Cuban Writers in Exile Celebrate Their 25th Anniversary with PEN International

Luis Paz, president of the PEN Club. (Facebook)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Jorge I. Pérez, Miami, 25 August 2022 — The PEN Club of Cuban Writers in Exile, a subsidiary of PEN International, celebrates its 25th anniversary this Saturday with a new book about its history and the “stigma” of being a “political organization” financed by the United States, something that according to its president, the poet Luis de la Paz, “is a fallacy.”

“Our organization responds to the statutes of PEN International of writers, but these 25 years we have had to fight against an aggressive campaign by the Cuban Government that calls us ’second-rate’ writers, a political organization and one funded by the CIA and the American Government,” De la Paz tells EFE in an interview.

According to PEN International, one of the first NGOs in the world founded in 1921 by the British woman, Catherine Amy Dawson Scott, “PEN centers are the voices of literature and freedom of expression in their respective countries.”

The organization, based in London and currently chaired by Kurdish novelist, Burhan Sönmez, is present in more than 100 countries.

“We were the first world organization and group of writers to emphasize that freedom of expression and literature are inseparable,” declares the organization.

Its name was conceived as an acronym for Poets, Essayists, Novelists (PEN), which was later expanded to poets, playwrights, editors, essayists and novelists.

The history of the Cuban PEN writers dates back to 1945, when the journalist Jorge Mañach, author of one of the most controversial biographies about José Martí, “Martí the Apostle,” founded the subsidiary. continue reading

Then “long years” were interrupted, says De la Paz, when the Government of Fidel Castro arrived, and cultural institutions such as the state Casa de las Américas and the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba were created, which “displaced” it.

The Cuban PEN, according to De la Paz, ceased to function after the Government took measures based on “Words to the Intellectuals,” in a speech given by Castro shortly after coming to power, at the National Library in 1961, in which he said: “Within the revolution everything, outside the revolution, nothing.”

“Censorship began, and many took the path of exile,” explains its president.

“It was at the 64th Congress of PEN International, held in 1997 in Edinburgh, Scotland, when, by unanimous vote, the creation of the PEN Club of Cuban Writers in Exile, based in Miami, the capital of Cuban exile, was approved,” recalls De la Paz, also a journalist based in Florida.

The poet and former political prisoner, Ángel Cuadra (1931-2021), along with other writers in exile, was the one who reactivated the Cuban PEN center, in 1997. During his captivity, Cuadra had been an Honorary Member of the Swedish PEN.

For the Cuban writer Rolando Morelli, “the Pen Club in exile must be considered, properly speaking, as a continuation of the one founded by Mañach.”

“We went into exile to preserve and conserve an ideal Cuba outside the island; that is, a symbol and embodiment of the best of our traditions,” Morelli adds from Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), where he directs the publishing house La gota de agua [The Drop of Water], which, he said, is preparing a report on the Cuban writer exiled in Spain, Gastón Baquero (1914-1997).

“Naturally, I’m honored and satisfied to be part of an institution that is a global and local reference for commitment to freedom and the defense of writers,” said Morelli, a member of the Cuban PEN in exile.

De la Paz, for his part, is proud to present this Saturday, in Miami, a book that collects all this history: “Homeland and Culture, 25 Years of PEN”, by the poet, Sara Martínez.

Next September, De la Paz and Morelli will travel to Uppsala, Sweden, to participate in the 88th PEN International Congress, which will take place from October 27 to October 1.

There they will present a resolution where “the arbitrary imprisonment of writers and plastic artists and the increasing persecution of intellectuals are denounced.”

“In exile we don’t have major problems with freedom of expression, but we do reject the lack of it on the island. Artists such as Tania Bruguera and Yunior García Aguilera are being forced into exile. The Cuban government used to try to prevent you from leaving; now it invites you to leave and doesn’t let you return. This is what is happening now,” said De la Paz.

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 Receives Humanitarian Aid from Nicaragua and Bolivia Due to the Matanzas Fire

A cargo plane from Bolivia arrives at José Martí International Airport with 62.3 tons of aid due to the fire, this Monday in Havana. (EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, August 23, 2022 — Cuba received shipments of humanitarian aid from Bolivia and Nicaragua on Monday due to the fire in the Matanzas Supertanker Base, the largest in the history of the country.

The donations consist of food, medicine and medical supplies, according to the Cuban Government.

The aid coming from Bolivia — more than 62 tons — arrived at the Havana international airport José Martí, and the Nicaraguan aid arrived at the port of Mariel on the ship Augusto César Sandino, which had left Arlen Siu a few days ago.

During the reception at the airfield, the deputy minister of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Deborah Rivas, thanked Bolivia on behalf of the Island government and added that the country will also support La Paz “whenever they need us.”

Likewise, in the port of Mariel, Betsy Díaz, Minister of Internal Trade, said that the donation reaffirms the “unyielding will to strengthen historical ties” between Havana and Managua, especially “at such a difficult time.”

Other countries, such as Argentina and Spain, have already announced they are sending humanitarian aid to the Island after the accident, which left 16 dead, 146 injured and 17 hospitalized. continue reading

On August 5, a huge fire broke out at the Matanzas fuel tank base, the most important in the country, when lightning struck one of the eight tanks in the industrial park, according to the Cuban authorities.

The fire — which affected four tanks with a capacity of 13,208,602 liquid gallons — caused strong explosions, with flares of hundreds of feet, and a column of toxic black smoke that reached Havana, 60 miles away.

The island decreed two days of official mourning that ended last Friday with a posthumous tribute to 14 of the 16 victims, who until last week were still considered missing, and whose bone fragments were found at the scene of the accident.

According to Cuban experts, the degree of calcination of the remains made it impossible to extract their DNA, but he said that it corresponds to those of the missing, some of whom were young people doing their military service.

The Government revealed last week the names of the 14 people but not their ages, amid criticism of dissent and NGOs that claimed that several of them were young people in military service.

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 Official Sale of Dollars in Cuba Begins and Each One Will Cost 123 Pesos

The purchase can be made at 36 exchange offices and a branch of the Banco Popular de Ahorro in Isla de la Juventud. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 22 August 2022 — The Cuban government announced on Monday that it will start selling dollars to the population on August 23 at a rate of 123.60 Cuban pesos (CUP) per dollar. The 37 premises authorized to carry out this operation will report daily the number of people who can buy that day, “depending on the availability of foreign currency,” said the Minister President of the Central Bank of Cuba (BCC), Marta Sabina Wilson González, on the Roundtable television program, hosted by Randy Alonso.

Initially, a person will be able to buy only $100 or its equivalent in other currencies, although Wilson González did not specify how often this can be done. The sale will begin in 36 exchange houses (cadecas) and a branch of the Banco Popular de Ahorro in Isla de la Juventud.

The official said that both the exchange rate, for now 120 CUP for a dollar, and the margins, will be adjusted if necessary. In addition, the purchase limit of $100 per person “can be extended” later.

“If the dollar is the most difficult currency we have for export, then the idea is for people to demand that currency, and we want that purchase to be fundamentally from the dollars we have in stock in the cadecas,” said the minister president of the Central Bank.

The Cuban authorities said that the euro is the currency that has entered the official foreign exchange market the most since they implemented the new exchange rate at the beginning of the month, followed by the dollar, the pound sterling and the Mexican peso. continue reading

The Minister of Economy, Alejandro Gil, for his part, acknowledged that “there is a demand for cash dollars” on the Island, whether to emigrate, to go shopping abroad or for other reasons. However, he clarified that right now the only way out for these dollars is to sell them on the foreign exchange market.

Cubans buy dollars to emigrate, make domestic transactions and leverage their little savings in the face of the collapse of the power of the CUP to buy goods and services. Inflation and lack of productivity have pushed the national currency into abysses never before seen.

“We’re not going to fall behind the exchange rate of the informal market,” Gil said for those who expect the official rate to compete against illegal networks. “The first step is for the State to regain control of the value of the currency,” the minister clarified. “This is not a market economy,” he stressed.

“Little by little, the State will advance in controlling the foreign exchange market,” Gil reaffirmed. But “if you have a partially dollarized market,” there will always be a demand for foreign currency. “We will reach a time of lower demand for foreign currency when we have more products available in Cuban pesos.”

The minister, who repeated the word “challenge” several times to describe the foreign exchange market, warned of the need to relaunch Cuban industry in order to sustain the pulse of the currency and reiterated his criticism of the “voluntarist” vision of the economy. “The strength of the economy is what will allow us to stabilize the exchange rate,” he explained. “You have to come down to earth and understand the sense of urgency,” he confessed.

“This is not for the new rich,” Gil defended himself. “This is not a measure for those who receive foreign currency,” he said in a speech, trying to reinforce the idea that there is an official script that includes, in the medium and short term, an improvement in daily life. “It’s not improvisation; nothing we do is improvised,” he said in the midst of a climate of increased social criticism.

Reactions to the new announcement flooded the social networks. Cuban economist Mauricio De Miranda Parrondo said ironically on Twitter: “I think the next decision of the Government will be to sell foreign currency through the ration book in Cuba. Randy says that they will assign turns in the line. I imagine they will end up making phone appointments.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuban Experts Say the Pollution Levels of the Matanzas Fire are ‘Low’

Remains of the fire at the Supertanker Base of the port of Matanzas (Cuba). (EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, August 22, 2022 — The serious fire at the Matanzas Supertanker Base threw out “low” levels of pollutants, the Cuban authorities told the official press on Sunday.

Oscar García Martínez, delegate of the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment in Matanzas, said that the main effects are “air quality, as in any fire” and that the measured levels “do not compromise human health.”

The accident, which began on August 5 and lasted almost a week, claimed the lives of 16 people, some of them young people who were undergoing compulsory military service, and injured 146, 17 of whom are still hospitalized.

“Everything indicates that what happened in the fire  doesn’t seem to have compromised any aspect for the future,” García Martínez said without showing exact figures. The Government expects to have an environmental impact assessment by September. Scientific research, the official said, continues. “If we know anything new, we will inform you,” he told the newspaper Girón. “If any indicator is altered, we will analyze it and follow up on it.”

The specialist said that the samples taken in Matanzas Bay, near the industrial area where the disaster occurred, “corroborate visually that there is no damage right now.” continue reading

He pointed out that “we had never experienced a spill (of crude oil) associated with a fire,” and research on its effects covers aspects related to soil, agricultural production and traces in livestock milk — a series of elements to ascertain the real magnitude of the impact of the fire, the largest recorded on the island.

This analysis stage, planned for two months, could be extended up to two more years with other parameters, “to reassess soil, vegetation and food chains,” he added.

Although he considers that “the danger has already passed,” because the focus that caused the increase of pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, among other substances, in the atmosphere “disappeared,” he estimates that the emanations are in the usual range in Matanzas.

Four of the eight tanks of the storage base, the largest facility of its kind in Cuba for receiving and storing crude oil, burned completely, causing explosions, flares of hundreds of feet and a curtain of smoke that reached neighboring provinces such as Mayabeque and Havana, located more than 60 miles to the west.

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.

Nicaragua Sends a Ship with Food to Cuba

Archive image of the Nicaraguan ship AC Sandino, sent this Thursday to Cuba. (EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Managua, 19 August 2022 — The Government of Nicaragua announced on Thursday that it sent a ship with food to Cuba, as an act of solidarity “with Cuban families.”

The ship Augustus C. Sandino, with a Nicaraguan flag, weighed anchor in the early hours of Thursday from the river port Arlen Siu, in the Autonomous Region of the South Caribbean (RACS), and headed to the Island, said the Executive Branch in a press release. Nicaraguan authorities expect the Sandino to arrive next Monday at the port of Mariel (Artemisa), about 30 miles from Havana.

This is the second shipment of aid granted by Nicaragua to Cuba so far in 2022, and the fifth since the street demonstrations of July last year on the island due to the lack of food and medicine, which has reached unprecedented levels. continue reading

The Government of Nicaragua didn’t give details about the type or quantity of food sent to Cuba this Thursday. In previous shipments, Nicaragua gave Cuba rice, beans, oil, coffee and other goods.

The governments of Nicaragua and Cuba have had close relations during the times when former Sandinista guerrilla Daniel Ortega ruled the country, first from 1985 to 1990, and then from 2007 up to the present.

Nicaragua and Cuba are part of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of America (ALBA), led by the Island regime and chavista Venezuela.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuban Composers of “Patria y Vida” — Homeland and Life — Will Receive the Medal of Freedom

The duo Gente de Zona flanking Yotuel Romero, in a scene from Patria y Vida. (Yotuel/YouTube/Captura)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Miami, August 16, 2022 — The composers of the song Patria y Vida will be recognized with the Medal of Freedom that will be awarded to them by the Latino Composers Hall of Fame (LCHOF) at the welcome gala for its new members, which will be held on October 13 in south Florida.

This new award created by the LCHOF will end up in the hands of Yotuel Romero, Beatriz Luengo, Descemer Bueno, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Maykel Castillo Osorbo, Alexander Delgado, Randy Malcom Martínez and DJ El Funky, the composers of the song, which became an anthem for the opposition inside and outside Cuba.

The song, which was the soundtrack for the popular protests of July 11, 2021, has received, among others, the Latin Grammy Award for Best Song of the Year.

The Medal of Freedom will be one of the La Musa awards that will be presented at the LCHOF ceremony, which will take place at the Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, south Florida, and they will also celebrate their tenth anniversary, as announced on Monday by Billboard magazine.

The LCHOF, based in Miami Beach, will welcome its new members, including the Dominican, Johnny Ventura, who died in July of last year and who, posthumously, will join this room that brings together and pays tribute to the great figures of Latin music. continue reading

The other distinguished people in this year’s event will be the producers, Desmond Child and Rudy Pérez, both founders of the LCHOF, as well as the composer, Tony Renis.

The ceremony will also recognize the Mexican, Emmanuel, who will receive an award for his artistic legacy, and the Puerto Rican, José Feliciano, who will receive the Song of All Time award for his immortal theme Feliz Navidad.

Manuel Alejandro, from Spain, and the Venezuelan, Elena Rose, will be among the musicians awarded at the gala, as well as the executives of the music and entertainment industry, Gustavo Menéndez, Walter Kolm and Eddy Cue.

According to Billboard, the gala will be hosted by the Peruvian-American actress and singer, Isabela Merced, and artists such as Emilio and Gloria Estefan, José Feliciano, Draco Rosa, Erika Ender, La India, Luis Figueroa, Yotuel and Gente De Zona, among others, will perform.

As in previous years, the composers selected this year to be part of the Latino Composers Hall of Fame have been chosen from a group of nominees by a committee of figures and leaders of the music industry.

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 Participates in a Russian Military Sniper Competition in Venezuela

Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López in a file photograph. (EFE/Rayner Peña R)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Caracas, 16 August 2022 — The Minister of Defense of Venezuela, Vladimir Padrino, inaugurated on Monday the “Border Sniper” competition, which is part of the international military games organized by Russia, using the Caribbean country, for the first time, as one of its venues.

“We embrace all nations, their delegations, their representatives, who have come to Venezuela to compete in a good fight, within the framework of these international games,” said the military leader during the opening ceremony of the tournament in the state of Lara (west).

He said that, in addition to Venezuela, representatives of Russia, Burma, Belarus, Abkhazia, Uzbekistan, Bolivia, China, India, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Indonesia and Cuba will participate in the competition, countries where “imperialist aggression against the people is condemned daily.”

The minister explained that this is the seventh edition of these games, in which Venezuela has participated since 2015.

The Defense portfolio said that the competition, which will last until August 27, “gathers together the best snipers in the world,” and “only expert soldiers in the art and precision of shooting participate.” continue reading

The so-called “Army Games” in Venezuela will include, in addition to the sniper competition, spaces that can be visited by those interested, among which are shooting ranges, obstacle courses and exhibitions of weapons and exercises typical of military life.

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered on Monday, at the opening of the “Armia-2022” forum on the outskirts of Moscow, to arm with modern equipment his allies in Latin America, Asia and Africa, countries that don’t submit to the dictates of the West.

Putin greeted the foreign delegations attending the largest military fair in Russia, including the Venezuelan one, headed by General Ricardo Ramos, Deputy Minister of Defense Education, who met with Alexandr Fomin, Russian Deputy Minister of Defense, who praised the “relations among allies” with Caracas.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuban Rescuers Find More Human Remains at the Site of the Matanzas Supertanker BaseFire

The Cuban government has not revealed the costs of the Matanzas fire, considered the worst in history. (José Ángel Portal Miranda)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 16 August 2022 — Specialized teams found more bone remains at the site of the large industrial fire recorded in Matanzas, the Minister of Public Health, José Ángel Portal, reported on Monday.

“The tireless search for bone fragments and objects that could have to do with any of the missing people thought to be at the scene of the accident at the time of the explosion continues,” Portal said on Twitter.

The fragments were found on Sunday in “several places in the area” of the fire and have already been sent to “the laboratories for identification.”

Last Friday, the Cuban Government reported that it had located at the site of the fire — which began after the alleged impact of lightning in one of eight fuel tanks with 50,000 cubic meters of capacity — the skeletal remains of four people, presumably firefighters.

Officially, 14 people are listed as missing, mainly firefighters who were working on extinguishing the flames when a large explosion occurred.

Forensic doctor Jorge González Pérez, who directs the work of the investigation of the remains of Matanzas, said on Monday that they haven’t located the place where the 14 victims disappeared, and calculated that this could take “two more days.” He added that he considers it “unlikely” that “there is some laboratory test, for example DNA” that can be performed in this case.

So far, the Government has not disclosed their identities, despite the demand of independent activists and NGOs, who have claimed that some were young people doing military service. continue reading

So far, the relatives of the missing are the ones who have gone on social networks to say that they have no information about them, and some who have been given as dead, such as the young Leo Alejandro Doval del Prado, 19.

The fire was officially declared extinguished on Friday.

The flames affected four fuel tanks in the industrial park, strategic for the country, causing serious explosions, with flares of over 30 feet, and a column of toxic black smoke that reached Havana, 60 miles away.

The Cuban Government has also not disseminated estimates of the economic cost of this event, which is already described as the largest industrial disaster in the country, nor the exact levels of contamination from the accident.

The total, to date, after the incident is two deaths, 132 people injured and 19 hospitalized, according to the daily report of the Ministry of Public Health.

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 Coordinates with the US For Help to Put Out the Fire in Matanzas

At the moment, firefighters and workers from the Cupet Territorial Division are working to put out the flames. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Matanzas/Havana, 6 August 2022 — The Cuban authorities are coordinating with the United States with regards to the aid offered by this country to put out the great fire that is still active in two of eight crude oil tanks at the Supertanker Base in the industrial zone of the Cuban city of Matanzas). So far, 17 firefighters have disappeared and at least 67 people have been injured.

Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernández de Cossío wrote on Twitter that the US government “offered technical advice, already placed in the hands of specialists for proper coordination.”

“We deeply appreciate the condolences and expressions of help from various organizations and people from the United States on the occasion of the incident in Matanzas,” added the Vice Chancellor.

The United States Embassy in Cuba also reported on Twitter that it was “in contact with Cuba about the incident in Matanzas.” Adding, “In the meantime, we want to make it clear that United States law authorizes United States entities and organizations to provide aid and response to disasters in Cuba.”

This Saturday afternoon it was also learned that “by presidential order, specialized personnel from Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) are getting ready to travel to Cuba to help extinguish the fire,” according to the newspaper El Universal .

“High-level sources from the [Mexican] federal government assured that it was President Andrés Manuel López Obrador himself who gave the instruction,” the press outlet said.

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

Cuban Opponent Guillermo Farinas Returns Home After a Short Arrest

Guillermo Fariñas, leader of the United Anti-Totalitarian Front, is one of the best-known Cuban opponents at the international level. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 6 August 2022 — Cuban opponent Guillermo Fariñas remained under arrest this Friday for several hours, according information from his family speaking to EFE.

Fariñas’s mother, Alicia Hernández, confirmed by phone that her son was released, after he was stopped by the police who were waiting for him nearby when he left his house. “They handcuffed him and took him away in a patrol car,” she explained.

Hernández attributed the arrest to the anniversary of the 1994 protest known as the Maleconazo.

That day, hundreds of dissatisfied people took to the streets of Havana to protest and then President Fidel Castro, now deceased, appeared to speak with some of them in front of the well-known Deauville hotel.

These were the largest protests that the country had experienced in decades, and since then were only surpassed by the protests Cuba registered on July 11, 2021.

Fariñas, 60, who has suffered multiple short duration arrests in recent continue reading

decades — was awarded the 2010 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament.

The leader of the United Anti-Totalitarian Front, Fariñas is one of the best-known Cuban opponents at the international level, particularly for his numerous hunger strikes against the Cuban system, since the first one he carried out in 1995.

The longest strike dates back to 2003, when he fasted for 14 months, and the 25th took place in 2016 and lasted 54 days to ask the government to end the repression against dissidents.

The Government of Cuba considers dissidents “counterrevolutionaries” and “mercenaries” at the service of the interests of the United States and denies that it has political prisoners in its jails.

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

Cubans Are Allowed to Bring in Preserved Meats and Pasteurized Milk from Thirteen Countries

The regulation also establishes a list of prohibited products. (Customs)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, August 3, 2022 — Cubans will be allowed to bring home canned meats and ultrapasteurized milk from as many as thirteen countries according to regulations made public on Tuesday by the Ministry of Agriculture.

The news was reported by government media outlets, which cited a memo by the ministry announcing a “relaxation” of “sanitary regulations.”

Though no mention was made regarding when the regulations are to take effect, the memo stated that “recognized retail brands” of beef, pork and poultry from Spain, Portugal, Italy, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay will be allowed into the country.

The regulations also apply to the importation of cured meats. In the case of ultrapasteurized, and evaporated milk, as well as lacto-based desserts, there are no restrictions regarding the country of origin.

The same applies to canned seafood, powdered milk and aged, pasteurized cheese.

The regulations also specify what items may not be brought into the country. These include all products derived from skeletal animals; unpasteurized milk and products derived from it; fresh, frozen and dehydrated meats; salads, with or without eggs; viscera; and prepared or partially cooked food products.

The regulations have been greeted with skepticism by consumers. Some complain that the new rules are long overdue while others argue that the practice has been going on for a long time. “Is it for commercial purposes? Then that would be a change,” quips a Cubadebate reader. continue reading

The measures were announced shortly after the publication of a resolution establishing “rules for non-commercial imports by individual persons.”

Individuals will be allowed to bring in up to five mobile phones (the previous limit was two), two electrical generators and two electrical motorcycles, or a third such motorcycle if it arrives as a cargo shipment.

Import duties will also be reduced from 100% to 30% while weight limits will be increased from ten to twenty kilograms. Additionally, the tariff on imported goods will be reduced from twenty dollars per kilo to ten per kilo.

In a recent speech to parliament, economics minister Alejandro Gil emphasized that these measures apply only to goods intended for “personal use, not of a commercial nature.” In other words, the new regulations do not allow businesses to resell those products to the public.

Motivated by the island’s food crisis as well as last year’s anti-government protests, the government has temporarily lifted tariffs on food and medicine. This measure has not escaped criticism, however, because the change will only benefit those Cubans who have relatives overseas or who have the resources to travel abroad.

Prior to 2021, many Cubans turned to so-called mules, whom they paid to bring back consumer goods from overseas packed in their luggage.

The rules were relaxed after the July 11, 2021 (’11J’) protests. The first extension was approved in December. The most recent measures took effect in May and will remain in force until December 2022.

The current rules on what an individual can bring into the country are a complex system of points and peso limits which imposes tariffs on excess items packed in an individual’s suitcase. In the case of medications, for example, a traveller is allowed to  bring in up to ten kilograms duty-free.

With the goal of reducing the country’s dependence on food from overseas — Cuba imports roughly 80% of what it consumes – in May the government adopted a food sovereignty law intended to increase agricultural production. Experts doubt, however, that the new law rule will be enough to make a difference.

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

As August is About to Begin, the Electricity Supply is Still Ailing in Cuba

Despite the blackouts, the official press doesn’t hesitate to affirm that the Cienfuegos thermoelectric plant is “one of the most stable in the country.” (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 28 July 2022 — The Electric Union of Cuba announced on Thursday a deficit of up to 20% in the energy supply, after three days of relative stability during the official holidays on July 26.

The deficit this Thursday will be 17.9% in prime time, with an availability of 2,502 megawatts (MW) and a maximum demand of 2,950 MW, the state company reported in its usual statement.

On Wednesday, the deficient electricity supply began to affect users from 10:42 and was restored at 22:30. The company also reported that eight units out of a total of five thermoelectric power plants in the country are out of service due to breakdowns or maintenance.

On July 22 in a speech to Parliament, Miguel Díaz-Canel acknowledged the discomfort among the population over the cuts, which have been intensifying in recent months. He added that those who blame the Government for its handling of the prolonged blackouts “are responding to what the counterrevolution wants.”

The Government affirms that the cuts in supply have been caused by breakages in the plants, the shortage of fuel for generation and scheduled maintenance. Despite the state rhetoric, which affirms that everything possible is being done to avoid blackouts, and the deals with foreign companies to repair thermoelectric plants, the crisis of the Cuban energy system doesn’t seem to have an immediate solution. continue reading

A report published today in Cubadebate collects the testimony of workers of the Cienfuegos thermoelectric plant. Affected by rust and marine microorganisms, the machinery repeats the pattern of other plants in the country: lack of spare parts and lack of adequate maintenance.

In a thermoelectric plant “we work many early morning hours, many Saturdays, Sundays, many carnivals; maintenance is twenty-four hours,” says a 72-year-old technician.

“The units aren’t given the maintenance they need, so each operation becomes more complicated,” another operator admits to the official press. “There’s a lot of instability in parameters; we are working with parameters that aren’t in accordance with the plant system. You have to keep your eyes wide open. One mistake from us and the plant is gone.”

“I left work one morning and arrived home without electricity. I can’t sleep. I’m also suffering,” adds another.

However, Cubadebate has no qualms about stating that the Cienfuegos thermoelectric plant is “one of the most stable in the country.”

At the beginning of July, the Felton thermoelectric plant, in the Holguin municipality of Mayarí, suffered considerable damage due to a large fire. This accident meant an even greater deterioration of the national electricity system, unable to implement the necessary actions to achieve energy stability in the short term.

The blackouts were, along with other serious economic and political problems, the cause of the massive protests of July 11, 2021. They have also been the triggers for recent demonstrations  against the Government, such as those that took place in Los Palacios (Pinar del Río), or smaller ones in other municipalities of the country.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuba Detects More Cases of of Dengue Fever in One Week Than in the Entire First Semester of the Year

Some 66.1% of the mosquito breeding sites in Cuba are concentrated in the provinces of Havana, Matanzas, Pinar del Río, Santiago de Cuba, Camagüey and Holguín. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14medio, Havana, 30 July 2022 — The Cuban Ministry of Public Health detected 4,776 reactive cases of dengue fever in the third week of July (17-23), more than the 3,036 registered in the entire first semester, the Presidency reported in a statement this Friday by official media.

Reactive cases are understood as tests in which the presence of the pathogen is detected, either because the patient recently had the disease or because it is still active in the body.

In this sense, the Presidency pointed out that of the 10,590 tests carried out in that week there was a positivity rate of 45.1%.

In addition, Public Health noted that 23,758 cases with “non-specific” fever were identified, almost 6,000 more than in the previous week. It is one of the symptoms of the disease, transmitted by the aedes aegypti mosquito.

The Presidency’s statement warns that the mosquito breeding sites increased by 115% during the third week of July compared to the same week in 2021.

Some 66.1% of the points are concentrated in the provinces of Havana, Matanzas, Pinar del Río, Santiago de Cuba, Camagüey and Holguín. continue reading

Public Health reported in early July that, for the second year, Cuba broke the 15 year record for dengue mosquito breeding points and described the epidemiological scenario as “complex.”

In a press conference on July 14, Portal clarified that the country is not “in the worst moment” and estimated that in the coming months the number of infected could increase due to the heat and the rains.

The independent press has reported in recent weeks several cases of minors who have died with a high fever, although it has not been officially confirmed that they were due to dengue.

The health workers insist that the population must do everything possible to protect themselves because there are no insecticides such as Abate or diesel to spray every six days, as established by the protocols. These limitations, together with the summer heat and the long hours of blackouts, are leading to the proliferation of a disease that had remained in the background during covid.

In addition, it is estimated that dengue underreporting is still high. On the one hand, many patients refuse to go to the doctor to avoid hospitalization due to the state of many centers throughout the Island. On the other hand, there is a visible lack of means for a correct diagnosis and some patients affirm that they do not undergo the tests required because the reagents are rationed for the most severe cases.

“We are alarmed,” an internist at a Havana hospital told this newspaper, stating that this year there are more serious cases than usual. “In previous epidemics, maybe 10% or so of cases had warning signs (the ones that alert you that the patient is not doing well), but now it’s more than 30%.”

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

Pastor Alain Toledano Insists that Cuba is ‘In Collapse’

The pastor and his family arrived this week in the United States, where he is in exile. (Facebook)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Miami, 30 July 2022 — Cuban evangelical pastor Alain Toledano Valiente, leader of the Movement Paths of Justice and exiled in Miami since this week, stated in an interview published this Friday that “Cuba is a country in collapse.”

Toledano, his wife, Marilin, and their daughters Berenice, 18, and Elisama, 17, left Cuba thanks to the intervention of Outreach Aid to the Americas (OAA), an international organization that defends the rights of religious communities .

The US Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Rashad Hussein, also interceded in the case.

According to Toledano’s statement upon arrival in Miami, Cuban authorities warned him: “Leave the country within 30 days or you and your family will face the consequences.”

In the first interview from exile, Toledano, who in recent years repeatedly denounced “harassment” against his temple in Santiago de Cuba for demanding rights and freedom, told the US public radio station Radio Martí, which broadcasts from Florida to Cuba, that the rights and living conditions of Cubans are “precarious.”

“When you look at the living conditions of men (on an international level), you realize that the Cuban does not have any living conditions. Rights, none. It stopped being really a nation, it stopped really being a country where as a citizen you can live with everything you need,” he said.

The pastor called on Cubans to recover their freedom by confronting “the people who have been empowered by evil and violence” in Cuba. continue reading

“The slaver is never going to give you freedom,” said the religious leader.

In the latest report on International Religious Freedom published by the US State Department, it was included in the Cuba section that Cuban State Security agents arrested Pastor Toledano in 2021 for “spreading an epidemic.”

The arrest was due to the fact that he had reopened the doors of his temple after confinement due to covid-19, but, as he denounced, the accusation was unfounded, since since the first week of June 2021 the Government had authorized churches to restart their activities normally and moderately.

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

Cuban Parliament Approves the Final Version of the New Family Code

March against homophobia and transphobia in Cuba (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, July 22, 2022 — The National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP, unicameral parliament) of Cuba unanimously approved this Friday the definitive version of the so-called Family Code, which will be submitted to a popular referendum on September 25.

The deputies supported version 25 of this legislative package to regulate interpersonal relationships, which includes equal marriage, adoption by homosexual couples and surrogacy (“solidarity” in this text).

The regulations went through an extensive popular consultation between February and April, in which 6.4 million people participated, said the Cuban Minister of Justice, Oscar Silvera, before the plenary of the ANPP, among whom were the president of the country, Miguel Díaz-Canel, and his predecessor, Raúl Castro.

Silvera explained that as a result of this popular consultation, “47.93% of the general text and 49.15% of its articles were modified.”

If approved in September, the Family Code will replace the regulations in force since 1975.

The Family Code is the only regulation submitted to a referendum among the 70 updated after the new Constitution of 2019, including sensitive laws like the new Criminal Code. continue reading

During the consultation, 336,595 votes were recorded, and 434,000 proposals were collected. Silvera indicated that 61.9% of citizens pronounced themselves in favor of the code.

The Government has deployed an important media campaign that is flooding television screens and newspapers, and there are even special programs dedicated to explaining every detail of the 471 articles of the Code, in order to get majority support.

The new Family Code has generated controversy among those who don’t accept gay marriage and adoption by same-sex couples, such as some religious groups.

It is also rejected by some feminist groups that demand a specific law on gender-based violence and the criminalization of femicide. The Government says that there are already laws that punish these crimes.

Some opponents and activists have also taken a stand against this regulation because it comes from the Government.

No surveys on the degree of support for the Family Code have been disseminated among the Cuban population.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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