The Roof of the Church of the Daughters of Charity in Havana Collapses

This Monday, the gap in the roof of the church of La Inmaculada left by the collapse on Sunday was clearly visible. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 August 2020 — The ceiling of the presbytery of the chapel of the Immaculate Conception in Havana, the mother house of the congregation of the Daughters of Charity, collapsed this Sunday afternoon. The church was empty, so there were no victims to regret.

On Monday, several workers could still be seen inside the chapel cleaning up, removing the wooden benches and removing the rubble.

Located on Calle San Lázaro, in Centro Habana, next to the Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospital, the neo-Gothic construction dates from 1874 and part of it, known because the congregation offers anonymous alcoholic services and other activities, is under repair. continue reading

There were no victims to regret because at the time of the collapse there was no one in the chapel of La Inmaculada. (Courtesy)

In 2015, regarding the perks received by the Bridgettines order from the Government, a nun from the Daughters of Charity told this newspaper that they had been waiting for a long time for a permit to repair their convent. “While we have spent years waiting for authorization for a capital repair of our convent, the Bridgettines manage to open a new one and even build a hostel for tourists,” the nun complained on that occasion, preferring to remain anonymous.

In the images released by instant messaging, one can see the extent of the damage suffered by a facility that is heavily visited by parishioners in the area, one of the densest neighborhoods in the Cuban capital. There is a large chapel in the building and from one side there is access to the convent of the Daughters of Charity.

Part of the La Inmaculada convent is under repair. (14ymedio)

The church provides help and support to the community in the surrounding area and has been an important humanitarian pillar for the collection of donations after the passage of several hurricanes or flooding by the sea that have affected that low area of the Havana coastline.

“Everyone who knows our chapel knows how many people enter each day to leave their prayers there, especially the patients of the Ameijeiras hospital,” wrote the Daughters of Charity on social networks. “We ask that you accompany us with your prayers and that we can fix this place.”

The collapses, increasingly recurring in Havana, do not always end without victims. On July 24, a 68-year-old woman died when the building where she lived in the Havana municipality of Cerro collapsed. It was second death in less than a week as a result of a collapse. A few days earlier, a worker from the Communal Services who collected the garbage in San Miguel and Belascoaín, died when part of the building wall fell down on him.

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Cuba’s Enemy is Not 90 Miles Offshore, But in the Lines

Castroism needs coleros (people who stand in line for others) and hoarders – among other reasons – in order for people to be able to get products that the state’s inefficiency cannot supply. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 3 August 2020 — “Speculators and product hoarders will be punished with 180 days in prison,” reads the text of legislation that could have been passed this week, were it not for its effective date of that far off 1962. Since then, and for almost six decades, resellers have been presented by the Cuban official discourse as the cause of shortages, which, in reality, is an unwanted but inevitable effect.

Back then, Law 1035 approved by the Council of Ministers determined that a person could not buy more than 11.5 kilograms (about 25 pounds) of agricultural products. Nor was it legal to transport an amount above that limit through the country’s streets and highways, except in an authorized state vehicle. The offense not only carried a six-month prison sentence, but also the confiscation of the car.

My parents had not even met, my birth was barely an infinitesimal part of a future possibility, and on this Island the authorities were already pointing to coleros  (people who stand in line to hold a place for others) and to informal merchants as at fault for the fact that many basic products could not reach homes with fewer resources. I heard the accusation again in the 80s when I was a child, in a Cuba that despite the Soviet subsidy was still marked by the periodic absences of certain merchandise. continue reading

In the 1990s, instead of intoning a mea culpa for gambling on that losing horse that was the socialist camp, official slogans once again pointed to the US embargo and to backyard hoarders as the reasons for the deep famine that was upon us. The responsibility should always be placed elsewhere, far from the Plaza of the Revolution, far from Fidel Castro’s voluntarism*, and far from the intrinsic inefficiency of the economic model imposed from above.

Thus, we come to this new crisis in which the informational script that is disseminated in the official media has hardly changed to explain the disaster in which we live. Now, the “primetime newscast” is full of police operations against merchants who deal in car parts, onions or powdered milk. The authorities call for the creation of armband wearing brigades to monitor the lines to prevent the same individual from standing in line multiple times, selling his turn or holding a place for his friends.

All this gesticulation is nothing more than pure folderol and a very calculated campaign of distraction. Nobody, other than the Cuban State itself, has all the tools at hand to end such practices, and not, as they have led us to believe, through criminalization or repression. It is only where there are shortages that hoarders can thrive and enrich themselves, the black market for a product comes to fruition where it is missing or prohibited.

Speculators and product hoarders will be punished with 180 days in prison,” reads the 1962 law.

It is in the hands of the regime to cut off the sources from which coleros and resellers thrive, but not with more restrictive legislation, but rather with flexibilities, a decrease in the role of the State in the economy and trade, openings to allow private parties to import, and a series of measures that do not attack the annoying effects of the crisis but rather help an entire country to get out of this long desert of deficit and “not enough.”

Although it bares his teeth and shows them on the screens as the new adversary to defeat, the truth is that Castroism needs coleros and hoarders – among other reasons – in order for people to be able to get products that the state’s inefficiency cannot supply. There are, in defined accounts, distribution tools that regulate the market, not under the rules of egalitarianism and social justice, but based on the demand and purchasing power of the customer.

Those who can pay for the services of a colero or a reseller live better than those who, with fewer resources or with only their wages, have to spend long hours in a line. It is basically similar to the segregation or economic apartheid which is deepened by the new stores selling food only in foreign currency. The difference is that, in the first case, the offer that is prohibitive for many is in the hands of a private party, and in the second it is the Government itself that implements and authorizes it.

This new raid that we are experiencing against clandestine merchants is no more than another pantomime, a theatrical performance that has been repeated dozens of times in the last half century. The only thing that changes is the age or forgetfulness of the frightened public, who watches this crude spectacle from their armchairs.

*Translator’s note: The principle of relying on voluntary action (used especially with reference to the involvement of voluntary organizations in social welfare). [Source: Quizlet]

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Seller of Auto Parts Arrested in the Middle of Cuba’s ‘Battle Against Illegalities’

The police confiscated hundreds of auto parts in addition to cash and three houses belonging to a citizen who was selling accessories and auto repair services. (Capture/You Tube)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, August 2, 2020 — In the bull’s eye of the police and the official campaigns are now hoarders and coleros (someone paid to stand in line for someone else), whom the Government blames for the shortages. The case of a resident in the Havana municipality of Cotorro, accused of “illicit economic activity” and “”contraband,” is added to other arrests of this type denounced in the national media.

The police confiscated hundreds of auto parts, in addition to cash and three houses belonging to a citizen who was selling accessories and auto repair services, according to a report transmitted on July 29 by the Caribe Channel, in which it defined the businessman’s arrest as part of “the battle against illegalities and corruption.”

In the report can be seen images of police officers entering a home with several rooms in which there are hundreds of spare parts for vehicles. The video also includes a tour through another two houses linked to the accused. One of them was rented out as a glassworks to another citizen. continue reading

In this domicile, the police seized 158 plates of glass and 17 window frames, “on which they were working to determine their origin,” the report specified. In the cash registers of the three homes, they found 15,870 euros, 1,100 dollars, 68,718 convertible pesos and 57,010 Cuban pesos.

First Lieutenant Susana Cañizares Corps said that the “negative economic effect” on the country is more than 306,000 Cuban convertible pesos. This affirmation is accompanied by the statement of Gustavo Reyes Sierra, business director of the State company, Auto Parts, who says he has no idea how the accused “can have this volume of auto parts.”

Sierra reminds us that when these types of products are imported as personal effects, “in no case can they be used commercially. This is such a considerable quantity it had to be acquired inside the country,” he adds, saying he opened his door to businesses or individuals with the legal capacity to import commercially and they might be involved.

“There’s a huge volume, and they’re from the same lot,” Sierra says about the hundreds of tires found in the place. A statement that points to a possible network of corruption in the State import infrastructure, a route that is regulated by the authorities but frequently used for bringing in merchandise to the black market.

This Wednesday’s report is nothing new. From the beginning of the pandemic they have escalated persecution and punishment of those who practice “illicit economic activities,” “speculation” and “hoarding,” crimes that are especially sensitive for a country that suffers from chronic shortages, now aggravated by Covid-19.

Several trials of these presumed offenders have been televised as “exemplary measures,” and the police have allowed State media to accompany the agents on the raids to capture the criminals, who are identified and interviewed on camera.

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.

Cuba and the Wonders of the GDR

The destitution of the presentation of the Limtel is not industrial modesty, but disrespect for the buyer, not to mention the quality of the soap. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 31 July 2020 — In the mid-1970s a close relative had the opportunity to travel to the German Democratic Republic (GDR). As our first family member to leave and return to the Island, he offered a kind of press conference surrounded by uncles, cousins and nephews.

His eyes sparkled when he told us about the wonders he saw there. Markets where there was food, families who obtained an apartment after less than a year of waiting, the possibility of acquiring a vehicle for professionals, daycare centers within the reach of all mothers. “That will be our future!” He said as excited as he was convinced.

Twenty years later, when the wall was already history, I had the opportunity to make my first trip outside of Cuba and by chance went to Germany. Among the unforgettable experiences of that first “going abroad,” I remember that in Berlin some friends invited me to see an exhibition. As nobody explained to me before entering what the exhibition was about, I toured those corridors without understanding what was the purpose of an exhibition dedicated to basic products. continue reading

My friend Christoph explained to me, when we were already at the exit door, that the exhibit was a sample of the ‘stellar’ merchandise that was distributed in the extinct GDR, and ‘the appeal’ of the sampled products consisted in making fun of the rustic finishes, of the battered containers, the faded labels and the lousy presentation, in addition to questioning the alleged usefulness of those products of Real Socialism. “With your permission,” I said to those who had invited me, after learning the reason for the exhibit, “I have to repeat the tour.”

A quarter of a century later, I fantasize about a similar exhibition where exhibition curators of the future make fun of us, showing especially how rationing affected us and how little you can buy with the salary that the State assigns to the working class.

I have chosen, almost at random, two candidates for that exhibition: the dish detergent and the laundry soap that was just sold to us through the rationed market system.

In an advertisement published in the Juventud Rebelde newspaper in August 2018, the Limtel brand liquid detergent was promoted. The label, the bottle, the color of the liquid and the closure of the lid were all objects of praise, all of which had been the subject of consumer complaints about the ease with which the product could be adulterated.

But we are in 2020 and the Limtel bottle arrives with the label off, a not insignificant decrease in its contents and an easy-to-open cap. The justification for such impairment is not a search for simplicity, nor can one even appeal to the naturist and rustic concept promoted by other markets outside the Island, since evidently these are formulas that do not respond to or fit into any framework of respect for the environment or protectors of human health. The destitution of its presentation is not industrial modesty, but disrespect for the buyer.

I am not giving details of the bar of washing soap out of respect for the intelligence of the readers. Just look at it, with its sharp edges, because — fortunately — the smell cannot be captured by the snapshot. Unfortunately, there are many people in this country who sacrifice their skin and nails literally washing with such a rock, most of them women, who lose hours of improvement, personal and professional happiness, for trying to clean a sheet with this stone.

Other products will appear in this hypothetical future exhibition to serve as an example of the humiliation to which we consumers have been subjected under this inefficient system. The list will be long: women’s sanitary pads that look like sandpaper between their thighs; the ground beef or poultry, which, just looking at it moves one more to repulsion than salivation; plastic baby toys with sharp edges that can cut their thin lips. All this with a marketing and an aesthetic that motivates one more to tears or depression than to the impulse to buy.

But our wall is still standing, although we can already store images and stories for this bizarre exhibition. Viewers will not need additional explanations. They will understand everything from having heard or lived it.

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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 Coffee is Available Only in Foreign Currency Stores

Cuba imports 8,000 tons of coffee annually from Vietnam, and the rest brings it from other countries, to satisfy a demand that is estimated at about 24,000 tons. (Flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 2 August 2020 — While concerned coffee consumers confirm that the product has disappeared in stores that accept Cuban convertible pesos (CUC), Serrano and Cubita packages abound in the newly opened foreign exchange markets. Owning dollars now makes the difference between having a little morning eye opener or resorting to an herbal tea.

It is almost unthinkable to imagine the daily routine of most Cubans without a good coffee. Every morning the Island seems to start waking up to the sound of a brewing coffee pot, and there are those who say they cannot even go outside if they do not have a cup filled with this popular drink beforehand.

But in recent months, acquiring the product has become difficult because it is scarce in state markets and its price has risen considerably in informal networks. “I’ve had a week when the only thing I have to drink when I get up is an infusion of oregano or sugar water,” Nora, a housewife from Cerro Havana tells 14ymedio. continue reading

“I was stretching the little bit of powder that they gave me and made the coffee watered down now I don’t have even that. Now when I get the smell of a neighbor who is brewing some coffee, I get like a caged lioness,” laments the woman. “Yesterday I went to the foreign exchange market on Boulevard de San Rafael and there is Cubita coffee but I have no dollars or family abroad to send them to me.”

A source from the Ministry of Internal Trade consulted by this newspaper says that the problems of distribution are caused by several reasons. “The packaging has not reached us in time because the entire supply of raw material from abroad has been greatly affected by the pandemic,” says an employee who preferred anonymity.

The TuEnvío platform is one of the few legal paths that remain to be able to get hold of coffee, but it can only be purchased in combo packages with other items. (14ymedio)

Although coffee is one of the products that is still distributed through the network of warehouses with rationed and subsidized food, the package contains only about 7 ounces, each consumer can only buy one a month, it costs 4 national pesos (roughly 20¢ US), and it is 50% other grains, most commonly peas.

“We are also having difficulties with the supply of beans because part of our mixes are made with national products to which is added coffee beans or other types of beans that are imported, but now we have no money to buy them,” added the Ministry worker.

The country imports about 8,000 tons of coffee annually from Vietnam and the rest brings it from other countries in the area in order to satisfy a demand that is estimated at about 24,000 tons a year. Of this, the island has commonly produced barely a third.

The last coffee harvests have barely exceeded 6,000 tons, in a nation that during the 1960s managed to reach up to 62,000 tons of the bean. Despite attempts and official calls to raise these numbers, over the years the sector has experienced stagnation in some aspects and frank deterioration in others.

Before the Covid-19 crisis it was not difficult to find imported coffee on the black market. With a wide assortment, informal networks offered packages of the brands La Llave, Bustelo and Pilón, with a little more than 280 grams (roughly 10 ounces) and that cost around 8 CUC, the salary for a whole week of a Cuban professional.

With the closure of the borders and the travel ban for residents in the country, the supply of the product brought from abroad is practically exhausted and the few examples that are for sale exceed 12 CUC. Previously, coffee was “diverted” from the official warehouses and available in the “informal” market, but even that supply is no longer available.

Near 26th Street, a few yards from the Havana Zoo, a neighborhood of wooden and metal houses has survived for decades from the sale of coffee stolen from the nearby roasting facility. In small houses they separate, pack the merchandise and distribute it to informal vendors who have a wide network of contacts with coffee shops, paladares (private restaurants), and private customers.

“We are dry,” a vendor tells several families in a block of nearby buildings; for years he has brought them “quality coffee cheaper than in the shopping but with better flavor than that in the rationed market.” The small merchant says that “the roasting machine is not grinding because there is no coffee and there is still no date for the situation to recover.”

A few yards from the roasting machine, one of the markets where food is sold in foreign currency opened its doors last month. Dozens of packages of Cubita and Serrano coffee are seen on its shelves, priced at more than $4. Outside the store, an informal vendor proposes to ’rent’ his magnetic card to customers who want to enter but have no currency. “Buy everything you want and for every dollar spent you pay me 1.25 CUC.”

A package of coffee bought through that intermediary reaches 6 convertible pesos. “A fortune but I am going to pay because in my house there may be a lack of food and even soap, but without coffee we cannot function,” lamented a customer who, finally this Saturday, decided to accept the reseller’s offer.

Meanwhile, in the peso markets, as soon as the rumor is heard that they are going to sell coffee in a few minutes, a long line of people eager to get the product is created. Most of the time the supply that reaches these shops is limited and many of those who wait leave empty-handed.

The on-line TuEnvío platform is one of the few legal paths that remain to be able to get hold of the product, but it can only be bought in combo packages, accompanied by other merchandise with less demand, and the total price can exceed 24 CUC, an impossible sum for many families who live entirely on their salaries.

“To buy a package of coffee, I also had to buy two tomato sauces and a bottle of oil that I didn’t need, but well, at least tomorrow when I get up I will be able to put on the coffee maker,” says Viviana, a customer of this on-line commerce site which, since its opening, has suffered much criticism.

“I have to divide the package I bought between my mother, a neighbor who gave me a little last week and an aunt.” For Viviana, “Life makes sense again because without coffee I was like a zombie.”

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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.

In Cuba There is Religious Freedom Only for Churches Recognized by the Government

Participants in the event at the Heredia Theater Convention Hall. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Manuel Calvo, Santiago de Cuba | 30 July 2020 — In response to accusations presented on July 13 at the United Nations that the Government of Cuba violates religious freedoms, a colloquium on religious freedom was held in Santiago de Cuba on Monday, with the Council of Churches, which includes the denominations recognized by the authorities of the Island.

The meeting, organized by the United Evangelical Church in Cuba Lutheran Synod, was held at the Heredia Theater Convention Center and was attended by 36 guests, representing 16 Evangelical Churches and other religious denominations, as well as officials from the Ministry of Justice and the Communist Party of Cuba’s Office of Religious Affairs.

However, evangelical leaders of churches not approved by the government were excluded. This is the case of Pastor Alain Toledano, of the Apostolic Movement of Cuba, who, according to the aforementioned UN declaration, has been the victim of continued harassment along with his family and members of his congregation. continue reading

“I did not know of the existence of that event, to which no one invited me,” he told 14ymedio by phone. “I imagine that this is related to the demand made at the UN about the persecution and eviction that we have suffered. They have stolen the property of the family and the church, they have prohibited me from leaving the country and they continue to slander me.”

For Toledano, “This Council of Churches does not represent the true interests of the Church in Cuba, it is an organ manufactured by the Government that responds directly to the political interests of the Communist Government.”

To date, the Cuban Government has not yet officially ruled on the accusations of discrimination on the grounds of religious beliefs and the dismantling of churches established in the country. However, others have done it for him, starting with the National Council of Churches (NCC), whose statement has been published by the official press.

Along the same lines, most of the speakers at the colloquium in Santiago de Cuba have expressed themselves by insisting on the existence, since 1990, of a constructive dialogue between the Church, the State and the Cuban Communist Party (PCC). There was criticism for pastors who maintain “a politicized and aggressive testimony — instead of being evangelicals, agents of peace — which leads them to feel and publicly express a visceral hatred against the Government.”

However, in the Heredia theater it was not all applause for the official speech. Bishop Ismael Laborde spoke bluntly: “In the Stalinist model of socialism that exists in Cuba, thinking that the existence of a single party implies the existence of a single ideology is a historical error and a political error.”

Maikel V. Ramírez, from the Pentecostal Church of Cuba, stated that the Evangelical Churches were not recognized even though they have a legal framework. “They don’t allow us to contract even to do social works, it is painful to sin and engage in illicit businesses in order to support a community, even though we legalize the church.”

Pastor Alain Toledano Valiente. (Facebook)

Ramírez asked why he has to depend on the Communist Party to invite a brother to preach in his church, to host him, among other things, “Why do I have to be held accountable when I want to hold my events?” And he added: “This is why we need a law regarding worship where we are recognized, because as long as that does not exist, the Church is invisible.”

The coordinator of the Council of Churches in Santiago de Cuba, Alejandro Riveras Díaz, spoke in favor of a law regarding worship. “We do not have legal standing, we do not have a voice in this country, the Constitution does not consider us as an entity, they hold us back because we need PCC permits for everything. They have to control everything, even to rent a premises.”

In another of his statement, Bishop Ismael Laborde, who had criticized the ideology of the single party, was more conciliatory with the authorities. Referring to the United Nations resolution, he affirmed that “in Cuba no one is persecuted for the cause of Christ and, if people have legal conflicts, it is not for preaching the gospel; those conflicts usually refer to illegalities committed.”

He went even further. “We in Cuba have more freedom than in the United States in that sense, what happens is that that freedom is not organized. Nobody prohibits me from preaching at a bus stop, for example, this is not about the Church defending a party or a government, the Church is not even a national but a universal pilgrim, the Church must respect Caesar’s decisions and in this place the Church must be a prophet.”

A day before the colloquium, which was held in the hall of an official institution with all the required support, while Pastor Alain Toledano was preaching about the “government of the antichrist”, his temple was attacked by a group of sympathizers of the regime, who they a “repudiation rally“.

Toledano told 14ymedio that “when the police showed up at the scene and found that everything was in order inside the temple, they decided to withdraw instead of stopping the insults, obscene words and shoves that the protesters carried out with total impunity.”

In response to the argument that he is persecuted only for “incurring illegal activities”, he claimed that he “had not been born when Communism was already persecuting the Cuban Churches… This did not start with us. The Assemblies of God have dozens of Churches and they have knocked down their temples, that have taken away their houses, have confiscated their property. The Baptist Church also has a whole history. The only ones justifying this repression they are those who are still in that Council of Churches. They are members of an organism that is at the service of the Cuban State. “

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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.

Another Day of Arrests and Surveillance Against Activists and Independent Journalists

The independent journalist Camila Acosta was arrested this Friday by officials from the Ministry of the Interior, in Havana’s Central Park. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 31 July 2020 — Independent journalist Camila Acosta*, a reporter for Cubanet, was detained this Friday by Interior Ministry officials while she was in Havana’s Central Park.

Two uniformed women asked the reporter for her identity card and also for the phone number with which she was transmitting what had happened to social networks.

“No, I’m not going to give you my phone number,” Acosta is heard saying before the video stops. In the last seconds, the voice of an officer is also distinguished, telling the reporter that she had to accompany them to the patrol car. continue reading

Meanwhile, CiberCuba activist and reporter Iliana Hernández* was also detained near the Police Station located on Calzada de Infanta y Manglar, in Havana, where she had been informed that her colleague was arrested. “We have located Camila Acosta, she is on Infanta,” Hernández wrote before being detained.

Just before four, Iliana Hernández announced on her networks that she had been released and that the officers had taken her to her home. Upon arrival she made a live broadcast on Facebook where she said: “I get up in the morning and another day of surveillance.” She also said that Maykel Osorbo** also had an operation outside his house and that reporters Esteban Rodríguez and Héctor Luis Valdés were arrested.

Valdés was released within a few hours with a fine of 150 Cuban pesos. In a Facebook post, he said that officers told him that he had been fined “for trying to commit public disorder.”

After almost 10 hours of detention, the journalist Camila Acosta was released. During the arrest, they forced her to take off her clothes, confiscated 160 convertible pesos, papers, a USB memory stick, medicines and 17 face masks that said “No to 370.” This was reported in a statement that was broadcast live on Facebook Live.

Last Thursday, several journalists and activists also denounced State Security operations in their homes to prevent them from going outside.

Artists such as Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara*, Tania Bruguera* and independent journalist Esteban Rodríguez, a collaborator with ADN Cuba, have denounced a similar situation.

Translator’s notes:

*The links here are to the individuals’ Twitter accounts, should readers care to follow them.

**See also: Tendencia Cubana 

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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.

Remittances in Dollars to Cuba Through Cubamax and VaCuba Are Halted

Western Union continues sending remittances to the Island, but not in dollars, only in CUC (Cuban convertible pesos). (14ymedio)

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14ymedio, Havana, July 31, 2020 – The delivery to Cuba of remittances in dollars sent from the United States, which had begun through the agencies Cubamax and VaCuba, is now paralyzed.  On Thursday, el Nuevo Herald reported that the French bank Crédit Mutuel, for fear of possible sanctions by Washington, stopped service to Fincimex, the financial arm of the Cuban army, which controls these deliveries.

“Crédit Mutuel closed its doors to Havanatur, Cubapack and American International Service,” said one the Nuevo Herald’s sources, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals. “They tried to get other banks to take this business, but none wanted to for fear of the sanctions. What’s sad is that the people in Cuba need dollars, and it deprives their families of sending support to them.”

Western Union, which will continue sending remittances to the Island, denied on Wednesday, however, that it is sending dollars. The addressee in Cuba will continue to receive the money in CUCs (Cuban convertible pesos), which are losing value day after day in the informal market and are not accepted in the new hard currency stores. continue reading

The closing of the French bank accounts also hurts other Cuban Government businesses, like the sending of packages from the U.S. through Cubapack, and individuals traveling to the Island. One of the sources cited by the Miami newspaper said that charter flight agencies cannot pay Havanatur due to the closing of the accounts.

On June 3, The U.S. Department of State included Fincimex on the “black list” of Cuban entities with which Americans are prohibited from doing business. In its press release, the Department notes that these “subentitites”, as it calls them, “disproportionally benefit the dictatorship of the Castros”, which it accuses of using “the profits from these businesses to oppress the Cuban people and finance its interference in Venezuela”.

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.

The Resurgence of the Coronavirus Frightens Cuban Authorities

The lines at the shops aren’t helping to contain the expansion of Covid-19 throughout the Island. (14ymedio)

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14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, July 31, 2020 – The resurgence of the coronavirus has frightened the Cuban authorities, who have decided to apply new measures that affect Havana and Artemisa, places with a concentration of new cases.

This Friday, the figure for confirmed cases (11) is higher than that of yesterday (9), but it shows a descent with respect to the worrisome data of the preceding days, when 33 cases were reported. It remains to be seen if the data are timely or confirm a tendency to spike provoked by the last infections. Of the 50 local transmission events that have happened in Cuba since March, six continue to be active and are concentrated in certain provinces.

Two of them happened in Bauta after the celebration of a religious festival, and another four in the capital, in the municipalities of Centro Habana, Cerro and La Lisa. This last, according to what was known on Thursday, was the most recent resurgence, which affected 11 people. continue reading

Local authorities in Havana have warned that there are municipalities with very high risk in the capital; among those are La Lisa, La Habana del Este, Centro Habana, Marianao, Diez de Octubre and Cerro. Arroyo Naranjo, San Miguel del Padrón, Playa, Plaza de la Revolución, Regla and Cotorro are considered high risk, and La Habana Vieja, Boyeros and Guanabacoa remain medium risk.

In order to stop the transmission, the plan proposes that Havana consider forming groups of health workers or students to intensify surveys, in addition to increasing testing according to the risk in each zone. Besides municipalities, there are businesses and areas considered high risk, such as beaches, transport, swimming pools and restaurants, where there should be more testing.

Havana continues relying on homeopathy as a prevention method and will keep giving the product PrevengHo-Vir to the vulnerable population and to those already in quarantine through contact or return to the Island. Also, Nasalferon (a type of interferon), will be sent to workers like health personnel and drivers, who come into contact with widespread populations, sick or healthy.

What the authorities most insist upon is the need to educate the population, which, they maintain, has lost the perception of risk. In the Cuban capital, after ordering phase 1 on July 3, there’s been a relaxation of prevention measures plus a large number of people in the streets. The long and many-times crowded lines to buy basic products also make any strategy to contain the virus more complex.

Health officials have noted the lack of social discipline as a cause for the present outbreaks, and they point to private parties, family reunions and inconsistent use of a mask as the main problems. However, they avoid mentioning the crowds on public transport and the lines to buy food as two high-risk scenarios.

In Artemisa in the last 15 days, the rate of incidence has grown enormously and is situated at 12.24%; on Monday it was 6.41%. The governor of the province says that he’s trying to control it by complying with the ordered quarantine. There are 14 isolation centers in the province with more than 700 places, which now house the contacts of everyone infected in Bauta.

The Minister of Public Health, José Ángel Portal Miranda, gave a figure 153 patients with Covid-19 in Cuba, of which 152 are in stable condition, while the figures on deaths have remained steady for two weeks.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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Government Officials Lash Out Against EFE’s Correspondent in Cuba

Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios, Deputy Director of Press, Communication, and Imagery of the Ministry of Foreign Relations

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 31 July 2020 — The Spanish press agency EFE’s representative in Havana, Lorena Canto, was challenged on Twitter by two senior officials of Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Relations in response to a tweet that referenced the “persecution” suffered this Thursday by several independent journalists.

“Independent journalists in Cuba complain that, once again, authorities prevent them leaving their homes.  They offer them no justification, which does not surprise me, because this persecution is impossible to justify.  The stories belong to those who tell them,” wrote Canto.

The deputy director of the General Directorate of Press, Communication, and Imagery of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios, responded to her a few hours laters:  “About the ’independent’ thing I have my doubts.  Furthermore, I don’t believe it.  As for the rest of what you say, we’ll talk, because it does not seem to me and I do not believe that it is the function of a correspondent to do internal politics.  The stories do not belong to those who invent them.” continue reading

Alberto Gonzalez Casals, director of the International Press Center, asked her:  “What do you call ’independent journalists’?” and pointed out that her tweet “is without doubt political activism, which is not the job of Efe.”

Norges Rodriguez, founder of the outlet Yucabyte, complained that Fernandez Palacios was threatening the reporter.  “This (totalitarian) Cuban government official threatens a foreign correspondent for denouncing the harassment of her Cuban colleagues,” added Rodriguez.

In the debate that was generated on Twitter, journalist Ivette Leyva Martinez pointed out that Fernandez is an “official of a dictatorship,” and it is not his job to decide the role of a journalist.  “Shoemaker, stick to your shoes.  Certainly it is evident with his threatening language.  Thanks for demonstrating again the censorial and anti-democratic nature of the Castro-ists,” she said.

Mario José Penton, Cuban reporter for the Nuevo Herald, also pointed out the words that they directed to Canto as threats.  “When a foreign correspondent dares to defend a Cuban colleague, besieged at home by State Security, this is what happens.  They threaten her, too.  They have no limits.  What a disgrace,” said Penton.

In that context, Gabriel Salvia, director of the Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL) highlighted the fact that Cuba is “the only country in Latin America that does not permit the legal existence of an NGO dedicated to the defense of press freedom and the practice of journalism.”

On Thursday there were several journalists from independent outlets and activists who suffered a police action to keep them from leaving their homes, without a court  order.  Journalists like Monica Baro Sanchez, Luz Escobar, Yoani Sanchez, Reinaldo Escobar, and Hector Luis Valdes, in addition to activists and artists like Tania Bruguera, Ariel Maceo Tellez, Omara Ruiz Urquiola, and Iliana Hernandez, among others, were under surveillance by State Security for the whole day without being told their reasons.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

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Eusebio Leal Spengler, Historian of Havana, Dies

Eusebio Leal Spengler, Historian of Havana, passed away July 31 in Havana.

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Havana, 31 July 2020 — Eusebio Leal Spengler, Historian of Havana, passed away this Friday after a long illness, as confirmed by the official newspaper Granma.

A Doctor of Historical Sciences and specialist in Archaeological Sciences, Eusebio Leal Spengler was appointed director of the Museum of the City of Havana in 1967 and was considered the main promoter of the restoration of Old Havana.

A figure closely linked to the ruling party, especially to Fidel Castro, the historian controlled the restoration works of the historic center of the Cuban capital, an area that has experienced sustained tourist growth.

Leal was born on 11 September 1942 in the Cuban capital and was self-taught. At the age of 16 he began working in the municipal government of the city and was closely advised by the then Historian of Havana, Emilio Roig. He later enrolled in the Faculty of Philosophy and History where he concluded his studies in 1979. continue reading

In 2016, Leal Spengler received the title of Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of Havana. For years the historian suffered from diabetes and four years ago he underwent a surgical operation to remove gallstones.

That same year, Leal suffered a severe setback, when   from the Habaguanex company and the Office of the Historian of Havana, which became part of the Business Administration Group of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (Gaesa).

In this way, Gaesa took control of the Fénix real estate company, the Puerto Carena construction company and Habaguanex, three entities that obtained important benefits derived from tourism, the sale of merchandise and the restoration of heritage buildings.

Pedro Roig, executive director of the Institute of Cuban Studies, considers that Leal “forged his cultural world between light and shadow. A passionate, educated and obedient commissary of the Communist Party, he will be remembered for his commendable work of restoring the historic center of the City of Havana, converted into an attractive tourist destination (snatched away by Gaesa) and his unworthy devotion to the regime of terror, misery and fear of Fidel Castro.”

In 2013, Eusebio Leal received the rank of commander of the Order of the Legion of Honor, the highest decoration awarded by France. Before, he had been distinguished with the titles of Knight and Officer of the Legion of Honor.

In recent years, the historian’s health had visibly deteriorated, as tributes to his professional work increased. His diabetes caused him to experience several relapses and hospitalizations.

According to the official press and confirmed by this newspaper, there will be no funeral services for now. “In accordance with his family, his ashes will be conserved so that, once the Covid-19 epidemic has been controlled, and as a fair recognition of his imperishable work, our people can pay him a well-deserved tribute in the Capitol of Havana, an emblematic structure that he restored in support of the nation,” said Cubadebate.

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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.

Police Operation in Havana Prevents Activists and Journalists from Leaving Their Homes

Hidden under a tree, the policemen of the operation against journalist Mónica Baró were barely visible from her window. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 30 July 2020 —  From the early morning hours on Thursday,  several activists and independent journalists began to denounce police operations around their homes. More than a dozen people have reported that members of the State Security are preventing them from going out, although the reason for this prohibition is, so far, unknown.

Journalists Monica Baró, Luz Escobar, Iliana Hernández, Hector Luis Valdés, Yoani Sánchez, and Reinaldo Escobar, among others, are under house arrest without a warrant and with police, some in civilian clothes and others in uniform, stationed around their homes.

“I tried to leave my house just now and two women officials from the Ministry of the Interior and a man in civilian clothes approached me when I had not advanced even twenty meters from the entrance of my building to inform me that I could not leave due to ’isolation’,” denounced Monica Baró on her Facebook account. The journalist asked the officials why the measure was only applied to her and “the street was full of people.” continue reading

On the ground floor of the building housing the editorial office of the newspaper 14ymedio, a man in civilian clothing also questioned Reinaldo Escobar. Next to the young man, who after much insistence from Escobar identified himself with a State Security ID, were two policemen dressed in uniforms. “Today you cannot leave,” the political police officer reiterated on several occasions.

When Escobar insisted on knowing the reason for the prohibition, the man threatened to take him to a police station and charge him with the crime of “contempt” against the authority. Ultimately, the journalist was never informed of the reasons to prevent him and his wife, Yoani Sánchez, from leaving the house.

In a similar situation are also the activist Omara Ruíz Urquiola, the independent reporter Camila Acosta and the artist Tania Bruguera, who was detained on the way to her home: “They put me in a police car while I asked what the reason was.” A few minutes later she was returned to her home and warned that she could not go outside.

Bruguera joked that someone had put on a performance by spreading a false call for a demonstration that has mobilized the police. Which is one way to explain the surprising unfolding, the causes of which are still unknown.

In June, the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH) denounced in a report that the Island Government has taken advantage of the pandemic “to intensify de facto the already existing limitations on the rights and freedoms of citizens.” The Madrid-based organization compiled in its document “at least 67 arbitrary arrests”, especially in the provinces of Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Villa Clara, as well as 74 “other types” of repressive actions, especially harassment of through police subpoenas.

At the end of that same month, a large police deployment prevented a demonstration organized in protest at the murder of Hansel Ernesto Hernández at the hands of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR).

Similarly, on July 20, the police thwarted an LGTBI protest in front of the Radio and Television Institute in response to the homophobic words of the director of Communication of that state institution, Yusimi González Herrera.

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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.

Defending the ‘Coleros’ and ‘Dishonest Speculators’

Cubans spend a huge part of their lives standing in line to meet their everyday needs. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerElías Amor Bravo, Economist, 29 July 2020 — Granma, on its website, says that complaints from readers about so-called “dishonest speculators” are accumulating. Really, you can’t fall much lower or be worse. On the part of Granma, of course.

The article, I can’t remember the author, describes the long lines and the coleros, who are people who are paid by others to stand in line for them. Both things are plentiful in these months of COVID-19 in Cuba, but the most important question isn’t asked: Why do the lines and coleros exist? It’s curious that the article doesn’t mention Miami, Madrid or Mexico City, where no Cuban has to get up at dawn and spend sleepy hours of sweat standing in interminable lines in order to get groceries. It’s unthinkable.

In Cuba, the line is a hardship, something that can’t be avoided if you want to eat every day and have some basic cleaning product to combat the dirt. And Granma, instead of going to the root of the problem, which they know perfectly well, attacks and insults the “dishonest speculators”, who are just the tip of the iceberg. continue reading

The article describes the numerous and varied behaviors of “resolving” that Cubans practice, as if it were a matter of a crime, “like standing two or three times in line for several people, selling their spots to anyone who can pay at high prices, to accelerate their moment of buying”.  Serious crimes, no doubt. They don’t say, however, that this happens when the consumer, after desperately trying to buy a product for several unfruitful days of standing in line, ends up running to the service that assures him of being among the first to have access to one of the scarce products for sale.

Equally condemned are those who “whisper in your ear that you can have what you want (wet wipes, diapers, chicken, picadillo, oil, air conditioners, freezers…), but only if you’re ready to pay double, triple or who knows how much in Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) over the price in the State stores”. It’s normal; for a start, these people can communicate their services however they find it convenient, and, in addition, they have every legitimate right in the world to profit from an activity in which they spend time, strength and, in many cases, economic resources.

And of course, immediately the Ministry of Interior arrived and ended the fun, with the emission of sanctions for more than 1,285 coleros from the beginning of the pandemic, with the certainty that not everyone who received a fine actually engages in these activities. There’s always a threat of repression thrown in, just in case.

So that, in order to be prepared for what the Ministry views as a growing phenomenon, and thus nothing is said about how to address it with economic measures that are necessary and advisable, the Government announces through Granma more repression against what it calls “the indolence of people with no social commitment, dedicated to accumulating products needed by families in the midst of a context of shortages and a national health emergency”. Once more, incredible but true. Insults, condemnations, judgments about presumed crimes, lack of respect for the principle of presumed innocence. For the Communists, the guilty are the innocent.

The columnist even “doubts the humanity of these beings, who, motived by individualism, forget that the children, elderly, pregnant and sick won’t have the opportunity to get what they need”, without realizing that thanks to these dehumanized beings, many of the above-mentioned people now manage to have access to the goods and services they need but can’t get in any other way, not even in their dreams. Rather than committing crimes, these beings are providing a benefit to many people who are willing, logically, to pay for that. Nothing is free, and the Communists know it, although they toe the Party line when it’s convenient.

The amount of the fines is also questionable, because they don’t bring in a lot of money. If the fines were excessively high, the sanctionable act would demand a higher price from the client, which would reduce the size of the demand and, thus, the potential capacity of the offer. So these fines of 100 to 300 pesos are perfectly designed by the Government to keep the coleros and “dishonest speculators” continue to offer their services. Ask the authorities why.

The article continues along other paths, pointing out that many coleros are the same people in charge of organizing the lines in these establishments, which makes the crime worse, but without recognizing that the problem could be solved by supplying enough products in the shops. Then in Havana, as in Madrid, the lines would disappear, along with the coleros and the speculators. An impossible dream for several generations of Cubans who know that their economic system is incapable of accomplishing this basic life goal.

Proposals like scanning identity cards to organize the lines, improving control inside the shops, using the ration card, administrative surveillance of workers, etc. are the Communist solutions to this phenomenon, which, if applied, would surely multiply. Don’t be deceived. These proposals are the ones that Granma says must reach online readers of the newspaper. I’m afraid there are many people who are ignorant about economic matters and only see the situation through an absurd ideological lens that has reached its end. Perhaps the moment for education has arrived.

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.

Cuban Family Shares its House with the Rubble of a Building Collapse

A month ago, the roof of one of the rooms in their home fell on them. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 28 July 2020 — Doing things well in Cuba is not just a matter of willpower. Daniel Llera’s family has been living with a mountain of rubble for more than a month in the garden of their house, on Calle 114 in Marianao, due to the lack of diligence of the local authorities. Since the roof of one of the rooms in their house fell on them in June, they have not been able to find a legal solution to get rid of the rubble.

“When the Comunales* director came, he explained to me that I couldn’t get a trash bin because this was a busy road. He told me that I had to find a person who would authorize it,” Daniel’s mother, Raiza Llera, tells 14ymedio, who also lives in the affected house.

“On several occasions I have spoken with the mayor’s advisor, and the last thing he has told me is that the director of Housing has to come, but I do not know what Housing has to do with this,” she laments. continue reading

She also asked the municipal section of the Party for an appointment with the secretary, but did not find a solution there either. “We are at the same point as we were a month ago when the director of Comunales came and the rubble is still at my house and without any response from the Marianao government,” regrets Raiza Llera, who has had her garden full of rubble since June 20.

The rubble remains lying in the garden without any way to remove it. (Courtesy)

The woman explains that when part of the house collapsed, the local People’s Power gave her a very quick response: “They were very correct, they immediately sent a technician, who issued an opinion, and the next day they put us on a Housing List to receive a subsidy.” However, she is surprised and angry that they have not given her an answer about the container she requested. “In my block there is a colleague who is a civil servant and three times a week they placed a trash bin in front of her house when she was making repairs. Why is it so difficult for me to put one out there?”

It is “a very old house” that needs repair, explains Daniel. “That moment when a room collapses you feel desolate and more, because my grandmother also lives here. If I put the rubble on the street, they will fine me, and if I throw it away in the wrong place they will do the same.”

“I have been in this situation for a month or so and they have not given me any answer. The only thing the director of Comunales suggested was to knock down the wall and take the rubble out onto the street, a very crazy and pointless thing,” he explains.

In the absence of a response from the authorities, Raiza Llera turned to Facebook to point out that “the laws in Cuba are for everyone equally.” Daniel, meanwhile, regrets that it is “impossible to carry out the procedures as the law dictates” and hopes that by making this complaint the “superior” authorities will find out about the situation and help him solve the problem, so that he does not have to resort to illegal methods.

*Translator’s note: Servicios Comunales is the state entity responsible for trash collection and other public services.

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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 Adventure of Opening an Account in Cuba in MLC (Hard Currency)

Waiting in line. A daily fact of life in Cuba.

14ymedio biggerElías Amor Bravo, Economist, July 26, 2020 – Imagine that you’re going to your bank to open an account. One of the simplest operations in any country in the world.

You really could save yourself the trouble, if you want, because online banks offer a way to do that. In Cuba, it’s more complicated, although this option also exists.

On the Island, it’s normal to have to visit the bank, and in addition, to hurry, because there are only three places where you can open the account, and you will probably have to wait in long lines. Specifically, you can open the account in the Bank of Credit and Commerce (BANDEC), the Metropolitan Bank (BM) and the Peoples’ Savings Bank (BPA), all of them State controlled.

After waiting for hours, you address the employee and tell him you want to open an account in freely convertible money (MLC — moneda libremente convertible) so you can buy goods and services in the MLC shops, which are usually better supplied than the regular State stores. Your goal is to get the debit card associated with the MLC account, so you can buy everything.

The first thing the employee clarifies is that the MLC shops are accepting U.S. dollars and euros. You can forget about using any money from Cuba’s commercial friends, like Venezuela, China and even Russia. They also accept, with a certain reluctance, Canadian dollars, British pounds and Swiss francs. And other currencies, like the Mexican peso, the Japanese yen, the Danish crown, the Norwegian crown and the Swedish crown, but they tell you that the account will be denominated in U.S. dollars, in accordance with the official exchange rates.

You’ve come well prepared, with your identity card (for example, your drivers’ license won’t work, but it’s okay, irregularities are thereby avoided), and you’re surprised when the employee informs you that you don’t need money to open the account. What’s more, don’t worry because the account can be opened with a zero balance. You don’t understand anything, and the wad of bills you have in your pocket is worrisome, because the employee is blunt when he tells you that the account has to be supplied with transfers made from the exterior – from abroad – whether through a bank or by Fincimex (the financial arm of CIMEX, a State entity) with remittances.

With a certain resignation you sign the first pile of papers, and stamps and other administrative elements are added. In the conversation with the employee, he suggests that you use the AIS USD card, which Fincimex offers the population, and he even promotes your request from overseas; in other words, the possibility exists that remittances from the exterior can be requested in the country where you are located. The employee can’t avoid commenting that my card might take a long time, we don’t do well with plastic here so it’s better to get the card outside, you would be able to make purchases sooner.

While the employee introduces the information into a computer, which crashes several times (the network is slow and the employee complains), he comments that BANDEC (a credit bank) offers anyone the possibility through the Transfermóvil application to request an MLC card without having to come in person to the bank branch (the online option). You think it’s a pity you didn’t know this before. You could have saved a lot of lost time, but in Cuba now it’s understood. And besides, you want to go with your card in hand to teach your friends and family how to use it.

But then comes the critical moment. When it seems that everything is ready and that the card is now within reach, the best part arrives. The employee tells you that the card won’t be there for 7 to 10 days, and it could be longer, and he asks for your phone number so he can call you when it arrives. Resignation. It’s not possible to leave the bank with the card.

Then you remember a similar transaction performed by a relative in a bank in Hialeah some months before, and how he left triumphant with the card, with assurance, with a policy of credit and several gifts from the bank. A different system. Once more, the employee whispers, to avoid being heard, deficiencies exist in the deliveries, and we’re continuing to work on this.

The fact is that when Monday comes you still don’t have the card, and when you consult with friends from work you realize that some have spent two weeks waiting, without news. The shops are open, but people can’t buy with cards that were issued by the banks. The lines shown on Cuban television are due to the fact that many buyers have other cards that can be used the same way.

In effect, in addition to the cards from BANDEC, BM and BPA, there are the AIS USD cards of Fincimex, which function in these shops and also in the other electronic payment channels of the Cuban banking system. You thought about the Visa card that was brought back from one of your trips to Miami, which you couldn’t find anywhere.

The employee has you sign several papers, while he gives final instructions. With this account and debit card you can go to another shop, not only to the USD one, and use it the same way. You also can access ATM machines and withdraw money, but be careful, you won’t get dollars or euros, only Cuban convertible pesos (CUCs), at the same exchange rate that the bank has right now for the U.S. dollar.

Then, you dare to formulate a question, only one. Are you sure that the tax on the dollar has been eliminated? The employee smiles and informs you that it was eliminated on Monday, July 20, in accordance with the measures approved recently by the Cuban Government. Before, if you came to the bank with North American dollars in cash, a 10% discount would apply. For example, if you brought 100 dollars they would deposit 90 in your account. Now that doesn’t happen. And he goes back to insist, again, that the account is now open and you don’t need to deposit cash right now.

However, he reminds you again about the three ways to have funds on the MLC cards. He recommends a bank transfer from the exterior and also by way of remittances through Fincimex.

The second can be through a transfer you receive from another USD account, between individuals.

The third is cash, and it can be in North American dollars or other currencies.

At this point, you wonder why they rejected your cash deposit and whether you understood anything at all.

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.