The Euro Becomes the Most Sought-After Currency in Cuba and Reaches 123 Pesos

The price of the euro in Cuba contrasts with the international price of the European currency, which has fallen in recent months against the dollar. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia, López, Moya, Havana, 4July 2022 — The price of foreign currencies in Cuba is unstoppably taking flight again after the decline they experienced at the end of May. Among them, the euro once again outperforms the dollar by far. A euro is worth around 123 pesos in the informal market this Monday, compared to the 110 that the dollar costs, according to daily monitoring by the independent magazine El Toque.

The figure contrasts with the international price of the European currency, which has fallen in recent months against the dollar (this Monday it is at 1.04 per dollar).

“I prefer to buy euros because I have plans to leave the country, but not immediately,” Nelson, a young man from the Havana municipality of Cerro, tells this newspaper, summarizing the needs of many other Cubans. Nelson explains that in case he needs the currency to be able to shop in freely convertible currency (MLC) stores, he can deposit those euros on his magnetic card, which he cannot do with dollars. And he adds: “In case you need to buy a ticket or manage a visa for Panama, I can also use it.”

During the month of June, after a resolution by the Central Bank of Cuba that prohibited embassies from converting their peso accounts into foreign currency, several consulates, such as those of Spain or Panama, announced that from now on, the procedures at their headquarters would be charged in euros.

The value of the MLC is also experiencing an increase, something that has relieved many families who obtain remittances from abroad and who over the past month saw their purchasing power reduced between the low price of the currency and inflation on the Island, which continues upward. continue reading

“As soon as I saw that it was starting to rise, I asked my family to please stop selling the MLCs that I sent so cheaply and to wait,” says Liuba, a Cuban living in Miami. “Two weeks ago my mother sold them for 108 and today she was able to sell them for 115.”

Last May, currencies suffered a collapse in the informal market, just after the Cuban Economy Minister, Alejandro Gil Fernández, declared that a “special” exchange rate would be established for some producers, state and private, of consumer goods. high demand.

Without specifying at what price, he simply pointed out that it would be between the artificial official rate of 24 pesos and that of the black market, which in those days reached 125 pesos for MLC.

Traditionally more familiar with the dollar, informal vendors have quickly caught up with the European currency to spot counterfeits and reject bills that may have trouble being deposited at the bank. “I do not accept those that have written signs, some broken part or are very old,” replies one of those money changers in a WhatsApp group used by customers and merchants.

Many private businesses have also joined the euro wave and offer their cards in three or even four currencies. “In this restaurant you can pay in Cuban pesos, MLC, dollars and euros,” a waiter from a paladar (private restaurant) on San Lázaro street in Central Havana boasted this Saturday. “You can even pay in pesos and MLC by transfer. We are pricing the euro at 117 pesos,” he stressed. Two tourists who drank a couple of beers each and ate some starters settled their bill, 17.70 euros with a 20 euro bill. The change, “in Cuban pesos,” the employee clarified.

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Belts and Big Shirts to Cover the Cuban Leaders’ Obesity

The references, monikers and criticisms for so many extra pounds are constantly heard in the streets of Cuba. (Municipal Administration Council of Old Havana)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 25 June 2022 — Last Thursday, at a fat contest in celebration of Father’s Day in Nicaragua, a man with a circumference of 57 inches around his belly was the winner. The peculiar award has caught the attention of Cubans, who in recent years have seen their relatives lose weight due to the crisis while the senior leaders’ bellies grow every day, as shown by the images published in the official press.

60-year-old Ricardo Páiz is the proud Nicaraguan who swept the belly competition in the “Papá Panzón”(Potbelly Dad) competition, but if the contest were held in Cuba, it is very likely that the first places would fall on one or another cadre of the Communist Party, the administrator of a state entity or the Provincial Governors, many of them with weight problems.

Although the kilogram excesses are generally associated with poor nutrition, having a high position in Cuba carries the “privilege” of being able to binge eat, while the majority of the population deals with the difficulties of finding something to put on the table. The trend towards athletic and sporting politics seems not to have reached Cuba, where its ruler, Miguel Díaz-Canel himself, has experienced a notable weight gain since he became president.

While clavicles protrude in some, bellies grow in others (Standing, left, President Diaz-Canel). (@RGZapata500/Twitter)

The bulk, which they often try to cover up with girdles that squeeze the bellies but are noticeable in front of the cameras, wide shirts, baggy jackets and filtering the angle of the official photos, generates discomfort among Cubans, who see in their leaders’ obesity a clear indicator of the abundance at their tables. References, monikers and criticism about so many extra pounds are constantly heard on the streets of Cuba.

“Fat necks,” “the first belly of the Republic,” “the paunchy,” “the potbellies” and many other nicknames have been added to the glossary of the popular ridicule against ministers and partisan cadres. This, despite the fact that there is a high prevalence of overweight people in Cuba at 59%, while obesity has already reached 25%, according to FAO data. But the current crisis could be taking away some of those “life preservers” around the abdomen.

“Fat necks,” “the first belly of the Republic,” “the paunchy,” “the potbellies” and many other nicknames have been added to the glossary of the popular ridicule against ministers and partisan cadres. (Granma photo)

Between 1990 and 1995, the most difficult years of the Special Period, the Cuban population lost an average of over 12 pounds of weight, according to a study published in 2014 by the British Medical Journal. The data of the current crisis are still unknown but most of those interviewed by this newspaper say that both they and their relatives “are now thinner and eat less” than five years ago.

But while clavicles protrude in some, bellies grow in others. Manuel Marrero, the Cuban Prime Minister, shows one of the most obvious pictures of obesity and his attempts to hide his belly in public are no longer of any use. “He was lucky they removed the mandatory mandate, because he was going to need a bed sheet to cover his face” says María, a 65-year-old from Havana who has lost over 15 and a pounds in three years.

Camagüey’s governor, Yoseily Góngora López, is another of the most extreme cases of overweight among Cuban officials. In August 2022, the activist of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, José Luis Acosta Cortellón, was arrested and accused of threatening Góngora on social networks for publishing a meme in which he alluded to Góngora’s obesity.

Manuel Marrero (in dark blue shirt), the Cuban Prime Minister, is the most evident picture of obesity, and his trying to hide his belly in public no longer works. (Twitter/ @MMarreroCruz)

“Just by awarding someone an important position causes that person’s weight to go up immediately”, complains Antonio, a retiree from La Lisa, who clarifies that “it’s not a question of fatsophobia or believing that all people with a few extra pounds are corrupt, but the amount of overweight that is seen in party leaders when out in public is immoral.”

Translated by Norma Whiting

Avocados Cost Almost a Dollar, Another ‘Green’ Unattainable for Cubans

The price of avocados is making a fruit previously present on most Cuban tables unattainable. (Martina Badini)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 15 June 2022 — It is green and unattainable for most Cubans, but this is not about the dollar. Like every summer, the avocado returns to the island’s markets, but this summer its price has doubled compared to the previous year. Where before one fruit cost between 40 and 50 pesos, now it costs between 80 and 100, an increase that keeps it from appearing on the tables of many households.

The rains of May mark the beginning of the avocado season on the Island. “Those downpours are what give it the touch. Although before that you can find some plants that have already ripened, it’s better to eat them when they are more flavorful,” a customer pointed out this Monday while examining the offerings from a cart vendor in Centro Habana.

“But it seems that this time the rains have been golden, because the avocado is very expensive,” said a buyer, sarcastically, finally deciding to buy one still a little hard, “not for today, it still needs to ripen but the ripe ones cost 90 pesos and I prefer to pay ten less even if I have to wait to eat it until tomorrow or the day after.” Behind him, a woman who was asking about the price winced at the number and turned away with her empty bag.

Although in Europe and other countries with a colder climate, the avocado is seen almost as a luxury, the abundance of trees in Cuba, the advantages of the climate and the cultivation tradition have made it a product as common on tables as apples or oranges are in other geographies.

“The avocado makes a meal, but now it’s unaffordable,” pointed out another customer at the agricultural market on 19th and B, a place run mainly by private vendors and whose traditionally high prices have earned it the nickname of “the boutique.” “It is true that this place is expensive, but here you find things that are no longer in other places,” defended a young man who was selling from a platform in the face of the complaints of those who passed by. continue reading

“Everyone in the family knows that you can come here to buy fruits and vegetables that don’t appear in any other market, except in the Playa area where people with more money live and even broccoli is sold.” According to the merchant, “the avocado began to arrive weeks ago, but the rains have greatly complicated the shipment to Havana.”

“People complain that it is expensive, but everything is and at this time of year there is very little lettuce, tomatoes are practically gone and what is left is a good slice of avocado with the meal,” he details. “I can’t do anything else because it’s already expensive for me here, everything has gone up a lot in price and moving merchandise from the field is costing a lot due to lack of fuel.”

In the nearby municipality of Güira de Melena, the family of Reinier García confirms this increase in price by telephone. “On our farm we have a dozen avocado plants, four of which we have sold a few years ago,” he explains. The sale of these trees is not registered and is a risky business for both parties.

The purchaser of the tree buys, for a fixed price which can be monthly or annually, the production that the plant will give. In good seasons, when the rains arrive on time and the hurricanes do not damage the tree much, you can “get a good slice,” explains García. “But there are bad years and then we all lose, the one who bought gets killed because he doesn’t earn much and we get killed because people don’t have the patience to wait for better times and withdraw from the agreement.”

“The avocado seems strong but it is a product that requires care. From the time it is planted until you begin to harvest fruit, a lot of years go by and everything can be ruined by a plague, lightning or a cyclone,” the farmer enumerates. Then comes the transfer, because even if it is done with the green avocado, “if you don’t move it correctly, everything will collapse.”

García counts on a brother-in-law to move the merchandise to Havana and distribute it among various merchants in the area of ​​El Vedado and La Víbora. “I’ve been days without getting fuel and when I find it it’s a ‘just a sip’,” says the driver of an old Plymouth speaking to this newspaper. Only the ‘inventions’ and ‘additions’ he’s made to the vehicle allow him to continue rolling on the roads.

“I offer the small avocado at 50 or 60 to the seller, the larger ones can reach 70 or 80 depending on the quality. The Catalina is the one that people like the most, because it has a lot of flavor and is larger. With this one you don’t need anything else, not even lemon, vinegar or oil on top, because it already comes from the bush fully seasoned,” he says.

But accompanying the main course with one of these Catalina adds a figure that lower-income families cannot afford. “Each egg cost me 20 pesos, I found a pound of rice at 50 after walking all over. So a meal for five people cost me 150, plus 100 that I paid for the avocado,” says Dinorah, a resident of the Havana municipality Diez de Octubre.

In Dinorah’s family there are two retirees with minimal pensions and the rest are her grandchildren, minors. “I spent more on one meal than I earn for a day’s pension, and I can’t do that so I’m not going to continue buying avocados, it’s a luxury I can’t afford,” she concludes. “We will have to wait to see if the price drops in July or August.”

The situation is not exclusive to the Cuban capital, where prices are usually higher. This Tuesday, in the La Plaza de Sancti Spíritus market, an avocado cost 100 Cuban pesos, almost the same as in a central corner of Centro Habana near Plaza de Carlos III, where the products tend to be more expensive. Even traditionally agricultural areas are not spared from inflation where ,until recently, avocado was a common ingredient on tables during the summer.

“Right now I’m going to pick the avocados from my trees and I’m going to try to pay with them, because they’re already worth almost the same as a dollar,” jokes Reinier García. “And I’m not complaining, at least my family doesn’t lack avocados and with that we can make a meal, but what it costs us the most to buy is everything else: oil, soap and toothpaste.”

Garcia does not rule out barter. “People from Havana are already coming here as far as Güira de Melena to exchange clothes for food or toiletries, for avocados and root vegetables,” he explains. “We have to be watching over the bushes through the night, because this is like having the bank safe open and in sight.”

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Omens of the Deaths of Historical Leaders in the Call for May Day in Cuba

Miguel Díaz-Canel and Raúl Castro, during the May Day 2019 march. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerA poster placed at the entrance of an apartment building in Havana summarizes the tone of the official call for the upcoming May Day parade. After being suspended for two years due to the covid-19 pandemic, the authorities have wanted to put a less formal stamp on the event and the result is disconcerting.

The list of ten reasons to go to the Plaza de la Revolución that day has been written by hand on several sheets that spell out reasons more similar to those used to participate in a camping trip or a family party than a political rally. As a “fraternal meeting” to “share with distant loved ones,” the list describes the first reason to attend the official celebrations for Labor Day.

The call also ensures that it will be an occasion to break the routine and take “the best photos and artistic designs directly with excellent people.” Only some of the reasons listed contain any ideological nuance, such as “showing that we are not afraid and that unity makes us invincible,” a veiled allusion to the popular protests last July, which brought together thousands of people throughout the country, or the assertion, without much conviction, that “there is socialism for a while.”

The ten reasons to participate in this May Day break down reasons more similar to those used to participate in a camp than in a political rally. (14ymedio)

However, the most striking of the reasons for participating in the parade is the one that advances the possibility that some of the octogenarians who control the threads of power in Cuba will not survive until next year’s call, warning that “perhaps it will be the last time in the presence of important people in the work of the Revolution.”

The enumeration closes with the invitation to “fill the Plaza until the Malecón dries up,” paraphrasing the lyrics of a song by Jacob Forever, a Cuban reggaeton player, currently residing in Miami, who during the day of the demonstrations on July 11 asked the people to take to the streets peacefully: “Between all of us we can achieve the freedom of Cuba,” the singer assured at the time.

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

A Fire in Front of the Habana Libre Hotel in El Vedado Mobilizes the Cuban Authorities

The smoke, in a very central area of ​​the Cuban capital, attracted dozens of onlookers who took photos of the incident. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 31 March 2022 — A fire caused damage to three of the four apartments in the building located on Calle L number 308 between 23rd and 25th, in front of the Habana Libre hotel, in El Vedado, Havana. The residents, who were in the building at the time of the incident, had to be evacuated by rescuers.

The personnel of the Medical Emergency System attended to those evacuated from the building, which is inhabited by 10 people, and the authorities did not report human losses.

There is no official version of the possible causes of the fire, however, some of those affected said that “the fire spread to the building from a pit in the back, adjacent to the hotel being built in the area,” according to Alma Mater magazine on Facebook.

The smoke, in a very central area of ​​the Cuban capital, attracted dozens of onlookers who took photos of the incident and uploaded videos to social networks. Some tourists were also watching the event, although significantly few, given the low presence of travelers on the Island.

The National Police closed streets near the fire, while personnel from the Fire Department put out the flames.

Local authorities appeared at the site, and talked with the neighbors about the major damage to one of the apartments and the possibility, as determined, of carrying out reconstruction work on the property. “The surrounding buildings have not reported damage,” said the official press.

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Havana’s Most Desired ‘Japanese Ladies’* Still Don’t Appear

The keys of the buses donated by Japan were delivered last Saturday, but they still are not circulating through the streets of Havana and no concrete date is set. (RHC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 1 February 2022 — “Well, finally the new buses, what? Are they running or not?” a passenger asked the driver on the A40 route last Tuesday, arriving in Guanabo, where the journey ends. “They say Saturday,” he replied. Skeptical, a girl who was about to get off murmured: “Everyone knows how things work in this country, I doubt very much that we will see them anytime soon.”

So far, the passenger’s prediction is fulfilled. The 84 Japanese buses that arrived on January 13 to renew the beleaguered Havana fleet are still not circulating despite the fact that the governor of Havana, Reinaldo García Zapata, asked to speed up putting them in service.

The terminal of the beach town of Guanabo, located in the municipality of Habana del Este, is one that will benefit the most from the acquisition of the new Isuzu models, since of the 84 Japanese buses, 59 are destined for this base.

A week ago, the A40 line stop located in front of the Havana Wall roundabout, on Desamparados street, was overwhelmed with people. Everyone waited with uncertainty for one of the brand new buses to arrive at any moment, but the same old ones kept showing up.

Already inside one of the old units, visibly deteriorated, the problems began, this time due to capacity. At the stop located in front of the Palacio de Bellas Artes, a transport inspector stopped the bus and demanded that the driver who stopped board more passengers.

“The bus is already full and we are in a new wave of covid,” the driver replied, but the inspector, standing in front of the bus and hitting the vehicle with his fist, insisted on increasing the number of passengers. continue reading

A police officer who was heading to her house made her way from the back of the vehicle to try to calm things down. Two plainclothes officers also ran to the scene to help avoid a fight breaking out.

Citizens continue to travel packed in tight while they wait for the long-awaited buses to be put in service. (14ymedio)

The altercation ended when the driver, very upset, ended up opening the doors for everyone waiting at the stop to enter. “Let everyone get on and now. Let’s die with the omicron,” he protested before starting off visibly grumpy. The passengers, overwhelmed by the crowd, hoped that the journey would be short. “I hope that it won’t be long before they put the new buses on, because we look like sardines in a can,” said one of them.

At the height of Alamar, after about 30 minutes of travel, a worker from the company got on and told the driver that the new vehicles from Japan would be working on Saturday, January 29, although he had doubts about it. “We’ll see, because there aren’t even enough drivers,” he said. According to what he had heard, the transport company was trying to solve the problem by looking for drivers from other bases who were classified as ’interrupted’ (temporarily unemployed workers), “although it is difficult for many to show up, because of how far Guanabo is from the rest of the city.”

Finally, on Friday, January 28, and coinciding with the birthday of José Martí, the official press published an article about the long-awaited buses with the title ’Urban buses donated by Japan are ready’. At the event were Hirata Kenji, Japanese ambassador to the island, and the governor of Havana, who presided over the formal delivery of the Isuzu fleet on the Tarará esplanade.

Symbolically, the keys to ten of these vehicles were handed over at the event.

But Saturday arrived and at the A40 stop there was no trace of the desired buses. “They waited for Martí’s birthday to deliver the buses. They make a circus of everything, to see if it is true that they are rolling today,” said a passenger waiting for the vehicle.

Long minutes later, a bus made the turn around the roundabout, again one of the old ones, to the disappointment of those who were there. A pastry vendor stationed in the area of ​​the crowded stop explained to those present that, despite the fact that a transport inspector had assured him that the new buses would start rolling this Saturday, he had been there for hours and none had appeared. The driver of the route admitted not knowing anything about the new vehicles.

Felicia, an EcoTaxi tricycle driver in the capital, says that last weekend she preferred to rent a car to go with her friends to Guanabo beach, even though they charged 100 pesos per person. “We got to the stop, and it was insane, there were a lot of people,” she explains. “If the problems of transportation and food are not resolved in this country, a social explosion larger than that of 11J will arrive very soon.”

This Monday, the official press mentioned the issue again to affirm that they are working “intensely” to put new vehicles in service as soon as possible. The note explains that the technical inspections and other operational requirements have been carried out without problems, however, the obstacle lies in the poor training of the personnel in charge of driving the vehicles.

The mystery about when they will start circulating is still hanging. “The new buses haven’t come out. I imagine they won’t take that long, but I don’t even know when they’ll come out,” explained a worker at the Guanabo bus stop this Monday to 14ymedio. “We have to wait for the official information that announces the day to start up. For now, we have to keep going with the old ones.”

*Translator’s note: Bus, or in Cuban Spanish “guagua” is a feminine noun.
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Havana Firefighters Travel by Tricycle

The vehicle belongs to Command 1, which is located on Agramonte street, on the corner of Corrales, in Old Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 28 January 2022 —  An electric tricycle belonging to the fire department caught the attention this Thursday afternoon of many passers-by on Carlos III Avenue, in the Cuban capital. The vehicle was traveling along with three other units of Command 1, which is based on Agramonte street, corner of Corrales, in Old Havana.

A soldier was driving the brand new red tricycle with a beacon on the roof, while two others were riding in the back together with some equipment that is usually used in emergencies such as building collapses and fires.

To the deteriorated fleet of fire trucks and cars, which is made up of the Russian-made Zil, the Chinese Howo Sinotruck and the Japanese Isuzu, these electric tricycles are now added, which reach a maximum speed of 30 miles per hour and an approximate range of 45 miles per charge. The vehicles are similar to those used by the routes covered by the Ecotaxis in the Cuban capital.

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

‘The Times of the Fat Cows are Over’ for the DiTu Cuban Businesses

The bottles of water of the national brand Ciego Montero are practically the only product that is to be found on the DiTú counters. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 26 January 2022 — What one day was, will not be. A song by José José says it and it was repeated this Tuesday by a peanut vendor looking nostalgically at the remains of the DiTú located at Zapata and C, in Havana. The decline of these establishments, which once shone for their wide range of products available for convertible pesos, has been visible for a few years, but the ’Ordering Task’* has given them their final coup de grace.

There were hundreds of establishments belonging to the Empresa Extrahotelera Palmares SA throughout the country, which in the past were popular for their sale of fried chicken, croquettes, sausages, carbonated soft drinks, ice creams, beers and cigarettes of different brands. Now, those that remain standing sell only a few products for Cuban pesos.

The bottles of water of the national brand Ciego Montero are practically the only product that is to be found on the DiTú counters. They rarely sell cigarettes and only in the most central ones are ice creams or bottles of rum sold, generating huge lines and selling out instantly. A few sell natural juices and even “timba cubana” (a guava bar with cheese), at the initiative of the same clerks who are looking for a little extra.

Workers spend long hours sitting, surfing the internet or making video calls with their families. “It’s horrible having to spend all day here doing nothing,” says a DiTú saleswoman on Calle 23, between 28th and 30th, in the Vedado neighborhood of the capital. “Hours go by without anyone coming to buy and it’s very boring having to be here just to sell sparkling water and a brand of cigarettes that no one smokes,” she lamented. continue reading

“The days of fat cows are over for us,” Rafael, a former worker at another DiTú, tells 14ymedio, adding that they used to make very good profits thanks to the variety of merchandise in their inventories. “In good days we could make up to 60 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos), but now everything has changed, and ’inventions’ can be expensive,” he says.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Rafael decided to use the money he had collected to leave the country. “I had two paths: go to another country or invest my money and not spend it.” But the flights were suspended and he never liked the idea of ​​crossing the 90 miles of the Florida Straits in a rustic boat. “I opened my electric motorcycle repair shop, and to this day I make a living from it,” he adds.

In the midst of the economic crisis that the country is going through, the Government has transferred many of the products that used to be sold in the DiTú to stores that only take payment in hard currencies, which has caused discomfort and protests among the population, who longingly remember the “abundance” that could be found in these small premises.

In Havana’s early mornings and especially on weekends, the DiTú were greatly frequented by night owls who came to get a cold beer and something to snack on, since they offered 24-hour service.

“Before, I would go at any time and with 3 CUC I would buy cigarettes, an assortment of croquettes and sausages, a Tukola, and they would give me change,” recalls Adrián, a resident of the municipality of Marianao. “Even so, before we used to complain because nobody was paid in that currency, but at least one could go to the bank and buy CUCs with Cuban pesos. We were rich and we didn’t know it,” he laments.

With its metallic structure painted white and red, the DiTú became the lifesaver of countless lunches. On Tulipán street in Nuevo Vedado, one of them supplied its products to parents who came looking for something cheap to add to their children’s snack at the José Luis Arruñada school, but shortly after it opened the quality of the products plummeted.

“They used the frying oil countless times to be able to steal  the rest [i.e. sell it on the black market],” laments the mother of two girls who was a regular customer of the place that was closed several years ago. “The croquettes were good at first, but later they were pure flour and gave you a terrible acid stomach. People made jokes about it: that you had to go with a little baking soda in your wallet if you were going to buy them.”

Among the most demanded products of these striking kiosks was the canned beer produced on the Island, which consumers accompanied with the freshly fried food that came out of their stoves. In the DiTús that had more space, the tables located outside were often full of groups of friends who, not infrequently, provoked the annoyance of the nearby neighbors by talking loudly until late at night.

The DiTú name was one of the first to appear in a family of state-owned stores that also brought the DiMars, specializing in fish and shellfish, and the DiNos, which offered pizzas and sandwiches. There is not much left of those relatives either, converted into other types of snack bars, closed or with a very poor offerings.

Now rust has taken over the metal plates that make up the few DiTús that remain in operation in the Cuban capital. That smell of fried food that came from them disappeared, the side tables show their age with their deterioration and the pandemic finished them off with its distancing measures. The croquettes that were once the target of ridicule now populate the nostalgia of those who tried them.

*Translator’s note: Tarea ordenamiento = the [so-called] ‘Ordering Task’ which is a collection of measures that includes eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and others. 

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

Huge Police Deployment for a Sign Against Miguel Diaz-Canel in Santos Suarez, Cuba

“Abajo Canel singao,” (Down with Canel Motherfucker), was read in gigantic letters on General Serrano street, almost on the corner of Vía Blanca

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 26 January 2022 — A mob of police, military and plainclothes agents on Suzuki motorcycles, plus a Criminalistics vehicle, gathered this Wednesday on General Serrano street, almost on the corner of Vía Blanca, in Santos Suárez, Havana. It was not for any blood crime: rather the latest graffiti against Cuba’s hand-picked president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, has appeared there.

“It looks like someone’s been killed,” a local resident commented sarcastically, while a group of officials in white coats rushed around in front of the wall, which said in gigantic letters: “Abajo Canel singao” (Down with Canel Motherfucker). “I guess they’re collecting fingerprints, because they can’t be doing anything else there,” the man continued, looking at the entire display in astonishment.

Posters with phrases against the government, and especially against Díaz-Canel, are becoming more and more frequent on Cuban streets. Not a day goes by without the Cuban president being the target of a meme, a mockery, a joke or a graffiti, something unthinkable when new technologies had not reached the island and the terror instilled by Fidel Castro dissuaded so many from scribbling his name on a wall. continue reading

The place chosen for this graffiti could not be more symbolic. Popularly known as “the Malecón without water,” the wall separates the busy Vía Blanca from the nearest houses, but also draws a well-marked border between very poor neighborhoods, such as El Canal, and others with greater purchasing power, in the style of Santos Suarez.

Some neighbors and drivers who passed through the place published images on social networks in which an entire criminalistics team is seen photographing and trying to obtain prints around the sign, an action that has sparked criticism in a city marked by robberies and assaults where, for the most part, the perpetrators are never investigated or caught.

Allusions to television programs such as CSI and its official Cuban copy, Behind the Footprint, were not lacking among Internet users, who also satirized about the presence of a tanker truck with water to help with the cleaning and removal of the letters, in the middle of a city where the water supply is a headache for hundreds of thousands of inhabitants.

Passers-by were particularly struck by the size of the graffiti. With letters over a meter high, something that implies additional courage for the authors, who must have spent a lot of time in the area to complete their work, a job that the lack of public lighting that characterizes the place must have facilitated.

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Safety Concerns Force Cuba’s Restaurants to Cut Back on Home Deliveries

Recently, reports of robberies and assaults, perpetrated mainly on motorcyclists, has frightened many owners of these types of vehicles.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia Lopez Moya, Havana, January 10, 2022 — El Biky did not have a single empty table on Saturday night and no one seemed worried about his or her safety on this normally busy corner of Infanta and San Lazaro streets in Havana. No one except the staff at this well-known restaurant, which has decided to suspend nightime home deliveries so as not to expose their drivers to the ever growing number of attacks in the capital.

One employee’s explanation left Vilma, a customer who had called to place an order, speechless: “The motorcycle couriers have created a crises over all these assaults. They’re afraid to deliver at night.”

“I was told you delivered until 7:00 PM. It’s only twenty past seven and all I want is a cake. Can’t you ask one of the drivers to deliver it to me?” pleaded Vilma over the phone. But she could not twist the employee’s arm. He told her that the new schedule, which took effect at the end of last year, was the result of “constant complaints by motorcycle couriers.”

The restaurant is located in Vedado, one of the most centrally located parts of the city, near the Malecon. Nevertheless, last weekend the neighborhood surrounding the restaurant was devoid of pedestrians and vehicles, a situation which further frightened motorcycle couriers.

Since the final days of 2021, reports of robberies and assaults, which have been perpetrated mainly on motorcyclists, has frightened many owners of these types of vehicles. The response by cafes and privately owned restaurants, which managed to stay afloat during the most difficult months of the pandemic by offering home delivery, has been to shorten delivery schedules. continue reading

La Rosa Negra, a privately owned restaurant in Havana’s Nuevo Vedado district and popular for its moderate prices, posted this on its Facebook page on December 29: “For reasons of safety we have decided to reduce the hours during which our home delivery service will be available.”

The restaurant’s management said it would not be making deliveries after 8:00 PM. The next day, however, it announced the cut-off would be 6:00 PM, to coincide with the summer nightfall.

It is not just the increasingly common robberies of motorcycles on Cuban streets that the couriers fear. They also risk having their deliveries stolen, or falling victim to the “customer trap.” In this case, someone posing as customer will request a home delivery and ambush the courier upon arrival, taking everything he is transporting, including the vehicle.

“You need four eyes on the street at all times. Driving a motorcycle comes with the threat of physical harm. If they come at you with a club or stick, you have no way to protect yourself,” says Yantiel, a courier who freelances both for a privately owned restaurant in Playa and for Mandao, an popular online service that offers a variety of products through its mobile app.

The delivery schedule cutback has had a big impact on these restaurants’ bottom line. “We get most of our orders close to dinner time. If we can’t make home deliveries at that time, we earn a lot less,” admits the owner of one cafe in Central Havana which delivers pizzas throughout the capital.

But even in daylight hours, couriers take precautions. “I don’t go inside anyone’s house. I don’t go to any floor in an apartment building. And I carry this with me,” says a young man who opens a compartment at the rear of his motorcycle to show 14ymedio the metal pipe hidden inside.

Authorities have not have not officially commented on the increase in assaults though the Ministry of the Interior did issue a statement saying that complaints about this on social media, in particular those related to the theft of electric motorcycles, “are events that occurred in previous years or are fake news.”

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July 11th Protesters in Artemisa, Cuba Receive Sentences of Up to 12 Years in Prison

Eddy Gutiérrez Alonso was sentenced to 8 years in jail. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 9 January 2022 — For the crimes of public disorder, contempt, assault, and insulting national symbols, 13 protesters who participated in the peaceful protests on July 11th (11J) in the municipality of Artemisa, were sentenced on Friday; sentences ranged from 4 years of ’limited liberty’ to 12 years in prison.

The trial was held at the end of November in the courtroom of the People’s Provincial Tribunal of Artemisa, the province where the first popular protests occurred, in the municipality of San Antonio de los Baños. During the trial, family members denounced the fabrication of crimes and the use of false witnesses, used by the prosecutor to seek longer sentences.

Luis Giraldo Martínez Sierra (27 years old) received the longest sentence, 12 years in prison, followed by Yeremin Salcine Jane (31 years old), with a 10-year sentence. Victor Alejandro Painceira Rodríguez (26 years old) was sentenced to 7 years and José Alberto Pio Torres (28 years old), Iván Hernández Troya (25 years old) and Yoslen Domínguez Víctores (33 years old) were all sentenced to 6 years.

Javier González Fernández (34 years old) and Alexander Díaz Rodríguez (41 years old) will have to spend 4 and 5 years in prison, respectively, while Eduard Bryan Luperon Vega (21 years old) and Yurien Rodríguez Ramos (42 years old) were sentenced to 4 years of forced labor without internment.

For his part, Yoselin Hernández Rodríguez (39 years old) faces a sentence of 5 years of ’limited liberty’, while Leandro David Morales Ricondo (23 years old) faces a 4-year sentence of the same. continue reading

In the case of young Eddy Gutiérrez Alonso (24 years old), the sentence was 8 years behind bars. “I was crying all night. For going out to protest he must spend 8 years in prison,” his girlfriend, Rachel, became indignant during the conversation on Friday, after learning of the tribunal’s decision. “I’m very depressed with all of this, I still have not processed the sentence.”

The document which describes the sentences, to which we had access, was issued on December 27, 2021, but the political prisoner’s family members and defense attorneys received it on Friday. It is signed by the judges of the Municipal Tribunal of Artemisa, Yurisander Diéguez Méndez, Ernesto Amaro Hernández and Leonel Llerena Díaz. Furthermore, it should be stated that all of those tried were given joint penalties for various crimes.

Of all those accused, it is said that “they walked in the middle of the public road, obstructing all traffic,” on several municipal streets in Artemisa. As they walked, “they raised and agitated their hands, so people would follow them,” while also “screaming ’police dickheads’, ’police motherfuckers’, and Díaz-Canel motherfucker’,” this last phrase directed at President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, “which exacerbated the spirits of those present and contributed to other people joining.”

Among the accusations against Luis Giraldo Martínez Sierra, the tribunal said it took into consideration his decision to “snatch from a government official” a Cuban flag, “which deserves respect for all it represents and the implicit honor it carries and in lashing out against the said symbol, demonstrated total irreverence.” The “facts” are described as “severe” because he also “decided to snatch the national symbol from the hands of a woman, physically smaller than him, shows a level of aggression on the part of the accused.”

With regard to Yeremin Salcine Jane, the judges considered “his active role in citizen disorder,” that he “uttered demeaning phrases against government officials,” in addition to “assaulting agents who were there to fulfill a mission, for which he hit and intimidated one truck driver so drivers would abandon their attempt to drive on, acts which resulted in marked violence and aggression in the public roadway.”

Of Eddy Gutiérrez Alonso, they stated that “in addition to disturbing the peace and offending government officials, he assaulted agents who were trying to contain the crowd’s illegitimate advance, for which he hit, threw a jar and intimidated the driver,” of a military truck, “so he would be unable to continue driving.”

Regarding the truck, the document also mentions the vehicle is a HOWO, “olive green, with ’PNR’ on its front doors, referring to the National Revolutionary Police, and belongs to the Military Unit 5274 Brigade of Prevention Troops of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Havana.”

Some of the accused, “lay on the ground to prevent the truck from advancing,” described the sentencing document. “Later, they stood in front” of the vehicle and “with their hands, lashed out against the vehicle and its occupants, striking the front of the vehicle, Eddy joined in, forcefully striking the passenger side door of the car several times with a closed fist and damaging it.”

The document continues, while the truck was turning a corner onto another street, Eddy “grabbed a plastic bottle from the floor and threw it into the cab,” in the direction of the driver, “without injuring him.”

In another part of the country, Matanzas province, another trial resulted in six-year jail sentences for Tania Echevarría, Leylandis Puentes Vargas, and Franciso Rangel Manzana for protesting on 11J in the municipality of Colón, reported Radio Televisión Martí this Saturday.

Manzano and Puentes, members of the Pedro Luis Boitel Party for Democracy, have been in prison since July 11th.

The families of the 13 people sentenced in Artemisa, as well as those of the opponents in Colón, have said they will appeal the sentences imposed on the political prisoners.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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

Dozens of Cubans Demand a Ticket to Nicaragua in Front of the Conviasa Office in Havana

A group of Cubans this Thursday in front of the Conviasa office in the Miramar Business Center in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 6 January 2022 –  “We want a flight date,” dozens of Cubans shouted at the top of their lungs as they gathered this Thursday morning in front of the office of the Venezuelan airline Conviasa in Havana, which is in charge of selling flights between Havana and Managua.

As the days go by, the desperation of Cubans to find a ticket and be able to fly to Nicaragua grows. “Today we almost broke the windows of this place,” says one of the customers who, filled with resentment, spent the afternoon in front of the office located in the Miramar Business Center.  The man in his 30s, along with other people, continued to sit outside the building.

“Here you have to come every day, sir, they are going to add flights and more flights,” says another woman sitting a few meters away, very hopeful that she will soon fly to Managua.

“We are not selling tickets. We have reported that sales are suspended for the moment, it is what we have reported all the time,” said an airline employee on Thursday, adding that at the moment they do not know when the tickets will go on sale again. She assumes, she said, that “until the reprogramming progresses,” although she also commented that company authorities in Caracas, Venezuela, were meeting to “see what solution they could come up with for the problem.” continue reading

On December 6, in the same commercial office, Conviasa employees specified that starting on January 1 they would begin to sell tickets for the Havana-Managua-Havana route normally. Then they detailed that prices ranged from $500 to $1,000 in freely convertible currency (MLC).

The frequencies were scheduled for Wednesdays and Saturdays, with the first flight leaving on December 15. In the first trips they were accommodating “people who had already bought the ticket” before flights were suspended due to the pandemic, said an employee. “In case of no-show, tickets will be sold to those in the normal line.”

Customers, looking forward to January 1 and to better organize themselves have, since then, began signing up for waiting lists started by Conviasa staff in mid-December.

Representatives of the airline reported that at the moment the website is not selling tickets from Havana and that they will only be able to make the connection through Panama City-Managua-Panama City. This newspaper was able to verify that there are flights available between these two cities on Mondays and Saturdays in February for a cost of 750 dollars which includes a 10 kilo carry-on and a hold luggage weighing 23 kilos.

“We come every day and this here remains hot,” says another customer who was staying in in front of Conviasa Thursday afternoon. “And because of what happened today they even put agents in plain clothes to take care of this [the office]”, but that will not prevent him from continuing to search for information and from being able to buy his ticket, he assures.

Since, on November 23, the Nicaraguan government established a free visa for Cubans , getting a ticket to Managua has been the main concern of many who see, in the Central American country, the escape route in the midst of the severe political crisis and economic activity that crosses the Island and that has deepened in the last two years.

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A Wall Threatens to Collapse a Few Yards from Havana’s Historic Cemetery

The deteriorated sidewalk blocking her passage left a woman resigned to waiting for the traffic to slow down to cross the street. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 8 January 2022 — The collapses and deteriorated houses are not only a thing in Old Havana; just two wooden supports support the weight of a wall in poor condition on Zapata Street that borders the Colón Cemetery, in El Vedado. Passersby constantly pass through the area and this Saturday, an old woman — cane in hand — was walking a few inches from the dangerous wall.

“Grandma, stay away from there, it could fall at any moment,” a young man advised the lady, but the wall was not the only problem. The deteriorated sidewalk blocked the passage of the woman who ended up resigned to waiting for the traffic to slow down to cross the street.

Zapata is not just any avenue. A few yards further on it approaches the Plaza de la Revolución and is a frequent route for official vehicles. Now, from the closed windows of their air-conditioned cars, the Cuban leaders will see the wooden shoring and some walkers risking their lives near the deteriorated wall.

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Not Only Buses Travel the Streets of Havana With One Wheel Missing

In the image, a truck of the Communal Services company of Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 8 January 2021 — Trucks and buses that circulate with three tires on the rear axle, instead of four, are no longer an exception on the streets of Cuba. Given the lack of spare parts, exacerbated by the economic crisis of recent years, state services have chosen to keep their cargo or passenger vehicles in operation even when they do not meet the minimum safety conditions.

First it was a Yutong bus that transported workers from the AICA laboratories without one of its four rear wheels, and this Friday a photographer from 14ymedio ran into a truck belonging to the state company of Communal Services of Havana in the same conditions.

Parked very close to the Ayestarán road, the vehicle, which is dedicated to transporting debris — large volumes of garbage or remains from tree pruning — was missing one tire.

“The lack of one of the traction tires causes complete instability,” warns Antonio, a mechanic with more than ten years of experience in the Mercedes Benz company workshops in the capital. “It can cause losses in the steering of the vehicle and, if that tire is overloaded and bursts, the vehicle can tilt to one side and cause an accident.”

The design of these axles “is planned in this way to support a certain weight,” explains the specialist auto mechanic. It is a danger, he continue reading

insists, that the vehicle is in this state because “when one of these tires is missing, the remaining one is overloaded, even causing the suspension of the vehicle to be affected as well.”

Antonio warns that “there are some vehicles that serve tourism — a prioritized sector in Cuba — with bald tires and repaired steering. Imagine that it could be left for other vehicles!”

Javier Valdés worked for a time in the workshops of the extinct Fénix limited company, linked to the Office of the City Historian, in Old Havana. After emigrating a few years ago, he acquired a small trucking company in South Florida.

“Applying my knowledge as a professional mechanic, a heavy vehicle that transports people or cargo should circulate with all the wheels with which it was manufactured,” says Valdés. In his experience, “the lack of one of these tires can cause the vehicle to lose alignment and therefore the suspension is out of adjustment, the wheels wear out, or a tire explodes.”

In the event that the vehicle runs without weight “missing one of the wheels of the rear pairs,” Antonio details that “everything will also depend on the physical quality of the remaining tire, but it is not at all recommended that they move on the road in these conditions.”

If it has the axels for it, it’s  better have two tires, Javier insists: “I do not recommend that any vehicle travel the roads if it is missing a tire, and even less the roads of Cuba which are full of potholes, which is also a factor that directly affects the tire resistance.”

Each vehicle is designed to fulfill its function as it should, and in this sense, the mechanics agree that “if the design of a truck foresees a maximum load weight of 50 tons, with one less tire, this capacity is greatly reduced.”

In Havana, the deterioration of the vehicle fleet was recently recognized by Leandro Méndez Peña, general director of Transportation in the capital, who recognized, for example, the existence of a severe deficit in public transportation by pointing out that only 49% of the total bus fleet is in operation. The situation is visible to all and, on any street in Havana, vehicles appear that are not fit to circulate.

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Without Private Vendors, Three Kings Day in Cuba Would Be Impossible

Viewed as a relic of a bourgeois, consumerist past, Three Kings Day celebrations in Cuba have been on pause for decades. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia Lopez Moya, Havana, January 6, 2022 — Are you selling any toys? Where can I find dolls for sale? These and other questions could be heard throughout Cuba on Wednesday, the eve of Three Kings Day. In recent months toy supplies have been limited and this, combined parents’ financial worries and the often last-minute scramble for presents contributed to the tense atmosphere at Cuban children’s stores.

The only toys for sale at state-owned shops were a few board games. Meanwhile, private vendors capitalized on parental anxiety by offering imported goods at inflated prices. As in previous years, the vendors’ merchandise — items brought in by travelers from Mexico, Panama and the United States — was among the few available options available.

Three Kings celebrations in Cuba have been on pause for decades. Seen as a relic of a bourgeois, consumerist past, the government decided to replace it with Boys and Girls Day, moving the date for familial gift-giving to the third Sunday in July.

Items such as stuffed animals, toy guns, balls, tops and kitchen sets were selling for between 500 and 3,000 pesos apiece. (14ymedio)

With the dollarization of the economy in the 1990s, the tradition of giving presents to little ones on January 6 began to gradually make a comeback. But it is a return the Cuban regime has never been happy about and which government media outlets have strongly criticized on several occasions, deriding it as little more than an excuse for wasteful spending and consumption.

In spite of all this, dozens of parents gathered outside the only toy store on continue reading

Obispo Street on Wednesday, among them Marisol. The mother of two, who was looking for toys for her children, arrived just in time to watch a store employee carting away the last available items for sale: a few packages of disposable diapers. Shortly thereafter, the store closed its doors.

“They’re not selling anything here,” observed a man who was standing outside. “Half of Havana has paraded through here today looking for toys. I’ve told everyone the same thing. Go to Casa Perez. You’re sure to find something there,” he advised Marisol, who thanked the man for the information before heading towards Neptuno Street.

The toy shortage at state-owned stores is due partly to a dilemma these retailers face. They must sell merchandise purchased with hard currency from foreign suppliers for Cuban pesos. Selling toys at the country’s foreign-currency stores might solve this problem but it would create a wave of popular unrest and the government knows it.

Continuing her search, Marisol headed to Fe del Valle, a small park near San Rafael Boulevard, where private vendors often set up sales tables. On this day the makeshift stalls offered a wide array of toys, jams, footwear, jewelry and other items for sale. The wide selection of merchandise lifted her spirits.

“At that moment I felt the sky open up. I thought I’d be able to buy toys for my children and even something for my little niece,” she told 14ymedio. Her spirits quickly sank, however, when she realized that the prices for the items on display were well beyond her reach.

Items such as stuffed animals, toy guns, balls, tops and kitchen sets were selling for between 500 and 3,000 pesos apiece. “It’s hard to believe. A regular Barbie  for 1,200; a plastic Hulk 2,000,” said Marisol, who had a budget of 1,500 pesos thanks to a remittance from a cousin in the United States. “I’ll keep looking at the state stores and, if I don’t find anything, I’ll go back and see what I can do.”

Prices for the items on display were simply unaffordable. (14ymedio)

Marisol decided to try her luck at the hard-currency store on Carlos III Street but an employee there explained that the store had not gotten any toys for a long time. “I suggest you try the private vendors because it’s going to be hard finding anything at the state stores,” the sales clerk added.

With no other options, Marisol headed back to Fe del Valle and checked each and every stall in search of the most affordable option. “Can’t you please give me a discount? I need to get presents for my two children and my niece,” she explained to one of the vendors. “Don’t complain about the prices. I didn’t tell you to have so many kids. Life is hard for all of us,” the vendor responded.

Among the most affordable but least attractive options were the so-called “street-vendor toys” — cars, trucks and toy soldiers made from molten plastic, whose quality is far below that of the imports — which few people were buying. “Those are the toys for poor kids,” noted one woman.

Finally, Marisol settled on three bags, at 500 pesos each, which included cookies, candy and a small toy. “Never in my life did I think I would be spending 1,500 pesos for a handful of trinkets but these are the times we are living in this country.” A time when celebrating Three Kings Day is no longer prohibited but but is prohibitively expensive for many people.

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