‘Some Cars That Are Incompatible With Our Society Are Entering Cuba’

Prime Minister warns that imports of luxury cars will be controlled

A recently imported Mercedes with a private license plate in Camajuaní, Villa Clara. / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 July 2024 — A black and white, 650-horsepower Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 parked in front of a shabby house in El Guaso, Guantánamo. A brand-new Rubicon jeep moving through the outskirts of Morón, in Ciego de Ávila. A brand-new Mercedes-Benz, which a soldier “on foot” looks at in amazement as he turns a corner in Havana where someone has painted a sign: “Fidel among us.”

“They are on board,” said Prime Minister Manuel Marrero on Wednesday, referring to the owners of luxury cars. “Haven’t they realized that the gasoline in Cuba is not good for that?” he concluded, in a joking tone, before launching a warning: “There are some cars that are coming in that are really not compatible with our society, they are not necessary, and we have to limit the amount based on the interests of the country.”

In Cuba, known around the world for its vintage cars – actually survivors of a shortage of parts and vehicles after 1959 – there are hundreds of luxury cars in circulation, as confirmed by car enthusiast groups on Facebook. They started out as “diplomatic” cars, since only embassy personnel drove vehicles of that calibre, but the term was extended to all types of recently imported cars, which no longer go unnoticed. continue reading

They started out as “diplomatic” cars, as only embassy personnel drove vehicles of that caliber, but the term was extended to all types of cars.

“We have regulated how the importing of vehicles into the country should be,” Marrero began, describing in his speech the “new policy for the transfer of ownership of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers, their commercialization or importation,” of which all the details are not yet known.

The State decreed, first of all, that all vehicle sales within the Island – including used bodies – will be made in national currency. Only the state-owned company Servicios Automotores will be able to import and sell car and motorcycle parts in foreign currency, but “exclusively as replacement parts.”

Diplomats, Cubans on “missions” and Cuban businessmen abroad will be able to continue importing cars from abroad, he added. However, there will be “requirements to guarantee technical compatibility” so that the cars that enter the country do not “melt down.”

According to Marrero, the transfer of ownership of a vehicle is authorized. The Government welcomes the importation of tricycles – “it helps a lot with the needs,” he added – in which the current Minister of Transport, Eduardo Rodríguez Dávila, has placed his hopes. “These regulations are in the process of being implemented,” he clarified.

The circulation of luxury cars in Cuba began as a rumor – the first photos of a Tesla or a Lamborghini were fake – but it is now a fact. Camajuaní, the mecca of Cuban footwear in Villa Clara and where shoemakers – converted into elite SMSEs – have built real mansions, is a good example of the proliferation of “diplomats.” This newspaper collected images of recently imported cars – such as a Mercedes-Benz with a private license plate, parked in the peripheral neighborhood of La Ceiba – by shoemaking families such as the Chávez, the Cintra or the Fernández.

A brand new Mercedes-Benz, which a soldier on foot looks at in amazement as he turns a corner in Havana where someone has painted a sign: “Fidel among us.” / RR.SS.

But it is in Facebook groups, such as Diplomatic Cars in Cuba , where the wide circulation of these vehicles – often without license plates – is best evidenced. In this type of group, advertisements for the sale of high-end cars are also published, such as a 2019 Dodge Challenger whose owner gave a full demonstration on a track and demanded that payment be made in the United States.

Fans warn of the many drawbacks to maintaining such a vehicle in Cuba, including a lack of fuel and the poor state of the roads. While one user praised the power of his Aston Martin, another pointed out the pothole in front of the wheels with a comment: “There we can see one of the many holes that will quickly destroy your very expensive suspension.”

Several collectors, even in the midst of the crisis, have the money not only to import new cars, but to restore old gems, such as the 1977 Pontiac Firebird whose photo was shared by a user. One of the enthusiasts knew the vehicle well and identified it as an old car from the Mexican Embassy in Havana during the 1980s. The diplomats, he reported, sold it to a wealthy family from Playa, and it was “missing” for years but has now been restored, it is not known by whom.

Many of these cars have been linked on numerous occasions to the families of the regime’s military leadership. Fidel Castro’s grandson, Sandro Castro , confirmed these suspicions in 2021, when he published a video while driving a Mercedes-Benz, which he described as his new “toy,” at 140 kilometers per hour.

The average Cuban – an expression that has reached its most literal meaning with the transportation crisis – without money to import the expensive “jeeps” to which Marrero referred, asks himself in groups only one question: “What do I have to do to be a diplomat?”

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

A Cuban Mother Is Murdered by Her Husband of 30 Years

Damaris Rondón, 48, was a teacher at the Fladio Álvarez Galán School of Sports Initiation

Damaris Rondón was 48 years old / Facebook

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 11, 2024 — Damaris Rondón, mother of two children, died at home in a rural town on Isla de la Juventud, after being assaulted by her husband on June 22. The attack left irreversible damage that caused her death on June 29, reported the Observatory of the Cuban feminist magazine Alas Tensas. As has happened on other occasions, the news had been reported on social networks, but independent platforms had not yet confirmed it. The 48-year-old woman was a teacher at the Fladio Álvarez Galán School Sports Initiation School, on Isla de la Juventud.

The first reports said that Rondón’s husband, identified as Luis Yero, “waited for his two children to leave the house and struck his wife on the head with a bat.” After the attack, the man committed suicide.

The attack left her with irreversible damage, which caused her death on June 29

The same Facebook post pointed out that, after the attack, Rondón was rescued and taken to a hospital, where she remained alive for four days; however, “she died from the blow to her head.” The couple had been married for 30 years, and although they lived in Isla de la Juventud with their children, they were natives of El Sitio, in Manzanillo, Granma. continue reading

Alas Tensas also confirmed the femicide of Yunaisi Bruzón Almaguer, reported by 14ymedio on June 25. The 54-year-old woman was murdered in the town of El Llano, in Holguín, and hers was the sixth death due to gender violence perpetrated in Cuba last June, including the death of Rondón.

Posts on social networks by activists and people close to Bruzón related how she died after receiving multiple stab wounds, allegedly from an unknown person. He was later identified as Carlos Rodríguez Cruz, and he surrendered to the police the next day.

Alas Tensas’ report included, for “gender reasons,” the murder of a man on July 8, in the town of Suferry, in Ciego de Ávila, at the hands of his daughter’s former partner. The man, his sister and a neighbor were injured in the attack and hospitalized.

The observatory urged the authorities to investigate at least six cases of sexist violence to determine if they are femicides

With the confirmation of both femicides, 27 are now registered on the Island in 2024, according to the count of this media. In 2023, there were 87 murders due to gender violence counted by independent platforms and media.

Likewise, the observatory urged the authorities to investigate at least six cases of gender violence to determine if they are femicides: three in Havana, two in Santiago de Cuba and one in Villa Clara.

Last January, the regime recognized that more than 16,000 Cuban women and girls who live in a situation of violence and are at risk of being victims of femicide in their own homes. No specific steps to prevent these crimes have been announced to date.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

One of the Few Hearses Still in Operation in Cuba Crashes

Two people were injured, the driver and the co-pilot, after the vehicle crashed into a tree in Holguín

The crash happened at the intersection of Martí Street and Central Highway / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Holguín, 15 July 2024 — Two people were injured, the driver and the co-pilot, after crashing the hearse against a tree this Saturday at the intersection of Martí Street and the Central Highway, in Holguín.
The vehicle, which was not transporting a coffin, apparently “lost its brakes” and went through a garden of one of the residential buildings until it embedded itself in a tree trunk, a witness to the accident reported to 14ymedio. The wounded, with minor injuries, were immediately rescued.

In recent years the Cuban government has received several donations for hearses, but the transfer of coffins by means of this transport is increasingly deficient. The service has had to be assumed by private and state cars not licensed to carry coffins, or even by carts pulled by horses and oxen.

The vehicle, which was not carrying a coffin, apparently “lost its brakes” and went through a garden of one of the residential buildings until it embedded itself in a tree trunk

Due to the poor condition of many of these vehicles and the lack of maintenance, they often break down on the way to the cemetery or on the road. In Las Tunas, for example, last February, of the 13 hearses that the province had, only four were in working condition. Two are in the capital, and the other two are in Colombia and Jobabo. continue reading

“The fundamental cause of the low technical availability of these cars is the lack of tires and electrical components, mainly batteries,” the deputy director of Hygiene and Necrology of the province, Raúl Ernesto Martínez, explained at the time. To this is added, of course, the general lack of fuel, spare parts and modern vehicles on the Island.

In any case, the families are the ones who suffer the most. The delay of the drivers to pick up the deceased and the bureaucracy of the Communal Services are well known. The sector is constantly criticized, and many Cubans, feeling helpless, go on social networks to denounce the ineffectiveness of the authorities.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The Economic Debacle of Cienfuegos, Cuba, Abandoned by International Tourism

Artisans complain about the increase in the price of raw materials / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Julio César Contreras, Cienfuegos, July 7, 2024 — Cienfuegos was never a tourist enclave of great importance like Havana or Varadero, but its architectural charm, more republican than colonial, attracted those looking for city tourism but without the bustle of the capital. In recent years, however, the number of travelers passing through the Pearl of the South has fallen, and, at least since the COVID-19 pandemic, the businesses that depended on that movement are fewer and poorer. A few meters from the city’s boulevard, next to José Martí Park, the artisans of the Cultural Heritage Fund have a space dedicated to the sale of their products. From wooden sculptures to textiles and costume jewelry, the stalls that offer handmade merchandise have been losing their prosperity.

María Luisa, an artisan who manages one of the tables, has witnessed the debacle. “Sales have been greatly affected. Just a few years ago, up to ten buses with tourists stopped here every day, and, although almost everything we sell is for them, from time to time some Cuban would come here to shop too,” she tells 14ymedio.

“Then we could even have the luxury of giving discounts, because we had enough profit to live on,” recalls the 43-year-old cienfueguera, who sells all kinds of memorabilia that can attract interest from abroad: paintings by Compay Segundo, maracas adorned with Cuban flags, cow bone necklaces and Che magnets. continue reading

Other private businesses that lived off tourism in the city have also experienced the consequences of the debacle / 14ymedio

In the current situation, María Luisa explains, the prices of raw materials have risen so much that “it is not only difficult to get them, but also to make a living from handicrafts… If before those who did better had enough to hire a seller, now it is the artisans themselves who sell the products. Between investments, taxes and paying for table space, many have had to abandon the sales,” she says.

Other private businesses that lived on tourism in the city have also experienced the consequences of the debacle of the sector. This is the case of the small hostel managed by Alberto, who is worried that this off-season will be the last. The cienfueguero has a two-story Republican era house that he fixed up a few years ago to receive tourists. However, with his age, 72, and how difficult it has become to get food and cleaning supplies, “it’s hard to provide services.”

The costs per night in a private hostel range between 20 and 50 dollars, or, if the owners accept the exchange, its equivalent in MLC (freely convertible currency), depending on the characteristics and location of the place. “Before, food service could be provided to guests, but now between how expensive the food is and how difficult it is to find varied and quality products to offer them what they want, we have almost begun to provide only a simple breakfast.” Offering other services such as the internet, common in other countries, is also a challenge. “It’s spending money on something that most of the time doesn’t work, or the connection is very slow,” he explains.

The house has also begun to show humidity in some corners, which causes Alberto headaches in advance since, if he needs any major repair, the materials will not only be impossible to find, but they will also cost him “an arm and a leg .”

Even so, many of the foreigners who pass through the city prefer a private hostel, which offers a more personalized service, rather than staying in state facilities. It is to be expected, therefore, that these will also suffer from the lack of customers. The La Unión hotel itself, in the city, with a four-star category, recently had all of its 46 rooms empty.

Most of the customers of state hotels are nationals / 14ymedio

“We try to make up for the absence of international tourism with the authorization of services for domestic customers. Although not everyone can afford the prices of our pool or cafes, at least we try to please our visitors, although sometimes we have broken elevators and other deficiencies that cause logical inconvenience to both tourists and employees. Our profits are below what was planned, but we do our best to pay good attention,” a worker of the complex managed by the Spanish Meliá, who has accommodation from 70 dollars a night, explained to this newspaper.

At the end of the chain are the restaurants of the city, many designed to exclusively receive tourists, which have now suddenly been left without a clientele and have had to “adapt.” Facing José Martí park is the El Palatino cafeteria, whose current customers are – contrary to their initial purpose – “cienfuegueros who come to have a coffee, a beer or a drink from the canteen.” Musicians no longer play there, and there are no tips for the waiters, condemned to survive with “very low wages for these times.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Food Production in Cuba Is Going Through Its Worst Moments

Deficiencies in all sectors, non-payments to producers, lack of fuel and an exodus of labor

In the first quarter of the year, 6,723 state workers and 7,418 cooperative members abandoned tasks related to the sugar harvest / Cubadebate

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 16, 2024 — If anything became clear this Monday after the analysis in the National Assembly of the performance of the Food Industry and Agriculture so far this year, it is that none of the sectors – very dependent on each other – is progressing at a good pace. No improvement is expected either, since the problems that hit them the most persist: fuel continues to be scarce; wages are insufficient to prevent workers from leaving; and producers, who are owed millions of pesos, prefer not to do business with the State.

As acknowledged by Alexis Rodríguez Pérez, Director General of Economy and Agricultural Development of the Ministry of Agriculture, of the ten fundamental categories, only four have met their targets since 2023 and so far this year: produce, vegetables, corn and rice; whereas, meat, milk and egg productions are in a critical state.

The official warned that “the indices of beef and horse meat production have been affected by the poor organizational work between the companies and the slaughterhouses for the hiring of producers, the insufficiency in the transport of animals to the slaughterhouse due to lack of fuel, the low weight of the animals slaughtered due to the deficit in animal feed and the drought in some territories.” continue reading

Of a plan for 20,400 tons of beef for the first half of 2024, only 15,200 were achieved

Of a plan for 20,400 tons of beef for the first half of 2024, only 15,200 were achieved. For pork, only 3,800 tons were reached in the same period, out of the 11,300 projected. The figures are alarming when compared to those of 2022, when, for beef alone, 172,300 tons were produced in the year.

Eggs remained at 94,070,000 units, below the 231,900,000 units agreed. “Other products also reflected the downward trend with respect to the plan: beans, tobacco, milk, coffee, cocoa and honey,” adds Cubadebate without mentioning figures.

With such numbers, it is not surprising that 74 companies in the sector have closed the semester with losses of 1,199,946,100 pesos, with the worst situation being Avicola (poultry), Tabacuba (tobacco), Agroforestal (agroforestry), Ganadera (livestock), and Labiofam (pharmaceuticals). Likewise, the non-payments to farmers, due to the huge debt of Acopio — Cuba’s State Procurement and Distribution agency — is another burden. The two most critical cases are the debts of Artemisa province, 167,694,630 pesos, and Mayabeque province, 15,166,378.

“The fundamental cause is the debt of Acopio-La Habana with the companies,” explains the official press, which says that to “solve” the problem, the Central Bank of Cuba approved a credit of 400 million pesos, in addition to a revolving credit line (which can be re-requested if paid on time) of 100 million that will allow Acopio to “pay for the current purchases from the marketing agricultural companies, among other credits approved to other companies that carry debts from the year 2022.”

The measure, however, is far from making the real problem disappear: the lack of the State budget and the failed business models that do not guarantee production. “The Government seems to have normalized that great ‘distortion’ of the Cuban economy called Acopio, which continues with its eternal mania of not paying its debts, a bad practice that today is rewarded with generous credits from the state bank,” the economist Pedro Monreal laments on his X account.

It’s not just the salaries for the producers that put the food industry at stake. In the first quarter of the year, 6,723 state workers and 7,418 cooperative members abandoned jobs related to the harvest, mostly in search of “job opportunities with higher remuneration and the demand for skilled labor by the new economic actors,” according to the authorities.

“To conclude the last harvest and fulfill the plan, extra personnel had to be sought, including 113 inmates who joined the task”

“To conclude the last harvest and fulfill the plan, extra personnel had to be sought, including 113 inmates who joined the work,” they add. The “discovery” that wages are insufficient is, at the very least, “absurd at this point in the game,” Monreal says.

The sugar campaign not only lost an important part of its workforce, but the shortage of fuel, the lack of fertilizers and the burning of cane — 750,000 tons were lost for this reason — in addition to about 16,000 hectares that remained uncollected, also weighed down production. The poor quality of the plant was also a cause for complaint among the producers.

During the first months of 2024, the laws and resolutions implemented, such as the Fisheries and Food Sovereignty Law, have not managed to improve the situation either. The greater flexibility to deliver licenses to fishermen, among other measures, have managed to increase permits by 48% compared to 2022, but fewer and fewer fishermen enter into contracts with the State — since it is no longer mandatory to obtain authorization. As a result, “the catches declared by these economic actors amounted to 1,029 tons in 2023 and 214 tons up to April of this year, but fishing companies have only bought 104 tons, 48.8% of the declared catch,” the authorities calculate.

“The catches and industrial production [targets] are also not complied with, reaching only 68% of what was planned,” which has its main cause in the shortage of fishermen, “the lack of better living and working conditions for them” and neglect of the reservoirs.

The Island’s assessment is exactly what the deputies warned about from the beginning of the sessions about the Agriculture and Food Industry: in the Cuban economy there is a “tendency to non-compliance” and very few clear solutions.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuba’s Attorney General Is Congratulated for Compliance With ‘the Policy of Severity’

The authorities believe that the Constitution, approved in 2019, is based on “legal guarantees”

Yamila Peña explained that 91% of the prison sentences that prosecutors have requested have been ratified / Cubadebate

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 16, 2024 — Yamila Peña, Attorney General of Cuba, celebrated that “the policy of severity is being complied with,” during a meeting on Monday with senior officials of the Public Ministry and the Interior. Her assessment came after offering a fact: 91% of the prison sentences that Cuban prosecutors have requested this year have been ratified by the judges. The members of the Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs of the Parliament – lawyers, judges and police – meeting this week, commented on a remark by the president of the Supreme Court, Rubén Remigio Ferro, on the 2019 Constitution: “We have given ourselves extremely supportive laws, which are a challenge for those involved in procedural management.”

The legal situation is aggravated if it is considered that Cuba only has 69% of the judges and 74% of the prosecutors it needs to operate with the required “severity” – a word repeated by all the members of the Commission. The Prosecutor’s Office is in the middle of the “preparation and reorganization of the force,” Peña said, at the worst of times: the country is in crisis and crime has proliferated.

Prosecutors have asked to pay more attention to the investigation and police instruction. The officers, it was explained at the meeting, drafted in the first half of this year more than 29,000 reports – documents in which a police investigation is recorded – and reviewed 39,000 files in the preparatory phase. continue reading

Some 57% of the accused whose names appeared on the reports ended up in jail

Some 57% of the accused whose names appeared on the reports ended up in prison, a sentence that was also applied to 84% of the defendants who appeared in the files in the preparatory phase, according to Peña. For the following semester, the priority of the Prosecutor’s Office is to improve its connection with the Ministry of the Interior in the literal sense: they aspire to the “technological interoperability of data.”

The idea, according to the president of the commission, José Luis Toledo, is”not to delay the criminal response” and that the “confrontation” be prioritized. Ferro agreed with this assessment and asked to respect the “quality of the processes,” which for the president of the Supreme Court means that the Police “be consistent” with the investigation, but that the Prosecutor’s Office maintains its role of “controlling.”

The commission demanded changes to the 2021 Law of Criminal Procedure and agreed to prepare a draft of suggestions that will be delivered in October. Prosecutors and other provincial officials also presented the difficulties “of the base”; in particular, the small staff, their lack of preparation – these are young graduates – and the fact that, also in a sector as rigid as the judiciary, they tend to leave the country or for other jobs.

Deputy Yensei González, from Granma province, warned that there are more “facts of violence and crimes against the patrimony,” and that the files of the prosecutor’s office are often closed with excessive delay and many breaches of protocol. Edelso Pérez, from Ciego de Ávila, complained about the “exodus abroad,” and asked his interlocutors and the Ministry of the Interior to “focus on the issue as a priority of the State.” “Human capital, technology and more resources are required,” he said.

Ledys María Labrador, deputy for Las Tunas, drew attention to the increase in technology-related crimes

Ledys María Labrador, deputy for Las Tunas, drew attention to the increase in technology-related crimes. The accused, she reported, are mostly “young people who are not professionals” but who have “deep knowledge” in the field of computer science, against whom, she warned, the government does not have enough tools. These are, above all, “digital scams” for which Cubans aren’t prepared.

First Colonel Moraima Bravet spoke on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior about digital crimes and said that criminals have become increasingly “sophisticated” in their methods of action, so detecting them has become more complex. “We are not behind,” she clarified. Her preventive measure: the television program Tras la Huella (Following the Tracks), funded by the Police, “is showing cases of different kinds” to tell Cubans how to protect themselves from digital scams.

Bravet was optimistic about the Ministry of the Interior, which, judging by its assessments, does not suffer the lack of personnel that the Prosecutor’s Office does. Its people work to ensure the “retention” of young recruits, and “there are many,” she stressed, working in the ranks of the Police. Also for them, she explained, the order of “severity” is given.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Mexico Hires Another 2,700 Cuban Doctors, in Addition to the 1,200 Previously Agreed On

The island’s government only gives doctors a stipend to cover their basic needs.

The director of the Mexican Institute of Social Security, Zoé Robledo, confirms the hiring of more specialists from the Island / Presidency

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ángel Salinas, Mexico City, July 16, 2024 — The Government of Mexico announced on Tuesday what the “strengthening of health cooperation” agreed with Cuba last May translates into: in the coming months it will import another 2,700 doctors from the Island. At the daily  presidential press conference the official said that, with this hiring, “hospitals and small centers” in rural areas will be able to have “at least 12 doctors,” which will ensure that there is service seven days a week in all work shifts.

The director of the Mexican Institute of Social Security (Imss) explained that 282 hospitals with 20 beds have been detected in rural areas where only four doctors worked, affecting health services. “Many times you could have the anesthesiologist but the surgeon was not there, or vice versa, so, we gave ourselves the task of putting out the call for doctors,” Robledo said.

The 2,700 specialists will join the 950 that, according to Robledo, are in Mexican territory

The 2,700 specialists will join the 950 who, according to Robledo, are in Mexican territory, specifically distributed in 23 states. These are part of a first agreement, signed in 2023, by which the Island would send 1,200 doctors to work in remote areas in the country. Among the new doctors will be specialists in “internal medicine, pediatrics and emergency procedures,” Robledo said, adding that surgeons, anesthesiologists and gynecologists are needed. continue reading

The official also indicated that Cuban doctors will be part of the Imss-Bienestar, the free health organization created by the Government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador to replace the Seguro Popular, in force until that time. However, he did not talk about the payment they will make to the company Neuronic Mexicana, a subsidiary of Neuronic S.A. Cuba, which since 2018 has been a representative of the products and services of the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry of the Island, and is under the presidency of the Cuban Tania Guerra.

A Mexican Health source confirmed last July to 14ymedio that specialists attached to the Imss-Bienestar will receive salaries of 50,000 pesos (2,732 dollars per month), in addition to a bonus of 10,000 pesos (545 dollars), for a total of 3,277 dollars.

In February 2023, a Cuban doctor stated that they only receive “a stipend for their needs” and that their “salary is in Cuba.” Of the amount paid by the Administration of López Obrador, the Government of the Island is left with most of the salary. Organizations such as Prisoners Defenders (PD) have questioned the Government of Mexico over the hiring of Cuban professionals in “conditions of slavery.”

The temporary migration program of health workers with “friendly countries,” said PD, is nothing more than the main inflow of foreign exchange for the Cuban regime, which receives compensation for each professional. Meanwhile, the health workers bear the cost,  through being subjected to contractual conditions that violate the international rules of decent employment and insult “the human condition to the limits.”

Precisely as part of the Imss-Bienestar, Robledo reported that 7,123 doctors have been hired in Mexico City and Guerrero

Precisely as part of the Imss-Bienestar, Robledo reported that 7,123 doctors have been hired in Mexico City and Guerrero. As of August 1, another 11,934 health workers will be sought.

He also reported that the call for the hiring of nursing staff remains open, with 3,646 vacancies: 1,027 for nursing assistants and 2,619 for general nursing staff in 27 entities.

Although none of the parties mentions it, specialists suspect that the import of doctors is the counterpart for oil shipments from Mexican ports, which are increasingly frequent. In any case, relations between the two countries will continue to strengthen during the presidency of Claudia Sheimbaum, who will take office on October 1.

For this, the figure of Lázaro Cárdenas Batel is key, who serves as head of advisers of Andrés Manuel López Obrador and who will be the next head of the Office of the Presidency of the Republic, as announced by the president-elect on July 12. He is unofficially credited with the initiative to import Cuban doctors, as well as to establish different trade relations between the two countries.

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

The Day Fidel Castro Admitted the Assault on the Moncada Barracks Was a Flop

On a program intended to commemorate the event, Castro ended up saying publicly that he should have skipped it and gone “straight to the Sierra Maestra.”

Fidel Castro during a July 24, 2000 appearance on State TV’s Roundtable program in which he spoke about the attack on Moncada. / Screencapture / Roundtable

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, July 17, 2024 — During a taping of the “Roundtable” program in 2000, Fidel Castro showed up unexpectedly at the television studio. “The problem is that I was listening to the program on television like everyone else,” he said on camera, “but I didn’t know that you were going to address these topics. And suddenly I see you asking a question. Someone interprets it one way, someone else another. And then I’m left thinking, ’Wow… I’m still here!’”

Needless to say, the panic on the faces of the panelists was immediately obvious. You could tell that everyone was trying to figure out where the hell they had screwed up. One of them, the most obsequious, nervously blurted out, “Who better than you, commander?” so they handed him the microphone. No one knows what brand of whiskey the dictator was drinking that day but it threw him for such a loop that it resulted in a stream of gibberish of biblical proportions.

The entire liturgy of the Castro regime is basically a celebration of failure. Mountains of books have been written on this topic but, if you ask any average Cuban student about it, the only thing he has been taught to say is: “It was the small engine that drove the big engine.” An example of how common it is in our classrooms to confuse history with mechanics.

No one knows what brand of whiskey the dictator was drinking that day but it threw him for such a loop that it resulted in a stream of gibberish of biblical proportions

The young Castro’s plan seemed simple enough: dress up some boys to look like sergeants, walk into the second largest military barracks in the country, take it over in ten minutes, give orders to the soldiers, grab the weapons Black-Friday-style and mobilize the entire party-going population of Santiago de Cuba. Such was Fidel’s confidence in the town that he decided not to recruit anyone from the area except for one person who, out of obligation, had previously cased the surroundings. In short, if the town continue reading

turned out to be too hungover to follow the beat, the fallback plan was to flee to the mountains. Piece of cake! The strategy dreamed up by this “genius” was primarily based on the assumption that the barracks’ soldiers were all as dumb as rocks.

It is not my intention in this article to rehash what happened at Moncada. Readers themselves can find thousands of accounts circulating online. Much better than listening to opponents demystify the event is being able to appreciate the personal frustration of its protagonist. Castro himself had already said in other interviews how, as a child, he became a ringworm killer. From his own mouth we found out that he learned at university it was better to bring a gun to the classroom than a book. But the Roundtable interview to which I refer is a real gem. In it, he confesses to a lot of unusual things. For example, we learn that Raúl Castro never led his battalion but that historians had just assumed he had been its leader. Or that he literally recruited a bunch of young people to support him so that he could become “the first professional revolutionary.”

In his usual smug tone, he started out characterizing the plan as “perfect,” then immediately added, “If I had to do it over again, I would do exactly the same thing. But then things got out of hand. As he was recalling the events, he began realizing how crazy it all sounded and his body language started to give him away.

“That’s why I say it. . . what I’m not going to say. . . but I’m not going to say it because, once I’ve said it, some people might, you know. . . somewhat disagree.”

The old tyrant began to doubt his own words on camera. A few seconds later, he was already admitting to a huge disappointment. I quote: “That’s why I say it. . . what I’m not going to say. . . but I’m not going to say it because, once I’ve said it, some people might, you know. . . somewhat disagree.”

The Roundtable propagandists went into full Shakira mode: deaf, dumb and blind*. The program they had prepared was supposed to celebrate the achievements at Moncada, not dismiss them. Finally, the khaki-clad fossil had had enough and categorically disavowed the whole Moncada affair. He admitted in front of everyone that he should have skipped it and gone “straight to the Sierra Maestra.” He looked at his subjects as though he had just relieved himself of a heavy burden and said: “There, I’ve said it!”

That is how Fidel Castro himself upended the whole Moncada myth.

*Video…. and Lyrics in English

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

‘Castro, Do You Know These Children?’ The Cry of the Relatives of the ‘13 de Marzo’ Tugboat Victims

This Saturday, at the Ermita de la Caridad in Miami, Cubans commemorated the 30th anniversary of the barbaric act

White crosses with images of children’s faces at the entrance to the Ermita de la Caridad, in Miami / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jose Antonio Garcia Molina, Miami, 14 July 2024 — A dozen white crosses with images of children’s faces commemorated the children who died in the sinking of the 13 de Marzo tugboat. The commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the tragedy, at the entrance to the Ermita de la Caridad in Miami on Saturday, has brought together a Cuban exile community that continues to demand justice for the 37 victims of that massacre.

The church, a meeting place for a community that has been nourished by successive waves of migrants from the island, was attended by everyone from the elderly, who remember how they lived through that day of mourning for Cuban families, to children and adolescents who have grown up hearing the story in the voices of their parents and grandparents. The Cuban and American flags flanked the entrance.

Among those who arrived at the Hermitage was Iván Prieto, whose life was marked by tragedy. This Havana native, currently 57 years old, was among the 68 people who were aboard the tugboat 13 de Marzo that set sail from the port of Havana bound for the United States on 13 July 1994. Even when he closes his eyes, he remembers the confusion, the screams, and the fact that when he fell into the water he couldn’t even see his own hands.

“I managed to survive but many others died there, falling into the water, because they did not rescue us.”

As soon as they left the coast, the port authorities sent other tugboats after the migrants, including the Polargo 5, which led the attack by spraying jets of water onto the deck of the 13 de Marzo and also ramming it until it sank. In that act of barbarity, Prieto lost 14 members of his family, including his father. “It was terrible,” he now tells 14ymedio. continue reading

“They sank us with jets of water and blows,” he recalls. “I managed to survive, but many others died there, falling into the water, because they didn’t rescue us.” A few meters from where Prieto recalls his story, a poster with images of the victims asks “Justice for our dead!” and another billboard asks “Castro, do you know these children?” next to the image of the children who lost their lives that morning.

La Ermita fills up as the morning progresses. Some arrive dressed in yellow clothes in homage to the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, Cuba’s patron saint; others light a candle, and most remain looking at the image that presides over the church, while they pray. Some of them, who lived on the island in that month of July three decades ago, only found out about what happened years later or through street rumors.

Fidel Castro’s regime threw a veil of silence over what happened and only when the survivors began to speak could they reconstruct the minutes of anguish and terror that were experienced a short distance from the Havana coast. Iván Prieto was rescued by a Cuban gunboat almost an hour after he fell into the water; the tugboats involved in the sinking did nothing to save the migrants.

Although for decades Cuban official spokespeople have denied any involvement of the regime’s leadership in what happened, the results of an investigation into the actions of the crew of the Polargo 5 and the other tugboats involved in the sinking have not been made public. Nor has there been any news of any penalties or punishment against them for their actions – quite the opposite.

“There were 17 of us relatives and only three of us survived,” Prieto told this newspaper. Those who managed to survive were locked up in Villa Marista, the State Security headquarters in Havana, for almost a month. “I was never able to have a normal life after that, they checked on me all the time.” Although he notes that every July 13 is “a very sad day” for him and his family, he is grateful for the tributes to the victims that are held every year and especially the one on Saturday.

Prieto not only lost a good part of his family in the massacre, but after leaving the island at the beginning of this century, he has not been able to return to the country where he was born. In 2018, the migrant reported that immigration agents detained him upon his arrival in Cuba at the José Martí International Airport and returned him to the United States. As long as the current regime remains in place, his chances of participating in a tribute in Havana similar to the one this Saturday in Miami are nil.

Susana Rojas Martínez (dressed in black), one of the survivors of the sinking, was at the tribute with her two children / 14ymedio

Among those who arrived at the Hermitage on July 13 were figures from the Cuban political exile. “This is one of the most atrocious crimes that a State can commit,” Ramón Saúl Sánchez, leader of the Democracy Movement, told this newspaper. In addition to the 37 fatalities, 27 adults and ten children, the sinking of the Marzo de 13 tugboat left “a tremendous amount of psychological and all kinds of after-effects among the relatives and survivors.”

Several of the attendees also remembered Jorge García’s daughter, María Victoria García, who died earlier this year and who lost her ten-year-old son that morning when he drowned after falling into the water. The tribute this Saturday emphasized the work of raising awareness and the importance of the testimony given by father and daughter to learn the details of an event that Cuban official propaganda tried to bury.

“I was never able to have a normal life after that, they checked on me all the time.” Although she emphasizes that every July 13 is “a very sad day.”

Among the most emotional words spoken outside the Hermitage were those of Jorge Félix García, also Jorge García’s son, but who was not on board the tugboat. He said: “30 years ago, pain knocked on the doors of our homes and the hearts of all Cubans.” The migrant believes that “there were more than 37 victims because all of us who are here were touched by a totally arbitrary decision of a tyranny.”

“The last thing I remember from that night was seeing my brother [Joel Garcia] come out of the house, turn to us, open his arms and say ’I love you all’, that was the last thing I heard from his mouth,” he added. “He left us a testament of love in those last words and that inspired the fight that my father and sister maintained for 30 years to make it known what had happened.”

As a gesture of hope, Susana Rojas Martínez, one of the survivors of the sinking, arrived at the tribute with her two children. The woman, who was eight years old when the massacre occurred, shared her testimony: “I could have been here today in those photos of the children who died that day.” Rojas sums up that early morning with brief and powerful words: “A lot of pain.”

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

The Cuban Government Recognizes That Pharmacies Lack 70 Percent of Basic Medicines

The shortage is concentrated almost entirely in the products that are dispatched with the control card.

Of the 651 products that should be sold in pharmacies, only 292 are available / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 16, 2024 — Officials with Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health recognized on Monday that 70% of the basic medicines that Cuban patients need are missing. Of the 651 products that should be sold in pharmacies, only 292 are available, and only intermittently. The shortage is concentrated almost entirely in products that are shipped with a control card and affects the medicines that are made on the Island, which corresponds to 80% of the basic table. “To say that this situation will be resolved in the coming days would be irresponsible,” admitted the Minister of Health, José Ángel Portal Miranda.

“We have faced, and still have, a situation of significant shortages in the (pharmacy) network,” acknowledged María Cristina Lara Bastanzuri, national director of Medicines and Medical Technologies. The causes they cite are the usual ones: the lack of funding to manufacture new drugs, the increase in the price of raw materials in the foreign market, and the cost of importing them to the Island. continue reading

“To say that this situation is going to be resolved in the coming days would be irresponsible,” admitted the Minister of Health

In an analysis prior to the session, Deputy Cristina Luna Morales, president of the Health and Sports Committee, presented the results on the operation of community and hospital pharmacies. As she explained at the time, the shortage is a “recurring” issue among local managers, who have argued that there is also no sugar, natural alcohol and other raw materials for the elaboration of natural drugs in the laboratories of each province.

In many cases, the increase in the prices of raw materials causes the generation of products to decrease. In addition, pharmaceutical companies do not have administrative and cargo transport, which also limits their management.

The official also pointed out that the number of patients with control cards continues to rise, “many times, because doctors, in their desperation for the patient to have at least one medication, prescribe what is available, instead of what they really need.”

Morales acknowledged that not infrequently the problem is the distribution and not the availability of the drug, which may be in the warehouses but impossible to “make available in a timely manner, because other institutions that provide transportation for us are affected.”

The illegal sale of medicines has become an increasingly frequent option for Cubans to supply their first aid kits

In this regard, the minister pointed out that the illegal sale of medicines has become an increasingly frequent option for Cubans to supply their first aid kits. It is, for example, the case of a restaurant in Manzanillo, Granma province, which has been converted into the most well stocked pharmacy in the city, 14ymedio found.

Also, not all community pharmacies provide a courier service for the poorest population. It was even reported that pharmacy workers do not even have sanitary gowns, prescription pads and pens. Likewise, the breakage and lack of phones in some cases causes many patients not to have access to medicines.

Finally, she reported that there are outstanding bills to be paid for the purchase of medicines, both from pharmaceutical companies and health institutions.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

A Boy Asking for Money at the Entrance to an Ice Cream Parlor Is the New Face of Havana

“Give me something to buy a cone,” begs the barefoot, shirtless boy

A boy makes a living by selling pastries for 70 pesos apiece at different spots around the city / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia Lopez Moya, Havana, 15 July 2024 — The boy with his face pressed to the glass appears to be about ten-years-old. Shirtless and barefoot, he looks attentively through the front door of Bueníssimo, a privately owned gourmet ice cream shop that opened late last year on La Rampa (23rd Street), in Havana’s Vedado district. The child’s eyes are focused on cups of chocolate, almond and vanilla ice cream that customers are savoring inside the air-conditioned shop. He briefly asks someone about to enter the store, “Can you spare something so I can buy a cone?”

As the island’s economic crisis worsens, the number of children asking for money, selling merchandise on the street or hanging around popular tourist attractions is growing. The sight of these waifs — most of them scrawny, barefoot and shabbily dressed, extending a hand as they beg for money or salivating beside a restaurant’s outdoor table — is increasingly common in Cuba. Not even the areas most heavily patrolled by police are immune to their presence.

One of the boys looking into the ice cream parlor from outside / 14ymedio

A couple walking with their daughter approach Bueníssimo. As soon as he sees them turn the corner, the barefoot boy and his friend, who is wearing a pair of skates, start getting into place. The family is well-dressed and smells nice, the scent of expensive perfume trailing behind them. The woman is carrying a handbag, possibly a knock-off, with the logo of a famous brand. The mother and daughter enter the shop, not even looking to their sides. The man, however, lingers behind them. He puts his hand into his pocket, pulls out a 200-peso note and gives it to the little boy, whose face lights up. continue reading

The next step in his plan is to get people to give him money at the front door / 14ymedio

A few seconds later, the shirtless boy enters and makes a purchase with the money he has been collecting all morning. He buys a strawberry ice cream cone with a bit of chocolate syrup on top. Each scoop costs 265 pesos.  Meanwhile, the boy with the skates, who is still outside, has not been so lucky. He looks up and down the broad avenue to see if he can spot anyone who might give him some money. Both will be back tomorrow. They will probably still be at the same door next week and will quickly warn each other whenever a man in uniform is approaching Bueníssimo. Only then will they be able to enjoy the exclusive flavors meant for those who can afford the most expensive ice cream parlor in Cuba.

While these two are on the lookout for financial help, another boy is selling round, guava-filled pastries for 70 pesos apiece at a corner on Obispo Street in the city’s historic center. A couple of tourists stop to buy one and look at the unlikely merchant in amazement. None of the many travel guides they have consulted warned them that they would be encountering minors asking for money or selling products on the streets of Cuba. None of the colorful photos of beaches, bars with live music and women dressed in traditional clothing include young faces that are old beyond their years.

Finally, the boy gets to enjoy his scoop of strawberry ice cream / 14ymedio

The pastry boy is hardly an exception, however. One can find children selling tamales, hawking ripe avocados or providing water to communities where it is delivered only about once a month. State media did not even acknowledge their existence until recently, when “Sierra Maestra,” a newspaper in Santiago de Cuba, published an article that touched, in passing, on cases of child labor on the island. The children and adolescents mentioned in the text were treated as exceptions to the rule “due to the complexity of the context.” No figures were provided, although it claimed that cases were few.

Each of these children probably has a back story — an impoverished family, a parent who has left the country, grandparents surviving on tiny pensions — like the “ninja” boys in the Loma del Angel neighborhood. Their presence has forced restaurants to hire security guards to patrol the area. Poverty has led others to ring a bell in the covered walkways of Central Havana while holding out a wicker basket into which passersby can drop coins or, in the best of cases, some bills. They are the most fragile link in the crisis and, like El Gatico and Rosita in the city of Holguín, their appearance in the streets and food service establishments exposes them to all kinds of dangers.

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

Cuban Mercenaries Against Ukraine: Why Doesn’t the European Union Act?

The sending of troops for the occupation of Ukraine continues to be the predominant factor in Putin’s war of imperialist aggression

The Assembly of the Cuban Resistance has sent photographs of Cuban soldiers in Ukraine to numerous capitals of Europe / Mario Vallejo/Facebook

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luis Zúñiga, Miami, July 15, 2024 — Europe has given great support to Ukraine for its defense against the war of aggression that Vladimir Putin launched two years and four months ago. European aid has not only consisted of weapons and money, but also includes economic sanctions on Russia and numerous governments that, directly or indirectly, help the Russian military effort.

In its fourteenth package of sanctions, the European Union has sanctioned 61 companies from China, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, India, Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates. The overwhelming majority belong to China and are located in the telecommunications sector, especially satellites. This war has demonstrated the important and novel use of unmanned aircraft, the so-called drones, which for their effectiveness depend on images and satellite information.

But, without denying the important role of the drones, the sending of troops for the occupation of territory remains the predominant factor in Vladimir Putin’s war of imperialist aggression. And in this regard, Europe has not reacted to the regime that has given the greatest support and help to Russia in the number of soldiers sent, the communist dictatorship of Cuba. continue reading

The new package shows that Europeans consider sanctions against those who support Russia necessary. Why, then, don’t they include the Cuban regime?

Repeatedly, the Ukrainian intelligence services have provided photographs of the passports of Cubans who participate, along with Russian troops, in the war against Ukraine. The Assembly of the Cuban Resistance has sent photographs of Cuban soldiers in Ukraine to numerous European capitals and has shown, as evidence, the interviews that the media have conducted with the mothers of the Cubans killed in combat there.

It is incomprehensible that the governments of the old continent, individually or as part of the Union, continue to give away millions of euros to the Cuban dictatorship, while Havana sends soldiers to Russia to attack and occupy a European nation. It seems ironic and contradictory, but it is a reality. The European Union’s Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement with Cuba (PDCA) gives the Island’s regime more than 150 million euros annually.

The new package shows that Europeans consider sanctions against those who support Russia necessary. Why, then, don’t they include the Cuban regime, starting with the suspension of the PDCA?

Neither Europe nor the United States should continue to ignore or sidestep the fact that Russia, China and Iran, the Axis of Evil, constitute the greatest threat to peace, freedom and democracy in the world, whether in Ukraine, Taiwan or the Middle East. And that axis has a very valuable and active ally in the Western Hemisphere: the Cuban dictatorship. When will they take its involvement seriously?

Editor’s Note: The author is a political analyst, former diplomat and former political prisoner in Cuba

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Thousands of Cubans in Pinar Del Río Are Still Without Water Despite the Millions Invested by the Cuban Government

Some residents are forced to pay 3,000 to 5,000 pesos to receive water from tanker trucks, according to the official press

The floating outlet pipes of the Guamá reservoir cost one million pesos and have a manufacturing defect that has prevented their use. /ACN

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, July 15, 2024 — The reservoirs of Pinar del Río have abundant water, with 68% of capacity, according to Rolando González García, general director of the Hydraulic Use Company, just a month ago. However, a few meters from the León Cuervo Rubio hospital, in the middle of the provincial capital, residents like Maray García are forced to pay 3,000 to 5,000 pesos to receive water from tanker trucks. “It’s something unsustainable, and we don’t even understand why it happens,” she told the official newspaper Granma.

The newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba reviews the situation of supply in the province, which leaves a bleak panorama. The millions of pesos that have been invested in different works seem to have been thrown away because of the minimum result. In Maray García’s neighborhood itself, water enters through the supply network only once in 40 days, despite the fact that the 800-millimeter pipe that supplies it was built only 10 years ago and received, in 2022, new pumping equipment.

Hurricane Ian damaged the infrastructure, but the repairs carried out subsequently have been useless. More than two kilometers of pipes were replaced, but the time between water cycles continues to increase, and the pressure has dropped so much that the water doesn’t arrive.

The article gives an account of a series of repairs that are conspicuous by the absence of their impact. Among them is the floating outlet pipe system of the Guamá reservoir, whose investment amounted to one million pesos and which aimed to supply more than 17,000 people with an improved water quality, since it was going to be pumped from the reservoir to a water treatment plant and then to the general network. The result couldn’t be worse, since it has “a manufacturing defect” that prevents its use. continue reading

The result couldn’t be worse, since it has “a manufacturing defect” that prevents its use

Another of the frustrated projects was the new pipe to improve the supply in Consolación del Sur, although the problem in this case is attributed to the population, says Robert Hechavarría, general director of the Aqueduct and Sewerage Company. Individuals connected directly to the pipe, with connections of more than an inch. The carelessness has caused the ends of the network to continue without receiving the water.

Another of the investments without results is in the Celso Maragoto people’s council and part of Jagüey Cuyují, where 10,000 people reside, pending an arrangement for ten teams to arrive for the re-pumping systems to improve the service. Already in 2022, after the authorities found that Pinar del Río had one of the worst supply situations on the Island, ten pumping teams had been brought in that should have meant an improvement, but it did not happen that way.

Granma says that some residents have benefited from “unquestionable improvements,” including those of Viñales – thanks to the installation of a floating pumping station in the El Salto reservoir – and Minas de Matahambre, which had water no more often and no less often than every 50 days until the municipality was equipped with a new pipe that “has allowed the cycles to be reduced.” The government media does not indicate how many days the population now receives water; the situation couldn’t get any worse.

“However, there are also places where the population does not perceive any change,” says Granma, quoting several residents to justify the immortal phrase. “We’re still working here. The service has not improved,” said a resident in the La Flora neighborhood.

“The water in this area was received one day yes and one day no, and then it was extended to two, to three, to ten, and at the moment it’s between 15 and 20 days. With those arrangements that were made after the hurricane, we are worse off than before,” says another, from the Carlos Manuel de Céspedes neighborhood.

“The water in this area was received one day yes and one day no, and then it was extended to two, three, to ten, and at the moment it is between 15 and 20 days”

One more, a resident – ironically – on Aqueducto Final Street, says pitifully: “They say it’s to send water to the old neighborhood. When they put in the pipe, we thought things would get better for us, but when we saw that they started to cover it without having connected us, our spirits fell.”

Testimonies of this type have led Deputy Prime Minister Inés María Chapman to recognize that in Pinar del Río, “many things have been done, but people do not see the impact.” Granma’s report, however, does not make clear the reasons for such frustrating results and argues, in a generic way, “human error and lack of rigor.”

Engines that burn up shortly after being installed, leaks in new networks, and irregularities in the operation of the valves have been recurrent evils that limit the scope of investments and rehabilitations, and cause many Pinareños today to feel that there is no correspondence between the resources that have been allocated to alleviate the problem of water and the effect achieved,” continues Granma, providing the usual voluntarist* solution: more organizing and planning.

In the middle of this year, Cubadebate published an extensive report with data on the water supply system in Cuba, which made the unfortunate situation clear. Barely 48% of the population has water daily in conditions of quality, availability and accessibility, a total of 5.4 million people.

In addition, 535,876 people, 6.1% of the population, do not have home supply service; and 475,404 receive water in tanker trucks for periods longer than every 15 days.

*Voluntarism: The principle or system of doing something by or relying on voluntary action or volunteers. (Source Merrriam-Webster).

Translated by Regina Anavy

 

A Former Nicaraguan Official Reveals How the “Mafia” of the Irregular Flights of Cubans Operates

’Orlando’ exposes to ’Confidencial’ the spiral of corruption that involves a company registered in Miami and the Nicaraguan authorities

Passengers line up to check-in for an Air Century flight at Terminal 3 of José Martí International Airport, in Havana / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 15 July 2024 — “This is a mafia, it’s like a Netflix or Hollywood movie.” This is how forceful a former official of the Administrative Company of International Airports of Nicaragua (EAAI) is, who, under condition of anonymity, reveals to two media —Confidencial and Esta Semana — how the trafficking of migrants from Managua to the United States operates through charter flights, largely involving Cubans.

In an interview published on Monday with Carlos Fernando Chamorro, founder and director of both media – which work from exile after President Daniel Ortega shut them down – the former official, an expert in airport services who calls himself “Orlando,” points to the company Easy Aviation, registered in Miami, Florida, as the main link in a whole spiral of corruption. This involves not only the airlines, but the EAAI itself, the Management of Migration and Civil Aeronautics.

“They use the institutions that are supposed to be serious to do something illicit, such as the transport of migrants who arrive in an irregular way,” says Orlando. He was in charge of the coordination and execution of the ground operation of both commercial and charter flights and resigned his position last year because of “discomfort with the management.” continue reading

“They use the institutions that are supposed to be serious to carry out something illicit, such as the transport of migrants who arrive in an irregular way”

According to his testimony, it all began in 2021, “with a Havana-Managua airlift to transport thousands of Cuban migrants to the United States, and has continued uninterruptedly for four years, diversifying with intercontinental flights.”

The date provided by Orlando coincides with the agreement between Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel and his Nicaraguan counterpart to allow the entry of Cuban nationals into the Central American country without a visa. The announcement came at the end of November of that year, after the frustrated Civic March for Change and four months after the historic demonstrations of 11J [11 July 2021], and was the starting signal of the greatest exodus in the history of Cuba.

At first, Orlando explains, charter flights in Nicaragua took place “in the context of the pandemic,” to repatriate American and European citizens to their countries or Nicaraguans who were abroad and had been stranded when commercial flights were closed due to COVID-19. Afterwards, there began to be “flights from the Caribbean, with mainly Cuban citizens, who came to Nicaragua to do shopping tourism, according to what was proposed to us in the meetings before handling these flights.”

It soon became clear to them that Cubans were not going to Managua for that purpose: “Several months later, all the workers already knew that the main reason for the entry was the trampoline to the United States.” As an example, he says that the planes arrived completely full, “with 150 Cuban passengers and only five returned, maximum ten.” The nationals of the Island, his story continues, “were amazed to see the refrigerators full of food. So we now knew that they didn’t come to do shopping tourism, because of the way they behaved.”

“They were amazed to see the refrigerators full of food. So we now knew that they didn’t come to do shopping tourism, because of the way they behaved”

Every day there were “at least” five flights between 50 and 150 passengers, the media indicate, which remained constant until the Biden Administration established the humanitarian parole program, in early 2023. Then they decreased.

Confidential estimates, in any case, suggest that between May 2023 and May 2024 1,475 charter flights with more than 191,000 passengers landed in Managua, “most of them coming from Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean countries.” Between 30 and 40 intercontinental charter flights “also came from Libya, Senegal, India, several Asian countries and from European airports in Germany and France.”

Some of the latter are precisely in Washington’s crosshairs for considering them accomplices of illegal immigration in its territory. Some evidence also points to the fact that part of the irregular migratory swell may be related to Vladimir Putin’s interest in destabilizing the United States. On June 13, the State Department announced visa restrictions for the executive of an unnamed airline that the independent Nicaraguan press identified as Mohamed Ben Ayad and Ghadames Airlines, from Libya. Sources of 14ymedio in Tripoli, however, revealed that the airline had just been sold and that it is in the name of one of the sons of Marshal Khalifa Haftar, an ally of the Russian president.

Some evidence also points to the fact that part of the irregular migratory swell may be related to Vladimir Putin’s interest in destabilizing the United States

Orlando, the source of Confidencial, explains that for the entire operation, Easy Aviation’s role of intermediary was fundamental, whose website, checks 14ymedio, is out of service. The company is registered in Miami, notes Carlos F. Chamorro, at least since 2018, but has its offices in the Managua Airport. At its head, explains the journalist, are three Nicaraguan citizens – Silvio Otero Quiroz, Geovanny Jaén Arróliga and Iván Abdul Olivares Lacayo -, one of them also with American nationality.

As Orlando explains, “Easy Aviation hired the charter airline to make a certain route. Subsequently, it managed and paid for Civil Aeronautics permits. And when the plane was in the country or landed at the airport, it paid the Airport Company for the services performed, that is, the landing and takeoff rights, operations and ramp personnel, among other services, and was responsible for charging the end customer, that is, the travel agency or the migrants directly.”

The former official points to Geovanny Jaén, manager and partner of Easy Aviation, as the key person throughout the process: “He gets the Civil Aeronautics permits approved expeditiously. Precisely because of this, the Civil Aeronautics authorities do not object, and once he has the permits, he sends the schedule and flight plans to us at the airport. Likewise, once the flight has arrived and the operation has ended, he is immediately paid in cash for the private flights [in] the offices of the Airport Management Company, once the plane takes off. Geovanny Jaén, through Easy Aviation, is the only one who exercises the control and coordinates the operation of these charter flights of migrants at the Managua Airport . There is no other company that is responsible for handling or carrying out this operation.”

“They pay 150 dollars for a safe-conduct pass, and they don’t stamp the passports of migrants”

Being registered in the United States, Orlando argues, the firm has access to a network of charter airline companies. The main ones are Sky High and Air Century, registered in the Dominican Republic, and Viva Aerobus, from Mexico. That the Mexican commercial airline was involved in these flights surprised the former EAAI employee: “They do not regularly make charter flights; however, they operated routes via Havana-Cancún, Cancun-Managua, and they only operate with the Airbus 320 aircraft with a capacity of up to 186 passengers. I am surprised because they regularly only operate commercial flights from Mexico to the United States and Central America, and I was surprised to see that they were mainly transporting Cuban migrants.”

As for the Venezuelan Conviasa, which is not a charter but a commercial airline, it is also used to transport migrants, said Orlando: “Before the pandemic, Conviasa carried out flights from Havana to Managua in the context of shopping tourism for Cuban citizens, who were going to buy at the Eastern Market and return to Cuba. But later, at the time of the migrant boom towards the southern border of the United States, Conviasa was only transporting migrants. There was no shopping tourism, and it was operated that way with a direct flight from Havana to Managua, with two different types of aircraft. They had an Embraer 190, with a capacity of approximately 100 passengers, and an Airbus 340, with a capacity of up to 320, 350 passengers.”

The complicity of the Nicaraguan authorities is flagrant, according to what Orlando explains to Chamorro. The EAAI organizes and supervises all the flights at Managua Airport and “subordinates itself to Guerrero Castillo, the commissioner of the National Police.” It also has responsibility for Civil Aeronautics, as a regulatory body, by “giving permission and certifying that flights are operated in a safe way.”

The last link in the chain is Migration, which is responsible for determining whether to admit migrants. “If they are supposed to be tourists who arrive, there has to be a guideline, a hotel reservation, as is done in Panama, and you have to bring 500 dollars in cash or 1,000 dollars, depending, and they don’t,” explains Orlando, who says that Cubans are not monitored for this. What’s more, “they are charged a fee, a kind of extortion”: “They pay 150 dollars for a safe-conduct pass, and they don’t even stamp the passports of Cuban migrants.”

According to this former official, “the Migration agents already know. They already have the order. They send the migrants to a special line.” When they leave the airport, Orlando recalls, “they are already beginning their journey on foot to the United States.”

Orlando suggests that international authorities, including the UN and the United States, should be invited to investigate the financial plot in order to end this “mafia”: “The financial origin of the operation is Easy Aviation, the company that is responsible for the handling of charter flights, and it is based in Miami, Florida. From there you could easily check the financial statements, the movements of money, the movements of the deposits that are made to the different airlines and the origin of that money as well.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

‘They Let Castro’s Spies into the Heart of the Miami Airport’

Controversy over a visit for security cooperation between the US and Cuba

A Miami newspaper alleges that Cuban officials were able to have access to “sensitive information” about the airport / Miami International Airport

[note – the translation of this article was delayed]

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 May 2024 — The visit of a delegation of Cuban officials to the Transportation Security Administration of Miami International Airport for an “exchange of knowledge” put many terminal workers on alert. According to local media, “some U.S. officers” consider that “letting the agents of the Cuban dictatorship enter those facilities is the same as letting Castro spies into the heart of the airport.”

Although the report published by Diario Las Américas does not clarify it, it is likely that this meeting was conceived as part of the cooperation program on security issues between Washington and Havana. This collaboration provides for actions such as visiting institutions, exchanging information and working together to, for example, avoid terrorist attacks and drug trafficking operations.

Nor is it the first time that complaints arise from the United States over the access of Cuban officials to “sensitive information” about U.S. national security, despite the fact that the authorities of both governments have clarified on several occasions that these are routine meetings that have been taking place for decades.

The Miami media report is only about the alleged annoyance among U.S. officials

The Miami media report is only about the alleged annoyance among U.S. officials. The date on which the visit to the airport facilities occurred, however, was not mentioned, and the official press of the Island did not acknowledge the meeting.

According to the American newspaper’s source, some workers wondered why Cuba was given access to “sensitive information, a practice reserved for representatives of allied countries,” since, according to the testimony offered to the media, “it is known that those who govern Havana are friends of all our enemies.”

The source also explained that Cuban officials “had direct access to the new three-dimensional X-ray technology, among whose objectives is the identification of explosives to prevent terrorist groups from introducing them into the cockpit of an airplane and other sensitive sites. It is something inconceivable, absurd, unjustifiable and very dangerous.”

The “unusual journey,” as it was described, is the equivalent of “opening the door of our security to Cuban officers, which also means opening the door to Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Russia and other regimes that are enemies of American democracy.”

An incident that also attracted criticism about the cooperation agreement was the scheduled meeting between members of the Cuban Border Guard Troops and the U.S. Coast Guard in Washington in March 2023, which ended up being canceled.

The meeting was to take place at the headquarters of the Coast Guard in North Carolina

The meeting was to take place at the headquarters of the Coast Guard in North Carolina as part of the International Port Security Program, and a meeting of members of the Cuban Ministries of the Interior, Foreign Affairs and Transport was planned at the headquarters in Washington, in addition to a ride through the Wilmington facilities by boat. The visit, due to disagreements between the Governments, was reduced to only this last part to avoid “a major diplomatic crisis.”

On that occasion, numerous members of Congress asked for the total cancellation of the visit. Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio sent a letter urging President Joe Biden to suspend a trip that, in his opinion, allowed Cuban intelligence agents to access sensitive national security facilities.

Last January, a group of U.S. officials met in Havana with representatives of the Cuban Government to discuss issues of cooperation in security and public order. The source was present at the meeting of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department, which sought to create new agreements to “fight crime” with the Cuban side.

In February, Cuban authorities met in Washington with U.S. representatives to discuss collaboration on security, and one of the U.S. officials declared that “effective cooperation in criminal matters may sometimes include the exchange of information, such as information about fugitives or other wanted people,” although he clarified that these meetings are routine.

 Translated by Regina Anavy

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