Four Armed Cattle Thieves Arrested in Artemisa, Cuba

Police are still investigating the events. (El Artemiseño)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 January 2023 — The Artemisa Police arrested four people on Friday involved in a case of theft and slaughter of cows at the El Chorro farm, located between the municipalities of San Cristóbal and Candelaria. At the time of the arrest, made at 4:00 am, the agents seized a firearm, ammunition for a second unidentified weapon, and the meat of an animal, stored in bags inside a refrigerator.

The El Chorro area is one of the most affected by crime in the province, according to a note published by the local newspaper, and it is not the first time that residents report the thefts and slaughter of cattle. The scene of the events is located in the “south strip of Artemisa,” the newspaper reported, a criminal scene that “usually extends all the way to the east, to Artemisa lands, and to the west, to areas of Los Palacios and Consolación del Sur in Pinar del Rio.

Together with San Cristóbal, a municipality close to the El Chorro farm, the towns of Bahía Honda, Caimito and Artemisa – cattle ranch areas par excellence – lead the statistics on crimes linked to the cattle sector.

Alcides López Labrada, Provincial Delegate for Agriculture in Artemisa, defined the El Chorro farm as a “confluence point for criminals engaged in these activities.” Police are still investigating the events.

Judicial sentences – up to 10 years for illegal slaughter – have not been effective against the network of crimes related to livestock. In Villa Clara, for example, the year 2022 closed with the unprecedented figure of 12,237 head of cattle stolen or slaughtered, an increase of 200% compared to 2021. continue reading

On the other hand, the inaction of the local police forces has led to the creation of groups of guards to watch over the cattle. The problem has reached such importance that the official press has dedicated several reports to analyzing the reasons for the rise in this type of crime.

Added to this is the fact that not all crimes are reported, since most of the producers are, in turn, violating the law in some aspect related to production and are not interested in having the Police investigate the situation. Another problem is the death of cattle due to lack of water, food and medicines, a scourge that in some provinces, such as Villa Clara itself, causes almost as many casualties as those caused by theft and illegal slaughter.

The economic crisis and shortages in the country have led to a general rise in crime. Now, in addition to isolated or individual episodes, many thieves organize themselves into gangs that carefully calculate where they will commit the crime, study the most discreet way to kill the animal and have a black market willing to receive the meat.

The deficient protection of the farms, due to the absence of fences and wires, facilitates the work of thieves. For their part, cattle ranchers are prohibited from using firearms, so they must resort to machetes and handmade shotguns to defend themselves.

Las Tunas, another of the provinces most mistreated by thieves, recorded the theft of 5,305 head of cattle last year. The solution of the agricultural directors of the area was also to “commit” themselves to creating brigades of guards with a certain “support” from the Ministry of the Interior.

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San Antonio de los Banos, Where the Spark of Cuba’s July 2021 Protests Was Lit, Continues to be Punished

The reasons for the residents of San Antonio de los Baños to “take to the streets” are still intact: lack of freedoms, inflation, blackouts and garbage accumulated on every corner. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 26 January 2023 — Odalys remembers that day very well. “People began to come out from everywhere, headed for the park,” she evokes a year and a half after the July 11, 2021 popular protest in San Antonio de los Baños, Artemisa, ignited the spark for the historic demonstrations that shook Cuba. Since that time, the reasons for the residents of the municipality to “take to the streets” remain intact: lack of liberties, inflation, blackouts and garbage accumulated on every corner.

“Look at that park for children, it’s pure rust,” the woman describes to 14ymedio. The destroyed sidewalk, the ravaged grass and three rickety swings make up the desolate panorama. Around the merry-go-round, bags of waste accumulate and a little further on, a mountain of rubbish borders the bridge over one of the tributaries of the Ariguanabo River. “Here you cannot live, we continue in the same situation.”

“The blackouts have already started again and they last up to six hours,” stresses the woman, who remembers going out “banging on a can with a spoon,” on that 11th of July to show her discomfort at the poor conditions of the small city. A city that was once an important agricultural center, a transport node between Havana and the southwest, as well as a frequent venue for humor festivals and cultural events. The International Film School, also undermined in resources and importance, continues to operate in the area.

Unlike that Sunday in July, now the streets are only used by those who are on their way to work or school, those who are anxiously looking for some food and those who are heading towards an office to request a passport that allows them to travel outside Island. The cries of “Freedom!” have been replaced by the demands of a neighbor who urges another to arrive on time and line up for soap or frozen chicken. The trials against the protesters of that day have spread fear, just as waste of all kinds is spread throughout the city, without the Community Services trucks picking it up.

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Cuba’s Fishing Sector is Facing a Deep Production Crisis

The Cuban fishing sector is facing a deep production crisis, partly because it does not have vessels for fishing in international waters. (Adelante)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 January 2023 — The latest data made public on the fishing industry in Cuba show that the sector is not escaping the deep crisis from which the country is failing to emerge. The province of Camagüey, which provides 20% of the catches at the national level, ended 2022 with only 68% of the forecasts fulfilled, Adelante reported this Wednesday.

The information was released in the presentation of the production results of the Fishing Company of Camagüey (PescaCam), during the Assemblies of Representatives and Results Reporting of the province. According to the provincial newspaper, the managers made a mea culpa and questioned “why the province did not join the majority group in the country, which successfully overcomes the shortage of resources?”

PescaCam was far from its production goal. At the end of 2022, the capture of fish and other aquaculture products in the Camagüey territory closed with 4,520 tons, 1,436 tons less than projected.

At the meeting, Armando Peña Guerra, director of the Base Business Unit (UEB), assured that there were exceptions in some locations, such as the Acuinicú company, in Sibanicú, where the capture closed in 87% of the initial forecasts, and it was only short 70 tons to meet the 1,225 committed.

As a whole, the sector did not deliver 300 tons of processed food, which had a notable impact on workers’ income, the newspaper detailed. continue reading

Armando Posada Loriga, president of the Business Group of the Fishing Industry, criticized the producers for the low percentages: “You are the locomotive of the country and, if you do not meet the targets, the country does not meet the targets either.” The official called to “prevent demotivation and labor indiscipline” that cause the exodus of personnel due to low salaries, excessive expenses and a bad application of the payment system.

Camagüey’s fishing industry is made up of 53 reservoirs, 186 micro-dams, and some 22,000 hectares of ponds. But, the producers attribute the low production percentages to a lower extensive cultivation of tench and catfish, while the extraction of tilapia in cages closed with a “pale” total of 47% of the target.

For Armando Pacheco Nápoles, director of PescaCam, it is urgent to control the growth of poachers, who have had their fishing gear and other tools obtained from the state company confiscated. He also expressed the opinion that it is necessary to strengthen the control mechanisms in the fishing areas and stimulate new productive areas, this last sector is the one that has had the least development in recent years, he stated.

The main cause of the deterioration of the sector, added Pacheco Nápoles, is the lack of access to essential resources for boats and fishing gear. For this, it is necessary to validate the use of rice terraces for the production of offspring.

The Cuban fishing sector is facing a deep crisis of low production, partly because it does not have vessels for fishing in international waters and it does not have large rivers that allow adequate extraction in freshwater. Aquaculture, for its part, is incipient and fails to meet national demand.

In December 2021, Ariel Padrón Valdés, director of Fisheries Regulations and Sciences of the Ministry of the Food Industry, warned that the sector will not recover the production levels experienced in the 1990s, when Cuba extracted 100,000 tons of fish from international waters, plus 70,000 tons from Cuban waters and 33,000 tons imported.

At that time, there was a total of 18 kilograms per year per person, while currently that number barely reaches 3.8 kilos.

Meanwhile, Adelante considered that “there is confidence that progress can be made in 2023,” although the newspaper warned that this month there were already delays in some decisive industry indicators, such as manufactured production.

PescaCam foresees an investment of 15 million pesos in 2023 for repairs at the Atomic and Alevicuba stations, as well as building the Estrella Roja oxidation canal, a processing facility in Sibanicú, and four vessels.

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Cubans Will Pay 11 Pesos a Pound for Potatoes, Twice the Current Price

Selling potatoes in Santiage de Cuba. (Yosmany Mayeta / 14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 26 January 2023 — The price of potatoes in doubling in Cuba in 2023, as happened the previous year. The Ministry of Agriculture approved a resolution, published this Wednesday in the Official Gazette , which sets the retail price of the tuber at 11 pesos per pound; until now the cost was 5 pesos for fresh and6 for refrigerated. The change is almost identical to the one experienced in 2022, when the cost of the product rose from 3 pesos.

As then, the authorities have once again stressed that the rise in production costs, seeds and the labor force makes it necessary to take such a measure.

Alexis Rodríguez Pérez, director of Agricultural Economics and Development in the ministry, explained yesterday that the price adopted in 2022 resulted in millions in losses, a total of 200 million pesos, of which more than half was felt by the company that produces and markets seeds, “due to the increase in import prices.”

According to the official speaking at a press conference, the price per ton of seed was 12,600 pesos a year ago, while now it stands at 26,700 pesos. Fertilizer, meanwhile, has gone from 8,602 to 27,872 pesos, he claimed. continue reading

The executive highlighted that the costs “for the labor force” also increased, and reached 400 pesos per day. In addition, the technological package does not cover the necessary inputs. With the new price, the official affirmed, “no losses or subsidies from the State to the product are foreseen” and, in addition, he assured that the forecast for the cost of fuel is already included.

The document also provides for wholesale prices. The potato harvested with national seed will be set at 19,261.64 pesos per ton, while the one obtained with imported seeds will have a lower cost, 15,174.52 pesos per ton

The text specifies that the marketing margin, if any, is shared between the parties “according to their corresponding functions,” and the sales tax and subsidies for potatoes stored in refrigerators are eliminated.

The argument is almost identical to that of last year, although on this occasion no mention was made, not even in the press conference, of the American “blockade.” On the other hand, details of a very poor 2022-2023 campaign were given, in which it is planned to obtain 102,369 tons. Last year the projection was 120,914, of which 116,396 tons were achieved.

In 2001, a record of 373,682 tons was reached, high amounts that were maintained for several years until, in 2010, the sale was liberalized, that is more potatoes were sold outside the rationing system. However, bad data was recorded in 2015, with a harvest in which 123,000 tons were obtained, forcing the Government to import to meet demand, mainly from the Netherlands and Canada. In 2017, the tuber returned to the rationing system, although those bad figures from the middle of the previous decade could even be considered enviable today.

Cubans consumed 151,668 tons of potatoes last year, so the authorities will once again have to resort to massive imports of a basic product at a time when the costs of buying abroad are higher than ever.

The reaction to the announcement has not been long in coming, but has only been expressed through social networks. “In any country these excessive price increases generate mobilizations of popular protests, in Cuba we are tamed,” responds a reader of Tribuna de La Habana on Facebook. “In Cuba we are very afraid, that is the truth. They are going to kill us little by little,” agrees another.

Several citizens have lamented that their salaries and pensions have not risen, much less at the level of inflation, since the potato is a reflection of what happens with so many other products and services. Between November 2021 and the same month in 2022, food prices increased by 40% on the Island, taking into account only official data.

And the black market, oblivious to all this, maintains unimaginable prices, last week selling a pound of potatoes for between 130 and 150 pesos.

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Warnings of Cuba Transitioning into a ‘Mafia State’ Much Like Putin’s

The agreement between Cuba and Russia will facilitate the future hegemony of Moscow over the Cuban economy, Cuba Siglo 21 (21st Century Cuba) has warned. (Presidencia)

14ymedio biggerThe agreement between Cuba and Russia will facilitate the future hegemony of Moscow over the Cuban economy, Cuba Siglo 21 [21st Century Cuba] has warned. (Presidencia)14ymedio, Havana, 22 January 2023 — The creation of a Centre for Economic Transformation — the agreement reached last Friday between Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and the chief of the Cuba-Russia Business Council, Boris Titov Yurievich — confirms the transition from a “model with a nationalised economy” to the blueprint for “a Russian mafioso market”, according to the think-tank Cuba Siglo 21 .

The independent Cuban civil society organisation with its HQ in Madrid emphasised that this agreement expresses the “clear decision by the elite” on the Island to make economic transformations under the direction of the Kremlin, that’s to say the “standardisation will facilitate the future hegemony of Moscow over the economy”.

The NGO said that when we talk of mafia states, we mean “countries in which a kleptocratic and autocratic elite exercises absolute power to promote its own interests over national interests”, which is detailed in the report, published on 14 January — Cuba: From Communism to Mafia State.

In this report it is shown that the “subjugation” of Havana by Moscow will result in “the new dominant class being a kleptocratic and autocratic oligarchy” that controls the greatest wealth in the country for its own benefit. Raúl Castro, it says, “expanded the oligopoly of the State entity Gaesa, thus strangling the incipient enterprise sector”.

The report warns that Cuba is initiating a transition towards a mafia state market, much like Putin’s. The NGO reminds us that as part of the agreement between Cuba and Russia it was announced that the aim is to prepare “economic transformations in Cuba based on the development of private business”, which would open the market to the Russians. continue reading

Cuba Siglo 21 explained that this model will “liberate market relations but put them under the hegemony of an oligarchy” and will be organised in such a way that it will “not be free and competitive”. The organisation said that although many will seemingly be able to participate, “it is nevertheless guaranteed that only the oligarchy’s chosen few from the political establishment will rise to the top”.

In the NGO’s opinion this accord is a “provocation” in that it came about in the same week that there were conversations in Havana between the Cuban and American governments.

“We have to keep in mind that the proposition of creating a major economic agreement between the two countries comes at the height of the Kremlin’s war of agression against Ukraine and the growing impact of western sanctions against Russia”, Cuba Siglo 21 pointed out.

To remove Cuba from the list of countries that do not collaborate in the fight against terrorism “will mean that after this renewed public alliance with Moscow, Cuban banks will be able to launder money” and that they will be able to provide effective support to Putin’s financial manoeuvres in avoiding western sanctions.

Boris Titov Yurievich, the independent organisation said, is a businessman and politician who “specialises in creating market economies compatible with regimes dominated by autocratic elites”.

This Wednesday, Titov, as part of this alliance, emphasised the start of a “strong exchange effort” at the level of  intergovernmental commission, different ministries and other bodies, and the businessmen of his country, on the instructions of Putin, with the principal objective of “developing bilateral relations from all points of view”.

The Cuban government has shown interest in importing Russian fertiliser, gasoline and wheat, the Russian ministry of the economy reported at the end of the bilateral intergovernmental commission held in Moscow before the Cuban president’s visit.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso

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‘Somewhat Sleepy’ Sugar Cane Harvest Augurs a New Disaster for Cuba

The growers are not fast in planting and have planted only 58 hectares of the 354 that were required for the next harvest. (Invasor)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 January 2023 — The failure of the sugar harvest in Ciego de Ávila is already becoming a reality. The leaders of the province, who have been justifying the poor results for weeks, acknowledged on Tuesday that the activities were “somewhat sleepy,” that is, slowed down, despite the fact that they had proposed a “small” plan at the national level.

A report from the official newspaper Invasor, on Tuesday, detailed the chain of insufficiencies and breaks that prevented the harvest from developing as planned. A delegation led by Liván Izquierdo Alonso, secretary of the Communist Party in Ciego de Ávila, toured the province to identify the deficiencies in the process. His diagnosis was, according to the newspaper, alarming: “There are manifestations of indiscipline in the task.”

For Izquierdo Alonso, the little effort of the growers to deal with cutting the cane fields and processing the product occupies the forefront of inefficiency, while the lack of equipment, broken machines and insufficient payment of labor occupy second place.

In a meeting of the sugar directors with the Party, it was made clear that there were “serious difficulties” in cutting and transporting the cane. This factor, claimed the state company Azcuba, directly affects the number of tons that can be processed.

Without going any further, last week 25,800 tons of cane had been cut at the Primero de Enero sugar company, when the goal was to collect 132,000. Due to the lack of raw material, the work of the Ecuador and Ciro Redondo sugar mills was also delayed. continue reading

In the case of the latter factory, a broken valve affected the work of its two boilers and paralyzed its operations. In addition, the notable figure of ten broken trucks jeopardizes the system for transferring the product to the other mills in the province. Upon being informed of this situation, Izquierdo Alonso lamented the “misguided diagnosis” that the specialists had offered to the leaders before beginning the harvest, which had influenced their production promises.

The “repetitive strikeouts” and “constant hose breaks” are other common difficulties in the mill’s ecosystem, but nothing influences the low production as much, according to Izquierdo Alonso, as the “indiscipline” of machete cutters, drivers and other workers.

The trucks – leased by the government, the official said – also do not arrive on time to the field. The growers are not fast in planting and have planted only 58 hectares of the 354 that were required for the next harvest.

Izquierdo Alonso concluded his balance by asking the growers and cooperatives associated with Azcuba to “honor the established commitments,” work with “more dynamism” and become aware of the “tense economic reality” that the country is going through.

At the beginning of the year, the leaders anticipated that the harvest in Ciego de Àvila and in the other Cuban provinces would not have good results. In the first two months of the harvest – the so-called small harvest – only 69% of what was expected had been achieved, and there was no reason to expect an improvement in the following months. At that time, with losses in 32 of the 57 sugarcane bases in the province, Izquierdo Alonso once again attributed the failure to the human factor and the “bad use” of government measures.

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In Ciego de Avila, Cuba, 21 Businesses Lost More than 600 Million Pesos in 2022

To obtain one peso, the state-owned La Cuba, must spend more than four. (Invasor)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 23 January 2023 — Of 1,700 state owned businesses in Cuba, 480 ended 2022 with losses, although this was predicted for only 87 of them last year and 83 this year, which already makes us fear the worst. In Ciego de Ávila, specifically, just 21 of them lost more than 600 million pesos in 2022, although the prediction was six, according to a special report published Saturday by the local press. Furthermore, of the 80 businesses in the province, 41 did not meet their net sales goals.

Among those bleeding out, are Agroindustrial Ceballos, for years one of the most successful businesses on the Island, which in 2021 was already in the red and needed to let go of up to 800 workers. Last year, they ended the year with 69 million in losses.

Ahead of them, and in the lead, is La Cuba, another not-so-new business which appears on the list despite its “historical splendor,” which lost 73 million pesos. It its case, it was affected by the potatoes that rotted due to rain and lack of fertilizer, but especially, that “to obtain one peso they must spend more than four,” according to Susivey Márquez Toledo, a provincial government specialist, who warned that they must review which products are maintained and which are not, because it is impossible to continue like this. The report revealed that even bananas sold to the tourist sector were sold at a loss due to indirect costs that were not taken into consideration and for which the Ministry of Tourism paid less than what was needed.

The report claims that the losses were due to centralized planning. Avícola lost 29 million pesos trying to avoid it, justified director Leyda Martínez Arnáez, who months ago had warned that the cost of eggs in the approved plan was almost 2 pesos or even 3, for which the more the government pays, the more it loses. continue reading

The director explains that there is no alternative because to change the price sheet and adjust plans, the only option, is not within her competency, but rather, is set by Havana.

Agropecuaria de Chambas bemoaned a similar situation in which it lost 26 million. “The real count of cattle made them realize that the numbers, with their plans, said one thing and they, in the paddocks had something else: 2,000 fewer head of cattle, for which the value was calculated at the slaughterhouse, or the price of the 550 liters of milk which each absent cow should have produced,” exposes the report, which reproached the company for not having made realistic plans.

The long report pauses in describing the history of Alimentaria, which had to diversify its activities to contain their losses, an obligatory path that allowed them to reduce their losses from 34 million to 14 million pesos, although 300 workers left the organization “tired of earning a little over 2,000 pesos per month.” Its new director, Rafael Pina Jova, already anticipates a return of the big losses. From January 1st to January 13th all bakeries and confectioners in the province were paralyzed due to a lack of raw materials, until that Friday when flour production resumed with the cassava that arrived.”

“And do you believe that, like this, we will meet our plans, generate income or avoid losses? I see myself sitting in the February meeting, once again in the group of businesses with losses, and the one who failed to provide sugar or flour or fuel will be nowhere to be found…,” protested the manager. Pina Jova adds that meeting their demands would require having their own production because not even cassava, which was planted in large quantities on the Island, arrives because the prices are inaccessible. For 2032, they foresee losing 300 employees.

The official also reminded us of how they associated with the Empresa de Bebidas y Refrescos (Ember) [Beverages and Soft Drinks Company] to sell vinegar. With seeds from guava and tomatoes, with papayas and bananas from Alimentaria, they made the product which was sold in Ember jars.

The only business that survives this “sad saga”, as the daily Invasor refers to the situation, is Porcino, which has reversed the bad numbers by devoting themselves to other activities, including beekeeping. According to that newspaper, although many complain of the lack of pork, they should understand that while the feed and pre-fattening arrives, something has to be done for the business to survive.

Yusmey Hidalgo Rodríguez, deputy director of the Organización and Retribución del Trabajo [Organization and Redistribution of Labor] in the province reproached the many companies that did not want to do the same. “More than 40 companies did not engage in secondary activities; that is, they continued with just one activity, despite the need to increase income, and also to distribute profits,” he complained.

Furthermore, the official complained that others had not adopted the measures of defining employee salaries, one possibility that could be adopted by those who “do not foresee losses, log profits, contribute investment through their production, and have reliable accounting systems.” The Provincial Supply and Services Company for Education is one of the 14 that have decided to apply this incentive and  it has gone from 10 to 100 million pesos in benefits. But cases like this are a drop in the ocean.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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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 Condemns 15 Protesters of 11J (11 July 2021) to Sentences of Up To 13 Years

During one of the days of the trial, two of the attorneys criticized the proceedings against the protesters. (Capture)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 25 January 2023 — A court in Havana handed down sentences which ranged from four years of “limited liberty” to 13 years in prison to 15 protesters from July 11, 2021 (11J), the largest protests in decades.

According to the decision, dated January 23, which EFE accessed this Wednesday, the People’s Provincial Tribunal in Havana convicted them of “sedition,” but issued sentences that, for the most part, were shorter than those sought by the prosecution.

The sentencing, which still is not final and could still be revised, followed a trial that took place last November and that garnered a lot of media attention on the island.

Among those on trial was Jonathan Torres, a young man who at the time of the events was 17 years old (the only minor in this trial). The minimum age of criminal responsibility in Cuba is 16. He is one of the 55 people between 16 and 17 years of age who have faced criminal prosecution for the events of 11J, as confirmed by Cuba’s Attorney General.

In Torres’s case, the tribunal sentenced him to four years of “limited liberty” (though the Prosecutor sought five.) This means that he will not go to prison, but rather, will have his movements controlled by a judge. continue reading

Similarly, three people were sentenced to correctional labor without internment and another three with internment. In the statements made to EFE, Orlando Ramírez, Torres’s step father, described the proceedings as a “show” and, although he believed the determination to be a “victory,” he added that “really [the trial against his stepson[ is an error because he did not do anything.”

In sum, sentences totaling 75 years in prison were handed down to the protesters.

The tribunal accepted as proven facts that those convicted were moving about the Havana municipality of Arroyo Naranjo with “the purpose of generating destabilization of the social and political order established in the Republic of Cuba.”

In addition, they were accused of throwing rocks and yelling slogans against Miguel Díaz-Canel. However, according to the document, at least three of those accused denied having been present during the events.

The mothers of two of the accused were called to make statements, but they refused.

The trial took place with witnesses for the prosecution — mostly police officers — who were censored by the defense for their hesitations and changes in their testimonies, as EFE learned at the time from a source that was in the courtroom.

Similarly, during the trial, charges of “assault, public disorder, contempt and instigating a crime” were replaced by the crime of “sedition.”

This change provoked discontent among at least two of the attorneys — according to the same source — because this type of crime implies “an intention to destabilize the order of the State,” according to the Criminal Code.

According to their arguments, this cannot be proven because those 15 people participated in a protest that occurred far from the seat of power of the Cuban government.

During one of the days of the trial, two of the attorneys criticized the proceedings against the 11J protesters, as EFE learned at the time.

One of them said, “It is time the country begins to heal its wounds, it is time for the country to sit and have a dialogue, it is time for the country to create public spaces so that all people who do not think the same way can protest safely and legally without being charged with a crime.”

The Cuban Minister of Justice, Óscar Silvera, had a meeting last week with ambassadors from the European Union where they proposed a pardon for the protesters, as EFE learned.

As of now, 700 sentences have been handed down, according to the registry maintained by Justicia 11J and Cubalex. Of those cases, some sentences are as long as 30 years in jail for the crime of sedition.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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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 and EU Hold Talks on Those Condemned for 11 July 2021 Protests

The meeting, held this Wednesday within the framework of the Cuba-EU Political Dialogue, had an open and frank atmosphere, according to both parties, who positively assessed the meeting. (Twitter/Minrex)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 21 January 2023 — Cuba’s Minister of Justice, Óscar Silvera, met with ambassadors from the European Union (EU) to discuss the sentences of those who protested, across Cuba, in the demonstrations of 11 July 2021 (11J), according to what EFE has learned.

The meeting, held this Wednesday within the framework of the Cuba-EU Political Dialogue, had an open and frank atmosphere, according to both parties, who assessed the meeting positively. The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs described the meeting in a statement as a “sincere, open, respectful and profitable conversation.”

Diplomatic sources explained to EFE that the European side even raised the pardon of the protesters of the 11J protests, the largest demosntrations in decades on the Island. Some 700 sentences have been handed down so far, according to activists who keep track of these cases, some of them up to 30 years in prison for the crime of sedition.

Silvera, who qualified that there is no legal possibility of an amnesty in Cuba, noted the request for pardon from the European side, although without committing himself to anything. The repercussions of the new Cuban Penal Code, which entered into force last December and toughens the penalties for protesters, dissidents and activists, were also discussed at the meeting. continue reading

The meeting did not address bills currently being processed and that are generating some social controversy, such as the Social Communication Law, which prohibits independent media, or the Public Health Law, which would legalize euthanasia.

The European representation already met with members of Cuba’s Supreme People’s Court at the end of last year and plans to meet with representatives of the island’s Attorney General’s Office.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained that the meeting took place to “give continuity to the bilateral political dialogue” within the Political Dialogue, the “governing instrument” of relations between Cuba and the European bloc in force since 2017.

The political dialogue, according to the Ministry, “made it possible to intensify cooperation and generated opportunities for exchange on issues of mutual interest, such as human rights, unilateral coercive measures and sustainable development.”

Around twenty representatives from Cuba participated in the meeting –among them Silvera and several deputy ministers and general directors from his department – and from the EU, with the community ambassador to the island, Isabel Brilhante Pedrosa, at the head of the delegation.

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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.

More than 60 Percent of Cubans Arbitrarily Detained in 2022 Were Women

The leader of the opposition women’s movement Damas de Blanco, Berta Soler, has been imprisoned on several occasions by the Cuban regime. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 January 2023 — In 2022, Cuba reached the highest rate of women arbitrarily detained in the last four years. The figure is documented by the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH) in its latest report, published this Thursday, in which they attest to more than 5,500 repressive actions by the regime as of the end of the year.

Last year, the repression of the Díaz-Canel government was consolidated and even went further, adds the OCDH in its report, against sectors of the population traditionally not linked to politics.  Imprisonment and exile continue to be a predominant pattern practiced by the regime against dissident voices, while police summonses, threats, and detentions in homes continue.

The organization has recorded that, throughout 2022, Cuban authorities carried out 1,354 arbitrary arrests, of which 832 correspond to women and represent 61.4%, the highest figure since 2018.

The organization has recorded that, throughout 2022, Cuban authorities carried out 1,354 arbitrary detentions, of which 832 correspond to women

There were 1,447 documented detentions of activists, opponents, or relatives of prisoners in their homes, and  harassment against the independent press continued as well, with at least 697 repressive actions against journalists who suffered threats, surveillance, subpoenas and restrictions on mobile data and telephony. continue reading

Similarly, the report denounces that at the end of 2022 there are 976 political or prisoners of conscience jailed in Cuban prisons, the majority for participating in the massive protests of July 11, 2021 and other subsequent expressions of discontent, such as in the city of Nuevitas in August 2022. The Government applies the crime of sedition to prosecute the demonstrators, with sentences that average 10 years of imprisonment.

The Observatory reports that, despite multiple calls to the international community to intervene and verify the Cuban prison system, the Government maintains restricted access for agencies to its 293 centers, which have the highest prison population per capita in Latin America, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Approximately 72% of the Cuban population lives on the threshold of extreme poverty, and eight out of 10 cannot get medicines in pharmacies

The OCDH details that social indicators have deteriorated due to the deep economic crisis Cuba is experiencing, with a general shortage of food and basic necessities. This has led to 72% of the Cuban population living on the threshold of extreme poverty, and eight out of 10 unable to get medicines in pharmacies, according to the fifth report on the State of social rights published in October of 2022.

In its statement, the Observatory reiterates its call on governments and international organizations to “redouble” their support for activists and civil society in Cuba.  It also calls for programs of cooperation with the government to be conditional on “real progress in terms of democracy, human rights and economic freedoms” in addition to the elimination of the new Penal Code.

Similarly, the organization recommends continuing with sanctions against human rights violators under the principles of the Magnitsky Act and other accountability programs in the United States, the European Union and other countries.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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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.

Human Rights Group D Frente Highlights that the Cuban Constitution Allows Pardons and Amnesty for July 11th Prisoners

A protester is arrested during the 11 July 2021 protests in Villa Clara. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 January 2023 — The opposition platform D Frente [D Front] thanked the European Union on Monday for having met with the Cuban Minister of Justice, Oscar Silvera, last Wednesday, and for having addressed the sentences of the protesters on July 11, 2021.

“We see this gesture of solidarity, not as a feeling of compassion for the misfortune of others, but as a firm and persevering commitment to respect human rights in Cuba,” says the organization in an open letter addressed to Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

In this letter, the platform explains that the possible repercussions of the new Penal Code, which came into force last December, and which provides for tougher penalties for protesters, dissidents and activists, were also discussed. Instead, they note that the Cuban Constitution includes the possibility of granting pardons and amnesties.

Specifically, article 108 allows the National Assembly of People’s Power to grant amnesties, and article 128 empowers the President to grant pardons and to request the National Assembly to grant amnesties. This possibility is also implemented, continues D Frente, through laws No. 131/2019 and No. 136/2020.

The Island’s Minister of Justice maintained at the meeting, according to the EFE agency, that there is no “legal possibility” of an amnesty in Cuba and he did not commit himself to anything, although he noted “the request for pardon” from the European Union. continue reading

Similarly, Silvera described the meeting in a statement as a “sincere, open, respectful and profitable conversation.”

Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained that the meeting took place to “give continuity to the bilateral political dialogue” within the Political Dialogue, the “governing instrument” of relations between Cuba and the European bloc in force since 2017.

D Frente, born from a concentration of different dissident organizations, reiterates in its text its gratitude to the EU “for immediately and unconditionally releasing political prisoners,” despite acknowledging that the Cuban government “does not have the will to put an end to the political prison and uses these as a bargaining chip in its negotiations with other actors.”

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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.

President of the Central Bank of Cuba Insists that the Lender CRF Did Not ‘Legally’ Acquire Cuba’s Debt

On the placards, demonstrators in favor of the trial in London classified the Castro brothers as terrorists. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), London, 25 January 2023 — During the trial in London on Wednesday, the president of the Central Bank of Cuba (BNC), Joscelín Río Álvarez, said that the CRF investment fund “did not legally acquire the Cuban debt,” according to the country’s legislation and does not appear on the institution’s registers.

As a lender, CRF, which was established in 2009 in the Cayman Islands, has brought a claim before the British court against BNC, with Cuba as the guarantor for payment of obligations totaling 72 million euros derived from loan contracts with European signed in the 1980s.

In a process that will take several days, Judge Sara Cockerill, of the Commercial High Court of London, will first determine whether the investment group is or is not a legitimate creditor to Cuba, which considers it  a “vulture fund”, created only to accumulate unpaid Cuban debt and force payment through the courts.

According to procedural documents, CRF holds Cuban sovereign debt valued at 1.2 billion euros (which means they posses the contractual rights to collect it), which would make it the world’s largest debt holder.

Río Álvarez, who took charge in May 2020, maintained that CRF is not registered as a lender at BNC (only its application) and reiterated that the determination authorizing its status on November 25, 2019 by Raúl Olivera Lozano, a government official who has been convicted for accepting a bribe from agents of the fund and violating procedures, is invalid. continue reading

CRF alleges, for its part, that the determination of the contractual rights to the 72 million euro debt, which had previously been held by ICBC Standard Bank (the British affiliate of the Chinese ICBC bank), was legal. And stated that the accusations against Olivera and other colleagues sentenced to prison “are pretexts fabricated” by the Cuban state “to elude its obligations.”

Yesterday Olivera declared, also by videoconference from Havana, that CRF’s consultant, Jeetkumar Gordhandas offered him money to transfer the titles, which he did illegally, with only one signature (instead of two) and without consulting the Cuban government.

On Wednesday, Río Álvarez underscored that “no BNC employee is authorized to act on behalf of the Government of Cuba.” CRF states that it is not a vulture fund and highlights that for years it attempted to negotiate with Cuba to restructure its debt, without a response.

In parallel to the London trial, dozens demonstrated on Tuesday in Miami (USA) in support of the lawsuit brought forth by CRF. People gathered near the Versailles restaurant, on the emblematic 8th Street, the usual site for Cubans in exile to protest against the Government of Havana, shouting and insulting the Castro brothers, calling for a convinction before the Criminal Court in The Hague.

On the placards, demonstrators in favor of the trial in London classified the Castro brothers as terrorists and called for freedom for political prisoners being held in prisons on the Island by the Government of Havana .

The CRF I fund, the London Club’s largest holder of Cuban debt, initially sought 100 million euros for loans to the insular government by European banks Crédit Lyonnais and L’Istituto Bancario Italiano.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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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.

Scrambled Powdered Eggs, a ‘Life Vest’ for Hungry Cubans

A package of powdered eggs from Argentina (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodriguez, Havana, 20 January 2023 — The the powdered eggs she bought last month are past their April expiration date. They also cost her 1,000 pesos for a one-kilogram package on the black market but Lucy doesn’t care. This is the only option for housewives who want to provide their families with this particular source of protein. When they are available, the cheapest price for fresh eggs is never less than 1,700 pesos for a thirty-egg carton.

Two tablespoons mixed with six tablespoons of water is the equivalent one egg. The unusual flavor, which Lucy describes as having a “packaged” aftertaste, can be corrected, she says, “with a lot of seasoning.” The Central Havana resident cooks it like scrambled eggs. She first sautés onion, chili pepper and rosemary, dissolves the powder egg in water and adds it to the pan, finishing it with a little tomato sauce. “It is delicious though I know some people only add a little salt.”

Powdered eggs are not available in any store — neither state-run nor private, neither for pesos nor for hard currency — because they are reserved for the Cuban processed food industry. Rather than an ingredient for omelettes, they are used in pastries or other preparations such as pancakes, croquettes and panetelas [cakes]. The goal is to prevent contamination from salmonella, which fresh eggs can carry.

Lucy points out that only the reason she able to get her hands on the Argentina-made product — the expired expiration date being a clue — was because someone “diverted” it to the black market, which provides some relief from the island’s endless shortages. To save money, she bought only half a package and split it with her sister.

“I remember there were eggs during the Special Period. People called them ‘life vests’,” she says. “Things have gotten so bad that now they come powdered and expired.”

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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.

‘Chomy’ Miyar, the Cuban Who Knew All of Fidel Castro’s Secrets, Dies

His time as rector of the University of Havana coincided with the ’purge’ processes that ended with the expulsion of students and professors. (Twitter/Fidel Castro Center)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 January 2023 — José Miguel Chomy Miyar Barrueco, former secretary to Fidel Castro and one of the “historical” figures of the regime, died this Friday morning in Havana at the age of 90. Miyar was also rector of the University of Havana between 1966 and 1972, a position he held during the years of harsh purges against students and professors.

“He died at dawn at his home in Miramar, near the National Aquarium. He had been suffering from decompensated diabetes for years and was cared for by two nurses,” says a family source who requests anonymity. “The family was notified just after he passed away and many of them, who are based in Italy and Spain, are already traveling to the Island to be at the wake.”

The official press did not announce Miyar’s death until two hours after 14ymedio broke the news. After this delay, the Communist Party daily Granma reported that Miyar will have a wake at the funeral home at Calzada and K, starting at 6:00 p.m. this Friday. The burial will take place on Saturday morning, in the pantheon of the Armed Forces of the capital.

The relative reported that after Miyar’s death “a battalion” from State Security appeared to “collect” his belongings, because he was “the most important living archive that Fidel Castro had.”

Born in Siboney, Santiago de Cuba, in August 1932, Chomy graduated as a doctor and was a gray but very powerful presence in Cuban politics for half a century. However, “his last years, after Fidel Castro died, were difficult, they took him to a house, with a small room that looked like a movie set to give the idea of ​​humility, but it was all a lie because he was a very rich man. He had hip problems and they operated on him at Cimeq,” adds his relative.

“He only had two children left here, who are in the business of selling products over the Internet on foreign currency sites. The rest of the children and grandchildren are living in Italy and Spain with changed names,” he details. “Chomy was very isolated at the end of his life because Raúl Castro did not hold him in good esteem and he was a man who knew too many secrets, he had to be kept away from everyone so that he would not open his mouth.” continue reading

The family fortune, impossible to put into figures due to the secrecy that surrounds the Miyar clan, contrasts with the austere image that Chomy disseminated in the 1960s and 1970s, when he donned a dark gray khaki jacket with a closed collar, imitating the one worn by Mao Tse-tung. With that “uniform” he walked through the university cloisters, official activities and partisan events.

His time as rector of the University of Havana coincides with the “purification” processes that ended with the expulsion of students and professors accused of being revisionists, homosexuals, and religious. At the head of that house of higher studies, when the Ministry of Higher Education did not yet exist, Chomy had total power to define everything from the study plan to the access policy to university classrooms.

Miyar also served as secretary of the Council of State between 1980 and 2009, a period when his single visit to an official institution was seen as the arrival of “the eyes and ears” of Fidel Castro himself. Later, after Castro’s illness, he was appointed Minister of Science, Technology and Environment, which he held from 2009 to March 2012.

“The whole family is very well placed financially, some are owners of companies and a publishing house in Spain, as well as powerful businesses in Italy and other countries,” the relative details. “At one point you had to count on him for everything, he distributed properties from houses to the gift of positions, and he continued to be, until the end of his life, a great fan of Fidel Castro.”

“He had the largest collection of photographs of Castro, which he took himself, and he kept many of his secrets, which is why in his last years he was an uncomfortable person, someone nobody wanted to be around. He was always [Castro’s] private secretary, even when he worked in other functions or in public office, he was still his right hand man for many things.”

“He was married to a very rich Italian woman, who later died and left him the entire fortune, which is why part of the family is based in Italy.” His daughter, María Elena Miyar Ibarra, also held a high position in Immigration, but no longer lives on the island. “They already took everything they had to take out of the country, many resources, money, works of art and valuable belongings.”

“He created several companies to launder money in Panama, he also had a thriving business selling guayaberas under the Panabrisa brand,” he explains. “He was not only the one who helped Castro in ’carrying and bringing’ information, he also organized meetings with women who caught his attention when he visited the university or any other place and was in charge of managing part of the family’s money.”

“It was enough for someone to receive a call from Chomy for them to feel that they were talking to his boss, you couldn’t say no to anything he asked for. He was super powerful.” The anecdotes of young women who, after a chance encounter with Castro, were contacted by his personal secretary were repeated in the corridors of ministries and universities. “He acted as Celestino, all with discretion and that smile that he always had frozen on his face.”

During an international fair, Castro became obsessed with a girl who was studying physics, says Miyar’s relative. It was Chomy himself who supervised the installation of a landline phone in her house, so that Castro could talk to her. “We’re talking about the years when there were very few fixed lines,” he says.

“Although he was a doctor, he did not practice that profession with Castro, he was his secretary but he did not treat him as a doctor.” His specialty “was other things, he was not there to help him with his entrails but to carry his secrets and be absolutely docile,” the source underlines. “That was his whole life, more than the right hand of Fidel Castro, the dark hand that covered and kept his worst actions safe.”

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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 Authorities Pressure Private Business Owners in Sancti Spiritus to Lower Their Prices

“Prices are through the roof and they have increased a lot since the beginning of the year,” said one customer. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes García, Sancti Spíritus, 21 January 2023 — Food prices continue to increase and authorities in the city of Sancti Spíritus try to put the brakes on inflation by pressuring private business owners to lower their prices. The official call, however, has not been echoed in the sector hit hard by the high cost of raw materials and taxes.

Susana and her husband sell crackers and on Thursday were in a meeting called by the local authorities. “They told us we had to lower our prices because it is a directive of the Communist Party,” they told 14ymedio. “But we can’t, until recently we were buying wheat flour from a mipyme [a micro or small business] that sold it for 135 pesos but now we must pay more.”

“We’re between a rock and a hard place, because if we lower the price we practically won’t have any income. Everything we earn we would need to invest in purchasing ingredients for the crackers, that is, we’d work for nothing,” she says. “Between the raw materials and taxes there is no margin for a discount.”

“It is not only about the products we must pay high prices for to maintain afloat, but also that this work requires a lot of sacrifice: waking up very early to knead, shape and bake the crackers,” she stated. “Then, the time we must devote to sales, hours and hours on our feet and in contact with customers, who many times are bothered by the prices.”

“They are having these meetings with all those who are self-employed in Sancti Spíritus and the tone is not one of a suggestion nor recommendation, but of an imposition,” bemoaned Susana. “They don’t address us like people who must go through a thousand and one difficulties to keep their business open and who, in addition, offer a service: our crackers are the snacks for many children in this neighborhood take to school.”

On Friday, Vicente’s shop, which mostly sells sweets and candy, was a hotbed of activity because many who are self-employed arrived there to talk about the meeting the day before. The discontent with the requested adjustment seems to be generalized among a sector in which many believe that they are being blamed for inflation. continue reading

“They tell us we must lower prices, but when I go to the MLC [freely convertible currency] store I am forced to pay high prices for products I need to make the sweets I sell here,” claims Vicente. “There are products I cannot find anywhere else and the so-called wholesale market they were going to open for business owners has been a complete failure.”

The customers feel caught in the middle. “Prices are through the roof and they have increased a lot since the beginning of the year, but if the government continues to pressure private businesses we will end up without the few cafeterias that remain open to sell something,” acknowledged a young man who paid 120 pesos for a small pack of cookies at a private shop, near the city center. “Of course I want to pay less, but we could reach a point when even if we have the money we can’t find something like this.”

The battle to regulate the prices of the private sector has been going on for several years and at time is reinforced, languishing before the reality of inflation or adding new official mechanisms to penalize those who do not adopt the price caps imposed by the authorities.

“We need to confront those prices that continue to rise for certain activities and by certain indiscriminate people so they obtain high profits,” the Minister of Finance and Prices, Meisi Bolaños Weiss, stated in January 2020 during an episode of the Mesa Redonda (Roundtable) program on State TV.

To ensure compliance with the measure, the government shared several telephone numbers for reporting vendors who do not comply with the order and also launched an army of inspectors to visit businesses and impose fines for merchants, but none of these practices have been fruitful.

Now they add local meetings and direct pressure on each merchant which, for the moment, seem to be causing more discontent among the entrepreneurs than beneficial results for the customers’ pockets. The next step for the authorities could be much more radical, in a context in which inflation seems to be out of control.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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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.