The ’Bike Havana’ Project Rides This Friday "For the Climate"

With the motto “Go by Bike for the Climate” the ‘Bike Havana’ project joins the global initiative #FridaysForFuture (Facebook/Masa Crítica)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 21 September 2019 — This Friday a group of Cubans, members of the Bike Havana (Bicicletear La Habana) project, met in Martyrs Park at Infanta and San Lazaro in Central Havana to “ask all of society to get involved in the fight against global warming.”

With the slogan “Go by Bike for the Climate” they joined the global initiative #FridaysForFuture, which began in August last year when the young Swedish girl Greta Thunberg began skipping her classes every Friday to fight against climate change.

A young man who participated in the bike tour told 14ymedio that before starting to tour the city, several State Security agents arrived and told them that they could not leave from the place where they were and that they should move to Trillo Park, also in Central Havana.

“This is not the time,” the agents said, nor did they permit private businesses to rent bicycles, as is always the case with the ‘bicycle events’ organized by the project on the first Sunday of each month, the participant said.

On their Facebook page the members of Bicicletear La Habana explained that this Friday they wanted to “raise awareness about the climate crisis that the planet is experiencing and propose the bicycle as an alternative” but that this desire “was misinterpreted by police and State security agents” who ended up blocking the cyclists. “The situation raises many questions for us as to why our authorities and administration do not help us fight against climate change,” they said.

“The good news is that we still pedal in isolated groups, but with the same desire to infect you with that tingle we get when we ride a bicycle through Havana,” they said.

Between September 20 and 27, young people from many countries are mobilized on the streets to demand solutions to the Earth’s climate crisis. More than 1,153 events have been convened across the globe in support of the strike.

For their part, other young Cubans, grouped under the Fridays For Future initiative, wanted to join the global call and requested permission to sit in the Plaza San Francisco de Asís in Old Havana.

With the hashtag #fridaysforfuture, young activists shared images of themselves on the streets with their messages on the Facebook page “Fridays For Future Cuba.” (Facebook)

Rubén D. Herrera, part of that initiative, explained that after requesting permission from the authorities “in August our wait for an official response has continued to be extended and the day arrived without our receiving any response the result of which was to prevent today’s activities.”

Despite not being able to undertake a collective action, as individuals many of the activists took to the streets with signs asking for support for the planet. With the hashtag #fridaysforfuture many people shared images of their messages on the Facebook plage Fridays For Future.

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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 President is an Android / Lynn Cruz, Havana Times

Miguel Díaz-Canel with Raul Castro. Archival photo

Republished from English edition of the Havana Times

Lynn Cruz, HAVANA TIMES, 17 September 2019  – Photos of Cuban people stranded at bus stops, trying to reach their destination, are really quite outrageous. While the atmosphere in the capital is becoming more and more hostile, a doctor friend tells me that Carnival is being celebrated in Las Tunas.

We’ve had to put up with Fidel Castro’s monologues for sixty years, trying to justify the unjustifiable. And as if that wasn’t enough, after he left this world, the system has rebooted itself announcing the surprise (which is totally contradictory but so real it’s frightening) of a new subject programmed in absolute obedience, to a disturbing degree: “Miguel Diaz-Canel”.

Diaz-Canel has a configured discourse and it is repulsive as a result. He echoes a line that only deceives the few. He wants to carry on brandishing the anti-Imperialism flag, when he represents a power which during the Soviet invasion of Prague, defended the nature of that attack. continue reading

He wants to make us believe that this “new crisis”, which is in fact already old, stems from the US embargo. Sixty years later, Cuba doesn’t even have its own shipping fleet to be able to transport oil. Scientist and former prisoner-of-conscience Ariel Ruiz Urquiola shared a post on his Facebook wall, paraphrasing the Cuban Apostle Jose Marti and what he said about a statesman, or public official’s inability to have foresight, which is condemnable.

What right does the president of a country have to paralyze its people, and have them on standby waiting for an oil tanker? How much longer will the Cuban people have to swallow their leaders’ never-ending monologues, who walk scot-free with the poor decisions they’ve made?

Performance artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara was missing for over 72 hours. This practice is becoming commonplace. Neighbors, witnesses at the time of his arrest, have said that he was beaten by at least 5 men. Fernando Rojas, the current vice-minister of Culture, put on his best cynical suit on Twitter and stated that he had seen him at an exhibition and then rejected the idea that Otero Alcantara was an artist.

Guillermo del Sol, an independent journalist, is currently holding a hunger strike so as to draw attention to psychological torture techniques, known as “white torture”, which are disguised by the illegal term: “Regulado” (regulated). This arbitrary punishment prevents independent journalists and artists who are critical of the government, from traveling outside the country. It normally happens at the immigration control in Havana’s airport. After getting a passport and visa, as well as a plane ticket, they are told they won’t be able to travel.

In Oriente (Eastern Cuba), members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) were beaten and locked up while holding a peaceful protest on September 8th. Ovidio Martin Castellanos was one of them and he was sentenced to 5 months in jail and given a 2000 peso fine, to set an example. Everybody knows that people from the east of the country migrate to the west in search of better economic conditions. It isn’t strange that there is a strong movement of people from this region of the country, given their living conditions, that’s to say, they don’t have much to lose.

This is all going on today and the Cuban government, especially the president, seems to be ignoring the situation because it is unpleasant. Yet his triumphalist statements only feed the population’s unhappiness and create more anger. The government is hijacking civic initiatives such as petitions and taking them as their own, using blackmail at workplaces and state-run education institutions which are the majority. So, the Cuban people will now need to sign in support of their leaders’ shoddiness.

My question is: where will their dysfunctional system lead us? Has anyone in power realized that they’ve gone completely off the rails? Do they care about deforming generations and generations of Cubans in an environment of simulation and violence? Will they understand what it means to lose all of the values that they talk about so much? When will they recognize that this also has to do with the entrenchment situation which they have forced the Cuban people into, in the name of freedom for the few?

I once heard someone say that people have the leaders they deserve. Today, I think the opposite is true: governments have the people they deserve.

Several Years in Prison for Self-employed Cuban Who Bought 15,000 Apples

The purchase of the apples occurred at La Puntilla Mall, which is located in the Miramar neighborhood in Havana.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, September 17, 2019 — The seven people involved in the buying and selling of 15,000 apples at the store La Puntilla, in Havana, who were denounced last year by a Party-liner blogger, received sentences of seven months to six years in prison for the crimes of bribery and stockpiling, according to the judicial sentence to which 14ymedio has had access.

The trial occurred in June but nothing has been known until now since the official press has not responded to the matter. This media outlet learned about the sentence thanks to a relative of one of the convicted.

A text published in September of 2018 under the title Robbery in La Puntilla: It’s necessary to go further, criticized “the complicit indifference of employees.” The report was also published by the website Cubadebate and generated an intense controversy. continue reading

Nine months after the incident, on June 17 of this year, the accused were convicted of the crimes of bribery and stockpiling of a continuous nature. The trial, oral and public, took place at the Business System Region Military Court in Havana, due to the fact that the market where the events occurred is managed by the Cimex corporation, a business of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR).

Among the defendants were state employees Rafael Tápanes Montalvo, Adonis Semanat Ortiz, and Joel Muñiz Lorenzo, in addition to self-employed workers Luis Eduardo Bruzón Mesa, Alexis Hechavarría Guerra, Raudelis Ramos Mejía, and Eliecer Samada Hechevarría, who bought the apples.

Tápanes Montalvo was a salesman at the Tropicola Warehouse Base which supplies the FAR’s holdings, while Semanat Ortiz worked at La Puntilla warehouse. Both were sentenced to 6 years in prison and the severity of their sentences was due to their working relationship with FAR companies.

Tápanes Montalvo was accused of the crime of bribery because he advised self-employed people via text message about the time and place of apple sales. In exchange he received 20 CUC and minutes for his cellphone, according to the district attorney. The defense insisted that the employee gave that information to facilitate management for the merchants but that he never asked for money in exchange.

The sentence signals that because of the positions that Tápanes Montalvo and Semanat Ortiz occupied in their workplaces, both were considered “public officials,” which means more severe sentences. “As special individuals, they should have prevented corrupt officials from being able to break the barrier of honesty and integrity that must characterize a public employee.”

For his part, Muñiz Lorenzo worked as a driver for Plaza Carlos III and used the state-owned vehicle he drove for apple deliveries, for which he was sentenced to seven months in prison, but he was released after the trial because he had already completed his sentence in pre-trial detention.

The self-employed were accused of speculation and stockpiling and were sentenced to between 3 and 4 years of prison. Stockpiling is a crime regulated in article 230 of the Cuban Penal Code and punishes whoever retains in their power or transportation merchandise or products “in evident and unjustifiably greater quantities than those required for their normal needs.”

However, in the trial it was specified that all the self-employed had their documents in order and correctly paid their taxes. Ramos Mejías, for example, had authorization to deal in light foods and a permit from the administration of the Municipal Assembly of Popular Power of Guantanamo.

The lawyer Miguel Iturría, who works with the Legal Association of Cuba, warns that some jurists believe that the crime of stockpiling “is reserved only for regulated products whose acquisition is limited” but in judicial practice it has been applied frequently against clients of free markets like stores that trade in convertible currency.

“If someone goes to a public establishment to buy 40 or 50 floor cleaning cloths, a product that disappears frequently, he is sold them in the state business and upon arriving home or on the street he is arrested, accused, and, subsequently, punished,” warns Iturría, for whom this “situation is an absurdity.”

For years, since its reappearance in the 90s, the Cuban private sector has demanded access to a wholesale market that would allow them to buy large quantities of products at preferential prices. Despite official promises, they have only opened stores where one can acquire certain products at wholesale but without economic advantages.

Frequently customers of retail stores complain that the entrepreneurs hoard basic essentials like bread, oil, flour, and milk. In the official press they are blamed for the shortages of some merchandise and complaints against those who buy large quantities of food and other products are published.

According to a witness of the trial against the seven people penalized, only three of them presented appeals before the court, which have not yet been ruled on.

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.

Gas Lines in Cuba Reflect the New "Temporary Situation"

Citizens have a weapon to show the world in real time what is happening on the island: their cellphones. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 September 2019 — Lines have been a constant in the lives of Cubans for too many years, especially when it comes to getting food, using public transport or filling the fuel tank. In the last two cases the situation has worsened because, despite calls for calm from President Miguel Díaz-Canel and his ministers, the most notable quality of diesel right now is its absence.

This week, in many gas stations in the country, the cars that line up to fill the tank can wait up to four hours to be able to buy gas, although sometimes they don’t get it, because the service to have any to sell, they are just waiting for the supplies to show up.

This Wednesday at a gas station in Playa, on 5th avenue and 142nd, the line of cars exceeded three blocks, with the same situation at the roundabout near the CUJAE University. At the Cupet station on 84th and 13th the line of cars was over a quarter mile long. At another point of sale, located on Paseo and Malecón street, the vehicles reaches 12th street, a six block line of cars, one behind the other, waiting to fill their gas tanks, which is also limited to 40 liters per person.

Meanwhile, the official press and television repeat as a mantra that the situation is “temporary” and they mention neither crisis nor shortages. But now, unlike previous years, citizens have a weapon with which to show the world in real time what is happening on the Island: their cellphones.

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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.

Fewer Arrive, Few Stay and They Don’t Spend Much; Cuban Tourism Stalls

A steep decline in the number of cruise ships has dealt the island’s economy a hard blow. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, September 15, 2019 — Marcia and Luis own a guesthouse on one of the most centrally located thoroughfares in the colonial city of Trinidad. It includes a handicraft shop and serves as a meeting point for foreigners looking for guides who can show them “the hidden face of the city,” one of the best preserved on the island. But for the past six months they have had little business.

“We started noticing a drop-off at the end of last year but we thought it was a seasonal thing and that it would get better by February or March, when we normally have a lot of guests,” says Marcia. “But instead things just got worse. Now we are losing money and paying for our [operating] license out of our savings because there aren’t many customers and those who do come spend very little.”

Recently published data from the National Statistics Office confirms this impression. Tourists from the top five European countries seem to have lost their enthusiasm. The number of visitors from France, Germany, England, Spain and Italy fell 10% to 25% in 2018 compared to the previous year. continue reading

In the sitting room of a colonial-era house there is area set aside for the sale of handicrafts, pen and ink drawings, traditional clothing and refrigerator ornaments. “Two years ago this room was full of people all day long,” recalls Luis. “But the customers who spent the most and gave the biggest tips are gone. They were the ones who were not part of a tour group. Now they arrive by bus, spend half an hour in the city and leave.”

A few yards from the privately owned restaurant Sol y Son the situation is not much different. “We went from having customers lining up outside to having to hunt for them in other areas,” confesses a young man in white shirt, who holds a menu, trying to attract customers.

He believes the reason is a change in the type of tourist. “Now there are more people coming as part of packaged tours and fewer who come on their own.” Accustomed to paying a tip of at least 10%, Americans, who started coming after the 2014 diplomatic thaw, created an expectation that, for every bill, there would be a nice tip.

However, customers from other parts of the world did not have the same custom. This became a source of resentment in privately owned businesses catering to tourists, which face high taxes, license fees and government inspectors, who are often paid under the table to look the other way.

Almost 300 miles away, another one of the country’s major tourist centers is resentful over the decline in visitors from the United States and Europe. Viñales had been so crowded in September, “we had to ask permission to cross the street,” says Guillermo Luaces, who along with his wife rents two rooms in their house, located “in the shadow of the cliffs.”

Luaces describes a worrying situation: “There are fewer of them, they don’t stay for long and they spend the bare minimum.” The combination has been fatal for the finances of local entrepreneurs, who must pay expensive license fees, high personal income taxes and other costs associated with being located in a highly desirable tourist area.

However, Luaces is reluctant to lower his prices to attract more guests. “We are as low as we can go to make this worthwhile. An my house we charge 35 convertible pesos for one night, breakfast included. If we went any lower, we would be losing money,” he says. “Between electricity, taxes and the cost of breakfast supplies, there is very little profit.”

Several self-employed workers in the area interviewed by 14ymedio blame the drop in tourism on several factors. New regulations imposed by the Trump administration which limit Americans’ ability to travel to Cuba top the list, but other internal factors could also be contributing to the tourist sector’s sluggish numbers.

“Customers say Cuba is a very expensive country for tourists and that, for what they pay here, they could spend more time in the Dominican Republic or Cancun, which offer more amenities,” says Reyna, a cook who works in a privately owned restaurant a few yards from Viñales’ main park. “They complain about the services in general and that everything costs a lot.”

In Havana, the main port-of-call for cruise ships, the current situation is affecting thousands of entrepreneurs whose businesses are based on tourists willing to buy small items. A few yards from the Sierra Maestra Cruise Ship Terminal, a cafe offers soft drinks and snack plates, most with English names.

“Most of our customers come by boat and, although everything is included onboard, they often want to try some local dish, so we sell small combos accompanied by cocktails,” explains Dayron, one of the young employees at the cafe. “But we’ve had to change course in the last few weeks. Now we’re trying to attract more local customers to make up for the drop in tourism.”

The change is reflected in restaurant menus. “We used to offer a daiquiri and something to snack on, such as stuffed tostones, but now most of our sales are beer and sandwiches, which is what the locals consume,” he says. “We have to try to survive until the Americans return. But let’s hope they don’t take too long because businesses here are in the red.”

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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.

European Tourism in Cuba Records a Steep Drop and Hotel Occupancy Plunges

In the colonial city of Trinidad the fall in number of visitors is experienced most dramatically in local businesses. (M. Wong/Flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, September 14, 2019 — Tourism, one of the few dynamic branches of the Cuban economy, is also in crisis. Official statistics published this Saturday by the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI) do not yet reflect the plunge in American visitors since July but do reflect a substantial fall in European travelers between January and June of this year.

Although it’s true that the number of tourists from the US increased some 40% in the first half of 2019 (from 266,185 in the same period in the previous year to 372,669), it’s necessary to stress that this increase is solely attributable to trips on cruise ships and, additionally, it is temporary given that Washington prohibited them in June so that Havana would cease its interference in Venezuela and its support for Nicolás Maduro.

In a statement made in July, the Minister of Tourism himself, Manuel Marrero, explained that the suspension of cruises would affect “more than 560,000 Americans in the rest of the year,” which allows one to predict a total collapse of the only sector of tourism that was expanding. continue reading

Since the prohibition on cruise ships, the arrival of foreigners in Cuba has decreased at least 20% according to official figures, although some economists believe that the percentage is even greater.

Official figures were just published on international tourism in Cuba in the first half of 2019. Compared with the same period of 2018, visitors increase (+2.4%), revenue barely increases (+0.2%) and the occupation rate is reduced (-6.8%) pic.twitter.com/IYGLrbb4qR

-Pedro Monreal (@pmmonreal)

Canada continues to be the primary source of visitors (more than 725,000 in the first half of the year), with a slight growth of 1.1%, while Cuban-Americans (305,680) are in third place and are the only ones to register a significant increase (6.4%).

On the other hand, the five main European clients are losing interest in Cuba: France (-10.3%), Germany (-10.4%), England (-17.8%), Spain (-15%), and especially Italy (-25%). Nationals of those countries totalled more than 516,000 in the first half of 2018, but only 437,000 in the equivalent period of this year.

Despite the decrease in European visitors, the total arrival of tourists grew 2.4%. However, revenues only increased 0.2% (as always, ONEI doesn’t say anything about the costs of running hotels, which doesn’t allow one to know the true earnings of the State in that sector).

Even more worrying for the Government is the fact of the occupancy rate in hotels, which fell 6.8% and is at 43.6% total capacity. This means that almost six rooms out of every ten have remained empty during the first half of the year.

The Cuban economist Pedro Monreal, who follows the situation closely via his blog and his Twitter account, predicts that the occupancy rate will continue falling in the second half of the year, and calls into question the official policy that bets on the construction of new hotels for international tourism.

“There is a contradiction between the depressed hotel occupancy rate and the increase in hotel capacity, which should grow with more than 4,000 new rooms in 2019. Unless it is explained in a conclusive manner, the enormous investment that implies doesn’t seem justified,” he points out in an analysis of the latest figures from ONEI.

These results do not come at the best time for the Government of Miguel Díaz-Canel, who faces a severe crisis caused by the poor management of the economy, the increase in sanctions from the United States, and, above all, the collapse of his Venezuelan ally and benefactor.

This week Díaz-Canel has called on Cubans to be prepared for more sacrifices and hardships. To get out of this “temporary situation,” the leader has promised that tourism will have an important role. ONEI’s figures do not seem to indicate that the economic recovery will take that route.

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.

E-Commerce in Cuba with Nothing to Buy

Few Cubans trust the island’s banking system. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, September 11, 2019 — Amazing. We had to wait until the now distant point in time — April 2016, when Guideline #108 of the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution was approved — before Cubans could start engaging in e-commerce transactions in accordance with the country’s computerization process. It is curious how one political party’s “guidelines” can still impact Cubans’ living conditions.

It should be noted, however, that e-commerce is an activity that is widespread throughout the world, even in countries whose levels of development are lower than Cuba’s. Nevertheless, Granma believes this activity now merits an article extolling and promoting its virtues on the island.

Given these circumstances, the question that comes to mind is “Electronic commerce. What for?” as Fidel Castro, with full revolutionary fervor, said of elections. E-commerce is widespread where there is something to sell, where people can take advantage of its benefits and the ways it can improve their quality of life. Can anyone explain to me how Cubans, who can seldom find what they want in old, dilapidated bodegas, are now going to do their shopping electronically? With all the obstacles that currently exist and when things are rationed when least expected, how are they going to access this platform? Who is Granma trying to kid? continue reading

The reality is that Cubans have a poor, inefficient, disorganized and antiquated retail system plagued by chronic supply shortages. As a result it is very difficult to exercise the right to free choice for desired goods and services. Commerce, logistics, distribution and “middle-men” were early victims of communist repression. Businesses and companies were violently and unjustly confiscated by militias, condemning many former owners of these once prosperous entities to either a miserable existence on the island or escape into exile to save their lives.

Decisions like this — fervently promoted by Che Guevara, with the approval of Fidel Castro — are at the root of Cuba’s economic failures. And what is even worse are the limited possibilities for overcoming the backwardness and the widespread poverty in which Cubans find themselves.

Granma’s article makes you want to laugh and, along with it, at e-commerce too. This ought to be the guideline’s slogan. But I fear this is a mistake. It is possible that some Cubans might be interested in this formula. But I cannot see how someone could earn thirty dollars a month through e-commerce, especially under current conditions.

And it is not for a lack of experience or interest. Any Cuban who moves abroad, no matter to which country, embraces these technologies and views them positively. The problem is how to do it in the desert that is the Castro economy.

Setting aside the absence of products for sale and the lack of freedom of choice, any Cuban who wants to make an electronic purchase will first need a bank account in which to deposit either his meager monthly salary, which won’t buy much, or  remittances sent by a family member overseas, which have to first be first be processed by a bank.

I also do not see many self-employed businesspeople putting their hard earned money into state-owned Cuban banks. They know that, if they do, that information will be immediately passed along to State Security, which will use it to control their operations. Without opportunities for investment, the best place for hard currency earnings is under the mattress or buried underground, as in colonial times.

Cubans’ confidence in banks is minimal. There are no statistics on the level of banking and financial development in Cuban society but its banking system is one of the most backward and inefficient in the world, owing to the fact that is it wholly owned by the state.

Without a bank account, it will be difficult to make an electronic purchase using a magnetic card at a store’s terminal, as Granma’s communists are encouraging.

But there is another much more complicated problem: How many retail establishments — the old bodegas, for example — have electronic checkout terminals at their points of sale? None. According to Granma’s statistics, there are only 21,462 such terminals, or one for every 950  inhabitants, in the entire country, one of the lowest rates in the world. Most are also concentrated in urban areas, making access limited and complicated for many people.

There may be terminals in hard-currency stores but everyone knows that these establishments represent only a small fraction of overall retail activity in the country. And they are only within reach of those with real money to spend.

In any case, economic inequality, which the Castro regime has so often criticized, is particularly virulent in this area, where the growth of computerization is limited. Many foreign tourists complain about it and about the difficulty of paying by card, something Cubans will not say.

The communist newspaper extolls electronic commerce and defines it “as a method of buying and selling characterized by the distribution, marketing and exchange of products and services in which monetary payments and receipt of funds are made quickly and securely using machines and digital networks, without the need for cash, based on available balances of magnetic cards in both currencies used in Cuba.” A good definition, no doubt, but not applicable in Cuba.

Because few Cubans can afford to engage in e-commerce due to their very limited purchasing power, they do not trust the way it is conducted on the island. Nor, it is clear, should they.

It is surprising that, in spite of offering 8% discounts on purchases made by card, the Cuban Central Bank — one of the tools the state relies on to control its citizens’ financial lives — has had little success convincing people to make purchases using its system. And with good reason. It is telling that the same discount is not needed in Miami or Madrid. On the contrary, banks there charge for this service. The Central Bank’s communist bureaucrats should take note.

The same applies to Transfermóvil, an Android app that supports ETECSA’s infrastructure and network services. This is the same company which many Cubans criticize for the high price of its services.

Though mobile banking is clearly widespread throughout the world, in Cuba it is very underdeveloped. Few Cubans use it to pay their utility and phone bills or to check their account balances. The reasons? The same as before.

To access mobile banking, a customer must have an account linked to a magnetic card issued by a Cuban bank (Popular Savings, Credit and Commerce, Metropolitan) and a Telebanca card. Mistrust in state banks is fully justified.

On the other hand, I do not believe that EnZona, Compra-DTodo or Superfácil platforms are widely used as channels for financial and digital business operations by individuals or and organizations. The fact that they are accessible by internet search engines or through Android apps on Etecsa’s platform does encourage widespread use in private sector businesses, especially given the company’s high prices.

Virtual stores, such as the one in the Commercial Center of 5th Avenue and 42nd Street, offer a home delivery service that allows customers to reserve products and pick them up at their convenience, like any Zara store. But they fail to take off for the reasons mentioned before. In fact, information suggests that store’s products are in short supply and there is little to buy on the shelves.

It is no wonder that Cubans who have spent the last sixty years waiting in line to do anything do not understand the benefits of these virtual stores. The exceptions are young people with financial resources, which highlights once again to the issue of inequality. Transactions must be conducted in hard currency; the local currency is not accepted.

The e-commerce landscape in the era of Diaz-Canel is an example of the absurdity of robbing Peter to pay Paul. It makes no sense to introduce information-based technological solutions when the economic system remains stagnant. The problem boils down to the Cuban people’s limited purchasing power, their low incomes, their mistrust of banks owned by a repressive state and the lack of consumer choice.

Everything else is just beating around the bush. And worst of all, it turns e-commerce into one more arena for increasing social inequalities in communist Cuba. Fidel Castro’s greatest legacy. Without a doubt.

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Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the blog Cubadebate and is reproduced here with the permission of the author.

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

Cuban Company Clandestina Accuses Spanish Company Zara of Plaigarism

Clandestina’s T-shirt on the left and Zara’s “copy” on the right.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 August 2019 — The Clandestina brand team has reported on social networks that the Spanish chain Zara plagiarized part of its designs in a clothing line that has just been launched in the market. Idania del Río called the action “shameless” and regretted that such a large company “has to copy much smaller people in every way.”

Among Clandestina’s most popular designs were T-shirts with the phrase Actually, I am in Havana that now reappears in Zara as Mentally, I am in Havana. The initial motto arose when Cuba and the United States was experiencing a diplomatic thaw and saw American celebrities strolling the streets of the Island’s capital.

In 2014, Del Río and Spain’s Leire Fernández began working in the shop-workshop located on Villegas Street, between Teniente Rey and Muralla, in Old Havana. “If you want to have a real design, you have to come to Havana and you can’t buy it at Zara because that’s plagiarism,” Fernandez said. continue reading

Another similarity of Zara’s collection with Clandestina’s designs occured last year when they launched last year some shirts with the phrase Delete the drama, which could be described as the English translation of the phrase used in the Cuban brand’s the collection of April 2017, Se acabó el drama.

Clandestina’s video to denounce this situation concludes with the workers of the Havana store telling Zara that “it has to stop,” to which Del Río adds: “It is not the first time.”

Last June Clandestina opened its first temporary store in the United States and for several days, Idania del Río was in charge of a point of sale in Brooklyn. The firm, which has operated worldwide since 2017 through its online store, presented its Country under Construction collection last November at the National Museum of Fine Arts, in collaboration with Google Cuba.

The Cuban brand is distinguished by the originality of its designs. Clandestina T-whirts, bags and other garments are advertised as “99% Cuban design,” something that has defined them. Initially it was Del Rio T-shirts and posters that turned a lot of eyes towards their store from other countries. Then they added hats, toys, glasses, and pillowcases to their collection, as well as custom work.

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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 Want to Eliminate the Only Two Humor Programs on Cuban TV"

The comedian Marcos García. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 August 2019 — A text published in the Granma newspaper has provoked a flood of responses and statements on the issues addressed by Cuban humor. Artists such as Ulises Toirac, Kike Quiñones, Iván Camejo and Eduardo del Llano have questioned an article in this official government press that laments that there are too many jokes against public officials. Marcos García, The Son of Teresa, has also jumped into the arena of controversy.

14ymedio: Do you think that the humor that is published in the national media is complacent, moderately critical or excessively disrespectful of public officials?

Marcos García: Yes but no. The humor that is visible in the Cuban media is complacent and it is moderately critical, but many concepts should be discussed to see if it is — or is not — excessively disrespectful of public officials.

As required on elementary school tests, I justify my answer. It is complacent because the media is directed by the State and there is the figure of the “advisor,” who does not advise, but censors. There is also the figure of “content director,” who is a person who has no damn idea of the means of communication for which he receives a salary, but is reliable in the eyes of the power structure. That official has the power to decide to which smokescreen the resources will be allocated, especially in matters of humor. Therefore, any joke that is made — at least in the state media — responds to an editorial policy that is known to or handled by only those who lead. continue reading

The aforementioned has obvious results, and one is that the humor that appears on television, radio, written press and even on the state websites responds to what — sometimes reluctantly — their own leaders have approved for release. That is why it is complacent and also, because of that, it is moderately critical.

To say if the humor in the Cuban media is “excessively disrespectful” or not, we should define what is meant by “excessive” and what we mean by “respect” when talking about public officials. In the media that is defined by the content directors and I doubt that they or their minions are interested in clarifying it.

14ymedio: Are there different levels of permissiveness with television humor, print newspapers, authorized digital media, theaters, cabarets and more or less private shows? 

Marcos García: Yes, of course there are differences. In our country, the written press and the permitted digital media have their own “editorial policies” and I think they are quite outdated with regards to publishing humor.

I think that permissiveness in the matter of humor is not a concept that could be associated with those who lead. At least not in Cuban media. I am convinced that they are not and cannot be accused of permissiveness because, to begin with, the majority have no idea what it is and how communication works in humor. Add to that, that they are officials who watch over what is established from above, and in turn they themselves are monitored from above, from below and from all sides.

A high position that defends its share of power based only on political reliability cannot make good use of the critical elemental thinking that is needed to understand humor and its mechanisms. And let’s not talk about administrative capacity, because that’s “another eggplant.”

On the other hand, the theaters, cabarets, nightclubs and so on, function practically as fiefdoms in which the person in charge is not always the person who directs and in very few cases do those who do  this have training.

Those places, like more or less private nightclubs, have to raise funds. Their needs are different from those that move to censorship on television. There they need money. That does not mean that they are “permissive,” but that they mostly turn a blind eye, which is something else.

Let us not forget that in almost every state nightclub in Cuba, the last word belongs to a soldier in civilian clothes who has passed a management course. If “permissiveness” with humor were one of their qualities, they would not be directing.

14ymedio: Sometimes comedians are subtle and appeal to second readings or double meaning. Do you think that censorship contributes to sharpen those resources and that, if the known limitations did not exist, humor would be more direct or coarser?

Marcos García: This question has no absolute answer. “Second readings” or “double meaning” are only communication resources. All the resources of humor are used more or less grossly or ingeniously depending on the intelligence, culture and economic needs of those who stand on stage. The public only looks for what interests them. If there are comedians who do gross humor, it is because there is an audience that pays to see them. If there are comedians who make more elaborate humor, it is because there is an audience that follows them. If the pooch exists or if there is social criticism, it is because there is an audience that is willing to pay the entrance fee to laugh at them. And vice versa.

On the other hand, censorship has something of Descartes. If you think about it, it exists. It would be ideal if we didn’t think about it, but …

The awareness of censorship might help refine resources to expose an idea by dodging prohibitions with grace and ingenuity.

But generally who stands or is appointed censor has no awareness of humor and does not master it nor has bothered to invest their time in understanding the mechanisms of laughter. They might have learned how a script is made, but they have not understood how it makes you laugh.

I am not going to tell you what they are doing wrong so as not to give them the chance to apply that knowledge, because if they knew how easy it is, then censorship would be effective and if censorship were effective… I don’t know… I can’t take it in.

14ymedio: Could you tell us about any personal experience (or the experience of someone else that you have direct knowledge of) in which some humorous manifestation has been prohibited?

Marcos García: All the comedians of my generation could see the television humor of Detrás de la Fachada and San Nicolás del Peladero, which are both considered referents of good humor. But almost all of us were very young and we laughed at what we often did not understand.

At least in my case — and I am sure it is the case of many more comedians — the one who really taught us to understand humor for the first time was the one person simply showed us every Sunday the humor of the first and great masters of comedy in the cinema: Armando Calderón.

Being a professional, I had the honor of meeting him and conversing with him several times.

One day I asked him what every Cuban would have wanted to know: is it true that he was sanctioned for having said that mythical phrase? No. He never said it.

A government leader — a military officer to be precise — had commented at a meeting that Cuban children should not be watching “that old codger talking nonsense” on television. At that meeting was a man who was president of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT): Nivaldo Herrera, an official appointed to his position by the State Council. Right there it was decided that Silent Comedy was over. When children asked why they never saw “friend Luzbrillante” or “friend Charles” or “Balloon Face and Blowtorch,” someone was in charge of putting out the rumor that Armando Calderón being drunk had said something that never in his life would he have allowed himself.

14ymedio: From a historical perspective, what does the controversy after the publication of the article in Granma suggest ?

Marcos García: Years ago there was a commander of infamous memory, Jorge Papito Serguera, who expelled many Cuban television artists starting a witch hunt in condemnation with other gentlemen who also enjoyed political reliability and who began the bitter “Five Grey Years” that did so much damage to Cuban culture. The policies of those gentlemen who came to hold high shares of power and were appointed by the Party still have followers in the halls of the ICRT.

Then came the unpleasant initial years of the Special Period, when a “leader” of as much weight as Carlos Aldana demanded in a speech on the Day of the Cuban press that censorship much exist and we should accept it as an ideological weapon. “Censorship yes! Censorship and good!” he read to the journalists gathered at the base of the Marti monument in the Revolution Square. His speech was broadcast on the television news and, therefore, he spoke to all Cubans. The following years were difficult for everyone, and following the policies of that subject exalted by the Party, Cuban television removed without prior notice the only humor programs:  Los domingos no están contados (Sundays are Not Counted)  and En Confianza  (In Confidence).

Now, with reference to Granma newspaper and the innocent article we are talking about, I am very sorry for the flight this issue has taken. The opinion article that has provoked this debate has been published in the Official Organ of the Communist Party of Cuba. That is, it is understood that, more than a personal opinion, it is a partisan direction. That is very ugly, it is worrisome. Opening the door to intolerance once again. I can assure you that they have long been looking for ways to eliminate the only two programs that are now on Cuban TV. I know ink very well and this “comment” published in Granma seems like a warning.

14ymedio:  Do you remember any personal anecdote that fits into the current controversy?

Marcos García: In 1989, a “fellow advisor” who then held a position at Radio Rebelde made me an offer that, if I presented him with a project for Radio Taino, he would give me the program. They gve me a contract, they gave me the courses of whatever it was so that I could enter the Cuban radio system and in Radio Taíno no less(!), which then started strongly… but with a condition, (what were you thinking, that it was offered to me for my pretty face?). I would have to use only the jokes and cartoons that appeared in Bohemia magazine, preferably the issues from before the Revolution … And why? I asked. Answer: Because with those jokes we aren’t courting problems.

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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.

Special Period or “Situation”?

Díaz-Canel appearing on the Roundtable TV show on Cuban State television (Twitter)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 12 September 2019 — As announced by the official press in the morning hours of September 11th, a special appearance of the Cuban President (not elected), Miguel Díaz-Canel, took place in the usual space of State televison’s Roundtable program, in order to report on the “current energy situation” that the country is experiencing this September. This time, the program was broadcast from the Palace of the Revolution, and the Ministers of Economy, Energy and Mines, and Transportation accompanied Díaz-Canel

Looking tired – due to a day that began early, at a meeting of the Political Bureau with Raúl Castro leading, where “the measures to alleviate the situation” were approved – the “president” made his speech without departing a milligram from the script that, in broad strokes, began with the causes of all evils: the new “onslaught” of evil of the American Empire (and here, a direct mention of the funds allocated by the government of that country for “subversion in Cuba”), in addition to the capricious commitment of the current administration of the nation to the north to inflict suffering on the Cuban population, with the risky intention of blaming the inadequacies and deprivations on government inefficiency.

According to Díaz-Canel, the newly announced limitation of remittances and the efforts of the Trump administration to prevent the arrival of oil in Cuba were, among other factors, the most important ones that conditioned the “low availability of diesel,” which is directly impacting on public transportation and on freight. continue reading

Because it turns out that “there are no longer supply problems, such as those we faced at the end of last year and in the first months of this year.” It is said that there are food boats in port – loaded with meat, flour to make bread, etc. – whose cargoes have not been able to be unloaded due to the “current energy situation.” “Situation,” a word mentioned on numerous occasions during the speech by Díaz-Canel, which seems to be the new euphemism to refer to the economic crisis in the 90’s which the fertile imagination of Castro I termed The Special Period, and whose return the regime refuses to recognize.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Energy and Mines announced the “possibility of blackouts” which would be scheduled and announced in a timely manner to the population, while the Minister of Transportation referred to the inevitable “reprogramming” of inter provincial travel – that “will not be suspended, but extended” in time, which implies that “there will be people who bought their tickets but cannot travel on the planned dates” – a situation that will affect both national bus services and train travel, a service with an ephemeral life since it was reopened with much fanfare in recent weeks.

The Minister of Economy, in turn, made a triumphant mention of the financial contribution of tourism and other income derived from foreign investments, etc., all of which, in addition to the development plans undertaken throughout the country, means that we can be assured that this year’s growth in GDP will be guaranteed

There will also be effects “on the distribution of some products”, but at least they gave us the good news that “blackouts should not occur until next Sunday, September 15th, unless there are interruptions due to breakage or other factors.”

However, this time the government fortunately has a Plan. It is not without purpose that the president reminds us that we have now what we lacked in the 90’s, namely, the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) Guidelines, the Conceptualization of the Model and – as if that were not enough – a brand new Constitution, very useful tools that now allow us to successfully face imperial tricks and plots. Now, a smiling Díaz-Canel tells us that the Cuba Plan faces the USA Plan. “Plan against Plan, as Martí used to say” he stated, very pleased with himself.

And what is the wonderful Master Plan secretly created by the Druids and their “continuity”? Well, literally: “dust off some of the experiences learned during the Special Period”, such as “work at home” (if possible work is done from the home base, taking advantage of “the advances in connectivity we now have”, to alleviate the use of public and labor transportation).

State vehicles (not normally used for passenger service) must pick up passengers at bus stops, provided they have available capacities (which seems like a repeat of the famous “yellow ones”, a name that the popular wit during those hard, turn of the century years, gave to State inspectors due to the color of their uniforms. The State inspectors’ function was to force the State drivers to carry passengers, and to apply the “popular control” (a euphemism for “snitching”) for any violation of measures and laws, “to move work schedules” even to the dawn hours, if necessary, and to reintroduce animal traction – as in horse-drawn carts, ‘buses’ and trucks – in places where this variant was possible, among other pearls.

And if that were not enough to convince us that this “tense energy situation” is not a Special Period but “a training opportunity, since it can be repeated in the future” — which contradicts the very concept of what is understood as situational — Now we have a “socio-economic development strategy” based on tourism and on “the exportation of medical and drug services,” in addition to other items such as the production of eggs, pork and chicken.

But the best news is that the above “situation” is only a matter of days away. The oil contracts for the month of October have already “been negotiated,” which implies that the coming month will not be energetically tense, and on the 14th of this month of September an oil ship will arrive — from a mysterious place that our president, so shrewd and naughty, did not want to reveal so that the Empire does not find out — which will be the solution for this small energy slump.

So, in the end, it was all about “a ship’s” arrival! Could it mean, perhaps, that with that solitary oil vessel that will arrive secretly, as if it were a seventeenth century filibuster, all the problems of this Island of 110 thousand square kilometers and 11 million low-life souls can be situational? And then, wasn’t it sufficient to do a press report explaining the fact instead of inventing implausible and medieval plans at the highest governmental level? Does the main plan of the cupola really take Cubans for fools?

But I will tell my readers a secret suspicion that’s eating me alive: I know that we are not in the Special Period because neither the person who became president because he knew somebody nor his team of babbling ministers has yet to mention that artifact that was the hallmark of the dark crisis: the bicycle. Or is it that it has not yet been possible to unload the ship “loaded with cycles” due to the lack of diesel?

In the end, all this absurdity of a “sovereign and independent” Island that makes such painful boast of its blarney economy reminds me of a phrase a poor madman repeats like a parrot to enliven his meaningless speeches and slogans at the Emergency Hospital bus stop, where his involuntary public crowds together. At the end, even if irrelevant, the poor man ends his rant by invoking that not so innocent other lunatic: “This did not happen with Fidel.” In Cuba, from the highest of Power to the lowest of the outcasts you can hear any nonsense.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Frosty Electoral Environment in Cuba

On the ballot there are not different options to choose among, only names to approve, one for each position. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 13 August 2019 — It is less than 60 days before the National Assembly of Popular Power elects the president and vice president of the Republic. In the same act, the three highest positions of the Parliament — president, vice president and secretary — and the other members of the State Council will also be elected.

This is the method to fulfill the second transitory provision of the current Constitution, which specified a period of three months from the approval of the Electoral Law, so that the Parliament could choose these positions from among its deputies.

“And what do the polls say?” asks the jokester. continue reading

This is the question asked by political scientists in most countries since electoral processes begin to be profiled. For example, in mid-August Argentina and Guatemala held elections; Argentines published surveys starting in October of last year and Guatemalans did so as of March of this year, when it was not yet known that there would be a second round.

That does not happen in Cuba, because preparing the nominations for the aforementioned positions is formally the job of the National Candidacy Commission, composed of members of the main “mass organizations” of the country and in these lists there are not different candidates to choose among, only names to approve. One name for each position.

Right now, the first breach of the provisions of the new Electoral Law could be taking place, which, in its sixth transitory provision, gave a period of 30 days for the directors of the mass organizations to designate their representatives in the National Candidacy Commission.

If we read the first special provision of the law itself, it is understood that for the calculation of the positions and terms “the days are understood as calendar days, unless otherwise expressly provided by the competent authority.”

As of today, August 13, 31 days have passed since that July 13 in which the Electoral Law was passed and the press has not said a word about these appointments. On Parliament’s digital site there is no mention that mass organizations have submitted their proposals for members of the National Nominations Commission.

Although it is no secret to anyone that Miguel Díaz-Canel will be appointed president of the Republic, the other positions are not so clearly defined. What a curious thing: in the official press nobody speculates, nobody asks, nobody makes proposals. In this matter, as in many others, the mystery syndrome prevails.

The date of October 10 is probably adopted for the inauguration of the new president. It is notorious that the civil offices of the Republic take possession on dates marked by military deeds: October 10 marks the beginning of the first war of independence; February 24 marks the beginning of the second; and April 19 the “Victory of Playa Girón,” known to the north as the Bay of Pigs.

In response to the limitation of two five-year terms for senior political and government officials, there was a question of how the time since April 19 would be considered, during which the certain candidate for President of the Republic, Miguel Díaz-Canel took possession of his current position as president of the Councils of State and Ministers. Will it be counted as a prior preliminary stage or will it be recorded as time served in the new position?

The answer is offered by the third transitory provision of the new Electoral Law that specifies that the current election will be “on this occasion, for the remainder of this mandate” that is, until April 2024. If those who wrote this provision did not know beforehand that the “next” president is going to be the same person who holds the position today, with another denomination, they would not have introduced this clause, because if it were someone else, they would be subtracting six months from that person’s five-year term.

As for the changes in Parliament, we will have to wait for the same date, which is clear from the first special provision of the Constitution that states that the deputies of the IX legislature “remain in their positions until their term ends.”

Miguel Díaz-Canel exhibits an impeccable conduct in his intention to give continuity to the legacy of the historical generation. Furthermore, he will probably not have taken one unearned peso from public funds, nor will he engage in any nepotistic behaviors to benefit his relations. But he will not have been chosen by the people.

Not even the most-committed gamblers will place bets on the result of this appointment. There will be no one going out to the balconies of their homes to shout cheers, or joy inside homes in front of the television screen when the monotonous voice of the president of the Electoral Commission pronounces the name of the new head of state. Not even among his supporters.

That’s how tedious and boring these processes are in this country. With less than 60 days to know the result of these inappropriately named elections, there are no campaigns or debates, much less scandals. Not only are the surveys missing, the great absentee is popular enthusiasm.

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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.

Parade of Ministers on Cuba’s Roundtable TV Show Call for Tranquility

The Minister of Energy and Mines, Raúl García Barreiro, accompanied Miguel Díaz-Canel in the second broadcast of the Roundtable TV show to assess the lack of fuel and propose savings measures.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 September 2019 — The second appearance of President Miguel Díaz-Canel and several of his ministers on the Roundtable TV show was an exercise in contortionism of the powers-that-be committed to explaining to Cubans that everything is under control and nothing will be affected but all sectors must adjust downwards. Of course, because the United States prevents the arrival of fuel to the Island.

“Here the truth is told and only the truth, what is not said is not to give in to the difficulties. The enemy wants to close all possible doors,” said the president before passing the word to his team, which was analyzing the optimization of resources that will be carried out in two phases. The first should end this weekend, and the second “begins with the arrival of the fuel vessel to the country, although it is not enough. That is why we must stretch it to ensure the vitality of the country until the end of the month,” said Alejandro Gil, Economy Minister.

Among the most affected industries will be heavy materials and construction. Gil said steel and cement will lower production for at least fifteen or twenty days to prioritize food and “products in the retail sphere,” bureaucratic terms that apply to detergents and soaps, among other items. The great beneficiary, for whom no modification has been announced, is the usual one, tourism. “Cuba is in a position to offer a quality service to visitors arriving on the Island.” continue reading

The Minister of Energy and Mines, Raúl García Barreiro, tried to call for calm in the face of Cuban fears of blackouts. Although he acknowledged that in recent days there have been brief power outages in Havana and other regions, it occurs “as in any other country,” and he linked them to specific problems in substations, in addition to ruling out that electricity generation is insufficient.

“Measures are taken in the state sector to reduce spending, and it is very favorable for the people to be involved, consumers of 60% of the energy. At peak times that amount is greater, so everything we can do in homes to shift the demand in this moment is favorable,” García Barreiro asked citizens.

The minister also admitted the problems with liquefied gas, which almost two million Cubans depend on, but promised that it was about to be solved. “The gas supply is guaranteed and we have contracts signed until December. On the weekend the service must be stabilized in the eastern provinces, on Tuesday in the center of the country and on Thursday in the west. We are not only talking about regulated gas, but also of the sale unrationed gas with its usual cycle,” he said.

Among the services affected in his area is the supply of gasoline in the service centers, which according to his commitment, will be resolved at the end of the month, and so he asked that current stocks be ‘stretched’.

The direct consequence of this is the damage to another sector, transport, which keeps Cubans paralyzed. Eduardo Rodríguez Dávila, minister of the branch, also appeared on the TV show to give explanations.

Of the 1.1 million people who are normally transported daily, today only 600,000 do so and bus trips have dropped from 7,000 to 4,000. “That is why we must ask for greater collaboration from bus companies,” Rodríguez Dávila asked.

The minister also asked the drivers for help and warned that inspectors and police are deployed in case collaboration is not voluntary.

In a new attempt to say one thing and the opposite, Rodríguez Dávila indicated that the trains would not “be affected,” but as of this Sunday, and although a new schedule for service to the east of the country begins, there will be restructuring of schedules. In addition, he ordered those who had already bought a ticket to get a refund if there has been any modification in their departure which no longer works for them.

Medications, on the other hand, will not suffer from transport problems. Although, for that, they will have to exist. The Minister of Health, José Ángel Portal Miranda, another of the appearing parties, explained that this is in the best moment of drug production in the last four years, but that there is still much to improve, especially because of the ‘blockade’, and so he has returned to lend a hand shortly after his colleague, the Minister of Economy said: “Our task is to find solutions to each problem, not justifications.”

The Minister of Health said that fuel is guaranteed for the boilers in hospitals and for ambulances, but referrals to other doctors are encouraged to reduce displacements. He also noted that energy will be allocated to the war against arboviruses (for example dengue and zika).

There was no representative on the show from Education, but Gil said he will not stop teaching “although there may be schedule shifts.” Some commentators warned that classes have been suspended at the Central University Marta Abreu (UCLV) and the Technological University of Havana José Antonio Echeverría, (Cujae).

Marta Elena Feitó Cabrera, First Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Security, was also there to talk about something new: telecommuting. In the absence of fuel and transportation problems, the Government has found the benefits of maintaining productivity without commuting, which will also avoid “absenteeism, late arrivals and early departures,” he said.

One could not miss, in such circumstances, a little epic. That’s why Díaz-Canel turned to the classics: Fidel Castro, the five heroes, and the Vietnamese friend. “Cuba does not have a day without history,” he said.

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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.

Official Twitter Accounts Return, But Not Raul Castro’s

Raúl Castro’s Twitter account remains locked this morning. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 September 2019 — Twitter started unlocking some of the official accounts closed last Wednesday. At the moment, the profiles of Granma, Mesa Redonda, Radio Rebelde, Dominio Cuba , the journalist Leticia Martínez Hernández and the deputy and director of the National Sex Education Center, Cenesex, Mariela Castro, have recovered their activity.

Among those who still have their accounts closed are Cubadebate , Cubaperiodistas, Canal Caribe, Angélica Paredes, from the Díaz-Canel press team, Rosa Miriam Elizalde, first vice president of the Union of Cuban Journalists and Enrique Moreno Gimeranez, journalist from Granma. Also on this list is the last and most relevant of the blockades, Raúl Castro, former president and current secretary-general of the Communist Party of Cuba.

Around ten o’clock on Thursday night, Granma, the country’s first official newspaper and the Communist Party’s propaganda organ, announced the unlocking of its profile. “The Granma newspaper account , suspended by Twitter since the afternoon of Wednesday without any cause, was restored on Thursday afternoon with only 18 thousand followers. Twitter has been raising the figure, which we hope will return to the original 166 thousand.” continue reading

Hours later, the account has regained all its followers. Other profiles in networks, such as Dominio Cuba, returned to working status before Granma’s and denounced re-starting with zero subscribers, although gradually they were also being restored.

Dominio Cuba also complained that the US company has not apologized for the interruption of its activities.

For its part, the Mesa Redonda account, once again accessible, showed the messages that its administrators had issued during the moments when they had not yet realized their invisibility.

It remains to be seen if going forward the accounts that remain blocked will return to normal in the wake of the previous ones, although some followers regret that the suspension occurred coinciding with the first television speech by Miguel Díaz-Canel to announce the country’s emergency measures for the energy crisis.

Twitter’s Director of Global Communications, Ian Plunkett, told OnCuba that the company considered that the suspended official accounts violated the company’s manipulation policy that is defined as “the artificial amplification of the information through several accounts at the same time.”

The Union of Cuban Journalists, Upec, denounced yesterday the action of Twitter, which attributed to a policy of the Department of State directed to reactivate the opposition’s online militancy .

“The new thing is the massive nature of this act of cyberwar, obviously planned, which seeks to limit the freedom of expression of Cuban institutions and citizens, and silence the leaders of the Revolution,” said the organization.

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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.

Diaz-Canel Defines the Current Energy Crisis as a "Temporary Situation"

To dispel fears of a food shortage, like the one that occurred at the beginning of this year, Díaz-Canel said that “the issue is essentially energy.” (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, September 11, 2019 — President Miguel Díaz-Canel spoke this Wednesday about the problems with the arrival of fuel to Cuba that are affecting the day to day life of the Island, although he ruled out that it is a second Special Period, similar to the crisis of the 90s that left a traumatic memory among Cubans.

In a television appearance transmitted by several channels, the leader alluded to the complex energy situation the country is experiencing, although he avoided using the word “crisis” and assured that after the arrival of a ship with petroleum, on September 14, the tension will be relieved, but he pointed out that he wasn’t going to say “where it comes from.”

For several days complaints and reports about an abrupt fall in the number of buses circulating through the country reached social media. Images of people waiting for hours at bus stops, and popular rumors of a possible economic collapse similar to the one a quarter century ago, multiplied. continue reading

“It’s a temporary situation and we want the population to have all the elements,” clarified Díaz-Canel, who attributed the problem to the worsening of pressures by the American administration on the Island. “’They want to ’cut off our light and air,’ as we say in good Cuban,” he added.

After the arrival of the oil ship on the 14th, new shipments will not reach the Island until the end of September, so “adjustment and savings measures” must be taken so that the fuel that comes this week “lasts until” more arrives at the end of the month. “We are going to work with the fuel that has already entered the economy,” insisted Díaz-Canel.

To dispel fears of a lack of food like the one that occurred at the beginning of this year, Díaz-Canel said that “the issue is essentially energy, with some related to fuel, and for that reason we are going to explain the impacts. It’s not a shortage, we have food at the ports.”

“This scenario obligates us to take measures to get out of this temporary situation, to minimize the impact on prioritized services and optimize the use of fuel,” he detailed.

In recent days some companies have been forced to cut transport services for their employees in face of the low availability of fuel. In his appearance the leader called on drivers of state cars* to stand in solidarity. “All state cars must stop at the stops,” and pick up people waiting for a bus, especially at rush hour.

“We have to take satisfactory experiences applied in the Special Period when it comes to solutions for transportation,” warned Díaz-Canel, who recalled the changes in working hours that were imposed in those years and called for a “leveling” of electric spikes to avoid excess demand at the times of greatest usages of energy in the residential sector.

The formula most repeated by the leader to get out of the crisis was appealing to savings, sensitivity, and popular vigilance. Díaz-Canel called on the population to be alert so that no one speculates, hoards, or raises prices.

Díaz-Canel tried to calm the popular mood and reminded that Cuba produces 40% of its needs in petroleum, and ruled out possible “blackouts” ahead of the new fuel shipment next Sunday. The minister of Economy and Finance, Alejandro Gil Hernández, also assured that the supply of liquified and natural gas is guaranteed until the end of the year.

The Economy minister called for a paralyzation of certain services that are not at the moment a priority in order to guarantee others that are essential. The official assured that they were going to guarantee activities that directly affect the wellbeing of the population, like the distribution of food and passenger transportation.

However, the minister of transport, Eduardo Rodríguez Dávila, announced that there will be adjustments in the train schedules and that “not everyone will be able to travel the day they want.” “We are going to readjust the departures of domestic trains, without canceling departures but we are going to space them out in time,” he asserted.

*Translator’s note: This kind of informal “ride sharing” is long-standing in Cuba, in the face of decades of limitations in passenger transport of all kinds.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera

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