Cubanet, Ernesto Garcia Diaz, Havana, 2 August 2015 — The Cuban government has renewed the passport of political activist and coordinator of the project State of Sats, Antonio Rodiles. In contrast, Ailer Mena Gonzalez, artistic director of this project, remains under immigration regulations, that is, is not allowed to travel.
Rodiles told Cubanet, ” State Security lifted the restriction they had on me, I was about to renew my passport a few hours ago, I can leave the country. In fact I will in the coming hours. But I’ll be back soon to continue, at the side of the Ladies in White, the peaceful struggle for the liberation of political prisoners. The government is afraid of the public space we have conquered. It is no wonder they repress us. We want to rebuild the nation and will not allow them to dehumaize us, even when the call in repressive mobs.”
The activist also said: “I’ll be back before August 14 when John Kerry will Cuba and hoist the flag of the United States embassy. Hopefully he will demand that the Cuban government end the repression against the Ladies in White and we will have a different mentality. ”
Cubanet, Ernesto Garcia Diaz, Havana (developing news), 15 July 2015 – At least five people died, according to preliminary reports, in a building collapse early this morning, at an apartment house at 413 Habana Street between Obrapia and Obispo, in Havana Vieja (Old Havana). Neighbors confirmed this to Cubanet, but other sources mentioned 11 deaths.
The intense rains of the previous afternoon destroyed the weak structure of the multi-family building and caused its partial collapse.
Among the dead are presumed two little girls and a teenage girl aged 18. Search and rescue brigades worked from the very early morning hours looking for any survivors who might be trapped in the old building.
While this was going on, family members of the victims and of people injured congregated at the polyclinic at Aguiar and Empedrado Streets. The situation is current very tense with regards to social order.
Cubanet, Ernesto García Díaz, Havana, 19 February 2015 — On the morning of Saturday, February 14, in the town of Colón, Matanzas, CubaNet visited with Caridad María Burunate Gómez, a member of the Ladies in White.
To learn more about this dissident who is also a member of the clandestine Pedro Luis Boitel Party for Democracy (PDPLB), we asked her in what year she joined the Ladies In White movement.
She replied, “I started in the Ladies in White of Colón in 2005. I was in touch with other Ladies, but here I began as a volunteer with my sister-in-arms, María Teresa Castellano. We went on foot, dressed in white, to the church, and from the parish to my home. I belonged to the PDPLB, which is presided over by my compatriot Feliz Navarro Rodríguez, who supported us and they are our protectors every continue reading
time we march on Sundays.”
CubaNet: How did the Ladies in White movement in Colón grow?
Burunate: Well, a group of women opponents from the municipalities of Los Arabos, Perico, Calimete and Jovellanos, who were also Ladies in White, began to join us. We were more than a dozen and we have continued going out every Sunday. We walk two-by-two in silence. We are organized, in spite of the pressure we receive from State Security.
CubaNet: What do your PDPLB compatriots do?
Burunate: What can I tell you, they provide an important escort, to protect us from being beaten. About 20 of them would come out when we were being heavily repressed — now there are fewer of them, because the repression has let up. During the phase in which State Security would surround my house, (the PDPLB members) would come from Perico, Jovellanos and Los Arabos — many would even be there already by Friday — and they would join us in the street. It was a way to avoid us being detained. The bond among us is great.
We have been beaten very much. Ivan Hernández Carrillo, Félix Navarro Rodríguez, Francisco Rangel, they were all beaten. Senén was knocked out with a two-by-four, I was slapped, my sister got a huge bruise in the stomach. One official known as Col. Joaquín of Section 21 ransacked my house. Lázaro Díaz was beaten on the head so hard the blood was gushing out. They would be taken to other provinces and dropped off, with no concern for the safety for their lives.
CubaNet: Do you enjoy the support of the people?
Burunate: The people speak very well of us. When we were the targets of repudiation rallies, we would be beaten, and the people did not approve of this. Folks know that we do not interfere with anyone, we do not scream orders, we walk silently, with a flower in our hand, and our silence seems to resound with a great voice that proclaims, “Freedom for political prisoners and freedom for Cuba.”
CubaNet: 2014 was a year of much repression against your group. How is that situation now?
Burunate: They threw eggs at us, they tarred our houses, they used prisoners to fling pig excrement at us, they would call us mercenaries, worms, but we were able to discredit various local government leaders as corrupt.
It was the townspeople themselves who would tell us who was corrupt. We began to report on Bequer; on Dignora Senea Sotolongo who is president of the local government, who made shady deals on some houses, who receives monies from abroad while proclaiming “Fatherland or Death.” The acts of repudiation began to diminish. Now they only watch us.
Burunate: The State Security officers Orlando Figueroa, Ravelo and Irbis, have told us that they will not interfere with us anymore, that we should go out in a group, not two-by-two in line. But we did not accept this. On Sunday, December 21, they took us to the police station, but on subsequent Sundays they have not bothered us again.
Our profile has not diminished, while that of Security has been restructured: now they make their attacks individually.
CubaNet: What do you hope from the reestablishment of relations between the governments of the United States and Cuba?
Burunate: I don’t hope for anything from the Cuban government. This government is a dictatorship, they will not democratize the country, they do not want the opponents to be legalized, they do not want to recognize the opposition.
They say we do not have a platform — well, of course not, they deny us the right to have one. They say we are mercenaries, that we do not have convening power, nor a project — a plan — for the people; well, no, being that when we go out, they follow us, they apprehend us, they do not let us do anything. They are blackmailers.
Let them allow us to move freely, let them legalize us — then this government of the few who claim to speak for the many will not last a moment. The people themselves will throw them out.
Felipe Marrero Manes, known as “Merejo,” is Caridad Maria’s husband. He says, “I have supported my wife in everything. We have been married for 26 years. Our daughters Yelena and Yisable have grown up being harassed and pushed around by State Security. The older one was detained and beaten. The regime cut short their academic progress. A (Masonic) lodge brother of mine warned me that we should take care of our daughters, that they would not be able to go to school. It is love that nourishes our marriage and keeps us strong for the fight.”
Finally, CubaNet asked Caridad Maria, “Do you want to communicate any message to those who might read this interview in and outside of Cuba”?
Burunate: “I say that we will keep on fighting, marching every Sunday. We should unite and leave aside any disagreements. We must work with the people. A love-driven cause will triumph. Here, we work with the people.”
Leaders of the opposition call Obama’s reconciliation with the Cuban government a “betrayal” during a press conference in Havana
Cubanet, Ernesto García Díaz, Havana, 18 December 2014 — From the headquarters of the Estado de SATS project in Miramar, on Wednesday afternoon (12/17/14), Cuban opposition leaders held a press conference for national and international media, to make known their positions regarding the new political stance of the United States towards Cuba.
Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for the Freedom of Thought and Coordinator General of the United Antitotalitarian Front (FANTU), referring to the steps taken by the governments of Cuba and the United States, stated the following:
“We can applaud the release of Alan Gross, who really was used by the Island’s government to blackmail the American administration. But Obama has been inconsiderate with the civil society that is challenging Cuba’s tyrannical government In Miami, back in November of 2013, Barack Obama promised Bertha Soler and me that any action he would take with respect to Cuba would be consulted with the civil society and nonviolent opposition. Obviously this did not occur. These actions are now accomplished facts, they are reality, and Cuban democrats were not taken into account. continue reading
This amounts to a betrayal of Cuban democrats. We must now adapt ourselves to the new scenarios, which means that we must ask the American government to keep in mind the demands that these negotiations should require, to avoid colluding with the communist dictatorship of the Island. If the United States government listens to us, I believe that we can hope that this is not one more maneuver of complicity and help towards a regime drawing its last breath.”
The leader and opposition activist Antonio G. Rodiles, coordinator of the Campaign for Another Cuba and of the Estado de SATS project, made the following assertion:
“History has been made when, in 1994, the country [Cuba] was finding itself in a profound crisis and the explosion of 5 August 1994 occurred. The North American government’s response was to accept the exodus and later to sign the migration accords which provide for an annual cap on [US] visas issued annually [to Cuban nationals]. The result has been that during more than 20 years, the country’s human capital has been bleeding out and Cubans have opted to leave Cuba and not provoke change. This truly has been a disaster and the United States government cast a lifeline to the regime so that it may survive.
“The rancid Castro regime, as is common knowledge, in on the point of ending from natural causes. Obviously what they are trying to do is to cement the foundation for a mutation to Neo-Castroism, which is the family and descendents, who are trying to continue to governing, which is a grave danger for Cuba and for the entire region.”
“Today’s measures – without taking into account the opinion of Cuban civil society, of the political actors in the Cuban opposition – is a serious message, it is a bad message, and if the upcoming process of negotiation does not include our participation, the results will not be positive at all. We still have ahead of us the Summit of the Americas [to be held in Panama City in April, 2015], but what happened today does not make us feel optimistic.
“We rejoice at the liberation of Alan Gross. But the measures that the United States government has implemented today, of relaxing the embargo and reestablishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, will in no way benefit the people of the Island. The steps that have been taken will reinforce the repression against human rights activists by the government of the Castro regime. The regime will augment the resources and sinecures to its forces so that they will continue to harass and repress civil society activists. An example was the military reinforcements exhibited by the regime in advance of anti-demonstration activities on 10 December, ‘International Human Rights Day.’ ”
Félix Navarro Rodríguez, Coordinator General of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and president of the Pedro Luis Boitel Party for Democracy, had this to say:
“The conditions that brought about the United States’ embargo against Cuba in 1961 have not changed. It is well known that the government is totalitarian, dynastic, that it does not recognize the rights to free expression, free assembly and freedom of the press. As long as the political opposition, the different strains of political thought and a multi-party system are not recognized and general free elections are not called, we cannot point to anything beneficial for the people.
“We are in total disagreement with what has been produced today, because we consider it a betrayal of those of us who, from inside Cuba, are opposing the regime to obtain a definitive change for the wellbeing of all Cubans.”
Following the opposition leaders’ statements, the floor was opened to questions.
Associated Press (AP): “We walked the streets extensively today, and found the people to be happy, beyond the message. It is notable that all of you hold a position so different from ordinary people. Does this mean that you will alienate yourselves from the will of many people now living in Cuba?”
Antonio Rodiles: “People are disoriented, surprised by what has happened. On the street, in the taxis, people were not excited, others said that the pie was cut, the [Castro] family and the governing elite are strengthening their business positions. It isn’t the people, the person in a small cafeteria who is being watched by inspectors, people don’t know what is going to happen.”
Ángel Moya: “In the midst of the secret negotiations that were going on between the two governments, on 10 December the Havana dictatorship was repressing 75 Ladies in White and 35 human rights activists. In Cuba, laws are in force that are designed to guarantee the impunity with which the repressive forces act. What guarantee is there that the Cuban government will recognize civil society?”
CubaNet: “Has the United States government or any of its officials, following these declarations, contacted the leaders of the opposition, in accordance with the commitments Obama made in 2013?”
Félix Navarro Rodríguez: “We have not been consulted. This has all developed in strict secrecy between the two governments. There has been no encounter with Cuban civil society nor with its leaders. Nor do we know if they are willing to meet with us. As of today, they continue to repress the Ladies in White and twelve of us prisoners from the  Black Spring; we remain on parole, deprived of our rights and liberties.
“The commitment by Obama to Berta Soler and Guillermo Fariñas was not kept. In Cuba everything remains the same. Now, in the midst of this avalanche, we will reorganize and will fight until the end, we will press for the recognition of our civil rights and for democratic freedoms.”
At the end of the press conference, Guillermo Fariñas, by way of concluding remarks, asserted this:
“We need to channel our demands. The government of the United States has a moral obligation to all democracies in the world. It gave to the Cuban government a possibility to start instituting some democratic reforms. Now, it will depend on the actions we Cubans take.”
Attending, among various other officials of accredited diplomatic missions on the Island, were diplomatic representatives of the European Union, and of Sweden. Also present were human rights activists, among them Gorki Águila Carrasco (artist in the group Porno Para Ricardo), Hablemos Press, AP, and others.
HAVANA, Cuba – In the Cuban capital, two cooperatives operate the old public routes of the so-called taxis-ruteros, microbuses which take passengers from the Parque de El Curita, to four destinations: El Náutico, Alamar, Santiago de las Vegas and La Palma.
Curious to know why the people in Havana speak so ill of these services, I asked the impatient passengers: how frequently do they run? how long do they take to get there? And to various drivers of the vehicles, about the contracts the cooperatives use to lease out the buses.
A driver on the Parque del Curita Micro X line – who didn’t give his name – answered me: ” I do about 16 journeys a day, the microbus has 25 seats, and the fares for them to go to the CNoA (Non-Agricultural Cooperatives), 50 seats for the total return journey, or say 250 pesos. The fare is 5 pesos (CUP), equivalent to 20 cents.”
The driver continued: I carry more than 800 passengers a day, I collect about 4,000 Cuban pesos (equivalent to $160). In 24 working days I hand over to the association, not less than 96,000 pesos ($3840). First I pay over what is due to the cooperative, which leases me the vehicle, the difference, or what is left over, goes to the drivers, because we are the semi-owners of these microbuses. Did you know we have to repair, clean, and cover the cost of maintenance, for which we have to pay third parties and the CnoA itself?
Another driver went further than his colleague: “After paying the association, I am left with some 1,200 pesos ($48), because as I am going along people get on and off. Those receipts don’t go to the CNoA; we keep them for our costs, because we are driving piles of old junk.
I could recognise that the micro’s driver, as well as his own income, receives about 600 pesos a month from the cooperative ($24), as profit share for being associates.
Liliana Ezquerra, vice president of the Provincial Administration Council of Havana, recently emphasized to the media: “When the two transport cooperatives started operating, using vehicles rented from the state, the number of passengers in the capital increased and at a lower fare than the private drivers charge.”
One passenger in the Micro X Alamar told me “It’s 8:50 in the morning, I waited 40 minutes for the bus, they arrive here when they feel like, come to fill up with fuel and hang around to go back again or to start their working day. They take time having a snack – how should I know?! The bottom line is, it’s a disaster. They may be cheaper than the privates, but I can’t rely on them to get me to my work on time.”
Another passenger told me: “There is no fixed time for them to start work; but nevertheless the pirates are in the street at 6 in the morning, and at 12 at night they are still providing a service; I don’t even want to talk about the public buses, you can’t even count on finding one at 7:30 at night.”
The third passenger, irritated, assured me: “Look, a microbus just got here and it got lost more than 30 minutes ago. Just so you can see. Look, there it comes, who should I complain to if now they are the owners?
As for me, I took a photo of the delayed bus, because I also spent more than 30 minutes waiting for it.
HAVANA, Cuba – On Saturday morning, the President of the National Assembly of People’s Power, Esteban Lazo, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party, visited the William Soler Pediatric Teaching Hospital, located in the Havana municipality of Boyeros. The hospital’s guarded entry is closed for repairs. Emergency cases and patients requiring daily care are treated in the specialty clinics, adjacent to the hospital.
President Lazo came to the Children’s Hospital accompanied by Mercedes López Acea, the Party’s First Secretary in Havana, as well as a delegation of leaders from the health sector.
The center visited by Lazo is experiencing one of the worst infrastructure crises of the last twenty years, which is compromising care to children hospitalized there and impeding the provision of services to other provinces of the country.
The hospital’s situation is critical. Most of its inpatient and operating rooms are worn out from lack of maintenance, which, as shown by this visit, has begun to worry the government, because of unfavorable public opinion.
Esteban Lazo, who holds one of the top positions in the Cuban chain of command, left after spending an hour in the health facility, without providing any statements to those waiting outside.
Havana, Cuba – At la Playa de El Chivo (El Chivo beach ), on the northeast coast of Havana, at the foot of the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro (Three Kings Castle), people carry on fishing for sport and business, between the marine waters and sewage, without the health authorities, environmental authorities or the coastguards taking a responsible attitude. The zone receives thousands of cubic metres of polluted water and its sand dunes are deteriorating as a result of the man’s actions.
The grunt, snapper and barber fish, among others, turn the rocky beach into both a centre for boats which arrive every day to seek their economic support; and at best, some people who are enjoying their leisure and are fishing for sport.
This is going on in the mouth of the submerged sewage outlet pipe which runs from the Havana sewage treatment plant, which filters the solid waste coming from the northern and southern collectors of the capital. A concrete pipe of about 375 metres in length crosses Havana Bay, as far as Casablanca, where they pump the dirty water up to La Cabaña, so that it then falls by gravity down to the El Chivo beach, about 150 metres along the coast.
The most astonishing thing is that many fishermen enter into the area of the lower reefs, without any protection, on the edge of where they are fishing in a contaminated area, breathing in the fetid smell from the drain, which keeps the coastal water cloudy with its permanent discharge from the Havana sewers, whose pipes and canals are not lacking in cracks and leaks. continue reading
When it comes to the end result of the activity, various fisherment indicate that they eat the fish themselves, and that they also sell some, but they don’t say where the fish come from.
These citizens, impelled by their desperate need to support themselves and their families, imperil the health of people who are unaware that they are buying a product of uncertain or unknown origin, as many are offered as skinned fillets, or say that they are deep sea fish, which prevents the consumer seeing the physiognomy of the species, so they can at least identify them, in order to avoid the “ciguatera” (tropical fishfood poisoning syndrome ) which is transmitted by the picúa or the aguají, among other species which it is forbidden to fish.
Additionally, on this beach’s rocky and sandy coast, the environment is being damaged by the dumping of plastic handles, fish-hooks, fishing lines, and other discarded items, which are thrown away by people living there or those passing through the area who don’t take any notice of the prohibitions.
Alberto, an ex-fisherman, known as “The Wizard”, admitted that he used to sell fish for a while, but that it was very hard work, always running the risk of a consumer falling ill, because the species caught in this area end up eating the discarded rubbish in the sewage, or a shoal of sardines who have also come over to eat toxic residues.
El Chivo Beach, by the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro, classified by UNESCO in 1982 as a World Heritage site, has been converted into a contaminated focal point of bacteria and micro-organisms which can affect the health of those who fish in its waters, pass through there, or consume its fish.
The authorities would be perfectly able to preserve the cleanliness and health of the ecosystem of this sandy coastline, which has been abused and is hardly a good example of sustainable development of a zone of natural, historical and cultural value which should be cared for.
From the “socialist era,” the building cracks before the astonished gaze of people and the terror of those who live there.
HAVANA, Cuba — The Girón building, on Havana’s Malecon between E and F Streets, in Vedado, is on the point of collapse from its cracked structure. Built in the sixties and opened at the beginning of the seventies, it was designed by Eastern European specialists under the brutalist archetype with feet cast in concrete and steel, with the idea that most of the workers of the Girón Bus plant would live there. Its construction used the sliding mold technique for the first time in Cuba.
This apartment building for families has two blocks of 18 stories with 66 apartments each; two elevators and six passageways every three levels.
For years it has suffered from cracks and leaks, but the Housing Authorities and responsible agencies take into account the obvious concerns of its neighbors, fearful of loosing their lives one day from above.
Since its opening, the building has not been maintained and repaired as its years require, aggravated by receiving the blasts of salt, being located so close to the sea.
HAVANA, Cuba , January www.cubanet.org – The productive uselessness of the regime forces it to import vegetables to meet the demands of international tourism, especially tomatoes. The results of the 2013/2014 tomato harvest does not appear in the press and is barely mentioned by the agricultural authorities, due to the huge losses of private producers, who in previous years saw themselves lose their crops due to lack of marketing and the capacity of the processing capacity.
The tomato is the horticultural product of major economic importance for the country, highly demanded by the population and industry, which transforms it into juices, pastas and other derivatives. But since the current harvest began, prices range between 5 and 10 pesos (national currency) per pound, and no price reductions in the offing. This situation has forced people to drastically reduce consumption.
Although there has been no published information on the crops and the current production results, experts on the subject say that one of the causes of the collapse is related to seed varieties and decreased planting areas, in addition to low levels input delivery to non-state producers and poor disease control, lack of chemicals (pesticides and fungicides), which must be imported. continue reading
The only news coverage on the subject, in the last sixty days, took place on a television program about the industrial processing of fruit and vegetables by the citrus company Ceballos, in the province of Ciego de Avila; and a commentary signed by José Luis Merencio Cautín, in the Granma newspaper announcing the tomato harvest in Caujerí Valley in the province of Guantánamo.
No statistical information has been compiled for 2013, so it will not be published in several months, according to the National Bureau of Statistics and Information (ONEI). Only through a formal and substantiated request, will they grant access to any kind of information, until the yearbook will be published, and with prior authorization of the competent entity, considering some of the data classified.
According to ONEI itself, in 2007 the tomato crop occupied an area of 57,082 hectares and produced 627,900 tons. From 2010, a sharp decline in production began, until, in 2012, 43,589 hectares were planted and harvested producing no more more than 133,000 tons.
Meanwhile, the dissatisfaction of the population increases, but General President Raul Castro Ruz persists in declaring that, “The Revolution remains the same, without any commitment to anyone, only with the people.”
HAVANA, Cuba, January 6, 2014, Ernesto García /www.cubanet.org.- In Curita Park, located on the block formed by the streets of Reina, Galiano, Águila and Dragones, in Havana, on the initiative a citizen, a seat rental service started January 3 at the P-12 bus stop (served by articulated buses), for passengers traveling from this site to Santiago de Las Vegas.
The benches were built and designed to seat three people each. The experiment was done with three benches. The charge for their use is 1.00 pesos in national currency (CUP), or one centímino in freely convertible currency (CUC). Now all that’s lacking is for the owner to submit his proposal to the authorities who govern the system of self-employment, to get this activity on the approved list and pay his taxes on it.
The new service relieves the impatience and weariness of passengers who have to wait more than 20 minutes for a bus to take them to their destination, time during which they are exposed to the sun, the rain, the dust and the environmental contamination of toxic gases from traffic and the lack of hygiene and cleanliness in the place. All this given the inability of the appropriate organs, the transport cooperatives and the autonomous shared taxis that could roof the areas at the stops and maintain public facilities.
HAVANA, Cuba , December, www.cubanet.org – While the celebrations for the Day of the Educator succeeded as a cultural fact, in the Palace of Conventions at the Second Regular Session of the Eighth Legislature of the National Assembly of People’s Power, with rhetoric of “the changes are more socialism,” but they did not publicly honor the work of teachers. Nor did they envision real changes to the education sector which urgently needs attention, given the profound problems suffered in Cuban society with regards to the development of values.
It’s worth remembering that the Castro regime, from the early years of its government, transformed a secular educational system into an atheist one. From that point forward, students and teachers studied in the schools in the countryside and teaching outposts.
Since then, Cuban education has remained under the “scientific” doctrine of Marxism-Leninism, idealizing the New Man as if he were sculpted in bronze. Martí’s ideas faded from the schools, to the point where it was questionable to call the Apostle (as we refer to José Martí) our National Hero. continue reading
Decades later the dictatorship has tried to refocus the works and thoughts of the Apostle to suit the convenience of the Communist autocracy, but without retracting their errors. However, none of these measures could extinguish the secular educational doctrine of Father Felix Varela, nor the historical memory of the Cuban nation, tied to beautiful traditions.
Teacher’s Day is of special significance to the Cuban family, dignifying their role and exalting their qualities, in a way that transcends different nuances. On December 22, parents and students try to get a gift for their teacher, but most do not have the resources to do so, something that highlights the social differences. The teachers also suffer and share in the poverty of our people.
Today, the scandalous disaster of educational policy is painfully obvious. The teacher in Cuba, with the education required, barely earns $25 a month. The regime earns large sums of money from lending out scientists and teachers to other countries, but Cuban teachers do not receive the compensation they deserve.
Havana, Cuba, December 27, www.cubanet.org – In Havana’s Central Railway Station, they were fumigating — against the Egyptian aedes mosquito — with passengers inside (children, pregnant women, old people), violating all health standards. And don’t mention freshening up. They charge a dollar to use the bathrooms. And even paying, the bathrooms do not have soap or toilet paper.
The self-employed cleaner told us: “Some time ago the bathrooms lacked water, they were disgusting, they put a bucket for discharge, we washed them without faucets, the broken toilet bowls, the blocked urinals, we rehabbed the service, but we did have to watch that, because they stole even the brooms from us.”
The disaster of the railways
Almost 20 percent of Cuban trains do not leave or arrive on time. Train departures have been reduced. We asked, “How many trains run from Havana to Santiago de Cuba?” continue reading
“There are two trains, one regular and the other special, every three days,” the girl at the counter told us. “Today an extra leaves for Santiago De Cuba at 11 at night. The special from Santiago runs in December on the 24th, 27th and 30th at 6:27 in the afternoon, and the regular leaves on the 25th, 28th, 31st at 4:00 pm.”
The tickets to Santiago de Cuba have to be reserved in La Coubre Station, some 700 meters from the Central Station. But those going to provincial town be careful! The regular train stops in some municipal stations, but the special to Santiago is express, it only stops in the provincial capitals.
And as the trip from Havana to Santiago lasts 15 hours, prepare to be hungry! They sell a few preserves in the cars, they run out fast. Vendors of bread rolls climb on at the stops with whatever. The railways do not offer drinking water, either. Bring your water. And if you can, bring a bottle for urinating, because the bathroom of the car may be overwhelmed, or worse, closed.
The same information employee, laughing, told us: “I prefer to urinate in a bottle.”
In La Coubre Station, under a fiber cement roof, a sign announced: “There are no reservations until January 4.” If you decide to travel, you have to go to the waiting list and sign up. With luck they will sell you a passage in five days. For those who spend days sprawled on the floor, grumpy, the worst still awaits, boarding a dirty, stinky car, and suffering a tortuous trip.
One on the waiting list commented: “I’m going to Guantanamo, I have been here three days, I have number 500 in the second round, I’m not going today either.” Passenger number 2 added: “I am signed up for Guantanamo, but I am going to Santiago de Cuba. There is no other.” Another told me, “I’m going to Guantanamo, I spent four days on the list, to be able to go today, I almost had to live and sleep here, but it’s the only way of hoping to spend New Years with my family. And I almost have no money to arrive with; here, in the terminal, the food is very expensive, to eat I’ve used what little I had.”
In 2012, the railway transported 9.9 million passengers. More than a million fewer than in 2005.
Cuba was the second country in America to have a railway. On November 19, 1837, the first section from Havana to Bejucal was inaugurated. In 1859, the capital counted on streetcar service. A decade later, the railway reached Calabazar, Santiago de las Vegas, Marianao, Cardenas, Jovellanos.
In the first decades of the 20th century, the island would complete the line from downtown Havana to Santiago de Cuba, with secondary branch lines to Pinar del Rio, and even la Bahia de Guantanamo. And it had an electrified network, the little Hershey train, which linked the Cuban capital with the city of Matanzas.
In 1959, the trains were the soul of sugar production, they gave life to towns and cities. They went to almost all corners of Cuba.
In 1961, the revolutionary government nationalized the railways. In a few years, the Cuban rail network which extended over 12,060 kilometers was reduced to 8,367 km.
In Cuba, the official press does not report — except in cases of death — railway accidents. The Castro administration turned the shining gem of Cuban railways into a true disaster.
Havana, Cuba, November, www.cubanet.org — Last November 21 the “2013 International Advocacy Congress” concluded in Havana. The event was sponsored by the National Organization of Collective Law Firms of Cuba (ONBC). At its opening, Homero Acosta, secretary of the State Counsel, was present, and doctors Joao Maria Moureira de Sousa and Hermenegildo Cachimbombo, Attorney General and president of the Order of Attorneys of the Republic of Angola. According to the official press, the conclave included the participation of 400 Cuban delegates and 17 foreign countries.
In the event, the Attorney General of Angola, holder of a professor’s chair in Law, gave a keynote lecture about “The importance of ethics and professional conduct of lawyers,” noting that “The attorney is considered by some as a defender of the bad and by others as a professional essential to the full development of the State and society. . . He must comport himself ethically, cultivate moral values and principals.” So it seems that this professional came with the purpose of teaching habits, skills of courage and ethical values that Cuban lawyers have lost in the exercise of trial defense or in the representation of their clients.
Obviously, the Angolan Prosecutor, coming from the emergent third power of the African continent, rich in petroleum, diamonds, gold and other natural resources, was not interested in the binding central theme of “the economic rights of those who lost a family member and the sick or mutilated veterans of the international war of Angola.”
The president of the ONBC, Ariel Mantecon, did likewise. True to the Castro pattern, he said that his organizations focuses “On the Cuban juridical context in considering access to defense as a constitutional right, making possible the immediate presence of this in the criminal process.” Deceptive words when, precisely this year, and in the month of October, the opposition Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), reported about the 909 arbitrary detentions, the highest number in 18 months; and his organization does not make fair use of Habeas Corpus against the Detentions by the Castro Regime.
Even if Advocacy 2013 focused its topics on core aspects of modern societies, this group servile to the Castro regime has done little in the face of complaints that the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights makes which sent letters to the Cuban government in order to have an opinion on this part, in cases that take place constantly and are not responded to by the Cuban communist regime and sometimes even, the answers come in empty envelopes, according to the said Commission, or official answers arrive that far from answering the cases that are exposed to them, they oppose: “You all do not have authority or any jurisdiction to inquire about the cases for which you solicit us.”
Likewise Rene Gonzales, ex-convict for the crime of espionage against the United States, who took part in the event in order to get to know the attendees as they are “his brothers” and to teach them ethical norms of loyalty to the regime, and not his confrontation over the factual limitation of individual liberties in Cuba. He should have told them that Cuban ex-agents are treated respectfully and enjoy good health and feeding. In contrast with those that are prisoners in Cuba for fighting for individual freedoms and respect for human rights. Maybe Rene is not familiar with Cuban fighters like the Ladies in White who are detained and left deprived of resources in areas and towns far from their homes as a new punishment practice of Castros?
In summary, the Congress served to raise funds on which the regime feeds: it strengthened the control structure between the executives and the member lawyers of the guild; just as it ratified the servile role of the ONBC supervised by the Ministry of Justice and watched by the Department of Organization of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, without really being an “autonomous national institution and of social interest.”
Havana, Cuba, November, www.cubanet.org — The Cuban regime, in pursuit of “unleashing the productive forces,” has established, through Law Decree No. 318/2013, the new “Rule About the Commercialization of Agricultural Products in the provinces of Artemisa, Mayabeque and Havana.” The communist leaders say that this new regulation is directed to eliminate the mechanisms that hinder the process of agricultural commercialization, as well as the “quest to make it more dynamic, efficient and flexible.”
The official newspaper Granma circulates, with optimism, various articles about this new Commercialization System which will begin to function this coming December. The Havana population receives the news with despair and reservations, because it does not see substantial changes in the scarcity of food, their high prices, or the lack of quality and variety.
Producers continue to be circumspect because although the regulation permits the sale and purchase of the surplus once the contracts with the State have been fulfilled, the control and Statism that the regime maintains make them doubt that this will happen. Also because the State does not sell them the necessary equipment to assure the safety of their products to their final destination.
It is reasonable to remember that during the decade of the ’80’s, in the capital of the Island, three farmers market hubs operated: Berroa, Ocho Vias and El Trigal. These centers have been led by the Council of the Administration of Provincial Popular Power of Havana and the ministers of Interior Commerce and Agriculture.
For many years, the commercial organization created facilitated the illegal markets or “black market,” which occasioned crimes of larceny, theft and diversion of resources, with the consequent loss of millions. Audits and inspections by the Agricultural Ministry and other State agencies have reflected excessive costs and alleged losses. El Trigal, not a few times, was implicated and closed for said causes.
On the other hand, on the esplanade of 114th Street and the Pinar del Rio Highway, belonging to the Marianao township, a wholesale agricultural market functions in the open, attended by productive methods, points of sale and brokers. This structure, headed by Colonel Samblon, will close in December, and has not been exempt from acts of vandalism and a regulated commercial organization.
The peculiar and striking thing is that the colonel mentioned, converted into the president of the non-agricultural cooperative who will operate the El Trigal market, will head that center under the supervision of General Colás, according to what I was able to learn there.
The farmer’s market will offer to sellers and buyers a night service between six in the afternoon and six in the morning. To that end, it will rent spaces for the sale of merchandise. The entry (as much for trucks as for persons), the loading and unloading, the weighing and other secondary services will be leased and collected by the cooperative.
Also, the competitors will be obliged to leave the market at six in the morning with their unsold merchandise in tow, in order to get in a new line and enter the enclosure again at six in the afternoon. An agonizing way of marketing, conserving and preserving perishable products in an installation whose refrigerators are not operational! In the daytime they will weigh the trucks that come from the provinces, for their distribution to the basic units or network of markets.
It is anecdotal to remember when the communist ex-dictator Fidel Castro Ruz, in August 1960, before 600 cooperative coordinators, said, “Now we enter a higher level, now we enter into a new project, a new purpose, a new aspiration: the aspiration to diversify agriculture.” The ex-leader, with his “development programs,” years later destroyed the productive and industrial base of the Cuban economy. Will we now be journeying through the dreams and deliriums of the General President?
In summary, the new commercial organization that the regime tried to implement will enrich the cooperative businessmen of military ancestry, at the expense of producers, private sales representatives and the people, who will continue enduring the experiments of the dictatorship of the Castro brothers.
HAVANA, Cuba, November www.cubanet.org – Last year the regime institutionalized non-agricultural cooperatives through Decree-Law No. 305 and its associated rules. There are now more the 56 institutions of this type. In principle, the legal statute is questionable, because it’s a rule dictated by the totalitarian power regardless of existing constitutional provisions .
In Article 20 of the Constitution, there is no contemplation of cooperatives other than voluntary associations of small farmers, which constitutes the only form of privately organized business permitted in Cuba, outside the state.
So, once again, the government violates its own laws and uses its totalitarian power to act according to its own interests. It also uses this chosen method to prevent citizens from association freely, or establishing forms of business that strengthen the role of private property within the national economy. Meanwhile, it avoids the process of constitutional reform and referendum, which could complicate its strategy of power.
By violating the provisions it itself has established, the regime socially and economically assaults the supposed beneficiaries (unemployed workers in the state system), as it states in the law that this new aperture is “experimental.” At the same time, disguising their own statements about these institutions, which are claimed to have “their own legal structure; use and enjoy and dispose of the benefits of their property; cover their expenses with their income and liable for their obligations.” In fact, the legal provision is permeated by authoritarianism, centralization and interference, and oriented to state control of economic life. The regime establishes for cooperatives a set of measures and administrative bans for the interventions of municipal governments, to provide that, for the constitution of each one, the project must be presented to the local organs of People’s Power or the national agencies that govern the activities.
These entities, in turn, must refer the matter to the Standing Commission for Implementation and Development to evaluate and present the proposal to the Council of Ministers at the beginning of the process proposed in the relevant entities. I ask you, will they be free to act as true owners of these new cooperatives?
As a demonstration of the fact that that economic opening in not genuine, it is also provided that: “The cooperatives may not merge, fold, split, or modify themselves without the prior approval of the body, agency or entity authorized its national constitution.”
On December 13, 2012, the General-President emphasized to the National Assembly of Popular Power: “We appreciate that updating of the economic model and with safe passage will begin to delve into broader issues.” Is he referring to the new deception that they are pulling over Cuban society by not allowing the establishment of private corporations?