123 Cuban Healthcare Workers Return from Mexico and the Secret of Their Location is Revealed

The sending of Henry Reeve brigades to Mexico has been characterized by controversy and opacity. (Latin Press)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Olea Gallardo, Havana, 30 March2021 –The details of the mission of the Cuban doctors in Mexico continues to be learned drop by drop. This Monday, when 123 medical personnel from the Henry Reeve Brigade returned to the island, of the nearly 500 deployed in that country since December, the official Cuban press confirmed that they had been working in military institutions.

“The aid workers treated a total of 408 suspected or confirmed patients with SARS-CoV-2 in the operational units of temporary hospitalization Chivatito, Campo 1ª and Sixth Mortar Battalion,” reports Prensa Latina, who says that “the performance of these 84 doctors, 38 nursing graduates and a specialist in electromedicine won them the recognition of the Ministry of Health of Mexico, the Ministry of National Defense and the Government of the capital of the country.”

Until now, neither Mexico nor Cuba had specified the hospitals where the health workers who arrived in December were assigned, and the Cuban State newspaper Granma limited itself to saying that they were “in the temporary hospitalization operating units,” without giving further details. continue reading

The first center mentioned on Monday by the official news agency (Chivatito) is the Covid-19 Installation Military Hospital created by the Ministry of Defense on one side of Los Pinos, the former presidential residence, where source who preferred to reserve his identity told 14ymedio at the time that at least 260 doctors were working in Mexico.

According to that source, these were housed “in units without being able to leave them, they sleep in bunks, and were divided into three brigades,” and two of them deserted.

The group that returned this Monday is the third group of those deployed in December to have returned to Cuba: a first contingent (of 160) did so on March 1 and another (of 95), two weeks later.

The sending of Henry Reeve brigades to Mexico has been characterized by controversy and opacity. On March 15, it was learned that the Mexican Government had paid one and a half million dollars more than what it had originally said (about six million) for 585 health workers on the island who had been working between April and July 2020.

The information was provided to the Mexican digital medium La Silla Rota only through a request to the transparency portal InfoCDMX — to which public institutions are, in principle, obliged to respond by law — and after a wait of half a year.

That they have been housed in military institutions has made it more difficult to learn about the ’mission’ that began in December. In theory, the Ministry of Defense is subject to the same rules when it comes to requesting information via transparency, but in practice, the authorities often refuse to provide it, alleging national security reasons.

Another thing happened in June of last year, when complaints about the work carried out by Cubans in hospitals in the Mexican capital came to light both on social networks and in the main Mexican newspapers.

For the rest, it remains unknown how much Mexico paid for the almost 200 healthcare workers that were stationed in Veracruz on the same dates or for the 500 that it imported in December, of which 378 have already returned to Cuba.

It is also unknown which government agency made the disbursement. The response to La Silla Rota, via transparency, named the Ministry of Health of the Mexican capital, but at the time, both the owner, Oliva López Arellano, and the head of Government of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, emphasized that Cubans were hired “through an agreement with Insabi,” the Health and Welfare Institute created by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, which has been the target of numerous criticisms in the country.

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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.

While the Government Proposes to Limit Acopio, Farmers Want to Eliminate It

Farmers believe that the new measures support only “on paper” what they had already been doing. (Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Olea Gallardo, Havana, 6 November 2020 — Measures announced on this Thursday’s Roundtable TV program suggest a tentative relaxation of the agricultural market.

For example, private farmers will be able to sell part of their production on their own, provided that they first comply with Acopio’s* agreed deliveries. This is what emerges from the convoluted words of the Minister of Agriculture, Gustavo Rodríguez Rollero, during his television speech: “Products that, due to their logistical or financial problems of collecting and trading entities cannot be purchased in accordance with the provisions established in contracts, may be sold through other forms of commercialization”.

This will resolve a frequent complaint of Cuban farmers: that Acopio lets part of the products rot by not having the means to collect them. continue reading

The minister stated that with this new policy “the country intends to make the entire collection and marketing system more flexible, and eliminate the monopoly role of Acopio, the Business Collection System”.

“This month, the product balance is 100,000 tons, that is, we still have a product deficit of over 50,000 tons that we have not generated”, acknowledged the Minister of Agriculture

Rodríguez Rollero acknowledged that agricultural production is far from meeting the basic needs of the population: “30 pounds per capita per month, per inhabitant, some 154,000 tons of agricultural products, whether meats, vegetables and fruits,” the minister explained. “This month the balance of products is 100,000 tons, that is, we still have a deficit of over 50,000 tons of products that we have not produced.”

To try to alleviate the severe food crisis that Cuba is plunged in, the Council of Ministers announced other provisions. Among them, flexibility in the hiring of workers by “individual producers, landowners and usufructuaries (leasers), those having the legal right of enjoying the profits of property belonging to another”, the approval of “tax incentives” and the “recovery of bovine livestock.”

“This does not affect or benefit us in the least,” Rolando Villegas, a farmer from the Guane area in Pinar del Río, tells 14ymedio. “The crops that are a distribution monopoly, such as the tobacco that we produce, continue the same way, as is the case with coffee growers and those who grow cocoa or potatoes”, he warns.

“In addition, the goals that Acopio sets for us to sell to the State are high and prices are low. Many times, we have more losses than profits to meet those amounts”, Villegas points out. “what little remains after complying with these standards often goes to our families’ self-consumption, and there are farmers in this area who for years have had direct agreements with paladares (private restaurants) and food businesses” for direct sales.

“What is the difference?” a farmer asks himself. “That now we can declare on paper what we have been doing for a long time”

“What is the difference?” a farmer asks himself. “Now we can declare on paper what we were doing a long time ago,” he says. “I did not watch The Roundtable program yesterday because we didn’t have power, but some friends told me that they were going to announce the death of Acopio but it didn’t happen, it’s still alive, kicking and screwing us.”

Raúl Castro’s government had already implemented similar measures in 2011 aimed at opening up the field, but reversed them in 2016 without offering an explanation.

Cuba imports more than 60% of the food it consumes, as well as a large amount of agricultural consumable goods, and Cuban producers have been asking for a relaxation of the rules for the countryside for years.

Last April, with growing shortages due to the closure of the borders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the League of Independent Farmers and the Cuban chapter of the Latin American Federation of Rural Women launched the initiative “Without the Countryside There is No Country” which asks the Government for five concrete measures to liberalize agriculture: freedom for production and distribution, freedom to set market prices, freedom to import and export without State mediation, elimination of taxes for ten years and delivery of permanent property titles to all producers.

*Translator’s note: Acopio is Cuba’s State Procurement and Distribution Agency

Translated by Norma Whiting

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Cuban Priests Are Tired of ‘Two Types of Dictatorships: The Ecclesiastical and the Governmental’

Father Fernando Heria, priest of Ermita de La Caridad, in Miami. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Olea Gallardo, Havana, 5 November 2020 — Fernando Heria, a priest of the Ermita de La Caridad, in Miami, spread a message on his social networks in which he expressed his solidarity with Father Alberto Reyes, parish priest of the church of San Jerónimo, in Esmeralda, Camagüey. On November 1 Father Reyes published  a text on his Facebook wall in which he lamented the fear and oppression suffered by Cubans, in addition to criticizing the silence of the ecclesiastical curia.

“I share the cries of hunger and thirst for justice that a brother priest, Camagüey’s Father Alberto Reyes, has bravely shouted on behalf of all the children of the country, from the throats of our patriots: Mariana Grajales, José Martí, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, Máximo Gómez, Antonio Maceo and many other brothers and sisters, a firm cry for the freedom and dignity of los hermanos,” says Heria in his posting made public on Monday.

“For years in each ad limina visit [the visit that bishops must make from time to time to Rome] with the Pope, they always ask: why are there so many Cuban priests who leave their homeland and go to serve in the diaspora?” continues the Father. “To which the Cuban bishops have always responded unfairly: because of the attraction of money. Enough of so many farces!” continue reading

Heria explains that if the priests stay in the diaspora, they do so because “they are tired of living under two types of dictatorships: the ecclesiastical and the governmental,” and he thanks Father Alberto Reyes “for making clear what this priest (me) has been telling the Cuban bishops, that it is their fallacy, regarding you, the priests, with the odor of sheep, who are the only hope of a noble people who wait, wait and wait for their freedom and respect for their dignity of being.”

The letter ends with an appeal to the 17 Cuban bishops, both ordinary and emeritus, to shout “enough is enough” and ask that they “set our noble Cuban people free for the love of God and the country.”

In his publication last Sunday, Father Alberto Reyes lamented suffering “the silence of my bishops.”

“It is not true that the Church has not spoken, it is not true, because all of us are the Church, and many lay people, priests, religious, even a bishop speaking personally, we have said what we think and we continue to say it,” the priest continued. And he clearly stated, “This country needs a change, it needs a transition, it needs to live and stop dragging its existence, and at this moment, in my opinion, only the Catholic Church is in a position to lead a dialogue and propose a transition.”

For this reason, Reyes concluded, “the people look to the bishops, and expect a clear position in favor of justice, freedom, in short, the Gospel.”

Reyes is one of the three Cuban priests who in recent weeks has been very critical of the social and political situation on the island. The first was Jorge Luis Pérez Soto, parish priest of San Francisco de Paula, in the municipality of Diez de Octubre, in Havana, who at the end of October said in a homily that “the Catholic cannot be apolitical, that is a lying word that only speaks of cowardice.”

“When a ruler is not willing to resign, is not willing to get out of the way for the common good, for the good of his people, for the good of his society, that Caesar is a tyrant,” Pérez said at a Sunday mass.

A few days later, Father Laureano Hernández Sasso lamented the deafness of the Cuban leaders. “Why do we have to beg? Why does President Miguel Díaz-Canel talk and talk and never say anything? Or do we have to tell our president that we cannot continue like this?” the priest wrote in his Facebook account.

In the past, several statements signed by the Cuban bishops have raised hives in the ruling party. One of the best known was the pastoral letter “El amor todo lo espera” (Love waits for all), signed by the Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops in September 1993, during one of the hardest years of the economic crisis after the fall of the socialist bloc of Eastern Europe.

“The fight for justice is not a fight against which one can remain neutral, because this would be tantamount to putting oneself in favor of injustice,” the bishops said in that letter that was directly criticized by official spokesmen, including the journalist Lázaro Barrero, who called it a “telenovela title.”

Two decades later, the bishops published another pastoral letter entitled “La esperanza no defrauda” (Hope does not disappoint), which was read in all the churches of the country and which made a profound assessment of the Cuba of that time: “A new generation of Cubans, born in recent decades, has its own interpretation of our reality, with its own aspirations and interests, different from those of their predecessors. This generation lives with the firm desire that not only the present is better than the past, but that the future is better than the present,” they wrote.

The various declarations of priests inside and outside the Island are taking place a few days before the biannual celebration of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Cuba. Many parishioners and members of the Church hope that a pronouncement on the acute crisis the country is experiencing will emerge from this meeting.

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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 Covid Outbreak in Ciego de Avila General Hospital is Due to Negligence

Doctor Antonio Luaces Iraola General Hospital of Ciego de Ávila. (Radio Reloj)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Olea Gallardo, Havana, 18 September 2020 — With 19 positive cases of Covid-19 reported this Friday, Ciego de Ávila continues to be the second province in number of infections, behind Havana, and its situation is not improving. The most worrying data is that it accounts for 9 of the 19 critically ill or seriously ill patients in the entire country, even more than the 6 in the capital province, according to official data published by the Ministry of Health.

One of the most active local sources of contagion is the one that began at the Doctor Antonio Luaces Iraola General Hospital, the main one in the province, from which a hundred coronavirus patients were transferred to neighboring Camagüey — where there is still no contagion — last week.

When the news of the outbreak became known, through the official press, the hospital authorities held the workers responsible for the situation and their “non-compliance with the protocols.” Later, the local media gave space to praising the work carried out by the hospital, and described it as “almost a war maneuver to carry out routine procedures such as childbirth or tracheal intubation.” continue reading

However, a doctor and a nurse, who offered their testimony to 14ymedio on condition of anonymity, insist that the cause is negligence. “The corresponding tests were not being carried out on the patients who appeared with respiratory problems, and instead they were being treated as if it were asthma, allergies or bronchitis,” details the doctor.

“For years we have had a bus that transfers patients who must undergo hemodialysis,” adds the nurse. “As the transportation issue has become more complicated with the pandemic, other patients are also collected, including asthmatics and people who need routine treatments.”

“The problem was that in the same bus, patients who needed dialysis coincided for several days with others who obviously had Covid-19,” said the nurse. “The result is that at one point we had more than half of the patients in the nephrology ward also infected with the coronavirus.”

“When we found out, these nephrological patients had already spent time with their families, entered other areas of the hospital and had direct contact with doctors and nurses who had no protection,” she denounces. “A disaster and irresponsibility.”

Within the official data, in fact, it can be observed that several of Ciego de Ávila’s critically ill or seriously ill patients also suffer from kidney failure. This is the case for an 82-year-old citizen of the capital municipality, as well as another age 66 with kidney failure, a third age 65 with hydronephrosis, and a fourth age 68 with chronic kidney disease.

The province fell back to phase 1 on September 9, when it registered a total of 17 local contagion events. At that time, Miguel Díaz-Canel again blamed the outbreak on the “indiscipline” of the citizens.

Meanwhile, the keys, a popular tourist destination in the same province, are preparing to receive another flight from Canada, and the ruling party insists that “rigorous epidemiological control measures” are being carried out in Jardines del Rey to protect tourists and employees.

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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.

23 Indian Workers for State Construction Company Almest Infected With Covid-19

Hotel construction in progress in Miramar where construction workers from India tested positive for COVID-19 work. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Olea Gallardo, Havana, 16 September 2020 — A total of 23 construction workers who are Indian citizens who are in Havana are part of the new group of people infected with Covid-19, according to the latest official figures, as reported this Wednesday by the Ministry of Health.

All of them are male, aged between 26 and 59, and reside in the municipality of Regla. The authorities detail that they are keeping 114 known contacts under surveillance.

These are the Indian workers who arrived in Cuba in 2016 hired by the Bouygues construction company for the works of the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski, in the Manzana de Gómez building, in Havana.

At the time, it was speculated that the French company had resorted to the exception introduced by the Government in the Foreign Investment Law that authorizes “special regulations” in relation to foreign workers in “special circumstances.”

Three months later, these foreigners were working for the state-owned Inmobiliaria Almest and the official press praised their performance — “they perform three or four times more work than Cubans,” they said.

Although the official media did not specify the salaries of the Indian workers, business sources informed press agencies that it ranges between 1,200 and 1,600 euros per month, more than 20 times the salary that a Cuban builder earns.

The Indians continue to work in the capital, according to this newspaper, in the gigantic hotel works of 3rd and 70th, carried out by Almest in Miramar, Playa municipality, and which consist of three luxury hotels, with more than 500 rooms , divided by a two-story shopping arcade.

As declared to the official press by Daysi Malvares Moret, Director of Development of Almest, the property will be the tallest hotel in the capital, with approximately 154 meters, exceeding the Habana Libre (27 floors and 70 meters), which continues to be, as at was at its inauguration, the tallest hotel in the capital.

This outbreak of the coronavirus is the second most important associated with the construction of hotels, after the one that occurred weeks ago at a construction site in western Havana.

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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.