With the Pandemic at Its Height in Cuba, the Opening of the Borders is Announced for November 15

The government, in need of foreign exchange, has announced the reopening of borders for the high season. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid,6 September 2021 — The official press announced this Sunday the next border reopening, which will begin “gradually” on November 15, although the staggered process will only apply, apparently, to the national market. Last year, on the same date, the country was opened to tourism but had to close it again after two months due to the increase in covid-19.

The Ministry of Tourism expects that entry protocols to the country will be relaxed in view of the beginning of the high season in Cuba and will focus on monitoring symptomatic patients and taking temperatures. This type of control is hardly useful at present, since the main countries that send tourists to the Island have massively vaccinated their population, which greatly reduces the chances of their suffering the symptoms of covid 19. The exception is except Russia, where the percentage vaccinated barely reaches 25.5%.

More useful could be another of the measures announced by the ministry, such as the recognition of vaccination certificates, although it has not yet been clarified whether that will be a requirement. The need to show a PCR test upon entry will also be eliminated, although “random diagnostic tests” will be done that the note does not specify, but which could be antigen tests. This type of screening test has proven particularly useful among symptomatic patients, but rarely among those without any signs of infection.

“The opening of the domestic tourist market will also begin gradually, in correspondence with continue reading

the epidemiological indicators of each territory,” the note indicates, in which it is reported that the staggered openings will only apply to Cubans. If confirmed, it would be the umpteenth time that the population has been relegated to tourist apartheid.

At the beginning of July, the Government announced a ban on travel to Varadero for Cuban citizens, while foreigners continued to have the doors open to them. The situation was reminiscent of the one that existed on the island until 2008, when Raúl Castro authorized Cubans to enter hotels. Until that year, Cubans could only enter hotels as workers serving tourists.

In 2019, before the pandemic hit, only 22% of overnight stays in Cuban hotels were made by national tourists, while 78% were foreigners. Internal tourism is, therefore, a minority and its expenditure is negligible in relation to visitors from abroad, hence the Government makes every efforts to recover the latter.

With the economic crisis harassing the Government and a population increasingly prone to protesting in the street, spurred by the collapse of the country, the authorities make a decision that could be hasty, since Cuba continues at a peak of the pandemic and this Sunday once again registered very worrying data.

After several days of decreasing cases, according to official data, this Saturday 9,221 new covid-19 infections were detected. In addition, 86 people died, including a pregnant woman and a 13-year-old girl, which denotes a stagnation in the figures that does not allow us to be optimistic in thinking about the reopening.

The authorities are confident that vaccination will allow an adequate picture to be reached in the next two months, but the truth is that since immunization began in May, barely 36% of the population has been completely vaccinated. At that rate, it is difficult to think that by mid-November the 70% that was initially expected to achieve group immunity would be reached, and even more so now, that the Delta variant has led to a reconsideration of this data and a raising of the required immunity level to 90% of the population vaccinated.

Tourism is one of the few economic sectors that provide large amounts of foreign currency to the Government and over which it has control, unlike remittances. The drop that this key area has suffered so far this year is around 95%. In the first half of 2021, only 141,316 visitors were received, which is seven times fewer than in the same period of the previous year, which was already very bad (986,673).

The economist Pedro Monreal warned on his networks last Friday that in order to equal the disastrous figure of 1,085,920 visitors in 2020, 944,604 visitors should arrive in the second half of 2021. In 2016 and 2017, the best years of tourism in Cuba, more than 4.5 million travelers came to the Island.

The need for the Government, therefore, to reopen the borders is great, but it can be counterproductive with such negative health data. Elías Amor, a Cuban-resident economist in Spain, compares the situation between the two countries, since Europe also has a high dependence on this sector. In it, foreign tourism reopened in the summer of 2020, still in a very restrictive framework, and even so, a severe second wave of covid-19 was experienced in October, when the high season ends.

This year, when the Spanish population has been vaccinated well above 50% (it reached 70% on August 31), tourism has become even more open, although conditional on vaccination passports or PCR tests and the closure of borders to certain countries.

“Summer, which is the high season in Spain, France or Italy, has behaved reasonably, with a certain recovery in activity focused, above all, on national tourism. In other words, the Spanish have been the ones who have made the hotel business work on the Canarian or Balearic beaches in 2021. International tourism remains below the 2019 figures,” explains the expert.

Amor, who doubts that foreigners want to return to the island in such a complex context and points to the residual of the national market in Cuba, suggests the possibility that the authorities seek to capture remittances from Cubans who live abroad and wish to pay for a vacation to their families, something that would depend on the “gradualness” with which the internal borders are opened.


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

Cuba: A Lack of Beds Strains Hospitals in Sancti Spiritus

There has been a rush to build wooden beds to place in state centers set up as confinement areas. (Photo: Edelio Torres / Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 5 September 2021 — The local press continues to show the darker side of Covid-19 in Cuba and moves away from the triumphalism maintained by the national media over the course of the pandemic on the island. A report published this Saturday in the Sancti Spíritus Escambray newspaper describes the problems of obtaining a hospital bed in the territory.

The article focuses on the problems involved in being admitted and the time that patients must wait to access a hospital room. The article starts with the story of Tomás Simón Serrano, who spent 37 hours sitting on one of the benches of the Acute Respiratory Infections Guard Corps of the Camilo Cienfuegos Provincial General Hospital.

“When they arrived at the hospital they found that there was no bed and they had to wait. They told him that he had to wait for a discharge, and if a PCR would be negative to see if they took a bed. Conclusion: They arrived at Monday at nine in the morning and were assigned bed on Tuesday at ten at night,” the article details.

But Serrano’s story is one of many. In the consultation of the Provincial Pediatric Hospital also accumulated are “mothers with children in their arms for hours and hours” waiting for a means of transport “to take them to an isolation center, children with IVs on top of their parents while they wait to be admitted,” explains the article.

Although the official figures, which the Ministry of Public Health disseminates every day, show that the cases infected in Sancti Spíritus did not exceed a thousand this Saturday, reality has force continue reading

d an increase in the capacities of “the assistance institutions, the creation of hospital rooms in educational centers, the provision of beds even in nursery schools and the reorganization of many health services.”

“If the numbers were considered, it could be believed that the more than 3,000 beds in the province for the hospitalization of suspected and confirmed cases with Covid-19 are enough. But beyond the paper, what seems promising data is usually subtracted before the multiplication of sick every day,” warns the report.

For the isolation of positive patients alone, according to data from the Provincial Health Directorate, 39 centers with 2,490 bed and for suspected cases 27 centers with 1,116 beds had to be enabled in the territory of Sancti Spiritus. But “even so it does not mean that the equation is cleared from the income-income equation and that there is a bed for anyone who requires it.”

This Saturday, 905 new positive cases were detected in the province, but the problems in accessing a PCR test mean that many of those infected do not even enter the official statistics.

Last Monday, the 147 beds destined for Covid-19 patients at the Camilo Cienfuegos hospital were full as were the 40 for intensive care. On average, around 75 people are admitted daily to that hospital, just for Covid-19. In Pediatrics the numbers are around 60 and their beds were also full last week.

Escambray warns that hospitals “collapse,” a word that the Minsap (Ministry of Public Health) authorities avoid using, in part because “the numbers of infected per day and those recovering from Covid-19 whose sequels continue to require hospital care such as patients who, given their clinical evolution, have to remain in beds for several days.”

The Sancti Spíritus Agroforestry Company has had to throw itself into the race to build wooden beds to place in schools and other state centers enabled as confinement areas, but in addition to the frame, mattresses and bedding are needed for them, products are widely deficient in the island.

Escambray’s report has prompted criticism from readers who have not lost the opportunity to recall that what is described is quite similar to what was described “in the news, talking about the calamities of other countries and our pride that this does not happen in Cuba because we are the good of the world, and nothing is further from reality, it was only a matter of time,” said an Internet user.

Scenes of patients without hospital beds, lacking medical oxygen or with serious symptoms at home are increasingly being seen on social networks and local Cuban media, challenging the version ’with more makeup’ promoted by senior officials and the national circulation media.

The provincial press has been making a move for weeks. A few days ago, the Ciego de Ávila newspaper confirmed the lack of oxygen and the precarious situation in the area and shortly after, it was on 5th of September, the official Cienfuegos newspaper, which spoke of an “unprecedented scenario” in an article titled Covid-19 in Cienfuegos: the truth on the table.

The newspaper denounced then that diagnostic tests were lacking, PCRs were accumulating without results, there was poor management of cases in primary care according to their risk leading them to end up in serious condition in hospitals due to the lack of screening. Added to this was the lack of medicinal oxygen — despite the incorporation of the Armed Forces and Russia into production — and the shortage of medicines or healthcare supplies and equipment.

To all this we must add, the newspaper pointed out, that what the Government promised does not always arrive. “I must tell you that there are problems with food, that in not a few cases breakfast has been eaten out of time and lunch goes out in the afternoon. It also happens that after discharge people have to wait up to three and four hours for transportation (. ..),” denounced a citizen.


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.

Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara is Charged With New Crimes

Otero Alcántara during a live broadcast from his home in Old Havana, in May 2021. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 September 2021 — The artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who has now spent 53 days in prison, was charged with new crimes on Monday. The curator Claudia Genluí, a member of the San Isidro Movement (MSI), reported that Otero Alcántara is now being accused of public disorder, instigation to commit a crime and contempt.

The crimes were recorded in the document issued by the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic in response to a change of precautionary measure requested by the artist’s lawyer, which was denied.

Before this change, in addition to contempt, the crimes of attack and resistance were those that appeared in file number 24, which Otero Alcántara shares with rapper Maykel Castillo, called Osorbo, imprisoned in Pinar del Río. Genlui points out that despite the new additions, the file remains the same.

Regarding the current situation of the artist’s criminal process, she told 14ymedio she is “very worried” because “he remains in the same circumstances” of uncertainty and without a trial date. She also said that Otero Alcántara’s lawyer, Clemente Morgado, filed a complaint on September 3 regarding the denial of the change of precautionary measure.

Genlui explained that the MSI leader is currently “isolated” in the Guanajay high security prison due to cases of covid-19 and the “dengue fever continue reading

threat” inside the prison. “They only allow you a phone call twice a week for just three minutes,” she added.

In a post published on her Facebook, Genlui says that Otero Alcántara “is generally in good health,” remains “stable in spirit” and is “drawing.”

She noted that “he is an artist with no criminal record, who is being deprived of his freedom” only for “exercising his right to freedom of expression in force in the Cuban Constitution.” She also said that due to “the epidemiological situation,” as well as possible complications that may occur in these conditions, “Alcantara’s life is in danger” and pointed out that the Cuban Government was “solely responsible.”

The artist was arrested on July 11 when he joined the protests that took place in almost all the country’s provinces. In his case, he was in the Centro Habana area.

Other opponents arrested on that day and who are still in prison are Félix Navarro, arrested along with Armando Abascal, Francisco Rangel and Leilandis Puentes, accused of attack and public disorder. The dissident and former prisoner of the Black Spring, who leads the Pedro Luis Boitel Party for Democracy, is imprisoned in the Combinado del Sur in Matanzas.

The activist and Lady in White Saily Navarro Álvarez, Navarro’s daughter, asked for help to publicize the dangerous situation her father is in. In an audio broadcast by the former prisoner of the Black Spring, Ángel Moya, Navarro  Álvarez says that on September 3 they gave him a summons to appear at the police unit of the municipality of Perico, in Matanzas, where he currently resides.

Regarding the meeting with the authorities, the activist said that it was to let her know two things: that her precautionary measure of house arrest “could be revoked for her having violated it by leaving the municipality without asking for permission” and that her father was in good health.

However, Navarro Álvarez clarified that onAugust 17 her father told his family that if on August 22 they were not together, on the 23rd “he would be on a hunger strike.” Since that day they have not been able to communicate with him any more and she denounced that “the uncertainty and anguish of not knowing for sure” about his health continues.

According to the Cubalex legal advice center, the list of detainees in the protests reached 949 people from July 11 to date and reports that 437 protesters are still in jail.


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

The Ground Threatens to Swallow an Entire Building in Havana’s Lawton Neighborhood

Though it has not been adequately maintained, the 1939 building was considered among the most solid in Havana’s Lawton neighborhood. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, September 6, 2021 — Residents of the Havana neighborhood Lawton had long been warning of the dangers of the sewer repairs being done in their neighborhood. Their fears were realized on Sunday when a huge sinkhole opened up next to an excavation at the corner of 16th and C streets, causing structural failure in a building that, until yesterday, was one of the few in this distressed neighborhood that people still admired.

Built in 1939, it retains some of its original stylish design. Though it is has not been adequately maintained, the building, which includes a ground-floor shop and several apartments, used to be considered among the most solid structures in Lawton. Now, cracks are visible througout its facade and the danger of collapse has become very real. Such a collapse would have serious ramifications for six people and a state-run store. According to the official press, as many as four neighboring buildings could also be impacted.

In an article published by a representative of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources in Havana, Manuel Paneque Gomez claims that the company in charge of the project and the state itself will be responsible for any damages to public and private propertay as well as for reinforcing the already precarious building structures. Residents complain, however, that proper security measures have not been put in place, nor have public notices been issued, so they expect little from the state-owned company.

The project to upgrade the sewage system involves a 5,000-foot route and four-foot pipes. It is expected to serve more than 100,000 residents in the neighborhoods of Arroyo Naranjo and Diez de Octubre. But this month’s torrential rains began alarming area residents and the strong storm that hit  the Cuban capital on Saturday was the final blow.


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

Cuba: A Policeman Who Beat a July 11th Protestor in Custody is Sanctioned

Romero Negrín was awaiting trial for protesting on April 30 on Obispo Street. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 7 September 2021 — For the first time, one of the complaints of mistreatment of the detainees of July 11 (11J) has had consequences. The officer accused of having beaten the university student Leonardo Romero Negrín while he was in custody, has been sanctioned by the Prosecutor’s Office with “administrative measures.”

According to an investigation by the university magazine Alma Mater, the prosecutor validated, based on the complaint by Romero Negrín’s father, that the duty officer who received the young man when he arrived at the Dragones Police Unit hit him with a board “in the back of the thigh.”

The Military Prosecutor’s Office, indicates the magazine in an article published this Monday, detailed that “the act of the agent did not qualify as a crime of injuries,” but it did consider it an “administrative contravention.” For this reason, “he communicated these results to the headquarters of the Minint [Ministry of the Interior] and the PNR [National Revolutionary Police]” for the “adoption of corresponding administrative measures,” although without specifying what they consist of.

On July 19, Alma Mater announced the meeting with the young man and said that “in the next few days” it would publish about the case. As a result of the delay of almost two months, they received pressure on the networks to publish the story of Romero Negrín, a university student who is studying Physics at the University of Havana.

The text narrates that several witnesses declared to the Prosecutor’s Office that “Leonardo arrived at the unit visibly upset.” Although in initial testimonies the young man claimed to receive several blows, in his statements to continue reading

the Prosecutor’s Office he affirmed that it was a single blow, something that the duty officer also admitted, who added that, after hitting him with the board, “he demanded verbally he calm down. ”

The agent himself acknowledged, the article highlights, that “given the magnitude of the situation, he decided to keep his regulation weapon and use a board (…) to protect his physical integrity.”

In addition, on July 12, when he arrived at the penitentiary center known as the Cotorro prison for minors, in a medical examination Romero Negrín found “slight injuries to his nose, arm and thigh.”

Romero Negrín, arrested on July 11, was released on July 17 and accused of “public disorder” but he was already under a precautionary measure of house arrest awaiting a trial for the same crime for protesting on April 30 on Obispo Street, when he pulled out a sign that read “Socialism Yes, Repression No.” On that occasion, he was also arrested.

In an interview given to La Joven Cuba, the student said that what they did to him “was little” compared to other detainees who had “a bruised eye,” “a swollen face,” as well as “others with a plaster cast, with fractured fingers.”

“They brought an old man on Friday, they went to look for him at his house because they saw him on a camera,” he said. “They put him into the Ivanov handcuffed and made him go through something known as Somatón. What is that? Well, they get them off the truck and there is a line of soldiers on the left and another on the right, and all the inmates have to pass through the middle of those two rows so that they will beat them.”

According to the Cubalex legal advice center, the list of detainees in the protests reached 956 people from July 11 to date and 443 protesters are still in jail.


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.

Fidel Castro Was the Main Engineer of the ‘Political Closet’ in Cuba

Soldiers push the jeep carrying Fidel Castro’s ashes that broke down during his funeral procession. (CG)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Manuel de la Cruz, Havana, 6 September 2021 — Back in 2004 my piano teacher said that Fidel Castro had been given a good power to impose himself with his presence before anyone and to do it until the person cried. He supposed that they had given him this power in Africa in the early 1970s, when it was speculated that they made him Obbatalá, because he was Oddúa’s son.

I remember him citing cases where his accusers visibly crumbled before him, where his most critical observers approached him to give him a demand or a letter, in the plenary sessions of the National Assembly, and ended up bowing before his figure.

The same teacher reminded me of what he felt when Fidel Castro was a few yards away from him, at his Art Instructors graduation in Villa Clara. It could not be explained why they cried so organically when they saw him, collapsing against the stands.

In those months I remember an anecdote that a woman who was visiting our evangelical church starred in. On the street she was caught by national television cameras, and offered generous odes to the Cuban Revolution. Then, in a closed circle, she confessed, visibly regretful, that she did not agree with anything he had said, but that the pressure had made her succumb. continue reading

I do not believe that these realities come from any power other than that of implanting terror. Cuba is a political closet. Its doors have iron hinges, prison and ostracism, so that whoever wants to leave has to make a sordid noise and a colossal effort. Outside, in dissent, hell burns for the declared. To be a dissident is, thanks to the late commander, to be anti-Cuban.

For all that it implies, which we know very well, millions have hesitated and still hesitate to declare themselves against the system. It is a kind of opophobia — a nervous collapse. There is a system of dire consequences perfectly created for those who let go of the fear of speaking out against it, those who abandon this kind of political glossophobia. Fidel Castro was the main engineer of this work, with or without an Obbatalá crowned in Nigeria; the G2 [Military Intelligence] its most effective and faithful workers.

But this reflection is not born in a moment of boredom, this post wants to lead to a tangible call:

We Cuban intellectuals and artists have the colossal mission of empowering the voice of the people. Not only to support it once it is alive, but to take it out of the darkness of the room, of the joviality in front of a domino table, of the confidence that a 3-year-old bottle offers.

I believe that we must focus on this, with force, with urgency, with skill.

Outsiders should encourage insiders to come out, and use whatever novel and noble way proves to be effective. Let them know that if their parents throw them out of the house, there is a brother outside who will welcome them with pride, who will give them a plate of food if necessary.

The Devil knows more about being old than about being the Devil. After all, there is nothing like coming out of the closet.


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.

Controlling People in Line Before Saving a Life in Cuba

As the passersby who gathered around the vehicle observed, the motorcycle was originally electric but had been adapted to run on fuel, which is illegal. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 3 September 2021 — A woman and a motorcyclist were seriously injured on Friday when the latter ran his vehicle over the former on the busy corner of Avenida Carlos III and Calle Infanta, in Havana.

The witnesses asked for medical help. Outraged, they tell 14ymedio that none of the many military personnel from the Armed Forces who have been controlling the lines to shop in the Plaza de Carlos III for months have come to help the victims.

“They are a mob. At that corner alone, when I arrived, there were five ’prevention’ guards, not counting the policemen, and none moved a finger,” says a resident from Centro Habana with annoyance. “They prefer to look after the lines than to look after a life, it seems.”

“The woman came out the worst,” says another witness, “they took her unconscious, although the motorist was also injured, with damage to his face.” One of the policemen who was guarding the scene of the accident tells this newspaper that the young man did not have a driver’s license.

As bystanders who gathered around the vehicle observed, the motorcycle was originally electric but had been adapted to run on fuel, something illegal according to a regulation published by the Ministry of Transport in 2019.


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.

Rain of Judicial Sentences for Resellers and ‘Coleros’ in Villa Clara

The official press recognizes that there are desperate people who see no other solution than to buy from resellers and that the State’s virtual stores do not work as they should. (Laura Rodríguez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 September 2021 — In the first six months of this year, 78 people were tried for crimes related to speculation and hoarding in Villa Clara and only five were acquitted. The others ended up with prison sentences, sometimes commuted to correctional work, many were fined and all the assets involved were confiscated.

The data has been provided by Yunieska Gómez Montero, vice president of the People’s Provincial Court, for one of the frequent articles with which the State newspaper Granma reports on the seriousness of illicit economic activities for “squeezing the pockets of those who work,” urging the population to report the activities, and admits that the phenomenon proliferates “in broad daylight” without the authorities doing anything.

The text begins with a real case — with the appearance of a fable — in which a long-suffering and prestigious doctor from Villa Clara takes advantage of the little free time that the pandemic gives him to go shopping. On the streets of Santa Clara, he runs into a reseller who asks him for 200 pesos for toilet paper and ends up selling him various products for a total of 2,000 pesos because the doctor does not have time to stand in line.

The article, titled Resellers Offer, Salvation or Shameless Abuse? admits that there is a proliferation of resellers and “hoarders” and attributes it to the existing shortages because the resources of the State are being used to continue reading

combat the pandemic, although it does not miss the opportunity to point to the US embargo. “There is no way that can be ignored and not accuse, as many times as possible, that hostile policy that for more than 60 years has been a shackle on the throat of the country,” it says.

The list of products seized in the Villa Clara operations is long: detergents, peroxide, deodorants, hair conditioner, perfumes and colognes, diapers, hair dye, toothpaste, face creams, cosmetics, beans, rice, cigarettes, cement, light bulbs, coffee, sausages, meats, oils, powdered milk, sugar, alcoholic beverages … “most of which were embezzled from state stores and warehouses,” but also from hard currency stores “stolen in complicity with staff of those centers.”

In total, since July 2020, the Villa Clara Prosecutor’s Office has engaged in 217 processes in which 176 people have been sanctioned, of which 13 were deprived of liberty, 55 interned to labor in a correctional facility, 64 to correctional work without internment, 11 to limitation of freedom, and 33 sanctioned with fines.

The text recalls that coleros — people who stand in line for others — and resellers act with total impunity and in full view of all, but that even worse is the sale through social networks and online sites such as Revolico, because they are more numerous and invisible and even offer medicines.

The article recognizes that there are desperate people who see no other solution than to buy through these channels and that the virtual stores of the State do not work as they should, pushing many to these alternative routes, but urges people to denounce those who take advantage of the needs of others.

“It is immoral for someone to take advantage of the facilities to import medicines, food and hygiene products, and then hawk them. Those who steal drugs from hospitals also escape through that loophole,” says a presumed whistleblower from Santa Clara.

The official press frequently addresses this type of information to remind the population of the consequences of hoarding, theft or illegal sale of products, but alternates this discourse, and the exhibition of operations and punitive measures, with rampant permissiveness, when it does not participate directly in it.

Many experts consider that the fear of a social uprising is the main reason why the authorities do not decide to apply the measures against these practices in a rigorous and generalized manner.


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.

Mario Vargas Llosa Signs a Petition for the Release of the July 11th Detainees in Cuba

Mario Vargas Llosa signs a petition for the release of the 11J detainees in Cuba

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana | 2 Septiembre 2021 — The writer Mario Vargas Llosa on Wednesday added his signature to a petition on Charge.org for the freedom of Cubans, particularly those detained after the massive protests on July 11.

The initiative, published by the writer Enrique del Risco as “SOS Cuba,” is a letter addressed to Miguel Díaz-Canel in which the signers demand that the right of citizens be respected “to demonstrate and choose their destiny, instead of seeking new ways to repress and silence your people.”

“Do not attempt to portray those who protested as mercenaries in the service of the United States,” the letter asks, referring to the 11J (July 11th) demonstrations. “Recognize that in those protests are the voices of people who are fed up with their lack of freedoms, bad government, and hardships of all kinds. Do not deny that those tens of thousands who protested throughout the island are Cuban citizens who no longer identify with the project you are proposing and who dare to say so out loud despite the proven risks involved in doing so.”

The text added: “To demonstrate your respect for the rights of your compatriots, you must begin by releasing the more than half a thousand Cubans who, a month after the protests, are still in prison or are continue reading

being prosecuted for participating in them. Along with them, you must release all Cubans who are in prison for expressing their disagreement with your government.”

Signed by Cubans within the Island, such as the artist Tania Bruguera, the journalist Yoani Sánchez, the writer Ángel Santiesteban and the artist Julio Llopiz-Casal, the petition is also supported by compatriots abroad, such as the immunologist Eduardo López-Collazo, the musician Paquito D’Rivera or the writers Ernesto Díaz de Villegas, Manuel Díaz Martínez, Legna Rodríguez Iglesias and Carlos Manuel Álvarez.

In addition to the Peruvian Nobel laureate, the petition has also been signed by important international voices , notably the Canadian psychologist Steven Pinker, the Russian chess player Garry Kasparov, the American actor Andy García, the Spanish philosopher Fernando Savater and the Venezuelan writer Alberto Barrera Tyszka.


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

The ‘King of Cheese’ Was Not a Criminal and Has Returned to his Work in Artemis

The cattle raiser is willing to train those who want to dedicate themselves to making cheese. (The Artemiseño)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana | 2 Septiembre 2021 — A year ago, the King of Cheese went jail and was presented as a criminal on national television for the alleged crime of illicit economic activity. Today, free of all guilt, the rancher Raúl Abreu Gómez, from the province of Artemisa, reappears like the phoenix to dedicate himself to his cheese factory again.

Faced with the accusations leveled against him in 2020, Abreu Gómez, who is a chemical engineer and has a master’s degree in Science in Engineering in Biotechnological Processes and worked for ten years at the Scientific Pole, insists that he has always complied with the required milk deliveries to the State . “In the last three years we have delivered about 30,000 liters each year. This year we are already going for 20,000, and I believe that by the end of December we can double that,” he said.

The local newspaper, El Artemiseño, notes that on July 10 of last year the police carried out a search of the Santa Ana farm, belonging to the Ciro Redondo Cooperative, in the municipality of Caimito and proceeded to dismantle the cheese factory that mainly supplied three restaurants specializing in Italian food in the municipality of Playa, in Havana. They then alleged that the producer delivered 70 liters of milk each day to the State, versus the 150 he was required to provide.

Confiscated from Abreu Gómez were 316 liters of milk, 140 liters of chlorine, two weights, jugs, molds, industrial steel tanks, a nylon sealing machine along with other continue reading

work implements, and 353 pounds of cheese made by him and his sons Gerardo and Luis Daniel.
 After a year and after what El Artemiseño describes as nothing more than “regrettable mistakes,” “far from being daunted, once the truth began to make its way, Raúl decided to resume the profession he can no longer leave aside.” The local newspaper does not specify under what conditions the farmer’s cheese factory will continue to operate.

The rancher is willing to train those who want to dedicate themselves to the manufacture of cheeses to supply the State Commerce and Gastronomy units. He has 40 cattle but does not have authorization to market the meat.

Abreu Gómez says that he has visited several countries such as Canada, the United States, Italy, Costa Rica and Spain and the best pizzas of his life have been eaten at the Los Aliados pizzeria in Caimito. “I would love to produce cheese for her, rather than for the [stores that sell only] in MLC (freely convertible currency).”

For decades, the marketing of dairy products, beef and other derivatives of cattle has been a state monopoly. Owners of cows are not allowed to sell cheese, milk, or butter.

Restrictions associated with beef cattle in Cuba have led to a convoluted network of tricks to get the meat and products derived from cows, among which are tying the animal to the railroad lines so that the train kills them and thus enable making use of their remains, or declare as males many of the calves that are born on their farms to avoid having to report and deliver the milk and calves they have to the State.

Abreu’s case was very popular, not only because the raid on his farm was broadcast on national television, but because it was seen as a lesson to entrepreneurs who exceeded certain limits of prosperity and commercial reach. For other producers of cheese, yogurt and other dairy derivatives, the operation against this engineer acted as a wake-up call to leave the sector.

For months, cheese could hardly be bought in Havana’s informal market, and the price of a pound quadrupled in less than a year. From the 25 pesos it cost at that time, it currently exceeds 100 and, even with money in hand, it is difficult to find this product.

Sectors such as pizzerias and coffee shops also multiplied the prices of their offers with cheese and the product, imported from the Netherlands, Germany or Uruguay, was reduced to sale in foreign currency stores. Currently a kilogram of gouda cheese costs more than 10 dollars in these places and in the informal market, a block of a little more than 3 kg reaches 100 dollars.


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

In Santiago de Cuba, Shopping in the Ration Stores has Become Mission Impossible

Restricted store hours have increased lines at a time when the need is to eliminate them. (14 ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Alberto Hernández, Santiago de Cuba | 2 Septiembre 2021 — The harsh restrictive measures that came into force last August in Santiago de Cuba to try to contain the contagion of covid-19 have made the purchase of the products of the basic basket an impossible mission.

The new hours of the ration stores (called bodegas), restricted the opening hours for the population to just two (from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.) and another two hours (from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.) for the couriers assigned by the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution to make deliveries to people. The hours, planned to be in effect for 15 days but, after this period, the authorities of the province extended it for another fortnight.

“At the beginning of August, when these measures were not yet in place, I managed to buy part of the goods that arrived, incomplete. It has been more than a week since the other part arrived and I have not yet been able to get what I have coming in the store because it’s always full,” Ofelia, a neighbor of the Micro 9 buildings, in the José Martí district, told 14ymedio.

Warehouse 4005 of Micro 9 serves a population of more than 1,600 households (about 6,000 people) and is divided into two teams, with a couple of dependents each. “It is impossible to buy at continue reading

that rate, I have hardly seen the courier. These measures were supposedly made to limit the spread of covid-19, but the reality is that the crowd of people is now much greater, and the ’messaging’ does not work,” Ofelia laments.

The José Martí district, with more than 129,000 inhabitants, and Abel Santamaría, with 98,000, are, according to 2018 data, the districts with the highest population density in Santiago de Cuba. In them, limiting the hours of sale in the ration stores to the morning have been insufficient and, sometimes, the only way to buy is to skip some rule.

This is how Rita, 67, managed to buy mortadella, thanks to the butchers continuing to deliver after 9 in the morning. “The situation was desperate. I have several health ailments that make me vulnerable and I had to endure more than 5 hours in the crowd, because I arrived at dawn, before the ration store opened.”

Getting up early, however, is not an option for everyone, and neither is going shopping alone. Marina, the mother of two 2- and 5-year-old children, had to choose to take the little ones in order to buy the food they are allocated under the ration system. “I can’t get up early because I don’t have someone to leave my children with, so this month I had to go with them to the tumult and risk infecting all of us with the coronavirus.”

The young woman also wonders what happened to the donation that, according to the provincial press, was going to reach the families. “Some time ago it appeared in the newspaper that they were going to give out a can of tuna, of which came as a donation, but I have been left with the desire, because they have not given me anything.”

Marta is another mother concerned about measures that exclude the specific cases of some families. “On my card there are 14 people. We buy the errands divided into five families and each one collects their own when they can, but when I explained the matter to the courier he refused to provide us with the service.”

One of the missions of the couriers is to help vulnerable people, such as Yoel, a 67-year-old widower who lives alone in an apartment in the Abel Santamaría District and is entitled to this support. However, he says that he does not even know the courier. “I asked the president of my CDR and she could not say clearly, she told me that I should go with the delegate of the area,” he laments.

The restrictions also apply to foreign currency stores. Although its schedule, from 7 am to 1 pm, is somewhat longer, it has not served to solve the crowds either. “I’ve been trying to buy some LED lamp tubes  for more than a week and every day is a different situation,” protests Rubén.

“When did go I didn’t manage to get a place in the line, which would have been for two days later, because those of the previous days were cancelled by blackouts and there are only 25 a day.”

Faced with this situation, Rubén decided to show up one day at 5 in the morning, but the line was already full of people. “When I inquired they told me that the first ones came around 9 o’clock the night before, without caring about the curfew. I had to give up on the purchase.”


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

Cuban President Diaz-Canel Visits Tenement Where Celia Cruz was Born but Does Not Mention the Queen of Salsa

The official media described Tamarindo as one of the 62 “most complex” neighborhoods in the capital. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 September 2021 — Miguel Díaz-Canel closed his tour of the Popular Council of Tamarindo on Friday, in the Havana district of Santo Suárez, with a visit to the Las Margaritas site. The cuartería in the municipality of Diez de Octubre is very popular because it is the place where the Cuban singer Celia Cruz was born in 1925 and where her sisters later lived.

The name of the Queen of Salsa did not come to light in any of the president’s statements, which later made headlines in the official media. Despite the great success of Celia Cruz and her status as a favorite among Cubans when it comes to dancing, her name and her voice were banned for decades in the national media and it was not until 2012 that she could be heard on the radio.

Under a strong security operation and surrounded by bodyguards, the president toured the streets where the hurried repair of sidewalks, facades and the park that bears the name of the neighborhood was notable.

In an attempt to appease the rebellion unleashed on July 11, Díaz-Canel has visited some of the neighborhoods where there were the strongest clashes between protesters and the forces of order, such as La Güinera, Los Sitio and San Isidro.

A few blocks from the place chosen for this Friday’s visit, exactly on the corner of Toyo, one of the most tense moments of the protests continue reading

took place. The photographs and videos of uniformed men beating young people who tried to join the demonstration, as well as the reaction of these who overturned and stoned some patrol cars, went viral on social networks.

In a report broadcast on the noon newscast, they described Tamarindo as one of the 62 “most complex” neighborhoods in the capital with a population of 34,000.

“We are making a tour of the Popular Council to assess all the actions that you know are being done in the neighborhoods,” the president told several residents.

Last July 16 marked the 18th anniversary of the death of Celia Cruz, known as La Guarachera de Cuba, one of the most popular and important artists of the 20th century in the American continent and an icon of Latin music within the United States.

A day after her death, Granma published a brief note in which it noted that the singer popularized Cuban music in the United States and was “used as an icon by the counterrevolutionary enclave in South Florida” because Cruz was active for decades “in the campaigns against the Cuban Revolution.”

During her fifty-five-year career, the singer of Guantanamera , La negra has tumbaoJPor si acaso no regreso, and La vida es un carnaval, accumulated innumerable awards and recognitions that have not stopped after her death, such as several Grammys, a stamp honoring her from the US Postal Service, and her election as the first Latina on the Walk of Fame at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem (New York).

The sadness of not being able to return to Cuba, after going on a tour of Mexico in 1960 accompanying the band Sonora Matancera, saddened her until her death. She could not return even when her mother died. In 1990 she sang at the Guantánamo naval base and from there she took a handful of earth, which she asked to be deposited in her coffin.


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

Cuba’s Ladies in White Show Solidarity With the 11J (July 11th) Detainees

Berta Soler (center with sign), leader of the Ladies in White, during a demonstration in Havana in 2018. (Ladies in White)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 3 September 2021 — The leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, joined the fast of other dissidents on Thursday in support of the opponents José Daniel Ferrer and Félix Navarro, both former prisoners of the Black Spring of 2003, who were arrested on July 11, the day of the massive protests throughout the island.

Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, is in the Mar Verde prison, in Santiago de Cuba, according to a letter released by the authorities with the signature of Ferrer himself, although his family still doubts his having signed it, while Navarro, President of the Pedro Luis Boitel Party for Democracy has been on a hunger strike for 11 days in the Combinado Sur prison in Matanzas.

In declarations to 14ymedio, Soler says that her “solidarity fast” extends to “all those detained on July 11 and 12,” among which are other figures of the dissidence, such as the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, leader of the San Isidro Movement.

“We want them free and healthy. Freedom now,” said the Lady in White on her networks, and she also demanded proofs of life from both Ferrer and Navarro. continue reading

The dissident said that the first to show solidarity with a fast, in concrete support of Félix Navarro, was Caridad Burunate. “The day after her initiative we are in solidarity with her,” said Soler.

Along with them, she says, there are another twenty Ladies in White fasting – spread between Havana, Santa Clara, Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo – from seven in the morning to noon.

At the same time, Soler denounces that the harassment of the headquarters of her organization has not stopped: “Here we have the patrols and the State Security agents are visible, and they detain everyone who comes.”

According to the Cubalex legal advice center, the list of detainees, which reached 917 people since July 11, now contains 427 names of those confirmed to be still detained as of this Friday.

From the same day of June 11, the Government unleashed a tough hunt to identify and imprison the protesters through the videos and photos that were published on social networks.

The official press reported this Friday that in Sancti Spíritus “criminal proceedings are progressing for the riots of July 11” and specified that 11 people were charged, one of whom is still waiting for his case to reach the courts.

An article published in the newspaper Escambray states that they carried out five criminal proceedings in which the detainees were accused of “creating a climate of destabilization” during the protests and one of them, in addition, was accused of “instigation to commit a crime.” He was sentenced to nine months of deprivation of liberty.

The local media pointed out that this person “publicly incited, through social networks” … “the people of Sancti Spíritus go out, demonstrate against the Government and subvert order, in the midst of a complex epidemiological scenario due to the pandemic” of covid-19.

Nine of those involved “received administrative treatment”, which in this case translates into fines amounting to 5,000 pesos, as provided in Article 8.3 of the Penal Code for crimes of “public disorder” or “contempt.”


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.

‘I Didn’t Care If I Died or Lived,’ Says Cuban Rafter Hospitalized in the US

Capote left from Playa Herradura, in Mariel, Artemisa province, along with three other young people who died during the crossing. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana | 2 September 2021 — After ten days at sea that left him on the brink of death, Cuban rafter Julio Cesar Capote will be able to begin his asylum process on U.S. soil. “I didn’t care if I died or lived,” the 21-year-old confessed to Telemundo 51 on Wednesday.

Capote was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard on August 25 in the vicinity of Fowey Rocks, in southern Florida, while sailing in a precarious six-and-a-half-foot boat. Due to his physical injuries and the degree of dehydration in which he was found, the rafter had to be hospitalized.

“I was thinking a lot of things, if I was going to make it, if I was going to die, what was going to happen to me,” Capote told the television channel shortly after being discharged from Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, from where he left accompanied by family members living in the United States.

The young man had his legs bandaged because of the burns he suffered during the crossing, which he made together with three other migrants, who, Capote himself explained to the Coast Guard, had died on the journey.

About the crossing, the rafter reported that the companions who died were young people. He left from Playa Herradura, in Mariel, Artemisa province, together with his uncle, Chenli Yoan Capote, 21, and siblings
Josue Gabriel, 22, and continue reading

Karen Rojas Pareta, 18. “Three days later, the raft capsized and our food, water were dumped, everything,” he said.

“The sun began to burn us and the girl’s and her brother’s nails began to fall off, their hands began to peel, their ribs began to burn and she said ’I can’t take it anymore’ and jumped into the water with her brother. The brother was worse than her; from the time he left he was vomiting, dehydrated, vomiting blood and everything”, says Capote, who then stayed with his uncle, who “had already started to hallucinate.”

At another point “a piece of the raft fell off” and the uncle jumped into the sea to try to rescue the piece, but “the waves were too big and he was carried away.” He spent about ten days adrift until he was found by a citizen who was sailing south of Florida and alerted the Coast Guard.

Regarding the rafter’s legal options, Immigration attorney Willy Alllen told the television channel that, at the Customs office, there is the possibility of being granted the so-called ’parole’, a document with which, after a year and a day, he can opt for residency under the Cuban Adjustment Act.

The lawyer also said that they could eventually send him before an immigration judge, but he stated that cases like Capote’s are isolated, because most migrants intercepted at sea are medically treated and repatriated to Cuba immediately.

At the beginning of last August, a Cuban managed to pass the “Credible Fear” Review on the high seas in the United States. The migrant, identified as Ernesto Urgellés, according to his relatives, was a policeman in Cuba and had been intercepted along with other rafters, who themselves were returned a few days later to the island by the Coast Guard.

Urgellés cannot enter the U.S. while his asylum request is being studied, so he must remain at the Guantánamo base or in some third country that will provisionally accept him.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


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.

‘Our People’ Do Not Want to Return to Capitalism, Asserts Cuban Minister of Economy

A Cuban may not own more than one business (though it may have widespread activity), since it is contrary to the socialist principle against accumulating wealth. (yelo34)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, September 1, 2021 — The ministers of the Government’s economic area, led by Vice Prime Minister Alejandro Gil, appeared on the Mesa Redonda (Roundtable) television program on Tuesday, presumably to give the “Necessary answers regarding the actors of the Cuban economy.” Although little news came out of this tedious exercise, there was time to finish the program by denying that the approval of the MSMEs [micro, small, and medium-size enterprises] could mean a return to capitalism which, as they argued, is not what the people want.

Gil contended that the approval of the norms that regulate non-agricultural cooperatives and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, which comes into force on September 20, is nothing more than an improvement and modernization of socialist principles. “We do not want a capitalist and neoliberal style project,” he argued, despite the fact that the Cuban economy is increasingly on the path to a ruthless state capitalism.

“We are going to achieve a country with greater coherence, where people can develop their life project. This is more socialism and more Revolution,” Gil claimed in a kind of final argument.

Along the same line, the ministers had already referred to the impossibility of having more than one company per person, a rule that is based on the constitutional (socialist) principle of avoiding the concentration of property and wealth. Nor, for the same reason, can one company be continue reading

a partner of another. “It would be laughable if successive MSMEs were set up where the owner was always the same person. If this happened, it would be in a way breaking the rule,” they warned. Of course, they pointed out that the company’s corporate purpose can be so broad that it includes multiple services.

The ministers went over the most frequent doubts that have circulated since the legislative content became known, but the answers did not clarify much, when all they did was limit themselves to repeating what was already known.

For example, they insisted on pointing out what they have considered priority sectors for the first phase — which will be food production, technology-based companies related to additive manufacturing, robotics or the creation of new materials or establishing technology parks, local development projects — without explaining how they plan to manage, right off the bat, such a radical change in the country’s productive fabric.

The Minister of Economy also referred to the possibility of foreigners investing and, in that sense, recalled that the rule is the same as for the state-owned company: only a company that is set up as a mixed-ownership company may be formed with capital from a resident in Cuba and another abroad. But according to the Foreign Investment Law (2014), a “mixed company” is a “commercial company that takes the form of a corporation,” something that is prohibited to individuals and reserved to the State.

Nor does it change anything with respect to exports and imports, which can be done as long as they are channeled through a state company, and they are “prohibited” for professions, such as architects, lawyers, engineers, teachers, journalists or veterinarians.

Gil argued that professionals can work in the private sector, but cannot create a company dedicated exclusively to an activity that is not allowed, so that, based on their statements, a lawyer, for example, could offer legal services to a company, but could not represent it in court.

“There are a range of malicious opinions that say that if you are a professional you cannot work in a MSME or that if you work in one you have to develop an activity for which you are not qualified. This is not the case. . . . What is not allowed are activities that are dedicated only to professional services. Computer scientists, the pet veterinarian, the bookkeeper for accounting activities are allowed.” A short and very restrictive list.

The Minister of Labor and Social Security took on one of the questions that will remain to be answered later. Maria Elena Feito Cabrera gave assurance that the salary of workers in private companies may be decided by employers with the participation of workers through a collective agreement and with the participation of unions. But she did not specify whether there could be unions other than the official ones and whether employees could form their own collectives to look out for their interests.

The worst of last night’s news came from the Central Bank of Cuba, which affirmed that companies will be able to request loans in Cuban pesos, but not in foreign exchange, though in all probability they will have to buy a multitude of raw materials and supplies in the international market.

“To grant financing in that currency [freely convertible] we would have to have individuals involved who have income in that currency and the capacity to repay the financing, hence the possibility of withholding money for exports, or liquidity for sales to Mariel [Port of Mariel Special Development Zone], or for sale in MLC [Freely Convertible Foreign Currency] stores,” he explained.

Translated by Tomás A.


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.