‘Do Not Give Up’: The Message From Navalny We All Must Hear

Frame from the HBO Max documentary ‘Navalny’ directed by Daniel Roher. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 17 February 2024 — Yesterday, Friday, was a difficult day. The sun had not yet risen in Havana when I learned of the death in prison of the Russian opponent Alexei Navalny. That news immediately led me to reflect on the fragility of Cuban political prisoners, some confined to punishment cells, far from any contact with their families and at the mercy of a system for which the life of a dissident is worth nothing.

Vladimir Putin had confined Navalny in a cold prison in the Arctic Circle. He was so afraid of the 47-year-old lawyer that he tried to bury him in life away from Moscow, the Russian streets and his colleagues in the fight against corruption. Autocrats are like that, they can sign for the transfer of a political opponent to the most remote dungeon rather than face him at the polls. Cowards are known by their actions and the tenant of the Kremlin is just that: a fear-filled person with power.

In the Cuban streets, no one has bought the version of the sudden death, the result, supposedly, of a blood clot

It was already afternoon, when I had read the international reactions and thought, countless times, about Navalny’s wife and children, I looked out the window to see the obscene silhouette of the Russian Embassy in the Cuban capital, its demeanor defiant and aggressive. If in other parts of the world the surroundings of Moscow’s bases of operation were, and will be, in the coming days, the center of protests, demands and cries of “Assasins!”, in Havana none of that will happen. continue reading

Cubans will not go en masse to the crude pile on 5th Avenue, at the least to light some candles for the activist and blogger who challenged the corrupt circle of Russian power. They will not do it, not because they do not feel his death, but because the Havana regime is not going to allow it. Allied and dependent on the former KGB official, the Police of this Island will not accept any gesture that upsets the Kremlin. The official media took long hours to publish a note about Navalny’s death. Neglecting him, even after he died, was another way to ingratiate itself with Putin.

However, on the Cuban streets no one has bought the version of sudden death, presumably the result of a blood clot. “They killed him,” a neighbor told me as soon as she greeted me. “Why did he return to Russia if he knew they were going to assassinate him?” Questioned a friend who had followed Navalny’s journey since he opened a digital blog and began to expose the rot of Putinism . “What is the West going to do now?” He stressed.

“Not giving up,” the Russian opponent thus summarized his legacy in a biographical audiovisual that shortly after would win the Oscar for best documentary.

It is true that he could have gone into exile, he even had a great opportunity to stay in Berlin after the assassination attempt he suffered in 2020. The doors were open for him to settle in a capital of a democratic country, give lectures at universities and help activists in his country in many other ways. But I sense that Navalny knew that if he did that, he would stop being, in a certain way, himself. The exile killed part of the politician. Living in another nation was not what he planned for his life. For the short life he ended up having.

“Do not give up,” that was the message that Alexei Navalny left for his Russian compatriots in case he was assassinated. Emaciated by the health problems caused by the poisoning, the Russian opponent thus summarized his legacy in a biographical audiovisual that shortly after would win the Oscar for best documentary. In front of the camera, he is seen repeating the phrase, once in English, once in Russian. By the time he speaks in his language he is transformed. His eyes become sparkling, the deep grooves left by the long recovery look deeper. He takes a breath, joins his hands and releases the words with a conviction that shocks. Navalny is speaking to us, and he knows what awaits him.

Unfortunately he was not wrong in his prediction. I hope that he was not wrong either in calling on Russians not to accept that Vladimir Putin gets his way.

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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 President Diaz-Canel Had To Go to Cauto Cristo to ‘Bathe in the People’

In the images, the Cuban president rushes to shake hands, always surrounded by a strict circle of security. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 12 February 2024 — He narrows his eyes, jumps and puts his hands on his chest. He is not in the middle of a mystical ritual but in front of the television cameras that report the visit of Miguel Díaz-Canel to Cauto Cristo, in the province of Granma. “It was as if I had seen the god Fidel,” “I have goose bumps,” exclaimed the lady in a trance. She is followed by another who insists that the arrival of the first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba is “a gift” from God and “a blessing” for a municipality forgotten by officials and the national media.

In the images, the Cuban leader is quick to shake hands, always surrounded by a strict security circle, to hug children and to point out that he is on the street at a time when his popularity is measured in very negative numbers, although without reliable surveys that put a figure on disapproval. Díaz-Canel has gone there, to convince the poor residents that with “popular participation” they can seek the solutions that Cubans so urgently need, he is seen saying in a video.

“Díaz-Canel, we adore you, son, we adore you!” shouts an enthusiast as the procession passes by to complete the mysticism of the moment

“Díaz-Canel, we adore you, son, we adore you!” shouts an enthusiast as the procession passes by to complete the mysticism of the moment. Each frame seems calculated, an altarpiece prepared for veneration, never for criticism. The seams cannot be seen: each testimony, location or statement must exude devotion and blind faith. There is no room for doubt because we have gone from idolatry calculated from above to the coarsest fanaticism. It is not even about pretending that it is real, just about displaying it even if the performance is absolutely grotesque. continue reading

When the dust from the tires of the official caravan is just a memory, daily miseries will continue to mark everyday life in Cauto Cristo. The “goose bumps” lady will complain in a sour tone that the rice did not arrive at the rationed market on time, the other fervent follower will say that this happens because “the president is not informed” and the young woman who strings together words with the speed of a machine gun will already be arranging her departure from the country through someone she knows in Miami.

Dressed in the suit of a supposed redeemer, only the nails of popular demand await Díaz-Canel. In a few days there will be no half-closed eyes or hands raised to the heart in Cauto Cristo. Instead of praise, insults and mockery will be heard in the streets of the Granma town, especially that harsh adjective* with which the president, whom no one elected at the polls, will go down in the history of this Island, but that no official media dares to utter. When they pronounce the six letters of that harsh adjective, they will not do so in a tone of exaltation but of disgust… almost certainly.

*Translator’s note: Yoani does not identify an adjective, but “Diaz-Canel singao” is a common graffiti in Cuba. Singao is commonly translated as ‘motherfucker’ or similar expletives.

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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.

‘I Do Not Normally Post These Kinds of Publications’

Las personas, ante el miedo, justifican lo que van a publicar con que no es una conducta habitual. (14ymedio)
People, in the face of fear, justify what they are going to publish by saying that it is not common behavior. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 31 December 2023 — In my childhood, letters always began with “I hope upon receipt of this letter.” Now, many Cubans on Facebook warn in their first line: “I am not used to making this kind of publication.” Both formulas introduce a text and seek to create a link between the writer and their reader, but they are separated not only by the distance of decades but also by intentions. One is a mere cliché, the other is evidence of fear.

In Cuba, those who have expressed themselves freely through social networks have been penalized so much, in one way or another, that the fear of making a complaint visible, requesting medicine or reporting the state’s apathy is enormous. People feel that they have to apologize in advance for exercising their right to spread their opinions or to demand everything, from having food arrive at the ration store to having a hospital bathroom cleaned. The majority feel obliged to offer that disclaimer to make it clear that only in this extreme case are they appealing to make their annoyance or desperation visible.

They also want to distance themselves from activists, independent journalists and opponents who have made the virtual square the space to disseminate their actions, information or platforms. Before the inquisitive eyes of the political police that monitor the web, it must be clear that the Internet user in question has made an exception to their rules and has published their feelings this one time, only this once. If a co-worker were to check their Facebook wall to see what content they have shared, the colleague must also get the impression that this post is the result of urgency and will not become a habit. continue reading

The message is also intended for strangers. They will know that once the problem is solved and the personal crisis subsides, that Facebook account will go back to just posting family photos, ribbon-adorned hearts, and celebrity gossip. There should be no doubt that, after the current complaint, there will be no political positioning, no dissident attitude and, much less, the conversion of the individual into a digital leader that summons others and overshadows the prominence of officials and party leaders.

The “I do not normally post these types of publications” is a summary of the terror that has been instilled in us towards our own words. Using that formula goes beyond a platitude, it is perpetuating the gag that has been imposed on us.

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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 Anguish of Cubans in the Face of the Government’s Economic ‘Paquetazo’

This Christmas, few dare to believe or say that next year will be better. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 29 December 2023 –Few garlands, scarce Christmas trees and less popular enthusiasm are marking the last days of 2023 in Cuba. Apart from the occasional isolated celebration, the spirit of this December seems more marked by uncertainty than by celebration. Added to the long economic crisis and the mass exodus are fears about the great economic paquetazo* that the Island’s authorities have announced for 2024.

Although President Miguel Díaz-Canel has already come out to try to stop the rumors and insists that the cuts are not part of a “neoliberal” process, we all know that Cuban leaders have their own glossary of terms. For decades they have labelled the unemployed with the almost friendly euphemism of “available workers”; the crisis of the 90s was labeled the “Special Period“; and the onslaught that confiscated all private businesses in 1968, even including the boxes of the shoeshine boys, was given the heroic moniker of the “Revolutionary Offensive.”

Miguel Díaz-Canel insists that the cuts are not part of a “neoliberal” process; we all know that Cuban leaders have their own glossary of terms

Knowing this appetite for naming things their own way, it is clear that the authorities do not like it at all when someone gets ahead of them in naming the phenomena and moments that the Cuban reality has gone through. But, it only took a few minutes after Prime Minister Manuel Marrero began to explain before Parliament the economic adjustments that will come with the new year, for the word “paquetazo” to spread through the networks and instant messaging services. This little word names the snips that will be aimed at cutting subsidies while, on the other hand, prices are increased.

This group of actions would also fit well with the definition of “shock plan,” another of the phrases that the official Cuban press likes to use when talking about other countries. What is coming, broadly speaking, includes an increase in the prices of products and services and the end of the universal subsidy for the basic food basket. Following Marrero’s statements, several officials have rushed to assure us that the rationed market “booklet” will not be eliminated, but without guaranteeing that, continue reading

after 60 years of existence, it will be maintained for all consumers.

The paquetazo also includes a 25% increase in the electricity rate for the 6% of the residential sector that consumes the most and charging tourists for fuel in foreign currency. The cost of the water supply will triple for those who do not have a metering device and the price of a liquefied gas cylinder will increase by 25%. New rates will also be applied to passenger transportation services. In addition, Marrero warned of a “review” of the number of people currently on the state payroll, which predicts numerous layoffs.

The announcements before Parliament have raised a wave of concern among both ordinary people and the officials themselves.

It is evident that in a society where welfarism, crude egalitarianism and the rationed market have been used not only as mechanisms for the distribution of goods and products, but also as a form of social and political control, the announcements before Parliament have raised a wave of concern among both ordinary people and the officials themselves. While inside homes there is fear of an even greater increase in the cost of food and basic products, in the air-conditioned offices of institutions and ministries they suspect that the measures will fuel popular protests or accelerate emigration, which hits the labor sector hard, especially the workforce of qualified workers.

Apprehension is in the air. An inquietude that Cubans express these days at an end of the year with few parties and few Christmas trees. When they pass a friend or acquaintance on the street, they don’t even dare to use one of those ready-made and formal phrases that are customary to say these days. No one utters the sarcastic prediction that 2024 “will be better.”

*Translator’s note: “Paquetazo” is basically ‘package’, but the ending ‘azo’, signifying a blow, adds a certain heft to it. (See “Maleconazo“) See also from Spanishtogo.app: “Paquetazo, a term used predominantly in Latin America, refers to a package of economic reforms implemented by the government that often includes a series of austerity measures. Over time, it has become a popular term among citizens to express discontent with these policies.”

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Editor’s Note: This text was originally published by Deutsche Welle’s Latin America page .

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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, a Christmas Divided Between ‘Here’ and ‘Over There’

At this end of the year, many of us Cubans remaining on the Island experience the December Celebrations through those who have emigrated. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 19 December 2023 — It’s time to see them in the photos they send on WhatsApp. They smile in some square with a Christmas tree behind their backs. Other times they are sitting at the table with full plates, lit candles, bubbly glasses and colorful decorations. This end of the year, many of us Cubans who remain on the Island experience the December celebrations through those who have emigrated. We breathe a sigh of relief as we conclude that they have been saved from the abyss.

“Tostones or yucca?” a neighbor asks her husband regarding the menu for Christmas Eve. Alone, after the emigration of their two daughters, they try to maintain the tradition and, despite the hardships, will celebrate next Sunday with their family. The problem is that they no longer have relatives in Cuba to invite to dinner, grandchildren to entertain with gifts, or plans to make with their children, in this land, for 2024. They are as alone as the star that shines on the tip of the tree.

The problem is that they no longer have relatives in Cuba to invite to dinner, grandchildren to entertain with gifts, or plans to make with their children, in this land, for 2024.

“I don’t care, if it’s just you and me,” he responds when faced with the options to eat. Retired and, at the time, a defender of what he now contemptuously calls “this thing,” my neighbor knows that last summer, when he turned 79 and gathered his daughters, his sons-in-law and his grandchildren in a photo, he was also achieving a now impossible snapshot, which will never be repeated. Valencia, Miami and cold Stockholm are the new homes of those who, just a few months ago, posed in the image with him, a cake, some beers and Negrito, the family’s elderly dog. continue reading

For weeks now, the couple has only smiled when she, more skilled with technology, comes almost jumping to tell them that “the girls” [her granddaughters] wrote to her, that one is doing well in school and the other is making new friends. She is moved when she hears how her eldest daughter’s husband is happy “frying hamburgers and earning real money for the first time,” although in Cuba he was an engineer. If the neighbors ask her, she always repeats: “Well, they are doing very well, at least they are not here.”

“Here” It is the place where next Sunday the two elderly people will put out the tablecloth embroidered by the grandmother, who died ten years ago, they will take out the tall glasses and the porcelain vase, with flowers of an intense blue color. “Here” they will uncork the cider that the youngest daughter sent them, they will eat slowly, they will tell each other anecdotes about when the oldest of the grandchildren fell trying to take his first steps or about that moment when one of the sons-in-law had an accident on the motorcycle. Then the desserts will arrive, the toast will arrive and they will once again review the most recent photos received from “over there.”

“Outside,” their daughters and grandchildren will have known nostalgia, snow and multiculturalism for the first time. They will take selfies in front of the illuminated windows, they will try to call “the old people” who remained on the Island three times in the day, but the poor quality of the internet service in Cuba will frustrate a part of those desires. “Outside,” they will meet friends again, get to know other people, enter a new work environment and will also go through the difficulties of a newcomer. “Over there” has become their “here.”

“Here,” everything now focuses on not disturbing those who left. So that they do not note the loneliness in which thousands, hundreds of thousands of people have been left.

In Cuba, the grandparents will have agreed not to worry them. “Don’t let them see us sad,” she says. “Let them not be distressed for us,” he adds. So to calm any concerns, this Sunday night they will play music, film a short video while uncorking a bottle, show Negrito sleeping on an armchair and, just a week later, they will add other images throwing a bucket of water from the balcony of the house to ask for a better new year.

“Here,” everything now focuses on not disturbing those who left. So that they do not see the loneliness in which thousands, hundreds of thousands of people have been left. My neighbors don’t want their daughters to see how they look at someone who didn’t have room in the last lifeboat. From “here” It is time to encourage the emigrants and live through them, in the photos they send from “over there” by Whatsapp.

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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.

Five Years Since The Internet Came To Cubans’ Mobile Phones, A Bitter Victory

The Cuban government implemented a service to then censor, suspend and prevent its use selectively and with an obvious political bias. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, 16 December 2023 — This Saturday marks one week since internet service has been cut off on my mobile phone. Coincidentally, it was December, five years ago, when web browsing was allowed for the first time from the cellphones of customers of Cuba’s state telecommunications monopoly, Etecsa. In other words, they implemented the service to later censor it, suspend it and impede its use, in a selective way with obvious political bias.

In these five years, despite the vagaries, infrastructure problems, high prices of recharges and Etecsa’s ‘scissors’, Cuban society has grown thanks to the cracks that have opened in the Communist Party’s wall of information control. Being able to peer into the great Worldwide Web has allowed us to access other voices, stories and testimonies. Now we are less credulous and more demanding as citizens.

Without internet access, the popular protests of 11 July 2021 would most likely not have happened, or would have been smaller. Without the possibility of publishing directly on Facebook or on X (formerly Twitter), we would have missed the opportunity to listen so many voices, the voices of mothers, doctors and family members of political prisoners crying out for justice and a dignified life. Without web browsing on our mobile phones, so many reports of police violence, femicides and administrative corruption would have remained in the shadows. continue reading

If the party leaders had had their way, we would still be communicating with smoke signals, tweeting blindly and dictating our texts so that someone else could publish them online

Nevertheless, the current situation with telecommunications is not something to celebrate. Activists held incommunicado around key dates, independent journalists punished with disconnection for narrating the deep Cuba, and the use of instant messaging as a tool to threaten and intimidate citizens from the offices of the political police make up a very dark landscape. The official ‘soldiers of information, the ‘catfishers’
dedicated to the destruction of reputations, and the army of false accounts that create a distorted idea of popular support for the regime have also grown with the massive emergence of web access into our lives.

Although right now my mobile is “dead” and I can’t communicate with the world, make calls or even send a message of a single text, I know that the conversion of Cubans into Internauts has been a bitter pill to swallow for a system that does not support individuals having their own voices, channels chosen by them to inform themselves and consume news content, or or recreational content based on their desires and inclinations. If the party leaders had had their way, we would still be communicating with smoke signals, tweeting blindly and dictating our texts so that someone else could publish them online.

This is our victory, for all of us who pushed for years to be allowed to access the internet. It is, however, a bitter victory, incomplete and  undermined. But during this entire month of December, with my mobile working or out of service, I am remembering that end of year in 2018 when we seized from power something that belonged to us.

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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 Cuban Regime’s Scriptwriters No Longer Scare Anyone

The official spokesperson Humberto López at a moment during the broadcast of the program on Cuban Television. (Razones de Cuba/YouTube/Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 13 December 2023 — There was a time when official stories were better constructed or perhaps we were more gullible. In those years, they painted dangers that were really scary, bad guys that were truly fearful, and attacks that made everyone’s hair stand on end. Perhaps it was our naivety as a people combined with the information monopoly enjoyed by the Communist Party at the time, but it was enough for us to be told that “the enemy” was planning to poison the cisterns of day care centers and schools for us all to stop, for a few days, drinking even one drop of water at school.

Of those skillful narrators and our innocence not even a memory remains. For this end of the year, Cuban Television has launched itself to create the umpteenth story that, from the Cuban exile, sabotage is being prepared, weapons are being prepared and landings are planned. The example given is laughable. A lone man, who supposedly arrived on the island on a jet ski, armed with three pistols and a few bullets. Faced with such a description, one cannot help but remember when, in the stories of yesteryear, the villain really instilled fear and not pity. continue reading

For this end of the year, Cuban Television has launched itself to create the umpteenth story that, from the Cuban exile, sabotage is being prepared, weapons are being prepared and landings are planned

It is no coincidence, either, that every time the economic crisis escalates and popular indignation grows, these reports appear with all the traces of following a script to scare Cubans and thus prevent us from showing our discontent, taking to the streets or join a general strike. The theatricality of the scripts created with this objective abandoned realism long ago and has entered the realm of the fantastic, appealing to increasingly bizarre individuals, plans and devices.

The most recent delusions of persecution and invasion that official propagandists have spread show a very high level of desperation. They have lost any hint of objectivity, if they ever had it, to end up in the absolutely grotesque. Thus, with these caricatures of alleged evildoers and attacks, no one believes anything.

A piece of advice for bad writers of so many serials: perhaps training with Marvel or Netflix would give them more credible results.

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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 President Diaz-Canel Looks Happy Meeting with the Misogynistic and Homophobic Ayatollahs

Like the FMC and Cenesex, the Cuban ruler will not say a single word about the “gender apartheid” that the ayatollahs have imposed. (X/@DiazCanelB)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 4 December 2023  — The demand for “a Palestine free from Israeli occupation” and a congratulation to health personnel on Latin American Medicine Day are the most recent publications on the Facebook accounts of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) and the National Sexual Education Center (Cenesex). According to both entities, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel’s visit to Iran, a country with one of the most misogynistic and homophobic policies in the world, does not deserve criticism or condemnation.

The silence of the FMC and Cenesex is hardly surprising. With a selective view when denouncing attacks on women and the LGBTI community, these two entities have a long history of pointing out the slightest hint of violence in Western democracies and remaining silent, with complicity, about the young Iranians hanged for having a homosexual relationship. If gender aggression occurs in New York or Berlin they will amplify it, but if the setting is Tehran or Moscow it will not be mentioned in the newspapers controlled by the Cuban Communist Party (PCC).

The official press ignored, for example, the importance of the “Women, Life, Freedom” protests, which began as a demand for women’s rights and went on to become a social movement seeking the end of the ayatollah regime, the economic opening of the country and the establishment of a political model of respect for civic freedoms. continue reading

The trigger for these historic demonstrations, which filled the Iranian streets with young people willing to do anything to shake off authoritarian and hypocritical rulers, was also little mentioned in the island’s media. one only has to review the articles published about Iran from September 2022, when the young Mahsa Amini died in police custody, detained for not wearing the Islamic veil, to realize that praise for Tehran’s actions was the informative tone chosen by the PCC.

Havana has also not commented on the Iranian protesters killed by law enforcement, a number that several organizations estimate to be close to 500

Havana has also not commented on the Iranian protesters killed by law enforcement forces, a number that several independent organizations estimate to be around 500, to which must be added thousands of injured and at least 20,000 arrested. Even less has it informed its audience inside the Island that last September the Iranian Parliament approved a new law that makes the punishments for violating the dress code more severe.

If women were previously penalized with between ten days and two months in prison for wearing the Islamic veil incorrectly or not wearing it at all, now they can spend five to ten years in prison for the same offense. The fines for these contraventions have also multiplied considerably and the regulations punish the owners of businesses that serve women who fail to comply with the strict rules.

Díaz-Canel has arrived in that country, where the ideological pillars of the Islamic Republic rise above the female body and crush the freedom to choose, from how to wear one’s hair to one’s sexual preference. Like the FMC and Cenesex, the Cuban leader will not say a single word about the “gender apartheid” that the ayatollahs have imposed and that forces segregation by sex in universities, hospitals and other public spaces. Meekly, his wife, non-first lady Lis Cuesta, will cover herself with a veil while she is in that nation.

With their silence and opportunism, both seek to ingratiate themselves with the Iranian regime so that it supports the faltering Cuban dictatorship with resources, fuel and diplomatic support. Along the way, they will take the opportunity to harshly criticize Israel, the European Union and the United States while ensuring that the “ties of friendship” between Havana and Tehran are unbreakable. Ties that, instead of focusing on the well-being of both peoples, have served all these years for both regimes to watch each other’s backs.

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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.

Managua, Caracas and Havana: Migration as a Business

Terminal 3 of the José Martí International Airport in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 29 November 2023 — Most of them are men, carrying only a small backpack as luggage. The line to check in at the Conviasa counter at Havana’s José Martí airport moves quickly. The flight goes direct to Managua, but the Nicaraguan capital is only the gateway to a route that will reach the southern border of the United States. Despite the recent sanctions imposed by Washington on the owners and executive of airlines that profit from the Cuban immigration drama, the planes continue to take off towards Nicaragua.

A few days ago Marco de Jesús’s world fell apart. With the tickets, for him and his brother, already purchased from the Dominican company Air Century to travel to Managua, a brief email notified them of the cancellation of that connection. It was one of the first companies to react to the new US visa restriction policy aimed at the airline companies that have been selling migrants from the Island tickets to Central America at “extortion” prices.

For this 38-year-old Havana native, the US penalty could not have come at a worse time. After selling his home and an electric motorcycle, he had managed to raise the more than 4,000 dollars that the two tickets for the short section between Havana and Managua cost him. “We have everything ready to leave and now we are making claims to get our money back,” he says with uncertainty. Although he agrees that such high prices are “an abuse,” he is willing to pay that amount again or more in order to “leave this country.” continue reading

“We have everything ready to leave and now we are making claims to get our money back”

Daniel Ortega’s regime understands well the desperation of Cubans. With the visa exemption for the island’s nationals, which came into effect at the end of 2021, it killed two birds with one stone: taking part of the large dividends left by this constant flow of migrants and, in the process, increasing the pressure on the US border, with the consequent increase in internal criticism of the immigration policy of Joe Biden’s Administration. Ortega filled his pockets with the urgency of some, and put his archenemy from the North on the ropes.

Competing for the pieces of that cake, amassed with the restlessness of thousands of people eager to leave the Island at any cost, others such as the Venezuelan state-owned Conviasa and the Havana regime itself also joined in. Behind the scenes, the Cuban authorities presumably allowed, and turned a blind eye to, the advertisements with supposed tourism packages to see “the Nicaraguan volcanoes,” when everyone knew that these were trips of no return. For two years money flowed into the pockets of all three regimes. No one knows for sure how much they pocketed, but given the cost of each ticket, it could be millions of dollars.

Now, part of the tap has been turned off with the new penalty implemented by Washington, but it is a just a question of time before tricks and detours appear to maintain these lucrative connections. Marco de Jesús and his brother do not want to admit it, but they are just pieces being played with by the three insatiable authoritarianisms when it comes to appropriating resources and for which migration is the new spearhead of their geopolitics.

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Editor’s Note: This text was originally published in Deutsche Welle in Spanish.

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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.

Eamon Gilmore and the Many Traps on His Trip to Cuba

Eamon Gilmore, special representative of the European Union for Human Rights, in Manila, Philippines, last March. (EFE/EPA/Rolex Dela Pena)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 20 November 2023 — This week, the visit of the special representative of the European Union (EU) for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore, is expected in Cuba. The national context in which the official arrives could not be more adverse. In the midst of the most significant mass exodus in recent decades, with more than a thousand political prisoners and a deep economic crisis, the Island will give Josep Borrell’s envoy multiple headaches. The biggest challenge of his trip will be to avoid the daunting agenda that the Havana regime is preparing for him to prevent him from looking towards the most problematic and painful areas of Cuban reality.

Unlike other times, when information trickled out of the country, Gilmore has had at his disposal countless reports, testimonies and articles from the independent press that detail the magnitude of the repression we suffered. He has also been able to meet with exiles who have told him, first-hand, about the forced banishment, the travel ban that weighs on several dissidents, the threats against the families of those convicted of the popular protests of 11 July 2021, and the twist of censorship represented by the new Social Communication Law, already approved and which will soon come into force.

However, it is one thing to read all those alarming reports and listen to the stories of emigrants, and another, very different, to hear the voices of the victims within Cuba and include in the program contact with the most silenced and vulnerable part of our society.  On the Island, Gilmore will be another guest at the Plaza de la Revolución and will have to adhere to official protocol, which translates into the need to condemn the US embargo, praise public services — even if they only take him to schools and hospitals carefully ‘made up’ for the occasion — and to proclaim the “solid ties” of collaboration between the European Union and Havana. continue reading

Someone who protects Human Rights should go further, escape from the symbolic gestures and red carpets to delve into what ails and frightens a society

But someone who protects Human Rights should go further, escape from the symbolic gestures and red carpets to delve into what ails and frightens a society. If he follows a program in line with his position, Gilmore would not be able to avoid visiting at least one Cuban prison. Immersing himself in this underworld is vital to understanding the total absence of physical and legal guarantees that afflicts the prisoners. Speaking directly with political prisoners and their families would be vital to understanding what is happening on this island.

If the official also used the internet connection offered by the state telecommunications monopoly, Etecsa, during his stay, he could see for himself the dozens of blocked digital sites, especially those that offer national news without complying with the editorial guidelines of the Communist Party. A walk through the Cuban fields, not to the farms decorated for the eyes of international organizations, but to those of farmers who cannot even buy wire for their fences because agricultural inputs are sold only in foreign currency, would add nuances to his conclusions.

His could not miss on his trip the crowded airport hall where hundreds of men, most of them young and with light luggage, are preparing to board a plane to Managua to begin the migratory route. The failure of the model imposed more than six decades ago is summarized in those Cubans who leave seeking economic improvements and freedoms.

To the list of actions, Gilmore could add the surprise arrival at a ration market with its many flies and few products, in addition to the emergence of one of those businesses, which have appeared everywhere, where the price for thirty eggs is equivalent to one monthly salary. To top it off, a walk through a neighborhood on the outskirts of Havana is recommended, full of  people “illegal” in their own country, lacking drinking water service and opportunities.

All this and more would give the special representative of the European Union for Human Rights a complete and realistic vision of what we Cubans are experiencing. But between the traps of the official agenda and the timorous European diplomacy, it is possible to foresee that Gilmore’s visit will remain just one more, without ramifications for our citizens. After all, he is only in office for a brief period and the Cuban regime surpasses him with its 64 years of repressive experience.

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Editor’s Note: This text was originally published in Deutsche Welle in Spanish.

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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 ‘Regulated’ and the Banished: The Great Absentees from the Cuban Government’s Meeting with Emigrants

The objective of the regime is clear: to convince those it once called “scum” and “worms” to put their hands in their pocket and invest in Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 16 November 2023 — Ten years have passed since the immigration reform came into effect, which abolished the unpresentable exit permit that Cubans needed to travel outside our country. However, the rights to free movement have not been fully restored and measures such as “regulation*” and forced exile have allowed the regime to use the prohibition of entering or leaving the country as a mechanism of political control and penalization against critics.

This weekend, at Havana’s Palace of Conventions, the Conference on the Nation and Migration will be in session. The event has not been held for 19 years, and dozens of emigrants residing in various countries are invited but united by the same posture: the lack of criticism of the authoritarianism of the Cuban regime and silence in the face of human rights violations on the Island. The representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will feel comfortable in front of an audience that will applaud a lot and demand little.

Although official voices have stressed that there will be no taboo topics at the Conference, it is likely that there will be any mention of the injustice suffered by dozens of activists, opponents and independent journalists who are “regulated” and prevented from leaving Cuba in retaliation for having exercised their right to dissent and free expression. Nor will the names be mentioned of those who, during a trip abroad, have encountered the enormous punishment of being prevented from boarding a plane back to their homeland, even though they had not been away more than the regulatory 24 months that current legislation establishes as a limit before losing residency on the Island. continue reading

Neither the regulated nor the exiled will have representation at the meeting and, almost certainly, none of the guests will dare to allude to their cases.

Neither the regulated nor the exiled will have representation at the meeting and, almost certainly, none of the guests will dare to allude to their cases and demand that such sanctions be put an end to. So, if two of the biggest violations of immigration rights that are committed on this Island are not going to be discussed and eliminated during the days of the Conference, what is the purpose of such a meeting?

The objective of officialdom is more than clear. Convince those it once called “escorias” [scum] and “gusanos” [worms] to reach into their pockets and invest in Cuba. To coax their money out of them, they will tell them that  changes in immigration policy are coming, that one day, even, the word “emigrant” will no longer be used to define compatriots who live scattered around the world, and they will enumerate all the supposed steps towards flexibility that have been taken in recent years to cross, in one direction or another, national borders.

Once the Conference is over, the Foreign Ministry will put aside its smiles and will return to talking about “the haters” and “the frustrated”, it will focus its attacks on that country that thousands of Cubans have chosen to live in, and of which so many already have citizenship, and will reinforce its speech in the plaza sitiada — the besieged square — in which dissent is treason. At home, dozens of Cubans will continue to postpone hugging their siblings, their children, their mothers, because an absurd system prevents them from boarding a plane to reach them.

*Translator’s note: The Cuban Government has chosen the term ‘regulated’ to refer to those who are forbidden to leave the Island.
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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 ’11J’ Prisoner is Transferred to the Melana Del Sur Prison After Protesting Abuses

Layda Yirkis Jacinto and her son, the political prisoner, Aníbal Yasiel Palau Jacinto. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 31 October 2023 — “Only today did I have faith in my son’s life,” Layda Yirkis Jacinto told 14ymedio, ref erring to her child Aníbal Yasiel Palau Jacinto, sentenced to five years in prison for participating in the popular protests of 11 July 2021 [’11J’. The political prisoner was transferred this weekend to a prison in Melena del Sur in the province of Mayabeque.

“It’s a Castro dungeon, you have to call things by their name,” the woman emphasizes. Palau, age 28, was transferred from the Quivicán prison along with fellow ’11J’ prisoner, Juan Enrique Pérez Sánchez. “We didn’t know that they had been transferred, I found out yesterday because another inmate called me, it was only when my son called me today that I found out that he was in Melena 2 prison.”

“Aníbal has been without shoes for a week, because he adopted this position as a form of protests against the repression they maintain against the 11th of July prisoners inside the prisons,” explains Jacinto. “The political prisoner Roberto Pérez Fonseca had adopted the same decision days before also due to the abuses of the guards.”

“Last Saturday they tried to force him to put on shoes so he could use his right to a phone call but he gave up the call and stayed barefoot.” In Melena 2 prison, Palau “maintains his protest and is very aware of what he is doing, he has a very firm character and he does not like injustice.” continue reading

Aníbal has been without shoes for a week, because he adopted this position as a form of protests against the repression they maintain against the 11 July prisoners

Of the other transferred prisoner, Juan Enrique Pérez Sánchez from the municipality of Vegas, in the same province, she reports: “he has not yet been able to communicate with his wife Dayana, she still does not know about his whereabouts, although my son told me that they were transferred together.”

From that day that changed their lives forever, Jacinto remembers that although the family is from San José de las Lajas, Palau was in Güines on Sunday, 11 July 2021, where he lived at that time. “He went out to demonstrate peacefully, like thousands of Cubans did in more than 300 points throughout the Island. On Monday the 12th he went out again to protest in the park.”

The young man’s arrest on that second day was brutal: “They beat him, gave him electric shocks and more than six black berets attacked him from behind, in addition to State Security officers dressed in civilian clothes with sticks. They hit him from the head down to his feet, they even sicced the dogs on him,” she remembers. “They disappeared for 17 days.”

“When I heard his voice for the first time, after that beating, he told me that he had received mistreatment, beatings and torture,” she details. “But during the trial against him, they never talked about the 12th of July, when they kidnapped him from the streets. In that rigged circus that the court set up, they invented a crime of attack that he never committed.”

“According to officer Yenislandi Medina Hernández, from State Security in Güines, my son attacked him, which is absolutely false. That man brought two police witnesses to trial but one said that he never saw Aníbal throw a stone and everything was “without evidence. Of the two years they asked him for, he ended up sentenced to five years in prison, although in the middle of the trial they had even asked for 12 more years for a robbery with force.”

“My son participated in the events at the Panorama store in Güines that same 11th of July, because he entered the store and came out through a broken window, although he did not break it, he did not throw stones. He came out with a bottle of oil and a kilogram of rice in his hand because, although he later told me that he didn’t need it, he felt that stores [that only take payment] in MLC [freely convertible currency] outrage the population, they don’t solve their problem.”

“When I heard his voice for the first time, after that beating, he told me that he had received mistreatment, beatings and torture”

“Since he has been in prison he has maintained his demand for freedom and considers that the ’11J ‘prisoners are innocent. In the Quivicán prison he was one of those who started a hunger strike by several political prisoners demanding their rights. We are anti-communists,” explains Jacinto.  “After that they tried to separate them to silence them.”

“They have also put pressure on me, they besiege my house, they threaten me when I go to visit him in prison. In Melena a guard told me that he was going to call the police because I complained that he threatened my son with spraying him in the mouth because Hannibal shouted ‘Patria y vida!’ Because he behaves as if he were free even though he is in prison.”

“When he called me this morning he asked me to denounce his situation. When they were transferred they were put in handcuffs and chains on their wrists and ankles. They threatened to send him to a prison in Guantánamo, but he is going to remain firm because he is fighting for freedom.” The mother’s conclusion is forceful: “¡Basta ya de abuso!” Enough of the abuse!

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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, Venezuela and a Hurricane Called Maria Corina Machado

María Corina Machado’s candidacy will be reviewed this week by the Prosecutor’s Office in Venezuela. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 30 October 2023 — I met her in Madrid almost ten years ago. Hyperactive and direct, María Corina Machado was at that time one of the many figures of the Venezuelan opposition who were trying to insert themselves into the political scene after the death of Hugo Chávez. From that time until today, her country fell into the abyss of chronic crises and my Island contributed to that fall by sucking thousands of barrels of crude oil from Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), which propped up the Cuban regime.

In that decade, Machado went through everything: the hard times and the bad times, never better said than when her main opponent, Nicolás Maduro, systematically cut off all avenues for an electoral and peaceful solution to his unpopular mandate. Surveillance, the assassination of her reputation, internal struggles between the opponents themselves, and much more, has been experienced by this woman who, last weekend, was chosen to face the heir of Chavismo at the polls. Her chances of being reinstated for the elections and competing for the presidency, with guarantees and security, are minimal, but hopeful.

All of us who were born under authoritarian political models know that no dictatorship is willing to risk its continuity at the polls

All of us who were born under authoritarian political models know that no dictatorship is willing to risk its continuity at the polls. If one thing is a part of the catechism that tyrants learn very early, it is that they should never allow dissidence or a ballot to distance them from the honey of power. History has excellent examples of resounding failures when a vain autocrat believed that he could subject his permanence in the presidential chair to elections, and ended up losing. continue reading

Maduro knows well what would happen if Machado wins. Not only will he have to leave the Miraflores Palace and hand over to public scrutiny the economic sectors that he has kept under lock and key, but he has a good chance of ending up on trial and behind bars for the atrocities committed during his administration. Like the rider on the tiger’s back, he is aware that if he gets off, the beast will devour him, but it is increasingly difficult for him to keep his legs clinging to the torso of the restless animal.

María Corina Machado has the most difficult months of her life ahead of her. Media attacks, legal accusations, hostility from competitors and physical dangers, all will intensify. Havana will also deploy its classic script that a CIA agent seeks to return Venezuela to the “neoliberal past” and, most likely, the political police of both countries will work together to try to destroy her image, prevent her name from appearing in the electoral process, and frighten her voters. Now, she is public enemy number one of both regimes.

What Castroism is risking with Maduro’s departure is no small matter. This year, oil shipments to Cuba average 57,000 barrels of oil per day from Venezuela

What Castroism is risking with Maduro’s departure is no small matter. This year, oil shipments to Cuba average 57,000 barrels a day from Venezuela. Despite the prominence gained by Mexican crude oil, led by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Caracas continues to be an essential support for the failed Castro model that fears that electrical blackouts, inflation and lack of freedoms will again light up the streets of the Island, as occurred on July 11, 2021.

María Corina Machado, the international community that calls for a democratic electoral process in Venezuela, and the voters who seek change in a country that has run out of illusions, are right now at the center of the concerns of the Cuban regime. The machinery of the political police greases its mechanisms to attack her with everything it has. It remains to be attentive and wish luck to the leader of Vente Venezuela. She’s going to need it, y mucho.

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in Deutsche Welle in Spanish.

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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.

Cachita, the Sea Is Beautiful, and the Wind…

The doll that represents the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, patron saint of Cuba, remained this Thursday on the marble of a bench in La Fraternidad Park. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 26 October 2023 — Cachita, the sea is beautiful, and the wind arrives somewhat autumnal this October in Havana. Dressed in yellow, the doll that represents the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, patron saint of Cuba, remained this Thursday on the marble of a bench in the Parque de La Fraternidad, a few meters from the Capitol in Havana. The downward gaze, the necklaces hanging from her neck and the knotted scarf on her head complete the peculiar scene. But the image is not alone.

You can show the doll and promise a client that ‘a trip is in the offing’

A few meters away, absorbed in the hustle and bustle of survival, the owner of this representation, also of the orisha Oshún, haggles over the price of a peanut nougat with a passing merchant. She, who sells her services as a fortune teller, card reader and prophet, encounters everyday uncertainty in Cuba. She can show the doll and tell a client that “a trip is in the offing,” but she admits she is incapable of predicting the price of a dollar on the black market or deciphering the vagaries of the Havana oil refinery.

The prophets of doom live in difficult times on this Island. They focus on the uncertain future or answer the current questions of their clients. Tomorrow doesn’t matter where now is so urgent. So a doll representing Cachita remains dressed and made up on a park bench, while the owner of the image immerses herself in a world where prayers, cascarilla and rosaries can do little to help her.

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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 UN and the Fragile Confidence in International Organizations

United Nations Human Rights Council. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 19 October 2023 — A few days apart, two pieces of news showed the most hopeful and the most disappointing side of the United Nations (UN). At the beginning of October, the Security Council of this international organization approved sending more than a thousand police officers to Haiti, under the direction of Kenya. The arrival of these uniformed officers seeks to stop the spiral of insecurity and violence that has overwhelmed that Caribbean country. Many Haitians hope that the mission will make the armed gangs that control large territories lose ground, although the shadow of doubt already hangs over the effectiveness and moral integrity of the Kenyan police.

Beyond the controversy surrounding the mission in Haiti, there seems to be a consensus on the urgency of taking action. However, that same UN that feeds the expectations of improvement in more than 11 million people has, this same month, once again disappointed another part of the planet’s inhabitants after the results of the votes to join the Human Rights Council. The presence among its members of regimes that openly prey on civil and political liberties, such as China and Cuba, is a bucket of cold water thrown in the faces of activists, human rights defenders and organizations that have reported the repressive excesses committed in both countries.

The UN, which sows confidence that international organizations can save lives and guide nations on the verge of social disintegration, stands as its own nemesis by leaving the impression of being more of a conclave in which dark interests and authoritarian lobbies prevail as they please. In its spacious halls, both Beijing and Havana show great ability to pull the strings of economic and diplomatic blackmail, at their convenience. If one does it, for the most part, based on economic pressures – made possible thanks to China’s extensive investment network on several continents – the other uses its medical missions and ideological camaraderie to gain support. continue reading

Like grains of sand falling in a clock, every second – in some corner of this world – an individual loses faith in what the United Nations can do to improve their lives and those of their loved ones. There is no return from that distrust. Those who no longer believe in the UN are very unlikely to do so again. But no one can be blamed for so much suspicion and rejection towards an entity gripped by bureaucracy, clumsy in the face of the challenges imposed by the times we live in, and permeated by rivalries and alliances more focused on the confrontation between political blocks than on the search for well-being of citizens.

With two wars currently underway, the UN has not even been able to fulfill its founders’ dream of preventing new wars. Does that failure in its main reason for existing mean that it is time to create a new conclave? Better not to jump too quickly to conclusions. The forces to put an end to the United Nations have also intensified in recent years and an international scenario without this organization would benefit authoritarianism and armed confrontations even more. What to do then? Expand the work of the organization in peace missions and humanitarian work; stop the advance within it of dictatorships and nepotism. Is there time left to achieve it? Little, very little.

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in Deutsche Welle in Spanish.

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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.