"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

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”.

[2]  http://www.granma.cu/elecciones-en-cuba-2017-2018/2017-07-21/mas-de-20-000-colegios-participaran-en-los-comicios-21-07-2017-00-07-58

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

[4]  http://www.granma.cu/elecciones-en-cuba-2017-2018/2017-07-21/mas-de-20-000-colegios-participaran-en-los-comicios-21-07-2017-00-07-58

[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.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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:  diversentido@gmail.com

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

TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF PEOPLES’ POWER

(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.

THEREFORE

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

Claimant

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

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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.

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

National Identity / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Dámaso, 21 November 2018 — The theme of national identity, along with that of sovereignty and independence, form the favourite triad of the official idiotology.  Everyone talks about that.

National identity is not an ideological abstraction, but a historical reality, which comes loaded with its baggage of events and personalities from the colonial era up to the present day, without artificial black holes or spaces edited out for political convenience. continue reading

It is made up of the good, the bad, and the ordinary. Intelligent people and stupid people. People who get things done, and those who don’t. Pimps, prostitutes, thieves, liars, and decent people, of either sex. Also, people with different political, ideological, economic, social, sexual opinions, sportsmen and artists.  This mixture of different people makes up the national identity.

No-one has done more to attack the national identity than the regime founded in January 1959, dislocating the national, provincial and municipal structures, with absurd changes and transformations to economic, political and social levels.

Now, our towns and villages aren’t anything like the way they used to be, with only little bits surviving which have been saved by municipal and provincial historians. Popular traditions have been lost or adulterated, all the economic and commercial structures have been taken apart, along with their well-known factories, businesses and establishments. Most of them disappearing, or given new names without meaning or popular support.

The streets and avenues have not escaped the ideological cruelty, losing their familiar historic names in favour of less  important ones, or those indicative of cheap political messing about. Nor have the arts or sport escaped, with renowned figures, who form a legitimate part of the national identity in their own right, wiped out. The same thing has happened to education and health centres.

A time traveller from the 19th century or the first half of the 20th, would find themselves completely lost in today’s Cuba, with almost no discernible references to the past or to those who constructed it or graced it with their presence.

Everything has been replaced with stuff done in the last sixty years. A monster born of chaotic thinkers and worse doers, elevated into decision-makers, ruling by economic and political power, in the name of an obsolete ideology and a failed system, which has destroyed the country, converting it into a sad residue of what it used to be.

Translated by GH

With the Detention of Maiquel El Osorboa€, Do We Have Legal Certainty in Cuba? / Cubalex

Cubalex, 29 September 2018 — The District Attorney’s office in Havana Vieja is trying to revoke the decision taken 3 months ago by the police to fine the rapper Maiquel Castillo 1000 pesos. The rapper was violently arrested last 22nd June. They accused him of threatening the authorities when he filmed a house search in Cristo Park.

The law enforcement authorities have kept Maiquel Castillo, also known as “Maiquel El Osorbo”, locked up since 25th September 2018, to get back at him for joining the campaign against Decree 349. His case is evidence of the lack of legal certainty in Cuba.

The criminal law authorises the police to interpret it and apply it as if they were judges, in the nearly 27% of offences they deal with. These officers, instead of remitting the cases to a tribunal, judge them and apply fines. continue reading

What we do know is, if he accepts the imposition of a fine, he would be acknowledging his guilt (destroying his own presumption of innocence). The police do not take the trouble to declare that they “will refer the matter to the competent authorities (…)” only when the “offender requests it or does not pay the fine”.

Receipt for payment of a 1,000 peso fine.

Returning to the case of “Maiquel El Osorbo”, who paid the fine the same day that it was imposed, the law says “if the offender pays the fine (…) within 10 working days of its imposition, the matter will be considered as closed, and will not be recorded as an offence.”

Most people accept the fine, “doing an 8.3”, as it is commonly known, to get the matter finished with. The truth is that there is no difference between a judgement by a  policeman (who has hardly made it to the ninth grade) and a judge (law graduate), who is subject to all sorts of influence by State Security and the Ministry of the Interior. Anyway we all know how we will end up if we take it into our head to get the better of a policeman, and that nothing will come of it.

So we have to ask whether the tribunals and district attorneys should adhere to a decision taken by a policeman to impose a fine? And as and when they may be satisfied, whether this decision should have the same value as a definitive judicial sentence?

Or whether, on the contrary, can a policeman, district attorney or tribunal be at liberty to change their opinion, regarding a decision already taken, to revoke it, and consider an act to lack “social danger because of  its limited consequences and the social condition of the author of the act”?

For the crime of assault, there is an expected prison term of from one to three years. In such a case, the police should require the approval of the district attorney, as set out in the criminal code. Can the attorney’s office go against its own decisions?

Can a citizen have confidence that the observation of and respect for legal procedures will be maintained in every case, in accordance with the legal framework of the country? And, what happens if you are not of that view?

Translated by GH

Prior Censorship, Decree 349 and the Constitutional Project of the Cuban Communist Party / Cubalex

Cubalex, 11 September 2018 — Decree 349/2018 sets up a system of prior censorship of cultural and artistic activities and other forms of expression, violating the freedom to carry out creative activities and the right to develop the human personality. It also offends against freedom of thought, belief and religion: and the right to hold opinion, to associate and to peaceful assembly.

In the Constitutional Project of the Cuban Communist Party, there is recognised, among other things, in relation to all citizens (although not all persons) the right to education, to culture, and its comprehensive development. Every person has the right to participate in the cultural and artistic life of the country. Men and women have equal cultural rights and obligations. Citizens should protect the natural resources and the cultural and historical heritage of the country. continue reading

The state recognises that the forms of artistic expression and artistic creation are free, but affirms categorically that its content must respect the values of a socialist Cuban society. This statement is a tacit recognition that prior censorship will be employed to supervise the content of the forms of artistic expression and artistic creation.

According to the Committee of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in its General Observation 21: The right of every person to participate in cultural life (Article 15 paragraph 1(a)), and also the other rights established in the International Agreement on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, imposes on the states three types or levels of obligation:

a) the obligation to respect;

b) the obligation to protect, and

c) the obligation to comply.

The obligation to respect requires the Cuban state to refrain from interfering, directly or indirectly, in the enjoyment of the right to participate in cultural life, which includes the creation, individually, or in association with others, or in a community or group, which implies that the state should abolish censorship of cultural activities imposed on the arts and other forms of expression. In other words, it is necessary to repeal Decree 349 and provide a constitutional project which may be supported by all of us.

(1) Art. 43 of the draft Constitutional bill

(2) Art. 45 section 1) of Article 91 of the draft Constitutional bill

(3) Section h) of the draft Constitutional bill

Translated by GH