Cuban Beekeeper Denounces the Loss of ‘Tons of Honey’ for Lack of Transport

Any private beekeeper in Cuba who has more than 25 hives is not only obliged to join a cooperative, but must deliver most of their honey to the State and keep only that destined for their own domestic consumption. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 April 2021 — Beekeeper Yoandy Verea’s worst nightmare has come true. After months of intense work, the lack of fuel caused the loss of tons of honey in his fields in the municipality of Perico in Matanzas, according to his posts on the social network Facebook.

“I am a beekeeper contracted by apiculture, represented by the Ramón Rodríguez Milián Credit and Services Cooperative,” he explains in a short text accompanied by a photo of himself. “Currently we have been without fuel for several months and the hives in the field are full of honey,” he says.

“What agricultural institution in this country is interested in losing such production?” asks Verea. “Several tons of honey that our country so badly needs has already been lost,” and he adds that it is bureaucracy that “has us blocked.” continue reading

Verea published the same complaint three times and received many words of support, including several commentators who urged him not to wait for state transportation and to market the honey on his own, but that option is extremely complicated.

Any private beekeeper who has more than 25 hives is not only obliged to join a cooperative, but must deliver most of their honey to the State and keep only that destined for their own domestic consumption. The Provincial Beekeeping Company collects the honey and sends it to CubaExport, which is in charge of exporting it as a monopoly.

With about 3,000 beekeepers throughout the country and some 180,000 hives in operation, 90% of the honey produced in Cuban fields is exported to Europe, mainly to Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland, while the rest goes to the national market and the tourism sector.

In the case of Verea, the lack of fuel for the vehicles that carry the honey from the fields is due to the serious economic problems of the Cooperative. With the start of the ’Ordering Task’ — a national economic restructuring — the entity “lost a good part of the state budget it received,” an employee who preferred anonymity explained to 14ymedio.

“The Cooperative is destroyed, many office workers left for their homes because they have not been paid for more than three months,” explains the worker. “There is no money to pay salaries and they also cut most of the fuel allowance we had, so there is no way to move anything.”

“If Yoandy dares to sell that honey on his own, the least that will happen to him is that they will give him a very high fine, but things can get worse. The only thing he can do is wait and report all the instances of what is happening, but that is happening here in Perico to all producers of honey, food and even milk,” he details.

In the informal Cuban market, a 750 milliliter bottle of honey now costs between 80 and 100 pesos, while in state stores a 250 ml container can cost more than 90, but the product is scarce and is currently only available in stores sell in freely convertible currency at a cost of more than three dollars.

In recent months, there has also been an increase in complaints from producers who see their crops being lost in the fields due to lack of transport or the mismanagement of the state-owned company Acopio, an intermediary on many occasions between the farmers and the points of sale.


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Cuba: Even the Stores That Operate Only in Dollars Have Nothing to Sell

A line in front of the La Reina store in Santiago de Cuba, where people spent the night in hopes of finding toiletries. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, April 20, 2021 — The shortage of basic necessities endemic to peso stores is also affecting retail businesses where customers need freely convertible foreign currency, known locally as MLC, to make purchases. Long lines from one day to the next and empty shelves are constants in these stores that sell in dollars.

Less than six months after opening, MLC stores in Havana began experiencing shortages of meat and dairy products. The first things to go were beef cutlets, followed by Gouda cheese, butter and yogurt.

“You can’t go to those stores anymore or you risk being infected with Covid. You get there at dawn, wait in line for more than eight hours and then what do you find? Empty shelves,” complains Nuria, a 72-year-old Havana resident who initially saw these stores “as an option, with more choices and shorter lines.”

She explains, however, that “resellers got in on the action and the selection is very poor. Right now you cannot find cheese in any of the MLC stores in Havana. And what little there is on the black market is being sold to customers who can pay in dollars. No one is accepting pesos.” continue reading

Nuria, who lives near the MLC store near the corner of Rancho Boyeros and Camaguey, gave up trying get inside after several weeks. “There’s a criminal gang there — employees whose friends pay them to be let in — and they’re the ones who buy up everything. A normal person who wants to get a slice of meat or some cheese doesn’t stand a chance.”

The sixteen MLC stores in Matanzas are also facing shortages. “Of those, only two in the entire province are well-stocked — the ones in Isla de Cuba and Gondola — but I’ve never managed to get inside either one,” claims Alina Lissette Córdoba, a resident of the Pueblo Nuevo neighborhood. “Sometimes La Sirenita has a good selection but, with the police and the long lines, it’s terrible.”

In addition to searching for food, the task of buying clothes, shoes or a simple pack of cigarettes has become an impossible mission here. “The only way to buy shoes is to go to Varadero, to Plaza América, where every store is an MLC,” adds Córdoba. As for cigarettes, which are only sold for foreign currency, it has become so difficult to find them, says the Matanza resident, “that it’s easier to quit smoking.”

“They said that they were going to take measures that would let you buy what you need in your own district’s peso stores, without having to go very far,” she adds, though this has not happened. Now everyone she knows turns to the black market to make ends meet. “Without that, we’d have starved. Or I’d be dead by now.”

Until recently, La Plaza shopping center in Santiago de Cuba was one of the hard currency stores that had remained relatively well-stocked. However, after spending hours in line without knowing if they would be allowed to enter by day’s end, the only things customers found once they did manage to get inside were empty shelves.

“You have to be strong-willed to be able to wait in line at these stores. By week’s end I had spent many hours waiting to get into La Plaza. By the time I did get in, there was no food to buy. What’s even worse is that they don’t put up a sign to tell people what they do and do not have,” one resident of Santiago de Cuba tells 14ymedio.

“What people are looking for is food but it’s nowhere to be found. You leave feeling like you’ve been cheated twice. First, you’ve had to wait in an olympic-sized line since dawn, then you leave no better off than before because you come away empty-handed.

In the same city another establishment, La Reina, reopened on Tuesday as an MLC store. According to its Facebook page, El Chago – Santiago de Cuba,  people began sleeping outside Monday night after it became known the store would be selling face cream, shampoo and other personal care products. The post, created by an independent journalist, was accompanied by a photo of people waiting outside, sitting on the curb. They appear prepared for “battle,” as the reporter described the hours spent waiting to buy things.

In October the economics minister, Alejandro Gil, blamed the situation on “the tightening of the blockade*, the fuel shortage and the fall-off of tourist revenue from international flights and cruise ships.” He also noted, “We need more hard currency to restock store shelves but there is no hard currency. Even if there is consumer demand, it is very difficult to replenish supplies, so the informal economy is becoming stronger.”

Like many of her fellow citizens, Nuria receives money from her two children abroad through a hard currency account she has at a Cuban bank. As Raúl Castro himself admitted at the Eighth Communist Party Congress, “MLC stores exist to generate hard currency from overseas.”

At the same time they are collecting foreign currency, however, they are also generating deep-seated discontent, not just because social inequality is becoming more entrenched but, as one customer observed, “because it is getting worse.” The man, who waited unsuccessfully for hours outside a store in La Puntilla de Miramar shopping center on Monday, noted, “All I managed to buy were some green peas and a package of flour.”

Translator’s note: Cuban officials routinely refer to the US Embargo as “the blockade.”


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Cuba: Waiting for Miracles

Those who aspire to a profound change already know that the predictions that in the Eighth Congress of the PCC could produce a turning point from above were excessively optimistic. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 25 April 2021 — When an event breaks the well-known laws of nature or the dubious laws of history, it is usually described as a miracle. It is not enough that it is inexplicable, it must also have a favorable consequence.

This gives the impression that from the two political poles of Cuba only the realization of a miraculous event could avoid a presumed national catastrophe.

The government sector dreams of an improvement in relations with the United States that will ease restrictions and eliminate sanctions; places its hopes on a return of Lula to power in Brazil, which will serve to save the Maduro government in Venezuela; and has faith that its vaccines will be able to be sold all over the world. If they weren’t such (supposedly) atheists they would dedicate their prayers, their spells, to the fulfillment of these prodigious events. continue reading

Capriciously settled in their positions, those in power have closed every possibility of dialogue; what’s more, they have managed to make this option perceived as an immorality from those who propose it on the opposing side. They have closed the doors to reformist tendencies in the economy by proclaiming that the private exercise of professions and the importation of goods for internal trade in the hands of individuals “would lead to strategic errors and the very destruction of socialism and therefore of national sovereignty and independence.”

On the other hand, less monolithic, those who aspire to a profound change that will once and for all abandon “the construction of socialism,” know that the predictions that the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party could produce a turning point from above were excessively optimistic. They had the illusion that “now they are going to authorize SMEs [small and medium size enterprises].” On the contrary, they saw how the state business system was enshrined as the dominant form of management in the economy. The youngest, who believed they had found ways to disagree that would not lead them to be classified as mercenaries, were suddenly accused of attempting a soft coup.

In light of the confirmed limits to the economy and the shielding of ideological intolerance that sustains the criminalization of disagreement, the only thing left to do is to submissively bend, escape from the Island or bear the consequences of rebellion.

Those who rule Cuba are betting on massive meekness and believe they can profit from a new migration crisis*.

Those who do not agree with the policy outlined by the dictatorship and refuse to feign obedience or emigrate are being left with the possibility of a social explosion as the only way out. It could also happen that the archangel Michael comes down from heaven with his righteous sword.

Translator’s note: Profit from a migration crisis would come in the form of remittances sent back to family in Cuba. In 2019 it was estimated that remittances – 90% from the US – represented about half of all family income in Cuba.


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Cuba Does Not Pay its Debts and Asks for Financing at the Ibero-American Summit

The director of international relations of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, Jesús Guerra. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa / File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 21 April 2021 — Today the Cuban government cannot meet the agreements to pay its foreign debt that it reached with its creditors after the thaw started in 2014 by then-US President Barack Obama. The conclusion reached by Bloomberg is final.

note published by the Bloomberg this Wednesday insists that the market for commercial loans received by the island is “almost dead” and that when they are negotiated “they do so at only 10 cents on the dollar, 70% less than when optimism reached its peak, in 2016.”

The initial perspectives of then-president Raúl Castro, who in the recently closed Eighth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba has yielded the position as first secretary to his successor in the presidency, Miguel Díaz-Canel, have come to nothing.

“Foreign support has dried up in recent years when the economy of Cuba’s former sponsor, Venezuela, collapsed,” says Bloomberg, in addition to the cooling of relations with the United States during the Donald Trump administration and the sharp drop in the economy, and the fall in tourism due to the Covid-19 pandemic. All of this exacerbates “the difficulties caused by a decline in exports, which have fallen by a third since 2014.” continue reading

“The combination of Cuba reducing the pace of reforms, the impact of the situation in Venezuela and the US sanctions is reflected in a balance of payments crisis,” Pavel Vidal, a former analyst for the Cuban Central Bank, and now Professor at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Cali (Colombia), told the news agency. “That forced them to stop paying the foreign debt.”

Investors, Bloomberg continues, were encouraged when Raúl Castro assumed power after his brother Fidel, in 2011, “and advanced in the liquidation of old debts of the government and state companies, some of which date back to the 1970s.”

The agency notes that the Cuban government reached an agreement in 2015 with 14 members of the Paris Club by means of which they cancelled 8.5 billion dollars and left 2.6 billion owing, to be paid in 18 years. Meanwhile, Russia, Cuba’s sponsor before the fall of the Berlin Wall, had already forgiven the country 90% of the amount.

That optimism, the agency explains, caused “a rebound in the trade of old commercial loans, with prices of up to 36 cents on the dollar in 2016, as investors saw the opportunity for profit,” with the return of the island to the world stage. The financial world received another encouraging signal at the end of 2017 when Raúl Castro gave signals of “Cuba’s willingness to fulfill its commitments” to creditors.

However, these commitments did not materialize. Cuba owed $ 17.8 billion in foreign debt until 2017, according to the latest published official statistics, although it almost certainly has increased since then.

“Even if it could start paying off the debt,” says Bloomberg, “the country faces other obstacles, including US sanctions and questions about how to compensate for land and businesses that were expropriated during the Revolution.”

According to Bloomberg, there is “some hope” that the serious situation on the island will push its new political leaders to “intensify their efforts to solve the problem of the debt in default and attract foreign capital.” In this regard, it cites “the painful process of unifying a dual currency system that the country had for decades” and notes Miguel Díaz-Canel’s commitment to “continue with the transformations we need to update our economic and social model.”

Another window, according to Bloomberg, may open with Cuban-developed vaccine candidates against Covid. “If the vaccines are successful, the island could reopen to tourism and potentially export the vaccines,” they indicate, but they reiterate, citing Vidal again: “They have to put their finances in order to attract international investment, because that is what is needed.”

The outlook, therefore, bleak. There are currently no negotiations between the parties, Bloomberg concludes, citing an anonymous source involved in the talks, and John Kavulich, president of the United States-Cuba Economic and Trade Council, declared along the same lines: “Both parties know that Cubans cannot pay anything.”

This is the first Ibero-American Summit which the Cuban president has participated in — although virtually — 2001. The Government of the Island has requested financing from developed countries so that Cuba and other low-income countries can meet the sustainability goals of the 2030 Agenda, according to a report by EFE this Wednesday.

“The problems cannot be solved with their own resources,” Jesús Guerra, director of international relations of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment declared at a press conference. Together with the first deputy minister, José Fidel Santana, he highlighted the efforts made by Cuba in recent years in terms of science and innovation, such as “the creation of four new high-tech state companies,” the “approval of two science-technology park projects” and the “five vaccine candidates” against Covid.


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The Store of Many Faces and Long Lines

The line at dawn to buy household appliances at the old Tencent store. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, April 23, 2021 — More than half a century ago everyone knew the big store on the corner of Galiano and San Rafael streets in Havana as “Tencent.” After it and others like it were nationalized, it became a state-owned business that for decades sold only rationed products. That’s how it remained until the beginning of this century when management of picturesque warehouses like these was turned over to the Trasval company, a subsidiary of the Cuban military, and it became a hardware store whose goods were sold for convertible pesos.

The year 2021 brought yet another change to the iconic building that occupies nearly an entire city block. The business, which more than sixty years ago was a branch of the F.W. Woolworth Company, became a foreign currency store specializing in household appliances. Its reopening in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic did not deter people from forming extremely long lines to buy an electric coffeemaker, a “split” air-conditioner or a much sought-after freezer.

With the disruption in overseas travel, the ’mules’ that used to import many of these devices for resale on the informal market have found a new niche buying goods at the old Tencent and reselling them to the many Cubans who do not have access to a debit card pre-loaded with foreign currency. That is why, even before the city-imposed curfew ends at 5:00 A.M., the streets around the store are filled with people.

Many of those waiting in line hours before the sun rises have no memories of the escalators that once graced the place, the bar where “the best sandwiches and milk shakes in Havana” were served, or the time generals became business managers and started selling power tools, plastic chairs, and huge barbecue grills.

Those waiting outside only know that inside are many of the things other places do not have: the status symbols that only those with dollars can buy.


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Activists and Reporters Denounce Police Sieges and Arbitrary Arrests

Hernández says that right now she has a severe pain in her arm, “they grabbed my arm so tightly that I still have tremendous pain.”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 April 2021 — This Friday independent activists, artists and journalists again suffered another day of repression by State Security. Police surveillance, bans on leaving homes, and arbitrary arrests marked the day in Havana.

The reporter from the CiberCuba portal, Iliana Hernández, after spending 14 days under constant surveillance around her home in Cojímar, decided to go out this Friday. The journalist walked a few yards outside her home, along with a group of friends who were visiting her, but they were intercepted by a patrol and violently arrested.

The activist Thais Mailén Franco was able to broadcast part of the arrest live on her social networks. Also in the group were Odín Betancourt, Noria Pérez, Yasmani Martínez and Diosdado Villa. One of the videos shows the moment when Hernández is taken by force and put in a police patrol while shouting: “Down with communism! Homeland and Life! Repressors!” continue reading

Both Hernández and her friends were released at night in different parts of the capital, according to what she told 14ymedio. Everyone but her was fined 2,000 pesos “for contempt” and they intend to protest the penalty they consider arbitrary. “There was no contempt on our part, the only ones who attack are them, the repressors,” she denounced.

Hernández says that right now she has a severe pain in her arm, “they grabbed my arm so tightly that I still have tremendous pain,” she explained. When she arrived at the Cojímar unit, Lieutenant Kenia María Morales was waiting for her to allegedly accuse her of contempt, an accusation that however did not materialize.

The reporters Héctor Valdés Cocho, Camila Acosta and Luz Escobar were also under surveillance this Friday to prevent them from leaving their homes. (14ymedio)

On the same day, this Friday, activist Oscar Casanella was also arrested. Through a report on Facebook, the opponent denounced that he was traveling with his family in a vehicle when a policeman stopped them at the intersection of Zapata and Paseo streets. The officer reviewed their documents and took them to the Zapata y C Police Station where Casanella spent several hours in detention.

The reporters Héctor Valdés Cocho, Camila Acosta and Luz Escobar were also under surveillance this Friday to prevent them from leaving their homes.

For his part, the artist Amaury Pacheco, a member of the San Isidro Movement (MSI), condemned the police siege ordered by State Security on his social networks. “If, with this tool, I could open a hole in the wall, I would not be here now, digging inside my dirty brain, in search of some deposit … Juan Carlos Flores his poetry accompanies me. Alamar, Havana, Cuba, 2021,” Pacheco wrote.

Similarly, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has been under surveillance for almost a month and for a week he has gone out every afternoon to demand the return of the works that State Security stole in the last raid on the headquarters of the San Isidro Movement. On each occasion he is arrested and released after several hours. In an audio that he shared with his followers, he expressed:

“Here we are still family, demanding my rights, insisting on my demands, which are $500,000 for my works, that the police apparatus stationed on the corners of my house cease, and an apology from the leader of this dictatorship, Miguel Díaz-Canel.”


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

Hotel Habana Libre: Without Its Name But With a Slogan

The placement of the motto — Homeland or Death We Shall Triumph — on the facade of the centrally located Hotel Habana Libre has already drawn some criticisms. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 23 April 2021 — On the façade of the Hotel Habana Libre, a new sign has been seen for a few days with the phrase “Patria o Muerte Venceremos” (Homeland or Death We Shall Triumph) in red letters and located on a ledge that faces 23rd Street in El Vedado. The slogan, which this year celebrates 61 years of having been pronounced by Fidel Castro, has been harshly questioned in the song Patria y vida (Homeland and Life), which has become a rebellious motto within the Island.

The slogan’s placement has already drawn some criticism, especially among those who regret that the political slogan has been prioritized but the structure with the hotel’s name on top of the building has yet to be restored. “There are resources for ideology but more than two years ago they removed the blue letters that said Habana Libre, supposedly to repair them, and these are the holy hours that they have not returned,” laments a neighbor who lives right in front of the main entrance from the hotel on L Street.

Last March, a mural by the artist Michel Mirabal, with the Cuban flag and the flag of La Demajagua, was also placed on the façade, the latter being the flag that presides over the National Assembly of People’s Power. Days later, a brigade of workers installed the slogan, which according to several residents of the area consulted by 14ymedio, was intended to be seen by the delegates to the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party. continue reading

“It has nothing to do with the aesthetics of the hotel, but now, who removes it?” asks another neighbor. “It cannot be a coincidence, that was put there near all the posters that have appeared with Patria y Vida. They are not fooling anyone, it is an answer but people are very tired of so much death.”

The architect Alejandra Pino said on Facebook that in that part of the facade there was previously a mural by Cundo Bermúdez that disappeared. The work, placed in 1958, showed an emerald sea on which strange ocher fish floated, but it was later withdrawn when its artist went into exile in the late 1960s.


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Cuba’s Private Sector to Expand but State Maintains Control of Foreign Trade

President Díaz-Canel recognized the role of self-employed workers in confronting the pandemic. (Escambray)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, April 17, 2021 — On Thursday the Cuban government promised to expand the private sector according to details released by press office of the Council of Ministers, several of whose officials held a meeting with self-employed workers on the eve of the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party.

“At this time, the process of creating the legal framework for an unprecedented expansion of self-employment is about to be concluded. This will provide opportunities for self-employed workers in many more trades and occupations, with the possibility of combining several under the same license,” Prime Minister Manuel Marrero said at the meeting.

Marrero acknowledged that there is “a challenge ahead” and insisted that the government, “while reaffirming the role that state-owned business has to play in the nation’s socialist economy, also recognizes the priority and importance of consolidating and developing non-governmental management systems, and will continue to work in the search for solutions” to address the economic crisis the country is experiencing. continue reading

Not surprisingly, Cuba’s leaders attribute the the nation’s complex financial situation to the U.S. embargo* and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Miguel Díaz-Canel, who participated in the meeting, also insisted that “the enemy is tireless in its determination to disrupt the relationship between the public and private sectors of this economy.” He added, “We will not surrender the private sector to the enemy.”

The president-designate recognized the contribution of self-employed workers in confronting the pandemic, citing their role in the manufacture and distribution of masks as an example. “When the country had no surgical masks,” he recalled, “many non-state workers — with their own fabric and at almost no charge — made the masks our population needed to combat Covid.”

However, Raúl Castro’s remarks during the first day of the Party Congress, which began on Friday in Havana, were not very flattering. According to Castro, it seems that “the desire for higher income encourages in some the desire for a privatization process that would sweep away the foundations and essential character of the socialist society built over more than six decades.”

The outgoing Communist Party leader added that others hope to “do away with the socialist principle of state monopoly of foreign trade, demanding that private commercial importation be legalized, with the aim of creating a non-state system of foreign trade.”

Castro warned that “these are issues that cannot be left to the naivety of leadership cadres and party members.” He added, “There are limits that we cannot exceed because the consequences would be irreversible. Doing so would lead to strategic errors, the very destruction of socialism and, ultimately, of national sovereignty and independence.”

During Thursday’s meeting, the economics minister, Alejandro Gil Fernández, said that “a trend towards stability and growth is being maintained” as evidenced by the fact that “more than 600,000 people are self-employed and that Cuba now has 396 non-agricultural cooperatives in operation.” He added, “What we are doing is recognizing the contribution of micro, small and medium-sized businesses to the strategy for transforming the country’s production capacity and foreign investment, and for satisfying consumer demand.”

Felipe Ponce Ceballos, director of the Technical, Personal and Home Services in Pinar del Río, was gushing in describing the company as a “local development project offering recovery services” in that city: “I can tell you they are among the best, high-quality and consistent services there are.”

Iván Barreto, director of Cinesoft, a company that produces audiovisual educational material and teaching aids, was equally adamant: “If the nation’s public sector cannot find space in the socialist economy for private business, we aren’t going to see any economic development.” In a reference to Cinesoft, he observed, “Private sector involvement in the world of information technology has created a partnership without which we would not have many of the resources used in Cuban classrooms today”

“Today’s meeting would have been unthinkable on December 4, 2018, a few hours before a series of regulations were to take effect that would have seriously damaged the private sector and the national economy, were unexpectedly suspended,” Oniel Díaz writes on social networks. Díaz, a co-founder of Auge, a consulting firm for entrepreneurs, observes, “Lifting the ban on certain types of employment activities puts us at the cusp of a historic moment.”

The meeting with small business owners the day before the congress was, according to Díaz, “confirmation that there is no going back.” He adds, “It should not be interpreted as being a message only for the general public. It’s also intended for those who would halt, hinder or misapply.”

“The actions being taken are consistent with the governing documents of this country. They may be boring to some and sound like oratory to others but they are not.” He adds, “They speak not only to us but to those who toil in silence and those who oppose the system. Right now, time is the most important variable and the one that will indicate if this is a true expression of political will. When? How? We will measure success by how both of these questions are answered.”

*Translator’s note: Cuban government officials routinely refer to the U.S. embargo as ’the blockade.’


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“I Know that at Some Point People in Cuba are Going to Wake Up En Masse”

Eliécer Jiménez-Almeida is the director of the documentary ‘Veritas’. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 23 April 2021 — Curiosity is the hallmark of the work of the Cuban journalist and filmmaker Eliécer Jiménez-Almeida (b. Camagüey, 1983). It was the desire to investigate that led him to make documentaries such as Persona (2014), in which he approaches the lives of five individuals; Now! (2016), which denounces the repression against human rights activists on the Island; and Usufructo (2010), an incisive look at land management.

Now, that incessant search brought him close to one of the most controversial topics in contemporary Cuban history: the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. But in his most recent workVeritas (2021), Jiménez-Almeida does not try to narrate the details of a battle but rather gives voice to the protagonists of that action, to the part hidden and vilified in the official manuals.

Sánchez: You are from the generation that grew up hearing in school that members of the 2506 Brigade were “mercenaries.” How did you experience emotionally getting closer to the other part of the story?

Jiménez-AlmeidaWhen I lived in Cuba, I was always curious to know what was beyond the word ‘mercenary’. Why did Fidel Castro give them that name? After one grows up and culturally matures, one realizes that Fidel Castro disparagingly named all those who were his enemies, as we can see with the “bandits” in the Escambray or the “worms.” continue reading

When you live in Cuba and see how reality does not match the story, one always has an attitude, or at least I had it, of mistrusting what they said. It is a process of unlearning what they told you in Cuba and learning new knowledge. I always think that knowledge is what makes us free and knowing about our history is what will help us break down the ideological walls of Castroism. You grow up poisoned by propaganda and you have to make a great effort to first become a normal human being and then become mature enough to understand reality. In this process, my curiosity and my desire to know were fundamental.

Sánchez: You filmed part of the material within Cuba. What risks did you face and what were the satisfactions of that part of the shoot?

Jiménez-AlmeidaI filmed in Cuba as I always did, without permission and being myself. The difference is that now I am a person who lives abroad, and although I am still Cuban I have other responsibilities and another worldview. That implies a very great risk because you know that there is a totalitarian dictatorship there and you know what the henchmen of that dictatorship are capable of.

But as a filmmaker, as a documentary filmmaker and as a human being, I felt responsible for being there. It was important for me to go to Playa Girón* [the Bay of Pigs] and take those images. Those were the first images I recorded, because if I hadn’t managed that there would be no documentary. We had some clashes because the lady who was renting us her house got in touch with State Security. The driver who took us noticed and we got out of there as soon as possible. Once I got to Havana, I got on a plane and nothing happened, but it could have happened.

Sánchez: Since the documentary Usufructo, made in the midst of the so-called “Raulist reforms,” ​​and up to the present time, a lot has changed in Cuba and in the work of Eliécer Jiménez-Almeida. How much have both been “transformed”?

Jiménez-AlmeidaI made Usufruct in 2010 and it started to become known a year later in the midst of Raúl Castro’s reforms. It is very difficult to establish a parallelism in the process of the transformation of my life and that of the country. While those changes failed like those made by his brother Fidel before, my life has improved tremendously and I think it is because I have always fought and worked for my individual freedom.

It makes me very sad for the Cubans who live on the island because of the conditions in which many of them live. Unfortunately, socialism is a resounding failure. But in Cuba there is neither socialism nor communism, but a mafia family that controls people’s lives at will. I detached myself from all that, I ended up leaving and I have a better life, sometimes very sad because one leaves Cuba, but Cuba does not leave one.

Sánchez: Veritas is garnering applause and headlines in the press. Has it also caused you any problems yet?

Jiménez-AlmeidaIt is a documentary made in a quiet voice, in a very passive, peaceful voice. It has garnered some applause and it has not caused us any problems and I think it is because of the treatment that is given to the film. We try to achieve a human film, not a political film, distancing ourselves as much as we could on a subject as politicized as this, to get closer to human beings, to their transparency, to their honesty, and I think that Cuba will appreciate that because we are fed up with so much ideology.

The example of these men who were in the Bay of Pigs, their courage, their dignity, their moral example, taking on the freedom of Cuba from such an early moment, I hope it will serve us all to emancipate ourselves and be better people, better Cubans, and at some moment to have a better country. Veritas has no other pretension than to become the story of a historical moment from a very human point of view. That is why we decided to make a film in which only the voice of the protagonists, of these heroes, was present.

Sánchez: How do you see the protests that have occurred in recent months in Cuba from the artistic sector, such as the 27N (27 November) and the San Isidro Movement?

Jiménez-AlmeidaThe protests that occurred in San Isidro and in front of the Ministry of Culture are a ray of light and I am very proud that these protests come from artists, from people that I know are strongly committed. The commitment of an artist is emotional, sentimental, affective, very different and honest. I am a radical optimist in the case of Cuba and I know that at some point people in the country are going to wake up en masse. It fills me with great optimism that they have the courage to do it from a poor neighborhood, to do it from the deepest asceticism, because when you look inside the house of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, there is nothing there. In other words, every image there is of that house flatly proves false the campaigns that the Cuban government carries out against it. I feel like one of them and very excited.

With the song Patria y Vida (Homeland and Life) they turned that little flame into a pretty big fire. I just want them to be persistent, to be patient, to take care of their lives and to teach all of us what a force of will and a moral force it is to rebel against an oppressive system like the Cuban system. Although I am an optimist with experiences and I know that what they are doing is not easy, they are brave people and their commitment is very strong. I am infinitely grateful to them.

Sánchez: Can Veritas be seen in Cuba? Will other historical documentaries come from the hand of Eliécer Jiménez-Almeida? What other passages in Cuban history would you like to make films about?

Jiménez-AlmeidaVeritas is made for Cubans, conceived for them. It is a movie that moves me and I am a human being. It is the first of a trilogy that I would like to develop that includes this documentary, a film that will be called Bandidos, about the war in the Escambray, and then I would like to do Prisión, on Cuban political prisoners.

This trilogy would be a dream to do, but I am aware that getting money to make this type of film is very difficult because, unlike what the Cuban government and the official media say over there, over here neither the CIA nor Yankee imperialism has the least interest in anything you do, and you have to go out every day to earn your dollars to pay your rent, car registration, gas, and feed yourself.

I am going to work very hard to make this happen, but I know it is a very difficult road. I love Cuba very much and if we can get to know its history better, we will have a better chance of building a better, inclusive future in which we all have opportunities to be happy.

*Translator’s note: In Cuba the event is called after Playa Girón, a beach on the Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs); in the United States the event is called after the Bay of Pigs.


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

When Can We Freely Debate Phasing Out the Party?

In the face of growing uncertainty, a risk-averse congress once again seeks stability by promoting rigidity under the guise of flexibility. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Pablo Aguilera Juarrero, Toronto, April 19, 2021 — The leader of the Cuban Communist Party, Raúl Castro, is on his way to fulfilling a promise he made to the Cuban people eight years ago when he announced his retirement. Unlike his egotistical older brother, Raúl’s tenure has been characterized by a peculiar pragmatism.

Shortly after taking the reins of power, he proposed transforming the stagnant, centralized economy by adopting policies that would allow for greater economic flexibility and lead to a more hybrid market. He was able to placate loyal military officers, joint venture CEOs and a tiny but emerging class of self-employed workers by abandoning the Cold War mindset. He even agreed to a mock plebiscite which clearly demonstrated that unanimity was just a myth. However, the structure of the totalitarian regime remained just as rigid and self-censoring as that of his closest ally.

Today the country faces its most critical juncture since the demise of the Soviet bloc. The pandemic has only made the nation’s economic crisis worse. Cubans do not know how to put food on their plates or where to buy aspirin, and the worn-out excuse that imperialism is to blame has no resonance or support among ordinary Cubans. Popular dissatisfaction is palpable and only state media seems to ignore this reality. continue reading

Meanwhile, the number of dissidents, independent journalists and disaffected artists continues to grow and their voices grow louder. On the other hand, Cubans in the diaspora and in exile have organized like never before to demand an end to the brutal repression inflicted against all those who think differently.

These are the circumstances faced by the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba from which some hope to hear less demagoguery and more concrete solutions. The most optimistic of them hope that the change will lead to substantial reforms that in the long term could lead to the democratization and effective unleashing of the Island’s productive capacity.

Those of us who have studied the complex dynamics of power within the Cuban Communist Party understand perfectly that it is not only the people who are afraid. Many leaders also lose sleep worrying about being fired and choose to remain silent. Totalitarian regimes can change leaders or, more sophisticated still, change their narrative but the system never really evolves.

The organizational design of the Soviet-stlye Cuban Communist Party does not allow for change. The day solutions to problems can be freely debated will be the day the party ceases to exist. According to Darwin, it is not the most intelligent or the strongest species that survive but rather the ones that are most adaptable to new circumstances or conditions in a new environment.

As it turns out, the Cuban state is an organism that either does not know how to adapt to changes or adapts too slowly. This is part of its makeup, of its authoritarian nature. Intolerance does not allow it to make real changes or adaptations, even when its leaders know they need to update the system. But this isn’t like doing an update on an iPhone. It’s more like installing an old version of Windows95 on a computer with a 486 processor that already had problems when it left the factory

Reboot and format that hard drive. But, remember, there won’t be an update as long as those who devised this algorithm remain in power.

The new generation of leaders will have to confront the legacy of an outdated ideology. The illegitimate president of Cuba, Miguel Diaz Canel, pretends to be a reformist by continuing to call for the end of the bureaucracy and encouraging decision-making based on science and technology.

However, as a new monetary order hastens the end of the paternalistic state, Cubans are witnessing more clearly than ever the enormous gap between the communist elite (the pinchos*) and the rest of society. Clearly, official speeches that support private initiative and foreign investment are one thing; looming hyperinflation is quite another. To talk about investments in a country that does not even have a stock market is a joke. It will all be just a mirage until there is a constitution that establishes true rule of law, one that protects private property and other fundamental freedoms that every country must defend.

As Prime Minister Manuel Marrero said so well, “People do not eat plans.” I would hasten to add that the people do not eat ideologies either. Mind you, good governments with sane planners, insightful public policies, and sensible strategies can reverse the hunger of an entire country. But on an island where ingenuity has been key to each individual Cuban’s survival, no one entertains the thought that the party might come up with measures that will yield any results. What Cubans long is to hear is that the nation’s capabilities will not be squandered on repression, propaganda, surveillance, and senseless censorship.

Congress attendees understand perfectly well that now is the time to end the state’s monopoly on business and to allow the private sector, which is much more efficient at creating wealth, to assume a more active role. But as usual they will accept any guidance and not even dare to murmur the one word to put an end to all this debacle. That word is and always will be freedom. At the moment this is almost unimaginable.

With the nation’s institutions so weakened, a culture of democracy that does not exist, and human capital that is not allowed to enjoy the individual rights so fundamental for the growth and future of a country that demands concrete changes, it is difficult to imagine that anything will be accomplished.

Once again, ideology clouds all prospects for the future. It is not a failure of reason on the part of the common man but the irrationality of a state lost in time that will once again halt progress and stifle the dreams for a truly free Cuba.

Faced with growing uncertainty and wanting to avoid any risk, this congress once again opted for stability, for rigidity disguised as flexibility. No one should expect dictatorships to make fundamental changes — only the most naive fall into that trap — but we do know one thing: with his customary pragmatism, Raúl Castro has already visited his own grave. It remains to be seen if his successors have the guts to once and for all let the Cubans hold a real congress.

*Translator’s note: “Pinchos” literally translates as “skewers,” and in this context means “bosses.”


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Cuba’s Political Police Lock Up Opponents in Their Homes and Cut Off Their Phones

The artist Tania Bruguera had to postpone an online talk organized by Harvard University after Etecsa cut off its internet service. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 April 2021 — The Cuban government unleashed a repressive wave against independent activists, artists and journalists this weekend, while the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba was held at the Palace of Conventions in Havana.

The artist Tania Bruguera, who had planned to give an online conference last Friday on art, activism and censorship in Cuba for Harvard University, had her internet service cut off by the State telecommunications company, Etecsa, minutes before the event. Therefore, the talk had to be rescheduled.

“The conversation with Harvard has not been canceled: it has been postponed, and when it is done, I will no longer have to start by explaining to the public that the Government of Cuba is a dictatorship and that the telecommunications company Etecsa is a department of State Security. Everyone will know,” Bruguera said in a column for Hypermedia Magazine. continue reading

This Sunday, a representative of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Havana, Bastiaan Engelhard, visited the journalist Luz Escobar and the artist Julio Llopiz-Casal, on a day on which both had State Security surveillance on their homes and, in the case of Escobar, her telephone line was without service.

During the meeting, the diplomat was interested in current Cuban issues and the challenges of civil society.

The diplomat’s gesture was seen by many human rights defenders on the island as a show of support for those who today suffer any kind of repression by the Government, with the aim of silencing them or preventing them from doing their job.

On that same day, the executive director for the Americas of Human Rights Watch (HRW), José Miguel Vivanco, asked Havana to end its human rights violations.

“While the congress of the Communist Party is being held, the artists of the San Isidro Movement are under surveillance and deprived of liberty in their own homes. We demand the cessation of these serious and repeated human rights violations,” Vivanco wrote on his Twitter account, “Why is the regime so afraid of independent artists and journalists?”

Vivanco mentioned the cases of Tania Bruguera, Carolina Barrero, Amaury Pacheco, Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho, Camila Acosta and Luz Escobar. “All my solidarity to them,” he said.

Similarly, the organizers and participants of the First Citizen Conference, organized by the Cuba en Plural platform and scheduled to take place virtually on April 18, 19 and 20, also remained under police surveillance and faced telephone service cuts.

The event will be held on Zoom and according to a statement issued by the platform, “prominent exponents will participate who, from a citizen perspective, will provoke a conversation about the future of Cuba.”

The text is signed by María Elena Mir Marrero and Zuleydis Pérez Velázquez, from the Network of Community Leaders; Manuel Cuesta Morúa and José Díaz Silva, from Propuesta2020; Dariem Columbié Grave de Peralta, from the Otro18 Platform, and María Mercedes Benítez Rodríguez, from Citizens Observers of Electoral Processes.

On Sunday, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was detained again for a few hours when he tried to leave his home, which had been besieged by the political police for almost a month. The artist, coordinator of the San Isidro Movement, asks that the works of art of his authorship that State Security stole last Friday, when they raided his house, be returned to him.


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

Diaz-Canel at the Ibero-American Summit: The Failure of a Speech

Diaz-Canel speaking at the Ibero-American Summit. (

14ymedio biggerElias Amor Bravo, Economist, 22 April 2021 — Bad. Very bad. The first international speech from Miguel Díaz-Canel, from his new position of First Secretary of the Communist Party, as well as president of Cuba, at the forum of the Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government, on April 21, 2021, held in Andorra. Analysts say only first two minutes were correct, when he expressed appreciation to the host authorities for organizing the event in the complicated conditions of Covid-19.

Later, everything fell apart into a string of nonsense that left Díaz-Canel’s profile as a political leader very effected. Between the acoustic difficulties and the nonsense he spouted, Díaz-Canel appeared as what he is, or what he intends to achieve, a low-level provocateur who is looking for handouts, without showing any interest in making things easier for Cuba to return to the concert of nations.

Because to whom did Díaz-Canel address his speech at the summit? It is not an easy answer.

He could have dedicated his speech to what he has done every time he has participated in an international forum, “selling medical and professional services” wrapped up in a false international cooperation. But from the first moment, he must have understood that the occasion was not the most propitious. And having the brilliant speeches by the presidents of Chile and Colombia before him, the repetitive proposals of a “Cuba that has experience to offer and gives special relevance to innovation for  a 2030 sustainable development goal,” he turned around and, without further ado, began to release poison. continue reading

The first axis of the speech: a complaint that little progress has been made in the 2030 Agenda, but what does he know about the progress of this program in the most advanced countries and the investments that are being mobilized in this regard? What does he know of President Biden’s summons to 42 leading countries in the world to propose immediate progress on this matter? Once again, as in the times of Fidel Castro, Díaz-Canel threatened the world with chaos, total disaster and the disappearance of humanity if his positions are not followed.

Despite the long time that has passed, the alarmist speech-making of Fidel Castro remains anchored in the genes of the successors of the regime. A shame. With what Diaz-Canel knows about innovation and technological development (his doctoral thesis is about that, precisely, and he even allowed himself to recite his 2014 speech at the summit on these same topics) he did not give a single explanation and/or reference to this matter, which he passed over as if it were nothing. With headlines, and little else.

The second axis of the speech was another classic of Fidel Castro, the debt and its unbearable weight. While other countries requested deferrals or more flexible and creative ways to pay, Díaz-Canel focused on eliminating his country’s commitments. He cares little about what may be behind Cuba’s foreign debt, and he even denounced “the impact of unilateral coercive measures that violate International Law and obstruct our legitimate right to development.” Well then, speak up, denounce in international courts that someone from the Club of Paris or London would do well to remember him or Cabrisas.

The third axis was the “fair, democratic and equitable international economic order” that the communists spend their lives demanding from the rest of the world, but which they rarely respect in their own countries. For example, see the political repression in Cuba, which does not stop, even with Covid-19 running rampant throughout the country. It is still nonsense for Díaz-Canel to say that the “Sustainable Development goals will continue to be a chimera for most of the peoples of the world,” and not stop for a moment to explain the lack of food that exists in Cuba, the lines, the desperation and the climate of uncertainty and social unrest that spreads through the country.

Surprisingly, making use of his “personal honesty,” he denounced “the current development paradigms, because they cause poverty and exclusion of the majority due to their irrational patterns of production and consumption that, under the designs of the market, disdain what is most valuable: life and human dignity.”

The market, the neoliberal order, the anathemas of Castroism always have an outlet in these speeches, but they rarely refer to the internal situation of Cuba where the other paradigm, the Marxist and Leninist communism, continues to rage for 62 years. I understand the surprise of foreign investors in Cuba, startled to hear this kind of thing from the president of Cuba. Some would have the opportunity to quickly pack their suitcase and go home.

Díaz-Canel did not miss the opportunity to speak about a vague series of issues such as an inclusive Ibero-America, insisting on financial and technology transfer from developed countries to the poorest, the situation of the pandemic and the healthcare and social protection systems, where he took the opportunity to attack some “petty interests of a few,” while claiming once again the role of the state, why not?

He even had the audacity to announce the five vaccine candidates available in Cuba, two of them, Soberana 02 and Abdala, in Phase 3 of a clinical trial and announced the goal of immunity to the entire Cuban population before the end of 2021 with said vaccines to emphasize the prominence that Cuba gives to science and technology.

He could have stayed on this ground until the end, but incomprehensibly, he turned the speech around. And the time has come to attack the United States in a thousand ways, which he identified as “an enemy of Cuba due to the intensification of the blockade and its support for acts of violence and disrespect for the law to promote social and political instability in our country.” He even attributed to the United States alleged campaigns of “discrediting and boycotting Cuba’s medical cooperation.”

But not satisfied with this untimely intoxication, the reference to Venezuela arrived. It was surprising, but to be expected. Díaz-Canel defended the legitimacy of the Maduro government because it “emanates from the express and sovereign will of his people,” which implies accepting the result of what they call elections in that country. And he contrasted it with what he called “pressure from foreign powers” in clear reference to the United States.

This part of the speech could not have been well-received by the US Secretary of State and it is most likely that it has opened a parenthesis difficult to close in possible relations with Cuba. President Biden has information to know what to do. It is not lawful to have normal relations with a country that takes advantage of its presence in any international forum to launch unjustified attacks against its northern neighbor.

And this was what happened in this part of the speech, in which Díaz-Canel not only said that it was unfair to blame the Venezuelan government for the economic and social situation facing the country, to denounce, once again, “the application of cruel unilateral coercive measures , projected and applied by the United States accompanied by several of its allies, with the aim of causing suffering in the population.”

I can only imagine what the organizers of the forum, and especially the presidents of democratic countries, should think of such an annoying presence. And not satisfied with the above, he ended by saying that, “it would be useful and sincere to recognize that the US design of intervention in Venezuela failed miserably and placed other countries that supported it in an unsustainable political and legal situation.”

He didn’t have to say anything else to say in the speech. At that point, when Díaz-Canel sided with the political power that leads Venezuela and commits the crimes denounced in international democratic forums, such as the European Parliament, he excluded himself from the international order.

In Díaz-Canel’s opinion, “it should be recognized that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is a sovereign State, and the interference must cease, acting with respect to the United Nations Charter and the proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace.”

Precisely what the governments of Cuba and Venezuela do not practice with their own peoples. Diaz-Canel dixit.


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At Least One Serious Injury in the Collapse of Buildings on Havana’s Malecon

The two buildings that completely collapsed are on what is officially called Maceo Avenue between Águila and Crespo streets. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 22 April 2021 — At least one man was seriously injured on Thursday when two buildings completely collapsed and part of a third also fell on Havana’s Malecón. The buildings were semi-dilapidated, fenced with metal, uninhabited, and at the time of the collapse they were being demolished by construction workers.

The two buildings and the fragment of a third that collapsed are located on what is officially called Maceo Avenue between Águila and Crespo streets, very close to the Prado de La Habana. According to a nearby resident, “the workers demolishing them were using a jackhammer when what was left of the buildings fell down.”

“At least one man was seriously injured, because he was passing by on the sidewalk and the metal fence gave way with the pieces that fell. Half of his body was buried under the rubble and other people also suffered minor injuries,” detailed the neighbor, who also added: “It was a danger even for the cars passing on the street.”

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“There wasn’t any good signage telling people not to pass by,” a neighbor told this newspaper, noting that “not only were the buildings collapsing, but there were electrical cables on the sidewalk and every time I passed by I had to step off the sidewalk, but this a street with fast-moving traffic and every time you step off the sidewalk your life is at stake.”

“Everything around here is grim, the day will come when we will see the entire Malecon collapse,” laments another neighbor. “They don’t fix things here, they just paint them when an important visitor is coming, or tear them down to build hotels,” he complained. “This demolition work should not have been done without closing the block.”

“The east building has just collapsed right now, right here in front of me,” a passerby reported through a live broadcast on the social network Facebook, and who also recorded the moment when the injured man was taken from the place in a vehicle heading to a hospital. “It fell on a man,” he explained in the video.

The images show a group of people trying to rescue the injured man from under the fragments of the building. “The debris reached to the other side of the street,” explained the internet user in a transmission of slightly longer than a minute.

The collapsed building is located in the municipality of Centro Habana, one of the most populated in the capital and which for decades has been an area characterized by the high presence of tenements, with infrastructure problems and overcrowding. Many of the buildings are from the early twentieth century and have not received repairs for more than fifty years, not even painting on their facades.

In the vicinity of the Malecon, the buildings have suffered especially the effects of the salt air which, together with the lack of maintenance, have turned the housing stock in the area into one of the most damaged in the Cuban capital. The successive programs launched by the Government have not resolved the increasingly frequent collapses.

It has been three years since the Government acknowledged a deficit of almost one million homes on the island, a very serious situation that it aspired to alleviate in a period of ten years. However, the shortage of materials due to a persistent crisis exacerbates a problem that continues to leave millions of people in suspense, not knowing when they might see their roof coming down.

According to a report from the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights last October, almost half of the homes in the country need repair, and 11% of families live in places at risk of collapse.


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Marxism Disappears From the Central Report of the Cuban Communist Party Congress

“It is necessary to increase revolutionary militancy and intransigence and strengthen their contribution to ideological work,” said Raúl Castro during the congress. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 19 April 2021 — A cursory glance at the central report to the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba could be reduced to the fact that the most significant were the limits imposed on the reforms and the disappearance in the text of any allusion to Marxism-Leninism, underlined by the absence of images of Marx, Engels or Lenin in the gallery of the Convention Center.

Raúl Castro was precise when he pointed out that the private practice of certain professions and private commercial importation “in the spirit of establishing a non-state system of internal trade” would be among those limits that should not be exceeded “because the consequences would be irreversible and would lead to strategic errors and the very destruction of socialism and therefore of national sovereignty and independence.”

He reiterated the urgent need to maintain the “unique” character of the Communist Party that according to him “guarantees and represents the unity of the nation” while redefining the role of civil society recommending that it was necessary “to revitalize its actions in all spheres of society and update its functioning in correspondence with the times we live in …” and, just in case, he emphasized: “It is necessary to increase revolutionary militancy and intransigence and strengthen its contribution to ideological work, the confrontation with the subversive plans of the enemy and the creation and consolidation of values.” continue reading

He warned about the growing presence on the internet of opinions contrary to the Government and consoled himself by stating that “the streets, parks and squares do and will belong to the revolutionaries and that we will never deny our heroic people the right to defend their Revolution.”

With these thunders, no one dreams of openings to the market or to democracy, although Marx, Engels and Lenin no longer appear in the iconography nor are their postulates mentioned as a catechism in Party documents.

Anecdotally, it is worth noting the veiled announcement that Marino Murillo seems to have fallen out of favor, given the criticism of the performance of the Permanent Commission for the Implementation and Development of the Guidelines, which, according to the report, “failed to organize, in an adequate manner, the participation of the different actors involved in the implementation of the Guidelines and assumed functions that exceeded the mandate given by Congress…”

As if he were responding, with his customary ambiguity, to those who predict that he will remain in the shadows, Castro made two things clear: one, his decision not to accept proposals to remain in the higher organs of the party organization, and another, that “while I live I will be ready, with my foot on the stirrup, to defend the Homeland, the Revolution and Socialism.”

Another detail that should not be overlooked was his insistence on recommending Miguel Díaz-Canel as his probable successor who, according to “the assessment of the Party’s leadership,” has been carrying out his position as president with good results.

Shortly before asking his audience to applaud the president, the army general mentioned that Díaz-Canel “before a call from the Commander-in-Chief, voluntarily performed military service in antiaircraft defense units to assimilate the new technique, after graduating as an electronic engineer from the Central University of Las Villas “

Without wishing to deny the general or the version given by his recommendation, it should be clarified that the referred “call from the Commander in Chief” to join the ranks of the “strategic weapons” occurred on March 13, 1962, when Díaz-Canel still had not completed two years and his entry into the Antiaircraft Rocket Troops (TCAA) was not voluntary, but obeying the law of military service in 1982, when “the new technique” was approaching obsolescence.

There are three aspects to analyze in this congress: what will happen with the guidelines, what will be the final version of the conceptualization, and the list of the new members of the Central Committee and the Political Bureau. As boring and sterile as it may seem, we will stay tuned.


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

Otero Alcantara Demands $500,000 from Cuban Government for Damage to His Works

For Otero Alcántara, the fact that State Security will not return his artworks is a great absurdity because he never signed an act of confiscation. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 21 April2021 — The artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has been besieged for more than two weeks in his home in Old Havana, headquarters of the San Isidro Movement (MSI). “I have been here for 17 days without being able to leave my house. I try to leave and the political police detain me,” he explains to 14ymedio.

Since last Saturday, a day after State Security raided his home on Damas Street and detained him for 16 hours, the artist has been arrested every day at four in the afternoon when he tries to go out to demand the return of the works of art that the officers took away.

“Today they are still on the corner and do not let anyone in, it is still the same here,” he explained to this newspaper this Wednesday and insists that the increase in repression leads him to demand more from the authorities. “The first demand is that I want $500,000 for damage to my works.” continue reading

The seized and damaged works are part of the series Despite being a good boy, I did not know the Three Wise Men, in which the artist illustrates in large format coverage of some of the sweets that he ate in his childhood, at a time in which jams intended for children’s have disappeared from stores in national currency.

Otero Alcántara already has an idea of what to do with those resources: “I am going to spend that money on remodeling the houses of the people here in San Isidro. So don’t tell me that the situation is difficult, if you want them to take money from the hotels they are building on all sides.”

Last Monday, while he was detained in the El Wajay police unit, south of Havana, he was interrogated by Lieutenant Colonel Kenia María Morales, an officer accused of participating in the repression against independent artists. Morales showed him photocopies of some of the works. “We have them and we will return them to you if a judge decides,” he said.

Last Monday, while he was detained in the El Wajay police unit, south of Havana, he was interrogated by Lieutenant Colonel Kenia María Morales, an officer accused of participating in the repression against independent artists. Morales showed him photocopies of some of the works. “We have them and we will return them to you if a judge decides,” he said.

The artist recalls: “I was inside my house, they came in and took me out and put me in a patrol car and I didn’t know anything else until I returned the next day. Those works of art are my children.” Since then he has not had mobile data service on his cell phone either.

This Tuesday he was arrested again and, this time, he was taken to the Cotorro police unit and they kept him in the cells there until 10:30 at night when they took him home. The operation that surrounds his house prevents him from going out and talking to the neighbors. A situation that they consider intolerable.

“After this, what can I put up with? That they shoot a colleague? No, this is something unacceptable, after they enter your house and take your works of art, what can you expect tomorrow? I can’t move, I can’t draw, nothing, and if they’re looking for me to leave the country, they’re wrong, I’m not going to go anywhere,” he insists.

“It is very unfair everything that the neighbors here are going through too. On the day of the raid they took a neighbor’s son into custody because he was filming, but they already released him,” he details. His perceptions of Damas Street these days, where he lives, is that “it has been half phantasmagoric, with few people on the street but as of yesterday it has already begun to regain its normal rhythm.”

This Tuesday, on social networks, several Internet users denounced the presence of the State Security bus parked on the same corner as the MSI headquarters. It is the same bus that State Security used on January 27 to arrest artists and journalists who were protesting in front of the Ministry of Culture, a complaint that was confirmed by an investigation carried out by the independent Inventory project .

The bus was identified as being of the Chinese Yutong make and with the number 5604, belonging to the Provincial Transportation Company of Havana, an image that was shared on Facebook by the artist Salomé García.


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