Miraculous Fishing in the Zaza Reservoir Thanks to the Drought or How To Turn a Setback Into Victory

The fishermen caught 500 more tons of fish than in 2023, when the situation in Zaza was stable / Cubadebate]]

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes García, Sancti Spíritus, 12 July 2024 –After weeks of “miraculous fishing” in the exhausted Zaza reservoir, the Sancti Spíritus Fishing Company obtained 1,980 tons of fish, which represents an overcompliance of 113% in its semi-annual plan and 28% of what was collected throughout Cuba.

With a very bad memory, the official press celebrates the result – “in greeting to July 26,” (the province is the site of the upcoming anniversary celebrations) – and omits the alarming situation of the reservoir, weighed down by the drought. Only now, months after Escambray announced the frenetic “aquatic harvest” that was carried out in Zaza so as not to “miss” the very low level of the largest reservoir on the Island – at 13% of its capacity in May – the authorities admit that they were pursuing a fishing record within the framework of the official celebrations for the largest anniversary of the regime.

The protagonists of these six months have been the brigades – fleets – Sierra, Pantera, Pitirre, Liudmila and Tuinucú, whose employees did not have to be told to continue taking fish even if the plan was already fulfilled. It was a “state commission,” Escambray explained this week, stirred by the promise that they were also “fishing for more salary.” A ton was paid at 4,000 pesos. continue reading

The local newspaper then recognized its concern for Zaza, where fish “can be caught by hand”

The local newspaper then recognized its concern for Zaza, where fish “can be caught by hand,” an opportunity that the hungry fishermen in the area did not miss, with constant embellishments like the report this Thursday by Cubadebate. The overflowing boats; the crowded nets; entire fleets in the navigable part of the reservoir; the workers of the state Acuiza exhibiting large tilapia; and the scenes of “abundance” after a “tense battle” against the dam fill the idyllic report, which does not say a word about the drought.

They took out 500 tons more than in 2023 – according to Cubadebate – when the situation of Zaza was stable and the species that populate it could be fished without danger of extinguishing the prey ecosystem, composed of carp, brill, tilapia and catfish.

The authorities admit that there was an “intense drought” and that the spring rains have been “elusive,” which keeps water levels in Zaza “low.” That reference, however, is interpreted as good news because it “catalyzes the catch.” “Contributing food” is the currency, for which they were given a small “improvement in working conditions”: the company gave them 20 more boats; two have motors.

“Contributing food” is the currency, for which they were given a small “improvement in working conditions”

They fished so hard that Cubadebate has the luxury of joking about the “strengths and skills” that the muscular fishermen developed in pulling out their nets, full of “good specimens.” Crammed with the “precious cargo,” the flotillas returned to the shore with great difficulty. The boss of the Tuinucú brigade – who is the best – revealed his secret: to exceed the daily plan – from 5 to 6 tons – even if it is in small quantities. This is how the “prominent campaign” was achieved, which hasn’t stopped.

Last May, Cubadebate gave details about the panorama of Zaza, which, with its capacity to house 1.02 billion cubic meters of water, is the largest reservoir in the country. There were only 132,600 cubic meters at that time. The fishermen then anticipated that a large number of fish would die, so they had received the approval of Acopio – whose trucks opened their doors on the shore so that there were no tricks when delivering to the State what the State asks for – for an “accelerated fishing.”

The opinion of one of the fishermen, Armando García, was that Zaza was “agonizing,” and that you could only work in “small streams and puddles.” The media also recognized that the fish were not sufficiently developed to face, without risk to their population, such a campaign.

Nor was the Zaza very clean: the dirt and excess vegetation impeded the navigation of the fishermen and allowed the fish to hide. Created in 1975, 264,000 people live in the vicinity of the dam – many of them also carry out an illegal and small-scale fishery in its waters.

For five years the dam has not opened its spillway because it hasn’t been filled, and cows now graze in many of the nooks and crannies left by the drought. This was confirmed by 14ymedio, who visited the dam in June and saw that many farmers have plucked up their courage: if you can’t fish, at least the thin cattle can take advantage of the green weeds that grow where there once was water.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Layers of Paint and Hype in Sancti Spíritus, Cuba to Celebrate July 26th

The residents, meanwhile, only hope that the city buildings will benefit from the paraphernalia of the event.

Newly painted pharmacy in Sancti Spíritus due to the events of July 26 / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes Garcia, Sancti Spíritus, 4 July 2024 — Even in the midst of the most painful crisis that the Revolution has faced, the Cuban regime insists on remembering its “rebellious lineage” every year by granting one province primacy in the events for July 26. Since last June 14, Sancti Spíritus has held the headquarters, an “acknowledgement” that Cubans see more as an opportunity to renovate the city than to honor the assailants of the Moncada barracks.

The authorities “put their foot down” – as Ramiro Valdés recommended in the province days ago – and, since the announcement that the central event of the anniversary will take place in Sancti Spiritus, the problems seem to have disappeared. 100% of its taxpayers paid their taxes in 2023, infant mortality in the first half of this year is – suspiciously – the second lowest in the country, and Construction, one of the worst sectors on the Island, advances thanks to mini-industries.

That is, at least, the Sancti Spíritus that the official press is selling, decked out to receive senior government officials and, with luck, Raúl Castro himself.

The entrance road to the province was also paved / Escambray

From the interior of its streets, however, a different reality is felt. The 10 kilometers of asphalt that were dedicated to repairing the province’s roads are all focused on a single section: the road that connects the municipality of Cabaiguán and the capital city, and that also connects with the National Highway. That is, a brand-new tar carpet through which the ministers and officials will enter the city for the event.

The same has happened with the facades of state restaurants, such as Dinos Pizza, to which they added umbrellas and seats in the doorway, but inside, the bottles on display are empty and the prices do not drop below 200 pesos.

They added chairs and umbrellas to Dinos Pizza, but the rest remains the same / 14ymedio

Other “beneficiaries” of state paraphernalia have been pharmacies and bodegas (the ration stores). Those closest to the center and, of course, to the routes that the officials will take, boast blue, pink and red colors on their facades that still smell of fresh paint. The leaks from the interior and the shortage of products, however, have not changed. “Paint, a lot of paint. But no supplies,” a resident of Garaita, one of the “retouched” establishments, complained to 14ymedio.

Many state establishments, some of them on the boulevard, remain closed to preserve the touches until the 26th, when their doors will open with offers of food and entertainment that the people of Sancti Spiritus have not had at their disposal for a long time, and which is doubtful will be kept after the festivities.

Some grocery stores have their facades painted again, but they are still without food / 14ymedio

The local press has also not been shy about granting a certain “joy” to the “people of Sancti Spiritus,” alleging that the Central Committee of the Party has granted a great “honor” to the province for “the work that its cadres, management structures, workers and people in general, as an expression of the popular will to move the country forward in the midst of a particularly complex economic situation.”

Many leisure and gastronomy venues remain closed / 14ymedio

To commemorate the distinction, on the same day of the announcement, local leaders celebrated the event with the people of Sancti Spiritus, who “spontaneously” carried drums and Cuban flags.

For the Sancti Spíritus residents, however, being the venue for the July 26 events is only equivalent to avoiding blackouts for a few days or finally seeing public transportation working. For the rest, the arrangements seem few and superficial compared to those obtained by other provinces in previous years.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

Cuba’s Zaza Reservoir Is Exhausted: Where There Used To Be Fish There Now Are Grazing Cattle

The drought threatens to make the largest reservoir in Cuba disappear for good

The volume of the reservoir is below 13% of its capacity / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes García, Sancti Spíritus, 14 June 2024 — If anyone in Cuba is enthusiastic about the current hurricane season, which is predicted to be active, it is the authorities of Hydraulic Resources in Sancti Spíritus. It has been five years since the Zaza dam opened its gates – that is, since it has been completely filled – and the lack of forceful downpours in recent months has made the drought critical. Where before fishermen slipped in to get some tilapia, now there are cows. “All the land you see should be covered with water at least up to the height of the bridge,” says a resident of the area, who arrived on the La Sierpe road to check the state of the reservoir. “This is in very bad condition, and the water has receded so much that the farmers now use the reservoir for their animals,” he says, counting 70 or 80 cows.

“In the end, the drought has had its profitable side, and the cattle feed on that green grass because they are close to the reservoir. The bad thing is that many people have become accustomed to the fact that no water passes through here, or downstream,” reflects the neighbor, although he acknowledges that “what’s worse is that it doesn’t rain.”

“All the land you see should be covered with water at least up to the height of the bridge

The authorities, even at the national level, have a similar concern. It’s been five years since the dam released water, and many residents have established fields and other structures in what used to be the bed of the Zaza River. Although now the largest reservoir on the island holds just 13% of the 1,020 million cubic meters of water it can store, that could change this summer, and the lives of many residents would be in danger. continue reading

On June 8, Inés María Chapman, Deputy Prime Minister of Cuba, took a tour of the dam. The intention of the entourage, also composed of the national president of Hydraulic Resources, Antonio Rodríguez Rodríguez, was to alert the provincial authorities because, if there are heavy rains, “there are no conditions as at other times to provide solutions to those problems,” Chapman said.

The official arrived in Zaza two days after an article in the local newspaper, Escambray, announced the desperate measures that were taken so that the reservoir did not become totally empty. It has not been in such a hopeless situation since the 1980s, when it dropped to 100 million cubic meters.

The water has receded so much that several farmers let their cattle graze on the land / Escambray

According to Escambray, on that day the volume was 121 million thanks to the rains that occurred in part of Sancti Spíritus. Until that moment, the official press admitted, the water was maintained with transfers from the Tuinucú, Dinorah and Felicidad reservoirs. In May alone, the rainfall was below the historic record low of 98 millimeters (mm), and about 54 mm was reported, just over half. The drought affecting Zaza, which also nourishes other territories such as Ciego de Ávila, has considerably affected other economic lines, beyond the water supply to the population. According to the newspaper, with the decrease in volume, the water was limited to the agro-industrial grain company Sur del Jíbaro in La Sierpe, a rice-producing area that has since seen its production decline.

At the beginning of May, when the press first warned of the complex situation in Zaza, the issue revolved around the fishermen who work in the reservoir, who had to start a frenetic catch before the fish died from the drought.

Zaza is “dying,” said Armando García, a fisherman interviewed by Cubadebate at the time. “You don’t have to throw bread in the water; you can catch fish with your bare hands.”

The authorities have placed their hope on the rains predicted for this month, and that a passing hurricane will bring enough water for the dam to reach a volume that allows it to be used all year round. Last season Zaza was only filled at 40%, and the consequences have been widely seen this 2024.

At the moment, the dam gates have dry walls, the puddles of stagnant water have begun to turn green, and in what used to be the bottom of the reservoir the cattle have created paths in the grass.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Blackouts Are Suspended in Sancti Spíritus After a Protest on the Camino de La Habana

50 people were arrested on Wednesday, by Thursday night the power outages returned

The city of Sancti Spíritus during a summer power outage in which the only lighting was on public roads. / Facebook

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes García, Sancti Spíritus, 31 May 2024 — Blackouts returned to the city of Sancti Spíritus this Thursday night. During the day, residents could not believe what they were experiencing: a day without power outages. But their joy did not last long.

“We went out into the street to bang on pots and pans because we had been without electricity for hours and hours,” a resident of the Camino de La Habana neighborhood, located in the southern part of the city of Sancti Spíritus and with a population of around 2,000, tells 14ymedio. “That was tremendous because people went out into the streets, they didn’t stay inside their houses. Even the old people came out with their pot and spoon.”

“The police arrived a while later and took some of the arrested people away. They grabbed the younger men and put them in the truck,” explains the source, who prefers anonymity. “There are still about 50 arrested, and the families are going crazy asking if they are going to be released or if they are going to be put on trial. The entire neighborhood is very upset with this, because the only thing we did was protest with the pots and pans.” continue reading

The resident assures that, for fear of greater reprisals, the participants in the protest concentrated on the pot-banging and shouting “Electricity!” and “Food!”, the words that have become a constant in protests of this type that have occurred in Cuba in recent years and that reflect popular dissatisfaction with blackouts, shortages and inflation.

“It was very exciting, because they were taking away the arrested people but those of us who were left continued banging on our pots. We were not afraid because they couldn’t arrest us all”

“It was very exciting, because they were taking the arrested people but those of us who were left continued continued banging on our pots. We were not afraid because they couldn’t arrest us all. My neighbors realized that they couldn’t fit the entire neighborhood into that Police truck,” recalls the man from Sancti Spiritus. “They took them to the Vivac [detention center for awaiting processing] in Sancti Spíritus,” he says.

The protest resulted in the city of Sancti Spíritus waking up the next morning with a strong police operation. “I left my house on my way to work and I started seeing police on the corners, patrols everywhere, and it was a neighbor who told me that there had been a protest and that the city was occupied,” a woman from Sancti Spiritus tells this newspaper. She works in a state company linked to the Ministry of Agriculture.

“When I arrived at work, my boss, who lives on Camino de La Habana, gave me more details. He says that it was impressive, that the police patrolled the neighborhood and people did not get out of the middle of the street, they were proving their strength with their pots,” explains the woman. “He says that he did not leave his house for fear of losing his job, but that he banged his pot in the yard.”

“In the office we had a blackout all morning but, surprise, this Thursday throughout the day they did not turn off our power in that area or in any of the city of Sancti Spíritus,” she explains. “People couldn’t believe it, I didn’t even get to enjoy the lack of blackouts, because I had the feeling in my stomach that at any moment they would knock out the power. I was stunned, I couldn’t figure out anything, I couldn’t function with electricity all the time, because I’m used to the fact that there almost always isn’t any.

“I was stunned, I couldn’t figure out anything, I couldn’t work with electricity all the time, because I’m used to the fact that there is almost always no electricity.

Several residents in the city also detail that they saw new police patrols in circulation that they had not previously seen on the city streets. Internet access was also reduced to a minimum to prevent the details of the protests on Camino de La Habana from becoming known through social networks. So far, no video of the demonstration has been released.

“The next day after the protest, a car from the Electric Company arrived to change a transformer, photos were taken and everything,” adds the neighborhood resident. “A clown, because everyone knows that the problem of blackouts has nothing to do with an electric pole or a transformer, but rather that they are taking away our electricity because there is no generation.”

On the Facebook page of the Sancti Spíritus Electrical Company, two images of a worker standing on a ladder and an old Soviet-made truck in the foreground, are enough for the state energy monopoly to use the hashtag #SanctiSpíritusEnMarcha, an irony If we are talking about a district where the most recent march was a popular protest, silenced and repressed.

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

Painting Facades and Construction for the 510th Anniversary of Sancti Spíritus, Cuba

Residents regret that what the official press calls “social impact works” is not the reality

“Everything has been done to sell an image of Sancti Spíritus as perfect, but in reality the cultural life of the city is very bad” / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes García, Sancti Spíritus, June 4, 2024 — The residents of Sancti Spíritus don’t cease to be amazed. Anyone would think, reading the provincial press, that the 510th anniversary of the founding of the city – with the name of Villa del Espíritu Santo – has brought complete renovation to its Historic Center. According to an article published this Monday in Escambray, they have concluded, on the occasion of the anniversary, “works of social impact, along with actions of conservation and maintenance of more than a hundred buildings,” as well as “filling potholes and beautifying the main arteries.”

Alicia, 40, destroys this idyllic version: “Everything has been based on painting and repairing facades. There is no cultural resuscitation, no new recreational offers, none of that has happened. Everything has been done to sell an image of the city as perfect, but in reality the cultural life of the city is very, very bad.”

According to the official newspaper, “some facades and the eaves of heritage buildings were retouched with paint; the church of Maceo took on new colors, and in a second stage, three of the city’s fountains will benefit.”

“The change of the eaves is because they were falling,” says Alicia / 14ymedio

The same text says that the works include “the opening of new premises, changes for central establishments and the remodeling of properties in poor condition. The work will begin this Monday and will include the two convention centers of Independencia Street and Etecsa, the El Neri bakery-sweet shop, the remodeling of the Julio Antonio Mella primary school and the Combinado Deportivo, the Casa Museo Serafín Sánchez and the florist adjacent to the funeral home, among others.” The only leisure continue reading

establishments there, Alicia complains, “are new private bars that cost an arm and a leg, where a simple beer can cost up to 800 pesos after midnight.”

La Plaza Market, in Sancti Spíritus, with the roof visibly damaged / 14ymedio

She dismantles the regime’s hullabaloo bit by bit: “The change of the eaves is because they were falling; what they are remodeling on Independencia Street is a meeting room that has always been a meeting room. I don’t know what that Etecsa convention center is, I never heard of it, but it’s not going to provide any benefit to anyone either.” As for El Neri, she says, “the roof fell and that’s why they have to fix it. They are not making it new nor have they changed its corporate purpose. They put a roof on it again and slapped a little paint on, but it’s still the same bakery that sells bread from the ration store.”

The authorities announced that there will be works ready for “a second stage” / 14ymedio

In the same way, they “put paint” on the Julio Antonio Mella school. “Combinado Deportivo?” she asks. “What is that?” About the Casa Museo Serafín Sánchez, she says: “I think that in my 40 years I have entered only once and it is always the same. There are always the same bugs dissected and tied with a wire.” Regarding the florist, “the same: they changed the granite counter, which was ugly, for a new one that is still ugly but it’s new. They also put paint on everything and changed the ceiling above, where they have a loft, but it’s still the same florist shop.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Blackouts Are Suspended in Sancti Spíritus, Cuba, After a Protest on the Camino de La Habana

50 people were arrested on Wednesday, by Thursday night the power outages returned

The city of Sancti Spíritus during a summer power outage in which the only lighting was on public roads. / Facebook

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes García, Sancti Spíritus, 31 May 2024 — Blackouts returned to the city of Sancti Spíritus this Thursday night. During the day, residents could not believe what they were experiencing: a day without power outages. But their joy did not last long.

“We went out into the street to bang on pots and pans because we had been without electricity for hours and hours,” a resident of the Camino de La Habana neighborhood, located in the southern part of the city of Sancti Spíritus and with a population of around 2,000, tells 14ymedio. “That was tremendous because people went out into the streets, they didn’t stay inside their houses. Even the old people came out with their pot and spoon.”

“The police arrived a while later and took some of the arrested people away. They grabbed the younger men and put them in the truck,” explains the source, who prefers anonymity. “There are still about 50 arrested, and the families are going crazy asking if they are going to be released or if they are going to be put on trial. The entire neighborhood is very upset with this, because the only thing we did was protest with the pots and pans.”

The resident assures that, for fear of greater reprisals, the participants in the protest concentrated on the pot-banging and shouting “Electricity!” and “Food!”, the words that have become a constant in protests of this type that have occurred in Cuba in recent years and that reflect popular dissatisfaction with blackouts, shortages and inflation. continue reading

“It was very exciting, because they were taking away the arrested people but those of us who were left continued banging on our pots. We were not afraid because they couldn’t arrest us all”

“It was very exciting, because they were taking the arrested people but those of us who were left continued continued banging on our pots. We were not afraid because they couldn’t arrest us all. My neighbors realized that they couldn’t fit the entire neighborhood into that Police truck,” recalls the man from Sancti Spiritus. “They took them to the Vivac [detention center awaiting processing] in Sancti Spíritus,” he says.

The protest resulted in the city of Sancti Spíritus waking up the next morning with a strong police operation. “I left my house on my way to work and I started seeing police on the corners, patrols everywhere, and it was a neighbor who told me that there had been a protest and that the city was occupied,” a woman from Sancti Spiritus tells this newspaper. She works in a state company linked to the Ministry of Agriculture.

“When I arrived at work, my boss, who lives on Camino de La Habana, gave me more details. He says that it was impressive, that the police patrolled the neighborhood and people did not get out of the middle of the street, they were proving their strength with their pots,” explains the woman. “He says that he did not leave his house for fear of losing his job, but that he banged his pot in the yard.”

“In the office we had a blackout all morning but, surprise, this Thursday throughout the day they did not turn off our power in that area or in any of the city of Sancti Spíritus,” she explains. “People couldn’t believe it, I didn’t even get to enjoy the lack of blackouts, because I had the feeling in my stomach that at any moment they would knock out the power. I was stunned, I couldn’t figure out anything, I couldn’t function with electricity all the time, because I’m used to the fact that there almost always isn’t any.

“I was stunned, I couldn’t figure out anything, I couldn’t work with electricity all the time, because I’m used to the fact that there is almost always no electricity

Several residents in the city also detail that they saw new police patrols in circulation that they had not previously seen on the city streets. Internet access was also reduced to a minimum to prevent the details of the protests on Camino de La Habana from becoming known through social networks. So far, no video of the demonstration has been released.

“The next day after the protest, a car from the Electric Company arrived to change a transformer, photos were taken and everything,” adds the neighborhood resident. “A clown, because everyone knows that the problem of blackouts has nothing to do with an electric pole or a transformer, but rather that they are taking away our electricity because there is no generation.”

On the Facebook page of the Sancti Spíritus Electrical Company, two images of a worker standing on a ladder and an old Soviet-made truck in the foreground, are enough for the state energy monopoly to use the hashtag #SanctiSpíritusEnMarcha, an irony If we are talking about a district where the most recent march was a popular protest, silenced and repressed.

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

Rice Production in Sierpe, Cuba Falls 62 Percent after Vietnamese Advisors Leave

Farmers are having trouble “keeping the harvest going,” say managers / Escambray

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes García, Sancti Spíritus, 28 March 2024 — Since technical advisors from Vietnam left in frustration in 2022, the rice farmers of Sierpe, a town in Sancti Spíritus province, are increasingly feeling pressure from the state to increase production. They are not happy about having to turn over the bulk of their crops to ACOPIO, the state agricultural procurement and distribution agency, or about the low prices the state pays them. “We feel coerced. We have no way out because they only allow us to keep a small portion of what we harvest for our own consumption and we have to hand over the rest,” says Mariano, one of the producers.

To prevent farmers from selling the rice at provincial markets or “on the side,” local officials have strengthened security measures and are insisting farmers turn over the rice that was grown under Vienamese management.

“We all feel uncomfortable with the pressure, which ultimately isn’t helping because we’re still only paid a pittance”

“We all feel uncomfortable with the pressure, which ultimately isn’t helping because we’re still only paid a pittance. But what can we do? Most of us have spent our whole lives farming rice and our livelihoods depend on it,” Mariano complains.

In an interview published on Thursday in Escambray, Héctor Yoel Feitó, director of the Sur del Jíbaro cooperative in Sierpe, reports that rice cultivation is, so far, on track. He hopes to have a yield as high as 4.8 tons per hectare, a figure similar to what farmers were able to achieve with Vietnamese guidance. However, the article also indicates that the yield in 2023 amounted to only 1.8 tons per hectare. continue reading

“The cooperative has planted 458 hectares of grain. Lot #7, one of the most advanced, has 227 hectares planted with the Selection variety, which is doing great at the moment. The dozen workers on this tract are committed to achieving the highest quality possible,” says Feitó.

Feitó also pointed out that farmers, whose responsibility it is to produce the higher yields, are looking for immediate alternatives in an effort to put more rice on the province’s tables. He acknowledged that there have been production problems in “keeping the harvest afloat” but blamed the U.S. embargo for difficulties in obtaining herbicides and fertilizers.

In mid-2022, Vietnamese rice experts, who had been been providing advice and technical assistance to producers in Sierpe, ended their cooperation agreement with the island. They arrived in Cuba twenty years earlier, bringing with them equipment and machinery, but were never able to achieve the expected results.

Despite backing out of its collaboration agreement with Cuba a year earlier, Vietnam made three donations of rice to Cuba in 2023  

They also had to deal with fuel shortages, ACOPIO’s inefficiency and governmental bureaucracy, all of which prompted their decision to return to Vietnam before the agreement ended.

Despite backing out of its collaboration agreement with Cuba a year earlier, Vietnam donated 5,000 tons of rice to Cuba in May 2023, followed by another 2,000 tons in September. A third  donation was announced last August but the exact date of delivery was not indicated.

Last November the local newspaper in Artemisa indicated that there was only enough rice to meet the ration quotas for the municipalities of Candelaria and San Cristóbal, a situation that has been repeating itself in neighborhood ration distribution sites across the island. Unable to provide the 18,000 tons of rice per year that Artemisa’s consumers need, officials called upon producers to redouble “self-management” efforts. So far, however, it has not worked.

Every month Cubans face the challenge of finding rice, a product essential to their diet but which commands exhorbitant prices both on the open market and at state-run stores. According to a price list compiled by 14ymedio, a pound of rice at the market on Plaza Boulevard in Sancti Spíritus cost 240 pesos* as of March 22.

*Translator’s note: These numbers are a constantly moving target, but as of December 2023, the minimum pension in Cuba was reported as 1,528 pesos per month and the minimum wage was 2,100. Based on the official exchange rate today, these numbers are $64 and $88 US. Thus, roughly, the minimum monthly wage is not enough to buy ten pounds of rice, while the minimum pension is not enough to buy 7 pounds. 
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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

How Much Does 100 Dollars Weigh in Cuban Pesos?

Open the zipper, the content appears: 26,000 pesos, in thick chunks of 50-peso bills. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes García, Sancti Spíritus | 30 December 2023 — Edith has been “hunting” for a few pounds of malanga and two pork shanks for weeks. This end of the year, her house in the Los Olivos neighborhood, in Sancti Spíritus, has become a base of operations. The budget: 100 dollars that her brother sent her months ago from the United States. Her objective: to change the currency with the utmost discretion and outside her neighborhood, where the military and cadres of the provincial government are not in short supply.

On the other side of the city, in the humble neighborhood of Jesús María, Carlos has been collecting pesos all year to buy an electric pressure cooker. Before acquiring the precious artifact, he has to get dollars, go to the bank and witness their transformation – painful after “letting go of the green” – into freely convertible currency (MLC), a currency invented by the Cuban regime.

Thanks to social networks, Edith finds in Carlos the perfect candidate for her transaction. They meet at her house. With some embarrassment, Carlos deposits a worn black briefcase on the sofa that Edith examines with suspicion. He opens the zipper, the content appears: 26,000 pesos, in thick chunks of 50-peso bills with the face, repeated 520 times, of Calixto García.

The weight of the 520 banknotes of 50 pesos is 1.05 pounds. (14ymedio)

In turn, Edith gives Carlos the thin $100 bill, with a lonely Benjamin Franklin printed in green. In the room where the exchange takes place, the television is turned on at full volume – the old trick against the gossips of the neighborhood – with the Christmas speech of the first secretary of the Communist Party of Sancti Spíritus. continue reading

“All united we will be able to move towards a better year, where the dreams, achievements and aspirations of Sancti Spíritus in progress will consolidate the unity of our people and, surely, will lead us to achieve new victories, no matter how difficult the circumstances are,” says the leader from his air-conditioned office, protected by the picture of an already senile Fidel Castro.

“But the resistance of our people, their creativity, the day-to-day effort have not made us give up our dreams,” he continues, but Edith turns off the device and says goodbye to Carlos, who goes at full speed to the bank, and from there to the hard currency store, where – he trusts – he expects to find his coveted electric pressure cooker.

Before looking for the malangas and the meat, Edith picks up the 26,000 pesos from the sofa and places it on a scale. How much does a thin 100-dollar bill weigh in pesos? The answer – amazing – is on the screen of the device: 1.05 pounds of Cuban paper.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Suspension of Rationed Sale of Milk to Chronically Ill People in Sancti Spiritus

Last March, the local press announced that the sale of milk destined for medical diets was suspended. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes García, Sancti Spíritus, 26 December 2023 — “It failed and failed until it stopped arriving,” this is how Nuria de las Mercedes describes the situation that the chronically ill patients of Sancti Spíritus have experienced with the supply of milk for medical diets. This December, for the second time in the year, consumers have been informed that the sale of dairy is suspended in state shops, and only the quota for children up to seven years old and pregnant women will remain.

Nuria, 74 years old, is diabetic, hypertensive and has kidney problems. Among the chronic patients who receive a liter of milk every three days, the elderly woman is in group C of the three groups [A, B and C], where beneficiaries are grouped according to their condition. “In recent months it was delayed, it was even weeks since it had arrived, and now we were told that they can’t guarantee it,” she tells this newspaper.

“They haven’t explained if it’s forever or a temporary measure,” complains the woman from Sancti Spíritus. Along with other customers who buy the rationed milk, Nuria is part of a WhatsApp group where information about the supply is shared. “In the group no one has explained about what’s going on, but now they’ve told me in the shop that it wasn’t coming.” continue reading

The state employees don’t offer a conclusive explanation. “We are in the season when traditionally there is less rain, less feed and less milk

The state employees don’t offer a conclusive explanation. “We are in the season when traditionally there is less rain, less feed and less milk,” an employee in the Kilo 12 district tells this newspaper. “At the beginning of the year the same thing happened, and then we went back to selling, although it has never returned to a normal or stable distribution.”

Last March, the local press announced that the sale of milk destined for medical diets was suspended. The announcement explained that it was a momentary measure and that the authorities of the territory had decided to “protect the allocations directed to children and pregnant women.”

Alberto Cañizares Rodríguez, director of the Río Zaza Dairy Products Company in the province, explained that the main reason for the cutback was the lack of animal feed and added that the country had not been able to import “the required levels of milk powder” to ensure coverage for chronically ill people.

However, this newspaper was able to confirm that last November, 50 tons of powdered milk expired in the provincial warehouses of Río Zaza. “It was not sold to the population and not distributed by another way, so they saw the merchandise had already expired and could not be marketed,” an employee of the company told 14ymedio at the time.

The bosses were furious when they found out and came here to try to break the chain on the weakest link

“The bosses were furious when they found out and came here to try to break the chain on the weaker link – that is, to blame us –  but the responsibility was theirs, because they told us to hold onto the product, and they did not take into account the expiration date. It was imported milk, and sometimes it is bought with little time left because that way it is cheaper on the international market.”

“Then they took samples of the milk to see if at least they could allocate it to some social program in which people can’t see the label (with the expiration date), but here that type of product suffers a lot from the heat,” he explains. “When the date expires, it usually already has a stale taste or has lost qualities to mix well with water, for example.” The product is still in the company’s warehouses.

For chronic patients, it remains for Río Zaza to process the flavored soy milk to cover the food deficit, but the product does not enjoy good acceptance and, for diabetics such as Nuria de las Mercedes, “it is more of a curse than a help because they add a lot of sugar, and it comes with dyes that are not recommended for those who have kidney problems.”

Until the beginning of 2023, Sancti Spíritus had been the only Cuban province that maintained the sale of milk for medical diets. Its status as a livestock territory assured it of the distribution, but “the year started badly and ends worse,” says Nuria. The illegal slaughter of cattle, the lack of grass in the fields and state laziness seem to be combined so that a glass of milk will not arrive on the tables of these patients in the coming months.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Sancti Spíritus, the Cuban Capital of the Giant African Snail

In the municipality of Taguasco, the main focus is on the crops of the Agroforestry Company. (Vicente Brito/Escambray)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes García, Havana, 21 December 2023 — Although the issue has ceased to appear in the official press, the presence of the giant African snail continues to spread through Cuba, and the economic crisis makes it almost impossible to combat it, due to the lack of resources and fuel. In Sancti Spíritus, the plague wreaks havoc on agriculture and homes, according to sources from the Plant Health Research Institute (INISAV).

“Many people have forgotten about this animal, but we receive reports every day,” an INSAV employee in the province, who prefers anonymity, explains to 14ymedio. In Sancti Spíritus, the municipalities most affected by this species, considered one of the hundred most invasive in the world, are Cabaiguán, Taguasco and the provincial capital.

“We received a complaint that they saw the snails in one place, but we can’t do anything because we don’t have the resources. We’re not even going to check the level of infestation because we don’t have the necessary fuel to move within the province,” the worker emphasizes.

“Right now we are focusing on the School of Medicine, in the former Faculty of Nursing, which has a vacant lot between the houses and the buildings. That area is infested with snails,” he explains. “Specimens have even been found in the lime ovens on the outskirts of the city. They are everywhere, and nothing stops them.” continue reading

We received the complaint that they saw the snails in one place, but we can’t do anything because we don’t have the resources; we’re not even going to check the level of infestation”

The expert sees a relationship between the flooding of the stream that borders the city of Sancti Spíritus and the spread of the plague. “If the water rises, the snails spread everywhere, so what seems like good news for agriculture, that there is water to plant, becomes a headache with this animal in here.”

In the municipality of Taguasco, the main focus is on the crops of the Agroforestry Company. “There they have eaten everything. It makes you want to cry because we are having a bad time with crop productivity, and on top of that this plague arrives to devour them.”

In Cabaiguán, on the other hand, it is the neighbors who suffer the ravages of the giant African snail in their own courtyards. “You can’t leave anything outside because you get up and some of them have already been eaten,” laments Cipriano, 81 years old and a resident of the town. “We had everything very beautiful, with flowers and everything, but since that bug arrived we don’t even have hibiscus.”

“We used to throw salt on them, but we no longer can afford the expense,” the farmer admits. “Now, if you come across one, you try to crush it or chop it with a machete, but for each one you see there are many more. We can’t be awake all morning waiting for them to come out.”

“They haven’t reported anything for a long time as if they had disappeared, but we continue to suffer from them,” Cipriano complains. “We don’t see anything on television; we don’t hear anything on the radio, but you just have to leave the house to see them everywhere. Right now they are big enough to carry us.”

“They haven’t reported anything for a long time as if they had disappeared, but we continue to suffer from them”

In 2019, when the presence of the snail was already confirmed in 12 provinces, the Plant Health Research Institute issued guidelines for the population to contribute to the control and elimination of the giant African snail, but the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic crisis, the lack of fuel and inflation shifted the focus of interest to other issues of daily life.

Among the measures that INSAV suggested then was the destruction of the snail and its subsequent burial in a hermetically sealed bag. Another option was to burn it safely or immerse it in a 3% solution of salt or lime (three tablespoons 4.2 cups of water) for 24 hours and then bury it. In no case should the snails be thrown alive into rivers, plots, streets or garbage dumps.

The giant African snail can transmit diseases to crops in addition to consuming at least 250 types of plants, many of them planted for economic purposes. It also causes irreparable damage to the ecosystems it colonizes. It has a great ability to adapt to the climate and to all types of terrain. In Cuba it does not have natural predators that can put a stop to its insatiable appetite.

The first information about the arrival of this mollusc on the Island was released by this newspaper in July 2014 after a tour of the Havana municipality of Arroyo Naranjo. The text warned that “this species will test the capacity of the national public health system in Cuba to control this type of situation.” That forecast seems to have fallen short.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuba: ‘It Neither Tastes Like Coffee Nor Smells Like Coffee’

Sancti Spíritus residents have nothing good to say about the rationed coffee being sold at local stores. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes García, Sancti Spíritus, 16 October 2023 — The relief among Sancti Spíritus consumers was short-lived following the news that coffee would once again be available at stores selling rationed products. After being out of it for months, government warehouses finally began distributing it recently. The product, which arrived at state-run stores in October, comes in a plastic package with no label and crudely sealed edges. With a grainy texture, an odd flavor and little aroma, it is far cry from what most people would call coffee. “It leaves a sludge in the bottom of the cup that looks like river mud,” complains Lismary, a 32-year-old Sancti Spíritus resident who is among the thousands of frustrated customers.

“When a neighbor told me about it, I ran to the store, but once I saw the color, I had a bad feeling. It was very black, like it was burnt. When I opened the package, I realized it didn’t smell like much of anything. Maybe a bit like burnt bark.” Her biggest disappointment, however, came after she had brewed her first cup. “My grandmother was dying to try a shot but, when I gave it to her, her immediate reaction was, ’It neither tastes like coffee nor smells like coffee.’”

My grandmother was dying to try a shot but, when I gave it to her, her immediate reaction was, ‘It neither tastes like coffee nor smells like coffee.’

Lismary, who lives alone with her grandmother, took a photo of the two packages she had brought home. “I posted it to a neighborhood WhatsApp group, Kilo 12, that alerts us when something is delivered to the warehouse or to our local stores.” Critical comments from her neighbors poured in over the weekend, all complaining about the new coffee and making fun of its poor quality.

The complaints were directed at the Cabaiguán Roasting Plant, which recently resumed production after having stopped work last June. “What are they adding to this coffee? Charcoal, dried logs, burnt coconut shells?” wrote Luis Ernesto, a Kilo 12 member, on the WhatsApp thread. “This is happening to us  because they don’t respect us,” replied another group member. Interspersed among the posts was an ad. “I have La Llave and Bustelo coffee, real coffee, home delivery. Nothing like the no-name concoction,” wrote the seller, fishing for customers in the churning waters of discontent.

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

Cuba Has a ‘Bermuda Triangle’ Where Goods Are Stolen From Trucks

“The seal of the container seemed to be fine, but when you got closer it was clear that they had broken it and then put on tape.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes García, Sancti Spíritus, 15 September 2023 — The owners of the restaurant Las Delicias del Paseo, in Sancti Spíritus, were bitterly surprised last week while waiting for some sacks of wheat flour bought abroad. The product, which was going to be turned into bread and pizza, was stolen during the transfer, a practice that increasingly affects both private businesses and the State.

“We made the complaint but it’s a formality, because they are not going to return the money invested nor are we going to recover the merchandise,” an employee of the private restaurant, who prefers anonymity, tells 14ymedio. “The gap they have created for us is huge, because all that was bought in foreign currency, and we had already planned our menu based on the arrival of that flour.”

“The seal of the container seemed to be fine, but when you got closer it was clear that they had broken it and then put on tape [adhesive tape] so that it remained in a position that looked like it was intact. But as soon as you touched it, it broke, and it was obvious that it had been opened and that they had gotten into the container,” she says.

The theft of the bags of flour could make some of those menu items disappear in the coming days or force their owners to buy from another small business, an operation that means greater expenses

In the spacious living room of Las Delicias del Paseo, and in its external portal, the dishes most demanded by customers are pizzas, pastas and snacks. The theft of the sacks of wheat flour could make part of those menu items disappear in the coming days or force their owners to buy the product from another small business, an operation that means greater expenses. continue reading

A few days before the loss of the flour, the security seal of another container had also been violated in its transfer to Sancti Spíritus, and the thieves stole almost a hundred boxes of frozen chicken quarters that were destined for sale in state shops. Just a few hours later, the subtraction of dozens of sacks of rice destined for the sale of the rationed market was also detected.

The merchandise is lost somewhere in the Cuban geography between the port of Mariel, in Artemisa, and the Brazilian capital of São Paulo. “There is a Bermuda triangle where some of the loads disappear, especially when it comes to food,” the source explains. “We have asked for extreme security measures, but our claims fall on deaf ears.”

“The mechanism works like this: the authorities of the port of Mariel alert the owner of the business that he has merchandise to receive,” the employee tells this newspaper. “Then the individual hires the state company Transcontenedores to look for the merchandise and take it to where the customer says, but he must also notify Cubacontrol to supervise the operation.”

“When the cargo arrives, Cubacontrol is the one who verifies that everything has arrived intact at the destination. If they notice any violation of the security seal, they have to call the police,” he explains. “Then the investigators arrive; they take the fingerprints that have been left in the container, also those of the employees who are working on the transfer and unloading. A lot of deployment but few results, so far.”

A worker in the administrative area of Transcontenedores explains to this newspaper the chain of responsibilities in this type of transfer. “The first one who is arrested every time something like this happens is the driver, because he is the one who must watch over the merchandise.” The state worker considers this to be “unfair, because in the end they are the victims of the assaults they suffer on the roads and the tricks of the thieves.”

The first one they take prisoner every time something like this happens is the driver, because he is the one who must take care of the merchandise.

“To prevent these thefts, the drivers add their own locks to the containers, in addition to the security seals they already have,” clarifies the woman who prefers not to reveal her name. “Before, they also put on chains from one side to the other that better guaranteed the inviolability of the cargo, but the Police ordered them to be removed because they were dangerous for motorcyclists and drivers of other vehicles.”

“Drivers don’t want to travel on the roads at night, but sometimes they can’t do anything else. The roads have very dark areas and are in very bad condition, sometimes they have to slow down a lot and those times they are barely moving are taken advantage of by thieves,” she adds.

For this employee, “the danger of theft is not only on the roads, in the same place that they dispatch it to you you can’t lose sight of it because the same longshoremen can steal part of the merchandise. The departure from Havana is also a very complicated point of the journey because there are gangs that trawl the area, hunting these opportunities to steal.”

The woman adds that, “the driver can’t even stop to eat or urinate, because there are ninjas on the road. They are groups of three or four thieves, with a lot of agility and who know the terrain well. Sometimes they hide on the sides of the railroad crossings where the trucks have to stop.”

Theft practices also include the use of “motorcycles to approach from behind, get on top of the container when the driver stops for some need and even purposely punch the tires so that they have to stop,” he explains. “But the worst does not end there. When they arrive at the destination they still have to take care of even their shadow, because even those who must keep an eye on the merchandise can be the ones who steal it.”

It is quite likely that the dozens of sacks of wheat flour from Las Delicias del Paseo, which disappeared somewhere between Mariel and Sancti Spíritus, have ended up in the black market, where other private businesses buy the product to turn it into pizza and bread. The cycle of illegality does not stop.

Translated by Regina Anavy 

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

Choreography of a Line to Buy Propane Under a Blazing Sun in Cuba

The old man is one of those who can’t pay 5 pesos for someone to stand in line for him while he rests in the shade. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes García, Sancti Spíritus, 17 August 2023 — They begin to arrive very early. Some carry a bottle of water, others a bench to sit on, and all drag a cart to carry the tank of propane in the neighborhood of Pueblo Nuevo, Sancti Spíritus. The only shade several meters around is provided by a primitive building built in the 80s. The rest is mud and sun. The line assembles itself on the mud and under the arrows of the harsh sun. Some have got a place through the Ticket application, but most line up the old-fashioned way: one behind the other until it is their turn.

The wait time for the purchase of the tanks by the family nucleus is 26 days, but it is never met. “Now it takes you up to a month and a half to have the right to a new tank,” says Evaristo, a retiree who alternates propane “with a lifelong coal supply” to be able to cook food at home. The old man is one of those who can’t pay 5 pesos for someone to stand in line for him while he rests in the shade. For that amount and 100 more, some informal entrepreneurs even offer to take the full tank to the door of your house.

“Disabled!” shouts the employee from the small cubicle where the cylinders are dispatched. Workers line up people with disabilities and customers who got the ticket through electronic gateways. “They’re supposed to bring 100 tanks every day, but what’s coming are 20 or 30 small ones,” explains a young man waiting in line. Umbrellas and long sleeves can be seen everywhere. Nobody wants his skin scorched in the August sun.

When someone gets to the counter, the line moves slowly. Some bring their stools closer to the store, others shorten the distance with the person in front of them, and there are also those who come out of the shade next to the building to show that they are still in line and keep their position. It’s a well-learned choreography with decades of “lining up until you die,” says Evaristo. continue reading

The time for the sale exceeds 15 minutes for each consumer because they must register everything on an old laptop, check that the person really gets a new quota of propane and compare the number on the tank with the one in the database. “There are more requirements than for obtaining the Communist Party card,” a woman mocks. An old woman approaches dragging her cart through the mud and claims priority for belonging to the Cuban Association of Limited Physical Motor Ability. But there are already several like her waiting.

When noon arrives, the employee’s scream is an explosion that sends the line into pieces. “That’s all for today, we’re out of tanks!” sums up the bad news. Long faces, murmurs and phrases of discomfort are heard everywhere. Tomorrow everything will be repeated from the early hours of the morning and so on, with no hope that the line to buy propane will become shorter or easier one day.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuban Rice Producers Threaten to Stop Growing if the State Limits Their Own Consumption

The norm will take into account whether the rice grower has met their cereal production targets. (EFE/Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes García, Sancti Spíritus, August 17, 2023 — With the lack of rain, the departure of Vietnamese technicians and, now, a new state regulation that will limit the amount assigned for producers’ consumption, the rice-growing region of La Sierpe, in Sancti Spíritus, is living through difficult times. This norm, which has not yet gone into effect, is part of a new package of measures to prevent the cereal from ending up on the black market while the country is suffering a profound food crisis.

Actually, most farmers who grow rice in La Sierpe use state lands — leased to them under usufruct — hence must abide by any norms of the Ministry of Agriculture and other official entities. Disobeying any regulation of this kind could cost them their use of the land and the loss of what they have already invested in those lots.

“How can they know if the rice we separate for ourselves is enough or too much for our own consumption?” asked Daniel, one of the producers who will be affected by the new measure, which is being prepared to be applied in the coming months. “They say we are selling it on the black market but it’s that in my house, for example, each time there is less to put on the plate and rice is what we have left.”

Several officials from the area have visited the farmers to warn them of the new norm, although they have not talked about quantities for the moment. “They have come house to house and say the machete will come down in the coming months. They say that next year we will need to adjust to a smaller quantity,” explained Daniel to 14ymedio. continue reading

Authorities have warned that they will base their calculations on the number of people in the producer’s family and whether they have other crops such as root vegetables, fruits or vegetables that could complete the household food supply. They will also take into account whether the rice producer has met the cereal production targets and whether there have been previous complaints that they have diverted part of the harvest to the informal market. The formula for arriving at the total number of sacks each farmer can keep is not simple and raises suspicion.

Producers believe that the motivation for this reduction is “the low production and that people are very unsatisfied with the price of rice in the markets. Of course, now they want to punish the same people as always because the rope breaks where it is thinnest,” says Daniel. “What is going to happen with this is that farmers will leave, in the same way that the Vietnamese left.”

In 2022 a rice project began in La Sierpe in collaboration with Vietnam, which supplied equipment and machinery to producers in several regions of the Island, with the support of dozens of specialists and technicians. They bet mainly on the plains of Sancti Spíritus in this collaboration and there they made dikes, cleared canals and trained local specialists.

However, after a few years during which cereal production increased significantly, the yields of rice fields took a nose dive and was unable to meet the expectations of the Vietnamese, who also had to deal with the convoluted state bureaucracy and the inefficiency of Empresa Agroindustrial. The final blow to the project was the current fuel crisis.

“Here, most rice producers are new generation usufructuaries and a few are cooperative members,” an administrative employee of the company explained to us. “They are the ones who took the land when the Vietnamese left and the state wanted to increase production. They were fields that had been worked for this crop, which is hard and difficult, and also very dependent on rains and irrigation,” said the employee.

“Everyone knows that if producers do not have extra earnings selling some of the rice they declare as being for their own consumption, very few people would want to work in these fields because it is a lot of effort every day for the low price the state pays for each sack,” said the woman.

After the departure of the Vietnamese, the area’s productivity has gone off a cliff. If in 2015 they managed to produce up to five tons of cereal per hectare, in 2023 they barely get three. In the agricultural markets of Sancti Spíritus this week one pound of rice sells for 160 pesos and the product leaves a lot to be desired among clients due to the high proportion of split grains.

Now, with the announcement of the upcoming measure many are thinking, “pack up everything and leave the crops half way,” said Daniel. Either way, he has let his close family and friends know to purchase and store rice. “It could reach 200 pesos or more per pound before the end of the year,” he predicts.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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

The Electric Minibus of Sancti Spíritus, an ‘Invention’ of the Cuban Military That Does Not Take Off

The vehicle does not have solar panels but a generic charger and a and a mess of cables whose design is a source of jokes for the locals. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mercedes García, Sancti Spiritus, 21 June 2023 — Almost three months of testing have not been enough for the electric minibus designed by the Armed Forces in Sancti Spíritus to stop being an experiment. The prototype of the vehicle, announced with great fanfare by the official press in April, is about to enter a rough terrain for its operation: the blackout season.

Those who manage to ride the eleven-seater minibus now wonder how the authorities will be able to propel the vehicle in the hottest months, with an overwhelming deficit of electricity and the multitude of passengers waiting to be picked up on the busiest route in the city: from El Chambelón to the hospitals, by way of the Central Highway.

The vehicle does not have solar panels but rather a generic charger — it incorporates energy very slowly — and a mess of cables whose design is a source of jokes for the locals. “They’re more expense than benefit,” one of the drivers complained aloud on Wednesday, while commenting on the sign that the garish yellow minibus has on its chassis: “100% electric.”

It is not known if the military will take the step to mass production. Technically, the bus continues to circulate in test mode, although it does so on a fairly well-paved and straight road. On the Central Highway – which divides Sancti Spíritus into two halves – there are also several key points for the population, such as the bus terminals, the hospital area and the space of the agricultural fair. continue reading

In April, when the local press praised the “clear coherence” of the army and its Military Industrial Company, it predicted that it would not be long before the yellow vehicles filled the streets of the province. It was, they said, a step to alleviate “the depressed state of public transport.”

They asked the authorities, of course, for “financial support” to maximize the potential of the “invention,” whose technical name is VES002. “The project is in the process of technical evaluation in order to know how it functions and the operating parameters that allow defects and problems to be corrected in advance,” said Escambray.

It was planned that, if everything went well, the military would start the production, taking advantage of the import of “five electrical supports,” starting points for the assembly. Once the “small fleet” was built, the Armed Forces planned to delegate the operation of the vehicles to an allied private enterprise. As of now, the business continues without much success.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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