The UN Calls For "Adequate Reparations" For Ariel Ruiz Urquiola For His "Arbitrary Detention"

Ariel Ruiz Urquiola has received help from organizations such as Amnesty International and several well-known personalities. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 October 2018 – The arrest of biologist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola was arbitrary according to the report prepared by the United Nations (UN) Working Group dedicated to this matter. The document asks the Government of Cuba to grant him “adequate reparations,” including immediate unconditional release.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considers that the arrest of Ruiz Urquiola contravened up to three articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and asks Havana to take “the necessary measures” to solve “without delay” the case “in accordance with the relevant international standards.”

The reports prepared by this UN body are intended to define whether an arbitrary detention is in accordance with the standards of international law and make recommendations to governments who may or may not take them into consideration. continue reading

The document, which has already been sent to Havana, will be published in full in the coming weeks, but the information was released by the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH), which describes it as a “strong setback” for the government in a press release from the organization based in Madrid.

The UN document asks the Cuban government to present, within six months, information on whether it has guaranteed the unconditional release of the scientist, if compensation has been granted, if it has investigated the violation of his rights and approved legislative amendments that achieve “harmonization of the laws and practices of the government with its international obligations.”

Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, who continues his project in Viñales (Pinar del Río) after been released an “extrapenal license,” which means he can be returned to prison at any time, denounces having received pressure and threats from the State Security to return to Havana and affirms that the government of Cuba “is unable to compensate for all the damage” that it has caused him.

The scientist was sentenced to one year in jail for disrespect after an altercation with officials, but has always argued that his case was due to a government plan to destroy his ecological project.

During his career, the biologist had repeatedly denounced the damage to the Cuban ecosystem, such as the indiscriminate felling of trees, the hunting of endangered species and the dumping of toxic substances in the waters of the valley of Viñales.

His family, moreover, has affirmed that it is about revenge on the family, since the father, Máximo Omar Ruiz Matoses, was a high official of the Cuban army and served 17 years in prison for opposing the regime.

Ariel Ruiz Urquiola received help from organizations such as Amnesty International and well-known personalities such as the Bishop of Pinar del Rio, Jorge Serpa, and even the troubadour Silvio Rodríguez, who asked that the case be analyzed with “maturity and dialogue.” “I am going to live my life as a social and honest being, which is what I am,” Ruiz Urquiola said after learning about the UN decision.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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

Fidel Castro’s Big Mistake

Fidel Castro’s big mistake was not trusting in his people. (EFE/Alejandro Ernest)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, David D Omni ZF, Havana, October 17, 2018 — I believe that the big mistake of Fidel Castro, like so many others who remain in power for a long time, was not trusting in his people, getting them accustomed to paternalism, and mutilating the initiatives of the entire society.

He was the great economist, the great politician, the great artist, the great Father close to a godly being, on which an entire people depended. Such a display of ego, tending to mutilate the natural diversity of the wide human spectrum, based on a transparent messianic complex, brought as a consequence a deep crisis of values in our society.

No citizen born in Cuba from 1959 on with his own irrepressible ideas found support under the mantle of the great Father who prohibited strikes, parties, or any other social demonstration that would stray from the guidelines of the only ruling party. The constant emigration and repression of free-thinkers, over several decades, has left us an orphan society. continue reading

Father is no longer, but before leaving he cloned himself in all the legal institutions of our Island. All businesses, politics, art, and education are in the power of two or three generals of the army. Now it falls upon the shoulders of Cuban civil society, extremely limited and stigmatized, to fight with courage to plant scarce but fertile seeds in this arid land that Father left us.

In any case, along with considering the consequences of a prolonged Fidel, it is also important to refer to the role of civil society. First it is, then it thinks, then it does, and then it has, being evident that in order to give it’s necessary to have.

To give money, it’s necessary to have money, to give peace it’s necessary to have peace, to offer love it’s necessary to have it in one’s chest, and to give liberty it’s necessary to possess it.

Hypocrisy is a clear example of giving what one doesn’t have. The list of politicians who speak of peace and have armies, of artists who speak of community without knowing service, and of leaders who speak of purity while keeping seeds of tyranny in their hearts, is long.

Most of us are on this list, so for that reason I cannot speak of the future of my Island and not interfere with the world. Yes, I see a future, but what future comes just as one has planned? The future is in the vigilance of our present actions, there are no guaranteed strategies, but it’s proven that the sincere action of one who cannot live without honor leaves profound marks on history.

It’s certain that in my country the lack of democracy is a major issue, but it’s not more certain than the capacity of acting in liberty that dwells in the will of man. When we blame our problems on persons and situations other than ourselves, we give away our power. If the root of the problem isn’t in us, neither is the power to resolve it.

I don’t believe that these are times to wait for democratic platforms that the Government isn’t interested in creating, so for that my deepest respect for Cuban civil society which, under blows and arbitrary detentions, decides to take the reins of liberty in its hands, and yes, is creating democratic spaces even though the Government tries to minimize them.

Every people has its way of making history according to its culture, in the case of the Cuban people I’d like to make a little historical summary. In the wars of independence in the 19th century, when we were still a colony of Spain, there was a minority of fighters for liberty. Only when they marched triumphantly through the streets did the people join them.

In the 20th century there were other minorities who, until achieving victory, didn’t obtain the support of the passionate mass. Today, there is another minority, which the majority of the people doesn’t even know.

I have the privilege of being part of this civil society, which additionally is peaceful and one day not far off will march triumphantly. Already the tree of the Cuban Revolution grew, gave its fruits, and died long before Fidel. When I say “died” I don’t do so poetically, the same founders of this revolution ended up drenched in corruption and those who weren’t, are maintained, since by now working honorably in this country is impossible.

Our frustrated fathers are the example of the future that awaits us if we keep supporting this empty revolution. Today’s young people see an example to follow in a hotel waiter, in a tour guide, or in a raft on the sea, the engineers and teachers today are street vendors of anything that can be slipped past the police in order to live.

Those who keep studying for some degree know clearly that in Cuba there will be no future. Every day various planes from various provinces of the country leave filled with Cubans who do not plan on coming back.

I only see hope in what we are capable of doing, if we want democracy, it’s time to have democracy in our homes, if we want prosperity it’s time to create unions and independent societies, if we want liberty, it’s time to walk with our heads held high shouting to the four winds an emancipating cry.

All this is illegal in Cuba, but it’s authentic and inherent to the soul, and only civil society has been capable of carrying this cross and bearing the stigma. The current Cuban civil society is the bearer of the legacy of Félix Varela y José Martí, and it doesn’t surprise me that it is slandered, persecuted, and feared by many. The many will later join along with the slanderers and persecutors who since time immemorial have moved in mobs without even knowing what it is to be human, unique, diverse, and creative; everything that a mob is not.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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

Cuban Temper Tantrum Unleashed at the United Nations

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 17 October 2018 – At first one can even be sympathetic: an elementary school classmate who flaps her arms while screaming. Later, comes the rudeness as the saleswoman’s mouth clenches before she spits out, “Girl, why did you even take that off the shelf if we haven’t marked the price yet?” Or the soldiers practicing on Independence Avenue while chanting a motto that ends in the phrase, “y nos roncan los cojones.”

Thus, over several generations, we Cubans have grown up with the idea that screaming, saying bad words, insulting others, calling them mocking nicknames and not letting others speak makes us look brave, superior or “macho.” This has undoubtedly contributed to what can be called “revolutionary trash talk,” that effrontery in the use of language and manners to make us seem more proletarian, more humble.

Within that code of socialist morality and Cuban uncouthness it is accepted and admired to use the vocal chords at full volume to prevail in a discussion. If, in addition, the person who is most vociferous intersperses swear words referring to the masculine sexual organs, he will be applauded as the winner of the debate and homage will be paid to him for being a true Cuban. continue reading

However, relating vulgarity with humility is one of the great errors that this system has instilled in us. My grandmother lived all her life in a tenement in Cayo Hueso and I don’t remember ever hearing a single bad word from her. I know thousands of examples of people who eat only once a day and yet continue to repeat to their children those maxims of “poor but honest,” “poor but clean,” “poor but decent.”

On several occasions I have had to witness the sad spectacle of acts of repudiation against me, with this practice of shouting so that I cannot express myself, accompanied with offensive gestures and rudeness. Experiencing it as an individual is something that everyone handles in their own way (I confess I’ve often laughed at them), but it is something else to see the name of the country where you live associated with such boorish manners.

I can’t stop feeling embarrassed for the Cuban delegation and the lamentable spectacle they displayed at the United Nations. I know that they do not represent all Cubans, not even the majority, but I can’t help thinking that for those present in that room and for all those who watched on TV or online the screaming, the banging on the tables and the mouths distorted by the anger of those shock troops must represent to them “Cuba.”

I want to apologize on their behalf, even if I do not have an ounce of responsibility for what happened and I disapprove of those practices and the government that drives them. However, I do have to apologize because we have allowed this Island to remain in the hands of people who do not have the moral stature or the decency to represent us.

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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.

Havana Turns 500 With its Infrastructure and Services Anchored in Time

At the point of turning half a millenium old, Havana is many cities in one. (Aris Gionis)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, October 15, 2018 — Havana is many cities in one. Tourists see it as a theme park of the past, with old cars and “beautiful” ruins; those who were born here more than five decades ago recall its endless nights and lament its deterioration; while young people consider it like a jungle where one must survive or flee.

The city, at the point of turning 500 years old, doesn’t leave anyone indifferent. Its wide coastal avenue, with the emblematic Wall of Malecón, is one of the great attractions of a metropolis that the sea breeze refreshes from time to time. For the majority of foreign visitors, the city is reduced to Old Havana, Central Havana, and Plaza of the Revolution. Few venture farther out, to shining Cerro, the old and stately La Víbora, or the deteriorated San Miguel del Padrón.

However, for those who live in this old town founded in 1519, the neighborhoods of the city are like pieces of a badly-fit-together kaleidoscope that reveals social differences, the greater or lesser attention of the authorities, and even the racial composition of its inhabitants. All of them long to see an improvement in “the capital of all Cubans.” continue reading

“In this city they’ve hardly built any new roads, beltways, tunnels, or bridges in 60 years,” notes Niurka Peraza, a graduate in civil engineering who has been self-employed for the last six years as an interior designer. “And notice that I say ’hardly’ but I could be more categorical and say ’nothing at all.’”

The tunnel of Havana Bay, its two close cousins that cross to the other side of the Almendares River, and the “elevated” bridges of Calle 100 are part of a past glory of construction that has not been repeated again. The avenues and roads are still the same that Havanans have walked for the last half century.

For the young architect “that lack of expansion and evolution in the roads and infrastructure directed at improving traffic affects the life of all Havanans, even in the smallest details. It’s seen in the dangerous traffic circles, where there are continuous accidents, in the collapse of transport when one of the tunnels from the Republican era fills with water. And new alternatives haven’t been created,” she explains.

Peraza thinks that Havana “needs an urgent investment in roads because now the problem isn’t seen as so serious because the car volume is relatively small in comparison with other cities, but we could be arriving at a rupture point, a crisis point.”

The well-known actor Luis Alberto García exploded last week on Facebook about the situation of the roads. “Why? Why do the citizens of this country, pedestrians, passengers, and drivers have to be exposed to these dangers on the highways and streets that are in such poor shape, without the slightest safety conditions for our lives?” he demanded. The performer from Clandestinos and the saga of Nicanor O’Donnell seemed indignant because resources keep being directed at building hotels rather than repairing the streets.

Nieves Suárez, resident of Cayo Hueso in Central Havana, is one of the many who view as a “major problem the collection of trash and the lack of hygiene” and says that she feels ashamed when she travels around other cities in the country and finds them cleaner and better cared for. “Meanwhile, this looks like a pigsty,” she protests.

Havana generates 20,000 cubic meters (m3) of solid waste each day, classified as 15,000 of urban waste, 3,000 of debris, and 2,000 in tree prunings, in addition to other types of trash. Although the quantity isn’t very high for a city of two million inhabitants, a good part of the waste ends up on the pavement, in abandoned lots, or on the sidewalk.

Despite those problems, Suárez doesn’t want to move to another area of the Island. “The best opportunities are here, because this is a very centralized country, if you’re not in Havana you miss almost everything.” One of her children recently emigrated, “thanks to a tourist he met at the Malecón. Can you imagine that in Aguada de Pasajeros?” she reflects.

The problem of the trash is directly connected with that of the water supply. Havana has suffered for decades from instability of water access in homes. Residents have developed mechanisms that range from the popular wheeled carts with which they move tanks of water from one neighborhood to another, to learning to bathe with the minimum amound of liquid.

“If it wasn’t for that problem I would feel very good here, because the area has been restored and honestly there are buildings that have remained very pretty,” confesses Esperanza González, resident of Calle Cuba, in Old Havana. “We’ve had to put more tanks inside the house and washing with the water from the sink is a luxury because it uses a lot. You have to do it by little jugfuls.”

From González’s window you can see part of the bay, an area that once saw the hustle and bustle of cargo ships coming and going. Now, there are only mainly cruise ships and small fishing boats. “They say that they’re going to turn it into a big recreation zone, but as long as we Cubans are unable [i.e. forbidden] to go on yacht trips and get to know our coast, that will be very difficult,” the Havanan believes.

Traveling by sea is a fantasy that seems unreachable and that few think about when they need to catch a bus at rush hour.

Starting in 2016 the Government undertook a reordering of the routes and frequencies of passenger transport inside the city, but two years later Havanans are exasperated in face of the small progress and the lack of improvements.

In that time, the number of buses fell. While in 2016 the capital had 858 buses in circulation, 339 of those articulated, currently there are only 792, 260 articulated. The result is long lines at stops and the irritation of the population, which sees itself forced to turn to private shared fixed-route taxis, which have disproportionate fares in relation to salaries.

For the 500th anniversary of the city’s founding, which will be celebrated in November of 2019, a broad program of repairs and cultural activities is expected, but Havanans are skeptical. “They’ll stay in the same places as always, Old Havana, the most touristy streets, and the avenues where foreign visitors walk,” laments Nieves Suárez.

“Something will touch us, but it might only be music and fanfare, because I don’t believe that the problem of leaks and the bad state of the plumbing is going to be fixed in a year when it has had decades of deterioration,” predicts Suárez.

For the architect Niurka Peraza, the date is “an opportunity. For a city, celebrating 500 years is a great challenge, and this can help the authorities as well as the inhabitants value more what we have. In the case of the Government that translates into more investments, and in the case of the citizens, into more care.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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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.

Díaz-Canel and the Mask of the Modern President

Miguel Díaz-Canel has tried to present an image of a modern president close to the people.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 16 October 2018 — The first months in the highest office of the nation have been frantic for Miguel Diaz-Canel. We have seen him touring industrial zones, visiting several provinces, dancing in New York and even establishing a Twitter account. All these actions are aimed at creating an image of a modern president close to the people, an illusion that ends as soon as he opens his mouth.

The man who in his teens sang songs by Silvio Rodríguez, who listened to The Beatles and earned a degree in a profession with a strong pragmatic foundation — electrical engineering — wants to connect with those generations of Cubans who have turned their backs on politics, tired of the immobility and the outdated thinking of the governing elite.

To achieve that connection, Díaz-Canel has turned to gestures that range from the simple to the grandiloquent. In some of them he is accompanied by his wife, going to receptions, events and meeting with Hollywood celebrities during his visit to the United Nations in the United States. For a people who, for nearly six decades, did not know – for certain – who the president’s wife was or whether he liked movies, this alone marks a difference. continue reading

Going from a vist to La Demajagua in Granma province, to the other end of the Island, in Pinar del Río, in just a few hours, is also a novelty. Our octogenarian leaders moved very slowly or did not move at all, as when Hurricane Irma devastated part of the north central coast and Raul Castro did not visit the affected areas but preferred to mask his absence with written and televised messages.

The opening of a Twitter account on October 10 also marks a new hallmark for Díaz-Canel, because he becomes the first Cuban ruler in more than half a century to have a direct channel, without intermediaries, with the population. In other words, if a resident of Central Havana decides to complain on that social network about the serious problems with the water supply and street paving that characterize that district, the president will no longer be able to say that he did not know about it.

Unlike the Castro brothers who could always argue that they were not aware of the difficulties that Cubans were experiencing every day, or the desire of our emigrants to recover all their rights as citizens, Díaz-Canel cannot claim that the information never got to him or that some undisciplined official did not pass on the details. He is on Twitter and cannot hide what he hears about.

Now, all those attempts to present him as just like us, or as someone who arrives with fresh ideas, collapse as soon as he speaks in front of a microphone. At that moment, a twentieth-century politician emerges, with stereotypical and outdated ideas, with a not at all modern vision of the world and, what’s worse, anchored to a series of commitments made with his predecessors that leave him little or no room to maneuver.

If, on the outside, he wants to show himself as a good-natured and understanding statesman, his words show that his entire discourse is built on a rancid intolerance. We have seen him, before being handpicked as president, rail against the independent press and threaten it with greater censorship; we have heard him denigrate private cultural productions and even affirm at the United Nations that his Government represents “continuity, not rupture.”

To top it off, he has filled his Twitter account with slogans and calls to end the US embargo in a boring singsong that can barely connect with anyone other than the forced workers of state media and other institutions that have been given the task of following the president’s timeline. In that social network the partisan positions and the militant language are immediately noticed and what is pure propaganda cannot be considered spontaneous.

Díaz-Canel is a man caught between the image he wants to project and the agenda his government follows. He wants to appear as a statesman who looks to the future and is capable of facing the arduous tasks that urgently need to be addressed in the Cuban reality, however, he can not contradict or criticize his predecessors even the slightest bit, because they are precisely the ones that have raised him to the power.

The new president must follow the course of the leaders of the Communist Party and accept it, or at least pretend to like it and agree. If he wants to maintain his position, he is obliged to wear a mask of fidelity and docility, delivering a demeaning discourse that is half a century behind. The problem is that when you wear a mask for a long time, it ends up becoming your face, the only skin that remains after years of pretending.

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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.

The Hurricane Mascot

Mayabeque’s baseball team mascot represents a hurricane, those crazy winds that in the cyclonic season hit the island. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 15 October 2018 – The Mayabeque province baseball team is also known by their Hurricanes nickname, so the team mascot tries to represent those crazy winds that, in the hurricane season, hit the island.

His costume contains the yellow and red colors of the coat of arms of the province, one of the four that along with Guantanamo, Camagüey and Havana takes on an aboriginal name. The Taínos called cyclones “juracán” and represented this atmospheric phenomenon with a human face whose arms move in a spiral.

The ghostly mask that Mayabeque’s baseball mascot now puts on has the dual purpose of hiding the identity of the bearer of the symbol and bringing a certain terrifying air to the character. Both things are totally pointless, because by merely going on the field the fans of the team often shout the real name of the person who hides under the mascot accompanied by all the nice and atrocious things that occur to the public. continue reading

The bat looks like a toy, but he carries it with a lot of pride, as if he were brandishing a whirlwind like those of the aboriginal deity. There is no shortage of those who want to take a photo together with such exaggerated fury, nor those who wonder in a jocular tone who came up with this symbol, with the damage that actual hurricanes have done to Mayabeque.

In between the teasing and applause, the mascot of one of the youngest Cuban provinces is earning a place in the comments of the public that goes to the stadium to support their team.

Since January 2011 when Mayabeque province was officially established, the team’s performance this season has been the best in its brief history, which fortunately has not been highlighted so far in 2018, at least on the island, by the fury of real hurricanes.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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

Cuban Activist Tomas Nunez Magdariaga Released After Long Hunger Strike

Cuban activist Tomas Núñez Magdariaga.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 October 2018 — On Monday afternoon, after a 62-day hunger strike, Cuban activist Tomas Núñez Magdariaga was released from prison, according to government opponent Carlos Amel Oliva of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), who spoke with 14ymedio.

A vehicle with two State Security officers transferred Núñez Magdariaga from the Juan Bruno Zayas hospital in Santiago de Cuba, where he was hospitalized, to his home, although it is still unknown whether he will remain on house arrest or if the release is total.

According to Oliva, Major Granja, head of the Aguadores prison where the activist was imprisoned, went to the hospital and told Magdariaga “you have immediate release.” A doctor helped to make a list of directions for how he should start eating again and within a few minutes he was transferred. continue reading

UNPACU’s leader José Daniel Ferrer expressed his thanks via Twitter for the support received inside and outside Cuba. “There are many who have made this victory of good against evil possible,” said the former prisoner of the Black Spring of 2013.

#Cuba Thanks to all those who with their firmness and solidarity have made it possible for the Castro-communist tyranny to free our brother Tomás Núñez Magdariaga. Tyranny imprisoned him unjustly, tortured him and if there had not been so much solidarity, they would have killed him.

— José Daniel Ferrer (@jdanielferrer) 16 de octubre de 2018

Nuñez Magdariaga had gone on a hunger strike to denounce his sentence of one year in prison and in the last week he rejected the serums necessary to keep him alive.

The activist was accused of “threatening” an agent of the political police, but the person who made the accusation retracted it and claimed that he was blackmailed by the State Security to accuse the activist in exchange for a job and housing.

The archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Dionisio García Ibáñez, visited the activist and, according to what Carlos Amel Oliva reported to this newspaper, the archbishop told him that Núñez Magdariaga “would be released in a couple of days because the case did not hold up.”

The US government also expressed its “serious” concern for the health of the opponent and called for his immediate release.

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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.

Bolsonaro and Cuba

Jair Bolsonaro, candidate for President of Brazil (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 14 October 2018 – Jair Messias Bolsonaro could be the President of Brazil on October 28th. The Brazilians see themselves in the mirror of their Venezuelan neighbors and they are terrified. The most trustworthy polls give him a 75% chance of winning the elections … as long as he does not rest on his laurels. At the end of the day, he took a 17 point lead over Fernando Haddad, the man selected from prison by Lula da Silva. He won 46 to 29. Democracy is like that: it is often about choosing the least bad option.

Bolsonaro is full of prejudices. He says he prefers to have a dead son rather than a homosexua one. What a cruel stupidity! He says that if he sees two men kissing on the street he would be willing to assault them. Although his time in the Armed Forces was not exemplary — he spent 17 years there and only attained captain as a paratrooper and artilleryman — and although he dares to say that the mistake of the military dictatorship was to torture the detainees, when they could have killed them, his candidacy is better than that of Haddad’s. continue reading

Why? Because Bolsonaro does not mind contradicting himself. He says absurd things that will not have a practical result. He has also made deeply racist remarks, but chose as his vice president a mestizo former general.

The vulgarities that he has uttered against women were not expressed by a misogynist, but by a disrespectful and mouthy guy who has married three times and maintains an intense family life.

And because his homophobia clashes with a tradition of tolerance that makes Brazil one of the most open nations in sexual matters. One of the few that allows marriage between people of the same sex. Against that backdrop, fortunately, he will not be able to reject gays.

There are many reasons to prefer Bolsonaro. Lula presided over a cave of bandits, not a decent government. He has been the main culprit of the devaluation of the Brazilian political class. If the shameless actions of the usual suspects are very serious, those committed by a person of humble origin who promised to clean up public life and did the opposite are worse. What was expected of a labor leader who asked for the votes to face the rot is total honesty in the conduct of official affairs. In Dante’s Inferno there was a terrible place for the hypocrites.

His business transactions with the usual corrupt ones, as demonstrated in the Lava Jato (Car Wash) operation, is unforgivable. He let his ideological cronies from Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, El Salvador and the Ecuador of Rafael Correa steal. His two governments and that of Dilma Rousseff were a cesspool. Presumably, he summoned Haddad to finish the job. First, the professor and former mayor of Sao Paulo would free him from the sentence of 12 years in prison and then the looting of the Brazilians would continue right away.

According to El Nuevo Herald, Cuba is horrified that Bolsonaro may be selected by the Brazilians. The former congressman has said that he is not in agreement with continuing to pay the Castro dictatorship — Fidel is still alive for ideological purposes — for the doctors Brazil rents.

This is a crime that contravenes the international agreements of the International Labour Organization signed by Cuba and Brazil. They are slaves in white coats. That rent is Havana’s main source of income and it looks like the disgusting business that slavers did in Cuba in the 19th century.

The Castros, who embarked on the most unproductive system in the world, make ends meet with the excesses that they charge their friends and accomplices for the hire of doctors, soldiers, sports coaches, spies and other species that they breed in their revolutionary nurseries.

They sell those services with the ignoble purpose of financing the idyllic life that is given to an oligarchy that perhaps reaches three thousand officers of the Armed Forces and the Communist Party, while the country falls to pieces.

It is very likely that Bolsonaro will put an end to this illegal trade in human beings. The function of this hiring is not to improve the health of poor Brazilians, but to subsidize the parasitic Cuban political leadeship.

We will see what happens on January 1, 2019, when Bolsonaro will begin to govern. That day, by the way, will mark 60 years since the beginning of the Cuban nightmare.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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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.

Angel Santiesteban: "The Castros are professionals in the art of transformation." / Ángel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban”When I left the fold they settled the score because, in addition to their spiteful nature, the Castros needed to punish me so that other artists wouldn’t escape from the corral.”

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats (Havana, 1966) is one of the most prolific writers of his generation. Dichosos los que lloran (Happy are Those Who Mourn) (2006), Suerte que tienen algunos y otros cuentos (The Luck of Some and Other Stories )(2012), El verano en que Dios dormía (The Summer When God Slept) (2013) and El regreso de Mambrú  (Mambrú’s Return) (2016) are some of his most well-known works. The winner of several prizes inside and outside the Island, he is a member of the PEN Club of writers in Sweden. continue reading

In 1995 he won the prize for short story from the Writers and Artists Union of Cuba (UNEAC) with Sueño de un día de verano (Dream of a Summer Day), a harrowing look at the war in Angola, which was not the official version, and the book was banned until 1998. When he founded his blog, Los hijos que nadie quiso (The Children Nobody Wanted) (also the title of one of his most praised books, awarded the Alejo Carpentier prize for short story in 2001) in order to denounce the reality of his country, the response of the political police was to beat him, threaten him and fabricate a case of a common crime against him, in order to condemn him to prison.

Since then he has also become an independent journalist and dissident, one of the most hated and persecuted by State Security, for disarming and openly denouncing the farces and violations of the Cuban Regime, while most intellectuals remain silent.

Santiesteban-Prats gave an exclusive interview to Martí Noticias about Decree Law No. 349/2018, which implements a long list of new political crimes in the cultural sphere, increasing the dictatorship’s censure and control of artists on the Island. He also spoke about other subjects.

Why are these new censorship measures, outlined in Decree 349, coming precisely at this moment?

Santiesteban-Prats: They are trying to sustain a regime that is fading. They know it but don’t want to admit it; they think they can continue deceiving the international community. The Cuban people took off their blindfolds a long time ago but are still afraid. They fear reprisals to the point that they might even be killed, above all those opponents who aren’t visible on social networks, meaning that no one will raise the cry for them. After suffering and enduring unfair trials in the courts, which answer to State Security, they rot in prison. Cuban families can barely bring food to their tables, and it’s very difficult to feed a prisoner. In general, the families reject any rebel who comes up against the Regime, because they know the high cost they all will have to pay later, apart from being marked as suspect by Castro royalty. The Castros and their hit-men use terror to stay in power. It’s that simple.

Some opponents have sacrificed themselves, and the best have managed to show the rest of the people that the sacrifice is valid, that it is possible to confront Power even when it slaps them in the face. Thanks to those who have endured punishment and have duplicated their opposition in response, many have decided to join the struggle. Every time, people speak more openly, say what they think, which before was unthinkable. Things have changed, and who knows it better than Alejandro Castro, the power behind the scenes, and he needs to keep hold of the reins and try to control his puppet, Díaz-Canel. They are sacrificing him like a pig, without minimum consideration. He will be there as long as he fulfills his orders; when he no longer complies, he will have a fatal illness, committ suicide or simply be charged with corruption or treason, and he will leave the scene.

How important is it for the Regime to control cultural expression, which has so much to do with the freedom of expression?

Santiesteban-Prats: In general, dictatorships fear journalism and art. From experience, they know that artists and journalists drive public opinion, and it’s the last thing they need now when it’s so easy for anyone to give an opinion or put the news on social networks. So they try to gag the independent voices. It’s a gesture of desperation in order to delay the tsunami that will come without fail.

When I left the fold they settled the score because, in addition to their spiteful nature, the Castros needed to punish me so that other artists wouldn’t escape from the corral. Since then, the intellectuals have learned the lesson, and after me, no one who is established in Cuban culture, like I was, has opposed them with the force and decision that I did.

They always need to close off any opening so the truth won’t come out. Thus they now are implementing new measures and more censorship, counting on their Stalinist way of doing things; maybe they think it’s the only way to stay in power a little longer. They are betting on that. The Castros don’t want to loosen their grip on the family estate. They are convinced that it belongs to them and they will hang onto even by their fingernails.

What is the concrete objective of these regulations that affect freedom through economics?

Santiesteban-Prats: To slow down the freedom that we will have in our lives sooner rather than later. While they test out who can continue Fidel and Raúl Castro’s work, which isn’t anything other than an outrage for the Cuban people, continuing to make them live in total misery. They don’t want any Cuban, whom they consider their slaves, to empower themselves, be independent, live without the “charity” of their dictatorship. It’s like that anecdote of the featherless chicken in the snow that always ran between Stalin’s boots in order to get warm.

How do you think most creative people will respond to this? 

Santiesteban-Prats: With silence. Most who are established are busy begging to be allowed to travel in order to survive. They will not sacrifice what they’ve won when they are convinced that it won’t solve anything and that they would be crushed like cockroaches. And those who still haven’t managed to establish themselves push, lower their heads and pretend that nothing matters to them, the only important thing is their work, art, while they wait for their scrap to fall from the sky. They believe that if they move away from power, they will freeze, like the chicken, and they prefer to be sheltered between the boots of the master. They believe that by publishing their books, singing their songs, or having their work shown in theaters, they already have enough. Although they know that things could be worse, and thinking of me in jail is enough for them to do nothing.

Let’s continue speaking out so we can deal with our fears together, until they take us out or lose power. We can’t count on the artists in the National Writers and Artists Union of Cuba (UNEAC). They have something more important to do: protect themselves. Don’t forget that, in spite of everything, the artistic sector gets the most benefits, so they feel lucky about surviving the calamities when they look around and see the rest of the people.

What artistic expressions are the most affected by the new censorship regulations?

Santiesteban-Prats: Everything in general, but mainly those who deal in words. I think they’re the most fearful because they permeate more in the population, at least in the professional sector, through scripts for movies, television, theater and literature. Don’t forget that many of these creative people write for alternative, independent media, far from the Castro umbrella.

How is Díaz-Canel seen in Cuban artistic circles?

Santiesteban-Prats: For what he is, an innocuous man. There are no “revolutionaries” left in the cultural sector, maybe some fidelistas: but at this point in the game they feel deceived, even by that man who hauled them out of poverty in order to ultimately steal the lives of several generations. Every Cuban knows that Díaz-Canel doesn’t represent anything. He doesn’t occupy any particular post in the cupola. He’s a carnival toy that you can throw balls at to try to knock off his hat. Every time that happens and it falls off, the owner – meaning the Castros – put it back in the same place or substitute another toy. Thus, successively, while the international community allows it or the desperate people throw themselves into the streets and are massacred like in Venezuela or Nicaragua.

What does Díaz-Canel have to do with these new regulations that intensify the censorship?

Santiesteban-Prats: He also is busy praising the Regime while fulfilling the Castros’ orders. He assumes his role of overseer of the slaves and plays it without protest. But as far as making decisions, it’s clear they don’t come from him. He only has to show his face, pretend that he’s the “President” and Raúl and his children, Alejandro and Mariela, will take care of the rest.

The Regime sold Raúl Castro as a supposed reformer. Then it designated Díaz-Canel to succeed him. What do these successions mean for the System and what do they mean for the people?

Santiesteban-Prats: Pure makeup, a cosmetic display. Fooling international public opinion, like they’ve done with the European Union. They pretend to make decisions that will gradually lead to democracy, but it’s nothing but great theater. The Castros are professionals in the art of transformation. They change every time they feel pressure, the possibility of losing power. They’re professionals of illusion. They spent decades making a large part of the population believe in accomplishments that they couldn’t feel. Intangible projects where millions of Cubans got involved so that the final result would be catastrophic. One project after another, and on like that for six decades. These successions mean nothering for the people because nothing will be resolved for them, while for the System they mean another breath, gaining time while they wait for better times to arrive, sips of oxygen that will permit them to remain in that imprecise space, but definitively, staying in power is the only thing that interests them. Now that family doesn’t know how to live without it, and they aren’t ready to cede power peacefully.

What should independent artists do in this new context?

Santiesteban-Prats: Not abandon the struggle. Don’t give up even if it’s all we can do. Don’t leave Cuba. Staying inside the archipelago now is a challenge to the Regime. I’m one of those who has exercised freedom of creation, and now that I’ve done it, I don’t know how to live without that divine grace. As long as artists don’t taste freedom, don’t remove their fear of writing, they will never know the satisfaction of being an artist with full integrity.

Luis Leonel León

Luis Leonel León

Journalist, writer, director of radio, film and television. After living in Venezuela and Colombia, he went into exile in the United States. His weekly column appears in Latin America media (El Nacional), Spain (Disidentia) and the United States (El Nuevo Herald, Infobae, HispanoPost), among others. Previously he wrote for Diario las Américas. Among his prize-winning documentaries are Habaneceres, La gracia de volver and Coro de ciudad. He has produced entertainment, opinion and debate programs for Florida television. His texts have been published in books and journals. He founded the publishing house Colección Fugas, dedicated to the writing of the diáspora. He is a member of the Interamerican Institute for Democracy, for which he has made documentaries, feature reports and interviews about freedom, democracy and their institutional framework in the Américas. His web page is luisleonelleon.com. Follow him on Twitter: @LLLeon_enMarti.

Translated by Regina Anavy

The United States Will Launch an Initiative in Favor of Cuban Political Prisoners at the UN

The UN states that there are approximately 130 political prisoners detained by the Cuban government. (Video capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miami, 13 October 2018 – The United States Mission to the United Nations and the Office of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor will launch a campaign on behalf of Cuban political prisoners, according to a statement from the US State Department.

’Imprisoned for what?’ Will be the title of the speech by Ambassador Kelley E. Currie, United States Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council next Tuesday, on the difficult situation faced by the island’s political prisoners.

“The approximately 130 political prisoners detained by the Cuban government are an explicit sign of the repressive nature of the regime and represent a flagrant affront to the fundamental freedoms that the United States and many other democratic governments support,” denounced the text. continue reading

Washington asserts that the situation of human rights in Cuba forms part of the priorities of the current Administration.

After Ambassador Currie’s speech, Ambassador Michael Kozak will speak, moderating a discussion that will also include the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro.

The event will be open to the press and will be broadcast live through this link.

In June of this year, the independent Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) denounced that there were around 120 political prisoners on the island at the time. The independent entity said that this figure “is very difficult to arrive at as the government of Cuba does not cooperate” with international organizations.

In March 2016 during the visit of US President Barack Obama to Cuba, a foreign journalist questioned Raúl Castro at a press conference about the existence of political prisoners on the island. “Give me the list of political prisoners right now to release them. Mention it now,” the ruler responded.

Castro, who traditionally did not answer questions from the national or international press, was visibly annoyed by the question from CNN reporter Jim Acosta.

Amnesty International argues that the Government of Havana uses ambiguous legal terms to punish dissidents.

“The laws that typify ’public disorder’, ’contempt’, ’lack of respect’, ’dangerousness’ and ’aggression’ are used to prosecute or threaten to prosecute, for political reasons, opponents of the government”, Amnesty International indicated in a report on Cuba.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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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.

La Demajagua, 150 Years of Struggle and Waiting

Unfortunately this video is not subtitled but many of the comments are summarized below.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 10 October 2018 — The batey (sugar workers’ town) La Demajagua has barely 400 inhabitants. In the interviews they do with Cuba’s official media, all of them, without exception, feel great pride to live in one of the most important sites in Cuban history, where, on 10 October 150 years ago the wars of independence against Spain began.

A little more than six miles from the city of Manzanillo, the town’s center of gravity is a leafy Jagüey tree, born among the ruins of the old sugar mill. The tree’s roots have engulfed a huge cogwheel of the industry, destroyed by cannon fire a week after Carlos Manuel de Céspedes began the conflict there.

Retired senior citizens, teenagers and preschool children clarify to the visitor that the tree that is now admired is the son of the original, which died in 1998 despite efforts made to save it. They explain that the bell that today presides over the National Park was forged in 1859 in Normandy, France, and brought to Cuba in 1860. continue reading

Residents also relate that the bell has been bought, stolen, rescued and taken down from its seat on several occasions as an object of manipulation by politicians. They know everything about history, dates, the ancestry of surnames, and about small and large disagreements among their leaders.

What they can not explain clearly to the visitor is why the roads that reach the site are almost impassable, what is the reason for the dilapidated state of their homes, what is the cause of the malfunction of the water distribution network, and why there are so many difficulties supplying markets and providing electricity service.

Nothing in the daily situation of their lives is consistent with the historical importance of their homeland, a place with bold headlines dedicated to it in the press when historical dates approach.

Despite their town’s having been declared a National Monument in 1978, residents complain that it is only remembered when 10 October approaches, especially in the years that the bureaucrats of history like to call “closed anniversaries” because the number of years ends in a zero.

Thus it was on the centenary, which had its apogee with an act presided over by Fidel Castro in 1968, when Fidel took the opportunity to proclaim that he and the other members of his generation were successors of those patricians “because the Revolution is the result of a hundred years of struggle (…) because in Cuba there has only been one revolution, the one that was begun by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes on October 10, 1868 and that our people carry forward in these moments.”

Now, half a century after that commemoration, a popular phrase inspired by “the historical statements of the maximum leader” is still being repeated and even updated, and it is thrown at those who get too vocally upset in the face of problems. “Don’t pick a fight, remember it’s already a hundred and fifty years.”

For years, slogans have drowned out the voices of the people who live in La Demajagua. Like Carmen Barreras, who regrets that they have never seen any Government figure or local authorities show any concern about the town. “Neither about how we live, nor about our situation when the evening comes, sometimes, and we have nothing (…) and nothing to sell.”

As this October celebrates a round anniversary of that uprising, the current Cuban president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, visited La Demajagua last June to show interest in the work aimed at giving greater splendor to the historic place.

There, ten royal palms have been planted in representation of the tenth day of the tenth month in which the events took place, and 12 flagpoles have been placed on the mount of flags that symbolize the number of men who continued fighting with Céspedes after the first military failure of the attempt to take the town of Yara.

Among the renovations now underway are included: new lights, the restoration of all the park’s plantings, an internet room, a cafeteria and a cultural goods store. The rooms of the museum will also be enlarged with the purpose of setting up new showcases, exhibiting numismatic objects allegorical to the date, and photos and documents of the time.

However, the residents insist that more effort should be made to solve people’s problems rather than a continued investment in historic facilities. “Our little houses that they said they were going to fix, they came, they measured everything, but it is one of things they say they are going to do and then they don’t … I do not understand how they carry on like this,” another resident denounces to 14ymedio.

To the housing problems are added La Demajagua’s other chronic ills, those things that cause its young people to turn their eyes to another part of the national geography, or abroad, in search of new horizons.

“Here most of the people were left out of the cooperative, here the people do not have a job more than once a year,” regrets Mayelín Aguilar. To the drama of unemployment are added the scarce supplies in the area’s only market of rationed products “There is no rice now in the bodega, and so people are hungry,” she warns.

This Wednesday, once again the residents of the area will listen to historians speak about the latest details discovered in research about the past, it will be discussed again if the correct name of the site is La Demajagua or just Demajagua, due to the proliferation of the blue Majagua tree, whose woods are used to make doors and furniture.

When the celebrations are over, the television technicians, the journalists, the Communist Party officials and the Government will leave this place that many call “The altar of the Fatherland.” The demajagüenses will remain with the hope that by the next anniversary their demands will be met. And as for that wait, some recommend not to get too upset because it’s already been 150 years of struggle and you have to take it easy.

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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.

Young Ball Player Leaves His Future Behind to Return to Cuba

The seventeen-year-old boy chose to abandon his dream just as it was about to come true and returned to his small town of Batey Colorado. (YouTube)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ernesto Santana, Havana, 10 October 2018 – The pitcher Roberto Hernández Navarro broke his contract with the Cleveland Indians for a chance to join the Sancti Spíritus Roosters. In an example of truth being stranger than fiction, the seventeen-year-old boy chose to abandon his dream just as it was about to come true and returned to his small town of Batey Colorado.

At age fifteen, after playing in a game in which the Cuba’s national youth team beat its U.S. rival at the Pan American Games, Hernández Navarro decided to help his family. With his sights set on the Big Top, he legally left the country with his father, traveled to the Dominican Republic and spent a year and three months training in the provincial capital of Bonao.

“The scouts saw me, followed me, did speed tests, took videos, saw my results and signed me with the Cleveland Indians,” says the pitcher. With a $320,000 contract the plan was to develop him and get him into the Major Leagues as soon as possible. They even compared it with José Fernández. continue reading

More than thirty Cuban ball players have returned home because they were not offered a contract or because the adventure did not turn out as they had hoped. But that was not the case with Hernández Navarro, who was able to enroll in the Chiki Mejías Baseball Academy, where he received proper nutrition, lodging and daily training.

He even played a season in the Dominican Republic and earned a spot in the All-Stars. “In that game I pitched four times in one inning. That’s incredible there. In Cuba I was pitching at ninety miles. Ninety to ninety-two.” After signing his contract, the prospects were simply spectacular.

But not having anyone to talk about his achievements at the end of the day was hard. He missed his family, especially his grandmother, who had always been very supportive, and his little brother. He longed to hear the river, play dominos, go where he wanted. “There’s no place else with freedom like Cuba,” he now says in an interview.

Roberto Hernández met with the team’s management and explained his situation. Contrary to what he was expecting, they let him keep the money and only advised him to take care of his arm and to continue playing baseball in Cuba because he had a great future. His return home was very emotional.

Also contrary to what he was expecting, Cuban baseball officials have let him train in their facilities, have not chastised him for anything and will very likely allow him to join the Roosters, who have had a difficult season and would benefit from the addition of a pitcher like him.

What has been almost impossible is convincing people he is not crazy for turning his back on fame and fortune. “I cannot get into their heads and open their minds,” he says, although he understands. He admits too would think the same thing if he had not “had to face reality,” did not know himself so well and had not decided to take this difficult step backward.

But it is not easy for many to respect his decision. Some feel he is too young and will later regret it, or that he will leave baseball. They believe a high performance athlete must make sacrifices and does not have time to swim in the river, play dominoes, spend time with family or go for a walk whenever he wants.

Others say that, though he came back with a third of a million dollars, it will not last forever. They question if he will feel the same way after the sport’s bosses take their cut and family expenses take their toll. He also still does not know what the life of a high-level Cuban player is like.

To other fans the case of Hernández Navarro is just an exception that proves the rule. There are many players still willing to try their luck in the big leagues and, until current conditions change, those who are successful will not return to Cuba, where they would not even be able play for the national team.

Some people think that a boy who is unwilling to sacrifice everything for a big league career simply does not have enough ambition to be a ball player. Others believe that, if Robertico — as they call him — had been the son of a Victor Mesa or a Lourdes Gurriel rather than a humble Cuban, his destiny would have been different.

Many laugh at his claim about freedom in Cuba but still want him to be happy after reality sets in and he has a change heart. Or when his son one day criticizes him for having condemned them to life in a country with no future.

In any event, the worst aspect of this odd case is the official statements. Robertico has done well in deciding what he thinks is best, but it is disheartening to see TV journalist Reinaldo Taladrid blaming the US embargo on the current relationship between Cubans in the Major Leagues and the authorities here.

Even more disconcerting is how this “great connoisseur” of baseball defends “a human being’s sacrosanct right to personal freedom to live where he most wants.” How nice that would be…

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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.

Journalist Serafín Morán Receives Political Asylum in the US

The reporter had to overcome a long judicial process to prove that his life was in danger inside the Island. (Courtesy of  Serafín Morán Santiago)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana | October 12, 2018 — US authorities have granted political asylum to independent journalist Serafín Morán after six months in a detention center in Pearsall, Texas, according to Cubanet. The reporter had to overcome a long judicial process to prove that his life was in danger inside the Island.

Morán Santiago had been detained in the US since April after requesting political asylum at the border with Mexico, claiming that he was the victim of constant repression in his country for his journalism work. In August, an immigration judge denied bail to the reporter, who had to wait in the Office of Detention and Deportation (ICE) for the hearing where his case was heard this October.

During the months of waiting, Fundamedios and Reporters Without Borders (RWB) expressed their concern about the eventual deportation to Cuba of the 40-year-old reporter. Both organizations feared an increase in the “persecution by the government of the island against him,” said María Fernanda Egas, a journalist with Fundamedios, an organization that defends press freedom in the United States. continue reading

Margaux Ewen, the director of RWB North America, emphasized at that time that “deportation to Cuba (for Morán Santiago), where independent journalists are threatened and harassed by the authorities, is not an option.” Ewen explained to this newspaper that the reporter had demonstrated “a credible fear of returning to Cuba.”

In May of 2017 Morán Santiago was summoned to appear before the Municipal Court of Arroyo Naranjo, in Havana, accused of “simulation of crime,” that is, making a false accusation. The accusation was related to a denunciation made by the reporter against the police officers who allegedly detained him when he got off a bus in Havana.

The journalist said he was arrested by the State Security in the province of Sancti Spíritus on June 3, 2016, and transferred to Havana in a bus “after seven hours of detention.”

In July of the following year, Morán Santiago managed to enter the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana and interviewed Daniel Llorente, the activist who displayed a United States flag during the parade on May 1 (International Workers’ Day) in the Plaza of the Revolution.

Last April, Reporters Without Borders ranked Cuba 172nd out of 180 nations, in terms of press freedom, the worst rating on the continent.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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

Cuban Activist Tomas Nunez Magdariaga Rejects Serums That Keep Him Alive

Tomás Núñez Magdariaga remains in the hospital of Santiago de Cuba and is hardly allowed to receive visits from relatives.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 October 2018 — Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu) activist Tomás Núñez Magdariaga, on a hunger strike to denounce his sentence of one year in prison, for several days has rejected the serums necessary to keep him alive, according to his brother Óscar Núñez, who visited him on Tuesday.

Núñez Magdariaga is in the prison ward of Juan Bruno Zayas Hospital (Santiago de Cuba), where he was able to see his brother for a few minutes. On the other hand, the authorities did not allow Unpacu activist Yenisey Jiménez to visit.

“I saw him in very bad shape, he said he would not eat if he was not freed and that he is unjustly imprisoned and they were humiliating him,” the brother told 14ymedio on Tuesday. Oscar Núñez is on his way to the capital of the island to take several efforts legal issues related to the case. continue reading

“I’m crazy to get to Havana to go to the prosecutor’s office because in Santiago they told me that Tomás’s file had been sent there and I’m going to look for an answer,” he said. Currently, as he was informed in the hospital, the case was in the hands of the Attorney General of the Republic, who was reviewing it and who could make a decision on the sentence at any time.

The activist was accused of “threatening” an agent of the political police, but the agent later retracted and claimed that he was blackmailed by State Security to accuse Núñez Magdariaga in exchange for a job and housing.

On Wednesday, Yenisei Jiménez, also an Unpacu activist, returned to the hospital with the intention of personally speaking with Núñez Magdariaga, but was not allowed to see him because, as they explained to him, they “could no longer give out any information about the activist.” The nurse in the prison ward informed him that he again refused to be treated by the doctor and put on serums. “He does not want anyone to touch him,” she told Jiménez.

The archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Dionisio García Ibáñez, visited the activist last weekend and, according to what Unpacu member Carlos Amel Oliva reported to this newspaper, the archbiship was told that Núñez Magdariaga “would be released in a couple of days because the case [against him] did not hold up.”

“It’s been four days or five days and nothing,” said Amel Oliva.

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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.

Food Markets Without Refrigerators

Most of the agricultural markets in Cuba lack equipment to refrigerate meats. (Bryan Ledgard)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 11 October 2018 — The image of flies perched on a hind leg or hovering around some ribs is familiar to all customers of the so-called agros, where refrigerators to preserve the meat are scarce. Instead, the cuts are exhibited outdoors on pallets from where the sellers pick them up with their hands, without any protection, to weigh them and sell them.

The product that finally reaches the homes of consumers has been without refrigeration for more than 12 hours, because the animals slaughtered the night before and brought to the markets in vehicles that also lack any equipment to preserve them. If the cusotmer is lucky, nothing will have happened and the meat will be tasty, but many times the food already shows a certain degree of deterioration. continue reading

“The color was a little weird, but I thought it was nothing,” a customer at the 17th Street Youth Labor Army market in Havana tells 14ymedio. “When I got it home I realized that part of the meat was in poor condition and a piece of the bone had a greenish tone.” The result was the loss of 250 CUP (Cuban pesos), half of her monthly salary.

The complaints are constant and, although there are rules that regulate the handling of food in Cuba, the State has a hard time controlling the problem which also extendes to the network of butchers and dairies in the rationed market. “When the chicken arrives, consumers have to buy it in the first hours, because the fridge is broken,” says an employee of a state-owned store in La Timba neighborhood.

World Health Organization reports that one of the factors that lead to the diseases transmitted through food is, precisely, “the failures in the cold chain” during the transfer and storage of these products.

Need, and a demand that far exceeds the available supply, means that traders end up selling their meats despite the obvious signs of their not having been adequately preserved.

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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.