Panama Declaration / Rafael León Rodríguez

Rafael León Rodríguez, La Habana, b. 1945.

Rafael León Rodríguez, (El candil de Rafa), Panama City/Cuba, 10 June 2019.The members of the Coalition for Democratic Unity (Muad), who met in Panama City 3rd and 4th of June, 2019 in the 2019 Strategy Workshop, along with our colleagues from the island of Cuba, who were hindered from going there by the government, agreed the following:

The rise to political power in Cuba of Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez and the taking effect of a new constitution, not only have implied no change in the political and economic conditions in the country, but have also exacerbated the lack of political representation in the government organs and the precarious material and spiritual state of the nation.

Muad, since its creation in 2015, has offered its meetings to help overcome the decades-long climate of confrontation and hostility in Cuba, and nothing has been achieved since then. continue reading

Our objective is to help bring about a nation which respects democracy and the rule of law, but not as a result of the victory of one player over the other, but rather the triumph of everybody over idleness, irresponsibility, and neglect. A change that every individual can feel they have contributed to.

Our fundamental liberties continue to be violated by our own constitution, and the laws which derive from it. They continue to use the rhetoric of “enemy” as their way of remaining in ignorance about their opposition. They stigmatise those who emigrate, who are a mixed population, but remain always Cubans, and lock up anybody who thinks differently. They insult those who work, and, even worse, those who manage, through their work, to free themselves from poverty and necessity.

These conditions don’t help the country or offer any hope. Even less when they are accompanied by the excessive economic power of the military organisations, determined to build gigantic luxury hotels using foreign companies and workers, putting into practice generous policies to attract foreign capital, offering nothing to any corresponding national entities.

Faced with the overriding need for “enemies”, we Cubans find we have been classified as such by the state, which is supposed to be our support. It’s an anomalous situation which views all good deeds with suspicion

Muad rejects the treatment recently handed out to our fellow-countrymen who tried to help the victims of the tornado, which hit some of the poorest areas of Havana last January 27th.

We also reject the repression which ended the march against homophobia last May 11th, and showed the image of a country which persecutes what in the rest of the world would be seen as a party. And we reject the silence of the state in the face of femicide, and crimes related to sexual, or racial discrimination, or anything else which damages human dignity.

We appreciate the facility of getting internet and social media access in the island. This novelty has shown that Cuban civil society is a reality, as initiatives which were up to recently difficult to deal with have acquired the ability to let people know about stuff which was previously unknown.

People have been mobilised to help victims, defend more humane treatment for animals, fight against homophobia, denounce state decrees blocking artistic liberty, and reduce the price of the so-called network of networks, just to give a few examples.

In the same way it was possible to mobilise a No vote before the constitutional referendum last February 24th. The campaign in support of it, organised by the Cuban government, monopolising the communication media and sanctioning any public protest against the proposed text, found itself up against a public argument mobilised by the social media. The partiality in the communication media, and the mobilisation of public opinion, put into doubt the approval sought.

As a result of the new constitutional text, the country will prepare a new electoral law. Muad urges the Cuban state to draft it so as to be a model which permits effective citizen participation in the process of electing political representatives, respecting freedom of association and movement irrespective of ideological preferences.

We call on the Cuban government to free up a space for participation, so that the growing movement does not hit a brick wall of repression and insult, which is what happened with help for the victims of the tornado in the days following January 27th, and with those who protested against homophobia last May 11th.

Right now we are seeing a growing distance between the governments of Cuba and the US. Our neighbour’s regime of sanctions against Cuba has been re-energised, with unexpected consequences.

Muad considers that our vulnerability to these actions by the United States are due to the country’s inability to produce food, and generate productive and financial resources which could make us independent of the actions of other countries. The signatories to this Declaration once again urge the Cuban government to free up the obstacles holding back our productive capacity and our  agriculture and high added value services.

Muad supports the fighters for democracy in Venezuela and Nicaragua, and wants all illegitimate governments to be replaced by democratic regimes. Because of our movement for democracy in Cuba, we know the cost and pain suffered by both peoples.

Political repression is, in Muad’s view, the most troublesome and unacceptable part of the authoritarian practices of the Cuban government. The maintenance of a one-party system in the new constitutional text renders ineffective the proscription of discrimination in that same text. We specifically reject the existence of political prisoners and the criminalisation of the children, spouses, brothers and sisters of members of the opposition, as a way of discouraging their fight.

Freedom is freedom – and that’s it. Without it, there is infinite pain. Time to put an end to this nonsense.

Panama City/Cuba, June 10th, 2019.

 Translated by GH

Social Media Censorship In Cuba: Another Turn Of The Screw / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 11 July 2019 — In the last few days we have seen the crystallisation of the Cuban government’s posture on the use of social media and websites in our country. The authorities in Havana have decided that from now on they will regulate even more closely the activity in these sites by way of legislation sanctioning anyone who, in accordance with official criteria, tries, by way of social media, or web sites, “… to spread, using public data transmission networks, information contrary to social or moral interest, good custom, or the integrity of any person …”, and, at the same time, prohibits the operation of any site whose primary server functions outside Cuba, with a penalty of up to 1000 CUP.

The controversial measures announced by the Ministry of Communications had already leaked out, to “authorise” — for which read “limit” or “control” — SNet, the extensive offline medium which has operated clandestinely for years in Cuba. The Ministry will limit the maximum power of its equipment to 100 milliwatts, which in practice would imply its eventual collapse. If on top of that we now add the new prohibition on freely putting anything out “contrary to social interest …” — which is a catch-all for just about anything — from public media, we begin to see la mano peluda [the dismembered hairy hand, which is a famous Mexican horror image] behind the cradle. continue reading

These measures reveal the evident terror, which has sprung up in the Cuban regime, of the power of the media to mobilise and speak out, and demonstrate perfectly clearly why they have done, and continue to do, everything they can to set back the penetration of the internet in our country, and imposing, one step at a time, the strictest censorship, maintaining a systematic domestic intelligence on what information is entering or leaving Cuba; and all of this on the basis of pricing which is prohibitive for ordinary Cubans.

Although the Havana oligarchs are fearful of a potential tropical version of the Arab Spring, without doubt they are aware that a North Korean style model of cyber control is a bit over the top in our context since it would be very disturbing  for a tourism industry in evident decline and would lead to perpetual awkward protests in many virtual and physical forums. Because of that, the guys from the Plaza [La Plaza de la Revolucion, Havana – where many political rallies take place] have opted for an alternative, less contentious, strategy of containment, but one which is nearly as efficient as that model.

With this alternative version, the Castro dictatorship has opted for a mixture, which varies with whatever tactical necessity, of a Beijing type totalitarianism and a Stalinist practice, which is by no means extinct, with the unmistakable signature of the KGB: systematic censorship using aggressive commentators, and the perpetual use of legions of trolls, cleverly combined with physical repression of activist dissidents and the independent press, such as by the use of laws which severely punish “crimes” which are just rights vetoed by a police state.

And, although the potential of social media in Cuba has not yet been more than hinted at, it’s quite enough for some shit to hit the panic button in the reactionary Politburo of the Central Committee and the cold offices of its despicable political police, which is where, without doubt, they are better able to assess the situation , because it is where they are better informed about the general frustration felt in the street, and the real extent of the hatred  felt by the Cuban people for those responsible for their misrule and subjugation.

Nevertheless, up to now, we hardly attend the habitual complaints of arbitrary raids and constant short-term arrests, the pitiless deluge of taunts against General “Jutía” Frías rambling on like an old idiot about ostriches [Comandante de la Revolucion who, in the face of Cuban food shortages, said “let them eat ostriches” or the repeated messages under the hashtag #BajenLosPreciosDeInternet denouncing the monopolistic abuses of ETECSA (the state telecoms company), among other nonsense and excesses.

Although the consequences haven’t always been virtual: we were also witnesses to how, on 12th of May last, the social media were the determining factor in the irreverent mobilisation of the LGBTI community in Havana, which resulted in a scandalous, and definitely physical, repressive operation organised by the State Security in the Paseo de Prado, and this still has a bad smell. It looks like we are all up to here with authorities who are  completely unwilling to tolerate any disagreement, whether physical or virtual.

There are various indications which show that the Cuban dictatorship continues to be stuck in the ’60’s: the recent imposition of Law 349 which, even when it has been watered down, seriously limits creative freedom, or the amendment imposed to the recently-approved Cinema Law, which will be the mano peluda (see the above translator’s note) which will, at the end of the day, authorise such licences. Although all that intransigence could be more clearly seen summed up in the embarrassing harangue that Diaz-Canel gave on the eve of the the UNEAC Congress — virtually a carbon copy of Fidel Castro’s notorious “Words to the intellectuals“, seen by many as a veiled threat.

Although, in reality, what is coming up now has been practised before by the regime and widely known and suffered by the dissidents. The only thing new here is the official advert, and as this site operates out of WordPress, a platform whose servers are of course not in Cuba, I could not turn a deaf ear, after which there is nothing much more to add.

My last words will, therefore, be brief — and I hope will be well understood by everyone who commits cyber identity theft, and every repressor: this humble blog is a space for free thought, in which I exercise my human right to express my sincerely-held opinions, and no tyrant has any authority over that. This site will stay open and active as long as there is a de facto power in my country which violates the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of my people.

Right now I am living temporarily outside of Cuba, but when I return, and I will definitely, if there is still this unfair regulation in place, I will not let it crush me, and every word I have said here I will keep to against all banners. The person who administers Ciudadano Cero (that is, this blog) is ready to defend his right to express his opinion, from wherever, regardless of the consequences.

Ah! … and on that subject: I, like Jose Daniel Ferrer, dont pay fines either

Translated by GH

Returning Cuban Doctors Treated Badly / Juan Juan Almeida

Cuban doctors returning from Venezuela wait to be processed on their return to Havana.

Juan Juan Almeida, 8 June 2019 — A large number of Cuban workers, who had completed a mission in Venezuela, were treated like nobodies when they returned to the island.

What happened last Friday, June 7th, was no less important just because it was habitual. These people, mostly health workers, having finished their task, and returned to the island, waited over 3 hours, completely ignored, outside the terminal, because, not being a priority for the Ministry of Health, nobody was there to receive them.

“Now, in accordance with the usual procedure, we should have been in epidemiological monitoring; but, it didn’t happen. They forgot about us, and some of us have to think how to get home, using our own savings. They were incapable of guaranteeing us a comfortable and safe return. Obviously, as we had finished our work, and were of no further use to them, they treat us like non-reusable surgical materials,” one of the Cuban professionals who arrived on the flight told Juan Juan Al Medio. continue reading

The plane landed around mid-day at Terminal 5 (Wajay) at Jose Marti Airport in Havana. That’s where they receive and see off the workers’ flights, carry out their detailed inspections, well away from the normal passenger flow, and out of sight of the rest of the tourists and travellers visiting the country.

Doctor Raiza Planells, a graduate in oral medicine and dentistry from the Holguin University of Medical Science, and a  member of the abandoned group, told us about their uncomfortable situation:

“This is what makes us angry. Workers, just come back from the end of the mission, and some from vacation, waited around for over 3 hours, without any transport to get us to quarantine. There was nobody from support staff or from the airport to give us an explanation for this neglect. How much longer???”, she wrote in her Facebook profile.

Translated by GH

"We are not afraid of what might happen to us", says Melia Vice President

Escarrer, Meliá vice president, in his interview for Cubavisión

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana May 13th 2019 — The Executive Vice President of Melia Hotels International, Gabriel Escarrer, has dismissed “external pressures” and announced the strengthening of the hotel chain’s presence in Cuba, in an interview on Cubavision, picked up by Hosteltur.

The entrepreneur has rejected the Trump administration’s policy toward Cuba following the activation of Titles III and IV of the Helms-Burton Act, which recognises claims in US Tribunals by those affected by the confiscation of property after 1959.

“We are not afraid of the pressures which might be applied from abroad,” he explained, while detailing a forthcoming investment of several million euros. In 2020, the company hopes to get to 38 hotels and more than 15,000 rooms on the island. continue reading

“We have been very clear over the last 31 years: that our stake in Cuba is unconditional. We consider these measures to be totally unjust, and we are continuing with our chosen route. We will continue to work closely with the Cuban authorities in developing this country’s tourism industry, which I consider to be exemplary in every sense,” he confirmed.

“In company with our Miramar joint venture, we have approved an investment of about 200 million dollars, to be committed in the next three years, and we will be reforming and broadening out Melia Habana and adding in a large convention centre; and three hotels in Varadero: Sol Palmeras, our five-star hotel, which has given us a great deal of satisfaction, the Melia Las Americas, and Melia Varadero,” he explained.

The Melia CEO, who is in the island for the tourism fair FitCuba, said that the investment in these four hotels was around 200 million dollars, and that construction of the Melia Trinidad was under way, in this case, with another joint venture, Athos-Cuba, in which they will be investing approximately 60 million dollars over two years.

Escarrer considers that Cuba is able to not just exploit sun and beach tourism, but also its patrimonial and cultural offerings, in cities such as Havana, Trinidad, Cienfuegos and Camaguey.

“I would also mention some other aspects which should be developed, which we call the MICE sector, to do with congresses, conventions, and incentives. And I think there are some great possibilities there, because Cuba offers things which other Carribean islands don’t have. Among other thnigs, security, which is a fundamental basis for success in any important event”.

Escarrer also praises the professionalism of Cuban workers, and the character of the people, which provide a unique destination in the region.

“We are here to stay and to work hand in hand in the development of tourism in the country. For me, it’s a success story, and we have been delighted to be here these 31 years and we would hope for another 31, at least.”

Translated by GH


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Spanish Government Closes the Door on Property Claims Between States

This house in Havana was the property of the Spaniard Raúl Lesteiro, according to his relatives, who are making a claim from Spain for its loss. (D.R.)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 13 May 2019 — The Spanish government closes the door on claims between states in relation to properties seized by Castro after the Revolution, and says that they should be dealt with on an individual basis, according to this Sunday’s ABC newspaper.

Sources in the Ministry of External Affairs, quoted in the newspaper, indicate that the proposal by the United States administration, “imposing an extra-territorial law cannot be reconciled with the European approach.” As far as Spain is concerned, the matter was agreed in 1986 and there is no case for reopening it.

“Cuba and Spain signed an accord between the two states in 1986, which established a compensation scheme, for those people affected, and reopening it would be out of the question,” said ABC´s source, adding that “any claim which may be lodged would have to be solely on a private basis.” continue reading

Spain and Cuba signed an agreement on 16 November 1986, through which Havana would pay Spain 5,416 m pesos (some 32.5 m Euros, in current terms) “as final compensation and settlement for all properties, rights, actions and interests of Spanish private persons and companies affected by laws, regulations , and measures ordered by the Cuban government from 1 January 1959, up to and including the signing of the present agreement,” of which a third part is to be paid in cash, and the rest in kind.

At that time, many of the potential claimants rejected the agreement, considering that the amount fixed was hardly a fifth of the true value of what had been confiscated. Others did not claim because they had no knowledge of the pact.

Two decisions of the Spanish Supreme Tribunal supported the accord although they added that it did not affect the “hypothetical right of any individuals to reclaim confiscated property, or receive fair compensation, either from the present, or a future Cuban government.”

According to ABC, there are some 450 Spanish families forming the 1898 Compañía de Recuperaciones Patrimoniales, who hope to recover what was stolen.

Translated by GH


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Something Good Came Out of the Tornado: Solidarity Among Cubans

The singer Haydée Milanés, with sunglasses, was one of the first artists who, of her own accord arranged donations for neighbours affected by the tornado, which caused fatalities, injuries and a lot of damage in various parts of Havana on the night of Sunday January 27th, 2019. Afterwards, again, of their own free will, dozens of musicians, comedians, actors, sportsmen, informal journalists and private business people joined in.

Iván García, 15 February 2019 — Before the violent tornado overturned cars in the Santos Suárez neighbourhood, pulled out electricity poles, and destroyed hundreds of homes, Aniel, a cook in a five star hotel in Old Havana, hardly said hello to his neighbours.

He fenced in his house and transformed it into a fortress, proof against burglars and muggers. Every morning he ran five kilometres through the back streets of Santos Suárez, then he took a shower, while he listened to jazz on his smartphone, and took a shared taxi to his work.

“That was my daily routine. I didnt say good day or hello to anyone in the area. Nor did my wife, and my 10-year-old son hardly had any friends. Stuck in his room all the time, entertaining himself with videogames on his computer. The inequality in our society, people who looked on with envy when their neighbours improved their quality of life, and general egotism, has converted us into hermits. continue reading

Havana is a long way from the violence of Caracas or Rio de Janeiro, but when you take a walk down the streets here, you can see that the majority of families have shut themselves in behind railings or walls, to protect their privacy.

“Most of my stuff I got under the counter (illegally), and, so as not to do it in full view of the CDR (Committee for the Defence of the Revolution), and the neighbours, it seemed the best solution was to shut myself off from everyone. Parties were just with family or work colleagues.

But, after the tornado had gone by, when I looked out of my door, and saw the destruction around me, I was left speechless. I went around the neighbourhood, and when I got back to my house, after having seen all that stuff, which was like scenes from a film about the Second World War, many things changed, right away”, admitted Aniel.

As his house wasn’t damaged, he prepared a spare room and offered it to a young couple and their daughter. “I knew them by sight. Their house was three doors down from mine, but I didn’t even know their names. One night I came home from the hotel and it broke my heart to see them sleeping out in the open as they had lost their house. My wife, my son and I agreed we should put them up. Where three people can fit, so can six. People don’t need to go to church to listen to a mass in order to redeem themselves,” Aniel concluded.

It has become a cliche in the streets of Havana  to go on about the loss of social values, bad manners, and people deforming the Spanish language with shouting and swearing when they talk, using vulgar and incomprehensible slang. Regina, a single mother with two children, trying to get by in the difficult conditions of Cuban socialism by doing the washing and cleaning private houses, has this to say:

“You saw how the rich kept their distance from the poor. They looked down their noses at us, because of our bad luck in life, with no fashionable clothing, or latest model cellphones. But, after the tornado passed, they showed support and altruism. Neighbours who had never spoken to me, gave me money, food and clothes. And I wasn’t one of the worst off.

When the government gives you a few building materials, even though they let you have them for half price, you still have to pay for them, you have to support an enormous bureaucracy, and, as well as that, they ask you to vote Yes to the Constitution. But people give you the little extra they have without asking for anything in return.”

Although the olive green government has described neighbours’ supporting each other, the state media has devoted little space to the free and disinterested aid given by hundreds of private businesses, artists and famous sportsmen.

Carlos, a sociologist, thinks that “the government, as always, goes on exaggerating its own successes  and hiding its failures. They avoid the fact that the procedure for buying building materials (and not all the materials you need to build a house), apart from being annoying, you have to pay for them.

The conditions in the accommodation provided for those who lost their homes, aren’t the best. But Diaz-Canel, in a boastful kind of voice, prefers to emphasise that it was the government that restored the electric supply in five days and the water in four. That is what any public administration is supposed to do. They have tried to brush aside the help provided by the private sector, the church and Cuban ex-pats.”

A few little examples. The singer Haydée Milanés went around distributing water , clothing and cleaning materials in Luyanó. The  Fábrica de Arte Cubano has organised dozens of musicians and artists to help people in Regla and Guanabacoa.

The young actress María Karla Rivero Veloz, daughter of the journalist Raúl Rivero and the actress Coralita Veloz, travelled from Miami to Havana with a load of useful things  which she collected in record time from fellow countrymen in Florida.

The baseball player Alfredo Despaigne, who plays in the Japanese league, gave $21k to victims in the Jesús del Monte area. Owners of independent restaurants and cafes in the capital gave food and served meals at knock-down prices.

After the tornado, thousands of ex-pat Cubans sent money and parcels to the victims, whether they were family members or not. “Every day, on average, we delivered 10 – 15 thousand convertible pesos. But over the last two weeks, the money orders from the United States and Europe have tripled,” according to a Western Union employee in Tienda Brimart in Diez de Octubre.

While she is waiting in a line to pick up the money sent by her brother from Tampa, Diana, a housewife, got things off her chest: “It annoys me that the government boasts about how quickly and efficiently it has made good the damage, when that is its responsibility. Not everything it says is true, some things are lies.

There are people who lost their homes 20 years ago because of a cyclone and they still haven’t given them a home. It also annoys me that the government and the press in Cuba don’t like to recognise the important role played by Cuban families living abroad.

They never publicise the amount of money sent, but it is  thousands of millions of dollars. A greater percentage of Cubans can eat and live better because of that money. Now, following the tornado, while the state asks for a mountain of paperwork to give you sand, blocks and cement, and lets everyone know about it, a friend of mine who lives in Miami sent me $500 to fix the roof of my house, without any of that stupid nonsense.”

If there is one thing ordinary Cubans agree about is that the efforts of thousands of people in Havana was impressive. We have never seen such an enormous and spontaneous movement. Hopefully this feeling of togetherness will continue.

Photo: The singer Haydée Milanés, with sunglasses, was one of the first artists who, of her own accord arranged donations for neighbours affected by the tornado, which caused fatalities, injuries and a lot of damage in various parts of Havana on the night of Sunday January 27th, 2019. Afterwards, again, of their own free will, dozens of musicians, comedians, actors, sportsmen, informal journalists and private business people joined in.

Translated by GH

Confirmation of Electoral Constituencies / Cubalex

From Cubalex – January 2019 

Step 5

Before calling elections, the Municipal Assemblies of Peoples’ Power (AMPP), divide their areas up into electoral constituencies, on the basis of the number of inhabitants in the Council area, and, after they have constituted them, present a proposal to the Municipal Electoral Commission, which, in turn, submits them to the respective Provincial Electoral Commission for approval.[1] The law does not lay down a time period in which to do this.

Note: This should happen before the Electoral Constituency Commissions are constituted, which, according to the official media, should happen before January 13th, 2019, the date upon which all the national electoral entities should be in place. The logic is that, in order to constitute the Electoral Constituency Commissions, the electoral constituencies should already have been determined. The law is silent on this matter. continue reading

In view of the haste with which this process has been carried out, it must be assumed that the constituencies approved for the previous elections in 2017 and 2018 will be used. At that point, they created 12,515 constituencies throughout the country, and 24,361 electoral colleges. 8% of the electoral colleges were in private houses.[2]

Step 6

The Provincial Electoral Commission decides the proposals for electoral constituencies submitted to them by the Municipal Electoral Commissions.[3]

Note: This should happen before the Electoral Constituency Commissions are constituted, which, according to the official media, should happen before January 13th, 2019. It is estimated that at least 12,515 electoral constituencies will be created across the whole country, based upon the official data on the elections which took place in 2017 and 2018. [4]

Step 7

The Municipal Electoral Commission designates the members of the Electoral Constituency Commissions in the time period established by the Council of State (between the 4th and 13th of January, 2019) in order to establish the subordinate electoral organs.[5]

[1] Article 12 and Subsection b) Article 26 of Law No. 72 of 29th of October 1992, “Electoral Law”.


[3]  Subsection f) Article 24 of Law  No. 72 of 29th October, 1992, “Electoral Law”.


[5] Subsection c) Article 16, Article  21, Subsections c) and ch) of Article 26, Article 29 and Subsection ñ) Article 30 of Law No. 72 of 29th October, 1992, “Electoral Law”

Translated by GH

Requiem for Havana / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 19 March 2019 — That Havana is falling to pieces is hardly news. The institutional neglect, apathy and general irresponsibility, which has affected the city, over the six decades since the “tornado” hit in January 1959, has totally destroyed it. November will be the 500th anniversary of its foundation and it is expected that the authorities will do it up a little, that’s to say, apply a bit of makeup, so that it looks a bit better and more presentable, at least for the foreigners who have been invited to attend the celebration.

As usual, there is more talk than action, and everywhere you look they are announcing the date with the slogan “Havana is the greatest”.

Nevertheless, what they are doing, with one or two exceptions, is slapdash, poor quality, with the worst productivity and even worse control. As an example of poor work, just look at  Calle Línea in El Vedado, with power cuts which hold up the traffic and pedestrians, and which has been going on for months, without anybody doing anything about it. And also Parque Acapulco in Nuevo Vedado, with bits demolished, rebuilt, and torn down again because of poor workmanship, and which has also been going on for months.  If that’s how it is in just two examples, it seems to me they won’t get much done in time for the celebration.

We all know that you can’t sort out a situation which has deteriorated over decades in a few months, but, at least whatever they do should be done properly.

Translated by GH

Conflicts of Interest in the Cuban Communist Party’s Constitutional Project / Cubalex

Center: Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel

Cubalex: Article 116 of the Cuban Communist Party’s (PCC) constitutional project establishes that “the Council of State may not admit members of the Council of Ministers, nor the highest authorities of the judicial or electoral institutions, or those of state control.”

The president of the republic has not joined either of the two entities but participates in both their meetings. The highest ranking officer of state can participate in his own right in meetings of the Council of State and summon them whenever he wishes; and may also preside over meetings of the Council of Ministers and its Executive Committee [art. 123 parts (u) and (v)) of the constitutional project of the PCC].

This is a meaningless prohibition, because it does not prevent members of the body which is charged with executing the laws being present during the process of adopting those same laws. Neither the Members of the Council of Ministers nor the highest-placed officials of the organs of the judiciary, or electoral bodies, or those of state control should be able to act as representatives.

Neither should the president be able to attend meetings of the permanent body of the National Assembly (the legislative body which spends nearly the whole year in recess) nor be a representative. The avoidance of conflicts of interest is one of the prime reasons why this position should be held by a political representative directly elected by the people.

Art. 129 of the PCC constitutional project establishes that “the Secretary General of the Workers’ Union of Cuba (CTC) participates in his own right in the sessions of the Council of Ministers”. What happens if the Secretary of the PCC is a Member of the Council of State? How are interests to be reconciled if he is a state functionary (Member of the Council of State), political representative, party leader ( Member of the Political Bureau of the PCC), and leader of civi society (Secretary General of the CTC)?

 Translated by GH

The Book Fair: A Communist Vanity Project / Angel Santiesteban

At the Book Fair holding “A Dictionary of Fidel Castro’s Thoughts” (Foto Prensa Latina)

Ángel Santiesteban, Havana, 23 February 2019 — They slammed shut the doors of La Cabaña, ending the 28th Havana Book Fair; and one which, I suppose, has been the most disturbing of all of them up until now. I can imagine everything those culture officials had to do to prepare an event scheduled for the same month as the widely-publicised constitutional referendum.

One week after the end of the public holiday, Cubans will be invited to ratify the constitutional monster, on which the government had wasted miles and miles of paper, and rivers of ink, sufficient to be able to print an infinite number of headlines, and indeed the entire output of the national press for a whole year. All in order to indoctrinate the Cuban people, and to demand that they legitimise an eternity of communism in Cuba.

The poor Cuban reader, who waits every year for that event which hardly shows any books and which silences the great writers around here and world-wide. The Censorship Fair, in its capital, Havana, slammed its doors and started its follow-up fanfares in the provinces, with identical procedures and the same limitations. continue reading

This was the same as all the ideas which came out of Fidel Castro’s head, who, although he didn’t achieve it,  dreamed of making the International Book Fair into the most important literary event in the world, more important than the ones in Frankfurt, Buenos Aires or Guadalajara. Nevertheless, in contrast to the other ones, the Fair in Havana had to face up to the real essence of these very diverse events, where you can even trade those monstrous editions of his collected speeches and interviews, which is the sign of true democracy.

This fair felt the weight of the upcoming constitutional referendum on its shoulders. Many books arrived hot off the press into the hands of their readers because all the publishers in the country were churning out hundreds of thousands of copies of the Constitution and all its accompanying bells and whistles.

This got in the way of all those books which should have been on display on opening day. But, nevertheless, all the officials said it was a success. And Alpidio Alonso, that Minister so distanced from the arts and culture, but offensively titled Minister of Culture, will have passed a trial by fire.

The Fair had to go ahead, and could not be set back by anything, not even the devastating tornado which hit Havana. Everything had to go ahead, whatever else was happening; the march for Martí’s birthday, the Fair, and everything that would show just how great, cultured and revolutionary Cuba was. And the Fair finished, with tributes to the official writers, the ones who dance to the tune of this non-government.

Havana’s fair has now closed, and the city will continue in its sad misery, with its hundreds of thousands of inhabitants who have no interest in opening a book, unless they have run out of toilet paper. The fair closed, and, with it, the tributes to the obedient writers, and the rent-a-claque of professional applauders. The doors of the fair have closed in Havana, but others will follow, with the same crap, the same arrogance and the same callousness.

But this Fair was also, in spite of the attentiveness of G2 (the State Intelligence Agency) a scene of political confrontation. One writer, taking part in a presentation, ripped off her shirt and revealed her sweater with its written message to say “No” to the Constitution.

This was met by the usual repression and hate: they harassed and insulted her; they turned violent and furious, pulled her hair, and hit her, by way of bringing to a close the proceedings and making it quite clear in passing what might happen the following Sunday, when more than a few people will say “No” to the Castro farce.


Ángel Santiesteban

(Havana, 1966). Graduate in Film Direction, living in Havana, Cuba. Honorable Mention in Juan Rulfo Competition (1989), National Writers’ Association UNEAC Prize (1995). The book: Dream of a Summer’s Day, was published in 1998. In 1999 winner of the César Galeano prize. And the Alejo Carpentier Prize in 2001, organised by the Cuban Book Institute, with a set of stories: The Children Nobody Wanted. In 2006, he won the Casa de las Americas Prize in the stories genre with Happy are Those Who Mourn. In 2013, he won the International Franz Kafka Novels From the Drawer Prize [given in tribute to novels that are written, but then shoved to the back of a drawer rather than published], organised in the Czech Republic, with the novel The Summer When God Slept. He has published in Mexico, Spain, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, China, England, the Dominican Republic, France, the USA, Colombia, Portugal, Martinique, Italy, Canada, among other countries.

 Translated by GH

Do You Want Transparent Elections in Cuba? Report Violations of the Electoral Law: Here We Tell You How… / Cubalex

“Clean Elections”

Cubalex, 3 January 2019 — Last December 26th, the Council of State appointed members of the National Electoral Commission, but without announcing it publicly to the electorate in the Official Gazette of the Republic, as required by electoral law. This goes against normal electoral procedure, violates our electoral rights and takes away any transparency from the already discredited voting in the referendum.

We have time to insist that they comply with the law which they themselves enacted. You can go to the President of the National Assembly and require that he orders the Council of State to correct the errors committed. continue reading

Publicising in the Official Gazette of the Republic the invitation to the referendum vote.

Respecting the legal 90 day requirement to fix the date of the event.

Technically, the Council of State is an organ of the National Assembly, responsible to it and to which it must account for all its actions. Will they listen to our demands? Let us give it the benefit of the doubt. Why not? What can we lose?

Below you will find a complaint form you can use to report it. Print 2 copies. Take one to the Assembly and use the other to ask for confirmation of receipt (evidence that they have received the report, it could be a stamp with signature, date, and entry number.) Scan the document with its acknowledgement of receipt and send it to us at:

If there is no response, Cubalex will act to publicise the report internationally.

If they prevent you from presenting the document or get back at you for having presented it, write to us too.

It doesn’t matter whether your option is  #I VoteNo or #IDoNotVote. You can make a difference

Model form for a written complaint or report of a violation of electoral law


(first and last name), Cuban citizen with identity number (11 digits from your identity card) and normal address (street or avenue name, number of the building, cross-street, district, city, province and country) Republic of Cuba, I wish to state:

(This may be presented by an individual or a group. In the latter case, each person must set out his or her personal details.)

The signatory/ies of the document, with the support of Art. 63 of the Constitution of the Republic, confirm the following:

FIRST: Last December 26th, the official daily newspaper Granma published a report, headed “The Council of State designates the members of the National Electoral Commission and fixes the date on which they take up office” informing us that the “Council of State, in accordance with the provisions of Law No. 72 of October, 29th, 1992, [The Law on Elections], and in conformity with the announcement of the National Assembly of People’s’ Power, has resolved to designate the seventeen members of the National Electoral Commission, authorised by the referendum, by means of which the Cuban people with voting rights ratified the new Constitution of the Republic”.

SECOND: That the Council of State violated the position set out in Arts. 162, 163 and 167 of Law No. 72 of October 29th, 1992, [The Law on Elections], which regulates voting in the referenda called by the National Assembly of Peoples’ Power, by way of Art. 1. As established by Art. 162 of the said body of regulations, the National Assembly of Peoples’ Power, by agreement, summons the electors to indicate whether or not they ratify the Constitutional Reform project, which, according to official media, occurred last December 22nd, but which, up to the present date, has not been published in the Official Gazette of the Republic, for the general information of the public.

THIRD: By means of Art. 163, the “Council of State, in accordance with that which has been established by the National Assembly of Peoples’ Power, orders the publication of the invitation to a referendum in the Official Gazette of the Republic, and designates the national Electoral Commission”. Art. 167 establishes that the “voting be arranged in the form pre-established by the elections of delegates and Deputies to the Assemblies of Peoples’ Power”. In accordance with this law, “(a) all elections shall be preceded by a corresponding summons issued by the Council of State and are to be published in the Official Gazette of the Republic, with not less than 90 days’ notice of the date of the event”.

FOURTH: From the foregoing one understands that, following the agreement of the Assembly, the Council of State should have made public the calling of the referendum in the Official Gazette of the Republic, prior to designating the Members of the National Electoral Commission and respected the legally-required 90 day term for the announcement of the date of the event. The violation of the electoral law in this case is an attack against the normal roll-out of the electoral process and deprives the voting in the referendum of any transparency.


Taking into account what is set out in Arts. 74 and 79 of the Constitution of the Republic, which establishes that the Council of State is an organ of the National Assembly, responsible to it and to which it is liable to account for all its activities, we urge that the Council of State be required to comply in good faith with its obligations in respect of Electoral Law 72 of October 29th, 1992, to publicise in the Official Gazette the calling of the referendum, put right the errors committed and to respect the 90 day legal term for the fixing of the date of the event.

Havana, ______ of _________, 2018

Name/ names of the person/s presenting the representation


Translated by GH

The State is Obliged to Protect Before, During, and After a Natural Disaster / Cubalex

(Adalberto Roque / AFP)

14ymedio biggerCubalex, 1 February 2019 — Social media have revealed the many dangerous situations which have had to be coped with by the victims of the tornado which battered the Cuban capital on the night of 27 January 2019. People have suffered devastating consequences, including loss of life, of their means of subsistence, as well as damaged infrastructure and economic costs.

It is worrying that the Cuban government holds back or obstructs the provision of relief to the most needy when the international community provides humanitarian assistance. In view of this situation, we have decided to respond to this question:

Does the state have a duty to protect its citizens before, during, and after a natural disaster? continue reading

By virtue of current international law, states are the principal agencies with human rights duties and obligations. International law and common law impose three obligations: the duty to respect, the duty to protect, and the duty to obey.

The duty to protect consists in three responsibilities: (1) prevent, (2) react, and (3) rebuild.

These three obligations have equal application and force in relation to dealing with natural disasters. Complying with them is the minimum that citizens expect at the time of confronting a natural disaster. We have the right to be protected before, during, and after a natural disaster.

The duty to prevent in the context of natural disasters translates as the responsibility to alert people that a natural disaster is imminent. That of reacting is the obligation to recognise when it is not possible to deal efficiently with a disaster and, as a result, the obligation to request assistance from other states.

The intervention of other states is essential to enable a state to recover from a catastrophe. Additionally, even when such intervention has not been requested, other states may proceed in order to bring humanitarian aid without being held responsible for any violation of sovereignty of the state which has been affected, solely as and when the intervention is for this purpose only and not as a pretext for the introduction of armed forces into the affected state.

The fact that a state is lacking sufficient resources does not justify violations of human rights, as there is always the opportunity to make use of international relations with other states to combat a humanitarian crisis resulting from natural disasters.

Lastly, the duty to rebuild refers to the responsibility on the part of the state to ensure sustainable reconstruction and restoration.

Following the disaster, the state has the obligation to seek assistance from the United Nations and from other countries to enable short term and long term reconstruction plans; to assure that the areas affected are once again rendered habitable and safe for people.

In earlier times, when human rights were still considered to be an internal matter for each country, the intervention of other states and the international community was resisted.

Nowadays, this attitude has in large part been replaced by a responsibility, in which states are considered to be responsible for the wellbeing of their people. That is to say, the state has the responsibility to protect the population, especially in the face of natural disasters.

The UN Charter obliges its member states to “take measures jointly and separately, in cooperation with the organisation, for the accomplishment of the objectives set out in Art. 55”, which promotes respect for the human rights and fundamental liberties of all persons subject to its jurisdiction, without any form of discrimination.

First published in Cubalex.

 Translated by GH


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Reprogramming for Change / Somos+

People don’t know the power they have.

Somos+, from a special friend and collaborator from Germany.

A friend was telling me recently (commenting on the recent events in Venezuela and the consequences that this change could bring for Cuba) that “the Cuban people don’t have the necessary courage to rise up against the dictatorship.”

These two countries, although they have gone through many similar things and the dictators have practiced the same style of government, through repression and fear, have completely different contexts. In my opinion the Cuban people have plenty of courage, what’s lacking is the information to change all the concepts they have instilled in us since we were born. continue reading

Cuba has lived 60 years with the same rulers — that’s three generations — on whom they have changed the chip and they keep injecting one single idea, one single source of information.

Information that tells you: This idea is the best in the world, look how the other countries are, even though we are blockaded we have education and healthcare, if you go out to protest we will take you prisoner, because the only ones who don’t agree with this system are mercenaries, who are paid to destroy us, they are enemies.

The Cuban has always been in check and on the front line. Before it was necessary to prepare oneself for the defense of the country because the yankees would come, then they had to create an army of computer specialists to win the media war, now the danger is the mercenaries paid by the empire.

We cannot let them take away the little that we have gained, our achievements have to be defended, first by José Martí, then by Fidel, after it will be by Raul… All those concepts have stuck in the mind of the Cuban and it is difficult to debate on any subject without some repeated slogan coming out, stripped of common sense.

Information has to arrive right now to our families in Cuba, we have to reprogram the chip, because otherwise we will not manage to change our country.

Now let us imagine the scene of my aunt Josefa, who only has access to the news and novelas from el Paquete [the Weekly Packet]. This aunt of mine was born two months after the triumph of the Revolution, she saw how her father (my grandfather) went to the hills to teach the poor illiterate peasants how to read and write.

Josefa watched the many relatives who emigrated in the ’80s leave and not come back, because “they didn’t want to live in a just system, they were gusanos (worms).” That aunt who lost her husband in Angola, and was never given details of how her companion and father of her only son perished, but she know that “he was a hero because he went to free the African people.”

That aunt, a teacher by vocation, went to Venezuela to support the novel education plan “Yes I can,” leaving behind her only son and serving that government “that gives us everything: free healthcare, free education, a basic basket that resolves [the problem of food], a salary that isn’t enough but, how can you ask for more from a blockaded country?”

Now my aunt lives alone, at almost 60, with an emigrated son, who works honorably to support his new family and his mother in Cuba.

In one of my last visits to Cuba I was speaking with this aunt of how important would be the people’s call to change the government, in order to have a better life, for her and for young people, those who have to go abroad in search of their dreams.

Only questions existed in the head of my aunt, questions like: how to fight against something that is good, just, and positive? How to take initiative to demand my rights, if I already have them? More rights don’t exist, I don’t know about them. Let us remember that the world is an unjust and difficult place where the rich, those heartless people, are those who dictate how to live and take advantage of poor people like my aunt.

How to tell my aunt that nobody pays me to say what I think? How to explain to her that the United States doesn’t want to make war with Cuba? How to explain to her that the people of Cuba are neither more nor less capable than the people of the country where I live, where there are independent unions that fight for better salaries for the workers they represent? How to explain to my aunt that rulers are there to represent the interests of a people and not the other way around?

How can you explain so many things and reprogram an almost 60-year-old chip? Just so, explaining it, speaking without raising one’s voice, without insults, with respect for a life full of sacrifices and losses, a life without hopes and full of conformity, but a life, a life that is worth living until the end with dignity.

For my aunt Josefa, and for many thousands, millions of Cubans like my aunt, it’s worthwhile arming ourselves with patience and “teaching to read and write” once again, our people. It’s time to leave apathy behind and give our little grain of sand, not for Marti, not for Fidel, but for ourselves, for our personal freedom.

It’s not true that from outside Cuba we cannot do anything, we can do a lot. Cubans abroad, we have to be like my grandfather who went to the hills to give what he knew to those who didn’t have it, not only because it is just, or correct, but because we owe it to that entire generation that fought so hard for their children to be something in life, that generation who since the ’60s was indoctrinated in a utopian system that doesn’t work.

That generation used for so many marches, the one that was given a bait and switch and made to believe that they came out the winner. Let us do it for our grandparents who perhaps died without seeing that better world, for our parents who live with disappointments and without hopes. Let us do it for our children and for the generation to come, so that they feel proud of their parents like my aunt Josefa once felt proud of her father. Let us instruct our Cuba and return to it that courage and strength that they have had stored in their chips for 60 years already.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey

Independent Cuban artists say NO to Decree 349 / Ivan Garcia

Photo: Iván García

Iván García, 7 December 2018 — Luis Manuel Otero, an independent artist, the day before his 31st birthday, walks hand in hand with his wife  Yanelys Núñez, an art historian, aged 29, along a dark narrow street going to an art gallery in an old cinema which showed porn movies in the Chinese district in Havana.

For about twenty minutes they look at the exhibition and talked to various artists. Then they return to Yanelys’ home at Monte and Ángeles. The couple live in a jerry-built Soviet style building, put up to alleviate the acute housing problem in the capital. continue reading

In their fourth floor apartment, Luis Manuel Otero and Yanelys Núñez get the Diario Las Americas newspaper. Their main interest is discussing the demo being planned by 50 independent artists starting on Monday December 3rd opposite the head office of the Ministry of Culture in Second Street between 11th and 13th, Vedado.

The living/dining room is furnished with a sofa, two armchairs and a metal table. Up against the wall, is a bookcase which could collapse at any moment from the weight of all its books and documents. In a wooden multipurpose piece of furniture there is an old Chinese cathode ray tube tv.

At the side of the sofa is a little table with candles, photos and a glass of water with a metal cross. On the floor, a couple of bottles of moonshine. It is Yanelys’ mother’s altar. In Cuba, the Afro-Cuban religion protects people who are in danger or in need of good luck.

And the group of independent artists who are defying the government of President designate Miguel Díaz-Canel are going to need to have a lot of luck.

Forty-eight hours before the protest starts, Luis Manuel and Yanelys look calm, thinking about the procession. They don’t know what will happen Monday. Amaury Pacheco, Iris Ruiz, Michel Matos and Raz Sandino get together with Luis Manuel and Yanelys to analyse different possibilities.

“These people (the State Security) are unpredictable. They will lock us up, like El Sexto (graffiti artist), or keep us in the Vivac (prison in South Havana) until after the 7th. Anything can happen. They will obviously detain us. But we have no choice. If we accept Decree 349 we are signing our death warrant as artists. This legal monster is a bullet straight to my head. So, we are going to fight. I am a hero” indicates Amaury Pacheco, the oldest of the group and father of six children.

Decree 349 tried to tiptoe by. The same day that the autocrat Raúl Castro  anointed his successor,  Díaz-Canel’s first act as leader was to sign the retrograde law, which without any doubt threatens the autonomy of the artistic and intellectual sector in Cuba.

“Although it was signed on April 20th, it appeared in the Official Gazette on July 10th. Most of us independent artists didn’t appreciate the small print of the regulation. We were alerted to it by a call from a journalist on Radio Martí . When Luis Manuel was able to calmly read the decree, he understood that its intention was to eliminate artistic freedom. So we decided to organise a campaign against it using all the tools at our disposal, from social media to the independent overseas press on the island”, explains Yanelys, and adds:

“We always try to act within the law and act in a peaceful manner. On August 1st and 2nd we organised a public debate in the MAPI gallery (Museum of Politically Uncomfortable Art) where nearly 100 people turned up. Before that, on June 26th, we delivered a letter to the Sainz Brothers Association, the Ministry of Culture, UNEAC, and the Plastic Arts Council, denouncing the danger posed to artistic freedom by that decree. As we had no response from the official agencies, we decided to set off on the road of civil protest”.

On July 21st, opposite the Capitolio in Havana, by way of protest, Yanelys smeared her body with faeces. Various artists, including Luis Manuel Otero and Amaury Pacheco, were detained by the police.

This independent group, brought into being by Decree 349, is a caleidoscope of intellectuals, playwrights, theatrical artists, producers, writers, art critics, photographers, musicians and plastic artists, among others.

Yanelis emphasised that there were other usually less anti-establishment groups of artists in Cuba who had, in one way or another, joined in the condemnation of Decree 349. “José Ángel Toirac, National Plastic Arts Prizewinner, is one of the signatories to a letter condemning 349.

Most people in the cultural sector are against this regulation, because with this legal instrument the state can limit and censure any artistic work. Independent artists are pretty well put out of business. I have to point out that we have received the inestimable support of lawyers inside and outside the country, especially from Laritza Diversent, an exiled dissident Cuban lawyer in the United States”

If finally on December 7th they implement Decree 349, self-taught musicians of the calibre of Benny Moré, Compay Segundo and  Polo Montañez would not have a look in.

Luis Manuel Otero recognises the danger posed by the regulation: “All the world knows we live in a dictatorship. I”m not under any illusion. We are fighting a state which has all the resources it needs to shut us up. But our group is determined to confront these and other injustices”.

The special services are trying by whatever way possible to force free artists into obedience. Iris Ruiz comments that “MININT officials who run children’s services went to my office to get signatures from neighbours to take my children from me. Nobody signed. The Security also put pressure on other artists via their families. They are trying to demotivate and divide us”.

Amaury Pacheco says that “right now a rapper known in the arts world as Maikel el Osorbo is locked up, and they are trying to accuse him of a common crime. The kid had sewn up his mouth in protest against state abuse and Decree 349. We are not supermen. We just want to live and create a  free society”.

Cuban independent artists know that all sorts of things can happen in the coming days. Nothing positive. But fear also has its limit.

Translated by GH

One Single History / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 14 January 2019: Cuba’s history runs from 1492 to the present day, and men and women have contributed to it, for good or ill, throughout this period.

Because of that, I have never understood why they talk and write about science, art and sport, to name but three examples, as being pre-January 1st 1959, and post that date. This absurd and unnatural division, motivated purely by political considerations, splits up our national history into little compartments. As if the earlier people have nothing to do with present day people, and vice versa. continue reading

This phenomenon is most deeply rooted in sport and music, maybe because of their widespread appeal. So, in the first one, there are baseball players from before and after, and also boxers, volleyball players, swimmers, athletes, chess players, etc., as if all of them weren’t Cubans. The baseball players Orestes Miñoso, Conrado Marrero, Adrián Zabala and Willy Miranda are just as Cuban as José Antonio Huelga, Braudilio Vinent, Armando Capiró or Agustín Marquetti, to name but a few. Also Orlando “Duke” Hernández, José Ariel Contreras, Kendry Morales, Yasiel Puig and Aroldis Chapman as much as Alfredo Despaigne, Yurisbel Gracial, Frederich Cepeda and  Yordanis Samón. And, in the boxing ring, Kid Chocolate, Kid Gavilán and Puppy García as much as Teófilo Stevenson, Roberto Balado or Félix Savón.

If we look at music, we have a right old mongrel stew, composed of Brindis de Salas, García Caturla, Ernesto Lecuona, Gonzalo Roig, Rita Montaner, Martha Pérez, Esther Borja, Rosita Fornés, Meme Solís, Miriam Ramos, Pablo Milanés, Benny Moré, Pacho Alonso, Silvio Rodríguez, Beatriz Márquez, Maggie Carlés, Celia Cruz, Olga Guillot, Willy Chirino, David Calzado, Juan Formell, and others.

All of them play their part in forming the national identity, never mind where they come from, or their political and ideological points of view or belief, and nobody has the right or the power to deny them that.

Cuban history is one and indivisible.

Translated by GH