New Water Cuts Announced in Havana for Thursday

It was reported that there will be no water from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm. Water trucks like the one in the photo supply water. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 October 2021 — To the despair of the residents of La Lisa, Playa and Marianao, the Havana Water company said that on Thursday they will interrupt the service in those municipalities “due to maintenance and repairs.”

In a statement published this Tuesday and by the official press, the state company specified that there will be no water from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm, and that the arrangements will be made “in the conductors and in the electrical lines that feed the well field of the Ariguanabo supply source.”

Havana Water was responsible for a sinkhole in Lawton, in the Havana municipality of Diez de Octubre, which caused an entire building to collapse. According to this newspaper, the huge hole was covered, and what was left of the house was demolished, but the neighbors asked about it do not know what happened to its inhabitants.

On the other hand, the continuous problems of the water supply occur continue reading

at a time of extreme crisis, to which the so-called ’Ordering Task’* and its subsequent monetary unification contributed. Many of the products used for storage and the domestic supply of water have become extremely expensive since the beginning of the year, not only in informal networks but also in stores that only take payment in hard currency.
“It turns out that a water pump for a three-story building is more than 5,000 pesos,” claims Mercedes, a neighbor of Los Sitio, in Centro Habana, who has been suffering water cuts for several weeks. Mercedes says that with such a price, she and her neighbors had to give up the idea of raising money to buy the device that would allow them to bring the the water up from a cistern.

Plastic cisterns and tanks have also also risen in price. We are facing an instability in the supply that becomes even more complicated when considering a population without resources to acquire storage devices

With the announcement of the interruptions foreseen for next Thursday, some have screamed to the high heaves because they have been suffering from the fluctuations of the supply for days without these difficulties being previously reported. “I left Arroyo Naranjo fleeing from the lack of water, because for a week in my house all that comes is a trickle some early mornings,” Luis Lorenzo, a 56-year-old from Havana, tells this newspaper.

“I came to my sister’s house here in La Lisa, because she lives on the ground floor and although the water arrives with little force, it has a little shaft at the entrance of the house that serves to fill the tanks, jar by jar,” he says. “But now, when I was getting the pleasure of bathing every day, she tells me that there is going to be a lack of water here as well. This problem is haunting me.”

In Marianao, it seems that nothing surprises the neighbors. The municipality is “cursed with regards to water,” say its residents. To the neighborhood’s slogan —  “Marianao city that progresses” — decades ago the ironic “with a bucket on its head” was added, to refer to the constant need to carry water for domestic consumption from long distances.

*Translator’s note: The Tarea ordenamiento, the [so-called] ‘Ordering Task’, is a collection of measures that includes eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and  many others throughout the economy. 

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

Electric Bicycles Compete With ‘Motorinas’ On Cuban Streets

Users value that electric bicycles serve the same needs as a ‘motorina’ and can even carry passage behind. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 19 October 2021 – The curious and potential buyers arrived this week at the store that only takes payment in freely convertible currency (MLC) on Infanta Street, in Centro Habana, to see the new electric bicycle marketed by the State.

Gone are the days of the hated Chinese bicycles of the Special Period. Now electric bicycles are in fashion but their price is not within the reach of most Cubans. With a price of 770 dollars (more than 60,000 pesos at the parallel exchange), the LT 4209n is a luxury item in a country of relentless scarcity, but it is an economical alternative to electric motorcycles, called ‘motorinas’, which cost approximately double — up to $2,000 USD in pages like Revolico. The motorinas have reigned in the streets of Cuba in recent years due to the insufficient public transportation system, the shortage of gasoline, the job opportunities they offer and their easy handling.

“Even if I had had enough money to buy a motorina, I would have bought the bicycle anyway,” explains Ernesto, the owner of one of these items, speaking to this newspaper from Sancti Spíritus. He is delighted with his acquisition. “It is cheaper to maintain and, for that matter, it solves the same problem as a motorina: it is for short trips, just like the bicycle. I even carry my wife behind me on mine, without any problems.” continue reading

“The motorina serves the same needs as a bicycle, with either one you can move from here to there,” he said.

In addition, Ernesto continues, the parts are also cheaper and when they break down it costs less to change them. “It is not the same to buy a battery for these, which are small, unlike the one for a motorcycle. And it is not the same to buy a tire for a bicycle as it is for a motorina.”

In early September, the company Caribe Electric Vehicles (Vedca), in charge of assembling the bicycle for sale on Infanta Street on the island, published the first images of the model on its social networks and other digital platforms. During those days, Yuniel admits that he “had his eye” on these cycles, but gave up buying one due to the rise in the exchange rate for in the black market (76 pesos for 1 dollar this Thursday) and the increase in food prices.

Yuniel, age 30, had a plan to get a courier license and look for a way to earn extra money, especially since, at the moment, the Traffic authorities do not require a helmet or a driver’s license to ride this kind of bicycle. Many private businesses in Havana, such as restaurants and pizzerias, hire self-employed people with motorcycles and electric bicycles to make home deliveries.

“In addition, bicycles are easier to store and park,” a Centro Habana delivery woman who bought her electric bicycle abroad told 14ymedio. “And they go a long way, 55 kilometers, similar to a motorina,” she adds about the autonomy of the vehicle.

The technical description of the brand-new model LT 4209 indicates that it has a 600-watt motor, that its battery is lithium, that reaches a speed of up to 30 km/h and that it has a range of 65 kilometers and a weight of 35 kilograms.

Now electric bicycles are in fashion but their price is not within the reach of most Cubans. (14ymedio)

Luis Alberto, on the other hand, is one of the Cubans who prefer electric motorcycles even though they are much more expensive, but he knows that on the island it is not recommended to buy any of these vehicles that are sold in state stores and assembled in Cuba.

“They are low-cost, the batteries, the motor and the regulator box have poor quality. You see it and say: ‘how beautiful’, but they are just facades. You better think well before investing your money in them,” warns this Havanan, who belongs to the Club Moto Eléctrica Cuba. Luis Alberto ordered a motorina for $ 2,000 from an acquaintance who went shopping in Panama last year and insists that he does not regret the “investment.”

Like Vedca, another entity that is dedicated to the commercialization of electric cycles is the Ángel Villareal Bravo Industrial Company, from Villa Clara, known as Minerva. Several models of electric bicycles of this brand, assembled on the island, were among the first to be sold in the network of state stores, about four years ago.

The prices then ranged from 850 to 1,375 CUC, recalls from Sancti Spíritus another fan of these vehicles, Miguel. “The most expensive electric bicycle had a screen one centimeter high and three wide that marked the mileage,” he details. “With the advantage that I have never heard that an electric bicycle battery has exploded”, he says, referring to the frequent cases of motorina fires due to the manipulation of their electrical system.

However, Miguel has defined very well the differences between a motorcycle and an electric bicycle.” Motorinas operate at a much higher speed, while this type of bicycle reaches a maximum of 30 kilometers per hour.”

Despite this, electric bicycles are beginning to proliferate everywhere on the streets of the Cuban capital. Vedca, which began operating last year in the Mariel Special Development Zone, is one of the brands most promoted in recent months by the Government and sells electric vehicles ranging from 700 to almost 4,000 MLC.

There are more than a few complaints from Cubans, yes, about prices. “Why is everything [only sold in hard currency] in MLC? Do they pay [wages] in that currency in this country?” Asked a user commenting on a Vedca publication on his social networks where it announced the price of the bicycle. “I am an honest worker and my salary is 2,500 pesos a month. In what year could I buy this type of motor?”

According to official data, in the country there are about 300,000 electric bicycles and motorcycles, between imported and marketed within the island, and a third of that figure is in Havana.

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

With Underwear Like This, Nobody in Cuba Is Getting Undressed

“All my boxers were worn-out, ugly, and dirty,” recalls Brian. “I couldn’t let the love of my life see me in them.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, October 17, 2021 “I am selling six pairs of sexy, modern underwear, used but well cared for,” reads a notice on one of Cuba’s most popular classified ad sites. It informs interested buyers that “they are like new, with firm elastic,” a plus in a country where, for over a year, it has been impossible to buy items like these with Cuban pesos.

Brian began his first sexual relationship last August. Despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, he fell in love with a young woman from Havana whom he met on Instagram. “The first time I saw her photo was like an arrow through my heart,” he says. “I wrote her and we exchanged messages, videos and photos for more than six months.” The big moment for this 18-year-old came this summer but there was a detail that neither of them had thought about.

“All my boxers were worn-out, ugly and dirty,” recalls Brian. “I couldn’t let the love of my life see me in them. I asked my brothers for help but they were already wearing theirs. They depend on the ’mules’* and, since no one is traveling, there’s almost nothing for sale. I checked with my friends to see if any of them could lend me something nice looking but they were all in the same boat.”

In recent years the only things Cubans can buy with Cuban pesos are basic goods and food. If you want to buy clothes, shoes or home appliances, sooner or later you end up either in the hard currency stores or the black market. Even at hotel boutiques, which once tried to attract local customers, items like these are only sold for freely convertible foreign currency.

Sixty-eight-year-old Maria Elena was taught by her parents from an early age to set aside a spare pair of underwear in case she ever had to go to the hospital. For years she kept an untouched continue reading

yellow set in a bottom dresser drawer. “In January I finally had to use it because I couldn’t keep wearing the rags that I had left,” she explains.

“But when I went to put them on, I realized the elastic was a bit worn out. So if I have to go see a doctor and they ask me to take off my clothes, I’ll keep my eyes on the ceiling because I don’t want to see all that down there,” she says.

Her son works on a construction crew and every morning has to change, taking off his clothes and putting on overalls in front of his coworkers. “Sometimes he doesn’t even want to go to work because having to do this makes him embarrassed.”

With the help of his parents, Brian rented a room on the outskirts of Havana. “It had a jacuzzi, breakfast and dinner included for two nights, a flat screen TV and a lot of privacy,” he says. “In the bedroom there was a set of programmable LED lights. So when we were about to start fooling around, I turned them all off because they made me feel ashamed”.

The next day, Brian discovered his girlfriend’s underwear lying on the floor, also threadbare and full of holes. “That drew us closer because we started talking about it and how awful it felt pretending we had something we didn’t have. In the end, knowing that each of us was almost destitute in that respect has made us more honest with each other.”

Two months later the couple have overcome the obstacle of the weathered fabric with the holes. But worn-out bras, panties and briefs can be damaging to one’s self-esteem. “I didn’t sleep with anyone for a year. I couldn’t do it like this. I was ashamed,” admits Claudia, a 40-year-old resident of Matanzas who turned to her city’s informal market.

“Before, people bought one type of underwear that was comfortable and another type that was more suitable for romantic encounters. Now you can’t find either,” she laments. “I had to resort to wearing the bottom half of a bikini that I used to wear only for the beach. It’s uncomfortable because it’s not a fabric designed to be worn all day long but it’s all I have.”

“I myself am embarrassed. Nobody gets undressed in front of anyone else these days, which puts a dent in your love life,” observes Claudia. “It’s not as though I want something with a brand name or fancy. It’d be satisfied just to be able to take off my dress and hope that what’s underneath arouses lust rather than pity,” she laughs. “With this faded, stretched-out bikini, they’re going to send me into retirement.”

A young man who works as a volunteer for a non-governmental group that distributes donated medicine from overseas told 14ymedio that his organization has received many requests from people looking for underwear, especially women. “We’ve gotten messages from girls asking us if we have any panties or bras, or if we can do them the favor of sending them a package. People are desperate to get them but we don’t have any way of helping them. My own underwear is all old and worn out,” he says.

Others take the “skin-to-skin” approach, without worrying about their undergarments. “I think we’ve reached the point where have to figure out if guys love us because we have a pretty bra or if they actually love us,” says 32-year-old Monica, another Havana resident who got divorced in the middle of the pandemic. “He thought I could give him a certain kind of life because, when we met, I had an outfit from Victoria’s Secret that a friend gave me when she moved, but it had nothing to do with my own personal means.”

“Now I prefer to be seen in more modest dress because, at the end of the day, I live in Alamar and I can’t have a partner who gets the idea he’s going to have a comfortable life because he’s seen me in a brand-name bra and is later disappointed. I don’t turn off the lights or do anything else so that he knows right from the outset that I am a woman with little income, so he has to love me the way I am.”

Malcolm feels like he has hit the jackpot. A cousin living in Panama sent him a package of briefs whose English-language trademark is a day of the week. “I put on my Saturday today but I wash it by hand as soon as I take it off. It’s not going in the washing machine because I don’t want it falling apart. I take it off then put it away until the next date,” he says smiling.

In addition to the personal vicissitudes, experts warn of other problems. “The social distancing caused by the pandemic, together with the economic crisis, may be creating serious problems in the ways this generation of Cubans meet, interact and love each other,” explains Lazara Echeverria, a social behavior psychologist. “They may be harboring trauma and rejection that will only manifest themselves much later on.”

She adds, “The first experience is very important. If it is marked by complications, by feelings of disadvantage and shame, that will take a long time to overcome. Sometimes things as simple as a pair of briefs or new panties can change the whole experience.”

Translator’s note: ’Mules’ are people who travel abroad and bring merchandise back to Cuba to sell.

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

‘The Young Man With the Placard’ is Denied Pre-Trial Release for the Fourth Time

Robles was arrested on December 4 of last year for protesting on Boulevard San Rafael, in Havana. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 October 2021 — It is the fourth time that the defense of Luis Robles Elizastigui, known as “the young man with the placard,” has been denied a change in his confinement. In a document provided to 14ymedio by his brother, Landy Fernández Elizastigui, the Provincial Court of Havana considers that “the reasons for this measure have not changed,” and therefore, they will not release Robles before his trial.

Scheduled for July 16, the oral hearing was suspended as a result of the massive protests that occurred throughout the country five days earlier, and, according to Fernández, a set date has not yet been communicated to the family.

Last July, a Facebook page was created with the activist’s name to demand his freedom, a video in which Robles talks about the reasons that led him to be a protestor. “Freedom is the greatest thing that one can have in life and these shameless communists, since they arrived they have cut us off from all kinds of freedoms,” says the young man in the recording. “They have taken away even our freedom to think, they want to rule even what we think.”

Robles, who was arrested on December 4 after holding up with his arms raised, on the Boulevard of San Rafael Street in Havana, a placard calling for freedom, the end of the repression and the liberation of the rebellious rapper Denis Solís, who is accused of “enemy propaganda” and “disobedience”, as confirmed in the legal text of the Provincial Court.

The document also includes the allegations of both the young man’s lawyer and his mother, Yindra Elizastigui Martínez. The first argues that “there are more and more opinions that support the innocence of the accused” and the second, that his son simply spoke out peacefully, “a right that all Cubans have.”

None of this was addressed by the Court. Luis Robles will continue, ten months later, in prison.

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

Even Moringa is Scarce in Cuba

Puffed rice cakes with moringa as an ingredient sale in a store in Guanabo, Havana, in national currency (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalaia López Moya, Havana, 16 October 2021– The cultivation and consumption of moringa, one of the last projects promoted by Fidel Castro, would seem like a distant story for many Cubans, if it were not for some products that are still marketed in Cuban pharmacies. Pills, tea and puffed rice cakes made with the leaves of this tree, native to India, are the few vestiges that remain of that plan that made headlines a decade ago.

At Carlos III y Soledad pharmacy in Havana, a bag with dried moringa-filled pills is sold as a nutritional supplement despite the fact that the label leaves very little clarification on the benefits of the product. “They are in high demand and when it comes in they are sold out the same day,” explains an employee to 14ymedio. The woman details that “most of the people who buy it, take it with the aim of maintaining or losing weight.”

That end is far from the wonders that Castro promoted nine years ago in one of his reflections, the writings that he continued to publish in the official press after retiring from public life due to an intestinal problem. “Inexhaustible sources of meat, eggs and milk, silk fibers that are spun by hand and are capable of providing well-paid, shadow work, regardless of age or sex,” he said then of the moringa plants. continue reading

However, with the death of the dictator, little by little the planting and commercialization of the derivatives of this plant have been losing prominence. On the main street of Guanabo, one of the most important beaches in eastern Havana, the counter of the once well-stocked international pharmacy has on display only a few products and some puffed rice cakes with moringa.

Due to the national crisis, all the stores around are empty of merchandise or with very long lines to buy frozen chicken or ground meat. Hence, some visitors staying in nearby private homes venture to buy the cakes. “They are not bad, although a little dry because the employee says that they have been there for a long time and do not sell very well,” explains a visitor to this newspaper.

“I bought them for breakfast because in all of Guanabo we have not found neither bread nor normal rice cakes for when we get up, to be able to put something in our mouths,” she details. The label reads that they are produced in the Sierra Maestra Science, Technology and Innovation Entity, in Siboney, one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the city. A local worker, speaking by telephone, says that “now they are not being produced and when we have they are also sold at subsidized prices to employees, but not many buy them.”

The most popular derivatives of the plant are still “moringa packages that cost 21 pesos and that people use for an infusion,” explains a neighbor close to the Carlos III pharmacy. “They tell me that people even use it to add to their meals and to dress salads. I, who am addicted to herbal teas, bought a package to try it and it is not bad. The truth is that when it appears on sale it is gone immediately,” he confirms.

“Not even the production of moringa, of which they spoke so much, has been able to meet the amounts promised,” laments another resident in the area. “When they tell me that they put the tea on sale, by the time I left my house and arrived, it was over. This is already like beef: scarce and you can only get with contacts.”

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

The Official Cuban Press Takes Out Its Artillery Against 15N and Yunior Garcia

Yunior García during an interview with 14ymedio last September, when the government began the smear campaign against him. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 October 2021 — Cuba’s official media deployment against 15N (15 November) and specifically against Yunior García Aguilera, one of the promoters of the marches initially called for November 20 and advanced after the Government decided to place the Moncada Exercise and the National Defense Day for that date. One day after learning the negative response to the planned demonstration, the texts and videos dedicated to disqualifying the convening groups and their leader are multiplied in the press.

Primetime News on Cuban television broadcast a piece in which the mayor of Old Havana, Alexis Acosta Silva, tries to explain that the call to march does not comply with the law due to its illicit purposes. The report links the promoters of the civic march with “destabilizing and anti-Cuban” groups and is signed by journalist Abdiel Bermúdez, a fact that has caused perplexity and disappointment in Yunior García himself.

In a post on his Facebook profile, the playwright and member of Archipiélago laments that Bermúdez, whom he knew as a serious and rigorous journalist, is lending himself to untruths.

“I was happy when the young, rebellious and talented journalist started working on the newscast. I said to myself: at last we will have a professional on [State] NTV, unable to lie. Then we met again on July 11, in front of the ICRT. I was on the side of the protesters, of course. Abdiel looked at me and lowered his head (…) Later I learned continue reading

that he decided to disappear from the place before witnessing the barbarism. I never said a word against him.”

García regards the report as biased and reproaches the reporter for not having contacted him to find out his version; and admits that “if Abdiel had been consistent with his career and with the values of honest journalism, perhaps today they would also call him a” mercenary.” If instead of going to the NTV, he had chosen independent journalism, his name would also be linked to the CIA.”

The young man also refers to the broadcast of the program Con filo, which dedicated its 15 minutes to criticizing the 15N marches on the grounds that they are supported by people whom they consider terrorists, criminals and US agents, among whom and especially prominent is the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba José Daniel Ferrer, detained since July 11 for the umpteenth time, the artist Maykel ’Osorbo’, and the exiled Orlando Gutiérrez Boronat, spokesman for the Cuban Democratic Directorate and member of the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance.

The program briefly reviews the biographies it has produced of the three, highlighting moments in which they demand US interventions in Cuba or resort to methods that are not necessarily peaceful. With regards to Ferrer it referenced the episode of 2019, when the opponent appeared to injure himself during an interrogation.

Con filo also questions García for having taken a course at the Madrid headquarters of Saint Louis University called Dialogues on Cuba, where he allegedly addressed non-violent techniques of struggle against oppressive regimes such as those that gave rise to the color revolutions of Eastern Europe and the Arab Spring.

The first official media to accuse the playwright for having taking this course was Razones de Cuba, which also dedicated a somewhat elegant article to him this Wednesday entitled Yunior, instead of a dove, a crow. In it, he accuses him of being “the bastard son of a decadent and vulgar bourgeoisie” and advocating a “blatant annexation with the United States,” something that, to date, García has never demanded.

Other media also points to Maykel Osorbo and Eliecer Ávila as friends of the Archipelago spokesman and ends with two threats, one to the Cuban people warning them of “what awaits them” if the Revolution falls — the descendants of Batista to want “their lands and properties,” those that were expropriated more than half a century ago — and another to the playwright: “Yunior, be careful you don’t end up living on the street, maybe not, and you guaranteed your little piece of silver, confess that you walk without morals. Your Peace instead of a Dove is a Raven!”

These types of campaigns that attack the reputation of opponents, activists or anyone who denounces actions by the Cuban authorities are frequent. In recent years, the official Cuban press has focused on attacking independent journalists or bloggers living within Cuba, to stigmatize them without the right to reply.

The national daily press has not wanted to stop chewing over the matter and publishes the response to the marches on the State website Cubadebate and in the State newspaper Granma , where there is also an editorial entitled Reason is our shield. The results have been uneven in the two most popular official newspapers and, while the online media accumulates a mountain of more than 220 comments among which it is difficult to find any defense to the celebration of the marches, the case of the Communist Party newspaper is more striking.

Among the — only 21 — users who have responded to the Granma text, there are at least five supporters of authorizing the demonstrations because of their commitment to be peaceful. “If it is peaceful, it must be allowed, we are all Cubans. We must respect each other even if we do not think the same,” says one commentator.

“Please do not mix one thing with another. The march is not illegal. Not everyone thinks the same and it is normal and correct that people have the right to express themselves peacefully,” adds another.

García, in his post last night, makes his position clear despite the many attacks that in just 24 hours have been added to the prior ones. “See you on November 15. I’m no longer afraid of the garbage trucks, the ’black shirts’, the sticks they hand out in each workplace, or the dictatorship. And yes, I already use the word DICTATORSHIP. There are words that you don’t dare to mention until you see them naked, in front of you, like today.”

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

After a Dropping for a Week, Covid Numbers Rise Slightly in Cuba

The population most vulnerable to covid-19 in Cuba is those over 50 years of age. (Twitter / @ CIGBCuba)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 17 October 2021,Havana — The population over 50 years of age continues to be the most vulnerable to covid-19 in Cuba, which this Sunday presented a slight increase in cases after a week of decreases. Some 21 deaths were reported from the coronavirus and of those, 20 of the were people over 50. Based on the figures from the Ministry of Health, covid killed 194 adults in the last week.

As of 16 October, 23,920,914 doses of candidate vaccines have been delivered on the island and 6,689,090 of the 11.2 million inhabitants have completed the three-dose regimen. Despite the fact that a decrease in the numbers of patients with covid-19 has been reported, 255 are currently in intensive care; of these, 88 are in critical condition and 167 are serious.

The provinces of Pinar del Río with 389 cases, Camagüey (337), Sancti Spíritus (318), Holguín (290) and Las Tunas (201) maintain the highest number of infections by the SARS-CoV-2 virus of the 2,197 new cases registered on Saturday. In Santiago de Cuba, of 47 who died, four victims were reported to have succumbed to complications derived from the coronavirus.

Intoxicated by the decline in figures, the official press reported continue reading

that “the number of cases decreased by 9% and in terms of active cases, the decrease was 14.6%.” With this argument, the First Deputy Minister of Culture, María Elena Salgado Cabrera, proposed the reopening of activities and holding of events.

These activities include “re-establishing the rehearsals of theatrical, musical and dance groups, with specific prevention regulations”; in addition to the “controlled reopening of the recording studios, the programming and operation of the Houses of Culture, theaters and cinemas.”

The plan contemplates starting with “the theatrical presentation in a staggered manner, using small-format works and repertoires or other variants that do not require greater physical contact between the artists.”

This also implies that “those groups and companies that already have one hundred percent of their artists vaccinated with the three doses against covid-19 will resume their functions; and the sale of tickets to the theaters will be held days before the function, in order to avoid crowds.”

Theatrical capacity will be handled with “30 to 40% of the total capacity.” Salgado Cabrera also proposed “to open all bookstores, libraries, museums and galleries during normal hours.” Which would imply the adoption of hygienic measures, limiting the number of participants and guaranteeing physical distancing.

And faced with the planned arrival of tourism in mid-November, the important thing for the Government is to “establish strategies” for the arrival of foreign and Cuban visitors. The concern is simmering; in September alone, this newspaper announced that the disaster affects this sector, first of all, in direct jobs. Of the 111,033 tourist workers, only half, 55,832, have returned to their jobs, while 2,950 are working remotely.

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

Yunior Garcia Calls for a Stop to the “Lynching” of Opponents in Cuba

García, one of the promoters of 15N (15November), notes that his “generation grew up hearing the phrase: for your own good, speak softly.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 October 2021 — Cuban officialdom continues with its defamation campaign against Yunior García Aguilera and 15N (November 15), which had initially been called for a nationwide demonstration on November 20, which it was decided to advance to the 15th after the Government announced the National Defense Day for that date.

“The baseness is such that they have cut off our Internet services so that we cannot even defend ourselves within our networks,” said the playwright and member of the Archipiélago group. Although he says that “Cuban ingenuity also knows how to circumvent these internal blockades.”

The activist made clear in a post on his in a post on his Facebook profile profile: “If there were justice and we had 15 minutes on national television, the entire lie that the power structure has fabricated would collapse instantly.”

He also requested “with respect that the lynching against any Cuban who honestly defends his principles, regardless of political color, ceases. continue reading

When we say ‘with everyone and for the good of everyone’, we mean it.”

García, one of the promoters of 15N, recalled that his “generation grew up hearing the phrase: ‘for your own good, speak softly’,” and that some of his friends have left the island or “dream of doing so soon.”

He explains that he does not want his phone to be recharged or to be sent a pair of shoes, he wants “Cuba to be the nation to which everyone can return whenever they want, think how they think, and from which no one else wants to leave.”

He regretted that in 2022 Cuba “will mark 70 years without democracy” and that the revolutionary promises on “rights, justice, freedom and free elections” turned into a Soviet appendage. And what “promised to be as green as the palms” was “wrapped in a red cloak with a hammer and sickle guarding the lone star.”

The playwright also made reference to the fact that “single thought, censorship and political persecution have been the daily bread of any Cuban who does not submit to the control of the bosses. And the end of the Cold War only increased our misery. We are survivors of an unfinished war, in which we were neither victors nor defeated, only hostages of an obsolete dogma, of a clan of officials clinging to power and its privileges, of a whim propped up with Russian-made rifles.”

On November 15, García said, “we will march without hatred” for “a right that has never been respected in 62 years of dictatorship, but we are going to conquer it with civility. The whole world will be looking towards Cuba that day.”

Hoping that no more generations go by without being able to “freely choose their ideology, their party and their president,” as happened with their parents, who have had to “resign themselves to the decision of others” and ratify them “to avoid looking for problems.”

For the Archipiélago member, “it is past time to say what we think out loud.” Although he knows that “power plays dirty, that it gives combat orders against its own people, that it lies to our faces, that it would even be capable of infiltrating its paramilitaries into the march to generate violence and blame us. Each citizen must be responsible for their own conduct and uphold the peaceful and firm attitude that we have called for.”

There is no doubt for Yunior that “November 15 can and should be a beautiful day. Wherever a Cuban lives, we know that his heart will be in Cuba.” And he is confident that “the powerful will not insist on behaving in a cowardly way against their own citizens. Do not repeat the crime of July 11. Hopefully officers and soldiers understand that there is no honor in obeying immoral orders.”

To those who continue to use his work with cultural institutions as “blackmail”, Yunior García reminded them that “working is a right, not a privilege” and that he has “given as much as or more than what I have received.”

He thanked his teachers for the education they gave him, but he let the government know that he had already paid for all his studies. “Know it. I went to all the schools in the countryside, cut sugarcane, harvested potatoes in Artemisa and coffee in Pinares de Mayarí. I completed two years of social service receiving the illusion of a salary.”

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Apartheid at Cuba’s Capitol

A group of tourists taking photos in front of the Capitol in Havana.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia Lopez Moya, Havana, October 17,  2021 — On Saturday Havana residents were astonished to see a group of tourists posing for photos in front of the Capitolio, the Cuban capitol building.

“Because they’re foreigners, they have the right to walk along the sidewalk in front of the capitol and take photos while they intimidate me and make sure I’m only carrying a cell phone in my hand,” says one young man walking in front of the building which houses the National Assembly.

On July 11 a large crowd of demonstrators crying “freedom” almost reached the steps of the iconic building, where they were reprimanded and arrested by police. Since then, the streets surrounding the building have been heavily guarded. For more than three months no Cuban citizen has been allowed to even walk on any of the sidewalks encircling it.

With less than a month to go before a November 15 march organized by a group called Archipelago, officials have stepped up security in this area of Havana, where a 14ymedio reporter counted twenty police and soldiers blocking access to anyone who might try to approach the imposing building, especially if they are young.

“It’s obvious they’re afraid of us. If that weren’t the case, they wouldn’t let tourists go near it either. They won’t even let us to rollerblade on the Paseo del Prado like we’ve done for years,” observes one boy. “The police treat us like we’re criminals.”

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Prepaid Cards, Another Desperate Attempt to Prevent Gasoline Theft in Cuba

Though officials have stepped up inspections, Cupet gas stations are still accepting cash payments “on the side.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia Lopez Moya, Havana, October 14, 2021 — In spite of strenuous efforts by the government, Cubans remain reluctant to stop using cash to buy gasoline. A policy requiring customers to pay by card at Cupet service stations, which are operated by state-owned conglomerate Cimex, was expected to take effect by December 2020. The policy is far from being implemented, however, and continues to arouse misgivings among the public.

Those misgivings were acknowledged this week by Villa Clara’s official press, which reported that forty-one of the fifty-five gas stations in the province only accept payment by magnetic or disposable prepaid cards. “At the moment the process has slowed down because we are not accustomed to this new form of payment,” admitted Eduardo Acosta, Cimex’s regional sales manager, on a local CMHW radio broadcast, adding that not all filling stations have been able to install scanners for the cards’ QR code.

He noted that, as with any new measure, there is widespread resistance but that this was now government policy and part of the “reordenamiento“(reordering).*

In a later exchange, reporter Abel Falcon expressed skepticism of Acosta’s explanation: “It’s a tactic to prevent what’s been going on, which is the illegal diversion of gasoline.” He added, “The administrative bureaucracy often moves too slowly and creates bottlenecks. Then Cubans wonder why they have to pay for other people’s mistakes.”

“If you could get the card anywhere in Havana, it wouldn’t be a problem,” says a taxi driver who works in the capital. “The problem is continue reading

that it’s not for sale at every Cupet station. You get there, wait hours in line and then you have to turn around and try to find it somewhere else. And they don’t tell you whether they accept cash or not.”

Acosta addressed this issue during the radio interview, claiming the company was in talks with the state telecommunications company Etesca to sell cards through their retail branches.

When Cimex announced the new payment system in March 2020, it gave vague reasons for “modernizing the network” without providing further information. It made the announcement the day before Cuba closed its borders to tourism in an effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The pandemic caused the company to postpone the rollout from August to December, at which time it also introduced disposable or “scratch” cards, which reveal a unique number when scratched. They work like a prepaid phone card and can be purchased in 25, 75, 125, 250, 500 or 1,250-peso denominations.

“There’s another problem,” adds the taxi driver. “You have use the entire amount on the card. For example, if you have a card for 500 liters, you can’t buy 250 and use the rest later. Or if you have a twenty-liter card but your car only needs fifteen, what are you supposed to do with the rest? You have to carry an empty plastic jug just in case. And no car in Cuba will tell you exactly how many liters you have left, especially an old one.”

“The cards are taking up a lot of our time because you have to go through the system and sometimes the system is down,” adds another taxi driver, who joined the conversation. He cites power outages, which are happening with increasing frequency on the island, as one of the causes. “You buy a card and then you can’t pump the gas. It’s a very modern system but we don’t have the technology to handle it. If we’re having problems now, imagine what it’ll be like with the new one.”

“This is not about making life better for the customer or facilitating anything,” says the first driver. “The only reason they have for doing this is to prevent people from stealing gasoline. They’ve tried to do it a thousand times before but have no idea what they’re doing.”

The crusade against corruption at Cupet stations was famously launched back in 2005 by Fidel Castro himself, who sent thousands of “social workers” to gas stations in an effort to prevent fuel theft. “It ended up being a total failure,” says Lizy, an employee at a gas station in the capital, “because social workers started getting in on the action.”

These groups, a Cuban version of Mao’s Red Guards, are the same ones who used to distribute home appliances to neighborhoods from which the government recruited the shock troops it deployed to suppress dissent. They too ended up being part of the network of corruption, diverting resources to the black market. Less than a decade later, few of those workers are still employed at gas stations. Embezzlement even made some of them millionaires.

Lizy confirms that working at a Cupet station “has a lot of benefits.” She claims that, in a few months, employees can go “from a scooter to a car to a house.”

Authorities have stepped up inspections and Lizy acknowledges things have become quite difficult but, she claims, “Business will go on and it won’t matter that there’s no cash.”

The “business” to which she refers begins once fuel is delivered to the station. “For example, the delivery man tells [the station employee], ‘There are 150 liters of oil and 100 liters of gasoline here for you. You have to pay me X amount.’ [The employee] pays him his share and it then it gets sold under the table. From there the money is distributed. That’s how it’s always worked,” she explains

Though payment by card is being required, customers “know the ropes” and some ask to pay in cash. “Nothing has changed. The money is still going to Cupet workers,” she says.

*Translator’s note: The comment refers to the Tarea ordenamiento, the [so-called] ‘Ordering Task’ which is a collection of measures that includes eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and  many others throughout the economy. 

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“I Use My Visibility to Make the World Understand That in Cuba There is A Dictatorship”

Saily González:, owner of Amarillo B&B, in Santa Clara, and creator of the Telegram channel for entrepreneurs Amarillo y Medio. (Facebook / Saily.de.Amarillo.BandB)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 October 2021 — Just a few days ago Saily González announced the closure of her private business. After more than five years of service the Amarillo B&B, a hostel in Santa Clara, stopped offering its tasty breakfasts. The reason is neither the pandemic nor the difficulties in obtaining raw materials, but the lack of freedom.

This was not a final goodbye; González placed a condition on the reopening–that in Cuba “the rights of all Cubans to think and to speak  be respected.” On this occasion, she talks to 14ymedio about the causes for such a drastic decision, her activism, and the call to march on November 15th.

14ymedio. Since the easing of restrictions on self-employment in the 1990s, many have pointed to the private sector as conservative, static, and at times “complicit” with the ruling party. Do you also see it that way? Why do you think most business owners are so wary of national politics?

González. I cannot speak about the entire period since the 90s, but, rather, since I started in this world, in approximately 2014, when I became aware that I really was an entrepreneur. Most business owners are very cautious when it’s time to speak; they take great care, because they know that they operate on the margins of legality. It has always been this way and will continue to be despite the new law allowing micro, small and medium enterprises. Because legally obtaining necessary supplies and materials to carry out any type of entrepreneurial initiative is a headache. It is very easy for them to question you either because you are carrying out an activity that is illegal, or because the materials or supplies that you are using for your production are illegal. And so far there is no functional wholesale market that allows you to justify what you need for production.

14ymedio. Engaging in activism in Havana is one thing – there are embassies, foreign reporters and a growing number of independent organizations – but being a critic of the system in a provincial capital or in a small town is something else, much harder. What has been your experience?

González. I engage in political activism in Villa Clara because that is where I live; I would have done it similarly whether I lived in Mayarí Arriba or in Havana. It is not about doing it because you live in a specific place, it is about doing it for the rights of all Cubans, no matter where they live. Doing it here is difficult, but I have been a serious continue reading

entrepreneur for years, and in that sense I can count on a lot of support from the community.

What happened after July 11, when they began to tell that string of lies on national television, is what led me to engage in hypercritical activism

14ymedio. Saying goodbye to an entrepreneurial project that still has a long way to go is like “pulling the rug out from under” in the middle of this crisis. What was your internal process when making the decision to close Amarillo B&B?

González. My economic situation is not among the worst in Cuba at the moment. If something really hurt me, it was having to say goodbye to the workers, people I have been with for five to six years. One of them is a single mother of three children, and her only job is as a cleaning assistant in the Municipal Assembly of the People’s Power, where she makes just 1,900 pesos. That shocked me. However, I received their support, and I made a commitment to them to find other ways in which they could make money, for example by recommending them to other businesses that remain open in Santa Clara.

On the other hand, I consider the way I act and my vision at the moment to be fairly coherent. I try to use my visibility to make the world understand that there is a dictatorship in Cuba and that without rights we cannot live or carry out any activity of any kind.

14ymedio: What was your path to arrive at this civic attitude? Do you remember a day, a moment or any circumstance that made you cross the red line and engage in visible activism?

González. At the beginning of this year, they decided to limit economic activity in Santa Clara. At that moment I began to strongly question the municipal and provincial government. These questions earned me the occasional appointment with the State Security, in which they questioned my position; not so much because of the things I said, but the way I was saying them, when I’d call them “asses with claws,” or when I rebuked them saying that a particular cadre within the Party is not prepared to lead.

But fundamentally, what led me to speak so directly and to engage in hypercritical activism, basically with the aim of telling the truth which they do not allow, was what happened after July 11, when they began to tell that string of lies on national television and I heard one neighbor tell another that those who had taken to the streets were vandals and criminals. That seemed very unfair to me and I felt that I had to tell the truth. Once you enter into this there is no going back, you can do it and say I am not going to talk anymore, but I feel that it is my right because I feel free and it is necessary for us in Cuba to finally understand and perceive ourselves as citizens with rights and act accordingly. Within that recognition of our rights lies the end of the dictatorship and our ability to achieve democracy.

On the other hand, I feel supported following recent events, which occurred at the international level in the political sphere, such as President Lacalle’s words at CELAC and the European Union’s declaration regarding human rights in Cuba

14ymedio: Since you took on that position, what have been the personal and family costs?

González: I am lucky to have friends and family who in a certain way share my thinking or at least respect it and do not question it. I have only had one confrontation with a relative, but coincidentally it is one of these people who say that families do not subtract or divide, but rather add and multiply, and we left it there. My friends, either completely share my thinking and what I say, or they respect it and keep it on the sidelines, but without refusing to interact with me or anything like that.

The fundamental cost is the guilt: the guilt that my mother cannot have a normal life as  she did before July 11th, the guilt of seeing her worried or sad because my brother is also in danger. He just graduated medical school; he is an excellent person and very dedicated to his profession, but he is also in danger of being questioned because of the things his sister says. He of course defends me, although he is among those who think that no one can topple this.

14ymedio: 15N [November 15] is already causing nervousness in the regime, but it [the regime] also seems to be preparing “all in” for a confrontation. Aren’t you afraid of a massacre, an unpredictable social conflict or a new Black Spring?

González: Perhaps due to my low perception of risk, which is innate in me, the fear dissipates more and more. Also because I feel protected by all the visibility we are getting at the international level, by all the press coverage we are getting, for example, this is one of five interviews I have today, all of them mainly about 15N. We are receiving a lot of support from independent Cuban media and foreign media. On the other hand, I feel supported following recent events, which occurred at the international level in the political sphere, such as President Lacalle’s words at CELAC and the European Union’s declaration regarding human rights in Cuba on September 16th, and more things that keep coming up.

Work is being carried out from within Cuba, but also from outside. In other words, I perceive a willingness of the Cuban diaspora, of the Cuban exile community to support us with their own political activism, perhaps some more than others, but they support this 15N initiative, and that greatly protects us and will prevent a possible massacre, because the world is waiting.

14ymedio: What are you afraid of when you think of 15N? What excites you most about that date?

González: My greatest fear is that they will not allow me to leave the house that day, and in that sense I think it is dangerous, because even as we appeal to people to march as a recognition of their rights, there is this kind of caudillo mentality which is chronic in Cuban society. What excites me most, on the other hand, is that  whatever happens in Cuba on 15N will be a victory for civil society, for citizens, because either the march demanding their rights will go well, or it will be a good demonstration that there is a dictatorship here that does not permit minorities to have right, which is the reason to demonstrate on 15N, we have rights.

Only with rights and freedom can we make Cuba a prosperous nation, because these necessarily lead to democracy and this is what will allow Cuba to never again be ruled by inept people.

14ymedio: Leave? Stay? Any advice for a restless entrepreneur eager to prosper and also have civil liberties?

González: The only valid advice for any Cuban seeking prosperity, whether an entrepreneur or even a state worker, is to fight for their rights, to raise their voices, less fear and more solidarity. Fear condemns our people, solidarity is saving us, it is helping us to achieve rights for all. Only with rights and freedom can we make Cuba a prosperous nation, because these necessarily lead to democracy and this is what will allow Cuba to never again be ruled by inept people, as it has been for the last 62 years.

14ymedio: You use the word “yellow” not only to name your business: you also have a Telegram channel called Amarillo y Medio [Yellow and a Half], why?

González. The story is not that interesting; it’s basically because we had yellow items in the house and we liked that word and so we decided to use it. I speak of “us” because it is a business that I share with my boyfriend, Antoine Hernández. In August 2019 we decided to register amarillo [yellow] with the Industrial Property Office (IPO) and we have been in that process ever since.

The Telegram channel is fundamentally for entrepreneurs, and I named it Amarillo y Medio [Yellow and a Half] because it’s a communication channel for Cuban entrepreneurs. I believe that until then, with the exception of two or three initiatives, which I do not trust much as they are too close to the dictatorship, entrepreneurs did not have their own space. Then, after July 11th, I decided to include space for debate, because most of the entrepreneurs who participate in the channel are interested in issues related to citizenship. “Saily de Amarillo,” because I’m Saily from the Amarillo businesses, and also, it just sounds good.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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Chicken for Sale in Taguasco Causes Commotion

Chicken was for sale at the Caribe chain’s Nueva Imagen store. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes Garcia, Sancti Spiritus, October 14, 2021 — For many residents of Taguasco in Sancti Spiritus province, their town is peaceful to the point of being silent. So it can be big news if a spectacular car accident occurs on the section of the central highway that passes through the area. Or if a lot of travelers stop at one of the restaurants on the edge of the highway to get eat something to eat.

However, a bigger uproar echoed through corners of this small town on Tuesday: there was chicken for sale. With ration books in hand, two households could get a box of it at the Caribe chain’s Nueva Imagen store and then divide it in half.

Chicken, which rarely appears at unrationed state-run stores, has seldom been seen for months, particularly in a town like Taguasco. Unlike in provincial capitals, where consumer products come on market with greater frequency, supply here is sporadic.

It has been virtually impossible for consumers  to buy whole boxes of chicken in recent years. Due to the country’s economic crisis, only small packets of a few kilograms can be found at the network of state-run stores. And only hard currency stores are still selling continue reading

whole chickens, chicken breasts and quarters.

The chaotic waiting line lasted until supplies ran out. As always, there was no shortage of people trying to crash it. (14ymedio)

Hence the commotion in Taguasco, not only because the long-awaited animal protein suddenly appeared but also because customers were allowed to buy it in greater volume.

The chaotic waiting line lasted until supplies ran out. There was no shortage of people trying to crash it. Someone in line left, disrupting the order and leaving things even more disorganized, with arguments erupting among those still waiting.

For more than a year, the provincial government has required consumers to present a ration card before being allowed to buy unrationed essentials. The measure was adopted in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and, according to authorities, would allow for “greater control and equitable distribution.”

Since then there have been frequent complaints, as there were on Tuesday in Taguasco when some boxes of chicken ended up on the black market. The local press reported that someone who had bought the chicken was selling it outside a shopping mall without having taken any home.

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

Despite the Protocols the Cuban Government is Unable to Prevent the Diversion of Medicines

State agents try to control the pharmacy from the line, but the theft of medications continues. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 15 October 2021 — Cuban authorities are unable to stop the diversion of medications. Despite having a strict chain of control in place from the factory to the line at the pharmacy, the illegal sale of stolen drugs is not only evident in the courts, but also in conversations on any Cuban street.

The government website Cubadebate published an extensive and documented report today entitled Theft and illegal sale of medicines: The pains of the soul, in which it seeks answers to the failures that allow the scarce nationally produced medicines to be stolen for resale, mostly at exorbitant prices. The text investigates the specific situation of the province of Villa Clara, although it can be extended to the rest of the country. At the time the article was written, the province’s pharmacies stocked only 51% of the medicines in the basic table and were missing 132 products. In the case of controlled drugs, 85 in total, one-in-four, were missing.

The report is based on the idea that the country lacks drugs, a phenomenon fundamentally attributed, they emphasize, to the US embargo. Drugs, sometimes, must be imported from India or China, which slows down the transfer, they say, despite the fact that the majority of the international pharmaceutical industry acquires its products from these countries, the United States included.

But although it blames the empire, Cubadebate wonders why those that can be manufactured are stolen and someone is allowed to profit from that lack. On paper, it seems impossible that diversions continue reading

can occur. One just has to see how the process of moving the products from the marketing and distribution company works. There, the protocol indicates that each night there is an inventory. “All the lots are signed by the person who dispatched them and if there is a missing one, it is very easy to detect who handled the packages,” reveals one of the workers.

In addition, the drugs are also counted and weighed. Thus it was discovered, for example, the diversion of one hundred blister-packs of azithromycin that apparently arrived without problems but turned out to be empty. The newspaper has also spoken with an inspector who insists that his function is “to guarantee that the quantities assigned to each entity come out of the warehouses.”

Could the problem be a diversion along the highway? If the theory is strictly followed, this does not seem possible. The provincial director of the Medicines Marketing and Distribution Company (Emcomed) says that of some 20,000 monthly operations only 20 or 30 are questioned, and he also maintains that the drivers do not know their destination until the very moment they must start the route. Subsequently, customers have three days to report incidents and a report is sent with which to analyze and debug responsibilities.

“Here we have a digitized, but not automated, system that guarantees the control of the drugs to the final destination, because it offers traceability by batches and products. At the end of the day, the submajor inventory must coincide with the physical count. However We are aware that no process is infallible,” he says.

From here, the report points to pharmacies. Customers suspect that something is ‘leaking’ there too. They speculate on information boards with less than the real amount or shipments, below what is noted on the sales voucher.

According to an investigation carried out in Matanzas this summer, there are “deficiencies” in filling in the information of the prescriptions, the quantities sold are omitted or too many drugs are dispensed for a treatment. The director of the provincial company of Pharmacies and Optics of Villa Clara admits this situation, but argues that it is not common in 174 pharmaceutical establishments in the province. “Not even in good times have we managed to eradicate one hundred percent,” he accepts. And for him, the reason is clear: the lack of drugs is “the main incentive for most crimes.”

In mid-September, the Villa Clara Prosecutor’s Office accumulated 33 criminal proceedings related to the theft and diversion of medicines and other medical supplies, all of which are punishable by up to one year of deprivation of liberty or fines of up to 300 ‘shares’* or both. Also, two of these investigations are related to the sale of medicinal oxygen. One of those interviewed for the report, in fact, even paid 20,000 pesos for a cylinder for her father, sick with covid-19.

The authorities urge citizens who have news of these situations to complain because, although they claim to monitor the queues of pharmacies, they cannot easily demonstrate that an illegal operation is taking place. “Until the criminal act is proven, we adopt a prophylactic work with these people to prevent them from continuing with behaviors that may lead to a breach of the law. The objective is that whoever reaches the line is the one who needs the medicine and will receive it in the amount indicated,” it says.

The report details cases of thefts in the middle of the red zone, such as the case that led the agents to a vendor who offered more than 25 types of drugs that a nurse stole from an isolation center. Another example is that of an investigation in which 124,000 pesos were found linked to these illegal sales.

Professionals attribute these cases to the violation of the control mechanisms, the lack of demand and the absence or misrepresentation of data in store cards, pharmacies, medical prescriptions and medical records. But, once again, the lack of stocks, which leads patients to move to the black market. “I have seen doctors who have no choice but to suggest the black market. And that hurts a lot, both them and me!” one of the buyers tells Cubadebate, recognizing that social networks have become a good place to make these acquisitions, sometimes abusing necessity, but other times as a pure exchange.

“I sell medicines simply because people need them,” says another of the interviewees, a salesman. “Sometimes I have and I propose the medicines that come my way, although almost always in Internet groups I find advertisements looking for something. I write to those people and if it suits them we agree on the price, or if I deliver or not. Other times they contact me because they see what I have. Here they don’t ask many questions.”

In the extensive report, which covers multiple factors, there is only one question missing that Cubadebate does not investigate. If all the measures are so strict and “on paper the protocol looks almost invulnerable,” aren’t there too many people looking the other way to a situation that is vox populi? And, more importantly, why?

*Translator’s note: Cuba’s Criminal Code sets fines as a number of ‘shares’ (or ‘quotas’). Thus, the value of one share can be changed in one place in the code, modifying all the fines in the code.

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

Regime Change in Cuba with Support from a Foreign Power

Fidel Castro with Anastas Mikoyan during a visit to Cuba in 1966. (TASS)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, November 13, 2021 — Those who want to extract the country from the anomaly in which it has found itself for more than six decades are accused of trying to bring about regime change with the support of a foreign power.

Throughout Cuban history there have been numerous changes of government but only three have resulted in regime change. All had the participation or support of foreign powers.

The first and most obvious was the violent eradication of the indigenous community, the archipelago’s original inhabitants, by Spanish conquistadors, who established colonial rule.

The second was the rise of the Republic, which resulted from long years of war for independence culminating in intervention by the United States, which imposed the provisions of the Platt Amendment.

The third regime change formally took place on April 16, 1961 when, in front of a group of his armed followers, Fidel Castro announced the revolution was a socialist one. In his speech he declared, “We will defend this socialist revolution with rifles.” Rifles that — along with mortars, canons and tanks — flowed into the country from the Soviet Union, a foreign power whose history and culture we did not share.

Though Castro made his “proclamation” on that date, the turnaround had begun taking shape a year earlier. On February 4, 1960, Soviet Deputy Premier Anastas Mikoyan travelled to Cuba under the guise of opening an exhibition. During his visit, the first commercial agreement between Cuba and the USSR was signed. It involved the purchase of sugar, the sale of petroleum and machinery, and a loan of 100 million dollars. continue reading

Young Cubans still believed in Fidel but a visit by Soviet Deputy Premier Anastas Mikoyan raised their suspicions. (Courtesy of Alberto Muller)

The presence of Mikoyan, the man associated with the bloody suppression of the 1956 Hungarian revolt, disturbed many anti-communists. After the Soviet leader laid a wreath adorned with a hammer and sickle at the base of a statue of Jose Marti in Central Park, dozens of students from the University of Havana protested by trying to replace the wreath with one displaying the Cuban flag. The peaceful demonstration, the first organized display of opposition since 1959, was violently suppressed by police. About twenty people were detained.

Suspicions that Mikoyan’s presence in Havana was a portent of a communist future alarmed many. But skeptics thought that impossible. Just fifty-two days earlier, when he was testifying at the trial of Commander Huber Matos, Fidel Castro said that the greatest crime the defendant had committed was “to slander the revolution by calling it communist.”

Although the revolution’s confiscatory ambitions had already been demonstrated, particularly after the agrarian reform law which broke up large land holdings, the process accelerated after the Soviet official’s visit, notably with the decision to confiscate the property of those who had decided to go into exile.

Diplomatic relations with Moscow were restored in May 1960. Two months later American-owned Texaco and Esso oil refineries were confiscated as were those owned by Royal Dutch Shell. In August, American telephone and electricity companies along with thirty-six sugar refineries were nationalized. Finally, on October 13, all Cuban and foreign banks (though not Canadian banks) suffered the same fate, as did 382 other large companies that operated textile mills, railways, cinemas, department stores and breweries.

By the end of 1960, Cuba had established diplomatic relations with three other countries: China, North Korea and Vietnam.

In September 1960 Nikita Khruschev visited Fidel Castro at his hotel in New York several days after Castro had attended the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly. Ten days earlier, the Soviet cargo ship Ilya Mietriov, under the command of Adolf Matiukin, had offloaded military supplies that would later be used by militiamen loyal to Castro at the Bay of Pigs.

A policeman fires shots into the air to break up a group of demonstrators offended by a wreath with a hammer and sickle laid at the base of a statue of Jose Marti. (Courtesy of Alberto Muller)

The cargo included the heavy T-34 tank, in which Fidel Castro arrived at the combat zone. Also included was an Su-100 tank from which, legend has it, the Cuban commander-in-chief attacked the Houston, a ship loaded with supplies intended for the men of Brigade 2506.

The invasion force was made up of Cuban exiles supported by the U.S. government who claimed their goal was to restore the 1940 Cuban constitution and prevent a communist takeover of Cuba. Official propanda labeled their efforts as nothing more than an attempt to “recover their properties.”

The process of expropriation that culminated in 1960 mortally wounded Cuban capitalism, which had thrived on the island for fifty-seven years, and represented a political and economic transition to socialism, with the unbridled support of the Soviet Union.

Fidel Castro’s formal proclamation on April 16, 1961 did not follow the protocol such a transformative action required. It was not preceded by debates among parliamentarians (nothing resembling a parliament even existed), it was not discussed among party leaders (a political organization had not yet been created), there was no discussion in the press (all publications were in government hands) and it was not submitted to a referendum. It was done as an irrevocable decision announced in front of his armed followers (something which bears repeating).

Documents have not been declassified that might show the regime change was “cooked up” in Moscow. But the time span between Mikoyan’s visit in February 1960 and Castro’’s to the Soviet Union in July of that year, when an arms deal was finalized, suggests the Cuban side had to provide guarantees that the military equipment would be in good hands.

It is hard to ignore the enormous weight Soviet support had on regime change in Cuba in the 1960s.

Accusations now being made by those in power that anyone who advocates for democracy on the island is supported by “Yankee imperialists” are a reminder that this caricature of socialism was imposed on Cuba with economic and military support from a foreign power — and an imperial power at that — thousands of miles away, with an ideology that does not reflect our traditions.

The decision to seek closer ties to that power affected relations with the United States and Latin American countries, and threatened world peace. It also forced hundreds of thousands of Cubans to flee the country and left the majority of the country mired in poverty.

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

The Law of Supply and Demand Draws Cubans to Garage Sales

Garage sales have exploded since their formal authorization three months ago. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia Lopez Moya, Havana, October 12, 2021 — Clothes, shoes and small appliances, but also electrical outlets, a screw, hair clips, earrings, silicone, an ornamental plant, an old hookah and even a pre-1959 phone book. You can find anything at garage sales, which the government legalized on July 20 and are now proliferating across the island.

“In Cuba you can sell everything because no one has anything,” says a buyer from Central Havana who has become a regular customer at these types of businesses.

Retail merchandise for sale in Cuba’s national currency is in short supply. Increasingly, items such as shoes and clothing cannot be purchased with pesos and not everyone has the dollars needed to shop at the burgeoning hard currency stores. Customers can find products at online classified ad sites such as Revolico but prices there can be astronomical. As a result, garage sales, where prices are lower, have become an economical and pleasant shopping alternative for many Cubans, especially those most disadvantaged.

“Here in Central Havana, people are putting any little spare space to use. It could be a hallway next to a staircase, a tiny corner in a tenement or even empty building. A whole retail network has already sprung up,” say Iris, a vendor who, along with her cousins, has set up shop in a family member’s garage.

In a quick stroll through the neighborhood, 14ymedio found seven such operations.

Though garage sales have operated for years in Cuba — their popularity grew in 2013 after the government outlawed sales of imported goods in private stores, which were supplied by mules importing items from Mexico, Panama and Russia — they took off after being legalized as part of a package of emergency measures intended to calm public discontent after the July 11 demonstrations.

Though local authorities did not initially require sale organizers to obtain commercial licenses or register continue reading

as a self-employed workers, they were required to file permit applications with the Municipal Administrative Council and pay a fifty-peso fee. The fee requirement was subsequently waived on August 12 when the government updated the regulations.

There were, of course, other strict requirements. Items for sale had to be for domestic or personal use only — whether used, pre-owned or new — and transactions had to be carried out in garages, on front porches or in other residential areas in ways that did not obstruct pedestrian or vehicular traffic. The resale of products purchased through the rationed market or in hard currency stores, such as toiletries and food, was prohibited.

Shortages are so acute, however, that there are some laws that not even sixty-two years of total state control can undo, such as the law of supply and demand.

“Everyone comes here,” says Iris of her fellow vendors. “They even sell toiletries the rationed stores sell: low-quality brands like Daily and Lis.” Inspectors do not bother them, she says, because Cubans’ need for basic products is so urgent.

One example is tobacco, a product so difficult to obtain that fights often break out when it goes on sale at state-owned stores. At one garage sale, customers could buy H. Uppmann filtered cigarettes for 160 pesos and unfiltered for 140. (The price is almost double at state stores.) The vendor has the items out on a counter, in full view. “If an inspector comes along, I tell him I’m a smoker and that they’re mine,”  explains the vendor, who asks to remain anonymous.

Augusto, another garage sale vendor from Nuevo Vedado, employs different strategies to avoid being fined. “You have to be very careful about what you display because obviously [the inspectors] are not idiots. They could come and accuse you of selling things illegally” he says. For example, if he has several watches for sale, he will only display one.

Augusto is happy transactions like these are now legal. He and his family, who used to own several tourism-related businesses, have been laid low by the pandemic. They have adapted by selling their personal belongings, in some cases at very good prices. This weekend he is doing particularly very well. “I was dying of boredom being cooped up at home,” he confesses.

The capital is not the only city where this type of business is expanding. Lucretia from Santa Clara says, “My house has a front patio and it’s near Vidal Park so several friends and I organized a garage sale.” For the first one they had very few things: some kitchen towels that her grandmother made, some cables and parts of old laptops they had gathered together, old shoes and clothes they no longer wore. They were better prepared the second time around, collecting everything their relatives had to offer. “We even sold a small children’s bike,” she says. “That time we raised more than 2,000 pesos.”

Another advantage to this type of transaction is the flexible payment options it offers customers. For example, there are vendors who will set an item aside if the customer does not have enough money to pay for it at the moment.

Other conventional businesses also take advantage of garage sales. In Old Havna the owners of a bakery located on an undesirable corner have divided the premises in two. In one half they sell bread, meringues and ground peanuts. In the other other there are clothes, shoes, keys, scissors, locks and a whole arsenal of things.

“That’s how far we’ve fallen” says the Central Havana customer. “These are things humans invented a long time ago but, in the commercial Middle Ages we’re living in now, it’s like a major event.”

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