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

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

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

Rights before and during interrogation

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

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

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

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

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

To enjoy the assistance of an interpreter.

That all persons present at an interrogation shall be identified.

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

The right to medical examination and services.

Translated by GH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by GH

Customer Care / Fernando Damaso

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by GH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by GH

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

Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by GH

What Laura Left Behind When it Passed Through Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida

(The video is in Spanish and not subtitled)

Juan Juan Almeida, 26 August 2020 — Laura left Cuba with more gains than losses: but the government hid this

Or, what is worse, it hides its inabilities behind the hydrometeorological phenomenon

The reduction of the water levels was a constant in the Guantanamo reservoirs. They were about to declare a drought.

To give you an idea, the volume of water in the dams in the most easterly province of Cuba, Guantanamo, was 171 million cubic metres and its capacity was 348.

Although less than half, any water was important, otherwise there wouldn’t be any. And I don’t know if they understand that a province without doctors can bring in doctors; a province without police can import police; if a province doesn’t have an airport, people can get in by sea, or along the highway; but a province without water, will collapse. continue reading

In Granma province, the situation was no different

Between the dams at Guisa, Corojo, Paso Malo, Cautillo, Bueycito, and all the dams in Manzanillo and Bayamo; between all of them they weren’t even at half the nearly 900 million cubic metres of water which is their capacity.

The situation in Las Tunas was a bit worse than “alarming”.

The dams in that province were not in danger of drought, but rather of what comes after.

The reservoirs weren’t even at 40% capacity

In a better state than Las Tunas, but just as worrying was Villa Clara: Placetas, Manicaragua, Camajuani, Ranchuelo and Santa Clara, received very important supplies of water

The water problem was bad in that part of Cuba, which, up to the Agabama-Gramal fork wasnt able to get into the aqueduct of the capital city of the province, leaving it without enough water

We are not just talking about water; Laura also brought other benefts, as recounted in this broadcast by Juan Juan “Al Medio”.

Translated by GH

Who is Felix Perez and Why Might He Get Locked Up? / Cubalex

 

Cubalex, 18 August 2020 — Last April 22nd, the activist Felix Perez Salazar presented himself peacefully at Unit 5 of the PNR (National Revolutionary Police) in Santa Clara, to accompany other members of the opposition who were protesting fines imposed for the supposed incorrect use of face masks. They detained him there for over two hours and he was threatened with imprisonment for coming to defend the others.

After letting him go, a State Security officer, known as Daniel, imposed on him a fine of 3 thousand pesos, under Art. 8 of the Penal Code, as amended by Legal Decree 310. Up to this day, the accused does not know the reason for the penalty.

This regulation authorises the police to act as judge. That is to say, if the police consider someone has committed an offence, contempt of court for example, this Article applies (which includes payments between 3 and 5 thousand pesos). The decree deprives the accused of his right to apply to a tribunal where evidence has to be presented in public, and to the assistance of a lawyer. continue reading

A month later, Felix, vice president  of the Leoncio Vidal Civil Command, was fined for misuse of a face mask (he used it under his nose), when he went to see his mother, who lives downstairs. The distance between the two homes is just one staircase. On the sidewalk, while he was already in the entranceway, he was stopped by four uniformed patrolmen who imposed the fine.That same day Perez Salazar had gone to a meeting of the opposition organisation, called because of his protest at the fine which he took to be a political reprimand for his activity.

This 9th of August, an official visited the activist in order to collect the fines imposed and Felix responded that he would not pay what he considered to be arbitrary impositions.

Now the activist is in danger of being imprisoned for the offence of non-compliance with the sanctions for his offences. The Tribunal may condemn him to six months deprivation of liberty. Felix may be summarily judged without benefit of a lawyer, just as has happened with other activists.

Translated by GH

Urgent: Cuban Police Detain the Rapper ‘El Osorbo’ and Violate His Rights / Cubalex

The Cuban rapper Maykel Castillo Perez, known as “El Osorbo.” (Archive photo)

Cubalex, 5 August 2020– The rapper Maykel Castillo Perez, known as “El Osorbo,” was arrested on August 3rd in El Cristo Park, between Teniente Rey and Villagas in Havana Vieja. It happened around 11:00 at night when several plainclothes state officers, and also uniformed ones, took him in a patrol car to the police station in Calle Zanjas.

On August 4th, his detention was contested in the Havana Tribunal Provincial, by way of a constitutional application for Habeas Corpus, which is supposed to be resolved within 72 hours of its presentation.

On the same day, his wife went to the police station in Calle Zanja, and the police officer (registered number 06194) denied her permission to give him some toiletries. The official claimed that only State Security is authorised to take any decisions on Maykel’s case. continue reading

When she insisted that she wished to speak to whoever was denying her her rights, the officers informed her that Castillo Perez had been moved to San Miguel de Padron police station in the capital

Today, August 5th, 2020, his wife and two friends of the artist, Anamely Ramos and Omara Ruiz Urquiola, went to the San Miguel de Padron police station. They were not informed why Maykel had been detained, nor on what supposed charge. They explained that it was a matter of “CR”, an abbreviation used to refer to “Counter-revolutionaries”, and that “it is a problem for State Security”. Nevertheless, it is the police who are violating his rights as a detainee.

Cubalex has the registered numbers of the officers who are denying Maykel his rights as a detainee. We would remind you that compliance with an order is no justification when the order is illegal.  You need to remember that, because we are gathering evidence against you as violators of human rights.

Translated by GH

Cuban Police Detain the Reporter Esteban Rodriguez and Violate his Rights / Cubalex

Cubalex, 5 August 2020 — Esteban Lazaro Rodriguez, a reporter with the independent digital media ADN, was arrested at his home at 400 Calle Villegas, between Teniente Rey and Muralla, in Havana. The independent journalist was seized around 12:30 in the afternoon, on August 4th, 2020, by several plain clothes state officers, and also some in uniform, one of whom had the registered number 04220.

While he was being arrested, Rodriguez Lopez was recording on social media. He could be seen while he was being arbitrarily arrested by the officers. At no time did they show an arrest warrant or explain the reason for it.

The arrest was contested on August 4th before the Tribunal Provincial in Havana, by way of a constitutional application for Habeas Corpus, which is supposed to be resolved within 72 hours of its presentation.

According to information from family members, Rodriguez Lopez is in the Cotorro police station.

Translated by GH

Cuban Government Cancels Global Air Flight Contracted To Repatriate 120 Cubans From Ecuador

Aeroregional is linked with Global Air, which owns the plane which crashed in Cuba in 2018.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 April 2020 – The group of Cubans trying to return to the island from Ecuador still doesn’t know when they will be able to go. The humanitarian flight planned for this Thursday from Quito to Havana was unable to enter Cuban airspace because it was operated by a company linked with Global Air, the owner of the plane which crashed in Cuba in May 2018.

“The aviation authorities of the Republic of Cuba determined that the plane proposed to make the flight was connected with a company involved in the tragic accident which happened in Havana on 18 May 2018, which cost the lives of more than 100 passengers, and for that reason the Cuban aviation authorities have decided not to permit this flight”, announced a communication from the Cuban embassy in Quito.

According to the document, the authorities hope to rearrange the flight with another airline, “including Cubana de Aviacion” and hope to have further information in the next few hours. continue reading

The decision, taken for reasons of security, leaves “up in the air” the return plans of over a hundred Cubans anxious to leave Ecuador, one of the countries hit worst by Covid-19, with 520 official deaths, 902 probables, and 10,398 positives. The numbers might be higher, because the country is overwhelmed by the pandemic and the undertakers can’t cope.

In order to leave Ecuador, the passengers, whose application was accepted, had to pay $480, except for children under two whose tickets cost $100, and who could be paid for from the 18th onwards. Many of those affected complained about the elevated price charged by the airline, especially for a humanitarian flight.

However, the fact that payment had to be made by PayPal makes future refunds easier.

Last April 17th the embassy indicated an agreement for the evacuation of a maximum of 120 people who should have gone Thursday, April 23rd at 9:00 from Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito, to Jose Marti in Havana, in a flight operated by Aeroregional, which would return with Ecuadorian citizens stranded on the island. The flight had special  permission, as air space is closed in both countries.

The initial communique specified that Cuban emigrees or those with residence permits in other countries could not take this flight to return to the island.

Aeroregional, based in Ambato, was formed in the mid-90’s, but in June 2018 its owners sold their interest to the main shareholder of Global Air, the Spaniard Manuel Rodriguez Campos, who was named as president of the company at the beginning of last year.

The plane which crashed in Havana on its way to Holguin was owned by Global Air, a company with a long record of failure to comply with safety regulations, and also was prohibited from flying in various areas. A technical report from Cubana de Aviacion advised against hiring any planes from Global Air, but on that occasion they did so, with fatal results.

The families of the victims of the accident, as well as the only survivor, Mailen Diaz Almaguer, have not been financially compensated, although at least there is a hearing pending in Mexico.

Translated by GH

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Jose Daniel Ferrer Released From Prison / Cubalex

José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, from before his recent arrest.

CUBALEX, 3 April 2020: The Cuban opposition leader Jose Daniel Ferrer, coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) has been given his freedom along with three other activists who had also been jailed.

Ferrer was locked up October 1st, 2019, and was tried last February 26th, along with the other members of the opposition, Roilán Zárraga Ferrer, José Pupo Chaveco and Fernando González Vaillant.

According to his brother, Luis Enrique Ferrer, UNPACU external representative, his prison sentence of four and a half years was replaced by house arrest.

The opposition leader spent 6 months in prison, following a highly irregular process, in which the Cuban regime violated its own laws. continue reading

March 12th was the date when the Tribunal should have passed sentence on the four members of the opposition. Nevertheless, in contravention of existing laws, the verdict was never made public. During the trial, the Attorney General ratified the recommendation for nine years for the UNPACU leader and seven and eight years for the other activists.

According to statements by Julio Ferrer Tamayo, a lawyer from the independent Cubalex Center for Legal Information, the judges charged with dispensing “justice” in the Ferrer case should be subject to disciplinary proceedings for failure to comply with the date set down for notification of sentence, in accordance with Art. 31 of the Law of Penal Procedure.

A wide international media campaign was mounted to urge the Castro regime to set free the UNPACU coordinator, along with the rest of the political prisoners.

UNPACU also publicised their concern over the condition of their principal leader, and for those Cubans in jail for peaceful political activism. The opposition group demanded the immediate freeing of all political detentions which were part of the extraordinary measures taken by the Cuban regime within the the state of emergency in force throughout the country.

 Translated by GH

Only in Cuba is the Sale of Used Cars News

Independent and foreign press gathered at the site. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 25 February 25, 2020 — At first light you could see the tired yawning faces of the people who had come to form a queue. The start of the sale of used cars for foreign currency has attracted more curious people than purchasers to the shop on 20th Street, between 1st and 3rd, in the Playa district of Havana.

The first person in the line, waiting for them to call the next customers, commented,  “I thought I had come early, but at 5 am there were more than ten people, who, I imagine, turned up last night”. The person behind him was sure that “the best deals will go in the first days, and that’s why people are impatient.”

The wide lot where the cars are parked has a reception area with AC, where there is a list with the prices of each vehicle. What doesn’t appear is the year, or the mileage, or kilometrage, of the car. “If you want to know those details, you have to stand in line and go through the process”, says an employee, through a gap in the door. continue reading

In the air conditioned reception is a list of the vehicles’ prices. (14ymedio)

The independent and foreign press have also come. Lights, cameras … and cars everywhere. Some mock the excessive coverage. “This wouldn’t be news anywhere else but Cuba”, laughs a  passer-by taking his kid to school.

In order to get in, you have to show a credit card charged with real convertible currency. Someone asks if it is also necessary to have a minimum amount on the card, and this leads to some confusion and some consultation. A few minutes later, a man confirms that “If you really want to buy something, you obviously have to have money, but for the assistants, just having some plastic is enough”.

There is an automobile-expertise competition among the onlookers, who observe from far away, and then up close. “None of those cars look more than ten years old; the problem is knowing what their mileage is”, says one of the supposed experts. Another one adds, “And it would be difficult to know because you can clock the mileage and leave it at zero”.

Nearly all the cars on show are grey. Some are small, and some are more like pick up trucks or minivans.

Nearly all the cars are grey. There are small ones, and ones which are more like pick-ups or minivans. Some are covered  in dust, and none of them have licence plates.

Some point to the cheapest models, going for about $34,000, and say they will probably will go quickest, while others consider that it is “better to pay more and get a stronger car”. Nearly everyone in the line are men, although there are some women accompanied by their husbands, and a woman shouting about the trinkets she is selling.

“When they advertised it, I thought it would be for people who import directly”, says a young man who, he makes clear, has come “just to look”. His brother, who lives in Miami, has had a car for five years and wanted to send it, but he says that “there’s no way to get it here.”

Vehicle imports are controlled by state businesses, in particular, the Cimex Corporation, a commercial arm of the military. “That’s why the prices are like that, because they control the whole situation”, is the opinion of one of the customers, summing up the conversation about the advantages and disadvantages of each car.

Most of the people waiting there seem to belong to what most people call “nouveau riche”, or “flashy”. They show off their social status in their clothes, the kind of shoes they wear, they way they show off their knowledge of cars, and, make it clear they do have a credit card with thousands of dollars deposited, in a country in which the average monthly salary is no more that $50.

Halfway through the morning, not one buyer has left with his car. The process of inspection, testing and delivery is long and tedious. “You have to check it out, right down to the spark plugs, because when you leave there’s no way to complain about anything” says a man who boasts about being an auto mechanic, and who is accompanying a friend interested in Peugeots.

Although Chinese Geely cars are cheaper, some people reject them because of their bad reputation, since they have been distributed for years at subsidised prices to the military, and Party bureaucrats and leaders, as well as the police and members of State Security.

Carlos, a young man who has been in the line since about four in the morning, explains it perfectly. “I think I’m gonna go for a Kia for $40,000; although a Geely goes for $5,000 less, it’s a car that gives you a headache to get it fixed, and also my neighbours would think I was with the state security”, he says ironically.

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.

Evo Morales Goes to Cuba

Evo Morales was in Cuba two months ago, presumably for the same medical reasons (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE / 14ymedio, Buenos Aires, February 10th, 2020 – the Head of State of Argentina, Alberto Fernandez, stated that Evo Morales, ex-president of Bolivia, left Buenos Aires Monday morning, to go to Cuba.

“As I understand it, he was undergoing certain medical treatment, and had to go. He spoke to me a few days ago and made the comment when he was on his way”, Fernandez said to Radio Continental when asked about Morales’ trip to Havana.

The ex-president had arrived in Argentina mid-December, where  he sought refuge, after having been given asylum for a month in Mexico, following his resignation, under duress by the armed forces, on November 10th.

Fernandez emphasised that “as a political refugee, there was nothing to stop him going to Cuba”.

Morales was already on the island at the beginning of December for a medical appointment, when he was in asylum in Mexico, the first country that accepted him when he left Bolivia, and before he left for Argentina. Morales’ departure for Havana was timed some hours after the Bolivian Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced that it had concerns about his candidacy to be a senator for Cochabamba, representing his Socialism Movement (MAS) Party.

Additionally, there was concern about the candidacy for president of Luis Arce, from MAS, who had not complied with certain requirements for participation in the elections the following May 3rd.

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.

Three Dead and Eight Injured in Another Accident in Santiago de Cuba

The vehicle overturned in Fray Juan, Altos de Titi. (Sierra Maestra)

14ymedio biggerEFE / 14ymedio, Havana, February 3rd, 2020 — Three people were killed and another eight injured after a truck that was in use as a makeshift bus crashed on a highway in Santiago de Cuba.

The accident happened last Saturday on a stretch of road near Alto de El Titi, on the Laguna Blanca highway, in the Contramaestre area, according to information published in the official Sierra Maestra newspaper.

The fatalities were two men and a woman of 19, 40, and 44 years of age, and three of the injured were taken to Orlando Panoja de Contramaestre hospital with life-threatening injuries.

The photos published show that the vehicle left the highway, but, up to now, there are no further details. continue reading

It’s only two weeks since the last fatal traffic accident in the same province. On the 20th, two people were killed and another 22 injured when a Kamaz truck turned over, after hitting a Maz-500 truck (both are Russian-made vehicles) travelling in the opposite direction on the Central Highway, between Dos Palmas and Yarayabo.

For the last several years, traffic accidents have been the fifth cause of death in Cuba, where one is reported every 55 minutes, there is a fatality every 15 hours, and an injury every one hour and fifteen minutes, according to a recent report by the Department of Transport.

Major accidents occur with particular frequency in the eastern part of Cuba, where it is normal for trucks to be adapted to carry passengers, owing to the scarcity of public transport.

From January up until the end of October 2019, 7,800 traffic accidents were reported in Cuba, leaving 5,735 injured and 490 dead, according to official data.

Inadequate vehicle maintenance, ignoring rights of way on the road, speeding, and driving under the influence are among the most frequent causes of accidents.

But the high rate of accidents on the highways and on urban streets is also due to the advanced age of the vehicles (most of them are over 20 years old and many of them over 60), and their poor maintenance, often carried out on a DIY basis.

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.

Bolivian Running The Cuban Medical Programme Arrested On Corruption Charges

Carlos de la Rocha was the national coordinator of ex-President Evo Morales` government health programme (Red Uno)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 9th 2020 – The Attorney General of Bolivia arrested Carlos de la Rocha, who was national coordinator of ex-President Evo Morales´ government health programme, and accused him of corruption,  for alleged “anti-economic” activity, failure to complete duties, and aggravated robbery, as reported in the country´s press.

De la Rocha, a Bolivian national, and doctor by profession, rejects the charges and insists that there are documents which prove he did everything in a legal manner. “I am innocent of all wrongdoing, we always managed the programme and its resources with total transparency. You can see that by examining all the documentation in the Ministry of Health”, the ex-official told the press before being taken off to a detention centre.

The ex-official had made a declaration to the Attorney General, following a summons from that office to clarify what happened to the millions of dollars used by the previous government to finance the Cubans in Bolivia. continue reading

According to his lawyer, Luis Velasco, De la Rocha did what he was supposed to do: “He was appointed by memorandum as coordinator of this programme, he proceeded to administer and manage the funds by way of the approved budget”, he told Eju TV channel.

The Medical College of Bolivia requested an investigation into the funding provided by the government of Evo Morales, an ally of Cuba, for the contracting of doctors from the island. Havana withdrew more than 700 “cooperating aid workers” from the country, following Evo Morales` exit last November.

A little before that, the government in Ecuador had decided to put an end to the presence of Cuban doctors in the public health system, and, a year earlier, following the electoral victory of Jair Bolsonaro, Cuba had withdrawn 8,300 doctors who were working in remote parts of Brazil.

“We are discovering the indiscriminate use of government resources, the misuse of public money deposited in private accounts for, supposedly, paying Cubans, when those funds should have been in a fiscal account”, stated the President of the Medical College of La Paz, Luis Larrea.

Larrea accused the Cuban doctors of inflating the statistics of patients treated, and discarding drugs paid for by the Bolivian budget in order to increase purchases of drugs, by the previous government, from the island. He also asserted that Morales discriminated against Bolivian doctors, many of whom were unemployed, while he contracted foreign personnel.

The Bolivian Minister of Health, Aníbal Cruz, revealed that only 205 out of the 702 Cubans stationed in Bolivia had qualifications as doctors. After reviewing the contract papers of the Cuban functionaries, the Jeanine Añez interim government President determined that the majority were technicians or chauffeurs. Nevertheless, they were all charged as doctors.

In over 13 years in government, Evo Morales never revealed the cost of the Cuban squads to the Bolivian treasury.

Cuba’s principal source of income is the sale of medical services. International agencies have criticised Havana for the doctors´employment conditions, under which they receive 25% of what the foreign governments pay for them.

“We don´t have true and complete information about the salaries of the Cuban mission, but what we do know is that the money came from the Health Ministry. They paid $1,040 monthly for each of them.” said the new Minister, Aníbal Cruz.

From its preliminary database, the Ministry of Health calculates that its country paid Cuba $69.4m for the Cuban missions, without taking into account the eye operations promoted by the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, which were also carried out by Cuban doctors.

Roxana Lizarraga Vega, Minister of Communications of the Interim Government, said that at least 100 of the Cubans who came to Bolivia as part of the medical teams were in fact intelligence agents.

The La Paz police entered three Cuban medical team “safe houses”, where they found electrical circuits, security cameras, a hidden safe room, a safe, and various documents which are  being studied by the Attorney’s office.

 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.