If You Want the Rice From the Cuban Ration Book, You Have To Go Unload the Ship

In the absence of stevedores, the authorities summon the population and the Army

The port of Vita currently has only one-third of the staff needed to unload cargo / Ahora!

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 8, 2024 — The Cuban authorities have put the population to work unloading rice from the ships due to the lack of stevedores in the ports. This is recognized in articles in the official press published this Monday, one in Granma and one in Ahora!.

In the port of Nuevitas (Camagüey), where 5,000 tons of rice arrived to be distributed in Ciego de Ávila, Camagüey and Las Tunas, they took workers from various sectors, “young people from the territory” and even soldiers of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR). Although the ship is on time, the unloading must be completed no later than Tuesday.

As he admitted in an interview with the newspaper Granma, Mario Martínez Mora, director of the Puerto de Nuevitas Base Business Unit, “our own force” is “very limited. We currently have one-third of the staff of stevedores. That’s why the support we receive is essential, especially in the unloading and cleaning of the cargo holds.”

The fundamental activity of the territory, at the moment, is the transport of rice

Meanwhile, at the Vita pier, in Holguín, the authorities are using “all means” to unload, as soon as possible, the 2,360 tons of rice that arrived on Friday. A few stevedores and workers from other sectors participate in the chore, brought from the eastern provinces and even from the center of the continue reading

country, to distribute the rice in the province. “The fundamental activity of the territory, at the moment, is the transport of rice,” explained the director of the port, Manuel González Cecilio, to the newspaper Ahora!.

To ensure that the rice is distributed as quickly as possible in Holguín, vehicles and carriers were also mobilized for the work, despite the fact that fuel in the area is scarce. “Vita is 50 kilometers from Holguín; therefore, we must quickly mobilize everyone and have a lot of fuel for the operation, despite its shortage,” said Rosell González Pérez, Transport coordinator of the provincial government.

The Vita authorities anticipate that another ship will arrive on,Tuesday from Santiago de Cuba, with 2,440 more tons of food, presumably rice, in addition to 360 tons of peas. With this second shipment in just a few days, the authorities of Holguín intend to completely cover the rationing system’s family basket of June and a part of that of July.

“The unloading will not stop, regardless of whether it is Saturday or Sunday; for those of us who have this responsibility, the days are all the same. We will not rest until the families of Holguin have rice on their plates,” González Pérez said.

Havana has requested the assistance of its allies, such as China, to solve the rice shortage

The lack of stevedores on the Cuban docks can be explained by the fact that, in the face of low wages, many workers have left the country or simply moved to the private sector, in search of better living conditions.

Havana has requested the assistance of its allies, such as China, to solve the shortage of rice, which is part of the basic Cuban diet. In April, Beijing pledged to send more than 20,000 tons of rice to Cuba throughout the year, mainly by sea. This type of donation, although usual, has not been enough to resolve the demand, although China carried out some shipments by air after receiving an urgent request from Havana.

Another ally that has responded to requests for help from the Government to supply the population with the precious grain is Vietnam, which this year will send 1,640 tons of rice, at a date yet to be specified. The Communist Party of Cuba went ahead and thanked Vietnam in April, after the donation was announced as part of 50 new agreements to strengthen bilateral cooperation in numerous sectors.

In a search carried out by 14ymedio on satellite tracking platforms, such as Vessel Finder and Marine Traffic, it was not possible to determine the origin of the cargo ships that arrived full of rice this weekend in Nuevitas and Vita. For reasons of national security, the Cuban authorities do not publish in their press the details about ship movements, both for oil and for food products, whose massive import tries to alleviate the deficiencies of national production.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuban Ministers Meet to Discuss Measures to Address a ‘War-Time Economy’

The cap on maximum profits for the private sector on sales to state-owned companies comes into force on Monday

Experts point out that price controls have done nothing to help the Cuban economy. / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, Monday, July 1, 2024 — Today, just as a cap on private-sector profits from sales to state-owned companies takes effect, the official communist party newspaper Granma opened with an article devoted to the most recent Council of Ministers meeting. The gathering was called to discuss what were describes as “issues of vital importance,” specifically ways to for stabilize the country’s “war-time” economy. Nothing in the article, however, indicated what measures might have been adopted that would put an end to the country’s inflationary crisis, nor is the meeting even being billed as such.

“Among other measures, a single, inclusive pricing policy will be established that will be applied equally to all areas of the economy, including both state and non-state sectors,” is as specific as the article gets. However, one need only take a quick trip back in time to see the same phrase being used on at least two other occasions. One was in 2020, when it was announced that efforts were being made to create a single, inclusive pricing policy that would apply, in equal measure, to all areas of the economy and that would serve as the core principal for generating products and services.

After Cuba abandoned its dual currency system and adopted a single currency in 2021, the same idea was trotted out again during a similar meeting. At that time, Prime Minister Manuel Marrero stated, “An update of Cuba’s pricing policy, which was intended to be a single, inclusive policy, equally applicable to all areas of the economy, was one of the ongoing priorities of the Ministry of Finance and Prices.” continue reading

Four years later, the announcement remains the same even though the economy is now even further underwater

Four years later, the announcement remains the same even though the economy is now even further underwater. President Miguel Díaz-Canel pointed to delayed deliveries of essential rationed goods, the instability of the National Electrical System and excessive inflation as being among the worst repercussions of the crisis. In his opinion, however, these are “not always a the result of supply and demand but something of a totally speculative nature.” In any case, his claim cannot be proven since supply and demand — to say nothing of economic productivity — are not features of the country’s economy, which Cuban authorities have themselves acknowledged and for which the National Office of Statistics and Information has provided ample documented evidence.

The prime minister, who attributed much of the problem to bureaucracy and insufficient oversight, called for implementing measures the government has designed to address the issue. Nothing is known, however, about what macroeconomic stabilization package the government might have prepared and few people believe one actually exists.

Mildrey Granadillo de la Torre, first deputy-minister of Economy and Planning, said there is a set of measures intended to “correct macroeconomic imbalances, increase the country’s foreign exchange earnings by different ways and means, encourage domestic production (with an emphasis on food production) and regulate the operations of non-state forms of management,” a euphemism the regime uses when referring to the private sector.

One of these measures, in fact, takes effect today. It limits profits from purchases by the state sector from the “non-state” sector for products and services. It also is intended to “promote partnerships and not cede productive capacity [to the private sector].” In the meeting, Díaz-Canel urged local administrators to continue making purchases from private companies based on the particular needs of their regions but “in an efficient manner,” noting that he believed the state was making “excessive payments” to itself.

During his frequent tours though the country’s provinces, the president has claimed that he always finds examples that indicate things can be done well, adding, “Let each of them multiply, with the conviction that all of us are here to save the Revolution and to save socialism.” Díaz-Canel, who always arranges a visit to a successful producer or businessman, does not seem to have noticed, however, that these cases are the exception, not the rule, and are generally due to privileges granted these operations by the state.

“Let each of them multiply, with the conviction that all of us are here to save the Revolution and to save socialism”

Attendees at the meeting discussed the next national budget, which is already being drafted even as the current one is being urgently revised to address “war-time economic conditions.” This phrase simply confirms the dire state of the economy which, rather than recovering from the damage caused by the pandemic, continues to worsen. The minister of Economy and Planning, Joaquín Alonso Vázquez, said in 2023 that there had been “a decline compared to the previous year and to the estimate for the first half of 2024.”

Exports targets for of biopharmaceuticals, processed tobacco, charcoal, lobster, eel and other fishing products were met, but neither nickel, nor honey nor raw tobacco met quarterly forecasts. Income from overseas medical services and tourism also improved, though the latter was below expectations. On the other hand, income from telecommunications fell.

“Rather than focusing on what happened in the first six months, it would be better to identify the causes in order to determine what we should do in the second half of the year,” said Vázquez.

There was no data on the fiscal deficit though one can assume the worst since there were warnings that the first quarter figures would be high.

“Taking into account that the economy needs more resources than it generates, the broad objectives were set” with the the usual good intentions, which has never produced good results.

14ymedio found only a few instances in Cienfuegos where inspectors visited private businesses to tell them that they had to limit their prices

Meanwhile, there are growing rumors on social media about small and medium sized businesses being hit with price controls. Upon further investigation in several provinces, 14ymedio found only a few instances in Cienfuegos where inspectors visited private businesses to tell them that they had to limit their prices if they wanted to avoid being fined. So far, officials have not commented on the matter.

On Sunday, economist Pedro Monreal commented on the price lists circulating online. “I am not disclosing them because I am not sure the they are reliable but they are figures that the government should be reporting,” he wrote. “The measure is a repeat of the same mistake the Ministry of Finance and Prices made. It relies on a flawed methodology to determine prices at the local and national level. It is an attempt to impose a predetermined profit that fails to take into account the actual relationship between supply and demand,” he points out. “If Cuba’s experience with price caps has taught us anything, it is that they do not work well. The ’contained prices’ we see in official reports are a form of ’repressed inflation’ that shows up in the form of shortages and black market prices.”

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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.

Havana’s Famous Sloppy Joe’s Bar Falls Victim to Government Apathy

The situation is unsustainable in a place that Gómez Fariñas describes as “iconic, recognized in the world” / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez/Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 6 July 2024 — Sloppy Joe’s Bar, an alcoholic refuge for the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Errol Flynn, used to be one of the culinary temples of Havana but has fallen victim to state apathy. A shortage of bread and other products is impacting its quality of service and the only ones finding anything to eat there are termites, gnawing away at its famous dark wood bar.

On Wednesday, state media finally took note of its decline. Silvia Gómez Fariñas, who writes an unlikely recipe column for Cubadebate, bemoaned the lack of bread there during a recent visit when she was hoping to impress “some Spaniards” who had accompanied her. A 14ymedio staff writer — an avid follower of Gómez Fariñas — immediately decided to pay a visit to Sloppy Joe’s, located just a stone’s throw from Old Havana’s Central Park.

Gómez Fariñas admitted that she did appreciate the politeness of the staff as well as the roast pork finger-sandwiches. “So far, so good,” she noted, but the happy feeling “did not last long.” Things started going downhill when she was unable to order anything from the “selection of ’bocaditos’ and sandwiches,” all around 500 pesos. When she asked why, she was told bluntly, “We’re out of bread!” continue reading

Sadly, the term “sloppy” is an apt description for the bar’s bathrooms / 14ymedio

Reporters from this publication had better luck than Gómez Fariñas. On Wednesday morning, they were able to order items from the menu that included bread but were warned that, within a few minutes, it would be sold out. The accompanying beverage was an imported Turkish orange juice with a high proportion of artificial ingredients.

The situation at a place that Gómez Fariñas describes as “iconic” and “known the world over” is unsustainable. The government, she says, is “letting it go to pieces ” and wonders if they are doing it on purpose. Of one thing she is certain: private owners would never let this happen.

Prohibition in the U.S, which lasted from 1920 until 1933, forced many famous drinkers — most notably Ernest Hemingway — to look for a bar where they could enjoy a mojito and a Cuban cigar. The place became even more famous after the release of the 1959 British film “Our Man in Havana.” Fidel Castro appropriated Sloppy Joe’s a year later and its celebrated clientele never returned. The establishment, which was founded in 1917 by a Spanish immigrant, José “Joe”García, has a twin in a nearly perfect condition in Key West, Florida

The display cases, which once provided an escape from the restrictions of Prohibition, now only hold bottles of Havana Club rum / 14ymedio

In those days, Sloppy Joe’s offered a bun topped with minced beef that became famous in Havana and that Gómez Fariñas, understandably, misses. “Those who visited before 1959 say that it was like ’ropa vieja’ but very finely minced, a ’picadillo’ that was made with a knife,” a technique similar to the one used to make steak tartare.

The 14ymedio reporters had to settle for a “bodega” bread with tuna, at 400 pesos, which came to the table without any cutlery and had been topped which a thick layer of oil. Notable also was the repetitious selection of alcoholic beverages. The display cases, which once provided an escape from the restrictions of Prohibition, now only hold bottles of Havana Club rum.

Customers are grateful that Sloppy Joe’s has kept the air-conditioning on, though it operates only intermittently, part of the “war-time economy” measures the government has implemented. The display cases hold photos of better times and the listless waiters try to remain seated as long as they possibly can.

The food menu includes sandwiches that cost between 350 and 500 Cuban pesos / 14ymedio

Under the tables, a squadron of mosquitoes goes about its business. Only moving to a table in a better lit area, or one nearer the street, mitigates the risk of contracting Oropouche or dengue fever, both of which are on the rise in Havana. Without insecticides or the means to combat the swarm, employees shrug their shoulders and make the table swap as smooth as they can.

Unfortunately, the bar’s bathrooms do sad justice to the English word “sloppy,” a synonym for untidy, careless or disheveled. There is a hole in the ceiling, a non-functioning urinal, the usual absence of paper, and toilets in poor condition.

No one – not even Gómez Fariñas – seems to care about the bar’s most serious and silent threat: termites. The grooves left behind by the insects as they devour the establishment’s wood are visible under the glass and old advertising signs for Heinz ketchup, Bauzá tobacco, various brands of liquor and products of all kinds. They evoke a past that Sloppy Joe’s, which Eusebio Real had restored in 2017, will never see again.

One customer, who stops briefly at the bar on his way out, offers his assessment: “Lots of reminders of capitalism but no actual capitalism.”

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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.

Carlos Espinosa, An Essential Look at Cuba

I want to think that death surprised him while he was reading, with his eyes shining when he found some clue, some lost piece in the puzzle of our culture

Cuban intellectual Carlos Espinosa passed away this Saturday in Madrid at the age of 74 / Facebook

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 8 July 2024 — In one of the presentations of the play Jacuzzi [written by the author of this article] in Madrid, someone from the group came running to the dressing room with the news that Carlos Espinosa Domínguez was in the audience. If there had been a nerveometer to measure the ensuing panic, it would have broken instantly. But not because of the fear that fierce critics provoked; we already knew that Carlos was very elegant when it came to giving a professional opinion, even if it was negative. What triggered our anxiety was the privilege of acting before one of the most authoritative voices of Cuban theater, whose name was synonymous with rigor, wisdom and excellence.

At the end of the show, the actors approached me: “Did you see him? Did he tell you anything about the play?” Nothing, I answered them. And we all felt low, and neither the audience’s applause nor the congratulations could raise our spirits. Nobody confessed it that night, but each of us went home with the terrible feeling that he didn’t like the play.

However, the next day, I received a call. On the other side of the phone, a soft and slow voice said good morning to me. It was Carlos. He had gotten my number through a mutual friend and wanted us to know that he had been deeply excited about Jacuzzi. He apologized for leaving the theater in such a hurry, but he had to return to Aranjuez, almost 50 kilometers from Madrid. After that he didn’t write just one, he wrote two articles for Cubaencuentro about the show. The second carried a title where it positioned itself without hesitation: The dream of a free and inclusive Cuba*. continue reading

Since that day we haven’t stopped talking. He wanted to know everything. He wondered with a child’s curiosity about details that I hadn’t even noticed myself

Since that day we haven’t stopped talking. He wanted to know everything. He wondered with a child’s curiosity about details that I hadn’t even noticed myself. I went to see his apartment in Aranjuez, a retreat where he avoided any distraction that would take him away from what was important: to investigate, rummage through the bowels of Cuban culture until he found what they call soul. I was surprised how up-to-date he was, especially about what was happening in Cuba. We conspired. We confessed terrible experiences suffered on that Island, but we did it more with hope than remorse. He himself proposed to me the publication of a volume of five of my works for the Verbum Publishing House. And that was his penultimate job.

This Saturday, when I left the flamenco show where I earn my bread, Maestro Carlos Celdrán called me to give me the news of his death. Another friend of his, the journalist Carlos Cabrera, also called to share his pain. I couldn’t believe it. I called him immediately and his cell phone was busy. It seemed like one of those hoaxes, Chomsky-style, but on the networks there were publications from serious colleagues who also talked about his death. The rest of the times I insisted on calling, a long ringing with no answer confirmed the worst.

I learned later, from an article by Carlos Cabrera, that a neighbor of his warned the firefighters, surprised because Espinosa did not respond to his calls. He lived alone, with that loneliness of the alchemist whose research has become a sacrament. I know that his last work, Así Siempre los Tiranos [Thus Always Tyrants], had become an obsession that required him to stretch every minute. And anyone who knows the size of his work, knows that Carlos was like those men of other centuries who make you wonder how the hell they could write so much. That’s why I don’t want to think about the sadness of his solitude but about the freedom that the word also implies.

I want to think that death surprised him while reading, with his eyes shining when he found some clue, some lost piece in the puzzle of our culture or our history, if they are different things. I want to remember him with his shy smile, despite the daring of his writing. I want to stay with his absence of anger, which did not imply any absence of character. Carlos Espinosa was, like few others, a man with judgment, but his opinions about the political situation in Cuba went beyond the immediate. They were much more comprehensive and profound.

I am not at all surprised by the silence of some institutions in Cuba to which he contributed a lot, nor the silence of some of his colleagues. There remains his work, tremendously immense.

I didn’t want to refer to Espinosa’s biography in this article. Other voices, more authoritative than mine, have already written excellent obituaries. Also on the networks, several artists and intellectuals have expressed deep sorrow at his loss. I am not at all surprised by the silence of some institutions in Cuba to which he contributed a lot, nor the silence of some of his colleagues. There remains his work, tremendously immense, which speaks more than anything else.

My main reason for this article is to be able to say goodbye, as if he could read it. In his last message he scolded me big time for taking so long to answer his calls. I didn’t have time to talk to him about my telephone phobia. I couldn’t thank him enough for his effort to bring out a book that we couldn’t present together. I didn’t get to tell him in the most sincere way how much I owed him, how much we owed him. Carlos knew how to look at Cuba as you look at the things you love. And his look – time will be in charge of confirming it – has been an essential look.

Translator’s note: The review closes with this: On his Facebook account, Carlos Celdrán, National Theatre Award winner, wrote: “Since I saw it, some time ago, in Havana, I assumed that Jacuzzi , by Yunior García, was a tremendous, sincere, unusual, highly accomplished work. Last night, and this time in Madrid, Jacuzzi has shaken me again. Not only me, but the entire audience that filled the room and gave a standing ovation, moved at the end of this performance that, I can assure you, has been a high point, very high, in Yunior’s theatre. The show crossed time, distances, the accumulated pain of these last years to arrive purified, whole and leave us with what only the theatre with its stripping down can achieve.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuban Journalist Expelled From Ecuador Asks Justice for the Return of Her Visa

Her lawyer demands that the Noboa Government deliver the secret reports mentioned by the Executive

Santiago, while recording a broadcast of her program Ingobernables [Ungovernables ]/ EFE
14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Quito (Ecuador), 6 May 2024 — Cuban journalist Alondra Santiago asked the Justice Department of Ecuador this Friday to annul the decision of the Government of President Daniel Noboa to expel her from the country by canceling her visa, an act apparently related to the communicator’s criticism of his government’s Administration. Through her lawyer Carlos Soria, the aggrieved claimed the application of a protection action where the Government is judicially obliged to return her visa and deliver the secret reports that the Executive has mentioned as a reason for her expulsion.

The lawyer maintained that, with the decision of the Executive, the defendant has seen her rights to freedom, free communication, dissemination of information, non-discrimination, protection of family ties, legal security, due process and defense violated.

Soria accused the Noboa administration of allegedly skipping the administrative procedure by making the decision to cancel Santiago’s visa without first notifying her about the beginning of the process to give her the opportunity of a defense. continue reading

Soria accused the Noboa administration of allegedly bypassing the administrative procedure by making the decision to cancel the visa

The magistrate in charge of evaluating the requested protection action suspended the hearing until she had the documents presented by the Government, whose lawyers confirmed that their procedure against Santiago is legal and maintained due process.

The Government of Noboa notified Santiago on June 24 that it was withdrawing her permanent residence visa on the grounds of alleged acts against national security, based on a “secret report” prepared by the intelligence center. Through her Ingobernables [Ungovernables] talk show, which is broadcast on social networks and has a wide audience, Santiago had been critical of Noboa, and in the last elections she had expressed his support for Luisa González, the candidate of Correísmo.

Weeks ago she was harshly criticized for using the Ecuadorian national anthem to make a parody about President Noboa’s management. Specifically, the Government stated the same Tuesday that the national anthem was announced on a national network (message to the nation) through the media, with the previous phrase “out of respect for the country”.

“I would like to return to my country, which is Ecuador, because there I have my whole life”

For Santiago, this episode is proof that Noboa’s “authoritarianism” “has no limits,” as she told EFE this Friday in her first interview with an international media outlet since her departure from Ecuador. “What Daniel Noboa did to me is not only cut off my freedom of the press but my right to defend myself (…) I don’t know what I’m accused of, I haven’t seen the document; my lawyer hasn’t seen it either,” she complained.

Santiago added, however, that even if Justice rules in her favor, she is not sure if she will return to Ecuador because she feels that her life could be at risk. In fact, she asked EFE for security reasons not to reveal her location. “I would like to return to my country, which is Ecuador, because I have my whole life there. But what’s going on? If a Government is capable of committing this totally crazy and violent act … If I can return tomorrow, what else can the president do? What can he tell me to do? I have no guarantees that my life will be safe there,” she said.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

According to Gutiérrez Boronat, the Cubans Killed in Ukraine Were From the Elite Russian Troops

 The activist claims that several of them have died at the front and cites Commander Kirill Veres as a source.

Kirill Veres, commander of the 54th brigade of the Ukrainian Army, during the interview with Ukrainsta Pravda. / Ukraine Pravda

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 8 July 2024 — Several Cubans who were part of the Russian Army died on the Soledar-Siversk front, in Donetsk (eastern Ukraine), according to the secretary general of the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, Orlando Gutiérrez Boronat, who cites as a source Commander Kirill Veres, head of the 54th brigade of the Ukrainian Army, who allegedly gave him the documentation for two of them. They were Leonel Fundichel y Duquesne, from Luyanó (Diez de Octubre, Havana), and Denis Frank Pacheco Rubio, from Raúl Sancho, Santa Clara (Villa Clara).

Gutiérrez Boronat, who was allegedly in Ukraine in 2023 – on a trip that was described by the Cuban regime on the Russian side – says that the information reached him through military leaders in Kiev.

“Several Cuban mercenaries were killed by Ukrainian troops defending their national territory in the face of the Russian imperialist invasion. The announcement was made by Commander Kirill Veres, one of the most popular and decorated Ukrainian commanders,” says Gutiérrez Boronat in a video. According to his version, the fight took place on June 20, in an ambush against the brigade led by Veres, and between 4 and 16 Cubans died. continue reading

“Multiple Cuban mercenaries were killed by Ukrainian troops defending their national territory in the face of the Russian imperialist invasion”

“These Cubans were part of Russian commando units or special forces known as ’storm groups’. The Russian regiment that attacked the 54th had 16 storm groups, with two Cubans in each,” says the activist, who adds that the soldiers are members of the regime’s elite troops.” If not, they could not participate, not having the necessary preparation, in these Russian elite units that were deployed in the occupied territory of Ukraine.”

Gutiérrez Boronat has disseminated images of the documents of the two Cubans mentioned and maintains that the bodies of both were found with their identification.

“Ukrainian intelligence has announced that they estimate that up to 40% of the Cuban troops deployed in Ukraine in the service of Russia are actually elite troops, who belong to the services of the Ministry of the Interior and who are, in this war in Ukraine or in Belarus, perfecting their capacity for war and helping the Russian offensive in key places against the patriots of Ukraine,” he insists.

The information has been released by several Miami media, which cite a long interview of Veres conducted by the newspaper Ukrainsta Pravda, including a video with the full version of the conversation. In the interview, however, Cuba is not mentioned nor is the documentation that Gutiérrez Boronat showed provided, from which it follows that it was sent privately.

In the interview, Veres talks about the importance of always being at the forefront of war and of renewing tactics. He affirms that the enemy (Russia) is very motivated and that he does not know how it trains, but that is its greatest strength. Meanwhile, he considers that the greatest value of his brigade is the technology and organization of the troops. Veres also talks about the mercenaries of the late Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner group, and that he captured one of them brought from Syria.

The commander maintains that Wagner’s members were earning 5,300 euros a month in Syria, 7,500 euros in Africa and up to 16,000 in Ukraine  

The commander maintains that Wagner’s members were earning 5,300 euros a month in Syria, 7,500 euros in Africa and up to 16,000 in Ukraine.

Veres also affirms that his men do not usually flee, that there are numerous women in his brigade, who are, in his opinion, better fighters than men – they are 100% more responsible, he says – and also mobilized prisoners, whom he is not afraid of, he says “because they were not murderers.” He also confesses to being tired, after 10 years of war – he has been fighting since 2014 in the Dombás – but satisfied.

According to Telemundo 51, which echoed Gutiérrez Boronat’s announcement, Pacheco’s wife – one of the two Cuban soldiers killed and identified in the report – says that he had no military training and that he went to Russia voluntarily “to guarantee a better economic future for his family.” His daughter, who appears in the latest photos on the military’s social networks, is not yet a year old.

“I don’t know what I’ll tell her in the future when she asks me about her dad. It’s something I suffer every day. Although he did not make the right decision, we need to know what happened to him, how he died and under what circumstances,” said his wife from Santa Clara.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Mirta Díaz-Balart, Fidel Castro’s First Wife, Dies at 95

Mirta Díaz-Balart lived in Madrid and was the mother of “Fidelito” who committed suicide in 2018

From left to right: Mirta, Raúl Castro, Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart, his wife, his grandson and his son Fidel Castro Smirnov / Fidel Antonio Castro Smirnov

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 6, 2024— Mirta Díaz-Balart, ex-wife of Fidel Castro and mother of their first child, died on Saturday in Madrid at the age of 95. Her grandson, Fidel Alejandro Castro Smirnov, a scientist with ties to the regime and resident of Cuba, announced her death on his X account. Castro Smirnov described his grandmother as “great woman” who retained a certain loyalty to her country and had an “extraordinary story.”

Born in Havana in 1928 and divorced from Castro in 1955, Díaz-Balart was a member of one of the most prominent families in pre-Castro Cuba. She studied philosophy and literature at the University of Havana where she met Castro, who was studying law. They honeymooned in Miami and New York in 1948. A year later their son Fidelito was born. He suffered from severe depression and committed suicide in 2018 in circumstances that remain murky.

The Díaz-Balart family was, and still is, deeply involved in politics. Mirta’s father, Rafael José Díaz-Balart, was mayor of Banes, a town in Holguín province where Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista was born. His brother Rafael was a member of the Cuban legislature from 1952 till 1956 and served in the Cuban government. He was opposed to Castro’s failed assault on the Moncada barracks and came to regret the amnesty the Batista government granted Castro and his comrades. Mirta’s nephews Mario and Lincoln have both served as Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives. continue reading

As his wife, Mirta was one of the few people allowed to visit Castro in prison. They separated, she said, not only because of his revolutionary activities but also because of his affair with the celebrated Naty Revuelta, who was also married at the time. Together, he and Revuelta had a daughter, Alina Fernández.

Castro and Mirta separated not only because of his revolutionary activities but also because of his affair with the celebrated Naty Revuelta

After her divorce, Díaz-Balart traveled to Mexico to gain custody of Fidelito, who was living with his father in exile. He did not see his father again until 1959. Mirta remarried in 1956, this time to Emilio Núñez Portuondo, son of a former Cuban ambassador, with whom she had several children. She moved to Spain with her new family after Castro came to power but was forced to leave her son behind in Cuba.

One of the daughters from her second marriage, Mirta Núñez Díaz-Balart, holds the Chair of Historical Memory at the Complutense University of Madrid. She has said in interviews that, on several occasions, she has had to clarify that she is neither a daughter nor stepdaughter of Fidel Castro. She is a historian who has written critically of the regime of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco and was in charge of drawing up a list of controversial street names from the Franco era with the aim of changing them.

In one of those interviews, Núñez Díaz-Balart said her mother was living on Alonso Cano Street in Madrid and that her father had been fervently anti-Castro. During a trip to Cuba in 2006, she said she received a phone call from her half-brother Fidelito, who informed her of a delicate operation that the Cuban dictator would undergo that year, whose outcome would have been fatal without the intervention of a surgeon from the the Madrid Health Services.

“I have been back to Havana several times to be with my son but I have never gone back to see or talk with Fidel”

Mirta Díaz-Balart herself was interviewed by the Spanish daily “El Mundo” after Castro’s death in 2016. “I have been back to Havana several times to be with my son but I have never gone back to see or talk with Fidel,” she said at the time. She told the interviewer that she prayed for the repose of his soul but that she thought of her marriage to him as “something long ago,” as something from her “youth.”

Largely forgotten after being fired from official positions by his father and his subsequent suicide, the name of Fidel Ángel Castro Díaz-Balart and that of his mother are taboo in Cuban state media. His grandson, Fidel Alfonso Castro Smirnov, a professor of nuclear physics in Havana, has taken it upon himself to reframe his family’s history, steadfastly claiming on his X account that both his father and grandmother remained loyal to Fidel Castro.

For example, he often posts family photos featuring both Fidelito and Mirta with Raúl Castro but never with Fidel. It is said that it was Raúl who organized Mirta’s visits to the island and facilitated Mirta’s sporadic meetings with the Cuban strongman. In family photographs posted by Castro Smirnov, it is Raúl — not his absent brother — who plays the role of paterfamilias.

Castro Smirnov often posts family photos featuring both Fidelito and Mirta with Raul Castro but never with Fidel

Castro’s “ill-fated heir” was buried in a mausoleum belonging to the Cuban Academy of Sciences, in a tomb of dark granite that is the color of red wine, as this publication recently reported.

Castro Smirnov takes the intersection of his family history and the legacy of Fidel Castro to convulsive extremes. He praises his grandfather Fidel’s physical survival, his strength (stronger than nuclear arms), his dynamism, his coolness, his light (the most beautiful and intense), his movement, his magnetism. . . all this, according to the young scientist, will endure after his death because, as he writes, “physics is everything.”

On Saturday, he posted a similar message — “death is not her end” — dedicated to his grandmother, Mirta Díaz-Balart.

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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.

Another Attempt To Remove the Statues of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in Mexico City Fails

A deputy has called for the removal of the monument to “the murderers” located in a central park

The sculptures were placed in 2017 to commemorate the meeting of the two celebrities 69 years ago / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Adyr Corral, Mexico City, 6 July 2024 — In Tabacalera park in Mexico City, very few people have heard about the call that Deputy América Rangel made this Thursday on social networks to remove the sculptures of Fidel Castro and Ernesto Che Guevara. Rangel, who belongs to the conservative National Action Party, sought to emulate the no less picturesque controversy generated by the call that neighbors of a beach in Progreso, Yucatan, have made to remove a sculpture of the Greek god Poseidon, because its presence on the boardwalk of the city has infuriated the Mayan god Chaac.

“Now that in Yucatan they are organizing to remove the statue of Poseidon, here in Mexico City we must do the same to remove the statues of the murderers Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Who is in?” the capital deputy published on her X account.

But Rangel’s harangue, which was fueled by some of her followers, did not have the desired effect outside the social media bubble, and no one arrived with chains and a truck to remove the life-size bronze sculptures, which some of those who celebrated the idea had suggested in the comments.

There have been no strange movements in the park, which is hidden behind the National Museum of San Carlos, where time passes at a less dizzying pace than in the rest of Mexico City. Located in what was once the garden of the Palacio del Conde de Buenavista, it is now located in one of the red zones of the metropolis where trans prostitutes negotiate the price of their services and drugs are for sale, especially cocaine and poor quality meth. continue reading

“There are many people in a vulnerable situation, also a lot of drug sales”

“There are usually many people in a vulnerable situation, also a lot of drug sales, people who come here to get high. The atmosphere has deteriorated for a long time,” said a museum security guard, whose main task is to guard an entrance that leads directly to the park and the two bronze-cast figures sitting on a bench, as if they were any couple.

“For me it’s an aberration to have these statues here,” says a neighbor who walks his dog. “We have countless national heroes, why are we going to have these individuals, if Castro was a dictator?” asks Roberto Domínguez Ortiz, an 84-year-old man who has lived across from the park for more than 40 years.

Dozens of homeless people spend the night in the park after spending their day asking motorists for money in exchange for cleaning their windshields at traffic lights or collecting cardboard and plastic bottles, in exchange for which some coins can be earned in recycling centers.

Juan is one of them. After listening attentively to his eighty-year-old neighbor, he approaches and questions why they put Castro and Guevara in that place. “Shouldn’t they be somewhere else? In Cuba, for example?” He says that the bench where Fidel and Che are smoking a cigar and a pipe, respectively, once broke, because a tree fell on it.”

Castro and Guevara are looking towards an immense fountain – now without water – that has become a bathtub and laundry room for the park’s tenants. Juan, who is not more than 30 years old and sports a scruffy beard along with some tattoos on his right arm, says sarcastically that Fidel and Che often serve as a clothesline to dry the clothes newly washed in the fountain.

Fidel and Che have become the clotheslines for homeless people / Crónicas al hilo / X

Castro and Guevara were placed in this park because it is located a few blocks from the building where they met while they lived in Mexico. On the facade of the building where the meeting took place, a plaque reads: “This place of the Cuauhtémoc (neighborhood of the city) was where, in July 1955, the first meeting between Fidel Castro Ruz and Ernesto Guevara de la Serna took place. In honor of the role that both personalities have had in the revolutionary struggle of Latin America.”

The building is a three-story building located at 49 José de Emparán Street. It remains inhabited but in deplorable condition, without glass in the windows, which have cardboard and wood so as not to let in the cold and prevent the curious from looking in. If you look at the facade, it is easy to detect several visible cracks in the red paint, probably the result of the constant earthquakes that shake the Mexican capital.

The apartment building where both met in 1955 / 14ymedio

Senator Ricardo Monreal, a staunch supporter of former president Andrés Manuel López Obrador — who installed the sculptures in 2017 — said when he was mayor of Cuauhtémoc, “Many may not agree with Fidel or Che but this community is tolerant.” In September 2021, the sculpture was vandalized by demonstrators, who threw white paint at it, damaging the copper patina. The protest was directed against the Government of López Obrador, days after he received Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel. At that time it was also suggested that the figures be removed, but the initiative failed.

The white paint was removed and the patina restored, but recently someone wrote a message with a black pen in the notebook that Castro is holding: “Whoever finds the thief and returns what was stolen will be rewarded.”

Not only was white paint thrown at them but propaganda was also placed against López Obrador on the statues / Manuel Amador/X

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Police Harass Journalist José Luis Tan Estrada a Few Days Before the Anniversary of July 11

The reporter was threatened with charges of disobedience and contempt if he publishes content about the protests on social networks

The reporter is prohibited from attending public places under the threat of going to prison for disobedience and contempt.  / José Raúl Gallego/X

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 July 2024 — State Security released journalist José Luis Tan Estrada this Friday after a brief interrogation where they warned him that on July 11, when three years of the 11J protests are commemorated, he must refrain from making any publication on his social networks. The reporter is also prohibited from attending public places under the threat of being imprisoned for disobedience and contempt.

The CubaNet collaborator reported on his Facebook page that on Friday afternoon, while connecting to the internet in the Agramonte park in the city of Camagüey, he was approached by a political police officer who arbitrarily arrested him. Tan Estrada was transferred in a patrol car to the Third Unit of Monte Carlos of the National Revolutionary Police, where he was intimidated.

In his publication he said that a repressor, whom he identified as Laura, stopped him while he was connecting to the internet. After approaching him in the park, she took his cell phone and immobilized his hand, warning him that if he shouted he would go to jail. After remaining in that position for a few minutes, a patrol car approached and he was arrested. Once they reached the Police unit, an interrogation began, joined by another agent, identified as Marcelo. continue reading

“They gave me a letter of warning, which I did not sign, and, in addition, they said that if I did not comply with it, I would be prosecuted for disobedience and contempt”

“They gave me a letter of warning, which I did not sign and, in addition, they said that if I did not comply with it, I would be prosecuted for disobedience and contempt. I told them, and I say it here again, that I will continue doing independent journalism and will not turn my face to injustices,” he said a few hours after being released.

“The main objective was to threaten me and warn me that on July 11, I cannot be in public places, or in parks, post anything or take any action to incite people, because I, according to the repressors, am a negative leader in the province, and it was better for me to stay at home,” he said. He also thanked journalist José Raúl Gallego, a resident of Mexico, because they were having a conversation at the moment they took his cell phone away, so it was possible to give news of his arrest to his family and friends.

The journalist has been harassed by the political police in recent years. In April, he was arrested in Havana and later released, after spending five days at the headquarters of State Security, Villa Marista. During that time the agents urged him to leave the country, and, according to his account of the facts, he was the victim of psychological torture: “They can do anything in there. One, who I think was a captain, told me, ’you’re going to rot here, worm’,” Tan Estrada revealed after being released.

This Friday, after Tan Estrada left the police unit, the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and Press (ICLEP) condemned his arrest, which it described as “a new attempt at silence and repression among voices critical of the Cuban regime.” The organization also demanded respect for the diversity and freedom of expression because, it said in a statement on its networks, “thinking and giving a different opinion are not crimes.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cubans Without Visas To Travel on Wingo Airlines Protest at the Colombian Embassy in Havana

Beginning July 8, residents of the Island will need a visitor visa to travel on the airline to Bogotá

Protests in the Havana airport (left) and at the Colombian Embassy (right) / Collage / Roberto Fdez Cruz / Mario Pentón

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 July 2024 — The controversy between the Colombian airline Wingo and its Cuban users has escalated in recent days after the company announced that from July 8 it will only transport travelers with a visitor visa, that is, whose final destination is Bogotá. Many of its customers on the Island have begun to protest the measure, which prohibits travel to those who were only thinking of transiting in the Colombian capital, and this Friday the demands reached the Colombian Embassy in Havana.

According to the statement published by Wingo on its official website, the request for Cuban travelers to present a visitor visa and their return ticket to the Island – purchased from the company itself – is going into effect based on another announcement made by the Colombian Foreign Ministry on July 4. According to the official document, “in order for a passenger to be considered in transit at Colombian airports, the same air transport contract must include both the journeys of arrival in the national territory and those of departure to the third country.”

In summary, the Government of Colombia requires the transit to be included in the same flight contract; that is, that it be done with the same company.

For its part, Wingo only operates a “point-to-point” flight between Havana and Bogotá, so it cannot check the transit status or be responsible for its travelers when they move to another airline. “It is important to reaffirm that Wingo’s network of routes only offers direct flights, in this case Havana – Bogotá, and does not offer connecting flights, either within its continue reading

own network, or with other airlines. That said, the airline is not able to verify the validity of connections with other airlines beyond Bogotá,” it explains.

“After communicating this decision, the airline will only transport passengers of Cuban nationality who have a visa to enter Colombia, without exception. This measure will be in effect from July 8, 2024,” adds the company, which offers customers who do not meet the requirements two options: request a free change of the flight date (the ticket will remain good until March 2025) or request a refund – although the airline does not clarify if they will refund the total cost of the ticket.

In either case, the tickets must have been purchased before July 8 of this year.

Cubans, for their part, have not taken the announcement well, and last Monday several customers protested in front of Wingo’s office at José Martí International Airport. Through videos and publications shared on networks, many of the customers said that they had been forced to leave the airport by the Island’s authorities without obtaining explanations from Wingo. Hours later, the company published its statement clarifying that “it is not asking for a transit visa” as many confused users claimed, but that it was adhering to the regulations issued by the Foreign Ministry of that country.

This Friday, the protest was held in front of the Colombian diplomatic headquarters in Havana, where citizens demanded an explanation from officials and that they allow travel for those who had already purchased a ticket. According to other publications on social networks, the ambassador told the group that two weeks ago he filed lawsuits against Wingo and that the airline is analyzing the matter.

 Travelers, however, have not been satisfied, and many have expressed the sacrifices they made to pay for the ticket

Travelers, however, have not been satisfied, and many have expressed the sacrifices they made to pay for the ticket, including the sale of houses and belongings, since their objective was to emigrate. The meeting with the diplomat also did not leave them convinced and, as many have declared on social networks: “Everything smells like lies,” and Wingo is not giving concrete answers to demands for reimbursement and to allow travel.

Cubans are running out of ways to reach Colombia, one of the favorite stopovers on the way to Nicaragua, where they embark on the route to the United States. These obstacles are the result of the pressure exerted by Washington on airlines for their complicity, active or passive, with the transport networks for illegal migrants. Several airlines have preferred to suspend their flights in the face of the threat of sanctions from the United States.

At the beginning of June, the Colombian airline Avianca reported that, “due to operational issues,” it will postpone until further notice the restart of flights on the route between Bogotá and Havana, which it had promised since May, without giving further details.

Avianca will reimburse all customers who had already purchased tickets to travel between those destinations since the announcement of the resumption of operations, the company said at the time. The airline’s planes have not traveled to Cuba for four years and, at the moment, it is not clear when they will be able to again.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Murdered by Her Ex-partner in Line at the Pharmacy in Las Tunas, Katia Ortiz Was Pregnant

Another confirmed case of femicide occurred in Havana on May 18

“Violence leaves marks — Ignoring them leaves femicides.” March against violence against women and femicides. / (YoSíTeCreo en Cuba Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, June 13, 2024 — The Yo Sí Te Creo in Cuba observatory added two new femicides in Cuba on Wednesday. One of them is that of Katia Ortiz Figueredo, 25, on June 5. The attack occurred in the street, in the city of Las Tunas, allegedly at the hands of her ex-partner, who already had a history of violence, as reported by her. The victim had two minor children, according to the platform.

An uncle of the victim told Cuban journalist Alberto Arego that the murder took place at the door of the pharmacy located on 11th Street in the Aguilera neighborhood, where her ex-husband – who was standing in line with several people to buy medicine – stabbed her several times. “They had been divorced for a few months but he, under threats, had held her for five days in his house and sexually abused her, leaving her pregnant, according to the autopsy report, and leaving two children, a boy 8-years-old and a 3-years-old girl,” revealed the man.

Asked if the family was aware of the situation, the victim’s uncle said that his niece was very afraid and did not want to “expose” the family to possible reprisals, so no complaint was filed, although he is now raising his voice so that the aggressor, who is in custody, is convicted of double murder since she was pregnant. continue reading

 The victim’s uncle said that his niece was very afraid and did not want to “expose” the family to possible reprisals, so no complaint was filed

The other case dates back to May 18, the day Cindy Samanthy González Espinosa, age 32 and originally from Camagüey, tried to hide in the house of a friend of her ex-partner, who followed her there to kill her. The alleged murderer also had a history of mistreatment against the victim and previous partners, “without this leading to preventive measures,” laments Yo Sí Te Creo en Cuba. These events occurred in Barrio Obrero, a neigborhood of San Miguel del Padrón, in Havana.

The Alas Tensas and Yo Sí Te Creo en Cuba observatories, both based in Cuba, count these deaths as femicides, which number 25 so far this year. (The count carried out by 14ymedio rises to 22, since it does not include the murders of two elderly women last March or that of Aniuska Hernández Ginard on June 5, which this newspaper does not consider to be in the nature of a femicide).

The organizations have six cases in their accounts that require further investigation to determine whether they are murders due to gender-based violence, three of them in Havana, two in Santiago de Cuba and one in Esperanza, Villa Clara. In addition, there are three attempted murders and four violent acts (in Havana, Artemisa, Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba) about which they are trying to gather more information.

In March 2021, the Cuban government announced the creation of a Gender Observatory, which was expected to include updated records of femicides and “other expressions of sexist violence.” At that time, the general secretary of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), Teresa Amarelle, stated that they were studying how to do it, but that the organization would contribute to “demonstrating the reality of the country” regarding gender violence.

It took two more years for the Cuban Observatory on Gender Equality to be launched in June 2023, which included statistics on “judicial proceedings resolved in the country’s courts in 2022” linked to gender-based murders. The data reported cases tried that year, without further details and without knowing the date of the commission of the crime, leaving this record far below that kept by feminist associations since 2019 and, therefore, useless.

Months later, in December, the Attorney General’s Office announced that it would be in charge of carrying out an “administrative registry” to collect real-time information on the deaths of women and girls due to gender-based violence. Half a year has passed without any further news of this registry and, in addition, the statistics on femicides from the Observatory created in June, which is now mainly dedicated to data on the gender gap, have also disappeared.

 Half a year has passed without any further news of this record and, in addition, the statistics on femicides from the Observatory created in June have also disappeared

“The times when women go to the police and the police even make fun of them…” lamented one commentator in Arego’s post about the murder of Katia Ortiz. Another commentator agreed with her: “Every time I read a news story like this I feel angry, because we women are unprotected. There is no justice for us in this country. As I read in a comment before, many go to the police seeking protection and the response of those who are supposed to be in charge and in authority is to make fun of them, they even say it (‘she’s crazy’) and they don’t even ask to find out what’s happening to her.”

Feminist associations have been calling for years for a comprehensive law against gender violence that goes beyond criminal content and encompasses prevention, through the involvement of all sectors of society, from the security forces themselves to judges and health workers, as well as education and communication. The Government postponed such a law until at least 2026 in a timetable published in 2021.

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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.

Never a Time of Peace for the Cuban Economy

The revolution is not in crisis. The revolution itself is a perennial crisis and a chronic illness.

Photo of the most recent Council of Ministers meeting where measures to deal with a “war economy” were proposed / Granma

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, July 2, 2024 — Fidel Castro did not want to call the great Cuban debacle of the 1990s a crisis. He preferred the euphemism “Special Period.” He used the term twenty times during his speech on September 28, 1990 along with the tagline “in times of peace.” He made his audience’s heads spin with talk pf sweet potatoes and cassava that had been harvested nine months late yet had not dried out. When one looks back at his speeches dispassionately, one wonders how our parents came to believe in the commandante’s “consummate genius.” Clearly, his genius was in direct proportion to our stupidity.

The Royal Spanish Academy dictionary has two definitions for the word “crisis.” The first refers to “a profound change with important consequences in a process or a situation, or in the manner in which they are observed.” The second meaning indicates the “sudden intensification of a disease’s symptoms.” When we talk about the Cuban economy, the latter seems to better align with our own experience. The revolution is not in crisis. The revolution itself is a perennial crisis and a chronic illness.

In April 2019 Raúl Castro was frightening everyone with the prospect of a return to the Special Period. The measures he announced at the time now seem like a precursor to to every package of new legislation that has followed. continue reading

All the government’s fanfare masks preparations for the crisis Venezuela will experience following presidential elections on July 28

The specter of the Special Period arouses so much public anxiety that party ideologues advised Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel to avoid mentioning it. Like crossword creators, they have been puzzling out different ways to describe the crisis. In September 2019, the anointed president began talking about a situation that was “simply energetic,” describing it as “temporary.” Faced with a barrage of criticism over this, he casually mentioned a few days later that the situation could be permanent.

As the Mexican singer/songwriter Juan Gabriel would say, that’s how it goes. Currency unification and the Covid pandemic combined to expose the ineptitude and haplessness of the Castros’ heir, though, this time, widespread frustration led to the biggest public protest in our country’s history on 11 July 2019. They say that Díaz-Canel, once a fan of Communist-sponsored neighborhood street parties, now can’t stand listening to Julio Iglesias.

The crisis has gone from being a “contingency” to something worthy of a Hollywood premier: an “economy at war!” At this point, one imagines Soviet T-55 tanks transporting ration baskets and the regime’s last ten fighter planes firing rounds of grocery store bread.

If this crisis is the same as previous ones, why change the name? Why use this term at a time marked by real conflagration? Not even Fidel at his most reckless was ever so foolish. At least when he used war-time terminology, he was subtle enough to clarify that it was being done “in peace-time” to avoid poking the bear during a moment of extreme internal weakness.

It is not at all certain that, after Maduro’s eventual fall, the Castro-Canel regime will also crumble

The world’s press has reported the news without giving it too much importance or wasting one drop of ink talking about the U.S. embargo. For example, Spain’s “El País” preferred to quote the economist Pedro Monreal to help explain the subject to its readers. It cites bureaucracy and inefficient management of state institutions as some of the causes. On the other hand, the Cuban government insists that it is a matter of “correcting distortions.” All indications are that that, when they use the verb “to correct,” they are referring to the Royal Academy’s sixth definition of this word, which means to expel excrement.

All the government’s fanfare mask preparations for the crisis Venezuela will experience following presidential elections on July 28. There is no way for Cuba to emerge from the process unscathed. If Maduro loses, it’s all over. If Maduro steals the election, the public outcry will be so great that the sound of protestors banging pots and pans in the streets of Caracas will be heard back in Havana. Anyone with at least a passing knowledge of the Venezuelan situation knows that Maduro does not even have the support of his country’s Communist Party, which describes him as a gangster who brought about a national tragedy.

On the other hand, there is no guarantee that, after Maduro’s eventual fall, the Castro-Canel regime will crumble also. Some heads will roll and replacements will eventually be found for Alejandro Gil, the former economics minister who was summarily removed from office last February. The heads have been falling for more than sixty years but the abyss is so deep that they have not yet hit bottom. Just in case, Díaz-Canel has already prepared a long list of new euphemisms for his next crisis.

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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.

A Deadly Thursday on Cuban Roads With Seven Deaths in Two Accidents

The crashes also left at least three people injured.

The crash in Camagüey involved two cars, one of them stopped on the side of the road / La Tijera / Facebook

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 5 July 2024 — On Thursday, seven people died on Cuban roads in two traffic crashes. One of them occurred at the exit of Santa Lucía Beach in the province of Camagüey and the other in the town of Las Mangas, in Granma province, according to reports from relatives of the victims and witnesses of both accidents. The crash in Camagüey involved two cars, one of them stopped at the side of the road. According to several witnesses published in the Facebook group “Accidents Buses & Trucks” for more experience and fewer victims, one of the cars stopped for two young people to get out, but they exited through the wrong door and were hit by another vehicle that was coming down the road.

The collision with the two people caused the moving car to overturn and catch on fire at a point near the Los Olivos bridge, in the community of El Carmen, an area known as Las 80. The occupants of the front seats managed to get out but two women traveling in the back died as a result of the flames.

According to witnesses of the accident, at least two other people were injured and were transferred to the municipality of Nuevitas for medical attention

The two young people who died when they were hit by the car have been identified as Cliver Álvarez Tamayo, 17 years old and Dailenis Silva, 19, residents of the municipality of Manatí de Las Tunas, according to the digital newspaper CubaNet. The women who died in the fire were Milagros Hernández and Yamila Marín, as published by the portal Cubanos por el Mundo and the news site CiberCuba. continue reading

According to witnesses of the accident, at least two other people were injured and were transferred to the municipality of Nuevitas to receive medical attention

The other crash this Thursday was a collision between a Yutong bus on the route between Bayamo and Havana and a horse cart in the town of Las Mangas, in Granma province. In the crash, three people died and a girl was seriously injured. All the deceased and the youngest injured were traveling in the cart.

According to relatives of the victims, two of the deceased were brothers and owners of the horse cart. While they were traveling on the road, they picked up a mother with two children; the youngest of the minors was the third person to die in the crash. The passengers and the bus driver were not hurt.

According to relatives of the victims, two of the deceased were brothers and owners of the horse cart

Recently, in the official TV program Round Table, the head of the Specialized Transit Body of the Ministry of the Interior, Roberto Rodríguez, admitted that the massive movements of travelers to beaches and vacation destinations in summer keep the Transit authorities on the Island on alert; they fear that the current economic crisis may influence the accidents. The official also acknowledged that the entity has not been able to “stop the deterioration of the roads and signage.”

The official was pleased that the first half of this year has better indicators than the same period of 2023. According to him, 543 fewer accidents occurred – a decrease of 13% – the number of deaths fell by 23% and the number of injured by 5%. Likewise, the number of victims between 21 and 35 years old – 35% of deaths in accidents are in this age range – also declined, although Rodríguez did not offer specific figures in this case.

Rodríguez did not delve into the reason for the decrease in crashes, but it’s possible that the reduced circulation of vehicles due to the lack of fuel is an important factor.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Omar Rafael García Lazo, Cuban Repressor and ‘Persona Non Grata’ in Colombia, Dies in Car Crash

The Central Committee official and former diplomat in Bogotá died in a car crash

Omar Rafael García Lazo died this Wednesday at the age of 44. / FDHC

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, July 4, 2024, Madrid — Omar Rafael García Lazo, an official of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, died this Wednesday in a car crash when he was returning to Havana from a “work mission.” The announcement was made by the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) itself, which mourns the loss of a “valuable and honest comrade, as well as a father, son and dedicated husband to his family.”

But García Lazo was also many other things: to the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba he was a repressor; in Colombia he was a persona non grata, expelled for being a spy for the Island; for Nodal (News from Latin America and the Caribbean), an Argentine agency with a marked leftist line, he was a political analyst .

García Lazo, born in Sandino (Pinar del Río) and just 44 years old, studied Social Communications and completed two years of social service in the ideological department of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), from where he moved, in 2007, to the Department of International Relations. In a rapidly rising career, he was promoted to civil servant and held that position from November 2010 to 2017, when he left for Colombia as first secretary of the Cuban Embassy in Bogotá. continue reading

In May 6, 2021, he was abruptly expelled from Colombia, which also named him ’persona non grata’

On May 6, 2021, he was abruptly expelled from Colombia, which also named him persona non grata. At that time, the Foreign Ministry did not give any explanation for the decision and simply claimed that he “carried out activities incompatible with his functions” and that international protocol was followed after verifying the state of the actions that he did not carry out. Havana, for its part, claimed to be unaware of the reasons and pointed out that it was a smokescreen, as it coincided with the protests against the Government of then president Iván Duque.

“This unjustified action is intended to divert the attention of the international community and Colombian society from the violent repression of the military and police forces against protesters, which has caused dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries,” the Cuban Foreign Ministry said. It added that the “unfounded decision” was an “unfriendly act that affects the normal functioning of the Cuban Embassy in Colombia” and assured that its diplomats “fulfill their obligations seriously and rigorously.”

At that time, García Lazo had been included in the list of Cuban repressors for “advising and participating in acts of vandalism and destabilization” for his work at the Colombian Embassy. Not in vain, in 2020 the Colombian magazine Semana had published a report in which it called him out for this reason and also argued that he was the right-hand man of the then Cuban ambassador, José Luis Ponce, whom it accused of being a spy for Cuban intelligence since the 1970s.

García Lazo had also attacked the Cuban opposition from Colombia, specifically members of the San Isidro Movement (MSI)

García Lazo had also attacked the Cuban opposition from Colombia, specifically members of the San Isidro Movement (MSI), whose leaders include the imprisoned artists Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel Castillo Osorbo. “If Valladares’ wheelchair with Mitterrand*, Camaján [Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz]  decorated by Bush, and Marta Guacamole [Martha Beatriz Roque] with Obama couldn’t defeat the Revolution, a flag-waving bastard with Trump couldn’t make a difference,” he said on Facebook when the Cuban police stormed the building where several MSI members were on a hunger strike against the arrest of rapper Denis Solís — which had already lasted 10 days — and arrested them.

“If Valladares’ wheelchair with Mitterrand, Camaján decorated with Bush, and Marta Guacamole with Obama could not defeat the Revolution, a flag-waving coward with Trump could not make a difference,” he said on Facebook when the Cuban police stormed the building and arrested several MSI members who were on a hunger strike that had already lasted 10 days, protesting the arrest of rapper Denis Solís. “If your option is the pandemic and dollarized, choose: Covid or cops,” he added.

For these acts, the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba finds that García Lazo has committed threats, defamation and incitement to violence.

The Colombian press claims that Duque’s government spent the entire beginning of 2021 meditating on the decision, despite the fact that the friction with the Cuban regime had been going on for a long time. In January 2019, Colombia asked Havana to hand over the members of the National Liberation Army (ELN) who were then on the island, as part of its delegation in the peace talks.

The request came after the attack against the Cadet School that left 22 dead and whose authorship was acknowledged by the guerrillas. The Cuban government then claimed that it could not extradite them, since it would violate the bases of the agreement. That decision cost a diplomatic confrontation and, in the long run, the inclusion of Cuba on the list of countries sponsoring terrorism drawn up by the United States.

“This person was looking at how to promote protests and destabilization in political groups, which represents a violation of the Vienna Convention”

Iván Duque did not confirm the reasons for García Lazo’s expulsion until the end of 2022, when in an interview with Juan Manuel Cao he gave the yes. “The answer is affirmative, it is yes, when we were going to expel another one they realized and removed him. But one thing is the exercise of diplomatic function and another is putting your fingers in all the sockets to see which one has current, and this person was looking at how to promote protests and destabilization in political groups, which represents a violation of the Vienna Convention,” said the former president.

Since then, García Lazo has devoted himself mainly to his work in the Department of International Relations of the Party Central Committee and written some articles as an analyst for the media.

According to official information, his body will be cremated and his ashes displayed at the Calzada y K Funeral Home in El Vedado, “where he will receive tributes from his colleagues, friends and family.”

*An international campaign for the release of Armando Valladares was led by then-President Francois Mitterrand of France, who made a personal appeal to Fidel Castro.

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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.

Panama Closes Three Border Crossings Cubans Use To Reach the United States

More than 195,000 migrants, including almost 500 Cubans, have used this route in pursuit of the American dream

An official of the Colombian Ombudsman’s Office on the Astí trail fenced with barbed wire / Colombia Ombudsman’s Office

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 5 July 2024 — Panama closed three unauthorized border crossings on Wednesday, which more than 195,000 migrants – including 500 Cubans – have used to make the crossing to the United States this year.

With the support of 300 units of the National Border Service (Senafront), points were blocked on the coasts of the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. In addition, barbed wire was placed on the short cuts that lead to the area of Hito de Chucurti, bordering Colombia. Several migrants have shared images on social networks of the barbed wire fence that prevents them from continuing on their way. According to Senafront, the objective of the measure is to channel irregular migration towards the Cañas Blancas crossing, which leads to the community of Bajo Chiquito.

The agency denied that the migrants had destroyed the wire fence. “It’s a video from 2019,” they explained, alluding to a recording that is circulating on social networks, “when, as a result of external situations, the crossing was closed at the border landmark of La Miel in the Caribbean.

At his July 1st inauguration, President José Raúl Mulino warned that Panama “will not be an open path for thousands of people who enter illegally backed by an entire organization related to drug and human trafficking.” The president specified that entry into the country will not be allowed “without a passport or valid document.” continue reading

The border closure came days after Panama’s Foreign Minister, Javier Martínez Acha, signed a memorandum of understanding and immigration cooperation with Alejandro Mayorkas, US Secretary of Homeland Security. The agreement includes the transfer of 6,000,000 dollars to develop the Mulino Government’s plan to repatriate migrants who do not have a legal basis to be in Panama.

The new director of the National Migration Service of Panama, Roger Mojica, explained that repatriation or expulsion from the country will depend on the immigration record, taking into account those who do not have the financial support to stay in Panama or have pending cases, according to Prensa Latina.

This year, Panama has deported 406 people, four of them from the Island. In addition, Migration has arrested, without specifying the reasons, four other Cubans.

The Colombian Ombudsman, Julio Luis Balanta Mina, warned this Friday of the humanitarian consequences of closing passage through the Darién jungle. He urged taking into account the health risk of migrants who cross.

“We urge the national government to request that the Panamanian authorities observe and be aware of how important the postulates of international human rights law are,” said Balanta, who insisted on the need to offer international protection to migrants.

Two months ago, the Colombian Ombudsman’s Office published an analytical study in which it simulated the closure of the Darién Gap and its humanitarian impact, putting the right to health on high alert, since it registered 502 health complaints between January 2020 and April 2024, the EFE agency noted.

This document was published before Mulino took power, when he communicated his intention to “close” the passage of migrants through the Darién jungle, which is complicated, since it is a great natural barrier of more than 500,000 hectares shared by Colombia and Panama. It is also the only point of the American continent not crossed by the Pan-American road or any other road.

Emigdio Pertuz Buendía, community leader in Capurganá, in the Colombian department of Chocó, and legal representative of the Major Council of Black Communities of the Acandí River basin and northern coastal area, Cocomanorte, said in an interview on NTN24, that “it was never imagined that a president would make the decision to place barbed wire to prevent the transit of migrants. This migration is supposed to be irregular but not illegal.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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