Cuban President Diaz-Canel Accuses the US of Trying to ‘Rekindle’ the July 11th Protests

Image of the protests held on July 11, 2021 in Santiago de Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 16 May 2022 — On Monday, the president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, accused the United States Embassy in Havana of “reviving what happened” in the anti-government protests of last July 11.

During his speech at the closing of the extraordinary sessions of the National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP), in which former president Raúl Castro (2008-2018) was present the president spoke out against Washington. He accused the United States of promoting actions to “provoke a social outbreak” on the Island.

According to Díaz-Canel, the United States — whom he accused of “cynicism” — has constructed “infamous versions of the trials” against the 11J protesters. “Blind with frustration, the empire and its employees resort to old practices of attack with modern techniques of unconventional warfare,” Diaz-Canel charged.

According to the Cuban Attorney General’s Office, 790 people have been prosecuted for these protests, of which 55 are between 16 and 17 years old. Since December, trials of 11J protesters have been registered in the country, with hundreds of defendants.

The United States and the European Union, as well as Cuban and international NGOs, have denounced irregularities in the processes and criticized the high prison sentences, which have sometimes reached 30 years. continue reading

Díaz-Canel also rejected the accusations from Washington that accuse the island of imprisoning minors under 16 who participated in the protests. “From the country that holds world records for incarceration and prison mistreatment of girls and boys, we are accused of having tried and sentenced minors under 16 years of age,” he criticized. The minimum criminal age in Cuba is 16 years, according to the Island Prosecutor’s Office.

In recent weeks, the president assured that “the established legal procedure” was applied to 27 children under 16 years of age. Ten were interned in schools for comprehensive training and conduct and 17 were given “individualized attention” in their own school.

The NGO Prisoners Defenders, for its part, reported in its last count that at the end of March it had registered measures against at least 26 adolescents between the ages of 14 and 17.

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There Will be a Privileged Exchange Rate for Producers of High-Demand Goods in Cuba

A store that takes payment only in hard currency at 3rd and 70th in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 15 May 2022 — The Cuban government announced this Saturday that it will establish a special exchange rate for some state and private producers of high-demand goods. Without further details, the Minister of Economy, Alejandro Gil, explained that these sectors, “in a selective and gradual manner,” will be able to obtain foreign currency at a price between the official rate of 24 pesos to the dollar and that of the informal market, which reaches 125 pesos.

This move comes two years after the first freely convertible currency (MLC) stores selling groceries and other staples were opened.

According to the minister, a scheme for the sale of foreign currency will be implemented in a “gradual and selective” manner and the Government will agree with suppliers on the prices of commercialization in Cuban pesos, Radio Rebelde published.

Gil explained that this new process will be focused on the production of food and high-demand products. “Today we have a missing piece in the design of the country’s monetary functioning, which is the sale of MLC, that is, of foreign currency, to the population that has a demand for it.”

Regarding the price of the currency, the minister pointed out that it is impossible to maintain a stable offer at the official exchange rate, since this “would require an amount of these currencies that would force us to give up the support of the main needs of the population,” adds the media official.

Also, according to the minister, after this step it is possible to “think about re-establishing the sale of foreign currency to the population.” continue reading

The announcement was made during Gil’s presentation in the National Assembly that is in session this weekend and immediately provoked strong criticism.

The economist Pedro Monreal harshly evaluated the official decision: “From the initial dream in 2020 of adopting a single exchange rate, it has gone to three rates: the official one (1:24), the informal one (1≈ 115) and the “secondary”(not yet quantified). One more nail in the coffin of the ’ordering [task]*’ and a possible source of illegalities,” he wrote.

In February of this year, the Cuban economy minister explained that the stores in MLC are a lifeline. “You sell in MLC or you don’t have (currency), because debt is paid or commercial credit is only guaranteed with currency,” he said at the time and defended the opening of stores that take payment exclusively in foreign currency.

The stores in MLC began to operate in Cuba at the end of 2019, first with offers of electrical appliances, hardware or furniture to capture the “dollars that escaped the country,” according to explanations given by the minister at the beginning of 2022. In the summer In 2020, the first markets for food and toiletries appeared, also in foreign currency.

The opening of these stores has been surrounded by strong popular criticism. Cubans complain that the commercial network in Cuban pesos has hardly any products on offer, while in the markets in MLC merchandise is supplied with more regularity and diversity.

During the popular protests last July, foreign currency stores were stoned and looted in several locations in the country. Product resellers have also generated a thriving business of buying in MLC and then offering these goods in national currency at sky-high prices on the informal market.

In his speech at the National Assembly this Saturday, the minister also indicated that the country’s imports between January and April of this year totaled four times its exports.

Exports of goods were about 590 million dollars in those four months, while imports reached about 2.397 billion dollars.

The island’s trade deficit, therefore, stood at 1.807 billion dollars, slightly more than three times the total volume of exports in that period.

*Translator’s note: Tarea ordenamiento = the [so-called] ‘Ordering Task’ which is a collection of measures that includes 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 others. 

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Cuba Only Produces 59 Percent of the Medications Necessary for Public Health

At the beginning of the year, 136 medicines from the basic catalog were lacking and an improvement was expected in the middle of the year. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 15 May 2022 — The Cuban biopharmaceutical industry has only produced 59% of the basic catalog of medicines destined for the public health system, so far this year, official media reported this Saturday.

The president of the state business group BioCubaFarma, Eduardo Martínez, explained that of the “basic list of medicines” of 627 products, “369 are currently produced,” according to the official newspaper Granma. As of April, “143 medicines are missing in one or more provinces.”

According to Martínez, “among the main causes of drug shortages are the unavailability of raw materials and necessary materials (94%) and plant shutdowns due to breakage or maintenance (6%).”

Martínez reiterated that behind the non-availability of supplies are often the economic sanctions of the United States against Cuba.

In January, 136 medicines were lacking out of the 359 that BioCuba Farma provides to the basic table each month, and it was expected that by the middle of this year the outlook would improve. In 2021 only 121 drugs were produced, on average. continue reading

During the past year, there was a serious shortage of basic medicines, which affected treatments for diseases such as arthritis, as well as antihistamines, anxiolytics and antidepressants.

The shortage of basic products, such as food and medicine, was one of the main economic elements in the anti-government protests of July 11, the largest in decades.

On the other hand, the Cuban authorities also announced this Saturday that they are extending the possibility for travelers to bring food, toiletries and medicines to the island without tariff limits, “as accompanied luggage.” This extension will be from July 1 to December 31, 2022, according to Cuban General Customs on its website.

This measure was announced after the protests of July 11 of last year and was extended until June 30, 2022, by the Ministry of Finance and Prices. Now, the ministry assures that they maintain this temporary decision to relax the limitations “taking into account that the conditions that supported this measure are maintained.”

The current legislation in Cuba on the importation of luggage consists of a complex system of points and weight limits that establishes tariffs on excess items brought by travelers.

In the case of medicines, up to 10 kilograms are allowed to be brought into the country.

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Cuban Parliament Approves a Criminal Code which Prohibits External Support for Independent Press

In contrast to the Family Code, this project will not be put to a referendum. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 15 May 2022 — On Sunday, Cuba’s National Assembly of the People’s Power (ANPP) approved, in an extraordinary session, Cuba’s new Criminal Code, which includes penalties of up to three years for those who insult senior public officials and prohibits foreign financing for media outlets.

The delegates approved the project in a session attended by Miguel Díaz-Canel, and the country’s former ruler, Raúl Castro (2008-2018).

Activists and opponents believe this reform will silence social protest and independent journalism.

Its proponents, on the other hand, describe it as “providing guarantees” and updated, since the previous version — from 1987 — did not include environmental crimes, cybercrimes or gender-based violence.

Originally, the project should have been voted on by the ANPP in April, but for unknown reasons, its passing in the Legislature was delayed.

The new code, which takes effect 90 days from its publication in the Gaceta Oficial de la República, includes 37 new crimes such as “public disorder” to penalize “disturbances of that nature produced in groups or individually.” continue reading

The president of the People’s Supreme Court on the Island, Ruben Remigio Ferro, stressed as he presented the law at the Parliamentary plenary that it strengthens the rigor of the penalties related to corruption.

Thus, he stated that it establishes the maximum penalty of life in prison and maintains the possibility of applying the death penalty, as an exception in 23 types of criminal cases.

It also includes penalties of up to ten years in prison for anyone who, “supports, encourages, finances, provides, receives or has in their possession funds, material or financial resources,” of non governmental organizations or international institutions that could be used to “pay for activities against the State and its constitutional order.”

The new criminal code has not received as much state media coverage as the Family Code, a reform which is also currently being processed in the ANPP after a three-month public consultative process during which the content of the document was explained.

In contrast to the Family Code, this project will not be put to a referendum.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez 

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Cuban State Security Prevents Farinas from Leaving Santa Clara After His Trip to Europe and the U.S.

Fariñas was arrested on Tuesday at the airport, upon his return to the Island, and was released after hours of interrogation. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 12 May 2022 — Cuban opponent, Guillermo Coco Fariñas, explained on Wednesday that he has been freed after being interrogated for several hours by security forces upon his return to Havana from a trip to Europe and the U.S.

The 2010 recipient of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought stated on Facebook that it involved a “cohersive interrogation” and that the “punishment” for his political tour will be that he will be unable to leave his city, Santa Clara.

“For those of us who struggle for democracy and freedom in Cuba, it is a right to conduct politics in this way,” said Fariñas, despite his sanction.

The opponent confirmed that State Security agents accused him of influencing U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision not to invite Cuba to the Summit of the Americas.

They also criticized his contribution to the recent declaration of the European Union on Cuba. “For them, that was intolerable,” he added.

Finally, according to Fariñas, they believed that the opponent was behind the coordination of various generations of Cuban exiles and the involvement of business owners in pro-democratic activities on the Island. continue reading

Fariñas was arrested on Tuesday afternoon, as he was leaving Havana’s José Martí International airport, where he had just landed after his international trip.

The opponent was returning to Cuba following a two-month trip — “successful” in his judgement — which took him to the U.S. and Europe, where he met with various political representatives and activists to talk about the situation in his country.

During his trip, the leader of the United Antitotalitarian Front (Fantu) denounced the repression in Cuba, especially as a result of the antigovernment protests of July 11th.

The Sakharov Prize winner stated that the social situation in the country is “a pressure cooker without an escape valve” and that new protests are possible. Fariñas had planned the trip for mid-January, but was unable to travel because he received the Cuban-made vaccines, which are not recognized in the U.S. A month later, he was able to fly.

In recent months, Fariñas had denounced several detentions, sometimes held in a hospital in Santa Clara, where he lives, for unsolicited medical treatment.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez 

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The Body of a Tourist Who Died in the Saratoga Hotel in Havana Will Arrive in Spain this Week

The explosion at the Hotel Saratoga in Havana left at least 27 dead and 81 injured. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger

EFE (via 14ymedio), Madrid, 8 May 2022 — The lifeless body of Cristina López-Cerón, the Spanish tourist who died in last  Friday’s explosion at Havana’s Saratoga Hotel, will arrive in Spain at the end of this week, according to sources from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Spanish ambassador in Cuba, Ángel Martín Peccis, and the Spanish consul in Havana, José Antonio Hernández, who from the first moment have taken charge of the procedures, try to speed up all the procedures to be able to transfer the body of the victim, age 29 and a native of the Lugo town of Viveiro.

Her romantic partner, César Román, with whom she lived in As Pontes (A Coruña), where she is from, continues to be admitted to a hospital in Havana, where he arrived in a very serious condition, for which he had to undergo immediate surgery.

Regarding his state of health, sources from the medical team that are treating him say that it is too early to know how the 30-year-old will evolve, so we still have to wait a few days to see his progression.

Both Spaniards, who were on vacation in the city, were just outside the Saratoga Hotel when the strong explosion occurred, at the time that a tanker truck was supplying liquefied gas to the establishment.

As a result of the explosion, at least 30 people died and another 84 were injured to varying degrees, although these figures could still increase as the work of clearing the area progresses. continue reading

The blast wave caused a section of the seven-story hotel to collapse, and the facade of the first three floors to detach, causing a shower of debris on the sidewalk and a large column of smoke, which was visible in much of the capital.

Local authorities point out that the most likely hypothesis to explain this tragedy is that the explosion was due to a crack in the hose of the tanker truck.

This luxury hotel, which had been closed for two years due to the pandemic, was going to reopen its doors next Tuesday.

Faced with the tragedy, the king and queen of Spain sent a message of “sadness and consternation” and deep regret to the president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel.

“United with the pain of the friendly Cuban people,” affirm Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, who wanted to show all their “support and solidarity to the families of the deceased and best wishes for the recovery of the injured,” they state in the message.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis asked for prayers this Sunday for the victims of the Saratoga Hotel explosion “so that Christ guides them to the father’s house,” while requesting that “support be given to the relatives.”
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Lopez Obrador Speaks With Biden About Immigration Before Traveling to Cuba

The Mexican President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his U.S. counterpart, Joe Biden, had a virtual meeting that lasted 52 minutes. (Presidencia de México)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Mexico, April 29, 2022 — Reducing migration at the border was the main topic of Monday’s conversation held by U.S. President Joe Biden and his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. “The tone of the call was very constructive,” said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Psaki did not clarify if Biden made any concrete request to López Obrador to strengthen Mexico’s southern border and prevent the passage of more undocumented immigrants from going to the United States, but she wanted to distance the position of the U.S. president from that of his predecessor, Donald Trump (2017-2021).

“This was not a call in which President Biden was threatening the Mexican president in any way,” the spokeswoman said about the virtual meeting that lasted 52 minutes.

The figures show the severity of the migration crisis for both Mexico and the United States. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) recorded 7,800 arrests of irregular migrants per day along the border with Mexico in the last three weeks, almost five times the 2014-2019 average, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

From October 2021 to the end of February 2022, the CBP reported the arrival of 46,000 Cubans by land in the United States. The five-month figure exceeds that of the 12 months of 2021, which had already been a record (39,303), and some calculations estimate that after a year about 150,000 nationals from the island will have arrived on U.S. territory, more than the 125,000 of the Mariel ’Boatlift’ exodus. continue reading

This was not a call in which President Biden was threatening the Mexican president in any way.

The conversation between Biden and López Obrador “was scheduled in part due to the Summit of the Americas (to be held in June in Los Angeles), but also because the lifting of Title 42 is approaching,” Psaki stressed.

Title 42 is a protective measure that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) imposed during the pandemic in 2020, during the term of then-president Donald Trump, and which has continued under Biden.

This measure means that the United States automatically deports the majority of undocumented immigrants who arrive at its southern border, without giving them the opportunity to apply for asylum.

The CDC recently announced its plan to rescind that measure on May 23, but that decision now depends on the decision of a Louisiana judge, who suspended for 14 days the Administration’s preparations to end that regulation.

A source consulted by the AFP agency who asked for anonymity announced that the Summit of the Americas, convened for June 8 and 9 in Los Angeles, will address the issue of migration from Central America.

López Obrador will travel next week to Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Belize and Cuba. Meanwhile, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard will travel to the United States next Monday to advance issues of cooperation for development and the next Summit of the Americas, as reported in the publication.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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According to Amnesty International, Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara has Lost Sight in One Eye while in Cuban Prison

Otero Alcántara in front of Havana’s capital during a day of protest. (Facebook)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 29 April 2022 — Cuban opponent and leader of the San Isidro Movement (MSI), Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, has lost sight in one eye in the prison where he has been held since the antigovernment protests last July, denounced NGO Amnesty International (AI) on Thursday.

Erika Guevara, Director for the Americas for London-based AI, denounced via her Twitter account that the dissident — who ended his three-month hunger strike in March — has not received medical attention and demands his immediate release.

“Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara’s situation in Cuba should be a source of shame for the Cuban government and of complete indignation for those of us who witness his decline,” said Guevara.

At the beginning of this month, activist and artist Claudia Genlui Hidalgo denounced on social media that the leader of MSI had been denied specialized care to tend to his vision problems. On April 6th, the United States Government also demanded that Cuba offer Otero Alcántara “immediate medical attention.”

“We urge the Cuban authorities to offer immediate medical attention to Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who remains seriously ill while in detention,” expressed the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Brian Nichols. continue reading

After ending his hunger strike on March 11th, sources close to the dissident communicated that he would opt for a trial, after six months in the Guanajay jail, 45 kilometers west of Havana.

The Island’s Prosecutor requested seven years in prison for Otero Alcántara — who AI considers a prisoner of conscience–for aggravated contempt, public disorder and instigating a crime for going out into the street in front of the San Isidro Movement headquarters in Old Havana to sing Patria y Vida among neighbors on April 4th, 2021.  Maykel Castillo Osorbo, for whom they seek 10 years in jail, is on the same docket.

Also weighing on Alcántara is the charge of insulting patriotic symbols, for carrying out his art work, Drapeau. The date of his trial is as yet unknown.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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A Bleak Six Months for Press Freedom in America

Police of the Ortega regime during the raid on the facilities of ’La Prensa’, in August of last year. (Twitter)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Miami, 21 April 2022 — The Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) concluded its biannual meeting this Thursday with a pessimistic document in which it maintains that “the increasing violence against journalists is the main challenge to the free press in the Americas,” but there are other challenges, also on the economic level.

The panorama of press freedom on the continent is “bleak,” according to the media organization based in Miami (Florida), which will hold its next General Assembly next October in Madrid in person.

The three-day virtual meeting that ended today produced a series of resolutions on various topics, reports on the state of press freedom in each country, and a document of conclusions that lists the many problems from greater to lesser seriousness and highlights some positive elements.

At the closing of the meeting, the SIP Bot, a digital tool at the service of press freedom, was presented.

This tool allows journalists to track the treatment of the issue of press freedom in the media and social networks in real time and has a complaints mailbox to send violation alerts to the IAPA.

According to the conclusions of the meeting, since October 2021, 15 journalists have been murdered (10 in Mexico, 3 in Haiti, one in Guatemala and one in Honduras) and 13 of these crimes occurred in the first three months of 2022. continue reading

“The impunity of these crimes continues to be worrying,” said the IAPA, recalling that this year nine cases of murders against journalists that occurred in 2002 in Colombia will prescribe.

“In Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, journalists and the media are unusually frequent victims of persecution and repression by totalitarian governments,” emphasizes the IAPA

Eight communicators, six from Nicaragua – three reporters and three directors of La Prensa – and two from Cuba, suffer imprisonment, and 77 were forced into exile: 75 from Nicaragua and two from Cuba.

With respect to Nicaragua, the document’s conclusions highlight the approval of a resolution in which 27 national and international press organizations assume an action plan to restore the freedoms of the press and expression as essential guarantees to restore democracy.

“The independent press in Nicaragua experiences systematic persecution, oppression and widespread censorship – atrocities resulting from the hijacking of public powers and the demolition of civil society structures,” says the IAPA.

The action plan contemplates requesting multilateral organizations to condition the granting of credits and non-humanitarian aid to the release of political prisoners, to return their facilities to La Prensa, Confidencial and 100% Noticias, to allow the return of media and journalists from exile and have guarantees to carry out their work.

The arson attacks against two media outlets in Argentina and two in Colombia, as well as the digital surveillance of journalists in Cuba, El Salvador and Venezuela, also are sources of concern.

Regarding Venezuela, it is highlighted that Nicolás Maduro’s “regime” blocked Internet portals and censored access to the network in general, using international telecommunications companies.

“The reform of the Penal Code in Cuba increases penalties for contempt of authority, creates offenses to penalize users of social networks and punishes “clandestine publications” with prison and fines,” the report details.

Other restrictive projects emerged in Aruba, with the media law, and in El Salvador, with the anti-gang statute that criminalizes the media and journalists.

The stigmatization of the press by presidents or other authorities practiced in Argentina, Aruba, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela is already a constant.

The resolution also mentions the restrictions on access and information coverage in Aruba, Bolivia, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, the United States, Guatemala, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

Judicial harassment was reported in Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, the United States, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and Peru.

Despite all this, the IAPA highlighted that in the last six months there were some positive aspects.

In Honduras, the Secrets Law was repealed, in Paraguay a bill on protection for journalists is advancing, and in Puerto Rico bills were submitted to protect confidential sources.

The IAPA also sees as a light that the Government of Canada promotes a law to force the large digital platforms to pay the media for the use of their content.

At the six-monthly meeting, the urgency of ensuring the sustainability of the press was discussed again, which includes receiving, “without further delay,” fair compensation from the large digital platforms for the use of the content generated by the media.

The IAPA highlighted that the economic crisis in the media has deepened because digital platforms absorb a very high percentage of digital advertising.

With their technology, data on audiences, economic resources and, above all, with journalistic content, these supranational companies have created a very successful revenue model to the detriment of the newspaper industry, said IAPA President Jorge Canahuati.

“We are not asking for gifts or subsidies (…). We are claiming our royalties. (…) We cannot evade our responsibilities and the platforms should not evade theirs either,” he added.

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Cuba Thanks Russia for 19,526 Tons of Wheat

The Russian ambassador to Cuba, Andrei A. Guskov, greets the deputy minister of the Ministry of the Food Industry, Lázara Mercedes López Acea, during a ceremony this Thursday in Havana. (EFE/Yander Zamora)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 21 April 2022 —  On Thursday, Cuba thanked the Russian government for a donation of 19,526 tons of wheat , which reached the island a month late due to Western sanctions on Moscow for the invasion of Ukraine.

The Cuban authorities received the support of the Russian Government in an act at the Ministry of the Agri-Food Industry, which in the last year has already sent food and medical supplies to the Island, which is going through a serious economic crisis.

The Russian ambassador to Cuba, Andrei Guskov, said that this “important consignment” of “humanitarian cargo” had problems because the shipowner could not be paid “due to the sudden disconnection of several Russian banks” from the SWIFT international payment system.

He added that this measure was due to “the events related to Ukraine,” referring to the Russian invasion of the neighboring country, and stressed that Moscow is determined to continue supporting Cuba. continue reading

“We are willing to continue doing so, to the best of our ability. Even in the complicated global scenario that we are witnessing,” the ambassador added.

He affirmed that the “unilateral sanctioning attitude” of some countries will not triumph against the “firm will” of Russia and Cuba to maintain their bilateral “strategic association,” based on “friendship and solidarity.”

Guskov, who compared the sanctions against Russia with the United States embargo on Cuba, referred to three recent donations from his country of food and medical supplies.

In recent months, Cuba has received several donations from Russia, the United States, Japan, Nicaragua and Vietnam, among other countries, from both governments and private groups.

Most of the contributions were medical supplies and basic food, but in some cases several dozen buses were delivered.

Last year, the Island received 135 donations from 40 countries, mostly medical supplies and equipment for immunization and the fight against the pandemic, according to official data.

Cuba has been going through a serious crisis for months due to the combination of the covid-19 pandemic, the US embargo and failures in national macroeconomic management.

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The Leader of Cuba’s Ladies in White Faces Arrest Thirteen Consecutive Sundays

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

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 19 April 2022 —  The leader of the Ladies in White opposition women’s movement, Berta Soler, was detained for the thirteenth consecutive Sunday after leaving the organization’s headquarters in Havana, dissident activists denounced this Monday.

Soler was accompanied by her husband, also an opponent and former prisoner Ángel Moya; at the time of the arrest both were taken to police units in the Havana municipalities of San Miguel del Padrón and Guanabacoa, respectively, as he explained in his Facebook account.

Moya denounced that both were confined in cells and released this morning after the imposition of fines of 7.50 Cuban pesos (equivalent to less than a dollar) for him and 30 Cuban pesos (1.25 dollars) for Soler.

This is Soler’s second arrest in the last week, according to another complaint by Moya last Wednesday, April 13, in which he reported that on that occasion the arrest occurred when he was trying to move to the province of Matanzas, located 100 kilometers east of Havana.

The opponent said that this other temporary arrest of Soler occurred “under pretext, first, for the alleged crime of public disorder and finally for a debtor of fines.” continue reading

The members of the Ladies in White have been arrested every weekend since they announced last January that, as before the pandemic, they would go out to protest on the streets again, this time for those detained in the July 11th (11J) protests.

The Ladies in White movement was created in 2003 by a group of female relatives of 75 dissidents and independent journalists arrested and sentenced in March of that year to long prison sentences after a wave of repression by the Cuban government known as the Black Spring.

The wives, mothers and other relatives of those prisoners began a series of Sunday marches to call for their release and became a symbol of dissidence.

In 2005, the Ladies in White received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Parliament.

The EU and NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International criticized that wave of arrests, calling them political.

The Cuban authorities, for their part, alleged that they were counterrevolutionaries seeking to attack national sovereignty on orders from the United States.
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Miami Hosts an Exhibition by Imprisoned Cuban Artist Otero Alcantara

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, leader of the San Isidro Movement (Photo: EFE/Yander Zamora)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Miami/Havana 17 April 2022 — An exhibition dedicated to the work of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, one of the leaders of the San Isidro Movement, who has been imprisoned in Cuba since last July, will open this week in Miami with the help of various institutions.

“Alcantara, Artist imprisoned in Cuba,” shows the works that the artist’s partner, art curator Claudia Genlui Hidalgo, took out of Cuba last November and brought to Miami.

Otero Alcántara was arrested on July 11, the day that the biggest protests ever broke out against the government and in favor of change in Cuba since the triumph of the Revolution in 1959. Otero is being held in a prison in Guanajay.

The exhibition, which will open its doors to the public from April 22 at The ArtSpace gallery, has been curated by Claudia Genlui Hidalgo and supported by the Bacardí Family Foundation, El Espacio 23 — owned by Cuban-born businessman Jorge Pérez — and I’ve Been Framed.

“His life has become a great performance, an exercise in constant resistance,” says Genlui about Otero Alcántara. continue reading

The art curator reported through social networks that last Saturday Otero Alcántara’s relatives visited him in prison and found him “in better spirits,” but “in poor health.”

The Cuban artist continues to have vision problems while the authorities have refused his demand to provide him with specialized medical care, Genlui Hidalgo denounced on Facebook.

Otero Alcántara’s health has deteriorated as a result of several hunger strikes, before and during his imprisonment.

In early April, his relatives reported that Otero Alcántara could be suffering from a severe eye disease after the partial paralysis he suffered during his last hunger strike.

“Everything that happens to Luis is the responsibility of the Cuban government, which is determined to isolate and torture him,” Genlui stressed.

At the beginning of April, the Cuban Prosecutor’s Office informed, after months of waiting, of the sentence request that they will make to the court that that will try Maykel ’Osorbo’ Castillo and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara: ten years for the first and seven for the second.

The information was released by the Osorbo Facebook account; he has been imprisoned since May 18, 2021.

Both artists share the same case, in which they are accused of aggravated contempt, public disorder and instigation to commit a crime for going out on the street, in front of the headquarters of the San Isidro Movement in Old Havana to sing Patria y Vida among the neighbors, on April 4, 2021. Alcántara also has been accused of outrage against national symbols for his work of art titled Drapeau.

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The Good Friday Way of the Cross Returns to Havana After Two Years of the Pandemic

The Good Friday procession of the Cross passes through a street in Old Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Raquel Martori, Havana | 16 The Good Friday Stations of the Cross once again returned to the streets of Havana after two years of isolation for Cuban Catholics due to the crisis generated by the covid-19 pandemic.

Hundreds of people of all ages — most of them adults — joined the procession that started from the parish of Cristo del Buen Viaje, a church in the historic center of the Cuban capital, to walk the path of the 14 stations that marked the passage the religious act, which represents the death of Jesus.

At the exit of the procession, the vicar general and chancellor of the Archdiocese of Havana, Ramón Suárez Polcari, urged the faithful to “remain firm in faith and good work.”

A group of believers carried the images of Jesus of Nazareth — carrying his cross and crowned with thorns — and the Virgin Mary of Sorrows through the narrow alleys of the oldest and most popular area of ​​Havana.

The Virgin Mary of Sorrows is carried through the narrow alleys of the oldest and most popular area of ​​Havana. (EFE)

The procession – presided over by the Cardinal and Archbishop of Havana, Juan de la Caridad García, brought together priests, nuns, deacons and faithful, accompanied by a car with a speaker, from which songs were broadcast. continue reading

But also prayers for Cuba, with voices in favor of solidarity, forgiveness, faith, respect for values, reconciliation, overcoming divisions, as well as for those who must ensure the common good and particularly those most in need.

Residents and onlookers watched the Stations of the Cross standing at the doors of their homes, on the sidewalks or from the tops of balconies and rooftops over more than a kilometer, with the penultimate stop at the imposing Havana Cathedral and ending at the rhythm of a funeral march in the church of the Holy Angel.

The procession also attracted the eyes of numerous tourists who walked through the area most frequented by tourists in Havana.

Ana María Martínez, arriving early at the Buen Viaje temple of which she is practically a neighbor, said that she was moved “by a great faith, because I will always have it.” According to what she told Efe, she has been left without a family: her only sister died from covid and her nephews live in the United States.

“I have great hope that life will return to the way it was before, although we continue to suffer from this disease. There are many people who have not lost faith and today I have come to ask God to help me,” she said.

A few meters away, Adrián Rodríguez, a 27-year-old who supported the organization of the Stations of the Cross, considered it “very important” that it could be carried out because it gives hope to “move forward,” after the country’s economic situation had deteriorated, which in his opinion “has had repercussions at the community level with the increase in faith,” although it has also triggered emigration.

In 2012, the then Pope Benedict XVI made a pastoral visit to Cuba, during which he asked the then president of the island, Raúl Castro, to restore the commemoration of Good Friday as a holiday, which had been suspended for almost half a century.

That year and the next, the Cuban government declared Good Friday an “exceptional” holiday in consideration of the Pope’s request and since 2014 has considered that Christian date as official in the island’s calendar.

In Cuba, with more than 11.2 million inhabitants, it is estimated that 60% of the population is Catholic, according to the number of people baptized on the island.

The relations between the Catholic Churches and the Government experienced tensions at the beginning of the revolution in 1959, and for years later the ups and downs continued until the beginning of the 1990s, when there was a  transition to a relaxation, especially since the historic visit of Pope John Paul II in 1998, which was followed by that of Benedict XVI and the current Pontiff Francis.

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Cuban Government Calls 2021 One of the Hardest for Public Health

Nearly 90% of Cubans have one of the three doses against covid-19, according to the Government. (ACN)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via14ymedio), Havana, 10 April 2022 — Cuba’s Minister of Public Health, José Ángel Portal, acknowledged this Saturday that 2021 was the “hardest” year for the sector “in recent decades” due to the covid-19 pandemic, although he highlighted the work of health personnel in this scenario.

The headline noted, quoted by the official media outlet Cubadebate, that the circulation of the Delta variant of the coronavirus — whose first case in the country was detected in March 2020 — led to a complex epidemiological panorama during last July and August.

At that time, the new positives exceeded 9,000 and the deaths were close to a hundred daily, according to data released by the Ministry of Public Health (Minsap) and compiled by Efe.

Portal considered the high level of immunization in the Cuban population as an advance in the health system, where nearly 90% of the 11.2 million inhabitants have at least one dose of the three Cuba-developed vaccines against covid-19.

However, he blamed the crisis generated by the pandemic and the “strengthening” of the US economic embargo for the “sensitive” impact on the “availability of resources and on population health indicators.” continue reading

Last year, “the number of deaths increased in all the country’s territories, with the 60-year-old age group being the most affected,” he said.

He added that “covid-19 had a negative impact on registered infant and maternal mortality rates.”

The report also recognizes “the lack and low coverage of medicines, medical supplies, diagnostics, expendable material” and “problems in the technological infrastructure, obsolescence and breakdown of equipment.”

In January, the president of the state group of the biopharmaceutical industry (BioCubaFarma), Eduardo Martínez, informed the official newspaper Granma that in 2021 it only supplied 121 of its portfolio of 359 drugs.

The “basic” palette of medicines, according to the Government, includes 619 products.

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Cuban Doctors Kidnapped in Kenya and Still Missing After Three years, Despite the ‘Indefatigable Efforts’ of Diaz-Canel

Cuban doctors Assel Herrera Correa and Landy Rodríguez Hernández were kidnapped in April 2019 in Kenya. (Collage)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 12 April 2022 — Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, affirmed this Tuesday that efforts to return to the country of the two doctors kidnapped for three years in Kenya continue “tirelessly,” though their whereabouts are still unknown.

“Today marks three years since the kidnapping of our doctors Assel and Landy. We continue tirelessly to make arrangements for their safe return to the Homeland with their families,” the president wrote on Twitter.

Surgeon Landy Rodríguez and general medicine specialist Assel Herrera were captured in the Kenyan city of Mandera (northeast), on the border with Somalia, and then taken to the latter country by alleged members of the Somali jihadist group Al Shabab.

On April 12, 2019, they were traveling, as usual, in a convoy to the Mandera hospital, protected by armed escorts, when they were intercepted after a shootout in which one of the police officers responsible for their security died.

The man who worked as a driver for both was sentenced at the end of last March to life imprisonment. According to local press reports, Issack Ibrein Robow, a Somali, was found guilty of kidnapping, aiding in a terrorist act and fraudulently obtaining an identity card. continue reading

Herrera and Rodríguez were part of a contingent of a hundred Cuban professionals who arrived in Kenya in 2018 as part of a bilateral agreement to improve access to specialized health services in that African country.

The governments of Cuba, Kenya and Somalia say that since the doctors were captured they have been making joint efforts to achieve their release.

In May 2019, traditional leaders from Kenya and Somalia who traveled to the Al Shabab-controlled region of Jubaland in Somalia to negotiate on behalf of the doctors, reported seeing the doctors providing medical assistance to the local population. According to the mediators, the kidnappers even demanded a reward of 1.5 million dollars as a condition for their release, the Kenyan press reported at the time.

Every time there is a contact in this regard with those countries, the Cuban authorities usually disclose it, although in a concise way and without specific details about the efforts.

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