The Emigrant Must Earn Brownie Points to Enter Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 21 July 2016 — With blood-stained clothes and wounds and bruises on her arms, Ana Margarito Perdigon Brito returned to Miami from Havana’s Jose Marti Airport this past June. No one knew how to rationalize that the Cuban government prohibited her, a citizen of that country whose paperwork was in order, from entering the land of her birth.

“It is a form of revenge by the Cuban government towards emigrants. It is a type of blackmail by which, if you behave as they desire – which is to say, without being rebellious – you can enter your country; but if you dare to criticize the regime you may lose that right,” says the activist who left Cuba in 2012 in order to live in the US. continue reading

The Cuban exile, who lives in Homestead in south Florida, tried to enter Cuba for a second time in order to visit her sick mother in the Sancti Spiritus province. “The first time they turned me away at the Miami airport when I tried to fly to Santa Clara.   On this second occasion, they let me arrive in Havana, but once I was there, they told me I could not enter the country because, according to the system, I was prohibited entry into Cuba,” she says.

Her passport is up-to-date and valid with the corresponding renewals plus the authorization, an entrance permit for which Cubans living abroad pay and that supposedly has “lifelong” validity, although it can be nullified by Cuban officials.

She tried in vain to convince the immigration agents to let her speak with a supervisor or to explain to her by what rationale they impeded her access to a universal right. The answer was always the same: “The system indicates that you are prohibited entry. You must go back,” while they insisted that if she wanted to enter the country, she would have to seek a humanitarian visa.

The practice is not new; from Arturo Sandoval to Celia Cruz, a considerable number of Cubans have had to deal with the all-powerful Bureau of Immigration and Nationality in the last six decades in order to enter the Island. In many cases unsuccessfully as has happened to several people who could not even attend funerals for their parents. Many experts thought that with the new immigration law enacted in 2012, the situation would change, but it has not.

Perdigon believes that this is another sign of the Cuban government’s unscrupulousness as regards the diaspora. “They do not forgive me for the activism that I carried out within Cuba,” she explains.

Receiving no answer about her case, she tried to escape from the room where the immigration officials had taken her, and she was hit and wounded in a struggle. “I tried not to beg for my right but to win it [because] no one is obliged to obey unjust laws,” as Marti said.

Originally from the Sancti Spiritus province, she and her family belonged to several independent movements, joining political parties and initiatives favoring the promotion of human rights.

The passport of exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito (14ymedio)

The passport of exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito (14ymedio)
The passport of exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito (14ymedio)

“On many occasions we were repressed, and we suffered acts of repudiation. One afternoon, my little daughter came running in a fright to warn me that many screaming people were coming. It was an act of repudiation that they had prepared for me in the neighborhood. On another occasion, they gave us a tremendous beating in a town called Tuinucu and jailed us,” she remembers.

Her case is not unique. According to independent statistics compiled by media, dozens of similar stories have happened in recent years. Nevertheless, there are no official data about the number of Cubans who have been denied entry into the country.

“People do not demand their rights publicly, and they don’t denounce these arbitrary situations,” comments Laritza Diversent Cambara, manager of the Cubalex Legal Information Center, via telephone from Cuba. “When we go to review statistics, countries like Canada have more complaints about human rights violations than Cuba, and we all know that is because of ignorance or lack of information about demanding their rights, because if there is anything abundant in this country, it is human rights violations,” she contends.

According to the lawyer, denial of entry by nationals is not contemplated in Cuban legislation. “It is a discretionary decision by State Security or the Bureau of Immigration and Nationality, but there exist no laws that regulate it, so people are exposed to the whims and abuses of officials,” opines the jurist.

“They cannot give the reasons for which they deny entry into the country. They do not argue that he is a terrorist threat or that the person lacks some document or formality. It is simply an arbitrary decision,” she adds.

The practice is not limited only to dissidents, activists and opponents. Diversent says that her office handled the case of a rafter who left the Island in 2011 and who continued traveling regularly, until in 2015 the Cuban authorities told him that he could not enter the country again.

14ymedio has known of similar cases of journalists, members of religious orders and doctors who took refuge in the Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) offered by the United States.

Exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito marching through the streets of Santa Clara (14ymedio)
Exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito marching through the streets of Santa Clara (14ymedio)

“One time I made some statements to a local newspaper in Spain about the hardship suffered by the Cuban people, and on return to the Island several officers confronted me in the airport, telling that if I did something like that again, they would revoke my temporary religious residency,” said a Spanish missionary who prefers for safety reasons not to be named.

The methods for preventing entry are as varied as the steps to take for immigration procedures in Cuba. There are people who have been denied passport authorization, as was the case of the well-known visual artist Aldo Menendez. On other occasions, Cubans are turned back at the last minute from the airport from which they tried to fly to the Island, as occurred to activist Ana Lupe Busto Machado, or they wait until they land in Havana after having spent 450 dollars on passport preparation, 20 dollars on the entrance permit or 180 dollars on the renewals, plus the price of passage from Miami which approaches 500 dollars, to tell them that they cannot ever enter their country again.

14ymedio tried to communicate with the Cuban Office of Immigration and Nationality, but authorities refused to respond to our questions.

“This kind of procedure should not surprise anyone,” says attorney Wilfredo Vallin, founder of the Cuban Law Association. “The government has a long history of actions that do not abide by its own law. Until recently wasn’t there in effect an express and unconstitutional prohibition against nationals entering hotels? What about human mobility within the Island? Isn’t that regulated, too?”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Oscar Arias Asks Fariñas To Suspend His Hunger Strike / 14ymedio

The former president of Costa Rica Oscar Arias (R) with former Polish president Lech Walesa (L). (EFE)
The former president of Costa Rica Oscar Arias (R) with former Polish president Lech Walesa (L). (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 July 2016 — In a letter published Saturday by the former president of Costa Rica and 1987 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Oscar Arias Sanchez asks his “friend” Guillermo Fariñas to “lift his hunger and thirst strike.”

Arias Sanchez explains that the hunger strike will not succeed as a recourse to persuade the government of the island “that you cannot pursue noble ends with ignoble means.” He also says that Cuba “is not a different democracy” but rather is “a dictatorship.” The former Costa Rican president (1986-1990 and 2006-2010) recalled the case of regime opponent Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died after an 86-day hunger strike. He did not manage “to convince the Cuban regime that it was necessary to preserve the life of this person, regardless of any ideological differences” and nor did he move “the compassion of the Cuban dictatorship.” continue reading

The missive, published on Arias Sanchez’s Facebook account, says that “nothing we could do could save Orlando Zapata.” He emphasized that his voice will not be silent as long as “they continue to violate human rights in Cuba” and that he has lived long enough “to know that there is nothing worse than being afraid to tell the ‘truth’.”

Guillermo Fariñas, 2010 recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, declared himself on a hunger and thirst strike in the early hours of Wednesday, July 20 to demand that the beatings of non-violent opposition members in Cuba be stopped and that a dialogue be opened with government.

Friday, Fariñas added a third demand which requires the regime to “cease the arbitrary confiscations from the self-employed, small businesses and entrepreneurs and all Cubans who are being violently attacked” by the “military.”

Fariñas expressed solidarity with Carlos Amel Oliva, youth leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), who began a hunger strike on July 13 “to protest the arbitrary confiscations” and said he would continue the strike until the belongings that were confiscated from him are returned. On Friday, one of the 75 dissidents imprisoned during the Black Spring of 2003, Eduardo Diaz Fleitas, joined the hunger strike.

“When we achieve justice we can build a new society” / 14ymedio, Ofelia Acevedo, Mario Penton, Luz Escobar

Note: The video is a brief excerpt from the interview and is not subtitled in English.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Luz Escobar, Miami, 22 July 2016 – His name is tattooed on the skin of a Cuban graffiti artist (Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto) or is suggested by the letter L, standing for Liberty, formed by the angle between the index finger and the thumb, increasingly displayed by those asking for democracy. The legacy of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas (1952-2012) and Harold Cepero (1980-2012) lives on in the nation for which they worked their hearts out and ultimately sacrificed their lives. Four years after the tragic crash that claimed their lives, and that their families and international organizations have classified as a settling of accounts by the repressive Cuban apparatus, 14ymedio speaks with Ofelia Acevedo, widow of Payá, former president of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL).

14ymedio: A few days ago the one year anniversary of the reopening of the embassies between the United States and Cuba was celebrated. Could we be closer to justice in the case of Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá? continue reading

Acevedo: The restoration of diplomatic relations has been good. It is clear that it is the Cuban government that does not continue the normal process that this rapprochement should take. On the other hand, justice is the most important step to achieve real change in the Cuban nation. To look forward in our country we need justice. The Christian tradition makes it very clear: if there is a recognition of the truth, there will be justice and forgiveness.

Once we have achieved justice we can talk about reconciliation between Cubans. We Cubans must seek it, starting by reclaiming our rights. This is a key step for the future. The greatest injustice is to deprive the Cuban people of our rights, because of this there has been so much misery and we have not progressed. Human rights are natural and inherent in the person. When we achieve justice we can build a new society, and for this it is important that this crime does not go unpunished.

14ymedio: How has the family faced the loss of your husband?

Acevedo: We are a very close family. We love each other very much and miss him so much. We live in our faith that sustains us. Our faith makes us believe that truth, justice and democracy are possible for our people. All of Oswaldo’s work is imbued with a great deal of hope, of Christian hope. That is what helps us go on in the midst of the adverse environment in which we sometimes live. Oswaldo believed greatly in the betterment of humanity and in the individual, as José Martí said. He looked for ways to give Cubans the tools to decide their future. He understood that change begins with the ability to decide. He affirmed that dialog is the only way to change Cuba, an unconditional dialog, one without exclusions and among all Cubans.

14ymedio: How do you perceive the Cuban opposition four years after the death of its most prestigious leader?

Acevedo: In Cuba there are probably more opponents than there were in Central Europe in 1989. The Cuban opposition has done a great job. We know that the government and intelligence services create moles, “construct” figures, infiltrate groups, defame and blackmail their opponents. This has existed and does exist, they are intransigents with those who don’t think like they do and who have the courage to raise their voice to express it. We Cubans who want changes have to think for ourselves and think about others, think about the Cuban people. We have to forget about egos and go where the people are to explain what are the steps for them to begin to demand their own rights, because they are the ones who should decide. We have to be with the people in this.

14ymedio: What happened to the Christian Liberation Movement after the death of Oswaldo Payá?

Acevedo: The movement received a very strong blow with the death of Oswaldo and Harold. Even before, the persecutions against them were very strong. It was the movement that had the most political prisoners and they were all exiled to Spain without the option to stay. At this time, within Cuba, the MCL is decimated, is my impression. The repression against them is very strong.

14ymedio: How was the experience of exile for your family? Will you return to Cuba?

Acevedo: My family never thought of going into exile. After Oswaldo’s murder I made the decision to go into exile for my children, because State Security was focused on my oldest son. They prevented my daughter Rosa María from starting work at a research center where she already had a place. I panicked and decided to leave because of “them” (State Security). Friends, neighbors, everyone was terrorized, because the whole world knew what had happened and that they enjoy total impunity.

I am working as a teacher and wondering when I can return to my country. I want to return to Cuba, but I hope that things improve because it costs me a lot to have to face them. My rejection of them is huge. I know I have to deal with them but it’s very difficult, because of what they are doing, what they did, how they have made my family and our people suffer.

The car in which Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá were killed four years ago
The car in which Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá were killed four years ago

Acevedo: The only meeting I had with them was a week after Oswaldo’s funeral. They called me in to ask if I was going to ask from compensation from Angel Carromero [the leader of the youth organization New Generations of the Popular Party of Madrid, who was driving the car in which Payá died and who was convicted of manslaughter). I told them I would not accept their version and I wanted to talk with the survivors. They never granted me that. The Cuban penal code does not give the victims a chance. My children were not allowed to attend the trial, which the regime had announced would be public. There was an immense repression in Bayamo [where the trial was held]. We could not carry out any legal action because a lawyer friend of the family said there was no chance to demand anything because of the criminal code.

I asked the government and the hospital for the autopsy report. They have never given it to me. I spoke to State Security, with Legal Medicine. Everyone told me that the hospital had to give me the report. The hospital administration, at six in the evening, after I did whatever paperwork was possible, told me to send it to them by mail and gave me a telephone number. The number didn’t work and we are still waiting on the autopsy. I wrote to the minister of Public Health. Rosa María tried to deliver a letter to the Cuban embassy, but they wouldn’t even let her enter the diplomatic site. Then we sent the letter in Cuba and we we had a receipt for it, but they have never answered.

14ymedio: What did Aron Modig (former leader of the Swedish Christian Democrat Party youth organization who was also in the car at the time of the crash) say about the day he Payá and Harold died?

Acevedo: Modig maintains his position. He doesn’t remember anything until reaching the hospital. It is a selective loss of memory. To me there are things that bother me sometimes in the media, because they talk about an accident, when we all know that it was a murder. A report by the international organization The Human Rights Foundation and another by physics professors at Florida International University demonstrated that it is impossible for [the crash] to have happened in the way the Cuban State says it did.

14ymedio: What legacy have Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá left?

Acevedo: The blood of freedom fighters is the seed of free men. This applies to Harold, Oswaldo, to all who have given their lives for human rights. The blood of innocent people, those who give their lives for others, is not spilled in vain. They crashed Oswaldo’s cars* when he was in the street. We keep fighting to give the Cuban people the possibility of deciding, which was Oswaldo’s fight as well. The Cuban government, in exchange, fights to destroy Cubans’ hopes.

*Translator’s note: There was a similar incident with another vehicle Oswaldo Payá was traveling in prior to the fatal crash.

See also:

Rosa Maria Paya’s Press Conference on the Crash That Killed Her Father and Harold Cepero

Angel Carromero Details Car Crash That Killed Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero

Interview with Rosa Maria Paya / Lilianne Ruiz, Rosa Maria Paya

The Political Legacy of Oswaldo Paya / 14ymedio

Human Rights Foundation suggests “Direct Responsibility of the Cuban Regime” in the death of Paya / 14ymedio

Carromero’s Courage / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Surprising Sentence for Angel Carromero for the Deaths of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero in a Car Crash / Yoani Sanchez

Roberta Jacobson Queries the Castros’ Crime / Rosa Maria Paya

Erdogan Unmasked / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Recep Tayyip Erdogan became president of Turkey in 2014 after eleven years as prime minister. (DC)
Recep Tayyip Erdogan became president of Turkey in 2014 after eleven years as prime minister. (DC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 22 July 2016 — Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken off the mask and let us witness the spectacle of his contorted and autocratic face. Last week’s failed coup d’etat has allowed him to unleash political persecution in Turkey. Now he rails against his opponents, decrees a state of emergency and suspends the European Convention on Human Rights. The sultan is out of control.

We are witnessing the moment when the serpent emerges from the egg, but we knew long ago it was incubating, its heart beating beneath the shell of an elected president. From playing at blackmailing the European Union with the refugee crisis and embracing other caudillos enthroned in power, in the style of Raul Castro, the red warning lights have been flashing all around Erdogan. continue reading

He just needed a justification. All he lacked was an argument with sufficient nationalist weight and the breath of a defensive gesture to show his true self. Now we contemplate the pure despot, without sweeteners. He no longer wants to pretend that he governs in a state of law. It suits his purpose that only one man is in charge of the situation.

With this turn of the authoritarian screw, the president of Turkey has betrayed those who elected him through the ballot box and the thousands of citizens who, just a few days ago, took to the streets to preserve the democratic order. None of them deserve this autocratic slap in the face.

Erdogan has ended up being worse than any coup, because he has broken the agreement. He used the attack on his person to arrest about 7,000 soldiers, accusing them of being linked to the coup attempt, and even publicly flirted with the idea of applying the death penalty, a punishment that is currently no longer in force in Turkey and that would prevent his country from becoming a part of the European Union.

The long arm of this unscrupulous authoritarian didn’t stop there, he has suspended 21,000 teachers from their jobs in private educational institutions. He has prohibited officials from traveling abroad and has withdrawn the broadcast licenses of 24 stations. A decision he justifies under the framework of an investigation to find the alleged collaborators and those involved in the failed coup.

Erdogan has taken advantage of the circumstances to request the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic preacher exiled in the United States whom he holds responsible for all his ills, including the recent coup attempt.

Meanwhile, official spokesmen say that the state of emergency would only last 40 or 45 days and not three months as initially announced by the president. They promise that the current situation is not synonymous with martial law and that citizens will not be affected. They even assure that parliament will continue to function, but the Turkey that tried to maintain its chequered democratic journey has been broken.

Erdogan plans to dismantle all the plurality that the transcontinental nation has achieved and reduce the opposition to a minimum. He wants Turkey only for himself: a country that he can manage as if it were the Ottoman Empire, as he has dreamed of his whole life.

One Hundred Workers From India Rush To Complete Hotel In Havana

The Manzana de Gomez Hotel building today. Source: Havana Times
The Manzana de Gomez Hotel building, originally opened in 1910, prior to its renovation. Source: Havana Times

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 21 July 2016 – Over 100 workers from India are working on the construction of the Manzana de Gomez hotel in Havana, being reconstructed by the French construction group Bouygues, according to Reuters. This is the first time there has been a massive contracting of foreign labor on the island.

The company resorted to the exception introduced by the Cuban government in the Foreign Investment Law, that authorizes “special regulations” with regards to foreign workers in “special circumstances.” continue reading

Apparently the delays experienced in the construction of the hotel, whose opening was scheduled for October 2016, in a context of high tourist demand, are the extraordinary reason, which has led to the contracting for these workers.

Although the government has not responded to questions fro Reuters, the workers interviewed by the agency and information confirmed by sources from the company, this appears to be the first time a company has passed over state workers on the island to hire their own from elsewhere.

A spokesman for the French Company, which it currently building three hotels in Cuba, says that Bouygues has plans to bring more Indian workers to the island, currently being trained, in the coming months.

Inderjeet Singh Chopra, one of the workers interviewed by Reuters, said more than a hundred of his compatriots are engaged on the island working as electricians, plumbers, carpenters and masons.

Similarly, a diplomat quoted by the agency, estimated that they are paying the Indians around 1,500 euros a month, more than ten times what a Cuban receives. “The Cuban workers are not well paid, so they have very little motivation,” he said.

A rendering of the rebuilt hotel. Source: San Cristobal UK Blog
A rendering of the hotel as it will look when it is rebuilt. Source: San Cristobal UK Blog

Travel, Whatever the Cost / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez

The "last minute" terminal in Havana for the purchase of interprovincial bus and train tickets. (14ymedio)
The “last minute” terminal in Havana for the purchase of interprovincial bus and train tickets. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 18 July 2016 – “Give me the suitcase, I’m off to the countryside,” says the chorus of a tune that gets more popular during the school holidays. Many families visit their relatives in rural areas, travel to tourist destinations in other provinces, or spend some days camping far from home. Interprovincial transport collapses with the high demand in July and August, while customers’ criticisms also intensify.

Under a roof of metal tiles that converts the place into a free sauna, hundreds of people are waiting this weekend to travel “last minute” or “on the waiting list” from the terminal on Puerto Avenue in Old Havana. Some of them no longer remember when they got there, because the hours have passed one after another, without hearing the good news that their number in line can board the next bus. continue reading

The expansive hall is a place where people spend a lot of time. Friendships are created there, some play cards and others take advantage of no one looking to have a sip of alcohol to help them forget the fatigue. The most impatient end up paying a private car to take them to their destination at ten times the price of the official ticket.

Iliana has worked there since they opened the new “last minute” terminal and knows that in these summer months the provinces most in demand are those in the east of the country. A situation that is repeated “at the end and beginning of the year, on some special dates such as Mother’s Day, school holiday weeks and summers.”

Near Iliana a woman dozes on a suitcase, a little boy cries because he’s hot and a furtive peanut seller manages to sell some of his merchandise. All are attentive to the monitors that announce the numbers on the waiting list that can board the next bus, but for several hours no vehicle “has seats.”

A murmur of discontent spreads among the passengers with the first numbers on the list of routes that are longest, to the east of the island. “That’s because the drivers themselves and the conductors resell free spaces before they get here,” complains a father with three kids.

The man asserts that the buses leave from the central Astro terminal, near the Plaza of the Revolution, and between there and the waiting list terminal
“the employees themselves sell the unoccupied seats, arriving at the terminal with only one or two, to be consistent with the formalities.” No other passengers join in the customer’s outraged complaint, some look at the floor and others fan themselves mechanically, their eyes glazed over.

The most prudent travelers are not at this location. They bought their tickets three months ago from the state interprovincial bus system, but such a decision takes a lot of forethought and quite a bit of risk. “I just had to be sure of getting to Morón after my wife confirmed she’d have a vacation from work,” said Raudel, who is from Ciego de Avila but has been living in Havana for the last two decades and this weekend is waiting at the “last minute” station.

Two young men in a corner of the hall decide not to wait any longer. “I’ll buy the ticket outside, because I have to be at my sister’s wedding in Palmarito del Cauto and if I don’t leave now I won’t get there in time,“ one of them tells several customers who are seated nearby. The young man will add to the 169 peso coast of a Santiago de Cuba some 15 convertible pesos – for a total of more than three times the official price – to get there.

“It won’t fail me,” he says, and he notes a connoisseur of the “mechanism” that makes things appear even when the blackboard says they’re out. “I pay and I get on the bus a few blocks from here,” he explains. “No one sees me and it’s just an agreement between the driver and me.”

Some have listened to the call to be careful. “The inspectors are everywhere,” warns a woman heading to Trinidad. There is a lot of surveillance, but it doesn’t fix the problems with transport, what they have to do is import more cars and lower the prices of the tickets which are too high,” she says.

In the recently concluded session of the National Assembly, the deputies criticized the constant violations in the itineraries in urban and interprovincial transport in the country. Also figuring into the debate were the corruption in the sale of tickets at some terminals, irregularities in the vehicle control stations, and the poor maintenance of the roads.

The deputies also mentioned the lack of comfort in the Yutong buses – from China – which operate on the interprovincial routes of the state company Astro, the lack of information for travelers, the disconnect between ticket prices and service, the overuse of the equipment and the poor cleaning standards. But this is only a distant echo for travelers who, lately, suffer firsthand the rigors of getting around the island.

Night begins to fall in the “last minute” terminal and some get comfortable in a corner planning to sleep on their luggage. “I do this twice a month, so this place is like my second home,” says a young woman who studies at the Higher Institute of Art. The rain sounds on the metal tiles and the loudspeaker emits the lucky numbers of those who will take the next bus.

“It Has Sparked Harsh Repression” / 14ymedio

A few months ago police stormed a children’s party being hosted by UNPACU. (Twitter)
A few months ago police stormed a children’s party being hosted by UNPACU. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 21 July 2106 — The harassment against the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) intensifies. Several activists of the opposition organization have denounced the up to five raids that took place in the early morning hours this Thursday.

Ovidio Martin Castellanos, a member of UNPACU’s Coordination Council in Santiago de Cuba, confirmed to 14ymedio that antiriot troops entered the home of Jose Maria Heredia, on 8th Street in the Mariano de la Torre neighborhood. “They mixed antiriot troops with the political police. At the front was a Major from counterintelligence who calls himself Bruno. Once inside the house, they seized and stole his possessions. continue reading

Carlos Amel Oliva, on hunger strike since last July 13 “to protest the arbitrary confiscations” experienced similar interventions to those of last night, also explained in detail the raid on the house where the Heredia cell is organized and where the father of the youth leader Carlose Oliva lives.

“The operation was led by three State Security officers known as Charles, Bruno and Julio Fonseca. The troops were assault troops, officers fully clothed in bullet-proof vests with long shotguns. They entered my house, tearing down the first door, and taking a video camera and some documents. They also went into the house of some neighbors who have shown a lot of solidarity with me in previous days and took a laptop and hard disk from them,” he said.

The operation was even extended to a kindergarten managed by UNPACU that serves 20 children, children of sympathizers of the movement. There they confiscated a laptop and “frightened the coordinator who cares for the children,” according to the activists, who were relieved that the raid occurred at dawn and that there were no children in the house.

“It has sparked a harsh repression,” says Ovidio Martin, who adds that at Yasmani Magaña’s house, in Palmarito de Cauto, various slogans were painted on the walls, including “Viva Fidel.” According to the opponent, eleven people were detained in this operation, driven approximately 10 miles away and beaten before being released far from town.

“This wave of repression comes because the regime knows the situation that is looming. They are preparing the population for a new Special Period, because people don’t want to live through that again. To us, we are determined to take to the streets and we have attracted their sympathy, and they have intensified harassment because they are afraid that people are joining and becoming activists,” he says.

Carlos Amel has taken advantage of the new wave of attacks against the organization he belongs to, to detail the reasons for his hunger strike. Despite being determined not to eat until they return his belongings, he clarifies the meaning of his words. “It is not [for] a laptop and a computer, they are things that are not worth the life of any human being, but because they arrest us when we go out. Or come into our homes and take whatever they want. This is a constant violation of our rights,” he denounces.

Oliva has shown his appreciation for the support he has received from his organization and other opposition groups such as Somos+ (We Are More) and FANTU (Anti-Totalitarian Forum), and in real solidarity with Guillermo ‘Coco’ Fariñas, on hunger strike as of this Wednesday.

“I am a little weak physically, but firm in my position,” says Oliva. “I have received many calls from abroad, from friends, from media… it is very comforting, for someone on a hunger strike this is the only source of strength.”

Fariñas Begins Hunger And Thirst Strike To Demand Dialogue With The Government / 14ymedio

Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas. (Wikicommons)
Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas. (Wikicommons)

14ymedio, Havana, 20 July 2016 — Guillermo Fariñas, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2010, has declared a hunger and thirst strike and as of dawn Wednesday to demand an end to the beatings of non-violent opponents in Cuba and that a dialogue be opened with government.

“It would be cynical of the Cuban government, which was a mediator in the dialog between the Colombian [FARC] guerillas and the authorities of that country, to be unable to sit down and dialog with a non-violent opposition to avoid these beatings and other outrages,” he said in a conversation with 14ymedio. continue reading

The opposition figure is asking Cuban president Raul Castro to “publically commit before national and international public opinion to cease these beatings, torture, death threats, the creation of false criminal charges against opponents, searching dissidents’ homes and confiscating the personal belongings of opponents,” and that the government “designate a vice president to meet with 12 prominent leaders of the internal opposition,” responsible for ensuring the end of the violence.

The announcement comes after Fariñas denounced, on Tuesday, a beating by police officers in Santa Clara, and would direct the Fifth Police Station to communicate with the Pinar del Rio Unit where a member of the Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU) – the group Fariñas coordinates – who was arrested last Thursday.

“I offered no resistance, but they still beat me, they threw me into a patrol car, they forcefully handcuffed me, and used a strangulation technique to drag me to the patio behind the Central Fire Station in Villa Clara,” he says. The opponent said that after being transferred to the Provincial Criminal Investigation Unit in Villa Clara, they left him “handcuffed and exposed to the sun” and officials from the Special Brigade continued to beat him. “They told that this was the rigor that they would apply if I went out into the street again, better I dedicate myself to writing, because they would kill me,” he says.

Fariñas also wrote a letter to Raul Castro, in which he says he was “tortured while handcuffed by members of the Special Brigade of the Ministry of the Interior in the province of Santa Clara.” In the missive, he emphasizes that his phenomenon forms a part of the “wave of abuses, terror and violence,” that he has unleashed against “the non-violent opposition, which civilly faces totalitarianism.”

Fariñas has undertaken many hunger strikes. In 2010 he received the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought after 135 day strike in protest against the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo and in a demand for better condition for 26 of the 75 prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring, who were suffering serious health problems. Finally, this strike and its media impact were decisive in the beginning of the process of negotiations that ended with the release of the 75 detained since March of 2013.

Guilty! / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

This summer, taxi drivers have become the government’s new public enemy. (14ymedio)
This summer, taxi drivers have become the government’s new public enemy. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 20 July 2106 – At the beginning of the year evil was incarnated in the intermediaries, who were blamed for the high food prices in the produce markets. At the end of 2013, the boogeymen were those who worked for themselves selling imported clothes and other merchandise. In February of this year the war against the pushcart vendors reached its height, and today the enemy drives a shared taxi, a person who in common parlance is called a “boatman.”

If there is anything that has characterized the Cuban system of the last 57 years it is its ability to find a scapegoat. When the agricultural plans are not met it is the fault of the drought, the indiscipline of the workers or the poor organization dictated by some low-ranking bureaucrat. If in times of heavy precipitation the water supply remains unstable in towns and cities it is because, “the rain is not falling where it should,” as was explained to us in recent statements by an official of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH). continue reading

Urban transport does not work well due to “vandalism” and because “the population doesn’t treat this equipment as it deserves,” they tell us. Meanwhile most road accidents are because of the “recklessness of the drivers,” and not because of the poor state of the roads and highways, the terrible signage or the inventive measures taken by drivers to keep their obsolete vehicles running.

The powers-that-be point their index fingers in all directions to accuse others, but never turn it back on themselves. From time to time, to display a certain tone of self-criticism, they come down on Communist Party members themselves, and accuse them of not voicing their opinions “in the right place and at the right time,” or they make some minister take the fall for the failed policies in the areas of public health, education or some other sector.

We citizens are the main culprits, according to what state television tells us, for the presence of the Aedes aegypti mosquito that, for years, has failed to yield to spraying or campaigns against it. Our homes are the “main foci” of the mosquito, they spit at us from the press, as if state and government entities were untainted redoubts of cleanliness and order.

Emigration is also among our sins, because we go in search of “siren songs” and let ourselves fall “into the hands of the coyotes,” declares the Castro regime’s discourse. In this script it is third parties who are always to blame; the migrants who protested in front of the Cuban embassy in Ecuador were ‘scoring points’ with the United States and some of them, once they are settled in our neighboring country to the north, will end up sending “illicit funds” to their relatives on the island to support a private business.

The easiest to find are the external enemies, like imperialism, “the criminal United States blockade,” the conspirators “from the Latin American right,” and even the “historic betrayal” of the old comrades of Eastern Europe. This scarecrow to install fear is accompanied by the demonized “counterrevolutionaries” in our own backyard, who are targeted by all the insults the rude government machinery has created over almost six decades.

If products are missing on market shelves, television reports accuse the “profiteers.” If a papaya has come to cost an entire day’s wages for a professional, it is “the fault of the unscrupulous” who want to “profit at the expense of the people,” or so they lecture us from the little screen. In this apportioning of blame we have all been placed in the center of the allegations.

Right now the government propaganda apparatus is taking on the drivers of shared taxis, but tomorrow it could be the proprietors of private restaurants, the teachers who offer private tutoring, or the water carriers who sell their precious commodity in neighborhoods where the pipes have run dry for weeks now.

There will always be an “evildoer,” an “irresponsible” or an “enemy” that keeps the system from working in all its great manual-guided humanity, its never demonstrated efficiency, or it supposed but still un-proven capacity to make Cubans happy.

But the strategy of blaming others, in waves and programmed installments, has a weak point. There comes a time when the culprits outnumber the accusers. There is a second in which, from this side, from the stigmatized, we agree with the rafters, the dissidents, the pushcart vendors, the self-employed, the taxi drivers, the ousted ministers and the vilified trinket sellers. At this point, where we have been for a long time now, we have every right to point our index fingers at the system that has condemned us to the perennial dock of the accused.

Hurricane Isidoro’s Victims Are Still Waiting / 14ymedio, Ricardo Fernandez

14 years after Carlos Lage’s promises, the victims of Hurricane Isidoro remain without their homes. (Ricardo Fernandez)
14 years after Carlos Lage’s promises, the victims of Hurricane Isidoro remain without their homes. (Ricardo Fernandez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ricardo Fernandez, Pinar del Rio, 19 July 2016 — “I pledge that very soon you will have your homes,” Carlos Lage Davila, vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers, said in 2002 to those who had lost everything and still today have not received what he promised.

Alexander Sanchez Villafranca, 33, was one of those affected by Hurricane Isidoro. “If I had listened to my mom and had cut down the mango tree, I would not be in this shelter. I never thought that the wind could pull it up by the roots,” he says. His home, at kilometer 1 in Santa Damiana, was reduced to rubble under the weight of the tree. He is among the 16 families living in shelters in Portilla in Rio Seco, in San Juan y Martinez municipality, as a result of Hurricanes Lili and Isidore. continue reading

The place, 19 kilometers from Pinar del Rio, had been a military unit of the Youth Labor Army (WCY), then in 1994 became a Battalion Task Force that housed those who came to support tobacco workers, and in 1995 it became a warehouse for oilcloth.

In 2002, after the hurricanes, they used it to receive the victims from Santa Damiana, Forteza and Rio Seco, who had no means to rebuild their own homes. Within a month of being there, they received a visit from Carlos Lage Davila, accompanied by former first secretary of the Party in the province, Maria del Carmen Concepcion, and other government and party officials.

At first, the mass organizations delivered lunch and dinner to residents, who were seen by a family doctor daily. Then-delegate Sergio Carrelegua visited them frequently and at meetings urged them to be patient and assured them that the promises would be fulfilled. “A few months later the attentions and promises disappeared,” recalls Sanchez, now married with a daughter of six who has known no other home. “Over time the roofs began to deteriorate and the solution from the delegate was to remove the roofs over the bathrooms and use them to replace the broken tiles over the bedrooms, so the toilets have no roof.”

The situation gets worse in the spring because of the rains, and for the elderly, whose health is delicate, dampness is a greater risk. “In the rainy season you have to do everything (even the physiological needs) in your bedroom,” says an old woman to illustrate the “hell” she is living in.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to the municipal government to demand that they help us, but they don’t do anything,” says Arelys Rodriguez, Sanchez’s wife, while showing off the poor hygienic-sanitary conditions of the outdoor bathrooms. “I have to carry water from the neighbors’ house, because the raised tanks are uncovered and are filled with decomposing frogs, bats and even pigeons. I’d die before I drank that water,” she says with disgust.

Sanchez talks about his effort in agriculture, the work he does as a laborer, hoping that a relative living in the United States will help get her out of the hostel and he can buy a house. Meanwhile, her little daughter Thalia flits around her. That little girl, with her innate curiosity and boundless naiveté, manages to help Sanchez forget for a moment the neglect and misery that surrounds her.

Havana Impedes Progress of Obama’s Policy Toward Cuba / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

 US president, Barack Obama, and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, in March of 2016 at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana. (White House)
US president, Barack Obama, and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, in March of 2016 at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana. (White House)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 18 July 2106 — Paradoxes of history: The United States and Cuba began a process of normalization of relations on 17 December 2014 and with the visit of President Barack Obama to Havana in March of 2016, aimed at expanding and deepening what has been achieved, came the counteroffensive of Fidel Castro to put on the brakes with his sarcastic Reflection column titled “Brother Obama.”

Since then, not only have they pushed the stop button on the process of rapprochement with the “main enemy,” difficult by nature, but they have increased the government’s repression against the opposition and those who think differently, and begun advancing positions against the reforms initiated and slowly developed since Raul Castro assumed power. continue reading

The clear moment of the halting of the process can be found in the Seventh Congress of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), which supported the statist-wage model as the axis of the economic system, and the only party as the base of the political system, while at the same time postponing the expected renewal of the ruling elite.

Documents of the “conceptualization” and the 2030 Plan reference the stagnation and recent speeches by Raul Castro and other deputies, calling for confronting the critical situation looming with more of the same. In the most recent session of the National Assembly, they unambiguously supported the anti-reformist course.

This doubling-down on state-socialism comes accompanied by the decline in the authoritarian wave Latin America, especially the crisis in Venezuela.

Meanwhile, there is the push and pull in the US Congress for and against the policy changes toward Cuba favored by Obama. More recently, in the House of Representatives, support has grown to not loosen the strings of the embargo-blockade thanks to the Cuban government’s open reaction against the new policy out of a fear that the rapprochement will end up giving control of Cuba’s economy and society to the United States, as if the “American Dream” did not already draw a great part of the island’s population.

In this sense, Mario Diaz-Balart, a member of the Appropriations Committee of the House, told El Nuevo Herald that “there is bipartisan support in the House to strengthen sanctions against the regime and reject the policy of appeasement of the dictatorship.”

However, the counter-reform is in open contradiction with the economic policy of the island Government that is trying to benefit from money coming and expected from the exchange with the US and especially its tourism, particularly now that the Government of Venezuela is less able to continue sending oil to Cuba.

Measures have already been announced that clearly recall the worst moments of the so-called Special Period, which never ended. They want to blame imperialism “for creating the crisis in oil prices and destabilizing the Bolivarian Revolution,” when nobody doubts the Party-Government-State’s opposition to undertaking real economic reforms, to making consequent progress in the relations with the United States and to relieving the pressures of the internal political environment.

With these policies, the Cuban government is contributing to consolidating the support in the United States Congress for not loosening the embargo, which is directly proportional to Havana’s policies in support of Fidel’s faithful, reaffirming a proclamation of isolation and “anti-imperialism,” while running like the devil from the cross in the face of rapprochement, dialog and exchange.

The latest battle between the two forces just took place when the Cuban government refused to allow the United States commission charged with reviewing the conditions of the island’s airports to enter the country, and when of a group of U.S. legislators presented a bill to block travel to Cuba until the necessary security norms are met.

The United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said it will not allow flights to Cuba until it is convinced that island airports are as safe as those of the rest of the world.

If anyone had doubts, this event is the latest evidence of how the Cuban government, while showing a negotiating face, in practice hinders any progress in the normalization of relations. But regardless of who is at fault for the new Special Period, for the lack of progress in relations, the failure of the tourism that would save us will surely be the fault of the United States “blockade.”

More UNPACU Activists on Hunger Strike / 14ymedio

The UNPACU) youth leader, Amel Carlos Oliva. (Center for Coexistence Studies)
The UNPACU) youth leader, Carlos Amel Oliva. (Center for Coexistence Studies)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 July 2016 — The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) reports at least twenty have been arrested in recent hours, after five activists, on Monday, joined the hunger strike started six days ago by the organization’s youth leader, Carlos Amel Oliva, to demand the return of two laptops, a cellphone and a removable hard disc confiscated by the police.

“The repression has been tough. Some 16 activists were arrested in Santiago de Cuba when they went to visit Oliva. The arrests were violent,” one of the opposition group’s coordinators, Ovidio Martin Castellanos, told 14ymedio. In addition to those arrested in the provincial capital, nine other people were intercepted in other areas of eastern Cuba, like Palmarito de Cauto, in the municipality of Mella. continue reading

Katherine Mojena Hernandez, wife of the youth leader and UNPACU member, said that Oliva is physically weakened, “but with the same fortitude with which he started the strike.” She added that the one who calls himself “Official Bruno” personally told Carlos Amel that “you are going to die of hunger” if he waits for his belongings to be returned.

Lazarus Curvelo Mejia, one of the Cubans who has been on hunger strike for four days, said he was willing to support the demand of Carlos Amel until the final consequences.

Among the five activists who have supported Oliva are two women, Zulma Lopez and Joanne Quesada.

The activist Yasmany Magaña from the province of Santiago de Cuba also joined.

UNPACU has denounced the increase in repressive actions against its organization, which it attributes to its growing membership throughout the island.

The group of hunger strikes, in addition to Oliva, includes Lazaro Curbelo Mejias, who has been on strike since the 15th of this month, Maikel Mediaceja Ramos, Zulma López Saldaña, Yoanna Quesada Masabeaux and Yasmani Magañana Díaz who have spent between 24 and 48 hours without eating.

Making a Living Off Coffee / 14ymedio, Ricardo Fernandez

Café Soler’s customers in Pinar del Rio. (14ymedio)
Café Soler’s customers in Pinar del Rio. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ricardo Fernandez, Pinar del Rio, 16 July 2016 — In the early morning hours insomniacs, travelers and night watchmen are surprised to find an ode to excellence in a cup of coffee.

At 3:00 in the morning the rush to prepare the nectar begins at the clinic on 27th of November Street between Maceo and Marti in Pinar del Rio, where Luis Armando Cabrera Soler lives. His wife, the doctor Madalina, helps him to organize the thermoses, bags and harnesses he uses in providing the service. Meanwhile, the guard working on the corner is seduced by the spreading aroma. continue reading

“I have a light on my cap so the customers don’t have to walk to the spotlight when they want to buy, but then I realized it worked as a kind of promotion,” said Luis, who started selling a thermos of coffee in June of 2013 and now has increased production fivefold. “I got the idea of varying the menu preparing cortadito from a taxi driver they call loco, because I saw it in Havana. Since then I added chocolate, cappuccino and café bombón. The chocolate intensifies the flavor of the coffee and the cappuccino follows the traditional standards, the bombóm (a mix of condensed milk, chocolate and coffee) leaves a pleasant taste in the mouth.

Without his having to hawk his products, the customers come to him. “The best advertising is the quality,” he says. “When it’s a large bill and I don’t have change I just give them a free coffee. I don’t lose money because I end up winning customers,” he says.

Luis does not mince words when he talks about the origin of the coffee he serves. “I sell 100% Café Soler,” he says, while showing us the logo he designed himself, “harvested by my family, roasted and steeped by me. I don’t have that many plants so I’m not forced to deliver the coffee [to the state]; but it’s enough for me for the year,” he says, referring to the parcel he owns in Sumidero in the municipality of Minas de Matahambre.

The state monopolies are the only legal buyers of the beans and to enforce that control there is a framework of laws that equate trafficking in coffee with crimes such as theft or illegal departures from the country.

The only legal way to market coffee is to buy it in the state’s Hard Currency Collection Stores and the high prices mean the business is not viable, so the self-employed generally turn to the informal market.

“The hardest thing to get is disposable cups. There is no place to buy them, I have to rely on the good will of neighbors and friends who bring them to me from abroad,” he comments, while serving coffee.

Cabrera worked as a buyer for the Pinar del Rio Fuel Company which belongs to the Ministry of Energy and Mines, work that, out of fear, he made compatible with selling coffee. “Many are afraid to trade a job for a business. I decided to take this step as long as the earnings are stable and the work shifts didn’t interfere with sales.”

With characteristic island humor and the amiability of someone who even lights the cigarettes of those who like to smoke while they drink their coffee, Cabrera knows how to relax the disaffected and cheer up the reticent. “What series bills do you want?” he jokes with someone who rejects coins in change. “My goal is to make the customer happy even with the change,” he says.

Generally sales end at 9:00 in the morning and then the preparations begin for the next day: roasting the coffee, grinding it, cleaning the thermoses with chlorine and washing the many towels used to wipe up the drips, removing the stains from the white coat he wears while selling and, finally, doing the accounts. This ends Luis Armando Cabrera’s day, and he does not repent becoming a small businessman.

 

Mariano Murillo, the Marked Card Up Raul Castro’s Sleeve/ 14ymedio Reinaldo Escobar

Mariano Murillo, former Minister of Economy and Planning
Mariano Murillo, former Minister of Economy and Planning

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 15 July 2016 — The ouster of Marino Murillo as head of the Ministry of Economy and Planning (MEP) raises the question of whether it was a fall into disgrace or an act of protection. An official statement said that Murillo would dedicate himself to the implementation of the Communist Party Guidelines and recognized his work as minister. The praise contrasts with the terrible results of the Cuban economy in the first half of this year and raises the question of whether Murillo’s removal, in reality, hides a promotion.

It is obvious that Cuba’s current situation is producing an important shuffling in the higher echelons of the government. The replacement of the first secretary of the Union of Young Communists, the untimely replacement of the Minister of Culture, and the departure of the head of Higher Education, have put the entire cabinet on notice at a time when even the official media speak of “the critical situation the country is experiencing.” continue reading

However, the “fall” of Murillo could also be interpreted as a strategy to distance him from blame for the disaster. What is more important: the management of the Ministry of Economy and Planning or the implementation of the Party guidelines? In the latter case, removing his ministerial portfolio would be a protective mantle placed over the former minister by Raul Castro himself. As if he wants to make people see that “if the economy is bad, it’s not Murillo’s fault.”

Why should he save Murillo? The answer to that question is in the future, at the end of 2017, when it will be made clear whose names will appear on the candidate list for the positions of president of the Councils of State and of Ministers, that Raul Castro will step down from in February of 2018, having come to the end of two consecutive terms.

If, finally, the current first vice president, Miguel Diaz Canel, replaces the General-President, the second echelon of these responsibilities would immediately become vacant. In a few more years, given the inevitable physical disappearance of the “historic generation,” a depleted quarry of cadres – lacking experience in power and also lacking prestige among the people – will have to take over in what will necessarily be a transition.

Since the high-level house cleaning that took place after Raul Castro took possession of the position of president, when Carlos Lage Davila, Felipe Perez Roque and Carlos Valenciaga, among other promising “younger sons,” were removed from their posts, the question of who will replace the current leaders has become more difficult to answer.

Sending Murillo out by the back door today, would be losing an unrecoverable card that has taken many years to develop. Compared with Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, the former Economy minister, he appears to be a reformer, a pragmatic politician who has spoken clearly about the need to produce wealth, and we have never heard him mention socialist emulation or moral encouragements as methods to boost production of material goods.

Murillo is a marked card which Raul Castro has kept up his sleeve all these years and he will not be discarded for the triviality of failing to deliver 50% growth in gross domestic product for this year. The so-called czar of reforms is the face that can give foreign investors confidence. Gone are the days when candidates for the throne had to make a show of their oratory, their imagination in creating new slogans or their histrionic capacity to show up for volunteer work.

Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, vice president of the Council of Ministers, has been named as a substitute for Marino Murillo in the MEP. His claim to fame is having convinced half of the world’s creditors to renegotiate the country’s foreign debt. Together they make a good match to try to save the shipwreck of a nation adrift.

If Murillo and Cabrisas are to steer the ship in one direction or another, they will have to conquer a faithless people and convince the Taliban that they are not betraying the legacy, or make them see that there is no choice but to start all over from the beginning.

A Phone Number for Cubans to Report Taxi Drivers Who Overcharge / 14ymedio

An almendrón at Fraternity Park in Havana. (14ymedio)
An almendrón at Fraternity Park in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 June 2016 — The Directorate General of Transportation has taken a further step to freeze the fares for private transportation in Havana. Price controls take effect this coming Monday, and a phone number – 18820 – has been established for customers to denounce boteros (“boatmen” as the drivers are popularly called) who raise prices on the passengers, according to the official press.

Drivers who violate the prices agreed by the state entity will be penalized by the confiscation of their licenses to work as self-employed. A measure that has begun to raise complaints among the private drivers of passengers transport. continue reading

This Saturday, around Fraternity Park, one of the starting points of the so-called “almendrones,” opinions were being voices about the price controls. Some drovers said that they wouldn’t drive on Monday, a way to pressure the government to withdraw the measure.

“I am going to take this opportunity to do some repairs on the car and wait to see what happens with all this madness,” Luis Tamayo, driver car model popularly known as a pisi-corre (station wagon), told 14ymedio. However, the man also clarified that no agreement has been reached among those affected. “No, it’s not about a strike, but we will wait until everything calms down,” he emphasized.

The driver fears that the telephone number for complaints will be used “ to take on people who haven’t committed any violation. Anyone who has something against me, could call this command post and end by ability to make a living,” he explains.

The Provincial Director of Transportation in Havana, José Conesa González, said in a press conference, that a process of written notice to all carriers and their assistants has begun. In the document it states that prices are not to be increased higher than those “referenced as of 30 June of the current year.”

However, the drivers allege an increase in the price of fuel in the informal market, due to the cuts in the oil supply of state entities from where it is diverted to the illegal networks. The cost of a liter of fuel bought “under the table” has risen from 8 to 15 Cuban pesos (CUPs). The gas stations sell it for more (1 Cuban convertible peso, the equivalent of 24 Cuban pesos), and to few of the drivers buy it in the state service stations.

“The government has failed us all these years because it has not facilitated a wholesale price to buy oil or gasoline,” the driver a jeep who drives the route to Alamar, to the east fo the city, said on Saturday outside the capitol building.

The acting vice president of the Monitoring and Control Activity, Isabel Hamze Ruiz, said at an emergency meeting that conditions “have not changed” to justify an increase in the cost of transport and that the price of fuel is “stabilized” in the country. Nor have the fees and taxes paid by the self-employed varied, according to the official.

Customers are torn between satisfaction and alarm at the capped prices. “It will happen like it did with pork and other foods, they capped the prices and now you have to get up at the crack of dawn to get anything,” Miriam, a mother of two, complained this morning while waiting for an almendrón near the Computer Palace.

In a call to the new phone number to report drivers who violate the rules, this newspaper’s newsroom was able to confirm that it is already in service and works around the clock.