A Contest to Find Out What Cubans Know about Gaesa

Promotional poster for the contest “What Do You Know about Gaesa?” sponsored by the Cuban Conflict Observatory.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, August 12, 2022 — The Cuban Conflict Observatory (OCC) is sponsoring a competition — “What Do You Know about Gaesa?” — in which all Cubans living on the Island are invited to participate.

To participate, contestants must answer a series of questions:

      • Can you explain why so much has been invested in hotels when half their rooms have been unoccupied since 2018?
      • Why has this money not been invested in power plant maintenance, food production, housing construction, health and medication, or in a lightning rod system for supertankers in Matanzas?
      • Why is Gaesa not required to report its earnings to the Comptroller General of the Republic of Cuba?
      • How do you think these problems with Gaesa might be solved?

Answers may be sent either by email to concuba2020@gmail.com or by Whatsapp to +1 305 926 0852. The deadline for entries is October 10, 2020.

The contest offers a first prize of 300 dollars, a second prize of 250 dollars and three third prizes of 100 dollars.  Five award-winning mentions come with telephone recharges.

In a statement released on Thursday, the OCC notes that the Business Administration Group, Inc. (Gaesa) is an “umbrella organization controlled by army generals who control 60% of the nation’s economy and more than 40% of hotel rooms in Cuba yet are not required to report the company’s earnings to the Cuban people

The source of funds for hotel construction remains a mystery.  The government has not announced any significant for investment in this sector, which is controlled by Gaesa’s military leaders.

The OCC also mentioned that last year it invested 157 times more in hotel and real estate services than in health, and 366 times as much as in education, long touted by the Cuban regime as its two most historically important accomplishments.

OCC states it is not necessary for participants to provide their name, only a pseudonym, but does ask that they indicate the province in which they live, their sex, age and the best way to contact them.

Winners will be notified by email and announced in a press release on October 20, 2022.

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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.

Trying to Stop Dengue Fever with an Inadequate Fumigation Campaign

The racket wasn’t coming from a machine in the sky but from an old fumigation truck of the Comunales company. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 11 August 2022 — Early Thursday morning, the inhabitants of Nuevo Vedado in Havana woke up startled by the roar of what seemed to be a small plane, flying over the streets of the city. However, when they went out to their balconies, they noticed that the noise didn’t come from a flying machine, but from an old fumigation truck of the Comunales* company.

The vehicle dispensed its smoke on the streets, sidewalks and ditches, so that the gas would reach the numerous mosquitos that nest after the summer downpours. It’s a random measure, but one urgently decreed by the Government, which has always lacked a systematic and coherent strategy against the aedes aegypti mosquito which transmits dengue fever.

Another Public Health measure has been the sending of medical personnel to inspect residential buildings in the area. But even when time and human resources are allocated for this, doctors must face multiple daily setbacks on the island.

A doctor on her way to inspect a building in the area entered the elevator to evaluate the upper floors and, between one level and another, was trapped by a power outage. Had one of the neighbors of the building, already accustomed to the “rescue” during blackouts, not come, the woman would have remained there, locked in the elevator until two in the afternoon, when the electricity was scheduled to return.

Other neighbors have filed complaints with Public Health, since health workers appear in homes during the most inappropriate hours, when people need to go to work or out to the street. Their presence must be validated; it’s “mandatory” and decreed by the Government.

As if that weren’t enough, the proliferation of dengue hemorrhagic fever and other mosquito-borne diseases are at their most critical point. The most recent report presented by the Minister of Public Health pointed out, as causes, “vacations” and the “period of rain and intense heat,” but concluded, with the usual rhetoric, that the only possible measure is “surveillance, timely admission, trained personnel, adequate treatment and closing ranks in the areas of greatest risk.”

In contrast to the official optimism, the minister offered concrete data on the transmission of dengue fever in 11 provinces, 23 municipalities and 33 health areas of the island. During the last week of July, the incidence rate of suspected dengue cases increased by 35.5% compared to the previous week, with an average of 68.3 cases recorded per day, mainly in Havana, Holguín, Isla de la Juventud, Guantánamo and Camagüey. continue reading

A report published in Tribuna de La Habana reported that “intensive fumigation” vehicles similar to those of Nuevo Vedado will circulate in the municipality of Playa. The proliferation of insect-borne viruses, which include dengue, Zika and chikungunya, especially affects the coastal area of Havana, where outbreaks abound.

According to Manuel Bravo Fleitas, Director of Health in this municipality in the west of the city, there is a map that records the most affected blocks and the nuclei of dengue transmission, which includes the local polyclinic.

The most frequent practice in this and other municipalities of the island has been home care and the sporadic follow-up of patients. The symptoms that indicate the condition, which neighbors must report to the health directors, are fever, muscle and eye pain, in addition to fatigue and exhaustion.

“Playa shows a similar behavior to the rest of the Havana territories in terms of the number of cases and the number of fevers, with an average of 100-120 per day,” the report says.

As the situation becomes increasingly alarming, the Community Services procedure continues to respond to a precarious pattern: workers irrigate puddles, tanks and swimming pools with little bottles of diluted insecticide. Fumigation devices, in addition to being old and very annoying, usually don’t have the necessary maintenance and fuel, and neighborhoods continue to suffer from unhealthy conditions and systematic deterioration.

Abandoned and collapsing buildings are ideal sources for mosquito nesting, in addition to numerous rubbish dumps and common areas that are barely cleaned of grass and garbage. The impossibility of ventilating houses properly, due to frequent blackouts, facilitates the scenario for night bites of mosquitoes.

Added to this panorama is the fact that Cuba is far from having satisfactory control of the COVID-19 pandemic, and hospitals have a more worrying lack, that of medical supplies, which are indispensable for treatment and recovery from these diseases.

*Translator’s note: Servicios Comunales is a public company in charge of services such as garbage collection, mosquito control, and others.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Promoting an Initiative so Cubans Don’t Send Their Children to Military Service

Carlos Miguel Mateos Rosaenz clarifies that “the petition is not addressed to the Cuban authorities.” (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 August 2022 — 14ymedio, Havana, 12 August 2022 — He left Cuba in 2019 after suffering pressure for opposing the new Constitution and now, from Colombia, he leads an online petition calling for an end to compulsory military service on the island. Carlos Miguel Mateos Rosaenz talks to 14ymedio about the reasons that led him to promote an initiative that has already collected more than 2,000 signatures.

The death of at least four young recruits in the fire at the Matanzas Supertanker Base gave this 49-year-old émigré the final impetus to publish the petition, but he was also motivated by the concern of many mothers he knows on the island “whose children are about to enter compulsory military service.”

His experience in military service marked him very negatively, and now he regrets that these young people have died because of “the irresponsibility and mediocrity of dictators.” In the request on Change.org, he also describes the regime as in great need of “maintaining an army that only serves to perpetuate a corrupt and murderous mafia in power by repressing the people.”

Mateos Rosaenz clarifies that “the petition is not addressed to the Cuban authorities,” to whom he does not even grant any authority. “Rather, it’s aimed at raising awareness among Cubans inside and outside [the island] about one of the many problems we have.” He wants the initiative to reach as many people as possible and to support parents so that they “don’t send their children to die or to repress the people in rebellion.”

“I don’t think it will lead the dictators to do anything, as if they weren’t dictators, but at least it will create pressure, it will inform, it will move wills.” But even if he has only discreet results, Mateos Rosaenz will be happy: “If I manage to get a single boy in Cuba to save himself from these things, I will be satisfied.” continue reading

For this man, who considers himself a political exile in Colombia, his collection of signatures was something that was going to arise at any time. “I have no more merit than that I came up with the idea of the petition. If I didn’t do it, some other Cuban would have done it.” Since he published the application, “cyber attacks on the networks” have rained down on him, but he is not intimidated. “There attacks are praise for me, and they show me that I’m right.”

Now, while continuing to give massages, do acupuncture therapy and teach martial arts, Mateos Rosaenz keeps his eye on the page where every hour the number of people who sign his petition  increases. At the bottom of the text he published, a signatory left a brief message: “We don’t need an army. We have no enemies; the real enemy is the Cuban regime.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Closure of the Matanzas Supertanker Base Forces Oil Tankers to Unload in Other Cuban Ports

The NS Laguna was notified of the change of course and will be diverted to the port of Antilla, in Holguín. (ACN)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 August 2022 — The fire at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, not yet fully extinguished, has had a considerable impact on the port activity of that city. Ships carrying oil usually dock there, and their cargo is transported to other parts of the island by land or pipeline.

However, the destruction of 50% of the Supertanker Base has limited the possibility of fuel storage in Matanzas and has forced the redirection of the ships that were headed there.

On Wednesday, the ship NS Laguna, 249 meters long and 44 meters wide, sailing under the flag of Liberia (Africa) with a shipment of 700,000 barrels of Russian oil, was diverted. According to the Vessel Finder nautical application, the ship left the port of Ust-Luga, in Russia, on July 26, for the Matanzas terminal, where it was expected to arrive in mid-August.

The NS Laguna was notified of the change of course and will be diverted to the port of Antilla, in Holguín, of lower capacity than that of Matanzas. It is expected to dock this Saturday at 11:00 p.m. and discharge the fuel there.

A similar situation occurred on Wednesday, when two Cuban-flagged oil tankers, transporting crude oil from Venezuela to the island, were diverted by the company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (Pdvsa) to smaller terminals.

The oil tanker María Cristina sailed from the Venezuelan port of La Cruz, arrived briefly in Havana and had to interrupt its unloading in Matanzas, where it was docked during the explosion. It had to go to Santiago de Cuba and deliver the rest of the crude oil there. continue reading

The ship Vilma also advanced from the port of José, on the Venezuelan coast, to the Antilla terminal. Lourdes and Esperanza, while the usual ships of the “oil fleet” between the two countries are still in Venezuela.

The shutting down of the port of Matanzas represents a notable difficulty for the transport and processing of crude oil on the island. The delay will affect electricity generation, one of the most critical problems facing Cuba, where long blackouts have led to popular protests.

According to Vessel Finder maps, the only ships anchored in Matanzas Bay are the Mexican Bourbon Artabaze, specialized in firefighting, with technicians and military personnel on board and sent by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in addition to the tugboat Hurricane 1, under a Cuban flag.

The data also reveal that, since the accident, the Cuban tugboat Tormenta 1, the oil tanker Caribbean Alliance, under the Panamanian flag, and the two aforementioned ships have frequented the Havana port.

It is hoped that the Cuban Government, in order not to interrupt the flow of crude oil that the island urgently requires from its Venezuelan, Russian, Iranian and other allies, will redirect other ships in the coming weeks and improve conditions in the ports of Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Antilla.

These terminals have proven to be the only ones capable of processing the oil shipments that, before the Supertanker accident, Matanzas administered.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Fire at Matanzas Supertanker Base in Cuba is Controlled After Five Chaotic Days

Elier Correa, 24, had been presumed dead at first, but was found to have been hospitalized since Friday. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 August 2022 — Although it recognizes that risks still persist, the Cuban Government declared the fire at the Matanzas Supertanker Base extinguished on Wednesday, five days after it began as a result of a lightning strike, according to the official version.

In the four affected storage tanks, out of a total of eight 50,000 cubic meters each (50 million liters) and their surroundings, some active points remain, where emergency teams are located, EFE reports.

In statements by the second head of the Cuban Fire Department, Daniel Chávez, the work is focusing on cooling the area, where “minor” flames may persist for days.

The images shown by the official media that accessed the site of the accident, unprecedented in the history of Cuba, are devastating. Next to the completely melted tanks, fire trucks and other burned vehicles are observed. This is where 14 people went missing while fighting the flames.

The authorities still haven’t provided data on the missing persons, mostly young people who were going through military service and were sent to fight the fire without any experience. Only one person was mentioned: the firefighter, Juan Carlos Santana Garrido, 60, who has died.

In its last statement, the Ministry of Public Health raised the number of injured to 128, of which 20 are hospitalized: 5 critical, 2 serious and 13 “under care.”

Far from offering information, not only about the fatalities but also about the cost of the incident for the perpetually diminished Cuban economy, the official press focused this Thursday on extolling President Miguel Díaz-Canel for visiting the destroyed facilities. continue reading

A man rides a bicycle while observing the smoke that remains from the fire in the industrial area of the port, this Wednesday in Matanzas. (EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa)

Thus, they pick up the words of the hand-picked president: that “what happened in the last few hours didn’t paralyze the country, because many things have been done to continue improving the situation” and that “there was serenity, an ability to reach consensus on how to work.”

Roberto Morales Ojeda, a member of the Political Bureau and Secretary of Organization of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Part (PCC), goes so far as to describe as a “feat” the “integrated, coordinated work, deployed with extraordinary effort.”

The article from the State newspaper Granma, with the pompous title “The five days that shook Cuba, and the lessons gained forever,” devotes only half a sentence to the “25 flights from Mexico and Venezuela,” countries whose help to extinguish the fire was fundamental.

These nations contributed 127 specialists, 45,000 liters of retardant foam and 8 breathing air tanks with armor, in addition to other materials.

Regarding the missing, it simply refers to the statements of the Minister of Health, José Angel Portal Miranda: “The experts who will be in charge of the rescue and identification of the bodies have come prepared.”

About the environmental pollution, which concerns both the residents of Matanzas and those of other neighboring provinces, even Havana, the Cuban Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero Cruz, said that the indicators “are below danger figures” and that “there are no patients with pollution-related symptoms at the hospitals.”

Another unanswered question is what could have caused the tragedy. The Matanzas Supertanker Base, the product of an agreement signed between Cuba and Venezuela, is a facility that is barely ten years old.

Some specialists, such as Alexandr Gofstein, rescuer and former head of the Russian Rescue Preparedness Center, explained that “the fact that the fire spread from one tank to the others shows that there were defects in the very structure of the base, which led to a disaster of such a proportion.”

However, hydraulic engineers Eric Cabrera Estupiñán and Alejandro Alomá Barceló, who worked on the design of the fire system of the facilities, which were inaugurated in 2012, said in an interview with Periodismo de Barrio that the Base had been built with “the necessary security measures of the highest international standard,” including a fire station.

Despite the fact that, as Cabrera said, “a lot was invested,” the troops who were sent to fight the fire initially included boys who were doing their military service at Fire Command number 3 of Varadero airport, 25 kilometers from the accident.

“Apparently what happened is that the lightning generated very strong energy,” the engineer speculated, and hit the top of the first tank. “At the top there is a cooling ring, which didn’t work,” he explained, although he did observe that “the cooling system of the neighboring tanks was working.”

Alomá, for his part, pointed out that the tank where the accident began “was practically destroyed from the first moment, at least the top, due to the many gases that had accumulated there.”

Both specialists stated that they have no way of knowing if the fire detection system, which automatically starts cooling measures in the facilities, worked correctly. “We have no idea if the pumps managed to move the amount of water required for cooling,” Alomá said.

Nor did they see that the necessary chemicals were used in this case — a kind of detergent with foam that eliminates oxygen in contact with the fire and, therefore, extinguishes it — but they didn’t venture any reason.

In a 2020 publication, some specialists warned of the danger of storing fuel for more than two months, referring to the conditions in which the reserves stored by Petróleos de Venezuela are located, in tanks similar to those of the Matanzas Base.

Chemical engineer Fernando Morales, for example, explained that “stopping the production of an oil well causes damage to it,” and Eudis Girot, executive director of the United Federation of Oil Workers of Venezuela, assured that the “structural composition” of the tanks is not designed to house oil for a long time.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The Flames Go Out in Matanzas but the Drama Continues in Cuba

In the face of each tragedy, the questions pile up and the detailed results of the investigations are rarely published. (Prensa Latina)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 12 August 2022 — The sky has turned blue again over Havana and in the city of Matanzas the flames at the Supertanker Base no longer rise on the horizon. However, the tragedy is still ongoing and the questions we all ask ourselves remain unanswered. Why did the lightning rod system not work? Who ordered taking inexperienced young people from the Military Service to try to stop the flames? What is the magnitude of the environmental disaster that this incident has left?

In the face of each tragedy, the questions pile up and the detailed results of the investigations are rarely published. With the plane crash that occurred in May 2018, barely any generalities were offered about its cause and we had to settle for a vague official statement that placed responsibility for the accident on the crew. We are still waiting for the report from the experts on the explosion at the Saratoga hotel from more than three months ago, nor is there any realistic analysis of how many lives were lost on this island for not accepting, at the worst moment of the pandemic, the covid-19 vaccines from the Covax fund.

The regime’s lack of transparency is matched only by its ineptitude. The mix of secrecy and inefficiency in this system is proving deadly for Cubans. The violation of the minimum security protocols, the triumphalism that makes one believe that it is possible to achieve certain goals when the minimum conditions to do so do not exist, and the stubbornness of carrying out projects “at whatever price is necessary” take lives every day in this country. Lives for which no one is responsible because the impunity of those responsible for ending them is absolute.

Unfortunately, this type of disaster will become increasingly common in Cuba, because the inefficient and centralized model imposed six decades ago cannot properly manage the challenges posed by our reality. They make up the figures, tidy up the press headlines, inflate productivity reports, skip security measures to shorten the time to undertake a work, blame third parties for their bungling, and shield themselves in their power so as not to pay for so many catastrophes they themselves provoke with their dismal performance.

It’s not just about reinforcing infrastructure, improving protection against lightning strikes, better handling cargo in an aircraft hold, or thoroughly checking a hotel’s gas supply line. The most important thing to preserve our lives is to eliminate this system as soon as possible and get so many incapable and untouchable leaders out of their seats.

It was not a lightning strike that caused the Matanzas disaster, but rather the lethal essence of this broken and cruel system.
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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 Reports the ‘Young Man With the Placard’ is at Serious Risk in a Cuban Prison

“The young man with the placard” remains incarcerated in the prison of the Combinado del Este. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 August 2022 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a resolution in which it considers the situation of Cuban opponent Luis Robles as “at serious risk.” Robles, known as “the young man with the placard,” was arrested in December 2020 for demanding the release of musician Denis Solís, on San Rafael Boulevard in Havana.

In the document, the IACHR, an organization belonging to the Organization of American States, describes several precautionary measures that are necessary to protect the rights and integrity of the imprisoned.

“He continues to be deprived of liberty in the circumstances described and may be further denied his rights,” adds the Commission, which proposes that the 29-year-old inmate get access to adequate medical care and receive medicines for his chronic gastritis. In addition, his relatives and lawyers must be allowed to visit him in prison.

The Commission asks that some “alternative to the deprivation of his liberty” be evaluated and that action be taken against the threats and harassment suffered by Robles in the Combinado del Este prison, in Havana, where he is serving a five-year sentence for the crimes of enemy propaganda and disobedience.

The Cuban State must inform the Commission within 15 days if it has adopted the proposed precautionary measures; however, since the organization Prisoners Defenders, based in Madrid, initiated this request, there has been no continue reading

government response on the case.

Among the background and reports that the Commission used to document its resolution were the contributions of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations, which asked the Cuban State to release Robles “immediately” during its 91st session.

Returning to the complaint of Prisoners Defenders, the Commission reported that Robles has been held incommunicado with his family and that he survives in “inhuman conditions.” It adds that on February 12, 2021, Robles asked for medicines and that “they didn’t give them to him so that he could just die there.” In addition, he has suffered beatings by State Security agents during his detention. The document also reports that “the young man with the placard” remained naked and slept on the floor for two nights, in punishment cells, on the orders of the prison authorities.

“The Commission considers that the proposed beneficiary, deprived of liberty since December 2020 after a demonstration on public roads, would be in severe conditions of detention in the Combinado del Este prison and has not received access to the necessary medicines for his chronic illness to date, after 1 year and 8 months of detention,” the resolution states.

In June, Yindra Elizastigui, Robles’ mother, reported that her son has been maltreated constantly, such as being photographed without clothes, against his will.

The mother, after filing the relevant complaints at the request of the Ministry of the Interior, received as a response from the regime that the photographs were taken for “an investigation into a newspaper report saying that Luis Robles had been beaten,” so they took those images “to show the world that my son had no traces on his body of physical abuse.”

On July 23, Robles’ mother revealed that the head of the prison unit where her son is being held said that he will not be granted the benefit of “the minimum,” that is, the transfer to a labor camp upon serving a year and three months of sentence. “Given that he has not behaved well, because he has made some calls abroad denouncing the abuses to which he has been subjected,” she reported on Facebook.

Yindra Elizastigui has filed complaints about violations of the rights of prisoners and recalls that Luis Robles is the father of a two-year-old boy. “They love to remind the prisoners that they must fulfill their duties, but they forget that they also have rights.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

In the Midst of the Blackouts, a Luxury Hotel Without Customers Illuminates Havana

Greater Aston, located on 1st and D Streets, very close to Malecón Avenue. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 10 August 2022 — In the midst of an almost absolute blackout in Havana’s Vedado, the Grand Aston Hotel Havana seemed to have fallen from another world, less precarious and underdeveloped. All its lamps, windows, spotlights, reflectors and even humble light bulbs were at their maximum capacity, without any attention to the ominous reports of the Electrical Union.

Energy conservation is not an issue of interest to the directors of the Greater Aston, located on 1st and D streets, very close to Malecón Avenue. “The newest and most elegant” hotel in the city, according to its website, also doesn’t seem to concern the Cuban Government too much, which juggles to attract investment from foreign companies in the tourism sector.

It’s not the first time that state hotels and establishments seem to enjoy special “isolation” in the cities of the island, safe from power cuts, the misery of the people, police repression, hunger and protests provoked by all these factors.

On the same day that the Grand Aston threw its luminous aura over the darkened capital, Habaneros watched the sinister glow of the fire at the Supertanker Base in Matanzas.

Also during that day, the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric power plant announced its umpteenth exit from the National Electricity System, under the pretext of not having “sufficient water supply” and no fuel, while an acidic and heavy downpour bathed the rooftops of the city. continue reading

The torment for the Cuban people doesn’t end there. A few days before the explosion in Matanzas, the Minister of Economy formally declared war on the informal currency exchange and provoked the usual question: “If we don’t have electricity, food, well-being or a future, what are they doing with our dollars?”

Neighbors looking at the incandescent tower of the Grand Aston had to think that, perhaps, the hotel was the only place in Havana where those questions referred to a distant reality.

It is not for nothing that managers say that anyone who can afford a room at the Grand Aston will access “a refuge where they can relax and recharge their batteries, while experiencing its glamour.”

The price of the only illuminated Eden in Havana ranges between $179 and $244 per night, tropical and truly luxurious, not like the accommodations of the rest of Havanans.

The Grand Aston, as seen in the photograph, scandalously happy about a Cuba extinguished by the death, exile and hard lives of its citizens, is the most eloquent symbol of how the darkness of the country feeds the government businesses.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuban Basketball Players Yusleidis Miranda and Anay Garcia Break with INDER and Arrive in the United States

Yusleidis Miranda and Anay García participated in three games of the Monsignor Romero Municipal League team before leaving for the United States. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 August 2022 — Cuban basketball players Yusleidis Miranda and Anay García made their best play, but it was not in a game; it was against the regime. Both were hired last June through the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER) to play for three months with the club Liga Municipal Monsignor Romero of El Salvador. The athletes have broken that link, and this week they arrived in the United States.

In a video shared on social networks, Miranda documented her journey through El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, until she reached the southern border of the United States, which she described as a “country of freedom.”

The three months she had to be with the Salvadoran team were reduced to three matches. Her goal since she left the island, like that of her friend, was to emigrate, as she explained in a post of gratitude to her family: “Thank you to all the people who trusted me and reached out to me. One more goal accomplished, and let’s go for more.”

In her brief stay with the Monsignor Romero Municipal League, Miranda scored 49 points with a success rate of 44% and recorded 41 rebounds. García scored 58 points with 47 rebounds. Both were recognized on the island as athletes of the year in 2018.

Her level of play led Miranda to be hired for a month in 2018 by the Dominican team Santiago de Los Caballeros. “Following that contract we returned, and I was selected to play in Colombia at the Central American Championship in Barranquilla, where I obtained a silver medal,” the athlete told the reporter.

According to journalist Daimir Díaz Matos, Miranda dreamed of “being part of the National Team and being an athlete recognized by Cuba.” continue reading

Miranda’s next move was to leave for El Salvador. She was hired by the same team from which she resigned a few days ago: the Monsignor Romero Municipal League, but with the permission of INDER. The institution allowed her to establish the contacts and procedures necessary to emigrate.

Anay García’s experience, for her part, was different. This 6’4″ athlete was one of the members of the Pinareño team that consecutively won four titles in the Superior Basketball League, the last of them in 2016.

With gaming experience in the leagues of the Dominican Republic and Argentina, García went through the COVID-19 pandemic in isolation, training alone in the gym of San Juan and Martínez. The contract in El Salvador represented the opportunity to leave the island and break her dependence on INDER. The basketball player now sees her sporting future in the United States.

The exodus of Cuban athletes has also generated a notable vacuum in athletics. After three retirements and a failure at the XVIII World Athletics Championships, which were held in Eugene, OR, USA, where no medals were won, the National Athletics Commissioner herself, Yipsi Moreno, was removed from her position.

The Olympic champion in Beijing 2008 and silver in Athens 2004 was accused of privileging athletes close to her, while harassing others who ended up leaving athletics or leaving the country.

The abandonment of Yusleidis Miranda and Anay García adds to the bleeding of Cuban athletes in recent months, including that of the Olympic medalist and world record champion, Yaimé Pérez, who escaped after Cuba’s sports failure in Eugene.

During that championship, the physiotherapist Carlos González Morales and the javelinist Yiselena Ballar Rojas, who left the delegation in Miami, also defected as soon as their plane landed.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The Avoidance of Responsibility for the Fires in Matanzas, Cuba

The storage tanks at Cuba’s only Supertanker Base caught fire and burned for days. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 9 August 2022 — The communist state press collects statements by Díaz-Canel in which, in relation to the Matanzas fires, it bets on a new line of communication, according to which “we have confidence that we are going to recover.” And that’s what Cuba needs most right now: trust. At all levels. As much as Díaz-Canel takes advantage to change the focus, this hell that is happening at the Matanzas Supertanker Base is a hard blow that erodes the confidence that Díaz-Canel demands of the Cuban people, which is already at a minimum.

This is not the time for grandiloquent messages but to show that the communist state can act and do so efficiently when such an event occurs. There are too many references to revolutionary values and “revolutionary work” that don’t catch on. What people want are answers. A good way to start, because they have all the cards on the table, is to avoid responsibility.

And, of course, they will say that this fire can’t be attributed to anyone in particular, seeing what they see, but it’s time for someone in the powerful state sector created by the Cuban communists to assume the failure of what is happening. Even while the confrontation of the selfless firefighters, the army and civil protection takes place, we must begin to identify the culprits and set a precedent.

In Cuba, any dissident is put in prison for much less than what is happening in Matanzas. It’s time to start with the arrests of public officials or leaders who have been unable to foresee a scenario like the one that is transmitted to the world on television, and even those who are watching while others die, showing how little they are doing in the face of such an event. I am referring to the representatives of the party in the province, who are looking for media appearances to get something out of this event.

Díaz-Canel’s references to trust only make sense if responsibility is taken and the people see that the state acts not only against defenseless dissidents and opponents, but also against those who, out of indolence, don’t live up to the requirements of the jobs they occupy, undoubtedly well paid and with numerous perks. This is where we have to start if Díaz-Canel wants to regain the trust he says people have in him.

He is close to those responsible: starting with himself, followed by Prime Minister Manuel Marrero; Morales Ojeda in the Party; the head of Transport, Rodríguez Dávila; the Minister of Science, Technology and the Environment, Elba Rosa Pérez Montoya; the head of Health, Portal Miranda; even the memorable Susely Morfa, who is now a provincial delegate of the party; or the governor of the territory, Mario Sabines. There are plenty to choose from. continue reading

And then there is international trust, and this is more difficult to manage. Citizens of all countries of the world are seeing in the news, several times a day, the scenes of the consecutive fires at the Matanzas base; the dedication of those who fight the fire; the fears of the population; the toxic clouds that soar in all directions; the economic and social collapse. And what no one understands is that still, at this point, and despite the offer made from the beginning, the Cuban communist regime still will not request help from the neighbor to the north.

And so, while Díaz-Canel says that the fire should be extinguished in the shortest possible time, the days go by, and there are already several tanks that have burned, without the fire services having managed to stop the disaster. Perhaps because they lack the necessary experience and, above all, the means: more effective and modern instruments to fight the fire and thus put an end to the feeling of uncertainty and loss of confidence in Cuba, worldwide.

And for all these reasons, there is a certain contradiction in the communication strategy that is easily perceived.

On the one hand, there is the impression that the regime wants to bet on success depending on one more fire, which can occur at any time, due to a natural, inescapable phenomenon. The explanation of lightning has been questioned with the statistical indicators of last Friday when it all began, but the most serious thing is that feeling of calm that they want to transmit to the population, while the media show a dense layer of smoke projected more than 100 kilometers away, which cannot have beneficial effects because of what it contains. But the regime doesn’t want to “alarm” the population and takes its time with decisions; for example, mass evacuation, which should have already happened. The communiqués insist that they have control of the area in which the fire is developing, but the facts show just the opposite.

And, on the other hand, the second line of official communication is to present the fire as “a really intense and complex accident,” “a natural and ecological disaster with a high social and economic impact,” pointing out that these opinions are shared with the “friendly” specialists who have come from Mexico and Venezuela to work together with the Cubans. The “enemies” aren’t there and are not expected to be. Big mistake, because they are probably the only ones who know the most about all this. If it’s so serious, then why are the effects on the population minimized? And then they complain about trust.

While the fire remains out of control, other issues on the agenda are waiting for concrete solutions, such as the evacuation and movement of necessary equipment and the electro-energy situation of the country with reference to the water supply to the “Antonio Guiteras” thermoelectric power plant. There is also the issue of air pollution from the toxic cloud that runs through the western territory that has not yet begun to be measured, or the 125 people treated as a result of the fire, including one deceased and 24 hospitalized (of which 5 are in critical condition, 2 in serious condition and 17 under care).

Things are not going well. The phrase left to us by the ineffable Sucely Morfa, of sad memory at that Latin American summit, reads like this: “Here we can be exhausted; what we cannot be is defeated” and to end with that combination that Raúl Castro likes so much: “order and discipline to face any manifestation of despair in the population.” This is what worries them the most, and they are right.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuba’s Transition and Plans of the Castro Regime’s Business Mafia

With the death of López-Callejas (center), the potential of a Cuban Putin was aborted before birth, and the consolidation of that mafia business is on hold for the moment.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, August 8, 2022–Following a trip to Russia in 1992 to attend a seminar on the transition in Cuba, I published La transición que los cubanos no debemos hacer [The Transition We Cubans Should Not Make] in the Miami Herald. The Soviet Union had just crumbled and Yeltsin was in power. I posed the following question to the vice-director of Izvestia, a newspaper that was part of the old USSR, “To whom does Izvestia belong?” For me, this was a key question to which the response was, it “theoretically” belongs to the Russian Federation.

In a way it made sense, because at that time the newspaper was already in the process of being handed over to a great businessman, Vladimir Potanin who, at the same time, was the country’s Vice President. Marxism was no longer discussed and neither was socialism. Russia was taking its first steps, still wobbly, toward a business mafia camouflaged by a discourse that was beginning to be tinged with nationalism. The man charged with directing the transition to the end, Vladimir Putin, had resigned from the KGB a year earlier, and four years later would become part of the Yeltsin administration.

A similar process had begun in Cuba, except that the person supposedly destined to lead it died suddenly. General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, who is the father of one of Raúl Castro’s grandchildren, was referred to as the “tsar of the Cuban economy” for his role as the head of Gaesa, the most economically powerful conglomerate which controls the most important companies in the country. Last year he became a delegate of the National Assembly and a member of the Politburo, the senior leadership of the totalitarian party which governs the country.

The only thing missing was to replace President Díaz-Canel, who was provisionally placed in that position by Raúl Castro to take the fall for the disastrous results of the policies implemented by the leadership. His resulting unpopularity would justify this substitution. However, this last step for López-Calleja did not come to pass. Thus, the potential Cuban Putin was aborted before birth, and the consolidation of the system of a business mafia under the “godfathership” of the Castro family is on hold for the moment.

This occurred amid the deepest crisis it Cuba’s history and of uncontrollable popular protests across the country.

At this crossroad, what can the Castroist elite do? And when I say “Castroist elite,” I refer to what remains of the octogenarian — and now nonagenarian — “historic leadership.”

A. It could do nothing, just allow all the businesses to disintegrate under their own weight and let civil and military bureaucrats appropriate those means of production as new capitalists, on condition of being accountable to that leadership and in particular, to the “family.” This is one form of abandoning that antiquated model which has been proven unsustainable, and spawning another model more similar to the Russian than the Chinese. However, because the public is already aware and desperate, this would require violently repressing popular protests and demonstrations in a new kind of Tiananmen — a very dangerous thing as it could face sedition by young generals whose loyalties are not beyond doubt.

B. Secure asylum for themselves in an allied country without extradition continue reading

laws, while abandoning their minions and underlings to face the chaos and grave dangers of an overwhelming popular tsunami, while they peacefully live out their few remaining years or months with their families and their ill-gotten funds, but clear of danger.

C. Replace Díaz-Canel and his team with reformist officials whose image is more acceptable to the people and international public opinion, to spur hopes for short- and medium-term solutions, and allow them to implement changes toward a partial economic and social opening, at least until the so-called historic leaders disappear naturally. In that case, it would be a revolution in reverse, to release from the state the assets that had been under state control, still under the supervision of this elite who would retain some power, at least until their physical disappearance.

Any one of these three options is possible, but regrettably the most likely, in my opinion, is option A, due to the obstinacy they’ve always demonstrated to remain in power at all costs; and the least likely, for the same reason, is option B.

Option C would be the most intelligent, and there are several possible candidates, all unthinkable under normal circumstances. For example, one recently mentioned by several media sources would be Armando Franco Senén, the former director of Alma Mater, who was fired in April for tackling controversial topics which apparently caused discomfort among authorities. The expulsion, which spurred the resignation of the entire editorial team, occurred at the urging of the National Committee of the UJC and, in particular, Nislay Molina (at the time in charge of the ideological arm of the organization of young communists) who said, “We should have fired you a long time ago.”

I mention Senén due to the unexpected fact that, shortly after, Molina was relieved of her duties. In contrast, he was promoted to an important position at Palco, a state group less powerful than Gaesa, but with several companies under his control. This promotion was celebrated with much fanfare by Palco exactly one month after López-Calleja’s death. For a bureaucrat “to fall up” is a common event among the acolytes of the regime who make mistakes, put never among critics of the regime, no matter how moderate.

We must remain vigilant to facts such as these because López-Calleja’s death and the growing protests may have resulted in the elite discarding option A to lean toward C.

But all this is hypothetical. The only thing we can say with clarity is that in the near future, Cuba cannot continue being what it has been until now. Continuity of the current model will not be possible. History itself has shown this.

The model of a state-run centralist monopoly, misnamed “real socialism” is not viable and that is why it did not require military interventions, coup d’etats nor armed insurrections for all of socialist Europe to implode. Even China, to avoid collapse, had to make capitalist reforms. This is why Cuba, to sustain itself, always needed subsidies from a foreign ally, something which it no longer has and is not on the horizon. Nonetheless, its leaders are dead set on keeping it.

In Russia, the formerly communist oligarchs were able to impose a business mafia system because a strong opposition did not exist, but rather a few groups with notable personalities such as the Committee on Human Rights in the Soviet Union, the Helsinki Group and Memorial, all of whose members together do not exceed the double digits.

In contrast, in Cuba there is a dissidence, which totals about a hundred organizations with thousands of members with a history of almost 40 years of struggle, and a movement which has resulted in a popular trend of civic activists in the arts, known as “artivism,” which along with access to new telecommunications technologies has gained a meteoric strength impossible for the powers that be to stop, let alone extinguish, it.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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

Cuban Opposition Figure Felix Navarro is Isolated and has Covid in Aguica Prison in Matanzas

Félix Navarro still has after-effects from a covid infection last year, which is added to the diabetes and migraines he suffers. (Facebook/Juan Antonio Madrazo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 August 2022 — Since last August 4, the Cuban government opponent Félix Navarro has been isolated in the infirmary of the Agüica prison, in Matanzas, due to a new infection by covid-19. The activist Rosa María Payá denounced through Facebook that “for almost three weeks he has not been allowed to communicate with his family.”

Navarro, was sentenced to 9 years in prison for the crimes of “attack” and “public disorder” just for going out to demonstrate on July 11, 2021. According to Payá, he was taken from his cell and the inmates have not heard from him since. Sonia Álvarez, wife of the former Black Spring prisoner, had expressed concern about his deteriorating state of health, which is aggravated by diabetes and a lung injury that he suffers.

Last June, the activist Ania Zamora confirmed to Radio Televisión Martí that Navarro was receiving antibiotics, in addition to the fact that he still has sequelae from last year’s covid infection and “had infected pimples due to bedbug bites” in prison.

Zamora detailed that Navarro’s family had been informed that “the visits he could receive in the Agüica prison would be every forty-five days” and the last one would have been on June 7.

On July 28, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary measures in favor of Félix Navarro, noting that he is in a “serious and urgent situation of risk of irreparable damage to his rights in Cuba.”

Family members and a lawyer told the IACHR of the difficulties they have faced in maintaining contact and visits, as well as obtaining information about Navarro’s detention and health conditions. They also indicated that the opponent suffers from diabetes and migraine. continue reading

After analyzing the allegations of fact and law, the IACHR considered that the information presented shows prima facie that Navarro is in a serious and urgent situation, for which it requested the Government of Cuba “to adopt the necessary measures to protect the rights to the life” of the opponent. The situation that has not been addressed.

The lockdown that the regime has placed on Navarro’s case so that his family is kept incommunicado about his situation seems to be a constant on the island. No one takes responsibility for the health of the 68-year-old opponent, who was one of the political prisoners of the Black Spring 2003, when 75 opponents and independent journalists received heavy prison sentences.

Just as they have tried to keep the case of Navarro in check, users have also expressed their dissatisfaction with the poor internet service, curiously since the explosion of the fire that devoured the Matanzas Supertanker Base on August 5.

This Monday, the Twitter user called El Demócrata denounced: “I have no landline service and very little internet for data.” Another user targeted the state telecommunications company Etecsa to point out that “always when the power goes out at the same time as the internet, it gets very bad. Like now in Nuevo Vedado.”

“Cuba’s dictators are inhumane without empathy, they even cut off internet communications and people in Matanzas can neither inform nor communicate with their relatives,” said a user identified as Yuli Libertad on Twitter. “This is a crime to want to hide what is really happening.”

One day before Yuli Libertad’s comment, Etecsa, through which all Cubans inside and outside the island process their phone recharges and buy their data packages for internet use and other services, insisted it was providing service, including hours later guaranteeing coverage in “facilities where fire containment, evacuation zones and health areas are managed.”

Failures in the service are notorious to the users of social networks. Using the pseudonym El Makina, Frank tweeted that due to his poor connection it was not until August 6 that he was able to connect and find out details of the “disaster” in Matanzas and of the wounded and missing. “Cuba hurts a lot and those most affected are always those forced to resist.”

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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 Canadian Blue Diamond Group Continues its Offensive in Cuba and Takes Over Havana’s Inglaterra Hotel

The Inglaterra is the oldest hotel in the country, almost 147 years old. (Hotel England/File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 August 2022 — The Canadian Blue Diamond Group will add Havana’s  historic Hotel Inglaterra to its operations in Cuba starting next November. The news was announced last week by the communication director of the company on the island, Miguel García Núñez, in statements to Radio Habana Cuba.

García Núñez added that, in September, the hotel company will reopen the Regis, also in the capital, with the Mystique seal, aimed at the “adult segment.”

The Inglaterra, located in front of Parque Central, a few steps from the Capitol and the Alicia Alonso Grand Theater, is the oldest hotel in the country, almost 147 years old, and has been declared a World Heritage Site and a National Monument.

In 2018, the Marriott chain published that it would take over the management of the hotel, but in the end the operation did not materialize. The American company which, thanks to Barack Obama’s diplomatic thaw, signed an agreement with the Cuban government to manage the Four Points by Sheraton in the capital, left the island in 2020, after then-President Donald Trump revoked its license.

In fact, the expansion of Blue Diamond contrasts to the withdrawal from Cuba of large foreign tourist conglomerates. Blue Diamond was recently granted the exclusive administration of Cayo Largo del Sur.

On July 18, the Canadian firm reported that it would reopen the Paseo del Prado hotel on August 1, under the name of Royalton Habana. It was a surprise, since the establishment, one of the most luxurious in the Cuban capital, was managed, together with the state-owned Grupo Gaviota, by Accor. continue reading

Asked by this newspaper, the French group limited itself to confirming by email that it would not operate the establishment from August 1, without offering any reason. After an expensive renovation, publicized in December 2019, the hotel was closed as part of the measures imposed to contain the covid-19 pandemic.

In its July press release, Blue Diamond did not detail whether it had redesigned the interior, simply announcing that it would provide “stunning views from inside and out,” thanks to “its modern look, as well as the views afforded by the rooms, the three restaurants and bars, and the rooftop infinity pool that overlooks the Bay of Havana and the Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta.

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

Cuban Reporter Nelson Julio Alvarez Resigns from Journalism Due to Pressure From the Regime

The “YouTuber” Nelson Julio Álvarez denounced systematic harassment by State Security. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 August 2022 — The systematic harassment of the Cuban regime, acts of intimidation and threats by State Security, including a summons to his mother, forced reporter Nelson Julio Álvarez Mairata to “resign from his profession” and his position as a collaborator in the digital media Cubanet.

An agent of the political police, whom he identified as First Lieutenant Roberto, warned him that if he didn’t resign he would be subject to legal proceedings once the new Criminal Code was approved, and Roberto demanded that he make a video talking about his link with Cubanet and “his funding,” which he categorically refused to do.

Álvarez also denounced through his Facebook account that, since 2019, he has been subjected to “exhausting hours of interrogations, arrests, warning letters, even the search of the home where I was living, just for practicing journalism.”

The journalist explained that as part of the hate campaign against him, the regime hacked his social media profile to “expose his private life” and mock his sexuality and gender identity. “My family has been affected; my mother is being summoned for interrogation” and intimidated by prohibiting her from leaving the country, as is Álvarez’s sister, a 17-year-old teenager.

This siege led Álvarez to fall into an episode of burnout, an emotional exhaustion that affected him physically. The harassment he has suffered from the regime, he said, is part of their strategy. “The government has the resources to repress people individually.” continue reading

Police repression and the severity of the legislation against freedom of expression on the island are obstacles faced by journalists, and some have had to emigrate. This situation could increase in the face of the new Criminal Code, which provides for stricter punishments for independent newspapers and magazines that receive funding from abroad.

Similar to Álvarez’s case was that of independent journalist Cynthia de la Cantera, who on July 24 denounced the harassment of State Security. In a Facebook post, agent Manuel gave her three options: “Collaborate with them, abandon journalism or suffer the consequences and face criminal proceedings.”

“I’m deciding to give up journalism because I’m not willing to accept either of Manuel’s other two options,” said De la Cantera. “It was a decision that I had to make in a matter of a few minutes and, I reiterate, under threats. I just say, and I trust, “La Noche No Será Eterna” [The Night Will Not Be Eternal].

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Four Fuel Tanks are Destroyed in Matanzas, Cuba, and ‘The Risk Continues’

A firefighter at the site of the fire at the Matanzas Supertanker Base (Cuba). (EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 August 2022 — The official information is that the fire that has been devouring the Matanzas Supertanker Base since Friday began to subside this Tuesday. The Cuban Fire Department confirmed that the fourth tank, which exploded on Monday night, collapsed completely, and the state press itself published images of the four melted tanks.

Despite the fact that the authorities insist that “successful work is being done on extinguishing the fire” and that the spread of fire to the rest of the port facilities was prevented — there are four other tanks similar to those destroyed — they warn that “there are still flames” on the surface of the tanks and that “the risk continues.”

“It’s still a big fire, but we see a different situation than yesterday,” Alexander Ávalos Jorge, Assistant Chief of the National Fire Department and Firefighter Team said at a press conference on Tuesday.

President Miguel Díaz-Canel showed up at the site to evaluate the progress of the work and said that there are still “possibilities that the fuel will catch fire again.”

Support teams from Venezuela and Mexico, EFE reported, were able to start the hydraulic pump that they had installed and hadn’t been able to operate. On Tuesday, in addition, two ships with the Mexican flag arrived: the Liberator, of the Ministry of the Navy, with a helicopter to help, and the Bourbon Artabaze, a private ship hired by the state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), specializing in putting out fires in marine oil facilities.

The Mexican delegation, which began arriving on Saturday night, has sent almost 45,000 liters of retardant foam and two specialized irrigation pumps to the island on 13 flights.

The images disseminated show that the black smoke from the accident has turned gray, since the fuel from the tanks has been consumed. Each tank has a capacity of 50,000 cubic meters (50 million liters) and was filled with an indeterminate amount of fuel. continue reading

The government’s version is that lightning struck one of the warehouses on Friday afternoon and, in circumstances not yet explained, since that type of facility must have protection against that natural event, it lit a fuel tank with 25,000 cubic meters of national crude oil. In the following days, the fire reached the neighboring tanks one by one, between explosions that were broadcast live not only by private users but also by state television.

While working on extinguishing the first fire, the explosion of the second tank caused the death of firefighter Juan Carlos Santana Garrido, whose body was found on Saturday, and the disappearance of 14 others, most of them young people aged 18 and 19 who were going through military service, as witnessed by the desperate calls of relatives on social networks.

The Government has not published the list of these missing persons or acknowledged any more deaths and has already announced that the recovery of the bodies will not begin until the flames are extinguished. This lack of transparency results in the dissemination of contradictory information.

Relatives of one of the missing, Leo Alejandro Doval Pérez de Prado, only 19, wrote messages on social networks considering him dead, but this newspaper is waiting for confirmation from the family. Likewise, official journalists reported that Michel Rodríguez Román, 20, had died, but later deleted the information. Both boys were in military service.

In its latest report, Cuba’s Ministry of Health pointed out that of the total of 125 injured in the accident, 19 are hospitalized, 5 of them critical, 2 serious and 12 with “care.”

Another effect of the accident was the shutdown, on Monday, of the largest thermoelectric power plant in Cuba, Antonio Guiteras, located almost five kilometers from the Supertanker Base.

Although the Electric Union of Cuba (UNE) reported that it had begun to get the plant back in service, an attempt was thwarted on Tuesday night. “Just a few minutes after synchronizing with the national electrical system, the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant went down again, as a result of a shot,” official journalist Lázaro Manuel Alonso posted on Facebook, without giving more detail about what he was referring to. The UNE, for its part, indicated that it was “for unknown reasons” that are being investigated.

In any case, a new day of blackouts presented itself. On Tuesday, only 60% of the island’s energy demand was met.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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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.