I Have No Confidence in the Cuban Constitution / Cubalex, Julio Alfredo Ferrer Tamayo

Cubalex, Lic. Julio Alfredo Ferrer Tamayo, 13 November 2019  — Unfortunately, in the Cuban legal context, there is no Constitutional Tribunal, or, to put it another way, there are no constitutional guarantees. Along with many lawyers, non-lawyers, and legislators as well, I was hoping for a change. Along with other colleagues, I had confidence in the national constitutional tradition, and especially in the milestone represented by the Constitution of 1940, recognised as the most advanced in Latin America, for its time;  nevertheless, it didn´t work out like that. Everybody, whether they voted yes or no, continues with no constitutional guarantees.

In order to be implemented, the new text, in force since April 10th, 2019, needs legislation, which hasn’t yet been prepared, and requires various time periods in which to do it. This gap has given rise to what many have called the “legislative gap”, or “legal limbo”, which is simply a period of legal system paralysis, while waiting for the legislation to be passed. At the moment, the Constitution remains an undelivered message.

To sum up, we Cubans have to wait six months for the new Electoral Law regulating election of representatives to the National Assembly, its President, Vice President, and Secretary; as well as the Council of State, and the President and Vice President of the Republic. And this is going to be delayed even further by other processes. For example, the regulations for the National Assembly will be delayed a year, and two years for the Council of Ministers, the provincial and municipal governments, and their administrative councillors. continue reading

The enactment of the law on Popular Tribunals is eighteen months away, as are also the modifications to the Laws on Penal, Civil, Administrative, Employment and Economic Procedures, and also the legislative modifications needed to effect Art. 99 of the new constitution.

As far as the Family Code is concerned, which is the window which still holds out the prospect of a marriage of equals, there are still 24 months before the start of the popular consultation process and the relevant referendum.

“The most completed and advanced of the Cuban constitutional texts”, which is what Homer Acosta Alvarez, the Secretary of the Council of State, has termed the new Constitution, will be applied bit by bit, because it needs, according to Homer himself, no fewer than 50 items of legislation. And, really, it is difficult to be optimistic about it.

The legislation which backed up the 1976 Constitution was not a happy memory. We can recall the Law on Migration (it dealt with the right to leave the country with an exit permit, a carte blanche, authorised by the Ministry of the Interior), or the Law on Association, and its Regulations (it conditioned the right of association upon prior permission of the Ministry of Justice).

We can think of other equally disastrous legislation, such as Order 149 (which violated the right oto personal property enshrined in Art. 21 of the said Constitution. And also Decree 217 of 1997 (imposed innumerable legal requirements on Cuban citizens of other provinces wanting to reside permanently in Havana).

What we can learn from such legislation is that they are a double-edged sword, holding back and restricting rights proclaimed in the text of the constitution, preventing citizens from exercising them.

Will it be the same this time around? I think so. We Cubans need to be very watchful over this legislation, because they will have been enacted without prior popular consultation, and therefore people will not be able to influence the contents, in spite of the democratic process they have been boasting about.

We remember that Art. 26 of the old Constitution recognised the right of every individual who suffers loss or is prejudiced by inappropriate action by officials or agents. Later, this right was restricted by Section 2 of Art. 96 of the Civil Code, which subordinated its exercise and implementation to declarations of illegality on the part of the superior state authorities. That is to say, if the superior state authority thinks it is not in the state’s interests, there will be no compensation, or indemnification, or any constitutional rights worth a bean.

This right, with identical wording, is anticipated in Art. 98 of the new Law of Laws. It remains to be seen if the regulations which are to enact this constitutional precept, let’s call it Civil Code, will set up a legal mandate of subordinate status, constraining the right to compensation and indemnification for damages improperly caused by state authorities.

If the new Constitution had conceived of a Tribunal of Constitutional Guarantees or other similar entity with the authority and structure necessary to protect the constitution, then those persons who had seen their rights infringed would have had an organisation to go to in order to defend the constitutional position. That organ would be a defensive wall against arbitrary action.

Translated by GH

Is What Happened After Jose Daniel Ferrer’s Detention The Exception Or The Rule?

Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Cuban opposition organization UNPACU

Eloy Viera, from El Toque, published by Cubalex, 19 November 2019 — On October 1st, 2019, Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the opposition organisation Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU, by its initials in Spanish), was detained by the Cuban police in his home. His family stated that, for a period of several days, they were unable to verify his whereabouts or physical condition.

On October 29th, the United Nations Committee Against Forced Disappearance issued a “request for urgent action” to the Cuban government, asking for, among other things:

To clarify immediately what has happened to Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, and where he is.

To inform his family members and representatives … what has happened and where he is, and … permit his family and representatives to make immediate contact with him. continue reading

In the event of his precise location being unknown, to take all necessary actions to clarify where he is and what has happened to him … including the adoption of a comprehensive and exhaustive strategy to find him and to investigate his alleged disappearance.

If his detention is confirmed, to bring Mr Ferrer Garcia immediately before a judge, having informed him precisely of what crimes he is accused, and affording him access to a lawyer.

The United Nations Committee’s pronouncement is based upon the Convention relating to the Protection of Persons against Forced Disappearance. Cuba signed and ratified the Convention in the years 2007 and 2009 respectively, as a result of which, in accordance with International Law, it has assumed the expectations and obligations of that legislation.

According to the Convention, “the arrest, detention, kidnapping, or any other form of deprivation of liberty, whether resulting from the activities of agents of the state, or those acting with the authorisation, support, or acquiescence of the state, accompanied by a failure to recognise said deprivation of liberty or the concealment of the situation or whereabouts of the disappeared person, depriving him of the protection of the law”, is a forced disappearance.

ON WHAT BASIS CAN THE COMMITTEE AGAINST FORCED DISAPPEARANCE ASSUME THAT THE CASE OF JOSE DANIEL FERRER MAY CONSTITUTE A FORCED DISAPPEARANCE?

The legal instrument intended to protect the individual against forced disappearance and arbitrary detention is habeas corpus.

 Habeas corpus in its classical sense provides a direct form of protection for the individual in terms of personal liberty and physical condition.  In order to be able to confirm that a person has benefitted from a habeas corpus process which meets international standards, it is essential that the person detained be presented before a judge as quickly as possible.

Habeas corpus does not just permit the assessment of the legality of a detention or disappearance, but also serves as an instrument by which an impartial entity (a judge) may consider whether the authorities, or those appointed by the state, have respected the individual’s life and physical condition. The physical appearance before a judge of the detainee prevents the location of the detention being kept secret, and protects him against torture or other cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment or punishment.

After more than 15 days’ detention, Jose Daniel Ferrer’s family members claimed that they did not know where he was being held, his physical conditions and the crime of which he was accused. For this reason, they lodged an application for habeas corpus before the Popular Provincial Tribunal of Santiago de Cuba.

They hoped to obtain the support which “theoretically” is offered by Cuban law in such situations, as set out in the currently applicable regulations which acknowledge that a judge who is in receipt of such an application may:

Order the authority, or official, having charge of the detainee, to present him, at the time and date specified, before the Tribunal, within a space of 72 hours.

Require the same authority, or official, to provide a written report indicating when and why he was detained.

If the judge is informed that the person in question is not being detained by that authority, he may require anew that it be clarified whether, at any time, he was so detained, and whether he was transferred to another authority or official, indicating their identity.

On presentation of the detainee and the report, he may arrange an oral hearing in order to hear the interested parties and assess the evidence presented. Following this hearing, the judge is in a position to take an informed decision, which may or may not lead to the freeing of the detainee.

Nevertheless, the application presented was responded to by way of Order 39, dated October 18th, 2019, in which the judges declared that the application for habeas corpus had no merit.

The judges, without having undertaken any of the aforementioned procedures, considered that “the application has no merit” because Ferrer is being processed by way of a Preparatory Phase Action initiated on October 3rd, 2019, covered by an Act of Detention, dated the first of the said month. Moreover, they considered that his detention is in response to A Precautionary Measure of Pre-trial Detention issued by a prosecutor on October 7th, 2019.

The unofficial versions of the announcements, which were circulated afterwards by the Committee on Forced Disappearances, and the campaign in favour of the release of Jose Daniel, as well as the nuances which were introduced, do not detract from any of those arguments.

So, in the absence of any official written pronouncement to clarify the current situation of the leader of UNPACU, the assumptions of the Committee Against Forced Disappearances are not unfounded.

IS WHAT HAS HAPPENED WITH THE HABEAS CORPUS OF JOSÉ DANIEL FERRER THE EXCEPTION, OR THE RULE?

The report issued in Cuba on the Periodic Assessment of Human Rights (by the United Nations) in 2018, stated that “there is an immediate right of application for habeas corpus to challenge the illegality of deprivation of liberty and detentions … between 2010 and June, 2017, the tribunals considered 156 applications for habeas corpus. In 8 of them it was agreed the application had merit and the detainee was immediately released”.

These numbers, rather than demonstrating the ethics of the Cuban authorities, and the absence of arbitrary detentions or forced disappearances, evidence the inefficiency of Cuban habeas corpus and its resultant lack of use by legal professionals.

Because of the design of juridical regulations in Cuba, it cannot be considered that “judicial supervision”, which is essential in habeas corpus, is a guarantee for those deprived of liberty or who are detained. In Cuba, the supervision of the legitimacy and legality of such situations is not in the hands of a judge, but rather in those of the party with the principal obligation of investigating crime and representing the state in achieving a judgement: the prosecutor.

The decision proffered by the Provincial Popular Tribunal of Santiago de Cuba in response to the habeas corpus application presented in favour of José Daniel Ferrer, demonstrates this. What the judges did, and do, in this , and in the majority of these cases, is deny the person affected the opportunity of an “impartial” tribunal to assess the reasons for his detention, the circumstances in which it arose, and its legality.

The Cuban regulations consider that all acts of the police and instructions approved by the prosecution are legal, and do not need to be supervised or evaluated by the tribunals. Art. 467 of the Law of Penal Procedure establishes that: “applications for writs of habeas corpus shall not proceed in cases in which the deprivation of liberty results from a sentence or order of pre-trial detention in respect of a criminal act.

That provision allows judges not to analyse the application presented in favour of José Daniel Ferrer, and so, not to require his presentation before them, not to mention the crime of which he is accused, and not to assess his personal circumstances or to define his place of detention.

It would have been good if the judges, rather than hold that the application “had no merit” had expressed what really had happened: that they were unable to decide whether or not the interested party was right. They took advantage of the ability granted them by law and did not seek to establish the details or to evaluate the arbitrariness of a detention which has been described as politically motivated.

If they had done the opposite, then probably the Committee Against Forced Disappearances would not have needed to present its petition for urgent action. Nevertheless, the way most of the Cuban penal process is designed, including that of applications for habeas corpus, detached from international standards of due process, will ensure that there is much to occupy the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Working Group.

ESTABLISHED LEGAL PROCESS FOR POLICE DETENTION OF AN INDIVIDUAL

The police are aware of a crime, or capture someone in the course of its commission. For this reason, they may detain for 24 hours.

In order to justify the detention, there needs to be a formal report, or it should be prepared immediately afterward.

Following the detention, and once the suspect is in police custody, an Act of Detention should be prepared.

____________

In the case of offences attracting an award of more than 12 months´  loss of liberty, then, following the 24 hours, if the police decide to continue the detention, the matter must be reported to the instructing body, for the preparation of an Initial Hearing Report.

In the case of offences attracting an award of up to 12 months´  loss of liberty, the police have 72 hours in which to determine the detention and the investigation, and to report to the prosecutor in the event of wishing to extend it.

In the case of offences attracting an award of more than 12 months´  loss of liberty: following preparation of the Initial Hearing Report, a furtheR 72 hour period is available for the determination regarding the release of the detainee.

___________

If the decision is to continue the detention of the accused beyond the 72 hour period, the Attorney´s office should be requested to validate such decision.

The Attorney´s office has a further 72 hours to decide such application.

_____________

INITIAL 24 HOURS (POLICE) + 72 HOURS (INSTRUCTION) + 72 HOURS (ATTORNEY) = 7 DAYS DETENTION WITHOUT CONTROL OR SUPERVISION BY IMPARTIAL ENTITIES, AND WITHOUT POSSIBILITY OF DEFENCE

Translated by GH

Executive Order 389/19: Big Brother is Watching You in Cuba / Cubalex

Cuban authorities arrest a Cuban human rights activist from the Ladies in White

CUBALEX, 10 December 2019  — Tapping phone lines, using electronic devices to follow you around, planting cameras, monitoring mail and personal conversations, taking video recordings without permission; these have been the Cuban regime´s habitual practices. Up to now it was all done arbitrarily and illegally, but last month they approved “the use of electronic surveillance” without need for previous judicial authorisation.

Executive Order 389  of the  Council of State, signed by the head of state Miguel Diaz-Canel and published in the Extraordinary Official Gazette No. 27 of November 18th, evisages its application in investigations into “money laundering offences, and financing of terrorism, in defence of national interests”. In the same way, the text indicates it may be employed to “prevent the use of national territory for these ends”.

But in the Cuban context it can be assumed that those affected will be members of the opposition and organisations in civil society. continue reading

Cubalex explains the implications of Executive Order 389/19 for Cuban citizens.

“Electronic, and other types of surveillance” v. the right to privacy and a private life

The Order 389/19 modifies the Law of Penal Procedure and authorises legal investigation agencies to use electronic and other types of surveillance, with the prosecutor’s approval.

They are defined as “use of media whose application enables listening to and recording voices, localising and following around, placing cameras and shooting images, monitoring any type of communications, accessing computerised systems and other technical resources which enable the identification and evidencing of criminal acts”.

An important element of this type of surveillance, which is not mentioned in the Order is that it enables the authorities to monitor a person´s actions without their knowledge or consent.

Tapping into any kind of communications will give the green light to the use of monitoring software (otherwise known as “spyware”) which may be installed in any kind of computer, tablet, or smartphone to secretly monitor its use without the user knowing.

The “spyware” would allow an abuser to have access to everything in the phone, as well as the abillity to intercept calls and listen in to them. Therefore, the authorities could be able to access our social media or email.

How would DL-389/19 affect our tight to privacy and a private life?

According to the United Nations Office Manual on Drugs and Special Investigation Methods, these should be authorised by a competent legal authority, and carried out in the most discrete and confidential manner.

Does the public prosecutor have this jurisdictional authority? Internationally, public prosecutors are not considered to be officials excercising judicial functions. The correct operation of the judicial function requires that those exercising it be independent, objective, and impartial in relation to the matters they deal with.

The impartiality required of the District Attorney’s office derives from the legailty of the tribunals and is independent of either the positions taken by the parties concerned or of the authority charged with instructing or undertaking judgement.

The fact that the Attorney’s office prosecutes the action as the representative of the state and is a part of the penal process makes clear that it is an inappropriate instituition to be given the ability to authorise particular investigation methods.

These methods would be employed by the Attorney prior to the oral hearing, in the absence of any supervision or judicial control. The criminal investigations are  presented  to the judicial entity on the conclusion of the investigative process. This stage may legally be delayed for up to 60 days, a term which may be drawn out by the Attorney without limit as to time.

The total absence of judicial supervision increases the amount of discretion available to the agents of the state during the preparatory stage of the case and permits arbitrariness in the use of those methods, especially in relation to the individual’s privacy and private life, at a time when the strictest caution and discretion should be being exercised.

Nor do we have effective legal appeals. The Law of Legal Proceedings authorises the presentation of complaints to the Investigating Judge in relation to his decisions, or in relation to those of the Prosecutor, which may cause irreperable damage. The appeal is handled by the Attorney, or his superior in the event of the Attorney having authored the decision in question. In the case of the special investigation methods, the Attorney is both judge and jury. Additionally, his decision may not be subject to judicial review.

Therefore, how can we protect ourselves against abusive and arbitrary invasions of our privacy? The absence of judicial supervision and adequate legal appeal  renders illusory the right recognised by Art. 92 of the Constitution: “The State guarantees, in conformity with the law, that the individual may enjoy access to judicial entities with a view to obtaining effective judicial protection of his rights and legitimate interests…”

DL-389/19 does not confer exceptional status on special methods, and also permits them to be employed before the obtaining of the Attorney´s approval, and to be included in the record of the preparatory stage, after having obtained the evidentiary documentation on the alleged crime.

Another aspect open to question is the legitimacy and validity of this executive order, passed by 3.47% of the national deputies “elected” by the “people”. Its adoption violates basic principles of the structure and operation of the domestic legal code. Without doubt, the Council of State is exceeding its remit. It modified laws passed by the National Assembly, a “supposedly” superior body.

DL-389/19: Strengthens the domestic legal code, or increases the discretion of the agents of the government?

“To strengthen the internal penal code, in relation to that which is enacted in international treaties in force in the country”, indicates the Council of State in Executive Order 389 (DL-389/19) to justify its adoption.

Once it ratifies a treaty, the state is obliged to adopt legislative and other measures, to guarantee its application in domestic law. I certainly recognise, although not without some concern, that the state attempts to juggle its  own legislation with its international obligations.

The problem arises on the adoption of a regulation which is incompatible with other obligations derived from other treaties, undertakings and mandatory rules which admit of no conflicting agreements, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Many people will say that the UDHR does not have binding force because it was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations. Nowadays no-one argues against its obligatory nature, and it is widely accepted by the General Assembly and other human rights entities as a model against which to measure countries’ conduct and practices.

The United Nations Office against drugs and crime issued a manual on Special Investigation Methods, in which it sets out certain principles in relation to their use. According to the documents, such methods must be carried out in a way which shows respect for the state constitution, accords, international treaties currently in force, laws, and other regulations.

In conclusion, no oregan of the state may adopt regulations or legal provisions which are incompatible with international obligations. Executive Order 389/19 has the capacity to violate internationally protected human rights, especially the right to privacy and a private life.

It also violates rights recognised in the constitution:

– 48: “Every person has the right to have his privacy and private life respected.”

– 49: “The home is inviolable. No-one may enter another person’s home without the permission of the person living there, other than by express order of the relevent authority, by way of correct legal forms and for reasons already defined by law.”

– 50: “Correspondence and other forms of communication between individuals are inviolable. They may only be intercepted or registered by way of the express order of the relevant authority, in all cases with reference to the formalities established by law. Documents or information obtained  by way of infraction of this principle may not constitute evidence in any proceeding.”

Translated by GH

United Nations Acknowledges Freedom of Speech Crisis in Cuba / Cubalex

A group of Cuban independent journalists and activists all stopped at the airport on the same day in October of this year, and prevented from leaving the country. (Inalkis Rodríguez / La Hora de Cuba)

Cubalex, 10 November 2019 — Cuba and Venezuela  were flagged up by the United Nations as the countries in the region with the worst indicators in regard to promotion and protection of freedom of speech.

For years, both countries have been evidencing a crisis in freedom of speech, according to the UN special rapporteur.

The suppression of independent communicators and political activists has increased in the last year on the island. There have been 54 aggressions against unofficial reporters, 11 of which were women, as reported to th Association for Press Freedom (APLP) as of June 2019. continue reading

As a part of these aggressions, the reporters are intimidated, have their homes observed, their houses broken into, they are confronted in the street, and have their means of work confiscated. They are also arbitrarily detained by state security, normally for hours or days on end.  In late March, the journalist Roberto Quinones was detained, and they took action against him, resulting in his being locked up for a year.

This case was denounced by independent Cuban organisations and media. The  conviction of this Cuban journalist has been included in OneFreePress’s list of the ten most serious cases of injustice against journalists, and Amnesty International named him as “prisoner of conscience.”

On top of all these measures, there is refusal of permission to leave the country for random periods. This year, nearly 200 Cuban citizens have complained of their “regulated” status.

Another coercive measure against free speech is contained in Cuba’s own legal code. Law 88, better known as the “gagging law” threatens decades of imprisonment for those who contravene it.

Law 88 decrees the suppression of private reporting if it tries “to subvert the internal order of the state and destroy its political, economic and social system.” The last time this repressive measure was applied was during the Black Spring in 2003. At that time 75 people were locked up, and nearly a third were reporters.

Last May, the president of the Supreme Popular Tribunal, Ruben Remigio Ferro, reported on his Twitter account that the gagging law remains in force and could be applied again in the country.

First published in Cubalex.

Translated by GH

This Is How Female Journalists Are Suppressed In Cuba / Cubalex

Larisa Diversent, a founder of Cubalex who was forced to leave Cuba under threats to herself and her family. Photo: Tracey Eaton

Cubalex, 1 November 2019 — One day before the 1st of May march in Havana, the reporter from the independent daily 14ymedio, Luz Escobar, was confronted by a State Security official to stop her attending the workers’ procession. The agent of the Cuba political police warned her she could be detained if she went to the Plaza of the Revolution

She had received similar threats the day before a “kiss-in” organised by LGTBI+ groups in support of same-sex marriage, and, on the morning of April 7th, when an animal rights march was organised in the capital.

Luz managed to report both of these events without the threats coming to anything, but in the afternoon of May 8th she was arrested by the national police. From a homeless refuge in Boyeros, where they found her, she was taken in an official car to the military base. Five hours later they let her go. continue reading

Later in that month, on May 22nd, they prevented Escobar from flying to Washington to take part in Independent Art and Journalism workshops, organised by the Cuban Soul Foundation. In the Jose Marti international airport, she was informed by the immigration officials that she couldn’t travel because she was subject to an investigation. As of today they are continuing to prohibit her from leaving.

These attacks on the 14ymedio reporter took place in the context of a wave of repression mounted against the independent press in recent months in Cuba. Up to June 2019, the APLP (Asociacion Pro Libertad de Prensa – Association for Freedom of the Press) has received 54 reports of aggression against independent reporters, 11 of them women. And they have blocked access to three new unofficial press media.

As part of these aggressions, the reporters are intimidated, their houses broken into, their homes kept under observation, they are pestered while walking down the street, and their means of work seized. Another usual harassment tactic in most cases is arbitrary detention for several hours. Although, at the end of March, the Cubanet reporter Roberto Quinones, passed five days in prison in the east of the country, for trying to cover the imprisonment of two pastors who wanted to educated their children at home. Resulting from this detention, today Quinones has completed a year of being locked up accused of resistence and disobedience.

As well as this coercion, they add in prohibitions on leaving the country for random periods of time. At least 196 Cubans have protested against their status as “regulated persons” up to the end of September. This is the category used by the government to limit the mobility of specific individuals after eliminating the white card, or exit visa, in 2013.

The reporters are a group who are most restricted in their movements. In June, for example, the journalists Ileana Colas and Maricel Napoles were not allowed to travel to take part in the General Assembly of the OEA (Organisation of American States). At Havana Airport they were told that they were “regulated persons.” Now, 60% of the reporters subject to these restrictions are women, according to APLP information.

The Cuba Regional Vice President of the SIP (InterAmerican Press Society) Commision for Freedom of the Press and Information, Henry Constantin, in his penultimate report, pointed out that, although it is men who are detained most frequently and for longest, it is the women who are sanctioned  for longest, especially those with children: “Karina Galvez — economic analyst and member of the editorial council of the Convivencia magazine — is serving a sentence of three years for a trumped-up charge, which forbids her to leave her town and requires her to carry out humiliating work in order to not be sent to jail,” states Constantin.

These intimidations of reporters, in the midst of a society which is beginning to get computerised, also happens in the digital sphere. Several independent communicators are victims of different defamatory cyber campaigns. In the month of June, the director of 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, denounced hate and misogynous messages from public officials in the social media.

Independent female journalists on the island suffer distinct types of gender-related violence which men are generally not subject to. Female reporters, for example, have denounced sexual harrassment and compulsory stripping and having to squat down in the middle of the interrogations. They have also suffered mistreatment in their homes at the hands of State Security collaborators, with offensive notices stuck on the outside of their houses.

The main threats against them focus on their families, especially their young children. Dismissing their security guard or care arrangements, depriving them of their liberty, are the most frequent.

Adriana Zamora, a journalist with Diario de Cuba, received threats against her life and that of her baby while she was pregnant. Now she is in exile, a decision which at least 7 journalists monitored by Cubalex have been forced to take this year. Another 3 are inactive.

Elderly family members, or those in poor health who are dependent on medical assistance are also on the receiving end of threats. Those who are mothers or carers are vulnerable.

Translated by GH

Is Education Free in Cuba? / Cubalex

Cuban schoolchildren during the ceremony where they take on the red scarf. (14ymedio)

Cubalex, 30 September 2019 — Last April 18th, in the city of Guantanamo, pastors Ramón Rigal  and Ayda Expósito received a citation from the municipal tribunal. On that day they started a summary process against them, which ended up with jail sentences of 2 years, and a year and a half, for “actions against the normal development of a minor”.

The Christian leaders, who belonged to the Iglesia de Dios in Cuba, had decided to provide home education to their children Ruth and Joel, aged 13 and 9 respectively. They adopted “the certified methodology of the Hebron College of Guatemala study plan,” according to the Liga Evangelica.

In the legal action against the pastors, the prosecutor indicated that “home education is not permitted in Cuba, because it has a capitalist basis” and that only teachers have the ability to “inculcate socialist values.” continue reading

For their part, the parents expressed their right to decide what type of education thier children should receive, as laid down by Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In spite of the fact that the island is signatory to the Declaration, the country is solely able to conceive of state schools providing secular education.

“Numerous religious groups, including the Catholic church, have repeatedly brought up the lack of options in Cuba in respect of primary and secondary education, especially for parents who do not want their children to be educated in an aggressively atheist curriculum, according to Anna-Lee Stangl, Head of the Christian Solidarity Defence Union.

The Cuban state guarantees a free and accessible education, but does not allow parents or legal tutors to choose other programmes for children. Students may not receive a religious or moral education in accord with family beliefs in study centres.

Individuals are not at liberty to run educational institutions or other options which do not provide a secular programme. Education is the sole prerogative of the state, which imposes on parents the duty of educating their children in moral, ethical and civic values in conformity with life in a socialist country.

More than that, the teaching is based on precepts promoting ethical, moral, civic and patriotic values, including military preparation, which is in conflict with the moral and religious convictions  of some social groups.

Translated by GH

The ‘Indigenas’ Beat Ecuador’s President in a Battle Without Winners

Moreno preferred to blame the Correistas rather than the indígenas for the acts of violence (EFE/Jose Jacome)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías L. Benarroch /Daniela Brik, Quito, 15th October, 2019 — The “indigenous spectre” has beaten Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno and forced him to repeal the controversial decree that raised the price of fuel, putting him and Ecuador between a rock and a hard place with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Decree 883 will be remembered by many Ecuadorians as the decree which led to the worst bout of social violence in recent years, a situation which many people think could have been forseen, and could have led to a total institutional collapse.

The eleven days of protests didn’t produce any winners on the battlefield, and in fact it seems there are only losers. continue reading

“It may be that the central actors in this conflict each underestimated the other side’s ability to act”, commented Efe’s analyst Daniel Kersffeld [an Argentinian left wing writer for Spanish news agency] the day after the principal parties reached an agreement to revise the whole government strategy in the face of the financial agency.

For Kersffeld, the government didn’t think that the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie) could pull together more than 20,000 indígenas, nor that they would have enough strength to organise such a long strike, and the capacity to act simultaneously over all the country.

“The indigenous movement, also underestimated the government’s ability to respond: the level of repression in the last few days is unprecedented in the history of a country wracked by repeated social convulsions”, he said.

In his opinion, the agreement was a response to both parties beginning to show “signs of weakening and growing condemnation on the part of those interests which chose to keep themselves outside the conflict”.

The destruction and losses occasioned by the shutdown — the indígenas closed the principal highways, causing shortages — and the high number of victims of police repression of the protests — between five and seven deaths, and a thousand people injured — are not the only damages.

An official told Efe on Monday, without wanting to be identified, that “the social fabric had also been undermined” and it remains to be seen how the wounds left by this conflict may be healed.

Wounds which also are rooted in the old battle between morenistas and correistas, the two big political blocs headed by President Moreno and his predecessor Rafael Correa, because stretching beyond the price of fuel, the revolt has been a mixture of interests

“The connection between the indígenas and the violent demonstrators is not real. The others have ridden on the back of the indígenas protest, relating to recognition of specifically economic issues, causing chaos”, Jose Valencia, the Foreign Minister, explained to Efe.

In spite of the fact that they also took part in acts of looting and vandalism, the government has exonerated the indigenous movement from any responsibility, and laid all the blame for the violence on correismo.

“The government could not open two fronts, like the correistas, but the indígenas are more manipulative than the others, and manipulated human rights organisations, and even international media, who made them look like poor victims”, says political scientist Santiago Basabe, talking to Efe.

He remembered the fanatical speeches by their leaders throughout the protest, in which they called Moreno “the cripple” because he was in a wheelchair.

He also explained that it is not “politically correct” to blame the indígenas because that immediately triggers accusations of “racism”.

In weighing up the winners and losers, Basabe sees “more cohesiveness” in the indigenous movement, which “has become an important factor, as it was before correismo”, but he thinks that it has lost legitimacy in the eyes of the mestizos, who did not approve” of their violent actions and paralysing the country.

Kersffeld also thinks that Conaie has gained importance as a “resistance actor”, but  not a political force capable of directly bending the wishes of the government”. “The legitimacy of their protest lies in their historic position of misery and backwardness, in political and social stigma”, he considers.

Both think that the correismo has lost force as the target of the accusations and above all that the government looks very weakened now and incapable of moving forward on reforms in order to continue receiving help from the IMF.

“Moreno finds himself seriously weakened and his principal political team members severely challenged by a good part of public opinion”, says Kersffeld.

For his part, Basabe thinks it will be difficult in the conditions created for the government to have anything to offer to satisfy the IMF’s demand for cutbacks and increased tax income, because it will be unable to progress on fiscal reform and even less on labour reform.

In those circumstances, the promised loans may be denied, which would be a severe blow to the national fiscal situation.

“Moreno has been left floating in the air, hoping that, with the passage of time, perhaps he will be able to undertake relevant measures, small loans here and there”, thinks the political scientist, who considers that the whole society has gained from the accord because the outcome could have been worse: a complete national institutional destruction.

This Monday, the country is trying to return to normality. The measures taken in the State of Emergency decreed last week, like the curfew and the militarisation of the Metropolitan District of Quito and the valleys, are de facto cancelled, according to government Defence sources, following the agreement on Sunday between the indigenous leaders and the government.

But the people did not wait for an official announcement, and, from early morning, the Ecuadorians hit the streets, especially in the capital, Quito. The city slowly recovered its routine, with the opening up of the streets, the resumption of public and private transport, the resulting traffic jams, also the restocking of the markets and supermarkets, follwing a Sunday in which there began to be shortages of basics like bread, milk and eggs.

School classes, which were interrupted from October 3rd, when the so-called national strike started, with resulting fierce confrontations, started up again this Tuesday, announced the Ministry of Education.

As another sign of return to normality, we saw the progressive restarting of flights from Quito airport, the resumption of operations in the Amazonian oilfields, and in the services from the 62 bus stations throughout the country.

Hundreds of people took part yesterday in efforts to clean up, remove rubble and clear away paving stones in the centre of Quito, as a voluntary and municipal operation.

Andres Ordonez, an agent of the Metropolitan Transport Agency in the capital, explained that more than 300 officers participated in this project, along with hundreds of students.

“They are working out the extent of the damage, but up to last Thursday, losses added up to about 100,000 million dollars”, he said.

Translated by GH

Editor’s note: The translator of this article is an Ecuadorian and has appended the following note, which we include here in recognition of the fact that “translators are sometimes allowed to express their perspectives, particularly when they are unpaid volunteers.” (!)

Translator’s note: Readers should be aware that there is some imbalance in this article in that it makes no reference to the comments of many Ecuadorians glued to the television every day watching the unfolding tragedy, who considered that this was an attempt by correistas to destabilise the government, in league with Maduro in Venezuela, possibly aided by the FARC, and that some of the indigenous leaders were indeed correistas themselves. The translator does not assert this view, he simply reports it.

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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.

Canadian and American Diplomats Wiped Out by Secret Mosquito Fumigation Brigade

A fumigation team in Havana (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Conde Zika Dengue, Miami, September 22nd, 2019 — The media continue their fable about what have been called “sonic” or “acoustic” attacks. This time with the version of a group of Canadian scientists  who apparently have discovered an efficiently operating secret  team of exterminators working for the Cuban intelligence, employed in the area where the Canadian and North American diplomats in Havana live.

The new script of the sonic attack saga makes out that the diplomats were, in fact, affected by the dilligent activities of a team of undercover ninjas protecting them from mosquito bites. The mission was carried out with such perseverance and care that they overdid the dosage of pesticide used in their mission to protect the diplomatic corps.

It is noteworthy that the rest of the diplomatic corps stationed in the country did not suffer from the ninjas’ excessive care, nor did the 11 million Cubans living on the island. The mission was so successful that the protagonists were rewarded with an international assignment to China to continue their protection activities. They were also successful on that occasion, as they managed to wind up more than a dozen US diplomats, utilising such sophisticated and intriguing methods that they avoided  being discovered. continue reading

The US diplomats stationed in Beijing, after being supposedly fumigated against Carribean mosquitos, complained of symptoms similar to those presented by their colleagues in Havana. Doubtless, this was the decisive evidence which guaranteed the high praise awarded by Havana to their valiant and efficient fumigator ninjas. They were all awared the “Silver Mosquito” medal, presented in person by the head of the National Security Commission, better known as the One-eyed Dumbass, having unfortunately lost an eye playing quimbumbia  (a kind of Cuban bat-and-ball game, where the ball is cigar-shaped, and whoever hits it furthest wins).

Without doubt, the medals were deserved. The “study” arranged by donors and supporters of a team of multidisciplinary  investigators in Halifax, associated with the Brain Repair Centre, the University of Dalhiousie, and the Health Authority in Nova Scotia, was more creative than was expected by the passive Cuban scientists, who held to the simplistic siren song explanation of the causes of the previously inexplicable sonic attacks.

The crazy Canadian explanation, concocted by foreigners with more sophistication than the grotesque account of the brave Cuban scientists, nevertheless made a real mess-up in leaving out the 11 million possible guinea pigs who, for decades, and in all the cities in Cuba, have been subject to energetic fumigation campaigns against the nasty  aedes aegypti mosquitowhich has resulted today in the majority of the country’s hospitals being packed out with patients.

But, the surprising thing is that if the fumigation affected the diplomats’ brains, the effect on the fumigated Cubans was to make them emigrate. The little rafts are no longer sufficient for crossing the Straits of Florida. The funniest thing is that the migratory epidemic caused by the said fumigations not only affects the young people who feel they have no future on the accursed island. It has also affected kids and old people who have preferred to flee rather than continue to be fumigated. Ironically it was the mosquitos who decided to stay and now live everywhere.

Meanwhile, the top brass of the Cuban Communist Party octogenarian ayatollahs have been summoned by the current president to review the sophisticated and successful fumigation processes, to try to avoid any further damage. One thing is for certain, that the days are numbered for the total hash cooked up by the people directed by the One-eyed Dumbass, along with their “Silver Mosquito” trophy as well.

Translated by GH

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Letter From a Cuban Citizen to Diaz-Canel / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Source AFP

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 31 July 2019 — No, Mister Administrator, Cuba does not need to make peace with the United States in order to move forward, because this country’s future cannot be dependent on its relations with any foreign government, but on maintaining flexible and interactive relations with the largest possible number of commercial partners, with a dynamic economy truly open to the world, and with independent politics, as befits an archipelago, without any subordination or blackmail.

Perhaps when I say that, there are, in your subconscience, reverberations of long decades of absolute dependence on foreign economies — today called Venezuelan Chavomadurism, and yesterday Soviet Stalinism — and during that time the natural vassalage of the Havana regime was tied to an uninterrupted line of parasitism, without which the Cuban construct would have collapsed in just a few years, buried under the undeniable mediocrity of its architect in chief.

Nevertheless, Mister, in spite of everything, Cuba does not need the dictatorship you lead to normalise its relations with the United States. Cuba only requires, and very urgently, that those people, who so brutally misrule it, decide to normalise its relations with its own people. And to do that it isn’t necessary to look to the north for agreements with Washington, or down south to grab oil from Caracas, or to Mao in the far west, or to the new Czars of the post-Perestroika east. Just look to Cuba, to get out of the abyss, and enjoy a proper rule of law. continue reading

In a proper rule of law, Cubans could get together in different parties which, with their different points of view, would propose different ways out of the dreadful  problems created by of the ankylosis of the ancient octogenarians, and could set up a proper basis for a participative democracy. This would produce a thriving civil society which would oblige the government to properly account for its acts, not like now, where it is judge and jury. But, seeing as this is hardly likely to happen, I would like to offer you here, Mister Administrator, another way out which, as you will see, does not involve the resignation of the government, but only improvement in the standard of life of my people.

To achieve that, all that would have to be done would be to free up the domestic market, create a legal framework for a reliable contractual process for all types of producers, with guaranteed due reward for their work; provide legal personality for all private and family businesses, so that they can run and market their businesses with real autonomy within and outside Cuba, without the interference which torments them now, as well as creating a fiscal system which guarantees fair, universal and organised taxation, with no exemptions.

They should authorise and unconditionally stimulate, and prioritize over everything, large scale investment by our expats, entirely in line with their natural right as Cubans, although they should also open up the country without fear, redesigning the legal framework, and always looking after our national interest, for an essential inward flow of investment, but on a realistic basis, and without the unfair regulations imposed by the current Law 118.

In line with more civilised social norms, any person, exercising freedom of opinion, would be able to denounce any abuse of the freedom of the press, or commence due legal process against any authority infringing his rights. All of this would create ideal conditions in which, in a short space of time, our small and medium private businesses would prosper, and, without doubt, in just a few years, our rate of development would rocket, for everyone’s benefit, and not just for the foul entrenched bourgeoisie. But such a new Cuba couldn’t flourish unless the despots, who now pull all the political strings, perpetuating the autocracy created by the obsessive neurotic who betrayed his people 60 years ago, move over. And that, Mister, is something the masters of this dive are not about to do.

As and when we come to it, any true solution to the Cuban problem has to include the abdication of the historic nomenklatura which continues to obstruct our progress, so that they can devote their time to raising jutias (a kind of large Cuban hamster), getting out of the way of a new reformist government, which is able to think in terms of the country and not just a political sect.

To achieve that, it needs you, Mister Administrator, to start asking your masters to get out of the way of this people who detest them, and you will see how, in the course of a single generation we will have a country which is unrecognisable, with a booming, prosperous economy, because we are yearning for our liberty, which is not  so much held back by the embargo, fertilised by Fidel Castro’s litigant speechifying, but more by the internal blockage which you have just begun to notice, like someone who has just discovered cold water.

To cut a long story short, it would be something if your government, Mister Administrator, ratified the International Convenants on Civil and Political Rights, and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which, with chameleon-like cowardice, Raul Castro first signed, then shelved, more than ten years ago, which, obviously, tells you that you need to comply with legal obligations on human rights which affect millions of Cubans.

Mister Administrator, when we stop worrying about banana phantoms (Mexican banana and chocolate treats for kids, which look like ghosts), it will be a whole new day. Get rid of the dictators, and we will see a Cuban miracle in a few years! For this to come about doesn’t mean you have to normalise relations with the United States, but rather that the moribund Castrismo, which you are currently and passively managing, stops playing the neighbourhood bully, stops behaving like a totalitarian police state, and decides to coexist in peace with its own people.

Finally, and in short, start by putting together, from square one, all the country’s political and economic strategies, break away from this appalling stasis, and create conditions in which all our countrymen, in the island and outside it, without political discrimination, can start the urgent work of developing the Cuban nation.

Translated by GH

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

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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

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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