The Police Removed the Poor From the Streets of Cienfuegos During the Visit of Diaz-Canel

The authorities of Cienfuegos wanted to prevent the poor from “wandering” in the city during the visit of Miguel Díaz-Canel. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Justo Mora / Mario J. Pentón, Cienfuegos / Miami, 19 January 2019 – More than twenty beggars and elderly people were picked up by the police in the streets of Cienfuegos and sent to the Psychiatric Hospital. The authorities wanted to prevent those poor people from “wandering” in the city during Thursday’s visit by the Head of State, Miguel Díaz-Canel.

Various testimonies collected by 14ymedio in Cienfuegos gave an account of the “cleaning” done by the forces of order with a bus that picked up the elderly who were on the Boulevard and other central zones of the city.

“My aunt was picked up on Wednesday, they manhandled and beat her, she still has a bandage on her leg and bruises on her face and mouth. Osniel Gómez, a policeman on the Boulevard, told me that the round up was due to the arrival of Díaz-Canel,” Martha Galán Cañizares, niece of Natividad Cañizares, reported by telephone. continue reading

Galán said her aunt appeared drugged when she picked her up at the psychiatric hospital in Cienfuegos. According to her, nobody could tell her who was responsible for the old woman’s injuries.

“My aunt raised me since I was a baby. Imagine the amount of medication they gave her that she did not even recognize me. When I told these things to the police they wanted to arrest me,” the woman added.

Although she thought about staying in front of the headquarters of the Communist Party to show Diaz-Canel what had happened to her aunt, Galán feared for the consequences.

“My fear is that afterwards they will continue harassing her. My aunt does not get involved with anyone. She is well mentally, the only thing is that she likes to walk around the city and while she is healthy I think she should do it,” she said.

Díaz-Canel visited Cienfuegos last Thursday as part of a tour that has taken him to several provinces in the country. The media presence of the president, appointed by Raúl Castro in April 2018, has grown exponentially. He visited the glucose factory, the university, the provincial hospital and the amusement park, as well as holding a meeting with the principal leaders of the region.

The social networks publish more and more photos and videos of Diaz-Canel strolling through the streets of the  major cities and small peasant villages, where people approach him to pose problems of all kinds.

“Every time a high-level visit comes, the police and the Ministry of Public Health pick up the dirty-looking people who roam the streets and take them to the Psychiatric Hospital,” says a source at the Municipal Social Security Directorate who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.

“The worst of it all is that they pick them up for a few days and then release them again on the streets without any type of asistance,” he added.

According to the same source, during Díaz-Canel’s visit at least twenty beggars and “wanderers” were picked up.

Arelys Silva, who lives in the vicinity of the Calzada de Dolores, one of the city’s main arteries, is “outraged” by the abuse of the beggars.

“Everybody knows that they take advantage of the fact those people have no one to defend them and they commit all sorts of injustices against them.” Since the arrival of Díaz-Canel, the entire scene was set up to show that things are all wonderful. These people live in a lie,” she said.

Silva says she is still waiting for Díaz-Canel to “bring back the quality” of the flour with which they are making bread or to change the filters of the city aqueduct so that the water does not arrive “with a chocolate color”.

“We have lived through decades of promises and calls for resistance but we continue with the ration book and ’eating chicken for fish’*,” she lamented.

Odalis Acea, a self-employed worker, recognized that with the arrival of Díaz-Canel, transportation and garbage collection had improved. “Even bus route 5 to Tulipán is passing by regularly, but when the president gets on his helicopter, all will revert to how it was before.”

*Translator’s note: “Eating chicken for fish” is a widespread complaint about the rationing system. Cubans can buy limited foods through their ration booklets at very low prices. The allocation is supposed to include fish but, as it almost never does, chicken is substituted. There is no explanation for why, on an island surrounded by water, fish is never available.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Residents of a Building in Havana Rebel Against Noise Aggressions

The more than two million residents of the capital city can seldom enjoy peace and silence. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 11 January 2019 — The music in the bus is deafening, the screeching noises from an illegal autorepair shop leak out through the windows of one building, and in another block the screams from a kids’ playground don’t leave the neighbors any peace. Havana is a shrill city and not even the complaints of the victims or the legal regulations manage to put the breaks on so much noice.

Despite legislation that prohibits “producing sounds, noises, smells, vibrations and other physical factors that affect or may affect human health,” the more than two million residents of the capital can seldom enjoy peace and the silence. The noise pollution is everywhere. continue reading

“When I want some quiet I leave the city because here, when it’s not cars, it’s loud music or shouting,” 14ymedio hears from Manuel, 44, who lives in Havana and has a small yoga studio in his home. “Sometimes I can not concentrate and I have to go to the Botanical Garden to be calmer.”

Manuel feels “fortunate” that his building on Marino Street, in the Plaza de la Revolución municipality, “is not one of the noisiest.” Luck that is not shared by the residents of N Street between 23 and 25, who have been engaged in a tough legal battle for years to move an amusement park which is right under their windows.

After several complaints at different times and reporting the din from the play area on social networks, the neighbors of that building decided to make their anger visible and hung a cloth outside one or the windows where their demand can be read: “On this Boulevard, capital [i.e. money] matters more than the welfare of the community, enough is enough!” says the message that is visible from the street.

“On this Boulevard, capital [i.e. money] matters more than the welfare of the community, enough is enough!” (14ymedio)

The building adjoins the so-called Boulevard D’25, an old state parking structure for vehicles converted into an area for renting spaces to self-employed workers. The building houses cafes, restaurants and craft shops, but the main attraction is an area with huge inflatable devices for children.

The area fills up on weekends, due to the few recreational options for small children in the area. “That’s when the problems begin because there is very little distance between the games and the nearest building,” a neighbor from the area who preferred anonymity told this newspaper. “It was a bad idea to install that amusement park there,” she says.

In the official press the problem of noise in the streets and buildings is frequently addressed, but most of the time citizens are held responsible. Criticisms of state entities that generate this type of environmental pollution are rarely addressed in newspapers or on national television.

The neighbors of N Street between 23 and 25 have been engaged in a tough legal battle for years to move a children’s amusement park installed next to their windows. (14ymedio)

Liane Cossío, one of the neighbors of the building, reported on the Facebook page for Neighbors of La Rampa — specifically created to denounce this type of situation — that about a year ago, “after much waiting in vain for an answer from the Government,” the neighbors of the building affected by the noise went to the management of the Department of Supervision and Control to complain.

The person they spoke to was direct: “If that park were in the courtyard of a house, we would have removed owner’s license after the first complaint from the neighbors,” but “is there with a permit from the Government and we do not have any way of telling the Government that is badly located.”

However, the insistence of those affected was almost about to pay off. An employee of the playground told 14ymedio that last June “the order to came to collect all the apparatuses for children.” Something she regretted because it is the time of the year when the most profits are made, however, as of December it is open again.

Elsewhere in the city, a park in the Playa municipality near the Casa de la Música, means the closest residents suffer the same sound attacks. A Wi-Fi hotspot has been operating in the park for a couple of years and now dozens of customers come every day to connect to the internet.

“This boulevard violates (among other things) our right to live in peace” (14ymedio)

“Even very late at night there are people who come with portable speakers and turn them on at full volume,” says Rosendo, a retiree who lives across from the once “quiet park.” “Sometimes people also come out with a few drinks from the Casa de la Música and sit on a bench to sing and shout all night.”

Such behavior can result in the offenders being fined up to 200 pesos, but Rosendo complains that when the police number is called to report shouting or the volume of a loudspeaker “they rarely send a patrol out to control the situation.”

Between January and March of last year more than 13,700 “noise promoters” were fined as part of a government strategy to reduce the high levels of noise pollution, but the problem is so widespread that it barely served to lessen it.

The residents of Rosendo have devised a strategy to get the police to come when they call for noise: they complain that some individuals are shouting slogans against the Government. “When we say that, they immediately send several police officers.” But most of the time “the speakers blare until dawn,” he laments.

Experts say that the human ear is prepared to “receive sounds from nature which are rarely recorded any louder than 60 decibels,” but in Havana noise levels are reached that not only affect the auditory system, but can also be the cause other diseases.

Excessive noise is associated with an increased risk of heart attack, as well as with other symptoms such as ringing in the ears, hearing fatigue, dizziness and stress. The World Health Organization reports that noise above 80 dB increases the aggressive behavior of individuals.

Although Havana resonates in all corners at almost at any time of the day, the most frequent schedule for these infractions is “the evening and late night, and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, consistent with people’s times of rest,” according to a official report. Rosendo knows this well: “Here you can not sleep through the night,” he says.

During the day, the pensioner gives a nod from the doorway of his house, while a few yards away some teenagers hum the latest reggaeton accompanied by a powerful wireless speaker about 15 inches high.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Hundreds of Cubans will Meet with Pope Francis in Panama

The Cubans who are departing for  Panama World Youth Day are children of a generation that, for decades, could not show their faith in public. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Bertha K. Guillén, Candelaria, 18 January 2019 — This Saturday is the day that Jorge has waited for months. Tomorrow he leaves for Panama along with 470 other Cuban Catholics to attend along with Pope Francis the triennial meeting of the World Youth Day (WYD).

It is the island’s largest delegation in the history of the event, which takes place between January 22 and 27, and for the first time, Cuban pilgrims are assuming their own transportation and lodging expenses. In the past, the parishes of the Island covered those expenses and that is why the Cuban delegations were small. continue reading

Jorge sold an electronic tablet and some household goods to gather the $640 that the trip costs. He has also received help from his parents, who make their living renting a house to tourists. With this amount, the youth can buy a packet of accommodation, food and insurance (at a cost of $250), while the other $390 will defray the cost of the plane ticket.

“I was a minor when the Pope visited Brazil in 2013 and I could not travel at that time, in addition there weren’t any meetings in the parishes so that those interested could pay for the trip,” Jorge tells 14ymedio.

The interest expressed by young people to attend the World Youth Day was so wide, according to parishioners from several parishes of Artemisa and Pinar del Río, that the ecclesiastical authorities decided to make a call for self-financing of the trip to all those who would like to participate.

The consular paperwork was handled through the diocesan board of Pastoral Youth. “That helped a lot because the Panamanian embassy in Havana is very complicated, the line is long and the resellers (Cubans who travel to other countries to buy goods and then resell them back in Cuba) offer more than 300 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos, roughly $300 US) for a place in the line in the informal market,” says Ismael, another pilgrim who has joined the trip.

Ismael’s parents look forward to the presence of their son in Panama. Growing up under the strict atheism of the 70s in Cuba, both professionals began to show their religious faith in public when, in 1991, the Communist Party allowed membership to believers. “They dreamed of something that now I can finally do,” says the son.

Many of those who travel to Panama this Saturday are children of a generation “that could not be baptized or married by the Church,” says Ismael. “Those people had to hide the crucifix and religious images and that is why now they have encouraged and supported the young people so they do not let their religion be taken away and carry it with pride”.

To join the delegation it was necessary to fulfill the requirements of the parish, such as having an active and sacramental life and providing a letter of approval from the parish priest or another religious figure of the community.

In all the parishes of the country, young people were advised to count on having additional funds for any unforeseen event. More than 60% of those interested in the trip arranged for private funds or received help from the religious community and from parishioners who collected money so they could fulfill their dream.

“Paying for our tickets has been a challenge, in which our priest have had the principal role. Most of us are students, so we have appealed to the generosity of priests, nuns and people of good will who live outside of Cuba.” explained to this newspaper a young man from Candelaria, in the province of Artemisa.

The Candelarian has many expectations for World Youth Day, an event founded in 1985 by Pope John Paul II that has become the biggest celebration of young Catholics. “It is also a place to compare our realities, to learn other ways of living the faith and above all to fill ourselves with hope,” he says.

In Panama, they will participate in meetings with Pope Francis. “Since last October we have had formative meetings in the parishes to be in tune with the world’s youth,” explains Mónica Rodríguez, a young woman from Santiago. “It is a great responsibility to represent Cubans who are unable to go on the journey and convey the true reality of our country.”

In Cuba there will also be a digital broadcast via Facebook. “We are enabling sites in order to experience the most important moments of the journey via the Internet”, explains David Yanes. “It is the first time that we are directly connected and we are going to take advantage of it”.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Clogged Toilets, Without Water, Filthy and Broken: The Bathrooms in a Havana School

Parents regret that their children must try to get through the entire school day without relieving themselves because of the filth in the bathrooms. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 January 2019 — Tired of raising the problem year after year, parents of students enrolled in the José Luis Arruñada school, in Havana, decided to report on social networks and other channels the unfortunate situation of the bathrooms. Clogged, without water, filthy and broken, the sanitary services are one of the many problems of the educational center.

For years the principal of La Arruñada, as the school is popularly known, asked for patience and a vote of confidence to repair the breaks that had toilets, sinks and urinals. But the justifications and promises accumulated without the solution appearing and the parents have had to finance cleanings and quick repairs, without the situation improving in the long term. continue reading

The school, which serves elementary and secondary students, has been deteriorating in the last six decades. It went from being a school run by the Catholic Brothers of La Salle to being part of the state network administered by the Ministry of Education. In all this time the large property, which occupies an entire block, has barely benefited from some paint and new school furniture. Two years ago they replaced the old pipes with new plastic ones, but that did not solve the problem either and the problems of clogged plumbing continued.

“How am I going to demand that my son wash his hands before eating if there is no water in the bathrooms and the sinks are all broken?” a mother asked at the last parent meeting held at the school last Tuesday. The question floated in the air, until another voice complained that her daughter “gets home every day of the school bursting” with the desire to urinate because during the eight hours that she spends in the classroom she does not dare to go to the toilets.

“Here there is always a story to justify things, but in the meantime the children are the ones who have to endure all day with the desire to relieve themselves because of the filth in those bathrooms,” the voice said with a hint of weariness, after waiting for many years an improvement.

Of the two bathrooms available for fourth, fifth and sixth grade, there is only one that works, and that badly. In the others, the colors of the old tiles of the floor can barely be made out because of the dirt, the toilets are clogged, and the doors of each cubicle were long ago were torn out and stolen.

Now, for the first time in decades, the images of deterioration and neglect come to light in social networks, but at least three generations of students have endured the stench that accumulates between those walls.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Wifi and Home Internet Service Restored in Cuba After Nationwide Outage

From early hours of Monday, the Wi-Fi zones and the connection from Nauta Hogar throughout the country are out of service. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 January 2019 — After an interruption that lasted more than six hours and affected the entire country, the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (Etecsa) restored the Wi-Fi service in public areas as well as “Nauta Hogar,” the company’s home internet service.

From the early hours of Monday, the Wi-Fi zones and Nauta Hogar connections throughout the country were out of service due to a technical “interruption.” Internet users could not access web browsing from their homes or in the public wireless areas, as confirmed by an Etecsa operator. continue reading

“Our specialists are already working to solve this problem,” added the employee of the state telecommunications monopoly, but she did not specify when the service will be restored. Internet access from mobile phones is not affected by the breakdown.

“There is no electricity, no Wi-Fi in the parks, no Nauta Hogar,” activist Iliana Hernández reported on her Facebook account. Similar testimonies have been published on social networks by users from other areas of the country.

Although customers can manage to capture the Wi-Fi signal distributed by Etecsa antennas in the wireless navigation zones, they can not sign on from the service’s user portal.

This time Etecsa did not issue a statement on its website or on its social networks to explain to its customers the nature of the problem.

This newspaper was able to verify that there were also difficulties when it came to reloading credit on cell phone or Nauta accounts through the Transfermovil application.

In 2015, the first Wi-Fi zones began to be installed in squares and parks on the Island and, by the end of 2018, there were 830. In addition, some 40,000 users (out of a population of over 11 million) are connected to the Internet in their homes, through Nauta Hogar.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Havana Receives an Order of 89 Chinese Buses to Shore Up Public Transport

The vehicles from the Chinese company Yutong are hybrids, which allows the reduction of polluting emissions. (ACN)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, 17 January 2019 — A batch of 89 buses from China arrived in Havana on Wednesday to reinforce public transport in the capital, which has been running a chronic deficit for many years, state media reported.

The buses from the Chinese company Yutong, were acquired through an agreement between the Ministries of Transport and the Economy and Planning and their counterparts in China, in order to progressively modernize the passenger transport fleet, according to information reported on the television news. continue reading

The news also reported that transport authorities said that the loan for this investment amounted to 16 million dollars, which is to be paid to the Chinese entities over a period not greater than 24 months.

Of the total of vehicles purchased, 50 are articulated and 39 are hybrids (running on both diesel and electricity), so they reduce the use of fuels.

Four Havana bus terminals will incorporate the new Chinese vehicles in the coming weeks to serve bus routes in Havana, where people take 1.2 million trips a day, 1.1 million of them in 7,600 bus trips, according to data from the provincial company of the sector.

At the end of 2018, Havana had about 700 buses in operation in the public transport system, distributed across 126 routes, a figure well below what is needed to meet the demand.

The alternative has been the private transport companies — mostly owners of almendrones* — but in recent months the licenses of more than 2,000 autonomous drivers of these shared fixed-route taxis have been revoked, according to the authorities, due to technical deficiencies, which has reduced the number of these vehicles in service.

*Translator’s note: “Almendrones” is a reference to the “almond” shape of the classic American cars of the 1950s (or even earlier) which are commonly used for this service. The drivers operate shared fixed route service, and fares are based on a zone system. See also: If you strike we will confiscate your car.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The "Deserters" of Mais Medicos Program Ask to Remain in Their Positions While Their Qualifications are Validated

Cuban professionals arriving in Brazil at the beginning of the Mais Médicos program.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 16, 2019 — Yury Leydi Durán Sánchez, a Cuban doctor who worked in the Mais Médicos program in Brazil and decided to remain in the country after Havana’s break with its agreement with Brasilia, has written an open letter to president Jair Bolsonaro to ask that he permit the return of her and her colleagues to the health system pending the validation exam.

“I believe that we have sufficient training to fulfill the ’more health’ program, this time with a just remuneration and without chains or bonds of slavery, until the relevant exams are done,” she argues in the missive. continue reading

The doctor, who says she speaks in the name of more than 2,000 doctors who decided not to return to Cuba, reminds that the Island’s professionals who have participated in Mais Médicos since 2013 have fulfilled the requirements that were asked of them upon joining.

These, she reviews in the letter, were to be certified in comprehensive general medicine, have international experience in two countries, basic knowledge of two courses of Portuguese, complete the welcome program, and proven knowledge of Brazilian health protocols, in addition to participating in a specialization course with a thesis and final exam. Added to this, she highlights, they had to be residents of Cuba, something that excluded “deserters” (as Havana describes them) from previous missions.

Durán Sánchez asks that, based on fulfillment of these requirements and the experience they accumulated serving in the remotest areas of the Amazon, they be permitted to continue working as before and refers to the norms of other countries that facilitate similar situations.

One such situation is that of Chile and Peru, “which agree to the authorized doctors working for a year under supervision until the validation exam is carried out.” Another case is that of Spain, which allows doctors who are pending authorization in their specialties to work in primary care.

The doctor appeals in her missive to the Brazilian people and to Bolsonaro himself, whom she personally flatters on several occasions. “Never before has a people, and much less a president, had the courage, like you and your people had, to defend our rights. And for that reason we are eternally grateful,” she maintains.

Additionally, she accuses the Government of Havana of taking away their certifications to punish them. “The Ministry of Health which once validated and authorized our documents, recognizes that…we are denied any certificate of our profession, to keep us that way, our hands muzzled and our freedom taken away.”

The letter has been shared on the Facebook page of the Associação de Cubanos Livres no Brasil (Association of Free Cubans in Brazil), which has worked since October 2017 to demand the rights it considers violated by the Cuban Government.

The doctors who did not return to the Island after the official call are sanctioned with the loss of their salary in national currency (CUP) that was accumulating in a bank account in Cuba and additionally with a penalty of eight years without being able to enter Cuba.

According to statements from Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel, 836 doctors did not return to Cuba out of the 8,471 professionals who were in Brazil participating in the Mais Médicos program.

 Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Tens Of Thousands Of Cubans Abroad Don’t Know If They Will Be Able To Vote

At this point it’s still not clear in what conditions voters who are abroad will be able to vote, or even if they will be able to. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, January 17, 2019 — In a country with a high number of emigrants who have a vital influence in the support of their families on the Island, it’s inevitable to ask if Cubans who live or are temporarily abroad will have the right to vote in the February 24 referendum, a question that official institutions have not yet cleared up.

Per the effects of the country’s current migratory policy, there are three forms in which Cubans can find themselves abroad: those fulfilling an official mission, those who find themselves outside on a temporary basis for personal reasons, or those who, after remaining more than 24 months abroad, are no longer considered permanent residents of national territory. continue reading

The current Electoral Law only mentions the possibility of opening polling places abroad regarding referendums, but it doesn’t specify who will have the right to vote. The issue is a law preceding the migratory changes of 2013 that doesn’t consider the current diversity because it was conceived at a moment in which there were only two forms of being abroad: as “scum” with a permanent departure, without the right to vote, or on an official mission (athlete, merchant marine, and diplomatic).

Faced with the questions arising in the new circumstances, authorities have not helped to clear up what procedure will be followed in this case. Recently Ernesto Soberón, director of Consular Affairs and Cuban Residents Abroad of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, published on his Twitter account a “clarification” that, instead of providing answers, has sown greater confusion.

The official assured that “all Cuban citizens above age 16 — in full enjoyment of their political rights and who are not included in the exceptions anticipated by the Constitution and the Law — who find themselves abroad, will be able to exercise their right to vote in #Cuba this February 24.” But his statement violates the laws of physics, since if those individuals are abroad it is impossible that they be “in” Cuba for the date of the referendum.

All Cuban citizens above age 16 — in full enjoyment of their political rights and who are not included in the exceptions anticipated by the Constitution and the Law — who find themselves abroad, will be able to exercise their right to vote in #Cuba this February 24 #SomosCuba (#WeAreCuba)

-Ernesto Soberón (@SoberonGuzman) January 15, 2019

The question is greater with those citizens who are temporarily and for personal reasons outside the Island, a figure that could reach hundreds of thousands of individuals if those who left the country after February 24, 2017 and haven’t yet returned are counted. In the case of those who have been abroad for more than 24 months, the current electoral law does not recognize their right to vote in any circumstance and it is unlikely that the Government will make short-term changes to expand their rights.

So far, Cubans who have been temporarily abroad have not been able to cast a vote to elect their district representative. Something that is understandable, since it would be necessary for consulates to handle hundreds of different ballots representing all the districts of those voters. Something similar happens with the elections for members of Parliament, given that the list of around 600 candidates is broken up into municipalities and electoral colleges from all over the country.

However, with the referendum everything changes, while it is the same question for the participants. Additionally, article 164 of the Electoral Law establishes that the National Electoral Commission, in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, must arrange “what is necessary to guarantee the casting of votes by voters who find themselves outside of national territory” the day that the election is held.

Precedents of Cubans participating in the constitutional referendum of 1976 only include, without a lot of precision in numbers, the votes that were cast in Angola, organized by the respective political sections of the military units which, at that time, were fulfilling “international missions.” They even ended up opening special ballot boxes on February 15, 1976 on the ships filled with soldiers headed for Africa.

This week the Government has announced that it will carry out a similar process with Cubans who are fulfilling medical and professional missions in Venezuela and one can hope that the initiative will be repeated in those countries where there are numerous delegations of nationals sent by the Government.

But authorities still haven’t publicized the procedure that those other Cubans who do not belong to official missions will have to fulfill in order to participate in the referendum without being bodily present in the national territory. If the Plaza of the Revolution intends for the process to enjoy a greater legitimacy, it must promote and facilitate that participation, especially that of those who have been abroad for less than 24 months.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs must avoid spreading confusing information that tends to discourage participation, and must detail, without ambiguity, how the rights of those Cubans who are temporarily outside the country will be recognized. Time is passing, and at almost a month until the referendum, any hold-up conspires against their participation and any delay is a violation of the Electoral Law.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

No, No, and No!

The definitive text of the new Constitution of the Republic of Cuba will go to a referendum on February 24. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luis Tornés Aguililla, Fort Worth | January 17, 2019 — Deep down, this Cuba will have been an intellectual aberration. I say that thinking about my long conversations in Berlin with German friends who lived 40 years of bitterness in the forever defunct German Democratic Republic (GDR).

They spent those four decades asking the only question that at that time seemed rational: “How is it possible that we can stand so much humiliation?” When the Wall fell, the odious mask of the freedom destroyers also fell, along with the pathetic mask of those who accommodated them, some more and others less, in order to survive in that inquisitorial hell. That collapsed in the blink of an eye. continue reading

In Cuba, ’the armed band’, ’the firm’, ’the little group’ or whatever they want to call themselves, at the end, will be defeated because it failed in every order and because the dialectic of any absolute power slides it toward the abyss by its own weight.

Cubans must take advantage of the referendum that the regime is organizing in February to send a clear message, even though we already know that the trap is set and well set. In such a way that “the inflamed majority of the revolutionary people will vote Yes.”

A massive No will be a strong signal to the terrified halberdiers who, within the same Castroist system, understand that the country is sinking at the hands of a small group of individuals intending not to answer for themselves in the face of that history that will absorb and forget them in a mix of hate and horror.

We know, it always happens that way, that practically all of the personal destinies of the vitrified pontiffs of the Soviet bloc countries disappeared from the world without weapons nor ammunition, if there were exceptions, they were those who were able to sell something to the enemy.

Cubans, vote NO! in the February referendum.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cubans Abroad will March for Their Rights and the "No" Vote in the Constitutional Referendum

Several organizations of Cubans living in other countries have decided to embrace the call to protest at the diplomatic offices in the countries where they live. (Youtube)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 16, 2019 — A group of Cuban opponents, including Eliécer Ávila, have convened a march for Saturday, January 26, in front of the Cuban embassy in Washington to request a No vote in the constitutional referendum of this coming February 24th. Several organizations of Cubans living in other countries have decided to embrace the call to protest at the diplomatic offices of the countries where they live.

The organizers believe that it is important to “send a loud and clear message (…) with sufficient time in advance about the need to vote No in the upcoming constitutional referendum” Ávila explains to 14ymedio. continue reading

It is not the only demand of the call for a public protest with the motto Protest for all the prohibitions, which attempts to reclaim the freedom of entry and exit to/from the Island “without restrictions, nor black lists.” In addition, the organizers demand “having a passport at an accessible price for all,” dignified treatment in the ports and airports, and the right of Cubans to invest in Cuba with full legal guarantees. Under current law foreigners can invest in Cuba but Cubans cannot.

Added to this list are the petitions for several political rights such as the right of Cubans abroad to vote in all elections and popular consultations that take place in Cuba, the direct vote for the Presidency of the Republic and the claim for a plural and democratic constituent process, in which a Constitution is written that represents, protects and inspires all Cubans.

The call to gather was created by Lucio Enriquez Nodarse and, according to Ávila, has two fundamental slogans: #YoVotoNo (IVoteNo)and #NoMásProhibidos (NoMoreProhibitions). Although the day chosen for the rally was January 28, the anniversary of José Martí’s birth, it was moved to the 26th which is on the weekend. “The birth of the Cuban apostle who dedicated his life to uniting his people seemed inspiring to us to conduct the protest,” he explained.

Some Cubans living in Europe have organized an encounter at the Cuban Consulate in Madrid and another in front of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Eliécer Ávila introduced on his Facebook profile two of the young Cubans who will be “volunteers” organizing the marches: Osneir Fonseca in Santiago de Chile in South America, and Grette León in Europe.

Ávila points out that the invitation is aimed above all to Cubans themselves in order to “gain self-confidence and raise morale in a struggle that sometimes requires injections of energy.” The event can be, in his eyes, a “very powerful” message for their families in Cuba and “to the dictatorial government that does not believe we are capable of organizing and acting together.”

However, the lack of wherewithal means the march depends on the will and efforts of those involved. “The modest sums that we receive as personal donations only cover 15% of the preparations in other areas. So we spoke very clearly and, to our surprise, personal initiative has been the main protagonist of this call to action. Each individual has given a bit of themselves and we already have hundreds of confirmations of travel by bus, train, family cars, plane, etc. The total opposite of a May 1 in Havana. Here it is not the State nor the Party that is responsible for the expenses, each citizen takes action via his own ideas and resources,” explains Ávila, who foresees a four-hour duration for the event.

Among the organizers of the march in the United States are, among others, the presenter Alex Otaola, the exiled Amaury Almaguer and Siro Cuartel, author of the political satire blog El Lumpen. In addition, Ávila adds that several artists have confirmed their presence, such as Michel Marichal, Randy Berlanga, Dayana Elías and Erich Concepción.

Eliécer Ávila has resided in the United States for more than a year, but has not yet exceeded 24 months abroad, after which Cuba requires additional formalities from its citizens wishing to return to the Island. However, he considers that he must mobilize as if he were affected by the problem. “They have forbidden too many things to me, too many rights. And to my family as well. So that one prohibition more or less  does not make a difference,” he argues.

On the day of the march those present will include “many people who habitually travel to Cuba, but can’t invest, vote, nor have reasonable costs and treatment for their paperwork. The motives are many and each Cuban has them to some extent.”

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cubana de Aviacion Resumes Flights to Martinique and Guadeloupe

The airline Cubana de Aviación halted its flights in May 2018, due to an aircraft availability problem. (Captura)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 16, 2019 — Starting next Monday, January 21, Martinique and Guadalupe will be reconnected with Cuba via airplane travel. The company Cubana de Aviación has just announced the resumption of flights between the three islands.

The rotations will be made once a week, every Monday with a Boeing 737-300 that has a capacity of 148 seats.

Departure from Martinique is scheduled for 12:40 p.m. from Fort-de-France with arrival in Havana at 6:05 p.m., while the return flight will leave Havana at 8:00 a.m. and arrive at Fort-de-France at noon. continue reading

In the case of Guadalupe, the departure will be at 3:25 pm from Pointe-à-Pitre with arrival in Havana at 6:05 pm. The return flight from Havana will take off at 8:00 am and will land at 2:25 pm in Guadalupe.

An official of Cubana de Aviación informed this newspaper that those interested should purchase the tickets at the office of the airline on the corner of 23rd street and the Malecón. As he explained, the current price for the round trip ticket for both Martinique and Guadeloupe is 585 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos, roughly $585 USD). He also confirmed that the plane that Cubana will use to cover these destinations is one of two Boeing-737s that “were rented from another company,” whose name he said he did not know.

The airline Cubana de Aviación halted its flights in May 2018, due to an aircraft availability problem. Now, thanks to the fact that the company has contracted for  two Boeing aircrafts, it can resume flights to the Antilles.

The national airline crisis worsened after the May 18 accident involving a Boeing 737-200, leased from the Mexican company Global Air, which crashed shortly after taking off on a flight between Havana and the city of Holguín. 112 of the 113 people on board died.

In the middle of last year, Cubana de Aviación suspended most of its domestic and international flights for several months. At that time, the state airline said that the decision to cancel those flights was the result of “problems that have been accumulating,” among which it indicated was lack of spare parts and “not being able to make repairs to some aircraft.”

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Che’s Widow Justifies La Cabana Firing Squads

Aleida March’s book was published in 2007, but Cubadebate has reopened the controversy by publishing the part that justifies the executions in La Cabaña. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 January 2019 — The official government media Cubadebate has started a controversy with the publication of some fragments of the book Remembering Che: My Life with Che Guevara (its title in the English translation), in which Aleida March de la Torre, Ernesto Guevara’s widow, describes the executions by firing squad in La Cabaña fortress as “an act of legitimate revolutionary justice.” The execution of hundreds of people, allegedly linked to the regime of Fulgencio Batista, was one of the most darkest and criticized pages of the Cuban revolutionary process.

The volume was published in 2007, but this Monday the official media published some passages of the text under the heading History. In the passages the author talks about the first days of Guevara in Havana and the short period in which she was in charge of La Cabaña, that “great training school” in which “small factories were created.” continue reading

“In January (of 1959), the Revolutionary Courts were organized and the first trials of the henchmen of the tyranny began, based on the work carried out by a Purification and Investigation Commission,” she writes. “This has always been a controversial issue and distorted by our enemies, even though it represented a legitimate act of revolutionary justice,” adds March.

The narrative contrasts with the data compiled by the Archivo Cuba project, which has documented 79 executions ordered directly by Guevara. The organization counts 954 executions of this type in Cuba in 1959, of which 628 occurred from January to June, 58 of them in La Cabaña. In addition, the project denounces the lack of due process.

The painter and writer Juan Abreu, who has put on canvas the faces of many of those executed, believes that the executions are “an untold story. Not only untold, but also they have tried to hide it, and when they have spoken of it, the effort has always been to discredit the protagonists, branded as outlaws or murderers.”

In Abreu’s opinion, “These accusations lack any kind of historical evidence. They were people who rebelled, the same as Fidel Castro rebelled against Batista, they rebelled against Fidel Castro.”

However, for March de la Torre “the rules of due process were followed in these cases” and she insists in her book that the Argentine commander did not participate in the hearings, nor in the executions.

“I remember that Che, although he did not attend any of these trials, nor did he witness the executions, he did participate in some appeals and interviewed some relatives who were going to ask for clemency.” March consider that gesture was due to his “humanistic and respectful action towards the enemy, before a decision that, although fair, could not fail to be unpleasant.”

The writer and academic Jacobo Machover, who supports another thesis, in December 2017 asked the mayor of Paris to withdraw an exhibition in homage to the figure of Che Guevara due to his involvement in these executions. The Cuban exile mentioned the Argentine’s participation in the “revolutionary courts” and his responsibility in an appeal commission that “never commuted a single capital sentence” as a reason to reject the event.

“He himself attended the shootings carried out in the fortress of La Cabaña in Havana, broadcast on television and by newsreels,” said Machover, who managed to collect dozens of signatures to support his complaint.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Triumph and Defeat of the Cuban Dissidence

Photo taken in the Combinado del Este prison, in Havana, during a visit made in 2013 by the national and international press on the Island. (EFE/Archivo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, 14 January 2019 — The dissidence, as an organized civic movement, wasn’t born in Cuba until 1983. At the beginning of October of that year, I found myself in Combinado del Este prison, serving eight years for a manuscript critical of the political system, when I met a new prisoner: Ricardo Bofill had been active in the Youth of the Popular Socialist Party and had already been in prison in 1967 for the charge of “Microfaction” (expressing differences with the Party line). For several weeks, we exchanged impressions and ideas.

At that time I was worried about the subhuman situation of a friend in solitary confinement in the walled off cells and Bofill said he had connections with foreign press agencies to send them a complaint. He even offered to help me write it, but he maintained that we had to sign it with our own names so that it would have credibility, something that was until then inconceivable in political imprisonment. continue reading

We wrote it, on the back he wrote his name and underneath I put my own. To my surprise, at the end Bofill added: “Cuban Pro Human Rights Committee.” Then, next to his name he wrote “president” and next to mine, “vicepresident.” I didn’t attach any importance to that.

I didn’t make a note of the day as a memorable date. For me it was only about helping a friend, but when the information reached abroad, the headline wasn’t his case, but the creation, for the first time in Cuba, of a committee of human rights.

Right away, Bofill sent messages to Gustavo Arcos Bergnes, who had participated with Fidel and Raul Castro in the attack of the Moncada Barracks and who was isolated in a separate cell, and to Elizardo Sánchez, social democratic activist, who was in Boniato prison in Santiago de Cuba. Both responded positively. Three more prisoners in Combinado joined up.

The Committee was already created, but repression didn’t take long. Some were put in isolation, among them Bofill, who was then admitted to a room in the prison hospital. He remained there for a long period of time until they took him out for an unknown destination. We didn’t know if they had taken him to another prison, to his home in Cuba, or abroad, which is why in a meeting of the Committee members, I was elected, on a provisional basis, acting president.

Then began the development of a strategic plan. Prison became an immense laboratory, a model for what could later be the dissident movement throughout the country.

We helped to group together many political prisoners according to their activities: an association of writers and artists, another of religious figures from different churches, and the Liga Cívica Martiana [Martí Civic League].

The writers’ group created their own magazine, El Disidente, which we used to write by hand and came to number more than 60 pages, so perfect that it seemed printed. Various copies circulated around the prison, and some were even covertly taken out and circulated through the streets, others were sent abroad and some extracts were published in El Nuevo Herald in Miami.

Sometimes, State Security raided our cells and we had to start again, so we had to hide each page we produced really well. All the groups ended up working in such a united way in the interest of the prisoners that, one way or another, each and every one did some type of job, so that the authorities had to rely on us for any change in the criminal division.

That was how, more or less, we wanted it to be on a societal level. A support committee should have been founded from every social sector in defense of its interests: for journalists, for teachers, religious figures, artists, self-employed people, and so on.

When all these committees were strengthened with the support of their respective branches, they should have joined together in a federation of social self-defense to peacefully confront, in the name of all of civil society, the totalitarian power. We calculated that, carrying out this plan like we intended it, it would not take 10 or 15 years for the great changes that we desired to be made. And we were in 1985.

Our complaints led to an international scandal and the Government found itself obligated to allow the inspection of prisons by representatives of different international bodies.

In 1988 I accepted an offer of freedom on the condition that I left the country, a form of unofficial exile. On the afternoon of August 4, a little more than a month before a UN commission would enter Combinado del Esta, they took me out of my cell and I was brought to José Martí International Airport.

The Cuban Government was condemned at the United Nations. The movement spread all over the country and has been the only one in the opposition, in six decades, that has managed to remain without being destroyed despite threats, harassment, persecution, arrests, and long sentences.

This meant a great victory. The answer is that new dictatorships, whether they are communist or of the so-called socialism of the 21st century, prepare to confront their adversaries on a level of violence, but when faced with nonviolence, they are disoriented.

However, the movement failed in the most important thing: obtaining the support of different social sectors. What went wrong?

The main reason was a shift of discourse in many groups. Abroad, until the middle of the 90s, a great majority of exiles viewed the dissidence as a governmental trick to fabricate an easily manipulated opposition. Among the few who believed was the activist and actress Teté Machado. Together we founded the first center of support for dissidents, the Buró de Información de Derechos Humanos [Information Bureau for Human Rights] (Infoburo).

For several years Teté was the voice of the entire dissident movement at the most important conclaves all over the world. But when some dissidents overshadowed the leadership in exile, powerful political organizations offered material and media support to several of their leaders in exchange for support for their own demands, like supporting the embargo and opposing travel and remittances.

Those who accepted, by adopting a rhetoric totally contrary to the interests of the population, lost contact with her and were moved to social marginalization. Other groups, although they did not adopt that rhetoric, did not fully assume their social commitment.

So we arrived at a dead end: neither the Government was capable of exterminating the dissidence, nor was the dissidence capable of defeating the Government. Only those groups — very few — loyal to the original commitment, received large support and became the most numerous.

With these reflections I would like to invite others to make a critical analysis.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuba’s Agricultural Markets Can’t Keep Up After the End of the Year

Empty pallets or ones with only a single product have become a frequent scene in Cuban agricultural markets. (Klaussi)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 14 January 2019 — The lack of goods in Cuban agricultural markets after the year-end celebrations is almost a Christmas tradition, but this time, the recovery is slow in coming. The Ejército Juvenil del Trabajo (EJT / Youth Labor Army) market on 17th Street in El Vedado is one of more than 170 places that sell agricultural products in the capital that has for the past two weeks lacked adequate stock.

“A combination of several factors are affecting us a lot in obtaining provisions,” Gerardo Gómez explained to 14ymedio; Gómez is a private truck driver who supplies merchandise to the market on San Rafael Street, one of the most important in Havana after the closure of Cuatros Caminos. continue reading

“There is always, at the end of the year, a reduction in the offerings, because there is little work done in the fields and the truck drivers also do not like to transport during the holidays,” adds Gómez. “But this year we have the additional issue of problems with transportation because police controls have increased at the access roads to the city.”

In recent months the authorities have stepped up inspections of cargo vehicles entering the capital to reduce the arrival of products in the informal markets. The controls also seek to reduce the consumption of fuel stolen from state companies that often ends up in the hands of private carriers.

Last December, a series of measures came into play that regulate the consumption of gasoline and diesel for private transportation owners destined for the transfer of passengers. “That is affecting us a lot because there was a lot of merchandise that also came in via the almendrones (a name that refers to the ’almond’ shape of the cars from the 1950’s used in this service) or the trucks that transport people (many trucks in Cuba are used for passenger service),” said the driver and mentioned smaller products such as onions and garlic.

Gómez adds that this situation is worsened because “there is a serious problem with animal feed and that is why very little meat is coming to this market”. On the premises at San Rafael Street the price of a pound of boneless pork reached a historical record at the beginning of January, when it rose to 60 cuban pesos, the equivalent of three days’ salary of a professional.

In a small paladar (private restaurant) near the market, the owners juggle to provide salads. “We were able to find fresh lettuce and cabbage but we had to buy canned pepper and beans from the stores,” says Carmina, who works at the Sabor Criollo restaurant.

The canned vegetables that Carmina acquired came from Spain. “They are expensive but what else are we going to do if we do not find the product in the agricultural markets,” laments the woman. Cuba spends more than 2 billion dollars every year importing food and more than 80% of the food consumed on the Island comes from abroad.

“Even the carrots we had to buy in cans because the supply in the markets is very unstable, sometimes they have it and sometimes they don’t. Now we have to go very early to the markets to obtain something because there is little merchandise and it runs out quickly,” she laments.

On December 25, Cuban first vice-president, Salvador Valdés Mesa, visited the Villoldo complex, in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, where the state agricultural market La Palma is located. His presence was reported in the official press — which also tweeted the news with a link to the article and photo of Valdés Mesa — and this generated an avalanche of criticism from readers because the photo showed him standing in front of displays full of products.

Now, the market shown in the images as overflowing with products, is also suffering  from the reduction in supply. “What we have right now is plantains, green tomatoes and some very small eggplants”, one of the workers of the place tells this newspaper by telephone. “We do not have pork for sale but perhaps by the weekend we will get a supply,” he concludes.

Employees and customers are hoping the situation improves. “We are giving it time to see if sales pick up,” says Luisa, 72, who goes the Tulipán Street EJT market. “It is true that at every year-end many products are unavailable but we are almost to the middle of January and the supply has not improved”.

The retiree says she is hopeful about the application of the new tax on idle land that took effect earlier this year in the provinces of Artemisa, Mayabeque and Matanzas. “There are many people who have land and are not using it to plant food,” laments Luisa. “This can push them to produce.”

However, Carmina believes that the problem is more complex than unproductive lands. “The entire supply chain is damaged, because of the lack of feed for the animals or fertilizers for the crops, the transportation does not work efficiently and the prices are very high,” she summarizes.

At the paladar where she works, they are seriously considering “removing some dishes from the menu because they can’t guarantee their availability with this lack of supply”.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Dozens of Employees of the Company in Charge of Cleanliness of Havana Detained

Some of the managers of the company in charge of collecting and treating waste in Havana are in provisional detention. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14January 2019 — A hundred employees of the Communal Resources of Havana Company are involved in a new case of financial fraud and face charges of embezzlement, falsification of documents and “spread of diseases” as published this Monday in Cubanet, which cites sources linked to the state agency.

Some managers of the company in charge of collecting and treating waste products have been in provisional detention as of the end of 2018, when the Prosecutor’s Office of Havana opened an investigation of more than a dozen high-ranking officials as a result of inspections and audits ordered by government. continue reading

The authorities detected anomalies in the records of several units, especially those in charge of the collection of solid waste.

“There is talk of payments higher than 20 or 30 Cuban pesos per cubic meter of garbage pick-up when the standard should be between 10 and 15 pesos (…), the volumes of trashed collected aren’t what they should be. According to the figures that exists today in the records, there shouldn’t be a single piece of paper thrown in the streets and on the contrary, what you see is a horror,” a source from the Municipal Administration of Finance of Arroyo Naranjo told Cubanet.

The same source states that there are other irregularities such as employee numbers and inflated wages or fraud in hiring.

The official press has not mentioned the investigation, which is ongoing. The Prosecutor’s Office could request sentences of up to 10 years, like in prior cases, Cubanet affirms.

In 2009, the Government created the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic to stop corruption and the diversion of resources. In 2017, in the 361 entities supervised by comptroller Gladys Bejerano Portela, economic losses amounting to more than one million pesos and 47 criminal acts were detected, implicating 1,265 individuals.

In 2011, Raul Castro asserted that “corruption is today one of the main enemies of the Revolution, much more harmful than the subversive and interventionist activity of the United States Government and its allies inside and outside the country.”

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.