heartbreaks were only the mere surface of the wider universe that those fifty pages covered. Every celeb mag, as we discovered later — whilst in search of tricks (always useless) for seducing our first girlfriends — was a tiny encyclopaedia. continue reading

Following the contents page and adverts for Coca Cola, Victoria’s Secret and Rolex — yet more names of remote and unachievable things — came the news of celebrities’ love lives. The gossip columns were the perfect polar opposite to the political press, they explained the economic climate better and without numbers and put on record all the drunken women, divorces and rumours that would later be turned into novels, songs and plays.

Once the appetite for gossip had been satisfied then came the diet advice and only after that, the recipes. Cooking tips, new types of blender, the  top ten brands of oven, how to decorate your patio to be a hostess for a ’brunch’ (but what was a ’brunch’?). As diligent as ants, the family set about an impossible project: trying to translate advice from a capitalist world to a ’sackcloth and ashes’ socialist one. A stuffed duck had to be adapted to a chicken as skinny as Cindy Crawford; the house wine passed for a Moët & Chandon; and the rusty wheel of the Singer sewing machine would spin tirelessly to try and achieve the style of a Valentino or a Versace.

When ill-fortune took hold there was no more pressing a remedy than the horoscope or the prophesies of that rather camp Walter Mercado, who appeared to be the product of a union between Elton John and Barbara Streisand. You only had to hear our mothers talking: “I read that this month some expected money would come our way”, “When it’s full moon, don’t get mixed up with other people’s business”, “You will feel vital and full of energy”, “Love will come knocking at your door on Friday, don’t hold back”.

Finally, on a hot Sunday afternoon it was time to open the magazine just before the classified ads, where there were the five, or ten, serialised chapters from the novel by Corín Tellado, the ubiquitous and harmless pornographer, as he was described by Cabrera Infante.

Taurus or Capricorn, alchemy or astrology, pig or rabbit, sunflower or olive oil, bikini or underwear, tracksuit or sarong; life was a constant dilemma of choice between things we had never even seen, and the magazines — the authorised opinion of Queen Elizabeth or of Keanu Reeves — helped us out in our theoretical predicament.

What we didn’t know [as kids] was that this whole microcosm was dependent upon a crude and secretive market. The magazines didn’t arrive home free of charge. They were rented by the day, they were traded for a bunch of bananas or a bottle of tomato pureé, certain titles became collector’s items and they were carefully looked after. Many female friends were ostracised for not returning a copy in time or for having ripped the cover. In an austere and monotonous country, that particular bastard genre of journalism was our only connection with the other world. Any infraction or theft would unleash a war.

Thanks to poor literature, our childhood got to become technicolour — as Nabokov used to say — and not black and white. Because of this, everytime I see the seductive and aggressive magazine covers, calling out like sirens, I wonder whether the termites have yet ground up the copies that I left back at my house.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso

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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, Plans are Imposed Upon Cattle Farmers from an Office and That is Why There is Neither Meat nor Milk

Cattle farmers lack the space to increase their herds of cattle. (Vicente Brito/Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, January 30, 2023 — Pedro Rubio Tristá is one of the most successful cattle farmers in Las Tunas, he provides many fattening bulls to the government and exceeds the planned meat and milk production. Furthermore, he says he receives payment in hard currency and sells sweet potato to the government at a good price. However, he committed an unforgivable error of selling five cattle to his cousin and, although the cattle mass did not decrease, that earned him the prohibition of slaughtering any animal in 2022.

“He doesn’t understand and considers it an extremism,” stated an article published in a state-run press outlet which details the problems faced by producers and clearly explains why there is no meat or milk in Cuban markets.

“It has been two years since an official came here. The plans for milk and meat are imposed upon us from an office,” snaps Dilber Leyva, president of a cooperative in Las Tunas which exposes the problems with dairy products and bemoans that leaders develop plans without noticing the peculiarities of the territory and, much less each individual.

Last year one of his producers, he says, had to deliver 500 liters of milk from the 10 cows he owns, but four of them were pregnant, which made it infeasible. “He had to pay a large sum of money for not meeting the plan when, objectively, he was unable to,” he reproached. At the same time, the rate of default on the fines is high because many of them do not have the money, which results in debt for the cooperative which, in turn, cannot pay. A vicious circle.

“The cooperative’s milk debt for fines increased to 215,000 pesos last year because 50 producers did not honor the projections. For three months we were unable to pay farmers because Empresa Láctea [the Dairy Company] withheld the money for the debt,” he continued. And to top it off, the bank (Bandec) doesn’t give them credit either. continue reading

Jorge Velázques is another one let down by the same case as Rubio. Between him and his brother, Blas, they delivered 36 fattening bulls larger than 450 kilos. Their cattle herd increased and they exceeded the production plan. However, it occurred to him to pass three cattle to their brother, within the same farm, and both were penalized with the same measure: prohibition of slaughtering even one cattle.

“With regard to the contract, the prices are unstable, the prices of the businesses that are supposed to help are very high, delayed payments are constant and the prices include taxes on our products because contracts are written according to the norms decided by only one person. That is not a contract,” he protests.

After having interviewed up to 20 farm workers, Periódico26 has not found a single story of satisfaction with the much-lauded 63 measures to stimulate agriculture and livestock.

The nonsense with the land is not minor. Cattle farmer Raúl Escobar owned, via a family inheritance, a large part of the land in his neighborhood, Indaya, on the outskirts of Las Tunas. He decided to give it up, he says, “to benefit the community,” but now he wants more space to increase the cattle herd and they won’t give it to him. “And we’re talking about one of the measures to stimulate cattle farming,” he protests.

Yoel Martínez Vargas, an Agriculture delegate in the province, stated that the root of all the problems is that those who decide do not get close to those who produce, and he calls for speed in providing land. “Still, not infrequently, farmers are after the leaders, when it should be the other way around,” he says.

There are more than 50,000 hectares in the province that are either idle or not fully exploited because they were granted without rigorous study, he states. The official calls for improving conditions for farmers by providing them with proper housing and reassessing their work so they don’t leave.

The article states that each farm worker owns just 13.42 hectares, which only allows for 13 head of large cattle, when there is “more than enough” land to provide him with the 67 hectares needed to for adequate production.

Another nefarious data point for the province — in Las Tunas, more than 1,200 producers fall short of the milk they need to deliver. Although the article adds that “in most cases the reasons are unknown,” the statements made by the farmers, compiled in the report, are very clear.

Martínez Vargas requests that those who understand, in detail, how the new measures function approach each producer and get involved in development.

The delegate took advantage of the document to announce the decentralization of the sector in the province. Empresa Integral Agropecuaria [Integrated Agriculture Company] will disappear and one will be created in each municipality; urban farms will be converted to mipymes (micro, small and medium enterprises) and Puerto Padre will be the first agroindustrial municipality in Cuba’s Eastern Balcony (Las Tunas), shifting to the local government. In his opinion, this should be good so the sector will make its own decisions and manage is eventual profits.

Yoel Martínez Vargas expressed that “the root cause is poor contracting because the production plans are not well-conceived. Right now, more than a few, are increasing their mass and they cannot slaughter them because the contracts are poorly written.”

On several occasions the report refers to the words of Vice Prime Minister Jorge Luis Tapia Fonseca and his calls to “stimulate thinnking and creativity,” which serves as the headline for the article. However, those responsible never take responsibility for their errors and the solutions revert to being little more than good intentions.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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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 Spell

With 11J the first step of the spell was taken: the awareness that what is believed to be impossible can become possible. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 28 January 2023 — Václav Havel, the leader of the Velvet Revolution that liberated Czechoslovakia from communism, said that dissidents do not reject armed struggle because it is very radical, but quite the contrary, they reject it because it is not very radical.

The victory of an armed group can change the man who sits in the presidential chair and some ministers for others, it can dictate new laws, even promote a new Constitution (all this has already been done in Cuba), but not the national soul. The strength of a society is not in the mentality of those who govern, nor in the papers where the laws are signed, but in a much deeper sphere, in the degree of consciousness of the governed.

It is said that Cuba’s Constitution of 1940 was not only the most advanced in the history of the country, but also in the entire continent. But even if it had been, what good was it? It was enough that a group of soldiers treacherously seized the main stronghold of the country to throw it down the sewer and govern dictatorially. What good is the most perfect Constitution in the world if it does not take root in the civic conscience of citizens? Its validity was only twelve years, which, for the time of a nation, is equivalent to the duration of a breath. And, of course, that dictatorship lasted much less: barely seven years.

But without this awakening of the collective conscience, the spirit of tyranny reincarnated as a new leader. And since the will of an entire people has great force, and that people erected him, first on a throne, and then on an altar, he not only ruled fiercely as an absolute and perpetual monarch, but, even more, as a god who ruled forever our destiny.  And that people that, years ago, did not have the courage, or even the interest, to take to the streets and massively support the students who on the hill of the university demonstrated all the decorum that that people lacked to protest against that group of military coup plotters, now filled the squares to ask for the firing squad for the opponents of the supposed redeemer. continue reading

It was like a people hypnotized, prey to a spell before the one who, in a messianic pose, insisted that we had been married to the lie, when it was precisely at that moment that they were forcing us to live with it forever. And when they, taking refuge in an ideology in which they did not believe, put all the wealth of the country in a booty bag, many were disenchanted, but it was too late. That enchantment had already taken over most of the people.

To disenchant means to break the spell, which, in this case, is, more precisely, enchantment. And a collective spell was needed to put an end to it. That spell is a dawn in the conscience of each citizen. Only then will the sun of freedom illuminate all the fields and streets of the homeland. And the first rays of that dawn began to manifest that glorious July 11, 2021. Despite its apparent failure – not as resounding as the assault on the Moncada Barracks was – power came to shake, for which the first step of the spell was taken: the awareness that what is believed to be impossible can become possible.

The second step is to divorce that people from lies and marry them to the truth. Waking up those who are still asleep, giving light to those who are still blind, without hurting anyone, without responding to insults with insults, without threats of revenge, adding, never subtracting. When Jesus asked Ananias not to be afraid to go to Saul of Tarsus, the most brutal persecutor of Christians, and to cure his blindness, Ananias healed Saul, who became Saint Paul, the most fruitful preacher of the divine word.

And in this time of chrysalis — the time that the worm lasts inert in the cocoon — in which nothing transcendental in sight happens, all Cubans of good will, both inside and outside, must join forces to, all together, end what began on that date, flooding the national home with a deluge of light.

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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.

Jose Marti Versus Totalitarianism

Statue of Martí in the 13 de Marzo park, in Havana, this May 19. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Corzo, Havana, 28 January 2023 — We are 170 years after the birth of José Martí, a citizen par excellence, a man who at the young age of 17 was sentenced to serve six years of forced labor for writing a critical letter to a young man who had enrolled in the volunteer security forces in favor of Spain to combat the Cuban insurgency. Absurd and unfair sentence, like most of those currently handed down by the Castro-Chavista regimes that prevail in Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia.

Martí was a man consistent with his convictions, without considering the risks that could arise from his decisions. He was also a notable intellectual.

Writer, poet, journalist, thinker, but more than any other condition, a lucid patriot, a notable organizer and a man fully identified with democracy, which is why, when he established the Cuban Revolutionary Party in 1892, the most precise commitment was to create the bases for the establishment of a democratic republic in Cuba, “a fair republic” “with all and for the good of all.”

The dedication to his patriotic convictions was absolute. He disembarked in Cuba in a precarious boat and on May 19, 1895, despite having no combat experience, he set out to face an enemy force only to die “facing the sun,” as he had predicted in one of his poems, “I am good and as good, I will die facing the sun.”

Castro’s totalitarianism has committed innumerable crimes, but one of the most horrendous was identifying José Martí with his revolutionary project. Intoxicating the new generations with the false propaganda that the Apostle* was the inspirer of the process that had begun in Cuba in 1959 was a lie that germinated in many people, to the point that there are many who fought totalitarianism thinking that Martí had been the promoter of that shameful regime. continue reading

Whoever studies Martí will easily realize that because of his life’s work he could not promote a dictatorship, let alone a totalitarian regime. The man who said: “Freedom is the right that people have to act freely, think and speak without hypocrisy,” would never have been able to defend a society of double standards like the one established in Cuba by the Castros.

Nor would he support a regime that instituted hatred between labor and capital, about which he wrote: “The worker’s right can never be hatred of capital; it is harmony, conciliation, the common approach of one and the other.”

The Apostle was never a sectarian, divisive man, the essence of the Castro dictatorship. Martí worked intensely for the unity of Cubans and for the respect that every human being deserves, even when he acts miserably. He always rejected hatred, a key instrument of totalitarianism and ideological populism, which he considered a nefarious sentiment. That is why he said: “There is no forgiveness for acts of hate. The dagger that is stuck in the name of freedom is stuck in the chest of freedom.”

The man who made the Necessary War was also capable of affirming that a republic is not governed like a barracks. He was a man of civil law, a republican, never a dictator. Totalitarianism is the extinction of the republic, the end of citizen rights.

Martí’s example must germinate among us. His perseverance, patriotic stubbornness, manifested with particular vehemence after the failure of La Fernandina, show a man who never gave up and who assumed his commitments regardless of what the results were going to be, a conduct that many honor today.    #José Martí is a rich source of knowledge. His vast work should be studied by those who aspire to be politicians because it is a reservoir of wise reflections on problems inherent to public affairs. He was an exceptional man for the fact that he defended his ideals to the last consequences, but he was also exceptional for the richness of his thought and the vastness of his teachings.

José Martí, for Cubans the greatest symbol of freedom, would be very alarmed by the situation that the geographical space he called Our America is currently facing, a crisis that is largely induced by the regime that has tried to plagiarize his teachings.

*Translator’s note: Cubans of all political persuasions refer to José Martí as “the Apostle.”

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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: Sponsor or Death, We Will Leave!

This Island contains millions of lost souls eager to escape who cannot count on a sponsor. (Coast Guard)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, 30 January 2023 — It was the early morning of January 23 when the raft, with 28 people on board, capsized on the north coast of the province of Matanzas, Cuba. At least five rafters died and another 12 are still missing. The tragedy, which once again puts the families of this Island in mourning, occurred barely two weeks after the start of a new immigration program conceived by the United States to stop the flood of Cubans that has been arriving at its southern border.

“I need a sponsor, whatever the cost,” a neighbor who has plenty of gray hair and lacks resources told me, looking at me without blinking. Trapped in the elevator of this concrete block, the man felt safe enough to launch his request my way: “Someone to get me out of here and I will pay with work, whatever it takes.” In his apartment in a building that was built with a Soviet subsidy in the 1980s, his wife, his two daughters and three grandchildren hope that his efforts will bear fruit as soon as possible.

My neighbor, who until recently was a member of the Communist Party, now wants to find a way to “get his people out as soon as possible.” The possible escape route is the humanitarian parole program that the United States announced at the beginning of this year to benefit migrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti. With this measure, Washington intends to welcome 30,000 nationals of these countries every month, and reject those who try to enter its territory illegally.

But the path is not easy. To process the humanitarian permit, the beneficiary must have a “sponsor” in the United States, who has to assume responsibility for their financial situation and show the income that allows them to start the process. Although in recent years Cuban emigration has been very diverse, from different social classes and racial origins, it is evident that white and professional exiles now have better chances of having a parole approved for their relatives on the Island.

If the raft heading toward the Straits of Florida or the crossing through Central America is brutal and potentially deadly, the new permit is based on economic requirements that filter and leave out the poorest, less urban groups and Afro-descendants. This is a road for those who can have someone on that side who can show their face and their wallet. But this Island contains millions of souls in torment who cannot count on a sponsor.

The tension has ended up exploding. Those who continue to assemble the raft to face the sea are those who have no other option. Unlike my neighbor, a retired cameraman from official television, who launches his proposals to everyone who he sees and probably has a relative in Florida who will finance part of his getaway, the rafters of this minute are the ones who do not fit into one category or the other. They don’t want to stay, but no legal and pocket-friendly program allows them to leave.

In the early morning of January 23rd: 28 people with no possibility of being “sponsored,” and with no hope of having a better life in Cuba, throw themselves into the sea. The waves have swallowed the dreams of a good part of those Cubans.

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Editor’s Note: This text was originally published in Deutsche Welle in Spanish.

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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 Tragedy of a Cuban Mother: One Daughter Disappeared in a Shipwreck, the Other in Prison for July 2021 (11J) Protests

On the left, in prison for 11J, Yarelys; in the center, the daughter who disappeared in the shipwreck, Yamily; on the right, the survivor, Yailyn. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 January 2023 — Marta Vázquez Molina, mother of two women who shipwrecked on Tuesday in a precarious boat in the surroundings of Cayo Cruz del Padre, in Matanzas, denounces that the Cuban Border Guards did not continue the search for the disappeared, alleging that they did not have the equipment to work at night. One of her daughters, Yailyn Mesa Vázquez, 27, was rescued, but the other, Yamily Triana Vázquez, 35, is still missing.

Between sobs, Vázquez told 14ymedio that on Monday, January 23, at 8:30 p.m., the boat in which her daughters were traveling left from La Sierrita beach, in Cárdenas. On board were 31 people seeking to reach the United States, a figure that is far from the number reported by the official press which claims there were 28 rafters, of whom 11 have been rescued, 12 remain missing and five have been confirmed dead.

Around noon on Tuesday, the boat with the migrants sank and “all the crew members tried to swim in different directions to save their lives,” Vázquez details. Her two daughters stayed together at sea for a while, but Yamily Triana “couldn’t make it,” laments her mother.

The youngest, Yailyn Mesa, spent around 24 hours adrift until a fishing boat carrying foreign tourists rescued her, dehydrated and with burns on her skin, while Yamily Triana is still missing.

According to the mother’s account, after the shipwreck one of the young rafters swam to a key, from where he saw and signaled to a boat that did not rescue him because “the Cuban state ships are prohibited from helping” any shipwrecked person. “It was only the next morning that the young man was able to swim to shore and notify the Border Guards of what had happened.

Then the search maneuvers began but they were suspended when the sun went down, a few hours that were crucial to find her daughter and other survivors, Vázquez believes. “I want to report that she has not appeared because they did not look for her at night. Those who are appearing are dead. I want to report it, I don’t care what happens to me or what they tell me,” she insists. continue reading

The 11 rescued people were transferred to a polyclinic in the province, where they received medical assistance until State Security agents detained them despite their suffering from burns and dehydration. The rafters were taken to the Santa Marta Police Unit, without communication with their families and without medical care to treat their injuries, says Vázquez.

It was like that until Thursday. “They didn’t tell us anything,” laments the woman. Relatives began to demand to see the detainees. Then, a “high-ranking” State Security agent came out and asked for one from each family to enter. Once inside, the man read a list with the names of the rescued and the missing.

“I got very sick, my blood pressure rose, I fainted. And I asked to see my other daughter and they didn’t bring her, and she yelled for them to bring her so that she would be the one to confirm for me about Yamily, until they finally brought her and she confirmed that yes, it was true,” she recalls bitterly.

Finally, the Police released Yailyn Mesa, the mother of a two-year-old girl, but the other nine people rescued were transferred to an establishment in the city of Matanzas known as “El Técnico” to continue the investigations there. “They don’t care about anything,” adds the mother, reproaching the delicate health situation of the survivors.

“I have hopes that Yamily will appear. She has two children, an 11-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl. I have to draw strength for them,” she stresses.

This tragedy adds to the drama that the Vázquez Molina family has suffered in the last year and a half, after another of their daughters, Yarelys Mesa Vázquez, was imprisoned together with her husband, Osdennys Salinas Martínez, for participating in the massive demonstrations of 11 July 2021, commonly referred to as “11J.”

The matriarch says that the couple was in a protest in front of the Cárdenas government house in which they shouted ‘Freedom!’, when a group ran into a freely convertible currency store (MLC) and broke the windows. “They also went in, they took some food, but they did not break anything,” however they appeared in a video that came into the hands of the Police.

One day after the protests, two trucks of black berets, armed, arrived at their houses to arrest the couple. “As if murderers lived here,” the woman claims. “They took them prisoner, beat them, mistreated them,” she adds. Her daughter was sentenced to seven years, while her partner received eight years in prison.

The Madrid-based organization Prisoners Defenders (PD) came out in defense of the Vázquez Molina family. “The mother has not only suffered from having her daughter unjustly and violently imprisoned,” but also from mistreatment, persecution, verbal abuse, and harassment by the uniformed officers.

“I don’t know how I’m going to do it, besides, with my other daughter in prison I think I’m going to go crazy,” says Vázquez Molina. The mother insists that her imprisoned daughter still knows nothing about this tragedy. “We have only told her that her sister is on a key and that they are still looking for her. I don’t have the courage to tell her the truth.”

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

An Ice Cream Vendor Shot Three Times on July 11, 2021 (11J) Demands Reparations from the Cuban Justice System

Orisis José Puerto Terry went from being a victim, to being accused, and denounced that now he is being harassed by police. (https://twitter.com/justicia11j)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 January 2023 — Osiris José Puerto Terry has a bullet lodged in his back, a prominent scar on his abdomen and another on his right foot, almost all the way to his knee cap. A captain of the specialized police force shot him during the protests on July 11, 2021 at the corner of Santa Emilia and Diez de Octubre. “It is attempted murder,” denounced this ice cream sandwich vendor who that day was only trying to make it home.

Puerto Terry went from being a victim to being accused. A year and a half ago he underscored to Diario de las Américas that he was being followed by military counterintelligence and the Aguilera police unit in Lawton, in the municipality of Diez de Octubre. “On the seventh of every month I must appear at the police station with my wife and sign a document of commitment stating I will not become involved in politics, will not create problems and a series of other things. On dates determined by State Security, I must spend three or four days without leaving my house.”

The official who handled his case in Villa Marista, political police headquarters in Havana, “does not want me to say that they shot me three times while I was defenseless and without resisting at all. Why wouldn’t I say the truth? Saying the truth is not a crime,” he told that same news site. Puerto Terry is tired of his demand for justice and compensation being tossed back and forth and the empty words.

With regard to the case, he recounted that the Prosecutor stated that the two sub-officials injured him “while they were doing their job.” Puerto Terry denies that and reiterated, “That is a lie. A captain of the specialized police force shot me. In the Prosecutor’s response, five months after the fact, they called it causing injuries. I do not agree with that. I do not agree: three shots from a firearm are not injuries, it is an [attempted] murder,” affirms Osiris.

Puerto Terry told Diario de las Américas that on that Sunday the people who were protesting against the government were pushed back by the police and government supporters who were mobilized. “It was heated,” said the 49-year-old man, when around 5 pm, while he was crossing the street, a group of officials arrived “shooting firearms at the population.” continue reading

One of the shots hit a column he was using for protection. “A neighbor opened the door to the building where I sought refuge. When I was going to enter, the police fired a second shot which hit my right foot. I fell on the floor, I could not stand up, and the official fired a third short which hit me in the back,” stated Puerto Terry to that same news site. One of the neighbors came out and shouted, “It is Orisis lying there.”

The link to the YouTube video showing the moment in which this vendor was injured in the leg and when he was shot in the back was shared via Justicia11j’s Twitter account.

After offering him aid, a neighbor nicknamed Coquín put him in a car and took him to Calixto García hospital. When he entered the hospital, he was beaten by the police officers who were at the entrance, “When the doctors and surgeons from group number four who were on staff that day arrived, the officials asked, ’Are you going to save this counterrevolutionary?’.”

Puerto Terry was discharged on August 11th. An official at 100 and Aldabó, the seat of the Technical Investigations Department, took a statement from him and his wife. Despite having drafted a letter where he explained that on the day of the protest he went to sell his ice cream sandwiches and as he was returning home he ran into some neighbors on Pamplona and San Nicolás who offered him some rum.

On that July 11th and the days that followed, arbitrary acts occurred on the part of police against the population. After several accusations by civil society and Cubans on social media, it was evident that Diubis Laurencio Tejeda was murdered by a gunshot fired by police sub lieutenant Yoennis Pelegrín Hernández during the protests the following day, July 12th, in the Havana neighborhood of La Güinera, in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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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.