Protests Over Massive Stray Dog Round Up Ahead of Diaz-Canel Visit to Santa Clara

The “dogcatcher’s” van for stray animals round up (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 October 2020 — Miguel Diaz-Canel’s visit to Santa Clara has once again been preceded by a massive round up of stray dogs, and with it, the repression of those animal welfare advocates who denounced the situation on social networks.

Musician and activist Omar Mena was arrested this Thursday, according to Leidy Laura Hernandez, one of the most well known advocates in Santa Clara.  “They put him in the patrol car, and we don’t know anything else about him,” she said through instant messaging.  “As our house woke up under siege by State Security, he went out through the backyard and managed to get to where the dogs were, there was a patrol car there, and it took him away.”

Hernandez had complained a little earlier that, from the early hours of the day, their homes were under a heavy police operation to prevent them from going out into the street.  “They treat us like criminals and violate our rights,” posted the activist, who also runs a shelter in her own house. continue reading

In order to clean up the areas through which the presidential caravan will travel, the local authorities touched up facades, emptied trash containers, and took away the stray animals.  “Zoonosis [animal control] rounded up dogs today (Wednesday) in Santa Clara on the eve of the visit by President Miguel Diaz-Canel,” posted the city’s Animal Rescue Group, an independent organization that supports animal rescues, sterilizations, shelters, and adoptions and that campaigns to sensitize people about animal rights.

“We discovered that they have them in kennels behind the medical school, we have photos of them all, and we’re not going to let anything happen to them,” announced the activists, who plan to rescue the dogs this Thursday.  “They are many, and we need the help and cooperation of everyone, these innocents don’t know that they are on the brink of death.  This is our opportunity to save them, and together we can.”

Hernandez clarified that in spite of the police operation, she had managed to leave her house and that the animal rescue operation was still on as planned.  “There are 18 puppies in cages and nine more arrived at that time.  Nothing can happen to them,” she emphasized.

The repression against them happened a few hours after the news media included the animal rights cause as a recipient of funds from the United States for “subversion.”

“Racism, religious freedom, animal protection, sexual rights, gender violence, and other matters of interest in current Cuban society are the object of financial campaigns from Washington with the objective of discrediting the Revolution,” the official site Cubadebate posted this Wednesday.

Stray dogs. (14ymedio)

During the week, animal rights activists from several parts of the country have accused the state agency Zoonosis of a massive round up and slaughter of stray dogs that is going on in several provinces because of the visit by the Cuban leader, his first tour of the Island since the pandemic restrictions bagan.

A similar operation was carried out in advance of the 500-year celebration of the city and the visit of the kings of Spain, when Havana rounded up dozens of stray dogs that were slaughtered.  That incident provoked, in the following days, many protests by animal rights acitivists and meetings with authorities who last November agreed not to kill anymore stray animals.

It was not the first time that the animal rights activists protested in Cuba.  In April 2019, a march travelled several Havana streets in order to demand the end of animal abuse and the approval of a law that protects them.  It was the first independent protest of the last half century that was allowed to carry posters.

In 2007, the National Veterinary Medicine Institute reported that in Cuba the “controlled canine mass” was more than 2 million and that of cats 500,000, but the data have not been updated since then, and the National Directorate of Hygiene and Epidemiology estimates that there is one dog for every ten people, some 200,000 in Havana.

Currently, authorities are debating an animal welfare law that is expected to address the rights and duties of citizens with respect to animals, as well as legal punishments for those who do not comply, as Maria Gloria Vidal Rivalta, president of the National Committee for Animal Welfare of Cuba, recently asserted.

The proposed legislation protects domestic, aquatic, and working animals in areas of education, sports, and biomedical research.  But the activists fear that it will become a dead letter or that it will not cover the greater part of demands made by the movement throughout the years.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

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Government Officials Lash Out Against EFE’s Correspondent in Cuba

Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios, Deputy Director of Press, Communication, and Imagery of the Ministry of Foreign Relations

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 31 July 2020 — The Spanish press agency EFE’s representative in Havana, Lorena Canto, was challenged on Twitter by two senior officials of Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Relations in response to a tweet that referenced the “persecution” suffered this Thursday by several independent journalists.

“Independent journalists in Cuba complain that, once again, authorities prevent them leaving their homes.  They offer them no justification, which does not surprise me, because this persecution is impossible to justify.  The stories belong to those who tell them,” wrote Canto.

The deputy director of the General Directorate of Press, Communication, and Imagery of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios, responded to her a few hours laters:  “About the ’independent’ thing I have my doubts.  Furthermore, I don’t believe it.  As for the rest of what you say, we’ll talk, because it does not seem to me and I do not believe that it is the function of a correspondent to do internal politics.  The stories do not belong to those who invent them.” continue reading

Alberto Gonzalez Casals, director of the International Press Center, asked her:  “What do you call ’independent journalists’?” and pointed out that her tweet “is without doubt political activism, which is not the job of Efe.”

Norges Rodriguez, founder of the outlet Yucabyte, complained that Fernandez Palacios was threatening the reporter.  “This (totalitarian) Cuban government official threatens a foreign correspondent for denouncing the harassment of her Cuban colleagues,” added Rodriguez.

In the debate that was generated on Twitter, journalist Ivette Leyva Martinez pointed out that Fernandez is an “official of a dictatorship,” and it is not his job to decide the role of a journalist.  “Shoemaker, stick to your shoes.  Certainly it is evident with his threatening language.  Thanks for demonstrating again the censorial and anti-democratic nature of the Castro-ists,” she said.

Mario José Penton, Cuban reporter for the Nuevo Herald, also pointed out the words that they directed to Canto as threats.  “When a foreign correspondent dares to defend a Cuban colleague, besieged at home by State Security, this is what happens.  They threaten her, too.  They have no limits.  What a disgrace,” said Penton.

In that context, Gabriel Salvia, director of the Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL) highlighted the fact that Cuba is “the only country in Latin America that does not permit the legal existence of an NGO dedicated to the defense of press freedom and the practice of journalism.”

On Thursday there were several journalists from independent outlets and activists who suffered a police action to keep them from leaving their homes, without a court  order.  Journalists like Monica Baro Sanchez, Luz Escobar, Yoani Sanchez, Reinaldo Escobar, and Hector Luis Valdes, in addition to activists and artists like Tania Bruguera, Ariel Maceo Tellez, Omara Ruiz Urquiola, and Iliana Hernandez, among others, were under surveillance by State Security for the whole day without being told their reasons.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

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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.

USA Reiterates That Sanctions Against Cuba Do Not Apply to Humanitarian Aid

USA has reminded that health and humanitarian exchange has never been prohibited by the embargo nor is it now with COVID-19.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 April 2020 — In answer to the Cuban government’s insistent campaign for the United States to lift the embargo during the coronavirus epidemic, on Thursday Washington reminded that the exceptions provided for humanitarian aid remain in force.

“The embargo . . . is aimed at the Cuban communist regime, that for decades has oppressed the Cuban people and has not managed to meet its most basic needs.  Although the embargo . . . continues in force, and most transactions between the United States, or people subject to to its jurisdiction, and Cuba continue to be prohibited, the OFAC [Office of Foreign Assets Control] maintains several general license authorizations designed to permit humnaitarian aid and assistance to the Cuban people,” says the text.

The USA has issued this message specifically with regards to its sanctions of the Island and also other countries, like North Korea, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Ukraine, and Russia.  It urges these countries to take advantage of the exceptions for humanitarian aid and ask for help. continue reading

In the case of Cuba, it notes that transactions related to medicines, medical devices, and agricultural products are permitted in certain conditions.  It is also possible to transport authorized cargo with travellers from the USA to the Island or to send remittances to relatives and NGOs.

The Treasury also maintains the authorization to share transport services by boat or plane related to permitted trips that, it notes, are related to humanitarian projects (among them health or emergencies) or linked to independent civil society groups, as well as the preservation of historical heritage or the environment.

Another of the exemptions affects products or services that allow development of infrastructure or loans that “directly benefit the people,” like those related to public transportation, water and waste management, the production and distribution of electricity; as well as hospitals, homes, or schools

Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Relations made a public statement in which it accuses the USA of persisting in a blockade that imposes on Cuba “an extraordinary pressure to guarantee the material supplies and equipment that sustain the public health system and specific conditions in order to stop this pandemic.”  In this sense the message makes reference to the delivery from China that could not arrive at the Island due to the refusal of Avianca to fly to Cuba.

The message also denounces Washington for trying to impede, they assert, Cuba from sending doctors to support other countries’ health systems that desire it.  “Instead of dedicating itself to promoting cooperation and stimulation of a joint response, high officials of the State Department of that country spend their time making threatening statements against those governments that, in the face of the drama of the pandemic, opt sovereignly to seek help from Cuba.  The United States commits a crime and their officials know it when, attacking the international cooperation that Cuba offers in the middle of a pandemic, it proposes to deprive millions of people of the universal human right to health services.”

In the extensive text, Havana also makes reference to the universality of the virus and demands by poorer countries for help from international organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO), so that economic inequality may not mean an increase in lethality.  The petition coincides with the announcement by Donald Trump of the withdrawal of funds to the UN’s health division, a decision heavily criticized by the European Union, the African Union, China, and Russia, because of the repercussions that it might have for poor countries during the pandemic.

Although exports of medical equipment from the USA to Cuba decreased in the last year, exceeding a little more than a million dollars as compared with 3,492,000 in 2018, those related to food continued to rise despite the embargo.

Exports of these products increased by 14% in 2019, according to a report by the United States-Cuba Trade and Economic Council (Cuba Trade) and trade in general rose to 257.6 million dollars last year, as compared with 224.9 million in 2018.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel 

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

In The Country of Scarcity, Rum Is Never Lacking

Cultural tolerance of alcohol has contributed to alarming levels of rising consumption for decades.  (Luz Escobar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 December 2019 — In spite of the economic crisis, which makes it hard to put some traditional foods on the Christmas table, something will not be missing in Cuba at the end of this year: Alcohol.

The figures from the World Health Organization (OMS) cite Cuba as the 15th country for alcohol consumption in Latin America and the Caribbean, but what seems a relatively optimistic position may hide a worse reality due to the lack of transparency with which authorities manage the data.

The Government redoubles warnings around this time to prevent an increase in road accidents linked to alcohol consumption, but among the people there exists a very relaxed perception about the problems that drinking this type of beverage causes.  “Without rum there is no country,” you hear many regular drinkers say, and they are not wrong. continue reading

Latin America is the region with the second highest level of consumption, with Chile standing out with per capital consumption of 9.6 liters of pure alcohol, Argentina with 9.3 liters, and Venezuela with 8.9 liters.  Beer is the preferred beverage on the continent and accounts for 55% of the total alcohol consumed.  Vodka and whiskey follow with 30% and wine with 12%.

In Cuba, as it could not be otherwise, rum consumption stands out, with the Island the second greatest worldwide consumer according to a study carried out several years ago by the British magazine, The Economist, and the first in per capita consumption at 4.9 liters per person annually. The figure is five times the amount in liters that each person drinks in nine of the 10 countries that drink the most rum, ahead of the Dominican Republic, which follows the Island at 3.3 liters per year per person.

The initiation of alcohol consumption begins very early in Cuba, where pressure is still placed on boys from childhood to prove their virility in this way.  Almost as a game, the father himself gives the boy a taste of rum at a family party in order to show that “he can take it” and will be “a man who fears nothing.”

A study carried out by the National Unit for Promotion of Health and Disease Prevention concluded that more than 45% of those older than 15 years consume spirits in Cuba, especially between ages 15 and 44 years, and the majority of alcoholics are between 25 and 42 years of age.

The same survey determined that the beginning of alcohol consumption is increasingly early and also that the differences between the sexes are blurring, and men and women drink similar amounts, especially in the big cities, like Havana.  In the capital and center of the country, 53% consume alcohol, the highest concentration of drinkers.

Better educated women drink alcohol (24%) at a higher rate than the less educated.  Among men, the highest percentage of consumers is found among those without education or who have only reached the primary level, according to the survey.

The data about differences between the sexes clashed with the Conglomerated Multiple Indicators Survey of 2014 which showed that the proportion of men who drink alcohol is higher than that of women, especially among those younger than 15 years.  Some 11 percent of males and 3 percent of females among total consumers are younger than that age

The sale of alcoholic beverages, in spite of being regulated and prohibited to minors, often is carried out in a lax manner and without great control.  In recent years beer vending machines were placed in several tourist areas, and they dispensed their merchandise without any control.  Several of them were withdrawn after complaints and denunciations presented by worried parents, but others continue in service.

Alcohol is sold in most cafes and food venues, especially beer and rum, in areas widely occupied by children.  Children are exposed from a very young age to this harmful substance and to the dangers associated with its consumption, because often the adults in those places get drunk, fight, and spew profanity under the effects of alcohol.

The arrival in the market a decade ago of the mini-bottles of rum also has contributed to the expansion of consumption among the young.  With 200 millilitres and at a price that does not exceed 1 CUC, the consumption of this product is very widespread among teens and youths who do not have the resources to buy more expensive drinks.

In Cuba’s interior, especially in the small towns, alcoholism is reaching alarming levels. With very few opportunities for wholesome recreation, a stagnant economy, and few expectations for the future, the provincial youth regularly drink alcohol at parties, reunions, and in their daily lives.  In the sugarcane communities, the product can be very easy to acquire due to the diversion of resources from the sugar mills.

There is also a long tradition of clandestine stills where alcohol from the public health system is often distilled.  On the Island several “drinks of necessity” have been created such as the infamous “Train Spark,” but there is also an extensive black market that increases during these festive days for rum extracted from the state factories, with the consequent dangers of an often-adulterated product.

Official Cuba has also contributed to the public and unbridled consumption of alcohol.  In order to massively attract participants to official events and celebrations of some historic date, it has become common to locate points of sale of beer and rum in bulk.  Although lower quality than the bottled beverage, these products are very cheap and attract lower-income people.

The 2018 World Report on Alcohol and Health published by the OMS says that there are more than three million deaths worldwide caused by alcohol, 28% by injuries (traffic accidents, self-inflicted wounds, and violence); 21% by digestive disorders; 19% by cardiovascular illnesses, and the rest infectious, cancerous, mental, and other illnesses.

In addition, it cites 237 million men and 46 million women who suffer alcohol consumption disorders, the majority in Europe (14.8% and 3.5%) and the Americas (11.5% and 5.1%), with special incidence in high-income countries.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

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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.

Insufficient Personnel in Havana Hospitals To Assist Those Sick with Dengue

Since the beginning of summer the capital’s hospitals, above all those for children, are paralyzed by cases of patients exhibiting dengue symptoms. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 30 August 2019 — “The only thing we have to give you is a chair,” was the response that a dengue patient received when he arrived at the Joaquin Albarran Surgical Clinic Hospital last Wednesday.  The rooms, hallways, and even the entrance area are crammed with stretchers and improvised beds due to an outbreak of the virus that is affecting Havana.

The situation, which still has not been reflected in the official media, is repeated in the majority of the hospitals of the Cuban capital.  “We are overwhelmed and the problem is not only that we cannot keep up but also that when the patients see what this place is like they want to go home and they reject the admission order,” laments a nurse from the Freyre de Andrade General Hospital, popularly known as Emergencies.

Located on a central avenue of Downtown Havana, Emergencies is full of people infected by the dengue virus, which is contracted by the bite of the Aedes aegypti  mosquito.  Through a quite rainy summer and with the fumigation system almost paralyzed due to the lack of raw material and fuel, the capital is going through a health crisis. continue reading

“Only this morning we have had three deaths, among them an elderly lady who arrived in a very bad state,” adds the nurse who prefers to remain anonymous.  “We all met so that those who could do it would take voluntary shifts because the staffing is insufficient for the number of sick people that we have, and also they warned us that we could not give out information to anyone about the number of cases or of the dead.”

At mid-month an International Course on dengue, zika, and other arboviruses was held in Havana at the headquarters of the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine.  In the event’s sessions it was reported that Cuba is implementing a national project to combat Aedes aegypti with the application of ionizing radiation.

The method, known as “the sterile insect technique” (TIE), consists of irradiating the male in the pupa stage, later freeing him into the field, and when he copulates with wild or field females, no offspring are produced.  But the official information did not specify the date of the implementation of the strategy or its extent in the national territory.

“We are living through an outbreak of dengue, and the situation has been aggravated because this year there has not been a national fumigation campaign,” an official from the Ministry of Public Health connected to the also so-called antivectoral fight tells 14ymedio.  “The most critical situation is in some areas of Villa Clara, like Placetas, in wide neighborhoods of Havana, and also in Santiago de Cuba and Pinar del Rio,” he adds.

@MINSAPCuba,@DiazCanelB,@martinoticias,@revbuenosdias what disrespect I have just gotten to the hospital clinic at 26th and it is 10:45 because my wife is in a bad way and they tell me that she may have dengue but that there are no beds and she has to sleep on a chair … what kind of medical power.

— Alejandro M.P (@Alejand56861201) August 29, 2019

Recently the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned about the complicated dengue situation in Latin America and the Carribean.  “The region is experiencing a new epidemic of dengue with a notable increase in cases,” said Marcos Espinal, PAHO’s director of the Department of Communicable Diseases and Environmental Determinants of Health.

In the first seven months of 2019, more than two million people in the region contracted the illness, and 723 died, according to PAHO’s latest epidemiological update published August 9.  However, the data about Cuba are llimited and have not been updated with the figures from the outbreak that now affects the Island.

“We don’t have mosquito nets, the patients have to bring them from home because otherwise the risk that they will infect their companions or medical personnel is great,” says a nurse from the 26th Street Clinic. “We also have problems with food because it’s not enough with so many patients so that everyone who can bring frood from home does so,” she explains.

In the children’s hospitals the scene is repeated.  In the Central Havana Pediatric the number of patients admitted daily with suspected dengue is about ten.  The tests to confirm the virus can take up to three weeks so many of the infected return home without knowing whether they suffer from the illness.

In a Catholic parish of El Cerro this week a priest called during the mass for a reinforcement of the area’s hygiene and for the residents to clean up the garbage dumps themselves.  The word dengue was mentioned a dozen times and prayers were said for various nearby residents who are sick.  “We are taking turns going to the houses of old people who live alone in order to ask how they feel,” Lopia, a devout woman from the area, tells this daily.

“The elderly are very fragile and above all those who have no family, we already lost a neighbor who contracted dengue and didn’t last at all because when we could take him to the hospital he was already very bad,” says the woman.  “He died in the hallway of Emergencies because there wasn’t an empty bed in the rooms.”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Cuban Doctors Kidnapped in Kenya Practice Their Profession During Their Captivity

Cuban doctors Landy Rodriguez Hernandez and Assel Herrera Correa.  (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 August 2019 — The Kenyan army continues working to free the two doctors kidnapped last April, a task that does not fall to the police whose jurisdiction is limited by borders.

According to local press, Assel Herrera Correa and Landy Rodriguez Hernandez are in the vicinity of Gedo, near El Adde in Somalia, in good condition, and practicing their profession.

Police inspector Hilary Mutyambai updated the situation Tuesday for local media.  “Our work as police ends at the border. … I am not in a position to account for the fate of the Cuban doctors, but we have a team working on it,” he said. continue reading

In July a security report indicated that the doctors were transported to the Halaanquo forest, near the city of Barawe, where they allegedly converted to Islam.

Surgeon Landy Rodriguez and general medicine specialist Assel Herrera Correa’s trail was lost April 12 when they were traveling in an official vehicle in order to work in the Mandera Hospital, near the Somali border.

That day Rodriguez and Herrera were escorted “as is customary,” Kenyan police spokesman Charles Owino confirmed at the time.

Nevertheless, the convoy was intercepted by armed men who killed one of the police officers in a gun battle, kidnapped the doctors, and took them to Somali territory.

A group of elder leaders from Kenya and Somalia went to the Somali region of Jubaland, controlled by Al Shabab, to negotiate on behalf of the Cubans.

The tribal leaders said that the kinappers demanded payment of about 1.5 million dollars in exchange for their liberation.  “The figure was higher than that reported in the media,” said one of the negotiators, who specified that the parties did not come to an agreement.

The government of Kenya — a country hard hit by terrorism on its northeast border since its army invaded Kenya in 2011 to pursue Al Shabab — has so far been oppposed to any payment that might encourage new kidnappings.

“They [the Somali elders] warned against sustained military attacks in their countryside to search for the Cubans, and we agreed on condition that the doctors not be harmed,” added the aforementioned traditional Kenyan leader.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

A Cuban Family Sues Melia for 10 Million Euros

Melia is the foreign company that manages the most hotels in Cuba with some 34 properties.  (Flickr/Andrew O.)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 June 2019 — The descendants of businessman Rafael Lucas Sanchez Hill on June 3 filed a lawsuit against the Spanish hotel group Melia, under Title III of the Helms-Burton law, the suspension of which was ended in May by the Donald Trump administration.

The Sanchez Hills, who live in the United States, seek as compensation about 10 million Euros for the lands, located in the current province of Holguin, which were expropriated from them by Fidel Castro in 1960 and from which Melia benefits by managing several hotels that the Cuban military built on them.

According to a report in The Confidential, it is the first lawsuit filed in Spain against companies of that country for managing expropriated properties in Cuba.  The Helms-Burton law allows the owners of properties confiscated with Fidel Castro’s arrival to power to sue those who “traffic” in those properties. continue reading

Previously the Sanchez Hills had negotiated with Melia and were close to an agreement for five million Euros, but seeing the chance of Title III’s activiation as remote, the Spanish company reduced the compensation to 3,000, and there was no agreement.

The Sanchez Hill family fled Cuba after the Santa Lucia LC headquarters and more than 40,000 hectares of surrounding lands were expropriated.  The patriarch of the family had built the headquarters in 1857 after moving to Holguin from Matanzas, but Law 890 of 1960 signed by then-president Osvaldo Dorticos left them with nothing.

In recent decades the military built the hotels Melia Sol Rio de Luna y Mares, Paradisus Rio de Oro, Costa Verde, and Playa Costa Verde, among others, on the expropriated lands.

The family demands in a Palma de Mallorca court that the company compensate them for an amount equal to the benefits the hotels have obtained in the last five years, explains El Confidencial. They also reproach the company for its attitude toward the claims of the owners.

“The illicit character of said confiscation is known by Melia, who for the last 20 years has ignored claims by those companies and families at whose expense it has profited,” says the lawsuit, according to the Spanish newspaper.

Melia is the foreign company that manages the most hotels in Cuba with some 34 properties.  Iberostar is next with 20 properties.  These companies have been heavily criticized by human rights groups and opponents of the regime in Havana for the conditions in which they make their investments on the island.  Until 2008 Cubans were prohibited from staying in the same hotels as foreigners, and the wages of the workers in the international hotels are barely some tens of dollars a month.

“In these 31 years we have made it very clear:  the commitment to Cuba is unconditional.  We believe that it is totally unjust, all these measures,” Gabriel Escarrer, executive vice-president and CEO of Melia Hotels International, said to Cuban state television about the activation of Helms-Burton’s Title III.

“Faced with that, we continue with our road map:  we will continue to collaborate closely with the Cuban authorities to develop the tourist industry of this country, which I believe is exemplary in every way,” he added.  By 2020 the company projects it will have 38 hotels and more than 15,000 rooms in the country.

Escarrer visited the island with the Spanish Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Reyes Maroto, who tried to issue a calming message to Spanish investors in the island.  “Our will is to continue investing in Cuba and for our companies to have the will to contribute to the development of the island,” said the minister, who lashed out at the U.S. executive and asked for Cubans to pay a debt of 300 million to the entrepreneurs.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

An Activist and an Independent Journalist Recently Freed

The Inter-American Press Association, during its most recent meeting, revealed that freedom of expression and of the independent press are becoming “criminal behavior” according to the Cuban Constitution.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 April 2019 — In recent hours journalist Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces and activist Hugo Damian Prieto were set free.  The reporter had been arrested last Monday when he tried to cover the trial of two evangelical pastors while the dissident was sentenced in December of 2018 for the supposed crime of “pre-criminal dangerousness.”

The liberation of Prieto, leader of the Orlando Zapata Civic Action Front (FACOZT), happened this Friday night.  The dissident was freed from the prison known as the Toledo II Unit in Valle Grande municipality La Pisa, Havana, where he was transferred after the December trial in which he was sentenced to one year of deprivation of liberty.

“They gave me a letter of freedom that says suspension of security measure,” explained Prieto to this daily.  “The two agents from State Security who gave me the document searched me in prison and took me to a house for an interrogation.”  The officials threatened the activist with surrounding his house so that he will take no opposing action during the May 1 Workers’ Day. continue reading

Prieto complains of the bad conditions in the jail where “there is no transportation for prisoners if they have an emergency, everything is full of bed bugs and poor sanitation,” he says.  The dissident spent a good part of his incarceration in a makeshift medical post in the dining room, given the precarious state of his health, especially due to his cardiac problems.

“In the last month they did not give me the medications needed for my heart ailments and previously I had missed some,” he says.  In spite of the hard months he endured, Prieto reaffirms his decision to continue his civic activism and his street actions.

For his part, journalist Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, a contributor to CubaNet who was detained at the beginning of the week by agents of the political police in Guantanamo, was set free this Saturday.

Before leaving prison the reporter received a citation to appear next Tuesday in the provincial Military Tribunal where he must be informed about the supposed crimes of “contempt” and “attempt” of which he was accused when he was arrested.

During the almost five days that the arrest of Quinones lasted he did not have access to water for personal hygiene.

The journalist was arrested in the afternoon last Monday at the entrance to the Guantanamo Municipal Tribunal when he tried to cover the trial that took place there against Ramon Rigal and Ayda Exposito, an evangelical couple sentenced to prison for refusing to send their children to school in order to have the opportunity to home-school them.

Before being arrested Quinones Haces managed to make a phone call to his wife, Ana Rosa Castro, from the police patrol car and tell her that he had been beaten, especially in the face, as she was able to prove after she visited him Tuesday at the National Revolutionary Police (PRN) station where he was detained.

According to Castro, Quinones Haces had trouble hearing from his right ear, swelling of his mouth, lacerations to his tongue, a fracture of his right thumb, and extreme difficulty swallowing solid foods,” she detailed in a note to the Pro-Freedom of the Press Association (APLP).

After the detention, several politicians from the United States such as Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio and Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Kimberly Breier, demanded that the Cuban government immediately release Quinones.

The Inter-American Press Association (SIP), during its most recent meeting in Cartagena de Indias, presented a report in which it complained that freedom of expression and of the independent press are becoming “criminal behavior” according to the Cuban constitution.  The SIP adds that Article 149 of the Penal Code maintains the crime of “usurpation of legal capacity” [i.e. practicing a profession without a license] which is used to punish independent journalists.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Reflections on the Coming Laws

From now, numerous laws will have to pass to Parliament to fulfill the terms planned by the new Constitution. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, March 5, 2019 — Almost at the end of the definitive text of the new Constitution of the Republic, ratified on February 24, three temporary provisions appear imposing the terms for the enactment of the complementary laws.

Although a date has not been officially mentioned for their definitive publication in the Official Gazette, the deputies have proposed that the effective date for the new Constitution be April 10, 2019 to be implemented that day 150 years from the first Constitution of the Republic in Arms proclaimed in Guáimaro in 1869.

If that date is chosen, the established terms will be calculated from April 10 for each one of the steps planned in the temporary provisions. However, the dates indicated now could be moved up. continue reading

October 2019: Approval of a new Electoral Law.

This law was announced by Raúl Castro in February 2015 during the holding of the 10th Plenary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC). Debate on that topic in official media was fleeting, but in the realm of independent civil society and the political opposition, proposals arose intended to eliminate the Candidacies Commission and to introduce the election of the president of the Republic by popular vote. The new Constitution has established that the president will be chosen by Parliament and for this reason the new electoral legislation will develop bound by that precept.

January 2020: The National Assembly of Peoples Power (ANPP) will choose, from among its deputies, its president, vice-president, and secretary, the other members of the Council of State, and the president and vice-president of the Republic.

If so, February 24, 2020 would be perhaps the moment chosen for the assumption of these offices. There rise several questions. The first is if, in the case that Miguel Díaz-Canel is designated president of the Republic, and if he managed to be chosen again for a second mandate, the regressive count of his time in power will be extended until February 2030. In what count is the year that he governed between 2019 and 2020 included?

April 2020: The president of the Republic proposes to the ANPP the designation of the prime minister, vice-prime ministers, the secretary, and other members of the Council of Ministers.

In the times in which Fidel Castro occupied the position of prime minister (from February 16, 1959 to December 2, 1976) his power didn’t depend on his investiture, but rather the other way around. That position was important because the Supreme Leader occupied it. From the time when he became head of state there was no more a prime minister although Carlos Lage was taken as such when he acted as secretary of the Council of State. Behind the scenes they called him “the administrator of the insane asylum.” Among the candidates to this position the names of Homero Acosta and Mercedes López Acea are put forward.

On that same date the president must propose to the municipal assemblies the choice of provincial governors and vice-governors.

Among the discrepancies with the Constitution project that had greatest resonance during the popular debates is the detail of the election of the provincial governors.  A good number of citizens who participated in these discussions suggested that this governmental position be proposed and approved by the vote of their electors.

The ANPP approves its regulations and that of the Council of State.

The ANPP will approve a one-year legislative schedule that complies with the elaboration of the laws that the established precepts in the new Magna Carta develop.

We will see, for example, how the jurists implement Article 4 of the Constitution which institutionalizes intolerance, repudiation rallies, and the repression of dissidents.  That provision gives citizens the right to “combat by all means, including armed struggle [. . .], against anything that tries to overthrow the political, social, or economic order established by this Constitution.”

July 2020:  The municipal assemblies designate the mayors.

October 2020:  The Governing Council of the Supreme People’s Court presents to the ANPP the draft of the Law of the People’s Courts and proposed amendments to the Law of Criminal Procedure and the corresponding procedure of civil, administrative, labor, and economic law.

It would be desirable to include in that law the prohibition against arbitrary arrests, the right of the arrestee to have a lawyer from the beginning of the process, and remedies against undue confiscations, disproportionate sentences, and limitations on travel within and outside the country.

April 2021:  The Council of Ministers presents to the ANPP the draft regulations of that agency and the provincial governors.

The ANPP approves the regulation of the municipal assemblies and their board of directors.

The process of popular consultation and referendum on the draft of the Family Code begins, in which the manner of establishing marriage must be included.

Those who placed themselves in opposite barricades with so much passion in order to settle the issue of whether marriage should be defined as between man and woman or between persons disposed to legalize their relationship will have to wait two years, at most.  Too much energy, too much time was dedicated to this topic compared to the irrevocability of the system or the single party.  But that’s how it happened.

In 2021 will begin a consultation process that presupposes a prolonged clash between the LGBTI community and the evangelical churches that have been so active on this topic.  By that time Raul Castro will not longer be first secretary of the Communist Party, and Mariela Castro will lack the symbolic support that genetics gave her.

Matters of greater importance will attract the attention of those who remain at the helm of this ship. Among them, to cite only those of greatest importance, one would have to mention the solution to the acute problem of the dual currency, the elimination of the rationing system, the liberalization of the non-state productive forces, a greater opening of the migration laws that restores all rights to Cubans who live abroad and, of course, the de-criminalization of political differences.

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey and Mary Lou Keel

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

“If Maduro Falls, in Cuba We’ll Return to the Special Period” / Ivan Garcia

Stove similar to that used by many Cuban families during the s0-called Special Period in the 1990’s. Taken from the blog Vertientes Camaguey.

Ivan Garcia, 7 February 2019 — John Bolton, Donald Trump’s National Security advisor, is asking autocrat Nicolas Maduro to renounce power in Miraflores and to enjoy a political retirement on a Caribbean beach.  Otherwise, he forecasts a terrorist prison cell for him at the United States’ Guantanamo Naval Base, more than 1000 kilometers east of Havana.

So far, forty nations have stopped recognizing Maduro.  The European Union gave him an ultimatum to carry out free elections, and Juan Guaidó, the self-proclaimed president, is trying to flip the last Maduro bastion: the armed forces.

“I believe that it is necessary for the military to cede and leave Maduro all alone and thus to avoid greater ills, at least the mid-level commanders, because those higher are corrupt and very committed, and they know that their heads will roll next to the president’s.  Let’s hope that is not delayed much because Maduro is already considering the idea of new elections, though not presidential elections, but to restore the National Assembly, and we already know how elections are there, the same as here.

“In fact, that company that was in charge of the technical side of the elections, and was paid money for it, denounced the filth of the process.  Maduro intends a new election in order to manipulate and erase the opposition as usual.  For Venezuelans, it is NOW or NEVER,” says Reinaldo, a retired former history teacher who has followed the events in Simon Bolivar’s homeland since the first coup attempt on February 4, 1992. continue reading

With exceptions, like that of the former history teacher, in Cuba the Venezuelan soap opera is watched without much passion.  The Castro brothers were always allied unconditionally to Hugo Chavez, and currently the neo-Castroite Miguel Diaz-Canel keeps offering military and intelligence advice to Nicolas Maduro.  But there are other political actors involved in Venezuela.  Each one seeks to guard its interests, like Russia, Turkey and China, who have invested billions of dollars in the mining and energy sectors.

In the cases of Turkey and China, if the opposition guarantees a slice of the future economic pie, it does not matter to them how Maduro’s luck may run.  Putin has other interests.  He is looking to establish Russia as a center of world power and in geopolitical strategy to create a conflict in a United States zone of influence.  But if the Trump administration promises to lift economic sanctions on Russia after the annexation of the Crimea or to guarantee it will not lose its investments in Venezuela, the Russian president wouldn’t mind changing his posture.

Several Caribbean islands back Maduro because he guarantees them oil for the price of peanuts.  The US and the EU are counting on a democratic system and on having a partner and not an enemy in Miraflores, for political and economic reasons:  Venezuela has 25% of the world’s oil reserves, in addition to tantalite, gold and fresh water sources.  Cuba supports Venezuela for the simple reason that the late Fidel Castro was the progenitor of Chavismo.

The Cuban dictatorship paved the way to Miraflores without firing a shot or causing a coup.  With absurd ideological prescriptions and erroneous political doctrines, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez drove the country to its current precipice.

Maduro’s Venezuela is the best example of what not to do in political and economic terms.  Submerged in poverty, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the governing party, is incapable of producing enough petroleum to permit feeding a population that, thanks to the “Maduro diet,” has lost on average from 22 to 33 pounds  each due to lack of food.

It’s too much.  An oil country with constant blackouts.  If Venezuela does not change, it will suddenly enter a primitive stage, plagued by criminal gangs.  Startled, the world has seen how a nation that used to have inequalities but was immensely rich, after the arrival of Chavez and Maduro has retreated to the extreme of shared misery, turning survival into a way of life with hyperinflation that raises the price of food every three days.

What is happening in Venezuela is not a priority among ordinary Cubans who have spent decades subsisting on the ration booklet, surrounded by penury and limitations.  In spite of the state media’s deployment of its campaigns and panegyrics to rescue its soldier Maduro, Cubans haven’t been aware of the Venezuelan context.

According to the German newspaper Deutsche Welle, “Thanks to the arrival of the internet to mobile phones, in Cuba citizens can more immediately compare the news about Venezuela published by the foreign and independent outlets, reports quite distinct from the triumphalist and totally biased fanfare of the official press.  The Telesur channel, controlled by the PSUV and broadcast on the Island, has shown a pathological blindness when it comes to counting demonstrators and protests.”

Roger, a nurse who worked in Caracas a year ago, insists that he is better informed than most Cubans.  “The Venezuela that Telesur and [Cuba’s state newspaper] Granma describe is not what I knew.  Eighty percent of Venezuelans demand Maduro’s head, they are fed up with a guy fatter than a mother-in-law, always shouting, insulting and accusing everyone of plotting to assassinate him.  Every time he speaks on television people grab some rum, go out on the street and hit the bottle.  Cuba is very bad, but Venezuela is much worse.”

Jaime, a state taxi driver, asserts that he is more or less up to date on what is happening in Venezuela from listening to international radio stations on short wave.  In his opinion, “The western democracies have rushed to support the claims of Juan Guaidó, a guy very well know in his home.  I don’t like Maduro, nor do I like Trump, but both, although we don’t like them, they are official presidents until they leave or they ‘go’ legally.”

Dagoberto, a baker, does not understand the role of the two presidents.  “Why doesn’t Maduro put the other one in jail?  Didn’t he win an election?  In Cuba no one elects the president, and no one opens fire on us.  The Cuban government supports him because he gives it oil.  Maduro thinks he’s the hottest thing on the planet, but if Venezuela is fucked, in Cuba we’re going to be living in the dark.”

Laritza, employed in a private cafe, says that her mother spent two years on a mission on Venezuela.  “She said it was in flames.  Teens with machine guns on the corners in the poor neighborhoods and at night you can’t go out in the street.  If you drive a car, you can’t stop at the lights.  In Venezuela, everything is lacking, but they have industrial quantities of petroleum:  Give it a kick anywhere, and it spouts black gold.  If they knock Maduro off his horse, in Cuba we’ll return to the Special Period.”

Orlando, a private hairdresser, comments:  “Maduro is a shit cocktail; fat and gaudy, he is unbearable when he speaks and disgraceful when he starts dancing with his wife, who looks older since she dyed her hair blonde.  If they get him out of there, he will surely come here.  I imagine him driving a bus in Havana,” and he lets out a laugh. [Ed. note: in Maduro’s pre-political life he was a busdriver.]

Analysts and economic experts predict that Cuba will enter a cycle of economic decline if Maduro steps down.  “But never like in the Special Period of the ’90’s, when the GDP fell some 35 percent.  Now the economy is more diversified and in spite of the obstacles and regulations, self-employment has been consolidated (recently the Ministry of Labor reported that more than 1.4 million Cubans work in the private sector, 13% of the population).

“Anyway, with or without Maduro, the country is going to enter a recession because there is no substitute for Venezuelan oil obtained by barter.  The Cuban government does not have enough liquidity to spend two or three billion on buying oil on the international market,” underscores a Havana economist.

Occupied in the odyssey of getting food and solving daily problems, with few exceptions Cubans do not have the time or the opportunity to be informed about Nicolas Maduro and Juan Guaidó through foreign or independent media outlets.  With other undertones, Venezuela seems to them too much like what they have experienced.  A deja vu.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Venezuela: Six (And A Half) Men and One Destiny

“It’s very difficult to fear or respect a character who speaks with birds,” says Montaner (@NicolasMaduro)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carolo Alberto Montaner, Miami, 26 January 2019 — Maduro will have to go peacefully, or he will die as a consequence of an attack by his own group, as happened to Maurice Bishop.  Let’s look at the conflict’s six key factors.

Juan Guaidó, President of the National Assembly and acting President of Venezuela until elections are held.  He has the backing of the OAS (Organization of American States) and of 20 important nations.  Among them, the biggest or most accredited democracies: Canada, United States, England and Switzerland.  Also Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Educador and Paraguay.  Not only are some of his own group against him, but some of them, secretly, would like to become candidates and win elections against Chavismo.  For them it would be reassuring if Guaidó were to announce primaries in which he would not participate.  Since he is a young man, he has plenty of time and opportunities to become president. continue reading

Nicolas Maduro has a well-earned reputation as an idiot.  That is very serious for his allies.  The Prince is feared or respected.  Maduro is neither feared nor respected, in spite of the violence that usually accompanies him.  And Venezuelans also have good reasons for that.  It is very difficult to fear or respect a character who speaks with birds.  Inflation is the unceasing lightning.  It has pulverized wages, food, medicine.  Water and electricity are missing; phones and internet fail.  Sometimes even oil is missing.  The country is broken and falling apart.  Sixty-four percent of Venezuelans lost 11 kilos in 2017.  More than 24 pounds.  Faced with this scenario that has caused the exodus of more than three million desperate Venezuelans, Maduro responds with economic “tricks” like the petro, a useless virtual currency.

Luis Almagro, secretary-general of the OAS, is the greatest ally of Juan Guaidó and of free Venezuelans.  He has thrown them on his back, like Christ and the cross, with the intention of saving them from their political sins.  He proceeds from the left, and that is convenient.  He is Uruguayan.  He comes from a small and decent country that, unfortunately, has aligned with Maduro, which will cost him votes in the presidential elections to the carnivorous left that governs in Montevideo.  No one in his right mind will accuse Almagro of selling out to Wall Street or Yankee imperialism.  Nevertheless, his former comrades expelled him from the sect without even listening to him.  Never have so many owed so much to one person.

Donald Trump is no saint to me, but there is no doubt that on the Venezuelan topic he has acted as a statesman committed to democracy and human rights, and that is something to be appreciated.  It is true that the Trump administration’s Venezuelan policy has been drawn up by Senator Marco Rubio, Secretary Mike Pompeo, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart and Vice-President Mike Pence, but without Trump’s backing it would all be useless, and the Chavistas and their accomplices could assassinate or jail members of the National Assembly.  In short:  If Trump stays firm in his support of Guaidó, the National Assembly has everything to gain.

Raul Castro and Miguel Diaz-Canel (the half man) know that it is a matter of time, little time, before the collapse of the Maduro regime if they don’t do something urgently.  The two — and almost the whole Cuban power structure — have a terrible opinion of Maduro as a statesman.  He seems to them a good but stupid boy.  Havana is panicked at a confrontation with the United States and seeing itself dragged into the conflict because of the colony’s incompetence.  They still remember what happened to them in Grenada in 1983 when they faced the Marines.  There were 800 Cubans who ran quickly.  Now there are almost 100,000, including the doctors, health personnel, and thousands of counter-intelligence workers.  Although “the Cubans” know that their best option is to continue exploiting the Venezuelans, they are prepared for an orderly retreat in the face of the possibility of clashing with the Americans.

Vladimir Putin has jumped into the Venezuelan crisis in support of Maduro and has threatened the United States.  That blunder guarantees that Trump cannot abandon Venezuela without suffering a serious loss of credibility.  Therefore:  He will stay.  In reality, Putin wants to restore the prestige of the Russian Federation and cover the debts contracted by Venezuela, but without coming to a confrontation with Washington.  Russia has the economic structure of a third world country.  It exports gas, oil, wood and imports manufactured products.  It is one of the planet’s biggest countries, with 144 million inhabitants, but with a per capita GDP like that of Costa Rica.  The US GDP is almost 20 trillion.  That of Russia is approximately that of South Korea (more or less 1.6 trillion).  It is a poor country.  Maduro begged him to come scare the Americans.  He will not be able to.  He is a false bodyguard.

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Translated by Mary Lou Keel.

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Egg, Still Being Sought

Two retirees have written initials on their eggs to handle the shortage that affects the whole country and to avoid disputes at home.  (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 16 January 2019 — In Norma and Francisco’s refrigerator only four eggs remain.  In order to handle the shortage that affects the whole country and avoid disputes at home, the retirees have written on the shells the initial of each member of the family.

At the end of last year, authorities attributed poultry production deficiencies to damages from Hurricane Irma in September of 2017 and the sub-tropical storm Alberto in May of 2018.  In Havana, where 28 million eggs are consumed each month, only five million came to market in December, according to the official press. continue reading

This shortage coincided with the lack of flour in stores, which caused a fall in the production of sweets in the state and private sectors.  With the passage of weeks, the flour shortage has let up slightly, but the egg shortage is unrelieved.

Cubans receive five eggs a month at a rationed price of 0.15 Cuban peso (CUP) each, and they have the right to five more for 0.90 CUP each.  On the free market an egg costs 1 CUP, but it has been more than a month since one could be had.

“This month eggs are not in the ration booklet, and anyone who still has one it’s because they kept it since December,” Pascual, an employee of an egg warehouse belonging to the Interior Commerce Ministry, confirms to 14ymedio.  “Right now we are waiting for them to arrive, but they have not,” he says.

Added to the deterioration of the poultry infrastructure is the problem of feed for the laying hens.  “We haven’t gotten any feed, and we are improvising with the little that is left, trying to stretch it or selling the hens as chickens for consumption,” complains an employee of a state farm near the community of Las Terrazas in Artemisa.

Powdered eggs, a product that a couple of years ago began to enter the country as a substitute for freshly laid eggs, has also disappeared from the market.  A kilogram of this product was selling for 65 CUP and came mainly from Brazil.

But last December it was announced that the Government of that nation had stopped exports to Cuba and frozen its credit because, of the 10 million dollars the Island was supposed to pay in June, it only paid 4 million.  This measure has already led to a reduction of Brazilian products in national markets.

“With Hurricane Irma we lost the roof, but little by little we were replacing it; what is impeding us right now from establishing production is the lack of food for the birds,” laments the Artemisa worker.  “We have had to sacrifice many hens for lack of food, and recovering from that takes time.”

The poultry farms, all under state management, are governed by the traditional concept of keeping the birds caged.  An intensive practice that in Latin America is being substituted little by little for another in which the well-being of the animals is taken into account and they are not confined inside of a small space.

The so-called “happy hen egg” is found in Cuba only in domestic production carried out on home patios or on small farms, but all the commercial product in the state network comes from caged hens.

“When our cages or warehouse roofs are damaged we cannot continue producing,” says another employee of a farm in San Antonio de los Banos.  “This is very fragile and when the wind blows a little strongly we always have impacts but also when it’s very hot because the interior of the warehouses gets quite hot and many animals die on us.”

Researchers Nadia Baez Quinones and Onailis Oramas Santos, from the Animal Science Institute and the University of Havana School of Economics, respectively, carried out a study of the sector’s problems.  The shortage of incubators, deterioration of the refrigeration equipment, deficiencies in the treatment of wastes and constant water pump breakdowns are some of them.

The experts assert that, if there is an investment to air condition the damaged farms and modernize their production, the supply to the population could rise to 39 eggs per month per resident, instead of the ten that they can currently acquire through the ration market.

But some producers, like Ramon Luaces, 72, who worked more than three decades with egg layers, say that more is needed than resources and investments.  “We must resume production on a smaller scale, too, and motivate the farmers to produce eggs,” he tells this daily.

“The private egg producer prefers selling them on the black market because they have no incentive to sell to the state,” explains Lucas.  “If they would let us sell directly to the people and the hotels, ’another rooster would crow’,” he says, using the Cuban expression equivalent to ’it would be a whole different story.’

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Official Cuban Press Bares Its Teeth to Jair Bolsonaro

The official media has preferred to spread testimonies and stories about the return of the doctors as a very synchronized chorus and without different chords. Text: Fewer Doctors With Bolsonaro!

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 19 November 2018 — These days the official press controlled by the Communist Party has sharpened its rhetoric after the decision by the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) to close the door on the Mais Medicos (More Doctors) in Brazil program.  The Island’s press outlets have not spared insulting president-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who, under a humanitarian pretext by which in reality he sought to distance himself politically from Havana, conditioned the continued stay of the Cuban doctors on a series of measures that the Island’s authorities did not like.

The next leader of the South American giant combines characteristics that perfectly fit the mold of the adversary of Havana’s Revolution Plaza:  defender of the military dictatorship, ultra-rightist and very critical of the Island’s government.  His profile turns him into Ronald Reagan’s perfect successor for pro-government political forces. continue reading

“We get up and it’s Bolsonaro, we lie down and it’s still Bolsonaro,” complains Yanisbel, a Havana resident of 45 years who asserts that “recently it’s not worth it to turn on the television because it’s all the same.”  The news reports are filled with interviews of Cuban doctors who describe their sacrifices and achievements during the mission in Brazil and also attacks on the “new political shift” of the — for years — allied country.

Granma, the official mouthpiece of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), has taken great pains in reports, opinion columns and bulletins in which it highlights the “lack of morality” of the next Brazilian government for questioning Havana’s actions and proclaims that “foolishness won” with the departure of the Island’s health professionals from the Mais Medicos program.

Among such profusion of words and adjectives, the readers and viewers have noticed that something important is missing.  “They have not told us the chicken of chicken with rice, and everyone knows it,” advises Duany, a self-employed barber who spent several days scrutinizing the topic with his customers.  “The Cuban press has not counted on Bolsonaro wanting our doctors to make their whole salaries and to be able to bring their relatives,” he opines.

In a country where new technologies put official censorship in check it is increasingly difficult to hide information.  “Everyone knows it, everyone talks about the same thing in the street, but the prime time newscast does not mention it,” complains Duany.  “That makes the press lose credibility and contradicts all the calls to end secrecy that some official makes from time to time on television.”

“This is the typical case that puts editorial policy to the test,” says a young graduate of the Havana Communications Department who asked for anonymity.  “The fact that the national press only reflects one opinion and one way of seeing the end of the agreement of the Ministry of Public Health with the Brazilian government is very significant.”

The young man rejects the idea that they have not interviewed “a single doctor among those who must return to Cuban who is not in agreement with MINSAP’s decision or who plans to seek the political asylum that Bolsonaro has offered.”  Nor “have they broadcast statements from relatives here who do not agree with the low salaries or the family separations that the mission imposes.”

Instead of that, the official media has preferred to broadcast statements and stories as a very synchronized chorus and without different chords.  “We fall again time after time into the same thing and later we are called to do journalism closer aligned with reality, but as if reality is not published,” complains the recent graduate.

Meanwhile, illegal parabolic antennas and other forms of information distribution are experiencing increasing usage.  “People are waiting for Bolsonaro to be able to widen the political asylum offer to other Cuban professionals or make more flexible the travel visa from the Island to that country,” speculates Ricardo, a distributor of several of the illegal signal antennas.

“Some days ago what was most in demand was the telenovelas and the series but in the last week they have asked me to transmit all the news from Florida and any program that touches on the topic of Bolsonaro,” he explains to this daily.  On the flat roof of his home in Central Havana, camouflaged behind a supposed dove cage, Ricardo has installed three antennas from which emerge yards and yards of cables that go to the living rooms of more than a hundred families.

In the official media, Bolsonaro’s counterpart is former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, who during her reign strengthened ties with Havana and provided the National Bank of Economic and Social Development with a loan of more than 680 million dollars to widen the Mariel port, the emblematic work of Raul Castro’s government.

“We have returned to the fable of the good and the bad, the hatchet man and the victim,” asserts Susana, a retiree who for more than a quarter of a century worked for the Ministry of Foreign Trade.  “This is going to last, and we are going to have Bolsonaro for a while,” says the woman with a daughter who is one of the more than 8,300 doctors who are still on Brazilian soil.

“This is like a Brazilian telanovela, by chapters, but it’s already known who is the bad guy and who plays the part of the slave Isaura,” says the woman.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Repression Does Not Rest in Summer

Alejandro Pupo Echemendía, who died in police custody. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 September 2018 — The two main human rights organizations in Cuba published Monday their reports about repression during August.

The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), with headquarters in Cuba, puts the number of arbitrary political arrests at 219 in August.  For the CCDHRN the most serious event last month was the death of Alejandro Pupo Echemendia, arrested on the 9th and declared dead hours later while in police custody.  The activist was taken to the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) station in the city of Placetas in Villa Clara, and relatives and witnesses assert that the body showed signs having been brutally mistreated before his death.

“Official responsibility must be revealed in this flagrant case of another citizen who dies in police custody,” demands CCDHRN. continue reading

On the other hand the organization applauds the announcement of the opening of a trial against some twenty officials and other citizens who are accused of bribery, document fraud and other crimes aimed at facilitating the “illegal” relocation to the capital of people who live in other provinces, building a criminal network.

CCDHRN thinks that the government intends to keep the detention figures low, but in the face of this, it increases control over people and has carried out at least 21 acts of harassment and four physical assaults against opponents.

Moreover, the Cuban Human Rights Observatory (OCDH), with headquarters in Madrid, has accounted for at least 208 arbitrary detentions in Cuba during August, a figure somewhat higher than that set out in July.

The organization highlights the harassment and arrests suffered by several independent artists on the 25th when they held a concert against the approval of Decree 349 which increases censorship of the sector.  The non-governmental organization Amnesty International has pronounced itself against that day’s arrests.

The activist network of OCDH accounted for 133 repressive actions against women and 75 against men on the Island, at the same time that more acts of harassment and intimidation were brought against members of civil society and activists throughout the Island.

Another of the punished sectors last month has been the milieu of the political movement Somos+ whose activists were victims of arbitrary arrests when they tried to meet to debate the draft version of constitutional reform.

Add to these two groups those who habitually suffer the harassment methods of State Security and the Police, among them the Ladies in White who continue to be most affected by the brief detentions, the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), Somos+, the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Front, the National Resistence Front and the Party for Democracy.

For its part, the Center for Cuba Coexistence, directed by Dagoberto Valdes, continues suffering its particular repression of police citations and interrogations.

The personalized repression and the measures controlling departures abroad have become the tools most used in recent times, which, according to the Observatory, “leaves exposed the absence of the government’s political will to change.”

This fact also is denounced by CCDHRN which maintains that while it was “permitted” that nine dissidents travel to Peru in order to participate in two academic events, another nine were impeded from doing the same on the basis of various pretexts or simply the use of force.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Prosecutor’s Office Accuses Jose Daniel Ferrer of "Attempted Murder"

The leader of Unpacu, José Daniel Ferrer, was arrested on 3 August along with Ebert Hidalgo. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 August 2018 — The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer, and activist Ebert Hidalgo were accused Friday of “attempted murder.”  Both must remain in pretrial detention according to prosecutor Rolando Reyes, as reported to 14ymedio by Ovidio Martin Castellanos, one of the national coordinators of the opposition organization.

Hidalgo and Ferrer were arrested August 3 after an incident involving an official of the Ministry of the Interior, Dainier Suarez Pagan, who supposedly had been hit by Ferrer when he was driving a car without a driver’s license.  Since then both activists have been held incommunicado and in different detention centers, their families complained.

Agent Suarez Pagan is know by dissidents from Palmarito de Cauto for being violent and stalking activists.  According to the judicial version, Ferrer tried to run him down while he was crossing the street, an assertion that the dissidents denied shortly before they were arrested. continue reading

As Ferrer told Carlos Amel Oliva, Suarez Pagan signaled to him to stop the car but on braking suddenly, the front wheel dislocated.  The agent fell to the ground and after getting up, went to a medical clinic in order to seek an injury certification.

In the Prosecutor’s documents it is stated that he was dressed in a complete uniform, something that the arrested activists denied, having always said that he was dressed in “plain clothes.”

According to the story that appears in the legal document obtained by this newspaper, “Ferrer demanded the car key from Hidalgo Cruz,” started it, and ran into the officer” Suarez Pagan, who was crossing the street to a nearby cafe, “unsuspecting” and “without noticing what was being attempted against his life and physical safety.”

“Officer Suarez Pagan went to the place where the car stopped, complained to the driver and his companion and ordered them to accompany him to the PNR station but was refused emphatically by the two,” adds the judicial document that reports after the arrests of Hidalgo and Ferrer.

For Martin Castellanos, this accusation is “a work of tyranny.”  The activist complains that it is “a gross lie” they are using in order to behead the biggest opposition organization in the country.

“Suarez Pagan never wears a uniform because he is thug, and those charged with confronting the peaceful opposition always dress in plain clothes,” he maintains.

The United States, on Wednesday, demanded Cuba immediately free Jose Daniel Ferrer and Ebert Hidalgo.  The US Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America, Francisco Palmieri, added that Havana must free “all political prisoners.”

Ferrer and Hidalgo face a possible sentence of 15 to 20 years in prison, although the penalty could be reduced significantly on consideration by the court because it is for a crime that did not materialize.

In 2003 Ferrer was sentenced to 25 years in prison in the well-known case of the Black Spring.  Since 2011 he has had an extra-penal license awarded to members of the so-called group of 75 who were still in jail.  The releases occurred after a negotiation between the Catholic Church, the Spanish Executive Jose Luis Zapatero and the government of Raul Castro.

After leaving prison, Ferrer founded the Patriotic Union of Cuba which is today one of the biggest opposition organizations in the country.  UNPACU carries out citizen protests and has several aid programs for low income families.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel.

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