Cuban Priest Censures Leaders Who ‘Cling to Outdated Ideas, Already Obsolete’

Father Maikel Gómez said that “the freedom of the children of God”… “can never be coerced, much less conditioned.” (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, 26 December 2020 — The voices of Cuban priests have made themselves heard with great force in recent months. This December 24, as Christmas was being celebrated, Deacon Maikel Gómez, from the Parish of San Juan Bosco, in Havana, gave a homily in which he reflected on freedom within the Island.

“Our society today needs the touch of love, a love that unites and not disunites, a love that joins together and not separates,” said the Catholic father.

“We do not have the right to say that our streets are for some or for others, our streets belong to everyone, to all of us who were born here, wherever we are,” said the priest amid a growing official campaign of stigmatization against critics of the system. continue reading

Gomez affirmed that progress could not be made if they continue to “build walls that Christ once demolished for you”… “We need to transform our hearts, we need to transform our thinking, and this will be the only way to transform our society, a society based on Christ, founded on love, understanding and solidarity among all.”

He added that, “Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of the Father,” came to “a Cuba ripped apart, in the midst of sadness and uncertainties, in the midst of poverty and pain, in the midst of a pandemic that has claimed the lives of many,” but also he comes “to guide us with his light in the midst of so much darkness and uncertainty.”

The priest affirmed that the “Word of the Lord” is present “in response to the desperate cry of a people who, like Israel, walk in a desert led by others who do not want to see the light and cling to outdated ideas, now obsolete.”

During the homily, which was shared on social networks by the Center for Coexistence Studies, Gómez said that “the freedom of the children of God” “can never be coerced, much less conditioned.”

In addition, he made reference to the religious censorship that has been experienced on the Island: “His birth [of Jesus] today echoes once again of the need for love that still exists among all, the need for love and love of God, love that at some point they tried to erase from our minds, and that, despite all these years, even when the Church was decimated, threatened and intimidated, that love continued to beat and the fact of our presence here confirms my words.”

Quoting the Cuban philosopher and educator José de la Luz y Caballero, he affirmed that it will be necessary to give up training “purely mechanical and routine men,” and to achieve a legion of thinkers with the necessary capacity for reflection on existential issues, including social problems.

Deacon Maikel Gómez’s reflections come a few days after the Cuban Catholic bishops, in their traditional Christmas message , included a call “for dialogue and negotiation between those who have different opinions and criteria”, amid strong smear campaigns of the Government against its critics.

At the end of November, more than 200 priests, religious and lay people residing in Cuba joined the wave of solidarity with the San Isidro Movement and the activists on hunger strike and signed a letter asking the Government not to let them die. They requested that the event not end in a fatal outcome, “to be consistent with the demands of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which proclaims the dignity of every human being as an absolute value.”

On the other hand, among the religious who have spoken individually about the situation on the island in recent months are Father Alberto Reyes, parish priest of the church of San Jerónimo, in Esmeralda, Camagüey, who posted on his Facebook wall a text in which he lamented the fear and oppression that Cubans suffer; and the priest Jorge Luis Pérez Soto, parish priest of San Francisco de Paula, in the municipality of Diez de Octubre, in Havana, who claimed that “the Church does have to get involved in politics.”


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 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.

Losing Your Head Over a Match, a Common Scene in Cuban Kitchens

The poor quality of the boxes and the damp sandpaper are a part of the nonsense that it takes three to five attempts to light one. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, 7 November 2020 — Some products and services have earned a place of honor in the jokes and ridicule of Cubans. Bread, internet connections and matches compete for the most maligned position, the latter for their poor quality, the danger they represent when they do not meet certain standards and because they are cursed every day in kitchens throughout the Island.

Even Cuban comedians, who have a lot of material, make fun of matches, but now not only because of their terrible quality but also because they are an endless target of “search and capture” — impossible to find. Even your hidden sources and contacts don’t have them and those who have them do not sell them, and more than one stove has remained cold for several days because of the absence of them.

In addition to food shortages, an ever-present theme in Cuban daily life, matches have disappeared from the state markets in recent months. In Sancti Spíritus, since the Ministry of Internal Trade announced in August the modification of the product sales system from regulated to regulated release, “most of the people of Sancti Spiritus have not managed get them,” the local press published. continue reading

Nor are they the matches dreamed of by cooks, smokers and the lighters of spiritual candles. With a fragile body and a wayward head, they can end up burning clothes rather than lighting a stove. The poor quality of the boxes and the damp sandpaper are part of the nonsense that makes it take three to five attempts to light one.

The Cuban government never allowed the private production and distribution of matches, according to ministerial sources, for fear that allowing private hands to possess certain raw materials could also lead to the creation of firecrackers and explosives. For more than half a century they have been a state monopoly, like tobacco, coffee and telecommunications.

Three months after the decision by which, according to the aforementioned ministry, each territory must establish “the network in which the product will be marketed, serving all the popular council areas,” the people of Sancti Spíritus can’t even find a match with “a magnifying glass,” Escambray points out.

The reality of Sancti Spíritus is that, since August, only one shipment has been received from the two producing industries that supply the province and “previously they used the existing reserves to deliver the last regulated allocation that was pending,” the official newspaper reported. According to an official interviewed, there are difficulties with receiving the imported raw materials needed to ensure the manufacture of matches.

“For years the matches were sold unrationed in the bodegas — the ration stores — but with this collection of chaotic circumstances they have disappeared from shops because the people who sell through online ads have bought up the whole supply to resell them,” a housewife residing in the city of Santiago de Cuba told 14ymedio.

Unlike Sancti Spíritus, which is supplied by shipments from the National Phosphorus Company from Havana, Santiago de Cuba has one of the four factories in the country, so they can be found more easily. “They give me four boxes a month, but on the street they are 5 pesos,” said a resident of the Vista Alegre neighborhood from Santiago.

Another consumer dissatisfaction is the poor quality of the production. A reader asked the Granma newspaper in 2018, why is it so difficult to light the matches that the country markets, referring to the fact that they have “an extremely poor quality, out of a hundred ten work, if that,” in addition to the fact that the sandpaper is not effective and the boxes are half empty.

According to the official media, the Ministry of Industries recognized that the dissatisfactions with the quality of the product were due to the deterioration and aging of the equipment of the National Match Company and “the solution lay in the execution of technological investments that would allow achieving the efficiency parameters and productivity.”

In addition to continuing poor quality, the sale of matches has always been closely controlled. Cubans attribute this control to their possible use in protest actions. The truth is that, even in the boom years of the Soviet subsidy, the sale and distribution of matches was closely supervised and the quantities that an individual could acquire were always scarce.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 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 Ecuador, Cubans Protest in Front of Consulate Over Costs to Extend Stay

Consulate of Cuba in Quito, Ecuador. (Google Maps)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, 13 October 2020 — The announcement of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs this Sunday, regarding Cubans or foreigners residing on the island to extend their stay abroad until October 12, 2021 without losing the right to return, came with a condition that was not reported and that has outraged the expatriate community: the cost of the process.

The price depends on the country where they are located. In any territory of the European Union, for example, the application costs 25 euros, plus 40 euros for each month that you want to extend your stay between this October 12th and the following year, that is, 480 euros for the whole year. In addition, if the procedure is carried out by a third person, you have to pay another 25 euros.

But those who are in the United States bear the worst burden: 20 dollars per application, plus 150 dollars for each month of extension (1,800 for the whole year) and another 20 if the interested party does not present it directly. continue reading

In Ecuador, the Cuban community organized a “sit-in” for Tuesday in front of the Cuban consulate in Quito to protest the fees. “I learned that to extend my residence I have to pay 40 dollars per month. It is unfair, it is not my fault that Cuba and the world had to close their borders, it is an abuse. Why do I have to pay so much money if I have sufficient time to enter Cuba?” a Cuban who resides in the Andean country told this newspaper.

With the hashtags #EliminenPrórrogas (Eliminate Exension [fees]), #LosDerechosNoExpiran (Rights Don’t Expire), #SomosCubanosDePorVida (We Are Cubans for Life) and #ReformaMigratoriaYa (Reform Migation Now), they also ask “to have an effective consular representation for all members of our community.”

The indignation is greater for having learned the news informally; many hear it through audios that circulate among the community where the consul supposedly refers to the costs.

This is how Hiram H. Castro, a Havanan who is studying for a doctorate at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Ecuador, found out. “In my case, November 2 marks my 24 months and the José Martí airport is still closed. I cannot travel or buy a ticket in those uncertain circumstances. The question is: should I still pay 40 dollars for each month that passes without being able to travel to Cuba?” he laments in a group that brings together Cubans in that country.

Another woman, a mother from Villa Clara, insists that this new provision does not benefit her at all: “On the contrary, I had my trip prepared for July, because I have a five-year-old girl who is here with me, and I planned my trip to last a month, but because of the coronavirus everything fell apart.”

“I’ve spent several months without working and had to pay for everything, I ran out of money. Now I have to save again for another trip, but my Cuban residence has already expired and I have no money for that extension. And I am the one who supports my mother in Cuba. I mean, I can’t go enter as a tourist and that’s it. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t want to lose my residence rights, but I don’t have money either,” she told 14ymedio desperately.

The amounts that Cubans have to pay for consular procedures have always been the subject of criticism and complaints. From the price of the passport, one of the most expensive in the world, and its extensions, to the confirmations of university degrees, which cost around 1,200 dollars, something that migrants describe as “a whole business” set up by the Government of the Island to squeeze their pockets.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 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.

Without ‘Frankensteins’ There Would be no Transport in Guantanamo’

Authorities in Guantanamo will legalize vehicles that have been converted into taxi vans. (Ricardo Romero)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, September 14, 2020 — A piece from here, a piece from there. Parts of an old Chevrolet are combined with those from a Soviet-era Lada and some accessory from a more recent Citroen to fashion a vehicle that can cruise the streets instead of lying “in eternal rest” at some repair shop. In Guantanamo more than four-hundred of these hybrids are what keep the city running.

So far this year, city officials have discovered hundreds of vehicles made from pieces of other cars. According to investigations carried out by public transportation officials and reports in the local newspaper, Venceremos, residents have been using these parts to craft one-of-a-kind motorized bicycles, tricycles, vans, motorcycles — with and without sidecars — and even buses.

Details of this “resurrection,” as it is described in official parlance, come as no surprise to anyone living in a country where getting around requires inventiveness. Who here has not climbed aboard a hybrid vehicle? What Cuban does not have a friend or know someone’s father who buys parts from different vehicles to fashion his own form of transportation. continue reading

A Lada gearbox, a Fiat steering system, a Cadillac body, a Polski steering column, a Ford engine and a Moskovich suspension are just some of the components in the mechanical Frankensteins that keep the island running. The problem is these vehicles are often illegal and subject to heavy fines.

Though cars made from multiple parts have been used as a means of transportation for decades, and were essential during the so-called Special Period of the 1990s, officials have never liked them.

A new wave of regulations requires that certain vehicles be registered with the provincial transport agency. Highest on the priority list are those which have been converted from gasoline to diesel, and vice versa, as well as cars converted into passenger vans. Though there has been some regulatory relaxation, vehicular mutants made from different automobiles remain in the crosshairs of local officials.

A new law was adopted in 2019 regulating the conversion of motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers. It stipulated, however, that  “conversions must first be approved by local transportation authorities [after which] owners have one year to make the changes, a period which can be extended another six months.”

“Making certain changes requires a technical report which must be later reviewed and approved by the appropriate authorities. Once the changes have been made, the vehicle must undergo a technical inspection (a CT scan),” according to an article in the official press.

Most of the Frankensteins cannot meet these requirements, therefore the only option is to operate under the radar and risk fines and confiscation.

Guantanamo residents have decided to ignore these regulations. When faced with a choice between legalization or transportation, they choose the latter. A striking Willys jeep stopping to pick up passengers could be made up of parts from any number of other vehicles. Assembled with creativity and daring, there is a whiff of necessity about them. They have been brought to life by the lightning bolt of urgency.


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

Cuba Sues Mexico for Non-payment of Salaries to 28 Coaches from Cuba

Cuban coaches who are part of the cooperation agreement with Mexico. (Government of Mexico)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, 17 September 2020 — The Cuban Embassy in Mexico filed a lawsuit against that nation’s National Commission for Physical Culture and Sports (Conade) for the failure to pay the salaries of 28 coaches from the island who are part of an agreement between the two countries.

Since the beginning of the year, the technicians of the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation of Cuba (Inder) who work in 11 disciplines in Mexico have not received their salary. On January 3, the debts of 2019 were canceled “and we return to the same situation with the lack of payment,” a member of Inder who trains in Mexico City told the Cancha newspaper.

The technician, who maintains that Conade has requested the withdrawal of the lawsuit, insists that the Chinese delegation has not been paid since November. continue reading

During the presentation of Mexico’s sports development plan, Ana Gabriela Guevara, general director of Conade pointed out that between the years 2013 and 2020 140 million Mexican pesos (almost 7 million dollars) were allocated to the payment of Cuban and Chinese technicians in accordance with the agreements signed with those nations.

According to Guevara, the work of the coaches did not live up to the expectations outlined in the contract. “We are going to choose now, we want to create our own academy, our own curriculum, our own human material,” explained the former sprinter, according to Latinus review.

Non-compliance with salary payments also affects other Cubans who are not part of the official agreement, such as national fencing coach Juan Alexis Salazar Márquez. “I am only claiming my right and they got angry. The truth is, I feel tied because there is no one who can solve my situation, but this is what is happening,” Salazar told the local newspaper El Demócrata.

The coach decided to leave the official Cuban delegation with his family in June 2012, when he was competing in Cancun (Quintana Roo) in a Pan American Championship. Shortly afterwards, he joined the Mexican Olympic Committee and began working at the National High Performance Center. But since the beginning of 2020 he has not received payment from the Mexican Fencing Federation, dependent on Conade.

Salazar has managed to survive by teaching private classes. “In fact I asked for help from the parents of some athletes who deposited money with me and if I ask for the proof of the deposit they will give it to me to prove what I am saying,” said the fencing teacher.

Conade is involved in alleged cases of corruption and irregularities. In an audit, ordered by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, an embezzlement of 50.8 million pesos (2.4 million dollars) was detected in the Fund for High Performance Sports in 2019.

Cuba and Mexico have had operation agreements for decades in science, culture, education, economy and sports. In 2017, the two countries also signed an agreement in Healthcare that facilitated a contract of 135 million pesos — 6.2 million dollars — for the collaboration of a Cuban medical brigade for three months.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 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 the App the Cuban Government Strengthens its Control Over Sales in 86 Stores in Havana

Line in Havana, first thing in the morning of this Wednesday, to buy soy yogurt. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, 16 September 2020 — Dealing with the lines and fighting the resellers continues to be the obsession of the Cuban authorities. The application Portero and the multiplication of police officers and local guards at the doors of shops and markets in Havana, joins a new control mechanism: the application

This application, launched on September 1, registers the customer’s identity card and creates a database with the date, place and products purchased, according to the official newspaper Granma.

The Provincial Defense Council said that it is already working in 86 stores in the capital’s municipalities and justified its use saying that it “guarantees discipline in access to food” and that it also serves to alert “about the use of false profiles on social networks attributed to personalities to generate discomfort in the population.” continue reading

The application prevents “the same people from buying certain products several days a week,” the authorities said. In this way, they say, “greater access will be allowed to those who have not been able to buy food or toiletries and the hoarding of basic necessities is avoided.”

The application, which was created at the José Antonio Echeverría  Technological University of Havana (Cujae), also controls the mobility of capital residents, who are prohibited from acquiring basic necessities outside of their municipality of residence.

When it’s time to exert control, the agents have no qualms. A neighbor of Centro Habana testified how an old woman was not allowed to buy a product that a store was selling at that time. “When they asked for her card, they saw that it had an address in eastern Cuba and the police did not let her buy the package of noodles, which was what they were selling, one per person,” the man told this newspaper. “The poor lady could not buy her noodles and the police told her to go to the Government to complain.”

Although at the moment only the Provincial Defense Council works with the application, the municipal authorities will apply some measures in the coming days with the information provided by the new computer platform.

For months, the authorities have also used the application Portero created at the University of Informatics Sciences (UCI), which records what day a customer accessed a store and can warn if they behave like a reseller. Shortly after, the tool was updated and now works in connection with the police database, the criminal record database and even the National Tax Administration Office (ONAT).


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 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 Risk Crossing the US Border Illegally

After the elimination of the wet foot/dry foot policy, the process of entry of Cubans through the border received a severe blow. (Border Guard, USA)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, 24 August 2020 — Thousands of Cubans remain on the northern border of Mexico, waiting for an immigration process to enter the United States that is becoming more distant every day.

Between the executive orders of President Donald Trump and his administration to change the asylum rules, as well as the difficult health conditions experienced from Covid-19, both in the United States and in Mexico, despair among migrants is growing ever higher.

After the elimination of the wet foot/dry foot policy, the process of entry of Cubans through the border received a severe blow, to the point that hearing of some trying to cross illegally into North American soil has already become common. continue reading

Recently, Mexican media reported that a group of 36 immigrants, including Cubans, were found by the Border Patrol in a safe house in El Paso, Texas.

According to the investigations, these people may have entered the United States through the Monte de Cristo Rey in Sunland Park, New Mexico, a town located in the Anapra area of Ciudad Juárez.

It is precisely in Ciudad Juárez, hundreds of Cubans wait to appear before an asylum court, sleeping in shelters, cheap hotels and rented rooms, as a result of the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP).

The MPP, also known as the “Stay in Mexico” program, forces most asylum seekers to wait for their immigration process in Mexican territory. Since this policy began in December 2018, the United States has returned more than 50,000 people to Mexican border cities.

Official figures released by the Customs and Border Protection Office (CBP), highlight that, in the first semester of fiscal year 2019, at least 119 Cuban citizens were detained in the Del Rio sector, which represented a 1,600% increase compared to the fiscal year 2018 when officers detained only seven.

Also a few months ago, as a result of the spread of Covid-19 and the immigration measures of the current US administration, a group of Cubans stranded on the northern border of Mexico made a call on social networks directed at North American politicians to review the MPP.

Added to this situation of migrants from the island living on the northern border of Mexico is the latest news of boats that have left Cuba, such as a boat that departed with eight people, including two children, on August 15 from Caibarién bound for Florida.

The search was suspended on August 24. The rescue teams worked for four days using two planes and four boats, without finding the rafters. “We searcged 27,813 square nautical miles, approximately the dimensions of South Carolina,” said the official note from the United States Coast Guard.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 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.