"The Bus Left, What a Pain"

The patients and their companions watched as the blue bus left without taking them with them. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Julio Aleaga Pesant, Havana, 8 May 2020 — The patients and their companions were surprised. A beautiful caravan of 16 new blue buses, from the company Ómnibus Nacionales, passed festively at full speed in front of them, led by two police motorcycles that facilitated their passage. The public admired the semi-empty buses, amid the economic restrictions exacerbated by the pandemic.

The spell was broken when the social worker at the Calixto García hospital, a robust black woman in her 30s, wearing a white coat, beige lycra and a facemask, ran out of the hospital entrance to University Street with her hands up, trying to stop the caravan that descended vertiginously in search of the avenue of the Presidents.

The faces of the patients and their companions contracted and a unanimous scream came from those 20 throats. Nooo! They could not believe it. The buses that needed to pick them up and take them to their destination provinces had just passed and they would have to wait more than 48 hours to have that opportunity again. continue reading

It all started a month earlier, when no one suspected that interprovincial transport would be suspended. Víctor Manuel, a diabetic patient, had to be admitted to the emergency room and operated on. His left leg was amputated. An older adult, he lives alone, in tenement with high ceilings and a collective bathroom in Central Havana. Now he needs assistance, that’s why one of his sisters, who lives in Bayamo, came to accompany him in his misfortune.

After four weeks and careful attention by hospital professionals, he was released, but Víctor Manuel would have to move to the east of the country with his sister. In order to solve the situation, the family member contacted the social worker, with the receipt of a travel letter, prepared by the patient’s GP, filed in the central archive and with the approval of the hospital director, she would make the reservation for two.

When the isolation of the provinces and the suspension of interprovincial public transport were decreed, many stranded travelers decided to pull strings with the hospital social workers and, needless to say, they offered villas and castles in order to board the next bus to their destination.

They were not alone in their endeavor. According to social workers consulted by 14ymedio, the police officers who were confronting the public at the National Bus Terminal in Havana, suggested that frustrated travelers go to the hospitals and try to “resolve” their travel, that is offer a  bribe.

However the unfortunate travelers, some because of the summary trials and personal attacks in the media on alleged corruption and hoarders, and others out of dignity and honesty, had to resort to the most elaborate island tricks to reach their destination.

After being abandoned by the buses, the social worker understood that she had three tasks ahead of her. First, calm the outraged patients and their companions. Second, contact the command post of the Ministry of Transport. Third, according to the response from the carriers, guarantee that the problem would be solved, or discourage the would-be travelers so forcefully that those affected understood that there was no possible way out or possibility of solving the problem at that time.

Victor Manuel seemed to be in the group of the most understanding and, from his wheelchair, optimistically awaited the return of the transport.

The command post, callous and apathetic, passed sentence: “The bus left, what a shame. Return the patients to the next departure within 48 hours.”

Did the person think beyond the mobile phone earpiece all the structure to be removed? Did he imagine the social worker facing the fired sick and their companions? Did he calculate the cost per bed occupied and medical treatment for patients, in addition to food? All at the expense of the public purse.

 And what about the cost for the companion. He managed to abstract himself, become the command post, to understand how a suitcase is unpacked, where there are wheelchairs, buckets, fans, bedding and other unfathomable belongings that patients and their companions take to hospitals. Why couldn’t the caravan retrace its steps? What was the human and economic cost of the extravagant decision not to collect the sick and their companions? All those questions will remain unanswered.

Víctor Manuel retraced his steps and thanked the social worker calling her by name, while she wrote down her phone number in case a new opportunity presented itself. He cursed under his breath and left  pushing the wheelchair, while the sister, as old as he, carried the rest.


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Six Cuban Activists Denied Right To Leave The Country For Reasons Of “National Security”

Aimara Peña was one of the activists who was not allowed to travel to Argentina this weekend. (Courtesy)

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14ymedio, Havana, 12 February 2018 — Cuban authorities refused to allow six activists to travel to Argentina to participate in a workshop on “electoral process,” according to information provided to 14ymedio this Sunday by Julio Aleaga, member of the independent platform Candidates for Change (CxC).

“There were ten activists planning to travel to Argentina this weekend, but only four were able to do so, with no information about why some were allowed to go and others were not. There were two forms of repression: some were informed at José Martí Airport that they were prohibited from leaving because of ‘national security’ interests, and others were stopped before they arrived” at the terminal, Aleaga said. continue reading

The activists are member of different organizations including CxC, Independent and Democractic Cuba, and the #Otro18 [Another 2018].

“Neither Midiaysis Marrero nor Niurka Carmona were allowed to board the flight to Buenos Aires, Niurka was arrested at the airport on Saturday and told that she was barred from leaving due to matters of national security,” Aleaga said.

The opponent Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna was also prevented from boarding the flight and, according to what he told this newspaper, also prevented from leaving were María Mercedes Benítez (from #Otro18), José Ramón Polo (from Dialog Roundtable), and a third person not yet identified.

According to Madrazo, a police patrol car stopped the taxi in which he was heading to the airport and he was taken by officers of the National Revolutionary Police to the 10th of October Police Station. Madrazo explains that once there they asked him many questions about an alleged relationship with the opposition platform ‘Cuba Decides’, since that movement’s “propaganda had appeared” in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood.

Among the four activists who managed to travel are Juan Moreno, lawyer Amado Calixto (both from CxC) and independent candidate Aimara Peña, resident in Las Tozas, Sancti Spíritus.

Restrictions imposed on activists by the authorities with the objective of preventing them from participating in events outside the Island have increased significantly in the last year.

Along with the arbitrary arrests, threats and confiscation of the equipment and supplies they use to carry out their work, refusal to allow them to leave the country is part of the government’s repressive measures, according to reports gathered by independent organizations such as the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation.

Since the Government of Raul Castro approved the travel and immigration reform measures of January 2013, the presence of Cuban human rights activists in international meetings and forums has been notable. But at present there are many opponents who have been arbitrarily prevented from being able to accept the invitations to attend these events.

Police kidnappings of activists on their way to the airport, exit “regulations” imposed, legal cases that prevent the activist from leaving the country, and threats of reprisals if he or she “misbehaves” abroad, are some of the pressures denounced by the activists.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Citizen Diplomacy / Julio Antonio Aleaga Pesant

Cuba Today, El Vedado, Havana, (PD): Bit by bit some of the early activists who were able to cross the sea are returning; they were guests or sponsored by organizations or individuals the “outside world.”

I say some, because you must remember that under their inalienable right, there are friends who took the opportunity to stay “there”, and others, who even asked for political asylum.

In a very short time these compatriots went from being pro-democracy activists in Cuba to being the latest economic migrants to the northern neighbor. The worst thing projects they were responsible are left adrift, or at least without a visible face. I refer specifically to the Voices editorial project, and the Christian Liberation Movement.

These reflections come after an informal meeting in the home of Reinaldo Escobar and Yoani Sanchez, on June 28. There, gathering together, were the regulars of these libertarian meetings. Politicians, artists, independent journalists, bloggers, photographers, students, lawyers, Christian pastors and even the occasional diplomat, gathered around a theme, and interspersed with those who returned and those who did not leave.

That evening there were sympathetic anecdotes, deep thoughts, sharp questions and even the occasional vain folly of the islander who, having crossed the sea, believes that have crossed, like Julius Caesar, the Rubicon. But the important thing is that the meeting clarified, in silence, the inadequacy of leaving the foreign policy of the democratic opposition in the hands of others; and, once again, the lack of institutionalization.

Because a handful of brave people travel outside to tell their truth, is not enough to justify expectations or clearly establish what happened and what is going to happen, nor to establish ties to pressure, on our behalf, the military dictatorship. The so-called citizen diplomacy can’t be exactly this in our specific case. Our travelers, in this case and save exceptions, just competed with Uncle Traveling Matt, the character from Fraggel Rock, with regards to traveling to the outside world.

Unlike Uncle Traveling Matt, an adventurer with his own funds, our citizens went abroad thanks to the gracious decisions of strangers (?), who arranged the agendas of their guests. And even more important, they established the foreign policy agenda of the democratic opposition in Cuba. But also,they established distances and origins difficult to reconcile, in an archipelago marked by misery and deprivation described in Maslow’s pyramid of needs.

The patrons of the journeys highlighted once again the lack of funds among the democratic opposition in Cuba is not a sad page of our reality, but a timid Decalogue of our shame.

Among the unpardonable gaps among the dazzles is that most don’t offer a logical and visible strategy of how, after their return, they will open new doors in those countries for our transition. Leaving behind some pitiful complaints to take steps to work together: what we need to construct a true citizen diplomacy.

Off-the-cuff pronouncements, misplaced speeches, nonsense in front of the international press, ministers and politicians of the first level in foreign scenes, are anecdotes that those present ignored in favor of the harmony of the meetings, but they hang like a Sword of Damocles, over the consciences of those present. This also was a part of the tours of our illustrious friends and if we want to learn we can’t overlook our mistakes.

The closest thing we could do to realize a diplomatic alternative to the military dictatorship would be to use “paradiplomacy,” a neologism that reminds us that the actors of civil society also take the reins of international relations. This private phenomenon of postmodernism, where non-state actors play an increasingly significant role, must be our path. But to get there, first we have to strengthen our pro-democratic institutions.

By Julio Antonio Aleaga Pesant

Photo: Joisy García

11 July 2013