The Police Removed the Poor From the Streets of Cienfuegos During the Visit of Diaz-Canel

The authorities of Cienfuegos wanted to prevent the poor from “wandering” in the city during the visit of Miguel Díaz-Canel. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Justo Mora / Mario J. Pentón, Cienfuegos / Miami, 19 January 2019 – More than twenty beggars and elderly people were picked up by the police in the streets of Cienfuegos and sent to the Psychiatric Hospital. The authorities wanted to prevent those poor people from “wandering” in the city during Thursday’s visit by the Head of State, Miguel Díaz-Canel.

Various testimonies collected by 14ymedio in Cienfuegos gave an account of the “cleaning” done by the forces of order with a bus that picked up the elderly who were on the Boulevard and other central zones of the city.

“My aunt was picked up on Wednesday, they manhandled and beat her, she still has a bandage on her leg and bruises on her face and mouth. Osniel Gómez, a policeman on the Boulevard, told me that the round up was due to the arrival of Díaz-Canel,” Martha Galán Cañizares, niece of Natividad Cañizares, reported by telephone. continue reading

Galán said her aunt appeared drugged when she picked her up at the psychiatric hospital in Cienfuegos. According to her, nobody could tell her who was responsible for the old woman’s injuries.

“My aunt raised me since I was a baby. Imagine the amount of medication they gave her that she did not even recognize me. When I told these things to the police they wanted to arrest me,” the woman added.

Although she thought about staying in front of the headquarters of the Communist Party to show Diaz-Canel what had happened to her aunt, Galán feared for the consequences.

“My fear is that afterwards they will continue harassing her. My aunt does not get involved with anyone. She is well mentally, the only thing is that she likes to walk around the city and while she is healthy I think she should do it,” she said.

Díaz-Canel visited Cienfuegos last Thursday as part of a tour that has taken him to several provinces in the country. The media presence of the president, appointed by Raúl Castro in April 2018, has grown exponentially. He visited the glucose factory, the university, the provincial hospital and the amusement park, as well as holding a meeting with the principal leaders of the region.

The social networks publish more and more photos and videos of Diaz-Canel strolling through the streets of the  major cities and small peasant villages, where people approach him to pose problems of all kinds.

“Every time a high-level visit comes, the police and the Ministry of Public Health pick up the dirty-looking people who roam the streets and take them to the Psychiatric Hospital,” says a source at the Municipal Social Security Directorate who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.

“The worst of it all is that they pick them up for a few days and then release them again on the streets without any type of asistance,” he added.

According to the same source, during Díaz-Canel’s visit at least twenty beggars and “wanderers” were picked up.

Arelys Silva, who lives in the vicinity of the Calzada de Dolores, one of the city’s main arteries, is “outraged” by the abuse of the beggars.

“Everybody knows that they take advantage of the fact those people have no one to defend them and they commit all sorts of injustices against them.” Since the arrival of Díaz-Canel, the entire scene was set up to show that things are all wonderful. These people live in a lie,” she said.

Silva says she is still waiting for Díaz-Canel to “bring back the quality” of the flour with which they are making bread or to change the filters of the city aqueduct so that the water does not arrive “with a chocolate color”.

“We have lived through decades of promises and calls for resistance but we continue with the ration book and ’eating chicken for fish’*,” she lamented.

Odalis Acea, a self-employed worker, recognized that with the arrival of Díaz-Canel, transportation and garbage collection had improved. “Even bus route 5 to Tulipán is passing by regularly, but when the president gets on his helicopter, all will revert to how it was before.”

*Translator’s note: “Eating chicken for fish” is a widespread complaint about the rationing system. Cubans can buy limited foods through their ration booklets at very low prices. The allocation is supposed to include fish but, as it almost never does, chicken is substituted. There is no explanation for why, on an island surrounded by water, fish is never available.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria


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.

Dengue and Zika Advancing in Cienfuegos

A doctor attends a child with fever in one of the attached rooms of the hospital in Cienfuegos. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Justo Mora / Mario J. Pentón, Cienfuegos/Miami, December 12, 2018 –Winter hasn’t managed to contain the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is grazing freely in Cienfuegos. 198 people have been seen in the past week under suspicion of dengue, and 22 suspected cases of Zika have been recorded, which makes the province one of those most affected by the presence of the mosquito, according to official figures obtained by 14ymedio.

“We have around 200 patients with symptoms of having contracted zika or dengue,” one of the doctors directing the fight against the epidemic explained, under condition of anonymity. “Additionally, the confirmed cases in the same period of time are 33 of dengue and 25 of zika. The epidemiologic situation is difficult in the province and the population doesn’t doesn’t realize the risk.”

The most affected municipality is Cienfuegos, with 118 cases of patients with fever, because of which they have had to equip rooms and annex hospitals to attend the flow of patients. In the province, 45 sources of the mosquito Aedes aegypti have been counted, of which the majority, 40, are in the city of Cienfuegos. continue reading

Areas of Cienfuegos where the mosquitos that transmit dengue and zika are common. (14ymedio)

The city’s newspaper, 5 de Septiembre, published an article at the end of November warning about the presence of a type of dengue in the province that hadn’t been seen since 1977 and that can cause death.

Authorities classified the health situation in the province at that moment as “alarming.”

“We have some shelters in the Faculty of Medical Sciences, in the Cinco de Septiembre polytechnic, and in other areas like Caunao. We were thinking that in 15 days the situation would be resolved, but to date the outlook remains very complicated,” he added.

The majority of the annexed rooms and shelters in which the patients with fever are being hospitalized don’t have the necessary conditions for good care. The patients are being crowded together, with terrible hygiene conditions and bad food, as 14ymedio was able to confirm during a tour of those spaces. Added to this are a lack of medicine and the bad state of the equipment, some of it in a deplorable condition.

Despite the growing number of cases of dengue and zika the water leaks continue to proliferate in many neighborhoods of the city (14ymedio)

In Cienfuegos there are 25 confirmed cases of zika, a virus that causes the appearance of reddish spots on the skin that may be accompanied by mild fever, headache, conjunctivitis, muscular pains, diarrhea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

In the case of pregnancies, it is believed that zika can cause microcephaly, because of which health authorities warn pregnant women to avoid traveling to areas where the virus is present. In Cienfuegos, so far there have been confirmed 12 pregnant patients.

“The Aedes mosquito reproduces in clean waters. In Cienfuegos we have a precarious situation with the water supply, so people use tanks, buckets, barrels, and whatever they have on hand so that they don’t run out. There are areas where there has been no water for up to 15 days. This is the perfect place for sources to be generated,” warns the doctor.

“Luckily we have a health system that has its faults, but in coverage is very effective, otherwise, the situation would be worse. Until now we have not had to mourn deaths due to dengue or zika,” he added.

Numbers of cases of dengue and zika by area in Cienfuegos. (14ymedio)

Yamilka Portuondo, a Cienfuegos resident who lives in the Buena Vista neighborhood, doesn’t even remember the mosquito bite, but one morning she woke up with fever and her whole body hurt. “It was as if I had been beaten,” she explains. She spent almost a week with high fevers, abdominal pains, and weakness.

“Late at night is when the mosquitos start to go out and no one can escape them. Here there are many water leaks, that’s where they bred,” she says via telephone.

“I was in bed at home for a week. I had to commit to staying in my room with a mosquito net and not going out*. My dengue wasn’t the worst case, because of that a doctor friend of mine let me stay at home, but the majority of people have to go to the hospital,” she comments.

Her family got meat, oil, and vegetables for her diet, a luxury for the poorly supplied local markets. “My family members in Miami sent me a package of food that also helped. Dengue makes the platelets go down a lot, so doctors order a reinforced diet. Without my family I don’t know what I would have done.”

*Translator’s note: Patients can become a link in the transmission chain if uninfected mosquitos bite them, catch the virus, and then pass it on by biting other people.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


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.

Alleged Murderer of Two Women in Cienfuegos Commits Suicide

A strong police presence accompanied the buriel of the alleged murdered of two women in Cienfuegos (Justo Mora)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Justo Mora / Mario J. Pentón, Cienfuegos/Miami, 5 December 2018 — Rafael Garcia, alleged perpetrator of the double femicide that shook Cienfuegos last May, committed suicide on the eve of his trial, scheduled for Wednesday, several sources close to the family confirmed to 14ymedio.

The tension was thick in the air in the morning hours in the vicinity of the funeral home in the city where Garcia’s body was being prepared for burial. Policemen, relatives, friends and dozens of onlookers filled the crowded Prado Street.

“He hanged himself because he was sorry for what he did and did not want to see the faces of the relatives of the victims, he called his family from prison to tell them that he could not live there,” a neighbor of Garcia told this newspaper. continue reading

Last May, Tomasa Causse Fabat, a 64-year-old nurse, and her daughter Daylín Najarro Causse, 36, died of knife wounds inflicted by García, the younger woman’s former husband and the elder woman’s former son-in-law.

According to residents of the neighborhood of San Lazaro, where the events took place, around noon on the day of the murders Causse Fabat began shouting outside her home. Seeing her bleeding, a neighbor came to help. At that moment the daughter crossed the street and took refuge in another house to escape her ex-husband who was chasing her with a knife. He had already stabbed her multiple times in the womb. The assailant pursued her there and continued stabbing her. Then he cut her throat before the terrified eyes of the witnesses.

Causse Fabat died a few hours later in the same room where she had served as a nurse.

Najarro Causse had been married to the man that all the witnesses identified as her murderer and with whom she had a five-year-old girl. At the time of her death, she was three months pregnant by another partner.

Adrián Najarro, son and brother of the victims, told 14ymedio that Garcia’s death “does not give the family peace.”

“All this has been very hard for me, first because justice could not be done and it has stirred up the memory of everything that I experienced with my mother and my sister, and then because my niece is now also orphaned of a father,” he added.

García had been detained for alleged lascivious touching of his daughter and had just completed a year in prison when he committed the crime, explained Najarro.

“The girl herself said that her father abused her, but since they did not find evidence, they only sentenced him to one year and six months in prison for a misdemeanor, something like exhibitionism,” lamented the relatives of the victims in a previous conversation with 14ymedio.

The girl has been living in the east of the country, to get away from the tragedy, said Najarro.

The trial against Rafael García was cancelled due to his death, but the official press has not yet reported the news.

Last year Cienfuegos was the scene of several crimes that shook the 150,000 inhabitants of the city. In February, Luis Santacruz Labrada, 23, died at the hands of a minor.

In October 2017 the young Leidy Maura Pacheco Mur, aged 18, was raped by three men who later killed her. The trial was held amid extraordinary security measures and two of the murderers were sentenced to life imprisonment and a third to 30 years in prison.

The Cuban government does not publish official figures on violent acts on the island and crimes are rarely addressed by the official press. Mariela Castro, daughter of former Cuban President Raúl Castro and president of the National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex), said in January this year that there were no femicides in Cuba and that this was an “achievement of the Revolution” led by her father and her uncle in 1959.


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.

The Lack of Water Hits Several Hospitals In Central Cuba

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara Cardiocenter in the city of Santa Clara. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Justo Mora / Mario J. Pentón, Cienfuegos / Miami | November 09, 2018 – The deterioration of the hydraulic infrastructure in the center of the country is hitting hard at several hospitals in the region, which cannot function normally as they suffer from daily rationing of the water supply to complete cutoffs in the supply lasting more than three days, a situation that workers and users of these centers point out.

“We have a problem with the water supply. The authorities are trying to solve it with tanker trucks, but no surgical operations have been carried out in the past three days,” a worker of the Ernesto Che Guevara Cardiocenter told 14ymedio on condition of anonymity.

This hospital complex, located in Santa Clara and the only one of its kind in the center of Cuba specializing in heart disease, has been paralyzed for more than 72 hours due to the lack of potable water. continue reading

The Cardiocenter serves patients from Villa Clara and Cienfuegos up to the province of Camagüey. The same employee explained that the problem not only affects the Cardiocenter but also all the hospital facilities in that city.

The country’s water networks are very deteriorated, authorities have said, so that other hospitals in the region also suffer similar problems. This is the case of the Cienfuegos Gustavo Aldereguía Lima Provincial Hospital and of the Camilo Cienfuegos Hospital, in Sancti Spíritus, which have had to ration water to avoid interruptions in the service.

A worker at the hospital in Cienfuegos complained that, at night, there is no water in the emergency surgical rooms and that the surgeons have to wash their hands with bags of saline. Last August, the inhabitants of this city had to face the lack of water not only in hospitals, but also in their own homes.

The facilities at these medical centers have several decades of use and have never, for all practical purposes, been repaired. This is coupled with a serious water leakage problem that is common throughout the country.

The former president of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources, Inés María Chapman Waugh, noted that every year more than 3.4 billion liters of water are lost through leaks in the country. The loss from pumping this water that ends up in puddles and small streams in the streets is valued at around five million euros, according to the official press.

“My sister is waiting for a heart valve replacement, how is it possible that they cannot operate because there is no water?” laments Luis, who waits outside the Cardiocenter.

The official press points out that in the Camilo Cienfuegos Hospital in Sancti Spíritus the 400,000 liters that are stored in the cistern are not enough to satisfy the needs since it is wasted. A recent report by the newspaper Escambray indicates that “cascades” are heard during the day, in reference to the leaks that spill all the water accumulated in the storage tanks into rooms and offices.

The director of the hospital, Eduardo Pedrosa Prado, also explained the water restrictions they endure. When the company Acueducto stops pumping water to the medical center, the decision is made to cutoff the internal pumping at 10:00 at night. The hospital runs out of water until 5:00 in the morning because otherwise the water stored in the cistern would not be sufficient for the next day.

The same routine used by the Gustavo Aldereguía Hospital in Cienfuegos is carried out in Sancti Spíritus. The nurses wash the hands of the surgeons with glassfuls of water that they extract from the gallons that they save during the day.

“We have become accustomed to this situation, but it is unhealthy and it endangers the lives of patients. We spend our lives in front of the world saying that we are a medical power and we send aid to other countries, but the truth is that nobody knows the sacrifice of those of us who work in public health,” a surgeon tells this newspaper.

The state of the bathrooms in the rooms of the provincial hospital of Cienfuegos is “lamentable”, says Ernestina Guzmán, a companion of a patient with kidney problems.

“The toilets do not have tanks. To flush you have to load a bucket of water and throw it into the toilet, and often there is not even water, so the bad smell stays around all day in the room,” she details.

Guzmán laments that the cleaning of the facilities “does not meet the needs of the hospital.” She maintains that even inmates are sent “to clean the rooms because nobody wants to work for the salaries paid by Public Health. They clean up badly and  do not even use the appropriate disinfectants for a hospital,” he complains.

“I already know that healthcare is free, but even though it is, or precisely because it is everyone’s right, hospital centers should have quality,” she adds.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria


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.

"The Work of the Century" is Now a Ghost Town in Cienfuegos

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Justo Mora, Cienfuegos, August 30, 2018 — Pedro Albaladejo arrived in Juraguá 31 years ago. At that time he didn’t have as much gray hair as he does now, nor did he let his beard grow more than five days. He was a strong young man, with a tanned complexion, who at 35 made his living as a builder.

One day he received an offer to be part of the group that was going to build “the work of the century” in Cuba: the nuclear power plant that would provide electricity to the industrial center of Cienfuegos. He exchanged his ranch in Las Tunas for a temporary hostel and ever since has lived in the vicinity of what the locals call the CEN, the ruins of the mammoth project of the National Electronuclear Plant.

“Before, this place was full of people who came to work. Trucks never stopped arriving. It was another time. The Soviet Union supported us and here there was hope that life would get better,” he says as he pastures a herd of goats among abandoned blocks of concrete. continue reading

“So many people without houses in this country, and here they have left a ton of apartments unfinished. That’s a crime, boy,” a neighbor laments. (14ymedio)

$1.1 billion was invested in the construction of the reactor, and more than 10,000 workers, engineers, and architects worked on the project. Dozens of Russian specialists worked together with the Cubans on the projects of the Nuclear City.

Fidel Castro made an agreement with the Soviets in 1976 to build two nuclear reactors of the VVER-400 V316 type, but the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 slowed down the Russian nuclear program, and the end of Soviet subsidies to Cuba ended up paralyzing the project in 1992.

The first houses in the Nuclear City, developed in the Soviet style, were turned over in 1981. “We built these buildings ourselves,” says Albaladejo, pointing out a block of five-story apartments. Empty. “So many people without houses in this country, and here they have left a ton of apartments unfinished. That’s a crime, boy,” he laments.

Around him are the ruins of what in the past were hostels, warehouses, offices, dozens of buildings abandoned and cannibalized by the “stonepickers,” as the locals call the people who devote themselves to pulling out blocks, rods, and slabs from the ruins.

“Homeland or death! We will win! Socialism or death! Resist and win!” The old slogans painted on the buildings and the portraits of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara resist the passage of time. A completely abandoned 18-story building and various apartment blocks without doors or windows remind one of Pripyat, the nuclear city that the Soviets built nearby Chernobyl which was evacuated and abandoned after the explosion of a reactor on April 26, 1986.

“No one wants to live here. Young people leave for Cienfuegos or abroad because there’s only work here as a guard, in the private hospital, or as a teacher. There’s almost never water and in the buildings it rains more inside than out because of all the leaks,” he laments.

In the Nuclear City and its vicinity around 9,000 people live, according to the most recent official figures. After the disaster of the atomic plant, the Government created a tobacco factory and promoted agriculture as a source of jobs.

“A while ago the Government built a hydroponic facility here. They figured that we would be able to eat vegetables from there at low prices. The only thing remaining from the venture is the name because there’s not even a plot, no way,” says Albaladejo.

Yasniel was born in the Nuclear City and has never left the province. He’s 13 and has the look of someone who has already lived a lot, despite his young age. In the afternoons he goes out to fish with two friends on the pier. He dreams of having his own boat when he’s an adult, but the prices are through the roof, he says.

Yasniel was born in the Nuclear City and has never left the province. He’s 13 and has the look of someone who has already lived a lot, despite his young age. In the afternoons he goes out to fish with two friends on the pier.

“I sell the fish to other fishermen, and they resell it in Cienfuegos. The truth is that there’s not much to do here. Sometimes at night I go to the Circle (a recreation center) to listen to music.”

His school is destroyed. After Irma, the last hurricane that affected Cienfuegos, pieces of windows and part of the structure are on the ground. “It [the school] is a disaster. There aren’t even teachers,” he says. Where there used to be laboratories and classrooms, there are now only piles of debris.

Yasniel says that he would like to be like the Olympic boxing champion Robeisy Ramírez, native of the Nuclear City. “That kid was a great boxer, but here they don’t give life to anyone. He did well to stay in Mexico.”

When he gets together enough money, Yasniel takes the opportunity to connect to the internet in one of the City parks.

“There’s nothing else to do around here,” he says resignedly. “Whenever I can, I chat with friends on Facebook. A bunch of people from the CEN live in the US and some were friends of mine before they left.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


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.

Court in Cienfuegos Sentences Two of Leidy Pacheco’s Murderers to Life in Prison

Leidy Maura Pacheco Mur. (5 de Septiembre newspaper)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Justo Mora/Mario J. Pentón, Cienfuegos | 23 August 2018 — Justice came to Cienfuegos but in the deepest silence from the Provincial Court, which has kept secret the sentence of life imprisonment for two of the three men accused of raping and murdering Leidy Pacheco Mur, 18 years old and mother of a 10-month-old baby.

The information came to the public light this Thursday because the victim’s family told the local weekly 5 de Septiembre that Enrique Campos, 32, and Darián Gómez Chaviano, 25, had been sentenced to life imprisonment. The third man involved in the crime, Henry Hanoi Tamayo Hernández, 19, was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The trial lasted two days, August 7-8, during which the population gathered in front of the court, which was protected by the police. The crowd rebuked the men with cries of “To the firing-wall” and “murderers.” continue reading

The sentence of the court can be appealed to the People’s Supreme Court.

“The truth is that those men got off easy. They should be shot after causing so much pain,” Margarita Fuentes, resident of the Junco Sur suburb on the outskirts of the city, told 14ymedio.

Yesenia Oliva, who planted herself outside the court during the trial, says that it’s an “exemplary sentence.”

“People don’t realize that there is a moratorium on the death penalty. The most that they can do is give them life imprisonment. The prisoners in Ariza will take care of those bastards,” she added.

Leidy Pacheco Mur was murdered September 26 of last year. At 2:56 PM, when she was a block from her home, she called her husband so that he wouldn’t worry about her, but she never arrived.

Enrique Campos, Henry Hanoi Tamayo, and Darián Gómez covered her mouth, took her to Plan Mango, a grove on the outskirts of Cienfuegos, raped her, killed her, and buried her at the bank of a small dam, according to the testimony of her father, Pedro Valentín Pacheco Alonso.

The three murderers lived in the same neighborhood as the victim. The next day the family notified the authorities of the young woman’s disappearance.

Family members, neighbors, and even one of the rapists participated in the search for the young woman, which lasted six days.

The death of Leidy Pacheco moved Cienfuegos, a city that in barely a year has suffered various murders. On February 14 Luis Santacruz Labrada was murdered with a knife and in May a double murder of women shocked the city, which in the past counted safety as one of its biggest appeals.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


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.

Arsenic, Oil and Plastics Invade Cienfuegos Bay

Punta Cotica, in the vicinity of the thermoelectric plant, is one of the most polluted neighborhoods in Cienfuegos. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Justo Mora/Mario J. Pentón, Cienfuegos/Miami, 5 June 2018 — A crab covered with remnants of oil lifts a claw in a threatening gesture while sidling slowly through one of the mangroves on the banks of Cienfuegos Bay. It is rare to see seagulls crossing the bay in search of fish while some pelicans spotted in their flight over the water are stained with black.

“Since the oil refinery spilled into the bay we can no longer fish,” Eddy Alberto, a young man who lives in the Reina district just outside Cienfuegos, tells 14ymedio. On the morning of May 28, the Damují River overflowed near the refinery (recently abandoned by Venezuela), and flooded the sewage treatment pools, sending more than 12,000 cubic meters of liquids mixed with oil into the bay. continue reading

The rains from subtropical storm Alberto increased the flow in the province’s rivers, which empty into the bay, making the marine currents stronger than normal and sending the oil slick across more than 70% of the inlet. Cuba Petroleo specialists estimate that the recovery costs are on the order of a million dollars. Local fishermen fear that there will be no financial compensation for them.

“It’s not the first time they’ve polluted the bay, we live off fishing and no one will compensate us for this,” says Eddy Alberto, 30, his skin tanned by the tropical sun. The young fisherman complains that in order to support his family he now has to cut grass to sell to the drivers of the horsecarts — the main means of transportation in the city — to feed their horses. For each bag he receives 15 Cuban pesos (roughly 60 cents US).

This is not the first environmental tragedy experienced in the bay. The previous catastrophe dates back to 1986 when an oil spill seriously contaminated the inlet. The cleanup work lasted five months. In 2001, an arsenic spill caused alarm among Cienfuegans. Although the authorities never revealed how much of the poison was poured into the bay, fishing was prohibited.

At the end of 2013, Reinaldo Acosta Milán, director of the Supervision Unit of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (CITMA) explained on Radio Ciudad del Mar that the waters of the bay were free of arsenic and that, with the passage time, the spill had been incorporated into the sediments. Acosta Milán recognized that of the species studied by CITMA, shrimp and some shellfish in the area had high levels of arsenic, so their consumption in a sustained manner could be harmful to human health. But many fishermen continued with the under the counter sale of seafood.

Eddy Alberto is not the only fisherman in his neighborhood. In the area known as the 100 Casitas, a settlement built by the Government to house the victims of Hurricane Lili, many are engaged in illegal fishing and they sell their products in the city.

“We do not hurt anyone with what we take from the sea, we are living day-to-day,” says a colleague who sells minutas (breaded fish fillets) and oysters. This man, who did not want to be identified, explains that some years ago he caught shrimp, but that it is more and more rare to find shellfish in the northern part of the bay, where he fishes.

A report by the United Nations Environment Program claims that the large-scale industrialization fostered in the years of Soviet influence on the island is mainly responsible for the compromised environmental condition of the bay. The scientists believe that the sediments of the bay are the second most polluted in the country, after those of the port of Havana.

In the 1980s, “the Nitrogenated Fertilizer Company alone contributed 9.7 tons per day of nitrogen,” notes the report. In those years, an average of 694 vessels passed through the waters of Cienfuegos annually, dumping 93.5 tons of garbage and more than 5,657 tons of oily water into the bay, according to the investigation.

The natural recycling of the bay’s waters is slow, which makes it easier for pollutants to remain longer. According to experts, the waters take between 39 and 59 days to clear the 34 square mile harbor.

The use of polluting fertilizers and biochemicals in the watersheds that flow into the port also contributed to the environmental imbalance. The sugar mills near the Damují and Caunao rivers, the Damují paper plant, and the industries built in the breeding zone are the main culprits of the environmental deterioration in the inlet.

Researchers detected the disappearance of the white shrimp in the northwestern zone, a species that was a symbol of the city and which, along with pink shrimp, was the main fishing resource of the bay.

“In general, in the last decades there are signs of ecological deterioration with a reduction in biodiversity, loss of benthic zone communities [starfish, oysters, clams, sea cucumbers, ophiuroids and sea anemones], a reduction in size and of the catch levels of commercial species, and the erosion and landscape deterioration of the coastline,” conclude the scientists.

Alejandro Sánchez, 23, lives in the historical center of Cienfuegos. In the evenings he takes advantage of the breeze from the west to go with his girlfriend to the Royal Pier to contemplate the sunset. Although the bay has exchanged its shades of blue-green for more of a yellow hue due to the recent weeks’ rains, he believes that “there is no place in the world more beautiful.”

“The only thing I regret is the pollution,” he says, using a green straw to sip a pina colada, prepared in a place a few yards from the dock. “This place was designed for tourism but they didn’t take into account the stench,” he laments.

Both the Muelle Real and other areas of the historic center of Cienfuegos have been recently restored after the proclamation in 2005 of areas of the city as a World Heritage Site. The influx of tourism has grown in recent years and Cienfuegos has become an obligatory stopover on the road to neighboring Trinidad.

The bad smell that Sanchez refers to emanates from a sewage water evacuation channel that flows very close to the wharf. The sewage network of Cienfuegos, built more than a century ago in the days of the Republic, throws the waste directly into El Inglés stream and into the bay without any type of processing.

“The environs of the city have the highest concentrations of fecal coliform in the bay,” according to several environmental experts, although fecal counts are currently below the established norms in the bathing areas.

Sanchez says he has heard about the danger of water pollution, but that local people “are not sensitive to the issue.”

“You can see plastics, garbage, dead animals and rubble everywhere you look, and in the absence of landfills, people throw it directly into the sea, which is very sad,” he says.

Arianna García Chamero, of the Cienfuegos Center for Environmental Studies, raised the alarm on behalf of local researchers when they discovered the presence of microplastics in the bay.

It is estimated that this type of waste represents 85% of pollution in the oceans and seas. Many bags, wrappings and similar waste end up in the sea and are ingested by animals and pass into the human food chain.

García Chamero told the local press earlier this year that the intake of microplastics and the heavy metals that often accompany them can be harmful to human health, causing cancer, among other diseases.

“The highest concentrations in the three matrices evaluated — water, sediments and organisms — are at the [environmental quality assessment] stations of the city of Cienfuegos, which leads us to assume that the city is one of the major polluters of the environment,” says the expert, who expressed her alarm adding, “I was shocked that the levels [of microplastics] are sometimes similar to, or even higher than, the ranges found in studies in ecosystems of highly industrialized sites on the planet.”


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.

Murder of Two Women Shocks Cienfuegos

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Justo Mora/Mario J. Pentón, Cienfuegos/Miami, 22 May 21 — It was 11:30 in the morning last Thursday when Luis Roque heard the first calls for help. He was about to go to work when his neighbor’s screams made him stop short. “Oh my little daughter, oh my little daughter,” shouted Tomasa Causse Fabat, a 64-year-old nurse on the sidewalk in front of her house in the city of Cienfuegos.

“She was bleeding, I thought something had happened and I ran to help her,” explains Roque. While he was helping Causse Fabat, the woman’s daughter left her house headed in the direction of Roque’s house, just on the other side of 66th Avenue.

“Daylín [Najarro Causse] took refuge in my house with multiple stab wounds in the stomach. My ex-wife and daughter helped her and put a sweater over her wounds to stop the bleeding, but at that moment the killer pursued her there, he continued stabbing her and finally cut her throat before the terrified eyes of my family members,” he adds. continue reading

Causse Fabat died a few hours later bleeding to death in the same ward of the hospital where she had worked, a victim of the multiple injuries allegedly caused by Rafael García, her former son-in-law. The nurse had received the internationalist worker’s medal in 2012.

Najarro Causse, 36, had been married to the man whom all the witnesses point to as her murderer and with whom she has a five-year-old girl. At the time of her death, she was three months pregnant by another man.

“I do not know if it was out of hatred or revenge but it was a massacre,” Adrián Najarro, a son and brother of the victims, told 14ymedio by telephone from Cienfuegos.

“Rafael García served a year in prison and had just left prison when he committed the crime,” explains Najarro, who had been accused of abuse and lewd touching of his own daughter.

“The little girl herself said that her father abused her, but since they did not find evidence, they only sentenced him to one year and six months in prison for a misdemeanor, something like exhibitionism,” laments the relative of the victims, aged 34, who maintains that “the laws are very weak” and that is what allowed this crime to be perpetrated.

Najarro, a teacher by profession, relates that several witnesses said that on that same Thursday the supposed culprit went to look for another ex-partner, but fortunately the woman hid, which prevented him from killing her. Other witnesses said that García also went to look for his daughter in the kindergarten, but the teachers did not hand him the girl over to him because they knew of his sentence.

“I feel bad, I do not have words to describe what I’m going through, it’s been a terrible day for me, I’m alone in the world with my niece,” she adds.

Rafael Garcia also caused minor injuries to Tomasa Causse Fabat’s husband, who tried to defend her by hitting him with a bat.

“I just want justice and for him to pay for what he did to my mother and my sister,” Najarro demands.

A neighbor of the San Lázaro district who witnessed the double crime told this newspaper that after murdering his ex-wife, García “put the knife in a black bag that he threw over his back, got on the bike and left for the Avenue as if nothing had happened.”

By then a good number of the residents of the block were crowded in front of the house where the crime had been committed and had already alerted the authorities.

“When the first patrol cars arrived, the aggressor went up the hill towards the Avenue and passed on the other side of them, people started shouting and pointing and that’s how they caught him,” said the same woman.

Another neighbor on the block who spoke with 14ymedio via telephone said she felt “extremely affected” by the crime. “We have always gotten along well on this block, we never thought we would see something like that,” she laments.

The city of Cienfuegos (150,000 inhabitants) shuddered last February with the murder of the young Luis Santacruz Labrada, aged 23 at the hands of a minor. In October of last year a young woman named Leidy Maura Pacheco Mur, aged 18, was raped by three men who later killed her.

The Cuban government does not publish official figures on the number of violent acts on the island and the crimes are rarely addressed by the official press. Mariela Castro, daughter of former Cuban President Raúl Castro and president of the National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex), said in January of this year that there were no femicides in Cuba and that this was an achievement of the 1959 Revolution led by her father and uncle.

In Cuba there is no specific legislation for sexist violence and the Cuban Penal Code does not address aggravations of this type. The cases of women who die at the hands of their boyfriends or husbands are addressed in court like any other homicide.

“A few weeks ago, another woman was murdered with machetes on 75th Street, near the Tulipán district, but unfortunately, the local media do not talk about most of the crimes that take place in the city,” says a doctor from the provincial hospital of Cienfuegos. He does not want to reveal his identity for fear of losing his job.

“Every day there are people injured with knives. This same Monday a patient arrived with several stab wounds. We need, as a society, to reflect on what is happening.”


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.

Sewer Leaks Flood Cienfuegos Streets and Block Pedestrians

Corner of Dórticos and Arango Streets, where large pipes were recently installed but the water leaks persist. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Justo Mora, Cienfuegos, 23 March 2018 — When Fidel Castro handed over the presidency to his brother in 2006, the sewer leak was already there. Wide, overflowing, smelly and capricious, the largest sewer in the San Lázaro district in the city of Cienfuegos continues to leak, unchanging.

Every day dozens of residents at the intersection of 49th Street and 66th Avenue are forced to jump to avoid sewage flooding over their shoes.

“That leak is historic, if it could talk it would narrate the struggles of our people to achieve their independence,” jokes Cristian Betancourt repeating a fragment of a well-known monologue. continue reading

Betancourt, 21, says he does not remember the street without its sewer leak. “When I was a kid we made paper boats to sail there,” he recalls.

The main concern of the residents of the neighborhood of the neighborhood is the fecal matter that escapes through the drain.

“We have complained to all levels of government and we have not received a response,” said Orael Sánchez, a resident of the area.

The repair and maintenance of the hydraulic networks is the job of the employees of the Aqueducts and Sewer Business Group, who apply “temporary solutions” to the leaks.

“The Aqueducts and Sewer Business Group employees come and close the water pipes to stop the leaks, and sometimes they have blocked a hole but it just breaks through on the other side,” explains Sánchez. The lack of repairs and maintenance of a hydraulic network that dates back to the first years of the Republic, early in the past century, has made leaks in the city’s system a common occurrence.

In 2016, one of the pipes that supply water to the city collapsed twice, generating a small sea in Calzada de Dolores, one of Cienfuegos’ main arteries.

Reports from the local press details more than 400 complaints from neighbors about the persistent leaks. The establishment of “rapid response brigades” within the Aqueducts and Sewers Business Group has not delivered results, the neighbors say.

“Government people have come here to fine us because we use a pump to fill our water tanks,” says Fidel Alejandro Ramírez, a resident of Casales Street, in the historic center of the city.

Before, the water pressure where the pipes come into the houses was so weak that residents fiddled with the pipes, drilling their own holes, which generates a host of small leaks. Around four in the afternoon the sidewalks in much of the historic center look like a fountain of small leaks.

“At least in Cienfuegos they have water and leaks. Here we get water only every 20 days,” says Obdulio Ortiz, a farmer from the municipality of Lajas, located north of the provincial capital.

In that municipality most people get their water through artisanal wells and piperos, water trucks, which charge up to 10 CUC for transporting the water.

According to the president of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources, Inés María Chapman Waugh, about 3,400 million liters of water are lost in Cuba every year through leaks. Obdulio Casanova, commercial director of the Aqueducts and Sewers Business Group, told the official press that the government loses five million dollars each year just from the water that residents pump out of the system and distribute through house-to-house networks.

“I do not understand how it is possible that the State can not solve the issue of the leaks, if donations have even come from OPEC to invest in the networks,” says a secondary school teacher who prefers to remain anonymous. Cuba has received more than 50 million dollars from international cooperation to fix the pipes.

In the neighborhood of Reina where the teacher resides, on the outskirts of the historic center, between Dorticós and Arango streets, a small lagoon is filled with what was once drinking water, now mixed with horse droppings. “Dengue, Zika and a lot of diseases that we are suffering in the neighborhood we owe to these leaks but people see it as normal and no one protests,” laments the teacher.


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.

Cienfuegos Shaken By Another Knife Crime

Friends and relatives attended the funeral of Luis Santacruz Labrada, stabbed to death in the city of Cienfuegos. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Justo Mora / Mario Pentón, Cienfuegos/Miami, 24 February 2018 — He was only 23 years old with an unquenchable desire for dancing and music. Luis Santacruz Labrada literally knew each of the songs of the national reggaeton and the places where young Cienfuegueros meet. His murder by stabbing, on February 14, has shocked a city whose tranquility has been one of its greatest attractions.

“Luis danced and sang, that was his life,” says his aunt, Regla Santacruz, who lived with the young man. Although the investigation is still in progress, some relatives explained to 14ymedio that on Valentine’s Day Santacruz Labrada decided to go out to the Malecon, a popular place among young people. continue reading

“Luis had a relationship with a minor girl, but she left him for another reggaetonero named Tito. On the night of February 13, Tito and Luis met casually on the boardwalk and talked about it,” explains a close relative who prefers not to be identified.

In the early hours of February 14, Luis separated from the group of friends he was with and received a call to his cell phone. “They told him to come to a certain place and he thought it could be the ex-girlfriend, but when he got there they stabbed him,” the same source recounts.

Santacruz Labrada was stabbed four times, one of which went through a lung, according to his relatives. More than an hour after the attack he was picked up by a taxi driver who took him to the Provincial Hospital, but it was too late.

“They could not save his life. It is the second tragedy that we have had like this in the family,” says the family member. Luis’s father was killed in Havana four years ago, stabbed in the middle of a brawl.

Tito, the alleged murderer, is 16 years old and is being held in the Provincial Delegation of the Ministry of the Interior in the Pastorita district. 14ymedio talked with relatives of the alleged murderer who confessed that the enmity between the two young men “had been coming for some time.”

“Tito argued with Luis early and that day he was drunk,” said his relative, who also said that the alleged murderer will not be transferred to the provincial prison Ariza because he is under the age of majority.

14ymedio tried to confirm this version with the National Police Department of Investigations in charge of the case but the officers explained by telephone that they could not give statements to the press.

Santacruz Labrada lived in the Reina neighborhood, located on the peninsula of Majagua, a tongue of land where the Jagua port workers settled.

“Most of the boys in this area go out into the street with a knife in their pocket. People do fight with fists like they used to,” laments Yanelys Verdecia, a Cienfuegos woman from the Reina neighborhood who was shocked by the crime.

Official media are reluctant to address the issue of violence in Cuba. Nor are there statistics that allow drawing conclusions about the incidence of this social scourge. Laritza Diversent, lawyer and director of the Cubalex Legal Information Center, recently exiled to the United States, regrets that neither the opposition groups nor the government facilitate a debate on violence on the island.

“The number of violent acts is only known to the authorities, so we do not have the tools to talk as a society about the importance of this phenomenon in the country,” says the lawyer.

According to the Public Health Yearbook, 572 people died in 2016, victims of violence, but there is no data on the number of assaults without fatalities.

Diversent explains that during her time as an independent lawyer in Havana, she worked on several murder cases and the number of young people involved in these events was notable, especially in poor and marginalized neighborhoods. Article 263 of the Cuban Penal Code establishes penalties of 15 to 30 years in prison for murderers.

The city of Cienfuegos also wept last September for the murder of Leidy Maura Pacheco Mur, 18 years old. The young woman, whose baby was then only 10 months old, was kidnapped by three men from her own community in Junco Viejo. They raped her and subsequently murdered her and buried her in the Plan Mango area.

“It’s terrible that these things happen. They kicked my nephew to death a few years ago at the Rancho Luna service station and the law is still very gentle with the murderers,” Aimé Montes de Oca told this newspaper. The murderers of her relative are serving 15-year prison sentences in Ariza, the provincial prison, but once they have completed half of the sentence they can get parole if they have shown good behavior.


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.

Cienfuegos Runs Out Of Gas

The La Calzada gas station, in Cienfuegos, closed for lack of fuel. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Justo Mora, Cienfuegos, 27 February 2018 – As of this weekend gasoline has become one of the most sought after products in Cienfuegos, with no information forthcoming about the shortages at the network of gas stations run by the state-owned Cuba Petróleos (CUPET).

“There is no B-83. There is no Regular B,” announces a piece of paper taped to the door of La Calzada service station, in the heart of the city.

According to one employee, the company has problems with fuel distribution so the delays in supply are expected to continue. continue reading

Of five service stations visited by 14ymedio this Monday, only the one located in the Pueblo Griffo neighborhood was offering 83-octane gasoline. And although there is also a complete lack of diesel, neither the authorities nor CUPET have offered any information about that shortage.

A sign telling drivers there is no gasoline, posted this weekend at the service station on La Calzada, in Cienfuegos. (14ymedio)

Cuba depends on the Venezuelan crude that the country imports through cooperation agreements signed with Venezuela since 2000. The crisis now affecting that country, Cuba’s main ally, has affected the supply of fuel at the national level, and in response the state has cut working hours and called for energy savings. It is estimated that the Venezuelan Government previously sent about 110,000 barrels of oil a day to the island, a figure that has been reduced to 50,000 barrels since the crisis in Venezuela.

Oil production in Venezuela has fallen to its lowest level in the last three decades, standing at 1.6 million barrels per day in December, compared to 2.6 million barrels per day produced by the country in 2015. In addition, the Cuban government is alarmed by the failure to meet national oil production plans, which last year totaled 38,000 tons.

On the banks of Jagua Bay sits the Cienfuegos Refinery, a project undertaken by the Soviets that was restarted by Venezuela in 2009, when Chavez said he would build a major petrochemical hub in Cuba that would be an example for Latin America. Less than a decade later, while fuel is scarce, the great industrial center remains a simple memory of an unfulfilled promise.


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.

In Cienfuegos, Women Take Turns to ‘Solve’ the Food for the Day

The Imago market, recently reopened in Cienfuegos, has barely five products in its meat section. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Justo Mora, Cienfuegos, 13 February 2018 — Regla Nicolás works in a polyclinic in Cienfuegos but every day she has to slip out to chase food in the city’s undersupplied “Hard Currency Collection Stores” (as the state has chosen to formally name its chain of stores where items are not rationed).

“With the money you have in your pocket, you can’t find what you’re looking for,” she says with annoyance while standing in front of Mercado Habana, one of the largest hard-currency food stores in the city’s historic center.

Some shelves are empty. There are others in which the same product is repeated to exhaustion to hide the lack of alternative foods. continue reading

“Since the hurricane [Irma, in September], there is nothing, not in the stores in CUC (Cuban convertible pesos, i.e. hard currency) nor in the state markets in CUP (Cuban pesos),” complains Regla Nicolás. Basic foods like eggs have been missing for weeks. Fruits and vegetables are the privilege of those with greater purchasing power.

“The food for a small family for a week costs five times more than an ordinary Cuban’s monthly salary. I always look for the cheapest,” she adds.

At any time of the day, the city center is full of people who go out in the street to look for food, detergent, deodorants and other basic necessities. Arasay Pérez, a worker at the Railway Company, is one of them: “I went out to look for something for lunch about one in the afternoon. After going through most of the stores on the boulevard I returned to work, marked my time card and went home to ‘invent’ in the kitchen,” she explains.

Coconut water and dried coconut were the only products sold this week in the Agrosur state market. (14ymedio)

Slipping away from work to try to locate products for sale is an every day reality for Pérez. At her workplace the women agree to take turns, one each day, and to buy food for the others.

The State response has been to put out calls to combat “labor indiscipline.” Among the government’s other measures are the creation of Agrosur, a store to sell agricultural products with capped prices, and a special stand specialized for the direct sale of pork.

“Last week Agrosur only sold coconut water and dried coconut,” says Hilda Estrada, a neighbor of the store located at the intersection of Argüelles and Gacel streets. Estrada believes that local managers smuggle the vegetables and root crops to dealers.

Long lines on the Cienfuegos Prado to buy Soy Yogurt. (14ymedio)

The specialized stand, which sold pork meat with ‘defects and accidents’ from the Porcino de Cienfuegos at capped prices, closed its doors in December after the scandal unleashed by the selling of places in line. “The old people arrived at dawn and took the first 30 places. After that they were out of meat,” explains El Negro, a regular customer of the center, who is now forced to survive “on the minced meat sold on the ration book.”

Dreams were awakened in the provincial capital by the inauguration, near the General Hospital, of the Imago store – which customers call the ‘shopping’, using the English word, and which also has a hard currency bar-restaurant. Jorge García López, commercial manager of the Cienfuegos Cimex branch (the country’s largest import-export company, run by the military), told the official press that with the remodeling of this store it would be possible to supply the area near the Medical Sciences University and the hospital “because before there was nothing.”

“The main objective is to create a complex that meets all the needs of the people,” said García López.

Many times in the stores there are empty shelves or shelves full of the same product. (14ymedio)

However, 14ymedio visited the brand new facilities and found, despite the promises, shortages were still obvious and the prices of the products that were available were unaffordable.

The blackboard in the meat section offered five products. One kilogram of filet of claria cost 4.60 CUC, while a kilogram of raw whole lobster was quoted at 28.60 CUC, which represents almost the entire average monthly salary (29.60 CUC) in Cuba.

“Everything is very expensive. It is a market for the rich,” says one of the customers who nonetheless is happy because, at least on the first day, “they have bags to carry your purchases.”


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.

Cienfuegos Pharmacies Get a Coat of Paint But Still Lack Medicines

The lack of medication allows state employees to enjoy a lot of free time during their work hours. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Justo Mora, Cienfuegos, 4 February 2018 — Shelves without medications and patients who do not find an answer to their needs; pharmacists who spend the day talking on the phone or doing manicures. Everything remains the same, but the newly restored pharmacies and opticians of the city of Cienfuegos are trying to hide their lack of supplies with paint.

“In the week just ended, there were 86 medications that were not available from the basic set,” Dr. Salvador Tamayo, provincial director of Public Health, said at a meeting held at the Provincial Hospital to which 14ymedio had access. The “basic set” consists of more than 800 medicines available in the country. continue reading

Most of the medicines that are missing from pharmacies are imported or require the use of foreign raw materials. The national austerity policy has meant that less budget is spent on acquiring medicines from abroad. According to official data, there are 32% fewer hospitals than there were 10 years ago, while the clinics where family doctors practice only have 40% of staff positions filled.

“This is like putting rouge on an old woman,” says María del Carmen Arroyo, a neighbor of the pharmacy on Arguelles Street. “They can paint and fix the roof, which is appreciated, but if we do not have medicines, why do we need a pharmacy,” she says.

Boxes of empty medicines and others with the same medicine in large quantities is the daily situation of pharmacies in Cienfuegos. (14ymedio)

The woman, 65, reports that buying an analgesic for her spinal pain has become her biggest nightmare. “The first thing is to go to the family doctor, who is never there, and when he arrives there is a tremendous line. Afterwards, you have to go out and search for the medicine, because in the pharmacy I am assigned to it is always missing,” she says.

Display cases filled with empty boxes and bottles of the same medications, mostly artisanal herbal syrups, adorn the shelves of the pharmacies, while bags of sanitary pads, sold on the ration book, accumulate in the corners.

“That medication is missing,” the pharmacist tells Maria del Carmen when she asks about methocarbamol. The woman does not give up and inquires about aspirin, dipyrone, kogrip and ibuprofen. Every time she receives the same answer, “That’s missing, compañera.”

The pharmacist, who prefers not to give his name, assures 14ymedio that the tinctures and syrups that they sell are the best substitutes for the medicines. “We have oregano syrup for coughing in case the patient has a cold. We also have a tincture of pumpkin seeds for the stomach and other homeopathic medicines,” he explains.

Tuesdays is the day pharmacies receive medicines so it is their busiest day. (14ymedio)

Francisco Ruíz is a 78-year-old retiree who knows the tricks of pharmacies. Every Tuesday he gets up very early and stands in line “to wait for the medicine truck.”

“The truck arrives around 10:00 in the morning to supply the pharmacy. Sometimes a little earlier,” he says, speaking like an expert.

The pharmacy is located on Calzada de Dolores, one of the busiest places in the Cienfuegos. “Soon the medicines are gone. If you come on Wednesday you cannot find anything,” he says.

Ruiz remembers the times when that pharmacy was privately owned. “On the façade they had a Virgin of Charity that the Government knocked down when they took over the apothecary. There was everything here. It was a bit expensive, but they had everything.”

The pensioner regrets that the population has to endure the lack of medicines while in the clinics and pharmacies for tourists there is no shortage of products.

“A few months ago my grandson needed Schostacovsky balsam (an antiseptic with healing properties). He does not hide his indignation when he relates his personal experience: “In normal pharmacies we did not find it and we had to pay almost 20 dollars for the bottle in a pharmacy for tourists that is in Punta Gorda.”


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.