Repression, Besieged Activists and Threats: These Were the Elections in Cuba / Cubalex

Source (El Toque)

Cubalex, 30 November 2022 — On 27 November 2022, municipal elections were held in Cuba, to choose constituency delegates. Cubalex monitored the human rights situation on election day, which was principally notable for violation of the right to political participation.

The data gathered by our organization demonstrates that the Cuban authorities continue to employ criminal investigation procedures, as set out in the law, as an instrument of repression. Our team recorded 26 incidents of repression in seven of the fifteen provinces of the country, including the special Isla de la Juventud Council. The most cases were reported in Havana (12) and Matanzas (7).

Of the 13 incidents of hostage-taking identified by Cubalex, with 34 victims (20 women and 14 men), obstruction of political participation, arbitrary detention, surveillance operations and selective cutoffs of internet connection were noted. continue reading

In at least two events related to exercise of political rights it was not possible to register the victims. The first also related to selective internet cuts on pro-democracy activists trying to carry out electoral observations, and the second involved control and threats to health professionals that they had to declare when they went to vote, by way of private messages.

The repression was focussed on prevention of electoral observation, in spite of the fact that there is no legal prohibition on that. At least 13 people were harassed by way of surveillance and home confinement; among them Marthadela Tamayo, Osvaldo Navarro  and Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna.

Why Can Cuba Keep Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara Locked Up? / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jiminez Vega in Havana’s Calixto Garcia Hospital.

Jeovany Jiminez Vega, 30 May 2021 — It was nearly a month ago that Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara was arrested in this home and taken by force to Calixto García hospital in Havana, where he has been kept by Cuban State Security. The lying officials have published various manipulated videos showing a disoriented and confused Luis Manuel who seems not to know why he is staying in that place, and there even circulated an anonymous complaint from a supposed worker in that centre, claiming that Luis Manuel is being subjected to  — for which read tortured by — electroconvulsive procedures, which presumably would explain his evident deterioration.

Up to now, even Luis Manuel´s closest family are prevented from visiting, as well as any members of the Movimiento San Isidro, who are also victims of this onslaught, including all sorts of threats and retaliations, ranging from the typical police warnings up to house arrests lasting for weeks. Meanwhile, according to the official version, the activist has abandoned his hunger strike and presents normal vital signs.

Nevertheless, up to the moment of writing the leader of San Isidro remains a prisoner, an obvious contradiction which presents the obvious question: if Luis Manuel is presumably sane, and has abandoned his protest, why is he still being detained in isolation from his family and friends? Why, taking into account the seriousness of this outrage, similar to the imprisonment of the activists detained in the  Obispo Street protests  — against imprisonment of the artist, in 2021 has this not produced a more energetic reaction from the San Isidro Movement and 27 N Movement, and why the relative silence in the rest of the opposition on these scandalous cases? continue reading

On a superficial view of the matter, there are the immediate demands from Luis Manuel — that is, the ending of the hostility towards the activists and the return of their works – but this would be too partial a view which leaves some important factors out of the equation. For the government it could be convenient in tactical terms to accede to Luis Manuel´s demands; It would mean little to return his works to the activist in the face of the connotation that such a “compassionate” gesture would have for a Biden who, after sending strong signals, has now hit the brakes and is observing in standby — something that has Castroism on tenterhooks, even when it claims the contrary — because it would be prudent to resolve the case if only not to stoke the fire.

We should bear in mind that before this Havana had to deal with more serious crises, like Coco Fariña´s  hunger strike, following the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo in 2010; then the international press focussed its attention on the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) resulting in the demand for the freeing of the Black Spring protesters. That crisis had to be managed during Obama´s first term, under pressure of a European Union Common Position which closed off Havana from Europe.

In contrast, today, the government of Díaz-Canel is not being watched by international media,  and although it is sinking in an irreversible economic crisis, it is not under attack from the political point of view — in fact, since six months ago, the Cuban government is a member of the UN Council of Human Rights!¡¡??!

Today the world is not showing much interest in Cuba; other topics, such as the conflict in Palestine, the Belorusian situation, the increasing tension between the US and Russia and the trade war with China, as well as the the crisis in Colombia, are drawing its attention, and it is just in this inattention toward things Cuban where we find one of the keys to the current wave of repression by the Cuban dictatorship.

We can add another most important factor to this evidence:  the dictatorship´s continuing potential for repression. If we take objectivity as the starting point for our argument, free from catharsis and deceitful triumphalism which often portend imminent  breakdowns, we can note that up to this moment the dictatorship has not even had to arrange extreme measures — grand displays of special troops and the use of riot squads or regular military units — to control brief bouts of insubordination.

We cannot forget that this huge repressive apparatus which eagerly waits to spring into action — ignorant cannon-fodder, indoctrinated and blind — is the same one that advised and participated in the direct carrying out of violent repressive escalation during the grave crisis which, in 2017, shed blood on the streets in Venezuela: which served as a great laboratory and rehearsal where Castroism could try out its tactics of repression and extreme control, and, don´t be in any doubt, took careful note of it.

When we put these scenarios into perspective, we realise that, in spite of the unsustainable economic situation, today´s Cuba is still far-removed from the premonitory climate for a such a social explosion, which is hard for somebody to understand who takes a bird´s eye view of our reality and who has not lived beneath a Stalinist totalitarianism. The Castroism has had plenty of time to crystallise, and has been very aggressive and systematic in its indoctrination which now appear absorbed into the very genes of entire generations of Cubans, so that, until now, it has been enough for the murderous thugs to activate these conditioned reflexes by appealing with relative success to their supreme resource: the learned helplessness, that philosopher’s stone of every absolutist regime, which has become the best weapon of Castroism.

That is why it is not against Luis Manuel, nor against the activists of Obispo Street, that this battle is being waged today, but against 14 million Cubans. The dictatorship knows that this war is won or lost in the collective psyche, that is why it is towards that unfathomable and total fear that this pristine message is directed: don’t even try, it will never be worth the trouble of opposing it, you can do nothing against Big Brother. Dilute yourself in your condition of flag-waver in the shapeless mass, settle for that, your place and your destiny, where you will be the standard raised in my parades, my basic medium, that malleable statistic always useless when you think, the impersonal rag that I undo and reuse, just insect, protoplasm, gob that I spit out when I want. Do not claim anything, demand nothing, with you I will always do whatever the hell I feel like, and anyone stupid enough to oppose it will be made to pay dearly.

This aberrant and despotic handling of the Alcántara case in full view of all should be understood as a fully-fledged declaration of principles, with which the dictatorship lectures us and pursues humiliating us, delighted in its arrogance. It seems orgasmic to Castroism to perceive how its poison paralyzes us and it pleases it to see us curled up in our comfort zone while it tears another Cuban to pieces like one more line is drawn on the tiger’s skin. This impudent kidnapping is an open challenge to civil society and a challenge to the opposition to test how far they dare at this precise moment when social networks are just imposing their dynamics despite the low penetration of the Internet and systematic censorship, granting greater immediacy and visibility to increasingly numerous and daring complaints and citizen initiatives, something the regime warned against with great nervousness.

But it has never been the same to summon a demon as to see it arrive. Although it is true that the regime maintains police fences, that it has kept more than one activist in house arrest and carried out numerous arrests, I do not believe that it has dealt with all of them from time to time to the point of rendering inoperative that network which, to a greater or lesser extent, has spoken out publicly before and after November 27, and yet now, almost a month after the San Isidro leader was detained and in the midst of an insulting official silence, he has not achieved a sufficiently energetic projection that favours the release of Luis Manuel and the rest of the imprisoned activists.

Let us imagine with what orgiastic joy the executioners will at this precise moment look into the eyes of what remains of Luis Manuel after this torture, and ask him where are all those brothers of the cause who protested against Decree 349, or the group of rebels in front of the Ministry of Culture that day in November. Will the activists awaiting trial along with common prisoners since the Obispo protest not say anything either? How is it that the people of San Isidro, of Havana and of Cuba as a whole are not constantly asking the authorities wherever they are, or the medical management of “Calixto García”, or directly to the Minister of Public Health why that young man who fights for the usurped rights of all Cubans is kept imprisoned in a Havana hospital?

From all this it can be concluded that Cuba’s harsh fight for freedom cannot be undertaken with the passionate intensity of a sprint ending up in exhaustion after the first few meters, but rather as a long-distance race conceived in strategic terms, which can only be won with firmness and perseverance; it is a war that only the chosen ones can fight, those really willing to risk their skin and persevere til the end.

Once this wave of repression has passed, we will be taught how useless it will always be to try to build idyllic bridges between a subjugated people and their tyrants, we will have verified how little catharsis is worth and that dictatorships do not lie down with songs, but we will also be more mature and it will be more obvious to us that freedom will come only when this people vibrates in resonance with its dignity, assumes risks to conquer its rights and dares to jump into the void. When we have finally accepted that as the only way in which a people shakes off tyrants, only on that day – not one hour more, not one hour less – will we be able to sink the dagger in a definitive thrust to the heart of the beast. It will be just that day when you lose your fear, you Cubans who are listening to me, when the dictatorship collapses.

Artists and other protestors in front of the Ministry of Culture on 27 November.

Translated by GH

Cuba and Vietnam: Where’s the U.S. Blockade?

The bust dedicated to the Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh in a Cuban park being refurbished among general indifference. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerElías Amor Bravo, Economist, 22 April 2022 — Not even they can clarify it. In the morning, the Cuban communist leaders get tangled up in furious attacks on the United States over the blockade/embargo, blaming it for all the island’s economic problems, and, in the afternoon, they issue clear instructions to the official press to say the exact opposite.  See if it isn’t true; the article in in the State newspaper Granma titled “Vietnam, second Asian partner in the Major Antilles”. This is where the state that “in spite of the geographic distance, the commercial bilateral trade is going well, and now Vietnam has four projects in operation in Cuba with a capital value of 44 million dollars”. Not a word or mention of the blockade/embargo. Congratulations. Therefore we have to ask again, where is the blockade?

Let’s take it one step at a time. Maybe the Cuban communists don’t speak Spanish.  Don’t think so. So, perhaps it’s best to go to the definition of “blockade” in the Real Academia de la Lengua dictionary, and there blockade is defined as the action “to block”, and so, if we look for the definition of this verb, we find the following entries:

1. tr. Intercept, obstruct or close the way. This is clearly not what is happening.

2. tr. Prevent the normal operation of something. Unthinkable.

3. tr. Make difficult, or hinder the carrying out of a process. That’s really difficult.

4 tr. Hinder, paralyse a person’s mental faculties. Well, that’s beside the point.

5. tr. Carry out a military or naval operation to cut communications to a place, a port, a territory, or an army. Yes, this happened over three or four days when dozens of Soviet nuclear missiles arrived in Cuba in ships, and Kennedy gave the United States navy the order to prevent their passage and force them to turn around.

It can be seen that this image has stayed with us from the start of the ’60’s of the last century. Can the term “blockade” or “to block” really be applied to the present situation in Cuba? Difficult. And if not, ask the Vietnamese. continue reading

And if they don’t agree, what does the dictionary say about “embargo” or, “to seize”, which is the other hackneyed term used by the Cuban communists. This is more of a fine point.

1.m. Prohibition of trade and transport of arms and other equipment for use in war, decreed by a government. Nothing of the sort.

2. m. Retention, sequestration of assets, on the orders of a judge or competent authority. Nothing of the sort.

3. m. archaism. Indigestion, stomach upset. Hardly.

4.m. archaism. Damage, inconvenience. Well, this could mean anything.

To sum up, none of this seems to exist in Cuba at the moment, and the communist allusions to blockade and embargo are more a reverie about the past and a desideratum than anything else. The Vietnamese know it and don’t have the slightest problem in trading with the Cuban regine leaders. Nor do they care about the supposed threats. In the same way, 190 other countries in the world, including the United States, the target of the Cuban communist attacks, with whom it is possible to trade, so long as you pay in cash.

Granma points out in their article that Vietnam “has become  Cuba’s second largest Asian partner (obviously, China is the first), with the trade transfer between the two countries reaching 102 million dollars in 2020”. This information was made known in the seminar in Ho Chi Minh City to promote investment in the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZED Mariel).

But, if we analyse the statistics, we need to lower these claims. In Quarter 1, there are presented the exports and imports between Cuba and Vietnam since 2015 and the result (in index numbers with 2015 as base = 100) is nothing to write home about. One can see an important decline from the levels achieved in 2018. The trade is not going well.

Quarter 1.- Trade between Cuba and Vietnam (index 100 = 2015)

Therefore, this seminar organised by the Ho Chi Minh City Center for Promotion of Trade and Investment and the office representative of the Cuban logistics operator Almacenes Universales S.A. offered Vietnamese and Cuban companies the opportunity to update the strategic changes and benefits of the Vietnam-Cuba Commercial Accord. That’s to say, “reset” the deal with absolute freedom and without limits. And all that in spite of the embargo/blockade and the COVID -19 pandemic.

An open and shut case. Even a news agency, Vietnam Plus, has stated regarding “this gathering in the Indochinese country has as its aim increased economic cooperation, in terms of investment, commerce, tourism and health between this Asian centre and Cuban regions”, some economic relations that as can be seen in Graphic 1, collapsed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Supported by what the state press calls “ties of friendship, brotherhood and mutual confidence between Vietnam and Cuba” they have arranged a series of projects and commercial accords which are very interesting for the island, because they permit the reinforcement of the eternal ideological message against the United States.

It is hard to believe that the Vietnamese, commercial partners with that country, with which they maintain excellent economic and financial relations, would allow themselves to be trapped in the Cuban communist verbiage. But, the fact is that there we have the results and see the business between the island and the Asian country on the increase.

This climate of economic relations has been preceded since last year by a series of political meetings between communist leaders of the two countries, leading some analysts to think that the Cuban leadership is contemplating an exit from the serious crisis by way of a Doi Moi (ed. note: programme of economic reforms implemented in Vietnam in 1986), which permitted Vietnam to get past its periods of hunger and convert itself into the emerging power that it is today.

It doesn’t seem as if that was to be the way forward. The Cuban and Vietnamese communists have spoken more about help, contributions, cooperation and solidity, than about structural changes in the economy. A shame.

And that was in spite of the fact that a spokesman for the Cuban regime said that “we are interested in continuing to study the experiences in Vietnam which could be useful for the updating of the Cuban economic and social model, including food security and the attraction of direct external investment”, precisely the type of “experience” of the least help to the Cuban economy in overcoming its backwardness.

The two countries, apparently, and according to official information, have established accords in distinct sectors of food, biotechnology, communications, tourism, and energy, but, without doubt, the most important element has been the help sent by Vietnam for combatting Covid-19, especially the supply of 18,000 tons of rice. Cuba, for its part, sent anti-Covid vaccines.

Translated by GH

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

Serbia Established as the Port of Entry to Europe for Cubans

There is now a kind of Cuban colony in the Balkans, as “the cost of living is much lower than in most European countries” says Diana. (Facebook/Cubans in Serbia)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Havana, 15 October 2022 – – Not many Cubans could tell you where Serbia is on the map. Even fewer could say that Belgrade is the capital, or tell you anything about the many wars and divisions which determined its present shape. The memory of the Soviet era and the power of one solo leader, Marshall Tito, for too many years, seems to be the only thing the Balkan country has in common with the tropical one.

If Cubans are interested in Serbia, it is for just one reason: it is one of the few countries which don’t require a visa for people from the island and, because of its nearness — and potential entry point — to the European Union, is an ideal destination for emigration.

“I knew about Serbia from Cuban friends who had emigrated in previous years”, Diana, a young woman from Havana living in Novi Sad, a city on the shores of the Danube, tells 14ymedio.” It was a long, costly journey, but I made it”.

The Cuban and Serbian governments have ties from the times of the old Yugoslavia, so that, when Diana tells her neighbours where she comes from, more than one of them mentions Fidel Castro and talks about the island as an old “brother country”. continue reading

“My family in Cuba could not place Serbia geographically”, notes the young woman. A grandfather spoke about Yugoslavia and she was worried: the Balkans have historically been a region in conflict, with wars and corrupt governments. The territory’s fragmentation continued at least until Montenegro and Kosovo recently became independent.

“Nevertheless, I decided to take the risk”, Diana confirmed, saying she very much  likes the country, which has received a flood of migrants in recent years.

Technically, Cubans have the possibility of staying in Serbia for 90 days without a visa being required, although, lately, they are being asked for a letter of invitation including the address where they are accommodated, as well as a person who “takes responsibility” for them at the airport.

As most  of them don’t go back to the island, the country’s government added a requirement to show their financial solvency, and a warning that the immigration authorities have the power to refuse Cubans entry to the country” because of abuse of the visa-free policy”.

In spite of the difficulties, there is now a kind of Cuban colony in the Balkans. “The cost of living is much lower than in most European countries” says Diana. “It isn’t difficult to find work and get somewhere to live”.

Many Cuban young people now work in the service sector, in bars and restaurants, or as cleaners or construction workers. It is unusual for them to study in the universities and, if they want to get another type of work, it is essential to be able to speak Serbian.

Tastes in food and clothes are not so different to the Cuban, they are orthodox Christians and live like the rest of the Europeans. Diana comments that “Although some aspects of the culture are different, the communist past sees to it that some references and customs don’t seem so strange”.

“The climate is a surprise” she says, “although you get used to it after the first winter. In summer it goes up to 40 degrees and there are heatwaves. The strangest thing is not to be near the sea, which used to be part of my daily life”.

The Serbians are welcoming and show they are different to the “cold Europeans”. “They speak a little Spanish because they like Latin music and Mexican novels; that the television here has rebroadcast for years”.

Like other Central European countries formerly in the Soviet Bloc, Serbia sees its future allied with the West (Ailén Rivero)

“The laws are quite flexible for the migrants” Diana explains. “Serbia has welcomed many Syrian refugees and, with the war, also Ukrainians. Some people also come from the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom, because they prefer the legal and political flexibility here compared to their own countries”.

The Balkan nation was considered a kind of “oasis” in relation to the covid-19 pandemic restrictions. The young woman was surprised that “You didn’t have to use a mask, or get vaccinated”. This encouraged tourism.

After decades of armed conflict, Serbia opted for neutrality in its external relations, which has been brought into question by the war between Russia and Ukraine.”In spite of the recent shared cultural history with the countries of the old Soviet Union, Serbia hopes to be admitted into the European Union”, said Diana, and for that reason the best thing for the government is “not to get involved” with Putin.

“Like other Central European countries belonging to the Soviet bloc, Serbian society sees its future in alliance with the West and its way of life as a priority, rather than the Russian paradigm”, she says.

The Cubans, fed up with the politics of their own country, try to put up with the delicate status quo in Serbia and concentrate on their wellbeing. Although she is doing well in Novi Sad, Diana — who dreamt of living for a time in St.Petersburg and seeing the paintings in the Hermitage Museum — does not rule out moving to another country when the mood calms down a bit in the region.

“After all”, she says, “if nothing ties me to Cuba, right now nothing ties me to Serbia either”.

Translated by GH

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

In Spite of the Disastrous Situation in the Country, President Diaz-Canel Only Sees Successes in Cuba

Raúl Castro arrives at the ceremony of July 26th, supported by Díaz-Canel  and the First Secretary of the Party in Cienfuegos. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Havana, 26 July 2022 – – The day started off complicated in the editorial office of 14ymedio in Havana. Several members of the team awoke to no internet connection and started to look for alternative ways to reach their readers. They concluded, with resignation, that the reason for this was that Etecsa [the Cuban State owned telecoms company] had cut off communications from activists and independent journalists on July 26th, the day Cuban officialdom celebrates the anniversary of the assault on Moncada prison, or, the Day of National Rebellion, as they prefer to call it.

Hundreds of miles away, in Cienfuegos, Díaz-Canel gave his speech: “Democracy, popular participation, humanism, creativity, innovation, commitment, ideals and revolutionary passion are what today define the Cuban Revolution, and social justice continues to be our guide.” He didn´t say anything about freedom of the press or the selective cuts in internet service.

The Head of State appeared in the city’s Plaza Cultural, where, according to the State news and media website Cubadebate, over 10,000 people had gathered, and lent his arm to Raúl Castro, who was also supported by the First Party Secretary in the area, Marydé Fernández López, so he could walk to his place of honour. From there he enthusiastically waved the red and black flag and listened to the words of his successor, who had not even been born on the date in question, but whose speech was focussed on the preceding century.

Díaz-Canel defended Fidel Castro´s claim in La Historia me absolverá [History Will Absolve Me], as a remedy for the “amnesia” that “imperial logic” attempted to impose, and spoke of “material pressures” intended to push back the “the spirit of resistance and to make the Cuban people forget the reason for the socialist revolution of the poor, with the poor, and for the poor.”

While Cuban people cross the island seeing the empty stores closed down, or some forklift driver comes up with a black market product, Díaz-Canel went on about a period when Cubans owned no houses or land, the negroes and mestizos were marginalised, women had no rights and were hopeless and hungry. Although he could have been talking about this Tuesday July 26, 2022, he was in fact referring to the mid-twentieth century. continue reading

During the day they announced a more than 10% shortage of electricity, although early in the morning the television broadcast the official ceremony without problems. In any case, Díaz-Canel, found himself able to refer to the power cuts, and asked the Cubans, even though they thought there was nothing worse than the blackouts they had to put up with every day, “to understand that the US blockade is the root cause of our economic difficulties.”

The leader didn’t get everything correct. He mentioned the great Cuban sporting achievements, while the rate of absconding of athletes is higher than ever,  then he want on to the low level of infant mortality in a year in which we have seen catastrophic statistics in the island. He mentioned citizen safety on a day when we know there are up to 10 daily cattle thefts in Ciego de Ávila, and, why not, the health situation, a few days after the lack of nearly half the basic necessity medicines was reported.

In his speech, the President also referred to the new recently-approved norms which put Cuba “in the vanguard of respect for rights and guarantees,” although he didn’t mention the Penal Code, or the Communications Law, although he did mention the Family Code, one of the few norms adopted by the government —  if not the only one — which the international community can view positively and which will be subject to a referendum in September.

Díaz-Canel also thanked the Heads of State who had shown support for Cuba, among which he particularly mentioned Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Mexican leader, who is apparently gaining in the appreciation of the Cuban regime in comparison with Nicolás Maduro, who did not get a mention in spite of the relationship of more than two decades between Caracas and Havana.

Lastly, Díaz-Canel said “delinquency weakens social work and corruption eats away at everything” and stressed the need to fight it. “If we had given in after Moncada, after Granma, if we had accepted the idea of defeat, we would have been defeated, but that never happened and that must always be our attitude”, he concluded

Translated by GH

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

Neighbours in El Condado, Santa Clara, Cuba, Accuse the Police of Killing a Young Man of 17

The event happened in the El Condado neighbourhood, in Santa Clara. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 July 2022 — Various videos have been circulating in social media since Saturday, showing a teenager shot by the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) in the El Condado neighbourhood in Santa Clara. The young man, 17 years old, was identified by several users as Zidan Batista Álvarez.

In the videos, a number of El Condado residents surround a group of police and various patrolmen, in the vicinity of Estrada Palma Street, the main road through the neighbourhood. The recording shows four officials near an individual (presumably Batista Álvarez) handcuffed, with his mouth open, on the street.

One of the police officers has a gun in his hand and kicks him, while the young man writhes about with a bleeding wound in his thigh, or in the abdomen, (the poor image quality makes it difficult to see exactly)

Another video shows how one of the passers-by goes to lift up the injured man, while an official prevents him, hitting him with a baton. “A shot … a shot … I couldn’t record the shots, man … covered in blood,” said the person who recorded the scene with his phone. “Assassin … a policeman shot three warning shots in the air and then shot the kid,” said one of the women at the scene.

Although there is no official confirmation of the death of Zidan Batista Álvarez, several online individuals related to him have recounted what happened in social media.

“Fly high, Zidan, may God accept you in this holy glory” is what Yeris González, a worker at the Básica Fructuoso Rodríguez secondary school in Santa Clara, wrote in Facebook. “They robbed you of your life while you were so young (…) my condolences to your family and friends,” he added. According to Batista Álvarez’ Facebook profile, he and his partner, Susleidy Guerra, were parents of a small girl. continue reading

According to one version of the event, the police came to the location because of a disturbance between illegal occupants of a property and the owners, in which another unidentified person also died, as a result of a machete wound. Batista Álvarez had been shot at one point during this altercation, after which the police fired several warning shots in the air.

According to the official Seguidores del Legionario Cubano (Cuban Legion Followers) Facebook group: “The antiCuban media are already starting to misrepresent what happened in the disturbance in El Condado, Santa Clara. As is clear in the recording and in other videos, it is impossible to see the circumstances giving rise to the police shots.”

“You can clearly hear in one of the videos, that they fired three encouraging shots (sic, as opposed to discouraging), and the subject got on top of the police with a machete. Three shots rang out and one of them was injured in the left leg, with non-serious injuries. The deceased was a 17 year old youth who received various knife wounds during the heat of the struggle. The police only came to prevent further deaths, they acted responsibly,” said the publication.

Although this statement does not constitute an official version of what took place, and no newspaper or local media has provided any report, the account by the Seguidores del Legionario Cubano gives us a clue as to the way in which the authorities will explain it.

There is very little clarity over the event and no believable source has commented on the death of Zidan Batista Álvarez or other individuals, or justified the PNR officials’ presence there and the reason why they fired.

El Condado, home of the feared Unit Five of the Santa Clara PNR (National Revolutionary Police), is a location characterised both by the level of delinquency and the large number of police and State Security.

Translated by GH

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

Help for Two Cuban ‘Rafters’ who Arrived in the Florida Keys Suffering From Hypothermia

One of the boats in which eight Cubans arrived at the Florida Keys (Twitter/@USBPChiefMIP)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 April 2022 —  Two of the eight ’rafters’ who reached land in the Florida Keys had to be taken to hospital as they were suffering from “hypothermia,” according to information in social media published by Walter N. Slosar, Border Patrol agent in Miami. The migrants were detained on two separate occasions.

The number of people arriving by boat went up at the beginning of April, when the border official reported “77 persons from four different countries” in two days. Included among these were 15 Cubans, who were arrested when they arrived at Cayo Hueso.

The Coastguard has intercepted 730 boats arriving by sea since October 1, 2021. The background of the exodus of Cubans to Florida has data current to March. Sixteen from the island were arrested on the 17th. This group joins that of March 12, when another 17 migrants were arrested, who also landed in the Keys. Up to that point, agent Slosar recorded more than 60 maritime smuggling incidents.

According to the data of the United States Office of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) the last five months have seen a total of 47,331 Cubans as illegal  immigrants coming overland to the country, by way of the Mexican border. In February alone, 16,557 entries were registered.

In the image are some of the various groups of immigrants detained by Border Patrol agents in Rio Grande Valley in the last few days. (Twitter/@CBP)

Last January 9,827 Cuban immigrants were detained, about 13 times more than the 732 during the same month in 2020, when Donald Trump was still in the White House. continue reading

Between Wednesday and Thursday of this week, the Border Patrol agents in Rio Grande Valley detained 306 immigrants on two separate occasions. “The migrants came from Cuba and various countries in Central and South America,” according to information from the Federal agency.

“The groups were made up of 115 single adults, 90 family members, and 89 unaccompanied children,” reported the Border Patrol.

On April 11th alone, the border agents in Rio Grande Valley arrested four groups who were intercepted in pairs in La Grulla and Roma, a total of 754 migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guatemala. “The groups constituted 356 single adults, 275 family members, 123 unaccompanied children; including two US citizens who came with their mother from Guatemala,” reported the Border Patrol.

Translated by GH

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

Russia will be the Guest of Honour at the Cuban Tourism Fair, Whatever Happens in Ukraine

The Tourism Fair announced Russia as the host in 2019. (Mintur / File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, March 2nd, 2022 – Just as if nothing had happened, or, even worse, taking advantage of the moment in which everybody is rejecting Moscow to position themselves as an unwavering friend, the Cuban tourism authorities are more than happy about having chosen Russia as the invited guest of honour at FitCuba 2022.

The tourism fair had announced its host in 2019 with the idea of exploiting a market sector which was then growing vigorously, but with the arrival of the pandemic the event was cancelled for two consecutive years and finally will take place between May 3rd and 7th in Varadero.

At a time when Russia is marginalised both in the cultural and sporting spheres, Cuba is a long way from reconsidering  who should be the guest of honour  and neither is it worried about whether or not the guest will be able to get to the island, now that nearly all the country’s airlines have cancelled their flights because of the sanctions which forbid overflying most of the northwest hemisphere.

The decision to bar Russia from social, cultural and sporting events has provoked derision from those who consider that it is a ridiculous measure, but it has hurt the Kremlin. This very morning, chancellor Sergei Lavrov has recognised that they can expect sanctions because of the invasion – or, military operation as they call it – but not that it would be extended to artists and sportsmen. According to the experts, these kinds of decisions are powerful in symbolising isolation but also have a practical effect: in making it clearly visible to Russian people that something is happening. continue reading

In a press conference about the nautical events expected in 2022, the authorities were asked by FitCuba about the possible repercussions of the “international context” on the Russian  tourist presence in Varadero in only two months, but sources close to Moscow authorities – according to Cubadebate – consider that there won’t be any problem.

The answer did not refer to the remote idea of being questioned before an international community committed to supporting Ukraine against its aggressor, but rather to the fact that, although the guests cannot travel, it is clearly demonstrated, thanks to the pandemic, that online events can work just as well as face-to-face ones.

“The whole world has managed virtual events and, if there can’t be physical presence, there can still be professional and commerical interchange” says the official press.

The position fits with that of the government in the conflict, although finally Cuba has decided to abstain in voting on the United Nations General Assembly text against the Russian invasion which was overwhelmingly approved this Wednesday in New York.

In his address this Tuesday, Pedro Luis Pedroso Cuesta, Cuban permanent representative to the United Nations, again rejected any use of force by NATO and blamed it for its “expansionist efforts” which provoked the Russian response. And although he did not go as far  – at least publicly – as Nicolás Maduro, who called Vladmir Putin to convey the “firm support” of Venezuela, nor recognised the independence of Donetsk and Lugansk which brought about the outbreak of Russian hostilities, the Cuban regime’s media and diplomatic deployment continues to be in Moscow’s favour.

Among the nautical events presented yesterday, there is a new offer: a new diving centre developed by the Russian company Siberian Diving and the Marlin Marine and Nautical Company of Cuba.

Nevertheless, in the current scenario, when the Russian stock market has been closed for three days to contain the bloodbath resulting from international sanctions, the Russian partner is wobbling as a source of supply.

Translated by GH

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

Russian Airlines Headed for Cuba Manage to Fly Around Airspace Closures

The closing-off of airspace to Russian airlines in various parts of the world has been one of the measures taken by European and Asian countries because of the invasion of Ukraine. (Max Pixel)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, March 3rd, 2022 – Russia has found a way around the closing-off of airspace in Canada, USA and Europe, which has made the airlines modify their normal routes across the North Atlantic to get to America.

Planes of various airlines are programmed to fly to the Island from Moscow in the next few days.

One of the connections is Royal Flight Airlines Flight 573 to Varadero, due to arrive this Friday afternoon. Other flights, with Aeroflot, NordWind and Royal Flight itself, are timed to arrive in the country between Saturday and Monday of next week.

The route these airliners take will be over the North Atlantic and the diversion adds an hour, which is what happened to NordWind Airlines 353, which left this Tuesday from Sheremétievo airport in Moscow, and arrived today at Juan Gualberto Gómez airport, in Varadero. This is the same route Azur Air took at the beginning of the week between Moscow-Vnukovo international airport and La Romana airport in the Dominican Republic. continue reading

Ecasa, the Cuban airport and airline services company, recently put out a message on its Telegram channel, that the NordWind airline will continue its flights from Russia to Cuba and vice versa, and with particular information for Cuban passengers.

The message indicated that residents on the island will be accepted on return flights from Russia, but that from Cuban airports Cuban nationals will be accepted only when all Russian tourists have a seat.

According to official press information this Thursday, NordWind will keep operating Wednesdays and Saturdays from Moscow to Varadero, and Tuesdays and Fridays connecting the Russian capital with the tourist centre of Cayo Coco.

The closing-off of airspace to Russian airlines in various parts of the world has been one of the measures taken by European and Asian countries because of the invasion of Ukraine

Translated by GH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by GH

Are There Any Apolitical Cubans? / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Yordenis Ugás, Cuban professional boxer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by GH

Cuban Government Laments its Failure to Attract Foreign Investment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by GH

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

Organoponics and Food Self-sufficiency in Cuba

Urban agriculture in Havana (flickr)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by GH

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

In Cuba the Price of Ice Cream Goes Through the Roof

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

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

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

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

Translated by GH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

enter US territory”, according to the journalist.

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

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

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

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

Translated by GH

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