José Daniel Ferrer Beaten in Prison for Demanding Respect for his Personal Correspondence

Ana Belkis Ferrer García, sister of the opposition leader, explained what happened on December 9. (Image capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 December 2022 — Opposition leader José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), has been the victim of a beating at the Mar Verde prison in Santiago de Cuba, the Council for Democratic Transition in Cuba charged in a statement. The activist protested against the violation of his correspondence, and the guards responded to his complaint with violence.

Ana Belkis Ferrer García, sister of the opposition leader, detailed in a transmission through the social network Facebook what happened on December 9, during the family visit that the activist received in the prison. The meeting was attended by his wife, Nelva Ismaray Ortega, and two of the dissident’s children, who witnessed the aggressive response of the guards.

“His little daughter, Victoria Fatima Ferrer, who ran to her father’s aid, was also assaulted, as was his wife Nelva. The psychological consequences of this unleashed violence will have a lasting and probably devastating impact on these young children,” the Council added in its statement.

The violence against Ferrer occurred after his wife told him that on November 30, after attending the conjugal visit, she was detained, and the guards confiscated the correspondence that the opposition leader had given her. They read the letters and  “returned only some of them but kept the others,” according to the opposition leader’s sister. continue reading

Upon learning of this, Ferrer demanded the right of respect for his correspondence in front of the two guards who had been listening all the time to what he was talking about with his family. When the UNPACU leader complained, they began to beat him. “One held him down and the other hit him hard. Fatima, José Daniel’s daughter, tried to intervene to stop them from hitting her father, and they pushed her.

The activist was immobilized. “They covered his mouth because he began to shout ’Down with Raúl Castro, Down with Díaz-Canel, Down with the dictatorship!’ They threw him to the floor,” his sister said. Before he was taken out of the visiting room, the opposition leader managed to tell his wife that he was going on a hunger strike because of the violation of his correspondence and the non-compliance with his phone-call schedule.

For Ana Belkis Ferrer García, the reason for the restrictions on her brother’s phone calls is to prevent “him from making the complaints he made in those few minutes.” She explains that the opposition leader has been in a detention cell for 16 months “in cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions. Since he is on a hunger strike, they have taken away all his belongings,” she complains.

“José Daniel Ferrer must be released immediately and unconditionally, in the same way as all political prisoners. All of them are innocent. Amnesty, which is supported by the citizenry, is an appropriate way, supported by the international community that defends human rights,” says the Council for Democratic Transition in Cuba in its texts, and it also demands that “the perpetrators, uniformed or not, be punished for this atrocious and barbaric display of violence.”

Ferrer is one of nearly 1,000 political prisoners being held by the regime since the mass protests of July 11, 2021, or after the demonstrations of recent months.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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.

‘We Were Not Aware of All the Terrible Crimes Attributed to Castro’

The photograph of the Cuban dictator, smiling while smoking and revealing a Rolex under his sleeve, was denounced by singer Aymée Nuviola. (Capture/Instagram)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 October 2022 — The Lepple jewelry store, located in the German city of Esslingen am Neckar, in the region of Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg state, apologized Thursday for having used an image of Fidel Castro to promote the luxury watch brand Rolex.

“The portrait of Fidel Castro has been removed and discarded this Thursday morning,” Lepple’s owner assured 14ymedio. “We were not aware of all the terrible crimes attributed to Castro and we have made sure that this image will never again be used in any promotion or activity of the store,” he explained.

He clarified that the Rolex brand had nothing to do with the use of the image, nor had he recommended its use in Leppel’s showcase. Neither the photograph nor Fidel Castro “are involved in any way with Rolex”.

“We send our deepest apologies to those who may have been offended by our use of this image,” he concluded.

The photograph of the Cuban dictator, smiling while smoking and revealing a Rolex under his sleeve, was denounced on her social networks by singer Aymée Nuviola, who discovered it while strolling through Esslingen. continue reading

It is no surprise that Castro is associated with all kinds of products, including luxury ones, which some brands and establishments, both on the island and worldwide, take advantage of for advertising. The most emblematic product is undoubtedly the Cohiba cigar and its various products, which Castro had manufactured in 1967 to entertain leaders and diplomats allied with the regime, and which has just generated almost three million euros in revenues for Habanos, S.A.

Revolution watch magazine published an article in 2018 that explored Castro’s relationships with “the Crown,” the symbol of Rolex. Several photographs show him wearing the celebrated Rolex Submariner 5513, which he used for scuba diving, one of his favorite pastimes.

Also, like the Cohiba cigar, Castro used to give watches of this brand to prominent officials and loyal agents. This is attested to by the testimony of Norberto Fuentes in his book Dulces guerreros cubanos [Sweet Cuban Warriors] (1999), which refers to the “disgraceful Cuban wearers of Rolexes,” himself among them.

“The Rolexes displayed from the windows of the Ladas fulfilled an important assignment,” Fuentes said of the “top brass” of the regime. “They were the attributes, the insignia. They fulfilled the important task of enhancing our dignity, which — like all legitimate dignity — is physical. The crème de la crème of the fraternity of the revolutionary combatants.”

The attachment of the leaders of the revolution to their Rolexes was such that when Ernesto Guevara was captured in Bolivia in 1967, the Argentinean was wearing two of these watches on his wrist. One belonged to a dead commander, the other was his own. One of Guevara’s last requests to Captain Gary Prado, the Bolivian military officer who captured him, was to guard his watches for when he was released.

Some time later, in 1983, Prado sent the Argentinean’s watch to his family in Havana. In exchange for the souvenir, the Castro government gave him a new Rolex.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


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 Miami, they Support the Protests in Cuba and Ask the US Not to Give Aid to the Regime

A group of people demonstrated in support of Cubans on the island this Sunday in Miami. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana/Miami, 3 October 2022 – – A group of Cubans living in Miami gathered this Sunday in front of the Versailles Restaurant to support the protests that have been taking place on the island since the electrical system collapsed after the passage of Hurricane Ian, leaving millions of citizens without service. The Internet cuts began in order to prevent communication and dissemination of the demonstrations and their repression.

Among those gathered in front of the legendary Florida restaurant were historical opponents such as former political prisoner Jorge Luis García Pérez, Antúnez, and Cuba Decide leader Rosa María Payá; along with other recently arrived opponents such as rapper Eliecer Márquez Duany, El Funky, graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, independent journalist Esteban Rodríguez, and boxer Yordenis Ugás. In addition, actor Roberto San Martín and influencer Alexander Otaola were also present.

Together with them, more than 200 Cuban exiles called on the international community not to abandon Cuba in the face of repression and called on Joe Biden’s Administration to take a strong stand against the Cuban regime and refuse to send aid.

In a brief speech, Rosa María Payá, daughter of the late leader of the Christian Liberation Movement and the promoter of the Varela Project, Oswaldo Paya, insisted that the aid that Castroism is asking the U.S. government for should not be provided, since the people have taken to the streets to demand freedom and not business or aid. “Business will come when Cuba is free,” cried the activist, who added that the opposition will help at that time. continue reading

Payá insisted that it is necessary to send a message to the Biden Administration that there should be no rapprochement that would legitimize the dictatorship and would not change anything for the population.

Among the demonstrators, some called for military intervention in Cuba, although most showed their solidarity with the protests and support for those who are in the streets of the island standing up to the authorities. “If Cuba is in the streets, so is Miami,” they chanted.

Many of those who gathered this Sunday in front of the Versailles were recent arrivals to the U.S. who were telling each other about their journey through Nicaragua. There were also some who were still fearful of the presence of several police units guarding the peaceful development of the rally, although the more experienced ones asked for calm. “The police are here to take care of us,” they said to each other.

Meanwhile, this Sunday night Cubans went out again in several cities, according to videos that circulated on social networks. From Punta Brava and Santiago de las Vegas, in the Havana municipalities of La Lisa and Boyeros or Capellanía, in Artemisa, came testimonies of different pots and pans in which people shouted “We want the lights”.

According to the organization Justicia 11J, since September 30 there have been 20 arrests of participants in these protests, 14 of whom are still in detention.

“About 15 people [were] detained over last night’s protests in Linea Street, Vedado and Arroyo Arenas,” in Havana, as well as in Baracoa, the collective said on Twitter. They are in addition to five arrests in previous days.

Although the relatives “have been told that the demonstrators will soon be released”, some of those who were detained in Vedado have been transferred to the Technical Department of Investigations (DTI), where suspects are usually taken for prosecution.

Justice 11J also reports that five protesters from Havana, Villa Clara and Guantanamo have already been released.

In addition, the organization Amnesty International (AI) charged on Sunday that “protests are intensifying in Cuba” and that they are receiving “reports of repression, possible detentions and Internet cuts”.

“We demand that the government of President Miguel Diaz-Canel put an end to the repression, and listen to the demands of those who protest peacefully,” AI stressed on Twitter.

Hurricane Ian crossed the western tip of Cuba from south to north on Tuesday, with heavy rains and winds of up to 200 kilometers per hour, causing heavy material damage and five deaths, according to the latest official balance published on Sunday.

The Cuban Electric Union (UNE) multiplied this weekend its announcements of new electric circuits reestablished, but outages and blackouts continue without it being possible to distinguish whether they are a consequence of the major breakdown last Tuesday or of the months of generation deficit accumulated by the system due to the continuous breakdowns of thermoelectric plants and distributed generating plants.

In Havana, UNE has reported that 95.3% of customers now have electricity, but there is still no service in some parts of the city. Regarding water supply, at a meeting of the Government of Havana it was said that 92% of the population is receiving service, with 170,000 customers pending.

On the other hand, the restoration of services is extremely slow in the province of Pinar del Río, the most affected by the hurricane, where only 7% of the 235,311 customers have electricity service and, according to the authorities, the situation will be normalized within 15 to 20 days.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


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.

Where is the Cuban Embargo/Blockade?

A billboard in Cuba demanding “Down with the blockade” and vowing “Fatherland or Death”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 30 April 2022 — Where is the embargo? Day in and day out, the communist leaders parade the intensification of the U.S. embargo/blockade as the origin of all the ills of the Cuban economy. And it turns out that these leaders contradict the news published by the official press of the regime.

The State newspaper Granma boasts in the run-up to May 1st of the signing of no less than 18 agreements this past week by the Castro consortium BioCubaFarma with Cuban and foreign entities.

I insist: where is the embargo? If this fiction created by the Cuban communists to hide their responsibilities really existed, this type of agreement would be impracticable, impossible. But no. The 18 agreements between companies of the BioCubaFarma group and Cuban and foreign entities indicate that there is no restriction whatsoever for Cuba to trade, receive investments, capital or any type of aid from 192 countries in the world.

There is, however, a dispute with the United States that regulates the scope of relations between the two countries, which, moreover, has its well-defined origin in the practices of the communist regime towards its northern neighbor, which has refused from the beginning to negotiate.

Nevertheless, BioCubaFarma’s agreements are implemented, as are the agreements with Vietnam, with Spanish hoteliers, Canadian or Dutch miners, etc. The Cuban economy is one of the most open in the world, receives donations from numerous countries that support the “revolution” and establishes, when it deems it convenient, the most controversial alliances, as in this case, in the field of biotechnology.

The agreements, moreover, have not fallen from the sky. They have been well worked out, despite the “threat” of the embargo, and have been presented as one of the results of the BioHabana-2022 International Congress, which concluded last Friday. Someone from the organizing committee of the congress told Granma “we exceeded a thousand participants, including Cubans and foreigners from 51 countries, although 10% participated virtually; in addition, more than 600 papers were presented in conferences, short oral presentations and posters.” continue reading

Indeed, it is very difficult for a blockaded or embargoed country to hold this type of international congresses, even to promote conference tourism, which is catered for in the formidable luxury hotels of the capital, close to the collapsed buildings, the destroyed streets and the rubble plots of that marvel that was long ago the world’ s old Havana.

Other information published in Granma that questions the embargo is the agreement signed by Cuba and Argentina concerning the housing sector, after the celebration of the XIII International Construction Fair Fecons-2022, which concluded this Friday.

This was a convention aimed at improving the production of construction materials in Cuba, with the participation of state-owned and foreign companies, non-agricultural cooperatives and MSMEs. There they talked about goods needed for Cuba to boost its industrial and housing construction sector, such as plaster, mortars, additives, and the repair and maintenance of equipment, and new investments in technology to achieve efficiency with a rational use of the workforce, but with diligence.

But the event led to the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Argentina’s Ministry of Territorial Development and Habitat  and Cuba’s Ministry of Construction, with the reciprocal interest of promoting the economic progress and integration of Latin America and the Caribbean and collaboration in the housing sector.

Under this agreement, emphasis was given to the family of medium, fine and special pegaporcelain mortars; ceramic tiles decorated with digital printing; gray clinker for cement and the housing cell construction system. This is the embargo/blockade, one more example that the arguments used by the regime are not true.

For the record, this blog will never be against the Cuban economy maintaining its openness to the outside world and obtaining these types of agreements, and even better ones. Cuban biotechnology should advance as much as possible, since it is one of the technologies that encourage the development of the fourth industrial revolution. Betting on this sector could be an intelligent decision. And the same goes for the manufacture of construction materials, whose scarce production has forced the regime to increase its prices significantly.

What we will always denounce in this blog is that the ills of the Cuban economy are attributed to something that does not exist, the embargo/blockade, or that only exists in the imagination of a regime that lives on confrontation and provocation to its northern neighbor since Fidel Castro’s visit to the Teresa Hotel in Harlem in 1959.

A lot of rain has fallen since then, but if in anything in the expectations of the communist regime devised by Fidel Castro have been exceeded, it has been in the field of the embargo/blockade fiction, of which these Granma articles are a good example, of course, of the very opposite.

The embargo/blockade propaganda has worked for the Cuban communists for more than 60 years. It is true that when the multimillion dollar subsidies from the former USSR used to flow in, nobody remembered it, but the sign of the times shows that the relations between two neighbors, which were built by geopolitics since colonial times, were destroyed by the communist regime as soon as it came to power, and this for its own benefit, even if it was detrimental to the interests of the Cuban people.

It is difficult to find a similar process in any other country in the world.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


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.

Two Jurists Harassed by State Security Leave Cuba

Cuban Activist Fernando Almeyda is in Belgrade, Serbia. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 February 2022 — Cuban activist Fernando Almeyda joined this weekend the list of dissidents who are leaving the island. After requesting a humanitarian visa from Spain, which was not granted, the former Archipiélago coordinator decided to go to Serbia, a country that currently does not require a visa for Cubans, although his intention does not seem to be to remain in the Balkan country, according to an interview published by Cubanet on Monday.

Almeyda, who participated in the July 11 protests and later joined the Archipiélago collective — which he left after Yunior García Aguilera’s abrupt departure from Cuba — argues that he never had any real intention of developing his professional career on the island and that since he graduated as a lawyer he wanted to go into exile so as not to be part of the system. The activist emphasizes that his job position led him to a lack of money, which at the same time delayed his departure.

His final departure comes now, because, he states, he has been suffering repression, harassment, persecution and threats from the State Security for months. “I was very afraid, an atrocious fear, and I even tried to find a way to flee and seek asylum, but always after 15N [November 15], never before,” he explains. What happened with the Marcha Cívica por el Cambio (Civic March for Change) and the arrests that took place led him to speed up his procedures and initiate the application for a humanitarian visa to Spain in December, a document that is granted only in cases of emergency and which was denied.

Almeyda decided to travel to Europe, with a flight to Belgrade, where he does not plan to apply for asylum, but rather for temporary residence, which indicates that his intention is to travel to another destination, probably Spain. continue reading

The opposition leader also explains in the interview how he came to activism through the San Isidro Movement, to which he attributes the ability to break with the classic forms of opposition in Cuba, which until 2018, he says, were things of political parties “sometimes tending to extremism and opposed to each other. The exile was divorced from the Cuban reality and Cubans did not even know what was being said or did not even care.”

The lawyer then gives an account of the events that followed the police raid on the MSI headquarters, the protest of 27 November and the spontaneous demonstrations in July, in which he participated, even receiving a stoning. At that time, he says, he was already in the crosshairs of State Security.

Almeyda maintains that since he took the initiative to leave Cuba, he has been in “semi-clandestine status,” although he did not hide completely and he attended some public activities.

To Almeyda’s departure should be added that of another jurist, Julio Antonio Fernández Estrada, whose destination is unknown so far. Professor at the University of Havana in 2016, the lawyer was expelled for his texts critical of power, and was currently collaborating with several independent press media.

“Today he left Cuba, where he was not allowed to work for years, a great friend, one of the best people I know and an intellectual who sacrificed his career for his civism. Good luck wherever you go dear Julio Antonio Fernandez Estrada. Cuba does not lose you because it will always be in your thoughts and in your heart”, commented historian Alina Bárbara López Hernández.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


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.

Descemer and Emilio Estefan: ‘Patria y Vida’ Symbolizes the Unity for Freedom in Cuba

The composers of ’Patria y Vida’ are now celebrating the first anniversary of a leading song in Cuba’s recent history. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio)– Musicians Descemer Bueno and Emilio Estefan told EFE on Tuesday that the song Patria y vida [Homeland and Life], which has become an anthem of the struggle for freedom in Cuba, represents the unity of the Cuban people in favor of a dream, that of recovering freedom on the island.

“A year ago a song was born through unity, a unity that captivated people with a message, a slogan, a vision of the future, all in one song. Through the very inspiration of the verse that each one contributed and seduced all those whose hearts pound to see a different Cuba,” said Descemer Bueno, one of the six performers and composers of the song.

The famous musician and producer who has lived in Miami for decades agreed with him, indicating that in the “heart” of the exile and dissidents “there is only one country” and they all want freedom in Cuba, as demanded by the authors of the song.

On February 16, 2021 the video with the song was posted on YouTube as just one more music release of the day, but it ended up becoming the anthem of the historic protests that broke out in Cuba on July 11, 2021.

Descemer said that this song, winner of two Latin Grammys, including Song of the Year, “was born to remain in history as the tattoo on the body of freedom.” continue reading

But not without risk, because, as Estefan himself pointed out, the “courage” shown by the singers of the song (Yotuel Romero, the duo Gente de Zona, Descemer Bueno, El Funky and Maykel Osorbo) was great, because, he said, it is one thing to protest from exile and quite another to do it from the island itself.

A good example of this is that the rapper Osorbo is still imprisoned in Pinar del Río for “attempting public disorder and eluding.”

But even so, Estefan stressed, they broke the “chain” and sent a message of “hope” that the young people of the island embraced and encouraged them to take to the streets in protest.

He celebrated the fact that in this case the authors realized that “it is not about oneself, but about leaving a legacy of freedom to the country,” and said he was “very proud” of what they did.

“This is a historic moment, a rebellion of people who were born on the island and who have reached a point where they cannot resist what is happening,” said Gloria Estefan’s husband, singer of songs about Cuba such as Mi Tierra, Oye mi Canto and Cuba Libre.

Estefan said that in the future there will be other examples like those experienced on the island in the past year, but not only with music, but also with displays of “rebellion” in the streets: “You will see that the music will continue, that people will have more courage.”

Because the music producer believes that on the least expected day the protests of last summer will be repeated on the island “but in a more massive way,” and on that day the Cuban people will give a “great example to the world of how a country recovers.”

Meanwhile, Descemer believes that Patria y vida represents their struggle for freedom throughout the world and allows them to “have expectations and hopes”.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


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.

U.S. Hires Cuban Personnel in Anticipation of Reopening its Consular Services

In the area surrounding the US Embassy, very close to Havana’s Malecón, life also seems to have come to a standstill and even regressed. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana/Washington, 4 February 2022 — Several job announcements recently posted on the official website of the U.S. Embassy in Havana have renewed expectations for an early reopening of consular services on the island.

A U.S. official source privately told 14ymedio that “even before the events of July 11, they were already studying the reopening of part of the consular services in Havana.” Likewise, and regarding remittances, the same source said that they are trying to find “a different path than the one the Cuban regime wants to impose”.

The official did not specify when these services would be reestablished, but the offer of jobs for security personnel, cashier’s assistants and travel and transportation supervisors indicates that this could occur in the first half of this year.

On Thursday, Cuban-American congresspeople Mario Díaz-Balart, María Elvira Salazar and Carlos Giménez signed a letter addressed to President Joe Biden, in which they express the need for the full reestablishment of consular services on the island. continue reading

In the letter, the three Republican representatives from Florida also request that priority be given to Cuban human rights defenders and advocates for democratic change, and to those with urgent humanitarian or medical needs.

“It was particularly insulting to many in our districts when agents of the regime and their favorites, such as professional baseball players, were able to access consular services on the island, while the vast majority of the most deserving Cubans were forced to travel to a third country at considerable expense,” they say in their text.

Salazar, Diaz-Balart and Gimenez also suggest that applicants be carefully screened to ensure that no human rights abusers can enter the United States.

They also asked Biden to resume as soon as possible the management of applications for the Cuban Family Reunification Permit Program (CFRP), which was put on hold in 2018, following health problems suffered by U.S. diplomats and mission staff due to the so-called “Havana syndrome,” which so far is unexplained.

To remedy the situation, the congresspeople noted, they introduced the bipartisan Family Reunification Modernization for Cubans Act of 2021, which authorizes the State Department in coordination with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, to resume processing CFRP applications.

The lawmakers also urged the president to carefully consider how security and other non-U.S. personnel are selected at the U.S. mission in Cuba.

The closure of consular procedures in Havana has forced thousands of people to travel to third countries to carry out their procedures there.

“My sister has been in Guyana for several weeks waiting for the interview to obtain her family reunification visa; that trip and the stay have already cost us $4,000,” Niurka Gómez, a Cuban living in Miami, explains to this newspaper.

“The closing of the consulate has mainly affected the Cuban people, made the whole process of traveling more expensive and separated families. I don’t think it has been positive for anyone,” Gómez adds.

Several dissidents and activists consulted by this newspaper agree that “never has U.S. diplomacy been more subdued on the island” in relation to civil society, cultural activities and other events. The two rooms that offered Internet access to Cuban citizens have been closed for several years and the library has not provided service all this time either.

In the vicinity of the Embassy, very close to Havana’s Malecón, life also seems to have come to a standstill and even declined. The private businesses in the area that used to sell snacks, watch over bags and fill out consular forms have closed down or are barely surviving, having been converted into other services.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


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.

The Cuban Minister of Health Corrects his President: Vaccination Is Not Sufficient

José Ángel Portal Miranda, Minister of Public Health, and Miguel Díaz-Canel in a teleconference with international Cuban Brigades (Estudios Revolución)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 25 January 2022 — Miguel Díaz-Canel got cold water poured on him. His Minister of Public Health, José Ángel Portal Miranda, has come out to correct him just 24 hours after the leader said proudly in Cienfuegos that Omicron has not “behaved in Cuba as in the rest of the world” thanks to the high rate of vaccination. The top health official on the island has written an opinion column published in the pro-government media in which he states that it is a mistake to believe that vaccination will be enough to eradicate the pandemic.

“The threat from the virus, let there be no doubt about it, continues to be constant in the country and it does not allow us to lower our guard at any time. Those who think that the level of immunity we have achieved with the vaccination campaign is enough to make the epidemic disappear are mistaken,” Portal Miranda states forcefully.

In an exercise of realism that clashes with the fantasy statement of the President, the Minister of Public Health states that there are many countries with their health systems in check due to the high infectivity of the Omicron variant, officially detected at the end of November in South Africa. Portal Miranda gives some data: recently one million infections were reported in the world within 24 hours; a few days later the figure became 3.8 million within one day. “These are worrying statistics that confirm the real magnitude of this new wave of the virus in all latitudes of the planet.” continue reading

The minister points out that Cuba is no exception, and last January 15 added 3,562 cases of Covid-19 to the Cuban list within just 24 hours, a figure close to the 3,845 that were recorded in all of December. It also puts Camagüey, Holguín, Las Tunas, Pinar del Río, Matanzas, Artemisa, Mayabeque and Cienfuegos as the most affected provinces so far this year, accumulating 64.7% of the cases.

Moreover, in the last week there were 22,919 infections, the fifth consecutive increase in cases and the sixth increase in hospitalizations. This figure leads him to conclude that any triumphalism is a mistake.

The minister indicates that 92.8% of the vaccine-eligible population has been immunized and that while this is a great advantage, it is not enough, since the virus continues to spread, even to those who have been vaccinated; and the greater the number of infected people, the more patients susceptible to negative outcomes there will be. “Each death is still regrettable.”

Diaz-Canel had boasted the day before, that the forecasts in Cuba estimated an exponential growth in the number of infections, calculating that currently there would be 6,000, but they have stabilized between 3,100 and 3,600. These figures have led to update the forecasts, which predicted that the new wave of Covid would not start to decrease until March, while calling for caution.

Portal Miranda wanted to curb the enthusiasm of his boss, and he has every reason to do so. Among the countries with the highest vaccination levels in the world are Spain and Portugal, which are close to 90%, and yet have been devastated by the Omicron wave. While the latter imposed new restrictions to contain the daily number of infections, the former reported more than 300,000 cases per day.

Although the system for recording data in Spain is different from that of Cuba, the incidence with Omicron has exceeded 3,000, an infection rate never seen before in Spain, despite being one of the countries most devastated by Covid-19 (with its high number of naturally immunized population) and having a universal and free health system.

Regarding the official nature of the data, Spain has experienced underreporting, since most of the autonomous communities legalized home antigen testing as a diagnostic method (resulting in a lack of official notifications); but in Cuba this distortion also occurs, as many people do not go to the health services for testing.

The Omicron variant, for the time being, continues to be studied and, despite the record figures it is leaving in the world, it seems to be confirmed that the severity of the infection is less severe and hospitalizations are less severe and prolonged. But deaths continue to occur: there are more than a hundred a day in Spain (with a population of 48 million), in spite of everything.

At the international level, efforts to contain the pandemic are now focused on increasing vaccination in the poorest countries, all of which have very low numbers, and on developing “sterilizing vaccines.” So far, the serums that have been found can enhance immunity by producing antibodies that fight against the contracted virus and defend against a severe form of the disease. Sterilizing vaccines prevent contagion, something that Omicron has shown to be very necessary.

Although many laboratories have been working on sterilizing vaccines for some time, still none have been tested that work. The USA, India, the UK and Spain have been testing intranasal vaccines for months (acting on the nasal mucosa, they could sterilize the upper respiratory tract, preventing the entry of the virus) and some attempts have failed to replicate in humans the response achieved in animals.

However, the director of Cuba’s Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB), Marta Ayala, on Monday described as “challenging” and “novel” the intranasal vaccine candidate Mambisa, in which the authorities have placed hopes that it will sterilize, something that is still far from being proven, since the serum is still in Phase 1 of trials on the island.

The remaining Cuban vaccines, which passed national trials months ago, are still awaiting validation by the World Health Organization. Ayala said just yesterday that Cuba and the WHO maintain a “close” exchange, although the organization says that the meeting that must happen prior to the sending of the information has not yet taken place, nor has the information been accepted for review.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


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.

Moscow Does Not Rule Out Military Deployment in Cuba and Venezuela if US ‘Provokes Russia’

In recent weeks something like 100,000 Russian soldiers have concentrated on the border with Ukraine (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana/Moscow, 13 January 2022 — Russia has upped the stakes in its standoff with the West and warned that it is not ruling out a military deployment in Cuba and Venezuela if the United States ramps up pressure on the Ukraine issue.

It occurred on Thursday when Sergei Ryabkov, deputy foreign minister and representative in the negotiations with the US in Geneva, said in televised statements that he could neither confirm nor exclude the possibility of his country establishing a military infrastructure in Cuba and Venezuela.

As reported by the AP, Ryabkov told Russian television station RTVI that “everything depends on the actions of our American counterparts,” adding that President Vladimir Putin has warned that Russia could take military-technical measures if the United States acts to provoke Russia.

Ryabkov said, moreover, that major differences in the strategies of the two sides cast doubt on the continuity of the negotiations, not least because the United States and NATO rejected Moscow’s main demand: a guarantee that the alliance will not incorporate Ukraine and other former Soviet republics. continue reading

He also claimed that the negotiations “failed” due to sharp disagreements on Moscow’s key demands. “The talks were launched to receive specific answers to specific main issues that were raised, and disagreements remained on those main issues, which is bad,” he had said earlier at a press conference.

Peskov warned of a total breakdown in relations between the two countries if the proposed sanctions against President Putin and other prominent civilian and military leaders are adopted. The measures, proposed by U.S. Democrats, would also affect major Russian financial institutions if Moscow sends troops to Ukraine.

On the other hand, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) failed on Wednesday to lower the tension between Ukraine and Russia, although it offered itself as the forum for dialogue in which Western countries and Moscow can try to find common ground.

Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau, who assumed the yearly chairmanship of the OSCE, proposed to revitalize contacts in this body, in which 57 states participate, in order to reduce the tension between Ukraine and Russia.

The West accuses Russia of concentrating around 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border in recent weeks, in preparation for a possible invasion, an intention denied by Moscow.

The OSCE was created during the Cold War precisely to foster dialogue between blocs and is the only organization dedicated to security in which the United States, the countries of the European Union and Russia are seated at the same table.

Ukraine has dominated this week’s talks between Russia and Western countries, but was not present at either the negotiations in Geneva between Washington and Moscow or those in Brussels between NATO representatives and the Kremlin.

Ukraine, as a member of the OSCE, did participate Wednesday in the first meeting of the organization’s Permanent Council in 2022, where tensions were addressed but no progress was made, except for a commitment to maintain dialogue.

In this context the Russians recalled that the United States promised the last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, that NATO would not advance “one inch” eastward if a unified Germany remained in the Atlantic Alliance.

This promise was made to Gorbachev in 1990 by then Secretary of State James Baker, said Alexandr Lukashevich, Russia’s representative to the OSCE, during a press conference in Vienna today, broadcast live on Russian public television.

Baker repeated that promise the same year to Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, Lukashevich said.

The Kremlin has been insisting for months that NATO deceived it with its expansions in 1999 and 2004, which would prompt Moscow’s demand to veto the accession of Ukraine and Georgia.

During his address to the OSCE Permanent Council on Thursday the Russian diplomat accused  the West of being to blame for the degradation of the situation in Europe because of its policy of containment of Russia, and he denied that there was any progress in strategic security.

“Unfortunately, we have not received from our partners an adequate response or any reaction to our proposals,” he noted and admitted that everything points to the fact that Moscow will not receive a “constructive reaction” in the future.

He expressed disappointment that today’s entire discussion revolved around the “alleged threat from Russia,” which Ukraine accuses of preparing an invasion of its territory.

“We are not posing an ultimatum and we propose to solve the problems that have arisen between Russia and other countries, and to find a compromise in this regard. We expect a reaction from our partners in a short period of time; it is not a process of months and years,” he noted.

On Wednesday the United States supported the OSCE as the essential forum for lowering tensions with Russia and securing peace in the region, but warned that it will not accept “blackmail” from Russia or its demand to maintain “spheres of influence.”

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


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.

The US Has Returned 1,019 Migrants to Cuba in 2021

The US Coast Guard returned 39 migrants to Cuba on Friday. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 December2021 — A total of 1,019 Cubans have been returned to the island this year by U.S. authorities, according to data provided by the State newspaper Granma on Sunday. The report also mentioned the return of other groups from Mexico, Bahamas, Cayman Islands and Russia, without specifying the number of people.

On December 24, the U.S. Coast Guard returned to Cuba 39 rafters intercepted in various operations. One of the groups used “a sport fishing boat taken from its owner” whose whereabouts are currently unknown. The 39 returned migrants arrived on the Coast Guard Cutter Raymond Evan in Orozco Bay, Artemisa.

The first of the interceptions occurred on Sunday, December 19, 10 nautical miles off Stock Island, according to a statement issued by the Coast Guard. A day later and at different times, authorities stopped three smaller boats near Key West. continue reading

Last weekend, another 25 Cuban rafters were detained after making landfall at three different locations in Key West, Officer Thomas G. Martin reported Monday on his Twitter account. The Border Patrol provided assistance to the migrants, who were reported in good health.

One of these arrivals was captured on video by Cuban artists María Karla Rivero Veloz and Jean Michel Fernández. “We just saw some rafters who have just arrived, right where the 90-mile buoy is from here to Cuba,” the actress said. The group, made up of six rafters, including a 10-year-old girl, said they left last Saturday at 2 p.m. from Playa Baracoa.

The Cubans were taken into custody and will be able to apply for asylum by demonstrating to an immigration officer that they are afraid to return to their country. If they convince the judge, they must then post a bond. In the best case scenario, they are released with a temporary stay permit in the U.S., known as Parole.

The mobilization of [Cuban] black berets for an illegal departure from Baracoa Beach, in the province of Artemisa, was reported on social networks on Saturday. Rene Almaguer uploaded to his Facebook profile a video in which applause can be heard after a boat managed to escape. “People jumping to get out of Cuba,” said the Havana native who lives in Tampa, Florida. “They got away, I’m glad,” was one of the reactions from users.

Nothing prevented the people leaving the island in small boats, commented Dallann Loraa on the images from the municipality of Bauta in the province of Artemisa, shared by Almaguer, in which people in civilian clothes can be seen carrying machetes.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


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.

Frei Betto and the ‘Excessive Appetite’ of Cubans

Meeting in 2014 between Frei Betto and Fidel Castro. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, 27 December 2021 — I remember the first time I read, back in 1996, the Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot by Montaner, Vargas Llosa Jr. and Plinio Apuleyo.

I had no difficulty in identifying [Brazilian activist] Frei Betto as the protagonist of this work, a character who circulates throughout the Americas, with that vocation of being out for blood against everything that represents progress, modernization and development.

Later, when I read the second part, I had no doubt about Betto. Above all, because at that time he was one of the few who had an open door to Fidel Castro’s office to conduct those interviews that sought, unsuccessfully, to sweeten his character, something like turning him into the impossible legend that he is.

Now, we find ourselves once again with a piece of extraordinary value to measure the moral stature and intelligence of Betto, who continues to stick his nose into Cuba, with the same distorted vision of a reality that credits him with deserving the title given to him in the works of Montaner, Vargas Llosa and Apuleyo.

And really, only an idiot can think that Cubans “have a big appetite”, or that “in Cuba there is no hunger” and that it is this voracious appetite that is the origin of the food problems that exist in Cuba. God forbid! And that such things are said by someone who claims in his resume to have spent two weeks on the island in November as “advisor to the regime on the Food Sovereignty and Nutritional Education program, which has the support of FAO, Oxfam and the European Union” is even more scandalous, because it represents a lack of respect for a people who have been experiencing considerable difficulties in obtaining basic products for more than two years.

Or perhaps that this advisory function was done from a placid stay in a hotel run by Spaniards in some cay of the northern part of the island. Which could be anything.

Beto believes that by increasing local food production, through family, urban and suburban agriculture, it is possible to achieve compliance with the Cuban Program for Food Sovereignty and Nutrition Education. Nothing new under the sun.

This is the same program that was questioned by the United Nations, before the pandemic, placing Cuba at the same level as Haiti in terms of countries with the highest food risks in the world. Betto defends continue reading

the regime at all times, pointing out that “it spends more than 2 billion dollars a year to import food, including from Brazil, from which it buys, among other things, rice and chicken (85% of the products that Brazil imports from Cuba are tobacco, cigars and cigars)”.

And, at this point, it should be pointed out that the correct term is “wastes”, because the decision to buy these products for 2 billion dollars means not doing so by betting on the domestic supply, so that an unproductive agricultural sector that fails to meet the needs of the population coexists with these massive imports of goods that could be obtained in Cuba.

Betto should explain why. For Betto it is very easy to blame all the ills of the Cuban agricultural sector on dependence on foreign oil, climatic catastrophes, or the blockade, following the official script, even citing the lack of containers, which are unloaded in other countries and then the products are transported to the island, which makes them more expensive.

He concludes, all of this is a strangulation for the “fragile Cuban economy, inclusion of the country in the list Made in the USA of countries that promote terrorism.”

Not a single assignment of responsibility to the regime.

And then he mentions COVID-19, “which forced the island to close its doors to its main source of foreign currency in recent years, tourism”.  The same as other countries, but Betto refrains from comparing Cuba with Costa Rica or the Dominican Republic, where tourism in 2021 has been a success in travelers and income, while Cuba was slowly drowning. It is optimistic to think about the return of tourists. At the moment, nothing seems to affirm it.

Betto also wants the 243 measures adopted by Trump to reinforce the blockade to be eliminated, but he does not make the slightest comment on the repression suffered by the Cubans on 11J [July 11 demonstrations] when they protested extensively and intensely against that regime that he likes so much, and to whom he spares no words of support and defense.

For him, Cubans only have “a big appetite”. And then, by way of conclusion, he affirms in the key of a revolutionary slogan that “in spite of this dramatic situation, Cuba resists. The entire population, of almost 12 million inhabitants, has access to a basic monthly food basket and to the Health and Education systems free of charge. There are no homeless people or beggars”.

I insist: let him pay a visit to the hundreds of disappeared and detainees after July 11 who are still waiting for the summary trials of Castroism to be condemned to long prison sentences.

Let him leave the comfortable resort and take a walk around Old Havana. For Betto these people do not exist. They do not deserve even the slightest consideration. He is only interested in “selling” the SAN Plan, which is what has paid for his comfortable stay on the island and is the latest wonder of the regime that now thinks it is going to achieve all its objectives, with the participation of the street (as in the times of that “literacy campaign” that was of little use for what it had been programmed for, since it had other undisclosed objectives), which is something he also seems to like when it comes to acting on economic matters (Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, Federation of Cuban Women, trade unions).

Not content with that, Betto returns to the charge saying that “Cubans have eating habits that can be perfectly changed, such as the preference for wheat bread, an imported cereal”.

And, as in the times of the conquest by the Spaniards, because it is no longer possible to take a country further back in history, Betto points to the use of cassava to produce bread (cassava) or corn (which Cuba also imports from the United States) and even coconut flour.

He also wants meat, which is not available, to be replaced by beans, lentils, spinach, peanuts, soybeans and avocado, rich in protein, which are also not produced in sufficient quantities. To end up forgetting the cows and defending soy milk and yogurt (when Cuba does not have soy and must import it).

Who commissioned Betto this study, for which he is sure to charge a high fee? He must be surprised by the conclusions. I have no doubt about it.

Years ago, Fidel Castro was also obsessed with the properties of the moringa [a medicinal tree], which reminded the great Alvarez Guedes of that joke about the rosemary plant (romerillo) that has thrilled several generations of Cubans.

Not content with all the nonsense and idiocy, Betto ended up defending, of course, agroecology, no doubt to give vision and support to one of Raul Castro’s projects that the communist bureaucracy of the regime shelved in a forgotten corner, as is done in Cuba with that which is bothersome. In fact, Betto said he had “visited several rural properties with high productivity that do not use chemical fertilizers” and highlighted the term “property” recalling that it was the Revolution with the Agrarian Reform that gave land titles to farmers and landless peasants.

And yet, he did not have a single reference to the thousands of landowners who were expropriated without compensation by the regime and were left in absolute misery, forced to flee the country. Undoubtedly, Betto sees what he wants to see. This is a feature of Montaner’s, Vargas Llosa’s and Apuleyo’s character description.

If tomorrow Cuba were to evolve towards civic freedoms and market economy, Betto would not have the slightest inconvenience to see the same thing and propose the same guidelines.  What happens is that then, perhaps, he would not be so well received on the island. And his ideas would go unnoticed.

At the end of the day, Betto with his analysis puts any state policy before the priorities of the citizens. He believes in a collectivist model of society, where the means of production are controlled by the state and wealth or prosperity are outlawed, to the extent that they go against the principles he defends. From that weighty and majestic position of moral superiority that the left uses to criticize its rivals, Betto says that Cubans are to blame for what happens to them. And maybe, in this, he is right.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


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.

Public Marches Are Effective Tools of Political Change

Despite repression, public protests in Germany were repeated during the months of September and October 1989, attracting increasing numbers of participants. (DPA)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Sebastián Arcos Cazabón, Miami, 5 December 2021 — Unlike the popular protests of last July 11 and 12, the march called by the Archipiélago platform for Monday, November 15 was announced weeks in advance. The most optimistic put their hopes for rapid change in the march, but they underestimated the repressive capacity of the regime. The most pessimistic criticized the transparency of the announcement, arguing that it gave the regime a chance to prepare, and believed themselves justified when the official repressive deployment kept potential demonstrators at home. To a greater or lesser extent, optimists and pessimists were dissatisfied with the outcome of the announcement.

However one looks at it, disappointment with 15N [15th of November] should not be a reason to dismiss organized marches as tools for political change. After all, popular demonstrations played a key role in the fall of all the totalitarian regimes of Europe, and, surprisingly, few were spontaneous; most were planned in advance. To those who claim that Cuba’s circumstances today are different from those of Central Europe in 1989, I remind them that, beyond the peculiarities of each case, they all shared with Cuba the fundamental characteristics of the totalitarian model, with its strengths and weaknesses.

The case of the GDR, the former communist Germany, is sobering for Cuba because I believe the similarities between the two outweigh the differences. Like Cuba today, the GDR in 1989 was ruled by a hard-line Marxist regime with an extensive and brutal internal security apparatus, the notorious Stasi, mentor of the Cuban DSE [Departamento de Seguridad del Estado = the Department of State Security]. In contrast, dissidence in the GDR was mostly limited to Marxist-revisionist criticisms, and never became as openly anti-communist as did Cuba’s, nor did it reach similar levels of public activism, organization, or representativeness. So harsh was the GDR regime that its leader, Erich Honecker, refused to listen to Gorbachev’s calls for reform, and banned the circulation of Soviet publications. In the GDR of 1989, the regime was stronger and the opposition weaker than in Cuba today. continue reading

When Hungary removed the border fence with Austria in May 1989, tens of thousands of East Germans fled that way to West Germany, forcing Honecker to close the border with Hungary and Czechoslovakia, effectively turning the GDR into an island of intransigence in a sea of transitions. Unable to escape, some 1,500 people demonstrated publicly against the regime on Monday, September 4, in Leipzig, the GDR’s second most populous city. Despite the repression, public protests were repeated in Leipzig every Monday in September, attracting increasing numbers of participants. By Monday, October 2, demonstrators numbered more than 10,000.

Honecker threatened a Tiananmen-style massacre if the demonstrators dared to take to the streets again. On Monday, October 9, more than 70,000 people marched in the streets of Leipzig, and the Stasi did not dare to suppress them. The following Monday more than 120,000 demonstrators came out. Two days later Honecker was dismissed and replaced by his second-in-command. The following Monday, 300,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Leipzig. On November 4 the protest moved on to Berlin with more than 500,000 demonstrators. On November 7, the GDR Council of State resigned in plenum, and on November 9, the Berlin Wall fell.

It is likely that the example of what was happening in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia served as a stimulus for the demonstrators and a brake on the repressive forces. But it is indisputable that, with the exception of the first example, the popular marches that forced the fall of the regime in the former GDR were planned and announced in advance. Unlike its counterparts in Poland and Hungary, the GDR regime had no reformist or revisionist factions, and was united in its reluctance to implement reforms, even economic ones. The Stasi was one of the most efficient repressive apparatuses in the Soviet bloc, and before the September marches they never hesitated to use the most brutal tactics. Despite all this, the courage and perseverance of the demonstrators achieved what seemed impossible.

The 15N convocation was just one of the first of its kind in Cuba — the Ladies in White [Damas de Blanco] and other like-minded groups tried years ago to popularize marches as a tool of public protest. Inevitably, others will have to follow — it took the Germans ten weeks of continuous marches — if Cubans are to rid themselves of Castroism in the short term and with a minimum of violence. Some may fail, and there will be an inevitable cost in repression, but the mere civic exercise of convocation is fundamental and necessary in a country where the state has cultivated absolute hegemony over society for more than half a century. Cubans are beginning to use their atrophied civic musculature, and this civic exercise will give them back the pride and self-esteem necessary to live in a democracy.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


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.

IAPA Press Freedom Award goes to Henry Constantin, Director of ‘La Hora de Cuba’

Cuban independent journalist Constantín lives in Camagüey and is the director of the magazine ’La Hora de Cuba’

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 October 2021 — Independent journalist Henry Constantín Ferreiro, editor of the magazine La Hora de Cuba, has won the 2021 Press Freedom Award, granted by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA). Along with the Cuban, the Nicaraguan Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, manager of the newspaper La Prensa, persecuted by Daniel Ortega’s regime, was also a winner.

The IAPA said in a press release on Friday that the award winners have had to live through “one of the darkest periods” this year and have also been harassed and imprisoned in their respective countries.

The organization noted that Constantín was imprisoned and held incommunicado for ten days after being detained during the July 11 protests against the government on the Island. Along with the Camagüey journalist, two other collaborators of La Hora de Cuba remained under house arrest until August 23.

“Holmann Chamorro and Constantín Ferreiro represent the struggle and determination of independent journalism to keep the population informed, despite the strong reprisals adopted by the totalitarian regimes of Nicaragua and Cuba against critical voices and freedom of the press,” said continue reading

Jorge Canahuati, IAPA president.

Both are also vice presidents of this same organization in their respective countries, which is why Carlos Jornet, head of Argentina’s Commission on Freedom of the Press and Information, insisted that they will not cease “to raise their voices and denounce the atrocities against them and the dozens of journalists who are persecuted, imprisoned and forced into exile.”

The statement notes that the IAPA conducted two investigations, both in Cuba and Nicaragua, and was able to determine that in these countries “journalists have faced similar repressive practices, including arbitrary detentions and interrogations; threats, surveillance and monitoring; restriction of movement and impediments to leave the country; hacking, control and impersonation in social networks; stigmatization, pressure on family members, news sources and advertisers.”

Regarding the investigation on the Island, it was noted that the regime of Miguel Díaz-Canel “detained 11 independent journalists, and that human rights activists and artists suffered the same fate” and their relatives have also been harassed. Among them are mentioned the cases of Esteban Rodríguez, in prison since April 30, and Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca, imprisoned two months later.

The winners of the Press Freedom Award will be honored at a virtual ceremony between the 19th and 22nd of this month, where the chosen winners of the Excellence in Journalism Award 2021 are also invited.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


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.

‘I Didn’t Care If I Died or Lived,’ Says Cuban Rafter Hospitalized in the US

Capote left from Playa Herradura, in Mariel, Artemisa province, along with three other young people who died during the crossing. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana | 2 September 2021 — After ten days at sea that left him on the brink of death, Cuban rafter Julio Cesar Capote will be able to begin his asylum process on U.S. soil. “I didn’t care if I died or lived,” the 21-year-old confessed to Telemundo 51 on Wednesday.

Capote was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard on August 25 in the vicinity of Fowey Rocks, in southern Florida, while sailing in a precarious six-and-a-half-foot boat. Due to his physical injuries and the degree of dehydration in which he was found, the rafter had to be hospitalized.

“I was thinking a lot of things, if I was going to make it, if I was going to die, what was going to happen to me,” Capote told the television channel shortly after being discharged from Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, from where he left accompanied by family members living in the United States.

The young man had his legs bandaged because of the burns he suffered during the crossing, which he made together with three other migrants, who, Capote himself explained to the Coast Guard, had died on the journey.

About the crossing, the rafter reported that the companions who died were young people. He left from Playa Herradura, in Mariel, Artemisa province, together with his uncle, Chenli Yoan Capote, 21, and siblings
Josue Gabriel, 22, and continue reading

Karen Rojas Pareta, 18. “Three days later, the raft capsized and our food, water were dumped, everything,” he said.

“The sun began to burn us and the girl’s and her brother’s nails began to fall off, their hands began to peel, their ribs began to burn and she said ’I can’t take it anymore’ and jumped into the water with her brother. The brother was worse than her; from the time he left he was vomiting, dehydrated, vomiting blood and everything”, says Capote, who then stayed with his uncle, who “had already started to hallucinate.”

At another point “a piece of the raft fell off” and the uncle jumped into the sea to try to rescue the piece, but “the waves were too big and he was carried away.” He spent about ten days adrift until he was found by a citizen who was sailing south of Florida and alerted the Coast Guard.

Regarding the rafter’s legal options, Immigration attorney Willy Alllen told the television channel that, at the Customs office, there is the possibility of being granted the so-called ’parole’, a document with which, after a year and a day, he can opt for residency under the Cuban Adjustment Act.

The lawyer also said that they could eventually send him before an immigration judge, but he stated that cases like Capote’s are isolated, because most migrants intercepted at sea are medically treated and repatriated to Cuba immediately.

At the beginning of last August, a Cuban managed to pass the “Credible Fear” Review on the high seas in the United States. The migrant, identified as Ernesto Urgellés, according to his relatives, was a policeman in Cuba and had been intercepted along with other rafters, who themselves were returned a few days later to the island by the Coast Guard.

Urgellés cannot enter the U.S. while his asylum request is being studied, so he must remain at the Guantánamo base or in some third country that will provisionally accept him.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


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.

Cuban Government’s Silence is Prolonged in Response to the Request to Authorize Humanitarian Flights From the U.S.

Skyway Enterprises had been planning 20 shipments to Havana from July 22 to September 28. (Skyway Enterprises/Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 August 2021 — Cuban authorities have not yet authorized the landing on the island of cargo airlines from the United States with humanitarian aid despite the fact that the island is experiencing a collapse in its healthcare system and despite the voices that are clamoring for a humanitarian airlift to bring resources to families and hospitals.

In mid-August, local media in Florida reported that a group of U.S. executives had requested permission from the government of the island a month ago, but that Havana had not yet responded. A silence that has lasted until now.

“So far we do not have permits to land on the island, which the Cuban government must give,” Rey Gonzalez, an executive of IBC Airways, explained to Cubanet last Thursday. “We are not flying to Cuba because we do not have those permits. Once we have those documents to land in the country then we can work with local agencies to send humanitarian aid. But so far we don’t have that.”

It was in early July when cargo airlines IBC Airways and Skyway Enterprises obtained temporary authorization from continue reading

the U.S. Department of Transportation to travel to the island with humanitarian cargo. The permit, which will be in effect until November 30 and was made public on August 13, includes charter flights “for emergency medical purposes, search and rescue, and other travel deemed to be in the interest of the United States.”

In Miami, organizations such as Solidarity Without Borders (Solidaridad sin Fronteras, SSF), have been dedicated to collecting humanitarian aid. Dr. Julio César Alfonso, president of the NGO, told América TeVé that since the announcement was made, they have not stopped receiving donations, but the arrival of medicines, food and supplies to Cuban homes has slowed down.

SSF also presented last week the web page of its program of “direct assistance” to healthcare professionals on the island, with the aim of sending medicines and medical material, which will function as the main link for aid. They also intend to “coordinate different humanitarian assistance operations directly with all the health professionals in Cuba who voluntarily decide to join our support network,” said Alfonso.

While they continue to collect donations, the IBC Airways executive affirms that at the moment it is not known if the Cuban government intends to grant the permits to the airlines. “Unfortunately, we can’t do anything until Cuba grants those landing permits, and there is no information on when or if they will authorize them,” Gonzalez explained.

IBC Airways requested to fly twice a week to Havana until November. The airline reported that it will carry diplomatic mail and 7,500 pounds of humanitarian aid on each flight, in coordination with the CubaMax agency.

Like IBC Airways, Skyway Enterprises is authorized to operate flights to Havana, Villa Clara, Camagüey, Santiago de Cuba and Matanzas. The latter company had scheduled 20 shipments to Havana from July 22 to September 28, after which date it will be able to fly only twice a week to the Cuban capital.

In August of last year, the Trump Administration suspended private charter flights to Cuba as part of a package of sanctions against the island’s government. “The Castro regime uses tourism and travel revenue to fund its abuses and interference in Venezuela,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote on his Twitter account at the time, announcing the decision. “Dictators cannot be allowed to benefit from U.S. travel,” he added.

Two months later, the U.S. government vetoed the takeoff of two cargo flights to Cuba that, according to Skyway Enterprises and IBC Airways, were for “humanitarian” purposes and did not fall under the exceptions for the suspension of air connections between the two countries.

The Department of Transportation consulted with the State Department on the procedure to be followed and finally the U.S. Executive concluded that the flights “would not be in the interest of U.S. foreign policy.”

Cuba’s response was swift. Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez described the ban on humanitarian cargo flights as “a ruthless act.” “The Trump administration is stepping up the punishment of Cuban families in both countries right up until now,” he lamented in a message on Twitter.

The silence of the Cuban government is surprising at a time when the country is facing a strong resurgence of the pandemic, aggravated by the lack of oxygen, medicine and doctors, overcrowded hospitals and collapsed funeral services.

In social networks and independent media, photos and videos are circulating showing the deplorable conditions of many hospitals and the complaints of the doctors themselves about the lack of supplies to do their work.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz


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.