Million-Dollar Bank Deposits Amount to an Illegal Operation by the Cuban Government

At least five people report finding a million convertible pesos in their bank accounts. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, April 8, 2021 — “It’s to cushion the reorganization,” was the response one young businesswoman got from Banco Metropolitano after waking up on Tuesday and finding a million convertible peos, or CUCs, in her bank account. “This doesn’t make any sense to me. A lot of people are complaining about the same thing. I’m really worried,” she says.

Madrid-based Cuban economist Elías Amor raises the possibility that “the Cuban banking system is moving significant sums of money through bank accounts to hide problematic situations in anticipation of an investigation by some of Cuba’s creditors such as the Club of Paris and Russia,” he says.

“It suggests an attempt to hide fortunes amassed by private individuals working for the regime or huge sums of money in some state-owned commercial accounts.”

Either way, it would amount to financial engineering, which he describes as “an illegal operation.” continue reading

This week a dozen Cubans have reported the same experience on social media: unexpectedly large balances in their bank accounts. In at least five cases it was the same figure: one million CUC.

The bank explained it was a “fictitious amount,” warning them not to “touch or withdraw” it, without providing further information.

“That’s what worries me. It’s the equivalent of 24 million Cuban pesos, which translates to [hundreds of] thousands of dollars,” says the young woman. She is also concerned about the possibility of having to pay taxes on a huge sum of money she has not earned.

When she shared her experience on social media, she learned she had friends —most of them artists and private-sector workers — who were in the same situation. “They are all self-employed and all suddenly found they had a third bank account in CUC,” she explains.

“The same thing happened to me yesterday” and “I just took a look at my account and I’m a millionaire” were some of the comments on social media.

“The bank doesn’t notify you in advance that they’re going to do this or send you an alert. It’s really alarming,” replies one of her colleagues.

“I woke up to find a million CUC in my bank account. I reported this to the bank and they told me it’s because of currency unification, that I can’t touch the money. Am I the only one or are there other people like me?” asks someone else on social media.

It’s not the first time a problem like this has been reported. In early March 14ymedio learned of a technical problem that had affected account balances at Banco de Crédito y Comercio (Bandec) and Banco Popular de Ahorro (BPA), which operate Transfermovil and EnZona banking apps in various parts of the country. At the time several depositors reported having lost part of their savings while others told of receiving surprising large sums of money.

The official response was a brief message on Twitter that alluded to “some difficulties” in network payment services due to “technical problems” with the Transfermóvil app.

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Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba Visits the Hunger Strikers

Monsignor Dionisio García Ibáñez, Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba. (Archbishopric)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 April 2021 — The Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Dionisio García, visited the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu) on Thursday to inquire about activists on hunger strike for 20 days, as confirmed by opposition leader José Daniel Ferrer through Twitter.

“We are grateful for the visit that Archbishop Dionisio García has just made to us, taking an interest in the health of the strikers that we encounter at the national headquarters of Unpacu,” the former political prisoner said on the social network.

Ferrer reflected on a decrease in the police operation around his home that seems to have been motivated by the arrival of the religious figure: “But it turns out that they had hidden because Archbishop Dionisio García came to inquire about our health.” continue reading

Ferrer reflected on a decrease in the police operation around his home that seems to have been motivated by the arrival of the religious figure: “But it turns out that they had hidden because Archbishop Dionisio García came to inquire about our health.”

On April 1, Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, sent a message to Cardinal Juan de la Caridad García warning him that in the middle of Holy Week dozens of Cubans were on hunger strike to “demand that the Cuban regime withdraw the police siege around the national headquarters of Unpacu in Santiago de Cuba, stop repressing them and allow them to feed the homeless.”

Ferrer, along with 24 other activists, is currently on the twentieth day of a hunger strike in protest of the repression and constant harassment by State Security towards the headquarters of the Unpacu, in the Altamira district of Santiago de Cuba, which is also his family home.

In its protest, Unpacu also has the support of civil and political organizations inside and outside the island, such as Cuba Decides, the Republican Party of Cuba, the United Antitotalitarian Front, the Pedro Luis Boitel Democracy Party and the Foundation for the Pan-American Democracy. In addition, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, expressed his solidarity with the strikers.

At the beginning of this month, five European deputies sent a letter to the island’s authorities asking for details about the strikers’ health. Dita Charanzová, vice president of the European Parliament, and four other members of the chamber, urged the Cuban government to end the police siege.

Charanzová has stressed on several occasions that the lives of the strikers are in the hands of the Cuban Government, in addition to sending her support to Ferrer and other Unpacu activists, and to all the victims of the repression on the island: “Europe is with you,” she said.

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Packaging Shortage Leaves Havana Children without Soy Yogurt

The authorities expect to distribute 12 bags per month as soon as plastic is available for packaging. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, April 7, 2021 — Thousands of children in Havana are once again going without rationed soy yogurt, this time because of a shortage of plastic packaging.

On Monday the news came in the form of two and a half lines in a notice posted on website of the Ministry of Domestic Trade, which attributes the absence of this product — the only option available to low-income families who cannot afford the high prices charged for dairy products at foreign currency stores and on the black market — to a “delay in the expected delivery of polyethylene used to manufacture the packaging.” It suggests consumers use half a kilogram of “smoothie mix,” diluted with water, as a substitute.

“This is an insult. I’ve been coming here all week and nothing. There has to be some other solution,” a mother complained this week at the counter of a local store in the Plaza neighborhood. continue reading

The ingredients in these powdered mixes, whose labels indicate they are made in Cuba, are sugar, whole milk, cocoa and salt. A neighborhood store in Nuevo Vedado was selling the product in bulk due to the unavailability of packaging.

In April, four bags of soy yogurt will be substituted with a ten-day supply of a chocolate product to be distributed on Saturday, Sunday and Monday according the Tribuna de Havana.

A neighborhood store in Nuevo Vedado was selling soy yogurt in bulk due to the unavailability of packaging.

“However, buyers can expect to receive twelve bags of soy yogurt (a one-month supply) as soon as the polyethylene packaging becomes available,” official sources said.

This is not the first time soy yogurt has been in short supply on the island. A shortage in 2015 was attributed to obsolete technology and deteriorating refrigeration facilities. Consumers have complained of its poor quality since it was first introduced in 2003 and its producers have never reached their annual production target of 250,000 tons.

After currency unification at the beginning of this year, its price was set at 1.05 pesos a package.

The smoothie mix is a substitute for the substitute of the original product: milk, which must be purchased with a ration book and is limited to children under seven years of age, people with “medical dietary restrictions,” and patients with illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, HIV and high cholesterol, who can only acquire it through hospitals and designated healthcare centers.

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Reinvention or Death: Private Businesses Try to Overcome the Crisis in Cuba

A line of people in front of a cafe in Havana’s Vedado district, which is looking for new ways to increase its clientele (14ymedio).

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, March 31, 2021 — If the ball is yellow, the customer gets a discount. If it comes out green, he will also get a free sausage sample. The friendly roulette wheel is operated by an employee of a private cafe in Havana that offers takeout items. Faced with the restrictions of the pandemic, businesses must reinvent themselves or perish.

The young man who fills sandwich orders at El Torpedo, a place located on Calle J Street in Vedado, is halfway between a cashier and an entertainer. “Come on, try your luck and get a head start. The worst that can happen is that you don’t win anything but your options are many,” he enthusiastically explains to customers in line.

Although several yards away there are several other private businesses on the same street, the one with the roulette wheel has the longest line. “I know that anything they might give away is probably already included in the purchase price but I enjoy trying my luck,” says a young man waiting his turn. “And it shows they’re making an effort.” continue reading

The employee spins the wheel and a white ball pops out. “This means that you have the right to try your luck again,” he explains. On the second try, the customer gets 5% off her final bill. Laughter rings out and shortly thereafter a lady wins a free juice. The next buyer hits the jackpot: a package of chorizo pieces to “make some beans.”

Games of chance were outlawed on the island decades ago, so any element of coincidence in the buying process provokes smiles, knowing glances and a certain queasiness in customers who feel like they are “in a casino,” as the experience is described by a woman who is here on Tuesday to buy a Cuban sandwich. “It’s like the bolita [lottery] but legal,” she explains.

A few yards further down, towards the sea, a privately owned ice cream parlor advertises “a free scoop for the price of two.” The upper floor of a big house near the water advertises “a shave and scalp massage with relaxing music.” More emphatic posters with exclamation points appear on doors of several of these businesses, which are now operating at only half capacity because of the coronavirus.

“All our takeout bags are recyclable,” announces one restaurant that makes home deliveries. “We don’t generate any plastic waste so every dish that you buy from us helps save the environment,” reads an ad published on several classified ad sites.

“Back when we were waiting on tables, we knew how to get people to stay longer, order more dishes and have a good time at the restaurant. Now everything is done through a window,” says a worker at El Toke, a place located on Infanta Street in central Havana. “We have less opportunities and have to take advantage of the few seconds we spend with a customer.”

Threatened by a steep decline in tourism, a rise in the cost of raw materials and the economic crisis, Cuban entrepreneurs are getting creative. They are relying on theatrics, informational videos and an endless search for anything that will give them a leg up on the competition. Having an electric scooter helps but knowing something about social networks is even better.

“I never thought I would be able to sell plants without people coming here to see them,” says Roxana, a 41-year-old businesswoman who manages a small garden where she sells succulents. “Buying a plant to keep for your house is something very personal. People come here and spend a lot of time thinking about an orchid or deciding if they should get a ficus.”

After pandemic restrictions were imposed, Roxana and her husband had to restructure their business. “We put together a catalog which you can browse on WhatsApp. If a customer chooses a plant, we send him a short video showing the specimen from several angles. We also provide care instructions. After the sale is made, we deliver it to his living room.”

One carpenter is selling furniture that promises to make people “confortable during the pandemic.” Using a mobile app, customers can choose items “à la carte.” Choices might include a sofa, a bed and mattress, or some wooden armchairs for the patio. “We deliver to people’s homes and anyone who buys a dining table and at least six chairs gets a set of dominoes for free,” he announces.

“We help keep people entertained while they are cooped up at home,” adds the friendly carpenter. If you buy a big bed from me, we’ll give you the sheets. And if you decide on some patio furniture, it will come with some ferns planted in a beautiful pot decorated with colored tiles.” The combinations are endless, seemingly as infinite as the creativity of the self-employed and the long days of the pandemic.

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Reporter Iliana Hernandez Arrested With Some Friends While Walking Through Havana

The Cuban State Security Agent dressed in plain clothes who detained Iliana Hernandez. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 April 2021 — The independent reporter Iliana Hernández, a contributor to CiberCuba, was arrested this Thursday afternoon in Old Havana, and taken to the Infanta and Manglar station, in the capital municipality of Cerro. Hernández, who is also an activist, was walking with some friends on Obispo Street when she was intercepted by a police officer who asked them to show their IDs and then called for reinforcements.

In a video circulating on social networks,  the moment was recorded when the group, a few minutes after the incident, was approached by State Security agents in civilian clothes and police officers who arrived in a patrol car. They were arrested fter a woman appeared and shouted phrases including: Long live Cuba, Long live the Revolution, Long live Fidel and Raúl, I do defend this Revolution, Nobody will knock it down.

“The boulevard is full of people and he [the policeman] comes to ask us for documentation as if we were doing something wrong,” Hernández is heard saying in the recording. continue reading

“This is an outrage because they want to take us without a warrant,” said Eliecer Romero Pérez, who was accompanying the reporter. Romero also mentioned Article 42 of the Constitution of the Republic , which says that all people “have the right to enjoy the same public spaces and service establishments.”

“Look around you, there are two or three State Security Agents who are here who are watching us, why? Because we do not think the same, gentleman. I do not want anyone dead, I want everyone to live, that is good, that is what I want. And for thinking like that, the police stop us, because we think differently,” added Romero.

Seconds before the woman who shouted several phrases in support of the Revolution appeared, Hernández affirmed: “I want a free Cuba so that these things do not happen and that is why we are fighting.”

“They weren’t doing anything, they weren’t in any demonstration, they weren’t committing any crime,” a close source tells 14ymedio. “And the police went directly to where they were and sent for the patrol to take them away.”

In another video posted on Facebook, Romero appears with Thais Mailén Franco Benítez, who documented how they were taken to the station. According to Franco, they were simply taking photos on Obispo Street when they were arrested.

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“The Mambises had Machetes in the Fight for Freedom. We have Telephones and Paintbrushes”

Reynier Leyva Novo’s installations, his photos and projects, are a constant reading and rereading of the national memory. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 5 April 2021 — The hero, the high priest, the Revolution, slavery… The controversial issues that Reynier Leyva Novo (Havana, 1983) addresses in his work have made him one of the most important Cuban visual artists of his generation.

Novo’s work, which has been exhibited in Mexico, the United States, Italy, Germany and Brazil, as well as in Cuba, weaves the story together with stitches of poetry, and embroiders, in the poetic, signs that come from the political. His installations, photos and his projects are a constant reading and rereading of the national memory.

Currently, the artist is exhibiting the second part of the show “What Is, What Has Been” at the gallery El Apartamento. It is conceived in two parts. The first, “Neither Marble nor Sighs, The Nation’s Fundamentals”, was exhibited in December.  During these days, the artist prepared the second installment: “Cartography of Freedom, Prison, Economy and Liberty”.

14ymedio: You did not graduate from the Higher Institute of Art (ISA), why?

Novo: I resigned from ISA: I fell madly in love with a girl and I went to Mexico with her, but before that, I presented documents indicating I was sick with hepatitis, and while there, a document arrived at my house stating that I was no longer enrolled due to desertion. Of course, I did not agree with that decision, because I had my medical documents in order, and when I returned, exactly one year later, I submitted a letter of complaint to request re-enrollment and it was approved. A few months later, I voluntarily decided to drop out of school because I felt like I wasn’t learning much. There was a crisis, it was the 2008-2009 academic year, the teachers competed with the students and were almost at the same level as us. The teaching system was very rigid and very precarious. continue reading

A few months later I voluntarily decided to drop out of school because I felt like I wasn’t learning much.

14ymedio: Then, one day you decided not to return.

Novo: I had been in Mexico for a whole year. I visited the great murals of David Alfaro Siqueiros while I was there, Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, I had seen the colors, the monumentality of those stimulating works, I had been in their presence. Well, one day I came to a Latin American Art class at ISA and they were teaching Mexican muralism. They began to show these works through faded slides, projected small on the wall. I realized that this had nothing to do with reality and I said to myself: “If this is the case with this subject, it must be more or less similar with everything. Maybe when they teach me some philosophy it will be at this same level”. I made a horizontal parallel line of all the degree subjects and I understood that they were teaching us in a distorted way. I said to myself: ‘I have to get out of here’.

14ymedio: Do you think that Cuban art academies try to impose a pattern of what it is to be an artist?

Novo: There is a part of the school that is very repetitive, you imitate great teachers and nature a lot. In that process there really is not much creativity. I began to create personally around the third year of San Alejandro thanks to a teacher named Rolando Vázquez who gave us more conceptual exercises. In attempting to solve these exercises I began to have ideas of my own. This is how I started in the world of sculpture, to work with space and that type of dynamics, something that was later strengthened at the ISA with research and the theoretical study of creative processes.

There is always a guide, because in the end everything has to do with success. Everyone does something to get to places and people create formulas. In my case, I was quite radical, intuitive. I was a bad student, at that time I was already living in Párraga and I was missing school, I was absent, super late, and it was very difficult for me to get into that rigid space where certain things had to be done. Many times, I would start to go to school and would stray with members of the neighborhood, and I would play rumba as well as talk garbage. That space was also stimulating and creative for me, I always went to drink more from the sources of life itself than from art.

14ymedio: At that time you had already gone through the Tania Bruguera’s Cátedra de Arte de Conducta (Behavior Art School). What did that space mean at that time?

Novo: I was there for two years and it was parallel to my first courses at ISA. The Cátedra was a time of great expansion. Now I see it and compare it with the moment when I opened up to social networks for the first time, when I became a Facebook member, for example, which was a huge expansion, suddenly finding many people who I thought were lost. People who are in other countries are suddenly by your side. Your social body expands because you post a photo, which could be in your wallet or at home, but if you post it on social networks it expands, and the Cátedra de Arte de Conducta was that for me. It was like fragmenting the mind into thousands of pieces, like dynamite, with people coming from all over the world to teach us. That program is most likely one of the best that has taken place in Cuba at the level of artistic education. The environment was completely different from the school, although it was born as an academic project within the ISA.

14ymedio: Throughout your career you have encountered censorship several times.

Novo: I think the moment where I experienced censorship firsthand, raw and frontally, was at the 50th Anniversary Collection exhibition at the Visual Arts Development Center in 2009. Sachie Hernández ran the place at that time. The exhibition was a series of T-shirts, posters, collages with clippings from the Granma newspaper, a commemorative baseball, a collection of stamps, a book; a kind of ideological advertising campaign of about 50 years of the Cuban Revolution.

The wording on the T-shirts and the iconography of the posters had a lot to do with the editorial aesthetics of Granma at that time. The signs I generated with the collages were really strong, politically strident, very confrontational. I remember that on inauguration day, a demonstration for non-violence was held, that Yoani Sánchez was not allowed to get there, and music acts were invented to extinguish any type of demonstration. That day, the Development Center got hot, because people from the march began to arrive and communicated what was happening. Amaury Pacheco and Adrián Monzón were among other artists who were already, in some way, connected with the dissent. The days were warm, the atmosphere was tense. 

They brought an order that said that Los Aldeanos could not sing at State cultural institutions, and I could not do anything

14ymedio: But at what point did the censorship arrive?

Novo: I wanted everything to be a multimedia show, we did visual projections and we had invited several rappers to sing, Los Aldeanos, Silvito el Libre, Maykel Xtremo and Danay Suárez. Everyone but Los Aldeanos was able to participate. It was an explicit censure. I remember several meetings with Sachie and the National Council of Plastic Arts. They brought an order saying that Los Aldeanos could not sing in State cultural institutions and there was nothing I could do.

I tried so that the part that was being censored did not sacrifice the whole of the entire exhibition, although it had already been mutilated. Some posters and collages had to be taken down from the wall, but even so, there was still a majority that wanted them to be displayed. Later, I learned that the pressure on the director of the Center had been enormous and that the State Security had summoned her several times, in addition to some anonymous ones who sent tor her questioning the exhibition. Within a few months, she was officially separated from her position. That was the first chapter of censorship that I experienced.

14ymedio: You were among the artists who protested against Decree 349 and among those who were in front of the Ministry of Culture on November 27th. What leads you to get involved in these causes?

Novo: I have always looked for trouble, perhaps because I raise my voice when I have to because of my sense of justice. In the historic moment that we are living, to ignore what happens is to be part of the problem and I want to be part of the solution. I want things to change because they don’t have to be this way, we live in a country where everything has to be done in a specific way and it doesn’t have to be that way. I think the wrong side is not raising your voice. I feel like I’m in the right place doing what I have to do.

14ymedio: Do you think that this has resulted in a deterioration of your relationship with the country’s cultural institutions?

Novo: My relationship with the Ministry of Culture and with the authorities in power has changed radically, the thing is that I am not interested. I continue to greet all the officials in the same way. I feel that my position is not against them, but against the institution they represent. For some time now, I have not been interested in using Cuban institutions for anything, although they are there for a reason and they could accomplish a completely different job, I think they have closed the doors to me. However, I feel that I can be an institution, and that all of us, together, my group of friends, for example, generate spaces as legitimate as the institutions themselves.

For some time now, I have not been interested in using Cuban institutions for anything, although they are there for a reason and they could accomplish a completely different job, I think they have closed the doors to me

14ymedio: Since launching the song Patria y Vida [Homeland and Life] a wave of much official controversy has been generated. How do you see the concept of “homeland”?

Novo: The homeland is full of death, because we have built that concept based on sacrifice and heroism, but homeland can also be something else completely different. The concept that has been followed since 1959 has a dark meaning of sacrifice. That is what the Cuban State asks of the people, to sacrifice themselves, that one has to die for the country, but in reality, if you die, the country ends for you, therefore, it is better to live for it.

There is also a very great vice of following things literally and it has a lot to do with the lyrics of the Cuban National Anthem, when it says that “to die for the homeland is to live”. Things must be seen at the time and according to the historical context that was taking place. The Bayamo anthem is from 1867, Cuba was under an iron colonial system and it must be understood that, at that time, Cubans who fought for independence were able to think that way and were willing to give their lives for that independence. They interpreted the motherland as the need to die for her.

Now it doesn’t have to be this way, we are in the 21st century and we have the ability to see things differently. The problem that has been generated with Patria y Vida is because they cannot accept the content and the truths in the song, palpable truths. They do not want a break in their rhetoric brought by people who do not currently live in Cuba, such as some of those musicians who created the musical theme. The homeland space has been circumscribed to the national territory, so if you are outside the Island, you are no longer recognized as part of this homeland, however, this is not so. The homeland is a transnational entity that surpasses the country’s borders, it is within us all the time. The controversy that has been generated around such a beautiful song that promotes something so human is meaningless.

The homeland is a transnational entity that surpasses the country’s borders, it is within us all the time

14ymedio: Many artists of your generation have gone to live abroad, did you choose to stay in Cuba to fight for freedom?

Novo: The Cuban nation owes a debt to peace and freedom. From our small projection space and with our own tools we are fighting for freedom. The mambises had machetes and we have telephones, computers, and paintbrushes. Each one of us, in the circuit of friends we are connected to, is thinking of a prosperous Cuba with freedoms, democratic and open. That Cuba we dream of, the one that should be, and that I believe that in some way we are achieving. I don’t like to think about it all the time because it is like doing a historiography of the present. Sometimes one solves more by washing a plate than by thinking that the plate can be washed in one way or another. The important thing is to get things done, to be here.

I have never seriously considered leaving Cuba, although the reality is getting more difficult every day. There is a great lack of everything, and an overwhelming poverty of spirit and material. I have traveled to many places and I know that you can live differently, but I have always thought that this is where I have to do things and you reach a point where you say: ‘If I am here it is because I have decided to be here, and I am fulfilling a function’. I hope I can fulfill a function.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

Cuba’s TuEnvio: Close it or Not? The Answer is More Political Than Commercial

Created in 2019, the TuEnvío store became a mandatory platform for thousands of Cubans. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 6 April 2021 — Electronic commerce in Cuba hangs by a thread, but that thread does not depend on its ability to satisfy customers. According to consumers, the TuEnvío platform is unstable and out of supply, but closing it “will never be the solution,” warns a manager.

After more than a year and a half of operation, the main official Cuban online shopping gateway fails to satisfy even the lowest standards. Complaints, criticism and scathing ridicule accumulate in its brief existence, although the authorities clarify that they will insist on improving TuEnvío.

“The alternative would be to resign and say that until the necessary conditions are created there will be no electronic commerce,” acknowledges Héctor Oroza Busutil, president of the Cimex Corporation, one of the key pieces of the state network that must guarantee that what is purchased in the virtual world actually exists and is delivered to the customer.

Created in 2019, the TuEnvío store became a mandatory platform for thousands of Cubans who access the network through national servers and who try to find in this digital commerce site what many times is not available in the network of stores and supermarkets, also managed by officialdom. continue reading

The most recent official statistics suggest that the virtual store has 820,100 registered users and of these, about 192,000 access it each day. Most of these are customers who, every day, try to fill their electronic carts and buy frozen chicken, hygiene products, sausages or soft drinks, among the few products that are sold in the store.

Despite the increase in users after the arrival of the pandemic and the rigors of confinement, the figures, far from encouraging Cimex to make the service more efficient, have served to create a shield of justifications in the face of operational impairments and scarce availability of goods.

The first complaint of users lies in something that the country has been dragging for more than a year: the commercial shortages. As Oroza Busutil acknowledged to the State newspaper Granma, the demand in TuEnvío “far exceeds the supply that, although it has never been enough, in recent months has been even more affected by the unavailability of merchandise.”

Tired of lining and fearful of the crowds where Covid could spread freely, many Cubans dream of clicking and achieving a food delivery at home, but sometimes “the devil is in the details” and the technological solution adds stress rather than reducing it.

“I have my hours to try to buy something and that is why from very early I am trying to be one of the first when they open the digital store,” Lilianna, a mother of a teenage son who lives by reselling products purchased through the commercial portal, tells 14ymedio.

“Many times I do not achieve anything, but since I spent so many hours in front of the screen, I already know some tricks. The customer who arrives new and does not know how this works does not have any chance,” Lilianna emphasizes. “The same thing has happened here as in the stores, if you don’t get up early, if you don’t have a contact or someone to sing the play for you , you don’t buy anything.”

Until last December there were about 20,000 daily purchases of modules, the mandatory product combinations if one desires to buy anything. The goods in greatest demand are mixed with others that nobody wants and thus to buy a bag of detergent you have to pay for a box with a dozen bottles of water or a floor cleaning cloth.

Establishing the obligation to buy the so-called “combos” was an official attempt to exercise equal distribution in a digital market which, in other countries, is governed by the laws of supply and demand. In the end, all the restrictions appear to have favored resellers more than individual buyers.

“From the effects on merchandise in January, they dropped to 15,000 daily purchases, and in the month of March there was a better performance,” said Oroza Busutil, a figure that shows the loss of the initial enthusiasm to buy through the catwalk. commercial but that also contrasts with the anxiety of acquiring products that the economic crisis has brought.

The official also said that, due to the limited availability of merchandise, there is no possibility of resuming the commerce of these stores that allowed users “to access and buy products by departments, as happened at the beginning in TuEnvío,” which is why they sell combos or modules with multiple products.

The shortage of products is not new for Cubans. For years they have lived in an economic crisis that, before the arrival of the pandemic, offered first glimpses of how harsh the current months were going to be. But the technical failures of TuEnvío are infuriating, they emphasize the low efficiency of a system that, far from implementing a good service, always ends in inefficiency.

Internet users complain about the slowness of the platform, blank pages, combos that disappear from the shopping cart and failures in the payment process. “Many times the reason this happens does not lie in the limitations the platform may or may not have, but in the other actors involved, such as the EnZona and Transfermóvil gateways, Redsa and the country’s banks,” Oroza Busutil justified.

Added to this is the fact that Cuban banks “do not have the technology to support that number of requests coming in at the same time.” The official acknowledged that TuEnvío has technical problems and cannot process the thousands of requests, but if this is solved, when purchases “reach the payment channels” there will be a “gridlock.”

TuEnvío is built on a technology that has been in use since 2007, explained Gilberto Luis Díaz, General Manager of DataCimex, to justify the many times that users get ” Error in the server.” However, the official added that “the system has been improved in order to solve these problems.”

The stores have “a server and up to six nodes to manage and balance loads, among other improvements.” They even increased the bandwidth, as he said, a year ago there were 40 megabits and now there are two gigabits.

Granma also reported that Cimex is developing a new platform, “based on technologies of modern programming, which should be ready before the end of the first half of the year,” but the official media itself warned that no improvement or technological change will eliminate “the main problem” in trade: the imbalance between supply and demand.

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The Cuban State’s Fear of a 22-Year-Old Journalist

Pérez had to return to Costa Rica this Thursday after being stranded for several hours at the Tocumen International Airport. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eloy M. Viera Moreno, Havana, 2 April 2021– On March 19, we enjoyed a true media show, when the Director of Communication and Image of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained to Cubans the need for the State to defend itself against a 22-year-old girl, although some details were omitted.

A few hours before, Karla María Pérez González had gone to the Cuban consulate, where she carried out and paid for the immigration procedures. She bought the essential tourist package for her trip, and began her happy return to Cuba without being made aware of any prohibition. Government authorities waited until the flight’s first stopover to inform her of her arbitrary deportation, literally leaving her in migratory limbo: without homeland or country of residence. Indescribable, for the premeditation and treachery of it, it is one more performance of the ever-henchmen.

Regarding this case, let us look at an event that took place in the same migratory field, but with diametrically opposite response on the part of our State: the return to the homeland in the summer of 1939 of Cuban volunteers of the International Brigades participating in the Spanish Civil War, among whom were numerous communists. From the beginning, they started out “on the wrong foot”. The last of them arrived in Spain coinciding with the efforts to withdraw foreign troops from the conflict, starting with the Munich Accords between the European powers, in September 1938. continue reading

What was the performance of the Cuban domestic communists in this situation? Enjoying the freedom of association of the time, they organized the Committee for the Repatriation of Cuban Combatants

At the end of that year and the beginning of the following year, they were part of the half million Republican exiles who crossed the Pyrenees in indescribable conditions, to spend about a hundred days in dismal circumstances at concentration camps organized by France, a country that also failed to welcome them.

The Brigades were organized mainly by international communism (Komintern) and received direct support from the Government of the USSR until a few months before the Republican defeat, when Stalin withdrew his backing because they no longer served his political interests.

In their homeland, Cuban brigade members faced the automatic loss of citizenship for having taken up arms in a foreign nation without permission from the Cuban Congress. This situation was a threat to the integrity of their people and an obstacle for the Government in the event of providing official assistance.

What was the performance of the domestic communists in this situation? While enjoying the freedom of association of the time, they organized the Committee for the Repatriation of Cuban Combatants, chaired by Sarah Pascual (she would later become the longest-serving Cuban communist in the party). Through public events, demonstrations, meetings and other “media shows” (as the Foreign Ministry official would label them today), they managed to awaken Cubans’ humanitarian sentiments, including those of some openly anti-communists, and thereby exerted pressure on the government. 

The domestic communists, through popular pressure on the Government, achieved the humanitarian return of hundreds of Cuban citizens, despite explicitly going against our laws

In response, the State turned a legal blind eye, mobilized its diplomatic personnel for repatriation, contracted maritime freight for transportation, and provided medical assistance in public hospitals to the wounded among the several hundred repatriated Cubans.

A phrase by Eduardo Chibás uttered in those days (he was a supporter of the Second Republic and favored the return of the nationals), describes the humiliation to which the brigadistas were subjected: “If the republicans killed in Madrid trenches could resurrect, they would raise their bloody fist to hit Stalin the Traitor in the face”. 

Cuban communists, through popular pressure on the Government, achieved the humanitarian return of hundreds of Cuban citizens, despite explicitly going against our laws

Karla María is not family to most of those who read this complaint, they don’t even know her. Let’s not, however, do as the poem by German Protestant pastor Martin Niemöller (attributed to Bertolt Brecht) recalls: “When Nazis came looking for the Communists, I kept silent, / because I was not a Communist”, and let’s not forget that, in the end, when “they came to look for me, / there was no one left who could protest”. Today, it happened to Karla Maria, tomorrow it could happen to any one of our children.

At any rate, I confirm the fear and the indecision of the Cuban State against which, with vile and deliberate intentions, it has “defended” itself from a young woman without any antecedent nor potential to turn into a danger to the nation.

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Spontaneity in San Isidro, Imposition in Trillo Park

At the collective birthday this Sunday, organized by the San Isidro Movement, the shirtless people of the area, the poor and the most vulnerable attended. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 5 April 2021 — They are separated by four months and an abyss. Some arrived at Trillo Park in November summoned by the Cuban government; the others danced this April in the San Isidro neighborhood to the rhythm of songs forbidden in the national media. Some could not even name the streets that border the Central Havana plaza to which they were delivered; the others know every stone in one of the poorest areas of the capital.

Spontaneity is very difficult to fake. The naturalness, if it is not sincere, only appears as a poorly drawn mask. The tángana [brawl] of November 29 was attended by Miguel Díaz-Canel, wearing expensive sports shoes, having just stepped out of an air-conditioned vehicle. At the collective birthday this Sunday, organized by the San Isidro Movement, the shirtless people of the area, the poor and the most vulnerable attended.

In one case, the participants sang old choruses of songs that once moved the revolutionary sinews and today they only recall the great scam that the system turned out to be. In the other they shook their hips and repeated phrases of rebellion and hope for a future in which different opinions are decriminalized. Some represent a decrepit power; the others anticipate a Cuba with a place for everyone. Those of November not chosen; those of April popularly acclaimed.

Between Trillo Park and Damas Street there is the same symbolic distance as between the Castro leadership and the Cuban people. Those “up there” believe that with the repression of their opponents, perks to their followers, and pushing critics into exile they can control this Island for a long time; those in the neighborhood with peeling facades and illegal games know that the time for change has arrived long since and that the Plaza of the Revolution no longer has anything to offer other than misery and blows.

The past resembles a plaza where worn-out slogans are shouted and the leader feigns a stroll among the multitudes known to be prepared and rehearsed; the future screams sincerely from its guts and sways openly. They are two separate times. Has it been only four months? Anyone would say four centuries.

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“A Green Tour” by Ecotaxi Through Havana, Although Not So Green

Ecotaxis are advertised “100% ecological” and at a price of 4 pesos per ticket. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 2 April 2021 — Among old and polluting almendrones*, the new Ecotaxis that carry passengers gleam on the outer edges of the National Bus Terminal in Havana. The vehicles are part of a project, funded with international capital, that seeks to preserve the environment, although they still need fossil fuel to function.

Yellow and with “100% ecological” and “zero emission” stickers, the 23 tricycles that circulate in the Cuban capital have received wide coverage in the official press. However, five months after the service started, the solar panels used to charge the batteries still do not function, and the Ecotaxis depend on the electricity grid for supply.

According to Cubadebate, the project was possible in part thanks to the Small Grants program of the Global Environment Fund, which included the installation of a photovoltaic park with 10-kilowatt power to charge the tricycles.

The photovoltaic modules “are already installed,” Ernesto Reyes, director of Taxis Cuba agency number 9, to which the vehicles belong, explains to 14ymedio by telephone. However, they still do not work.

At the moment, the units “are being charged approximately seven hours, from ten at night to five in the morning” connected to conventional outlets

“Only one converter is missing” for them to start working. Meanwhile, the option is to connect them to the national electricity system, which is 95% supplied with fossil fuels.

At the moment, the equipment “is being charged for approximately seven hours, from ten at night to five in the morning,” connected to conventional outlets that consume the electricity that reaches the state entity, stated Reyes. The operation is conducted “after peak hours,” he adds.

Activating the panels “is more complicated”, acknowledges another employee of the entity, who prefers to remain anonymous.

An engineer who also does not want to reveal his name, explains another problem to 14ymedio. The battery capacity of this equipment is 14.4-kilowatt hours (kWh) and the motor consumption is 3 kW. Each vehicle’s engine can work at maximum power for more than four hours for and travel 120 kilometers.

Of the total of 23 vehicles in operation, 11 cover the route that goes from the National Bus terminal to the train terminal, and the rest from the railway terminal to the Hospital Hermanos Ameijeiras. (14ymedio)

“The most powerful solar panels that are usually installed locally are 450 watts (W)”, details the specialist. “Ten panels represent 4.5 kW, and 14.4 kW is needed in order to charge a battery. 30 solar panels are needed to charge once a single motorcycle. To recharge the 23 motorcycles, 331.2 kW will be needed per day”. This, in any case, says the engineer, “will probably be more economical than using fuel”.

“It could be said that it is ecological, but not one hundred percent”, he says.

The other issue highlighted by the professional is that “to generate that amount of energy they need a solar generation system of approximately 55 kW per hour”, which translates into “450 W of 120 solar panels”, a figure well above of the 10 kW that the company’s photovoltaic park could guarantee, once it is in operation.

Currently, a total of 23 teams operate under the Ecotaxi system, of which 11 cover the route that goes from the National Bus terminal, through Infanta, Zanja, Curita Park, Fraternity Park and Cienfuegos Street, to the train terminal. The rest goes from the railway terminal to the Hermanos Ameijeiras hospital.

“Many of us worked as Cocotaxis drivers, and now we are providing our services here. The rest switched by virtue of having licenses to drive both a car and a motorcycle”

The project is funded primarily by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to “promote the empowerment of women through income earning, and to achieve gender equality.” Which is the reason why all the drivers are women.

Yanitza de Caridad Reyes Ramírez, one of them, states that during her time as a driver she has done “very well” and that “it is an excellent job opportunity”.

She found out about the job “through the call made by the Federation of Cuban Women right here at the base,” agency number 9 of Taxis Cuba (on Desagüe Street). “Many of us worked as Cocotaxis drivers and now we are serving here. The rest switched by virtue of having licenses to drive cars and motorcycles,” she says.

Reyes does not want to specify how much she earns per month after taxes and how much the company keeps, but she assures that she “does well”, because the course “is relatively short, and the price is more accessible to the public than any taxi”. She also pointed out that in reality “most of the time customers leave the five pesos”, one peso more than the ticket costs.

Ramona Vázquez, a former cycling and skating athlete, explains that in order to participate in the project, you must have at least three to five years of experience and a car license. “Someone who has recently obtained a driver’s license cannot take part in the project, people are transported here, and the lives of the passengers imply responsibility,” she says. “We do not have a fixed salary. The owner has to provide 125 pesos a day, the one who is hired, 300. I am not the owner, I am an assistant, but I am already working to become the owner”.

“We do not have a fixed salary.  The owner has to provide 125 pesos a day, the one who is hired, 300. I am not the owner, I am an assistant, but I am already working to become the owner”

In an approximate calculation, if there are 6 seats, in one trip the driver could earn at least 24 pesos that would add up to 432 after completing the 18 trips of the day. If they have to deliver 125 to the company, the daily profit would be 307 pesos before subtracting 10% for the National Tax Administration Office (ONAT).

This is for the owner-drivers. The hired or assistants, on the other hand, have to give 300 pesos to the company and they keep 132.

Sometimes the team breaks down and they have to stop working and, of course, income goes down. “It is the same system as the Gazelle, we can have an assistant, we take turns, three days for her and three days for me, the issue is that she has to be a woman and have car and motorcycle licenses”.

Another of the women who preferred not to tell us her name, does it in a different way, declares that this job does not “give her business”, but that it is convenient for her to have a link with the State and that is why she was contracted.

In addition to the payment to the ONAT, she also pays the cost of repairs done on the motorcycle. “I don’t make enough,” she asserts. “It is not profitable for me to have an assistant. Today, I don’t feel well, yet here I am at the helm. With what I earn, I hardly have enough for my daily expenses, and cannot afford to dream of putting something in the bank. If you do not have access to another income, you are in trouble”.

*Translator’s note: The classic American cars still common in Cuba are nicknamed “almendrones” in reference to their “almond” shape; many of these are used as taxis.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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Cuban Televisions Raises the Tone Against the 27th November Collective

Humberto López read Article 4 of the Constitution very slowly, which calls for severity against those who do not respect the socialist character of the Republic. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 30 March 2021 — The Cuban National Television presenter, Humberto López, again dedicated a video in his space this Monday in which he threatens to apply “the most severe sanctions” to the 27N [27 November] collective, the San Isidro Movement and, by extension, to all the nonconformists with the Government and the Constitution.

In a new attack on the opposition from state television, López starts from the premise that anti-government groups are linking actions by the authorities with alleged violations of the Constitution and the laws in force in Cuba. “They are looking for cracks in the law. Soon I will bring you other inventions, but this is one of the main ones. They cite articles to legitimize everything that occurs to them, perhaps because they have finally understood that it [the constitution] was endorsed by 86.85% of the population, “says the presenter.

Based on this idea, the presenter maintains that the intention of the opponents is to modify the Constitution, making the article that declares socialism irrevocable disappear, something that is impossible as indicated in article 229 which states: “In no case can the pronouncements on the irrevocability of the socialist system established in article 4 can be modified.” continue reading

At this time, López went on to read the section to expressly indicate to the critics what they are exposed to: “The defense of the socialist homeland is the greatest honor and the supreme duty of every Cuban. Betrayal of the homeland is the most serious of crimes, whoever commits it is subject to the most severe sanctions. The socialist system endorsed by this Constitution is irrevocable. Citizens have the right to fight by all means, including armed struggle, when no other recourse is possible, against anyone who tries to overthrow the political, social and economic order established by this Constitution,” he recited slowly.

According to López, critics cannot invoke rights enshrined in the Constitution endorsed by such a large majority of the people to subvert them.

The Lopez’s speech begins with a frontal attack on the 27N Collective and the San Isidro Movement, personalized in Tania Bruguera, who is described as a leader and is accused of appropriating the law to launch accusations against Cuban television and ask everyone not to watch it. The video echoes a publication by the artist in which she accuses the News program of falsification for including an invented logo for the 27N Collective. “I acknowledge that we created the logo to make it look nice,” justifies the presenter.

López believes that “those of the 27N, those of San Isidro and the analogical classic counterrevolutionaries do not have prestige here in Cuban society” and they intend to attract social groups that the population respects for being serious and passionate, among them feminists, animal rights activists and LGBTI groups.

In the video, the presenter mocks the alleged lack of convocation of these movements, opposing to a protest action promoted by the 27N (although he calls it “Citizen Articulation”) the images of the official march this weekend to ask for the end of the US embargo. “It seems that it had a tremendous impact because yesterday what happened was this,” says López while projecting photographs of the Sunday caravan along Havana’s Malecón.

The apparent low importance the main Cuban News program attributes to the 27N and the San Isidro Movement contrasts with the time that television program dedicates to it, which in recent months has referred to these groups and their members on multiple occasions to defame them and accuse them of being in the service of “subversion” and the US Government.

“I have much more, I will return very soon,” says the presenter in what is a clear warning that the campaign is far from over.

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Cuban Hospitals on Verge of Collapse due to Covid and Lack of Supplies

The rebound in Covid-19 cases in Cuba since last January has resulted in a very complicated outlook for people suffering from other diseases. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 April 2021 — Ambulances that never arrive, Emergency Rooms full of poorly treated patients and the lack of medicines, have the Cuban health system on the brink of collapse; the jewel in the crown of official propaganda. On the island there are growing complaints about patients who die with hardly any attention and others whose illnesses are progressing due to the lack of drugs.

The rebound in Covid-19 cases in Cuba since last January has resulted in a very complicated outlook for people suffering from other diseases and who find themselves with suspended medical consultations, overcrowded hospitals and a tired and under-resourced healthcare staff, a alarming scenario to which is added the lack of antibiotics and analgesics.

The musician and director of the Municipal Band of Concerts of the Diez de Octubre district in Havana, Xander Art, almost didn’t live to tell about it. “Yesterday I almost died,” begins a text on his Facebook account, a text that received dozens of comments of support in just a few minutes, and solidarity for his disturbing story. continue reading

Xander suffered a crisis of intense pain in the scapula, fever and seizures. After calling an ambulance, the artist had to wait more than an hour to be rushed to the Raúl Gómez García University Hospital Polyclinic, on Calle Coco at the corner of Rabí, in the same municipality. But he was rejected because his case “had nothing to do with what they were dealing with there,” he complains.

The band director had to be transferred to the Miguel Enríquez hospital, known as La Benéfica, and “there the nightmare begins,” he says in his publication. “A waiting room full of stretchers, a patient with a transfusion, a man dying, an old woman crying out to be killed, an injured person with a hole in his head, two or three more dying and a man masturbating in front of everyone.”

“It was a horror movie,” says Xander. “The doctor was sick, she went into her office, threw a bag of sodium chlorine on the floor and some nurses went to take her blood pressure. She had collapsed.” The artist had to wait hours for the results of an X-ray and analysis. “He was dehydrated, with chapped lips and almost blind from the pain. The doctor had gone from stress to a Zen stage where she was not listening to anyone.”

“Today I am at home, without knowing what I have, with herbal concoctions as if shamanism had returned to save us.” The musician says he is afraid of “not knowing what is happening, of having a seizure again and not waking up, of having something more serious than I thought at first,” but he has no choice but to “pull out his contacts and wallet and sleep peacefully.”

“This country is dying and I do not see a cure. Please, if you read me, take care, try to maintain a good diet as much as possible, not to stress more than necessary. We are at a level where we cannot get sick from anything because there are no medicines nor hospitals nor even any humanity,” he added.

Among the comments to Xander’s text, some Internet users respond with similar stories that they have suffered in Cuban hospitals and others offer him a medicine that they have saved “for emergencies.” In the last two years, barter and the informal market have become the only way to get hold of drugs that have disappeared from pharmacies and hospitals.

A Twitter user identified as Alex Jorge also denounced this Friday that, at the same Miguel Enríquez hospital, his aunt was discharged because they were unable to amputate her foot. The lady is diabetic and according to the photos shown by the internet user, her left foot is very swollen and has two infected wounds.

“Today my aunt was discharged, because, and I quote, ‘they are not amputating, so do the cures at home.’ My cousin saw how the patients had to take their medicines from home because [in the hospital] there aren’t any,” wrote Alex Jorge.

He added that the justification given by the healthcare workers is that surgery cannot be done because of “a bacterium” in the operating room. At the end of the letter he said that his aunt needs “iodine, nitrofurazone, gauze, growth factor, pentoxifylline for circulation and warfarin… There is none of that,” he said.

Another problem that the Cuban health system faces is that the sources of Covid-19 infection that are generated among healthcare workers and patients. The contagions cause the closure of some medical centers, and therefore, the collapse of others. In the capital, these days, about 700 families are kept in quarantine due to an infection event at the Tomás Romay polyclinic, in Old Havana.

That, together with the shortages of supplies, complicates the situation. At the end of last year, the authorities warned that the severe shortage of drugs would continue in 2021. The country only has “a very tight “basic table of medicines due to” financial tensions,” Dr. Emilio Delgado Iznaga, Director of Medicines and Medical Technology of the Ministry of Public Health, acknowledged at the time.

“Patients come with pain, wounds or infections but what I have for everyone is the same: I tell them to calm down, drink a lot of water and go home to rest,” acknowledges a doctor in the Joaquín Albarrán Domínguez Clinical Surgical Teaching Hospital, on 26th Street, also in the Cuban capital.

“Everything we have is destined right now for Covid-19 patients, anyone who comes with another condition, there is little that can be done,” warns the doctor who preferred to remain anonymous. “Every night that I am on duty, this seems like a battlefield here because patients with very serious problems arrive and they have to be left in the corridors for hours and without the medications.”

“What people are not being told is that they should not only take great care to avoid the coronavirus, but that they should take extreme care to avoid accidents, medical complications of any kind and even diarrhea, because hospitals do not have conditions right now to manage any of that,” advises the doctor.

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Cuban Farmers: ‘Pretty Soon We’ll Need Dollars to Buy Rain’

The small amount of fertilizer now becoming available “remains in the hands of officials with the National Association of Small Farmers.” (Flikr/kuhnmi)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 30 March 2021 — First it was work gloves, then machetes in foreign currency and now fertilizer. News that the NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium) Mixed Fertilizer Factory, in Cienfuegos, was being brought back online was accompanied by the bad news that its products will be sold, both overseas in Cuba, for hard currency.

Amid a major shortage of agricultural supplies, this month the country’s largest fertilizer manufacturer began a new trial phase to “see if it can operate at full capacity,” as reported in the local press. The manufacturer, which is a subsidiary of the Cienfuegos Chemical Company, plans to use Indian technology to convert raw material into 6,200 tons of fertilizer.

“We will spend approximately fifteen days conducting performance tests aimed at producing 55 tons an hour, which is the design capacity of this facility,” added the company’s general director, Mario Valmaseda Valle. “The Import and Export Company of the Ministry of Foreign Trade will handle marketing and distribution. It will be sold for freely convertible currency.” continue reading

It did not take long for the director’s statements to generate a backlash on social media and among farmers, who for months have been demanding access to the product, which for over a month has been virtually impossible to find at stores selling goods in Cuban pesos.

“What the government has to do is give the farmer the freedom to produce, to sell, to export, and to reduce or eliminate taxes so that he who works in the field under the hot sun does not also have to be an economist, counting his pesos to make sure he has enough to pay his workers or to buy hard currency,” says Esteban Ajete Abascal, president of the League of Independent Cuban Farmers.

“Before this recent crisis in San Juan y Martinez, in Pinar del Rio [province], the fertilizer would be delivered to warehouses at the train station. From there a fleet of trucks would deliver it to farmers, but all that’s ancient history now.”

The little that has gotten delivered “remains in the hands of officials with the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP), who distribute it to those who grow tobacco or other high-priority crops. Farmers who once got fifty sacks, now only get ten, two or three of which they sell to others who have not received any. As a result, no crop is receiving as much fertilizer as it needs.”

“We are talking about nitrogen fertilizer and a little bit of urea that is used to help the crops with humidity. Before the crisis a bag cost between 80 to 90 pesos but today you can only get it on the black market, where it costs 400 to 500 pesos. One bag covers about fifteen acres and has to be applied at least a couple of times during tilling,” Ajete adds.

But the compost business is not immune to mismanagement. Ajete denounces “the corrupt fertilizer distribution system” created by ANAP and cooperative farm officials. “They provide it in exchange for harvested crops at prices well below what is mandated. Instead of jacking up the price, they provide it to those who can increase the value by using it for high-demand crops such as tomatoes and taro.”

“The ones who benefit from these shady practices are those who have better land and others who are willing to snitch and work as informants for the political police,” explains Ajete.

“It’s not just about getting hard currency. Around here farmers are still defaulting on their loans. We don’t even have the money for crops that we sold to the state months ago,” laments another farm, who lives in Holguin province and belongs to the Manuel Freire Agricultural Production Cooperative.

“Here we’ve been waiting six months for them to pay us for products we delivered last year. If I had that money, I could at least think about buying dollars, depositing them in my bank account and using them to buy fertilizer. But I can’t even do that because they keep delaying payment.”

“Pretty soon we’ll need dollars to buy rain too. Every day there are more tools we need that can only be bought for a currency in which we are not paid for our crops,” explains one farmer. I don’t understand how they can expect us to produce more food for the public when they make decisions like this.”

The economist Pedro Monreal also criticized the measure, which he described an an “absurd decision” in a Twitter post. “Agricultural production depends on private farmers who have no ’interest’ in buying fertilizers for foreign currency for the simple reason that they have no foreign currency income,” said Monreal, who has previously criticized the dollarization of the agricultural sector.

Last September the Ministry of Agriculture’s  Business Logistics Group (Gelma) began doing things differently. With the launch of a sales catalog focused on the agricultural sector, the state-owned company began offering ox yokes, boots, hoes, horse shoes, wiring for fences and other supplies for sale solely in hard currency.

Gelma justified this decision on social networks, saying that, in the midst of “shortages in distribution networks, the agricultural sector requires a system that will give producers easier access to raw materials, equipment, parts, specialized accessories and other assorted items that can allow an increase in production.”

Heberto Ramos, a farmer from Alquizar, a town in Artemisa province, also does not hide his outrage. “Around here no one has family sending them dollars or has another way of getting them. What will we have to do to buy fertilizer in foreign currency?” this produce vendor asks by telephone.

It’s understandable that some imported products or machines would be sold for dollars. But it doesn’t make sense that a fertilizer made here in this country is sold for anything other than the national currency,” explains Ramos. “The organic fertilizer I use here comes from farm waste. But without a little industrial fertilizer to augment it, it’s very difficult to get a decent crop.”

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Another ‘Great Achievement’ of the Revolution: Havana Turned Into an Urban Garden

As Cuba’s economic situation worsens, citizens are faced the with empty markets. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerElías Amor Bravo, Economist, 31 March 2021 — Current attempts by Cuban leaders to solve the problem of self-sufficiency in the capital are giving rise to exceptional proposals, such as the famous ’Marrero patios’. Well, it’s very simple, you have to forget what they say they want to do, before it’s too late. The communists have gone out of their way to propose a series of actions and programs aimed at boosting the food supply for the more than 2 million inhabitants concentrated in the capital. An activity that fails over and over again. It turns out that the idea of turning Havana into an urban garden was brought up and analyzed by Valdés Mesa in a meeting this past Monday with municipal authorities. It seems incredible that there are people who dedicate themselves to these nonsense, with all that has rained in 62 years.

At the event, according to the State newspaper Granma, the results achieved in 2021, consisting of the planting of 600 hectares of bananas and yucca in the capital, were presented as a success. In an urban area, with high levels of pollution, congestion of activities and a high population density, cultivating the land in something other than gardens or parks to beautify the landscape, is a real nonsense. Where have these banana trees, or cassava, been cultivated? It’s scary, just thinking about it.

Based on information from Granma, an important part of the land planted in the capital has its origin in the so-called “program of 800 rustic farming houses by 2023”, of which 85 (less than 10%) have been finished, with a contribution of 64 tons of products, while another 54 houses are in different phases of construction. And later, it has its origin in the “urban, suburban and family agriculture for the planting of vegetables”, at 3.5 square meters per inhabitant. At the beginning of the year it has grown to 4.34 square meters, of the 10 that the country plans to achieve, nothing more and nothing less than 10 square meters for vegetables. continue reading

The meeting also presented the work for the recovery of organoponics, as well as the incorporation of patios and plots for the production of food, the same ones that Marrero said he wants to activate, knocking on the doors of the houses. Of the 113,925 patios and plots, 113,118 are planted. For this there are data.

Various indicators related to the commercialization of agricultural products were also reviewed, one of the weaknesses recognized by the authorities. The municipalities with the lowest amounts per capita were La Lisa (13.2 pounds), Diez de Octubre (15.7) and Boyeros (15.8) due to the closure of leased markets and outlets for self-employed workers during January and February (the repression against the merchants of Decree 30, continues).

It was said that, in the case of the city, up to nine different forms of commercialization of agricultural products coincided and that there was no actual commercialization policy. To reach the plan’s target 30 pounds, it is required to produce more, including through all forms of management, both in production and marketing. Specifically, the authorities insisted that marketing should be reviewed in the different forms of management, so that there is a balance, it is safe and equitable in the territories.

In short, a call was made to grow and plant more in the different areas of the capital, as well as to maintain permanent monitoring of commercialization. It was said that Playa, with a per capita of 17 pounds in January and February, should not only depend on other territories, but has to plant about 60 hectares of banana and yucca. Who was going to say it, convert the luxurious houses of Miramar into rustic farmhouses, with orchards in the patios?

To address the issue of unlocking the commercialization, measures were proposed, such as “the legalization of the various existing routes today (online sales, unlicensed pushcart sellers, for example), as well as the creation of Wholesale Business Units and the lease delivery of agricultural markets. ”Attention was also devoted to reviewing the reasons for Artemisa’s defaults and defaults in provinces such as Artemisa and Mayabeque and the Acopio Company, which resulted in non-payments to producers.

There was reference to the need to comply with the indicators of the plans and ensure that, when the commercialization is arranged and the retail and wholesale networks are stabilized, the benefits of the prices reach the producer, and do not remain with the intermediaries, as if the producers should not have a reward for their work. In addition, it was insisted that agricultural companies must carry out a series of actions to obtain freely convertible currency, citing as an example the Metropolitan Agricultural Company, which continues to inject foreign exchange into the resources that agriculture needs.

They also spoke of the need to complete and dignify the marketing network of agricultural products, ensuring both hygiene and presence, as well as the quality of what is sold and services. Valdés Mesa even spoke of transforming marketing, having products of different quality. It is not only having more markets, but also all these purposes, for the benefit of the population. He also insisted on making better use of the land available in the capital and once again insisted on the need to reach 10 square meters per inhabitant for planting vegetables.

Havana turned into a “fertile garden”. An image that goes back in time to long before the colony. It is incredible that the communists pursue something like this, and, furthermore, they insist on achieving it, dedicating resources and means to this objective. Valdés Mesa concluded by relating his dream that “this wonderful city will be more so when it has all its lands and patios planted,” and all this, within the constitutional precept that points to the need to strengthen the municipalities, with greater autonomy and authority to promote their development. Havana will have to grow yams and taro even in the gardens of the Capitol. At least there are no chickens anymore*.

*Translator’s note: Among Fidel Castro’s many schemes was one to give every Cuban family chicks to raise, as a source of eggs if the chicks turned out to be female, and a source of meat, if male.

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

123 Cuban Healthcare Workers Return from Mexico and the Secret of Their Location is Revealed

The sending of Henry Reeve brigades to Mexico has been characterized by controversy and opacity. (Latin Press)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Olea Gallardo, Havana, 30 March2021 –The details of the mission of the Cuban doctors in Mexico continues to be learned drop by drop. This Monday, when 123 medical personnel from the Henry Reeve Brigade returned to the island, of the nearly 500 deployed in that country since December, the official Cuban press confirmed that they had been working in military institutions.

“The aid workers treated a total of 408 suspected or confirmed patients with SARS-CoV-2 in the operational units of temporary hospitalization Chivatito, Campo 1ª and Sixth Mortar Battalion,” reports Prensa Latina, who says that “the performance of these 84 doctors, 38 nursing graduates and a specialist in electromedicine won them the recognition of the Ministry of Health of Mexico, the Ministry of National Defense and the Government of the capital of the country.”

Until now, neither Mexico nor Cuba had specified the hospitals where the health workers who arrived in December were assigned, and the Cuban State newspaper Granma limited itself to saying that they were “in the temporary hospitalization operating units,” without giving further details. continue reading

The first center mentioned on Monday by the official news agency (Chivatito) is the Covid-19 Installation Military Hospital created by the Ministry of Defense on one side of Los Pinos, the former presidential residence, where source who preferred to reserve his identity told 14ymedio at the time that at least 260 doctors were working in Mexico.

According to that source, these were housed “in units without being able to leave them, they sleep in bunks, and were divided into three brigades,” and two of them deserted.

The group that returned this Monday is the third group of those deployed in December to have returned to Cuba: a first contingent (of 160) did so on March 1 and another (of 95), two weeks later.

The sending of Henry Reeve brigades to Mexico has been characterized by controversy and opacity. On March 15, it was learned that the Mexican Government had paid one and a half million dollars more than what it had originally said (about six million) for 585 health workers on the island who had been working between April and July 2020.

The information was provided to the Mexican digital medium La Silla Rota only through a request to the transparency portal InfoCDMX — to which public institutions are, in principle, obliged to respond by law — and after a wait of half a year.

That they have been housed in military institutions has made it more difficult to learn about the ’mission’ that began in December. In theory, the Ministry of Defense is subject to the same rules when it comes to requesting information via transparency, but in practice, the authorities often refuse to provide it, alleging national security reasons.

Another thing happened in June of last year, when complaints about the work carried out by Cubans in hospitals in the Mexican capital came to light both on social networks and in the main Mexican newspapers.

For the rest, it remains unknown how much Mexico paid for the almost 200 healthcare workers that were stationed in Veracruz on the same dates or for the 500 that it imported in December, of which 378 have already returned to Cuba.

It is also unknown which government agency made the disbursement. The response to La Silla Rota, via transparency, named the Ministry of Health of the Mexican capital, but at the time, both the owner, Oliva López Arellano, and the head of Government of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, emphasized that Cubans were hired “through an agreement with Insabi,” the Health and Welfare Institute created by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which has been the target of numerous criticisms in the country.

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