At 71, Moises Leonardo Prosecuted for Promoting Human Rights at the UN

Moisés Leonardo Rodríguez has been accused by the authorities of “clandestine printing.” (Hablemos Press)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 22 February —  Promoting Human Rights and advising civil society groups has cost the activist Moisés Leonardo Rodríguez an accusation from the authorities of “clandestine printing.” After a spectacular police search of his home last Tuesday, and the confiscation of several of his tools of the trade, the opponent was released on Wednesday.

In conversation with 14ymedio, Rodríguez, 71, explained that a State Security official attributed his detention to the advice he has given to eight civil society groups “to submit reports to the [United Nations] Universal Periodic Review (UPR),” which the Cuban Government must pass in May.  Through this system, the international organization evaluates the quality of human rights in its member states. continue reading

The activist, coordinator of the Corriente Martiana*, also offered his experience so that a dozen independent organizations can jointly present a report on violations of their rights, which will be part of the documents presented to the UPR.

He explains that, in addition, when asked about the reasons for the search, the agents mentioned the work promoting human rights carried out by Ernesto Guy Perez, focused on teaching and training in the preparation of these reports according to UN standards. “This has annoyed them greatly,” he said.

“On Tuesday after nine o’clock in the morning, six individuals dressed in civilian clothes arrived at my house with a search warrant searching for counter-revolutionary objects and documents,” he told this newspaper.

The activist related how among those who searched his house was an investigator from the Ministry of the Interior, named Iturralde. Two supposed neighbors [as required by law] who live in Cabañas (Artemisa), witnessed the operation. They confiscated “a laptop, a computer tower, a USB stick, a printer and even a blackboard.”

The uniformed agents also took “United Nations documents and others submitted to the Government of Raúl Castro, such as the proposal Para una Cuba Martiana.” The search was so intense that the agents did not hesitate to take even the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, according to Leonardo Rodríguez.

At the end of the search, the activist was taken to Artemisa’s police station along with his youngest daughter and his wife, Ileana de los Ángeles, who accompanied him on a voluntary basis. During the more than 24 hours the detention lasted he refused to drink water, eat, take medications or talk to the agents.

A police investigator assured Rodriguez that they will not return any of the papers found in his house and that he was being prosecuted for the crime of “hiding of printed matter,” which sanctions the preparation or dissemination of publications that do not indicate the place of printing, or that do not specify the identification of their author or their origin.

“They warned me that my eldest daughter, who lives in Havana, could not travel outside the country and that, in my case, I will never travel.” Leticia, his daughter, is also an activist and for the government opponent it is clear that these prohibitions “are issues that State Security imposes outside the law.” Among the illegal actions are threats against his family, something that worries him “extremely.”

The Office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner condemned the “illegal arrest” of the activist on his Twitter account. The entity was concerned about a “pattern of short-term arrests” against Cuban activists and the “confiscation of equipment to limit the exercise of fundamental freedoms.”

The crime of “clandestine printing” of which Rodriguez is accused can be punished, according to the Penal Code, with a sentence of “deprivation of liberty from three months to a year” or a fine of 300 CUP.

Earlier this month, four members of the Pro Press Freedom Association were questioned by State Security after sending a report on press freedom to the UN last December. The document includes the pressures, arbitrary arrests and confiscations of tools of the trade against independent journalists during the last year.

*Translator’s note: Corriente Martiana [(José) Martí Current] describes itself as a ’patriotic, humanitarian and cultural organization in service to Cuban civil society.”


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.

Cuban Authorities Confiscate All Copies of a Book About Rap at the Havana Book Fair

The Guantanamera imprint seeks to disseminate the works of Cuban authors. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 13 February 2018 — A book of testimonies and interviews, Rapping a Utopian Cuba by writer Alejandro Zamora Montes from the Spanish publisher Guantanamera, was withdrawn by the authorities from the recently concluded Havana International Book Fair, an act that activist Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna labelled as censorship in statements to 14ymedio.

Madrazo visited the exhibition stand of the Sevillian publishing house in La Cabaña fortress, home of the book fair, where he was informed that on the second day of the Fair, 2 February, authorities from the General Customs Office of the Republic (AGR) confiscated all copies of the book. Several other sources confirmed this confiscation to this newspaper.

Rapping a Utopian Cuba is a collection of interviews conducted by Zamora Montes with singers and promoters of the urban genre. It was published by Guantanamera in March 2017, although its first presentation on the island was delayed until this February. continue reading

“Shortly after one of the publisher’s representatives had given the author four copies of his book, a Customs official appeared without any papers or anything and took them all,” said Madrazo.

One of the young women who worked at that stall told Madrazo Luna, “This book can not be distributed.” The dissident and the directors of Guantanamera tried to get more details at the book fair, in order to submit a complaint, but received only the timid answer, “We’re not looking for problems.”

Daniel Pinilla, director of the publishing house, told 14ymedio that “there was a problem with Customs due to an administrative issue and it was one of the books they considered to be a problem and so it could not be presented.”

Despite the inconvenience, Pinilla reiterates that the editors of the imprint, which was created to disseminate the works of Cuban authors, are continuing the project “with the hope of achieving good visibility for the catalog in 2018, through a literary prize with the prestigious Carmen Balcells literary agency and other initiatives.”

The author, Alejandro Zamora Montes, declined to make a statement to this newspaper about the incident, saying he was not in a position to talk about it.

The book includes an interview with the rapper Aldo, from the duo Los Aldeanos, a group censored in the official media of the Island. This may be the reason for the withdrawal of the book from the Fair.

Several anonymous sources of the Cuban Book Institute (ICL) consulted by this newspaper suspect that Zamora Montes’s book was excluded from the presentations and commercialization during the recently concluded Book Fair precisely because of that interview and other interviews with voices critical of the government, such as the musician Silvito El libre.

The interview with Aldo took place in 2014, shortly before the publication of an Associated Press (AP) report naming several figures of the Cuban hip hop movement who receive support from a program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The AP said that the project sought, through urban music, to “lead Cuban youth to oppose the Government of the Island.” After the publication of that report the duo Los Aldeanos was accused in the official press of receiving political instructions from Washington and the siege of censorship closed even more tightly around the musicians.

The book also includes the testimony of graffiti artist Yulier Rodríguez, who has recently been arrested and is facing police pressure to force him to erase his graffiti from Havana facades. Rodriguez, however, was not aware that Rapping a Utopian Cuba was going to be presented at this year’s literary event.

For Madrazo the withdrawal of the work weighs heavily on readers because “the book is a humble example that only seeks to dignify what has been an underground movement of alternative urban culture. It takes the pulse of more than 20 years of hip hop culture in Cuba.”

According to the activist, the speech of these musicians is still “annoying” to the authorities who believe that “rap is war.” However, the urban genre has helped to “unmask the racism in which we have been educated and how the fear of blacks operates as an instrument of power in Cuba today.”

The decision to remove the book came as a surprise to its author who commented in an interview, at the end of 2017, that his book would appear at the next Havana International Book Fair. Zamora Montes hoped that the compilation would provoke “a positive debate” and would continue the opening of a discussion around Cuban hip hop.

Hip hop has been a target of Cuba’s cultural authorities since its inception, especially the work of those singers and composers whose lyrics openly criticize the government and narrate the social problems that are often ignored by the official press.

Racism, violence, police repression, drug use and lack of freedom are some of the social issues addressed in the lyrics of this urban genre that gets under the skin of officials of the Ministry of Culture.

The moment of greatest friction occurred in 2011 when the government appropriated the Rotilla Festival, an event organized by the independent Matraka project.

Guantanamera is a project of Lantia Publishing that was started under the direction of Pinilla in 2016 who told the EFE agency that it is “a loudspeaker in search of talent” on the island.

The editorial director of the Spanish imprint Guantanamera, Daniel Pinilla (second from the right), the Cuban writer Daniel Burguet (right) and the directors of Lantia Publishing, Enrique Parrilla (left) and Chema García (second from left), in the 27th International Book Fair of Havana. (EFE)

It is the second time that the Seville publisher has participated in the Havana Book Fair. Last year it arrived with its first catalog of 40 works and it now has more than one hundred Cuban titles. Guantanamera publishes books by young authors such as Daniel Burguet and Ariel Maceo Téllez, as well as by older writers such as Eduardo del Llano and Esther Suárez Durán.


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.

"Censorship Has Been A Constant In My Work," Laments Chinese Writer Yu Hua In Havana

A poster for Yu Hua’s works at this year’s Havana Book Fair, which is focused on China.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 8 February 2018 — The young woman walks among the booths selling Chinese literature at the Havana Book Fair in search of works by this year’s star attraction, the writer Yu Hua, who finds a passionate readership on the island. With his criticisms of the censorship imposed on his work by the Chinese government, the novelist also defies the Cuban authorities.

The writer, who feels most at ease up close and personal, joined six other authors on Friday speaking to a group of students from the Confucius Institute, at the spacious headquarters of the educational institution inaugurated in Havana’s Chinatown in 2015. During the event they asked him the question that always hovers over Yu: “How have you managed to get around censorship in your country?” continue reading

Before the astonished glances of some officials present at the encounter, the writer got right to the point: “Censorship has been a constant in my work,” he said. He criticized with particular harshness the film adaptation of his work To Live, taken to the screen by the director Zhang Yimou, which won of the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes in 1994.

“[The movie] did not represent what I wrote because so many aspects had to be deleted and changed because of censorship that it was unrecognizable,” he lamented in front of the students of Chinese Language and Culture. The writer believes that the “scissors” applied were stricter because at the time the film was made the officials who controlled the cinema were very severe.

Whether because of his skill as a writer, or the discomfort he generates among his censors, Yu’s work has enjoyed great popularity in this year’s Fair. His writing has brought a spirited touch to the event, one in which many Cuban authors are striking by their absence, particularly those who live in exile or who, although they continue to reside on the island, are not looked upon kindly by officialdom, for example the novelist Wendy Guerra.

“They sold out the first day,” responds the staff tending the stalls where Yu’s works “flew off the shelves.” A teenager who asked if the author was going to attend the Fair was very disappointed by the response: “He’s already been here.”

Yu seems to have a lot of experience in gracefully wriggling out of the stilted ceremonies, official honors and autograph signing events. He is one of China’s most important living authors, having sold millions of copies of his works around the world, and has been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature on more than one occasion.

His best-known work, To Live, narrates a raw and sublime history, which spans the time from the fall of the Chinese Empire and the fratricidal struggles, until the arrival of the Cultural Revolution. Fugui, the protagonist, is both a witness and a participant in the brutal and accelerated change that is shaking his country. The novel explores the limits, or the absence of limits, of the human being in a context where he is overwhelmed and forced to act.

His other books, including Chronicles of a Blood Merchant (1998), Cries in the Drizzle (2004), Brothers (2008), The Seventh Day (2013), and China in Ten Words (2012), have had to deal in one way or another with official objections.

“China will change, the Communist Party will not always govern, there will come a day when China will be truly democratic and free,” the author repeated in his interviews, reinforcing his dissident image in the eyes of the Beijing regime.

The son of a surgeon and a doctor, Yu Hua, who had to work as a dentist in an era when few could choose their profession, is an exception in the midst of the boredom of the Fair, whose Guest of Honor this year is China. His works have outshone those volumes with their ubiquitous red covers that detail the politics of China’s Communist Party, filled with pages that sing the praises of the current economic health of the Asian giant.

The irreverent author has ended up eclipsing the other 200 writers, intellectuals and officials of his country who landed on the island, accompanied by nearly 7,000 copies of classic and contemporary works published in Spanish, English and Mandarin.

On Wednesday, few readers bothered to visit the immense space of nearly 4,500 square feet where you can find in Spanish the second volume of Xi Jinping: The Government and Administration of China , which addresses the policies of China’s current president. Readers are only interested in looking for Yu’s works.


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.

An Arab Sheikh ’Offers’ 5 Billion Dollars for Cuba

Four friends discuss the offer of an Arab Sheikh to buy Cuba in Eduardo del Llano’s short film. (Still)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 5 February 2018 — How would the inhabitants of Cuba react if suddenly a Dubai millionaire wanted to buy the island for 5 billion dollars? That is the question the filmmaker Eduardo del Llano asks in his short film Domino, a part of the series Los cuentos de Nicanor (The Tales of Nicanor), which he has published on his YouTube channel under the label of Sex Machine Productions.

The story of the short, which revolves around four friends who interrupt the routine of their domino game on hearing this unusual news, overflows with critical humor about citizen misinformation, decision making without popular consultation and the question of what, really, is Cuba.

From this absurd opening emerge different positions and interests that reflect both the fears and doubts that assail the four men before the tempting offer to sell their own country. continue reading

The premiere of this piece, number 14 in the series, has arrived a year after the start of its filming. The director says he wanted to capture “the different types of Cubans” around the table and to weave a plot that is a example of “deep Havana.”

“There is a sense that things are happening, that decisions are being made, that domino pieces are being played and no one knows until after it has already happened and that feeling is always disturbing,” Del Llano emphasizes, speaking about the context that led him to shoot Domino.

The well-known character Nicanor O’Donnell, played by Luis Alberto García, after learning that the nation is going to be bought, starts to calculate — with the other three players La Ciencia (Néstor Jiménez), Sangremono (Omar Franco) and Pepe, El Víctima (Miguel Moreno) — how much money will be paid to each inhabitant once the transaction is done

Arithmetic that replaces any kind of the nationalist outburst and the comments that spring from the table have more to do with the pragmatism of survival than with any patriotic pose. The country is up for auction with its human beings included and in the acceptance of that situation there is no pain or bitterness, only pragmatism.

The actress Lola Amores makes a brief appearance as the same character she played in Santa and Andrés, Carlos Lechuga’s movie censored by the Cuban authorities. The seconds she appears in the screen work as a nod towards the viewer and in solidarity with the young filmmaker.

The men’s first calculations of earnings lead the players to think that each resident on the island will receive 10 million dollars when the purchase of the national territory is completed, an illusion that passes quickly because El Sciencia (Science) is in charge of correcting the mathematical error; he confirms that they will only get 500 dollars per capita.

The calculation opens the way to reflection on the egalitarianism that has ruled many aspects of the national economy and the political discourses, on introducing the possibility that the distribution will be a function of need.

There is also no shortage of irony in reference to the external enemy. “And if all this is just a CIA maneuver (…) it would be a simple way to end communism,” whispers Pepe El Víctima, suspicious, but he recovers immediately: “500 dollars is crap but it’s a lot more than half of all Cubans have ever seen in their damn life.”

Without pain or nostalgia, the concerns of the friends run the gamut, including whether they will have to embrace the Islamic faith or emigrate after the sale of the country. “What is Cuba, us or the land?” The question triggers a doubt about who will be included in the distribution, touching on exiles, government opponents, the terminally ill and Cubans about to be born.

The friends are also incredulous that the capital might be used in collective works: “They can no longer grind us down with all that talk about how they are going to invest in social plans.”

The sparkling dialogue shows Del Llano’s skill in filmmaking where he combines the irrational with sharp and real criticism. “Typical. They are talking about selling the country and no one tells us anything, they don’t even consult us,” complains Nicanor, for whom “there is no journalist, not one” who dares to report what is happening.

The mockery goes one step further until it touches on the authorities. “When they get that money and they’re left with no territory to govern, does the government stop being a government?”

Without tears or lamentations, in the tenement passageway and while slapping down the dominos, the four men express their conviction that the decisions will be taken in a place very distant from their opinions. All they can do is wait for the Island to pass from one hand to another, and so it has been for as long as they can remember.


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.

Minors Fly Solo on the Social Networks

Many children connect in the company of friends, classmates or alone. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 1 February 2018 — “Señora, can you help me get a recharge?” asks the little voice of a girl clutching a pair of convertible pesos in her hands. The customer goes to Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) to fulfill the request and the girl, thanks to the women’s help, is happy to chat on Facebook from a Wi-Fi zone and post photos on Instagram, outside the control of her parents.

The number of minors going onto social networks in Cuba is increasing. There are no official statistics on the number of children using these platforms, but it is enough to observe one of the wireless navigation zones installed in squares and parks to confirm the constant presence of little kids attached to cellphones or tablets. continue reading

ETECSA regulations require customers using the internet service in wifi zones to be over 18. In addition, it does not sell recharges to children and in its navigation rooms users under 12 must be in the company of an adult.

However, the phenomenon of children using social networks without surveillance has grown in tandem with the growth of connectivity on the Island. Across the country there are 370 public sites for wireless Internet access and more than 630 navigation rooms, according to information offered by the Communications Minister, Maimir Mesa, to the deputies of the National Assembly in July 2017.

Many children connect in the company of friends, classmates from school or alone. They can access the network using an adult browsing account or buy an access card good for a few hours, or get on with the help of an adult. Once inside the vast digital territory they are exposed to more dangers than they can imagine.

Karolina is 15 and publishes on her Facebook wall every day. She opened the account by claiming an age she has not yet reached and her profile photo shows her in short shorts with a blouse that reveals her entire abdoman. On her wall other users have put shameless and lusty emoticons.

The young woman, who lives in the city of Camagüey, enters the networks through a domestic connection assigned to her father, a specialist in a hospital in the area. “When I come home from work, she is hooked up to the computer and sometimes she eats with the plate in her hand so as not to be separated from the screen,” says her mother.

The computer does not have any parental control filter enabled and the teenager spends most of her time on Facebook chat. “Sometimes I talk to my friends and sometimes I talk to someone who shows up,” she tells 14ymedio. She can’t say how old the unknown people are she exchanges greetings with, although she infers that they are about her age.

One of the dangers minors are exposed to on-line is so-called grooming, which consists of an adult posing as a minor to interact with children. The perpetrator seeks to win the friendship of the child for his benefit, asking her to send pictures with nudity and, in the worst case, it may end with a sexual assault if the adult manages to contact the victim in person.

Outside an office of ETECSA, the Cuban state phone company. It is common for children to ask adults to buy them recharge cards so they can surf the internet at public wifi points. (14ymedio)

The inexperience of Cuban Internet users, who for years remained oblivious to the existence of the Internet, the lack of a public debate on these dangers and the moral relaxation that runs through Cuban society aggravate the fragility of these children before virtual predators.

Services such as Facebook and Twitter are subject to the law for the protection of children’s privacy (COPPA), which governs companies based in the United States. The rule prevents a minor from having either an email address or a social network profile, but the ways to circumvent the obstacle are many.

Neither of her parents reviewed what Karolina published on social networks and both were surprised when a neighbor commented on what was going on. The teenager had uploaded photos of herself in poses of different types and had published intimate details about her life and family. In addition, she made public her personal address and landline number.

“We almost had a heart attack,” says her father the doctor. A reprimand was the answer, but the teenager continues to post on her wall. “What can we do about it if she entertains herself there?” the mother justifies.

“There is no practice in using parental controls and in general in Cuba there is a lot of permissiveness with children, who access any type of digital content,” says Amaury Velázquez, a designer and developer of web applications. The professional has worked in the programming of several digital tools focused on the youngest users.

“They don’t only see it on the Internet, but most of the children watch sex scenes in the movies their parents are watching without checking that there is a child in front of them. They are aware of the adult stories of soap operas and the sex jokes that are made in front of them,” says the computer scientist.

Experts warn that children under 14 should not have social networks and several child psychologists consulted by this newspaper even suggest that they should not have access to a mobile phone before that age. “Not even a cell phone without a fixed line, because then they use Zapya to exchange content,” adds a specialist in the field consulted by 14ymedio and who preferred anonymity.

The popular application is used by many Cuban children and teenagers to share photos, songs and videos via Bluetooth. “I have treated several children with symptoms of stress because they have been victims of ridicule from their classmates because of this,’ adds the psychologist. “One teenager I treated had terrible anxiety over a half-naked photo of her that was shared in Zapya.”

Twelve-year-old Neily lied when she opened a Facebook account and said she was born in 1999 although her profile picture betrays her as being younger. In her preferences she marked that she is interested in trap music, is a fan of Bad Bunny and shares selfies in which she throws a kiss to the camera with her lips painted intensely red.

“When there are temporary cards to recharge an hour it is better because I can ask anyone in the line to buy me one and then I can surf,” the young woman explains to a friend as she waits for a new customer to arrive at the ETECSA office in the centrally located Focsa building. This Tuesday Neily went out with several friends after school, intending to “go for the wifi,” the new preferred destination for children this age.

The girl boasts to her friends that she has connected with her musical idol Bad Bunny on Facebook and says he said hello to her: “Thank you very much, Bunny” was the brief message she received. It does not occur to her that maybe it was not her favorite singer who was writing to her. And her parents, they know nothing about it.


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.

IAPA Condemns Cuban State Security’s Threats Against ’14ymedio’ Journalist

Gustavo Mohme, president of the Inter-American Press Association. (Congress of the Republic of Peru / Flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 January 2018 – Cuban State Security’s threats against Luz Escobar, a journalist with 14ymedio, were condemned on Tuesday in a statement by the Inter-American Press Association (SIP); the organizations said that the threats “show that restrictions and challenges continue to confront the exercise of freedom of the press” on the island, as they have since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.

“We are concerned that this new harassment of an independent journalist only reflects the government’s intolerance and lack of will,” the president of the IAPA, Gustavo Mohme, said in the note.

Last Monday, 14ymedio published an article in which it made known that Luz Escobar, who has been working for this medium since its founding in 2014, had been summoned in Havana by agents of the political police, who invited her to collaborate with the Government and thus “influence the editorial line” of this newspaper. continue reading

During the hour and twenty minute meeting, and before the professional had received and rejected the offer, the agents threatened to prevent her from leaving the country, said they would pressure her family members, and would accuse her in front of her neighbors of being a “counterrevolutionary.”

In a recent article framed as a letter to the journalist, the director of 14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, openly stated her support for Luz Escobar. “They, without planning to, have given you the best argument to continue your career in journalism, because they have shown you that ‘up there’ nothing remains of respect for the citizen, for ethics, morality, sincerity, integrity… and much less for COURAGE. Of which you possess oceans,” she told the journalist.

The president of the IAPA has reiterated that what is happening in Cuba “continues to be a priority issue” for the organization he presides over. The statement also mentions another incident that occurred on January 11 in which the authorities detained journalists Sol García Basulto, Inalkis Rodríguez and Henry Constantín Ferreiro, members of the magazine La Hora de Cuba  in Camagüey.

IAPA continues to emphasize that this action by Cuban State Security against the journalists of La Hora de Cuba was due to the presence of President Raúl Castro in Camagüey, since he was visiting the city. ” Constantín Ferreiro and Garcia continue to be prohibited from leaving Camagüey, where they reside,” the statement reads, noting that they had been accused of the crime of “usurpation of legal capacity” because, according to the government, they have not been “duly authorized” to practice as journalists.

In its latest report on Cuba, the IAPA denounced that the lack of press freedom on the island worsened in 2017. The non-profit organization said that this was due to an increase in “the aggressions against independent journalists and even their relatives, and against users of social networks by police bodies” with the collaboration of the Ministry of Justice.

In the Human Rights Watch’s 2017 Annual Report published on Thursday, the organization notes that the Government of Cuba “detains, harasses and threatens independent reporters” among other serious violations of people’s rights and freedoms.


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.

Letter to a Threatened Journalist

Luz Escobar has worked for 14ymedio since its founding in 2014. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 17 January 2018 – Luz, you have had an incredible “privilege”: To see up close the true face under the Fantômas mask.

In your police interview this Monday those State Security agents showed you, with complete self-confidence, who they really are, what is hidden behind the discourse of supposed ‘Revolutionary ethics’ and ‘defense of the country.’ In reality, under their clothes they are ‘mafioso’ whose methods mimic the worst style of the Camorra.

They have threatened you, they have warned you that the people closest to you will pay the consequences, they have even asked you to become one of them to betray your colleagues. All this, using the only tool they know: repression.

Your life will become more difficult from now on. Many friends will stop calling you, others will cross to the other side of the street when they see you, dozens of acquaintances will say you’ve gone crazy or that you are brainwashed, others will advise you to leave the country as soon as possible, to shut up, to stop writing. Some relatives will tell you to think about your daughters, while the fence around your house, your neighborhood, your person, will become suffocating.

They themselves, with the characteristic abuse of power, will spread the word that you are a ‘mercenary’ or, in the worst case, that you work for the ‘apparatus’ as an ‘undercover agent’. Distrust will rise like a wall around your work. These campaigns of defamation and demonization will affect every detail of your existence, from who knocks on your door to sell you a little milk, to the phrases the teachers repeat in your daughters’ classrooms.

However, from today, you will also feel a strange lightness, as if a weight you had been carrying on your shoulders for years has been lifted. They, without planning to, have given you the best argument to continue your career in journalism, because they have shown you that ‘up there’ nothing remains of respect for the citizen, for ethics, morality, sincerity, integrity… and much less for COURAGE. Of which you possess oceans.

Welcome to your new life. Enjoy it and be free.


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.

Turmoil Previously in Front of US Consulate in Havana Moves to a Quiet Street in Miramar

Part of the strict security routine that was deployed around the US Embassy is being transferred to the Colombian consulate. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 11 January 2018 — Jimena yawns and says she has barely slept since leaving San Juan y Martínez, in Pinar del Río province, to be on time Wednesday at the Colombian consulate in Havana. The quiet street in Havana’s Miramar neighborhood where the consulate is located has become a hive of activity this week.

Quick off the mark, the residents around the diplomatic site have not missed the opportunity to put together a network of businesses to meet the needs of the hundreds of Cubans who arrive every day. From the water sellers, the residents who charge a fee to use their bathrooms, to those who rent simple accommodations, all are doing a brisk business in this ’off-season’ of the year.

Since Washington drastically reduced its diplomatic staff in Cuba and canceled the handling of visa processing in Havana because of the alleged acoustic attacks, thousands of Cubans have been left in limbo in the middle of a process to emigrate or visit the United States. continue reading

The despair set off by the interruption in processing visas is now felt in every inch of Calle 14 between 5th and 7th in Havana’s Playa municipality, near the Colombian consulate. People are arriving from all parts of the Island, hoping to travel to the US Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia, where they must go to get their permission to enter the US.

Every face is one of anguish as they wait more than 50 yards from the consulate entrance. The police have placed an improvised set of fences and gates to keep the applicants away from the embassy entrance. The street is closed to traffic and no vehicles are allowed to park in the block.

The authorities have also deployed personnel from State Security, who, although dressed in civilian clothes, are easily identified by those waiting based on their military hairstyles and the way they constantly observe the line, which grows as the morning progresses.

“Our routine has been destroyed,” laments José, a retiree who works guarding the entrance of a prosperous house that rents rooms to tourists. “Customers can’t get here by car and when they come from the airport they have to get out of the taxi in the next block and lug their suitcases,” he laments.

The neighborhood, with several embassies and diplomatic residences, is experiencing a shock. In several places people have put down cardboard to sleep on through the night so as not to lose their place in line. “They urinate in the garden,” laments José, for whom the most difficult part is that “the police are everywhere and now you can not even buy an egg ‘under the table’.”

The line for US travel documents ordinarily formed in the park at Calzada and K, in Vedado, a place that traditionally had hosted “the line to leave,” jokes José.

Now, the sea of people has moved to this street in Miramar, where the well-oiled infrastructure of services created by local entrepreneurs around the US embassy does not yet exist. The commercial network ranged from coffee shops to places where self-employed workers charged people to fill out the forms for the visa process.

In the new location everything seems improvised and disconnected, beginning with the small number of personnel in the Colombian consulate that is trying to manage the avalanche of people, the haphazardness of the space for people arriving and waiting, and the lack of food services for those who must wait for hours, in a neighborhood where things generally cost more than they do elsewhere in Havana.

“An egg sandwich cost me 3 CUC in a private coffee shop, because almost everyone who lives in this part of the city has money, or earns it from renting [to tourists] or is a foreigner,” complains a man who says he arrived from Remedios, in Villa Clara. “If I have to stay another day here I’m going to have spent all my money,” he says.

Beside him, a woman describes the journey she made from Las Tunas and complains loudly that for the second consecutive day she has not been seen. “I have all my papers and my appointment for the US visa is scheduled for the end of the month in Bogota, but the doorman says they are only serving those who are traveling this week.”

The guard raises his arms and asks for silence. The human chorus of laments and demands is silent for a moment. The man, overwhelmed, clarifies that only requests from those with the earliest appointments in Colombia are being processed.

“You must be calm, as far as we are concerned, a great effort is being made and so far nobody has been unable to travel but it is important to organize the entrance, which can only be by date of the first summons,” says the man without managing to calm the spirits.

He then selects the group that will enter the consulate. Several policemen accompany the official and are in charge of stopping the vehicular traffic on the cross street so that people can cross to the other side. The line of the chosen ones covers the distance in silence, while those who remain outside watch them with a mixture of envy and resignation. The conversation breaks out again when the police move away.

Manuel Perdomo says he wants to see his son in Miami. He shares with the others what he knows about the procedures in Colombia. “It is necessary to take a certificate of vaccines and a summary of your clinical history to facilitate the medical check-up,” says the man, who expects to receive a US residence premit under the family reunification program.

“Anyone who is missing a vaccine is going to have to pay for it there,” he says, with his finger pointing to that distant and dreamed of place that Bogotá has become. Perdomo exchanges advice on what awaits them in Colombia because he believes they should help each other. “We are the ones affected,” he says.

This video is not subtitled, but gives a sense of the scene around the consulate

A few yards away, a neighbor on the block charges 5 Cuban pesos for access to his bathroom. “I have toilet paper, soap and a little cologne for those who want to clean up,” he promotes his service. “If someone wants to take a shower you can do that too, but that costs more,” he clarifies.

The bathroom is small and the mirror over the sink is broken. Near the sink, on some tiles that lost their shine years ago, they have stuck a sign that announces that in a nearby house “forms are filled out.” The splashes of water have blurred the phrase, but you can still read the house number and a telephone number.

The most common complaint heard alludes to the lack of information about the new procedures. Jimena is worried about having to connect to the internet to complete some form. “They told me that they will give me the printed forms here, but what if it’s not true?”

Her son has warned by a fellow resident of Pinar del Río not to pay 20 Cuban convertible pesos for the service to fill out the consular documents. “He told me that he is going to take care of everything from Miami, because I do not have the slightest idea of how to connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot,” she says.

“You can not be here, señora, you have to go to the corner and wait for the official to review the papers,” a uniformed man tells a woman. The man turns and yells at an independent journalist, telling him that photographs are not allowed. He also tells a young woman to turn off her phone before entering the room.

Little by little, part of the strict security routine that was deployed around the US Embassy is being transferred to the Colombian consulate.

Jimena’s fears do not end in Cuba. His biggest nightmare is to arrive in Bogotá and be asked for a document she does not have. The mere idea that she might have to return to the Island to look for a paper robs her of her sleep. “Just in case, I’m taking everything, even what is not necessary,” she says, and shows a pink folder cluttered with papers.

At noon, the the nearly fifty people still standing in line wilt with fatigue. The rest have gone to have lunch or doze under nearby trees.

The guard, who until last December yawned in his booth overcome by  boredom, stares at the line. “Señora you can’t be here,” he warns a Cuban woman living in Miami who approaches the consulate door to try to enter. The woman complains that she has come to help her daughter obtain the Colombian visa and that everything is very badly organized.

At several points, employees have posted a sign with an email to clear up doubts and get an appointment, but most of those who arrive prefer to be “present in body.” The anguish that they have lived for weeks, since the relationship between Washington and Havana began to get complicated, is not calmed with an email.

“I’m staying here until the Colombian visa is stamped on my passport, so I have to sleep overnight in the street,” says José Carlos, a Havana resident who has been waiting for two years to reunite with his children and his wife “on the other side of the puddle.” And he adds, “Anyway, I already sold my house so I’m renting and no one is at home waiting for me.”

As evening starts to fall pessimism falls over the line. “There are no guarantees that the United States will grant us the visa,” says a female voice that comes from a corner of the group. “All this can be for nothing and a tremendous loss of money,” she adds. José Carlos silences her: “Do not be a wet blanket, when you get to Yuma you will not remember any of this.”

The guard continues to watch the group closely, while darkness settles over busy Calle 14 in Miramar.


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.

“We Will Be Watching You”

The police offered Luz Escobar better treatment if she collaborated so that the Government could influence the editorial line of ’14ymedio’. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 January 2018 — Two State Security officers threatened the journalist Luz Escobar on Monday with prosecution for a common crime and making her life hell if she continues her work as a journalist for 14ymedio. “We are going to be watching you, because everyone here [in Cuba] has to buy something on the black market,” warned one of the interrogators.

Escobar received a summons, the second in less than five weeks, to attend an “interview” at the Zapata and C Street police station in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, on 15 January at 1:00 in the afternoon. The meeting lasted an hour and 20 minutes and included several warnings.

“They threatened to tell my neighbors that I am a counterrevolutionary, to not let me leave the country and to prosecute me for a common crime,” adds the reporter, who in the last four years has published dozens of chronicles and reports in the pages of this newspaper. continue reading

“They gave as an example the case of the economist Karina Gálvez,” a member of the Center for Coexistence Studies (CEC) who was prosecuted last year for the crime of tax evasion. “The same thing can happen to you”

“They gave as an example the case of the economist Karina Gálvez,” a member of the Center for Coexistence Studies (CEC) who was prosecuted last year for the crime of tax evasion. “The same thing can happen to you,” the officers threatened.

Escobar, who previously worked as a theater producer, has been working as a journalist since the beginning of 2014 when she joined 14ymedio’s initial team. Since then she has specialized in cultural and local coverage; highlights of her work are her interviews with artists and her chronicles of daily life in Havana.

“They were particularly annoyed by the article I published last week about the situation outside the Colombian embassy in Havana, where visas are processed so that Cubans can continue the consular procedures for visas to United States in Bogotá,” she said.

“The official, who identified himself as Lieutenant Amed, reproached me for going there and gathering information from Cubans who were waiting to enter the consulate,” Escobar said. “He told me that I had to notify State Security whenever I wanted to cover news of that type.”

The “interview” cycled between threats and an offer of collaboration for the journalist to help the political police to “influence the editorial line” of 14ymedio, because right now “it is a newspaper that receives instructions from abroad to subvert the Revolution,” they told her.

“Among the warnings there were clear hints that they will put pressure on my family and even alluded to my daughters, telling me that they might not have me around as they grow up,” said the reporter, who has decided to continue with her work. “It’s what I want to do with my life,” she says flatly.

The agents asked the journalist to help the political police to “influence the editorial line” of ’14ymedio’,because right now “it is a newspaper that receives instructions from abroad to subvert the Revolution”

The officials insisted that the United States Government financially supports this digital newspaper, but did not reference public information on 14ymedio’s finances; in its four years of existence the newspaper has not received funds from any governments or political parties, or from any organizations linked to any nation’s executive branch.

“Lieutenant Amed avoided mentioning the transparent finances of which this newspaper boasts,” said the director of 14ymedio, the journalist Yoani Sánchez. “He is lying, because we have created our own business model with the resources derived from memberships, reporting agreements with other media, private donations and the work we do in academic centers or other information spaces,” she adds.

“Amed wants to blame us for something that is totally false and is committing the crime of defamation crime by saying that we receive resources from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) or the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), when we are a project with total economic and editorial autonomy,” she reiterates.

A few weeks ago, this newspaper inaugurated a membership system for Internet users to help support the costs of maintaining a newspaper in a country where the independent press is penalized. “We have managed to involve readers so that they can support, with their monetary contributions and solidarity, the work we do every day,” says Sánchez.

Thank you all for the solidarity. The “interview” was full of threats from State Security to get me to quit my work as a journalist on the digital newspaper 14ymedio. 15 January 2018

Since the founding of 14ymedio, in May 2014, members of the editorial team have received constant pressure to abandon their work as journalists. The website is blocked on national servers and residents on the island can only access it via anonymous proxies or VPN.

“Arrests, threats and interrogations have been our day-to-day reality, but we have tried to prevent that repressive atmosphere from distracting us from our reporting,” Sánchez emphasizes, “however, the situation has reached a point where we fear for the integrity of our reporters and it is time to call on the solidarity of journalism organizations in the region and human rights organizations to alert them to what is happening.”

At the end of the interview, Luz Escobar received a new police citation for next Wednesday, 17 January, at the Police Station on 21st and C streets in Vedado.


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.

Prejudices Put the Brakes on Bike Culture in Cuba

The lanes on the right, exclusive for bicycles and which were so common two decades ago, have been phased out. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 15 January 2018 — The first Sunday of each month they meet in a park in Centro Habana and ride through the capital on a route that varies to avoid boredom. They are the members of Bicicletear La Habana (Havana Cycling), a group of cyclists that promotes the use of bikes as a means of healthy transport and respectful of the environment, a task that in Cuba involves breaking down the stigma of unreliability attached to this means of transport.

The problems with the oil supply and the shortages during the Special Period, in the 90s, negatively affected the image of this transportation mode which, in Europe, is experiencing an era of splendor due to its positive impact on the economy and the sustainability of the cities.

A study published this Monday by the European Union’s PASTA Project (Physical Activity through Sustainable Transport Approaches) estimates that if at least in 24.7% of trips were made by bike, more than 10,000 premature deaths could be avoided per year.  In addition, the results show that by increasing spending on the cycle path network by only 10%, the estimated economic benefits of avoiding premature mortality are enormous. continue reading

“Getting people out of cars produces great health benefits. A combination of measures that make the car unattractive and policies focused on converting public transport and cycling into more attractive modes would be the best way to improve health and welfare in European cities,” the study concludes.

The restoration of the bike lanes in Cuba is not discussed, even though it is the measure most in demand by those who cycle.

In Cuba, the public commitment to promote the use of the bicycle is conspicuous by its absence. Last December, transport minister Adel Yzquierdo Rodríguez told the National Assembly that repairs to “some capital arterials” are planned for this year, but Wilfredo Vázquez, a 55-year-old electrician, believes that “we should also invest in parallel roads and smaller streets that could be a less dangerous alternative for cyclists.”

However, the restoration of the bike lanes in Cuba is not discussed, even though it is the measure most in demand by those who cycle.

In 2013 the economist Marino Murillo, known as the “Tsar of Economic Reforms,” made an announcement that excited some and robbed others of their sleep. The new plan to revitalize the use of the bicycle was aimed at alleviating transport problems and offering a healthier option to the population, Murillo explained at the time.

“In Cuba, one could say there are no bike shops, although there is a store in Miramar and another in another municipality”

The announcement set off alarm bells for many Cubans who saw in it a possible return to the hardest years of the 90s economic crisis.

“The application of below-cost pricing for the sale of parts for [bicycle] maintenance will be evaluated,” Murillo added then, but almost five years later there has been mo increase in sales of bikes or bike parts, nor has there been an increase in the availability of bike parking or bike repair shops.

“In Cuba, one could say there are no bike shops, although there is a store in Miramar and another in another municipality,” reflects Yasser González, from Bicicletear La Habana.

And this is not the only problem. The exclusive bike lanes on the right-hand sides of streets, which were so common two decades ago, have been phased out. On some streets, cycling has been prohibited altogether and the government no longer engages in a massive importing of bicycles, as it did during the Special Period to address the lack of other means of transport.

The architect Miguel Coyula believes that “in Cuba, bicycles are seen as a necessity imposed by extreme economic circumstances.” The specialist wrote an article in which he said that “Havana lost a golden opportunity to become a truly friendly city” for cyclists.

Although the data are not as alarming as those of other Latin American capitals, Havana already suffers from pollution levels that should be reversed.

Havanans give very little thought to the sustainability of their city or their health. In 2014, an investigation determined that nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and dust particles are causing a worrying environmental deterioration in the capital’s air quality. Although the data are not as alarming as those of other Latin American capitals, Havana already suffers from pollution levels that should be reversed.

But the majority of Habaneros consulted by this newspaper reject cycling because it is very hot, the streets are in very bad condition, it is dangerous and they don’t believe their nutrition is adequate for the effort required. Some people also fear their bikes will be stolen or there is no parking near their homes or work.

The cyclists who have joined Bicicletear La Habana pass in a multicolored row in front of Havana’s doorways, leaving curiosity in their wake. Passers-by and drivers sometimes call them “the crazy bike people” for moving on two wheels when in the collective memory “pedaling” is still something closer to sacrifice than pleasure.

“Sometimes I have seen the group pass in front of my house and the truth is that I do not understand why they spend so much energy in that, if along this same route there are almendrones (collective taxis) running,” says María Elena, a retired teacher who lives on Infanta Road, near the departure point of the members of Bicicletear La Habana.

The woman traveled on two wheels when she was working, but no longer cycles because her knees are “in very bad condition.” The aging of the population is leading to a future where “in 2030 older adults will constitute 30% of Havana’s population,” which is another reason Miguel Coyula gives for the decline in cycling.

Among drivers, the opinion of cyclists is quite negative. The drivers refer to them with derogatory phrases, they shout insults and there are few displays of courtesy towards those on two wheels. Along with the tricycles known as pedicabs, bicycles are the lowest link in the Havana traffic food chain.

The Cuban Statistical Yearbook only mentions this type of accident when it is due to “violations by cyclists,” but not when they are the victims.

“I make the trip every day from my house in La Víbora to my work in Vedado and I have to be very attentive because the drivers cut me off or park unexpectedly in front of me without warning,” laments Wilfredo Vázquez.

The cyclist says he has been “in the saddle for almost 30 years” and has never had a serious accident, although several falls that he blames on “imprudent drivers.” However, the Cuban Statistical Yearbook only mentions this type of accident when it is due to “violations by cyclists,” but not when they are the victims.

According to data from the National Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI), in 2016 cyclists were responsible for 57 accidents with 5 deaths and 53 injured, an incidence lower than that recorded in 2015, when there were 69 accidents, with 10 deceased and 62 injured.

“They always blame us for interfering with traffic and saw we are a headache for taxi drivers and guagueros (bus drivers) but most of the time it is the other way around,” Vázquez complains. “They do not take us into account and without exclusive bike paths, they see us as if we were intruders on the road.”

The experienced cyclist believes that “the state of the streets doesn’t support cycling very much either.” In Havana “there are very few roads that are not full of potholes, with the asphalt broken down by the heat and with bad signals,” he says.

To make matters worse, the bicycle market does not support cycling as a means of transport. Unlike the 90s, when the streets were full of Chinese bicycles – the Flying Pigeon models and the popular Forever Bicycle – today the few rolling along the streets show a greater diversity of styles because they come from the personal imports or the tourists who, after using them, give them away to some Cuban.

Bicicletear La Habana promotes the idea of small private businesses who rent bikes by the hour. The informal market also often makes up for the lack, although the bicycles offered on classified ad sites are poor quality, this paper has confirmed.

“The most popular bicycles are the electric ones, because people do not want to pedal,” says Wilfredo Vázquez, who considers himself “a passionate cyclist.” He says, “I do not understand that, because having a bicycle is choosing to a healthier lifestyle and for that you have to do the exercise,” he argues.

Vázquez believes that “sooner or later” cycling will be common in Cuba’s major city. “Because it is untenable to move more than two million people on public transport and the city is very congested with cars.” However, “first you have to overcome people’s prejudice.”


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.

"You Are Not in Control Here," the Refrain that Silences Women

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 26 November 2017  — In the Havana neighborhood of La Timba a teenager loudly sings Latin trap song that causes a stir among young Cubans:  “You are not in control here, silence/Pay attention you evil woman.”  The rhythm is gaining ground on the Island with its lyrics charged with misogyny and gender violence.

Born in the United States in the ’90’s and censored in the Island’s official media, a good part of trap music glorifies drug use, casual sex, violence and criminal acts.  Its refrains have managed to displace the popular reggaton that from the beginning of this century dominated the Cuban music scene.

Trap has gone viral thanks to technology.  Many of its follower are under twenty and use bluetooth in order to send songs from one phone to another.  Mobile applications like Zapya and services like YouTube are the best record labels that the exponents of this catchy music count on. continue reading

The Colombian Maluma, the American Arcangel, together with the Puerto Ricans Bad Bunny and Ozuna, are the best known stars of the new phenomenon in Cuba.  Their lyrics are loaded with stories about slums where scheming, drugs and weapons are part of the day-to-day life.

In the trap music context women are often seen as property of the man and dependent on his whims.  Scenes of sexual assaults, young people drugged or tied to the bed and continuous infidelities are hummed by children and teens on the bus, in the classroom or on the sidewalks throughout the Island.

Some lyrics are pure dynamite in a region where gender violence indices are alarming.  A recent report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and UN Women warns that Latin America and the Cariberrean have the highest rates of homicide against women in the world.  “The role of the media as transmitters and builders of cultural models” makes them allies or adversaries in the “fight for equality,” warns Amnesty International.

The image of women in the media is also included in the analysis of these acts of aggression.

Trap musicians defend themselves against accusations of misogyny by claiming that they simply hold a mirror to poor neighborhoods where machismo reigns. They make themselves out to be chroniclers of a daily reality wherein women are often used as bargaining chips between gangs or to settle disputes.

The Cuban authorities have reacted to the spread of trap music with an avalanche of articles in the official press, in which they accuse the genre of depicting women as mere objects of desire. The song, 4 Babys, by Maluma, has been censored from television and radio playlists.

Nonetheless, the Columbian’s voice can be heard frequently in recreation centers, school parties and on public transportation. “They always give me what I want / They put out when I tell them / Not one says no,” a dozen students could be heard chanting during recreation at a primary school in Centro Habana.

“I have forbidden my grandson to play those songs because nothing good can come from those lyrics, but there is no way to prevent it because it’s all over the place,” complains Lucinda, 72, a resident of the city of Santa Clara. “It’s not enough to tell him that he cannot listen to that music at home if they’re playing it even at school,” she laments.

Patriotic ballads are often alternated with the most raw reggaeton and trap. The thousands of teachers barely past adolescence who are staffing the classrooms of the nation, due to the personnel shortage in education sector, are avid fans of these genres.

“I want do do Fifty Shades of Grey to you, tie you to the bed with tape, start at 11 and end at 6,” says the song, 50 Shades of Austin, by the singer Arcangel–which is on the phone or tablet of every student in the Old Havana prep school.

“I don’t see anything wrong with it because it’s not real, it’s a story the singer made up to have a good time,” says middle school student Magela. “It’s not like we’re listening now to Arcangel and then are going to do what he’s saying. It’s like a video game, where you don’t really die,” she explains.

The discussions over the new style have reached the television studios. During a recent debate, Israel Rojas, the lead singer of the duo Buena Fe, was pointing to educational deficiencies in school and at home as the soil in which trap music takes root.

However, Joseph Ros, an A/V producer, warned against the dangers of censoring those themes and of a lack of dialogue over decisions about political culture in the country. The censoring of political or erotic content tends to feed the popularity of songs and videos.

During the 90s, the independent Association of Women Communicators, or Magín, convened more than 400 professionals, largely from the world of television and radio, with the objective of changing “women’s image in the media,” according to one of its founders, Sonnia Moro.

Magín members tried to “confront sexism, taboos and stereotypes,” and the messages that help reinforce “the patriarchal mindset,” but the group was quickly “deactivated” by the Central Committee of the Communist Party. “We were stunned,” admits Moro, who also points to “an absence of focus on gender” in Cuban education.

Last Friday in the WiFi zone on La Rampa, Melisa, barely 9 years old, was asking her mother to download the Soy Peor [“I’m Worse”] video. “Go on your way because I’m better off without you / Now I have others who do me better,” sings the Puerto Rican, Bad Bunny. “If I was a son of a bitch before / Now I’m worse, because of you.”

With a few clicks and no hesitation, the woman booted up the material that the girl would later share with her friends.


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.

Translated By: Mary Lou Keel and Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Daranas Seduces Cuban Audience with His Film About the Special Period

The ’Sergio & Sergei’ film crew this Thursday during the press conference at the Hotel Nacional. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 15 December 2017 — On Thursday, Ernesto Darana’s film Sergio & Sergei was finally shared with a Havana audience and the full room of the Yara cinema eruped with applause, laughter and tears. The exhibition of the Cuban director’s work, presented at the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, had been frustrated last Sunday by a projector breakdown at the Chaplin Cinema

The filmmaker, whose previous film Conducta (Behavior) received many awards, attended the screening and regretted that the Yara Cinema did not have “optimal quality” technology for both the image and the sound.

This “is a film to smile [and] to think,” said the producer about the work on the film, which was presented worldwide in the official section of the latest edition of the Toronto International Film Festival. The film reflects “a crisis that has not yet ended,” in reference to a not too distant past whose echoes still resonate in today’s Cuba. continue reading

With a script by the director and Marta Daranas, the plot of Sergio & Serguéi is set in Havana in 1991 when the Special Period begins. Sergio is a professor of Marxism and amateur radio enthusiast, while Serguéi, a Soviet cosmonaut who travels to space as a Soviet and will return to Earth as a Russian, spends days of anguish in the damaged Mir space station.

Sergio & Sergei communicate by radio, helping each other despite the adversities they experience and the complex circumstances of their respective nations. On Earth, the brutal economic crisis provoked in Cuba by the collapse of the USSR — a time Fidel Castro labelled “The Special Period in Time of Peace” — sharpens Sergio’s paranoia, as he flees from his persecutors to the service of State Security.

For Mario Guerra, the actor who plays the vigilante Ramiro, the work done by the political police in Cuba is “castrating” and he confesses that he likes that people laugh at “such a moronic person” as Ramiro.

“There are things that do not deserve to be taken seriously,” said Daranas, referring to the tone of farce in which the character of the security agent is approached. During the press conference the director also mentioned that the film still has no release date in Cuban theaters, but it will be released in 2018 in Spain, as confirmed by the co-producer Mediapro.

In developing Sergio & Sergei, the director said he was inspired by those “operetta characters” who constantly break into everyday life and people’s dreams, and took advantage of the press conference to say that he refused to take seriously “the permanent extremists” and “the controllers.”

The film achieves highly worthy special effects that the team may well be proud of, as well as having excellent sound design along with credit for having hired an actor of the caliber of Ron Perlman to play Peter. Peter, an American journalist who lives in New York who is interested in investigating the propaganda of his country’s space program, ends up contacting Sergio.

The veteran American actor describes his character as “a quasi-revolutionary Jewish journalist living in New York” who reveals “the different forms of corruption of the US government.” Perlman had to sign “more than three thousand papers” to obtain permission from the United States Actors Association and work on a Cuban production.

However, beyond the fiction recreated or the amalgam of nationalities in the film’s cast, the most certain thing one can say about the film is that it manages to connect with a Cuban audience on a plane of complicity, recognition and identification.

“I do not want my daughter to grow up seeing this,” Sergio says on the screen, and the phrase generates a tremor in the room full of parents and grandparents who lived through those years. The teacher of Marxism sees how the world he knows falls apart and how he must set aside his principles to support his family, a story known by those who from the seats who fought tooth and nail in their daily struggle.

For Daranas, the film is a story “about friendship” and “about good people who deserve better.” Although in reality it is a film about unburied ghosts that run through the national life and lead us to wonder: What good were so many sacrifices to get to today’s disaster?


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.

Ciro Díaz: “Musician In The Morning, Mathematician In The Afternoon, Activist In The Evening”

Ciro Díaz, the guitarist of the group Porno para Ricardo, is a dissatisfied Cuban who is doing a PhD in mathematics in Brazil. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 2 December 2017 — It is risky to define someone in brief strokes, but if it is Ciro Díaz we are talking about it is even more so because the same person contains a mix of the activist, the musician and the mathematician.

The guitarist of the group Porno Para Ricardo is a dissatisfied Cuban who is doing a PhD in mathematics in Brazil. This week he was visiting Havana and spoke with 14ymedio.

14ymedio. What attracts you most about life in Brazil?

Díaz. Freedom. At the University of Havana I felt persecuted. If you did this you were thrown out, if you said that you were thrown out, if you did not behave in a certain way, they would throw you out, if you did not go to an activity you got into trouble. In Brazil, the opposite is true, because universities are epicenter generators of political problems. continue reading

14ymedio. Have you had encounters with that part of the university left that supports the Cuban Government?

Díaz. In Brazil there is everything, both the liberal left and the conservative left, the funny thing is that many people of the liberal left are very ill informed about Cuba. They think that the government of Havana is liberal when in fact it is ultraconservative and for the most extreme Brazilian left that is difficult to digest.

14ymedio. Activist, musician and mathematician. Aren’t they occupations that are too disparate?

Díaz. I’m a jumbled mixture of all that: musician in the morning, mathematician in the afternoon and activist at night.

14ymedio. But does one predominate over the others?

Díaz. Sometimes I turn more toward one thing than for another. Now I’m recording a new album with La Babosa Azul. When I finish it I’ll put it on the internet and forget about music for a while to concentrate on mathematics. Meanwhile I am an activist in my free time, when I have to face an ill-founded opinion about Cuba and help people to see our reality in a different way.

14ymedio. You mentioned the musical project La Babosa Azul, but some thought that was over…

Díaz. La Babosa Azul is a submarine: we record a record and then we submerge until the next one comes out. Between one thing and another maybe we do a concert or we record a video clip. The previous album was called El último (The Last). I called it that because I thought there was not going to be another album, but next year there will be one released in English.

14ymedio. Has the fact of living in Brazil separated you from the punk rock group Porno Para Ricardo?

Díaz. Never in my life have I played as much with Porno for Ricardo as since I’ve been in Brazil. In the Czech Republic we have played four times and whenever a concert is organized I join. It is very fun to play live and I love festivals that are full of people. A tremendous experience that here in Cuba is difficult to have, at least with so much publicity.

14ymedio. Than in those times of clandestine concerts?

Díaz. Yes, there were for fewer people, at the most 100 showed up. However, the most enthusiastic audience we have had is in Cuba because the songs speak them more and there is more interaction.

14ymedio. Will you return to the Island soon?

Díaz. I will continue coming every two years so as not to lose my (right of) residence and I will look for a job in Brazil when I finish my doctorate. It does not make sense to study six years to get a doctorate and come to live in Cuba, where I can not even work. What I will never lose is my residence here.

14ymedio. Have you thought about working with record companies?

Díaz. It is very difficult and I do not want to spend time on those efforts, not to mention all the concessions that have to be made. In Cuba it is particularly pathetic, you have to be a bootlicker to be broadcast on TV and radio, something I am not willing to do.


The 14ymedio team is committed to making a 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 becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

“My Attackers Act As If Nothing Happened”

José Enrique Morales Besada feels deceived and refuses to let the perpetrators go unpunished. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 13 November 2017 – It was a warm night in June and José Enrique Morales Besada was connected to the internet at a Wi-Fi hotspot in Morón, Ciego de Ávila. On returning home, his life took a dramatic turn when he was a victim of a homophobic attack that left him with serious physical consequences and a desire for justice that current Cuban legislation has failed to satisfy.

Last Friday, the Prosecutor’s Office decided to close the criminal process for his case and settle it with the imposition of a fine on his attackers. The interest in the attack on the part of the National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex), led by Raul Castro’s daughter Mariela Castro, has not been enough to bring his assailants to trial, although it did speed up the police investigation. continue reading

At just 21, this young man has spent the last months shuttling between medical consultations and police appointments after two men insulted him and hit him on the side of his face with a bottle. José Enrique only remembers lying on the floor, with a friend by his side who was screaming for help, he tells 14ymedio by phone.

Morales Besada dreamed of becoming a professional singer. He performed at parties and tourist facilities, offering pop themes, ballads, classics in English and popular dance music, but now he can barely finish a sentence without speech problems that stop him in the middle of his words.

“Every time I speak I have a very strange feeling, so I can’t sing because I can’t modulate my voice well,” he laments. The blow caused him to lose several teeth, destroyed part of his gums and caused a serious fracture of the jaw for which he had to undergo surgery.

Four years before the attack, the streets of Morón were filled with colorful displays when the province became the site for the Day Against Homophobia. The annual vindication has not succeeded in banishing the prejudices that remain deeply rooted in that region and in the rest of the country.

For Morales Besada, the Ciego de Ávila LGBTI community faces a “dark panorama” and its members suffer constant aggravations in the streets as well as “degrading treatment.”

“It is very difficult to sit in a park without someone passing by and throwing an insult or a can of beer,” he complains.

Homophobia in Cuba also enjoys police complicity. “When somebody goes to file a complaint about something like that they treat them like they’re crazy,” declares the young man, who, in spite of appearing with witnesses before the authorities, barely managed that his attackers spent 24 hours in custody. “They left after paying a bond of 1,000 Cuban pesos (roughly $40 US) each.”

The Cuban Penal Code does not include the concept of “hate crimes” regarding attacks against people based on ethnic origin, religion, race, gender, sexual orientation and identity. The latter, specifically, are not included in the current legislation and attacks against them are treated by the police and the courts like any other crime.

A few days after the attack, the singer wrote in his Facebook account an initial message saying what happened, demanding justice and asking Mariela Castro directly for help.

The report that was prepared in the hospital, and that recorded the facial and mouth injuries, was “conveniently” lost. (Courtesy)

In 2015, Mariela Castro had assured in a public event that the institution she directs was working in collaboration with the Ministry of the Interior to closely monitor these aggressions. “A thorough and specialized analysis is needed to determine the type of crime because all situations where LGBTI people are victims do not have hatred as a motive,” said the sexologist.

Cenesex began to investigate what happened in Morón and sent a letter to the municipality’s National Revolutionary Police (PNR). Morales Besada admits that when the officers heard the name of the daughter of the Cuban leader “they started running around and wanted to do in a day what they should have done from the beginning.”

The 10th was when Morales Besada knew that there would never be a trial for his attackers. The Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the opening of the trial and has settled the case with a fine against both perpetrators. After hearing the conclusion from the investigator, the young man came out crying. He did not even want to sign the official communication.

Morales Besada denounces multiple irregularities in the process. “Nobody from the investigation visited my maxillofacial doctor to ask what my current state of health is,” he complains. In addition, the report that was prepared in the hospital recording the facial and mouth injuries he suffered was “conveniently” lost and only appeared, after much searching, detailing cervical injuries.

“No trial was held and they deceived me because until that moment they had told me that they would be taken to court.”

Members of the Cuban LGBTI community have collected more and more records of assaults and hate crimes. Although official institutions do not publish statistics on murders or violent acts against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, the news now is made known thanks to social networks.

In May 2015, this newspaper published an article about the stoning death of a 24-year-old transsexual in the city of Pinar del Río. The official media never published the news.

Morales Besada, who feels deceived and refuses to let the perpetrators go unpunished “as if nothing happened,” published a Facebook message last Friday that has made his case known to thousands of internet users.

The young man claims that both attackers have a history of homophobic violence. “They beat another boy who works in the Cayo but he did not accuse them because he is afraid.”

“This attack has left me without a life,” says José Enrique. The physical damage can leave permanent affects, but what adds to the pain now is the impotence he feels in the absence of justice.

A 16-Day Detention That Started With a Kidnapping

The activist Roberto Rodríguez Jiménez spent 16 days in detention. (Aulas Abiertas)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 9 November 2017 — An arbitrary arrest is not the same if on the other side of the bars there is a family willing to ask questions or a friend who dares to investigate. Roberto Jiménez Gutiérrez believed that no one would notice his absence, which began on October 23 when the police crossed his path, but the reaction outside of Cuba surprised him.

“I was held incommunicado for sixteen days in the Technical Investigation Department at 100 and Aldabó,” the leader of the independent organization Juventud Activa Cuba Unida (JACU — Active Youth, United Cuba), which describes his arrest as a “kidnapping,” he tells this newspaper. “But the officers never told me where I was, I knew that from other prisoners,” he explains by telephone after being released last Tuesday.

In Jiménez’s mind, the days in the cell passed slowly without any logic. “Almost every day they interrogated me, but the most intense moments were the first 72 hours,” he recalls. continue reading

The opponent was on his way to José Martí International Airport, in Havana, to take a flight to Miami where he planned to participate in a dinner organized by the Legal Rescue Foundation (FRJ).

At dawn, police stopped the car in which he was traveling to the airport and told the driver to leave. “Everything that followed was very violent,” the JACU leader explains now. “I demanded that they show me a document that validated my arrest and then they hit me in the chest.”

After that the memories are confusing. Four policemen forced him into a patrol car and pushed him down in such a way that he could not even see the road the vehicle was traveling along.

“I am being accused of association, meetings and illicit demonstrations,” an offense for which one can receive from “three months to one year of deprivation of liberty.” The police also warned him, without showing him any papers, that he was going to be charged under Law 88, also known as the Gag Law.

The draconian legislation is the same as that which led to the imprisonment of 75 opponents and independent journalists in 2003, in a repressive wave known as the Black Spring. The dissidents tried in that case were sentenced to sentences as long as 30 years.

Under those rules Jiménez could be prosecuted for accumulating, reproducing and disseminating “information or documentation that goes against the Government.” The officers who interrogated him did not succeed in getting him to confess to the accusation. “They did not get anything, I held my position.”

That same day, the activist César Mendoza, director of the Center for Studies for Local Development (CEDEL), was also arrested. He was also going to participate in the meeting in Miami together with Jiménez, as well as be part of a panel at the recently concluded Cuba Internet Freedom meeting.

Mendoza saw him last Saturday when he was taken to another detention center, and cannot say where he is being held because he was moved in a fetal position. “They wanted to confront us with each other so we would implicate each other,” he explains. But neither of the activists confirmed the police hypothesis.

Now, Jiménez will have to go every Monday to 100 and Aldabó to sign a record and is awaiting a trial that does not yet have a date. “In the detention they confiscated a laptop, money and a tablet that were part of the things I was taking with me for the trip,” he adds.

The government repressors still do not understand why JACU works in the training of young people and “everything is done without profit and rests on the basis of human rights and democracy so that they can direct their actions and define their future.”

The activist recognizes that lately they have had to change the places where they meet “due to the pressures from State Security.” His arrest was one more drop in a cascade of arrests, threats and seizures.

“I do not have a family and they took advantage of that,” Jiménez laments, but in the days after his arrest a whole hosts of relatives materialized. The human rights organization Freedom House publicized his case and social networks filled with demands for his release.

When Roberto Jiménez Gutiérrez returned to walk through the streets of Havana his phone did not stop ringing. A new family had emerged during those 16 days of confinement.