Faced With the Rise in Shoe Prices, Cubans ‘Resolve’ With the Cobblers

Cobblers usually work with directly with the customer For them, it is a guarantee of quality and that they do not cheat with the material. (Giron)

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14ymedio, Havana, 3 February 2023 — The walls of the workshop are eaten away by humidity. A tube giving off a cold light illuminates the work table, but it is not enough. Three men, hunched over soles and laces, try not to interrupt their work while the official press questions them. They are cobblers from Matanzas, they wrack their brains trying to find the materials and life becomes increasingly difficult for them, but the report that Girón dedicated to them this Thursday prefers to silence those “trifles.”

“Before the revolutionary triumph, the cobbler shoemaker was a poor trade. The present shows the opposite,” the newspaper asserted triumphantly. The few times that the text gives a voice, directly, to the workers of the workshop –located on Manzaneda street, between Milanés and Contrera – their concern for a future, due to the lack of spare parts, comes to light; they do not know whether their craft will survive.

Behind the scenes that the newspaper of the Communist Party in Matanzas describes, the shoemakers tell their true story: “Many people think that we get rich, and it is not true. The materials are expensive, in addition to the cost of daily life in these times,” says Alexis, almost at the end of the article. He is one of the members of the workshop together with the brothers Saidel and Laureano.

The conditions of the Manzaneda premises are, judging by the images published in the newspaper itself, extremely precarious. The furniture is rickety, paint chips are falling on the floor, the electricity depends on wires jerry-rigged several times, and the appliances are outdated and in need of maintenance.

Girón attributes a “fantastic” utility to cobblers, but does not refer to the contrast between the salary of Cubans and the impossibility of accessing new, quality footwear. The reason that the repair is increasingly popular lies in the “constant rise in prices” that individuals face in acquiring new shoes. continue reading

A pair of tennis shoes – the quintessential Cuban footwear – can currently cost up to 5,000 pesos, if it is an imitation. An adornment or a better appearance of the shoe increases the price up to 6,000. But if it is a brand name, the figure shoots up to 25,000 pesos. As for the repairers, a simple job – gluing a sole, for example – costs around 200 pesos.

“We do not abuse, the price is adequate,” insists Alexis, who works, as the newspaper admits, in a “semi-dark” room. Most of the cobblers learned their trade in orthopedic shoe shops. There they trained to make a type of footwear that meets the requirements of people with disabilities, working in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health.

However, as Laureano laments, they had to give up that work and start working on the “common” patch, as he calls it. Now as leasers and “with the resources that come to hand,” at least the profit goes to their pockets and not to the State.

The Manzaneda private workshop began with the repair of orthopedics, but the materials soon ran out. “That specialty is nothing like that of the common shoe, without diminishing the importance of the latter, which we must also repair with rigor and quality,” they say. However, for six months they have earned more money dedicating themselves to regular footwear.

Cobblers usually work directly with the customer. For them, it is a guarantee of quality and that they do not cheat with the material. Often, they say, even that is not enough. “The client is not always satisfied. Sometimes they return, they complain that the work did not turn out as they wanted. From dissatisfaction they go to discomfort,” they lament. Then there is no other option than to return the money.

With the absolute poverty of the Island, there has been an uptick in requests at the workshop. Nobody can afford to buy new shoes and they come to do the third or fourth repair on pairs that have been used for many years. “Dozens and dozens of people request our knowledge so that their shoes extend their useful life, despite the fact that it is difficult to obtain materials to do so,” they say, while the newspaper points out the culprit: the “galloping world crisis.”

The Manzaneda workshop could not be more different from the efficient private shoe stores of Villa Clara, where the Cuban government has given the go-ahead to a series of “new rich” dedicated to footwear. Large warehouses, security cameras and no supply obstacles characterize the Camajuaní workshops, the mecca of Cuban footwear.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel himself, in addition to various ministers and officials of the leadership, have given their blessing to the businessmen affiliated with the Cuban Fund for Cultural Assets. A network of exchanges that extends from Villa Clara to Havana, and from there to Mexico and the United States, has the approval of inspectors and members of the Party.

These shoemakers, very different from the cobblers of Matanzas, also appear in the newspaper. They are the champions of the “entrepreneurship” that washes the face of the regime and they invoice in dollars and MLC (freely convertible currency), in amounts that the workers of the Manzaneda workshop can only dream of.

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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 a Havana Post Office, Money From Retirees’ Pensions is Stolen

Post office located at Calle Tejar and 14, in Lawton, in the municipality of Diez de Octubre, Havana. (14ymedio)

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14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 3 February 2023 — The thief who broke into the Post Office at Tejar and 14 streets, in the Havana neighborhood of Lawton, calculated every aspect of the robbery well this Monday morning. The money for the meager pensions of retirees in the area had just arrived, as had a few stamps for paperwork. In addition, the place has very little surveillance, it is in a secluded neighborhood and at night no one dares to go outside.

“They took everything: the money, the stamps and even the telephone,” the only employee in the office explained on Tuesday to two elderly people who came to request their pensions. Given the fact, denounced by some relatives on social networks, the worker can do nothing. She asks those who come to buy the stamps required to file different types of official paperwork to go to another office – the one in Porvenir, also in Lawton – but the elderly will remain, for the moment, without cashing their checks.

“Here everyone lives ‘indoors’,” one of the elderly residents explains to this newspaper, frustrated, as he leaves the post office. “During the day, this looks like a ghost town, like in the country.”

For several days, they say, they tried to call the office to find out if their payment was ready. “We called many times and it was out of service,” they recount. “Then, upon arrival, they explained to us that the thief had also taken the phone.” continue reading

The office is one of the ugliest and most precarious buildings in Lawton. Stains of lime and dirt cover the walls, two public telephones that nobody uses preside over the entrance and, inside, there are cardboard tables, murals full of slogans and portraits of Fidel Castro, and a small counter to serve customers.

“Everyone here lives ‘indoors’”, explains one of the elders to this newspaper. “During the day, this looks like a ghost town, like in the countryside.” (14ymedio)

“In the morning the people of Trasval were here,” says another old man, alluding to the company in charge of transferring and supplying cash in stores, offices and banks. “They let the employee know that so far no measure has been taken, nor will there be money until further notice. We are left without the pension for the month,” he laments.

The authorities have not reported anything about the investigation of the case. The little that is known is what the worker has told the clients, as a justification for not being able to provide any service. The official silence has sparked speculation among the people: some accuse the custodian of the premises, others the employee herself, and many agree that it is a crime with the collaboration of someone who had the keys to the office.

“No one forced the door,” says an old man. “The lock is intact and no one has changed it recently either.” “It’s self-robbery,” says the other, settling the issue. He calculates that, in addition to the pension money, the thief will sell the stamps at a good price. A five-peso stamp can exceed the cost of 600 pesos on the black market.

The stamp deficit is one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome for those who have planned a trip or want to complete a procedure that requires an official stamp, however simple it may be. The sale of stamps, at a time of maximum migratory effervescence, has become one of the most lucrative businesses in Cuba’s informal trade.

As for pensions, which the Cuban government itself has described as insufficient for the cost of living on the island, they are subject to numerous collection requirements that prevent retirees and social assistance beneficiaries from going to another office to collect their checks.

Affiliation to a Cuban Post Office, like the one that was just robbed in Lawton, is one of the essential requirements to return home with retirement money.

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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.

‘On-Line Tool’ is Launched to Send Complaints of All Kinds from Cuba

The Human Rights group will first submit the complaint to verification, the details of which have not been provided. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 31 January 2023 — The  Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH), based in Madrid, has launched a new online tool to denounce any violation committed by the authorities against citizens. The alert, channeled through a web page, can be sent through a WhatsApp message, by filling out a form or a Word document.

The organization admits complaints from very different fields, from the police or judicial, including unjustified fines, arrests, threats or persecution, through labor rights — expulsions, unpaid wages, sanctions or disciplinary measures — and lack of social protection. This last section includes lack of supplies, housing in poor condition or medical and pharmacological neglect.

The objective is to be able to document and account for all kinds of problems that affect citizens, although for this the complaint will first be subjected to verification, the details of which have not been provided.

This is the second mechanism of this type that the OCDH has activated, after the launch of  Digno Trabajo [Decent Work]  last year, in alliance with the Independent Trade Union Association of Cuba (Asic). On that occasion, the tool consisted of a Telegram robot (bot) capable of answering labor-related questions, as well as reporting cases of abuse in the workplace.

Digno Trabajo allows “asking and receiving information”, “reporting” or “contacting” and, according to the observatory, claims are dealt with “directly and personally” to report the “circumstances or situation” of the workplace of the interested party. continue reading

In its last annual report, from 2022, the OCDH recalled that the social indicators have deteriorated even more with the crisis that is affecting the Island and that it has caused an extreme shortage of food, the prices of which have also risen by around a 40% in the official market. At least 72% of the population lives below the poverty line and 8 out of 10 Cubans have problems getting medications.

Access to basic supplies, especially electricity, has also worsened, with cuts for at least six months that have exceeded 16 hours.

Throughout the year, more than 5,499 repressive actions were verified, at least 1,447 detentions of activists, opponents or relatives of prisoners in their homes and at least 1,354 arbitrary detentions, of which 832 corresponded to women.

In addition, throughout 2022 trials have been held against 11J (11 July 2021) protesters, some of whom have resulted in prison sentences of more than 25 years for crimes of sedition, which have been rejected by lawyers from around the world and human rights associations.

The repressive pattern that has most characterized the year has been the forced exile of a multitude of opponents of the regime, intellectuals and journalists, while the population has emigrated massively; the population lost in the last year is estimated to be close to a quarter of a million people.

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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.

With Reservoirs at a Low, Las Tunas is One of the Cuban Provinces Most Affected by the Drought

The outlook for the coming months is not encouraging for the families of Las Tunas, especially due to evaporation in the dams, warns the official press. (Periódico 26)

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14ymedio, Havana, 3 February 2023– The drought in the province of Las Tunas, which last year caused the deaths of 4,400 head of cattle, will not let up in 2023, with the reservoirs now at a third of their capacity.

The latest bulletin from the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH) reports that the 23 reservoirs under its administration in this eastern province accumulate 106 million cubic meters of water, equivalent to 30% of the filling capacity. These results indicate the “obligation to prioritize this natural resource fundamentally for the consumption of the population,” adds the official newspaper, Periódico 26, which quotes the report.

The low accumulation of water is mainly due to a drastic reduction in rainfall, which at the end of January barely reached 6.8 millimeters (mm), well below the historical average for that month, of 30.3 mm. The outlook for the coming months is not seen as encouraging for the families of Las Tunas, especially due to evaporation in the dams and a greater demand due to the increase in temperatures, at least until winter begins between May and October, warns the provincial newspaper.

The drought was one of the factors that prevented the development of the agricultural sector in 2022 and led to the death of cattle due to “mismanagement and insufficient availability of water and food,” Manuel Pérez Gallego, a member of the Central Committee, and first secretary of the Communist Party in Las Tunas, said at the beginning of January. continue reading

The municipalities most affected by the shortage of water reserves are Jobabo, with barely 8% in storage, as well as Puerto Padre with 12%, Jesús Menéndez with 18%, Colombia with 32%, Las Tunas 33%, Manatí 42%. and Majibacoa 59%, while Amancio has the least alarming figure, with 74%.

Periódico 26 pointed out that the insufficient amount of water has forced the toughening of the “saving” measures in consumption. One of the most rigorous was applied to the Juan Sáez dam, the one with the largest storage capacity, which had to restrict the supply for customers in the sugar and agricultural sectors.

Similarly, the supply has been limited in the regions of Jobabito, Bartle and Bejuco, and also those of the main municipality of the province, whose homes will be served through pipes on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The newspaper also asks the population to take “extreme measures” in the consumption at homes, schools and workplaces.

Cuba suffers more and more prolonged and continuous droughts, a phenomenon that last year left consequences in the production of the province of Villa Clara, where, according to the official press, about 22,000 cows also died due to lack of water, food and medicine.

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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 Government Opponents Were Imprisoned When They Planned a Meeting with US Officials

Benjamin G. Ziff took over this summer as head of the US embassy in Havana. (Kyiv Post)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 1 February 2023 — The US charge d’affaires in Havana, Benjamin Ziff, recounted in an interview with the Associated Press that talking about human rights with the Cuban authorities is very complicated and that there have been arrests of opponents with whom his embassy wanted to meet, although he declined to give names.

“It is our number one priority, to ensure that the Cuban population can have a future without repression and with economic hope,” Ziff alleges, however he is very clear when it comes to putting the fate of Cuba in the hands of its own citizens.

“The change in Cuba comes from Cuba, from the Cubans, it does not depend on anyone else. The United States can support, help, encourage, advocate, pressure, everything, but basically the future of Cuba depends on the Cubans,” he says.

A few days have passed since the visit to the Island of two members of the Delaware state government who, from Havana, asked President Biden to return to a thaw like that of 2014. “The hope is that eventually we can return to where we were in the Obama times,” said Democrat Michael Scuse. Ziff, however, sets out why “it’s hard to go back,” as he puts it.

“The world has changed since Obama’s time and now we have to deal with the world of today,” he says. The senior official indicates that the Biden Administration is taking measures in areas that he considers can improve the lives of families, but confesses there are tensions with the regime. continue reading

“The relationship with the United States for historical reasons, political reasons, human rights reasons, is difficult,” says the diplomat, who defines it as correct and pragmatic.

During the Obama administration, the embassies in Washington and Havana were reopened, travel from the US to the island was authorized in various categories, as well as commercial flights between the two countries and direct money transfers. In addition, some measures were taken that stimulated commercial exchange or, at least, its expectations.

However, the arrival of Donald Trump to the presidency reversed the situation: flights were halted, the provision of consular services was reduced to a minimum, remittances were prohibited and, most importantly, Cuba was once again included on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism, from which it has not yet emerged despite the expectations created by the change of Administration in 2020, fueled by the fact that Joe Biden was Obama’s vice president.

Ziff touches on another of the core issues of diplomacy between the two countries: emigration, which has become a priority issue for the US, with more than 310,000 Cubans arriving in the United States in 2022. This represents the highest number in history, including the 1980 Mariel Boatlift, during which roughly 125,000 Cubans arrived.

“The lack of hope is what is driving the rate of irregular migration,” says Ziff, who confirms that the authorities still do not accept repatriations from Cuba but will do so “soon” if they fulfill their commitment.

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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 Artemisa Bacteriological Laboratory ‘Does Not Comply With Any Biosafety Standard’

The Artemisa Microbiology Laboratory does not have the necessary materials to carry out tests for infectious diseases. (El Artemiseño)

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14ymedio, Havana, 1 February 2023 — The deterioration of the facilities of the José Suárez Blanco Microbiology Laboratory, in Artemisa, Cuba, and the shortage of medical materials make it difficult to diagnose infectious diseases in the province. A publication of the official newspaper El Artemiseño presents a string of misfortunes since the creation of the center, which has not worked at its maximum capacity in almost five decades of operations.

The laboratory, for example, ran out of nasal swabs when it was most required, due to the increase in Covid-19 infections in 2020, recalled its director, Adilis Palacios Cristi. Although the shortage of cotton swabs affects the entire Cuban Public Health system, the official acknowledged that it is more serious in this center, because it is in charge of this type of test in the province.

This lack led it to concentrate it services on fertility, pregnancy and child exams. “For the rest of the population, we process urine cultures, fecal samples, and analyze water and food, acute diarrheal diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, sanitary surveillance, tuberculosis, and syphilis.”

The creation of the laboratory dates back to 1967, when it was a meeting place for doctors from Artemisa. That year it was declared a microbiology laboratory to deal with infectious diseases in the municipality, but its beginnings were marked by abandonment and the precariousness of supply.. In 2004, it had to close and was reopened four years later after completing repairs in the sterilization and scrubbing area. continue reading

“It did not meet any biosafety standard” due to the poor state of the infrastructure, acknowledged Dr. Yasmín Hernández Carpio, who was in charge of the institution for 19 years. Under her administration, the story continues, a proposal was presented to the municipal and provincial governments to improve the conditions of the property, but it was not approved because “the idea of ​​installing the provincial microbiology laboratory in Mariel and San Antonio de los Baños prevailed.”

Those plans did not prosper and currently the laboratory covers the municipalities of Artemisa, Caimito, Guanajay and Mariel, including the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM).

The Maintenance Company carried out partial repairs in the waterproofing of the roof and painting in 2019, but these were not enough to contain the leaks that affect the Tuberculosis Department and a hermetically closed room, which since 2013 has had a hole in the wall where the air conditioning was removed.

Carlos Milanés Segura, director of the Municipal Hygiene and Microbiology Unit, confirmed to the provincial newspaper that the works were not completed in 2019 due to the lack of waterproofing resin, and the tanks were not changed due to lack of pipes. The doctor added that, for this year, the management of materials and the repair of a turbine that has been damaged for years is already planned.

Humidity and lack of ventilation make disease analysis difficult. In addition, “there is no adequate flow diagram for the cultivation of molds and yeasts in the food area, despite having an incubator,” added Hernández Carpio.

Another factor that adds to the deficiencies of the laboratory is that the water stored in two tanks is not enough to install a still, so they must request support from the hemodialysis plant of the Ciro Redondo García hospital, located in the capital of the province.

Similarly, Pedro Sánchez Machado, head of the Microbiology section in Artemisa, complained that they are the only territory without a laboratory of this type. He added that thanks to the financial support of a French organization, whose name he did not reveal, this year they have the necessary money to purchase equipment for sanitary analysis of water and food, which will go to the Mariel bacteriological laboratory, which has a larger capacity, by decision of the Ministry of Public Health

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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.

Signatures of 10,000 Cubans Sought for the Legal Right to “Assemble and Demonstrate”

Protest against the blackouts on Línea street, in El Vedado, Havana, last October. (14ymedio)

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14ymedio, Havana, 1 February 2023 — Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP) has responded in writing to the request of the Council for Democratic Transition in Cuba (CTDC) to include an assembly bill on this year’s legislative agenda that addressed the right to assemble and demonstrate. The response, however, is not encouraging and is limited to stalling.

A document made public this Wednesday by the Council itself, was signed on January 24 by Carmen Aguilar Martínez, the ANPP’s Director of Attention to the Population, and addressed to Julio Alfredo Ferrer Tamayo, a member of Cubalex, a legal NGO. In the document, Aguilar Martínez claims that Parliament  “received and analyzed the letter that you and eight other people” sent to the president of the legislature, on December 9, in which, in her words, “they offered a group of considerations related to the regulation of rights assembly and demonstration recognized in article 56 of the Constitution of the Republic.”

The ANPP says that “at first” the legislative schedule was planned to include “the elaboration of a law to develop these important rights,” but that “the very dynamics in the legislative activity have not made it possible to materialize it.”

The chamber highlights the petition received by opponents who “recognize the legislative work carried out by the National Assembly,” having approved “several regulatory provisions related to the rights and guarantees of people.” That would demonstrate, the text continues, “the interest in continuing to regulate aspects of this nature,” but, it warns, “when appropriate.”

Finally, they argue that the requirement to approve a demonstration and assembly law as soon as possible does not follow the proper procedure “for its materialization,” for which they suggest “get proper advice and direct your request as legally appropriate.” continue reading

In the statement that accompanies the letter from the Assembly, the Council for the Democratic Transition in Cuba notes that the petition made by nine citizens but “on behalf of another 500” was protected by Article 61 of the Constitution and referred to the “reinclusion” in the legislative schedule for the first quarter of 2023 of the draft “Law of Demonstration and Assembly,” which should regulate some of the rights included in article 56 of the Constitution.

The opposition platform regrets that the possibility of its discussion in the Assembly is postponed “to an indeterminate date” and anticipates that they will include within the “Cuba11J* Initiative” the collection of: “10,000 citizen signatures, protected by Article 164 Subparagraph k), to ensure that the debate and consequent approval of a Law be included in this year’s legislative schedule, we quoted ourselves, ‘that implements and develops the fundamental rights, endorsed by the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba in Article 56, to the meeting and demonstration for lawful and peaceful purposes.”

Cubans residing on the island who have signed or are going to sign any of the Council’s initiatives are asked to request the “certification accrediting their status as voters,” a requirement established by law for legislative initiatives promoted by citizens.

*Translator’s note: “11J” refers to 11 July 2021 and the nationwide demonstrations that occurred on that day.

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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.

‘Yo Si Te Creo’ Denounces Two New Femicides in Cuba

Independent observatories verified 34 gender-based killings in 2022. (Alas Tensas)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana | 1 February 2021 — The independent feminist collective Yo Sí Te Creo [Yes I Believe You] in Cuba lamented, this Wednesday, a new femicide on the island and once again called for “effective mechanisms to prevent gender violence.”

In the absence of official statistics on sexist murders, the platform posted on Twitter that the case “is under police investigation, but the disappearance and characteristics of the attacks indicate femicide.”

The family of 36-year-old Yailanis Pérez reported her disappearance on January 28 in the province of Matanzas. The young woman’s body was found two days later, according the activists who, along with other organizations such as Alas Tensas, are the main source for accounting for these crimes.

This Wednesday the discovery of the body of Yoilén Acosta Torriente, an 18-year-old young woman who was reported missing on Sunday, January 29, was also confirmed. According to La Proa del Centro, the body was found in a cane field in the area known as Tumba Saco, in Cruces, Cienfuegos.

Four people have been detained for this crime, according to the media, for their alleged involvement, including two women and two men. However, the authorities have not confirmed or provided details about these two events. continue reading

Independent observatories verified 34 gender-based killings in 2022, 36 in 2021, and 32 in 2020.

“We reiterate our claim for effective mechanisms to prevent gender violence so as not to reach its extreme manifestation, which is irreparable,” said Yo Sí Te Creo in Cuba.

The activists also stressed the need for “early warnings of disappearances, which help to avoid these extreme violent outcomes.”

The new crimes occur at a time when there are several reports of disappeared women in Cuba, including minors. The activists are demanding a law against Gender Violence and criticize the Cuban government for not classifying femicide as a crime in the new Penal Code, which came into force last December, although it contemplates gender-based violence.

The most recent official statistics appear in the 2016 National Gender Equality Survey in which 10,698 women participated.

The survey showed that 26.7% of Cuban women between the ages of 15 and 74 have suffered some type of violence in their partner relationship in the 12 months prior to the study. Only 3.7% of the assaulted requested institutional help.

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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.

Alquizar, Cuba, Feels Abandoned Since the End of the Year, With No Coffee, Sugar or Oil at the Ration Store

A ‘Bodega’ (Ration Store)  in Alquízar, in the Cuban province of Artemisa. (The Artemisian)

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14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 1 February 2023 — “Before, here people could use lard to cook, but there is almost no one who raises animals and to make matters worse, since last year they have not sold oil through the bodega [ration store],” complains Liubis Torriente, 32, a resident of the municipality of Alquízar, in the province of Artemisa. “Nor has sugar or rationed coffee arrived, we are about to have to eat red earth.”

In the Liubis bodega, nestled in the center of the small city to the southwest of the Cuban capital, the employee spends her days sitting idly by waiting for the products that do not arrive. “I’m tired of everyone coming and venting their discomfort on me because no merchandise has arrived, but it’s not my fault,” the woman told 14ymedio, on condition of anonymity.

“Here they have forgotten us, we do not have the importance of Havana and nor do we have the emergencies of those affected by hurricane [Ian] in Pinar del Río, so we are in no man’s land, we do not matter,” says Liubis. “My sister lives in Havana, in the Plaza de la Revolución municipality, near the Council of State, and they did sell sugar there,” she says.

The shortage situation fundamentally affects those who live in the urban areas of Alquízar. “At least the farmer who has a piece of land can solve some food with his crops, his laying hens or his cows, but those of us who have a house here in the town don’t even have that,” says this mother of two children at primary school. continue reading

And the three missing products can hardly be produced for self-consumption. “We stocked up on the fat we needed for day-to-day life with the pigs we had, but more than three years ago I stopped farming because we couldn’t get food for the animals anymore,” explains Arturo, a farmer who lives in the town of Pulido, on the outskirts of the urban center.

“Without the pork fat, we are completely dependent on the oil from the bodega or the one we buy off the shelf [in the informal market].” Arturo’s family has been eating “plantain fufú” — fried mashed plaintain — for weeks, he says. “There isn’t even enough fat to fry a little onion and what my wife has done is put the chicken skin in the pan so she can cook with it.”

The vegetable oil that is sold by as a part of the ‘standard basket’ in the ration store is mostly imported or soybean oil, which is refined and bottled on the Island. The rationed coffee and sugar come from national production, which is mostly state-owned, and the marketing of both products constitutes an official monopoly.

“When there is a lack of sugar or coffee, you have to deal one way or another with the black market or with the stores [that only take payment] in MLC [freely convertible currency]”, emphasizes Arturo. “You can use some honey to sweeten, and stretch the coffee by adding roasted peas, but sooner or later you have to end up buying them in hard currency.”

“Before, any house you entered here they would offer you a little cup of Hola coffee, the kind that comes from the bodega. If you were lucky, you would have a Cubita or Arriero colada bought in the mall, but now when people manage to have coffee it’s Bustelo or La Llave that their Miami family sent themor they bought it from a mule, very expensive, by the way.”

The lack of sugar especially outrages the residents of Alquízar, a region that in the past also made cash with typical sweets such as guava bars that were sold on the side of the roads. Now, in the absence of the ingredient, all the private production of sweets, fruit smoothies and preserves has come to a standstill.

According to Leticia Ojeda, commercial director of the Food Group of the Ministry of Internal Commerce, at the end of last year, with the plummeting of the harvest, it was decided to protect the “regulated [rationed] family basket” and social consumption destined for the Education and Health sectors, but the Alquizareñas wineries do not seem to be included among those prioritized.

In mid-January, Ojeda pointed out that four provinces had not been able to finish the distribution in some of their municipalities. He mentioned Artemisa, Matanzas, Pinar del Río and Havana, whose sugar deliveries in February were only 60% guaranteed, up until then. An announcement that makes the residents of Alquízar fear that it will be weeks before the empty bodegas have those products again.

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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.

‘Let Them Lock Me Up if That Will Make Them Happy,’ Writes One of the Editors of ‘La Joven Cuba’

On Monday, Jorge Fernández Era did not show up for the summons after claiming its nullity. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 31 January 2023 — Jorge Fernández Era, a writer and collaborator of the digital magazine La Joven Cuba summoned to an “interview” with State Security on Monday in Havana, presented a claim that it was null for violating the Criminal Procedures Law and did not attend the meeting.

The editor took the same route as professor Alina Bárbara López Hernández, a coordinator at the same publication with whom the Prosecutor in Matanzas sided in a similar situation last October.

Yesterday Fernández Era shared on his Facebook profile the verbal clash he had last Friday with First Lieutenant Manuel Fernández García, who from the street called him down to the ground floor of the building where he lives in Santos Suárez (Havana) when he had just finished the humor column he publishes in La Joven Cuba on Sundays. The First Lieutenant informed him that he was now the one who “attends” to the publication.

“He handed me a little paper, so sloppy one number was written over the other with a certain air of, ’just use that one, there are no models to follow’,” said the journalist about the moment the official handed him the summons for Monday. Fernández confirmed that the date as well as the time are clear, but disagreed about place for the meeting, as it is a different municipality from where he lives (Plaza de la Revolución).

“That has nothing to do with anything,” responded the agent. “You say so, and as a citizen I have the right to doubt,” replied Fernández who noted how his observation made the lieutenant uncomfortable. continue reading

The collaborator explained that the official reminded him that he should not be inspired by the case of Alina Bárbara López Hernández, warning him that “Matanzas is not Havana” and assured him that in that case, laws were broken. “And how many have been prosecuted for that?” replied Fernández, according to his own account, highlighting the lack of sense of humor with which the lieutenant took his comments.

On Monday, the writer went to the Prosecutor in Havana to present a claim requesting the nullity of the summons and announced that he would not go of his own accord to the office on Zapata and C to be interrogated. “The transportation is already pretty bad,” he joked.

Fernández asked himself why, if the Revolution is backed by most elite intellectuals, can’t they sit and have a civilized discussion with the “confused” and “wayward” in a place more suitable than a police station. “How could they refer to it as a battle ’of ideas’ if they do not include everyone who possesses them, but only those who say ‘yes because yes’, ‘yes but no’ and ‘yes because if I say no. . .’?” he bemoaned.

The writer also reproached that there is a presumed press worthy of calling itself revolutionary if it never questions the politics of the government “that decides the destiny, dreams, and personal and collective accomplishments.” Fernández also requested that they acuse La Joven Cuba’s collaborators of whatever they want, but at least, “have the decency and the courage to publish without deletions any one of our articles.”

Lastly, in his allegations of Monday morning, the collaborator stated ironically that his style of writing is sarcasm. “What fault is it of mine that I was born in a such a fun country, and with such sympathetic leaders? Let them summon me, arrest me, handcuff me, interrogate me, let them lock me up if that will make them happy. The difficult part will be to mutilate my freedom to laugh at the joke that I will keep silent.”

Hours later, the writer returned to social media to calm the many people who worried about his situation and shared that no one had bothered him since he posted the claim, although he is now awaiting the decision of the Prosecutor, who has 60 days to decide.

Fernández who thanked those who have supported him during these tense days, hopes to enjoy the same luck as the professor and joked about the alternatives in case he is unsuccessful in his claim. There’s always the option to move to the Athens of Cuba, where, judging by his declaration, laws are blatantly broken and summons are not what they once were. Who knows? The peanut vendors might have even declared independence from the rest of the national territory.”

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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

Fidel Castro’s Eldest Grandson Continues to ‘Square the Box’ to Rescue His Father’s Memory

Tombstone of Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart, in the Colón Cemetery, in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger

Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 1 February 2023 — On February 1, 2018, excluded from the leadership of Cuban power and victim of frequent depressive episodes, Fidel Ángel Castro Díaz-Balart committed suicide. He was the only child from the first marriage of Fidel Castro, who had died a year earlier, and both the official press and the authorities avoided giving prominence to the event.

Five years later, the same silence is repeated. The only person who has taken care to remember Castro Díaz-Balart is his son, Fidel Antonio Castro Smirnov –professor of Nuclear Physics in Havana – who for months has been determined to claim the role of his family branch through tweets and media parachute jumps that he dedicates to his grandfather and father.

“Five years ago I lost my best friend, my paradigm of a man and an intellectual. His example was enough, but he was also an extraordinary father,” Castro Smirnov wrote this Wednesday , without referring to the “attack on life” after months of medical care for a “deep depressive state” as indicated by Cuban Television. “With us today, Professor Dr. Cs. Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart breathes, thinks, walks, does and feels,” said the young man, who always refers to his father with his title.

Castro’s “cursed heir” was buried in a dark, wine-red granite tomb, in a pantheon belonging to the Cuban Academy of Sciences, as this newspaper recently verified.

It is the same place where French scientist André Voisin was buried in 1964; Fidel Castro was obsessed with this ideas on cattle raising. The pantheon is discreet and was decorated with a small tombstone containing the full name of Castro Díaz-Balart and his birth and death dates, as well as his titles of Professor and Doctor of Science. It is also far from the memorials dedicated to the heroes of the country, which gives an idea of ​​the place the Revolution reserves for suicides. continue reading

Through Twitter, at scientific conferences in Cuba and abroad, and even in the official press, Castro Smirnov frequently refers to his family’s relationship with Fidel and Raúl Castro and defends his father’s scientific legacy.

The “rescue” began on the first anniversary of his grandfather’s death, in 2017, a few months before his father’s suicide. In a tearjerking article published in Cubadebate, he wrote: “I am Fidel. My father is Fidel. My grandfather is and will always be the eternal and undefeated Fidel. My name is Fidel, and my life is called Fidel. My thoughts, my dreams, my desires, are also called Fidel.”

In the same article, he affirmed his need to speak “often” with the deceased, defended Castro’s “physical” survival, his “strength (stronger than nuclear forces),” as well as “Fidel’s dynamics, the wave of Fidel, Fidel’s light (the most beautiful and intense), Fidel’s movement, Fidel’s magnetism.” All of this, according to the young scientist, “endures” beyond death, since “everything is Physics.”

Since 2016, Castro Smirnov has been “jumping for Fidel,” expensive skydiving maneuvers in different parts of the Island, which, together with the private photos of his family that he publishes regularly, have made him one of the most media-prominent members of Castro descendants.

Along with the commemorative tweet of his father’s death, Castro Smirnov today revealed several photographs where his great-uncle Raúl Castro poses with his mother, Mirta Díaz-Balart, who was divorced from Fidel Castro in 1955, as well as several images of his father smiling with Fidel Castro, in uniform.

In none of his frequent messages does the grandson allude to the distance between Fidel’s eldest son and the children of Dalia Soto del Valle, Fidel Castro’s second wife. The widow and her children were the ones who went first during the caudillo’s funeral, while Castro Smirnov and his father had to present their tribute in second place.

Various media outlets and observers around the Castros have pointed out that, despite appearances, Castro Smirnov was not excluded from the family’s life of luxury and comfort. In addition to the parachute “jumps,” photographs of him at parties and receptions have been revealed where he is accompanied by Professor Marxlenin Pérez, host of the official program Cuadrando la caja [Squaring the Box], who uses the last name Castro when she accompanies the young scientist.

Discreetly, Castro Smirnov has been rehabilitating his father’s image. Five years after the death of Castro Díaz-Balart, he is the only one of Castro’s grandchildren who can boast of a notable academic background and media talent that, without a doubt, he knows how to take advantage of.

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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: Deaths From Traffic Crashes Rose 18 Percent in 2022

In all of 2021, 8,354 claims occurred, which represented an increase of 8.32% (632) compared to 2020. (Amed Hermano/Facebook)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 1 February 2023 — A total of 700 people lost their lives in Cuba in traffic crashes in 2022, which represents an 18% increase compared to those who died from this cause in 2021 (589), the state press reported on Tuesday.

According to the head of the specialized Transit body of the General Police Directorate, Colonel Roberto Rodríguez, quoted by the Granma newspaper, the island registered 9,848 traffic crashes last year, an increase of 17% compared to 2021, a year of lower mobility due to measures to mitigate the spread of covid-19.

Pedestrians run over accounted for 22% of the deaths, according to the newspaper, the official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC). In total, the injured totaled 7,547, an annual increase of 28%, added the official, who mentioned as causes, as usual, social “indiscipline” and the “additional irruption of nearly 300,000 motorcycles and mopeds on the same road axis.”

“More than half of the crashes (53.2%) were due to collisions with moving vehicles, even though only 7.6% (753) had unfavorable road conditions, with potholes or cracks,” the newspaper stated.

Just two days ago, the official newspaper of Matanzas, Girón, published a contribution by a journalism student who denounced the influence of the poor condition of the roads on the high accident rate on the Island. continue reading

“It is impossible to separate these facts from the marked deterioration of the roads, primary and secondary, as well as the deficient presence of signs on the different sections of the roads. For their part, public lighting and traffic lights on the busiest arteries, sometimes, do not work properly,” read the note.

The criticism did not stop there and, based on data from the National Information and Statistics Office (Onei), the fall in investments in transport, which decreased from 11.7% in 2021 to 10.2% in 2022.

The article also mentioned the Cuban automobile fleet. “Although there are no statistics in this regard, at first glance it presents a high degree of antiquity. A good part of the cars date from the 1950s, the so-called almendrones*, or from the 1990s of the 20th century, brought from the former Soviet Union,” it added.

Idael Valdés Martínez, author of the article, also blurted out: “No one doubts the financial limitations of the country and, especially in the transport sector, but one might wonder if a truly appropriate job is being carried out in the technical inspections of vehicles, since in many cases people approach them and, at first glance, realize that they do not meet the conditions to drive on the road and thus put at risk the safety of pedestrians and drivers.”

According to the data provided yesterday, Havana, Holguín, Villa Clara and Santiago de Cuba registered the highest numbers of reports and increase in accidents by province.

The mortality rate was 6.2 per 100,000 inhabitants; while Sunday was the deadliest day, with one death for every 10 crashes. The age of the victims ranged from 26 to 35 years.

*Translator’s note: Almendron borrows the Spanish word for ‘almond’ to refer to old American cars, derived from their ‘almond-shape.’

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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.

Horoscopes, Divorces and Bikinis

Vogue’s iconic new year cover in 1974, photographed by David Bailey, featuring actress Anjelica Huston and the designer Manolo Blahnik. (Pinterest)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Xavier Carbonell, Salamanca, 29 January 2023 — It must be 15 or 16 years since I last flicked through the pages of a celebrity magazine. I remember the sparky covers with their 1990’s celebrities — Liv Tyler, Uma Thurman or Andy García — a bikini on the front page and the headlines were always about the mysterious reappearance of some actor, or a duchess’s secret, or a millionaires lover, or the second to last royal scandal.

These days, all serious and grown up now, I go down to the news kiosk in search of some bread or a literary supplement, and when I see the celeb mags I feel a wave of nostalgia. The covers no longer feature Angelina Jolie but Ana de Armas. Princess Diana has been replaced by Princess Leonor, Cher by Dua Lipa and Tom Cruise by Thimothée Chalamet, which, if we are even half awake, is almost an improvement.

I don’t know how all the mothers, grandmothers, aunties and their friends used to get all these mags through the customs and the censorship of the Island. To run their fingers over the dazzling pages, to admire Brad Pitt’s biceps or catch up with the latest diet to beat hypertension was their way of being transgressive, of staying young and of defying their parents, husbands or grandparents with this rather chaste print-based version of sexuality.

We too, still young boys, hoped that no one saw us cutting out a lingerie advert or a centrefold poster of Kate Moss, Claudia Schiffer or some chick in Karl Lagerfeld’s service. All those exotic names, the perfect face make-up, the long suntanned legs, the supernatural cleavages and the feline eyes, they fixed themselves upon our retinas and, I can guarantee, they will never leave them.

But it didn’t stop there. The models, singers and actresses, the scandals and heartbreaks were only the mere surface of the wider universe that those fifty pages covered. Every celeb mag, as we discovered later — whilst in search of tricks (always useless) for seducing our first girlfriends — was a tiny encyclopaedia. continue reading

Following the contents page and adverts for Coca Cola, Victoria’s Secret and Rolex — yet more names of remote and unachievable things — came the news of celebrities’ love lives. The gossip columns were the perfect polar opposite to the political press, they explained the economic climate better and without numbers and put on record all the drunken women, divorces and rumours that would later be turned into novels, songs and plays.

Once the appetite for gossip had been satisfied then came the diet advice and only after that, the recipes. Cooking tips, new types of blender, the  top ten brands of oven, how to decorate your patio to be a hostess for a ’brunch’ (but what was a ’brunch’?). As diligent as ants, the family set about an impossible project: trying to translate advice from a capitalist world to a ’sackcloth and ashes’ socialist one. A stuffed duck had to be adapted to a chicken as skinny as Cindy Crawford; the house wine passed for a Moët & Chandon; and the rusty wheel of the Singer sewing machine would spin tirelessly to try and achieve the style of a Valentino or a Versace.

When ill-fortune took hold there was no more pressing a remedy than the horoscope or the prophesies of that rather camp Walter Mercado, who appeared to be the product of a union between Elton John and Barbara Streisand. You only had to hear our mothers talking: “I read that this month some expected money would come our way”, “When it’s full moon, don’t get mixed up with other people’s business”, “You will feel vital and full of energy”, “Love will come knocking at your door on Friday, don’t hold back”.

Finally, on a hot Sunday afternoon it was time to open the magazine just before the classified ads, where there were the five, or ten, serialised chapters from the novel by Corín Tellado, the ubiquitous and harmless pornographer, as he was described by Cabrera Infante.

Taurus or Capricorn, alchemy or astrology, pig or rabbit, sunflower or olive oil, bikini or underwear, tracksuit or sarong; life was a constant dilemma of choice between things we had never even seen, and the magazines — the authorised opinion of Queen Elizabeth or of Keanu Reeves — helped us out in our theoretical predicament.

What we didn’t know [as kids] was that this whole microcosm was dependent upon a crude and secretive market. The magazines didn’t arrive home free of charge. They were rented by the day, they were traded for a bunch of bananas or a bottle of tomato pureé, certain titles became collector’s items and they were carefully looked after. Many female friends were ostracised for not returning a copy in time or for having ripped the cover. In an austere and monotonous country, that particular bastard genre of journalism was our only connection with the other world. Any infraction or theft would unleash a war.

Thanks to poor literature, our childhood got to become technicolour — as Nabokov used to say — and not black and white. Because of this, everytime I see the seductive and aggressive magazine covers, calling out like sirens, I wonder whether the termites have yet ground up the copies that I left back at my house.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso

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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 Cuba, Plans are Imposed Upon Cattle Farmers from an Office and That is Why There is Neither Meat nor Milk

Cattle farmers lack the space to increase their herds of cattle. (Vicente Brito/Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, January 30, 2023 — Pedro Rubio Tristá is one of the most successful cattle farmers in Las Tunas, he provides many fattening bulls to the government and exceeds the planned meat and milk production. Furthermore, he says he receives payment in hard currency and sells sweet potato to the government at a good price. However, he committed an unforgivable error of selling five cattle to his cousin and, although the cattle mass did not decrease, that earned him the prohibition of slaughtering any animal in 2022.

“He doesn’t understand and considers it an extremism,” stated an article published in a state-run press outlet which details the problems faced by producers and clearly explains why there is no meat or milk in Cuban markets.

“It has been two years since an official came here. The plans for milk and meat are imposed upon us from an office,” snaps Dilber Leyva, president of a cooperative in Las Tunas which exposes the problems with dairy products and bemoans that leaders develop plans without noticing the peculiarities of the territory and, much less each individual.

Last year one of his producers, he says, had to deliver 500 liters of milk from the 10 cows he owns, but four of them were pregnant, which made it infeasible. “He had to pay a large sum of money for not meeting the plan when, objectively, he was unable to,” he reproached. At the same time, the rate of default on the fines is high because many of them do not have the money, which results in debt for the cooperative which, in turn, cannot pay. A vicious circle.

“The cooperative’s milk debt for fines increased to 215,000 pesos last year because 50 producers did not honor the projections. For three months we were unable to pay farmers because Empresa Láctea [the Dairy Company] withheld the money for the debt,” he continued. And to top it off, the bank (Bandec) doesn’t give them credit either. continue reading

Jorge Velázques is another one let down by the same case as Rubio. Between him and his brother, Blas, they delivered 36 fattening bulls larger than 450 kilos. Their cattle herd increased and they exceeded the production plan. However, it occurred to him to pass three cattle to their brother, within the same farm, and both were penalized with the same measure: prohibition of slaughtering even one cattle.

“With regard to the contract, the prices are unstable, the prices of the businesses that are supposed to help are very high, delayed payments are constant and the prices include taxes on our products because contracts are written according to the norms decided by only one person. That is not a contract,” he protests.

After having interviewed up to 20 farm workers, Periódico26 has not found a single story of satisfaction with the much-lauded 63 measures to stimulate agriculture and livestock.

The nonsense with the land is not minor. Cattle farmer Raúl Escobar owned, via a family inheritance, a large part of the land in his neighborhood, Indaya, on the outskirts of Las Tunas. He decided to give it up, he says, “to benefit the community,” but now he wants more space to increase the cattle herd and they won’t give it to him. “And we’re talking about one of the measures to stimulate cattle farming,” he protests.

Yoel Martínez Vargas, an Agriculture delegate in the province, stated that the root of all the problems is that those who decide do not get close to those who produce, and he calls for speed in providing land. “Still, not infrequently, farmers are after the leaders, when it should be the other way around,” he says.

There are more than 50,000 hectares in the province that are either idle or not fully exploited because they were granted without rigorous study, he states. The official calls for improving conditions for farmers by providing them with proper housing and reassessing their work so they don’t leave.

The article states that each farm worker owns just 13.42 hectares, which only allows for 13 head of large cattle, when there is “more than enough” land to provide him with the 67 hectares needed to for adequate production.

Another nefarious data point for the province — in Las Tunas, more than 1,200 producers fall short of the milk they need to deliver. Although the article adds that “in most cases the reasons are unknown,” the statements made by the farmers, compiled in the report, are very clear.

Martínez Vargas requests that those who understand, in detail, how the new measures function approach each producer and get involved in development.

The delegate took advantage of the document to announce the decentralization of the sector in the province. Empresa Integral Agropecuaria [Integrated Agriculture Company] will disappear and one will be created in each municipality; urban farms will be converted to mipymes (micro, small and medium enterprises) and Puerto Padre will be the first agroindustrial municipality in Cuba’s Eastern Balcony (Las Tunas), shifting to the local government. In his opinion, this should be good so the sector will make its own decisions and manage is eventual profits.

Yoel Martínez Vargas expressed that “the root cause is poor contracting because the production plans are not well-conceived. Right now, more than a few, are increasing their mass and they cannot slaughter them because the contracts are poorly written.”

On several occasions the report refers to the words of Vice Prime Minister Jorge Luis Tapia Fonseca and his calls to “stimulate thinnking and creativity,” which serves as the headline for the article. However, those responsible never take responsibility for their errors and the solutions revert to being little more than good intentions.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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

The Spell

With 11J the first step of the spell was taken: the awareness that what is believed to be impossible can become possible. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 28 January 2023 — Václav Havel, the leader of the Velvet Revolution that liberated Czechoslovakia from communism, said that dissidents do not reject armed struggle because it is very radical, but quite the contrary, they reject it because it is not very radical.

The victory of an armed group can change the man who sits in the presidential chair and some ministers for others, it can dictate new laws, even promote a new Constitution (all this has already been done in Cuba), but not the national soul. The strength of a society is not in the mentality of those who govern, nor in the papers where the laws are signed, but in a much deeper sphere, in the degree of consciousness of the governed.

It is said that Cuba’s Constitution of 1940 was not only the most advanced in the history of the country, but also in the entire continent. But even if it had been, what good was it? It was enough that a group of soldiers treacherously seized the main stronghold of the country to throw it down the sewer and govern dictatorially. What good is the most perfect Constitution in the world if it does not take root in the civic conscience of citizens? Its validity was only twelve years, which, for the time of a nation, is equivalent to the duration of a breath. And, of course, that dictatorship lasted much less: barely seven years.

But without this awakening of the collective conscience, the spirit of tyranny reincarnated as a new leader. And since the will of an entire people has great force, and that people erected him, first on a throne, and then on an altar, he not only ruled fiercely as an absolute and perpetual monarch, but, even more, as a god who ruled forever our destiny.  And that people that, years ago, did not have the courage, or even the interest, to take to the streets and massively support the students who on the hill of the university demonstrated all the decorum that that people lacked to protest against that group of military coup plotters, now filled the squares to ask for the firing squad for the opponents of the supposed redeemer. continue reading

It was like a people hypnotized, prey to a spell before the one who, in a messianic pose, insisted that we had been married to the lie, when it was precisely at that moment that they were forcing us to live with it forever. And when they, taking refuge in an ideology in which they did not believe, put all the wealth of the country in a booty bag, many were disenchanted, but it was too late. That enchantment had already taken over most of the people.

To disenchant means to break the spell, which, in this case, is, more precisely, enchantment. And a collective spell was needed to put an end to it. That spell is a dawn in the conscience of each citizen. Only then will the sun of freedom illuminate all the fields and streets of the homeland. And the first rays of that dawn began to manifest that glorious July 11, 2021. Despite its apparent failure – not as resounding as the assault on the Moncada Barracks was – power came to shake, for which the first step of the spell was taken: the awareness that what is believed to be impossible can become possible.

The second step is to divorce that people from lies and marry them to the truth. Waking up those who are still asleep, giving light to those who are still blind, without hurting anyone, without responding to insults with insults, without threats of revenge, adding, never subtracting. When Jesus asked Ananias not to be afraid to go to Saul of Tarsus, the most brutal persecutor of Christians, and to cure his blindness, Ananias healed Saul, who became Saint Paul, the most fruitful preacher of the divine word.

And in this time of chrysalis — the time that the worm lasts inert in the cocoon — in which nothing transcendental in sight happens, all Cubans of good will, both inside and outside, must join forces to, all together, end what began on that date, flooding the national home with a deluge of light.

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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.