Activist is Beaten in Santiago de Cuba for Visiting Jose Daniel Ferrer’s Wife

Unpacu activist Rafael Puentes Cremé. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 4, 2022 — On Monday morning, 57-year-old activist Rafael Puentes Cremé was beaten and arrested after visiting the wife of José Daniel Ferrer at Unpacu’s headquarters in the city of Santiago de Cuba. During the arrest, an officer attempted to photograph the opponent with a sign that read “Long live Fidel and Raúl,” he denounced.

Puentes Cremé, who lives in Guantánamo, told 14ymedio that he traveled to the Unión Patriótica de Cuba (Unpacu) in the Altamira area of Santiago to offer his condolences to Nelva Ismarays Ortega Tamayo, Ferrer’s wife, following her mother’s recent death. As he was leaving the home he was intercepted by a man dressed in civilian clothing who demanded that he accompany him.

The activist refused to comply with the individual’s request; he said he belonged to State Security but never showed identification to prove it. Puentes, who is also a promoter of the Cuba Decide campaign, said that upon hearing his refusal, the presumed political police officer began beating him.

“I defended myself as best I could and I had some time to yell at the neighbors who were nearby that I was a peaceful activist who was being attacked by the political police.” The dissident showed us the abrasions on his knees as a result of the attack, his glasses, which the man broke, and also marks left by the beatings on his chest and abdomen.

Following the assault a patrol car arrived and took him to a hospital. “They took x-rays and other tests but they did not give me a report of the injuries,” explained Puentes who participated in the mass popular protests of July 11, 2021  [commonly referred to as ’11J’] which shook dozens of places throughout the Island. On that very day, before he was able to join the protests, Unpacu’s leader, José Daniel Ferrer, was arrested; he has been held  since then without trial. continue reading

Once the medical exam was completed, the opponent was transferred to a police station known as El Palacete, where an officer who identified himself only as “Mario” lunged toward him with a stapler and placed a sign on his clothing that read, “Long live Fidel and Raúl.”

“As soon as I realized what the sign said and that they were trying to take pictures of me with that, I ripped it off.”

The dissident showed us the abrasions on his knees as a result of the attack. (14ymedio)

After he removed the paper and ripped it, Puentes says Mario beat him as punishment and threatened to charge him with assault. They finally released him at noon on Monday, but not before forcing him to sign a warning where he had to agree not to visit Santiago de Cuba again.

In the 1980s the activist was dedicated himself to teaching and after the economic crisis of the 90s he began working as a cobbler. At the beginning of this century he approached opposition groups in Guantánamo and later joined Unpacu.

The opposition organization’s headquarters for years has been the center of many police operations, perimeters with surveillance, and raids. Repeatedly the home has been raided by uniformed police officers who have arrested the activists inside and also confiscated computers, hard drives, and mobile phones.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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

Cuba: January 1959, Dorado was a Shampoo and the Utopia was a Fraud

It is not an exaggeration to associate that communist utopia with Pinocchio’s Land of Toys, imagined by Collodi, where vacations begin on January 1st and end on December 31st. (Netflix)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 4 January 2022 — The main marketing operation of certain leftist politics throughout the 20th century and so far in the 21st has been to sell an elusive product labeled utopia.

Any remotely decent person should feel miserable if they don’t agree with that chimera that tends to associate itself to an unreachable horizon, which should guide those who instead of believing that “a possible world is better” maintain that “a better world is possible.”

While it seems like a play on words, in the difference between one optic and the other lie the lives of nations and of people, because what is advisable at the end of the path is what determines the route and the route is the day-to-day, the life of those who purchase tickets to one destination or another.

Politicians shouldn’t have the right to place the fantasies of poets in their electoral programs nor in their justifications for holding on to power. Rarely have poets converted their verses into electoral slogans, though they’ve declared parties, “party until it stains,” as Gabriel Celaya defined “the necessary verses” when he said, “They are cries in the heavens and acts on earth.”

But the acts on earth have different consequences than cries in the heavens because time on earth is human and heavenly time is ethereal. This is why it is possible to say that Eden was the first documented utopia and, as is well known, it is Adam’s fault that it didn’t work. The first human disobeyed the rules and, with that, thwarted the original plan. The consequence was that Adam, along with his long lineage, was condemned to earning his sustenance through sweat, that is, work.

Karl Marx, who rarely needed to work to feed his family, imagined communist society as a place where material goods flowed, where those who benefited from them were free to spend their time on many recreational activities and where work would no longer be necessary, but rather be done for pleasure. continue reading

It is not an exaggeration to associate that communist utopia with Pinocchio’s Land of Toys, imagined by Collodi, where vacations begin on January 1st and end on December 31st. Work was not necessary, nor was school, but those who let themselves be fooled by these promises ended up dumb.

It is legitimate to suspect that leaders who promote these political utopias, be it scientific communism or 21st century socialism, know perfectly well that their biggest promises — those that are set in the long term, and for which they demand nameless sacrifices — will never be fulfilled. This is why triumphalism becomes a common denominator of these “leaders of peoples” who, in light of good will, appear to be blind, naive or delusional, when they are actually just cynical.

There are plenty of historical, literary and mystical examples that demonstrate the gross manipulation to which those individuals recruited into fanatical sects with the hope of reaching paradise on earth are subjected. Behind the slogans, teeming with bad poetry used to mobilize the masses, there is usually some theoretical foundation, almost always difficult to understand, for the consumption of the newly initiated. Further back, or further down, lies that unspeakable truth that is not even put on the table when the hierarchs are designing their ambitious plans.

In those cabals, everyone wears their mask and they all know the others wear them as well. Utopia is invoked like an invisible specter, the memory of some founding father is revered, and any act that suggests an intent to reveal the great secret is viewed with distrust… until one day reality appears at the window or knocks down the door.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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An Inflation Rate Above 40 Percent in 2022 Sinks More Cuban Families into Poverty

Black beans, another staple of the national diet, is second on the list with a cost increase of 10.5%. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 January 2023 — The increase in food prices continues to push inflation in Cuba and accounts for 70% of the increase in the consumer price index last November. Restaurants and hotels (14%), which include breakfast, snacks and meals consumed outside the home, and transportation (5.5%) are the three sectors that contributed most to the variation that month, according to data published on Friday by the National Statistics and Information Office (ONEI).

November marked the third largest increase in the cost of food in the last 16 months, 6.2% relative to October as economist Pedro Monreal explains on Twitter. The Cuban expert highlighted that, without access to the data from December, he estimates the Island will end the year with an inflation rate above 40%, “close to the 46% estimated by the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU). It would be a very high inflation rate with a ruinous effect on purchasing power,” he adds.

The increase in Consumer Price Index (CPI) this month was 4.1%, very similar to the previous month (4.2%), but the cumulative rate for the year is already at 34.05% and is over 40% when compared to November of 2021, a year which was even worse — despite last year’s catastrophic data — and ended with an official annual inflation rate of 70%. This year, analysts estimate that the real increase in prices in the informal market, which moves the Island’s real economy, was 740%.

With regard to food, which determines the inflation rate according to the authorities themselves, the prices increased 54.22% relative to October and 62.83% compared to November 2021, indicative of the untenable daily situation for millions of Cubans. Although pork prices continue to increase and have increased by more than 9% compared to last month, coffee heads the list with an increase of 11%. Black beans, another staple of the national diet, is second on the list with a cost increase of 10.5%. The prices of snacks and ham are also increasing, by more than 8%, but that of tomatoes has fallen by 2.4.%, a product for which the market price has been capped in several provinces, with uneven results. continue reading

In the hotel and restaurant sector, prices are increasing faster in the latter; of note are increases in the price of snacks (8.8%), prepared, to-go foods (5.7%) and breakfast and beverages, with an increase of 5.5% for each. In the case of transportation, another basic need of daily life for Cubans, it experienced an increase of 1.04%, most noticeable in long distance taxis (6.2%), auto repairs (4.4%) and other long distance transportation (4%). In the case of urban transportation, the increase is not small, with an increase of 3.5% compared with October.

The remaining areas analyzed to determine how the CPI behaved also increased in November (none decreased compared to the previous month), although their weight in the calculations is lower. Goods and services (1.67%) and Furniture and Home Goods (1.2%) are, in that order, the sectors with increases greater than 1%. All other sectors, including education, health, communications, recreation and home services, were below 1%.

However, if we observe the year-to-year variation, we can observe rapid increases in the price of activities, such as leisure (61.2% compared to November 2021) or alcoholic beverages and tobacco, 26.75% higher than the previous year.

The numbers show that the lauded strategies, in place since 2021, to improve agricultural production do not go beyond words and have no effect. The markets continue to experience shortages and prices increase, even without taking into consideration the asking price for products on the parallel market.

In this context, the Cuban government has been forced to continue turning to its northern enemy to obtain the small amount of chicken people fight over. In November there was a spectacular increase in the amount and price of this U.S. product in Cuba, at a total cost of $32.06 million. This was a 56% increase in value and a 70% increase in tons compared to the previous month.

Cuba purchased 27,136.7 tons of poultry from the neighboring country, compared to 15,980 in October and 25,100 in September. Nonetheless, the record for highest imports were in the months of February 2022 and December 2021 when they surpassed 30,000 tons. However, with the current price increases, the costs are much higher. The price for a kilogram of chicken declined slightly in November compared to October, when it reached an historic record of $1.29, and sold for $1.18, though the total expenditures for Cuba were higher because the total amount imported was greater.

“Even without December data, 2022 is already the second best year (after 2021) for U.S. chicken exports to Cuba, both in value and in tons. It is one of the best case studies on the ineffective agricultural policies in Cuba,” stated Monreal.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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

Cuban Dissident Oscar Elias Biscet is Arrested by State Security

Archive photo of the Cuban opponent Óscar Elías Biscet. (EFE/Paco Campos)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, January 9, 2023 — Cuban opponent Óscar Elías Biscet, founder of the Emilia Project to restore democracy in Cuba, was arrested on Monday near his home in Havana, his wife, Elsa Morejón, confirmed to 14ymedio.

According to Morejón, he was arrested at 8 am on Milagro and 8th, in Lawton, where the family lives. There, “two patrol cars” with State Security agents were waiting for him. Since then, she has not heard from him.

This January 9 marks the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Emilia Project, and Biscet was going to a meeting with other leaders of that initiative when he was arrested.

Almost three years ago, the opponent was arrested for five hours, while State Security agents searched his house and took all kinds of electronic devices.

Biscet, age 58 and a doctor by profession, was arrested at the end of 2002 and sentenced to 25 years in prison during the so-called Black Spring. He was later released in 2011 as part of a negotiation process involving the Vatican and the Spanish Government. The dissident was also a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize and presided over the Lawton Human Rights Foundation. continue reading

After being released, under the condition of non-parole leave, he was only allowed to travel outside the Island on one occasion.

Creator of the Emilia Project and decorated with the Medal of Freedom of the United States Congress, Biscet began his rebellious work by criticizing the practice of abortions in Cuba, while working as a doctor.

Police records are a frequent repressive practice in Cuba and have been widely reported by national human rights organizations and international organizations.

The Emilia Project is named after one of the Cuban heroines, Emilia Teurbe Tolón, the first Cuban woman banished for political reasons.

“Those of us who subscribe to this document, inspired by its patriotic example, intend to carry out this project whose essential objectives are the conquest of fundamental human rights, democracy and the freedom of the Cuban people,” says the website.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The First Data for the Sugar Harvest in Cuba Confirm the Worst Official Forecasts

The sugar industry was an important economic engine in Cuba, but it suffered a drastic drop in production beginning in the 1990s. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 6, 2022 — As expected, sugar production in Cuba does not seem to surpass the worst prospects. In the first two months of the 2022-2023 cycle, only 69% of what was expected has been obtained, the state group Azcuba confirmed to the State newspaper Granma. The problems remain the same as in previous years: the lack of funding to acquire inputs and the energy crisis, says the Communist Party newspaper, in an article that moves away from the usual triumphalism, as reflected in the title: “It’s getting better, but not all the expected sugar is produced.”

The sugar harvest began at the end of November with the goal of producing 455,198 tons after the lean results of the previous year, when production closed at its lowest level of the last century, and only 68% of the 1.2 million tons planned was met.

Dionnis Pérez, director of Informatics, Communications and Analysis of the state monopoly, told the official newspaper that the small harvest — November and December — was 2.3 times higher than that of the previous campaign. This slight rebound is explained by the recovery of about 7,000 tons of sugar “in terms of industrial efficiency,” which improved yield by 1.14%, he explained. continue reading

However, the spokesman for the state group pointed out that only seven sugar mills complied with the small harvest plan, including the 14 de Julio (Cienfuegos), Melanio Hernández (Sancti Spíritus), Ciudad Caracas (Cienfuegos), Fernando de Dios (Holguín) and Héctor Rodríguez (Villa Clara).

With a 15-day delay, the Boris Luis Santa Coloma sugar mill, in Mayabeque, has the most delays in the production plan. Followed by the Mario Muñoz (Matanzas) and Enidio Díaz (Granma) mills, with four days, as well as Ciro Redondo (Ciego de Ávila) and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes (Camagüey), with two.

Pérez acknowledged that sugar production faces the same difficulties as a year ago, associated, on the one hand, with the lack of resources to buy the inputs and machinery necessary in the activities of the mills and the cultivation of cane, and, on the other, with the constant blackouts that the Island suffers at the time of repairs.

The sugar sector, which at other times was considered the engine of the Cuban economy, also operates with obsolete machinery and suffers from constant breakdowns. According to the official, the deficiencies that most affected the grinding occurred in the turbogenerators of the Urbano Noris (Holguín), Mario Muñoz (Matanzas) and 30 de Noviembre (Artemisa) power plants. In addition, there were problems in the air compressors in the mill of Dos Ríos (Santiago de Cuba) and in the centrifuges of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes (Camagüey).

To ensure production, the official added, the group will resort to cutting at the Primero de Enero headquarters (Ciego de Ávila), in addition to guaranteeing the early start of Ecuador (Ciego de Ávila), Antonio Sánchez (Cienfuegos) and Majibacoa (Las Tunas).

Twenty-three mills are participating in this harvest in order to “ensure sugar from domestic consumption and other prioritized destinations,” adds Granma’s note.

After having been one of the world’s leading exporters for decades, the Cuban sugar industry has collapsed and no longer covers domestic consumption, which ranges between 600,000 and 700,000 tons per year with the distribution of four pounds per person per month through the ration book. In recent years, Cuba had to import beet sugar from France to meet its internal needs and to be able to dedicate part of its production to export contracts signed in advance with China.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

First bioelectric Plant in Cuba, with Common Technology in Latin America

The bioelectric plant and the Ciro Redondo sugar mill. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 9, 2021 — The Cuban authorities announced that this Saturday the definitive synchronization between the Ciro Redondo sugar mill and a nearby bioelectric plant concluded. This is the first experience on the Island in the generation of energy from sugarcane and marabou biomass, described by the official press, with its usual triumphalist tone, as “an unprecedented energy experience.”

An article published in Granma points out that, in the first 24 hours of interconnection between both plants, there were “stable technical parameters” that allowed progress to advance in the plan to increase generation loads. Until 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, it generated between 25 and 30 MW and injected 21.5 megawatts (MW) into the National Electricity System (SEN).

The technical teams maintain “strict surveillance” over the operation and parameters of the plant and its mechanism, said Ariel Díaz Román, director of the generator, who warned that the binomial “is obliged to work almost perfectly” to avoid interruptions in the electrical system. continue reading

The synchronization of both plants was announced in December 2021, and the official press described as a “national milestone” the “twinning” with the sugar mill Ciro Redondo, in Ciego de Ávila. Vidal Martín Sarduy, administrator of the sugar mill, assured that the device “can without problems” fulfill the grinding for the 106 days of the sugar harvest of 5,600 tons in 24-hour days.

The Government explained that the plant will deliver steam and electricity, while the sugar mill will send bagasse and condensate. “If any of these processes fail, the setbacks will return,” it warns.

“The sugar mill is strong, calm, comfortable, tight, with new equipment,” Martín Sarduy described in the first hours of interconnection operations. “For now, we are focused on reducing the moisture of the bagasse so that its neighbor can consume it without problems, and thus save the marabou biomass,” he added.

The biomass generation plant, a renewable technology common in several Latin American countries, has a capacity to swallow about 2,100 tons of bagasse in 24 hours during the harvest, while during the period of inactivity of the mill it will be able to process between 1,200 and 1,500 tons of marabou. However, the Government recognizes that so far it has only been able to process bagasse in its boilers.

Cuba is going through an energy crisis that worsened in May 2022, resulting in months of blackouts and power outages that exceeded 10 and 12 hours for many days and even forced a reduction in  industrial activity to save energy, further burdening the precarious economy. The situation has provoked some of the largest demonstrations since July 11, 2021 on the Island, such as those recorded in August last year in Nuevitas, which forced the dismissal of the now former Minister of Energy and Mines, Liván Arronte. After apparent tranquility in December, his successor in office, Vicente de la O Levy, warned this week that power outages will return between January and April.

The difference, he explained, is that this time they will be brief and more localized during the maintenance of the electrical system so that they will be prepared for the start of the high consumption season, when temperatures increase on the Island.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

In the Chaos of the Cuban Consumer Registry Offices, ‘The Dead Return to Pick up Their Bread’

The framed photo, dominating the Consumer Registry Office in Calle Juan Alonso, can be seen clearly by the crowd in the street. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 9 January 2023 — The Office for the Registry of Consumers (Oficoda) on Calle Juan Alonso, Luyanó, Havana, was in chaos on Monday morning. Scores of people crowded round the establishment trying to resolve the problems they were having with their ration books.

“This year you must not lose your ration book under any circumstances. If you lose it again it won’t be replaced until next year”, warned an official in a loud voice, without clarifying whether you’d lose your right to buy rationed food if you did lose the book. “So are they going to write it on a piece of cardboard or what?” complained a woman, who reluctantly let pass, in front of her, a mother and her tired little boy who wouldn’t stop crying. It was already eleven in the morning and only three people had been attended to, while it was obvious that there were four other employees inside the office doing nothing.

If that were not enough, the process of getting the new ration book can be delayed by up to 17 days, when you used to be able to get it on the spot.

The lack of paper, which once again has caused the delay in the issuing of the new books, has added to a general disorder so bad that some unbelievable errors are being made. Like the one that has affected Caty, also a resident of Luyanó.

Some months ago she was pressured by the authorities to de-register her mother who had recently passed away, with the threat of a fine if she failed to do so. When she picked up this year’s book she couldn’t believe her eyes: they had once again printed her mother’s name in the book. “They told me I had to go back to Oficoda and correct the mistake, but I’m not going to correct anything. I did what they asked me to do, which was to de-register my mother. If they’ve put her name back on it, that’s their problem”, she told this newspaper. “The way things are going, anything can happen — even the dead come back to pick up their bread”. continue reading

The Juan Alonso Oficoda has been the subject of residents’ complaints for days. “Unbelievably, I’ve been coming to this office over three separate days to verify the information in my ration book, which has been retained by them, so I can’t even get basic supplies”, Zonia Suárez, a customer, complains, clarifying that all her data is in fact correct and that everyone registered in her book is alive and resident in Cuba.

The woman explains that the queues/lines for this process start to form at four in the morning and that they shut the office at midday. The picture she paints is similar to the one that 14ymedio found at Juan Alonso: “There’s a whole lot of errors in hundreds of ration books and the people who are supposed to be sorting this out are elderly and rather slow and there’s only one desk there which blocks the entrance to the building so that everyone has to crowd outside, including pregnant women and older people, so that arguments break out”.

Suárez says she asked them who gives the instruction to hold back basic food supplies from clients when the errors are not their fault but the fault of the authorities — and they replied: “it comes from the top”.

“I imagine it must be from Jupiter or Mercury then”, the woman added, wryly, “because no one who lives in Cuba could give themselves the luxury of doing that unless they had the right conditions to take similar measures with those who have only that book to get sustenance.

On the other hand, even those who don’t have any errors in their books are equally annoyed, owing to the reduction in the rationed products that are on offer. “People are ignorant of the reduction in the number of products that will be sold for cash in Havana shops where people use the ration book that’s given to every family. The price difference is significant, though many goods fall somewhere in the middle”, complains one young man from Central Havana in a store which put the January allocation on sale this Monday and doesn’t even have the new ration books available. “Last month they gave out four packets of picadillo [ground meat] and now they don’t even give out two, and it’s the same with sausages and olive oil. In my mother’s shop they haven’t given out any white sugar, only three pounds of rice per person”.

These are bad times — the worst — for the rationing system that the Island has been suffering under since 1962. Because if this weren’t enough, the new system of “cycles”, established by the authorities in Havana on 1 December, which is dependent on “the availability of produce” in the state run chains Tiendas Caribe and Cimex, has caused a situation in which even the January allocation is not yet available for many families.

“In our store they haven’t been able to even start the distribution of the January allocation because there are still hundreds of families which haven’t bought their December one yet. They can’t start selling the current allocation until the last one has all been bought”, warns a resident from Revolution Square district.

In Luyanó, it wasn’t until yesterday that Caty was able to buy her December supply. “So I’ll get my January one in February”, she says, resignedly. From the crowd in the street one can clearly see the framed photo that dominates the Oficoda in Calle Juan Alonso: Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel, together with the slogan: “We are Cuba, we are continuity”.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso

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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 Balseros Who Arrived in Florida Received a ‘Deportation Order’ That They Can Appeal

Cuban balseros are being released without giving them a chance for a credible-fear interview, said lawyer Willy Allen. (Twitter/@USBPChiefMIP)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 6, 2022 — The Cuban balseros [rafters] who have managed to disembark in Florida, including the more than 300 in Dry Tortugas National Park and who were processed at the Border Patrol station, are receiving “an expeditious deportation order,” the verdict issued by a judge to expel a person but that can be reversed with legal aid, according to immigration lawyer Willy Allen.

The procedure to appeal this order requires the EOIR-26 form of the Immigration Court, and the migrant has a period of 30 days to submit it. It is up to the defense lawyer to present before the Court the legal arguments necessary for the court to reverse the expulsion.

Cuban rafters who set foot on land in the United States and are arrested by immigration authorities “are being released without going through a credible-fear interview,” Allen told Univision.

The attorney reiterated that the rafters who manage to land are being released with “an expeditious deportation order, which limits them to seeking asylum” and consequently, after one year and one day they will not be able to benefit from the Cuban Adjustment Law.

The lawyer’s statements were given on Friday when the Border Patrol arrested 90 balseros who managed to disembark in the Florida Keys. According to the chief officer of the Miami sector, the Cubans made their journey on five rustic boats, and residents of the area reported the arrival.

The official confirmed the reopening to the public of Dry Tortugas National Park, where more than 400 Island nationals disembarked in the last two weeks. The park’s amenities include “night camp” and “ferry and seaplane services.” continue reading

This Friday, 90 Cuban balseros disembarked in the Florida Keys. (Twitter/@USBPChiefMIP)

The lawyer also delved into the new U.S. immigration program that will facilitate the granting of up to 30,000 visas each month to Cuban, Venezuelan, Nicaraguan and Haitian citizens, but which will also deport nationals and others in an illegal situation.

Those who apply for humanitarian parole “must have a sponsor or a family member who legally resides in the United States and must pass a strict background check.” The beneficiaries may legally stay for two years in the U.S. and “apply for a temporary work permit.” It is expected that 360,000 people from those four countries could legally enter the United States within a period of one year.

Attorney Willy Allen told Univision that if the entry of a Cuban is by air under the new program, an inspection at the airport and an official admission to the country is required, which are some of the requirements of the Adjustment Law so that the migrant can then seek residence.

For Allen, the thousands of Cubans who enter in this way in the future, “have a safe path for their residence” in the United States, even if “the parole is only for a year, two years or a day.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

No Dreams, No Entertainment, No Work, This is How the Young Live in Villa Clara, Cuba

They split the cost of a couple of bottles of rum, not too expensive, and look for an empty bench near to the bandstand in the park. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yankiel Gutiérrez Faife, Camajuaní, 8 January 2023 — Nearly all their friends have left, but Javier and Érica, two young people from Santa Clara, are still in Cuba. Leaving will be almost inevitable. With the Island’s economic situation, having children isn’t an option. Besides, at twenty-five years of age, where are they going to find a decent job, a house, or an environment less hostile?

A few weeks ago, after having scraped together enough money, they decided to celebrate the anniversary of their engagement at the Conuco Grill restaurant. The restaurant’s barbecue and its creole atmosphere have become legendary in Santa Clara. Javier and Érica reserved a table and ordered steaks, some salad and rice, and beers. Just as they had begun to eat, there was a power cut.

The owner, in order to ease the frustration of his customers a little bit, put lighted candles on each table. “The service was brilliant, and we were really happy with the food at the restaurant, but the power cut destroyed the magic of the evening”, Javier told this newspaper. “You try not to blame the waiters or the restaurant owner, because it’s not their fault, but the fault of those above“.

Nevertheless, says Javier, the power cut didn’t affect the bill at all: the couple ended up paying 1,360 pesos in total. After the meal Conuco Grill’s owner explained to them that intermittent power cuts are already a common occurrence and their impact on his business has been brutal. He has thought about buying a portable generator but the restaurant doesn’t yet make enough profit to be able to afford such an investment.

More than one year after he started Conuco Grill, his only option for solving the problem is to try and fit in with the timetable of scheduled power cuts that Unión Eléctrica publishes for the province. But, he tells us, even this data isn’t reliable.

Forty kilometres from Santa Clara , in Taguayabón, a group of young people the same age as Javier and Érica are trying to decide which village to go to for the evening. If they do manage to get a bus to Remedios or Caibarién they could grab a snack in its colonial streets or let off steam on the waterfront. However, more probable is that they’ll have to make do with going only as far as Camajuaní, and even then they’ll probably have to walk home. continue reading

Eventually they manage to get a lift from a truck and leave Taguayabón behind – barely illuminated, the village passes the night in a graveyard-like silence, as no one can afford to organise a house party, roast a pig or even share a bottle of rum. As far as the young people are concerned, the usual thing is to meet on a bench on the squalid main street above the bridge, or hang around waiting for someone to put some music on.

The truck drops them on Independence Street, opposite a cinema converted into a warehouse and the town dump. They decide to split the cost of a couple of bottles of rum, not too expensive, and look for an empty bench near to the bandstand in the park. You can hear them singing, between swigs of liquor, until dawn.

Michel, one of the group, arrived at the village’s discoteque on Saturday night and was met with a power cut. “It’s already lasted for two hours”, they told him. Someone suggested they go to the bandstand and said they’d bring a speaker to connect to their phone to entertain themselves for the evening. Michel himself collected 300 pesos from each member of the group and bought a bottle of Havana Club and an energy drink — Tigón — as a mixer.

Between sips from plastic cups, they began to share how angry they felt. One of them said that his grandmother, called Josefa, wanted to celebrate his nineteenth birthday with him when he came home on leave from military service, as he had done that Saturday. She went to buy some whiskey and some beers”, he said, “but the only shops that were open, on the main street, didn’t have any power. She waited a bit, it came back on and she bought the stuff… but when she got home she found there was another power cut”.

Another of the young men, David, told them that his dad had taken his little  brother to the Rainbow park in Santa Clara, and when they arrived there was no electricity. The boy waited for the rides to come back to life, but in vain. “All they could do was walk around”, David complained.

It’s better to go back to Taguayabón before midnight. Otherwise, you have to walk via the road between Camajuaní and Remedios, in complete darkness.

Camajuaní ’s situation – which is replicated in all of Villa Clara’s municipalities – is deplorable. Years ago there were at least six restaurants, a discoteque, several bars and cafeterias, all state owned. These days they’ve become ramshackle buildings, practically abandoned and with little to offer, or they’re on the point of being remodelled to cater for the little tourism there is.

Once they’re refurbished they will be out of reach of the ordinary citizen, let alone the younger people, whose costs are doubled if they want to spend time with their partner and whose parents aren’t able to permit themselves any additional luxuries.

“The worst thing is that we’ve stopped thinking about our dreams, just in order to dedicate ourselves to survival”, Jaime explains — he’s a young waiter from Santa Clara. He feels stuck, bored with everything, ruled by routine and poorly paid, and he feels he’s going nowhere in life. “Nothing in sight, no destination”, he says, ironically.

One frustrating thing, claims Jaime, is that the older folks think that the current generation is “badly adjusted” because they criticise the government but then want to leave the country instead of “resisting” like they’ve been taught to do. It’s quite common to be “tormented” with stories about the Special Period and to hear the old worn-out saying: “What have you got to complain about? – you have it better than we did in those times”.

The lack of decent employment opportunities is obvious. “You can do anything to earn your living”, Jaime accepts, “but that’s not the  same as fighting to achieve your dreams”. Many young people say that not only are they unable to plan to have children, but as things stand, nor do they want to. “If we bring children into the world with all this going on, their lives will certainly be worse than ours”.

What’s the solution?: “Leave Cuba”, Ariel replies without any doubt. He had been decided to leave since he was very young. “I thought the situation would carry on the same and that I would be able to put up with it for a few more years, but I couldn’t”, he tells us. Like thousands of other Cubans he crossed the Darién jungle in Panama towards the United States and today he lives there with his wife and her father. “It seems impossible that anything could get any worse but it still takes us by surprise”, he says in an exchange with his friends who stayed in Villa Clara.

“If you’re against the government it only brings you problems to remain here”, says Jorge, 23, resident of Camajuaní. His parents live in the USA and he remained with his grandmother and his uncle, but they also are now on the point of leaving. “Continuity is now no longer an option for the young”, he says, alluding to the regime’s slogan of keeping firm to their ideological position and of not changing anything.

“Well, I don’t get into politics”, explains David, who started to study medicine a few years ago. “I could lose a career which has cost me a lot of sacrifice. I haven’t gone hungry and gone without only to lose it all in the end”. And he adds, half jokingly: “When I graduate I’m off to Haiti. They live better there than in Cuba”.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso 

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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 U.S. Border Patrol Initiated the Expulsion of Cubans to Mexico

Mexico’s migration authorities take Cubans who have returned by bus to states far from the border. (Captura)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 January 2023 — Beginning Saturday, the Border Patrol began the return of Cubans and Nicaraguans to Mexico. Real America’s Voice journalist, Auden Cabello, shared on Sunday a video of the delivery of migrants to Mexican agents of the National Migration Institute at Internacional Bridge 2, located in Piedras Negras (Coahuila).

The return takes place while a “group of processed migrants look and wait to enter legally under the new probation program,” the reporter said on his social networks. The expulsion of these Cubans occurred under Title 42, a controversial regulation implemented by the previous president, Donald Trump, during the coronavirus pandemic and that allows rapid deportations.

Cabello, who has been in the area for several days, revealed the modus operandi of the US and Mexican authorities for the expulsion of Cubans. He documented through videos the crossings of families on the Rio Grande. According to what he said, after surrendering, the Border Patrol separates them and processes them in less than two hours.

Journalist Auden Cabello took videos of several expulsions, one of them on the Piedras Negras border bridge, between the United States and Mexico. (Capture)

They put them in vans and deliver them to Mexican Migration agents. A woman, who crossed with her sick daughter, told the journalist that the Border Patrol kept their documents and expelled them. The Cuban was put on a bus that took her to the state of Guerrero. The intention “is to keep them away from the border and make it more difficult for them to cross, because they know that expulsion is not deportation.” continue reading

This newspaper asked Migration of Piedras Negras for a comment on the expulsions and the destinations where Cubans are taken, but they refused to provide the information.

On Monday, the Government of Mexico supported the Biden Administration’s program in which in exchange for 30,000 ’paroles’ [that is permitting 30,000 to enter] per month, the US will deport Cubans and others who arrive in an irregular manner. “It’s a little light at the end of the tunnel; it’s already an option; it’s already an alternative because they have decided to grant visas or permits,” said Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Mexico agreed to receive irregular migrants who are expelled from the neighboring country while the United States explores mechanisms to increase investments in Central America and tackle the root causes of forced migration, a source told the EFE agency.

At the same conference offered by the Government of Mexico, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, confirmed with a graph that during 2022, Cubans were the most common among the migrants who entered through the southern border of the United States. According to Border Patrol data, 294,816 Island nationals, 209,832 Nicaraguans, 157,855 Venezuelans, 154,919 Colombians, 59,937 Haitians, 53,175 Ecuadorians and 831,455 of other nationalities were arrested, a total of 1,761,989 people.

Graph by the Government of Mexico showing the crossing of migrants to the United States in 2022. (Captura)

The Mexican chancellor mentioned that Biden’s proposal consists of “investment in the countries of Central America and other countries, because people are migrating due to poverty, essentially,” and that an attempt should be made to  “regulate” migration through offering the possibility of “going to the United States to work,” which he called “work mobility.”

According to Ebrard, “for the first time the US has begun to talk about official documents,” which will allow people from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti to carry out an online procedure instead of going on a journey where coyotes “deal with them in an inhuman way and put them at risk.”

This Tuesday, Mexico will host the Summit of North American Leaders, known as the Three Friends, with the participation of the presidents of Mexico, the United States and Canada.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The Key to a Temporary Permit for Migrants from Cuba

Agents of the Customs and Border Protection Office (CBP) at an entrance port will inspect and consider each case on a discretionary basis. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, January 7, 2023 — On Friday, the United States began to accept applications for migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti, who will be able to benefit from a humanitarian program, which has already helped Venezuelans and Ukrainians, allowing them to enter the country with a two-year stay permit.

The United States will accept 30,000 migrants a month from these three countries who meet the following requirements. All applicants must have a sponsor in the United States who commits to providing financial support during their two-year stay.

Sponsors can be U.S. citizens, permanent residents, immigrants with Temporary Protection Status (TPS) or asylees, who demonstrate that they can receive, maintain and support the beneficiary during their stay in the country under the program.

The sponsor must ensure that the beneficiary has safe and adequate housing. He or she will also have to help the beneficiary complete the necessary documentation, such as employment authorization, a Social Security card and the services for which he may be eligible.

In addition, the sponsor must ensure that the beneficiary has medical care for the two years and help him get a job and access education, such as learning English. Minors accepted under this program must go to school. continue reading

A sponsor can support more than one beneficiary; for example, different members of a family group, but must submit a separate application for each beneficiary, even if they are minor children of the main beneficiary.

Several sponsors can join to support an applicant, although they must explain to the Government why they want to share responsibility. The ability of these supporters to support a beneficiary will be evaluated collectively, the Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) advises.

The Government has recommended that applicants go to organizations such as Welcome.us and Community Sponsorship Hub to obtain guidance on the process. All applicants must have a valid passport. They must also pass rigorous biometric and biographical examinations for national security and public safety.

The request can be made from the country of origin or from Mexico. It is not necessary for the applicant to be at the border.

The U.S. Government enabled the ’CBP One’ mobile application so that after the USCIS confirms a beneficiary’s information and eligibility, they can access the service to complete the procedure.

Through CBP One, the applicant will receive authorization to travel, which will be valid for 90 days. The USCIS said this Friday that the approval of travel authorization does not guarantee entry into the United States.

Agents of the Customs and Border Protection Office (CBP) at an entrance port will inspect and consider each case on a discretionary basis.

Venezuelans, Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguans, who enter the United States, Mexico or Panama without authorization from January 5, 2023, will not be eligible for this process, including unaccompanied minors from the four countries.

The USCIS issued that warning and alerted applicants not to submit contrary information because they can become victims of coyote scams that make false promises. The United States will deport those who do not comply with the process, using Title 42, which allows them to be expelled quickly at the border for health reasons.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The Cuban Migration Problem Is Not Regulations, It is and Will be Economic

Risking their lives in hopes of better ones.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, January 8, 2023 — The director of consular affairs and of Cubans living abroad, Ernesto Soberón, tells the state press that “a more normal migratory relationship would contribute to reducing the migratory potential.”

That this is the position of the Cuban communist leaders regarding the new immigration measures of the United States confirms two things. Either they are blinded by ideology and don’t understand the reality that surrounds them or they actually have a distorted vision of the facts and try to get away with it, staying in power, gaining time. Both may be possible. This post will reflect on the issue.

Ideology can blind the analysis of reality. This is a more than obvious fact when there is no real and coherent explanation of why Cuba in 2023 has almost 3 million nationals and descendants residing outside national borders, occupying the first place worldwide in terms of percentage of citizens born in Cuba who live abroad.

This is a reality that the communist regime avoids addressing, one that began from the early days of the so-called revolution. The departure of Cubans abroad in search of freedom and better living conditions has been a historical constant not without difficulties since for years the Cuban border authorities prevented any exit of the balseros (rafters), and leaving the country was not easy with all the prohibitions. We had to wait for Raúl Castro to relax the rules. continue reading

In these 64 years of communist regime, Cuba has barely received emigrants from abroad, unlike the situation before 1959. The ideology of the regime has not given explanations for either process, that of departure, or that of arrival. Not even Haitians stranded on the eastern beaches of the Island want to stay in the workers’ paradise. Cuba doesn’t interest anyone. I stress, the ideology of the regime has never addressed these issues.

Ernesto Soberón has before his eyes one of the largest diasporas in the world, both quantitative and qualitative, and his position is that of a blind person. He questions the new immigration measures of the Biden administration to develop regulatory avenues for an orderly migration, and, instead of assuming that something has to be done, he shields himself in attacking the United States government, because, in his opinion, these new measures will bring new consequences for those who don’t abide by them.

What leads Soberón to say this kind of thing? Well, it’s very simple. His ideological blindness prevents him from stating that the problem of the departure of Cubans abroad exists in the essence of the communist regime itself and the negative influence it exerts on the freedoms and economic aspirations of a large part of Cuban society.

It’s not a matter of changing immigration regulations but of understanding that if Cubans have been leaving Cuba for 64 years it’s because there is a regime on the Island that forces them to flee. And it should not be forgotten that when a Haitian, a Nicaraguan or a Honduran goes to another country to work and live, they can return to theirs when they want, and, in fact, many do after living abroad.

On the other hand, many Cubans from the diaspora could not return and died in exile, and others don’t return to Cuba because they don’t want to live in a destroyed country, or they are “regulated” and prevented from returning. The regime has also exercised repression against Cubans who decided to leave the country. Cuban intelligence abroad, one of the largest in the world, has been fully provided with economic resources whose expense has never been spared.

And if there is ideological blindness in the regime about explaining the diaspora, which is an international shame for the Cuban communist state worldwide, when it comes to distorting reality the regime has gained experience, and, at the present time, gaining time has become an absolute priority.

The decisions of the Biden administration come at the right time, because from now on, Cubans and nationals of other Latin American countries, who irregularly cross the border with Panama, Mexico or the United States, will not be able to benefit from the parole process and will be expelled to Mexican territory.

This decision aims to put order in irregular emigration and was consented to by several governments of Central America. It is an escape valve for Cubans who want to leave the country, but it has allowed Soberón to use the regime’s best weapon: propaganda.

Therefore, measures that regulate emigration for Soberón should be “a more rational policy on the part of the United States and the comprehensive compliance with the migratory agreements signed that demonstrated, in 2017, that it is possible to drastically reduce the irregular, disorderly and unsafe emigration of Cuban citizens to American territory.”

What does Soberón call a more normal migratory relationship? The avenues that were opened for Cuba in Obama’s time, such as temporary visits between the two countries, which, in his opinion, could “decrease the migratory potential and attempts to enter the United States by means and with irregular practices, favoring communication between Cuban families.” Cubans who leave Cuba don’t want temporary solutions; they flee the prison island leaving everything behind.

And not happy with this relief, Soberón declares that “the Cuban authorities have warned the United States government for years about the risks of encouraging irregular emigration, with the validity of the Cuban Adjustment Law and the privileged and politically motivated treatment that Cubans who arrive on U.S. territory or its border receive.” How old is Soberón? What alerts is he talking about when just 25 or 30 years ago the communist border guards were shooting at compatriots trying to flee the regime?

Soberón also describes as negative for migration “the unjustified non-compliance since 2017 of the commitment to grant a minimum of 20,000 visas per year and the also unjustified closure of visa processing at the United States Embassy in Cuba,” but he does not say why those services were suspended (sonic attacks on embassy employees) or that the process has now returned to normal.

The truth is that Cuba maintains migratory relations with numerous countries, such as Spain, but Cubans in mass prefer to settle in the United States. This is another message that Soberón doesn’t explain but that should be very clear because it’s the one that is the most resounding about the failure of the political regime in Havana. And from there he blames the massive departure of Cubans at the present time for the strengthening of the economic blockade and the deterioration of economic conditions, which is the responsibility only of the regime. It doesn’t matter; for 64 years there have always been Cubans wanting to escape the regime.

Soberón reaffirms that “Cuba’s migration policy facilitates the travel of its nationals abroad and their return to Cuba, in a regular, orderly and safe manner. The sustained increase in travel, in one way or another, before and after the pandemic, confirms it.”

Stay with this phrase, “regular, orderly and safe migration between Cuba and the United States” because there will be a lot of talk about it in the coming months. Havana has discovered that, in addition to the embargo, it can attack the northern neighbor on this issue. It has already started.

In reality, when almost 300,000 Cubans get rid of everything they have, say goodbye to their families forever and throw themselves into the sea on rafts or into the adventure of the Central American jungle to reach the United States, there is something that does not work in Cuba.

This is a phenomenon that is not a matter of migration rules or bilateral agreements with the United States, whether or not they can be complied with. Rather, there are very profound reasons why people react this way.  In their country there is no future; there is nothing they can do; the state has failed, and so they throw themselves abroad in search of freedom. Soberón should rectify this situation.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuba Will Suffer Blackouts in 7 Percent of its Territory

The Cuban authorities attribute the energy crisis in the country to breaks and failures in thermoelectric plants, fuel shortages and scheduled maintenance. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, January 6, 2022 — The company Unión Eléctrica de Cuba (UNE) predicted for this Friday that the blackouts will simultaneously affect up to 6.9% of the territory during the busiest time. This is the second consecutive day this week with an estimate of blackouts due to deficit in electricity generation after almost three weeks without cuts, according to the company’s data.

The Island ended last year — and began this one — without “scheduled” cuts in the electricity supply, unlike most of 2022, when blackouts exceeded ten hours a day.

But the Minister of Energy and Mines, Vicente de la O Levy, recently told national television that they foresee interruptions between January and April. The minister clarified that they will be “shorter” and will respond to maintenance in thermoelectric power plants for the summer months, when demand increases.

It is the end of the cycle opened by Miguel Díaz-Canel in May 2021, when he promised the cessation of blackouts on a date that he postponed again and again until December.

The days without blackouts on the Island coincided with the drop in temperatures and energy consumption (households stopped using air conditioners and fans). O Levy himself admitted it on National Television. continue reading

With the cold fronts, the demand for energy to power the equipment decreased. On Tuesday, O Levy explained the maintenance program, which will be more intense in February because “it is one of the coldest and most opportune months,” but then added: “Although the results aren’t because of the weather, they’re because of the work of the electricians.”

The Cuban authorities attribute the energy crisis in the country to the breaks and failures of the — obsolete and lacking investment — thermoelectric plants, fuel shortages and scheduled maintenance.

Most of Cuba’s eight land power plants have operated for more than 40 years, when the average age for these plants is 30 years. Power cuts have affected economic activity and the lives of Cubans during 2022, which generated social discontent and protests.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Florida Activates the National Guard to Confront the Wave of Cuban Balseros

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 7 January 2023 — The governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, signed an executive order on Friday that allows him to mobilize National Guard troops and allocate new state resources to face the migratory wave of Cubans and Haitians that affects the southern part of the state, as well as “to help relieve the pressure on local resources.”

The executive order will allow the state to “deploy aerial assets, including planes and helicopters of the Florida National Guard,” says a statement from the governor’s office.

The measure aims to “strengthen the marine patrol of the Florida Wildlife Conservation and Fisheries Commission (FWC) to support interceptions” at sea and “ensure the safety of migrants trying to reach Florida.”

DeSantis, a Republican, argues in his executive order that, in the first two months of the current fiscal year alone (beginning October 1), the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has arrested more than 460,000 people trying to enter the country through the southwestern border.

The governor’s order was given one day after the United States announced a new immigration plan for undocumented immigrants arriving in the country by land.

President Joe Biden said on Thursday that Mexico has agreed to admit 30,000 immigrants a month from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti after they are expelled from U.S. territory for irregularly crossing the border. continue reading

“My message is this: If you are trying to leave Cuba, Nicaragua or Haiti, do not show up at the border. Stay where you are and make the request legally,” Biden said.

However, the announcement does not detail the situation of Cubans and Haitians who arrive by sea in precarious boats and who, according to Florida Senator Marco Rubio, have overwhelmed the state’s resources.

In a letter, Rubio requested support from the federal government on Thursday in the face of the massive arrival of immigrants in south Florida, especially along the coasts of the keys of this state, which in the last three days has surpassed 1,000 people.

About a hundred Cuban migrants arrived at the Florida keys in just 24 hours in makeshift boats, thereby increasing the number of undocumented immigrants on this territory, the CBP reported on Friday.

There are 606 more who have been intercepted at sea by the immigration authorities, according to figures released by the Southeast National Security Task Force (HSTF-SE).

Also, the arrival of 364 immigrants last weekend at Dry Tortugas National Park forced its temporary closure in the middle of the holiday season in order to facilitate the work of rescuing the people stranded on the islets.

The immigrants, mostly Cubans and Haitians, arrived on multiple and precarious boats on several islands in the Florida Keys archipelago, in Monroe County, the extreme south of the United States.

Walter N. Slosar, head of the Miami Sector of CBP, said in a recent statement that since October 1, 2022, the sector has experienced an increase of 400% in people arriving by sea, who are arrested upon disembarking.

So far in fiscal year 2023, since last October 1, the Coast Guard has intercepted 3,839 Cubans at sea, a significant escalation of arrests compared to the 838 intercepted in fiscal year 2021, and 6,182 in 2022.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

State Security Fines and Blackmails Users of Social Media in Cuba

Decree 370, known as the “whip law,” monitors Cubans’ social media content. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 7 January 2023 — Yanara called her best friend and said to her in code: “My son’s unwell, could you bring me a thermometer?” This was just a strategy to get her old university friend to visit her so she could then tell her what was really on her mind. Two days earlier she had been called to a police station in El Vedado, Havana.

“At first, when they summoned me, I thought it had something to do with my business, because I’m self-employed and I sell various things from a street stall”, she told her friend. “But when they took me to a small room I realized it had something to do with State Security. There were three plain-clothes officers, all very young”.

Between those four walls, Yanara found out that that the secret police had been monitoring her Facebook account. “They had pages and pages of everything that I had shared or written on my time-line, at least over the last year”, she said. “They began by asking me why I was using this way of criticising the government when there were already existing mechanisms like the People’s Power and accountability meetings”.

After an hour of recriminations and threats over her postings, Yanara left the station with a fine of 3,000 pesos, which she says she’s going to pay. “I think it’s unjust but I’m really scared because I have a little boy, a business to run and a mother who has no one to look after her but me”, she told her friend.

The police justified the fine citing the law passed in July 2019 “concerning digitisation of Cuban society”, the Decree 370, known as the “whip law” — a ruling which claims to “elevate technological sovereignty for the benefit of society, the economy, security and national defence” and to “counter cyber-aggression”. continue reading

Amongst Yanara’s presumed ’crimes’ were those of “distributing, via public data networks, information contrary to social interests, morals, good behaviour and personal integrity”, which has been compared, as applied to the virtual world, with the crime of “pre-criminal dangerousness”, a legal term which has been used widely against opponents and dissidents.

The content of her posts, which cost her an interrogation and a fine of 3,000 pesos, included memes, some of which ridiculed Miguel Díaz-Canel, comments about the long queues/lines for food and criticism of the deterioration of Havana. “Nothing that you wouldn’t hear said on the street, but they said this type of thing shouldn’t be published on the internet”.

This Habanera, born in the middle of the eighties, likes to keep everything she does under the strictest secrecy. “If this happened to me, who only posts memes and other friendly stuff every now and then, then I imagine there must be lots of other people who’ve also had to pay this fine for saying next to nothing at all”. In the same police station where she was questioned “at least three other youths  were waiting with a similar summons”.

There have been plenty of reports circulating since the start of Decree 370, about the imposition of fines for posting certain types of content on social media, but the majority of those reporting these reprisals have been activists, government opponents or independent journalists. It’s indeterminate the number of other people who have been punished in this way but prefer to keep silent.

“I set my Facebook to private and deleted some posts”, says Yanara. “I don’t want any problems and they made it clear that they were going to carry on monitoring everything I write, who I give ’likes’ to, or what I share on my time-line. It shouldn’t be like this on social media, it’s like walking down the street and having a police patrol following you”.

Cristian, a young man from Camagüey who is preparing for university entrance this year, went further. “I deleted my Twitter and Facebook accounts after I got a verbal summons, supposedly from the director of my pre-university course, but when I arrived at his office there were two State Security officers waiting for me.

The adolescent was questioned about the show of support he’d given on the internet for the 11 July 2021 demonstrators and for “sharing mercenary content”. The secret police threatened him with the whip law and warned him that university entrance was an honour that was only granted to revolutionaries! His Facebook account lasted until that day. Only his family knew about that encounter.

I don’t know whether any of my fellow students have had the same experience, and now when I’m walking down the street I ask myself if other people have also gone through anything similar and said nothing”, Cristian wonders. “I’ve seen friends suddenly disappear off social media and I thought that maybe they were wrapped up in some project or other but after that interrogation I’ve come to believe that they also must have got a summons for what they were posting”.

Decree 370 isn’t the only law to try and put the brakes on citizens’ criticisms on the internet. In August 2021 Decree 35 came into force which penalised anyone who gave voice to ’fake news’ in Cuba, or promoted it, or published offensive or defamatory messages that prejudiced the “prestige of the country”, or “social and ethical damage, or incidents of aggression”.

The law includes a long list of cybersecurity areas, from digital attacks or physical damage to telecommunications systems up to access to, and dissemination of child pornography content, all of which only merit a level of danger which is ’medium or high’. On the other hand, the category “social subversion”, described as actions which attempt to affect public order, is considered ’very high’ risk.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso

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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.