Thank You, ’14ymedio’, For Making Me a Journalist

Making a newspaper is not easy at all. Doing it from Cuba is even more complicated

Mario J Pentón working in Miami in 2017 / Courtesy

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Mario J. Pentón, Miami, May 23, 2024 — The first time I heard about Yoani Sánchez was on the midday news on Cuban television. Mariuska Díaz, the announcer, called her a “cyberterrorist” and an enemy of the country. Dark hands were writing on a keyboard and behind her appeared the American eagle, dollars and what was then United States Interests Section in Havana.

By then I could already understand that the regime wanted to hide something when that woman, who was exposed on official television, was not allowed to defend herself or offer her point of view. And one of my first searches, on the day I was finally able to access the internet, was the name Yoani Sánchez.

Mariuska, by the way, that firm defender of Castroism who read those pamphlets, went to live under brutal capitalism, first in Mexico and then in Spain.

That is how I met 14ymedio, Yoani’s niño pequeño, this newspaper that is now 10 years old. And that is how I decided to collaborate with it. At first with a lot of fear, like all Cubans born and raised under the totalitarian regime. Later with passion and dedication, so that the people of Cuba would be more informed.

 My first texts in ’14ymedio’ were a real labor and delivery. Years of study in Cuban universities do not teach you how to do journalism

My first texts in 14ymedio were a real labor and delivery. Years of study in Cuban universities do not teach you how to do journalism, but the sustained support of the editors of the 14ymedio Newsroom in Madrid allowed me to correct those deficiencies.

Trying to connect with people, tell their stories, talk about what really matters to people is not something that interests the Communist Party. Their interest is propaganda, defending a model that is falling apart and repeating the ‘guidelines’. At 14ymedio I had the opportunity to create and grow.

In my years working at 14ymedio I documented Cuba’s serious immigration crisis. I remember, by the way, the annual figures of Cubans arriving across the border into the United States that were so scandalous at the time, today are the equivalent of the statistics of a single month.

I had the opportunity to interview hundreds of immigrants and recount the dramas of the exodus: the young Cuban woman raped and murdered in Urabá, Colombia. Her traveling companion who financed the trip with the sale of his mother’s house. The departure of Cardinal Jaime Ortega and the arrival of a new head in the Cuban Church. The oil spill in Cienfuegos Bay and its pollution while the authorities hid information… The plane crash in Havana that left 112 dead and the disastrous way in which the regime managed the catastrophe.

They were years very rich in information and work. Fidel Castro died and it was my turn – after receiving Yoani’s call from Havana – to write the first obituary and choose the photograph that would accompany the text. The wet-foot-dry-foot policy ended and with it the thaw of former President Barack Obama. We were one of the first media to break the news.

Making a newspaper is not easy at all. Doing it from Cuba is even more complicated. The connection difficulties, the arrests, the very harsh conditions in which our collaborators work in Cuba, with threats to them and even their families by State Security agents, make the work of 14ymedio even more valuable.

Those who know me know that I am very impatient. I always wanted 14ymedio to get to the news first. I remember with special affection the way in which Yoani Sánchez and Reinaldo Escobar “pulled my ears” for wanting to publish the headline and some paragraphs while we were still giving substance to the note.

“The important thing is not just to arrive first. It means doing it well,” Yoani told me. Those words have always marked me

“The important thing is not just to arrive first. It means doing it well,” Yoani told me. Those words have always marked me in my work as a journalist.

It was the years of work and experience at 14ymedio that led me to be offered a position as a journalist at el Nuevo Herald, and then on television and radio. Without what I learned at 14ymedio, the work I do today on my networks, specifically so that millions of Cubans are informed, would not be justified.

When I remember my years of work at the first independent newspaper made from Cuba, I do so with great affection, as someone who treasures a precious memory. Thank you, 14ymedio, for making me grow as a person and as a society. Thank you for teaching us that journalism can be done from Cuba.

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

Cuba, Ten Years of Progress Towards the Abyss

More and more Cubans have the possibility of accessing the independent press, which has seen unprecedented development in the last decade

Internet access allowed people to choose the press they read and be aware of the support they receive from Cuban civil society abroad / Cubadebate

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Karel J. Leyva, Montreal (Canada) — Rwanda and Botswana are not exactly the first countries that come to mind when thinking about examples of well-being and progress. Both have faced and do face monumental challenges, with a history marked by chronic poverty, unemployment, violence and levels of corruption that could discourage even the most optimistic of social engineers. And yet, in the last decade, these two countries have achieved remarkable transformations.

Rwanda, devastated by a genocide in 1994 that left the country in ruins, has emerged with a series of reforms in technology and governance that have catalyzed notable economic growth. Since 2014, Rwanda’s GDP per capita has more than doubled, and development policies have lifted more than a million people out of poverty. For its part, Botswana has been able to take advantage of its rich natural resources to finance substantial improvements in infrastructure, education and health. These investments have not only raised its human development index, but have also strengthened its economy, transforming it into one of the most stable and prosperous in Africa, with sustained growth of 5% annually in the last decade.

While the governments of these, and other countries with comparatively unfavorable contexts, have shown a clear willingness to adopt policies aimed at improving the quality of life of citizens, the Government of Cuba has made the opposite choice: aggravate suffering, increase misery and vigorously encourage the hopelessness of its people. continue reading

The Government of Cuba has made the opposite choice: aggravate suffering, increase misery and vigorously encourage the hopelessness of its people

In the last decade, life expectancy in Cuba has fallen, the population has decreased, and emigration continues to undermine the country’s productive capacity. There has also been a significant increase in the number of citizens imprisoned for political reasons. Between September 2019 and March 2024, the number of prisoners of conscience increased from 128 to 1,092 (an increase of 773.6%).

Such an increase results from the growing number of manifestations of discontent that have taken on dimensions never seen before on the Island, since it is known that exercising a universally recognized right is punished in Cuba with repression. In the misnamed “Republic of Cuba” the republican virtue that constitutes civic participation is suffocated with violence, imprisonment and torture.

In addition, in this period forced exile and the so-called ’regulation’ (prohibition of departure) have been normalized with the consequent violation of at least a dozen rights, not counting those that are violated through threats, blackmail and more brutal psychological pressures.

And what can we say about runaway inflation, the enormous deterioration of infrastructure, the alarming decline in Public Health and Education services, and the devastating exacerbation of poverty – which led us to be crowned in 2021 as the most miserable country in the world according to the Henke index – or the exponential increase in social inequality.

As curious as it may seem, the last 10 years have also witnessed what I call “the dilemma of authoritarian control of information.” If in 2014 only 22 out of every 100 people had access to a cell phone, currently this number has tripled, as has internet use (all thanks to exiled family and friends). It is true that allowing such access has swelled the coffers of the military conglomerate Gaesa due to its monopoly control over the media, but at the same time it presents them with the dilemma of granting the population unprecedented access to information (global, thanks to the use of VPNs [Virtual Private Networks] to circumvent censorship).

Such access allows people to choose the press they read, be amazed at all the good that capitalism – supposedly evil – offers their exiled compatriots, and be aware of the support they receive from abroad for the fervent activity of Cuban civil society. Since the military oligarchy cannot give up the millions it pockets, it has had to bet everything on its brutal repression being enough to counteract the benign effect of the flow of news from unofficial sources.

14ymedio is, without a doubt, one of the most serious media outlets, respected and admired by both Cubans and the international community

More and more people have the ability to access the independent press, which has seen unprecedented development in the last decade. It is enough to mention the founding of 14ymedio, in 2014, and the essential work they have done since then. It is, without a doubt, one of the most serious media outlets, respected and admired by both Cubans and the international community. A newspaper that, to make matters worse, is published from Cuba (in the very jaws of the hyena), and that takes on the arduous task of circumventing communist censorship to get information to the people in multiple ways.

To summarize, in these last 10 years everything that the people wanted to increase has been reduced, and almost everything that should have been reduced has expanded, with the notable exception of access (reluctantly) to information and the consolidation of the independent press as a reliable source.

But to be fair, there are also things that haven’t changed. For example, the fact that everything is so disastrously wrong that it seems unreal. Or that Cubans are forced to live a life they do not want, to give up what they love, to say what they do not think, to silence what they want to shout.

The totalitarian effort to stifle talent, applaud mediocrity, call traitors heroes, and to try to convince us that we are a weak, isolated and unprotected people has not changed. The uninterrupted advance towards decadence, moral collapse has not changed and, above all, the persistent idea that it is not worth living in our own country remains unchanged.

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

Cuba: Change So That Everything Remains the Same

In December 2014, Raúl Castro and Obama surprised everyone with the news that relations between both countries would begin to normalize.

In 2018, Díaz-Canel’s face was unveiled as “president,” although Raúl Castro would clarify that he was actually handpicked by him / Cubadebate

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, May 24, 2024 — The last decade in Cuba is, perhaps, the one that has seen the most changes in half a century. However, we have the feeling that everything remains the same, or even worse. This reminds us of Lampedusa’s famous novel, The Leopard. In it, Tancredi’s character says to his uncle a phrase that has been repeated countless times: “If we want everything to remain as it is, we need everything to change.”

In December 2014, Raúl Castro and Obama surprised everyone with the news that relations between both countries would begin to normalize. The opposition to the island’s regime saw this event in two different ways. For some, the decision of the US Government was a betrayal of a historical exile, who had fought for years against the dictatorship. For others, it was the most intelligent and effective way to influence, killing me softly style, the fall of Castro-communism. However, for the majority of ordinary people within Cuba, this meant nothing more than a relief from the hardships suffered daily. It seemed like a moment of hope.

In 2015, internet access for the population was expanded. This tiny detail would mark a “domino effect” that would have a decisive influence on the perception of Cubans about the world and their own reality. The horse lost its blinders. continue reading

In March 2016, Air Force One landed at José Martí International Airport in Havana. Nine months later, Raúl Castro announced on television the death of his brother. It seemed that yes, changes were finally happening and that the end of an era would be inevitable.

But the year 2017 constituted a turning point. Obama eliminated the “wet foot/dry foot” policy before leaving the White House

But the year 2017 constituted a turning point. Obama eliminated the “wet foot/dry foot” policy before leaving the White House and his successor threatened to return to treating Cuba as what it was: a dictatorship. In June of that year, Trump was applauded in Miami for promising a tough line against the one-party regime. And in August, the scandal of the sonic attacks against the US Embassy on the Island broke out.

In 2018, the nomenclatura debuted the face of Díaz-Canel as “president,” although Raúl Castro would clarify that he was actually hired by him, after failing with 11 other test tubes of officials. The bad luck of the appointee would be marked by several tragic events, such as the crash of a commercial plane with 112 deaths. And to his misfortune would be added the accumulation of endemic problems of the system, as well as the ineptitude of a new cabinet that began his management with a disastrous decree: 349.

The following year, a new Constitution was approved that was more “catty” than the Lampedusa novel. The civil service went on Twitter calling half of the Cubans “bastards” and Díaz-Canel’s lack of ashé [‘power’ in Yoruba] was confirmed by a devastating and unusual tornado. In contrast, the capacity of civil society to articulate itself increased its scale of influence. The crisis, meanwhile, showed its worst face, although the designated test tube insisted on calling it “circumstantial,” with the implications of “temporary.”

In 2020, the pandemic and masks arrived, but also the resistance of a generation of young artists against censorship. Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and the San Isidro Movement began to receive solidarity within the guild, despite all attempts to discredit them. The apotheosis occurred on November 27, when hundreds of artists stood in front of the Ministry of Culture with demands not only in the field of culture, but also in terms of citizen freedoms.

And 2021 arrived. The deadliest year in all of national history. The crude mortality rate on the Island was the highest on the continent

And 2021 arrived. The deadliest year in all of national history. The crude mortality rate on the Island was the highest on the continent, although the regime reported minimal numbers of deaths from Covid-19 and boasted of having five vaccines. The pressure cooker burst on 11 July, a date that would be engraved in national history, leaving another 26th of the same month in a corner of the calendar.

The last three years are much fresher in the memory of those who read me. The regime managed to survive the outbreak by applying the worst techniques of repression and social control. They locked up and sentenced hundreds, while they drove many more out of the country. Since then they have dedicated themselves to keeping us divided and clashing.

As in Lampedusa’s novel, the Revolution is a dead dog. And although some insist on keeping it stuffed, it will be inevitable that it will end up thrown out of the window, like the dog Bendicó [Blessed] in The Leopard, towards the garbage dump of History.

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

Cuba: The Challenge of Practicing Journalism in a Dictatorship

Independent media in Cuba are the vanguard of the process of building democracy

Journalism is not called to the ranks of any political party or ideology, but rather to report facts of general interest that prove that they are true / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, May 22, 2024 — Being a journalist is not being an activist. Journalism is not called to the ranks of any political party or ideology, but rather to report facts of general interest that prove that they are true, and with a simple and complex purpose at the same time: to keep citizens informed so that they can make decisions. In its exercise, in a natural way, journalism calls into question those who direct public affairs. That is why it has always been called the “fourth estate,” in an expression coined in the 19th century by Thomas B. Macaulay based on a distorted quote by Edmund Burke, which signals the objective of overseeing the other three powers, described by Montesquieu: executive, legislative and judicial. All this, of course, in a democracy. What happens in a dictatorship, like the Cuban one, in which 14ymedio was born? The same.

A newspaper independent of any party or organization, 14ymedio was blocked from the first day on thecountry’s servers, all controlled by the regime. It was a useless gesture, which only demonstrated the vital importance of the profession in promoting truth and freedom. The constant harassment of the Editorial Office in Havana and its reporters was also in vain: we are still here, ten years later. As if that were not enough, our work influences Cuba on a daily basis, both the Government and its citizens. Sometimes it leaves a simple discomfort on the part of the authorities, for revealing things they are hiding; other times, it has moved them to change their plans; in a few other instances have forced them to resolve situations reported by the population. Not bad for a censored newspaper!

To illustrate this, we have compiled some examples. We want to convey to our readers that, despite the dictatorship, journalism can be practiced as the vanguard of a process of building the democracy that we want for Cuba.

Giant African snail trapped in Cuba / 14ymedio

1. The African snail is no longer taboo in Cuba. Recently, this newspaper reported on the proliferation on the Island of the giant African snail or Achatina fulica, an invasive species, potentially dangerous for human health and crops. In those days, the authorities were already on alert, but they were very hesitant to inform the population. From the first article that appeared in 14ymedio, the African snail was no longer taboo in the official press.

Cuban President Díaz-Canel, visibly disturbed, in a special edition of State TV’s Round Table program spoke about the dollar / Screen Capture/Cubadebate

2. The Government moves up the announcement of the “dollarization” of essential goods. When the first stores taking payment in foreign currency (that is, in freely convertible currency or MLC) and payment by magnetic card opened in Cuba in 2019, no one imagined that they would extend beyond the household appliances and spare parts they were then allowed to sell. That food or hygiene products, vital for daily life, might be sold in those stores was anathema. But that “circumstantial” or “temporary” crisis, as the government preferred to call it, soon became permanent. The lack of liquidity in the national economy forced the regime to expand “dollarization,” and this newspaper reported the exclusive, a week before the Government, as a fait accompli, announced it. The day after our note, a visibly disturbed Miguel Díaz-Canel announced in a special edition of the continue reading

Round Table TV program that the dollar would be allowed and its use expanded for the purchase of food.

View of G Street in Havana with the raised cobblestones / 14ymedio

3. Green returns to G Street in Havana. In April 2021, after months of complaints from architects and citizens, which 14ymedio had echoed , for covering one of the sections of the capital’s Avenida de los Presidentes with cobblestones, also known as G Street, the authorities removed the gray cement and they restored the grass.

The 14ymedio’s interview with Dr. Eduardo López Collazo, on the official program Con Filo / Screen capture

4. Scientific information about Covid, “media war.” When the deadliest moment of the Covid-19 pandemic began in Cuba, the regime had rejected help from the World Health Organization (WHO) to receive, like other disadvantaged countries, recently approved vaccines such as Pfizer or AstraZeneca, and instead launched a propaganda campaign to praise the development of its own antidotes. These began to be administered to the population without receiving the endorsement of the relevant international organizations. Given the lack of official information, 14ymedio turned to one of the leading specialists on the subject, Eduardo López Collazo, director of the prestigious Research Institute at the La Paz Hospital in Madrid and, as it happened, a Cuban. The interview was included as “bibliography” in an official note that attempted to discredit objective information about Cuban vaccines and was the object of ridicule on television programs such as Con Filo.

Cultizaza Company, located in Tunas de Zaza, Sancti Spiritus / 14ymedio

5. The Government invents a “rainstorm.” At the end of 2021, one of the Cultizaza company tanks burst in Sancti Spíritus, the largest producer of shrimp on the Island, which is vitally important for export. Dozens of people came from the neighboring municipality, Tunas de Zaza, to collect the crustacean in bags and pockets. The news would not have spread if this newspaper had not published it, with exclusive sources of information. Two days later, the official press was forced to give an explanation: an “intense local rainstorm caused a breakdown in one of the ponds intended for the development of shrimp.” The problem is that neither that day nor the previous ones did it rain in Sancti Spíritus.

Image of the Fress door just three days after the store’s opening / 14ymedio

6. New private businesses cause discomfort. The Island has seen, in recent years, how state premises passed into the hands of micro, small and medium-sized businesses (MSMEs) without any announcement or explanation. One of the first was Fress, in the Plaza de Carlos III. In the chronicle of its inauguration, 14ymedio revealed that its owner was a foreigner. Just three days later, the business closed “due to technical problems.”

Part of the installation that carries gas from Puerto Escondido to Jaruco, underground after protests from neighbors / 14ymedio

7. When journalism serves small communities. The residents of Puerto Escondido, in the province of Mayabeque, were desperate when they came to this newspaper to denounce the situation they were experiencing. Constant gas leaks, hydrocarbon contamination and, especially, the installation of a pipeline in the only baseball field in the municipality. The note published in 14ymedio caused Energas to attend to the population and move the pipeline to another location.

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

Cadeca Denies It Is Selling the US Dollar at 375 Cuban Pesos

While the price of the currency has fallen from 395 to 345 since May 9, the official rate remains at 120

Cadeca asked its clients not to trust unofficial statements about currency exchange rates / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, May 25, 2024 — Cuba’s network of currency Exchange Houses (Cadeca) denied this Friday that its branches will begin to sell US dollars at a rate of 1 for 375 pesos, instead of the rate of 120 currently in force. False information had circulated on social networks and alerted part of the population, forcing the state entity to clarify the situation.

“Any information received about our entity or its services from a source other than our official channels is totally false and unfounded,” Cadeca posted on its social networks.

The price of the dollar keeps the population tense due to its sudden drop to 345 pesos, according to El Toque, after having reached 395 on May 9. The fluctuation has occurred in the midst of a campaign to discredit El Toque in the official press, which accuses it of manipulating the exchange market at will and participating in a plot to provoke a social outbreak.

The euro and the freely convertible currency have also collapsed with the US currency

As Banco Metropolitano said on its social networks, the campaign – allegedly paid for by the US – aims to reach the bar of 400 pesos for one dollar on the third anniversary of the social outbreak of 11 July 2021. Along with the US currency, the euro and the freely convertible currency (MLC) have also plummeted, which are at 360 and 290 pesos respectively. continue reading

A similar drop occurred last September, when 14ymedio recorded a fall from 250 to 215 pesos. The swing did not last long, and soon the dollar regained its upward trend.

El Toque, a medium that publishes daily informal market rates, considers that the current decline in the dollar is a common “temporary correction” and believes that the restoration of Western Union remittances, which occurred precisely on May 9, could “influence the expectations, the so-called ’market sentiment’.”

According to a report recently published by the Observatory of Currencies and Finance of Cuba (OMFi), economist Pavel Vidal – the researcher of the tool created by El Toque – estimates that “a growing number of people have begun to consider that the price of foreign currencies “It was excessively high and chose to sell before a possible fall.”

For Vidal, the fluctuation is nothing more than a “temporary” decline, since problems persist in the Island’s economy

For Vidal, the fluctuation is nothing more than a “temporary” decline, since problems and distortions persist in the Island’s economy that do not allow the Cuban peso to recover. The high fiscal deficit, the high issuance of unbacked banknotes, the contraction of national production and exports, dependence on imports, dollarization, emigration and generalized inflation (32.3% year-on-year this April), are some of the conditions that make it impossible to contain the depreciation of the national currency.

In addition to the crisis that Cuban banks face due to the lack of liquidity, both in foreign currency and pesos, they now also have to worry about external factors that not only worsen their management, but also worsen their attention to the population. This Friday, the Banco Popular de Ahorro (BPA) of Sancti Spíritus published a note in which it warned that as of May 25, “BPA branches throughout the province will not serve customers on Saturdays.” The cause: “The electrical problems that are affecting the country.”

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

Cuban ’11J’ Political Prisoner Suffers From Peritonitis Due to Medical Malpractice in Jail

Yoandri Reinier Sayú Silva has an extra-penal leave of one year

Yoandri Reinier Sayú Silva / Facebook

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 May 2024 — Political prisoner Yoandri Reinier Sayú Silva, sentenced to eight years in prison for sedition for demonstrating on 11 July 2021, has denounced medical negligence and an outbreak of tuberculosis in prison 1580 in the Havana municipality of San Miguel del Padrón.

At the moment, the young man, who will turn 22 on May 28, has an extra-penal leave of one year, after having to undergo surgery for peritonitis. According to Martí Noticias he reported, “from April 24 to May 4 I was not able to go to the bathroom and they had to operate on me because my appendix burst and I had peritonitis due to poor medical care.”

“From April 24 to May 4 I was not able to go to the bathroom and they had to operate on me because my appendix burst”

He suffered from severe pain in the abdomen for 10 days, was unable to defecate and had a high fever. It was then that the prison commanders transferred him to the Salvador Allende General Hospital, where he arrived with a burst appendix and a severe infection.

Despite having received several blood transfusions, he now needs vitamins, ferrous fumarate and folic acid, which are out of reach due to the shortage of medicines on the island. continue reading

Despite having received several blood transfusions, he now needs vitamins, ferrous fumarate and folic acid, which are out of reach due to the shortage of medicines on the island

“Inmates fall ill and have no medicine. I survived, but I could have died and some did not survive because of poor care and poor hygiene,” said Sayú Silva.

Likewise, the doctors who are treating him are investigating if he also has extra-pulmonary tuberculosis, although the tests that were performed on him are not yet ready.

The young man said that in prison 1580 there is an outbreak of that disease and that some companies are in quarantine, and he related the death of his compañero Luis Barrios, who died because of unspecified respiratory problems, which led to advanced pneumonia due to lack of necessary medical attention.

Yoandri Reinier Sayú Silva was arrested after participating in the ’11J’ demonstrations in La Güinera

“The July 11 prisoner who passed away had tuberculosis. He was left for several days. None of the guards gave him medical attention. He got worse and died, but all the prisoners knew that he died of tuberculosis, because that same company had been isolated due to tuberculosis for a few months. I’m sure they told the family something else,” he insisted.

Yoandri Reinier Sayú Silva was arrested after participating in the ’11J’ demonstrations in La Güinera, one of Havana’s neighborhoods against which the regime’s repression was most vicious. The only death recognized by the authorities occurred there on July 12th, when a person was shot in the back by a police officer.

Translated by LAR

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

Cuba’s Independent Press Defeats the Regime’s Journalism

These last ten years have been a great loss for the dictatorship, whose moral bankruptcy has been exposed by the independent media.

The Cuban journalist became ‘mediatized’ and morphed into a spokesperson for official slogans, like Froilán Arencibia / Cuban Television

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Corzo, Miami, 24 May 2024 — Castro’s populism, as soon as it came to power, broke the numerous fundamental components of a free society, among them the right to life and to freedom of expression and information.

Parallel to the executions, the newspapers accused of being close to the deposed regime of Fulgencio Batista — Alerta, Pueblo, Ataja and Tiempo — were looted and expropriated. They were then handed over to supporters of the Castros to become spokespersons for the new oficialismo, as in the cases of Combate y Revolución, the latter under the command of Carlos Franqui, with its six-inch headlines demanding al paredón (‘to the [execution] wall’).

Twelve months later, on January 25, editions of the Diario de la Marina, copies of the Prensa Libre newspapers, and the magazines Life, Times, and Selections of Reader’s Digest were burned in the Cuban capital. In May, with there no longer being a free press in Cuba, an event took place that showed the degree of servility of a sector of society, which ordered the symbolic burial of the Diario de la Marina, dean of the national press.

In Cuba, not only was freedom of the press eliminated, but the media that honored it were extinguished. No republican newspaper survived Castroism, neither in name nor in informative quality. continue reading

No republican newspaper survived Castroism, neither in name nor in informative quality

The information media – press, radio and television – were placed at the service of tyranny, becoming a reflection of the pharaonic dreams of the Castro brothers and transmitters of aberrant government slogans.

Journalism became – sometimes with the complicit participation of many communicators, due to self-censorship or their dedication to the regime – an objective to be destroyed in order to impose the totalitarian system in gestation with greater impunity.

Because of these painful realities, I consider it important to highlight the work carried out by Cuban independent journalists, who for decades – and with limited means – have risked their lives and precarious freedoms to report on the institutional violation of citizens’ rights. They have been willing to confront the criminal actions of Castro’s absolutism, as the newspaper 14ymedio has done over the last 10 years.

Cuban independent journalists and the few media outlets that have served in this task during these long six decades have carved out a niche of honor, both for the courage shown to endure repression and for the quality and fairness of their reporting.

For decades, only doctrinal journalism existed on the Island, absent of any criticism or questioning of government action; closed to any information or analysis that the authority could consider an attack on its interests.

For decades, on the Island there was only doctrinal journalism, absent of any criticism or questioning of government of government action

The Cuban journalist was ‘mediatized’. He became a spokesperson for official slogans. He became a singer of achievements – real or supposed – of the ruling class. His judgment was subject to political correctness. The information, the story of an event, became a chronicle of what was convenient for the authority and for the journalist who strove not to be repressed and to keep his job before a single owner: the party-state.

This situation, which was evolving into a positive change, took a radical turn when 14ymedio came to light with extreme modesty. Many of us did not realize this milestone that occurred within Cuba at a time when the country began a process of readjustment as a consequence of the exhaustion of totalitarianism.

These last 10 years have been a time of great loss for the dictatorship. It is true that they still hold power, but they are in complete moral and material bankruptcy.

Transitioning from the charismatic totalitarianism of Fidel Castro to the military absolutism of Raúl and, finally, to the bureaucratic totalitarianism represented and led by the inept Miguel Diaz-Canel have left a contrastable evidence: the regime finds itself at a crossroads that can be deadly to its survival.

This decade within the darkness reveals lights of change. The population has shown its disenchantment in the most important popular protests since January 1, 1959; the prisons incarcerate more than 1,000 pro-democracy activists; and the regime intends to reinvent itself by establishing economic practices contrary to its essence. These events have been fittingly covered by 14ymedio and other independent journalists.

From a distance, but with admiration and respect, on this anniversary of 14ymedio, I dedicate this phrase by Jose Martí that accurately reflects my feelings: “Only those who know about journalism and the cost of selflessness can truly estimate the energy, the tenacity, the sacrifices, the prudence, the strength of character revealed by the appearance of an honest and free newspaper.”

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

Ailex Marcano, Mother of one of the 11J Prisoners in Camagüey, Leaves Cuba

“Goodbye, and we continue in the fight for the freedom of our children and all political prisoners,” said the activist in a farewell audio.

Ailex Marcano is one of the most active of the “11J mothers” in the fight for the freedom of imprisoned protesters / Facebook/Ailex Marcano

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, May 42, 2024 — “I am going to continue fighting from the land of freedom for the freedom of everyone, each and every one.” With those words Ailex Marcano Fabelo, mother of the political prisoner Ángel Jesús Véliz, said goodbye to her loved ones in an audio recording, upon leaving the Island this Thursday.

Martha Beatriz Roque, director of the Cuban Center for Human Rights (CCDH), received a message confirming the departure of Marcano Fabelo but has no further details of her departure. “Goodbye, and we continue in the fight for the freedom of our children and all political prisoners,” was another of the phrases that she dedicated to them in her message.

Ailex Marcano is one of the 11J mothers most active in the fight for the freedom of imprisoned protesters and, therefore, most harassed by State Security.

In May 2022, she was one of the family members who was in Madrid and Geneva, invited by the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights, to denounce the situation of political prisoners before the Spanish press and the UN. Upon her return to the Island, the authorities subjected her to an interrogation for three hours and confiscated 3,000 pesos (for exceeding the limit of 2,000, then in force). continue reading

Marcano was one of the signatories, last March, of the ‘Declaration of Camagüey’

Since then, the harassment by the political police has not stopped. On April 27, she was arrested when she was on her way to visit her son at the Kilo 9 maximum security prison, in Camagüey, where she is serving a six-year sentence for participating in the massive protests on 11 July 2021.

“He has suffered a lot of torture by the political police, which has led him to a mental imbalance, sometimes emotional, and to commit acts, demonstrating against the dictatorship there inside the prison,” she declared in an interview with CubaNet published on May 8th. “That is why they have always denied progress to another regime of minimum severity.”

During that April arrest, the agents took her to Villa María Luisa, the State Security headquarters in the province, where she underwent interrogations and a search for which they forced her to undress. “They threatened to send me to prison because they said that my publications on social networks incited people to take to the streets and for collaborating with ’counterrevolutionary’ organizations such as the Ladies in White. They wanted to make me sign a warning letter, but I refused to do so,” she also told CubaNet.

Marcano was not able to see her son, who was taken to an isolation cell for protesting against his mother’s arrest and his calls were prohibited.

Together with the journalists Henry Constantín and José Luis Tan Estrada, the activists Madelyn Sardiñas and Bárbaro de Céspedes and the actress Iris Mariño, Marcano signed, on March 21, a declaration that included “six steps to save Cuba.” The text, an initiative of the Camagüey-based independent media La Hora de Cuba, included among those steps respect for peaceful demonstrations, the release of political prisoners and the “immediate” call for open and multi-party elections.

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

Without Russian Oil and With Less From Venezuela, the Lines Return to Cuba’s Gas Stations

At the gas station on 17th and L, the line had to be split on both sides of the street / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, May 23, 2024 — For three days, the lines have returned to the gas stations in Havana, where vehicles once again occupy more than five blocks, in an image that has not been seen for months .

This Thursday, in two of the normally busiest establishments in El Vedado, 25 and G, and 17 and L, the panorama was similar. The kilometre-long line at 25th and G was, according to the driver of an almendrón, “just like in the old days”: he went down G, turned onto 23rd and then continued on F for several more blocks. At 17th and L, the line had to be split between both sides of the street.

El Tángana, another of the usually well-stocked service centers, was also bustling with waiting customers. It was in vain, however, because there was no fuel in the morning hours.

At the Infanta and San Rafael gas stations, the cars were also divided into two lines, one for each street / 14ymedio

As for Centro Habana, at the Infanta and San Rafael gas stations, the cars were also divided into two lines: one up San Rafael that almost reached the Calixto García hospital and another along Infanta that turned onto Zanja Street. continue reading

The owner of a motorcycle, who had obtained gasoline in a plastic container and was filling his vehicle near Infanta, indicated the obvious diagnosis: “There is no fuel.”

The situation could be seen coming since the release, at the beginning of the month, of the monthly Reuters report on Venezuelan oil exports.

Although the British agency does not reveal the exact amount that Caracas sends to Havana, from ship monitoring, University of Texas researcher Jorge Piñón calculates that the Island received, in three tankers, a total load of about 840,000 barrels of oil. This represents 28,000 barrels per day (bpd), a considerable drop compared to the monthly average of the previous year, when Cuba received 57,000 bpd.

The owner of a motorcycle, who had obtained gasoline in a plastic container, expressed the obvious diagnosis: “There is no fuel” / 14ymedio

According to Reuters, Venezuelan exports in April fell 38% compared to March – which had already registered a sharp decline – after Washington’s partial reestablishment of sanctions on the Nicolás Maduro regime.

For months, this newspaper has been tracking the movement of the María Cristina, the Petion and the Alicia — the three ships that also arrived in April — whose routes between the Venezuelan and Cuban port terminals are constant. Regarding another well-known ship, the Eco Fleet – which in mid-April, after spending weeks in Cuban territorial waters without unloading the 40,000 tons of diesel it brought from Tunisia, left for Jamaica – Piñón stated to 14ymedio at the beginning of May that it was back on the coast of the Island, in front of the Cuban capital.

In April, the team of researchers led by Piñón did not detect any Russian ships entering Cuban ports, which may explain the current fuel shortage. Donations from not only Venezuela and Russia, but also from Mexico, are clearly insufficient to help the Island get out of its almost permanent energy crisis.

The long line at El Tángana was in vain: there was no fuel today / 14ymedio

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

Cuba’s Foreign Currency Store Prices Are Prohibitive for the Majority of the People of Matanzas

While some people enter stores to see what’s there, others beg for alms to survive / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Julio César Contreras, Matanzas, May 12, 2024 — The idea that stores that only take payment in freely convertible currency (MLC) were created to supply markets in pesos is a mantra that Valeria repeats, ironically, when she enters one of those stores in Matanzas. The half-empty showcases, the labels with unthinkable prices and the beggar who sleeps in the doorway makes one doubt whether to enter or not. But in a country without supplies, which move in dollars, there is no other option.

“Honestly, I can come and shop from time to time because my son sends me some money from the United States. If that weren’t the case, I would have to settle for looking into the windows from the street of the many stores that have opened, most of them where locals can’t even enter,” Valeria tells 14ymedio . According to the woman from Matanzas, in the city foreign currency businesses proliferate “as if they were hotels” although there is no merchandise or clients with pockets deep enough to allow themselves to be a regular at these establishments.

This store, located in the old Ten Cent on Medio Street, remains much of the time without customers purchasing products at MLC / 14ymedio

“My nephew, who works as an architect, has told me that many projects have been stopped because the place they imagined was going to be used for cultural presentations or social enjoyment becomes a store in MLC. The very corner of Ayón Street, where we all thought they were going to open a cultural center, from one day to the next they surprised us with another of these stores,” she laments. continue reading

For those who do have the currency, finding what they are looking for is not an easy task either. “These businesses always have problems supplying themselves and many times we receive products that no one is going to buy because of their high prices or because they are not to the taste of Cubans,” explains the manager of one of these stores. “I myself get tired of asking for replacement of out-of-stock products and I don’t receive any effective response. So, what we do is fill the shelves with the same products so that the room doesn’t look empty,” he says.

The stores in MLC are within the reach of the minority of the town, whose income does not allow them to purchase the products sold in said stores / 14ymedio

“Not too many people come either – those who have family abroad who send them remittances and those who get dollars on the street to buy a specific item – so many times the most expensive products stagnate,” he adds. “Look at this four-burner stove with an oven, how good it is, but it costs 395 MLC. Even changing an entire year’s salary into dollars is not enough to buy it.”

Shortages are is part of the stores in MLC / 14ymedio

“To make matters worse, with normal purchases you also have to be careful and look at the receipt. Several times I have had to complain to the clerks who charged me more than the product is worth,” he adds. Another common trick is the sale, “on the left,” of appliances in high demand, such as refrigerators, freezers , microwaves and air conditioning consoles. “I have been on a list in the store for two months to buy a refrigerator, which is also very expensive, and they have been re-supplied twice and I still have not been able to buy it,” summarizes Antonio, who is trying to purchase the equipment for his daughter.

“The thing is, if 15 kits come, the store sells five to people and the other 10 are sent to friends or people who pay them with money or favors for their refrigerator. At this rate I’m going to die before I can buy it,” he says.

Lining up to enter the cafeteria located in the store on Ayón Street. It is the only space in the establishment that sells products in pesos / 14ymedio

Part of these appliances end up being sold through black market networks, at higher prices, often in cash in dollars, although with the advantage of transportation to the customer’s home. Informal merchants also accept payments through a wide range of channels, including some such as Zelle from the United States or Bizum from Spain.

For their part, the workers of these businesses report that they also have their own set of problems. “In addition to controlling customers who gather furiously when a requested product arrives or receiving complaints and insults from others due to shortages – which is not our fault – the portals of MLC stores have become places frequented by beggars,” says Miriam, who has worked for 12 years as a salesperson, first at a Panamericana and now at a local currency store in the Caribe chain.

The stores in MLC have also become points of sale for basic family basket products, such as the long-awaited packages of chicken or the, now missing from the rationed market, bottles of oil / 14ymedio

To this we must add that card payment has almost completely eliminated the tip that state store employees received when people paid in cash and the convertible peso was still in circulation. Now, in many of these stores in MLC, workers have placed a box with bills in national currency to suggest to customers that they can leave some money, but the generosity of the buyers is scarce.

“I feel very sorry for the people who come to ask for alms, but here they have us, who, no matter what we sell, we earn the same: a pittance,” she explains. Miriam particularly remembers an old woman who often settled in the doorway of her business. “She told us that she had to beg because she had no pension and she needed to buy food for her daughter who was sick with nerves. That day I helped her with what I could, but life doesn’t give much more. Better or worse, almost everyone who comes to this store – whether for what it costs or for what they can’t find – is to be pitied.”

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

Cuba Imported Nine Times More Chicken Meat From the US in March Than the State Produced in 2022

The tons purchased in the first quarter of 2024 are double the total annual production of the Island

Arrival of American chicken at the El Vedado Youth Labor Army market in Havana. / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 10 May 2024 — “The tons imported from the US in the first quarter of 2024 double the total annual production of chicken meat in Cuba.” This devastating phrase was posted by the economist Pedro Monreal this Thursday in his X account. The expert, who contributes monthly figures for the purchases of this bird’s meat by the State and the private sector, does not stop there and leaves another clarifying fact about the situation of food insecurity in Cuba. “The amount is almost nine times greater than the annual production of national poultry companies,” according to the most recent data, from 2022, he adds.

In fact, Cuba produced 37,200 tons of chicken meat throughout that year, half of the amount imported from the United States in the first three months of 2024. This March, 26,413 tons of the product arrived from the neighboring country, 62% more than in February, when the quantity was 16,244 tons. In January, 30,678 tons were purchased, the largest amount so far this year, placing the quarterly total at 73,335.

If we look only at the state sector, the situation is even worse. In 2022, the regime’s companies produced only 8,200 tons, a number – as the expert points out in his tweet – one-ninth of that imported until April 2024 to be marketed by both State entities and cooperatives or MSMEs. These numbers put the finishing touch to those that were known this Tuesday from the manufacturing industry , which reveal a drop in the production of processed foods of 67% in the last five years and leave very serious figures, such as the 90% collapse in the production of rice or 91% in pork.

This March, a kilogram of chicken imported from the US had a cost of $1.11 US, which represents a decrease of 8% compared to February, when the price was $1.21 dollars. However, the strong increase in purchase volume meant that spending grew by 49.22% compared to that month. While 19.7 million dollars were invested in February, in the third month of the year the expenditure was 29.42 million dollars. continue reading

Thus, January volumes are relatively recovered, which left the sixth highest historical value since records exist, that is, 2002.

The data comes a few days after the figures for imported vehicles were revealed, also from the US. According to the Cuba-US Economic and Commercial Council (CubaTrade), between 2023 and the first quarter of 2024, sales amounted to 20 million dollars, mostly in used cars. So far this year, Cubans have spent more than 13.5 million dollars on the acquisition of these cars, while in 2023 the amount exceeded 4.3 million.

This business, authorized by Joe Biden’s administration in 2023, is experiencing a strong boom; just between January and February of this year the growth was 65%, notes economist Eloy Vieira. As this newspaper published last April, there is a ship, the Linda , that makes regular trips between Miami and Mariel loaded with these vehicles. As of April 1st, the ship had traveled to the Island 21 times, being one of the few that has no problems reaching port, since the money is provided by individuals.

Other data provided by this organization are total food imports, which in March were valued at 40,624,058 dollars, compared to 20,475,934 the previous year, that is, 98.3% more.

The majority of what is imported is, again, chicken, 73% of the total. Pork (3.4%), powdered milk (3.1%) and coffee (1.4%) follow far behind. Other products purchased in smaller amounts are yogurt, eggs, apples, spices, wheat, rice, corn, olive and palm oil. Also included are herring, beet sugar, honey (while the State exports 90% of the honey it produces), along with cookies, beer, salt, shampoo, toothpaste, soap, tires, cellulose and various types of tools.

Despite the embargo, the United States authorized exportsto Cuba worth $7.3 billion in food and medicine since exemptions began to be granted in 2001.

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

Díaz Canel’s Ten Lies

Ignacio Ramonet and Miguel Díaz-Canel during an interview which took place on May 11 at the Palace of the Revolution.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 21 May 2024 — Some Cubans have dubbed Ignacio Ramonet the “French Randy Alonso,” a reference to the host of the Cuban TV interview show “Roundtable” and his sagging face. The truth is that Ramonet was born in Spain, raised in Morocco and educated in France, where he has lived for years. The sociologist has made good use of his status as a European intellectual to land a seat at the kitchen tables of Latin America’s dictatorships. His French passport and résumé have allowed him to cozy up with Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez and their heirs. No matter how undemocratic or repressive a regime might be, Ramonet manages to plant his flag there. Acting on behalf of the rubes of the contemporary feudal left, he is a colonizer of thought.

Ramonet’s recent interview with Raúl Castro’s hand-picked successor was rife with excuses and omissions. The Cuban bureaucrat recited the well-worn script without contributing a single new idea. What was most insulting, however, were his lies. After enduring almost two hours of an exchange that seemed more like a self-help session, I have summarized ten of the most outrages falsehoods.

1. 2030 Will Be Better

Cubans are sick of hearing that this year was bad but next year will be better. We heard it repeated, December after December, by the former economics minister, Alejandro Gil, whom the Cuban president avoided talking about during his complacent chat with Ramonet. Now we learn Díaz-Canel is postponing this idyllic future until 2030, with promises of renewable energy, a digitalized society and food security. You don’t have to be a fortune teller to predict what the speech in December 2030 will be if this bumbling and cynical regime is still in power.

2. The Anniversary Tour

When asked by Ramonet about his recent trip to Moscow, Díaz-Canel described it as “an anniversary tour.” He did a quick calculation and immediately went into a juggling act, trying explain away the gaffe. The fact is that he and his wife, Liz Cuesta, are celebrating their fifteenth wedding anniversary this year. The first lady does not accompany him on domestic tours but she is the first to sign up for every international trip the appointed president makes. Evidently, Moscow was her anniversary gift.

3. Cuba’s Role in the Putin Alliance

It is obvious from his response, however, what specific role Cuba plays for Putin. It is useful enough as pawn to be invited to the victory parade but not so useful as to attend the inauguration. For such solemn domestic occasions Putin prefers the company of others. Like Steven Seagal for example.

4. The BRICS* “Alternative”

Alternative is a difficult word to pronounce but what fascinates Díaz-Canel is not BRICS’ potential to foster development in its member states but rather the threat it represents to American hegemony and the dollar. It is not about what it can contribute but rather how it can stick it to the regime’s longtime enemy. No matter how “inclusive” BRICS may seem, continue reading

there is nothing to indicate it is ready to shoulder a ruined economy like Cuba’s.

5. Creative Resistance

When Díaz-Canel and his retinue visit the hinterlands, they do not allow local officials to use the U.S. embargo as justification for their shortcomings. What is required down in the trenches is “creative resistance,” pure and simple. When it is their turn to take responsibility, however, they never hesitate to whip out the ever-handy “blockade” umbrella. The word was mentioned about forty times in this interview alone. The basic message boils down to this: I can use the blockade as an excuse but you may not.

6. A Tighter “Blockade”

There are people in this world who truly believe that a fleet of American ships is encircling Cuba, preventing deliveries of food and medicine to the island. With all the talk about the “blockade,” not even Cubans themselves fully understand the implications of the embargo. That is why they are surprised when they see the “Made in USA” label on the packages of chicken they consume. What Díaz-Canel did not say is that the United States continues to be one of Cuba’s main trading partners according to data provided by the country’s National Office of Statistics and Information.

In terms of trade volume with Cuba, the superpower to the north ranks fourth among countries in the Americas and eighth globally. Not only did this commercial activity not fall in 2019, it actually grew to more than 308 million dollars. In 2022, the U.S. embargo was tightened so much that the figure grew to more than 391 million dollars.

What Díaz-Canel never mentioned was the disastrous implementation of Cuba’s currency unification rollout and its direct relationship to the subsequent inflation and general deterioration of the Cuban economy.

7. Social Justice

Díaz-Canel and his troops like to champion flashy reform measure and want to eliminate of freebies and subsidies. While there is a lack of resources for investments in healthcare and education, it is no secret that they find creative ways to fund hotel construction. Publicly, they often use demagogic terms like “social justice” but in the 2023 “Projections of Cuban Communist Party Central Committee” the phrase was conspicuous in its absence. Instead, they preferred to talk about “vulnerability” and reducing expenses without daring to mention the word “poverty.”

8. Management of the Pandemic

Raúl’s appointee does not know how to pronounce the word “epidemiology” yet still insists on boasting about his success at fighting COVID-19. He intentionally ignores the fact that the country closed its borders quite late in the pandemic. This was after claiming that the virus could not survive the Caribbean sun. He also intentionally avoids mentioning that, in 2021, there were 55,000 more deaths in Cuba than in the previous year though authorities claim only 8,500 died from coronavirus. And he intentionally hides the fact that the gross mortality rate that year was 14.68 per thousand inhabitants, much worse than rates in the United States, Brazil, and even Haiti.

9. The Right to Protest

The first to lie was Ramonet, claiming that, while the 11 July 2021 protests were unusual, they were not massive. What is undeniable, however, is that not even during the Machado and Batista regimes was there ever such a large outpouring of public discontent as occurred on “11J.” But Díaz-Canel raised the bar for cynicism by claiming that this was also the result of the “blockade,” adding that protest was a respected right, even if protestors were demonstrating against the Revolution.

Díaz-Canel’s lie is contradicted by the Archipelago initiative and the ill-fated Civic March, which was scheduled for November 2021. Even asking for permission two months in advance, and strictly meeting all requirements needed to hold a demonstration, were not enough. Instead , we were met with direct threats from the military, acts of repudiation, persecution, political repression and exile.

There are over a thousand political prisoners in Cuba, the most in the region. Hundreds of people have been sentenced merely for taping protests or defending themselves against brutal crackdowns during which shots were fired. In one instance, a young man died after being shot in the back.

10. Sitting Down with Biden

Lastly, this Castro figurehead announced that he is willing to talk with Biden even though throughout the interview he described the U.S. government as arrogant, stubborn and corrupt. He also stated that the purpose of this negotiation would be to end sanctions while stipulating that Cuba would not make a single concession. His facial expression betrayed a visceral hatred towards those he called perverts as well as towards the Cuban exile community living in the United States.

This time, Díaz-Canel did not play his usual hand. He didn’t need to. Ramonet was his teleprompter, continually nodding, completing his sentences and generally being extremely accommodating. This time, Ramonet was his card.

*Translator’s note: An acronym for a group of emerging market countries that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa. It seeks to deepen ties between member states and foster economic cooperation and expansion. Its goal is to serve as a counterbalance to traditional Western influence.

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

12 Historical Moments Reported Live by ’14ymedio’

The 14ymedio Editorial Team considers July 11, 2021 to be the most notable moment we have covered as a media outlet. / Facebook
1. The Announcement of the “Thaw”
Telephone conversation between Barack Obama and Raúl Castro released by the White House to illustrate the beginning of the ‘thaw’. / White House
2. Reopening of Embassies

The next step to the thaw, as logical as it was historic, was the reopening of embassies in Washington and Havana. It was in the summer of 2015, under an inclement sun and in two events that brought together officials in the United States and curious people in Cuba. The Cuban flag was raised in July, in the presence of the Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez, who thanked Obama for his call to Congress to eliminate the embargo laws. A month later, it was the turn of the headquarters in the capital of the Island, with the presence of Secretary of State John Kerry. 14ymedio, stationed at the entrance, also reported the event in a live-stream.

The Cuban flag flew again at its diplomatic headquarters in Washington, after a solemn ceremony led by the Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez, and attended by more than 500 guests. / 14ymedio
3. Obama’s Visit to Cuba

The first visit by a US president to Cuba in almost a century, in March 2016, deserved a great display: a challenge for a small newspaper like 14ymedio which, however, did not miss the event with a wide variety of pieces. We created photographic galleries with the preparations for the visit; we went out among the Havana residents, armed with their stars and stripes flags, to ask their opinions; we had expert analysis and we published — with the support of international agencies — all the information about official acts. In addition, one of our collaborators, Miriam Celaya, was among those attending the meeting of the American president with civil society. That trip left a photo for history: that of a smiling Raúl Castro raising Obama’s reluctant arm.

Raul Castro tried to photograph himself raising Obama’s arm, who was resisting, smiling, but visibly uncomfortable. / EFE
4. The Massive Rolling Stones Concert

The most powerful Western leader in the world had barely left when their satanic majesties took over. The Rolling Stones concert in Havana, on March 25, 2016, brought together almost 1.2 million attendees if we add the continue reading

700,000 who got into the area set up in the Ciudad Deportiva and another 500,000 who watched it from the outskirts. There was a thirst for a group banned by the Revolution and the band delivered from the first “good night, my people from Cuba” pronounced by Mick Jagger who, as always, gave his all during the two-hour performance. There is even a film about the event, Havana Moon.

The audience during The Rolling Stones concert. / 14ymedio
5. The Death of Fidel Castro

The night of November 25, 2016 in Havana, early morning in Madrid. The two newsrooms of 14ymedio coordinate to provide uninterrupted follow-up to one of the most anticipated news stories, for different reasons, in the entire world. This newspaper opted for a headline that was as simple as it was direct and forceful at that time: Fidel Castro is dead. The leader of the Cuban Revolution, the megalomaniacal leader who turned the Island into a great prison, was gone forever. In the midst of control, repression and surveillance, we followed the delegation that toured the Island to begin a new era in Cuba. Life without Fidel.

Funeral procession with the remains of Fidel Castro on his journey to Santiago. / EFE
6. The Arrival of Mobile Internet

In 2018 another milestone occurred in modern Cuba. When the world had been surfing the Internet with their cell phones for more than a decade, Cubans were finally able to use that service starting December 6 and, like almost everything, the process was slow. The first lucky ones were those who had a number starting with 52 and 53; then those with

The mobile internet service has been imperfect and suffers from censorship, but it has changed the lives of Cubans. / EFE
7. The Covid-19 Crisis

At a dizzying speed, the world went from observing atypical pneumonia in China to having to barricade themselves in their homes to avoid the spread of Covid-19. The first pandemic in a century came to light in Cuba on Friday, 28 March 2020, when the first death on the Island and the first local contagion were learned of, after days of surveillance of some tourists who arrived with the virus. A time began that seemed endless: with empty establishments, closed streets, mandatory use of masks and great, very great fear of getting sick on an island full of shortages when the ravages of the disease could be seen in rich countries. It was a very intense information scenario, where the difficulty in reporting was proportional to the need to do so, but in it we discovered outbreaks that the authorities did not want to reveal, cemeteries without space for the dead, and government emergency measures that did not give adequate results.  In addition, we had to become experts in the vaccines and validation methods of the WHO, which still has not approved any of the Cuban vaccines that we all received.

The pandemic accustomed the population to seeing images like these as normal. / Screen capture
8. The End of the CUC, the “Cuban Convertible Peso”
Monetary duality in Cuba became law on August 13, 1993, at the most critical moments of the Special Period. / 14ymedio

“The CUC has died and it died young, like Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin, just 27 years old,” wrote our collaborator Carla Gloria Colomé, possibly the best epitaph that the currency could ever dream of, after being invented by Fidel Castro in 1994 to raise dollars during the deep crisis of the Special Period. The false currency, as the song says, created two countries or two social classes for the first time since 1959 on the Island. In January 2021, the Ordering Task decreed the death of the CUC in an attempt to recover the preeminence of the national currency. Thousands of Cubans lost their savings in that operation, which also caused a brutal depreciation of the Cuban peso. The US dollar reigns and its price has gone from 24 pesos to around 400 in the last three years.

9. The Awakening of ’11J’ (11 July 2021)

It was a Sunday in July as normal as it was hot, but it became the historic day for Cuban democracy in this 21st century, that of the ’11J Protests’. Our Editorial Team lived the day between the earthquake of videos on social networks and the uproar in the streets, where two of our reporters walked as much as they could alongside the protesters. Shortly after, the complete blackout with internet outages forced us to resort to traditional methods of communication with our colleagues in the field. Emotion and hope were followed by fear and repression. The consequences of those demonstrations continue to accompany us since then, from the trials with long prison sentences, for the families, broken and harassed, and the now mythical motto that became a Grammy award winning song: ‘Patria y Vida’, Homeland and Life.

Protesters in front of the Cuban Capitol, in Havana, on July 11, 2021. / EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa
10. The Approval of Equal Marriage

In September 2022, a tense chapter in the recent history of the Díaz-Canel Government closed with the approval of equal marriage. Two souls of society and two souls of the Communist Party, the one that preserved the homophobic reminiscences of early Castroism and the one that needed to adhere to the positions of the international left. The dispute began in 2018, with the constitutional debate, between LGTBI+ organizations and Christian churches, and the Government chose to leave the issue out of the already controversial 2019 Constitution and postpone it for three years with the referendum on the Family Code. The milestone: Cuba has been the first communist country to approve a rule like this, and more than 2,200 couples have benefited to date.

Alberto and José were the first homosexual couple whose marriage, in Granma, was solemnized.
11. Two Tragedies: the Saratoga Hotel in Havana and the Matanzas Supertanker Base

On May 6, 2022, our team in Havana said good morning to our colleagues in Madrid, warning them of something strange. From the 14th floor of the building where our Editorial Office is located, a loud noise had been heard and smoke could be seen. That explosion, allegedly caused by poorly handled gas cylinders next to the central Saratoga hotel, which was getting ready to reopen after being closed for two years due to the pandemic, became one of the biggest tragedies of recent years in Cuba. It was not easy to get to that place, completely militarized and full of emergency equipment, but we did it. And not only that: one by one we located the faces of the 47 deceased, an arduous job for the limited resources of an independent media, which we carried out meticulously with the desire that their families and our readers would read it as a tribute to the victims.

The mushroom cloud of smoke from the Saratoga Hotel explosion was the first indication in the Newsroom that something was happening. / 14ymedio

Just three months later, on the night of August 5, the impact of lightning on one of the warehouses at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, which did not have adequate prevention measures, caused the largest industrial accident in the history of the Island. In a reckless decision – it was impossible to extinguish the fire in the way it was intended – 17 firefighters lost their lives and 142 were injured. Several of them were young people undergoing mandatory military service, and not professionals, which raised the indignation of family and friends. At 14ymedio we did the same thing that we did with Saratoga and that the official press did not do: we gave them names and surnames.

The authorities had removed eight plates from the geodesic dome that covered the deposit, which meant that there were 26,000 tons of crude oil unprotected. / Giron

Both events weigh on the news even today: on the one hand, those who lost their homes in the hotel explosion still have nowhere to live, and on the other, the loss of the largest storage warehouses in the country – still in incipient reconstruction – is part of fuel supply problems.

12. Mass Emigration

The eternal theme of Cuba has also been – it could not be otherwise – within this newspaper. The country has lost enormous numbers, yet to be determined, of population in this decade, more than is known from any of its previous migratory crises, including those of the first years of the Revolution, the Mariel Exodus and the Special Period. Likewise, our Editorial Office has been constantly shaken by the departure of journalists and collaborators, a phenomenon that makes us suffer from the departure of each one and the achievements they obtain abroad. Among them, Alejandro Mena Ortiz had the generosity of sharing with us his journey to Miami. The Editorial Team worked intensely, getting emotional with the long audios and raw images of him, to tell, from his own experience, how difficult the path to a better life is for millions of people.

One of the crossings on the difficult “route of the volcanoes” that runs from Nicaragua to the US. / Alejandro Mena Ortiz /14ymedio

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

The Cuban Regime Lost Its Monopoly on Information With the Arrival of ’14ymedio’

In the last ten years, the will for change has reached the majority of the Island’s citizens.

The large demonstrations of 11 July 2021 in numerous cities across Cuba shook the bases of power / Facebook / Marcos Évora

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 23 May 2024 — If I were to describe in words what has happened in Cuba in the last ten years, I would say: a desire for change. An awakening to the reality in which Cubans lived had already occurred among the greater part of the population, although  hidden by the veil of double standards. Almost no one believed in a promising future under that system, but except for a small minority, the only hope for liberation was solely individual: leaving the country.

In that decade from 2014 to 2024, the will for change began to gradually arrive for that majority, and I think we could identify three key years: 2014, 2018 and 2021. The fact that we are celebrating the ten years since the birth of 14ymedio is significant in that process, because it was the first independent digital newspaper made in Cuba. The totalitarian regime began to lose its monopoly on information.

The era of the information society had arrived in the world, but countries like Cuba and North Korea tried to put obstacles in the way of the spread of this technology among the population, because by its very nature it was antagonistic to the dominant totalitarian powers, a mechanism  whose general form Marx himself had discovered almost a century and a half ago: the development of the productive forces entered into contradiction with the relations of production, only now these productive forces were no longer represented by the machinery of the typical factories of industrial society, but by personal computers, mobile phones and the Internet. continue reading

These relations of production, represented by totalitarian structures, became a brake on their development

These relations of production, represented by totalitarian structures, became a brake on their development, because their leaders realized the eminently subversive nature of those inventions. In 1991, there had been a massive protest in Regla, a municipality in the capital, over the murder of a young man at the hands of the Police, but in the other neighborhoods of the capital almost no one knew about it until the next day – and some still haven’t found out – due to the lack of effective communication. If it had been today, in a few minutes the entire country would have found out, from San Antonio to Maisí.

But since this process of information technology could not be stopped, because one could not live with one’s back to the world, Cuba had to open up more to a large part of the population, although timidly, in 2018. This exchange of ideas through blogs and of social networks was generating the will for change. And the following year this change became evident when in the constitutional referendum, despite so many irregularities and the fear planted in the people, accustomed to always agreeing – “so as not to look for problems” – power had to recognize that at least – among those who did not vote, those who annulled the ballot, left it blank or voted no, almost a third had refused to vote affirmatively.

Between 2020 and 2021, various acts of protest took place, especially in Havana, such as hunger strikes with the solidarity of many people, sit-ins in front of government offices, support from local people for victims of police abuse and even a strike among drivers. And finally, all this led, with the San Isidro Movement and the artists’ protests, to what we all already know: the large demonstrations of 11 July 2021 in numerous cities in the country that shook the bases of power.

Those demonstrations and other subsequent ones have been brutally repressed and there are still hundreds of protesters imprisoned

Although those demonstrations and other subsequent ones have been brutally repressed and there are still hundreds of protesters imprisoned, the contradictions that caused them, far from being resolved, have become even more acute, which is why, if I published, weeks before that memorable date, that the “Cuban nomenclature sleeps on a tinderbox,” now that the burden is much worse, a whisper in my ear tells me that something very big is going to happen.

Nor is the exile the same one to which I arrived in 1988, directly from a cell, the one where the oldest exiles predominated, amazed that the people did not rebel and that the Army did not carry out the military coup that they had so long expected, convinced that the dissidence that was being talked about was a false opposition manufactured by the dictatorship, which is why they threatened to kill me and even went to plant a bomb on me that by mistake caused havoc in a neighbor’s house.

Fortunately, that exile was little by little receiving the successive doses of reality brought by the mass exoduses. One day I will tell about when, immersed in deep discouragement, I abandoned everything and went to Florida International University (FIU), not to teach or receive classes, but to pick up trash from the university campus, and I met those simple workers, noble men and women recently arrived from the other shore and I received from them a transfusion of hope, the hope of a new Cuba.

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

The Pope Appoints Monsignor Antoine Camilleri As New Nuncio to Cuba

He replaces the archbishop of Telde, Giampiero Gloder, who became nuncio in Romania and Moldova.

Monsignor Antoine Camilleri in a speech on ’Vatican News’ / Vatican News

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 May 2024 — Bishop Antoine Camilleri, former undersecretary of the Vatican Section for Relations with States, has been appointed by Pope Francis as the new apostolic nuncio in Cuba. He replaces the archbishop of Telde, Giampiero Gloder, who becomes nuncio in Romania and Moldova.

To date, Camilleri, a 58-year-old native of Sliena, Malta, served in the same position in Ethiopia, in addition to representing the Holy See before the African Union and as apostolic delegate in Somalia. Graduated in Jurisprudence and Canon Law, he speaks Italian, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Romanian and Russian.

The Holguín Católico portal noted that since “February the Cuban Church has been waiting for the appointment of a new papal representative.” In 2006, while at the nunciature of Cuba, he received his appointment as secretary of the Holy See and private secretary to Archbishop Dominique Mamberti. continue reading

According to the Vatican News news portal , Camilleri, who was ordained in 1991, is close to the Island for which he has served as pontifical representative, the same position he has held with New Guinea (1999-2002) and Uganda (2002- 2005). On September 3, 2019, Pope Francis appointed him titular archbishop of Skálholt and apostolic nuncio. On October 4, 2019 he received episcopal ordination.

The ‘Holguín Católico’ portal recalled that since “last February the Cuban Church was waiting for the appointment of a new papal representative”

Camilleri’s arrival comes one day after the bishop of Camagüey Wilfredo Willy Pino Estévez prohibited Father Alberto Reyes from ringing the bells of the Esmeralda parish, where he officiates, as a symbolic protest against the blackouts in that municipality.

This newspaper has denounced the constant pressures from the Office of Religious Affairs of the Communist Party of Cuba, headed by Caridad Diego, which has intensified in the last three years, since several priests spoke out against the regime after the Island-wide mass demonstrations of the 11 July 2021.

At the end of March, the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) did not authorize Holy Week processions in two parishes in Villa Clara. In those permitted – a total of 111 throughout the Island – Catholics took to the streets under the constant surveillance of the Police.

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