Havana’s Service Stations: Out of Gas or Closed

If you’re in a hurry, you cannot afford to wait in line at the gas station on 25th and G streets in Havana, where at least twenty cars are parked in the sun, waiting their turn at the pump. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, October 27, 2022 — Two dilapidated Moskvich cars are at the head of the line at the service center on the corner of G and 25th streets in Havana. The driver of the first one, a red vehicle, pays for his fuel ration while an employee explains to customers that they cannot buy an extra gallon. “You’re only allowed to buy what fits in the tank,” she says adamantly. “Everyone knows that.”

The second Moskvich, with a badly bruised body painted over in blue, is waiting its turn while the employee continues her warning, speaking loud enough for the other drivers to hear. “People don’t understand,” she says, “We’re almost out of fuel and, for today at least, we won’t be getting any more. That’s the way is.”

Forecasts by the state-owned Unión Cuba-Petróleo (Cupet) on Wednesday paint a discouraging picture. Given the “higher-than-usual demand ” and the “operational challenges” of transporting the gasoline from the Cienfuegos refinery, the fuel shortage is expected to continue.

The cars slowly inch along as Cupet employees wait on them without any sense of urgency. If you’re in a hurry, you cannot afford to wait in line at a gas station like this one. Almost twenty cars are parked in the street, waiting their turn.

Having both a full tank and some gas in reserve has become almost impossible in the capital. Drivers face two realities: either a service station is completely empty — a sign that it has not had gasoline in days — or the wait in line lasts many hours. continue reading

That’s how it is at the Tangana gas station between Calzada and N streets, where vehicles form  three distinct side-by-side lines. No one can say how long the wait time is to get to the pump.

If you are willing to give them some of the fuel you buy, however, there are drivers who will let you cut in line, admits one driver waiting in this impossible queue, which winds its way around the block several times.

The most devastating outcome is driving to a service station and discovering you have wasted what little fuel you had getting there. With nothing to sell, the Cupet station at San Rafael and Infanta streets has been left completely open. The only business in operation on the site is the small side building, where the absence of a line signals that it too has nothing worth buying.

There are no cars at the Rampa station on 23rd and Malecon. In spite of its prime location at the gateway to Vedado, the government has not made any fuel deliveries here either.

The fuel shortage is making many daily tasks, such as delivering merchandise to produce markets and moving households, more chaotic and costly. According to 27-year-old Abel, member of a team which moves furniture and personal belongings from one dwelling to another, “the gas shortage has raised prices for customers and complicated the work” of his small business.

“Right now, the average move between two houses here in Havana, which takes a four-man crew, costs at least 20,000 pesos. And that price has a lot to do with the problems of buying fuel. That means we can’t do our job efficiently and, ultimately, it’s the customer who pays for that,” he says.

Abel’s team must confirm they can get diesel fuel for his truck several days in advance. And often customers must wait a bit longer so that the team can then confirm things with them. “We can’t tell them yes until we know we we’ll be able to fill the tank and we can never be sure of that,” he says. The black market is an option but, as he says, “being in a hurry is expensive. You don’t have to wait in line but you’ll feel it in your wallet.”

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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 Real Cuba Inspires More Terror Than any Halloween Witch

The whole place, like so many other premises these days, is decorated, like they do in America, to celebrate the night of the witches. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 28 October 2022 — This weekend, customers of the private restaurant Rey & Gaby (on G y 25th, El Vedado) are being welcomed onto the premises by a special ’doctor’. He wears a white hospital gown, but all splashed with red — resembling bloodstains and guts hanging out of his body. The whole place is decorated, like many other premises on this date in the calendar, in the way they do it in America — to celebrate the night of the witches, Halloween, on 31 October.

Skulls, cobwebs, scary clowns, vampires… all made from paper maché, even the round pumpkins, which are native to the neighbouring country to the north, with their terrifying faces carved by hand, but which are non-existent on the island.

It’s clear that they’ve gone to town with the decorations at Rey & Gaby, but what’s really scary is the reality which is everywhere. Firstly, their prices — one piece of cheesecake, another distinctly American product, costs more than a thousand pesos: enough to bring on a heart attack in even the most stoical of people.

In the same restaurant, it’s the ‘hipbreaking’ transport inspector who is more feared — pushing crowds of people onto buses, like tins of sardines.

For months now, the population has seemed guarded, when not short-tempered or straight out violent. continue reading

Further out, the ruined houses of what used to be the richest neighbourhood of the capital rise up threateningly, columns in precarious equilibrium, faded and worn facades, invaded by the wild vegetation.

Even worse, in recent months the darkness caused by planned power cuts has increased the tension in the streets: the gloom being favourable to all kinds of assailants, much more alive than any zombies.

And all that’s not to mention the horror stories that run around the suburbs. According to one, in some areas of the city there are these two certain police cars, in reality unmarked vehicles, that turn up by surprise at the street corners where street-sellers are to be found, and, with no pity, fines of thousands of pesos are handed out.

Even more sad than souls in purgatory are the relatives of the thousands and thousands of Cubans who have abandoned the island over the last year in an unprecedented exodus, leaving behind them nothing but ghost towns.

Certainly, in current times, Cuba is itself more terrifying than any Halloween witch.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso  

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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.

More Than 4,000 People are on the Waiting List to Buy Dollars at a Currency Exchange in Havana


If a walk by the ATMs of Havana demonstrates the shortage of pesos in the country, a stroll by the Cadecas [currency exchanges] illustrates another lack: that of dollars.
14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 20 October 2022 — This Wednesday, in the Cadeca on Belascoaín, in Central Havana, only 10 people were served. Taking into account that, according to the official provisions in force since last August 22, each individual can get a maximum of 100 dollars a day, the branch sold only 1,000 dollars.

The Cadeca, located in the municipality with the maximum population density, cannot meet the demand: to date, the police officers in charge of “keeping order” in the line have a waiting list of 4,000 people. “In the next century maybe I can buy,” a young man said sadly this Thursday, as he walked away.

At the El Vedado Cadeca, located at 23rd street between J and L, the panorama is slightly more encouraging. Every day about 30 buyers manage to be served, which means a maximum sale of 3,000 dollars. However, more than two weeks ago there were 700 people on the list to enter, and this Wednesday, the number was 275.

“From what I see there are new faces, who don’t know how this works. I always start with the most important part: discipline.” The policeman in charge of the Cadeca on 23rd says, with his words denoting that day by day he usually attends to the same people, and takes pride  in the good progress of that branch.

“Here there has to be order, citizen tranquillity, respect for the person. From here [the line] to there [the door] there will never be a lack of respect,” he continues. “From there to here it has to be the same. I say this because other citizens of other municipalities, such as Arroyo Naranjo or Diez de Octubre, come here imposing. Nothing is imposed here. I don’t impose on what we’re doing. Everything is working fine.”

The officer warns that “scams cannot happen here” and that citizens who come to “propose” one must be denounced. “I’m going for fourteen scams here to clarify,” he says, while assuring that those suspects “have disappeared,” and clarifies, referring to the Havana prisons: “in the best sense of the word, of course: Valle Grande, Combinado del Este….” Thus, he says that six people have been arrested. continue reading

The idea of aiming at 700, he says, occurred to him two Saturdays ago, when such a tumult was organized that the authorities had to close the street. “There have been 275 people. We have about 425 left. When am I going to write them up, that’s what interests you the most?” he asks in a pedagogical tone, to answer, diffusely: when the list stays at “100, 150, or 200 and up to 300.”

“Three hundred! That’s a fantasy,” replies a woman, laughing, who has been approaching the Cadeca for several days in a row, and the policeman reprimands her: “Discipline, compañera, discipline.”

The reason, the officer explains, is because he has to “juggle the availability of what the Cadeca compañeros have and what the compañeros of the Ministry, the Management, tell me to do.” Indeed, as indicated by the rules approved in August, each branch will only be able to sell the few currencies it bought from customers the day before.

Normally, they let between 30 and 40 people pass, but one day, suddenly, 60 people managed to enter, which caused many to lose their place in line. “The one who missed his turn lost,” says the officer, who also warns that no one can take more than one turn, even if he comes with someone else’s card.

“The problem is that if you don’t know how many turns there will be, you have to come every day,” laments an old man in line, once the policeman has retired. “This is a debacle,” interjects a middle-aged man, who nevertheless concedes: “And this is the best Cadeca; the rest are dying. In Monaco [on Diez de Octobre] there is no list. You can go to sleep from one day to the next and you won’t qualify.”

I’ve been here for two weeks and haven’t been able to sign up, and I see how the list stays the same,” complains another woman, who immediately takes things with resignation and says sarcastically, “That’s the way it is. Imagine: we are happy here.”

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.

A Small Child is Killed and Three Others Injured in a Building Collapse in Old Havana

Rescuers and police in front of the building which partially collapsed in Old Havana. (EFE/Felipe Borrego)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 17 October 2022 – A child died and two women and another child were injured in the latest building collapse in Old Havana on Monday. The four were trapped beneath the roof, which had fallen down onto them in the early hours of the morning in their home on Calle Sol, between Egido and Villegas.

A crowd which had gathered in front of the police cordon applauded, just after 9.30 am, as the emergency services rescued the girl alive, but hours later the People’s Assembly of Old Havana reported her death. “We regret the loss of life of the minor under 5 years old named Ismary Orozco Castellanos, as a result of the collapse that occurred this morning in building No. 466 in Old Havana,” read the official statement. The woman and her four year-old son had been rescued earlier and taken to hospital.

“I was saying only yesterday, that roof is going to come down, that roof is going to come down”, one neighbour tells this newspaper, adding that he had warned the residents but that they hadn’t done anything. At the same time, he explains, recreating the scene, “This roof only has three wooden joists, that’s all, and there’s one missing here, and here, and here”.

Although many families are aware that they live in collapsing homes, they avoid evacuating for fear of their belongings being stolen or other people occupying their property.

Another neighbour adds that they’d been complaining for a long time about the dangerous state of the the building but that no one had taken any notice of them. “They’re all here today, the ones we complained to. They come along now, but they never did before“, she grumbles. continue reading

Yet another neighbour agrees that the building had been “bad” for a long time, and that she’d managed to “sort out another property” to move to, but for other people there was no alternative.

In addition, the neighbors complained to the Spanish news agency Efe that the cistern that supplies water to the building has been reported for contamination for more than a month to Public Health and the state company Aguas de La Habana, and “no one has come here to solve anything”.

The collapse happened in Calle Sol, between Egido and Villegas in Old Havana. (14ymedio)

Very close to where this building collapse occurred, in Calle Luz between Curazao and Egido, a stairway fell down last June and injured an elderly man who remained trapped until the fire service arrived.

At the beginning of this month, due to the intense rain that affected the west of the country, there were 60 reported building collapses in Havana, one of which caused the deaths of two people.

Central Havana suffers just as many building collapses, or partial collapses, as Old Havana does, but the authorities, who invest huge amounts of money in the construction of luxury hotels, do nothing to address the problem in this zone, where precarious housing conditions threaten the lives of hundreds of families.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso

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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.

Havana’s Fanciest Dessert Shop Charges 200 Pesos to the Dollar

Located at 24 Infanta Street, between San Lazaro and Concordia, El Biky is part of a larger dining operation in the building.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodriguez, Havana, 12 October 2022 — Exclusive, expensive and accessible only to those with the patience to wait in line, El Biky is immune to crisis.

Located at 24 Infanta Street, between San Lazaro and Concordia, the Havana bakery El Biky is part of a larger dining operation that includes a cafe, bar and restaurant. Its large display cases, filled with cakes and pastries, attract those who can afford its high prices. It is simply the most chic dessert shop in Central Havana.

“It’s always been a place for the well-to-do,” says Pablo, a customer who attributes the establishment’s constant supply of products to its relationship with the politically powerful.

It opened in 2014 under the inelegant moniker “non-agricultural cooperative.” Its four partners — none of whom share the establishment’s name — began remodeling an old Havana office building that takes up a large chunk of its Infanta Street block. The “comprehensive renovation” took a year and is documented with photographs which the investors proudly use to illustrate the change from dilapidated building to pastry shop.

“Everything about El Biky is high-end,” says Pablo. “All the equipment is new, brand-name and industrial-scale. No one knows how they managed to import it.” continue reading

But even more shocking, he says, are the prices and method of payment. “Pastries were always expensive but, since currency unification, the change has been brutal.” In spite of being a state-approved cooperative, El Biky sets its prices based on the unofficial exchange rate of “freely convertible currency” (MLC). Currently, that rate is 200 pesos to 1 MLC. This inconsistency further raises suspicions that there are, among its backers, private interests linked to the regime.

That means a lemon pie for 10 MLC costs a customer 2,000 pesos. A coconut tart at 5.75 MLC costs 1,150 pesos. A chocolate peanut tart costs 1,800. The same rate applies to smaller sweets, such a 0.95 MLC chocolate éclair, 0.35 centavo marquesitas, and the 1 MLC coconut cake and cupcake slices.

In spite of being a state-approved cooperative, El Biky sets its prices based on the unofficial exchange rate of “freely convertible currency” (MLC).

“They have the nerve to put the two prices in the same display case,” complains Pablo. A telling detail regarding how El Biky manipulates currency value is that purchases are processed through a mobile money transfer app.

“If they used a POS,” he says, referring to an electronic credit card payment terminal, “they would have to charge the [lower] MLC exchange rate set by the state. But that doesn’t suit them.”

El Biky also supplies smaller businesses that sell pastries. “A little while ago one  man walked out with six cakes that he’ll sell at his restaurant,” Pablo observes. The bakery is also the dessert supplier to Havana’s elites.

“People come here in cars and motorcycles with private plates, the latest models. You can tell they’re rich by the way they’re dressed. Foreigners and high-ranking military officials also come here,” he explains. “It’s not the lowlife crowd waiting in line, like the one for chicken. It’s the Cuban bourgeoisie. They sometimes buy in large quantities.”

Such opulence contrasts with the food insecurity of most Cubans, who are subject to unending shortages and do not have access to sugar, flour, cooking oil or many the other products necessary for making high-quality desserts.

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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 Wave of Protests Against Blackouts and for Freedom Continues to Grow in Cuba

“People started banging on pots from their houses with the blackout; then more people joined, and we all met in front of the Party.” (Captura)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 11 October 2022 — The leaders of the Communist Party in Bejucal had to endure the shouts of “Freedom in Bejucal,” “The people united will never be defeated” and “Let them leave,” which served as the rallying cry for the protests this Monday night in that municipality of Mayabeque.

“They’ve done too much to us,” said Magalys, who took to the streets with her small son. “People started banging on pots from their houses with the blackout; then more people joined, and we all met in front of the Party,” she says.

The women marched in house coats; the men, without a shirt or with a sweater used as a mask, to avoid identification. All caution is taken when it comes to protecting faces: several videos show police agents, cell phones in hand, recording protesters from afar.

“They didn’t attack us last night because today they will review the videos and go looking for the people they recognize,” explains Magalys. “It’s the new strategy.”

The woman explains that the town is divided into two electrical circuits and that the blackouts, in turns, are nine hours. “They turned off the current at nine in the morning and put it on around six,” she says, a situation to which the population, although dissatisfied, has become accustomed. However, two hours later they suspended electrical service again.

“The justification is that the Electric Company received instructions from the Government to schedule another power outage, after two or three hours, because the current deficit is too large in the country,” she says. continue reading

“The shouts were not only ’turn on the current!’ but also ’freedom, freedom, freedom!’ and ’Let them go!’ says Magalys. “In our area, where the Party is, they turned on the current right away.”

“They immediately cut off the Internet connection, of course,” she adds. The most disappointing thing, Magalys explains, is that half of Bejucal — which already had electricity — stared at the protest as if it had nothing to do with them. “There would have been hundreds of people, but I expected more massiveness. A lot of people were standing in their doorways.”

It all ended around 10:00 p.m., without repression, but with a thorough record of the events by the Ministry of the Interior.

At that same time, in Caibarién, Villa Clara, a man shouted “the day of freedom can be today!” while recording, with difficulty the demonstration with his cell phone. Women, parents with children on their shoulders, elderly people, bike-taxi drivers and electric motorcycles advanced through the streets of this municipality of Villa Clara.

“Come on, join us, Caibarién!” and “Cuba, get out here!” were the shouts of the protest, which extended to La Libertad park, where the headquarters of the municipal government is located. “Yes, we can!” shouted the residents as they reached the most central point in town.

The person who filmed the demonstration clarified again and again that it was a peaceful march. “The violence is from them,” he said, referring to the beatings of the police and the “rapid response brigades” to repress those who take to the streets.

Several protests like these took place on October 10, a significant date because it’s the day that marks the start, in the 1800s, of the wars of independence on the Island, throughout the national territory. Although there are reports of demonstrations and cacerolazos* in other municipalities of Mayabeque such as San José de las Lajas, Güines, Nueva Paz and Jaruco, as well as in Camagüey, Las Tunas, Holguín and Santiago de Cuba, the information available is very fragmentary.

*Translator’s note: Cacerolazos [from ’cacerola’ – saucepan — and the source of ’casserole’ in English] is the word for beating on pots and pans in a protest demonstration.

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.

Newsstands in Cuba No Longer Sell Newspapers

Without announcements or fanfare, the kiosks for the official press have gradually become private businesses. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 10 October 2022 — Where before there were only old magazines and the occasional newspaper, now colorful pens, school notebooks and paper glue are on display. The small shop on 26th Street near Tulipán, in Havana, has been leased to a self-employed person who offers office products instead of the copies of Granma or Juventud Rebelde that until recently were sold in the small stand.

Without announcements or fanfare, the kiosks intended for the official press have been turning into private businesses that no longer market the publications with triumphalist headlines that come out of Cuban printers. The transformation has hardly surprised customers, who had already noticed that the arrival of newspapers was increasingly delayed and the number of copies decreased.

In a country where digital information sources are taking space away from paper, the economic crisis has also contributed to the official media losing prominence. “I used to buy the newspaper to use it as toilet paper, but a few days ago I came and found that they don’t sell newspapers here anymore,” a retiree who lives near the stand on 26th 14ymedio.

In Centro Habana, the mutation of the newsstands is also proceeding at an accelerated pace. In the Cayo Hueso neighborhood, “there are practically no stalls left that sell newspapers,” laments a neighbor on the corner of Infanta and San Lázaro. “Those who don’t have a mobile phone to read the news on the Internet don’t know anything because you can’t find a magazine or a newspaper in this whole area.” continue reading

The transformation has hardly surprised customers who had already noticed that the arrival of the newspapers was increasingly delayed and the number of copies decreased. (14ymedio)

“The most affected are the old men who bought Granma and resold it,” explains the woman, pointing to a kiosk on Calle Infanta where they still carry the Communist Party newspaper but only on Mondays. “They lost that income, or now they have to go further to find where they are selling it.” But not only has the type of merchandise that is offered in the stalls changed, but the subsidized price of the national press has now given way to the private sector. “A pen, 200 pesos and a notebook, 500,” she says.

“At least these kiosks are being used for something, because before it was a crime to see them empty,” says the woman. On the counter of one of these places there are erasers, rolls of transparent tape and mechanical pencils of various models. A box of colored pencils catches the eye of a passing child who also asks the price of a pencil sharpener. “They are at 50 pesos and they are very good, everything here is imported and of quality,” the vendor stresses. The word “Press” is still written on the outside of the stall.

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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.

Repression Breaks Out in Cuba in the Face of the Increasing Protests on the Fifth Day of the Post-Hurricane Blackout

Neighbors of Línea Street, in Havana’s El Vedado district, closed the central avenue on Saturday night to demand the restoration of electricity. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 2 October 2022 — With the mobilization of police officers, State Security agents dressed in civilian clothes and military service recruits armed with sticks, the authorities responded on Saturday night to the popular protests on the fifth day without electricity in several municipalities of Havana. The cacerolazos [banging on pots and pans to demonstrate] and the barricades closing the streets and avenues marked the day.

On Línea Street, in El Vedado, the neighbors closed the central avenue at the intersection with F Street where vehicles pass to join the Malecón. Traffic was blocked by turned-over garbage cans and tree branches that fell in the winds of Hurricane Ian, which hit the Island last Tuesday.

A human cordon also stood blocking the road, which was illuminated with public lighting although the surrounding houses were still without electrical service. They chanted slogans such as “Put on the current!” And “Put on the light!”, a demand that was answered a while later with the arrival of buses and trucks full of shock troops dressed in civilian clothes to counter the demonstrators, as confirmed by a reporter from 14ymedio at the scene.

“They arrived in microbuses, trucks and buses, and you could tell they were security forces because of their tough talk,” a resident from the area told this newspaper. The people who were blocking the passage of the vehicles withdrew to their homes with the arrival of the official troops, who began to deploy throughout the street and the surrounding roads with a threatening attitude. continue reading

“It seems that they’re waiting for Forensics to find the fingerprints that people might have left in the garbage cans they put on the street, but that’s just to intimidate us,” another neighbor said. “But now people here have lost their fear; they’ve learned that if they don’t protest they won’t get respect.”

The place was completely taken over by State Security, and the operation was even larger than that deployed in the same area after the popular protests of July 11, 2021. “The most interesting thing is that the only ones who are in uniform are the bosses; there are even some with three stars on their uniforms, sitting in their typical locked cars, all parked at the corners,” said the woman.

Two blocks away there were also two buses full of repressors dressed in civilian clothes. “When the people who were on the street saw them arrive, they went running away in the middle of the darkness, and they couldn’t catch them. State security arrived with two “cage” trucks. What the repressors brought was disproportionate, because among those who protested were many old people and minors.”

This newspaper found that several of the bosses dressed in uniform were looking at the videos of the protest on Línea Street on their mobile phones to locate the places where it had been strongest and try to identify the participants. Several of them were reviewing on Facebook the transmissions of the demonstration and the closure of the avenue, and guiding themselves by those images to deploy the operation of agents dressed in civilian clothes.

Protests also took place on 31st Avenue, in the municipality of Plaza, for the second consecutive night. In a video posted on social networks, you can see dozens of people advancing along the road and pushing back the vehicles that are trying to cross through the crowd. From the neighboring houses, entire families are heard banging on pots and pans and shouting their support of the demonstrators.

41st Avenue, also in the municipality of Playa — one of the most affected in Havana by power outages — was the scene this Saturday of another popular protest very similar to the one led by its residents last Friday. The protesters made a chorus shouting “Freedom!” and filled the avenue between the corners of 42nd and 44th streets.

Several of the neighbors confirmed to this newspaper that they again saw young military-service recruits deployed, dressed in civilian clothes and holding sticks, as a group for confronting the protests. The same thing was also reported the night before and confirmed by the family and friends of these soldiers, who were taken in trucks and buses from their military units.

In Nuevo Vedado, a cacerolazo echoed in the vicinity of the Ministries of Agriculture and Transport, where several tall buildings remained without electricity on Saturday night, five days after the passage of the hurricane. Just after the night’s nine o’clock cannon shot* sounded, the cacerolazos began to be heard and lasted for more than two hours.

The residents of the area, which is made up mostly of buildings with more than ten floors, suffered not only from the lack of power but also from the difficulties in carrying water up the stairs to the upper floors. During the cacerolazo, there were also shouts demanding the return of power and addressing the dismal economic situation.

“I don’t have money to buy food!” a woman of a twelve-floor building on Santa Ana Street, between Estancia and Factor, shouted at full volume. “I have just had surgery; my daughter has dengue fever, and we have nothing to eat!” she added. The woman complained that no state entity had helped her in that situation and concluded her speech by emphasizing: “I’m through with the Revolution!”

“The child who doesn’t cry doesn’t get the breast,” another neighbor of the building known by its acronym ICRT (a building built in the 1980s by a microbrigade of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television) told 14ymedio. “We’ve been without power for five days because in this neighborhood people haven’t gone out to protest like in others. It’s about time for us to wake up because all of Havana is going to have light except us.”

“This is a neighborhood where there are many government supporters, many officials and many opportunists,” the same man explained to this newspaper. “People are afraid to point it out but the cacerolazo has the advantage that it can be done from inside the house and stay more anonymous. That’s something to start with.”

The cacerolazo in Nuevo Vedado extended to other nearby areas that also remained in the dark, as part of the municipality of Cerro and the vicinity of Puentes Grandes. Around four in the morning this Sunday, electricity service was restored in the area around the Ministries of Agriculture and Transport.

The reporters of this newspaper have also received reports of protests in Bauta, a municipality in the province of Artemisa, in Santiago de Las Vegas and in Guanabacoa, both in the province of Havana. In the latter, the popular demonstrations included the burning of garbage and other objects in the middle of the public road, scenes very similar to those with hundreds of residents in the area, also last Saturday.

Some Twitter users report the arrest of at least four young protesters on Línea, when it seemed that the protest had ended.

*The tradition of shooting off a cannon at 9:00 p.m. every night at the El Morro fortress in Havana goes back to colonial times, when it signaled the closing of the gates in the wall to protect the city from pirates.

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.

In Search of Lost Power, Cubans Recharge Their Phones in Hospitals and Hotels

Almost a hundred people were waiting to connect their mobile phones to the electricity at the Inglaterra hotel. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 28 September 2022 — One of the main urgencies of Cubans this Wednesday, after the passage of Hurricane Ian, which has devastated the western end of the island and has caused the collapse of the already precarious national electrical system, is to get electricity by any means.

In Havana, the crowds in the corridors of hospitals, such as Calixto García or Hermanos Ameijeiras, whose current was maintained thanks to generators, were striking. People were not there to visit sick relatives but to connect their phones and keep them working.

Similarly, almost a hundred people gathered at the entrance of the building adjacent to the Inglaterra Hotel, in Centro Habana, with their cell phones connected to numerous extensions. These, in turn, were connected by means of a flip-flop to the electricty of the hotel, which has also continued to work with its own generators.

As the minutes passed, those waiting began to get nervous. “This doesn’t work. They say it’s free, but the solutions of socialism are always problematic,” a young man was heard saying as he gave up waiting for his turn in the long line.

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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: Anxiety Over Food, Electricity and Emigrating Following Hurricane Ian

Dozens of large trees, uprooted by Hurricane Ian, remain strewn on the street in Havana on Wednesday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 28 September 2022 — In La Coloma (Pinar del Río), where Hurricane Ian reached its maximum strength on Tuesday as it passed over the Island, people just want to leave. “If my family comes out of this one, they won’t stay more than six months in Cuba,” bemoans a Miami-based Cuban woman whose parents and brother live in the Pinar del Río municipality.

The woman lost communication with them yesterday, but during their last phone call they told her that the roof of their house had torn off and the flood waters were knee high. The family has animals and crops. “I’ve spent years insisting they leave, but my father would say to me that he didn’t want to leave his little farm, but now everything is destroyed and it will be cheaper for me to pay their exit through Nicaragua than to rebuild their lives in La Coloma.”

They all fear that the day after the storm will arrive with greater scarcity and with it an increasing exodus, which has already reached unprecedented levels for Cuba.

On Wednesday Havana was a city operating at half steam. Most neighborhoods in the capital city awoke without electricity, the water supply shut down due to the lack of electricity and the winds from Ian seem to have given flight to inflation and increasing food prices.

“A bag of six rolls reached 250 pesos yesterday afternoon and 300 by night,” said one of the residents of Los Sitios, who said that today, “vendors have not passed and in the neighborhood they speculate that when they return, it will cost even more.” continue reading

During a trip through Centro Habana, La Habana Vieja and Nuevo Vedado, we witnessed dozens of giant trees uprooted by the powerful winds and strewn across the streets. “And the storm didn’t even pass through here,” remarked an old woman at the Parque Central.

Furthermore, several street lights had also fallen.

The anxiety over searching for missing food, even before the hurricane, had once again became a tonic in the streets of the capital, where several businesses tried to sell what was left at their doorsteps, before it spoiled due to the lack of electricity following the collapse of the National Electric System (SEN).

Pushcart salesmen here and there were some of the few options to purchase food.

The windows of Plaza de Carlos III were all shuttered, and not for the hurricane’s passing. On Monday, the eve of Ian, they were not covered but on Wednesday they were protected, in all likelihood to prevent thefts and destruction amid the widespread blackout.

On the corner of Campanario and Condesa, in Centro Habana, a car had been destroyed by the remains of the old building which once stood in that location, now an enormous parking lot. “Luckily it did not fall on anyone’s head,” said the resigned owner of the vehicle.

In Nuevo Vedado, residents of some of the buildings cleared their surroundings of fallen branches and shrubery, but one of them complained, “the large trees remain strewn there, because they need machinery and we have not seen the State appear anywhere.”

One of the urgent needs was charging telephones, a fundamental communication tool not only for their family and friends, but the world. Thus, it was interesting to see many people charging their mobile phones in hospital hallways, such as Calixto García or Hermanos Ameijeiras, as well as in hotel doorways.

Another worry among Havana residents today was water. Some buildings have pumps but they stopped working when SEN went down this afternoon. Although in many apartments people have water tanks, as the time goes on, these are depleted.

For higher floors it is crazy to try to carry water up the stairs, which in addition are wet and dirty, some for lack of windows for many years now.

Meanwhile, in that same area, the Ministry of Agriculture’s generator has been running for over 24 hours and its humming fills the area. “At least when we stop hearing it we’ll know the power is back on,” one resident said ironically.

On September 28th, the day officials traditionally celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), there’s been no time for revelry nor for slogans of triumph.

In Nuevo Vedado, an enthusiastic CDR member shouted to her neighbors for several long minutes from a 12 story building for them to collaborate in making the traditional stew.

“Let’s go, give some taro, some yucca, a yam for the stew! Or a bit of money to go buy at the market!” she shouted for a good while; a man with a booming voice joined her, “Let’s go to the CDR stew!” The lack of enthusiasm and the discomfort for lack of electricity weighed down the collaborations and finally the enthusiastic organizers canceled the initiative.

On Tuesday night, after the winds of Hurricane Ian died down, in Havana only the fires were alight. Ironically, in the largest Cuban city, one of the only illuminated areas was Turkey’s floating power plant anchored at the port, a power plant full of light in a city of darkness.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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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.

Hurricane Ian’s Winds Leave Havana in the Dark and More Depleted of Supplies

On the afternoon of Tuesday, September 27, there were many fallen trees in the capital. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, September 27, 2022 — Havana woke up this Tuesday with the rains and winds that Ian had been leaving in the Cuban territory for hours, but people on the street seemed not to have heard that the hurricane that was coming and was of considerable intensity.

The food shortage in the capital was worse than the threat of the hurricane. “Nothing prevents people from going out to stand in line for bread in any event,” said an old woman from Central Havana, who hadn’t been able to buy a single piece the day before.

In this same neighborhood of the capital and in the rain, street vendors were still promoting a few goods, mainly cart-pushers, who remained on the corners dispatching some fruits and vegetables before leaving.

In other areas such as the Plaza de la Revolución, the howl of the wind frightened residents, especially when, in addition to the shocking noise caused by the force of the hurricane, they began to see zinc tiles, palm leaves, pieces of plastic and some trees falling to the ground.

“There was such a strong and sustained gust that all of us, humans and pets, ran to hide and take shelter under a table,” says a young man from Nuevo Vedado. continue reading

Power outages began early in the morning and still keep much of the capital in the dark. There was also the sound of sirens heading to Central Havana and Old Havana, two of the most populated municipalities with a lot of housing deterioration. “I hear a siren, they’re firefighters, I just saw them go to Reina Street. There must be a collapse,” a woman told this newspaper by phone.

And before the sound of the sirens and the wind, many took note of the severe economic crisis that plagues the island, worse than a hurricane like Ian: “There is nothing here for these events: no tape to protect glass windows, no rechargeable lamps, no kerosene for  ’gossiping,’ stovetops or candles,” complained a man in Havana. “Well, we’re plagued by dengue, and there aren’t even any mosquito nets, so what could we expect!?”

In the afternoon, when the water and air finally made a truce, the disaster in the city could be witnessed. Tree after fallen tree, as well as ceilings, facades and some furniture that flew away were the general picture.

In this part of western Cuba, “people are very upset about the delays in preparation and also in the caution of the first forecasts of the hurricane,” some reproached. “Yesterday, several residents of El Vedado were surprised when we warned them of Ian.”

While in Florida, where Ian is heading on Tuesday night with intense growth, the authorities have been preparing the population about the possible ravages of the storm since last week on the Island, where the hurricane left Pinar del Río in a disaster zone. The Government’s messages in recent days were exclusively focused on the referendum for the Family Code, which came into force on Wednesday. “A law passed by water,” Cubans ironize on the street.

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.

Candles and Prayers in Havana for the Patron Saint of Prisoners: The Virgin of Mercy

The priest, who accompanied the prayer in the Church of the Virgin of Mercy in Havana, asked for a plea “for the future of the Cuban homeland and the children.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 24 September 2022 — On an island with more than a thousand political prisoners, the patron saint of prisoners has become the image before which countless Cuban families pray. On September 24, the patron saint of inmates received flowers and candles in her parish on Cuba Street, in Old Havana, under the watchful eye of a police operation with uniformed and civilian agents.

Dressed mostly in white, in honor of the Virgin and the great orisha Obbatalá, with whom the Virgin is syncretized in the Santeria religion, residents from the vicinity arrived throughout the day and also others who traveled from distant municipalities. Most of them were united by a special reason: to pray for people locked up in prison, in a country with more than 90,000 prisoners.

From early in the morning, several tables were placed outside the temple for the private sale of prints, religious accessories, flowers and other offerings dedicated to the Virgin. But inflation hurt the enthusiasm of buyers, who widened their eyes when they heard that each candle cost 50 pesos. Many decided to retrace their steps and enter the temple empty-handed.

Dressed mostly in white, in honor of the Virgin and the great orisha Obbatalá, with whom the Virgin is syncretized in Santeria, they arrived throughout the day at the temple. (14ymedio)

The flowers also were more expensive, and the small bouquets, with only a few butterflies, cost 100 pesos, while others a little more elaborate and with more variety cost about 400. For residents of the poor neighborhood of San Isidro, where the church of Nuestra Señora de la Merced is located, paying such prices means a choice between putting something on the table and spending a good part of their salary on stems and petals. continue reading

The priest who accompanied the prayer requested a plea “for the future of the Cuban homeland and the children.” The request was followed by entreaties and hands that came together to pray. There was also no shortage of those who brought an image of a relative sentenced to prison to accompany them inside the church and at the time of approaching the altar with the image of the Virgin.

In other parts of Havana, such as the mouth of the Almendares River, a group of practitioners of Santeria also joined in a ceremony to remember the orisha as the “creator of the earth and sculptor of being.” White clothes were more common in the city throughout the day, and there was no shortage of domestic ceremonies with prayers for Cubans imprisoned in the hands of traffickers and coyotes during their migratory route.

In other parts of Havana, such as the mouth of the Almendares River, a group of practitioners of Santería also joined in a ceremony for Obattalá. (14ymedio)

The numerous Cuban women, especially those over 50, who were named “Mercedes” or “Mercy,” in honor of the Virgin, also celebrated, although on this occasion white meringue cakes — so characteristic of these syncretic celebrations — were scarce due to the lack of flour and eggs. The economic crisis forced Cubans to celebrate more modestly but just as emotionally as in other years.

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.

Cubans Are More Concerned About Hurricane Ian Than About Voting in the Referendum

Cuba holds a referendum on September 25 to approve the new Family Code. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez and Herodes Díaz, Havana/Santiago de Cuba, 25 September 2022 — In the early hours of this Sunday morning there was a notably small turnout in the voting centers for the referendum on the Family Code, and the majority of the voters were elderly, according to 14ymedio reporters in Havana and Santiago de Cuba.

About eight and a half million Cubans have been called to participate in this referendum, the third that is being held under the current political system. The referendum will approve or reject a text that in recent months has generated intense controversy about equal marriage, adoption by homosexual couples and surrogacy.

According to the National Electoral Council (CEN), at 11:40 in the morning, almost five hours after the opening of the polls, 37.03% of registered voters had gone to vote.

Voters are divided among more than 24,000 polling stations, which will be open from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm on this day, a Sunday of uncertainty with the advance of Tropical Storm Ian that is expected to reach the status of hurricane in the coming hours and to hit western Cuba.

The proximity of the storm has launched Cubans into the streets in search of canned food, bread, cookies, candles and other products that will allow them to handle confinement in their homes when the winds and rains become stronger. However, shortages have worsened in recent hours, causing longer lines in front of bakeries and markets. continue reading

“It’s very early Sunday and on the eve of a hurricane, said the official in charge of reviewing the voters’ identity cards, trying to justify the low turnout. Voters were picking up their ballots at a school polling place in the neighborhood of Cayo Hueso in Havana. A few meters away, a line to buy bread summoned more people than the referendum for the Family Code.

“I came early so I could leave,” said Missy, a 28-year-old who cast her vote in a school in the Pueblo Nuevo neighborhood. “My daughter is in elementary school and for a few days she was called on to take care of the polls. She didn’t want to come, but the teacher told her that even if it was two hours, she had to fulfill that commitment.”

“It was early and she came back done in. She told me that very few people had gone to vote so far and that the snack they gave to the students who guard the ballot boxes is terrible: a cold roll with bad picadillo and a bag of hot Coral soda,” the mother complains.

At Missy’s same school, her mother and grandmother voted. “Even if they don’t believe me, they marked the yes and I marked the no,” the young woman explains. “Because they are immersed in Party militancy, but although I’m a lesbian and the issue of equal marriage suits me, I prefer to wait to have other rights first.”

Nearby, in Los Sitios, Dalmar and Julito have been placing the multicolored flag that identifies the LGBT+ community on their balcony for days. This Sunday they went to vote early and both marked yes. “We want to get married as soon as possible and appeal to solidarity motherhood to be able to have a child together,” they tell this newspaper. “We have struggled a lot to get here, and although it’s not an ideal situation, our rights cannot continue to be postponed.”

“Between the dead and those who have emigrated, we have 54 people on the registry who aren’t going to come to vote,” one of the organizers of a school in Cerro, near Ayestarán Avenue, explained loudly, through the telephone line. “When we’re done, we’ll know how many people are no longer in Cuba,” he said.

The exodus of recent months, the largest that the Island has suffered in its entire history, estimated to be close to 200,000 people, has taken away part of the electorally active population. So emigration also marks an election where the expectation of leaving the country soon has made many desist from approaching the polls.

“Why should I go, if I plan to leave this country?” explained a 19-year-old boy this Sunday morning on an improvised basketball court located in an open field in Nuevo Vedado. “Let those who stay decide. When I take the plane, I will no longer have to be governed by any of these laws; I will already have those of the country wherever I go.”

Along with him, other young people of similar ages repeat a similar speech. “I already have everything to leave for Nicaragua, so it’s like I’m not here,” adds another of the players, who from early morning preferred scoring a basket to dropping a ballot in a box.

“I haven’t seen young people,” emphasizes Manuel, a man from Havana who went to vote early and marked the no box. “When I entered school, it was around nine in the morning and there was only one old man. Then I took a tour of other schools in my neighborhood and only saw other elderly people.”

The presence in the early hours of voters over 60 years old may be due not only to the fact that among young people sleeping on Sunday morning is a more widespread habit, but also that the militants of the Communist Party and active members of organizations such as the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution are mostly people who exceed five or six decades of life.

One person who did arrive with the first light of Sunday and was surrounded by cameras and microphones at his polling place in the municipality of Playa was Miguel Díaz-Canel. The ruler took advantage of the moment to qualify the enthusiasm he had shown in previous days: “The expectation is not that it will be a unanimous vote, but I do believe that it will be a majority on the part of our people.”

According to the official press, Díaz-Canel assured that “against the Code there is a whole platform that starts from the demonization and discrediting of the Cuban Revolution,” and described the call for a referendum as courageous “in the conditions that the country is going through: shortages, blackouts, scarcity, with an important part of the economy paralyzed.”

Even Díaz-Canel didn’t rule out that there could be a “protest vote” and explained that, “in such complex issues where there is a diversity of opinion and in the midst of a difficult situation there can even be people who vote in order to protest.”

The official press also showed the former Cuban ruler Raúl Castro in the moment of voting, although his presence in the official campaign to promote the yes vote for the Family Code was very scarce.

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.

Little Enthusiasm and Expensive Food at an Official ‘March’ in Support of the Family Code in Havana

Schoolchildren concentrated in La Piragua, in Havana, for the official concert in favor of the yes on the Family Code referendum. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 23 September 2022 — In its desperate struggle for the yes to win in the referendum on the Family Code this Sunday, the Cuban Government has mobilized not only workplaces but also schools.

Barely thirty kids, from nearby schools, arrived this Friday at the corner of G and Malecón, in El Vedado, Havana, where a march was called for 3 pm that would be enlivened, as they pompously announced, with “dancing and congas.”

Dragging their feet, accompanied by teachers who walked with the same reluctant step, they received a cap and fans, all made of cardboard, with the colors of the rainbow and the slogan “Code Yes” from the hands of officials stationed in front of a car of the Union of Young Communists (UJC).

Some of them, after receiving these, didn’t hesitate to flee the place. “We’re going to stop by — there’s a camera — so they know we were there,” a teacher told a group of teenagers while they deserted the activity before it even started. continue reading

Another group followed in the footsteps of a UJC official who harangued them with a whistle, to walk to the next point of call, La Piragua. This esplanade, located on the Malecón at the heights of the National Hotel, has recently moved to the Anti-imperialist Tribune, in front of the United States Embassy and a few feet from there, as the center of propaganda events organized by the Communist Party of Cuba.

Barely thirty kids, from nearby schools, arrived this Friday at the corner of G and Malecón, in El Vedado. (14ymedio)

In the evening, a concert will take place, the official press explained. Los Van Van, Haila María Mompié, Arnaldo and his Talisman, the La Colmenita Children’s Theater Company and actors of the Teleseries Calendario will participate.

Around 3:30, La Piragua was observed guarded by a huge police operation, with parked patrols and agents stationed on every corner. Immediately several buses arrived with more students, all dressed in their uniforms.

“We’re going to stop by — there’s a camera — so they know we were there,” a teacher told a group of teenagers while they deserted the activity. (14ymedio)

As part of the event, the authorities established stalls for the sale of handicrafts and food. The prices were high: for example, bread with pork, at 250 pesos, and bread with ham, at 200. To drink, they offered Coca-Cola and Mahou brand beer, something striking if one of the propaganda posters that “decorated” the stalls is taken into account: “Against Spanish Colonialism.”

“In no way is this a voluntary event. It’s a forced concentration of students where they are taking advantage to sell food, drinks and handicrafts at unpayable prices,” lamented a passerby who stopped for a moment hoping to buy something to eat.

As part of the event, the authorities established stalls for the sale of handicrafts and food. (14ymedio)

Around 4:30, many among the crowd of young people began to scurry away, little by little, under a harsh sun and in the face of the impossibility of spending so much on a drink.

The schools in the capital have been wallpapered with posters containing the slogan “Code Yes,” and students have already been warned of the obligation to “take care of the ballot boxes” [i.e. observe the voting in person] on Sunday, “for at least four hours,” according to a high school student from Nuevo Vedado.

To drink, they offered Coca-Cola and Mahou brand beer, something striking if you take into account one of the propaganda posters that “decorated” the stalls reads: “against Spanish colonialism.” (14ymedio)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.

‘Godfathers’ Jump the Lines at the Currency Exchanges in Cuba

The workers at the Cadeca (currency exchange) on 23rd Street — and at any exchange office in Cuba — have their own business of influence, with family, friends and even coleros [people others pay to stand in line for them]. (14ymedio)
14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez /Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 22 September 2022 — “No one cheats on me,” a man grumbles in front of the Cadeca [currency exchange] on 23rd Street in Havana, this Tuesday. “I’m not a fool.” His face is swollen and red; he is sweating and drags a crutch with difficulty. Next to him, a  sympathetic mulatto in a T-shirt and with a golden tooth nods. “He walked in front of me and went in;  it was that simple,” shouts the man. Several people in the line predict a heart attack if he doesn’t calm down.

Beyond, at the door, a lady demands explanations from the policeman who guards the exchange house: “It’s not the first time this has happened today,” she says. The officer looks at her reluctantly, as if he doesn’t understand, and sends the complaint to the “organizer” of the Cadeca line, who calls the customers according to a list.

Everyone witnessed how an individual arrived at the establishment, advanced, distracted, up the stairs and approached the door, beckoning through the glass. The door opened, and the man managed to slip between the policeman and the organizer, who didn’t say a word.

The eyes of the clients followed the event in detail, but they were silent until the subject entered the Cadeca. First it was a buzz of comments; then someone rebuked the organizer of the line, and finally the man on the crutch exploded, left his place and began to scream. continue reading

In the face of the screams and fingers pointing at him, the policeman remained calm.

“That one had a ’godfather’ inside the Cadeca,” someone theorizes. Sponsorship consists of having a contact within the establishment, a friend or relative who overcomes obstacles and facilitates access to the first place in line.

The customers can withstand the sun, heat and hunger, but never that someone “unrecognized” approaches and, mysteriously, penetrates the building without waiting: it’s intolerable.

The workers at the Cadeca on 23rd — those at any exchange house in Cuba — have their business of influence. The “chosen” are family or friends, and also coleros who accept a payment to guarantee another person a privileged place.

Those who don’t have a “godfather” must submit to the murky system of “lists,” drawn up illegally after the previous night, which pretends to be a spontaneous form of organization in the face of institutional corruption. The lists include solitary buyers, but also the “gangs” of customers, groups of five or ten people who intend to assault the Cadeca.

However, spending the night in the vicinity of an establishment is considered, by the police, a violation. So they’re authorized to fine or arrest the overnight coleros. But it’s a risk that dollar buyers are willing to take, because without the few bills that the Government agrees to sell, it’s impossible to live decently.

So the man with the crutch calms down, goes up to the policeman and calmly says: “Officer, if you want, arrest me, but tonight I’m going to sleep here, to see who is going to take the first place in line away from me tomorrow.”

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.