The Energy Crisis Forces Cuban Universities to Readjust

At the University of Havana, classes will end at 3:oo pm instead of 6:00 pm. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 17 September 2019 — The fuel crisis that Cuba suffers, and that is affecting the daily life of citizens, has forced Cuba’s main universities to readjust their schedules, reduce class times, and even close departments for one or two days a week.

José Antonio Echeverría Technological University of Havana (Cujae), the country’s leading engineering and architecture school, will close its doors on Mondays and Tuesdays, so there will only be classes from Wednesday to Friday until further notice, as reported this Monday by the first vice minister of Higher Education, Martha Mesa.

Meanwhile, at the University of Havana (UH) classes have been suspended on Fridays, and on the rest of the working days their duration has been shortened and the faculties close at 3:00 in the afternoon instead of 6:00 as usual. continue reading

The official press reported new energy saving measures that are applied these days at the University of Matanzas and the Marta Abreu Central University de las Villas (UCLV) of Villa Clara.

With these measures, the Government tries to reduce the consumption of electricity and fuel for transport at a time when Cuba faces what could be its worst energy crisis since the 1990s, during the Special Period.

Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, has assured that the Island is not at the beginning of another Special Period and that the current crisis is a “temporary situation” caused by the resurgence of the US embargo and the restrictions of the Donald Trump Administration on Venezuelan oil shipments.

Cuba produces enough oil to cover 40% of its needs (mainly to generate electricity in thermal plants) according to government data, and the rest it receives mostly from Venezuela.

The arrival of diesel fuel in Cuba was interrupted last Saturday and no more ships will arrive until October, a situation that is affecting transport and industrial activities in the country, as well as generating fears of possible power outages.

On the street the effects have been noticed, with more people looking for transportation from the sidewalks, overflowing urban buses, a large share of the gas stations with closed diesel pumps and long lines at those which are still open.

The authorities assured that the supply of diesel for private cars will not cease, although urban and interurban public transport by road and rail has been restricted to minimum services.

Last Thursday, several ministers appeared on the Roundtable TV talk show, together with Miguel Díaz-Canel, to reassure the population and assure them that there would be no problems, and at the same time that they detailed all the reductions that will have to be faced as this situation is resolved and that will affect all sectors.

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Cuban President Diaz-Canel Receives the Argentine Grandmothers, But Not the Ladies in White

Estela de Carlotto, president of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo. (EFE / Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 18 September 2019 — Cuba’s Head of State, Miguel Díaz-Canel, received Estela Barnes de Carlotto, the president of the Argentine association Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, in Havana this Tuesday.

The treatment offered to the Argentine activists contrasts with the systematic repression that the Cuban Government exercises against Cuba’s Ladies in White, who are harassed by State Security when they go out to demand the freedom of political prisoners.

Claudia Susana Carlotto, daughter of Estela Barnes, along with Daniel Ricci and Juan Carlos Barroso, representatives of university organizations, also participated in the meeting between the Cuban president and the Argentine human rights activist, according to a note released by the state-run Cuban News Agency (ACN). continue reading

The president of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo was invited to make this visit to the Island by the Federation of Cuban Women, whose head, Teresa Amarelle, was present at the meeting.

Barnes, whose daughter Laura Carlotto was arrested and killed during the Argentine military dictatorship (1976-1983), in 1978 joined a group of women in the organization struggling to locate each of the missing grandchildren*.

In her case, the encounter with her grandson Guido, born in captivity when his daughter Laura was a prisoner, was possible after 36 years of searching, on August 5, 2014.

The Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo estimate that more than 400 children have been registered as missing and deprived of their identity, their right to live with their family and other rights recognized nationally and internationally as universal human rights.

*Source Wikipedia: “Children were either kidnapped or seized at birth from women in detention during the Dirty War. The vast majority were given or sold to adoptive parents, including numerous perpetrators and accomplices in the murder of their biological parents.”

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Silvio Rodriguez Criticizes the Repression of the LGBTI March in Havana

In the midst of a strong police operation, 300 people paraded without incident through the central Paseo del Prado to Havana’s Malecon. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 13 May 2019 — Singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez endorsed, on Sunday, the criticism published by singer-songwriter Vicente Feliú about the “absurd, shameful, dangerously evocative repression” of the LGBTI demonstration held on Saturday in Havana by independent activists and without permission from the authorities.

“With my eyes wide open, I subscribe to every word of what Vicente said on his Facebook,” the artist wrote in the comments section of his blog, Segunda Cita, which has become for many intellectuals and citizens point of meeting and debate about the news of Cuba.

Hours earlier, Feliú had published in his account of that social network that “the absurd, embarrassing, dangerously evocative repression” of the gay march “is definitely indefensible.” continue reading

LGBTI activists and State Security agents clashed on Saturday during a demonstration called without permission after the annual gay pride march organized by the official National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex), led by Mariela Castro, daughter of ex-president Raúl Castro, was cancelled.

Mariela Castro, who is a deputy to the National Assembly, wrote on Sunday on her Facebook account that the march was a ’show’ that was “supported by officials of the US embassy and covered by the foreign press.”

Castro added the above comment when reposting a comment from the Chilean activist, Víctor Hugo Robles, who said that “advances in the rights of LGBTIQ communities always have contradictions.”

Robles also said that “the images of the march of diversity in the streets of Havana this Saturday May 11, 2019 hide not only the legitimate desire for greater spaces of rights for everyone, but the staging of an orchestrated operation that seeks to question the outstanding and essential work of CENESEX.”

This is the first time in decades that a demonstration without official permission has taken place in Cuba, in an unprecedented challenge from the independent civil society to the authorities of the Island.

In the midst of a strong police presence, about 300 people paraded without incident through the central Paseo del Prado but at the end of that avenue and, when the marchers headed towards the Malecón, many policemen in uniform and plainclothes ordered the march to disperse.

The activists refused on the grounds that they did not need permission to walk around Havana and that was when clashes took place with police and State Security agents forcibly detaining between four and seven people, according to eyewitnesses. There were no official reports about the total number of people arrested.

The announcement this week that the traditional conga against homophobio would be suspended, with the justification that the country is preparing to face a serious economic crisis, caused a great deal of discomfort in the LGBTI group, which questioned why other mass activities, such as the recent May Day parade celebrating Labor Day, were carried out as usual.

Had it gone forward, the cancelled conga would have been the first one held after the approval, in April, of the new Constitution. Initial drafts of the document included a modification that opened the doors to equal marriage on the Island, but ultimately this was not included in the final text.

That issue was one of the most controversial in the popular debates on the Constitution and provoked a strong campaign against the measure by the evangelical and Catholic churches.

The LGTBI collective has been gaining visibility during the last decade in Cuba, in contrast to the first years of the Revolution when homosexuals were persecuted and sent to work camps, one of the darkest chapters in the recent history of the Island.

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Cuba Establishes Priorities so as Not to Return to the Crisis of the “Special Period”

Shortages of food have made the daily routine difficult for Cubans who now have to stand in long lines to buy it. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Havana, 14 April 2019 – Given the renewed pressure from the from United States and the inefficiency of its economy, Cuba established “clear” priorities in a plan looking ahead to 2030 to avoid at all cost falling into a serious crisis like that of the so-called “Special Period” in the decade of the 1990s, according to president Miguel Díaz-Canel.

The harshness of the moment requires us to establish clear and well-defined priorities, so as not to return to the difficult times of the ‘Special Period’,” said Díaz-Canel at the end of an extraordinary session of the National Assembly, which, this week, approved the new Constitution.

The leader, who will complete his first year as Head of State this coming Friday, recognizes that the Island still bears “the weight of administrative inefficiency, import mentality, lack of savings and insufficient income from exports.”

“We cannot exclude the manifestations of corruption and illegalities, unacceptable in the Revolution,” he added, outlining two absolute priorities: preparation for defense and the economic battle.

The priorities will be tourism, biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry, renewable energy sources, food production, and construction, along with the export of professional services which analysts believe to be the country’s main source of income.

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Cuba’s Embassy in Mexico Led the Fight Against Central American Dictatorships

Mexico has made public the 411 files on the espionage carried out of Fidel Castro by Mexican security forces. (Luz Escobar)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), José Antonio Torres, Mexico City, 28 March2019 —  In the 1960s Cuba used its embassy in Mexico to direct movements against those they considered dictatorships in Latin America, according to espionage archives declassified by the Mexican government.

In a version of 411 files Mexico has made public on the espionage carried out of Fidel Castro by Mexican security forces, both when he was in Mexico and in power in Cuba, it is noted that the Cuban embassy served as its focal point for these activities in the region.

“The Cuban Embassy in Mexico is in charge of directing in Latin America the various movements, both against the so-called Central American dictatorships and against the United States of America,” Mexico’s Federal Security Directorate (DFS) states in a report dated 1960 to which Efe had access. continue reading

In those years the first target of these activities was the Nicaraguan Government, when the Somoza clan was already in power, “and as a concrete case we can cite the armed incursion in the Segovias in the month of March in which nine people died,” the file emphasizes.

The reports about the activity that Cuban diplomats carried out from Mexico were always part Mexican intelligence’s surveillance of Castro, inlcuding when he was in power, as they considered him a factor of influence in social movements in Latin America.

“As a result of his coming to power, the various groups of political asylees distributed in Latin American countries tried to follow his example,” highlighted the offices of the DFS, an entity that disappeared in 1985 amid accusations of corruption.

However, the Mexican espionage noted in their reports, now housed in the National General Archive, that the Mexican communist groups had no links with the group headed by Fidel Castro, a situation that continued after his conquest of power and in the following years.

Mexican security prepared a detailed report of it first encounter with Castro, capturing him on June 21, 1956, in a car with license plates from Miami in the neighborhood of Polanco, after a year of following him through reports from Cuba that warned that he was preparing a coup against the Batista government.

Castro was arrested with several men, including his bodyguard identified as Universe Sanchez, by Mexican Captain Fernando Gutiérrez Barrios, whom Fidel always treated as a friend, and who became Secretary of the Interior in the presidency of Carlos Salinas (1988- 1994).

Even then, Mexican spies warned of Castro’s links with “political exiles of different nationalities,” mainly those of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, led by Manuel Flores Gómez, and those of Peru, headed by César Pardo Acosta.

In another report, Gutiérrez Barrios affirms that Castro was last seen in Ciudad Victoria, in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, and confirms reports that he had already embarked on the yacht Granma.

The triumph of the Cuban Revolution, on January 1, 1959, revived the Mexico’s interest into maintaining espionage over Castro, with reports on the state of his health, his trip to the former Soviet Union, and a speech where he talked about the rumors related to the “disappearance” of Che Guevara.

The resignation of Castro from the position of prime minister to serve as Commander of the Armed Forces was highlighted in a report dated July 17, 1959, in which Mexican security already warns that an external aggression against the Cuban regime was being prepared (at a time when Castro was still in Mexico).

“There are three groups ready to attack Cuba,” the report in the Mexican archives detailed.

The first group was in the Dominican Republic with the Cuban general José Pedraza; another was in Miami with Rolando Masferrer, and the third was elsewhere in the United States with Batista’s brother-in-law, General Roberto Fernández.

Castro’s speech of 15 January 1966 at the close of the First Tricontinental Conference of Solidarity of the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, occupy a good part of the Mexican files on Castro.

The Mexican authorities determined in 2002 to allow the public disclosure of the confidential files of the Mexican espionage services from 1920 and 1985, and the new administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and has extended it to the documents of the Center of Investigation and National Security (Cisen).

The current archives of Mexican political espionage originated with the governments emanating from the Mexican Revolution (1910-1921) with organizations such as the First Section and the National Directorate of Intelligence, which were followed by the DFS and the CISEN, now replaced by a new entity in the current government.

In 1985, the AGN received 3,091 cases with files generated by the Office of Political and Social Research and the DFS in the period from 1920 to 1975; in 2002, it added 4,223 boxes with 58,302 Cisen files.

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US Renews Partial Suspension of Helms-Burton Act But There Will be Exceptions

Mike Pompeo, announced Monday that Title III of the Helms-Burton Act will remain suspended for one month. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 4 March 2019 — The Donald Trump Administration announced Monday that it will allow trials in US courts against those companies sanctioned by Washington that operate in Cuba and that are included in a “black list,” according to statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

However, for the rest of the companies, the US has renewed the suspension of Title III of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act and will not allow, for the time being, suits before the courts for doing business with the properties confiscated after the takeover by Fidel Castro in 1959.

The US black list includes entities that are “under the control” of Cuban intelligence services and the Armed Forces, as well as personnel that establish “direct financial transactions” that could harm the Cuban people, as explained by the Department of State on its website. continue reading

This includes the ministries of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the Interior, as well as a large number of hotels, such as the Cuban chain of Gaviota tourist establishments and the facilities of that group, such as the Varadero Meliá Marina, managed by a Spanish company.

Since its creation in 1996, Title III of the Helms-Burton Act has been suspended by all US administrations every six months; but, in January, when it was time to extend this situation, the Trump Administration set off all the alarms when renewing the suspension for 45 days instead of the usual six months.

On Monday, Washington has renewed the suspension for only 30 days, until April 17, but has decided to create some exceptions and apply Title III of the Helms-Burton to some companies now.

These exceptions could affect Russian and Chinese companies that have invested in Cuba.

“Cuba’s role in usurping democracy and fomenting repression in Venezuela is clear. That’s why the U.S. will continue to tighten financial restrictions on Cuba’s military and intel services,” White House National Security Advisor John Bolton said on Twitter on Monday.

Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reacted on the social networks to Washington’s announcement. Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez wrote in his Twitter account: “I strongly reject the State Department’s announcement to authorise lawsuits under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act against a list of Cuban companies arbitrarily sanctioned by the Trump administration.”

All US presidents have frozen this provision in the last 23 years, partly to avoid opposition from the international community and also out of fear of an avalanche of cases in the United States judicial system.

The complete lifting of the ban could allow billions of dollars in lawsuits to advance in US courts and probably face opposition from European partners and Canada, whose companies have significant stakes in Cuba.

The measure is a blow against the attempts of the Cuban authorities to attract more foreign investment and could harm some US companies that have begun to invest in the Island after the diplomatic thaw initiatied by former president Barack Obama.

Washington is also considering imposing more financial restrictions on Cuban military personnel, according to Reuters.

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The Ghost of The Special Period Threatens Cuba in 2019, Warns Report

The worsening of the economy is seen not only in the “shortages in the hard currency stores,” but also in the lack of subsidized basic necessity products like bread and eggs. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Miami, March 5, 2019 — The economic crisis Cuba is experiencing will worsen in the next few months and, if it doesn’t open itself to a market system, the country could fall into a new “Special Period,” the grave depression into which the island was sunk in the 90s, according to predictions from The Havana Consulting Group, headquartered in Miami.

In fact, the worsening of the Cuban economy is now seen not only in the “shortages in the hard currency stores,” but also in the lack of subsidized basic necessity products like bread and eggs, emphasized Emilio Morales, president of this firm that provides insight into the Cuban market and its consumers.

The report to which Efe had access warns that Cuba “urgently needs” to open itself to the market economy, “liberate once and for all the productive forces, and allow Cuban citizens to invest in their own country,” otherwise, the “reappearance of the ghost of the ’Special Period’” will become a reality. continue reading

At the time of the ’Special Period’ the grave crisis that gripped Cuba was due to the withdrawal of the subsidies that it used to receive from the defunct Soviet Union; today the “financial support that the island has [recently] been receiving from Venezuela is practically insignificant,” given the total collapse of the South American country.

Only by “avoiding the habitual dependence on third parties” and undertaking “profound transformations of its economy” will Cuba be able to get out of the crisis by itself, detailed The Havana Consulting Group’s report.

In that context, Morales noted that the Venezuelan subsidy, for some twenty years, “has helped the battered Cuban economy survive,” with the subsidized shipments of billions of dollars in barrels of oil in exchange for primarily medical services.

This commercial exchange between the two countries managed to reach $8.5 billion in 2012 and today barely reaches $2 billion, which is a decrease of 74%.

Added to this reality is the “failure of the economic reforms undertaken by Raúl Castro” approximately a decade ago and the “decrease in exports of nickel and sugar,” to the point where sugar production in 2018 was some 16.3% less than in 1905, which has now forced the country to buy sugar from France.

To these difficulties must be added another negative factor such as the “limits imposed to hinder the development and expansion of the private sector,” whose entrepreneurs took $2.39 billion out of the country in 2017.

And the nonexistence of free enterprise, the “non-recognition of private property, the prevalence of the monopoly established 60 years ago, and the lack of opportunities to invest and market goods and services that Cubans have,” undermine any attempt to revitalize the economy in medium and long term, says the report.

Another “chronic problem” is the deficit of the Cuban economy, despite the opening of the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM) and its failure to attract capital, which barely reaches the 14.2% of the goal proposed when it was created six years ago.

To this devastating outlook must be added the “stagnation that the Cuban tourism industry has had in general,” with the decrease of the principal tourism markets: Canada, the United States, Germany, England, France, Spain, and Italy, it points out.

Air travel between Cuba and the US in 2018 declined some 18.3% compared with the previous year, a “declining tendency begun in the last trimester of 2017.”

In terms of the economic impact, this decline in toursim translated into an estimated loss of $1.283 billion.

Conversely, the low growth rate of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) “hides a permanent recession,” with a fall to 1.4% in the last five years, according to official figures.

For that reason, “if the Cuban economy has not collapsed, it has been thanks to the Cuban exile,” 90% of which is settled in the United States and annually provides around $7 billion to the Cuban economy, between cash remittances and merchandise.

Additionally, Cuban Americans leave millions of dollars in the tourism sector of the island, since more than 50% of them who travel to the island stay in hotels with their relatives* living in the Caribbean country.

Close to 2.2 million Cubans live in the United States, some 90% of them in the state of Florida.

In 2017, cash remittances coming to the island represented 50.8% of the total annual income of the island’s population, The Havana Consulting Group pointed out.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Former Chavista Senior Military Figure Will Tell Guaido How to "Dismantle the Cuban Intelligence Apparatus" in Venezuela

Former General Hugo Carvajal, Chávez’s trusted man, insists that the Cuban intelligence apparatus in Venezuela must be dismantled. (DR)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Caracas, 28 February 2019 —  Former Venezuelan General Hugo Carvajal, former chief of military counterintelligence, said Wednesday that the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) and Cuban intelligence agents control the Bolivarian National Armed Force (FANB) and lead criminal activities.

The GNB “in addition to violating human rights through repression, is the real handmaiden of drug trafficking in Venezuela,” said Carvajal on Twitter, where he also expressed his support for head-of-Parliament Juan Guaidó’s assumption of the role of interim president, given what he believes to be Nicolás Maduro’s usurpation of the office.

The soldier, who until a few weeks ago was close to the highest leaders of the so-called Bolivarian Revolution, said that about 90% of the FANB “wants to comply with their constitutional duties, but the control is much stronger than you imagine.” continue reading

“The primary objective of the legitimate government is to take control of the FANB, for which it will be necessary to dismantle the Cuban intelligence apparatus and the control mechanisms that maintain the governmental structure of our country,” he commented in Twitter.

Carvajal believes that as long as these issues are not addressed, nobody could penetrate Venezuela and “neutralize elements without first waging a war.”

He also said that the majority of the members of the other three components of the FANB (Army, Navy and Air Force) are “healthy” and “would be willing to clean” the Venezuelan territory of the Colombian guerrillas, drug trafficking and other irregular groups.

“Considerations on the strategy to achieve this, together with more confidential information, I will send to the [interim] President of the Republic,” he added.

Carvajal is making these statements just when Parliament is asking the members of the FANB “to side with the Constitution” and stop supporting Maduro, despite the “fear” and “persecution” to which they may be subjected.

The Chavista leader Diosdado Cabello responded by saying that Carvajal “negotiated” his support for Guaidó with the United States because that country also recognizes the opposition leader Guaidó as president, and had also asked that the general be turned over for drug trafficking.

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Guaido Says Cuba is Terrorizing the Venezuelan Military So They Will Not Support Him

Juan Guaidó, who is recognized as interim president of Venezuela by some 50 governments, arrived in Argentina from Asunción. (Presidency of Argentina)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Buenos Aires, 2 March 2019 — The head of the Venezuelan Parliament, Juan Guaidó, said Friday in Buenos Aires that 80% of the armed forces of his country “are in favor of a change,” but he accused Cuba of terrorizing the military so they won’t show their support.

“If there is an interference in Venezuela it is Cuba over Venezuela, where they manage a part of the intelligence and counterintelligence apparatus, especially dedicated to terrorizing, mainly, the military so that they do not speak openly,” Guaidó said at a press conference after meeting in the Argentine capital with President Mauricio Macri.

Guaidó, who is recognized as interim president of Venezuela by some 50 governments, arrived in Argentina from Asunción, where he was received by the Paraguayan president, Mario Abdo Benítez. continue reading

Guaidó was also in Brazil on Thursday with its president, Jair Bolsonaro, on Saturday he was in Ecuador and, according to some media, on Sunday he might visit Peru.

“I dare to say that 80% of the armed forces are in favor of a change, and now 160 high-ranking military officers have been imprisoned since 2018,” the leader of parliament recalled.

He added, “for the first time in many years” the political leadership is speaking “clearly and directly” to the armed forces. “Establishing trust between the political sectors takes time, imagine establishing trust with the military,” whom “they persecute and torture,” he said.

Guaidó noted that his interim government has offered amnesty and guarantees to the military to support a transition and withdraw their trust from president Nicolás Maduro.

“We are in that process, but we must continue to press, we must continue to look for methods of communication,” he added and reflected: “Imagine for one second a Maduro without arms.”

On a possible military intervention in the country to expel Maduro from power, the self-proclaimed president reiterated that “the option is peace,” although he insisted that now there is no peace in Venezuela.

“We have to take a lot of responsibility with respect to this. We understand that force is a final option that nobody wants, we are working for a transition for a free Venezuela,” he emphasized, noting that his plan is to achieve the “cessation of usurpation” of power by Nicolás Maduro to start a transitional government and call for free elections.

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Havana Receives an Order of 89 Chinese Buses to Shore Up Public Transport

The vehicles from the Chinese company Yutong are hybrids, which allows the reduction of polluting emissions. (ACN)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, 17 January 2019 — A batch of 89 buses from China arrived in Havana on Wednesday to reinforce public transport in the capital, which has been running a chronic deficit for many years, state media reported.

The buses from the Chinese company Yutong, were acquired through an agreement between the Ministries of Transport and the Economy and Planning and their counterparts in China, in order to progressively modernize the passenger transport fleet, according to information reported on the television news. continue reading

The news also reported that transport authorities said that the loan for this investment amounted to 16 million dollars, which is to be paid to the Chinese entities over a period not greater than 24 months.

Of the total of vehicles purchased, 50 are articulated and 39 are hybrids (running on both diesel and electricity), so they reduce the use of fuels.

Four Havana bus terminals will incorporate the new Chinese vehicles in the coming weeks to serve bus routes in Havana, where people take 1.2 million trips a day, 1.1 million of them in 7,600 bus trips, according to data from the provincial company of the sector.

At the end of 2018, Havana had about 700 buses in operation in the public transport system, distributed across 126 routes, a figure well below what is needed to meet the demand.

The alternative has been the private transport companies — mostly owners of almendrones* — but in recent months the licenses of more than 2,000 autonomous drivers of these shared fixed-route taxis have been revoked, according to the authorities, due to technical deficiencies, which has reduced the number of these vehicles in service.

*Translator’s note: “Almendrones” is a reference to the “almond” shape of the classic American cars of the 1950s (or even earlier) which are commonly used for this service. The drivers operate shared fixed route service, and fares are based on a zone system. See also: If you strike we will confiscate your car.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

"Artistic creation in Cuba is free," says Diaz-Canel After Controversial Law

At the beginning of this month several artists who tried to carry out peaceful protests against Decree 349 in front of the headquarters of the Ministry of Culture were detained. (Nonardo Perea)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, Havana, December 23, 2018 — Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel insisted this Saturday that “artistic creation in Cuba is free and will continue to be so,” after Decree 349, intended to regulate the cultural industry on the Island, put a good part of that sector on a war footing.

“Some tried to twist the reach and objective of the regulation, and associate it with an instrument to exercise artistic censorship,” pointed out the leader during his closing speech at the final annual plenary session of the National Assembly, where the text of the new Constitution was approved.

This is the first time that Díaz-Canel has referred publicly to this controversial matter, which in recent weeks set the leaders of the country against artists and intellectuals who criticized the government for not having reached an agreement with them on Decree 349, whose contents they also considered a potential tool of censorship. continue reading

The leader recognized, this Saturday, that the decree “should have been better discussed and better explained because of its importance” and called “on artists with a proven and committed work” to discuss with the Government “the means of implementing this law.”

Although the decree was intended to go into effect two weeks ago, a part of its contents has remained suspended while a process of dialogue has opened with the pro-government National Union of Writers and Artists (Uneac) and the Saíz Brothers Association to prepare supplementary laws for its implementation.

Díaz-Canel insisted that the Government must protect the values of national culture faced with “pseudoartistic productions that present an image of a country that we have never been” and emphasized that the only objective of Decree 349 is “to protect the culture from false artists and from the pseudoculture that creates false values.”

Additionally, he indicated that among those waging a campaign against the new law are “entities alien to culture, those who never cared about it and remained silent in face of the proliferation of vulgarity, banality, violence, discrimination, and sexist and racist attitudes.”

At the beginning of this month, during the week prior to the law’s taking effect, various artists who tried to carry out peaceful protests in front of the headquarters of the Ministry of Culture were detained and later set free, among them the activist Tania Bruguera.

Both Amnesty International and the State Department of the United States have declared themselves against Decree 349, believing that it contravenes the right to freedom of expression and could be used to censor content.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

A Woman Is In Charge of the University of Havana for the First Time In 290 Years

Miriam Nicado García is a member of the Communist Party of Cuba and, since April of this year, also of the Council of State. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio / EFE, Havana, 21 November 2018 – The University of Havana (UH) appointed Miriam Nicado García as the new rector of that institution, the first time that a woman holds the position in the center of higher education of the capital since its founding almost three centuries ago. The decision was announced Monday in an extraordinary session of the University Council of the UH, but was not divulged to the press until Wednesday.

Until now Nicado was the rector of the University of Information Sciences, created by the late leader Fidel Castro as a center of advanced technology to stimulate the national development of software.

The rector is a member of the Communist Party of Cuba and, since April of this year, also of the Council of State, in addition to being one of the deputies of the IX legislature in the National Assembly of People’s Power for the municipality of La Lisa, in Havana. continue reading

Full Professor, top level graduate and licensed in Applied Mathematics, Nicado is also a Doctor of Science in that specialty. Previously, she was dean of the Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Computing at the Central University of Las Villas and vice-rector of that university.

As a professor she has taught in her field of study at universities in several countries in the region such as Mexico, Chile, Venezuela, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. She has received the National and Provincial Vanguard award, a distinction granted by the Central de Trabajadores (Workers Center) of Cuba.

In the meeting where she was appointed it was also made known that Dr. Gustavo Cobreiro Suárez, rector who was in charge at the time of the announcement, “will assume other functions” from now on, the official press said without specifying more details.

Founded in 1728 by Dominican friars as the Royal and Pontifical University of San Geronimo de La Habana, UH now has 19 schools and 12 research centers.

It is the main center of higher learning on the island and was recently included in the list of the 20 best universities in Latin America, according to the London-based consultancy Quacquarelli Symonds (QS).

In September of this year Dr. Orquídea Urquiola Sánchez became the first woman to ever hold the position of rector in the country at the University of Cienfuegos.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuba Slams the Door on the ‘More Doctors’ Program in Brazil

More than 8,300 Cuban healthcare professionals work in Brazil (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 14 November 2018 — Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health (Minsap) reported on Wednesday in an official statement that it is withdrawing from the Mais Medicos social program in Brazil due to the “derogatory and threatening” words of president-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who announced modifications to this project that the Cuban Government considers “unacceptable.”

Minsap has also circulated a message among Cuban doctors who work in Brazil to continue working until their transportation is organized for their return to the island. The message specifies that doctors must “avoid provocations” and maintain “self-care and protection.”

In the official note published on Facebook on Wednesday, Minsap emphasizes that in the five years of work in that country “about 20,000 Cuban employees performed 113,359,000 patient consultation” serving a population of “up to 60 million Brazilians,” (out of a total population of about 209 million), at a time when the Cuban brigade represented 80 percent of all doctors participating in the program.

“It is not acceptable to question the dignity, professionalism and altruism of the Cuban collaborators who, with the support of their families, currently provide services in 67 countries,” the Cuban health authorities added.

Jair Bolsonaro’s reaction was immediate. In his Twitter account he said that Brazil had conditioned the continuation of the program on a validation of the credentials of the more than 8,500 Cuban doctors in the country according to Brazilian standards, along with a change that would allow them to personally receive the full salaries Brazil pays for them. He also demanded that they be free to bring their family members with them. “Unfortunately, Cuba did not accept,” he added.

Minsap affirms that the collaborators “have stayed at their jobs at all times and receive 100 percent of their salaries in Cuba,” without mentioning that the Cuban Government keeps at least three quarters of the amount received from Brazil for the services of Cuban health professionals.

“Those who come here from other countries earn the full salary [that Brazil pays for them]. The Cubans earn approximately 25% of the salary [Brazil pays for them]. Does the rest go to fuel the Cuban dictatorship?” Bolsonaro asked on November 3.

Before being elected president, Bolsonaro had been very critical of the agreement signed in 2013, under which more than 18,000 Cuban doctors were sent to Brazil under the government of Dilma Rousseff. At that time, the Workers Party, an ally of Havana, agreed that through the intermediation of the Pan American Health Organization, Cuba would keep about 75% of the 3,300 dollars a month that Brazil pays for each Cuban doctor.

After the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the Cuban government pressured the Brazilian authorities to renegotiate the contract for its doctors and obtained an increase of 9% in the payments for them. The Plaza of the Revolution also achieved an increase of 10% for feeding the doctors in indigenous areas. None of that money went to the doctors, according to several testimonies obtained by this newspaper.

In Cuba, where the average state salary barely exceeds $30 a month, a mission abroad is one of the most common legal channels for qualified professionals to increase their income, despite not receiving the full salary paid for their services.

The Cuban State has declared that it receives more than 11.5 billion dollars annually in income from professional services abroad, and that this income is the country’s main source of foreign currency.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Writers and Artists Union Will Not Debate Constitutional Reform

Uneac urged its members to attend meetings of their work centers and neighborhoods. (Uneac)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 5 November 2018 — Cuba’s Union of Writers and Artists (Uneac), the pro-government organization that brings together a large part of the island’s intelligentsia, confirmed on Monday that it will not call on its members to debate the project to reform the Constitution and urged them to go to the meetings in their workplaces and neighborhoods.

“Unlike popular consultations carried out in previous years, the political, mass, social, professional and other organizations that belong to our civil society are not participating, as such, in this process,” said a statement from the Uneac Presidency published on Monday on its website.

Prior to this announcement, several Uneac members openly protested against the organization’s refusal to debate the constitutional reform bill. Among those who have explicitly joined the controversy is the doctor of economics Esteban Morales, who, on Tuesday, published a letter sent to the Vice Minister of Culture, Fernando Rojas, in which he refuted a tweet from Rojas who praised the high participation of Uneac members in the meetings on the reform. continue reading

“We reject any elitist vision that tries to separate us from our people, as well as irresponsible opinions and manipulations that try to establish matrices of opinion on the alleged violation of human rights in Cuba, especially those of the intellectuals,” replies the text issued by the Uneac.

Uneac explains in the note that, as a workplace, “it developed the consultation with the workers of its headquarters and other guests linked to the institution,” but its members “do so as citizens in their respective workplaces or communities.”

“However, under the assumption that the organization should have called all its members to the debate in its associations, sections and subsidiaries, there are those who have questioned not only the procedure, but the authority and prestige of the Uneac,” the statement laments.

It argues that the organization “has never evaded the debate, as complex as it may be” and later defends, “without guilt complexes or shameful attitudes, the culture committed to a Revolution that fosters spaces of freedom for authentic artistic and literary creation.”

Therefore, despite rejecting the idea of a debate within Uneac, the entity calls on its members to participate as “thousands of artists have done” in the constitutional debate meetings held in neighborhoods and workplaces that began in August and continuing to the middle of this month.

It also repudiates “the unscrupulous way in which media paid by the enemy distorts” the debates and, in another paragraph, the organization maintains that Cuba is threatened in the field of culture “by the subversive projects that try to divide us and by the global colonizing surge.”

More than 7.3 million Cubans (out of a population of about 11 million), according to official sources, have already participated in the debate on the constitutional reform, in which the most discussed topics have been the modification that would legalize homosexual marriage and the limitation of the presidential term, among others.

The document was already approved by the National Assembly of People’s Power — Cuba’s parliament — at the end of July and although it does not incorporate modifications of the political system, it does recognize private property, eliminates allusions to communism, establishes the figure of prime minister and redefines marriage as the union between two people without specify their gender.

Once the stage of popular consultation is concluded on November 15, the group of senior officials and lawyers will study the proposals made in the debates, incorporate those deemed appropriate and send the new draft to Parliament for final approval and subsequent endorsement in a popular referendum in 2019.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Havana Begins Experiment in Restructuring Private Transport

In Havana, around 90% of self-employed workers with a license to provide transport, engage in passenger transportation.

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, 9 October 2018 —  The private transport of passengers in Havana, where mobility is an important problem, will be the subject of an “experiment” as of Monday, that includes new rules and economic and fiscal incentives to restructure a sector that has been unable to meet demand for decades

A total of 6,119 private holders of transport operation licenses have been summoned to take part in the experiment, which establishes a new classification of routed shared taxi service — unregulated and high-comfort — versus the “classic” mode, according to the authorities in charge of implementation.

In Havana, around 90% of self-employed workers with a transport license dedicate themselves to passenger service, which is recognized as “complementary, alternative and necessary” to the service provided by state-owned companies. continue reading

For years, public transport provided by buses in the capital has been insufficient for the daily movement of hundreds of people, who must turn to private drivers, in a country where buying a vehicle is a luxury available to very few.

Private carriers, mostly owners of US-made cars from the ’40s and ’50s popularly known as “almendrones” — after the ‘almond’ shape of that era’s vehicles — have been summoned as of Monday to appear at the municipal offices that oversee these license holders.

To obtain a license to operate transport, the license holder is required to have a contract to acquire fuel and to have a bank account.

Among the main incentives is that the contract allows the purchase of fuel at lower prices — a savings of between 2 and 66 cents on the dollar per liter depending on the type of gasoline. The requirement also is intended to stop the black market purchase of stolen state fuel.

Another advantage offered to the private carriers that benefit from this initiative is the ability to acquire tools, parts and accessories for their vehicles in a wholesale market at 20% lower prices.

With regards to regulations, private carriers will be required to comply with minimum and maximum fuel consumption volumes according to the type of vehicle, its capacity and fuel class, and also according to the route contracted for with the state transport company

The new system, which establishes 26 terminals and 23 associated routes, will be developed over a period of four months in Havana and will involve license holders with cars, SUVs and minibuses with capacities of between 4 and 14 passengers.

Later, the experiment will be extended to the western provinces of Artemisa and Mayabeque and within a year to the rest of the island. Vehicles of greater size and capacity will also be incorporated, in accordance with what has been explained by those responsible for the scheme.

The Deputy Minister of Transport, Marta Oramas, said recently that the measures taken seek a balance between “the interests of the population, associated with more affordable prices and safety,” and those of the carriers, “so that they do not see their incomes diminished and lose access to facilities,” for fuel and tools, parts and accessories.

“The State must guarantee a stable, orderly and quality service,” said the official.

These regulations are part of a package of 20 measures ordered by the Cuban government that will go into force on December 7 to “reorder” the growing private sector, with the aim of grouping and expanding the profile of permitted activities, as well as restarting the issuing of licenses, which has been on hold since August of 2017.

As of August, more than 593,000 private workers were registered in Cuba, a figure that represents 13% of employed persons, according to updated data from the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.