Crowds in Havana’s Streets Shout ‘Freedom’ During a Second Day of Protests

People join hands in the middle of a street in Havana’s Cerro district to block traffic. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Izquierdo, Havana, September 30, 2022 — Shouting “Freedom,” a crowd took to the streets of Havana on Friday night for a second day of protests, which spread to several neighborhoods in the city. In response to the demonstrations, the regime again cut off internet access at roughly 7:00 PM.

Throughout the day demonstrators blocked traffic in many areas. In some streets they formed human chains to close off major avenues, like those in the Cerro district.

“Besides joining hands, people have roped off several blocks of Cerro Avenue between Tejas and Patria streets,” reports one source at the scene.

Protests began in the morning on Palma Street and Calzada de Bejucal in the Arroyo Naranjo district. They later spread to Puentes Grandes in the Havana suburb of Playa, which has been without power for 72 hours.


Protests increase, people shout “Freedom” in the streets.

Several videos posted on social media show a crowd in Arroyo Naranjo banging pots and calling for the government to resolve the country’s energy crisis. “They blocked the street so no one could get through,” says a woman filming the protest. “Down with the dictatorship! Enough is enough!” she shouts as she joins the demonstrators. Several police officers stand nearby, leary of confronting the protestors. continue reading

Several women with children joined another afternoon protest, blocking traffic along a stretch of the National Highway, known as the First Ring of Havana. Videos and photos posted online show uniformed officers trying to convince demonstrators, who had placed stones and wooden poles in the roadway, to allow vehicles to pass.


Protest along a stretch of the National Highway.

The collapse of the National Electrical System in the wake of Hurricane Ian, along with worsening shortages, have led to a new wave of demonstrations. Residents of several areas, including Cerro, San Miguel del Padron and Arroyo Naranjo, demonstrated into the night on Thursday.

Those who managed to charge their mobile phones and videotape the protests try to avoid focusing on people’s faces, aware that police later use videos like these to identify and arrest demonstrators, as happened in the aftermath of the July 11 protests in 2021.

14ymedio contacted the state telecommunications company Etecsa to ask about the disruption of internet service that began around 8:00 PM on Thursday. The operator said the disruption was “nationwide” and that the company was working to resolve the problem. Asked about its cause, she curtly replied, “I cannot give out that information.”


Tweet: “Cubans, tired of all the hardship and crisis, confront government leaders and officials. More information on 14ymedio.com” [Click on blue bird to see tweet.]

On Thursday officials from the Provincial Defense Council (CDP) tried to placate crowds with the usual government rhetoric. During one encounter in a Havana neighborhood, a woman interrupted a female official dressed in military uniform to say “I don’t believe you people.” Next to her, an older woman snapped at the officer: “I am a materialist; I am not an idealist. I believe what I see. If after 72 hours they haven’t done anything, I have to say that nothing’s been done.” Her words were greeted with applause by those standing nearby.

Another officer trying to “explain the situation” was also taken to task by the crowd. “Why don’t you take the gas from the patrol cars and use it for the electric company’s cars?” someone asked

On Friday the CDP president himself, Luis Antonio Torres Iribar, acknowledged, “[Last night] we had to deal with isolated events in the province which involved mass demonstrations over the water situation, over the electrical situation, over the loss of food due to the power outage,” before conceding, “I consider these demands to be just.”


Crowd along Bejucal Avenue in Arroyo Naranjo on Thursday.

“I believe people have a right to protest, but only when government leaders are not doing what they are supposed to do,” claimed the official, adding, “But in the situation we’re talking about, yesterday’s protests, instead of helping, they prevented us from carrying out our mission and bringing about a full recovery in the shortest possible time, as we desire.”

Three days after the hurricane, the power outage is affecting whatever small amounts of food people might being storing in refrigerators. Some were able to freeze large plastic bottles of water to keep temperatures in their refrigerators low, but the ice has since melted and the food is threatening to rot.

This has led to a pressing need to consume whatever reserves of meat, milk and other products families might have before they go bad. Even if power is restored in the next few hours, finding food will be the biggest challenge people face in a country that, before the hurricane, already suffered from alarming shortages.

Meanwhile, the government has mobilized its military and police forces, leaving bodegas* and other locations authorities consider essential “unprotected.” In other establishments that sell food, such as some department stores, the police have stationed none-too-subtle “co-workers,” often young men of military age, to keep watch.

According to the state-run newspaper Tribuna de la Habana, the Ministry of Domestic Commerce reported that 700 “economic targets” in the western part of the country were damaged by Hurricane Ian. These include bodegas, department stores and building supply stores. Lost food supplies, flattened buildings, collapsed roofs and structures rendered unusable are some of the most serious types of damage.

The government has said it will prioritize “maintaining food supplies intended for people who have been evacuated,” which are limited to “items to be cooked.” It has forgotten that the rest of the country is facing the same challenges of preserving  and cooking food without electricity.

*Translator’s note: small state-run neighborhood or corner grocery stores that sell rationed goods.

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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.

Cohiba’s goal of 2 Million Cigars in 2022 Recalls the Failure of Cuba’s ’10 Million Ton Harvest’*

The factory has mobilized its 252 workers, most of them women, to manufacture the planned amount at a rate of 9,000  cigars per day. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 9 September 2022 — While the quality and distribution of cigars in Cuban shops are at their lowest point, the directors of the famous El Laguito factory, in Havana, promise to make and export two million cigars of the Cohiba brand before the end of this year.

The goal will be met “despite the difficulties,” said the director of the cigar company, Oscar Rodríguez Carballeira. Attracted by the 55th anniversary of the Cohiba label, invented by Fidel Castro to entertain foreign leaders and diplomats, almost 700 cigar fans, including journalists and buyers, attended El Laguito on Thursday.

The manager indicated that the factory has mobilized its 252 workers, most of them women, to manufacture the expected quantity at a rate of 9,000 cigars per day. According to Rodríguez Carballeira, not even two years of pandemic managed to interrupt production at El Laguito.

Although the cigar is fabricated in the old republican factory , the leaf that is processed in El Laguito comes from the highest quality plantations in the country: those of the towns of San Juan y Martínez and San Luis, in Pinar del Río, both located in the tobacco growing region of Vueltabajo, the mecca of the Cuban puro (cigar).

El Laguito, since 1966, has been a factory of excellence, once supervised directly by Fidel Castro and Celia Sánchez. For more than five decades it has produced, in addition to about twenty well-known brands such as Montecristo, Romeo and Juliet, Partagás and H. Upmann, the range of Cohiba premium puros, whose anniversary the Government has decided to celebrate in style. continue reading

This Friday, a gala dinner is planned at the Pabexpo fairgrounds, in which the Habanos awards for 2020 and 2021 will be presented, in the categories of Production, Business and Communication. That same night, the traditional humidor auction will be held, where millionaires from various parts of the world bid to obtain a specialized container to store their cigars, probably signed by Fidel Castro before his death.

Without being in the same category as the noisy Festivals of the Habano (the Havana cigars), which are based at the Convention Center, the celebration for the 55th anniversary of Cohiba will avail itself of the opportunity to raise as much hard currency as possible.

Under the tutelage of the Spanish investors, who finance and distribute the product of the Cuban corporation Habanos S.A., the cigar industry continues to be fundamental in the Cuban economy.

Anticipating these celebrations, the Government planned a luxurious hotel facility in Pinar del Río, which is scheduled to open this month. The delegate of the Ministry of Tourism in that province, José Antonio Aguilera, explained that the hotel, located in San Juan y Martínez, will have only eight exclusive rooms, managed by Islazul.

Customers, who are the same anonymous millionaires who come to El Laguito this year, will enjoy a bar, humidors, specialized shops and a smoking room. “We want tourists to come and share with the community, and local development will benefit,” said Aguilera.

In 2021, Cuba reported $568 million in cigar sales. The main and most stable buyers are still Spain, China, Germany, France and Switzerland.

With the issuance of limited-edition cigar bands, the prices for the  Cohiba brand, the former Indian name for the cigar or the smoking ceremony, have skyrocketed internationally. A pure Cohiba of small or medium caliber can reach 25 euros per cigar in Spanish tobacconists, while cigar bands of the highest quality such as the Pirámides Jar exceed 500, and the Special Reserve Selection, one of the most expensive, exceed 730. In the European informal market, these cigars reach 1,000 euros apiece.

Meanwhile, the cigar stores in Cuba, where you need to pay with foreign currency, have definitively closed their doors for the Cuban, who cannot and does not want to pay the overwhelming prices for the best cigar in the world.

*Translator’s note: See here for the Ten Million Ton Sugar Harvest

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The Official Cuban Press Chokes on the Voters’ Rejection of the Constitution in Chile

Supporters of the “Rejection” option celebrate the result of the constitutional plebiscite, in Santiago de Chile. (EFE/Elvis González)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 5 September 2022 — The rejection by Chileans of the draft Constitution endorsed by President Gabriel Boric hasn’t taken the Cuban pro-government media by surprise, but it still provokes resentment and bitterness.

This Sunday, the proposal was defeated, with almost 62% of the votes, and Chile chose to maintain the current text, written in 1980, and reformed after the fall of Pinochet and the establishment of democracy.

Meanwhile, in Cuba, several reports, articles and opinion pieces, programmed from the offices of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, spared no reproach or nefarious adjective against those who revalidated the “Constitution of the dictatorship.”

An analysis by journalist Oliver Zamora, broadcast on Noticiero Nacional de Televisión, described the approval of the project as “the most important political event in Chile” since the end of the government of Augusto Pinochet. Enthusiastic about the continental turn to the left, no matter if it’s grotesque or outdated, the reporter doesn’t hide his dismay at defeat.

Chileans were supposed to vote to “delete the legacies of the dictatorship,” and achieve the “real, not apparent, change” that only socialism can offer. Zamora points out that Chile rejected the possibility of a “stronger state,” which would guarantee rights and not allow itself to be “conquered” by neoliberalism.

They threw away, in the opinion of the journalist, a “superior” Constitution because of the media campaign of their enemies, which is a sign that Chile is a “polarized society, trapped in the past.” continue reading

Once the result was known, another of the voices of officialdom, the journalist Talía González, insulted the text of the current Constitution, “written during the military dictatorship.” “The Chileans,” she lamented, “denied their support for a text written by leftist and progressive forces,” to which President Boric had given his “total support.”

Both the State newspaper Granma and Cubadebate took advantage of euphemisms so as not to admit the defeat of the preliminary draft. Metaphors, circumlocutions and extensive paragraphs were intended to cover up the “Rejection option.”

“The option of maintaining a Constitution inherited from the time of Augusto Pinochet is announced as the winner,” admitted the national organ of the Communist Party. “Several experts agree that this result is the consequence of a wide campaign of disinformation regarding the new Constitution; and of an incentive, with a lot of money, to reject the text or deliver invalid votes,” it simplified.

“The most likely thing,” the editors said with disdain, is that Chileans will “wake up without the possibility of having a Constitution” with guarantees in health, education, the environment and pensions.

For Juventud Rebelde, the opportunity was missed to crystallize “the popular claims of the decades under the laws left by the dictator Augusto Pinochet.” Its previous articles warned, with alarm, that all polls pointed to the “possibility of the triumph of Rejection.”

But the “newspaper of Cuban youth” reassured its readers: “There are totally different forecasts and mathematical prediction studies” based on readings from social networks, which “have predicted that the triumph will be of Approval.”

However, there is something that all the official Cuban media agree on. Despite not understanding the mechanisms inherent in democracy and that it seems inconceivable that the government of a country doesn’t have absolute authority over the approval of the laws it intends to propose, as happens on the Island, each comment about Chile ends up predicting Boric’s triumph by any means.

It doesn’t matter if it is the direct one, which has just failed; or the more subtle and slow one, calling a plebiscite again. “Boric needs it,” say the Cuban newspapers, in order to consolidate the socialist reform in a complex country like Chile, which will not easily give up freedom to choose its future.

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 Wait All Night at the Currency Exchange to Buy Dollars, Which Now Cost 150 pesos in the Informal Market

Like an anthill, the people of Santa Clara hunkered down during the early hours at the junction of Cuba and Tristá streets. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez and Juan Izquierdo, Havana, September 5, 2022 — The night begins to cool off over Santa Clara and, after having a bite to eat, the coleros [people standing in line for others, for pay] cross Vidal Park on their way to the currency exchange (Cadeca). The custom is new but the method is as common as poverty and underdevelopment on the island: hold on all night to guarantee one of the first places in line.

The booty: the hundred dollars “per head” that the Government promises to sell to anyone who has a place. Like an anthill, the people of Santa Clara hunkered down during the early hours of Friday at the junction of Cuba and Tristá streets.

It’s a central corner and a crucial one for the movement of the city, interrupted, however, by a long zinc fence, which slows down traffic. The inhabitants of the city are accustomed to going around the obstacle, which “protects” them from the ruins of the old Florida hotel, to reach the Cadeca and the branch of the Bank of Credit and Commerce.

“A tremendous show broke out that night,” one of its readers in Santa Clara tells 14ymedio. “More than a hundred people waiting, and everything is a disaster. A guy started shouting that it was a shame and that he couldn’t take it anymore.”

At ten at night, the man says, the atmosphere was already “heated.” From afar, in the park, the police didn’t lose any time in harassing the coleros. “It’s normal that they patrol that area and, from time to time, intercept a drunkard or an unsuspecting university student and ’invite’ them to enter the guasabita,” he adds.

The guasabita is the name that the people of Santa Clara give to a small gray bus where the officers improvise their “interrogations.” “People leave there on a stretcher,” says the man, “that’s why the coleros also avoid it.” continue reading

But not even a hypothetical beating or an unforeseen arrest stop those who have to exchange their dollars. In the Cadeca, the mechanisms of a gear that no one fully understands and that works based on traps, tricks and bribes, begin to rotate.

The fundamental rule: maintain your ground and be aware of the movements of others. The euphemism par excellence, “taking care of the line,” is the ace up the sleeve of those who appear and disappear, exchange places with someone, or duplicate their place under all kinds of pretexts.

The “dollar line” is confusing and exhausting, with the additional danger of knowing that everyone who goes in or out carries money in their pockets, which tempts the city’s bandits and assailants.

“I’ve even been afraid of standing in line,” admits the man, who says he feels the same neurosis in the Cadeca as in a line for chicken, coffee or cigarettes. The overnight sale of foreign exchange has become another business in the informal market.

“But make no mistake,” he adds, “this is a small business; it isn’t the ‘mafia’ of Santa Clara. This is the same thing that happens when people ‘struggle’ with their ration books for meat or some tobacco. The idea is to spend the time that others can’t or don’t want to spend. That’s why they [the coleros] take a percentage.”

At the moment of greatest agony, when there is no longer any desire to shout or protest, the sun rises. Cadeca workers, very calmly, open the door and start calling the first numbers. But there is no guarantee that there will be enough dollars to cover the demand.

“Everyone knows that you can spend the night here and that it’s a choice,” the man concludes, “but that’s what it is. This is the only country where you can live from standing in line for someone.”

Those who read the daily reports of the official press won’t be able to detect any abnormalities. With subtlety, the Government is recalibrating the balance of exchange: every day it sells the most expensive dollar, but demands to buy it at the lowest possible price.

Meanwhile, exchange rates have skyrocketed on the informal market. The dollar reached 150 pesos on Saturday, according to the monitoring of the digital media El Toque. Those who experienced the instability of the currencies during the Special Period soon recognized that this was the figure at which the dollar came to be valued during the previous crisis.

At exchange rates of 149 and 148 pesos, respectively, the euro and the Freely Convertible Currency (MLC) almost reached the threshold of the US currency. With these figures, phrases such as “recovering the purchasing power of the salary in Cuban pesos” or “single type of exchange,” formulated by Minister Alejandro Gil Fernández, are already terrible jokes of economic humor.

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.

Liquid Ground Chicken in Havana for Only 65 Pesos

The ground meat — what else to call it? — had an almost liquid consistency, a color like vomit and a nauseating odor. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodriguez and Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 2 September 2022 — The street is Carlos III, in Havana. The place: a hovel that is part corner store, part market stall. It could be in any town on the island. A line has formed in front. Havana’s midday sun reverberates through the listless crowd waiting to get in.

With the thriftiness of someone who has the whole day ahead of him, the vendor puts on an apron and grabs a wooden palette to use as a counter. He is a tall, sweaty man for whom washing his hands before handling the food serves as a pointless formality.

“Let’s go,” he says quietly to the first customer, who opens the mouth of his bag, as wrung out and hungry as he. The store is a hodgepodge, which is to say that its shelves display plastic pots, kitchen utensils that will not last more than a week, thick strainers and dull knives. There are also some canned goods and products sold in bulk, like the one for which people are now waiting in line.

Most know what’s to come but no one has a real sense of it until they see it, smell it and feel its texture: some kind of ground meat — what else to call it? — with an almost liquid consistency, a color like vomit and an odor as nauseating as the rest of the street, for 65 pesos a pound. continue reading

One distracted customer makes the mistake of paying for it beforehand. He cannot hide his disgust, which turns his stomach and almost causes him to utter an expletive. “What’s wrong?” asks the vendor as he gently stirs the mixture in the muddy bucket before scooping out a portion of watery ground chicken with his hand.

Nothing,” says the boy as he approaches the makeshift counter in resignation. “Toss it here.”

“They mix it with water to stretch it,” explains an elderly man who is also in line. That’s how they make a little more.”  “I remember they sold slop like this during the Special Period,” says another. “And they passed it off as goose paste. The goose is a bird related to the guanajo. Ask your grandparents,” he adds, laughing at his own humor.

Next to the bucket of ground chicken is a can advertised as tomato paste. “No one buys it anymore because people know what goes into it,” says one woman. “Haven’t you seen the online videos? They use guava, banana, some kind of peel, but tomato it’s not.”

After the stench of ground chicken, the air outside has the sweet aroma of syrup and the odor that permeates Cuban soup kitchens. Local residents recognize it as a syrup made in a factory on the same block. It is sold not only at the ground chicken stall but also by a string of elderly people and beggars along Carlos III.

Well-sealed in a backpack, it is now up to Cuban mothers and fathers, armed with their arsenal of tricks, to figure out the most convenient method for cooking it.

Oblivious to all this, however, is the ever-optimistic party newspaper, Granma.  As though describing a consumer’s paradise, the Thursday edition allays its readers’ fears. It promises, perhaps in time, “deliveries of rice, beans, sugar, salt and cooking oil” as well as eggs, coffee and a packets of cigarettes of one sort or another.

“Milk is guaranteed” — the paper’s favorite word — “for children, pregnant women and those suffering from chronic childhood diseases, and is encouraged in some areas in liquid form.”

For those who enjoy a nice bath after preparing a banquet from rationed ingredients, a nice “soap made from nuclei, the bimonthly toothpaste and detergent” are promised.

Granma does not ignore, however, peoples’ greatest concern. That is the current shortage of flour, the key ingredient of bread, which they are guaranteed  — that word again — as part of a basket of basic foodstuffs. Of course, officials are not responsible for the “changes in hours of operation due to power blackouts or the transport of the raw material.”

The Cuban who arrives home with the “merchandise” dispatched by the tall, sweaty vendor and reads this piece by the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party will, inevitably, have to laugh. If he had known that everything — breakfast, lunch and dinner — was guaranteed, he would not have wasted 65 pesos on the disgusting ground chicken he bought on Carlos III.

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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.

Castroism Stole the Cuban Rum Industry and Now Seeks to Appropriate the Figurehead of the Bacardi Family

Members of the Communist Party of Cuba paying homage to Bacardi at the Santa Ifigenia cemetery, in Santiago de Cuba. (Juventud Rebelde)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 29 August 2022 — The imposing funerary pyramid of Emilio Bacardí Moreau, who died on 28 August 1922, is not far from the mortuary stone of Fidel Castro, the man who dismantled the rum distillery and the cultural legacy of the Bacardí family.

One hundred years after the death of the patriot, historian and philanthropist from Santiago, the same regime that expropriated the Bacardí distilleries and buildings intends to pay tribute to the first Republican mayor of Santiago de Cuba.

Tributes and biographical notes in the official newspapers now present Bacardí as a kind of politician precursor of the revolutionary practices of 1959. He is credited with a rabid anti-imperialism, and his business and political acumen is minimized. The issue of rum is taboo, and they almost classify him as a feminist for asking the widows of the mambises to fill positions in the town hall.

Bacardí will attain everything the Cuban regime needs, including a “little war of memory” against the heirs and directors of the company, who are currently based in Bermuda.

However, investigating and quoting Bacardí means playing with fire, because not all those who have contributed to the tribute have expressed themselves in politically “desirable” terms. continue reading

Some texts recover the sappy language of the social chronicle of the Republic, in addition to making use of terms such as patrician, eminent and patriarch, inconceivable in the official organs of the Communist Party.

Censorship confronts journalists with a curious dilemma: they must reconstruct the history of Cuban rum manufactured by Bacardí, talk about it as if it were still being distilled on the Island and suspend any reference after 1960.

“If Cuban rum is the best on the planet,” Cubadebate reasons, “in Cuba the best is that of Santiago de Cuba, the one initiated by Facundo and bequeathed by Don Emilio Bacardí Moreau,” the official government site says, without mentioning the expropriations after the triumph of the Revolution or talking about “trademarks.”

In commemorating his death, Bohemia magazine repeats that the initial tomb of the patriot was “humble to the point of surprise” — the phrase is by Fernando Portuondo — but they forget to talk about the sumptuous mausoleum of a millionaire that was later dedicated to him, described as just a “symbolic pyramid structure.”

The “main course” of the tributes was the presentation, once again, of the two volumes of Emilio Bacardí Moreau: on Passionate Cuban Humanism, published in 2018 by the historian Olga Portuondo, a controversial biography of the patriot whose distribution and sale was delayed, until it was almost impossible to find in bookstores.

Successfully, but serving the official appropriation of “uncomfortable” figures, Portuondo introduces the work of Bacardí as the founder of the oldest Cuban museum, as well as the author of the monumental collection Chronicles of Santiago de Cuba and other books, fictional and historical, of smaller scope. He is presented as an intellectual and mambí conspirator, rather than a politician or entrepreneur.

During the commemorations, there was no shortage of those who remembered quietly the “prophetic coconut tree” of Facundo Bacardí. Facundo, father of the Bacardi clan, was the man who, in 1862, coined the symbol of the bat to identify his new technique for distilling rum. In the vicinity of the factory he planted a palm tree that survived earthquakes, wars, fires, independence and flag changes.

“The company will live in Cuba as long as the coconut tree,” the legend said. On October 14, 1960, on the eve of the centenary of the company, the coconut tree just dried up, and Fidel Castro expropriated Bacardi’s premises without compensation.

The family members went into exile, with the “secret recipe” of rum, honey and yeast strains. Several international legal proceedings have been brought against the Cuban government, but none have been successful.

To this day, the most emblematic brand of Cuban rum continues its production in the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Italy and the Bahamas, but not on the Island.

This Sunday, numerous officials, Party leaders and historians aligned with the regime, and some workers of the Provincial Heritage Center, concluded the tribute in front of the mausoleum of the patriot in the cemetery of Santa Ifigenia.

Whipped by the sun of eastern Cuba, and after anachronistic speeches by the members of the Central Committee, none of the attendees were able to toast to the memory of Don Emilio with a drink of Bacardi rum.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuban Parents are Distressed by the Outrageous Prices of School Supplies

In Cuba, even elementary school students don’t feel sure about the exams if they haven’t paid a tutor for several sessions beforehand. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 26 August 2022 — After two years of ups and downs, between the forced confinement of the pandemic and the economic crisis, the beginning of the school year in September is causing more than one scramble in Cuban homes. The return to school will take place in the midst of high inflation that increases the price of shoes to the snack that students need.

Parents wonder what this new beginning of teaching will be like with the long blackouts that hit the island, the shortage of flour that has sunk the production of bread, so necessary for school snacks, and the loss of value of the Cuban peso against foreign currency, in a country where only in stores that take payment in freely convertible currency can you buy shoes or a backpack.

Given the succulent slice they can get from the sale of school accessories, even several restaurants that sell their products through the Internet have added offers that have nothing to do with food. Backpacks for children at 60 dollars, snack bags, water bottles, pencils and erasers now alternate with their dishes of lasagna or fried rice.

“School supplies for girls,” reads one of these options, which for $120 include the backpack, a pair of notebooks and other tools needed in class. Home delivery in Havana can add about ten dollars more, but in the provinces it can be even more expensive. Having a family abroad that finances the purchase is essential in this case, because payment is made online with Visa or Mastercard.

Those who don’t have emigrated relatives must buy school supplies in Cuban pesos, at the exchange rate with the dollar that is currently in force in the market. Translated into the national currency, the price of a small backpack purchased in Panama can exceed 2,000 pesos, plus 300 for shipping to the house. continue reading

As for the school uniform, the nightmare is no less pressing. “I’ve been wearing this uniform since the tenth grade,” a student from Sancti Spíritus, who is about to start his last year of high school, tells 14ymedio.

“They give you high school uniforms, but no one thinks about the growth spurt at age 17. In the eleventh grade my mom had to ask for another pair or pants and depend on the officials to solve it,” he says.

He’s lucky that his mother is a seamstress, otherwise everything would get tight. “To top it all off, the polyester fabric is hot and fades easily,” he says. In the middle of the school year, the family had to buy a few meters of fabric that was very expensive to sew extra shirts and pants. “I have to take care of them,” the boy continues, “because when high school is over I have to donate them to a cousin of mine who is just starting out.”

No matter what grade he’s in, his municipality or the family’s condition, the student will always have hand-me-downs in need of repair from their use by many generations, with books full of Soviet anecdotes, anachronistic for today’s Cuban student.

“My books always have to be passed down,’” says the young man, showing the texts marked with a pen, drawn on the back and the covers or unbound. “Pencils and notebooks are another story: before you could go to Artex, and get a pencil and a couple of notebooks, but now there isn’t even that.”

The return to school will take place in the midst of high inflation that increases prices from shoes to the snack that students need. (14ymedio)

The shops of the Artex group used to market stationery, backpacks and other school supplies. But with the extinction of the Cuban convertible peso and the dollarization of the economy, the family can invest very little money in materials that Artex no longer even offers, as it is now almost entirely dedicated to the sale of tobacco and handicrafts at outrageous prices.

“Books almost never arrive; notebooks, which are of very bad paper, always come in the second or third week, hopefully. And it’s better not to mention the pencils with horrible graphite” says the student interviewed by this newspaper.

The young man has been wearing the same backpack since junior high school; the shoes are sent to him by a family member from the United States and the rest, such as socks and underwear, had to be bought in the informal market.

After two years of zero, or hasty and mediocre activity, the logistical aspect is just one side of the problem. Even primary school students don’t feel sure about the exams if they haven’t paid a tutor for several sessions beforehand. In many cases, those who offer these support classes are the same people as the student’s teachers, who have found in these reviews of the coursework a financial complement to their squalid salaries.

Another issue is the food,” continues the young man. “When you live far from the school, you have to bring a snack, because the prices of snack vendors and the private restaurants are impossible to pay. Or you walk home, which, for example, can be over one mile from school.”

Despite these and other obstacles to learning, such as the terrible school furniture or the lack of hygiene in the bathrooms, triumphalist announcements about the beginning of the new school year proliferate in the official press.

“The material base of study is assured in both internal and semi-internal centers,” lies the newspaper Tribuna de La Habana, although it discreetly admits the deficit of 4,000 teachers in the capital’s classrooms, which will be covered “with various alternatives.”

“Completing the faculty and ensuring retention” are priorities of the new course at the Artemisa pedagogical school, says a local newspaper, although it doesn’t specify what measures will be taken to achieve that goal when there are only 77 places out of the 122 that should be filled.

In the continuous journeys through the provinces by the Minister of Education, Ana Elsa Velázquez, the directors of the sector formulate the same guarantees: the State has resolved all the weaknesses, everything has been repaired and the panorama is positive.

The domestic reality, the complaints of mothers on social networks and the external aspect of schools suggest the opposite. Those Cubans who expose the reality are harassed by State Security, as happened with Trilce Denis, a Havana mother who denounced in a direct transmission the difficulty of starting school in such precarious conditions.

“I want to know, on the 7th, when school starts, what snack is going to be given to the children,” Denis said, upset. “Today I decided that I’m not going to send my son,” she concluded.

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.

After Milk and Beef, Bread Disappears from the Cuban Table

Bakery on Carlos III Avenue in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez and Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 24 August 2022 — From the balcony, Yudineya watched dozens of bread and cookie sellers pass by every day in her neighborhood of Los Sitios in Havana, but for weeks they have practically disappeared. The shortage of wheat flour has hit private bakeries hard and has also put state bakeries in check.

For decades, “bread with something” has been the fundamental comfort food in Cuban homes. From the elaborate bite of ham and cheese to the poorest bread with oil and salt, the snacks of students and workers depend to a great extent on that baked product that has been disappearing in recent weeks.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do when our child starts school,” says Yudineya, 38, whose son will start the second grade of elementary school in September. “What my son always takes for a snack is bread with whatever appears, but now not even that is available,” she explains to 14ymedio.

In Nuevo Vedado, a colorful private bakery that until recently offered bags of the so-called “ball bread” in addition to hard-crust French bread, baguettes and rolls, now offers only roasted peanuts and egg-white merengue. “We’re not offering bread because we don’t have any flour,” the employee explains. “Sales have fallen a lot, and if we continue like this we’ll have to close.”

Line to buy bread on August 24 at the Pueblo Nuevo Council, Central Havana. (14ymedio)

But it’s not only bakeries that are feeling the blow of the shortage of wheat flour. Businesses that base their gastronomic offerings on pizzas and sandwiches are also suffering. “We were selling bags with 10 pizza crusts for 300 pesos, and now we’ve had to raise the price to 500,” says the delivery man of La Paloma, a private business in Diez de Octubre. continue reading

In front of the bakery on Carlos III, one of the few that still sells “released” [unrationed] bread, the elderly, physically disabled, kids, mothers and all kinds of people begin to show up. Neither age nor the numerous ailments exempt the Cuban, who must defend his place in line as if he were in a besieged fortress.

An employee announces that they will soon sell a few breadsticks. What in Creole gastronomy used to be long and crunchy, in socialism assumes the dictionary definition: “small stick, crude and poorly made.”

Invoking strength that they don’t have, battered Cubans, hoping to get a breadstick, stampede to take their place in line. One woman complains, “All we can get is a little piece of breadstick per person.”

Once the “sticks” have been bought and packaged, the crowd recovers its place in the shade. They must keep waiting: in an hour, they think, the bakery will take out a small amount of garlic bread.

“It will get worse,” predicts a bakery employee. “As of September 1, only the popular council can buy bread here. We’ve been told that there must be an establishment in every place that takes care of the people in that area.”

The shortage of flour occupies the gossips, as do the newspaper articles, the panic of daily hunger and the comments about the imminent school year. It scares mothers and overwhelms retirees, accustomed to a Spartan ration of bread and water with sugar.

An audio circulated on social networks, attributed to a Commerce manager, whispers to anyone who wants to listen that there will be no more flour. “Neither for hospitals nor for the army,” says the anonymous voice. Some sacks of flour will be available for standard bread and some for prisons, whose tranquility cannot be risked.

A prison riot, in a country where a protest can break out every night, has become one of the favorite topics to discuss during the blackouts and domino games.

At the bakery on Reina Street they handed out shifts before selling bread this Wednesday. (14ymedio)

“Today for breakfast I had only a hard roll that I brought from Havana several days ago,” Kenny Fernández Delgado, one of the Havana priests who bothers State Security the most, wrote on his social networks.

Fernández lambasted “communism,” which “took away my beef before I was born, and my milk at the age of 7” and now even “the ‘released’ bread has become a prisoner… Take everything away from me and that’s it,” the priest concluded, “as they did to Jesus Christ on Good Friday, because that way I will know that Easter Sunday is closer.”

The Government, as usual, used the State newspaper Granma to “rewrite” the alarming reality on the Island. “There are no problems with the production and distribution of bread from the Regulated Family Basket and the Cuban Bread Chain,” the media said, citing a note from the Ministry of Internal Trade.

He admitted, however, the “difficulties in the import of wheat,” attributed to the embargo, Cuba’s “financial constraints” and the “international logistics crisis.” The report concluded by “calming down” the vulnerable sectors of the population, apparently saved from scarcity.

Meanwhile, the official reporter Lázaro Manuel Alonso was trying to reconcile the fiction with reality: “Señores, stop the interpretations now,” he demanded on Facebook, supporting Granma’s version.

However, he admitted in the same publication, “Yes, there have been difficulties with the processing of bread due to the lack of electricity, which has nothing to do with the supply of raw materials for production.” Regardless of the contradictions within his own message, he tried to settle as “false” the rumor of scarcity that “some users have shared on social networks.”

The “white dust crisis,” as some Cubans have begun to call it, keeps private producers in suspense. Pastry shops have substantially reduced their supply, while the price for any empanada, jam or cake, no matter how squalid, is increasing.

Not only flour, but also eggs, sugar, oil and other ingredients of the family pantry will be removed from the symbolic Cuban’s table. The meats, the fruits and now, finally, the bread basket are also gone.

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.

Miami Pharmacies are Increasingly Supplying Cubans on the Island

The lack of medications in Miami and other Florida cities seemed unusual, but it has already become a daily occurrence. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 18 August 2022 — The old emigrant joke about Miami, Cuba’s last province, threatens to become a reality. Some medications are becoming scarce in the big city of Florida. “When I go to a pharmacy, they tell me that they’re out of medicine, that people took everything to send it to Cuba,” complains Enrique, who has been residing in the United States for ten years.

Enrique has toured the pharmacies of the city to put together a package of medical supplies. His mother in Cuba has been undergoing breast cancer treatments for a year and will now face an operation in Villa Clara. Distressed, Enrique understands that his family’s only hope is for him to get the necessary medications and equipment, because, according to the warning of Cuban doctors, “there is nothing here.”

Telephone in hand and driving through the streets of Miami, Enrique consults the list sent to him by his relatives. “Every time I go to a pharmacy they tell me the same thing: they know what to sell me, because all Cubans ask for the same thing, but there isn’t any. The demand is so great that even here things are in short supply,” Enrique laments.

“What is most ’lost’,” he explains, “is the thread for sutures, surgical gloves and anesthesia.” Enrique’s inventory is meticulous. What is missing in one pharmacy must be “hunted” in another, even if it’s in a different city. The operation requires two types of suture thread, thinner for the inside and another kind to close the wound. He needs to get 18 or 20 caliber catheters, which are needed for transfusions and serums.

“Five packs of cotton swabs, four bandages, cotton, 20 compresses, syringes, several rolls of tape, two packages of saline solution … and that’s just the beginning,” Enrique says. The “Cuban” doctor is so visible that, if it weren’t for the fact that they manage to get him the Surgivac drainage equipment, there would be no way to buy it. “It cost me 180 dollars,” says the man, who also paid a good amount for the intravenous anesthetic Propofol and the iodized povidone. continue reading

“Then will come the long recovery process,” he adds, “and my mom will need more gauze and cotton, an elastic bandage with pins, a larger bandage to cover her torso and compresses for each treatment.”

A doctor friend is the one who prepares the list, which Enrique’s mother then sends him. The Cuban health workers themselves admit what they have and what they don’t. “And they have less and less. The Government has already gotten used to the fact that we will do anything to get our relatives operated on. It’s either yes or yes: who’s going to let his mother die for not sending her medicines?”

Like Enrique, many Cubans living abroad are between a rock and a hard place. They don’t have any way to quickly ask for reunification with their relatives, and they’re not willing to subject them to the hard journey through Central America to the U.S. border. “It’s a desperate situation,” says Enrique.

A new message comes in on the phone. His mother is waiting for her turn in the oncology area of the Santa Clara Clinical Surgical Teaching Hospital. As the center ran out of water, a noisy pipe pumps in the liquid and prevents patients from resting. Those who come to be treated avoid the puddles and cables that flood the reception area, so that a slip doesn’t turn into a hip fracture or worse.

“Next week I’m leaving for Cuba,” Enrique concludes. “That means that my suitcases not only carry the medicines and equipment, but also a pair of flip-flops for my mom, two night gowns, clothes for cousins, cookies, preserves, jams, whatever it takes to ’sweeten’ a little everything that is happening.”

The drug deficit in Miami and other Florida cities seemed like an unusual situation, but it has already become a daily occurrence for Cubans living in the United States. Phenomena such as “resolving” how to find products, waiting several hours to make a purchase and the mistreatment of pharmacists and sellers resurrect the worst nightmares of Cuban exile. The Government of the Island, meanwhile, continues to proudly brandish, and through the export of its own health workers to other countries, the label of “medical power.”

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.

With Their Beds on the Street, a Family from Old Havana Denounces the Collapse of Their Home

The victims of the collapse, disposed to set up their domestic barricade, prevent the passage of vehicles and pedestrians. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 12 August 2022 — In Cuba, the walls speak as much as the people. Cracks, humidity, bricks, leaks, beams, shreds of clothing, clouds of dust — these are the words of a pained and urgent language: that of the collapsed buildings. They’re not exclusive to Havana, but in Old Havana, punished by salt from the sea air and overpopulation, the boundary between habitable and ruin is more diffuse and matters less.

It’s part of the daily drama that a family, subjected to blackouts and continuous shortages, sees the structure of their house suffer, checks how it trembles during a cyclone and observes how it falls apart due to lack of maintenance.

The roof of a building on Habana Street, between Aguiar and Muralla, in the oldest area of the capital, collapsed several days ago. Not knowing what to do, the inhabitants picked up their belongings and took to the streets in protest.

The faces of mothers, children and the elderly are so desperate that it’s frightening to see. There’s a lot of anger and visceral impotence, because the solution doesn’t depend on personal effort but on the parsimony of the bureaucrats. They tried to appease them with promises: guaranteed food, electricity, materials. But nothing happened.

This Friday they returned to the street again. The junk they have on the street contains their whole life: cribs, mattresses, springs, wash basins, wheelbarrows of bricks, furniture that has been in the family for decades, Soviet devices and Chinese fans, relics of all eras.

The junk they have on the street contains their whole life: cribs, mattresses, springs, wash basins, wheelbarrows of bricks, furniture that has been in the family for decades, Soviet devices and Chinese fans, relics of all eras. (14ymedio)

The victims of the collapse, disposed to set up their domestic barricade, prevent the passage of vehicles and pedestrians. They want the country to stop and listen to them. “No one will pass through here until this is resolved,” shouts a woman, who only agreed to the request to let an elderly woman clinging to her cane continue. continue reading

Local authorities don’t offer solutions or respond to dialogue, but they have already sent the usual gang of State Security agents, motorcyclists with police badges, ex-combatants ready to assert their collection of medals and traffic officers, to divert clueless drivers out of the area.

At the end of the street, a couple of agents try to discredit the screaming women. “They’re being stupid, they’re shameless,” they tell anyone who stops to see the panorama. “They know that they can’t be there and that there are people working to solve the problem. But no: what they want is to put on a show.”

Among those evicted is a woman dressed in white. She’s an initiate in santería and iyawo, but the State Security officers lie to passers-by, telling them that she is a Lady in White.* “No one here cares about whether someone is a saint or a dissident, kid,” someone who passes by answers them. The police are frustrated: the old techniques are of little use.

“Look how the Government helps,” says one woman, pointing to a squalid cardboard box with yellow rice and stale pumpkin, which was distributed in the neighborhood at ten at night. “That’s the food they’re going to help us with,” she says, “I’m supposed to feed my son with that?!”

“We are desperate,” explains another of the victims. “There’s no gas or electricity, and in addition, our kitchens also collapsed. What do we do?”

Those who watch, those who beat people, the bureaucrats, all of them often suffer the same shortages. However, that doesn’t prevent them from complying with the orders of those who live comfortably, without blackouts and fed with imported delicacies.

Meanwhile, a retired old man is preparing to fulfill his “duty” and juggles to interrupt a young man who is filming the scene. No matter where he focuses the camera, the old man harasses him, nudges him and stands in front of the camera, until the young man gets bored and leaves. “We don’t have blood in our veins,” says an angry man who witnesses the scene.

With the barricade and the people shouting, Habana Street is narrowed by sweat and despair. The claim of the evicted, shipwrecked in a country adrift, summarizes the pain of the entire island.

*Translator’s note: An opposition movement founded in 2003 by female relatives of jailed dissidents.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The Lights Return with a Saucepan Demonstration in Front of the Dreaded Fifth Police Unit in Santa Clara

“That neighborhood is the trigger,” explains Enrique, a resident in the center of Santa Clara. “If El Condado explodes, the whole city will follow.” (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 15 August 2022 — Two night protests against the blackouts took place this weekend in the neighborhood of El Condado, in Santa Clara. Neighbors took advantage of the darkness to shout and beat on saucepans in front of the dreaded Fifth Unit Police Station

A video that circulated on Sunday on several social networks shows dozens of people shouting slogans in a park located on Estrada Palma Street, in the vicinity of the police station.

“El Condado is a prioritized circuit,” Enrique, a resident in the center of Santa Clara, tells 14ymedio, “and the Electrical Union avoids taking away the power. On Saturday they did it for the first time in some time, and people protested. After half an hour they reestablished service. Yesterday, not too late at night, the same thing happened.”

“That neighborhood is the trigger,” he explains. “If El Condado explodes, the whole city will follow.” He points out that the most significant thing about the protests is that they occurred “for the Police to see,” and in front of the Fifth Unit, which has the reputation of handling any incident in El Condado with a “strong hand.”

A recent example of this, Enrique recalls, was the death of the young Zinédine Zidane Batista, 17, at the hands of a police officer. In the middle of a fight, Batista was neutralized by an officer and shot several times, including once in the chest, which ended his life. Although El Condado is characterized by the people of Santa Clara as a “marginal” neighborhood, this episode of violence deeply moved the residents of the city. continue reading

To the discomfort caused by the repression are added the constant blackouts and the difficulty in obtaining food and basic products, even when this neighborhood of Santa Clara also functions as the center of the city’s informal market.

An article published in the local newspaper Vanguardia, on August 11, informed the people of Santa Clara that they would undergo a “rotation of the four energy blocks” to “distribute” the “effects” of the electric service.

The article specified that the province had “300,000 residential customers distributed on 159 circuits,” of which several receive “protection,” such as circuit 3, in the center of Santa Clara, “where services committed to the population are offered, in addition to radio and television transmitters, banks and ATMs.”

In addition, the provincial government announced two “proposals” for the planning of blackouts. “The first proposal consists of 12 hours divided into two periods of time, and the second, of up to 12 continuous hours, whose interruption time could be shorter depending on the conditions of the National Electricity System.”

The “new system of effects” began on Saturday, August 13, coinciding with the protests in El Condado. Some of the comments of readers, outraged by the article, escaped censorship by the Communist Party, of which Vanguardia is the provincial press organ.

“Are we a national vanguard in blackouts? Why are they so unfair to some and accommodating to others? Are we third-rate citizens?” asked one reader. “Impossible,” said another, “we can’t take it anymore. How long? They do repairs, maintenance, and when they start getting back up on the system they have problems again. The issue of programming, keep it in mind, is abusive. We went back to the years of the Special Period.”

“People are very upset in every way,” Enrique tells 14ymedio, “but the Government has been able to regulate the ’pressure’. In reality, very few people in Santa Clara dare to go out on the street, and those who do immediately give in when they turn on the power.”

“In my neighborhood,” the man continues, “very close to the city center, when the light goes out there are three ’security’ women who go out to see what people say. They have children abroad and their cards are loaded with dollars, a very comfortable position to be in for a ’snitch’. Recently, in the middle of a blackout, the banging on two pots and pans rang down the street, and they immediately went out to see what was going on. There are people like that in every neighborhood.”

Night protests against blackouts are becoming more frequent on the island. The explosion at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, on August 5, was a bad omen for a country that was already in the middle of a crisis. Since the night demonstrations against an energy cut in Los Palacios, Pinar del Río, on July 15, this type of protest has been repeated in dozens of towns and cities on the island.

During the most recent ones, in Güira de Melena, in the province of Artemisa, neighbors took to the streets with pots and pans, shouting “Turn on the power, dickhead,” a slogan that has become common to demand an end to the blackouts.

Translated by Regina a 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 the Midst of the Blackouts, a Luxury Hotel Without Customers Illuminates Havana

Greater Aston, located on 1st and D Streets, very close to Malecón Avenue. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 10 August 2022 — In the midst of an almost absolute blackout in Havana’s Vedado, the Grand Aston Hotel Havana seemed to have fallen from another world, less precarious and underdeveloped. All its lamps, windows, spotlights, reflectors and even humble light bulbs were at their maximum capacity, without any attention to the ominous reports of the Electrical Union.

Energy conservation is not an issue of interest to the directors of the Greater Aston, located on 1st and D streets, very close to Malecón Avenue. “The newest and most elegant” hotel in the city, according to its website, also doesn’t seem to concern the Cuban Government too much, which juggles to attract investment from foreign companies in the tourism sector.

It’s not the first time that state hotels and establishments seem to enjoy special “isolation” in the cities of the island, safe from power cuts, the misery of the people, police repression, hunger and protests provoked by all these factors.

On the same day that the Grand Aston threw its luminous aura over the darkened capital, Habaneros watched the sinister glow of the fire at the Supertanker Base in Matanzas.

Also during that day, the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric power plant announced its umpteenth exit from the National Electricity System, under the pretext of not having “sufficient water supply” and no fuel, while an acidic and heavy downpour bathed the rooftops of the city. continue reading

The torment for the Cuban people doesn’t end there. A few days before the explosion in Matanzas, the Minister of Economy formally declared war on the informal currency exchange and provoked the usual question: “If we don’t have electricity, food, well-being or a future, what are they doing with our dollars?”

Neighbors looking at the incandescent tower of the Grand Aston had to think that, perhaps, the hotel was the only place in Havana where those questions referred to a distant reality.

It is not for nothing that managers say that anyone who can afford a room at the Grand Aston will access “a refuge where they can relax and recharge their batteries, while experiencing its glamour.”

The price of the only illuminated Eden in Havana ranges between $179 and $244 per night, tropical and truly luxurious, not like the accommodations of the rest of Havanans.

The Grand Aston, as seen in the photograph, scandalously happy about a Cuba extinguished by the death, exile and hard lives of its citizens, is the most eloquent symbol of how the darkness of the country feeds the government businesses.

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.