Number of Self-employed in Cuba Exceeds Half a Million / 14ymedio

A self-employed person in the food industry (Photo Silvia Corbelle)
A self-employed person in the food industry (Photo Silvia Corbelle)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 June 2015 — At the conclusion of the month of May, the number of self-employed persons in Cuba had risen to 504,613, as shown in a report from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MLSS) published Saturday. Of these, at least 17 percent combine their work in the private sector with a government job.

The document also notes that among people with a license to practice an occupation on their own, there are some 155,605 young people, a number that grew by 7,912 during the first quarter of the current year. continue reading

Moreover, some 154,756 women are self-employed, while 62,043 retired people have chosen to re-enter working life through this non-State form of employment.

The report also reveals that the provinces of Havana, Matanzas, Villa Clara, Camaguey, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba lead the rest of the country, accounting for 66 percent of workers engaged in these occupations.

The most common activities are still making and selling food, transport of cargo and passengers, renting of housing, rooms and spaces, telecommunications agent, and contract workers, the latter associated primarily with the first two listed activities.

The expansion of the process of self-employment began in October 2010 and the promising initial growth has been overtaken in the last year by a slower increase. Self-employed people complain about the high taxes, the lack of a wholesale market, excessive restrictions on what they are allowed to do, and the lack of permits to import raw materials.

Cuba’s Ladies in White Repressed on Their Sunday March Today / 14ymedio

Ladies in White walking down 5th Avenue in Miramar. (14ymedio)
Ladies in White walking down 5th Avenue in Miramar. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 June 2015 — Security forces have lashed out against the Ladies in White this Sunday, as they have on the previous ten Sundays. This time they carried out several preventive arrests among the activists who often accompany the Ladies in White in their march on 5th Avenue, at the end of the Mass at Santa Rita Church in Miramar.

According to information provided by a 14ymedio reporter present at the site, 61 Ladies in White and 18 men, among them activists and independent journalists, attended the Mass.

Arrested before arriving were photographer Claudio Fuentes, independent journalist Juan González Febles and activists Agustín López Canino and Hugo Damian. Also reported, at 11:30 am, were the arrest of four Ladies in White and 8 men to prevent them from arriving at the church. continue reading

After the conclusion of the Mass, at the corner of 5th and 30th, a police patrol made up of uniformed men and woman violently arrested Jacqueline Boni as she tried to join the march. Meanwhile, Agustin Lopez was released about two in the afternoon and wrote in his Twitter account, “I was just released, incredibly they neither handcuffed me nor beat me but they violated my rights.” This newspaper was able to confirm that the security forces arrested a total of 68 people, including Ladies in White and other activists.

Today marks the 640th Sunday of marches by the Ladies in White along a stretch of 5th Avenue in Miramar, at the end of Mass at Santa Rita Church, which is located at 5th and 24th in the Miramar neighborhood. The first march occurred on 30 March 2003, when the arrests of the 75 opposition figures of the so-called “Black Spring” — carried out earlier that same month — were still recent.

On the previous nine Sundays, after “allowing” the walk along the avenue’s boulevard, there have been acts of repudiation and arrests, some of them with notable violence.

Arrests for political reasons nationwide nearly doubled in May as compared to April. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation counted a total of 641 arrests for political reasons, the highest monthly figure in the last ten months.

The Cardinal’s Bad Memory / 14ymedio, Mario Felix LLeonart

Cardinal Jaime Ortega at a conference at Harvard University in 2012 (Fotograma)
Cardinal Jaime Ortega at a conference at Harvard University in 2012 (Fotograma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Felix Lleonart, Havana, 12 June 2015 – As was expected, Cardinal Jaime Ortega’s flat denial of the fact that there are still political prisoners in Cuba has leaked from the interview granted to Spain’s Ser Chain program Hour 25. It borders on the enigmatic how someone in the position of this man is open to asserting something that no one believes at all and that has done nothing for either the church that he represents or he himself. It is obvious that such a nonsensical statement shatters all of the church’s social doctrine that he is called upon to support and practice. continue reading

But supposing that the prelate is so badly informed that he is ignorant of the existing lists, like that of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), that include dozens of prisoners, whether supporters of violence or not, but without doubt all incarcerated for political reasons, one will have to add that the cardinal suffers also from a memory deficit. Because the archbishop must at least remember that on the eve of the visit by Benedict XVI on February 28, 2012, he had to visit the political prisoner Ernesto Borges Perez at Combinado del Este Prison to ask him to give up his hunger strike because he was putting the Pope’s visit at risk.

Ernesto was amenable to the proposal of his pastor, who raised great expectations of his liberation with the then-imminent visit. That hope was frustrated, as before in 2010, when 126 prisoners were released, or later, in December of 2014, when another 53 were freed after the announcement of the re-establishment of US-Cuba relations. Many of us came to think that it had been he for whom the liberation of the Wasp Network spies had been negotiated, until we learned that in reality it had been Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, sentenced for a reason similar to his.

Borges Perez has completed 17 of the 30 years of incarceration to which he was sentenced after his death penalty was commuted. He was sentenced for his effort to reveal the names of 26 spies that Cuban State Security had ready to send to the United States. He was then the main analyst and leader of the General Directorate of Counter-Intelligence and apparently acted under the influence of the Glasnost and Perestroika winds that were blowing in the USSR.

Converted to Catholicism in prison, where he survives as a fervent believer who clings to his faith as his only lifeline of salvation, he must have felt an enormous frustration after that visit by his pastor who left satisfied on achieving his objective and has never returned to see him. I doubt that the two letters of pastoral support addressed to him by Benedict XVI through the papal nuncio mitigate his disappointment on learning that his pastor did not even take account of him in his interview with Hour 25.

I pray to God that history does not repeat itself and that Ernesto does not again declare a hunger strike with the approach of the new papal visit in September.

Translated by MLK

The University Of Havana Is In Position 83 Of The 300 Best In Latin America / 14ymedio

University of Havana (Romtomtom / Flickr)
University of Havana (Romtomtom / Flickr)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, 11 June 2015 — The University of Havana is the only Cuban institution of higher education that sneaks into the top 100 in Latin America according to the QS University Rankings for the region, published for the fifth consecutive year. The University of the East in Santiago de Cuba remains in position 141, making it into the first half of the table that evaluates 300 schools of the continent.

Despite their less than prominent positions, both universities improved their position over the previous year. The university in Havana moves from number 91 in 2014 to number 83 in 2015, while the one in Santiago de Cuba rose sharply from the 171-180 range to its current position of 141. Two other Cuban universities, Carlos Rafael Rodriguez University in Cienfuegos and Jose Antonio Echeverria University, known as CUJAE, are at very end of the list, between positions 250 and 300. continue reading

The best institutions according to this ranking would be the University of São Paulo and the State University of Campinas, both in Brazil, the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, which dropped from first to third place, and the University of Chile, which is in fourth place. The top 10 is completed by Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Autonomous University of Mexico, Andes of Colombia, Sao Paulo State University, Monterrey Tech and University of Brasilia.

The QS University Rankings: Latin America is an initiative launched in 2011 to complement the QS World University Rankings, whose purpose is to provide an assessment adapted to the regional context.

The ranking is based on seven indicators, including measures of institutional reputation by global surveys of academics and employers. Scientific research is also a key indicator and is measured by the impact of publications (citations per publication) and productivity (publications per faculty). The methodology also includes two distinctive indicators that, for the moment, have not been used in other initiatives: the proportion of teachers with doctorates and the online impact of institutions.

Abel Prieto Demands End Of Radio Marti To Normalize Relations With The US / 14ymedio

Abel Prieto
Abel Prieto

14ymedio biggerEFE (on 14ymedio), 13 June 2015 — The adviser to Cuban President Raul Castro and former Minister of Culture Abel Prieto believes that the restoration of diplomatic relations with the US does not yet mean “normalization” because to get to that point, “They must lift the blockade which they call an ‘embargo.’”

In an interview with EFE Prieto affirmed that the normalization should also include “return of the occupied Guantanamo Base,” and compensation to the Cuban people for the “terrible suffering” and for the “difficulties and limitations.” continue reading

For the former minister (who served during the years 1997-2012) the base of conversations with the United States should be “equality” and argues that “no one should wait on us to cede a single one of our principles.”

“We demand respect for our system,” and because of this he thinks that the process will be “long and difficult.”

The Castro advisor considers that an essential point is to eliminate the “illegal transmissions” of Radio and Television Martí (broadcasts financed by the United States to promote freedom and democracy in Cuba), if they want to talk about this “normalization” of relations between the United States and Cuba.

Asked whether Cuba would change its principles with regards to international politics, Prieto responded, “No,” and asserted that he considers Venezuela a “friend,” and expressed himself “against any interference in any of the internal affairs of Venezuela.”

“I think that this is an operation to discredit the government of President Nicolas Maduro; it is an economic war and a flow of false accusations,” he said.

According to Abel Prieto, Venezuela, “Will always count on the solidarity of Cuba, that is very clear, very firm and the opinion is not going to change.”

While visiting Madrid, the former minister participated in a colloquium with the Cuban ambassador in Spain, where he defended the democratization of culture and a Latin American and Caribbean focus in this.

Prieto, who affirmed he intends to die “without listening to Justin Bieber,” recognizes that after the new relations with the United States, “we have to confront the symbolic war and do it in the open, without prohibiting anything.”

The idea that Cuba fears the Internet is “indefensible,” according to Prieto, a supporter of “democratizing rules that must be based on the Internet.”

With regards to the Internet and the importance of social networks in his country, which is among the countries in the world with the lowest Internet penetration, Prieto said that in Cuba the Internet has “a lot of weight,” although he recognizes that connectivity is “very slow.”

The former minister says that Cuban society will be computerized, “To give free and open access to the Internet, and not to those who have money, but to those who need it to support their studies and research.”

Prieto considers the Internet an important way of “Exchanging cultural messages and collective creation,” and he says it is a part of the project of making Socialism “prosperous and sustainable” launched by the government of Raul Castro.

The idea that Cuba fears the Internet is “indefensible,” according to Prieto, a supporter of “democratizing rules that must be based on the Internet.”

“Cuba itself will oppose the attempts to create division and to destabilize the government, we are not going to accept that the false opposition uses social media to discredit us because this is part of sovereignty.”

He advocates for a “decolonized and emancipated” use of the Internet, and refers to the governance of the network, which according to him is controlled “by the United States government and a few corporations based in the United States.”

Cuba Expects To Enact A New Law On Entreprises In 2017 / 14ymedio

Screen grab of Gabriela Trista on Cuban TV's Roundtable program
Screen grab of GriselTrista on Cuban TV’s Roundtable program

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 12 June 2015 – Cuba expects to enact a “Enterprise Law” in 2017 in line with the economic reforms initiated by president Raul Castro in his attempt to “update” the Socialist system on the Island, according to an official announcement this week.

The new legislation “will reflect the principles, characteristics and performance requisites of enterprises,” said Grisel Trista Arbesu, head of the organization responsible for the reforms, the Enterprise Refinement for the Implementation and Development of the Guidelines. continue reading

The official, who participated in a two-day workshop held in Havana under the name Challenges of the Cuban Economy, said that 2015 “will be the first year that all measures converge to provide the Socialist state enterprise more autonomy and powers in pursuit of greater efficiency and productivity.”

According to what Trista said during the workshop, attended by 645 specialists, managers and academics from across the country, among the changes the most important was “the separation of business and government functions.”

The Government considers that the “update” has allowed state enterprises to restructure both to strengthen the nation’s productive sector and to increase system capacity.

State enterprises continue to make up Cuba’s basic economic model, regulated by legislation passed in 1987. Since officially taking office in 2008, President Raul Castro has tried to gradually reduce the weight of a bloated public sector through measures promoting self-employment, not without multiple obstacles, however.

Fariñas Speaks Before the Victims of Communism / 14ymedio, Jose Badue

Guillermo-Farinas-Victimas-Comunismo-Maria_CYMIMA20150613_0001_16 14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jose Badue, Washignton DC, 13 June 2015 — Despite a temperature of 97º F (36º C), and unbearable humidity, about one hundred representatives of nations and peoples – including a Russian LGBT association – who have suffered the nefarious consequences of Communism, met at the corner of New Jersey and Massachusetts Avenues at 10:00 AM before the Victims of Communism Memorial. continue reading

It was very sad, but at the same time very interesting to see so many diverse people united by the same tragedy. While I was speaking with a group of Cuban former political prisoners, reporters from TV Martí and Diario de Cuba approached us. Since I had already explained to the ex-political prisoners that I was there to do my part for 14 y medio, one of them remarked how beautiful it would be in a future Cuba where free journalists would be able to compete in their coverage of whatever they chose to cover. Those old men still are a source of inspiration. They never stop dreaming.

 Fariñas gave a very moving speech. He thanked the Cuban former political prisoners there in attendance for their struggle and sacrifice. Fariñas did not give a prepared speech, as is usually his style, and as his English interpreter told me. When Fariñas concluded, all those present gave him a resounding standing ovation.

Fariñas Dedicates His Award To All Cuban Political Prisoners / 14ymedio

Guillermo-Fundacion-Memorial-Victimas-Comunismo_CYMIMA20150612_0003_1614ymedio bigger14ymedio, Washington, DC, 12 June 2015 — In a ceremony that took place yesterday in Washington, DC, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation awarded the 2015 Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom to Cuban opposition figure Guillermo Fariñas. The dissident used the opportunity to dedicate the award to “all the (Cuban) political prisoners of the ’60’s and ’70’s, when nobody listened,” as he stated to 14ymedio. continue reading

In a meeting with the directors of the Foundation, Fariñas thanked them once again for “not forgetting the thousands of Cubans who have been executed, arrested, tortured, or who have died in the sea trying to escape from Communism.”

Alexander Podrabinek, a Russian human rights activist and journalist, was also awarded the 2015 Truman-Reagan Medal on Friday afternoon. The dissident has been the victim of several incarcerations, and has undertaken his work under the unrelenting surveillance of both the Soviet régime and Vladimir Putin’s authoritarianism.

Before the ceremony, Fariñas, winner of the European Union’s 2012 Sakharov Prize, met with Senator Robert Menéndez, Democrat from New Jersey. He also met with Congressman Albio Sires, Democrat from New Jersey, and the Floridian Congressional members, Carlos Curbelo, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Mario Díaz-Balart.

The first event of the day was a luncheon dedicated to the “triumph of freedom,” where Senator Ted Cruz of Texas was the featured speaker. The final speaker for the night was Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Democrat of Ohio.

The Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom was created in 1999 to honor persons and organizations that have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to freedom and democracy, and against all forms of tyranny.

Anti-U.S. References Erased From a Santa Clara Mural / 14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenchea

One section of the mural
One section of the mural

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenchea, Santa Clara, 9 June 2015 — After months of work, the new cartoon mural in the City of Santa Clara’s Intercity Bus Terminal has been completed. This painting replaces an earlier one, but with two significant elements missing. It does not include any component from the hand of Pedro Méndez, the renown cartoonist from the comics supplement Melaíto*, and all references to the United States – which were abundant in the previous painting – are gone.

Méndez was not able to contribute due to health issues, while the absence of negative references about our neighbor to the North seems to be related to the new era that began last December 17th with the announcement of reestablishment of relations between the White House and the Plaza of the Revolution. Both circumstances have combined and noticeably influenced the final results. continue reading

No one would ever dream that Méndez, an avowed enemy of the yanquis and the artist behind the anti-U.S. images on the painting that was replaced, would now be willing to work on a mural whose artists were clearly prohibited from making even a veiled criticism of the neighbor to the North. “There better not be any flags on the military uniforms!” was the order of the cultural authorities to the artists and sign makers who undertook the project.

The reasons behind replacing the old mural are not clear either. It is true that the wall on which the mural hung was in a deplorable state. Rumor had it that intelligence agent Gerardo Hernández Nordelo would surely display his own drawings on that wall, but that has not happened. Still, it may. In the next few months they may decide to fill the space they left blank, before graffiti artists get to it first.

*Translator’s Note: Part of Vanguardia, the Communist Party newspaper of Villa Clara Province.

Translated by José Badué

— Supplement to 14ymedio article: Photos of sections of the old mural —

What's that? Collateral damage. (Source:
What’s that? Collateral damage. (Source:


Letter from a Cuban-Spaniard to Pablo Iglesias / 14ymedio

Pablo Iglesias, Secretary-General and founder of the Spanish Podemos party and Member of the European Parliament. (Facebook)
Pablo Iglesias, Secretary-General and founder of the Spanish Podemos party and Member of the European Parliament. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 22 May 2015 — I am a Cuban of Spanish descent. I was born in Havana exactly fourteen years after Franco’s death, ten years after the Spanish Constitution of 1978 was ratified, and one year before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

My grandparents, most of them from the Spain’s Galicia region, could be considered victims of the Franco régime. Although they were not killed or tortured, they did suffer the consequences of a civil war. Like so many others, they had to leave it all behind and emigrate to Cuba, fleeing the poverty and social instability inflicted on Spain by the Franco régime and its brand of Fascism. In other words, my grandparents had neither future nor freedom in Spain. Meanwhile, the countries of the Western Hemisphere were rich lands, far from the devastation of the war in Spain and Europe, with growing industries and opportunities for all.

Cuba was under the rule of the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. His régime respected the rights of trade and commerce, turning the Island into a prosperous country welcoming of immigrants. Despite this, Batista’s régime, like all dictatorships, was corrupt. That, coupled with political instability, awoke an enormous discontent throughout Cuban society. The Cuban Constitution of 1940, one of the most progressive of its time – not only in the Western Hemisphere, but in the entire world – had been forgotten and still today has not been recovered. continue reading

It was this discontent that awoke sympathy and support among the Cuban people for a young lawyer, the son of Galician immigrants. Eloquent and with a utopic discourse, he initially displayed a friendly face to the people, but later, with his Marxist-Leninist ideas, he became the protagonist of one of the most long-lasting dictatorships in the Western Hemisphere. He is also the one most responsible for the impoverishment of Cuba and its people.

As a Cuban, I am alarmed to see this same discontent and instability in today’s Spanish society, in the context of an imperfect democracy, but a democracy nonetheless. 

As a Cuban, I am alarmed to see this same discontent and instability in today’s Spanish society, in the context of an imperfect democracy, but a democracy nonetheless. So are we doomed to repeat history?

Due to the twists and turns of life and history, as the grandson of Spanish immigrants who fled Franco’s régime, it was I who had to emigrate to Spain when I was 19 years old, as my father did before me. The same reasons that drove my grandparents from Spain drove me from Cuba, but with a few distinct nuances. The man ruling Cuba with an iron fist is a Comandante, not a general. His last name is Castro, not Franco. Fascism did not force me to immigrate, Communism did.

Allow me to be perfectly clear with respect to this: if a person, with a family history like mine wants to do something constructive with his life, what he is searching and wishing for is to leave the obsolete ideologies of the past century on the wayside. What that person wants is to file away vengeance, hatred, and anger, although it may be hard to do so (and believe me, it has been very hard for me), and use reason and emotion as instruments of rebuilding and unity, not destruction and divisiveness.

You are right about many things, and I must admit that you are an excellent photographer of the reality in Spain. You know like no one else how to channel the disconnect in the society, to put a name on this discontent and to transform it into votes for your political movement. Although I consider your arrival on the Spanish political landscape as positive and healthy for a democracy, I also see in you obsolete and erroneous ideas of struggles, of resentment and of promulgating a supposed social justice that, believe me, by this path will never come to pass. History – my history – has proven it to be so.

I recognize in your discourse the entire battery of slogans that I listened to for hours and hours under the Caribbean sun.

I recognize in your discourse the entire battery of slogans that I listened to for hours and hours under the Caribbean sun. Those slogans about equality and struggle sound very good to those who do not understand their effects (among them yourself) but once the stage was dismantled they left us — 11 million Cubans on the island — with fears, dreams, exhaustion, a longing for that son or father who left, a ration book and daily blackouts lasting hours. This is similar to what is happening now in Venezuela (imported from Cuba), a model I have heard you say you envy.

Do not think this letter is an attack, it is not. If it just makes you and many others reflect, it will have achieved its goal. Allow me to share my political viewpoint with you, to avoid my being labeled or being accused of being a product of a powerful caste, the bourgeoisie, or some other powerful entity. I, and only I, will clarify what my politics are. I am neither of the right nor the left, I say it without meaning it to sound like the political slogan so often used these days. I consider myself liberal, progressive, and a social democrat.

I am a liberal because liberalism defends the supremacy of individual rights, irrespective of race, gender, or nationality. Respect for the rights of the individual is respect for his or her freedom, and guaranteeing the rights of all, which inevitably leads to the rule of law. I want a State that functions and allows me to function, that enforces the law, that rewards hard work, and that permits me the necessary freedom to build my own future without paternalistic subsidies, nor bureaucracy, nor a pointless civil service.

I am a social democrat because I sincerely believe that all future civilized societies should be cognizant of and apply the art of peaceful coexistence and should have a humanist and social character, without forsaking sustainable commercial projects that generate wealth. On the other hand, I consider myself a progressive because I believe that an imposed yoke, of whatever kind and wherever it comes from, is always expendable, and religions are not an exception. Because education should be secular and free of political indoctrination, because no State or divine being should tell a woman what she can do with her body, because I share the joy allotted to a community such as gays and lesbians when their right to marriage and adoption are recognized.

I thank you for your time, and I hope you will know how make a positive contribution and help unify all of us in the quest for a better future. In your hands, and in everyone’s hands, within our diversity, there is the possibility to either pass into history as those who gave a country the tools to renew such a hard-won and much-needed democracy, or as those doomed once more to repeat it.

I apologize for my anonymity. Personal and family reasons in relation to Cuba require it.

Bidding you a cordial farewell, I wish you the best.


Just another citizen.

One Year and Already Walking with Solid Steps

Rebeca Monzo, 22 May 2015 — A little over a year ago our friends Reinaldo and Yoani came for a visit to tell us that, finally, the long-cherished dream of starting an independent newspaper was about to be realized and to ask us if we would be interested in contributing articles.

Why such an unusual name for a newspaper? I’ll tell you: The number fourteen refers to the floor on which they live, Y stands for Yoani, who came up with the idea, and medio is a reference to communication media.*

We, along with others, enthusiastically began making our modest contribution and the dream quickly came true. On May 21, 2014 the first issue of the digital daily 14ymedio was published.

Yesterday, we all gathered at the newspaper’s headquarters: the founders, the staff and the contributors. We had a delightful evening of conversations and discussions in which the main course consisted of new suggestions and ideas to further improve


*Translator’s note: The title is a play on words. In Spanish, 14 y medio literally means fourteen and a half. The word medio can mean either half of something or medium, as in the medium of television.

Independent Groups to Hold Gay Pride Walk / 14ymedio

Previous year’s Gay Pride Walk on Havana’s Prado (Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 June 2015 – This coming June 28 Havana’s centrally located Prado will again be the scene of the Gay Pride Walk organized each year by the independent LGTBI community. The call has been launched by several independent groups, among them the projects Puertas Abiertas (Open Doors), Shui Tuix, the Foundation for LGBTI rights, Divina Esperanza (Divine Hope), and Arcoíris Libre de Cuba (Free Rainbow of Cuba), according to information provided to 14ymedio by Navid Fernandez Cabrera, one of the organizers

It is expected that the participants will gather starting at ten in the morning in front of Havana’s Capitol building, and advance along the Prado toward the sea. There, waiting for them, will be some puppeteers to present a show with “muppets.” All along this pedestrian avenue there will be a free distribution of condoms and informational handouts to facilitate an exchange with the people passing through the busy place, explained Fernandez Cabrera.

The members of the Latin American Rural Women’s Front (Flamur) will support the activity with messages concerning No Violence Against Women. At the end of the parade where the Prado and the Malecón meet, a statement will be read in the presence of various projects and accompanying representatives of the LGBTI communities of Pinar del Rio, Matanzas and Santiago de Cuba.

The first of these events occurred in 2011 and since then the walk has been scheduled to mark International Gay Pride Day or on a weekend day close to that date. The National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex) headed by Mariela Castro has chosen, for its part, 17 May as the established Cuban Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Shortage Of Hygiene Products Is Severe In Holguin / 14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa

A market in Holguin (14ymedio)
A market in Holguin (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa, Holguin, 8 June 2015 – People in Holguin are worried about the lack of home cleaning products, particularly so close to the beginning of summer. The shortages have worsened just when the health authorities are calling for extreme cleaning measures to prevent acute diarrheal diseases, which can be worsened by the heat and severe drought affecting the country.

The tips on frequent hand washing and thoroughly scrubbing kitchen appliances in every home, broadcast on national television, contrast with the deficit in the area’s markets of liquid detergent, chlorine bleach, degreasers and scrubbing agents. In local stores such as La Marquesita, Hanoi, Las Novedades and La Casa Azul, there are no supplies of any of these products.

Employees of the commercial network of stores selling in national pesos and hard currency in the provincial capital do not know why the shortages have been exacerbated. Customers, in turn, refer to the other provinces where these products are available. A situation taken advantage of by resellers who bring in the products from other provinces and sell them in the informal market.

The sector of self-employed workers in food services is among the most affected by the shortages. Holguin province has the fifth highest number of self-employed in the country, after Havana, Matanzas, Villa Clara and Camaguey. In the entire country, those who work in the food preparation and sales represent 12% of the 495,725 people working in the private sector.

The Sovereignty of the Internaut / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

A man surfing on the Internet. (CC)
A man surfing on the Internet. (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 8 June 2015 – I searched the screen fruitlessly for those faces I know so well. In every report on TV about the International Conference on New Scenarios of Political Communication in the Digital Realm, I scanned the guests to identify geeks, computer scientists, bloggers, tweeters and other “creatures” linked to the use of new technologies in Cuba. Instead of them, my gaze fell on notorious bureaucrats, official journalists, cyber-censors and ministry officials.

On the street, popular humor did not ignore the event that took place in the Palace of Conventions with guests from more than 34 countries. People attributed the constant crashes on the state phone company’s Nauta mobile email service, that began on Friday, to the “WiFi network of ‘that conference’… stealing the bandwidth.” Those who know the many tricks perpetrated in other sectors to display a lovely showcase for foreign participants, didn’t find it funny. continue reading

For its part, the scant representation from national guests at the meeting contrasted with the diversity of phenomena related to computing that exists in our country. From the “weekly packet,” a compendium of virally circulating audiovisual material, to the sweeping classified portal Revolico and the independent Twittersphere, to the clandestine wireless networks and the urban tribes huddled around video games or the impact of Facebook among the youngest. A vast and plural cosmos despite the limitations in connectivity that we suffer.

The Internet is not a fad or a luxury, much less superfluous, it is an imperative need for every human being of the 21st century

However, the absence of the alternative sector wasn’t the only limitation that detracted from the conference. Its most striking failure lay in not objectively including the just demands of individual sovereignty and the protection of Internauts throughout the Island. Especially those who are moving to safeguard users’ private information against the intelligence services of the government itself. Global issues such as the cybersecurity of nations and the governance of the Internet left little space on the agenda for critical discussions about the existence of a cyber-police, the creation of false opinion matrices by the official machinery of state, and the sites censored for political reasons.

As a principal requirement in areas of technology and communication, Cubans today need access to the Internet. The demand for this connectivity, long denied, has grown in recent years and is not exclusive to the most computerized sectors of our society. From the hacker who wants to test his latest codes on the web, to the owner of a privately-owned snack bar who wants to access forums on food, a good part of the population feels the need to be interconnected.

Among the millions of Cubans for whom food, housing and economic pressures are overwhelming, the idea that a digital presence would bring more opportunities to their daily lives has also grown in the last five years. The Internet is not a fad or a luxury, much less superfluous, it is an imperative need for every human being of the 21st century.

In the face of this urgency, the Cuban government has opted for caution and for doling out in dribs and drabs the advantages of this common good which is the World Wide Web. To support this policy of rationing and control they have used prohibitive pricing at the public Internet rooms, where right now an hour of navigating the web costs – at a minimum – the equivalent of three days wages, some 2.25 convertible pesos. To this is added an iron policy of censorship and vigilance over the web that has limited an entire nation’s access to knowledge, opportunities and information.

The role of the government should be to facilitate universal access to cyberspace and to guarantee that our rights to free information and association are met

Thus, the first demand in Cuba with regards to technology and communications is respect for the user’s individual sovereignty, on the base of which should rise national sovereignty in these conflicts. This latter cannot be seem as a contradiction to the spirit of convergence, the global village and interconnection that cyberspace brings us. The “conservation of our cultural and linguistic identity” that was brandished about in the recently concluded event should not constitute an argument for shutting us out from the influence of other cultures and nations. On the web you can’t play at being Robinson Crusoe…

Nor can the State set itself up as the authority to guide our steps on the web. It is not its role to protect citizens from “the dangers” of connectivity, nor to prevent us from being “infected” with trends, opinions or news that we find in our grappling with the network. The role of the government should be to facilitate universal access to cyberspace and to guarantee that our rights to free information and association are met both in the real world as well as in that other world made up of kilobytes.

By not delving deeply into these burning and crucial points, the International Conference on New Scenarios of Political Communication in the Digital Realm became another lost opportunity. A space that privileged the government voice above the demands of society. An event to project an Internet in the hands of those who want to control everything.

USA Had No Prior Knowledge Of The Attack On The Cubana Aviation Airplane / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 5 June 2015 — For the second time in 10 years, the US State Department has declassified the same “secret” document. Now, with fewer redactions and many fewer censored lines, the 1976 memorandum addressed to the secretary of state of that time, Henry Kissinger, says exactly the same thing: “The United States had no previous knowledge of the attack,” and Luis Posada Carriles figured among the suspects at that time.

The 12-page document has been public since 2005 but has resurfaced as a result of a perhaps political initiative motivated by the Office of the Historian of the State Department. It is a compilation of the data available two weeks after the destruction in mid-flight of a Cubana Aviation plane flying from Barbados to Havana on 6 October 1976. Seventy-three passengers died. continue reading

Signed by Harold H. Saunders, director of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Investigations, and the deputy secretary of state for Interamerican Affairs, Harry W. Schaludeman, the memorandum reflected Washington’s concern and its desire to distance itself from an act it didn’t approve of. The two senior officials developed “a strategy to counteract the false accusations that involve the U.S.” in the attack, that Fidel Castro had launched soon after the tragedy.

“The CIA had had relationships in the past with three of the people allegedly implicated, but the participation of these people, if confirmed, would have been without the knowledge of the CIA,” the authors said. Above all, it they were concerned with the relationship with the Cuban Luis Posada Carriles, who had worked with Venezuelan and U.S. counterintelligence services. “It is hard for Fidel Castro to imagine that these people acted independently of the United States,” the officials emphasized.

It is noteworthy that the U.S. intelligence services offered no concrete information about the identity of those responsible for the attack. Instead, they note they are very concerned about “the danger for the United States represented by Cuban activists in exile.”