Venezuelan Migration Overwhelms the Region’s Borders

Venezuelans looking for work in the Brazilian city of Boa Vista. (File / EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE / 14ymedio, Havana, 11 August 2018 – The pressure of migratory inflows from Venezuela on the countries of the region led Ecuador, this Wednesday, to declare a state of institutional emergency in the provinces of Garchi, Pichincha and El Oro, while in Brazil this week the authorities closed the border with its northern neighbor for 20 hours after a court order, specifically in the state of Roraima, the main gateway for Venezuelans fleeing the economic, political, and social crisis of their country.

In the case of Ecuador, a country with which Venezuela does not share a border, a statement from the Foreign Ministry indicated that “in recent days, the flow reached 4,200 entries daily”. The fear that the new Colombian president, Iván Duque, might close the border, has intensified the arrival of Venezuelan immigrants in recent days in search of a destination in the south of the continent.

In 2017, 288,005 Venezuelans entered Ecuador, a figure that is likely to be surpassed this year, judging by the crowds on the border between the two countries. continue reading

The main gateway to Ecuador is the Rumichaca pass, on the border with Colombia, totally congested in recent days. From there many of migrants move to the capital, Quito, with the intention of continuing their journey to the south and crossing into Peru, and even reaching Chile.

The state of institutional emergency will last throughout the month of August, although it could continue according to the circumstances at the border crossing points.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Health, it will “strengthen medical care with a greater number of doctors.” The deployment will include a group of social workers and psychologists, especially for vulnerable groups (children, adolescents and women), as well as humanitarian aid to meet primary needs.

Meanwhile, in Brazil, the differences between the government of Roraima and the Federal government caused the temporary closure of the border. The lawsuit filed with a federal judge by the local authorities, who have seen about 50,000 Venezuelans arrive in the past year, was later annulled by the Federal Regional Court of the First Region.

“Closing the border means not recognizing the immigrant as equal to the Brazilian,” said the Court, while the country’s Minister of Security, Raúl Jungmann, hinted that the request for border closure suggested by the authorities of Roraima might be linked to internal political issues of that region, ahead of the elections that will be held this coming October in Brazil.

Jungmann considered, on a personal basis, that the decision to request the closure of the border may have had some “toxic interference of the elections,” which he affirmed would be “intolerable,” since “that issue can not be included in the electoral contest. ”

The minister pointed out that, since the government declared this past February a “situation of vulnerability” due to the massive influx of Venezuelans, the financial resources directed to Roraima have increased, in order to alleviate the situation.

Likewise, in cooperation with international entities, such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), camps have been set up which welcome Venezuelans and a program initiated to move Venezuelans wishing to relocate to other regions of the country, through which 820 immigrants have been placed in cities such as Sao Paulo, Cuiabá, Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro.

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.

Diaz-Canel Visit to Manzanillo Recounted by Historian Without Mincing Words


This video is not subtitled

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marion J Pentón, Miami, Augut 11, 2018 — On the eve of the visit to Manzanillo by Miguel Díaz-Canel at the end of June, this western city in frank decadence was subjected to special treatment. Houses were spruced up, the indigents were secluded in the psychiatric hospital, criticism was gagged, and even various ice cream flavors appeared in the unstocked state-owned ice cream parlors.

The historian Delio Orozco González dared to raise his voice and said that this visit was “prefabricated”.  His complaint earned him the censorship of a program he conducted for free on local television, Golfo Visión.

Like the child who was the only one that dared to say that the Emperor had no clothes when he thought he was dressed in invisible cloth, in the fable The Naked King [The Emperor’s New Clothes], in real life Orozco-Gonzales denounced what everybody knew but no one dared to say: that the visit by Díaz-Canel was nothing more than staged to please the new ruler. continue reading

“One thing is to show what has been accomplished by conscious and systematic work and quite another to prepare a staging with last minute touches whose sole purpose is to impress the visitor to avoid critical remarks. Unfortunately that was what was done in Manzanillo”, Orozco González wrote in a blog.

Orozco González, a well-known local historian, was unable to witness in slience the violent eviction of Mirtha Escobar Rodríguez, a physically handicapped woman who waited for Díaz-Canel in Céspedes Park to let the president know “what liars” the local leaders are.

The woman was promised 11 years ago the construction of a house, but her denunciation of alleged mismanagement in public funds for her home earned her the enmity of the local bosses. The police officers took her by force and took her first to the hospital and then to the psychiatric hospital.

“When they took her to the Celia Sánchez Manduley Hospital with very high blood pressure to give her medical treatment, they transferred her to the psychiatric hospital, as was done in the Soviet Union, to try to confuse her civic demand with dementia, the public denunciation with madness, the truth with alienation,” related Orozco González.

The historian, who is far from having a dissident position against the system, questioned the plasticity of the measures taken to receive Diaz-Canel, whom in the first hundred days of his mandate has appeared constantly in the media travelling throughout the provinces and leading meetings.

They hurriedly painted the old electoral billboards, removed the vines from the Caymari building, set up another lab in the Palace of Computing and “gathered all the homeless so that the President and his delegation would not see the sad spectacle of drunks and destitute people who swarm and sleep in our streets”.

Orozco González has worked in the Historical Archive of Manzanillo since 1990. He is also vice president of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba in the territory and is a member of the Academy of History of Cuba.  Among his notable books are Manzanillo in the pen of José Martí, Presence and reception martiana in Manzanillo, Manzanillo in the 50s and Of the faithful of Manzanillo.

The decision to stop broadcasting the historian’s program, Findings, was communicated a week ago by the scriptwriter of the television program. According to Orozco González, the municipal authorities prohibited the television director from continuing to use the platform to teach. The historian has said that he will not talk to the media because for him everything has been said. “Now the censors, if they believe it, should explain their decision or simply do what they always do: not show their faces,” he added.

14ymedio made multiple attempts to contact the director of Golfo Visión, Geraldo Romero Díaz, and several journalists from the channel, but none wanted to offer comments on the matter.

It is not the first time that Golfo Visión has been in the midst of a controversy over the treatment of its workers. At the beginning of the year cameraman Raidel Tirado was fired after having suffered a traffic accident on his motorcycle and caused minor damage to the state-owned camera when he was on his way to cover the celebration for the triumph of the Los Alazanes baseball team in Granma  vs. Las Tunas.

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.

Prosecutor’s Office Accuses Jose Daniel Ferrer of "Attempted Murder"

The leader of Unpacu, José Daniel Ferrer, was arrested on 3 August along with Ebert Hidalgo. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 August 2018 — The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer, and activist Ebert Hidalgo were accused Friday of “attempted murder.”  Both must remain in pretrial detention according to prosecutor Rolando Reyes, as reported to 14ymedio by Ovidio Martin Castellanos, one of the national coordinators of the opposition organization.

Hidalgo and Ferrer were arrested August 3 after an incident involving an official of the Ministry of the Interior, Dainier Suarez Pagan, who supposedly had been hit by Ferrer when he was driving a car without a driver’s license.  Since then both activists have been held incommunicado and in different detention centers, their families complained.

Agent Suarez Pagan is know by dissidents from Palmarito de Cauto for being violent and stalking activists.  According to the judicial version, Ferrer tried to run him down while he was crossing the street, an assertion that the dissidents denied shortly before they were arrested. continue reading

As Ferrer told Carlos Amel Oliva, Suarez Pagan signaled to him to stop the car but on braking suddenly, the front wheel dislocated.  The agent fell to the ground and after getting up, went to a medical clinic in order to seek an injury certification.

In the Prosecutor’s documents it is stated that he was dressed in a complete uniform, something that the arrested activists denied, having always said that he was dressed in “plain clothes.”

According to the story that appears in the legal document obtained by this newspaper, “Ferrer demanded the car key from Hidalgo Cruz,” started it, and ran into the officer” Suarez Pagan, who was crossing the street to a nearby cafe, “unsuspecting” and “without noticing what was being attempted against his life and physical safety.”

“Officer Suarez Pagan went to the place where the car stopped, complained to the driver and his companion and ordered them to accompany him to the PNR station but was refused emphatically by the two,” adds the judicial document that reports after the arrests of Hidalgo and Ferrer.

For Martin Castellanos, this accusation is “a work of tyranny.”  The activist complains that it is “a gross lie” they are using in order to behead the biggest opposition organization in the country.

“Suarez Pagan never wears a uniform because he is thug, and those charged with confronting the peaceful opposition always dress in plain clothes,” he maintains.

The United States, on Wednesday, demanded Cuba immediately free Jose Daniel Ferrer and Ebert Hidalgo.  The US Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, Francisco Palmieri, added that Havana must free “all political prisoners.”

Ferrer and Hidalgo face a possible sentence of 15 to 20 years in prison, although the penalty could be reduced significantly on consideration by the court because it is for a crime that did not materialize.

In 2003 Ferrer was sentenced to 25 years in prison in the well-known case of the Black Spring.  Since 2011 he has had an extra-penal license awarded to members of the so-called group of 75 who were still in jail.  The releases occurred after a negotiation between the Catholic Church, the Spanish Executive Jose Luis Zapatero and the government of Raul Castro.

After leaving prison, Ferrer founded the Patriotic Union of Cuba which is today one of the biggest opposition organizations in the country.  UNPACU carries out citizen protests and has several aid programs for low income families.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel.

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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.

Abortion, an Inflammatory Topic in Latin America

The Cuban context is different from that of other countries in the region. In some of them, women can spend long years behind bars for resorting to abortion. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 11 August 2018 — She is 20 years old and has had four abortions. This young Cuban woman, whom I will call Aimara to avoid revealing her identity, is not an isolated case. The interruption of pregnancy is so frequent among the Island’s women that is difficult to find one that has not gone through the procedure.

Our national context is different from what happens in other countries in the region. In some of them women can spend long years behind bars for resorting to such a procedure or simply because it is suspected that they have done so.

While in nations such as Chile and Argentina the debate inflames the streets and public forums, in Cuba a discussion on the subject barely registers on social networks or on the digital sites of the independent press. continue reading

According to official propaganda it is a “solved problem,” but within religious temples pastors sharpen their rhetoric against women who decide to abort. Meanwhile, in Cuban hospitals the practice has become almost as routine as having a tooth pulled. Abortion is considered one more method of contraception.

Mass access to medical services and the legalization of the interruption of pregnancy, despite decades of material deterioration in the Island’s public health services, contributes to saving maternal lives because women are not forced to resort to quacks or improvised clinics.

In 2016, 85,445 of these interventions were carried out in Cuban hospitals, representing 41.9 interruptions per 100 pregnant women, according to official figures.

A good part of these patients came to the hospital operating table moved by economic precariousness, but also by the helplessness resulting from little family support or the indifference of their partner. Strict gender roles and the prevailing machismo continue to place what should be a shared responsibility on the shoulders of women.

This is the case for Aimara, who, living “in a house overflowing with people and lacking in space,” as she herself says, doesn’t want to “give birth with an abusive husband and much less in Cuba as things are.” Right now, she has made the rounds of a dozen pharmacies in Havana and “there are no condoms,” the employees tell her, with resignation.

Maintaining a supply of birth control pills is also difficult and the last intrauterine device that the young woman had inserted “did more harm than good,” she says.

If, on the one hand, Cuban women claim the decision about what happens inside their wombs, on the other they find in interruptions of pregnancy — the so-called “curettage” (scraping of the uterus) and “menstrual regulations” (practiced before 6 weeks and without anesthesia) — a solution to the shortage of contraceptive methods, the chronic economic crisis and the desire to emigrate, which is complicated if there is a child included in the escape plan.

“Getting a visa is difficult for one person, imagine for two,” says Aimara, with a crushing logic. Her way of thinking is widespread. The housing difficulties, in a country with around 11 million people a deficit of more than 800,000 homes, and the desire to settle in any other geography, are some of the most important motivations that have led to the fall in the birth rate that has set off alarm bells on the Island.

In addition, repeated abortion, which is so frequent in Cuba, multiplies the dangers to women’s health and in many cases causes cervical problems and infertility. Aimara now traverses that dangerous tightrope. She has the legal and medical right to what happens in the small perimeter of her uterus, but her life and that of her future children are at the mercy of greater forces, especially at the whims of what a group of gentlemen without ovaries decide in an air conditioned office surrounded by creature comforts.

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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.

Bachelet, Havana’s Friend, to Monitor Human Rights for the UN

The last time the Chilean president visited Cuba was in January 2018. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 9 August 2018 — For some time it has been clear that the next steps in Michelle Bachelet’s career pointed to an international organization. With her political path closed in Chile, where as president her popularity hit historical lows, she is now poised to occupy the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (ONCHR), as announced this week.

Bachelet’s appointment to the head of the ONCHR comes as no surprise given that her name was mentioned as a potential leader of the UN after the departure of Ban Ki-moon. Although her new responsibility has yet to be ratified by the General Assembly, the Chilean is very likely to occupy the United Nation’s most important position in the field of human rights. Although both are based in Geneva (Switzerland), the ONCHR should not be confused with the Human Rights Council, which is a political body made up of the representatives of UN Member States. The ONCHR on the other hand, is a supposedly independent organization staffed by more than one thousand employees. continue reading

Bachelet assumes that position in a complex moment in which violations of citizen rights are rising in tone in many countries and the United Nations is experiencing a period of fragility, derived from its inaction, the manipulation of its mechanisms by authoritarian regimes and the little credibility it enjoys among democratic governments.

Her record will not help her much in this ecumenical endeavor. During her two presidential terms Bachelet demonstrated that she may suffer from an obstinate myopia when it comes to the excesses committed by her ideological colleagues who rule in Venezuela, Nicaragua and, above all, in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution.

In the long years she was in charge of the solid Chilean democracy, her criticisms were rather lukewarm or nonexistent towards the leftist populisms that repressed their dissidents. With a few exceptions, the president preferred not to annoy her fellow utopians and opted for the strategy of looking away.

A few weeks before handing over the presidential sash to Sebastián Piñera, she arrived in Cuba on a trip that could only be understood as that of the practitioner of a creed to the temple from which it spreads its doctrine. Although both countries’ official spoke of a visit to strengthen commercial ties, in reality that visit had all the traces of a renewal of support Castroism.

The appointment of a friend of the Plaza of the Revolution to a position much coveted by Havana is not the result of chance. In it we sense the influence of Cuban diplomacy and its ability to move in the UN corridors, applying pressure, buying loyalties and votes, to pave the way to make the Chilean president to the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The appointment of Bachelet is a magnificent opportunity for Havana because it needs international support to compensate for the weakening of its regional alliances within the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

It is also an opportunity for Havana’s allies, who are experiencing difficult moments and doing everything possible to avoid international condemnations for their repressive actions. This is the case for Nicaragua, where Daniel Ortega, the former guerrilla turned Caudillo, has met popular revolts with fire and. Something similar is happening in Venezuela, which is experiencing a terrible humanitarian crisis while the Miraflores Palace resorts to a more aggressive, exclusive and disparate discourse.

In Cuba itself, the organizations of the United Nations system tend to align themselves with the Government instead of taking note of the denunciations by citizens against the iron control of the Communist Party. Can this change with the appointment of the former Socialist president at the head of the ONCHR?

If she hasn’t done so before, why would Bachelet now criticize her old friends in olive green? Why would she denounce acts of repudiation against dissidents, arbitrary arrests or the control exercised by the authorities over the lives of millions of Cubans?

Instead of speaking out about the violations of the political rights of an entire population, Michelle Bachelet has dedicated herself for many years to extolling the supposed achievements in Cuban healthcare and education of which barely a mirage remain. There is no reason to think that she will change her discourse from the UN watchtower.

She can always justify her silence and her inaction with the argument that she is very busy with the multiple complaints that will come from so many other places on the planet.

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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.

Authorities Keep Opposition Leader Jose Daniel Ferrer Incommunicado

The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, José Daniel Ferrer. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 August 2018 — The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer, completed 72 hours in detention Monday and his case “has passed to the prosecutor,” as the opposition organization’s coordinator, Carlos Amel Oliva, reported to this daily.

They accuse Ferrer of attacking an official from the Ministry of the Interior, according to what Captain Roberto said to his family members.  At this time he is under arrest in Unit One of the Santiago de Cuba National Revolutionary Police (PNR).  Authorities keep the activist incommunicado, and he has not even been able to receive visits from his relatives.

“Yesterday at ten at night he completed the first 72 hours of arrest.  The case has already passed to the prosecutor and now it is necessary to wait another 72 hours in order to get an answer about what is going to happen with him,” said Olive in a telephone conversation with this paper. continue reading

Also arrested with Ferrer was activist Ebert Hidalgo Cruz, who is in the Operations Unit of the PNR (People’s Revolutionary Police).  Hidalgo Cruz is also incommunicado.

According to the criminal procedure law, the prosecutor could drop the arrest without consequence, impose a cautionary measure without detention, or revoke or modify the measure ordered by the police.  The prosecutor also may propose the imposition of a provisional prison sentence.

According to Oliva, coordinator of the organization founded by Jose Daniel Ferrer, Captain Roberto told the family members that there is an open “file” against the UNPACU leader.  In the case of Hidalgo Cruz, he is accused of permitting Ferrer to drive a car without a license.

Ferrer was arrested last Friday night after being implicated in a traffic accident in Palmarito de Cauto, where he supposedly injured the State Security agent, Daniel Suarez Pagan.

The dissident was in the town for family reasons and also planned to visit some of the activists who live in the area.  Oliva says that during the journey, the plainclothes agent stepped in front of the Mosovich car driven by Ferrer, indicating for him to stop.  Ferrer does not have a driver’s license or a learner’s permit.

After an abrupt maneuver to stop the car, the agent fell to the ground and after getting up went to a medical unit in order to seek a certificate of injury.  Several hours later the two activists were arrested.

Some UNPACU activists contacted by 14ymedio say that, “Pagan is not hurt and is working as usual in the town of Palmarito de Cauto.”

Maidolis Oribe, area resident, says that “State Security and the Police with their Criminal Unit specialists have reconstructed the events four times and have pressured people to testify against Ferrer.”

“They want the people to say that Jose Daniel ran over him,” says Oribe, who has witnessed the reconstruction of events by the experts.

“Pagan is the one who throws himself to the ground and plays ’murumacas’” says the woman, who questions the blows he received “if he is able to make those movements.”

Jose Daniel Ferrer is a former political prisoner from the black spring of 2003 who benefitted from an extra-penal license in 2011 after a negotiation between the government, the Catholic church and the Spanish presidency.  The extra-penal license, which allows the prisoner out of the penitentiary, can be revoked at the will of authorities.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel.

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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 Trial Begins for the Three Men Accused of Raping and Killing a Young Woman in Cienfuegos

Leidy Maura Pacheco Mur. (Periódico 5 de Septiembre)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio — The trial against the three men accused of raping and murdering Leidy Maura Pacheco Mur, 18 years old, begins this Tuesday in Cienfuegos.

Although the official press hasn’t published the names of the alleged killers, their photos have been shared on social media. Residents of the town of Junco Viejo, where the victim lived, told this journal that one of the three defendants has a criminal record for rape and another has served cumpulsory military service.

The hearing will not be public. According to the local press, it will be held in two days due to the large amount of evidence and the 45 witnesses who have been summoned. The three men will also have to answer for other cases of rape of which they are accused. continue reading

Once the final judgement has been decided, the judges will take six days to determine the sentence. The accused will be able to appeal to the People’s Supreme Court.

On September 26th of last year, Leidy Maura Pacheco went to the state corporation of Comercio de Cienfuegos because she was interested in passing a course to work there. After visiting a few friends in the neighborhood of Reina, she ate lunch with her husband and took bus 3 towards Junco Sur. She got onto a bus that she got off of near her house in Junco Viejo and called her husband at 2:56 pm, when she was one block from her home. But she never arrived.

Three men covered her mouth, took her to Plan Mango, a grove outside of Cienfuegos, raped her, and then murdered and buried her on the bank of a small dam, according to the testimony of her father, Pedro Valentín Pacheco Alonso.

The three alleged killers were living in the same community as the victim. The following day the family notified the authorities of the disappearance of the young woman, who had a 10 month old baby.

The search for the young woman lasted six days in which relatives, neighbors, and even one of the presumed rapists were implicated.

The death of Leidy Pacheco shook Cienfuegos, a city which has suffered several homicides in less than a year. On February 14, Luis Santacruz Labrada was murdered with a knife and in May, a double feminicide shocked the city, whose safety was one of its principal attractions.

Translated by: Emilee Sullivan 

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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.

Decriminalizing Abortion: The Mother, The Son… and The Holy Spirit

This week, the new abortion law was passed in the Argentine Senate, an issue that motivated Wilfredo Leiter Juvier’s letter to journalist Cristina Escobar. (@PorAbortoLegal)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 6 August 2018 –Catholic priest Wilfredo Leiter Juvier, in charge of the Cathedral of Santa Clara, Cuba, recently sent an open letter to Cristina Escobar, a journalist of the official press. The letter provokes reflection on the decriminalization of abortion, a topic that continues to raise fierce controversies in Latin America.

The Catholic Church’s opposition to abortion is a long-standing issue but it’s not this article’s central objective to resolve it. Nor do I consider it a profitable investment of time to participate in a debate between a journalist of the Cuban press monopoly — a word that demands absolute faith in the “communist” government — and an individual whose essential principle of existence is based on religious faith. Obviously, it is a matter among “the faithful”, although they wear different ideological colors.

That said, I think it appropriate to express my total disagreement with the priest’s criteria in the referenced letter, and in particular with the Manichaeism* and the manipulation that supplants almost all of his theses, despite the correctness of his grammar and the “respectfulness” of his language. continue reading

I do not consider it a profitable time investment to participate in a debate between a journalist from the Cuban press monopoly and an individual whose essential principle of existence is based on religious faith. Obviously, it is a matter among “the faithful”

That Manichaeism is reflected in the invalidation of the opponent’s arguments, assuming his own faith as valid from presuppositions that do not allow argument, although he aims to expose “scientifically proven” points. As far as is known, no scientific discovery can invalidate the indisputable and elementary right that a woman must have when deciding any matter regarding her motherhood.

As for his manipulation of the subject, it is obvious when, in an absurd comparison, he places in a same “rational” plane what he calls “the abortionist logic” with the murder of an “inconvenient” old man. Or when he argues that proof that sexuality “is not only for pleasure”, but that new beings materialize from it. It is the preaching of a man whose holy ministry demands celibacy, but who presents himself as an expert in sexual matters.

Almost all Catholic morality is based on principles as retrograde as those that still defend virginity (feminine, of course) as a symbol of virtue and purity in many regions, that assume that sex is a merely reproductive function or that qualifies relationships between people of the same gender as sinful and diabolical.

In light of this, we could ask why no representative of that Church spoke with the same passion in defense of life when, in 2003, three men who had committed no blood crime were summarily convicted and shot in Cuba for the attempted abduction of a boat. Or why, with the same force, they did not demand it of the Cuban government on the terrible night of the sinking of the tugboat 13 de marzo, when dozens of innocent people were murdered, among them, over 10 children. Does an embryo have a greater right to life than one of those men, women and children who died then? At what point does human life begin or cease to be sacred and who establishes those limits?

It is clear that, on this level, the Catholic Church has demonstrated not only a fairly accommodative moral, but a highly questionable piety

 So, the essential issue here is abortion and the struggle for its “decriminalization”. It is known that — with the exception of Mexico, Cuba and Uruguay — the countries in this region do not allow for the voluntary interruption of pregnancy and only authorize it in certain circumstances. In addition, three countries — El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua — absolutely prohibit it.

In the case of Cuba, the practice of abortion has been carried out, in some cases, since 1936. In fact, several generations of Cuban women have (incorrectly) considered induced abortion as a right, “free of charge and in a safe manner”, included among the services provided by the health system within the first three months of pregnancy, or later, in cases of congenital malformations of the fetus or of risk to the woman’s life.

However, the truth is that there is no actual abortion law to date in Cuba, which is why its practice ultimately depends more on the political will or on the permissiveness of the country’s authorities than on recognition of a woman’s right to decide about her own body and about her motherhood. In other words, abortion is spoken of as a “social achievement”, but the fact is that it does not constitute a legal achievement. 

Until there is a law ratifying it, the decriminalization of abortion in Cuba cannot be considered a true and total female victory, as is often proclaimed from the political power

This nullifies any guarantee for Cuban women. Why? Let’s say that the Cuban State had an interest in raising the birth rate and, consequently, ordered specialized health centers to reduce the practice of abortions or the so-called “menstrual regulation”, a less invasive procedure performed in the first six to eight weeks of pregnancy and that does not require the use of anesthesia. In such a case, the issue would depend on the vagaries of demography and State will and not on a true legal guarantee for decision-making by each woman.

For that reason, and until there is a law that ratifies it, the decriminalization of abortion in Cuba cannot be considered a true and total female victory, as is often proclaimed by the political power. It is actually a mirage that has been reinforced in practice with the use and abuse of abortion — almost as if it were a contraceptive method- in the absence of a legal framework that supports it, but also without having made the necessary emphasis on sexual education from an early age to promote both the perception of the risks of abortion and its indiscriminate use, as well as the importance of responsible and conscious motherhood (and fatherhood).

As an additional evil, there has been a lack of a broad social debate to sensitize and involve everyone which would allow us to begin to overcome machismo and sexist conceptions deeply rooted in the national culture, such as the custom of attributing the responsibility for the use of contraceptives to women, as well as assuming the greater part in the education and upbringing of children, even if, to be able to do so, she has to renounce to her own personal and professional ambitions. This is one additional way of subjecting female rights to the masculine will, and a fact that shows that the “decriminalization of abortion ” alone is not the solution to the problem but only a first step. 

And it is in this sense that the open letter of priest Wilfredo Leiter acquires its real value, because it warns us that the demons of the sanctimonious and misogynist Inquisition have not died.

 Such voids, the legal and the debate spaces in Cuba, have propitiated that, while on the surface there seems to be a social consensus around this issue, deep down there are strong currents of prejudice and atavistic concepts that in the future — not necessarily in a distant one — could endanger what is already urgently recognized as a feminine right.

And it is in this sense that the open letter of the priest Wilfredo Leiter acquires its real value, because it warns us that the demons of the sanctimonious and misogynist Inquisition have not died. If with the “presents” obtained by the grace of the political power Cuban women view the battle as having been won, they will certainly will have lost the war.

*Translator’s note: Manichaeism: religious or philosophical dualism system with Christian, Gnostic, and pagan elements. founded in Persia in the 3rd century, based on a supposed primeval conflict between light and darkness.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

Cuba Calls for Stronger Precautions Against Dengue and Zika Outbreaks

Two young people of the Youth Labor Army with the fumigation ’backpackmachine’. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, Havana, 31 July 2018 — Cuban health authorities acknowledged the existence of outbreaks of dengue fever and zika in several provinces of the country and asked citizens to “reinforce prevention measures” in the summer rains, the official media reported on Tuesday.

“In  Cuba, chikungunya has not been reported for two years, and yellow fever has been eliminated since 1909, but in the case of dengue fever and zika there are outbreaks of transmission in several parts of the country,” the director of Epidemiology with the Ministry of Public Health, Francisco Durán, told the state newspaper Granma.

The source did not specify which areas are affected and referred to information from various media, according to which at least 10 people have died in the last weeks in central and eastern Cuba due to hemorrhagic dengue fever. continue reading

In Cuba, the epidemiological situation is considered almost a matter of State and the dissemination of figures on the numbers infected by viruses and levels of transmission is not common in the press, almost all of which is state controlled.

The increase in diseases transmitted by mosquitoes in the summer is due to the increase in heat associated with the rains, which is very marked this year,” Durán warned.

Faced with this situation, the Cuban State responds with the cleaning of possible sources of transmission, “weekly fumigations, inspection of homes, surveillance and daily screening of the population, looking for people with symptoms of these diseases.”

Despite the government’s effort, “the cornerstone in the prevention and control of these viruses remains the responsibility of families and individuals to cooperate with these measures,” the doctor insisted.

Durán also recalled that summer “the rise” of respiratory and diarrheal diseases is common, but stressed that their incidence in Cuba “has decreased and cholera has not been reported for two years.”

According to the most recent official data, published last March,  Cuba  reduced dengue cases by 68% in 2017, recorded no chikungunya patients, and detected autochthonous Zika transmission in 14 of its 169 municipalities.
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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.

Fifteen Artists Denounce "Legalized Censorship"

Artists against decree 349 during the debate this Wednesday and Thursday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 3 August 2018 — A group of independent artists has decided to confront Decree 349 which regulates the dissemination of culture and catalogs its content, calling it “legalized censorship.”  Fifteen creators meeting this week in Havana agreed to carry out actions to show their resistance to some of the measures that affect the alternative sector and activities on private premises.

For two days, Wednesday and Thursday, at the headquarters of the Museum of Politically Uncomfortable Art (MAPI) in Old Havana, the artists debated the Law Decree that will take effect in December.  Before its application, the legislation is already making waves, especially among musicians, comedians and other artists who perform in clubs and restaurants managed by the private sector.

The artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara says that the independent artists, who are not affiliated with any Ministry of Culture entity, are not against “paying taxes for personal income,” given that they can be used to qualify for retirement.  “We have said no because we think it has to do with legalizing censorship and making us prisoners for the simple fact that we have a different way of thinking than a certain system,” he says. continue reading

Decree 349 establishes rigid rules about presentations in private or state spaces for musicians and other creators.  In every case the artists must have prior authorization from the cultural institution with which they will be affiliated obligatorily, which can directly affect those who work outside of those state entities.

The content of presentations and work also will be regulated.  The places where music is disseminated or artistic activities developed “in which violence is generated with sexist, vulgar, discriminatory or obscene language” may receive penalties ranging from a fine to cancellation of the license to operate privately.  This measure may fundamentally affect urban genres like reggaeton and also humorists.

The controls will extend to book seller stalls where it is forbidden to sell volumes “with content that is harmful to ethical or cultural values,” a restriction that could end the private distrbution of works by Government-censored authors such as Mario Vargas Llosa and Vaclav Havel, among others.

During the first day’s debale at MAPI the artists unanimously denounced “the vagueness” of the law that can be “interpreted in many ways.”  In more than one session the constant use in the text of the expression “political culture” was criticized, a phrase that, for Iris Ruis, is completely subject to the interpretation of whoever applies it.

“If you read the whole decree you can see that the offenses described as very serious are those that have to do with political culture, and serious, those that relate to the provision of services.  “Where is that politics written in black and white?  Where and for whom has the Ministry of Culture published the political culture that they refer to here?” she asks.

The actress says one of the most perverse effects of the law is its repercussions on more current Cuban art.  “Being institutional in Cuba means entereing the political culture that today censors a great deal of what is contmporary art in Cuba and the whole world, therefore it excludes our contemporary art from the world,” she maintains.

In the debate on Wednesday Yanelys Nunez remembered that some of the basis for this law was already found in another from 1997 and that the new one is an update that worsens obstacles to cultural production.

Nunez called on “all artists and interested people who live in Cuba or outside” and  “Cuban or foreign artists worried about free creation” to join the initiative and demand that the decree not be applied to independent creators.  “Institutions cannot control what the artist produces at his home,” she claimed.

During the debate the art historian recalled, paper in hand, that the Creator’s Registry can remove an artist when the position that he assumes “is contrary to the country’s political cultural.”  This happened to the artists Italo Exposito and Luis Trapaga after participating in the #00Bienal.

Some artists present at the debate are aware of the reach that the law can have when exploring complex horizons from the moral point of view.  Italo Exposito believes that it is important to understand that in the history of Cuban art “we have great masters who have contributed to human dignity, and they all transgressed limits.”  The painter laments that now they will try to take from him a freedom that he has earned working at home and that no one has given to him.

The congregated artists have received the support and legal expertise of the Cubalex group, and its lawyer Laritza Diversent, now a resident of the United States, who made public her position through social networks.  In them she has shown that it is a law that “violates the right of every person to pariticipate in cultural life” and the “right to the indispensable free creator.”

Yanelys Nunez explained to 14ymedio that last Thursday they devoted themselves to receiving and generating proposals that support the campaign against the decree from the legal and artistic point of view, and they came to several agreements.  “What we ask it aht the Creator’s Registry be eliminated and that Decree 349 not be applied to the independent artist who has earned a space working for years on the margin of everything,” said the artist.

Also, she said that the Miami Poetry Festival, Vista, will support the initiative that they promote from Havana.  Artists Ana Olema and Diddier Santos are going to dedicate a space they they have at that event to supporting the campaign to fight against Decree 349 from exile.

The battle against Decree 349 began Saturday, July 21, with a protest by Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, Soandry Del Rio, Jose Ernesto Alonso, Iris Ruiz, Amaury Pacheco and Yanelys Nunez on the steps of the capitol of Havana.  The protest act, which had not begun when the police arrived, ended in the arrest of all participants except Yanelys Nunez, the only one who could express her complaint.  For Otero Alcantara that bit of protest cost him two days’ detention in the Zanja Street police station.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

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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.

Facebook, Do Not Leave Us In the Hands of Etecsa!

For those who live in societies with little access to the Internet, third-party services were an opportunity to publish on several networks at once. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havavna, 4 August 2014 — Facebook is changing its privacy policy, a scenario that was easy to foresee after the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal that affected 87 million accounts on this social network. Last April, CEO and company founder Mark Zuckerberg announced changes to prevent a similar situation from happening again.

Until now, those of us who use this platform — to disseminate stories, inform about our realities and seek a minimum of protection against the repressive onslaught of certain regimes – had no worries. Rather it seemed that we would be more protected from surveillance, attacks and data theft.

However, many of us who live in societies where freedoms are violated also suffer difficulties in connecting to the web. Hence, we use paths that range from the basic text-only messages of mobile telephony (SMS), to email or services such as IFTTT and Buffer, which allow you to update several profiles at the same time and to connect them to each other. continue reading

On August 1, the news hit like a sledgehammer. HootSuite alerted people that they will not be able to upload content to Facebook’s personal profiles from their HootSuite account. With that announcement, my chances of keeping my wall updated wall were significantly reduced. Most of the time I use third party services due to my limited access to the web and to the considerable length of time Facebook takes to load on the slow connections on the Island.

For a long time I have been able to upload my voice to Facebook, in a regular and updated way, because HootSuite allowed me to prepare the messages, program them, send them in unison to several online services, and take advantage of a few minutes on one of the wifi zones operated by Etecsa, the state telecommunications monopoly, to narrate my reality. With that possibility now closed, I fear that my presence on those sites will be less frequent.

Some friends tell me not to despair and remind me that Etecsa recently announced that the coming of the internet to Cuban mobile phones was “almost ready.” But putting hope in a company that is responsible for our technological backwardness does not seem realistic to me. Nor is it clear whether, when the web browsing service comes to cell phones, it will be possible to enter Facebook, or if the government will try to impose a local, controlled and “safe” substitute.

When the administrators of Facebook decided to shut down many third-party services, they did not foresee the fragile state in which they left the thousands or millions of users across the planet who experience restrictions in their connectivity, whether due to bandwidth or censorship problems. Slamming the door on that community, without having previously improved the tools that allow us to effectively and safely overcome these obstacles is, at the very least, a snub. This social network has a commitment to all those people who have used multiple ways to make their voices heard. They can’t burn our bridges now.

These “Internet users without Internet,” or with very little Internet, chose third party services because the ‘blue giant’ has quickly shifted in the direction of serving increasingly connected companies, users with ever more intelligent phones and countries where people speak of ‘digital government’ and ‘the internet of things’, but it has been clumsy in continuing to promote more basic tools that allow any individual with an old mobile phone and an idea to share, to post content on their wall.

It now remains for the network of “Likes” and smiley faces to strive to find solutions for these users, to put its teams to work – also — for that fraction of the world that does not have smooth access to the network but needs it as a protective shield, whistleblower channel and information bulletin board.

Come on, Facebook, you can do it… because we cannot rely on Etecsa…

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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 Doctor Dies While Working for Medical Program in Brazil

The Cuban doctor Yanier Samón De Hombre and his wife Josileny Samón in Brazil. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio — Yanier Samón de Hombre, a thirty-two-year-old Cuban doctor who was working as a member of the Brazilian medical program Mais Médicos (More Doctors), died last Thursday in Livramento de Nossa senhora, a small town in the northeatern Brazilian state of Bahía.

According to local news sources, Samón had sought medical treatment for abdominal pain, was given medication and released. He later returned and was admitted to the same hospital. While being transferred to another facility, however, he died. Initial reports listed pancreatitis as the cause of death.

According to official documents obtained by 14ymedio, Samón married a Brazilian woman, Josileny Samón, last April and began working at Mais Médicos on July 3, 2017. continue reading

More than 18,000 Cuban doctors have passed through Brazil since the two governments created the Mais Médicos program in 2013 in an effort to increase the presence of medical personnel in small towns and rural areas. The number of Cuban doctors in the program has decreased since the impeachment of former president Dilma Roussef. Nevertheless, the current figure stands at more than 8,000.

Brazil pays Havanna around 3,600 dollars a month per doctor, of which each physician receives a monthly stipend of 900 dollars from the Cuban government. However, neither Cuban medical professionals nor their families receive compensation in the event of accident or death.

The export of medical services is one of the main sources of income for the Cuban government, which currently has tens of thousands of health care professionals deployed in more than sixty countries. Their work has brought in more than 11.5 million dollars according to official statistics. Human rights activists have criticized this practice, describing it as “modern slavery.”

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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 Human Rights Groups Denounces More Arrests and Consolidation of the "Totalitarian Model"

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 August 2018 — During the month of July there were 229 arbitrary arrests, “for purely political reasons, of peaceful dissidents”, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) denounces in its most recent monthly report. The figure is 107 arrests more than in June.

“We are going to see a rebound in these kinds of repressive actions,” warns the independent organization based in Havana, with activists being detaines only for “triying to exercise elementary civil and political rights.”

Cuban State Security “carried out 36 illegal acts of harassment, directly or through other repressive structures under its control.” These actions against the dissidents are embedded “within a permanent strategy aimed at intimidating, discouraging or demobilizing peaceful opponents,” warns the text. continue reading

The report includes the case of three independent lawyers, Maybell Padilla, René Gómez Manzano and Carlos Miranda, who were “prevented from attending a legal profession event that took place in Uruguay at the end of July.” A similar situation happened to activist Daniuska González and musician Gorki Águila, who were forbidden to travel abroad.

“In all cases, plane tickets and other financial resources have been lost to cover collateral expenses related to travel,” the CCDHRN says of these repressive acts.

The Commission also considers that the reforms of the Constitution “will not mean substantive improvements in terms of the situation of civil and political rights and other fundamental freedoms.” The report points out the “Gatopardian* character” of the currently proposed changes in the Cuban constitution because “changes are announced so that everything remains the same as before.”

“With these changes in the constitution, the Castro regime ensures its permanent objective of guaranteeing the reproduction of the totalitarian model that has been on the island for almost six decades,” the report criticizes.

Last June, the CCDHRN estimated the number of political prisoners on the island at 120. Among them, the case of Eduardo Cardet Concepción, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, stands out.

*Translator’s note: I.e.: “To change everything so that nothing changes.”

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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 Traps of Constitutional Reform

Copies of the draft constitution are now available at newsstands. (EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, West Palm Beach, 1 August 2018 – A reading of the 224 articles of the constitutional draft confirms the Government’s intention to shore up and update its own legitimacy through the modifications made to the Constitution.

The second objective seeks the elimination of any possibility, whether current or future, of questioning the illegitimately established “socialist” political system, with the Communist Party (alone) as the “society’s and the State’s leading and superior force” at the forefront — now with the appended epithet of “fidelista” — which in itself contradicts any presumption for a democratic Constitution.

The third intention is to tweak the legal framework in order to adapt it, to some extent, to XXI Century-language, and to offer a chameleonic response to the requirements and criticisms that are being made against Cuba in the forums of many international organizations. continue reading

As expected, an autocratic legal empire is maintained which makes it impossible for the governed, in their capacity as citizens, to regulate, modify or suppress the outrages of power. This legal anomaly will remain camouflaged under terms previously demonized because it corresponds to the liberal principles of the “decadent capitalist society” that will now be made sacred even from the very preamble of the Law of Laws. This is demonstrated by the introduction of the “new” concept of a democratic, independent and sovereign socialist State of Law, declared in article 1, chapter I (Fundamental Principles of the Nation)

This article reaffirms the congenital malformation that characterizes the current Constitution by establishing that Cuba “has as its essential objectives the enjoyment of political freedom, equity, justice and social equality” rights that, nevertheless, are abolished by the obligatory nature and irreversibility of socialism as a political system, endorsed in Article 3, which does not recognize the multiparty system, and by the greater power that Article 5 grants to the Communist Party, whose attributions are incontestable.

Later on, Article 39 insists that “the Cuban State guarantees the enjoyment and inalienable, indivisible and interdependent exercise of human rights to the people, in accordance with the progressive principle and without discrimination,” when in fact the Constitution project — though it penalizes discrimination on the grounds of gender, race and religious beliefs — ratifies, without disguise, the existing political ideas that differ from those set by the Power.

This is reinforced by Article 224, which declares that “the pronouncements about the irrevocability of socialism and the political and social system established in article 3 will not be able to be reformed at all.”

Another detail of article 39 is this gem that masks another subtle legal trap: “The rights and duties recognized in this Constitution are interpreted in accordance with international human rights treaties ratified by Cuba,” but it just so happens that the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are among the main international human rights treaties in existence, none of which has been ratified by Cuba.

While Title IV (Rights, Duties and Guarantees) dedicates the entire chapter III to Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, Civil and Political Rights do not receive an equal treatment. This corresponds, undoubtedly, to the fact that this is an absolutely private plot of the Communist Party. The recognition of private property, a term that is hardly mentioned to indicate that it is one of the five “forms of property” recognized in Article 21, is one of the new developments that have been privileged with the attention of the international information media in recent weeks. At this point we should make mention of the undeniable talent of the dictatorship for creating suspense, dazzling the foreign press and introducing false expectations of democratic changes that, in reality, only reinforce the omnipotent power of the ruling caste.

Types of property allowed in the project are: the socialist, in which the sagacious State acts as owner “representing and in the benefit of all the people” the cooperative, as conceived by the State-Party-Government itself; the mixed, which combines two or more forms of property; that of the political, mass and social organizations, which constitutes a true unknown and undoubtedly a heavy burden for the public treasury; the private one, which “is exercised over certain means of production” and, finally, the personal, which “is exercised over goods that, without constituting means of production, help in fulfilling the material and spiritual needs of the owner”, which, expressed in such ambiguous terms, could include at the same level both housing and automobile, as well as the TV set or the deodorant used by anyone. This is how deep the changes are.

Of course, threats to any manifestation of dissidence are ever-present, permeating the spirit of a constitutional reform “forged by the people to give continuity to the Revolution and socialism”. The text is even more explicit when it asserts that “citizens have the right to combat, by all means, (…) anyone who attempts to overthrow the political, social and economic order established by this Constitution.” Among that which must be “combatted” is “the cyberwar” (Article 16), as a sort of reproachful little finger that points to independent and alternative journalism and that, in the end, constitutes an unacceptable recognition of the advancement of these methods of communication, hand in hand with information technology sneaking into Cuba, in spite of controls and State censorship.

The profusion of articles about the project, the diversity and complexity of the issues and the pedestrian mode of their writing prevent a complete analysis all at once. Undoubtedly, each paragraph is worthy of comments that cannot be addressed in a space as limited as an opinion column.

If this time anything can be made to coincide with the masters of the plantation, authors of the legalistic monster, it is the fragment of a statement that reads as follows: “We Cubans must be aware of the commitment that the new Constitution of the Republic implies for present and future generations.” It could probably be the truest words of the whole project. Because, although of the “popular consultation” surprises cannot be expected, Cubans will have the opportunity to say NO at the polls and assert their rejection of a dictatorship that, since before learning to protect itself with legalistic tricks, had stripped the Cubans of their dignity and of their rights. It is now trying to snatch the last hopes from us, but it wouldn’t necessarily have to be “more of the same.” Acquiescence or rebellion: that is the real issue, and it is not to be decided by the Government, but by the vote. Will we go for it?

Translated by Norma Whiting

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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.

US Drastically Reduces Tourist Visas for Cubans

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 10 July 2018 — The United States reduced the delivery of tourist visas to Cubans by 30% after the mysterious acoustic incidents in Havana that led to the evacuation of most US personnel from the Cuban capital.

According to figures from the State Department obtained by Martí Noticias, during the current fiscal year 2018 (which includes from October 2017 to May 2018), only 2,414 tourist visas have been issued for “family visits, cultural exchanges and business trips.” Of that number, 83% were issued in US consulates outside of Cuba.

Nonimmigrant (tourism) visas are known by their abbreviations B-1 and B-2. The B-1 visas are issued primarily for business trips, while the B-2 are for those who want engage in tourism, family visits or receive medical treatment in the United States. In 2013, the US extended the duration of the B-2 visa issued in Cuba, allowing it to be extended for a period of five years and allowing multiple entries. continue reading

Since the United States reduced its Havana staff by less than half in September 2017 and suspended the visa process in Cuba, those who are interested in traveling as tourists to the United States must go to a US consulate in another Latin American country to process their request. The processing of paperwork to legally migrate to the United States was transferred first to the US consulate in Colombia and then, as of this summer, to Guyana, one of the few countries in the world that does not require a visa for Cubans.

Of the number of visas issued since October, 158 are for B-1 visas and 1,178 are B-2. In addition, 1,078 documents are for the dual categories of B-1 and B-2. The website points out that the most significant cut is concentrated in the case of visas for cultural exchange, which fell by 28% with respect to the total of B-1 visas and double-category visas.

US Tourist visas issued to Cubans. (Marti Noticias)

Martí Noticias points out that since 1997 there has not been a decrease of such magnitude in the number of visas granted to Cubans. In that year, 5,829 tourist visas were issued.

The United States blamed Cuba for failing to protect the health of 26 members of its diplomatic corps on the island who presented symptoms such as migraines and nausea, hearing loss and imbalance. Canadian officials have also reported similar clinical pictures without it being possible to identify the causes of what the State Department initially alled “acoustic attacks.”

The Cuban government strongly denies that it has anything to do with the injuries to foreign officials and has allowed US research agencies to enter the island. Cuba says that the alleged attacks are part of a strategy of the current administration of Donald Trump to derail the normalization of relations between both countries initiated under Barack Obama in 2014.

The United States and Cuba signed migratory agreements in the mid-1990s to eliminate the mass exodus of rafters to the coast of Florida. Following the signing of the agreements, Washington undertook to issue 20,000 visas a year in Havana to promote “orderly and regular” emigration, in addition to returning to Cuba rafters who were detained at sea.

On January 12, 2017, outgoing President Barack Obama eliminated the wet foot/dry foot that gave automatic refuge to Cubans arriving in US territory.

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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.