In San Leopoldo, an Outbreak of Covid-19 Forces the Closure of Several Streets

The outbreak is located in the vicinity of The Manduley Polyclinic, in the San Leopoldo neighborhood of Centro Habana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana | 19 September 2020 — An outbreak of Covid-19 in the surroundings of The Manduley Polyclinic, in the San Leopoldo neighborhood of Centro Habana, is straining the health situation in a densely populated area with numerous slums. Fourteen positive cases have been detected in the area, and residents fear that the number will grow in the coming hours.

This Saturday morning the area surrounding the Marcio Manduley Polyclinic was abuzz with people and a strong police presence was evident. At the nearby pharmacy, about 50 residents of the area were waiting to buy medicine. There were also long lines to buy food and agricultural products in several nearby streets.

A police car was patrolling the area and calling to passersby to keep their distance, while at the nearby Ideal Market, employees dispatch the food wearing not only masks but also plastic face shields. A group of workers constantly add a chlorine solution to the areas that users might touch.

In the Cuban capital there are currently 131 spotlight controls “with reinforcement measures, and they are followed up.” (14ymedio)

“All this has also coincided with problems in the water supply,” laments Carmita, a Gervasio Street resident. “We have had problems in my house with the water supply, so no one can maintain proper hygiene.” The woman has two relatives among the patients who have tested positive, and insists that the neighborhood is “a time bomb” due to its hygienic problems.

“In this block we have four tenements and around the polyclinic there are many more slums where people live in crowded conditions and there are also several broken sewer pits on the sidewalks”, she explains to 14ymedio. “This neighborhood has been forgotten for years, the only thing that happens here is bad news: floods, landslides, dengue cases and now the coronavirus.”

This Friday, the Minister of Public Health, José Ángel Portal Miranda, explained that the outbreak in the San Leopoldo neighborhood started with “an operator of the surveillance and vector control campaign who had been a contact with confirmed cases in Old Havana.”

For his part, the city governor, Reinaldo García Zapata, explained that the 14 cases are concentrated in three dwellings located in three blocks belonging to the health area of The Manduley Polyclinic, a health center on San Lázaro Street and a few meters from Havana’s Malecón.

“Three more blocks” were added to the area that was initially under quarantine, where samples have been taken from 219 people suspected of being infected, explained García Zapata in a report broadcast Friday night on national television.

The area that was initially under quarantine was increased by “three more blocks,” where samples have been taken from 219 people. (14ymedio)

A few blocks above the polyclinic and in the opposite direction to the sea, the fences close an area comprised of San Miguel, San Rafael and San José streets from the corner of these with Lealtad and up to nearby Manrique. A strong police presence guards access to the place where only health personnel, and some employees who sell food for residents who cannot leave the area, can pass.

In the Cuban capital there are currently 131 cluster controls “with reinforcement measures, and they are followed up” according to a report from the official press that also recognized the problems with the water supply that “is solved with fixing the pipes, and the water has already started to be pumped again from Paso Seco supply source,” explains the Tribuna de La Habana.

The increase in positive cases in the city has led the authorities to re-evaluate the transfer of patients to isolation centers. Luis Antonio Torres Iríbar, president of the Provincial Defense Council, asked to review and make proposals so that the contacts of suspected cases are isolated in their own homes, under the supervision of family doctors.

Translated by: Norma Whiting

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

To Change of Not to Change in Cuba: That is the Question / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel.

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 19 July 2020 — Anyone unfamiliar with the endless capacity for pretence and cynicism on the part of the Castro dictatorship, could perhaps see in the recent words of the latest occupant of the Finca Biran (Fidel Castro’s birthplace) a sincere call for reform. When Diaz-Canel, in an admirable fit of sincerity, accepts publicly that “we can’t keep doing the same thing with the economy, because we won’t get the results we need …”, he is only confirming something which, for decades, most of Cuban society has been saying, until it is blue in the face.

Everyone sees the urgency, from the militant communist who disagrees while stuck in his trench, to the most enraged and in-your-face member of the opposition; from the functional illiterate vegetating each day away in the bread line, to the most sophisticated economist: from the most eminent pensioner to the most important director struggling with creative firewalls and the totally obvious inherent uselessness of socialist government commerce; you can be completely sure they all agree, except for the antiquated ninety-year-old losers still clinging to the brakes of the train.

Although they argue about the causes of the disaster — the US embargo or the domestic blockade — the perception is becoming ever clearer and ever more common that Cuba has to make a sharp and profound U-turn in how it runs the economy, because the present situation is unsustainable and, if we don’t make serious, substantial and definitive changes, we are going to sink, into what will be, with every minute which passes, an ever more abject total ruin. continue reading

Obviously, if we in Cuba carry on doing what we are doing we will get what’s coming to us. That’s a principle as old as man, and the dust-covered geniuses of the Central Committee have done nothing to change that. Fidel Castro knew perfectly well, and so today does the timid Raul Castro, and also — why not? — the administrator Diaz-Canel, that the Soviet economic model was never suited to our idiosyncrasies, and that it never worked, nor ever will. It doesn’t work in the sense of serving the wellbeing of the Cuban people, but, in the sense of maintaining the most hermetic control possible, without caring about the social, economic or moral consequences, it has worked perfectly. It’s just a question of your point of view.

It doesn’t work and it will not work, because of its very nature, and the people in power in Havana know it, and so do all the senior directors of the Cuban establishment, all the oldies who are still fucking us around, and all the generals whether retired or still at their posts. Six decades of failure and ruin should be sufficient to convince even the most relentless defender of the regime, if it were not for the human calamity that is their fanaticism.

The situation now is, in several ways, more complicated and desperate than in the most critical moment of the ’90’s. In the middle of an authority vacuum — as Diaz-Canel has no charisma and up to now has given no indication of any character in the face of the “oldies” — and with Venezuela in the dumps, China and Russia as strategic allies, but tired of the fraudulent Creoles, and the well-deserved reputation of the people in the Plaza de la Robolucion for stuffing and ripping off half the people.

A little while ago the Cuban government went into default on its payments, in spite of the fact that hardly five years previously they were pardoned billions of dollars by the Paris Club, by Russia, and other creditor countries, tempted by Obama’s opening up, which made La Antilla [a tourist resort in Holguin province] fashionable for a few months. Just the bad debts from the Soviet era alone totalled 35 billion dollars! of which, let’s remember, 90% was forgiven while the remaining 10% was invested in Cuba.  But not even this stroke of good luck could rescue Castroism from ruin, and now, with the window of opportunity closed, it’s too late. The world has got the point, and now the swindlers of Havana will not get any serious finance or proper investment of capital or credit of any kind, not for all the snails in Guanabacoa [there was a plague of these things in 2019].

Although for its enthusiastic supporters, the Neo-Castrismo would always have the same answer, which is proof against all tests: demagogy. This infallible weapon, always employed by Fidel Castro, has shown its value so many times, and could be used this time as well. Because talk of austerity is worth nothing if it is not practised by all, and by the Castroites more than anybody. And news announcements of change are worth nothing if not supported by a body of law guaranteeing the rights of those hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs both inside and outside Cuba who are only waiting for the opportunity which has always been denied them, and who for decades have been denied their working autonomy, and whose confidence in the authorities and their political credibility has been destroyed.

And high-sounding announcements are worthless if they are not supported by unambiguous demonstrations that enable everybody to believe that this time no upstart opportunist  leader, political police, or prejudiced judge will have the power to ruin a producer, or a business for political reasons or with exercise of arbitrary power of any kind, and in the knowledge that they may be helped by a fair body of law and with the help of impartial trials, will not end up behind bars.

Calls to raise productivity are worth nothing while there are still laws which enable the Attorney General, conspiring with the dreadful DTI [the Technical Department of Investigation, a repressive government intelligence organisation], to knock on the door of a farmer, who labours every day on an interest offered by the state to show him a 10 cm document listing every infraction he has been obliged to commit because that is the absurd situation — and then confiscate the shirt off his back; at the same time as the State Collection Company continues to abandon crops rotting in the fields, and continues to lock people up for decades for butchering a cow — an absurdity only explainable when you understand its obvious potential for extortion to recruit informants in the service of the State Security.

And the repeated invitations to foreign investors count for nothing if they continue to exclude Cubans in exile who genuinely want to invest in the country where they were born, or their parents were born. Its incredible that these doors remain shut which could let so much capital be injected into the Cuban nation, just for reasons of political exclusion.

It is also pointless raising salaries without increased productivity, which devalues the currency and shoots up inflation – first law of economics – nor trying out this variant of dollarisation which has now been proposed, in the middle of these amazing shortages. Cuba needs to reemerge without any delays, which will never happen without an energetic and sincere opening up of our economy to this hope which has been betrayed a thousand times.

But, up there I said change …? OMG! Because there will always be someone who insists in discovering similarities between necessary and inevitable change, and total chaos or zombie apocalypse, because, without doubt, if any word has always given rise to distrust and allergic suspicion on the part of the obsolete psychos of the dictatorship, it has been precisely this one. Change!! The antithesis of centralised statism, that endemic disease, behind which Fidel and Raul Castro, with perfect historic geometry, took shelter, just like, up to now, Diaz-Canel ingenuously today rediscovering the cold shower.

This fatal Cuban mania for going to extremes and avoiding the good sense of the centre ground, perhaps prevents us from understanding that when something stops being the socialism of the barracks, it doesn’t necessarily mean going for untamed neoliberal capitalism, and that there are halfway houses which can also guarantee conditions more conducive to a non-parasitic, sustained and autonomous increase in productivity, while at the same time preserving social guarantees and without in any way compromising national sovereignty.

Although we have been deceived so many times that we we cannot tolerate any more lies. Never in Cuban history, before Castro, has there ever been such misgovernment of my people, with so many abuses over such a long period of time, perpetrating such an appalling betrayal and showing such strong contempt for my people.

It is now up to Diaz-Canel to show, if he can, and if he wants to, to free himself from the strict dogmatism of the ultra-conservatives, which no-one has been able to do, and opt for the freeing-up of the productive forces ready to save this country and permit a hoped-for opening which, as is obvious, will never be complete if it does not go hand-in-hand with profound political reforms.

It is in his hands to put right the immense damage they have caused; any other strategy would be skating over the same shit and cheap words. Only time will tell if he has the courage to do it, or if he will be judged by history as just one more coward.

Translated by GH

Humanitarian Flights From Cuba to Miami and Madrid Continue, But There Are None to Mexico

The operations are flown by the Mexican airline Viva Aerobus and will make a 3-hour stopover in Cancun. (VivaAerobus)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 September 2020 — Until the end of July, with the borders closed, 5,347 Cubans had returned to the island in 84 flights from 54 countries not detailed in the official press, which this Monday congratulated themselves for the “collective work” that has made it possible.

With the closure of the borders, at the end of March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, many travelers who were stranded had to extend their stay or turn to humanitarian or repatriation flights to return to their countries of residence.

Cubans residing in other countries must present a permit from the Directorate of Identification, Immigration and Aliens, while foreigners must appear at their respective consulates to find out about the conditions of their repatriation. continue reading

Despite good diplomatic relations between Mexico and Cuba, especially since the victory at the polls of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, it is surprising that no repatriated flight has been organized in these months.

At the moment, as confirmed by this newspaper with several travel agencies, humanitarian flights arrive empty in Havana to pick up travelers who were stranded on the island. “We do not have Cancun-Havana or Havana-Cancun flights. We are waiting for the approval of one by the Cuban authorities, which may be delayed since Cuba is closed for new arrivals,” the Mexican company Vagamundos explained to 14ymedio.

The large community of Cubans in Mexico is waiting for the resumption of commercial flights, and Mexicans stranded on the island have had to go on those organized by Viva Aerobus. The Mexican company chartered a first plane on August 30 from Havana to Cancun but it was canceled at the last minute. In June, the same company managed to triangulate a route between Mexico, Cuba and Nicaragua to facilitate the exceptional transfers of citizens stranded in the three countries.

The next scheduled flights from Cuba will have Miami as their final destination and customers who want to get off in Cancun have had to pay the full ticket, which costs almost double the ticket passengers bought for the August 30 Cancun flight. Some customers, who had their money returned for last month’s cancellation, confess to this newspaper that until they see each other on the plane, they don’t trust it will fly.

The Havana-Cancun flight “is not sold separately, however, if a passenger wishes to stay in Mexico, he can do so because, although he paid for the flight to Miami, an American visa is not required if he gets off in Cancun,” said Vagamundos.

The humanitarian flights organized by Havana have suffered multiple cancellations and date changes. Some that have been suspended had as their final destination Bogotá, Quito or Madrid.

Iberia Airlines, however, has been one of the few that has regularly maintained humanitarian flights between Havana and Madrid. Every Sunday in September a plane has left from the Cuban capital as has been confirmed by the Embassy of Spain on its social networks. In addition, the airline announced that it will maintain the same frequency in October.

The flights arrive in Havana without travelers and return to the Spanish capital with students, relatives of Spanish residents and other people who already had a visa, according to Directorio Cubano.

There have also been frequent connections in recent months between Cuba and the United States. On October 17, a humanitarian flight is scheduled to leave Havana bound for Miami, which is being handled by DimeCuba Travel, according to the company.

The US Embassy in Havana communicates through its social networks the humanitarian operations that it manages for American citizens stranded on the Island and has announced that it continues “to explore all the options to face the current interruptions in travel.”

For its part, the Vagamundos travel agency confirmed to this newspaper that in the remainder of the month and throughout October, two weekly flights from Havana will arrive in Miami — on Wednesdays and Saturdays — for citizens of the United States, residents in that country, and foreigners looking to have connecting flights in Florida.

All those flights of the Mexican airline Viva Aerobus, which make a three-hour stopover in Cancun, are full until October 17.

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

Covid Cases Grow Among Hotel Construction Workers in Varadero

Construction works have been suspended in the province due to the complication of the epidemiological situation in this sector. (Bohemia)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 September 2020 — Covid-19 infections continue to increase in the construction camps working in Varadero. The province of Matanzas reported seven workers who tested positive for coronavirus by September 20.

Of those confirmed, five belong to the Siguapa campus in Santa Marta, one to Salvador, in Cárdenas and the seventh is a resident of the Unión de Reyes municipality, although he works in the Bachichi complex in Santa Marta, where an outbreak began that transcended this purpose. through the official newspaper Girón.

In the province, more than 5,000 PCR tests have been carried out since the Covid outbreak last August and, due to the situation in the Namibia camp, 315 tests were carried out in the last hours that included other builders living in the community, according to the state radio station Radio Ciudad Bandera. continue reading

Faced in recent days with a Covid-19 outbreak that involved 20 workers from two of the Constructora Hicacos camps, the main Matanzas company that works on the new buildings in Varadero, the Ministry of Public Health asked the provincial government to stop all the works in the famous Cuban spa.

However, the finishing touches are still going ahead in some high-end complexes built by the State, such as the one located on the Ramón de Antilla Peninsula, in Holguín.

As of this Monday, Matanzas has counted 62 active cases, with one person in serious condition. The Popular Council of Santa Marta is the most affected in the province with some neighborhoods and construction camps in quarantine.

To these figures must be added the isolation of another 432 construction workers, building number five in Villa Nicaragua with 34 apartments and 102 inhabitants, and a block from the boundary in which 22 dwellings are included, according to official media. In addition, areas of the Cárdenas municipality have restrictive measures such as in the Fructuoso Rodríguez neighborhood, the La Marina neighborhood and the Humberto Álvarez popular council.

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

Four Arrested for Illegal Sale of Milk Powder in Sancti Spiritus

The police seized 210 bags filled with powdered milk. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 September 2020 — An illegal network dedicated to the reimbursement and sale of powdered milk in Sancti Spíritus was dismantled with the help of a public complaint, sources from the Interior Ministry informed Cuban Television. Four people were arrested in the police operation, including three officials from the Río Zaza dairy company.

A citizen who lived in a house in the Toyo neighborhood in the capital of Espírito Santo and who rented the house illegally, was in charge of the small artisan factory that packaged and sealed the bags of milk powder.

The powdered milk was stolen from the company with the help of the three workers who received part of the profits from the clandestine continue reading

The police seized 210 bags filled with the product, 6,520 CUP, a sealing machine of Island manufacture, several rolls of polyethylene that were used in the containers, two means of transport and other goods.

Regarding the defendants, it was known that two are being kept in provisional prison and two are under the conditional measure of cash bail. The network could be related to other similar crimes so the investigative process will be expanded, according to authorities.

The milk that was diverted for illegal sale, according to the official media report, is used in regulated sales for children, the elderly and people on a medical diet.

With the worsening of the food crisis in Cuba, the scarcity and poor quality of powdered milk that is supplied to the population have been topics addressed in several independent media. In the first months of the year, the provinces of Holguín, Santiago de Cuba and Sancti Spíritus reported a shortage of the product in the state chain stores.

At the beginning of September this newspaper reported on the complaints of some mothers who denounced “a different aspect” that they had noticed in the “fortified milk” that the Government sells every month for children under one year of age, in the network of ration stores, called bodegas.

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

An Outbreak of Covid-19 In Santa Marta Puts the Construction of Hotels In Varadero On Hold

Construction workers in two camps in Santa Marta remain in quarantine. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 September 2020 — An outbreak of Covid-19 in two camps of the Constructora Hicacos in Santa Marta, in the Matanzas municipality of Cárdenas, has put the construction of hotels in the tourist center of Varadero on hold.

In a report by Cuban Television, it was learned that, given the new source of infections, the Government of Matanzas decided “to stop all construction works in the Varadero area; that is, the construction of the Oasis, Mar del Sur, which it is where the greatest number of cases is identified,” said Bella Canosa Besú, director of the Center for Hygiene and Epidemiology of Cárdenas.

The state media referred to the situation but without specifying the number of infections. However, in the official report of the Ministry of Public Health of this September 19, 14 new contagions in Cárdenas were reported from a previously confirmed case, for which 23 more people are being kept under medical surveillance. continue reading

The information was confirmed on the Facebook page of the local newspaper Girón, where it was stated that “14 positive cases were diagnosed in the Ramón Martínez de Santa Marta Health Area, Bachichi Camp.”

The social interaction that construction work implies and the displacement of workers in the communities where their hostels are located is a health risk that has increased epidemiological surveillance in Santa Marta, said Canosa Besú.

Santa Marta, located a few kilometers from the tourist center of Varadero, is the community that has registered the worst numbers of infections in the province. At the end of last week the Provincial Defense Council ordered the establishment of a quarantine in three new areas of that popular council area.

So far, 432 construction workers remain isolated, building number five in Villa Nicaragua with 34 apartments and 102 inhabitants, and a block from the demarcation in which 22 homes are included, official media reported. In addition, other areas of the Cárdenas municipality that have restrictive measures include the Fructuoso Rodríguez district, the La Marina neighborhood and the Humberto Álvarez popular council area.

This newspaper reported last week that the streets of Santa Marta remained deserted since the quarantine was decreed on August 27 after 58 days without a single positive case for Covid-19. However, the measures limiting access to the village are not very strict. A public health worker is posted at the entrance, accompanied by a policeman, and those from other places must only give their names and have their temperatures taken.

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At the Gates of Varadero, the Town of Santa Marta is Still in Quarantine

The streets of Santa Marta (Cardenas), a short distance from Varadero, have been empty since the authorities decreed the quarantine on August 27. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Roma Díaz, Santa Marta (Cárdenas), 14 September 2020 — The streets of Santa Marta, a few kilometers from the tourist center of Varadero, have been deserted since the quarantine was decreed on August 27 after 58 days without a single positive case for Covid-19.

Despite the fact that the governor of Matanzas, Mario Sabines Lorenzo, reported that the measure may be short-lived in the town of some 15,000 inhabitants, the facts indicate that, as we say in Cuba, “la bola pica y se extiende” (i.e. it’s complicated… and it’s not over). More and more infected people come to light, each with dozens of contacts. According to an anonymous source from the Civil Defense, the last case detected had about 130 contacts.

However, access to this town, which belongs to the municipality of Cárdenas, is not limited by very strict measures. A public health worker accompanied by a policeman is stationed at the entrance, and those from other places are only required to give their names and have their temperatures taken. continue reading

Like all shops and food services establishments in Santa Marta (Cardenas), the Panamericana on I Street has been closed since the quarantine was decreed on August 27. (14ymedio)

Due to the closure of all shops and food service establishments, the residents of Santa Marta have been supplied by the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), which arrange a packet with basic necessities at a price of 11.50 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) (roughly a week’s wages).

Regarding the beginning of the school year, the authorities reported that everything will depend on how the epidemiological situation in the municipality evolves.

In other areas of Cárdenas, where some those infected in the local transmission event reside — a contagion that originated in the TRD store on Libertad Street, in Santa Marta — a modified quarantine is also in force.

According to the deputy director of Hygiene and Epidemiology of the province, Amancio Martínez Morejón, approximately 431 patient contacts of confirmed and suspected cases are currently in isolation.

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

Some Little Known Places to Visit in Cuba

The iconic Hotel Nacional in Havana, overlooking the Malecon.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 September 2020 — Cuba is one of the favorite destinations for travelers and its iconic city and its beaches are two of its principle charms for those who decide to visit it. But, if you want to escape the typical places and would like to visit some remote or less known places, then we are going to show you some of those places that will become essential and that are outside the tourist spots and, therefore, less full of people.

La Boca, Camaguey

This is a fishing village in the province of Camagüey, in which there are wooden houses along the coast, with palm trees that give a delicious shade to the beach. This town offers a glimpse into local life through the residents who live their routine, coming back from fishing days, clothes drying on ropes between the houses and children playing in the streets. One of the most enriching experiences would be to rent a room in the home of a local.

The Hotel National

The Hotel Nacional de Cuba, considered the best in the Caribbean with 549 rooms, was the third largest in the country at the end of the 1950s. It entrance is at the intersection of M and 21st streets, in Vedado. It was inaugurated on 30 December 1930 and for decades remained the largest and the top of the line in the country, especially for lovers of online gambling and casino games. Hundreds of world personalities have stayed in it, from presidents to famous artists. continue reading

Los Pinos Beach, Cayo Sabinal

Local musicians in Cayo Sabinal.

It is one of the most remote places in Cuba and reveals the most beautiful landscapes in the country, which are almost without tourists and full of the most important creations of nature. It is one of the most remote keys in Cuba and is connected to the province of Camagüey by an incredibly narrow strip of land at the tip of the north coast. Playa Pinos is one of the most beautiful beaches in Cuba and you will not find many people there since there is a row of cabins that are the only accommodation option.

Guanahacabibes Peninsula

The peninsula is a Biosphere Reserve and is located on the western tip of Cuba and is a protected area full of mangroves, forests and a great variety of wildlife. It is a perfect place to explore the seascapes, caverns and other attractions. Guides are required on this site, and they offer excellent comprehensive tours and ensuring that the protected area remains that way. Among some of the endangered animals are deer, crocodiles, cranes and wild pigs, which live in the South Protected Area of ​​Isla de la Juventud. Also, you can visit the caves of Punta del Este, where you can see pre-Columbian drawings, which present a remarkable look at history.

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

The Untouchables

Parody of the “cybercatfishers,” the ‘trolls’ who support the Cuban government. Text bubbles: ‘We are continuity*’ ‘Cuba saves’ ‘China new power’ (Observatorio Cubano de Conflictos)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 21 September 2020 – With a circus as the scene, with painted faces and shrill voices, some weighty official cartoons, until recently, represented several figures from the Cuban opposition and independent journalism. That was a time when internet access from the Island was so limited that social networks were crowded with profiles from State Security. Its presence has barely diminished, but now we are there too.

For more than a decade and with total impunity, the soldiers of the web denigrated activists, created false accounts to try to destroy the prestige of dissidents and launched a fierce fight against bloggers who were not under the control of the Plaza of the Revolution. Everything was allowed. They also launched a misogynistic attack that promoted an obvious threat against the family of the slandered or revealed intimate details to make them more vulnerable.

I don’t recall from those years, between 2007 and the beginning of 2019, that those of us attacked could engage in any type of legal process to clean our reputation or to uncover those who launched these defamations, but I do have a memory that most of the time such vileness only made us smile, accustomed as we are to the system’s propaganda machine. At the end of the day, even as negative as they were, those public attacks were excellent free publicity to publicize our work within and outside national borders. Nothing is more attractive than the prohibited. continue reading

Now, and since the arrival of internet access on mobile phones, we residents of the Island have been able to get closer — despite censorship and high prices — to a much more vast informational scene; we have been able to publish our complaints more immediately and we have not lacked humor as a tool for political criticism that emerges from Cuba or from the exile community. Dozens of parody accounts of Cuban officials have appeared and the overreaction has not been long in coming.

Where we smile at those furious attacks orchestrated by the institutions themselves, those ridiculed today rage and point to a campaign “from the empire” that tries to “destroy the image” of public officials. Their skin is as thin as the outer layer of those onions that for months now have disappeared from national markets. Faced with any questioning, meme or joke against them, they launch their cyber-combatants and cry out for international solidarity to confront the “harassment on the networks.”

They conveniently forget that it was they who incubated and gave life to the unstoppable Cuban monster of the execution of reputation through the internet. A creature that has now ended up digging its teeth into their own jugular.

*The following is an excerpt from the Cuban government website Somos Continuidad (We are Continuity): [This phrase] is not an empty hashtag. In it is the essence of a renewed government that stands on the blood of its heroes…

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

Cuban Police Threaten the Young ‘Influencer’ Jancel Moreno with Prison

Jancel Moreno received the police summons last Tuesday and the document was signed by the area’s sector chief. (Facebook / JM)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 17 September 2020 — The young influencer and reporter Jancel Moreno was summoned this Wednesday afternoon by the police of the city of Matanzas and was threatened with up to four years in prison if he does not stop publishing criticism against the Cuban authorities on social networks.

Moreno, who is also a contributor to the ADN portal, received a summons to appear at La Playa police station, in the city of Matanzas at two in the afternoon on September 16, as previously reported on social networks and it became — in his opinion — in the “chronicle of an announced threat.”

“I arrived just before 2:00 pm at the door of the Station where they had summoned me. An officer with an authoritarian and even despotic manner collects my identity card (2:20 pm) at approximately 3:50 a.m. The older man calls me, we go upstairs. He introduced himself but I don’t really remember the name (it is also false) and then the talk began.” continue reading

According to the officer of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) who gave him the document, the appointment “would be for an interview with the chief.” (Facebook / JM)

The officer showed Moreno a folder with dozens of his publications on Facebook and questioned whether he should follow the influencer Alex Otaola and the opponent José Daniel Ferrer, among others, on that social network. “It was really impossible to enter into a debate, because he will not change his position nor will I mine, so I dedicated myself to listening to him and nodding my head.”

The older man let the reporter know that it was a “preventive” summons and that he could face four crimes for his publications on the networks. Enemy propaganda, contempt, incitement to crime and propagation of an epidemic are the accusations to which he is exposed. The penalty “for simply posting on social networks” can be up to 3 or 4 years of deprivation of liberty, Moreno explained after leaving the interview.

Jancel Moreno had received the police summons last Tuesday and the document was signed by the Lieutenant Adnier Moreno Ochoa, head of the sector of the area where he temporarily resides in the city of Matanzas. According to the officer of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) who gave him the summons, the appointment “would be for an interview with the chief.”

“If for thinking differently, raising my voice, I have to receive a thousand of these, well I will collect them, because I am not a criminal,” he wrote on his Facebook account.

Although the document claimed that the appointment was for an “interview”, Moreno believes that it was an interrogation full of threats that lasted more than an hour.

As of July 2018 Decree Law 370 came into force, emphasizing that Cuba is a computerized society, but the regulation warns that it is an “effective means for the consolidation of the conquests of socialism and an instrument for the political defense of the Revolution.”

In its article 68, Decree Law 370 describes a series of contraventions that imply extensive control over the Internet, and range from the prohibition against hosting websites on servers located abroad to limitations on what users can publish on their personal networks.

“Disseminating, through public data transmission networks, information contrary to social interest, morals, good customs and the integrity of people” is one of the specific violations detailed in the Decree Law.

Decree Law 370 has led dozens of activists and journalists such as Mónica Baró, Camila Acosta and Iliana Hernández to be fined 3,000 pesos in recent months.

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

Ten Months in Prison for a Sancti Spiritus Reseller

Line in Sancti Spíritus this Friday to buy chicken and hygiene products. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 September 2020 — A resident of the Cabaiguán municipality, in Sancti Spíritus, was sentenced to ten months in prison for illicit economic activity within a network that sold essential items on digital platforms and which was dismantled by the Ministry of the Interior.

Another citizen is being processed by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, in addition to eight ongoing complaints related to the same crime. The police acted on complaints filed by various people and seized 587 items destined for the informal market, according to a report broadcast by Cuban Television.

The objective of theMinistry of the Interior is once again those who promote the products they resell through social networks. continue reading

The Cabaiguán authorities have also identified 28 coleros — people who hold places in line for others — to whom they have officially issued warnings. The report shows a list with names and telephone numbers of possible people interested in the purchase of electrical appliances, one of the main evidence that the authorities have against coleros.

The official newspaper El Escambray last July also published that the police had identified 89 coleros throughout the province of Sancti Spíritus, who were officially prosecuted or warned. A month later, it announced the dismantling of a network of 14 “hoarders”, who not only sold personal hygiene products and food online, but also household electrical equipment that is sold in stores in freely convertible currency. On that occasion, three people were charged with illegal economic activity and disobedience.

In recent months the Government has published, with unusual frequency in official media, criminal acts related to the crisis in the country. It misses no opportunity to hold coleros and resellers accountable for the exacerbation of shortages and to issue warnings to other informal traders. Another example is the operation carried out in Santiago de Cuba a few days ago, which dismantled a network that was dedicated to the sale of foreign currency for the acquisition of household appliances.

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

The Covid Outbreak in Ciego de Avila General Hospital is Due to Negligence

Doctor Antonio Luaces Iraola General Hospital of Ciego de Ávila. (Radio Reloj)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Olea Gallardo, Havana, 18 September 2020 — With 19 positive cases of Covid-19 reported this Friday, Ciego de Ávila continues to be the second province in number of infections, behind Havana, and its situation is not improving. The most worrying data is that it accounts for 9 of the 19 critically ill or seriously ill patients in the entire country, even more than the 6 in the capital province, according to official data published by the Ministry of Health.

One of the most active local sources of contagion is the one that began at the Doctor Antonio Luaces Iraola General Hospital, the main one in the province, from which a hundred coronavirus patients were transferred to neighboring Camagüey — where there is still no contagion — last week.

When the news of the outbreak became known, through the official press, the hospital authorities held the workers responsible for the situation and their “non-compliance with the protocols.” Later, the local media gave space to praising the work carried out by the hospital, and described it as “almost a war maneuver to carry out routine procedures such as childbirth or tracheal intubation.” continue reading

However, a doctor and a nurse, who offered their testimony to 14ymedio on condition of anonymity, insist that the cause is negligence. “The corresponding tests were not being carried out on the patients who appeared with respiratory problems, and instead they were being treated as if it were asthma, allergies or bronchitis,” details the doctor.

“For years we have had a bus that transfers patients who must undergo hemodialysis,” adds the nurse. “As the transportation issue has become more complicated with the pandemic, other patients are also collected, including asthmatics and people who need routine treatments.”

“The problem was that in the same bus, patients who needed dialysis coincided for several days with others who obviously had Covid-19,” said the nurse. “The result is that at one point we had more than half of the patients in the nephrology ward also infected with the coronavirus.”

“When we found out, these nephrological patients had already spent time with their families, entered other areas of the hospital and had direct contact with doctors and nurses who had no protection,” she denounces. “A disaster and irresponsibility.”

Within the official data, in fact, it can be observed that several of Ciego de Ávila’s critically ill or seriously ill patients also suffer from kidney failure. This is the case for an 82-year-old citizen of the capital municipality, as well as another age 66 with kidney failure, a third age 65 with hydronephrosis, and a fourth age 68 with chronic kidney disease.

The province fell back to phase 1 on September 9, when it registered a total of 17 local contagion events. At that time, Miguel Díaz-Canel again blamed the outbreak on the “indiscipline” of the citizens.

Meanwhile, the keys, a popular tourist destination in the same province, are preparing to receive another flight from Canada, and the ruling party insists that “rigorous epidemiological control measures” are being carried out in Jardines del Rey to protect tourists and employees.

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

The Most Masterful of All the Lines

Two lines in one: on the right, the one for personal hygiene products; on the left, for chicken. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes García, Sancti Spíritus, 18 September 2020 —  The parks are empty in Sancti Spíritus. No one would think of sitting on a bench, for fear of fines, and because they would not waste time in a square, because the imperative is to use the hours when you can be on the street to look for food. Two long lines along the side of a central corner mark this urgency.

This Friday, it was possible to observe what a neighbor described as “the most masterful of all the lines,” two lines in one: to the right, the crowd gathered to buy personal hygiene products, and to the left, to buy chicken. All this, with previous presentation of one’s rationbook and in the rationed market.

The city, which until recently seemed to have been saved from the rebound of Covid-19 on the island, is now once again under strict measures that regulate the time its residents can spend on the street. The assumption is to be able to buy what is necessary in the few hours in which public circulation is allowed. continue reading

“Are you here for the line for soap or the one for chicken?” is greatly debated among the many who know that betting on the most probably does not mean achieving the most needed. “The line that works is the one that can be achieved, the other is wasted time,” reflects an old parishioner who spent his hours in the central park of the city with a bottle of rum in hand but now prefers to earn some money as a colero — someone who holds a place in line for others.

Serafín Sánchez Park, in Sancti Spíritus, is uncharacteristically empty this Friday. (14ymedio)

Despite the persecutions against hoarders, resellers and coleros, the police are not able to control what is part of the landscape of Sancti Spíritus. “The lines are longer and now there are more police officers but in the end they are the lines of a whole lifetime,” says the spontaneous dealer. There will be time to return to the squares. Now life passes on the corners, in the shadow of a store or a market.

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

An Innocent Caricature

The cartoonist reveals what the tabloid hides and I warn that I do not think he did it with a subversive spirit. (Alfredo Martirena Hernández)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 14 September 2020 — It takes time and consumes energy to analyze the special tabloid Cuba and its economic and social challenge, prepared by the Ministry of Economy and Planning, where the strategy is outlined “to boost the economy and face the global crisis caused by Covid- 19.” Reading the title is already boring.

Perhaps it is more significant to look closely at a cartoon signed by Martirena (Alfredo Martirena Hernández) that illustrates the text and that shows an official in front of a graph that reflects the behavior of the national economy.

The cartoonist reveals what the tabloid hides and I warn that I do not think he did it with a subversive spirit. continue reading

The description of the official drawn here is that of a man close to 50 years old, notably overweight, wearing one of those guayaberas that typify the members of the official nomenclature. The bluish-gray color of his skin, the closed eyes and the expressionless lips reflect a person devoid of conviction, obedient and at the same time despotic.

With his right hand the bureaucrat presses against his chest the documents where the plans of the national economy are supposed to be detailed: the mass of information that gives him power and authority. In his left hand, he holds a red arrow that is used as a growth vector in statistical graphs.

The arrow has three ascending and two descending “moments,” but the latter never coincide in their fall with the starting point of the previous ascent. It is a climb with breaks, but continuous. It is the graphic reflection of triumphalism and, to top it all, its upward trend depends on the position in which, at will, the official places the arrow controlled by his left hand. Thus, in addition to being triumphant, the scene reflects another of the evils that characterize the actions of those who rule in Cuba: voluntarism.

All that and more is present in the concepts exposed in this special tabloid, where “details” are skipped over, how to explain how and when the monetary unification will finally take effect, and where are the long-awaited details on the reality for small and medium-sized companies. “The steps will be initiated,” for their establishment and, at the current stage, “the indicators to be taken into account will be defined.”

Here, the “fine print” appears at the end as a reward for those who read it all. There they are, insolent and disrespectful, the first lines of the conclusions where it is noted that “the implementation of this Strategy will lead us to be in more favorable conditions for the analysis that must be carried out at the 8th Congress of the PCC,” which, as is known, will take place, if the pandemic allows it, in April 2021.

I invite scholars to continue looking carefully at the illustrations, not only the one that is dissected here, but also the one in which the Island appears hanging from a balloon inflated with hearts; another, where Cuba is represented as the filaments of a light bulb, that is, a “lantern”; another that shows a worker in need of binoculars to see the salary issue; and even one where the same gray official must turn off his brain in order to save fuel.

I don’t know if I’m looking at everything with bad intentions, or if it’s because I learned to read before the Revolution.

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

Cuba Sues Mexico for Non-payment of Salaries to 28 Coaches from Cuba

Cuban coaches who are part of the cooperation agreement with Mexico. (Government of Mexico)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, 17 September 2020 — The Cuban Embassy in Mexico filed a lawsuit against that nation’s National Commission for Physical Culture and Sports (Conade) for the failure to pay the salaries of 28 coaches from the island who are part of an agreement between the two countries.

Since the beginning of the year, the technicians of the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation of Cuba (Inder) who work in 11 disciplines in Mexico have not received their salary. On January 3, the debts of 2019 were canceled “and we return to the same situation with the lack of payment,” a member of Inder who trains in Mexico City told the Cancha newspaper.

The technician, who maintains that Conade has requested the withdrawal of the lawsuit, insists that the Chinese delegation has not been paid since November. continue reading

During the presentation of Mexico’s sports development plan, Ana Gabriela Guevara, general director of Conade pointed out that between the years 2013 and 2020 140 million Mexican pesos (almost 7 million dollars) were allocated to the payment of Cuban and Chinese technicians in accordance with the agreements signed with those nations.

According to Guevara, the work of the coaches did not live up to the expectations outlined in the contract. “We are going to choose now, we want to create our own academy, our own curriculum, our own human material,” explained the former sprinter, according to Latinus review.

Non-compliance with salary payments also affects other Cubans who are not part of the official agreement, such as national fencing coach Juan Alexis Salazar Márquez. “I am only claiming my right and they got angry. The truth is, I feel tied because there is no one who can solve my situation, but this is what is happening,” Salazar told the local newspaper El Demócrata.

The coach decided to leave the official Cuban delegation with his family in June 2012, when he was competing in Cancun (Quintana Roo) in a Pan American Championship. Shortly afterwards, he joined the Mexican Olympic Committee and began working at the National High Performance Center. But since the beginning of 2020 he has not received payment from the Mexican Fencing Federation, dependent on Conade.

Salazar has managed to survive by teaching private classes. “In fact I asked for help from the parents of some athletes who deposited money with me and if I ask for the proof of the deposit they will give it to me to prove what I am saying,” said the fencing teacher.

Conade is involved in alleged cases of corruption and irregularities. In an audit, ordered by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, an embezzlement of 50.8 million pesos (2.4 million dollars) was detected in the Fund for High Performance Sports in 2019.

Cuba and Mexico have had operation agreements for decades in science, culture, education, economy and sports. In 2017, the two countries also signed an agreement in Healthcare that facilitated a contract of 135 million pesos — 6.2 million dollars — for the collaboration of a Cuban medical brigade for three months.

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