The IACHR Asks to Visit Cuba to Review the Situation of the Ladies in White

Berta Soler, leader of the opposition women’s movement Ladies in White. (EFE/Giorgio Viera)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Washington, 1 October 2022 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) requested this Friday that Cuba approve a visit to the country to review the situation of the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), to which the agency granted precautionary measures almost ten years ago.

The Cuban government, the IACHR alleges in a resolution, has not delivered to the organization a response that “indicates that it has been taking measures to protect the rights” of the members of the group. This is the first time that the IACHR has asked Cuba for a visit in person within the framework of precautionary measures.

The Ladies in White collective, made up of relatives of dissidents imprisoned by the government, has been subjected to harassment, death threats, house searches and arrests by state agents since the protection mechanism was granted in 2013, according to the document.

The IACHR explains that it has requested information from the Cuban state about the situation of the group at least four times in the last ten years and has not received a response, so it asks to “assess the situation of the beneficiaries” with a visit in person. continue reading

The commission’s request is disclosed almost two weeks after the opposition group’s leader, Berta Soler, was arrested — and released hours later — by State Security agents during the fourteenth arrest on the Sunday marches held by the women so far this year.

The Ladies in White, who founded the group in 2003, decided to march again on Sundays, after the pause imposed by the pandemic, to demand the release of the detainees in the mass protests that the Island experienced in July last year.

An “in situ” visit by the IACHR must be approved by the Cuban government, which has not allowed the agency to enter the country so far. The last time the commission was in a country was in January 2020, in Chile, as a result of the social explosion in the nation. In the same year, the IACHR tried to visit Venezuela, an ally of Cuba, but the government of President Nicolás Maduro banned the commission from entering the country.

Cuba is not part of the Organization of American States, having been expelled from the organization in 1962.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The Dollar Reaches 198 Pesos in the Informal Market, an Historic Record

Economists warn that the dollar will soon exceed the threshold of 200 Cuban pesos. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger EFE/14ymedio, Havana, 1 October 2022 — The exchange rate in the informal market in Cuba is about to break the psychological barrier of 200 Cuban pesos (CUP) per dollar, and without expectations that the national currency will stop depreciating, according to economists consulted by EFE.

This exchange rate is the highest in the Island’s recent past. Even in the so-called Special Period of the 1990s — after the fall of the Soviet bloc — this price was not reached.

The informal market, the most important on the Island, is where many people stock up on dollars before leaving in the current wave of migration. Since October 2021, more than 180,000 Cubans have arrived in the United States, a record number.

Two weeks ago, an official press release predicted that the dollar would exceed the level of 200 pesos and pointed out that “you don’t need to be a guru” to infer that the migratory stampede would further depreciate the national currency as the demand for dollars grows.

“It is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” says Cuban Pavel Vidal Alejandro, associate professor at the Javeriana University of Cali (Colombia), in an interview with EFE. “There’s a total lack of credibility in the Cuban peso, and there are no monetary policies to reverse the situation,” he adds. continue reading

Although the depreciation was already evident since 2021 — the year in which the largest economic reform in recent years, known as the Ordering Task*, came into force — the plummeting of the peso actually originated this August.

Just a year ago, the dollar was at 65 pesos in the informal market. Ten months later, on August 1, at 115 pesos. Just two months later, on October 1, it depreciated almost 80  more, up to the 198 pesos marked this Saturday by the index published daily by the independent media El Toque.

This newspaper found on several excursions that the dollars were running out soon, and the hard currencies began to rise like foam on the black market. After the entry into force of the rule, Cubans made long lines to acquire the greenback at the exchange houses (Cadecas), where there was even a deployment of state security.

At the beginning of August, the Minister of Economy, Alejandro Gil, announced that the State would buy foreign currency from natural persons, a measure designed to attract foreign currency in a scenario of crisis in tourism, which collapsed with the COVID pandemic.

Gil specified that the purchase would be based on an exchange rate five times higher than the official one — from 24 Cuban pesos (CUP) to the dollar, established in the Ordering Task — at levels similar to those of the informal market at the time (around 120 CUP).

Twenty days later, Gil made another announcement: the Government would also sell foreign currency, although with limitations. The objective, he explained, was to strengthen the peso and displace the buying and selling of dollars on the street.

The experts consulted agree in describing the measure as erroneous, which showed the fragility of the State in the face of the informal market. Since then, the peso has fallen dramatically.

“The State became one more applicant and a competitor (for hard currency)” that couldn’t win the game against bidders with better prices, economist Tamarys Lien Bahamonde tells EFE.

Also, Cuban economist Elías Amor shares the diagnosis and adds: “At the time they set the new rate, the agents (on the street) increased the value to maintain their customers, and that’s normal. It’s called competition.”

Amor considers that one of the root problems was to place the rate at 24 to 1 in the Ordering Task: “That rate was pulled out like the rabbit from the hat.”

“It was a miscalculation from the beginning, and one the Central Bank of Cuba couldn’t support with hard currency as high as had been established,” he says.

The implementation of the limited official foreign exchange market dragged down a currency that had been losing weight in the daily lives of Cubans, who have also seen a stable safe-haven value in the dollar, experts point out.

But above all, analysts warn of an increasingly normalized phenomenon in the country: the social division between those who have foreign currency and those who do not.

Bahamonde recalled that not all problems can be attributed to the foreign exchange market implemented by the Government. The economist stressed the role of the controversial stores that charge in foreign currency – known as stores in Freely Convertible Currency (MLC), which opened in 2019 and are occupying more and more space in the retail market every day.

“The Cuban peso must be left as the main currency of the country. There is a dilemma: to end or not with the MLC (and stop accessing foreign currency) to save the peso,” Bahamonde adds.

Another alarm signal is the amount of pesos in circulation, because the increase favors inflation, another of the current problems of the Cuban economy.

The increase in prices was officially 13.40% in the first half of the year, although independent analysts have placed it above 100%.

The three experts agreed that the dollar will continue to increase in the short term. “Surely (the rate will reach) 300, especially by the end of the year,” Amor said.

Vidal, on the other hand, did not give an exact figure but made it clear that “200 will not be the limit.” Bahamonde was more cautious and limited himself to pointing out that he sees “no possibility of containment of the rise in the exchange rate.”

*The “Ordering Task” is a collection of measures that include eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and a broad range of other measures targeted to different elements of the Cuban economy.   

Translated by Regina Anavy 

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

Nearly 80,000 Migrants Have Entered Honduras in 2022, Most of Them Cuban

Most irregular migrants to Honduras have been Cuban. (INM Honduras)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Tegucigalpa (Honduras), 27 September 2022 — About 80,000 irregular migrants traveling to the United States have arrived in Honduras so far this year, mostly of Cuban nationality, according to figures from the National Institute of Migration (INM), consulted this Friday by EFE.

Between January and August 19, 79,667 migrants entered the Central American country, trying to advance north with the aim of reaching the United States, according to official data.

The report didn’t give details about the approximately 400 migrants of various nationalities, mainly Cubans and Venezuelans, who gathered this Saturday at one of Guatemala’s borders to try to enter the Central American country from Honduras.

Nor was the complaint made in recent days by Cubans, who accused Honduran Migration agents of demanding payments of 20 dollars, regardless of whether the migrants have an official safe conduct pass.

The INM detailed that this year, 44,535 Cuban migrants, 19,222 Venezuelans, 4,795 Ecuadorians and 3,051 Haitians have entered Honduras irregularly. continue reading

They follow, in order, 642 from India, 636 from Colombia, 592 from Senegal, 569 from Angola, 470 from Bangladesh, 478 from the Dominican Republic, 446 from Brazil, 423 from Ghana, 423 from Nicaragua, 329 from Cameroon, 278 from Somalia, 256 from China, 239 from Nepal, 209 from Eritrea and 2,094 from other nations, it adds.

According to INM statistics for January through August 19, 2021, a total of 10,032 irregular migrants entered Honduras. Of these, 4,294 were from Haiti and 3,622 from Cuba, the predominant nationalities in this group.

Of these immigrants, 54.8% (46,676) are men, 28.5% (22,728) are women and 16.6% (13,263) are children and teenagers, the INM added.

Of the total number of irregular migrants this year, 52.5% (41,847) were between 1 and 30 years old, and 47.5% (37,820) were over 30.

The INM also indicated that 77.3% (61,556) of the migrants entered Honduras through the municipalities of Danlí and Trojes, department of El Paraíso, on the border with Nicaragua.

In recent months, El Paraíso has become a new route that migrants, mainly from Cuba, Venezuela and Haiti, are using to get to the United States.

At the beginning of August, a legislative decree entered into force exonerating irregular migrants passing through Honduras from the payment of an administrative fine of more than $200.

The immigration amnesty was published on August 3 in the official newspaper, La Gaceta, three months after its approval by the Honduran Parliament.

Most irregular immigrants who enter Honduras are transported through “blind spots” by human traffickers, known as “coyotes,” who don’t always take them to the border with Guatemala.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

More Migrants Have Now Crossed the Panamanian Darién Than in All of 2021

In 2021, the governments of Colombia and Panama imposed a quota of 500 migrants a day on who can pass through the Darién jungle. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Panama, 24 September 2022 — A total of 134,178 migrants in transit to North America have arrived in Panama this year after crossing the Darién, the dangerous border jungle with Colombia, above the historic figure of 133,726 in 2021, the Government reported on Friday.

“Panama is strengthening its humanitarian and security teams that work in the border communities, because this Friday, the number  of migrants who entered the country after crossing the thick Darién jungle reached the figure of 134,178,” reported the Ministry of Public Security (MINSEG).

MINISEG added that to date, 343 boys and 231 girls have been registered in the communities of Bajo Chiquito or Canaan Membrillo and in reception stations, where they are provided with health care, food and housing in response to human rights agreements.”

The Ombudsman’s Office reported that “the number of travelers is equal to that at the end of 2021,” and  announced a meeting, this Friday, of its head, Eduardo Leblanc, and his Colombian colleague, Carlos Camargo, to continue looking for ways that guarantee “the safe passage” of this population. Leblanc stressed that Panama “is the only country that collects statistics or biometric figures for the number of migrants.” continue reading

While last year the vast majority of irregular migrants were Haitians, in 2022 it’s Venezuelans who cross the most — 80,000 so far this year according to the National Migration Service (SENAFRONT), all bound for North America, especially the United States.

Migrants who leave the Island also use the dangerous jungle as a way to get to the United States, a crossing where several Cubans have already died. A boy under the age of 14 died in November 2021 of a heart attack on the crossing, and his family spent seven days in the jungle.

The Darién jungle is considered one of the most dangerous migratory routes in the world, both because of its own wild environment and the presence of armed groups. Migrants report that they suffer attacks and sexual assaults by criminals, some of whom have already been arrested and convicted in Panama, according to the authorities.

This newspaper has received the testimony of several migrants who were victims of rape during their crossing through the Darién but refused to make their cases public or to file corresponding complaints with the Panamanian authorities. Last year, a 45-year-old Cuban woman told Doctors Without Borders how she, along with a group of women, was raped in front of everyone as she passed through the jungle.

Panama welcomes irregular travelers in migratory reception stations (ERMs) located on its border with Colombia (south) and Costa Rica (north), where they take their biometric data and receive food and medical care, in the only operation in the region that consumes millions of dollars per year, according to the Government.

According to data provided to EFE this Friday by SENAFRONT, so far this year at least 26 migrants have died while crossing the Darién, a 266-kilometer stretch of thick, dangerous and inhospitable jungle.

One of those cases is the murder, this week, of a six-year-old Venezuelan minor, when armed men assaulted a group of migrants in the jungle.

Those allegedly responsible for the death of the child and for a gunshot wound to his father’s cheekbone, also a national of Venezuela, would be Venezuelans, Colombians and Panamanians, according to the testimony of the survivor, said the director of SENAFRONT, Oriel Ortega, on Friday.

“We’re going to capture these people (…) we condemn this vile and cowardly act. How is it possible that, on top of robbing these defenseless human beings, they attack them using firearms?” asked the head of the agency in charge of border security in an interview with the local TVN network.

Ortega explained that the members of this “criminal” group offer help to migrants to cross the jungle and then commit their “villainy.” But most of those who died this year in the jungle drowned. Among the victims are many nationals of countries in Asia and Africa who are not familiar with flowing rivers such as those of the Darién, Ortega explained.

There are times when we find bones or corpses already in an advanced state of decomposition and buried along the route. They are marked with geo-referenced GPS systems,” he added.

Last July, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warned that 192 migrants had died so far this year during their transit through Central America and Mexico.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuba Confirms its Third Case of Monkey Pox

The third case of monkey pox is a 27-year-old woman from Cienfuegos province. (General Hospital Calixto García/Facebook)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 25 September 2022 — The Ministry of Public Health confirmed this Saturday the third case of monkey pox in Cuba in a 27-year-old woman who is hospitalized, isolated and under medical care.

The patient, a Cuban resident in the central province of Cienfuegos, has no connection with the other two cases confirmed in August, the institution reported. They were a 60-year-old Cuban resident in the United States and a 50-year-old Italian tourist, who died days after testing positive for the disease, according to the Cuban government.

Regarding this third case, health authorities indicated that it was through contact with a Cuban citizen residing in the United States who had suspicious symptoms of the disease.

He “arrived in Cuba on September 3 of this year and returned on the 13th of the same month,” they added. The diagnosed young woman started with symptoms on September 15, went to the doctor a week later, and the next day the infection was confirmed. continue reading

“The established focus control actions and epidemiological surveillance are being carried out,” said the Ministry of Health. “In relation to the contacts of the previously reported cases, they are already discharged, and there is no transmission of the disease in the focus checks,” the source added.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared this disease — also called “simian smallpox” — a “global health emergency” on July 23, when more than 16,000 infections had been reported in 75 countries.

The disease is caused by a virus and can be transmitted from animals to humans or through direct contact with people who have the symptoms, according to specialists.

WHO reports that the symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, low energy, inflammation of the lymph nodes and rashes or lesions on the skin.

Patients can spread the disease to other people while they have symptoms, and the virus is transmitted through body fluids (pus or blood from skin lesions), scabs and objects used by the sick.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Three Coyotes Who Demanded $15,000 From Relatives of Cuban Rafters Are Arrested In Order To Free Them

Last Tuesday, the Coast Guard intercepted a boat with Cubans who were allegedly being transferred to Florida by coyotes. (Twitter/@USCGSoutheast)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 19 September 2022 — Didier Pérez Pérez, Lester Leyniel Soca Díaz and Yoandy Alonso, arrested last Thursday, are accused of belonging to a human trafficking network that was transporting Cubans by sea to Monroe County, Florida (USA), where they were kept kidnapped in a house in Hialeah, until their relatives paid $15,000.

A grand jury in the Southern District of Florida has charged them with “conspiracy to transport and hold foreigners for profit; transportation of foreigners for profit; conspiracy to commit hostage-taking; and hostage-taking.”

According to details of the indictment, to which the Spanish agency EFE had access, the facts of which they are accused happened from August to the beginning of September of this year, and “other people, both known and unknown participated in them.”

The indictment also mentions the existence of two affected, identified only as victim 1 and victim 2, who were held and whom their captors threatened to “injure” or “kill.” According to information from the working group on the control of drugs against organized crime, in charge of the investigation, “migrants were even told that they would be left in the middle of the ocean if they didn’t pay their smuggling debts.” continue reading

According to the U.S. authorities, with the capture of Pérez, Soca and Alonso, the network of coyotes was dismantled and the Cubans could be rescued thanks to a “friend of one of the kidnapped, who served as a hook and agreed to pay the 15,000 dollars. They summoned him to a spot for the exchange of the hostage.”

The coyotes, who will have to stand trial, if found guilty could be sentenced to a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum of three years of probation, as well as fines of $250,000.

The indictment provides for the confiscation of boats, vehicles and planes that may have been used to commit the crimes charged.

Properties that are acquired, directly or indirectly, from the commission of the crimes and those used to commit them will also be confiscated.

The existence of these coyote networks has been exposed in some cases. Boxer Andy Cruz saw his escape frustrated due to the denunciation made by Rolando Céspedes, The Prosecutor, a man who has been in the business of the departure of athletes for more than 10 years and has contacts in immigration in Cuba. This individual had warned the athlete that his departure should be managed with him in exchange for a large sum; since the athlete didn’t agree, he was denounced.

Last Wednesday, Víctor Manuel Ríos Castillo, 29, a resident of West Palm Beach, and Jorge Luis Fernández Rodríguez, 53, a resident of Tampa, were arrested. The first was accused of attempted smuggling of people and the second of illegally transporting fuel.

Ríos admitted that he had planned to go to Cuba to transfer migrants. Since October 2021, when the current fiscal year began, more than 177,000 Cubans have arrived by land in the U.S. and more than 5,000 by sea, a migration crisis that surpasses those of 1980 and 1994 together.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The United States Will Resume All Its Services to Issue Immigrant Visas in Cuba

These efforts are “a key step” to fulfill the commitment made by the United States under the Migration Agreements with Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, September 21, 2022 — The United States Government announced on Wednesday that at the beginning of 2023 its embassy in Cuba will resume all its services to issue immigrant visas, for the first time since 2017.

According to a statement, with this measure, the United States “announces the expansion of the usual ways available to Cubans who want to come to the United States and an increase in the staff of the U.S. embassy” on the Island.

Washington explained that immigrant visas provide people who are eligible to apply for them with a “safe and orderly” migration route.

“This change will also eliminate the need for Cubans applying for immigrant visas in categories of family preference to travel outside Cuba to Georgetown, Guyana, for their interviews,” the U.S. government said.

At the same time, the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) are increasing their staff in Havana to “effectively and efficiently” process cases and conduct interviews.

On September 1, the United States embassy in Cuba began processing pending applications for the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program (CFRP), suspended since 2017. continue reading

The program was initially launched in 2007 under the mandate of President George W. Bush (2001-2009) and provides a legal way for Americans and legal residents in the United States to claim their family member within Cuban territory.

The program was suspended ten years later by the Donald Trump Administration (2017-2021).

In its statement on Wednesday, the U.S. Government explained that these efforts are “a key step” to comply with the commitment made by the United States under the Migration Agreements with Cuba to ensure that the total legal migration from the island to U.S. territory is a minimum of 20,000 Cubans each year, not including direct relatives of U.S. citizens.

And it pointed out that the State Department continues to consider further expanding its visa services in Havana if conditions permit.

Since the arrival of Democrat Joe Biden to the U.S. Presidency, the U.S. embassy resumed issuing visas for migrants last May after a four-year break.

In addition, his government suspended the limit of $1,000 quarterly on remittances and authorized the travel of groups destined to make contacts with the Cuban people, known in English as people-to-people travel.

Last June, the embassy extended the visa process for immediate family members.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuban Writer Carlos Alberto Montaner Will Be Honored for His Defense of Democracy

Carlos Alberto Montaner will move to Spain in October. (Cubanet)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Miami, September 20, 2022 — The Cuban writer, essayist and journalist Carlos Alberto Montaner, one of the most relevant critical voices of exile, will receive recognition this Tuesday in Miami for his defense of democracy and freedom, a tribute that the author himself described to EFE with humor as an “uproar.”

“It will be an emotional and multitudinous farewell of very close friends before my trip in October with my wife to Spain,” where Montaner (b. Havana, 1943) will settle permanently and plans to conclude the writing of his next book.

Montaner was very grateful to the Inter-American Institute for Democracy, its executive director, Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, and Beatrice Rangel, the people who “plotted” this tribute and award, even if they didn’t request his agreement, he said ironically.

Several guests will join in the tribute, which will be opened by the former mayor of Miami, Tomás Regalado, to the intellectual stature and human dimension of Montaner, who also has Spanish and American nationality.

The Argentine Gerardo Bongivanni, president of the Libertad Foundation, will address the ethical and political commitment of the Cuban in his presentation entitled “Carlos Alberto: The Freedom Fighter,” and Iliana Lavastida, director of the Diario Las Américas, will speak about the “Cubanness” of Carlos Alberto. continue reading

Gina Montaner, daughter of the novelist and politician, will bring the public closer to the figure of Carlos Alberto, the father, and Rosa María Payá, daughter of the Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá (1952-2012), who died in an accident in Cuba that, according to the family, was “an attack caused by officials of the Castro regime,” will talk about Carlos Alberto, the mentor.

“It’s a tribute to Montaner’s career, which earns him the most important award of this institution to which the writer has been linked for years,” Berzaín told EFE, about the Francisco de Miranda prize for the defense of freedom and democracy that will be given to Montaner on Tuesday at the Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, in Miami.

Once in Spain, the Cuban intellectual will conclude the writing of a story that delves into the lives of one of Karl Marx’s three daughters, Laura, and her husband, Paul Lafargue, who, injected her and then himself with hydrocyanic acid [considered a “suicide pact”].

“I’m going to finish this book about Lafargue, who was really Cuban, since he lived until he was 11 years old in Cuba and then went to France. My theory is that he killed Laura before committing suicide in 1911,” said Montaner, the 2010 Juan de Mariana Prize winner in defense of freedom.

Montaner’s first vocation, that of a storyteller, has been successfully shown in novels such as Perromundo (1972) and La mujer del coronel [The Colonel’s Wife], the latter a story of a failed love, loaded with strong eroticism and with the Cuban totalitarian regime of macho traits as a backdrop.

Among his important essay work, described in his bibliography, is the Manual of the Perfect Latin American Idiot (1996), the bestseller he published together with Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza and Álvaro Vargas Llosa, in which he caustically portrays the collectivist ideologies of the Latin American left and its elites.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuba Will Seek to Attract More International Visitors Through Ecotourism

The authorities inaugurated the XIII International Nature Tourism Event on Tuesday in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 21 September 2022 — This Tuesday, in Havana, the Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero inaugurated the XIII International Nature Tourism Event, which will aim to diversify offers for tourists on the Island.

The event, suspended for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will be attended by personalities from 19 countries, as well as different tour operators, according to the organizers. The purpose, they pointed out, will be to promote ecological and adventure destinations in the country.

In that sense, Marrero pointed out that Cuba must leave behind the image of being only a “sun and beach” destination and that, to achieve this, it will have to “continue to promote” other formats, such as ecological tourism. “We still have to improve in many things,” he admitted.

The Minister of Tourism, Juan Carlos García Granda, pointed out that the country is concentrating “all its energy to recover” the levels of pre-pandemic international visitors and that ecotourism is a “global trend” that will help reach that goal.

The Government has set itself the goal of reaching 2.5 million visitors this year, and although Marrero himself questioned the possibility of achieving it this May, he has finally ended up joining the official discourse and believes it is feasible to reach the projection.

According to the latest available figures, the number of foreign travelers reached 834,891 visitors as of July, leaving 1,665,000 to be achieved for the last five months of the year. continue reading

Looking at the first half of the year, the comparison with respect to 2021 is a growth of almost 500%, but the number translated into 682,297 travelers. In 2019, by that date, 2.6 million people had already arrived in Cuba to spend their holidays.

During his speech, Marrero denounced the “media campaigns” against tourism on the Island, alluding to the constant criticism of the Cuban diaspora against the opening of the sector.

“Why is it that campaigns against Cuban tourism are unleashed every now and then? (…) Isn’t that what the development of tourism in this country promises to break precisely with the blockade and this crisis?” he asked.

However, from the very pages of the official media, the readers and sympathizers of the Communist Party themselves are reproaching the Government for continuing to invest strongly in the same sector — which also isn’t experiencing its best moments in terms of visitors — while the population lacks light and food.

“Currently, the occupancy rate of our tourist facilities is around 14%. Meanwhile, we continue to build new hotels, instead of investing in energy, road and agricultural infrastructure,” lamented a commentator last week in Cubadebate.

According to data published by the National Bureau of Statistics and Information, a third of the State’s investments during the first semester went to business services, real estate and rental activities, which include hotels and tourism, totaling  31.7 billion pesos.

Meanwhile, only 830 million pesos were dedicated to agriculture, livestock and forestry, and 225 million to fishing.

Translated by Regina Anavy 

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

Cuba Ratifies Its ‘Will’ to Continue the Political Agreement with the European Union

At the center, the diplomatic representative of the European Union in Cuba, Isabel Brilhante, and the Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez. (Twitter/@BrunoRguezP)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 16 September 2022 — The Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez, ratified this Friday the “will” to continue with the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (ADPC) with the European Union (EU) by receiving the ambassador of the community bloc in Havana.

Rodríguez published the images of the meeting at the headquarters of the Chancellery with the diplomatic representative of the European Union in Cuba, Isabel Brilhante, and added, via Twitter, as he usually does, without further details: “We confirm the importance we attach to Cuba-EU relations and the potential that exist in various areas.”

Cuba and the Twenty-seven relaunched their relations in 2016 with the signing of the ADPC that put an end to 20 years of the so-called “common position,” which was much tougher against the Havana regime. In any case, the pact is conditioned by the EU on the situation of human rights and democracy on the Island.

The negotiations between the Cuban government and the EU were tense last March, after the representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, reiterated the call “to respect human rights and freedoms,” to which the agreement is subject, in theory. Nor was it a good sign that the European Chancellor demanded that “all political prisoners” be released on the Island.

“The EU is following with great concern the sentences in Cuba against people involved in the events of July 11 and 12 [2021],” Borrell said on behalf of the Twenty-seven. continue reading

In response, the Cuban foreign minister “strongly” rejected Borrell’s statements and affirmed that the European bloc lacks “moral authority to make value judgments about the Cuban reality.”

Rodríguez said at the time that the EU “should deal with its own problems and the frequent human rights violations in its member states.”

The EU has defended the right to demonstrate and asked Havana to listen to the demands of its citizens who say that the trials don’t comply with international standards and ask the Cuban regime to allow European diplomats to attend them.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Lech Walesa Urges Cuban Opposition to Take Advantage of an Official Event to Demand Freedom

Lech Walesa in Miami wearing a T-shirt that says “Constitution” in Polish (EFE)

14ymedio bigger EFE (via 14ymedio), Miami, September 6, 2022 — On Monday former president of Poland Lech Walesa urged those fighting for freedom in Cuba to adopt new tactics, claiming the methods they have been using have failed. He emphasized that the key is to organize, something he acknowledges communism does not want or allow.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner expressed confidence he would soon be able to participate in a “great march for victory against communism” in Havana but warned Cuban exiles and opponents that time is running out.

“I’m almost 80 years old, so you had better hurry,” said Walesa, who will turn 79 on the 29th of this month, to applause from those attending an event at the Brigade 2506 museum, which is named for those who participated in the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion to overthrow the communist government, then led by Fidel Castro.

In a crowded room adorned with posters bearing the word Solidarity, the name of the independent trade union he founded and led in communist Poland, Walesa was introduced as “the man who showed us how to overthrow communism.” Solidarity is credited with the fall of that country’s  communist regime in the 1980s.

Dressed informally in a T-shirt with Polish word for “constitution” printed on it, the former president, who held office from 1990 to 1995, acknowledged that, without the help of Pope John Paul II, the fall of communism in Poland, and of the Eastern Bloc in general, would have taken longer and would probably have been more violent.

Asked what Pope Francis could do for Cuba, Walesa answered by saying that he is still a practicing Catholic and, therefore, believes that it is the Holy Spirit which guides the church.

“We have to understand the times in which we live. Once we understand them, we will find the response,” he answered. The question was in reference to criticisms by Cuban exiles that Francis had not been critical of the Cuban government. “The Holy Spirit gives us popes for each era,” he added. continue reading

Walesa reiterated his recommendation that the simplest way to conquer communism was to organize well.

He explained, however, that this is difficult due to the fear that authoritarian regimes instill in their citizens, a fear that in Poland was fed by imprisonment, torture and murder of opponents as well as the fear of nuclear attack. “Soviet nuclear missiles were pointed at Poland’s biggest cities,” he notes.

Looking back, he observed that, in 20 years trying to organize the struggle for freedom in Poland, he never managed to get more twenty people to join him and, of those, “two were undercover agents.”

The big break came with the election of Karol Wojtyla, who assumed the papacy under the name of John Paul II. “It was the pope who woke up the people and brought them to me,” he said.

He explained that Solidarity figured out how to advance the cause of liberty by taking advantage of the large crowds gathered for the first visit of John Paul II to his homeland and the religious fervor it unleashed.

He said he also received offers of support from Western Europe, the United States and the world in general as images of his meetings with Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev and other world leaders were projected in the room.

A journalist asked the former president if he still believes, as he said decades ago, that the U.S. has allowed the Cuban regime to endure so as to provide it with a kind of Jurassic Park.

Walesa observed that Cuba is like “a mosquito in the nose” about which the U.S. does nothing. He promised to continue working with Cuban patriots to find ways for the cause of freedom and democracy to triumph in Cuba.

When asked what concrete suggestion he might make to light the spark of rebellion in Cuba, he said that government opponents should take advantage of some large official event, or a large sporting event, and turn it into a rally for freedom.

He emphasized, “You have to study it well, to keep looking for ways.”

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

A New Breakdown in the Antonio Guiteras Power Plant Causes Another Day with a More than 40 Percent Electricity Deficit

It will take 30 hours for the boiler to cool down before repairs can be made at the plant. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 13 September 2021 — The state company Unión Eléctrica de Cuba (UNE) announced on Tuesday that the energy deficit will be around 41% of the maximum generation capacity in the afternoon-night schedule of highest consumption.

The high deficit occurs a day after the departure from the national electricity system of the country’s main thermoelectric plant, Antonio Guiteras, located in the province of Matanzas. According to the UNE, the plant suffered a new “blowout” in one of its boilers. It will take 30 hours for the  boiler to cool down, before performing any repair of the breakdown.

With this scenario, a day is expected with power cuts, a situation that has affected the entire national territory for several months, including Havana.

The blackouts can exceed 10 consecutive hours, which has a negative impact on Cuba’s economic and social life, in the midst of the crisis it is experiencing. The UNE calculates for today a generation capacity of 2,206 megawatts (MW), a maximum demand of 3,100 MW and a deficit of 894 during peak hours. continue reading

The company, which reports to the Ministry of Energy and Mines, also estimates a maximum impairment during the evening of 964 MW. Power cuts, due to breaks and failures in outdated thermoelectric plants, lack of fuel and scheduled maintenance, are increasingly frequent in the country.

In 60 of the 62 days of July and August, blackouts were recorded on the Island, according to UNE data collated by EFE. The Cuban government has expressed its intention to reduce them before the end of the year, through repairs and new investments, but it’s not the first time that they have planned improvements that they do not meet once the date has arrived.

The blackouts affect all areas of the economy and notably the daily life of Cubans, which is increasingly inciting social discontent. This was one of the main causes of the protests on July 11, 2021, the largest in decades, and also of those that have occurred this year throughout the national territory.

Cuba relies heavily on foreign oil to produce energy (thermoelectric plants generate two-thirds of electricity), and its main supplier, Venezuela, has significantly decreased its shipments.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The Cuban Migratory Wave is Leaving a ‘Generation Gap’ on the Island

Migrants in Ciudad Juárez waiting for their asylum processes to enter the United States. (Captura)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Jorge I. Pérez, Miami, 9 September 2022 —  More than 177,000 Cubans have arrived by land in the United States and more than 5,000 by sea since October 2021, in a new wave of migration from the Island to the North, which already exceeds that of the Mariel Boatlift and is “widening the generation gap.”

The issue will be addressed this Saturday by the conference named “Cuban migrations under totalitarianism and its consequences,” organized by the Institute of Cuban Historical Memory and the group of former political prisoners, the plantados, with the participation of representatives from the different waves of Cubans who have arrived in South Florida since 1959.

It will be attended by Luis Manuel Rolle, who arrived in the United States in 1994 as a rafter at age 16. Today he is a retired captain of the U.S. Army and a specialist in military and geopolitical strategy.

“I will explain from the sociological point of view the generation gap that these migratory waves leave within Cuba,” he tells EFE.

Data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency leave no doubt that the current Cuban exodus is out of the ordinary. With less than a month to go before the end of the fiscal year (the new one begins on October 1), 177,848 Cubans have arrived by land. In fiscal year 2021, there were 39,303, and during the 2020 pandemic, 14,015. continue reading

According to Rolle, “it’s the largest migratory wave, including Mariel, Camarioca, the Freedom Flights’ and (Operation) Peter Pan.” In his opinion, “what is happening now is that Cuba has made an agreement with Nicaragua to relieve this pressure cooker” that emerged after the social explosion in July 2021.

“Throwing 177,000 people into the water could have led the United States to an aggressive response. Now we’re seeing that Cubans can go to Nicaragua [without a visa] and from there begin this very dangerous journey to the U.S.,” he says.

“The Government of Cuba is currently in favor of a mass exodus and launches its citizens on a dangerous journey through forests and third countries with human trafficking,” added the author of the YouTube channel Epicentro Global.

For journalist and former political prisoner Pedro Corzo, “we are now facing a gigantic migratory wave, the largest of all and one of the bloodiest due to the insecurity that many Cubans are facing,” he tells EFE.

“We’ve read what is happening in the Darién jungle where so many people are dying and women are being raped and murdered,” says Corzo, who is the organizer of the conference.

Corzo adds that “there is one aspect that we can’t ignore, and that is that over the years these migratory waves are accompanied by thousands of individual exits with different routes and through third countries.”

“Some have been banished, deported and separated from the country where they were born, a despicable amount. We’re going to highlight all that; we don’t want it to be forgotten,” he says.

Irvin Morales, a clinical psychologist who went into exile from Cuba in 1991, tells EFE that “recently, the Cuban migratory patterns have reached levels never seen before.”

“The desperation that this indicates is increasingly pronounced, and any Cuban who thinks that he’s strong enough in mind and body for this journey will take it,” Morales adds.

Last week, the U.S. Joint Task Force for National-Southeast Security (HSTF-SE) stated that it has increased its “operational position” “to face a recent increase in irregular maritime migration that originates in the Bahamas and Cuba through the Florida Straits.”

“The agencies that are part of HSTF-SE are increasing patrols and law enforcement by land, air and sea, day and night,” the federal entity said.

According to official data, since October 1, 2021, U.S. Coast Guard crews have intercepted 5,392 Cubans at sea, compared to the 838 intercepted during the previous fiscal year.

Most of those intercepted at sea are repatriated, unlike those arriving by land that the Cuban Government doesn’t accept back, according to Rolle, “in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuban and U.S. Authorities Talk in Havana About the Smuggling of Migrants

Boat in which four undocumented Cubans were traveling, intercepted by the Coast Guard on March 12, approximately five miles east of Isla Morada, Florida. (Coast Guard)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 10 September 2022 — Authorities of the Cuban Border Guard Troops and the United States Coast Guard Service met in Havana on Thursday and Friday to talk about migration.

The meeting discussed ways to increase cooperation between the two services to deal with the smuggling of migrants, according to an article published this Friday by the Ministry of the Interior.

Illegal departures, illicit drug trafficking and maritime search and rescue operations were also discussed.

“The delegations of both countries highlighted the usefulness of these meetings and agreed on the importance of advancing cooperation in this area,” the article adds.

It also points out that the meeting took place in a “respectful and professional” atmosphere. continue reading

The article, published by the official newspaper Granma, says that according to reports, “both parties agreed to continue these technical meetings in the future.”

These conversations have taken place at a time when the exodus of Cubans has skyrocketed, both those who take migratory routes through Central American countries and those who launch themselves into the sea in precarious boats — all with the aim of reaching the United States.

The U.S. Coast Guard has arrested about 4,500 Cubans off the coast of Florida since October 1, 2021, when the current fiscal year began, according to data from the Customs and Border Protection agency (CBP).

The CBP has recorded the arrival of 177,848 Cuban migrants in the United States.

The figure exceeds the largest flow of Cubans so far, reported in 1980, when 125,000 people left through the port of Mariel in just seven months.

Last April, delegations from Cuba and the United States resumed their bilateral dialogue on migration issues in Washington, the first high-level meeting since the arrival of President Joe Biden at the White House in January 2021.

These meetings had been suspended in 2018 during the Presidency of Donald Trump (2017-2021), who reversed the historic process of rapprochement with the Island launched by his predecessor, Barack Obama (2009-2017).

The Cuban government called it a “positive sign” that the United States held a meeting on immigration issues with a delegation from its country, and, for its part, the Biden Administration considered that these immigration talks between the two parties were “productive.”

The United States has recently implemented several measures, including the increase in the consular services of its embassy in Havana and the reestablishment of a family reunification program that had been suspended since 2017.

However, the Cuban government blames Washington for the irregular flow of Cuban citizens and the illegal departures by sea and other routes, and also for the breach of the bilateral agreement that stipulates the delivery of 20,000 visas per year for Cubans.

In addition, it attributes the increase in migration to the still-in-force Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, which allows Cubans to apply for permanent residence in the United States after one year and one day of being in the country.

Cuba is going through a serious economic crisis due to the combination of the pandemic, the tightening of US sanctions and internal errors in macroeconomic management.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Biden Extends the Embargo Against Cuba and Díaz-Canel Calls it a ‘Crime’

U.S. President Joe Biden. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 3 September 2022 — The president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, criticized the U.S. president, Joe Biden, on Saturday for renewing the Law of Trade with the Enemy, a statute of 1917 that underpins the economic embargo on the island.

“Biden didn’t dare to take away the ’pretext’ from us and signed for the continuity of the blockade,” the Cuban president wrote on Twitter, referring to the memorandum that extends that policy until September 14, 2023.

Díaz-Canel added that “the crime has lasted too long, but the Cuban Revolution will survive it.”

In the same vein, the Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez, said that “Biden becomes the 12th president of the United States to ratify the framework that supports the policy of abuse against Cuba and its people.”

The policy, the Minister of Foreign Affairs added, “is rejected by almost all member countries of the international community.”

Then president John F. Kennedy resorted to the statute in 1962 to impose the economic embargo on Havana, and since then it has been renewed, year after year, by the following presidents.

Cuba is currently the only country in the world sanctioned under that law that authorizes the president of the United States to impose and maintain economic restrictions on states considered hostile. continue reading

The embargo has been widely criticized internationally and rejected since 1992 by a large majority of countries in the UN General Assembly.

Systematically called “the blockade” by the Cuban authorities, the embargo is the reason used by the regime to justify the shortage of food, medicines and other multiple problems, even though there is a law that allows Cuba to buy basic goods from the United States, as long as it pays in advance, in cash.

Most of the chicken that Cuba imports come from the United States; in the last 20 years, the United States has exported 2.78 million tons of chicken to Cuba — 39.5%  of that in the last five years — for a cumulative value of 2,368 million dollars, according to data from the beginning of 2022. In addition, the Island also buys other products from the US, such as soy, fruits, coffee, ketchup, fresh vegetables and pet food.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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