The Lifting of the Cuban Embargo: A Necessary Commentary / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 9 August 2021 — Sandalio, in your diatribe against the embargo, there are a couple of points which aren’t logical – nor ethical either, but let’s stay with logical – because they have been  definitively refuted by events.

The embargo is not all that inviolable when the Cuban government has never stopped trading or receiving tourists from more than half the world, including all of Europe, Russia, China, most of America and a very long etc.  But where you keep getting it wrong – and where your error is the most inexcusable and fundamental – is when you say again and again that “to go against the Cuban people is a terrible thing”, when you refer to the patriots who are opposed to the lifting of the sanctions against Castroism.

Sandalio, you need to get the message: Castroism and the Cuban people will never be the same thing. Please don’t mix up completely opposed concepts; forget your idea that those of us who oppose the indulgences of the the dictatorship, do it because we don’t love our people and we wish them ill, when it is totally the opposite. That is a typical Castroist argument, Sandalio. Don’t make me suspicious!

These patriots, among whom I am proud to be included, support the embargo and whatever sanctions are applied against the dictatorship which is oppressing us, because of their clear conviction that any resource which might enter Cuba resulting from international concessions will never be applied, NEVER! for the good of my people. continue reading

Instead of that, they will inevitably be controlled by the stupid Castroist oligarchy which, you mention, squandered, robbed and diverted to fatten up their secret accounts in tax havens, and ultimately, only used to strengthen even further its lethal repressive apparatus.

That is written in the Bible, Sandalio, and to close your eyes to something so logical and predictable makes one doubt a person’s intelligence and good faith, and makes me suspect their complicity with the regime, above all after the ample historic evidence displayed last July 11th (a day of mass protests in Cuba).

What more do people like you need, Sandalio,  than a July 11th, to make you understand that the hatred and grudge are not fed by my people but by those who beat them during those historic days??!! How many more people detained or dead do you need before you understand that there is an irreconcilable conflict between Castroism and my people, and that it is not the fault of the Cubans, whether inside or outside Cuba? When will you understand that Castroism always passed, passes, and will pass through the triumphal arch,  however many bridges of love are laid out to it because it is not interested in any authentic dialogue, which it will always be opposed to, by nature and essence.

Who were the miserable people, Sandalio, who hit and subjected to summary justice hundreds of semi-adolescents just for protesting, not giving a shit about their own current constitution, ratifying it as a dead letter.  None of this has anything at all to do with the embargo, and it would continue to happen, and worse things too, if this very day all the sanctions were cancelled and the regime felt more secure and legitimate because of it. To doubt that offends the intelligence and sensitivity of millions of Cubans, Sandalio!

Nothing suggests that changing this strategy, maintained “without obtaining any results in decades”, will stop the dictatorship easily adapting to new circumstances and, in the face of every new proposal, bringing up new excuses and never granting us the rights we claim, above all because experience predicts the exact opposite: if it accepts new sources of finance from unwary creditors, Castroism will reposition itself and there will be nothing for Cuba but more repression every day, more poverty and less liberty.

It is not “the Americans”, nor any exiles, Sandalio, who stoke resentments and keep the majority of the diaspora totally angered with the Cuban government. No!! Those doing that are precisely the same Castroists for whom you are pleading forgiveness every time they mistreat, neglect and defraud us in every consulate; when they blatantly help themselves to part of every remittance; when they prevent us from freely entering and leaving our own country because of political bias, in fact, for the thousands of accumulated reasons counted up by this people during over six decades of absolutism, peasant! It is Castroism, and nothing else, that ruins our lives, and keeps our families as hostages in Cuba, Sandalio!

How dare you try to pass that most serious responsibility to people other than those who hold us up at the Cuban customs?  Just to insinuate such an idea is an aberration and frankly immoral, when you, like millions of Cubans, know that the only people guilty of this abomination are in Havana, not in Washington! It will be impossible to achieve this “brilliant future vision” that you invent in your mental masturbation, Sandalio, while every peaceful proposal from the Cuban civic opposition is received by the Communist Party/State Security duo as a provocation and ends up coming to blows.

Please don’t bang on any more about the idea that supporting the well-deserved sanctions against those who tyrranise us, they tease and shit in all this “good tone and optimism”, which outdated people like you hallucinate in your alienation is an act of treason, when the real traitors are in the Plaza de la Robolución (**play on words between Plaza de la Revolucion, a large square in Havana, where the seat of government is, and “robo”, meaning theft) waiting for people like you to do their dirty work.

Please, have some self-respect, Sandalio, it’s always a good idea to preserve a little dignity if you don’t want to remain a traitor to yourself … no matter how angry you paint yourself!

Translated by GH

Are There Any Apolitical Cubans? / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Yordenis Ugás, Cuban professional boxer.

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 20 August 2021 — I have always thought it is a lie that there are apolitical Cubans. When I hear a fellow countryman say, whether on the island, or in exile, that that politics are not their thing, and that when they send money back home and guarantee food on their family’s table in Cuba, they take for granted the universal order, I can’t avoid feeling I want to throw up. I always try to hide my feelings if I hear someone like that and try to avoid the topic in internet forums, because, if  I am confronted with it, any words I come up with end up being borderline offensive.

Life has taught me not to be too ready to judge; up to now my experiences have persuaded me in a thousand ways — sometimes quite bloody ways — that, at the end of the day, every person has his reasons for behaving in one way or another, but, above all, I have have come to the wise conclusion that I am not God to judge anybody; but even so, I can’t control the nausea. Really, I do not believe that within such a polarised reality such as in Cuba, living under the most despotic absolutism, that you can vegetate so that it doesn’t matter to you that four senile old men and their group of satraps decide everything in your life.

I could believe that a Swedish or Dutch person, or someone in Switzerland can take no interest in politics, but if you are a Cuban and some handpicked government moronic idiots decide what you can or cannot eat — and as a result what you can shit — and whether today you will or won’t have any soap to clean the one thing, or toilet paper to clean the other, if you can or cannot sell avocados from your garden or bring four fish back to your house, what music may or may not be broadcast by your radio station, what book you may read, what opinions you may or may not express in your Facebook wall and whether or not you are permitted to enter or leave your own country; that is, when you live in in a country where absolutely everything that happens in your life is decided by four thieves who matter nothing to you, I seriously cannot understand how something like that cannot matter to you.

It would be more elegant if you silent Cubans would just recognise that you are afraid. There is nothing bad in being afraid: it’s the most basic and necessary emotion; with good reason the first one we learn in life, and although I will always excuse fear, I will never understand cowardice, because the first continue reading

is an understandable vital reflex, but on the other hand the second needs to be assumed and understood as a philosophy of life which can end up destroying human dignity.

But it is completely shameful to recognise yourself as a coward! It follows that a Cuban who calls himself apolitical is in reality paying his tribute of fear to the dictator, while he shelters in his blanket of egotism, hiding from human misery within his comfort zone; converted into a non-person, giving up his self-respect and, with no dignity to defend, reduces the world to a plate of lentils, as if all that was needed to make life worthwhile was just to eat and to shit. In essence, there is no difference between such a vegetative existence and the scarcely organic routine of a pig or an insect.

I don’t know how they manage that, but there are plenty of them who do not even trouble themselves over the hundreds of young people who, since July 11th, are stuck, with cowardly convictions, in Cuban jails  — after all, when all’s said and done, they aren’t your family! — and don’t care either about the imposition of a diktat like Decree 35, [a decree penalising “ethical and social harm, or incidents of aggression” in social networks], among other gems of dim-witted Castroism. No, I simply don’t believe it is possible to be so insensitive, everything in me refuses to accept that it is enough just to down a Coca Cola of oblivion in order to live like that; it would be like listening to an Afghan woman who was unaware of the return of the Taliban, and that the reimposition of fundamentalism was just like water off a duck’s back. No! That is not ethically or practically possible!

That’s why I bite my tongue in the face of these unfeeling nonentities, but on the other hand my soul revives when I hear young people like Yordenis Ugás [Cuban professional boxer]  — a completely accomplished Cuban, an acclaimed sportsman, who entered world professional boxing history independently of the result of his next match with the star Pacquiao [Filipino  professional boxer] — who does not forget his valiant people and who, at the peak of his career, devotes the fight of his life to the humble Cuban people fighting for their liberty. The outcome of his match this Saturday in Las Vegas hardly matters: Cuba has already chosen its champion and awarded the prize to his proud son — the belt of dignity! [Ugás won.]

Examples like this move me, I recover my faith in the human race and can only feel full of pride. It’s impossible to avoid the contrast with the clown Cesar La Cruz [Cuban amateur boxer], set up as the Castroism front-man during his final in Tokyo: a miserable tambourine who betrayed his people when he attempted to legitimise some assassins who only a few days before had massacred their own people, to the same opportunists who one day not far from now will be thrown away like kitchen rags when they are no longer useful, as happened before with hundreds of our champions who now are dying of hunger in Cuba, abandoned in their faded glory.

There are definitely no apolitical Cubans: there are only decent Cubans, ready to place their grain of sand and pay the fair price for it, just as there are cowards who prefer to keep quiet because they are afraid, and  make out they don’t see the bottomless abyss into which the land where they were born is sinking. That’s all; there are no other pages to turn here. To the Cuban who reads this, you have to choose in  which of these two groups you will live your life; in a barbarism like Castroism, there are no other options. If you are offended by what I am saying, I don’t care any more — those are the bad habits that come with age, or perhaps the hangover from July 11th, I don’t know; but, do you know what? … it doesn’t bother me too much either way!

Translated by GH

Cuban Government Laments its Failure to Attract Foreign Investment

Hotel built by Gaesa on the corner of 3rd Ave and 70th Street, in Playa, Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 21 December, 2021 — Troubled by covid-19, the last two years were catastrophic for foreign investment, according to the Minister of Trade, Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, who admitted that during that time they had approved only 47 business proposals, of which barely 25 had been set up.

There were no surprises in his appearance this Monday before the deputies, since he had nothing much else to say besides what he told the Council of Ministers last month, when he said: “The level of external investment is a lot less than what the country needs”. This Monday he repeated his recognition that “in spite of the actions we took, we haven’t achieved what we wanted,” and he presented the supporting statistics.

In the seven years since the External Investment Law was passed, 285 businesses were authorised, of which 29 were reinvestments. Out of a total of 302 companies, with external capital, 104 are mixed, 54 purely external, and 144 contracts with international economic associations, related to tourism, food, energy and light industry sectors.

Malmierca didn’t hesitate to drag out the old excuse of the blockade (i.e. the US embargo) to justify the situation, although he also used the new one of the pandemic. Nevertheless, he also owned up to his own mistakes – something quite unusual for our national authorities. He admitted that there had been errors in the conceptualising of the projects, little opportunity preparation, and little planned and effective promotion. Up to here, self criticism.

Among the external factors complicating outside investment, in the minister’s view, is the categorisation of Cuba as a high-risk country. Malmierca blamed this situation on bad relations with the US, as well as the island’s high debt-level , but he missed out the bit about the government’s responsibility. Fidel Castro led various moves which have left Cuba outside of the markets. In 1964 he ordered the exit from the International Monetary Fund, and, in 1987, carried the banner for Third World countries reneging on their external debts. continue reading

The minister also referred to the peculiarities of the Cuban economy which make the country less attractive, including “convertibility problems” with the currency, the uncompetitive prices of goods and services, the scarce construction capacity, the absence of an internal finance market, and poor connectivity hampering  automation development.

Also, Malmierca drew attention to other issues which are important for Cuba, and which conflict with the interests of potential investors, including the obligation to contract personnel through state agencies(versus hiring them directly), the impossibility of transferring property ownership, problems of financial guarantees, difficulties facing foreign employees in acquiring property, restrictions on participation in the retail market, as well as business validity terms, and limitations on participation in activities capable of generating foreign currency income. In summary, the Cuban business environment is at odds with the international one.

In referring to the errors attributable to Cuba, the minister mentioned various causes derived from lack of preparation, drawn-out negotiations, bureaucracy and documentation errors, among others.

In any case, the authorities continue to have confidence in their own appeal, including new initiatives (banking-finance, hydraulic and sanitary networks, telecommunications, culture, audio-visual and insurance), and the elimination of restrictions on tourism, biotechnology and wholesale commerce, as well as those which existed on opening an external bank account or on permission to invest in agricultural cooperatives.

The minister referred to some other changes, such as the eliminatinon of dual currency and process simplifications, as more than sufficient ot attract outside capital to Cuba, in blissful unawareness, apparently, of the list of reasons he had delivered a few minutes before for companies not wanting to have anything to do with putting their money in the one-stop-shop island.

Malmierca confirmed this when he said that there are “political questions which call for the adoption of consistent decisions”, a thought completely invalidated by him saying in the same address: “The attraction of investment cannot be achieved at the expense of sovereignty or the  abandonment of the essence of the socialist model.”

The minister also explained that the Committee for Management and Approval  of Programmes and Projects for Cooperation Received by Cuba, created in May, has approved 50 projects for a value of 137.7 million dollars, in the agriculture, hydraulic, health, energy and environment sectors.

He added that Cuba “offers its cooperation” in 74 countries, where it has sent 29,954 team members, while 8,599 overseas students are learning in the island. Mind you, he did not detail what income was generated by these programmes, and how most of it went to the moneyboxes of the government, which manages their salaries, and that those working overseas get paid only a tiny part of what is paid to the government for their services. In the case of the sanitation workers, the percentage they receive is scarcely a miserly 10%.

Translated by GH

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Organoponics and Food Self-sufficiency in Cuba

Urban agriculture in Havana (flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, 10 December 2021 — The insistence of the communist Cuban regime in promoting urban, suburban and family agriculture as a way of achieving food sovereignty is now past a joke. Because it is one thing to amuse yourself in communist conclaves with these types of proposals which take you nowhere. There are darker motives, of that there is no doubt. But something else entirely is their idea of growing pumpkins or taros in parks or gardens, in flower pots, or raising pigs in your back yard; that is a solution to absolutely nothing.

In every country in the world, for considerations of hygiene, coexistence with other people, and social organisation, this kind of practice has been forbidden since the middle of the last century. That this is what they want to do in Cuba, to put something on the table for lunch, or one meal a day, gives you an idea of how little the communist leaders understand, and how little they know about agriculture and stock breeding. To set out on a headlong flight  on a matter this important is totally irresponsible.

In this blog, we have several times discussed the proposals which this “national group of urban, suburban and family agriculture” has come up with. The group is the organisation set up by Raúl Castro himself to advance these activities, and which, according to the state newspaper Granma, has just carried out its umpteenth tour, apparently number 90, and, also “through all parts of the country,” in order to “assess the production of vegetables using organoponic technology,” in parks, gardens, yards and flowerpots. No more, no less.

It isn’t surprising that there  is a shortage of food in Cuba when a government bets on this kind of production model instead of focussing on more important things. We get the impression we are clearly seeing the death throes of the communist social model when they do this sort of thing. And never more clearly than in products so specific and in so much demand from the Cuban people as vegetable production using organoponic technology. Its like a nightmare, and one of the worst.

Why do we say that urban, suburban and family agriculture  can’t solve the food problem in Cuba? continue reading

First of all , because it is a short run production model producing small quantities, just enough for a family’s own consumption, or at most for the people in a couple of streets, and on this basis, unable to resolve a problem which affects most of the society.

The Cuban agricultural sector, instead of producing in smaller spaces, needs to achieve increasing output to scale where it gets to the minimum point on the unit cost curve, with efficient technology, or, to put it into simple terms, growing things on land areas sufficient for what it wants to harvest. Vegetables, for example, require parcels of land of a certain size in order to grow things at the best prices.

Communist ideology’s rejection of wealth is a political obstacle to land distribution which, in other countries, like Vietnam, has been the solution to agricultural shortages.

Secondly, in contrast to what the communist leaders say, this programme is unsustainable, and, on the contrary, is high-risk. We have referred to sanitary conditions, but we have to pay attention to the processes and techniques used in production. To revert to obsolete and unproductive methods is hardly sustainable, calling for higher input than in efficient land plot sizes.

To bring agricultural activity near to urban areas where people are pursuing their lives, entails social risks. For example, crop irrigation; where does the water come from? Perhaps from everyone’s drinking water supply? This is unsustainable, and wasteful, which will end badly. Also one could mention use of fertilisers and plant protection products, which can be applied to organoponics in urban gardens, next to roses or daisies. All very pretty, but dangerous.

Thirdly, and most importantly, no-one can expect any kind of food self-sufficiency, despite Granma saying that they “have stabilised production.” If we want to talk about statistics, the ONEI (National Statistics & Information Office)  confirms that during 2021 (January to September period) vegetable production, including all varieties, has experienced a reduction of 214 thousand tons compared with the same period the previous year, that is 8.5% less, so that Cubans had less supply than in 2020, which was already a bad year. Less to choose from all the time.

Granma itself acknowledges, citing an expert in this programme attempting to cultivate taros in public gardens, that the levels of production achieved “are insufficient in most of the subprogrammes.” And, it has to be said, they will continue to be.

This “national group of urban, suburban, and family agriculture” can continue visiting every area in Cuba, and coming up with slogans in all of them, in order to carry on with its tours the following year. At the end of the day, going around like that at least does not get in the way of the work of the farmworkers working their furrows,  who are the ones who are really committed to food self-sufficiency in the country, but who are impeded by the government with all sorts of obstacles and intrusions.

Without any doubt, this model of garden agriculture will not increase agricultural productivity, nor assist food self-sufficiency, and certainly not local resilience and sustainability. It is a foolish dream from the past, like when Fidel Castro  in the middle of the “Special Period,” gave Cuban families chickens from the state farms to raise in their own homes, just to entertain people who had nothing to do, but will never produce more food nor sort out any kind of self-sufficiency.

The Cuban communist regime needs to understand that if it wants to provide a food supply to the people in this country, it needs to start by forgetting about 30 pounds per capita of agricultural products in their projects, or about worn-out experiments like organoponics, and let Cuban farmers decide what to produce, how much to produce, at what prices, and, above all, free to do it where they think convenient, and employing the area of land they wish, not what has been leased out by the local communists, Organoponics won’t appear anywhere. And won’t destroy the few gardens surviving in parks, accentuate the general destruction of the urban landscapes, or produce infections of back yards, and flower pots, with weeds, insects, and also cause sanitary and social problems.

Translated by GH

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

In Cuba the Price of Ice Cream Goes Through the Roof

The Monte Freddo ice cream parlor in San Rafael Street, Havana.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, October 6th, 2021 — The Monte Freddo ice cream parlor this week shows a new price on its notice board. The popular cone with two scoops of ice cream doesn’t cost 50 pesos any longer: now you need 70 pesos to enjoy this high quality ice cream.

Private traders, like this famous ice cream parlor located on San Rafael Street, between Ronda and Mason, in Plaza de la Revolucion, Havana, have been obliged to change their prices to survive the new regulations and anti-covid measures brought in by the government to contain the pandemic.

The prices continue to rise and businesses like Monte Freddo, producing their own ice cream, also don’t escape the problems brought about by the shortage of sugar and unavailability of milk which have also reached exorbitant price levels in the informal market.

Translated by GH

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

Uber Meji­as, One of the 11 Cuban Baseball Players, Who Defected in Mexico, Arrives in the US

Uber Mejías has applied for asylum in the US, according to reports from the journalist Francys Romero (@francysromero)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, October 3, 2021 — The pitcher from Santiago, Uber Mejías, is now in the United States, having “crossed the frontier and requested political asylum”, according to information from the journalist Francys Romero. “He will shortly start the documentation process to become a free agent”.

Mejías was the second baseball player, in this outflow of 11 as of now, from Eriel Sánchez’ team, which took part in the sub-23 World Baseball Championship. He walked out on 23rd September from the team hotel located in Ciudad Obregón, in the Mexican state of Sonora.

The young man was with Loidel Chapellí Jr. as Cuban team members in the World events sub-15, sub-18 and sub-23. In preparing for the tournament in Mexico he sent funds in the range of 90 – 92 thousand. “The righthander is one of the most interesting Cuban prospects for the MLB (Major League Baseballscouts“, Romero emphasised.

The Cuban rising stars deserted without documentation. Their options are limited to “wait in Mexico and follow the process for free agency, or ask for asylum at the US frontier”. Mejías opted for the second, “although we have no exact confirmation, he is the first baseball player (at least as far as we know) to continue reading

enter US territory”, according to the journalist.

Among these stories is that of the pitcher Dariel Fernández, another of the baseball players who deserted, and, from what we know, got into contact with the representative Carlos Pérez, the Havana agent based in Miami who has a wide range of Cuban baseball players in the Big Leagues, including Raúl Valdés, Edwin Rios, Tyron Guerrero and Yandy Díaz.

News broke on Saturday that, with the desertion of Loidel Chapelli Jr, 19 years old, Yandi Yanes, 23, Bryan Chi, 22 and Miguel Antonio Gonzalez, 21, a total of 11 baseball players have broken away from the Cuban team in Hermosillo, Mexico.

Before the pitchers Yeinel Zayas, Luis Dennys Morales, Uber Mejias, Dariel Fernandez, there were also the catcher Loidel Rodriguez, the outfielder Reinaldo Lazaga, and Diasmany Palacios, the infielder.

Meanwhile, on the island, the sports authorities have insisted on blaming the United States for the sports stars’ escape. The National Institute for Physical and Educational Sport (Inder) last Sunday accused the blocking of the agreement between the Cuban Baseball Federation and the Major League Baseball of stimulating “the traffic of athletes for political reasons”.

Translated by GH

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

When Anger is Not Enough / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 14 April 2021 — The controversy is useful: there are recent high-octane videos circulating in the social network where we can hear certain activists, or rather another chorus of Habaneros (people from Havana), who rant and rave in the street, hurling insults at the police and at (Cuban president) Diaz-Canel himself, and every day we come across more YouTubers reaching a crescendo in spraying around comments featuring our extensive vocabulary of swear-words. Resulting from the commotion generated in the media, Estado de SATS (Cuban discussion forum, supposedly named after Scandanavian expression meaning the moment just before the curtain rises), has proposed a debate on “Civility versus vulgarity”, and the controversy is increasingly heating up between contributors about the validity of this kind of protest.

Trying to define my position in this matter, my memory drags up the diva of Neo-Castrism, Humberto Lopez, when, in the Cubavision National News, he vented his rage against one Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara who posed nude in front of the cameras recently installed by the political police a few metres from his balcony. It was very shocking to see this sourpuss clown of officialdom asking millions of Cubans if “that is the way the opposition want to debate”, when everybody knows that for decades the cowardly government has evaded all direct confrontation with the opposition and has never dared to expose itself to public debate.

It’s surreal to see how the heartless bastards who disrespect my people, in an olympic outpouring of cynicism, try to make out they are the defenders of decency. But, in defence of little Humberto, it has to be said that in many cases we made it very easy, although at the very least it served to confirm one more time the old Castrista killer tactic: delegitimise and slag off whatever message of vindication by alluding to the “vulgarity” of the messenger. continue reading

From this, we need to draw an intelligent lesson: Castroism, like an old sea-dog,  knowing a lot about the ocean of possibilities of manipulation, will always make us pay for any error and with vicious impunity will go for the jugular every time we try to take a shot.

While we are on this point, I would like to clarify something: everything I write here is from the point of view of conciliation of all parties, if I can. More than 60 years of outrage have caused still-bleeding wounds and left tracks in the psyche of my people, and so, in this controversy, whatever stinging reaction comes up is understandable.

I understand that in the face of this despotism there is an accumulation of  feelings of impotence and frustration which would make even Teresa de Calcutta lose it, but, just the same, I hope my position is understood to be valid and urgent because this is a big deal for our nation. If, with my tone, I offend against any sensibility, I excuse myself in advance, above all if my humble apology touches the heart of any brother passing sleepless nights over the liberty of my people.

Our political situation got more complex with the deepening of the irreversible social and economic crisis of the Cuban regime. Right now, there are visible and invisible factors interacting because of the eruption of the social media, adding their new dynamic. In this context it is clear that some people consider protesting is valid and that  the more insults you throw in per second the more patriotic you are.

This is a troubled world we are dealing with, where there is an absence of any civic proposals and where almost never does anyone propose a concrete way out of the crisis we are living through. In fact, either they avoid expressing themselves in political terms, or, alternating between naiveté and “prudence”, they end up claiming they don’t consider themselves to be the opposition, and they are only bursting with rage from their position of common indignation, as if that made any sense in a totalitarianism like Cuba.

Those who praise such spontaneous and visceral outbursts – no doubt sincerely – where all that can be heard is barren and boring, and therefore useless, rather than argument which is disruptive and coherent – thats to say, politically useful – supported by “traditional” Cuban opposition, whom they oppose, are opting for a path which is sterile and gets us nowhere. Doing this is just a marginalisation, which is seen as an end in itself, but simply shows ourselves to the world as naive, superficial and grotesque – remember, my friends, that, for good or ill, time rushes by, and all that is happening is that we are handing ourselves over on a silver platter, because that is the image of all the Cuban opposition as a whole which the opportunist government ideologues are trying to construct in the collective public imagination.

These ideologues, don’t forget, have their next congress in a few days and have made it known that they will, with the worst of intentions, review government policies regarding use of the internet. No-one should be in any doubt that they have noted and will refer to these eloquent examples, to clothe with legitimacy the escalation of censorship, and strengthening of the legislation against the “offences” associated with the “inappropriate” use of social networks.

History has shown us that wars – and this one is no exception – are not won by the just, but by the smart. Courage is not enough; the fight for the freedom of a people cannot be reduced to a matter of bravado, no matter how much frustration or rage is weighing down on our backs. There is evidence that marginalisation never opens the way forward for any people, but rather, totally cynically, the common enemy of our liberty uses this point of weakness to conceal its dagger, and we have to put up with them perfuming their guarantee of public spirit, which is an insult to us, and so the equation doesn’t stack up, and that is when we will recognise the sad reality: that we will have placed in their hands a formidable weapon which will be mercilessly turned against us, which is an inexcusable aggravation, an act of self-harm lacking any logic in the context of this rigorously ideological war.

It’s not just me saying that, but history has demonstrated it. We recall not only the exemplary struggles of Ghandi, and Mandela, Luther King and Walesa, but also poking around in our own rich patriotic ideology with its roots down with the precepts of Padre Valera, and way up to the heights of Jose Marti, as well as dispersed throughout many thinkers, creators and activists throughout the 20th century; don’t forget that the pen sleeps alongside the machete, because in the beginning is the idea, and that is what calls us. It is essential that we make no concessions in this epic struggle, so we don’t get wrecked because we didn’t avoid trivialising our fight with pointless and directionless shouting.

Although shouting is always better than keeping quiet, and with everybody fighting against the Castroist absolutism every grain of sand counts, I could never imagine Jose Julian Martí naked against the Spanish courts during his exile in protest against colonialism; and I really have not seen, nor can I recall one example of a world-class hero in the last hundred years who achieved civil rights, set people free or defeated empires throwing boxes of pineapples. What has freed people up to now  – without exception – has always been the energetic flow of ideas fermented groups of thoughtful people which then clearly pointed the way to go so that the people could rush forward.

Victories were never achieved by producing vulgarities, no matter how much empathy we have for the pain felt by the dispossessed. We have no reason to accept vulgarity, or to suppose that living in an era in which victimisation is fashionable it is best to sign up to the “humble” faction to go with the flow, just because “that’s the way we Cubans talk”, because its easier, or because we lack character, and get to the point of being the negation of the firmness of principle or spiritual elevation, to the point of accusing the “other opposition” of frivolity, when their capital sin is nothing other than defending with steely tenacity coherent proposals for opposing a ruthless common enemy  – an opposition which, let us not forget, has sacrificed all in the trenches.

The war cry of Osorbo (Cuban rapper) is not more authentic just because it is spontaneous of visceral, or because he he came from a modest home in San Isidro, than that of Antonio Rodiles (Cuban political activist) just because he comes over as more thoughtful in Estado de Sats (forum for debate on social, cultural, and political issues in Cuba) from a “chic” location in Miramar. It would be counterproductive to try to parameterise, when both messages have the same intention – expressed in different frequencies but on the same dial as far as all our sufferings are concerned – and when both are, in their different ways, authentic war cries.

Any confrontation within the Cuban opposition which does not end in an embrace against the common enemy is senseless and is music to the ears of the dictatorship. But, look, it isn’t that both authentic cries have equal range. The main point here is not asking ourselves whether both are sincere claims – I don’t doubt that at all – but which of these two ways of understanding civic responsibility – different only in form, not content – is the more strategically useful in fighting against a dictatorship which has clung on through 60 years of terror. Which of them is realistically destined to help us reach our longed-for achievement of a Rule of Law? That, and nothing else, is the question.

To close these reflections, above all for those who are not yet convinced, I will just put one question: why is it that a propaganda machine as efficient as the Cuban Communist Party’s has never dared to publish a page or a fragment or any article or to transmit even 30 seconds of video of any criticism or civic proposal out of the mouth of Eduardo Payá or his daughter Rosa María Payá, or Antonio Rodiles, Coco Fariñas, Dagoberto Valdéz, José Daniel Ferrer, Reinaldo Escobar or Yoani Sánchez – from whom you have definitely never heard a bad word – but if any member of this new wave hurls any swear words, they rush to put out lengthy reports in the national chain which take up a good part of their news about whichever is the latest flunky mouthing off?

The answer is very simple: Castroism knows that its mortal enemy, with the potential to wipe it out, is a long-term proposition that avoids the ghettos and the tribalisms, and which advances arguments like punches in firmly denouncing at the right time so as to dissect and analyse the regime in all its cruelty and greed. The fight against the most  treacherous  dictatorship which we are living with is not a task for sprinters, but a long-distance race in which it is not worth wasting energy in senseless outbursts, because it is constancy, firmness and clarity of purpose, and nothing else, that finally define the guidelines for victory. Here the thoughtless guttural scream, no matter how emotionally justified, is born condemned to be extinguished, without ever having seen off the despot oppressing us.

True people are made from men who are the way they actually are, not the way they ought to be. These are the oxen who have to pull the plough; these are our drills and with them we will build the house, and a war cry emitted from the throat of a patriot will always be a good cry to shake up the tyrants, whether uttered from Miramar or San Isidro, but we have to keep in mind that to succeed in our main objective, and to work for our liberty, anger is not enough.

Translated by GH

Report on Government Actions and Repression in Cuba / Cubalex

Central Havana

Cubalex, 13 April 2021. Summary: Coronavirus cases are continuing to increase and the government announces new coronavirus strains in the country. Repression of activists, members of the opposition and journalists continues before the Party Congress

Government actions

April 5th. New measures in Ciego de Avila against increasing number of coronavirus cases. These include restriction on movement starting at 4 pm, closing of all state and private services at 3 pm, and limits on entry and exit of private cars from the province.

April 6th. Díaz-Canel announces on Twitter the enactment of more severe measures to control the health situation. Referring to these measures, in Havana, the PCC First Secretary Antonio Torres called them “decisions of war”.

April 6th. Among the new measures announced by the Cuban government are maintenance of patrols in the main avenues and increasing them in neighbourhoods to guarantee order and compliance with keeping indoors; rigorous implementation of penalties and fines on parents and/or teachers who allow children out into the streets, failure to use a face mask or to comply with social distancing rules; provision of public transport only for prioritised economic or social activities; increasing control of traffic, only permitting the minimum possible movement (only authorised persons); establishing identification of houses and institutions where there are self-isolating persons. They also said that in the coming days they will announce more rigorous measures for Havana. continue reading

April 8th. Jardines del Rey International Airport stays open, receiving Russian tourists.

April 9th. The government of Bayamo decrees 24 hour restriction of movement in 15 areas of the authority, as part of the new measures to fight coronavirus.

Litigation and breaches by the authorities

April 5th. Agent Yoel tried to detain Esteban Rodriguez in the street. Esteban resisted and was violently detained by the police. He was let out about 3 pm, near William Soler Hospital with lesions on his wrists from being handcuffed.

April 5th. State security agents stop children going to a birthday party organised by Luis Manuel Otero. Luis goes out to the corner to give out sweets and is violently detained. He disappeared until the following morning.

April 5th. Along with Manuel Otero, they detain Manuel de la Cruz Pascual, who was dressed as a clown to entertain the children. They took him handcuffed to the Aguilera police station, in the Diez de Octubre district. There they took away his phone, got into his facebook profile, and entered messages, as if from him, against the San Isidro movement, and denigrating comments against himself. They released him about 8 at night. They fined him 3 thousand pesos for “spreading pandemic”, even though Manuel was wearing a mask and and he was arrested just as he was leaving the house, before he could go near anybody.

April 5th. Anyell Valdés, Osmani Pardo, Yasser Castellanos and Verónica Vega, Héctor Luis Valdés, Amaury Pacheco and Iris Ruiz, Jorge Luis Capote, Osmani Pardo, Oscar Casanella, Iliana Hernández, Camila Acosta, Carolina Barrero, María Matienzo and Kirenia Yalit, Abu Dyanah, Tania Bruguera started off their day surrounded by security police.

April 5th. Hector Luis Valdes, who had completed 36 hours of a hunger strike, left his house and was violently arrested. They kept him for an hour sitting in the sun in a patrol car, in the Plaza of the Revolution area, and then they let him go.

April 5th. The activist Kirenia Yalit Nunez is arrested with violence when she was trying to leave her house. They drove her to the police station at El Cerro. She was released  at around 5 in the afternoon.

They detained the journalist Maria Matienzo when she left her house to go to the El Cerro police station to inquire about Kirenia Yalit. They took her to the Zapata station and let her go around 5 pm.

April 5th. Dr. Nelva Ismarays Ortega, Fátima Victoria Ferrer (16 years old) and the activist  Yaniris Popa were arrested when they went to visit the striker Niuvis Biscet, whom they found in a bad state of health. Nelva is the doctor who took on the health care of activists on hunger strike in the UNPACU HQ. Popa was released after a short time and Nelva and Fatima around 8 at night.

April 6th. They arrested AfriK when he left his house to check on the situation with Luis Manuel Otero. He was let go a few hours later.

April 6th. State Security has used the coronavirus to stop Carolina Barrero leaving her house, while the rest of her neighbours could come and go as they liked. Carolina went out to throw out the trash and asked why was that and for that the police arrested her. They took her to the station at Cuba and Chacon, they fined her 3 thousand pesos and then they let her go.

April 6th. State security met with Marina Paz Lavaceno because she received help from UNPACU directed to people in need.

April 7th. Maykel Osorbo reported he had an officer following him around everywhere.

April 7th. State security met with a couple who wrote an article complaining to the government about lack of medicines. They told them they were accused of selling illicit articles to take abroad.

April 7th. The Cuban government attempted to try Barbaro de Cespedes, who, on Good Friday, walked around the streets of Camaguey with a cross which had slogans against the system written on it. They attempted to try him for alleged violations of sanitary measures against coronavirus. “After 8 days in the clink when he was not allowed to make a phone call or be visited by his family or my lawyers, El Patriota de Camaguey (Camaguey Patriot) was let out on house arrest until they finished “the process” they had started.

April 8th. The small children of of two independent journalists of ICLEP in Mayabeque were attacked by other kids, incited by some people who had systematically had a go at their parents for political motives. When they went out to find out what had happened, those people responded by questioning their ideological orientation.

April 8th. Iliana Hernandez, Thais Mailen Franco, Janet Balbuena and Eliecer Romero were arrested, while they were walking down Obispo Street. They were taken to the station at Infanta. They were let out at midnight with fines of 30 pesos for alleged public nuisance. The police damaged Iliana Hernandez’ phone.

April 8th. Oscar Casanella found himself surrounded in his house, being monitored by the head man “Angel” of State Security.

April 8th. State security met the singer El Funky at 1 pm, and at 5 pm no-one had any information about him nor could they contact him. At the Cuba and Chacon police station they threatened to lock him up  and told him that because of his connections with the San Isidro movement, also the fines and detentions he had had, and for being unemployed, they would get a six months control order in which he would have to report to them once a month and they would put a tail on him.

April 8th. They detained Lázaro Alonso and Marlen Alonso, members of the opposition group New Republic , for public disorder. They took them to unit 5 of the PNR (National Revolutionary Police). They released them at 4 pm. They imposed a fine of 2 thousand pesos on Lazaro Alonso for incorrect use of a face mask, and issued Marlen with an official warning.

April 8th. The Special Forces of the Ministry of the Interior and police barged in to the home of the opposition leader Fernando Santana Vega, in Ciego de Avila, and took him away in a violent manner. They also attacked his wife and brother.

April 9th. They threatened Tania Bruguera, Amaury Pacheco and Iris Ruiz, Camila Lobón and Katherine Bisquet, Iliana Hernández, and Luis Manuel Otero with surveillance. Maykep Castillo was also kept under surveillance.

April 9th. They told the activist Raux Denis to present himself that same day at Unit 3 of the PNR in Santa Clara. The reason for the summons was having published in social media a drawing of a Mambi guerrilla with a ’Patria y Vida’ poster. “They threatened my mama, my girlfriend, my family and my brother who is in jail with being beaten up,  and they threatened to kill me in the street,” he reported.

April 9th. On three occasions State Security tried to get the influencer known as El Gato de Cuba [The Cuban Cat] to go with them for an interrogation, but unofficially.

April 9th. Major Edilse Matos summoned Manuel de la Cruz to appear that same day at the El Cotorro police station. When he got there he waited for lieutenant colonel of state security “Camilo”, who interrogated him for 9 hours and threatened him with being jailed.

On Friday the Cuban authorities evacuated an illegal settlement of more than 50 houses which had been put up in Jamaica, in San Jose, Mayabeque.

April 10th. Diasniurka Salcedo tried to leave the house, but a police vehicle pursued her.

April 10th. Iliana Hernandez found herself surrounded by security agents.

April 11th. Homes of AfriK, Luis Manuel Otero, Carolina Barrero, Luz Escobar, and Iliana Hernández were surrounded and monitored.

April 11th. Berta Soler and Angel Moya were detained on leaving the HQ of Las Damas de Blanco (The Ladies in White). They put them in a private car and then let them go, leaving a surveillance operation in the area.

Internet

April 5th. In the morning they cut Fabio Corchado’s internet connection.

April 5th. In the morning, they cut Iliana Hernandez’ data connection and cellphone connection.

April 11th, Two days after removing the siege, they again cut the connection to the HQ of UNPACU in Santiago de Cuba.

April 11th. Various members and people connected with 27N (27 November) woke up to find themselves without telephone or internet service.

Other things

April 6th. The Ministry of Health indicated “the identification in Cuba of 5 variants and 6 mutations of variant 614 (a strain identified from the start of the pandemic in the country), with 4 new strains circulating (initially detected in South Africa, California, USA, the UK, and Wuhan, China) recognised internationally as highly contagious and with high mortality rate.”

April 7th. The Secretary General of the OAS issued a communique expressing concern for the hunger strikers at UNPACU and held the Cuban government responsible for whatever might happen.

April 9th. The Ministry of Health reported the death of 2 children and 2 gravely ill in the neonatal service at Guantanamo hospital, resulting from an adverse reaction to a medicine.

April 9th. Jose Daniel Ferrer stated that the Cuban government removed the siege around the UNPACU office. He wrote in Twitter that two MININT generals and the governor of Santiago de Cuba, Beatriz Johnson, left the place to get in touch with their people.

April 10th. The singer La Diosa de Cuba reported that her friend’s mother was obliged to participate in the test of the Soberana vaccine, under pain of being fined 5 thousand pesos. Responding to the pressure, the lady participated in the study and died after receiving the dose.

Translated by GH

New Information Comes to Light About Cuban Medical Missions in Mexico

Five hundred doctors arrived in Mexico in December and 160 of them returned to Cuba at the beginning of March. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, March 16, 2021 — Mexico has paid over six million dollars for 585 Cuban doctors who were working in the country from April 24th to July 24th last year.

In total, it wasn’t only the 135 million pesos, as stated by The Secretary of State for Health, Oliva Lopez Arrellano, nor the 135,875,000 which was indicated afterwards by the head of government in the capital, Claudia Sheinbaum, but actually nearly 15 millions more. Altogether, they paid 150,759,867 pesos (over seven million, five hundred thousand dollars).

The information was provided by the Mexican digital media La Silla Rota (The Broken Chair) following a request through the transparency website InfoCDMX – in which public institutions are, in theory, legally obliged to respond – after a delay of half a year (the application was made September 8th, apparently).

According to this media, the figures provided by the city did not include the Cubans  accommodation and food, which were also charged to Mexico: a total of 14,844,785 pesos (some 744,000 dollars). continue reading

The InfoCDMX response also set out that the Henry Reeve Brigade contingent was accommodated in 292 rooms in two hotels: the Benidorm, in Colonia Roma district, and the Fiesta Inn, in the Central Historic area.

The Silla Rota was surprised to note that “Although the Cuban doctors left on July 24th, according to official information, the billing dates are different… In the Benidorm, the bill was produced on July 10, 2020, and in the Fiesta Inn, on July 29”.

That’s not the only inconsistency in the contractual data relating to the Cuban missions in Mexico. For a start, the latest data publicised only refers to 585 nurses who worked in the capital, not to the nearly 200 more who went to Veracruz on the same dates, about whose costs nothing is known.

Nor is it known how much the Mexican government paid for the five hundred doctors who came from the island in December. 160 of them went back to Cuba this March, but nothing is known about the rest of them.

Neither is it known which government department paid the money. The transparency response named the Secretary of State of the Mexican capital city, but we know that both the postholder, Lopez Arellano, and the head of the City government Sheinbaum emphasised that the Cubans were hired “through an agreement with Insabi”, the Institute of Health and Wellbeing set up by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and which has been widely criticised in the country over the distribution of drugs for children suffering from cancer.

Given the opaque way in which both governments have dealt with this matter, the only recourse for the Mexican media has been to go to the government transparency websites. Last September, Latinus (a digital platform in Mexico) managed to find out there that all of the nearly 700 doctors who arrived in Mexico in April to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic, 585 of them in the capital, and the rest in Veracruz, were working without immigration permission.

This digital medium, based in the United States, indicated that there is no evidence of these doctors having a “proper documented” stay in Mexico, such as “temporary residence documents, or temporary or permanent study permits”, nor any document indicating a legal status for the health workers in the National Migration Institute (INM) database, nor could they find “details of Cuban nationals, in May this year, having obtained any of the documents cited, and in which they had entered information that they were in the health and support services sector”, as communicated by the INM Director.

Getting into the transparency websites is not infallible, but nevertheless, La Silla Rota explains that it made various requests for information which were not replied to by InfoCDMX.

Last November, they say, the site removed the inspection process, and so, it did not provide the itemised information requested by the digital medium “by date of arrival, speciality, medical institution or investigation centre to which they were sent (federal entity), as well as what were their duties,  pay and benefits, and, as applicable, their  date of exit and exit location from the country. Also, if their stay is extended, for how long and the documentation for that.”

Translated by GH

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

La Epoca Opens its Doors for Dollars on March 8th With a Very Long Line Waiting

On the corner of Galiano and Neptuno, in the centre, the place has been typical of a location with the most shops per square metre in all of Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodriguez, Havana, March 8th, 2021 – For weeks now, it has been known that the shop La Epoca, in Havana, was going to open its doors this Monday, and in dollars. And everybody has known that to be able to get in there you would have to join the line several days beforehand. This time the International Woman’s Day gift will arrive wrapped in greenbacks.

The morning of March 8th arrived, cold and humid, and with strong gusts of wind in the Cuban capital. But, in spite of the bad weather, and before the clock struck seven, the line to get in La Epoca was already nearly 1,000 feet long. Most of the people had spent days getting themselves organised to enter one of the most emblematic shopping centres  in the city.

At that time, the police got the shoppers to go three blocks back from the main entrance of the place, to avoid crowd build-ups outside of the markets. But the distance and the fact that they could not see the entrance door, increased their anxiety and their fear of possible irregularities, and gatecrashers. continue reading

Situated on the downtown corner of Galiano and Neptuno, the shopping centre has symbolised one the areas with more shops per metre than anywhere in Cuba. With its breathtaking window displays, now hidden by metal shutters, its escalators which haven’t worked for years, and its several floors which used to be full of merchandise, La Epoca lived up to its name and became a symbol of business effort in the city.

But today’s La Epoca has little resemblance to its previous glamour. Two workmen up on a scaffold were still touching up the facade while the line was getting longer on Monday, the police keeping a close eye on the line and, at nine in the morning, the business still had not been able to open, producing protests and frayed nerves in the line. The agitation led to several trucks with black-capped troops arriving at 10 am to try to control the chaos.

The police make those waiting in line move three blocks back from the main entrance to the shop (14ymedio)

Many of the people waiting outside were women. “I came to see if I could get some cheese and yogurt for my kids, because the price of these things on the black market is more than I am prepared to pay,” 14ymedio was told by Yamile, a 42 year old woman from Havana. “But, to tell the truth, if I had thought about all the time I was going to waste here, it wasn’t worth it.”

Aymara is another one who spent days standing in line. The worst part has been hiding from the police patrolling the area in the early morning to enforce the strict curfew imposed by the city because of the pandemic. Between nine at night and five  in the morning, you are not supposed to be out in the streets, so they had to look for other ways to avoid losing their place in line.

“We used a digital line, and, although every day you have to come to confirm your place at six in the morning, the rest of the time you do it through Whatsapp and also on a physical list held by the first people in the line,” explained a young woman. “And I have made all this sacrifice because I was told there is a much greater selection of things in this shop than the others and that they are going to open up with everything.”

But Aymara says she’s tired of waiting all this time and worn out by the situation. “I told my mama not to send me not one dollar more, because instead of sending me money to spend in these shops where everything is expensive and poor quality, she should save the money there so I can get out of this country, I cant stand any more.”  The people around her agreed with her.

“And it isn’t worth going to the other dollar shops either. They have created a resellers mafia, employees who get paid to let their friends, or the coleros*, in first,” complains Luisito, who lives in nearby San Miguel Street. He tells me he started to wait in the line last Wednesday, when “a neighbour went past taking names of people who wanted to get in when the shop opened.”

“They told us early on that they were only going to open up the food market, home appliances, and perfumes”, says the man. “But nobody knows exactly because there is no notice or any detailed information on which parts of the shop are open this Monday. The blind leading the blind.”

After 11 in the morning, some employee came out and spoke to the people at the front of the line and said: “The shop isnit ready. Its going to open but we are still putting stuff on the shelves. The appliance section won’t be open today, but we’re doing everything we can to open the market”. They took the ID cards from the first people in the line.

Luisito wants to buy “detergent, some beans which have disappeared from the shelves of other shops, and a bag of milk powder”. But, from the start no-one has been clear about the new way of selling stuff in freely convertible currency. “Some people thought it was going to be a national currency. A bit naive. Been a long time since they opened any new peso shops in the city, hasn’t it?”

The shops selling in pesos are almost empty. Bottle of water, packs of dried fruits which look old, and extremely expensive bottles of tequila are all that is offered in a shop a few yards away from La Epoca. “They’ve been unloading trucks and trucks of stuff since early morning,” said an employee of the shop with nothing in it, indicating the new dollar business.

“Here they seem to have forgotten to stock up on the things that are going to these stores” complains an employee of the state store. “When customers ask, all I can tell them is to cross the street and buy things in the dollar stores.” She is interrupted by the shouting around La Epoca and she looks around to see what’s happening.

“It’s disrespectful. People are paying in a strong currency and they still think they are at liberty to hang about before they open the doors. It’s ten in the morning, and it.s cold.” “Why don’t they open up?” shouts a man who is there with his partner at the front of the line. The people up front are having a row with the police accusing them of “sneaking people in.”

In nearby Concordia the police start to separate out the first group who are going to go in, but time passes and their relieved faces change to frustration at the delay. It’s eleven in the morning and still nobody has managed to get in La Epoca.

*Translator’s note: Coleros are people paid by others to stand in line for them.

Translated by GH

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

What Are the Guarantees of Due Process in Cuba? / Cubalex

Arrest of a member of the Ladies in White in Havana. (EFE)

Cubalex, 24 December 2020 — A person’s right not to be subject to torture and other forms of treatment is connected with the right not to be required to self-incriminate or to confess guilt. This right extends to any form of exercise of duress.

Rights before and during interrogation

To be informed of the basis upon which one is considered to have committed an offence covered by the criminal code (section f, Art. 95 of the Constitution).

To remain silent, without such silence being construed as a determinant of one’s innocence or guilt.

To be advised that anything that the accused may say may be taken down and used as evidence.

That a spouse, partner or relative extending as far as the fourth degree of consanguinity and second degree of affinity; (section e, Art. 95 of the Constitution) may not give evidence against them. continue reading

The right to a lawyer of their choice, or officially provided without charge, and to be questioned in their presence, unless they have previously rejected such assistance (section b, Art 95 of the Constitution).

To enjoy the assistance of an interpreter.

That all persons present at an interrogation shall be identified.

That a true and complete record is to be kept of any interrogation, preferably in audio and video form.

The right to medical examination and services.

Translated by GH

Bringing Fidel Castro Back From the Dead in Havana / Juan Juan Almeida

Mausoleum with the ashes of Fidel Castro, in Santa Ifigenia Cemetery in Santa Clara. (cc)

Juan Juan Almeida — On November 25th, the day on which we commemorate another anniversary of the death of Fidel Castro, a museum in his memory opened in Havana.

Located on Paseo Avenue between 11th and 13th Streets in El Vedado, Havana, the historic gallery shows pictures, gifts, photos, belongings, and other junk the ex-dictator Fidel Castro used in his life; ignoring the last wish of the dead comandante.

It’s worth remembering that on January 3rd, 2016, General Raul Castro publicly announced to the National Assembly that, to show respect for the express wish of his brother, the recently passed-away leader of the Cuban communists, his name would not be used, or any statues or busts put up in any public site, in his memory.

It’s also worth mentioning that — according to sources close to the dead commander-in- chief’s descendants — that the objects exhibited in such an overblown way, were not donated by his family, but sold.

At a cost of over $700m, the museum opened November 25th, and, among the strangest displays in this kind of church where the image worshipped is of the only saint wearing an olive green uniform and spurs, is a little audiovisual showing for the first time, among other things, the favourite cooking recipes of the legendary ex-comandante who moved from living in “Punto Cero” to pushing up the stones in the Santa Ifigenia necropolis of the history of the city of Santiago de Cuba.

Translated by GH

Customer Care / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 14 October 2020 — In the official press, they published: “In view of the  multiplicity of legislation and the increasing incidence of infringement of consumer rights, the Ministry of Internal Commerce (Mincin) approved Resolution No. 54, of 2018, published today in the Official Gazette, known as Directions for the organisation and effecting of consumer protection in domestic commerce, whose implementation will show the way for future Consumer Protection Law”.

Twenty two months have passed and nothing has changed. If anyone thinks that resolutions and laws will resolve the long-established mistreatment of customers, he is living in a dream world. Bits of paper are bits of paper, and no-one takes any notice of them, starting off with the people who write them.

In the Republic, this phenomenon didn’t exist, and there were no resolutions or laws, and none were needed, because there was a fundamental principle: “The customer is always right”.  Anyone who did not respect that could not function in commerce or services, and had to find work which had no direct contact with the public. Employers and employees knew that. continue reading

There was the “customer”, and they hadn’t invented the “user”, a worn-out import from socialism. More than that, employees generally got supplements to their basic salaries and rewards for the sales they made: if you sold more, you got more — apart from working in businesses and agencies which were agreeable, clean, mostly air-conditioned and even with background music.

A long time ago, all this changed for the worse: today, generally, people get miserable pay, whether they sell, or they don’t sell, work conditions aren’t that good, and, as if that weren’t bad enough, their bosses are great at being absent during working hours, not worrying themselves about what was happening under their supposed administration.

All of this was, and is, a breeding ground for the ill-treatment of people in general, and, even worse, for generalised corruption.

With Coronavirus and the control measures and regulation of sales, the way the public is treated has got even worse: buying an essential product has turned into a total chore, which starts off with waiting in a line for hours in the early morning, and ends up, if the product actually is forthcoming, very  late in the day. And this repeats day after day, as products appear drop by drop in the market. And if you’re talking in terms of customer crae, and regulations, and a supposed law, forget it. In reality, it’s devil take the hindmost.

Translated by GH

Dual Currency in Cuba Goes from Two to Three / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 24 July 2020 — A few days ago the government of Diaz-Canel slipped us all a surprise. Finally, after multiple postponements we got to the long-awaited end to dual currency, and, so in order that we didn’t complain, in effect, there will be no more circulation of TWO (national) currencies in our country, and, from now, we will start to use THREE! …

Obviously the first reaction of every Cuban who has lived on the island for the last 25 years was to swing between astonishment and disbelief, until they realised this was not just the moronic Castro successor fucking about, or some kind of bad taste joke, and, having searched in vain for the hidden camara, they realised that our shiny new “president’ was absolutely serious.

You can understand the astonishment when you remember that decades ago Fidel Castro, that pimp who implemented the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) rip-off, had already been speaking of eliminating the dual currency, which existed for the time being, that the tricky topic was a temporary thing which featured in Raul Castro’s policy slogan only to be delayed while he was in power, and that the Havana government had kept this aberration going as its big unresolved business up to this morning because its latest administrator up to now had done nothing more than imitate his mentors who had left him holding the hot potato. continue reading

Instead of promoting conditions and necessary mechanisms to put right the present damaging situation in an orderly and progressive way, Diaz-Canel’s government surprises everyone with a new grinding of the gears in the opposite direction, taking an obvious step backwards, doing the exact opposite of what was expected, and everything announced and recognised as the first essential step towards sorting out our finances and reorganising the economic chaos and at least regaining a thousandth part of their zero credibility.

Once more, the magical realism of the Castro regime shows us one of its most surprising facets: its amazing capacity for saying something and doing the exact opposite right in front of our noses without the slightest embarassment, and, as always, assuring us that its decision is for our own good. You would laugh if it wasn’t so serious!

Because if there is anything the kids in the Plaza are really good at, it is their amazing talent for cynicism. It’s exactly what we heard Fidel Castro say when he beat his chest for the liberty of the poor people of the world while here he was squeezing our nuts, prohibiting us from travelling, humiliating us at the doors of the dollars-only shops for foreign diplomats and of all the hotels in Cuba, and, at the same time assuring us that the results of this “necessary sacrifice” would be for the benefit of all of us, which never happened.

What did happen, along with the power cuts of the Special Period, was the dual currency, which remained with us. As far as that’s concerned, I don’t know of any other country which has used two national currencies at the same time, although there are lots of cases where, along with the national currency there has circulated another foreign currency, with the close-to-home example of pre-revolutionary Cuba, where the peso and the US Dollar circulated at the same time. But there has been no example of two national currencies, as we have now in Cuba with the Cuban peso (CUP) and the CUC.

This was, without doubt, one of Fidel Castro’s most shameless swindles perpetrated on the Cuban people. During more than 25 years in Cuba we have been paid miserable salaries  in a national currency (the CUP) with an arbitrary exchange rate relative to the CUC (currently 25 for 1 at the exchange bureaux of the Cuban National Bank), a device which has guaranteed the Cuban regime that remittances from abroad in the sum of billions of dollars, euros, or other currencies have gone straight into its coffers while they have handed over CUCs (unsupported bills which can’t be used outside the island) to Cuban families.

Well, as from now, both national currencies (the shameful CUP and the devalued CUC) will have to cohabit with the dirty imperial dollars, the same ones which Fidel Castro ranted and raved about in his fiery delusionary historic speeches.

But it won’t be that way for long because the useless CUC has its days numbered. In the midst of a calamitous economic crisis – for many people worse than the one in the ’90’s –  the CUC has been for many months getting knocked backward, setting repeated devaluation records, and today it has a street value of about 1.20 CUCs to the dollar. In the meantime, up to a few days ago, before ending the tax on the US dollar, the National Bank exchange rate was 0.87 CUC per dollar, showing a complete detachment from reality.

You can’t help but notice, nevertheless, that only now Havana decides to end this awful 10% tax on US Dollars – another arbitrary dodgy move by Fidel Castro – after having blustered from the Obama opening-up that they would  only do it when the economic sanctions were withdrawn by the US., something which certainly has not occurred, and it is being withdrawn now, when the CUC is worth less and less – a tax which, quite definitely, never had any effect on Obama’s pockets, or Trump’s, but did directly affect those of us Cubans.

Although, if anyone lost out in this sad tale, it has been the Cuban nation – meaning the Cuban people – whose economy has paid an incalculable price due to the brutal financial distortion generated on every level by the dual currency, particularly, of course, in those businesses operating in CUC – the biggest and most strategic in the country.

In trade carried out in this currency at that level the CUP/CUC relationship of 25/1, valid for the rest of the system, ceases to function, and, ignoring economic principles, becomes 1/1 thanks to the efforts of the all-powerful Castroism. This serious distortion has become an immovable obstacle since it prevents any objective valuation, makes any control extremely difficult, obstructs and renders inoperable accounting procedures, impedes ability to pay, and seriously discourages productivity.

Because of the resulting chaos, Cuba’s macroeconomic indicators are ignored, or viewed sceptically, by analists, and although this has ever-more profoundly discredited the already inefficient state-owned socialist business, we need to bear in mind that putting right this sorry state of affairs, should be easy for the Castro government: it could all be fixed if – always dependant on the elimination of this disastrous financial ambiguity – along with an effective decentralisation of state management, they legalised and stimulated family and private business – another unfinished business for the administrator Diaz-Canel.

Oh! but this is where Castroism crashes into a problem which up to now has been insoluble: the economic situation which would result from implementing the necessary, fair, and profound changes, would result in greater prosperity and autonomy for the Cuban people, a “risk” that the dictatorship could not possibly permit.

The Castroistas would never accept any change or formula which would result in the improved wellbeing of my people, because that would imply a bigger dose of liberty, which, sooner rather than later, would lead to political demands which would then – by way of the Marxist dialectic which opposes until death antagonistic contradictions – turn radical and in a short space of time my people would shake the chains that tyrannise them.

There is no other way of looking at it: it is that simple, and the solution to our problems would be just as simple. The only thing standing between us and prosperity is a cynical and brutal dictatorship which continues to put the rights of the Cuban people through a triumphal arch (the one in Cienfuegos which commemorates Cuban independence).

Translated by GH

To Change of Not to Change in Cuba: That is the Question / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel.

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 19 July 2020 — Anyone unfamiliar with the endless capacity for pretence and cynicism on the part of the Castro dictatorship, could perhaps see in the recent words of the latest occupant of the Finca Biran (Fidel Castro’s birthplace) a sincere call for reform. When Diaz-Canel, in an admirable fit of sincerity, accepts publicly that “we can’t keep doing the same thing with the economy, because we won’t get the results we need …”, he is only confirming something which, for decades, most of Cuban society has been saying, until it is blue in the face.

Everyone sees the urgency, from the militant communist who disagrees while stuck in his trench, to the most enraged and in-your-face member of the opposition; from the functional illiterate vegetating each day away in the bread line, to the most sophisticated economist: from the most eminent pensioner to the most important director struggling with creative firewalls and the totally obvious inherent uselessness of socialist government commerce; you can be completely sure they all agree, except for the antiquated ninety-year-old losers still clinging to the brakes of the train.

Although they argue about the causes of the disaster — the US embargo or the domestic blockade — the perception is becoming ever clearer and ever more common that Cuba has to make a sharp and profound U-turn in how it runs the economy, because the present situation is unsustainable and, if we don’t make serious, substantial and definitive changes, we are going to sink, into what will be, with every minute which passes, an ever more abject total ruin. continue reading

Obviously, if we in Cuba carry on doing what we are doing we will get what’s coming to us. That’s a principle as old as man, and the dust-covered geniuses of the Central Committee have done nothing to change that. Fidel Castro knew perfectly well, and so today does the timid Raul Castro, and also — why not? — the administrator Diaz-Canel, that the Soviet economic model was never suited to our idiosyncrasies, and that it never worked, nor ever will. It doesn’t work in the sense of serving the wellbeing of the Cuban people, but, in the sense of maintaining the most hermetic control possible, without caring about the social, economic or moral consequences, it has worked perfectly. It’s just a question of your point of view.

It doesn’t work and it will not work, because of its very nature, and the people in power in Havana know it, and so do all the senior directors of the Cuban establishment, all the oldies who are still fucking us around, and all the generals whether retired or still at their posts. Six decades of failure and ruin should be sufficient to convince even the most relentless defender of the regime, if it were not for the human calamity that is their fanaticism.

The situation now is, in several ways, more complicated and desperate than in the most critical moment of the ’90’s. In the middle of an authority vacuum — as Diaz-Canel has no charisma and up to now has given no indication of any character in the face of the “oldies” — and with Venezuela in the dumps, China and Russia as strategic allies, but tired of the fraudulent Creoles, and the well-deserved reputation of the people in the Plaza de la Robolucion for stuffing and ripping off half the people.

A little while ago the Cuban government went into default on its payments, in spite of the fact that hardly five years previously they were pardoned billions of dollars by the Paris Club, by Russia, and other creditor countries, tempted by Obama’s opening up, which made La Antilla [a tourist resort in Holguin province] fashionable for a few months. Just the bad debts from the Soviet era alone totalled 35 billion dollars! of which, let’s remember, 90% was forgiven while the remaining 10% was invested in Cuba.  But not even this stroke of good luck could rescue Castroism from ruin, and now, with the window of opportunity closed, it’s too late. The world has got the point, and now the swindlers of Havana will not get any serious finance or proper investment of capital or credit of any kind, not for all the snails in Guanabacoa [there was a plague of these things in 2019].

Although for its enthusiastic supporters, the Neo-Castrismo would always have the same answer, which is proof against all tests: demagogy. This infallible weapon, always employed by Fidel Castro, has shown its value so many times, and could be used this time as well. Because talk of austerity is worth nothing if it is not practised by all, and by the Castroites more than anybody. And news announcements of change are worth nothing if not supported by a body of law guaranteeing the rights of those hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs both inside and outside Cuba who are only waiting for the opportunity which has always been denied them, and who for decades have been denied their working autonomy, and whose confidence in the authorities and their political credibility has been destroyed.

And high-sounding announcements are worthless if they are not supported by unambiguous demonstrations that enable everybody to believe that this time no upstart opportunist  leader, political police, or prejudiced judge will have the power to ruin a producer, or a business for political reasons or with exercise of arbitrary power of any kind, and in the knowledge that they may be helped by a fair body of law and with the help of impartial trials, will not end up behind bars.

Calls to raise productivity are worth nothing while there are still laws which enable the Attorney General, conspiring with the dreadful DTI [the Technical Department of Investigation, a repressive government intelligence organisation], to knock on the door of a farmer, who labours every day on an interest offered by the state to show him a 10 cm document listing every infraction he has been obliged to commit because that is the absurd situation — and then confiscate the shirt off his back; at the same time as the State Collection Company continues to abandon crops rotting in the fields, and continues to lock people up for decades for butchering a cow — an absurdity only explainable when you understand its obvious potential for extortion to recruit informants in the service of the State Security.

And the repeated invitations to foreign investors count for nothing if they continue to exclude Cubans in exile who genuinely want to invest in the country where they were born, or their parents were born. Its incredible that these doors remain shut which could let so much capital be injected into the Cuban nation, just for reasons of political exclusion.

It is also pointless raising salaries without increased productivity, which devalues the currency and shoots up inflation – first law of economics – nor trying out this variant of dollarisation which has now been proposed, in the middle of these amazing shortages. Cuba needs to reemerge without any delays, which will never happen without an energetic and sincere opening up of our economy to this hope which has been betrayed a thousand times.

But, up there I said change …? OMG! Because there will always be someone who insists in discovering similarities between necessary and inevitable change, and total chaos or zombie apocalypse, because, without doubt, if any word has always given rise to distrust and allergic suspicion on the part of the obsolete psychos of the dictatorship, it has been precisely this one. Change!! The antithesis of centralised statism, that endemic disease, behind which Fidel and Raul Castro, with perfect historic geometry, took shelter, just like, up to now, Diaz-Canel ingenuously today rediscovering the cold shower.

This fatal Cuban mania for going to extremes and avoiding the good sense of the centre ground, perhaps prevents us from understanding that when something stops being the socialism of the barracks, it doesn’t necessarily mean going for untamed neoliberal capitalism, and that there are halfway houses which can also guarantee conditions more conducive to a non-parasitic, sustained and autonomous increase in productivity, while at the same time preserving social guarantees and without in any way compromising national sovereignty.

Although we have been deceived so many times that we we cannot tolerate any more lies. Never in Cuban history, before Castro, has there ever been such misgovernment of my people, with so many abuses over such a long period of time, perpetrating such an appalling betrayal and showing such strong contempt for my people.

It is now up to Diaz-Canel to show, if he can, and if he wants to, to free himself from the strict dogmatism of the ultra-conservatives, which no-one has been able to do, and opt for the freeing-up of the productive forces ready to save this country and permit a hoped-for opening which, as is obvious, will never be complete if it does not go hand-in-hand with profound political reforms.

It is in his hands to put right the immense damage they have caused; any other strategy would be skating over the same shit and cheap words. Only time will tell if he has the courage to do it, or if he will be judged by history as just one more coward.

Translated by GH