Cuba at the Crossroads of the Digital Economy: Employees or Independent Contractors

Hundreds of thousands of private-sector workers in Cuba are experiencing the system’s shortcomings

A “rider” (courier) delivering an order for the mobile app Mandao /EFE

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Juan Carlos Espinosa, Havana, 9 June 2024 — Thirty-five-year-old Jorge takes his cell phone out of a yellow thermal backpack and pulls up an order he is delivering on his bicycle.

He is one of hundreds of thousands of “cuentapropistas” (independent contractors) who have emerged since self-employment was legalized fifteen years ago. His particular type of employment would not have been possible without the introduction of cell phones in 2018 or the legalization of small privately owned businesses (MSMEs*) in 2021.

These changes to the system, however, are not without their shortcomings. On paper, Jorge is free to take on multiple gigs or use his time as he sees fit. In practice, however, he works as an employee but without some of the benefits of being on the company’s payroll.

“It seems we in Cuba only import the bad stuff,” he complains.

The advent of this type of business in Cuba has brought with it the same problems that have vexed capitalist governments and labor unions

Jorge (a pseudonym) works for Mandao, a food delivery app similar to Glovo or Uber Eats. Of the 11,000 legally licensed MSMEs in Cuba, it is one of the most popular. continue reading

Nevertheless, the advent of this type of business in Cuba has brought with it the same problems that have vexed governments and labor unions in capitalist countries.

After being shown contracts the company has with three individuals, two experts both agreed that the workers — commonly known in Cuba as “riders” — are not actually independent contractors but rather salaried employees.

They had differing opinions, however, on just how illegal this might be. The practice is, in any case, problematic.

For example, in two of the three contracts, the company retains 10% of each delivery fee, charges the courier 100 pesos a week ($0.83 USD at the official exchange rate) for use of the backpack, and does not provide coverage in the event of an accident. Nor does the agreement explicitly state how or how much the courier is to be paid.

Laritza Diversent, director of the formerly Cuba-based but now US-based Cubalex legal information center, believes this is a clear violation of Cuban employment law.

Mandao explained to EFE that the rates are set separately and that it does not impose schedules but instead tries to organize shifts by taking into account fluctuations in demand. It also pointed out that, as an MSME, it is not allowed to hire more than a hundred employees. It also argued that, since the workers are self-employed, these are commercial rather than labor contracts.

Cuban economist Tamarys Bahamonde believes that, in this regard, the company is mistaken and that the problem is due to legal loopholes in an obsolete labor law.

She characterizes the document as a hybrid, a cross between a commercial contract and a labor contract.

In this sense, Diversent describes what she sees a clear example of “legal illiteracy.” She is critical of the contract’s prohibitions on couriers discussing its content, something she says prevents them from seeking legal advice.

According to Mandao, its couriers made a monthly net profit of between 8,900 and 17,700 pesos ($74.00 to $148.00 USD) in 2023. By contrast, the average monthly salary of a state employee was 4,648 pesos ($39.00).

Another contract that EFE analyzed was that of a porter who worked in a building owned by Caribe, a state real estate investment company. Though it stipulates the employee’s work schedule and how many days of vacation they get, it is written as though they were an independent contractor.

EFE reached out to Caribe for comment but has so far not received a response.

Cuban economist Tamarys Bahamonde characterizes the employment agreement as a hybrid, a cross between a commercial contract and a labor contract. “It shows a level of legal ignorance of both types,” she says

Bahamonde believes, the company’s contract demonstrates that job insecurity is reaching levels never before experienced in Cuba.”

“We assume it’s the state’s responsibility to protect workers. But if the state isn’t doing it, we can’t expect the private sector will do it,” she says.

When asked about this issue, the Ministry of Labor and the government-controlled Cuban Workers’ Union (CTC) both told EFE that, so far, they are not seeing these practices, at least not in a “statistically meaningful way,” as Leovanis Agora Góngora, a member of the CTC’s National Secretariat put it.

The Ministry of Labor said it anticipated updates to the law regulating Cuban MSMEs this year.

*Translator’s note: Literally, “Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises.” The expectation is that they are also privately managed, but in Cuba this may include owners/managers who are connected to the government.

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

The Cuban Regime Expresses Its Displeasure About the Arrival of a U.S. Submarine in Guantánamo

The ’USS Helena’ is on the Island “as part of a routine port visit,” says Washington

The visits of naval ships such as the ’HSS Helena’ are the result of “an invitation, and this is not the case,” says the Foreign Ministry

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 15 June 2024 — The Government of Cuba declared this Friday that it dislikes the presence of a United States war submarine in Guantánamo Bay because the naval visits are the result “of an invitation, and this is not the case.” The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Island, Carlos Fernández de Cossío, said: “Obviously we do not like the presence in our territory and transiting through our waters of a medium of that nature, belonging to a power that maintains an official and practical policy that is hostile towards Cuba.”

“We knew of its presence, because according to procedures that we have followed for years, the United States informed us in advance,” he said in statements to the official state media Cubadebate.

He also pointed out that “the important thing to remember is the illegal and unacceptable nature of the occupation of a part of our territory by a foreign power against the will of the Cuban people. It’s an illegitimate military occupation and that’s what makes the difference.” continue reading

“Obviously we don’t like the presence in our territory and transiting through our waters of a medium of that nature

The U.S. Southern Command reported that a war submarine of its own is in the Cuban bay of Guantánamo, where the United States has maintained a military base since 1903. The Government of Havana demands the return of that territory, which it considers illegally occupied.

According to the report, the fast-attack submarine USS Helena is in Guantánamo “as part of a routine port visit.” The presence of the American submarine coincides with the visit made to the Island by a flotilla of the Russian Navy last Wednesday.

The Russian fleet, which includes a nuclear-powered submarine, a modern frigate, an oil tanker and a tugboat, has generated great expectation in the Cuban capital where it will remain until next Monday on a visit classified as “protocol” by the Ministry of the Armed Forces of Cuba.

The U.S. Department of Defense pointed out that it had been following the movements of the Russian flotilla for days, and it does not pose a threat to U.S. national security.

“We will always and constantly monitor any foreign vessel that operates near territorial waters of the United States. Obviously we take it seriously, but these exercises do not pose a threat to the United States,” said the Pentagon’s deputy spokesperson, Sabrina Singh.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The Crisis Fuels a Fervor for Afro-Cuban Religions on the Island

Many Cubans look to the orishas for answers to their problems or ask them to help them emigrate

The link between crisis and religion is not new in Cuba / Yoruba Cultural Association

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Laura Bécquer/EFE, 15 June 2024 — When a Cuban woman, Elvira García, knocked on the door of the babalao (Ifá priest) she did so looking for answers to her despair in the Afro-Cuban religion. The retired teacher was at her limit. Because of her difficulties in putting food on the table with the problems of shortages and inflation in Cuba, but also because of her daughter’s illness and the lack of medicines.

She also sought, she acknowledges, to reunite with her family – who had emigrated to the United States – and a spiritual refuge in the face of loneliness and difficulties. “I never professed any religion, but when my daughter had to have throat surgery and she was very ill, I looked to the orishas for the answers that could not be found on the earthly plane,” she explains.

It was then that she arrived at the house of babalao Daniel Oliva, who says that García is no exception. This 46-year-old Yoruba oracle scholar claims that he has seen a “religious explosion with the growth of believers due to the economic crisis in recent years.” This opinion is shared by experts and people linked to different religions on the Island. In the case of these traditional beliefs – which may be practiced by one in three Cubans, according to some studies – it is even more complex, because they are often mixed with Christianity. continue reading

“People are looking for a dream and see in religious places the possibility of helping them achieve it”

“People are looking for a dream and see in religious places the possibility of helping them achieve it,” explains Oliva from his house-temple in Havana. The link between crisis and religion, he says, is not new in Cuba. In the so-called Special Period, he remembers, something similar happened. “Many people turned to religion regardless of denomination – Yoruba, Christian, even Muslim – during the crisis of the 90s when things got bad,” he points out. In Havana, for example, it is common for groups of practitioners to meet on the shore of the sea or some rivers and, dressed completely in white, perform rituals.

Cuba is going through a harsh crisis that is reflected in frequent and prolonged blackouts, shortages of food, medicine and fuel, rampant inflation and a growing dollarization of the economy. The combination of the pandemic, the tightening of US sanctions and failed economic and monetary policies have aggravated the situation even further.

This scenario – and the lack of expectations for a medium-term recovery – has unleashed an unprecedented exodus in the last three years. According to different unofficial calculations, around 7% of the Cuban population has emigrated. Since 2021, some 650,000 have left for the United States and another 100,000 for Mexico. The numbers are even higher if those who have gone to Europe or other Latin American countries are counted.

The desire to leave their country in search of a better life is a recurring theme among those who consult Oliva

The desire to leave their country in search of a better life is a recurring theme among those who consult Oliva. “Ifá (father or guardian of secrets) has been listening to people’s prayers for years. The majority come because they want to live a little better and for that they have to emigrate,” explains the Cuban babalao.

Leaving Cuba “to improve economically” was precisely the reason that led Cuban chef Vladimir Blanes to “ask Orula” (the orisha who owns the Ifá board and divination). “I had several difficulties in achieving my dream, so I saw my last opportunity in religion,” explains the 36-year-old.

Oliva, however, is concerned because “these are times when deception, falsehood and lies increase in the face of people’s suffering.” However, he tells “all Cubans not to lose faith and to continue searching for “el aché ” (luck or blessing) despite the crisis.

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Russia Will Invest 11 Million Dollars in the State-Owned BioCubaFarma To Develop Medicines

Cuba’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodríguez will visit Nizhny Novgorod and Moscow next week, the Kremlin spokesperson announced on Friday

The volume of investments in BioCubaFarma can be increased to 113 million dollars. / Granma

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Moscow, 7 June 2024 — The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) will invest, in an initial phase, $11.3 million for the Cuban state-owned company BioCubaFarma to develop medicines against geriatric and oncological diseases.

This investment is part of the cooperation agreements signed between the RDIF and a consortium made up of the Cuban firm and Russian pharmaceutical companies during the International Economic Forum now being held in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, according to the official press.

When making the announcement this Thursday, the general director of the RDIF, Kiril Dmitriev, explained that the volume of investments can be increased to 113 million dollars.

Kiril Dmitriev explained that the volume of investments can be increased to 113 million dollars

“BioCubaFarma has become the first partner of the RDIF in Cuba. Combining our efforts and knowledge will allow us to develop and bring to the market innovative medicines against the most complex types of diseases caused, among other things, by age-related changes,” he said. continue reading

He also indicated that the Fund is focused on attracting the best pharmaceutical manufacturers in the world to the Russian market in order to locate the research and production of medicines, replace imports and create a base for its own production. “In Russia, BioCubaFarma has registered several companies that develop drugs for the treatment of Parkinson’s and oncological diseases,” he added.

In addition, Cuba has agreements for the development of innovative products with the Academy of Sciences and the main scientific institutes of Russia. Bilateral trade increased nine times in 2023 compared to 2022, when the exchange was 450 million dollars, according to official Russian figures.

A delegation from the Island led by Deputy Prime Minister Ricardo Cabrisas is participating in the St. Petersburg Economic Forum and includes representatives from the Ministries of Transport, Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, and Foreign Affairs.

The trip is part of the growing contacts between the two parties, which next week will see a new episode with the visit of Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodríguez to Russia to attend a ministerial meeting of the BRICS group* in the city of Nizhny Novgorod and meet with his Russian peer, Sergey Lavrov, in Moscow, official sources from this country reported this Friday.

“From June 10 to 12, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba will make an official visit to Russia,” the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, María Zakharova, said at a press conference on Friday. Zakharova specified that first Rodríguez – who is currently in China – will leave for Nizhny Novgorod, 400 km east of Moscow, and from there travel to the Russian capital, where on June 12 he will hold negotiations with Lavrov.

“From June 10 to 12, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cuba will make an official visit to Russia”

During the meeting, both diplomats will address issues related to “a greater strengthening of the strategic partnership in the political, economic-commercial, scientific-technical, cultural, humanitarian and other fields.

The ministers will also talk about international affairs, the sanctions imposed on their countries and the interaction between Russia and Cuba at the UN and other international platforms.

Rodríguez’s visit to Russia comes after the Cuban Government confirmed on Thursday that a Russian naval detachment of three ships and a nuclear submarine will visit the port of Havana between June 12 and 17.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported in a statement that the “visit corresponds to the historic friendly relations between Cuba and the Russian Federation and strictly adheres to the international regulations” signed by Havana.

The statement does not mention military exercises, although recently published American sources pointed out that Russian ships were traveling to the Caribbean Sea to participate in maneuvers and that they could stop at ports in Cuba and Venezuela.

*Translator’s note:  An acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which created an economic cooperation group to counter the traditional Western-led global order.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Gente De Zona Launches the Single ‘Eres Tú’ To Get the Audience Dancing This Summer

The Cuban duo Gente de Zona, Randy Malcom (l) and Alexander Delgado (r), pose in an archive photo / EFE/Marlon Pacheco

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Miami, 6 June 2024 — The Cuban duo Gente de Zona releases their new single, Eres Tú, an “exciting musical anthem” that seeks to get the public dancing this summer with a mixture of reggaeton, tropical rhythms and afro-beats, their communication agency said on Thursday. The song is produced by Alejandro Arce and Angel Arce (Los Pututis), also responsible for the production of the album Demasiado [Too Much] from Gente De Zona, from which this last single has been extracted.

Gente de Zona released, last April, their new studio album Demasiado, a set of ten songs that reflect an amalgam of rhythms and genres, as well as the “danceable” style of this Cuban duo.

The album includes compositions by Alexander Delgado Hernández and Randy Malcom Martínez, the members of the duo. continue reading

“Gente de Zona continues to enjoy the success of its album Demasiado and prepares to bring all of Cuba’s flavor to Europe,” says the statement in reference to the 22-concert tour that the duo begins on June 21 in Casablanca (Morocco).

 “Gente de Zona continues to enjoy the success of its album ’Demasiado’ and prepares to bring all of Cuba’s flavor to Europe

The popular salsa and reggaeton duo will visit Italy, Switzerland, Holland, Sweden, France, Italy, Spain (where they will perform nine concerts), Belgium and Germany. The last concert will be held in Rimini (Italy) on August 4.

The single of the six Latin Grammy winners is accompanied by a video clip that is the last of Demasiado, the Series, a collection of six music clips made by Cuban director Pedro Vázquez that reflect “all the energy and joy of the Cuban duo.”

Winner also of 12 Latin Billboards, Gente de Zona made the international leap with the help of the 2014 single Bailando, along with Enrique Iglesias and Descemer Bueno.

Throughout its career, Gente de Zona has collaborated with artists such as Jennifer López, Kylie Minogue, Thalía, Pitbull, Carlos Vives, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Gerardo Ortiz, Carlos Rivera and Deorro, among others.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuba Enters the UNICEF Report on Severe Child Poverty

Thirty-three percent of children under five years of age in Cuba suffer from moderate poverty / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Madrid, 6 June 2024 — The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has included Cuba for the first time in its report on severe child poverty. The text, published on Wednesday, indicates that 9% of the island’s child population suffers from severe poverty; that is, they have a maximum of two of the eight foods considered necessary for a healthy life. In addition, it points out that 33% of minors (considered up to five years old) suffer from moderate poverty, which means that they have at their disposal between three and four of those foods.

Cuba did not appear in the institution’s 2022 report on the same issue. In 2021, as stated in one of the graphs, it was below 5%, the limit set by Unicef to consider the existence of serious child poverty.

These data join others from different organizations, demonstrating the resounding fall of the country in all tables of prosperity. Last February, it was announced that Cuba fell 30 places in the UN Human Development Index (HDI) in just 15 years, surpassing the figures of the Special Period and destroying the traditional propaganda of the regime. continue reading

In its report this Wednesday, UNICEF records that one in four children under the age of five in the world – about 181 million – suffers from severe food poverty. This increases their chances of “emaciation” by up to 50%, a form of malnutrition that endangers their lives.

One in four children under the age of five in the world – about 181 million – suffers from severe food poverty

Of the total, 65% reside in only 20 countries; about 64 million children are in South Asia and 59 million in sub-Saharan Africa. In the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, where Cuba is counted, 9% of minors suffer from severe poverty (a total of 5 million) and 28% from moderate poverty (18 million).

In the East Asia-Pacific region – China, Indonesia, Burma and the Philippines – there are 59 million children suffering from food poverty.

The text analyzes the impacts and causes of food deprivation among the youngest in the world in almost 100 countries and in all income groups. It warns that millions of children under the age of five cannot access or consume a nutritious and diverse diet to maintain optimal growth and development in early childhood and in later stages.

Four out of five children in this situation are fed only with breast milk/milk and/or a staple food with starch, such as rice, corn or wheat. Fewer than 10% of these minors eat fruits and vegetables, and fewer than 5% eat nutrient-rich foods such as eggs, fish, poultry or meat.

“Children who live in a situation of severe food poverty are children who live on the edge of the abyss. At the moment, that is the reality for millions of children, and this can have an irreversible negative impact on their survival, growth and brain development,” said the Executive Director of Unicef, Catherine Russell, in statements collected by EFE.

The report also warns that, although countries are still recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of growing inequalities, conflicts and the climate crisis have raised food prices and the cost of living to record levels.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuba Will Host 46 Artists From 22 Countries at the First Biennial of Political Humor in Havana / 14yMedio

The event is organized by the National Council of Plastic Arts and the Ministry of Culture / EFE

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, June 6, 2024 — The event will be held from June 14 to 28, its organizers reported this Thursday at a press conference. The theme of this event will be the Fight against Neo-Fascism and will have political cartoonists from countries such as Mexico, Venezuela and France. The event, organized by the National Council of Plastic Arts and the Ministry of Culture, will feature graphic exhibitions, conversations, workshops and film screenings in cinemas in the capital.

According to the organizers, the biennial seeks to “explore in a playful way the impact of globalization and the phenomena associated with it, from a perspective of political humor.”

Cuba has been repeatedly criticized by NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for limiting freedom of expression in general and, in particular, limiting its enjoyment on the internet (Decree 370) and on the part of its artists (Decree 349).

 “There are always limits to humor,” regardless of “each of the spaces where it is expressed”

In May 2022, the Cuban Parliament also approved a new Criminal Code that, among other matters, includes sanctions of up to three years for those who insult senior public officials. continue reading

Cuba published, this Wednesday, in the Official Gazette its first Social Communication Law, which prohibits, among other things, the dissemination of information that can “destabilize the socialist state” both in the media and in “cyberspace.”

EFE asked in the presentation of the biennial about the possibility of creating political satire of the Government or the leaders of the Communist Party of Cuba, as happens in other countries in the region.

In this regard, Arístides Hernández, winner of the National Humor Award 2020 and part of the committee that selected the works exhibited at the event, said at the press conference that “there are always limits in humor,” regardless of “each of the spaces where it is expressed.”

“In Islamic countries it is impossible to paint a caricature against the prophet Muhammad, and in the case of Cuba there are limits in humor in relation to the historical figures of the Revolution. That type of satire does not appear in the media here or, in the case of Spain, with the kings,” he argued.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuba’s Ladies in White Report 12 Arrests in Havana and Matanzas on the Weekend

It is Sunday number 89 of the repression of the group since they resumed their activities in 2022, after the pandemic

María García Álvarez and Yudaxis Pérez Meneses were arrested in Colón this Sunday. / Yudaxis Pérez

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, June 4, 2024 — On Monday, the Ladies in White denounced the temporary detention of 12 people in Havana and in Matanzas a day earlier, making it the 89th Sunday with acts of repression recorded since 2022, when they returned to their activities after the pandemic. The leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, and her husband, former political prisoner Ángel Moya, reported the arrests on social networks.

They also reported the arrest of 10 members of the Ladies in White in the towns of Cárdenas, Colón, Perico and Unión de Reyes, all in Matanzas.

Soler and Moya reported that, as on previous Sundays, they were arrested when leaving the headquarters of the Ladies in White, located in the Havana neighborhood of Lawton, and later taken separately to the police units of the municipalities of Cotorro and Guanabacoa. continue reading

Both were released on Monday morning, after the authorities imposed fines on them, according to Moya.

The Ladies in White movement was created by a group of women, relatives of 75 dissidents and independent journalists who were arrested and sentenced in March 2003 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 ask for their release and became a symbol of dissent.

In 2005, the Ladies in White received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Conscience from the European Parliament. The EU and NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International criticized the wave of arrests, classifying them as political, but the Cuban authorities alleged that the women were “counter-revolutionaries” who tried to attack national sovereignty under orders of the United States.

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

Gioconda Belli Describes the Cuban Regime as a ‘Stagnant Ideological Straitjacket’

The Nicaraguan writer, who received an honorary doctorate from the University of Costa Rica, points out that only a repressive system sustains the Revolution

When her nationality was taken away, Belli was residing in Spain, a country that has granted her citizenship and where she continues to live. / EFE

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), San José, 31 May 2024 — Gioconda Belli , the Nicaraguan writer exiled in Spain, declared this Thursday in Costa Rica her lack of love for the Cuban Revolution, which, she said, is a “failed attempt” that has been become “a stagnant ideological straitjacket sustained by a repressive system.”

After receiving an honorary doctorate from the state University of Costa Rica (UCR) for her contributions to culture, education and the fight for democracy and human rights, Belli reflected that victories can be as deceptive and illusory as defeats, and gave as an example the Cuban revolution of 1959.

“I remember when Fidel Castro’s bearded Cuban guerrillas were victorious in Cuba, the magazine that my father and mother read and the photography and the excitement of the elders around me for that Revolution,” the author of the book commented in her speech about her novela El país de las mujeres (The Country of Women), on winning the Latin American Prize for Literature From The Other Shore 2010.

“I myself, years later, admired and was dazzled by that romantic feat that, at this point, seems like a failed attempt to me.”

“I myself, years later, admired and was dazzled by that romantic feat that, at this point, seems to me to be a failed attempt, a stagnant ideological straitjacket sustained by a repressive system that has forced the Cuban people to go through misery, family separations, humiliations and sadness,” she argued. continue reading

Belli, now 76, and who according to her critics belonged to the Department of Agitation and Propaganda (DAP) during the first Sandinista Government (1979-1990), described it as “regrettable that Cuba is now the advisor for Nicaragua and Venezuela for the organization of espionage, propaganda and methods with which it is ensured that power crushes any democratic or liberating attempt of these people.”

The poet and writer observed that “there was also enthusiasm in Latin America with the 21st century socialism” promoted by the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, “which also turned out to be a failure.”

“And not to mention Nicaragua – governed by Daniel Ortega since 2007, after coordinating a Government Board from 1979 to 1985, and presiding over the country for the first time from 1985 to 1990 – because we all know what happened with that illusion,” she concluded.

The author of El infinito en la palma de la mano (The Infinite in the Palm of the Hand) winner of the Premio Biblioteca Breve de Seix Barral in 2008, also criticized the extreme right in Europe that speaks out against migration, as well as former US president Donald Trump, and the president of Argentina, Javier Milei.

Belli has been attacked by a sector of the Nicaraguan opposition for her past in the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front

Belli has been attacked by a sector of the Nicaraguan opposition for her past in the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), to which she belonged during the first regime (1979-1990), and for her sympathy with the Cuban Revolution and its main leader, the late Fidel Castro.

So, in a writing titled ¿La golondrina hizo el verano? (Did the Swallow Make the Summer?) she explained that she has “rectified and made criticisms,” in which she also reveals: “I have written books and given interviews about the problems and errors of the Sandinista revolution and the product that was left of it, unfortunately, and that is the Ortega Murillo dictatorship that we suffer today.”

In those writings she admitted that she was part of a generation that failed to lead Nicaragua “to the freedom that had been won by blood and fire after the Somoza dictatorship (1937-1979).”

Gioconda Belli has been in exile for security reasons since May 2021 in the context of a crisis in Nicaragua in which the Government of Daniel Ortega has been accused by international organizations and various countries of committing human rights violations and persecuting its critics and opponents.

On February 15, 2023, the Nicaraguan authorities deprived Belli of her nationality and her property, along with 93 other Nicaraguans, whom they declared traitors to the country and fugitives from justice.

At the time of her denationalization, Belli resided in Spain, a country that has granted her nationality and where she continues to live.

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

The US Allows Cuban Entrepreneurs To Open Bank Accounts Online

The decision was communicated this Tuesday by the US Department of the Treasury. / EFE

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Washington/Madrid, May 28, 2024 — The United States has announced that as of this Tuesday it will allow entrepreneurs in Cuba to open and use US bank accounts over the internet to carry out financial transactions.

In a statement, the Treasury Department explained that the decision seeks to “promote internet freedom in Cuba, support independent entrepreneurs in the private sector and expand access to certain financial services for the Cuban people.”

Until now, Cubans who visited the United States could open bank accounts in that country, but they could not use them once they returned to Cuba due to the embargo that weighs on the Island.

The Treasury Department detailed that, as of May 28, Cuban entrepreneurs are authorized to “remotely open, maintain and use US bank accounts through an online payment platform to carry out authorized transactions,” whether from the United States, Cuba or any other country in the world.

 It also updated its definition of a Cuban entrepreneur to include cooperatives and companies with up to 100 employees

The United States also updated its definition of a Cuban entrepreneur, from “self-employed individuals” to “independent private sector entrepreneur.” This includes, in addition to self-employed workers, cooperatives and small private companies with up to 100 employees. Excluded from that definition, however, are government officials and members of the Cuban Communist Party who are sanctioned by the United States. continue reading

Similarly, the Joe Biden Administration updated the regulations regarding internet services allowed in Cuba, including social media platforms, videoconferencing, games and maps. From now on, the export of software of Cuban origin from the United States to other countries is also authorized so that Cuban entrepreneurs can offer these services through stores offering global mobile phone applications.

“OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) also clarifies that persons subject to US jurisdiction can provide cloud-based services (including remote data storage, data transport service, data distribution networks content, virtual machines, software as a service and infrastructure as a service) to support services related to the exchange of communications over the Internet,” the statement says.

Finally, OFAC announced that it is restoring an authorization for so-called “return” transactions, that is “transfers of funds that originate and terminate outside the United States, where neither the sender nor the beneficiary are subject to the US jurisdiction,” something that had been eliminated in September 2019, under the Administration of then-President Donald Trump.

 That private Cubans could operate a bank account in the United States from the Island was something that has been announced as imminent for months

Cuba described the permission granted by Washington for entrepreneurs from the Island as a “limited measure.”

For the Government of Cuba, the new provisions of President Joe Biden’s Administration “exclude the majority of the population,” in addition to “they do not touch the body of the blockade [i.e. the US economic embargo on the Island] nor do they modify the extreme measures” implemented during the presidency of Donald Trump (2017-2021).

“If it means a real opening and not an election-related announcement, the Government of Cuba is determined not to hinder its implementation,” said Johana Tablada, Deputy Director for U.S. Affairs at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry, speaking at a press conference.

Tablada stressed that “it will be very difficult” to apply the measures due to Havana remaining on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

“It will be very difficult for a Cuban to find a bank (…) that wants to open an account,” she stressed.  

That Cuban private individuals could operate a bank account in the United States from the Island was something that had been announced as imminent for months, although last January the Government of Joe Biden denied that it was going to do so.

In September 2023, various American media published that the Administration would take measures to help Cuban micro, small and medium-sized businesses (MSMEs) that same week , not only allowing them to open an account, but also annulling the prohibitions imposed by the Administration. of Donald Trump on transactions with third countries to send remittances to the Island.

The plan, however, sparked controversy on both sides of the Florida Straits among those who see MSMEs as “Trojan horses”: “Ideological communists perceive them as a threat to the Cuban Revolution, now in its 64th year. The anti-communist exiles in South Florida suspect that they are a front for the successors of the Castro brothers,” said a report published in the Palm Beach Post at that time.

One of the most vehement opponents of this measure is the Republican congresswoman of Cuban origin María Elvira Salazar, who in January warned that many owners of these new businesses are actually people linked to the Cuban Government, which she defined as “the Hamas of the continent.”

In fact, Congresswoman Salazar was one of the first to react to the Treasury Department’s announcement this Tuesday. Through social networks, she criticized that the Biden Administration is giving the Cuban private sector access to the US financial system, arguing that “no progress has been made towards freedom on the Island and that repression has intensified.”

Congressman Carlos Giménez, born in Havana, spoke in the same vein, criticizing Joe Biden for “granting more concessions to the murderous regime in Cuba.” He added that the White House is complicit with Havana and that “it is perpetuating the Castro dictatorship in power and has left the Cubans who fight for freedom in total abandonment.”

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

Uruguay Will Regularize Thousands of Cubans With a Residency Program Based on Rootedness

Cuban migrants will have the ability to become legal citizens in Uruguay and obtain documentation

Two Cuban women show the refugee application documents processed in Uruguay / El País

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Montevideo, 17 May 2024 — The Residency by Rootedness program created by the Government of Uruguay will regularize the situation of some 20,000 migrants – the majority of whom were born in Cuba – who will be able to obtain residency.

This was explained this Thursday during a press conference by Uruguay’s Foreign Minister, Omar Paganini, who indicated that this mechanism will allow these people to abandon an irregular situation and have the possibility of becoming legal citizens and obtaining documentation.

“This allows us to resolve the issue of family reunification of these people, which is one of the very important issues from the point of view of their rights. So we believe that it is very good news for an important group in our country, that was waiting for procedures in the Refugee Commission, but that they were procedures that could not be favorable to the extent that they do not meet the conditions of political refuge,” he noted.

“This allows us to resolve the issue of family reunification of these people, which is one of the very important issues from the point of view of their rights

Paganini explained that this will solve the situation of some 20,000 people who need a visa to enter Uruguay and who did so without having one under the category of refugees. continue reading

“This above all has to do with people who request refuge because they do not have a visa and are not eligible for refuge. So basically we are talking about people of Cuban origin or from other countries for which a visa is required,” he said.

And he added: “They enter as refugees but they are not refugees and that is where this regulatory limbo is generated, which is what allows us to resolve the decree,” said the minister, who added that the majority of these are Cubans.

On the other hand, he explained that in order to process residency through rootedness, people must be working, housed or must have family in Uruguay.

Finally, the head of the portfolio stressed that this is a temporary solution for all the people who have already started the process, and that how the process continues and the steps to follow will then be evaluated.

“For now it is not a definitive solution, therefore it is not ‘come on, this works automatically’,” Paganini concluded.

Last April it emerged in the Uruguayan press that more than 7,000 Cubans who requested refuge in the country in 2023 remained “in limbo” because the system to address them is “suffocated,” according to the newspaper El Observador. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs then said that the country ended that year with 24,193 accumulated applications.

“For now it is not a definitive solution, therefore it is not ‘come on, this works automatically’

The same newspaper reiterated that Uruguay had no intention “of deporting undocumented immigrants, much less accumulating irregular inhabitants,” with the consequent problems that would arise from this, so Montevideo was rushing to find a solution.

A year earlier, Alberto Gianotti, from the Migrant Support Network, had warned that between 9,000 and 10,000 Cuban nationals had to apply for a visa to maintain their legal status in the South American country.
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Since the president of the United States, Barack Obama, ended the wet foot/dry foot policy in that country in 2017, Cubans have found an alternative route in Uruguay, which begins in Guyana, the only South American country that does not require a visa. From there they make a journey through Brazil where they have to resort to coyotes until they reach Uruguay, where they ask for refuge.

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The Cuban Opposition Platform D Frente Reforms Its Organizational Chart and Announces Its First Convention

D Frente [D Front] brings together various actors who oppose the Díaz Canel Government / EFE
14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, May 20, 2024 — One of the main opposition platforms in Cuba, D Frente [D Front], announced this Monday a reform of its organizational chart and the date of its first convention to “continue advancing” in “democratic change,” “the establishment of the rule of law” and “citizen sovereignty” on the Island.

The organization reported in a statement the creation of eight work teams where there will be well-known Cuban opponents and experts, who reside inside and outside the country, among whom are: Manuel Cuesta Morúa, Eugenia Gutiérrez, Carmelo Mesa-Lago, Mauricio de Miranda, Marthadela Tamayo, Elena Larrinaga, Elsa Litsy Reyes and Julio Antonio Fernández Estrada, among others.

The objective of this change, the statement adds, is to “empower and strengthen the institutions” as a means to facilitate the achievement of the political objectives of the opposition to the Cuban regime.

The opposition platform reported that it plans to organize “in the near future” its first convention, in both in-person and virtual formats, to which they will invite the media, institutions and the general public.

D Frente emerged in 2022 to bring together different groups and individuals from the opposition political spectrum and with the common objective of refounding Cuba on the bases of liberal democracy. It is currently made up of 14 organizations and 120 individuals.

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The Number of Political Prisoners Reached 1,100 in April, According to the NGO Prisoners Defenders

The figure includes more than a dozen of the cases reported in the previous month.

The statement adds that 225 people – mostly convicted of participating in the July 11, 2021, anti-government protests – have been charged with sedition / Screen capture

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Madrid, May 17, 2024 — The NGO Prisoners Defenders (PD) reported Friday that at the end of April, it registered 1,100 people imprisoned for political reasons in Cuba, more than a dozen more than those included in its previous monthly report.

The organization, based in Madrid, explained that in April it added 13 people considered political prisoners to its list and that five others left the registry after full compliance with the sanction or measure imposed.

The report, published on the NGO’s website, explains that 30 minors – the minimum criminal age in Cuba is 16 – remain on the list of prisoners. Of these, 27 are serving sentences and three are being criminally prosecuted.

PD denounced that “15 of the minors have already been convicted of sedition,” with an average sentence of five years of liberty deprivation, most of them under the regime of “home confinement or forced labor without internment.” continue reading

15 of the minors have been convicted of sedition, with an average sentence of five-year imprisonment 

The statement adds that 225 people – mostly convicted of participating in the anti-government protests of 11 July 2021 – have been charged with sedition, and at least 222 have already been sentenced to an average of ten years in prison.

According to PD, there are also 118 prisoners (including several who are transgender) who “still have political and conscience convictions .”

“All trans women of conscience in prison have been and are imprisoned among men, which is also the case with common trans prisoners, who thus suffer indescribable situations among men based on their gender identification,” denounced PD.

The NGO added that it identified “297 prisoners with serious medical pathologies without adequate medical treatment,” it also confirmed that “all are suffering from various medical pathologies due to lack of food, mistreatment, a repressive environment and lack of appropriate medical care for all of them.”

Recently, Prisoners Defenders sponsored the Foreign Affairs Committee for the Spanish Congress of Deputies to present a non-legislative proposal “regarding the possible evidence of human trafficking and modern slavery in Cuba’s collaboration missions abroad .” In a session attended by 35 deputies, the proposal was approved by a minimum margin, with 18 votes in favor and 17 against.

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Cuba Receives 23 Rafters Returned by the United States and 545 From Several Countries in 2024

Three of those returned were on parole at the time of leaving the Island

The Governments of Havana and Washington have a bilateral agreement so that all migrants arriving by sea to U.S. territory will be deported to the Island  / EFE

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Madrid, 14 May 2024 — Cuba received 23 rafters returned by the United States Coast Guard Service (USCG) onTuesday, for a total of 545 Cuban irregular migrants deported from several countries in the region so far in 2024, official media reported. These migrants – 20 men and three women – were intercepted by the U.S. authorities after participating in two illegal exits from the island through the western port towns of Cárdenas and Mariel, according to a report released by the Ministry of the Interior.

Three of those returned were on parole “for compliance with criminal sanctions at the time of leaving the Island and will be placed at the disposal of the corresponding courts for the revocation of said benefit,” it emphasizes.

It also reports that two others are under investigation as “alleged committers of criminal acts” who were investigated before their illegal exit. continue reading

Another two are under investigation for “alleged commission of criminal acts”

With this return operation, there are now 39 return operation carried out from different countries in the region with a total of 545 people in 2024, the report specifies. Last year, from Mexico alone, 774 Cubans were expelled, according to a source from Mexican Migration officials, under the category of “assisted returns.”

The governments of Havana and Washington have a bilateral agreement so that all migrants arriving by sea to US territory are deported to the Island.

Also, deportation flights resumed in April 2023, mainly for people considered “inadmissible” after being held on the border with Mexico.

Some 22,946 Cubans arrived in the United States last January, according to a report from U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office (CBP).

The CBP added that in the first four months of fiscal year 2024 – which began on 1 October 2023 – 86,139 Cubans have arrived in the United States.

Since the beginning of this year, Cubans have also been returned on commercial flights from the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuba’s Foreign Ministry Says That ‘It Is Not Enough’ To Be Taken Off the List of Countries That Do Not Cooperate Against Terrorism

Cuba’s Foreign Ministry highlighted the contradiction of keeping Havana on one list and removing it from the other, as well as the “confusion” caused by the US announcement

The Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez, in an archive photograph. (EFE/ Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 16 May 2024 — The Cuban Foreign Ministry demanded this Wednesday that the United States remove it from the List of State Sponsors of Terrorism hours after the State Department removed the Island from another inventory, that of countries that “do not fully cooperate” with Washington in its fight against terrorism. The contradiction of keeping Havana on one list and removing it from the other, as well as the “confusion” that the announcement caused, was the subject of a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The text urges that the White House “correct this injustice,” and alleges that there is a “loud and repeated” demand from the Cuban people and also from “numerous governments, especially from Latin America and the Caribbean, and from political, social and religious organizations the United States, and politicians of that country.”

The Foreign Ministry said that “it is not enough to recognize that Cuba cooperates fully with the United States” in anti-terrorist matters because “it also does so with the international community as a whole” and “it is a known truth and no attempt should be made to confuse public opinion.”

He also stressed that the State Department maintains the Caribbean country on a list that designates “States that supposedly ’sponsor’ terrorism”, whose “sole purpose is to slander and serve as a pretext for the adoption of coercive economic measures against sovereign States,” like those that are mercilessly applied against Cuba.” continue reading

“The clear and absolute truth is that Cuba does not sponsor terrorism, but rather has been a victim of it”

“The clear and absolute truth is that Cuba does not sponsor terrorism, but has been a victim of it, including State terrorism, as anyone who is interested in the subject can confirm, and an issue that the US Government is perfectly aware of,” the statement says.

The Foreign Ministry insists that Joe Biden “has all the prerogatives to act honestly and do the right thing,” since this decision could be carried out exclusively by the president of the United States without having to depend on the support of the legislative chambers.

The State Department explained that the decision to remove Cuba from the list of countries that do not fully cooperate with counterterrorism efforts took into account that “the circumstances for Cuba’s certification have changed from 2022 to 2023.” The inclusion of Cuba in the US list of countries sponsoring terrorism in January 2021 was one of the last decisions made by the Administration of Republican Donald Trump (2017-2021) before leaving power.

However, after Biden’s arrival at the White House in January 2021, Cuba remained on the list, and the Cuban Government insists that it is unjustified and has serious financial implications for the Island, since it makes international transactions extremely difficult.

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