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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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.

Authorities Keep Opposition Leader Jose Daniel Ferrer Incommunicado

The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, José Daniel Ferrer. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 August 2018 — The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer, completed 72 hours in detention Monday and his case “has passed to the prosecutor,” as the opposition organization’s coordinator, Carlos Amel Oliva, reported to this daily.

They accuse Ferrer of attacking an official from the Ministry of the Interior, according to what Captain Roberto said to his family members.  At this time he is under arrest in Unit One of the Santiago de Cuba National Revolutionary Police (PNR).  Authorities keep the activist incommunicado, and he has not even been able to receive visits from his relatives.

“Yesterday at ten at night he completed the first 72 hours of arrest.  The case has already passed to the prosecutor and now it is necessary to wait another 72 hours in order to get an answer about what is going to happen with him,” said Olive in a telephone conversation with this paper. continue reading

Also arrested with Ferrer was activist Ebert Hidalgo Cruz, who is in the Operations Unit of the PNR (People’s Revolutionary Police).  Hidalgo Cruz is also incommunicado.

According to the criminal procedure law, the prosecutor could drop the arrest without consequence, impose a cautionary measure without detention, or revoke or modify the measure ordered by the police.  The prosecutor also may propose the imposition of a provisional prison sentence.

According to Oliva, coordinator of the organization founded by Jose Daniel Ferrer, Captain Roberto told the family members that there is an open “file” against the UNPACU leader.  In the case of Hidalgo Cruz, he is accused of permitting Ferrer to drive a car without a license.

Ferrer was arrested last Friday night after being implicated in a traffic accident in Palmarito de Cauto, where he supposedly injured the State Security agent, Daniel Suarez Pagan.

The dissident was in the town for family reasons and also planned to visit some of the activists who live in the area.  Oliva says that during the journey, the plainclothes agent stepped in front of the Mosovich car driven by Ferrer, indicating for him to stop.  Ferrer does not have a driver’s license or a learner’s permit.

After an abrupt maneuver to stop the car, the agent fell to the ground and after getting up went to a medical unit in order to seek a certificate of injury.  Several hours later the two activists were arrested.

Some UNPACU activists contacted by 14ymedio say that, “Pagan is not hurt and is working as usual in the town of Palmarito de Cauto.”

Maidolis Oribe, area resident, says that “State Security and the Police with their Criminal Unit specialists have reconstructed the events four times and have pressured people to testify against Ferrer.”

“They want the people to say that Jose Daniel ran over him,” says Oribe, who has witnessed the reconstruction of events by the experts.

“Pagan is the one who throws himself to the ground and plays ’murumacas’” says the woman, who questions the blows he received “if he is able to make those movements.”

Jose Daniel Ferrer is a former political prisoner from the black spring of 2003 who benefitted from an extra-penal license in 2011 after a negotiation between the government, the Catholic church and the Spanish presidency.  The extra-penal license, which allows the prisoner out of the penitentiary, can be revoked at the will of authorities.

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.

Fifteen Artists Denounce "Legalized Censorship"

Artists against decree 349 during the debate this Wednesday and Thursday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 3 August 2018 — A group of independent artists has decided to confront Decree 349 which regulates the dissemination of culture and catalogs its content, calling it “legalized censorship.”  Fifteen creators meeting this week in Havana agreed to carry out actions to show their resistance to some of the measures that affect the alternative sector and activities on private premises.

For two days, Wednesday and Thursday, at the headquarters of the Museum of Politically Uncomfortable Art (MAPI) in Old Havana, the artists debated the Law Decree that will take effect in December.  Before its application, the legislation is already making waves, especially among musicians, comedians and other artists who perform in clubs and restaurants managed by the private sector.

The artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara says that the independent artists, who are not affiliated with any Ministry of Culture entity, are not against “paying taxes for personal income,” given that they can be used to qualify for retirement.  “We have said no because we think it has to do with legalizing censorship and making us prisoners for the simple fact that we have a different way of thinking than a certain system,” he says. continue reading

Decree 349 establishes rigid rules about presentations in private or state spaces for musicians and other creators.  In every case the artists must have prior authorization from the cultural institution with which they will be affiliated obligatorily, which can directly affect those who work outside of those state entities.

The content of presentations and work also will be regulated.  The places where music is disseminated or artistic activities developed “in which violence is generated with sexist, vulgar, discriminatory or obscene language” may receive penalties ranging from a fine to cancellation of the license to operate privately.  This measure may fundamentally affect urban genres like reggaeton and also humorists.

The controls will extend to book seller stalls where it is forbidden to sell volumes “with content that is harmful to ethical or cultural values,” a restriction that could end the private distrbution of works by Government-censored authors such as Mario Vargas Llosa and Vaclav Havel, among others.

During the first day’s debale at MAPI the artists unanimously denounced “the vagueness” of the law that can be “interpreted in many ways.”  In more than one session the constant use in the text of the expression “political culture” was criticized, a phrase that, for Iris Ruis, is completely subject to the interpretation of whoever applies it.

“If you read the whole decree you can see that the offenses described as very serious are those that have to do with political culture, and serious, those that relate to the provision of services.  “Where is that politics written in black and white?  Where and for whom has the Ministry of Culture published the political culture that they refer to here?” she asks.

The actress says one of the most perverse effects of the law is its repercussions on more current Cuban art.  “Being institutional in Cuba means entereing the political culture that today censors a great deal of what is contmporary art in Cuba and the whole world, therefore it excludes our contemporary art from the world,” she maintains.

In the debate on Wednesday Yanelys Nunez remembered that some of the basis for this law was already found in another from 1997 and that the new one is an update that worsens obstacles to cultural production.

Nunez called on “all artists and interested people who live in Cuba or outside” and  “Cuban or foreign artists worried about free creation” to join the initiative and demand that the decree not be applied to independent creators.  “Institutions cannot control what the artist produces at his home,” she claimed.

During the debate the art historian recalled, paper in hand, that the Creator’s Registry can remove an artist when the position that he assumes “is contrary to the country’s political cultural.”  This happened to the artists Italo Exposito and Luis Trapaga after participating in the #00Bienal.

Some artists present at the debate are aware of the reach that the law can have when exploring complex horizons from the moral point of view.  Italo Exposito believes that it is important to understand that in the history of Cuban art “we have great masters who have contributed to human dignity, and they all transgressed limits.”  The painter laments that now they will try to take from him a freedom that he has earned working at home and that no one has given to him.

The congregated artists have received the support and legal expertise of the Cubalex group, and its lawyer Laritza Diversent, now a resident of the United States, who made public her position through social networks.  In them she has shown that it is a law that “violates the right of every person to pariticipate in cultural life” and the “right to the indispensable free creator.”

Yanelys Nunez explained to 14ymedio that last Thursday they devoted themselves to receiving and generating proposals that support the campaign against the decree from the legal and artistic point of view, and they came to several agreements.  “What we ask it aht the Creator’s Registry be eliminated and that Decree 349 not be applied to the independent artist who has earned a space working for years on the margin of everything,” said the artist.

Also, she said that the Miami Poetry Festival, Vista, will support the initiative that they promote from Havana.  Artists Ana Olema and Diddier Santos are going to dedicate a space they they have at that event to supporting the campaign to fight against Decree 349 from exile.

The battle against Decree 349 began Saturday, July 21, with a protest by Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, Soandry Del Rio, Jose Ernesto Alonso, Iris Ruiz, Amaury Pacheco and Yanelys Nunez on the steps of the capitol of Havana.  The protest act, which had not begun when the police arrived, ended in the arrest of all participants except Yanelys Nunez, the only one who could express her complaint.  For Otero Alcantara that bit of protest cost him two days’ detention in the Zanja Street police station.

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.

More Restrictions on Private Activities in Tourist Areas

The buying and selling of homes was authorized in 2011 after decades of prohibition. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 28 July 2018 — Trading, donating, buying and repairing dwellings in tourist areas will be more complicated from now on with the advent of new regulations.  After July 24 an authorization from the Municipal Housing Directorate or the Physical Planning Institute will be required, in addition to the requisites in force in the rest of the country.

Since, at the end of 2011, the government of Raul Castro authorized the sale of homes after decades of prohibition, a dynamic real estate market was unleashed in a country with 3,700,000 homes, some 86% of them owned individually.

Less than two years after the ban on these transactions was lifted, some 80,000 sales and gifts were carried out, according to data offered then by Aniuska Puente Fontanella, specialist with the Directorate of the Commercial Property Registry and the Heritage of the Ministry of Justice. continue reading

In recent years authorities have tried to control the phenomenon with the creation of taxes and, more recently, with new regulations for the better areas demanded by the tourist rental businesses and private restaurants.  The new measures pose an additional obstacle to the development of the private sector.

Among the outstanding tourist zones are the Varadero peninsula, the most famous Cuban resort, and also the coast of Havana of the East, especially the beach areas of that township which are visited by many vacationing foreigners and nationals each year.

From now on, according to the latest resolution, when a resident from those areas wants to trade, donate, sell or buy a property, he will have to seek an authorization from the Municipal Housing Directorate, unlike in other areas where it is only necessary to formalize the process before a notary.

When it comes to repairing or remodeling a dwelling, the license will be processed by the Municipal Directorate of Physical Planning, a supra-entity created by the government in order to bring order to the urban space and directed by General Samuel Rodiles Planas, a hard-line military officer.

After complying with those procedures, the owner of a house in these areas will have to await a confirmation by the Tourism territorial delegation, which will take into account “the balance” of the resident population in each area in order to keep it from increasing and affecting state activity in that sector.

The new requirement has alerted owners of hostels, restaurants and architecturally valuable houses, who now fear the paralysis or freezing of repairs and projects managed privately in these areas.

The Official Gazette also warns that trades in these areas must not contribute to a population increase or create new owners.  The text prohibits gifts and sales from affecting the tourist development programs.

The construction of new buildings will also be limited in a way that “rigorously fits” the Territorial Ordinance Plan and the urban regulations of those areas.  This decision has fallen like a bucket of cold water on those who have bought land in tourist areas in order to later build a house.

In the case of Old Havana and Central Havana, capital municipalities that are associated with the City Historian’s Office, there exist other specific ordinances that are even more restrictive.

“The rooms that remain unoccupied and available in favor of the State” in those areas “will be delivered directly to the Office of the City of Havana Historian” who will dispose of them “in accord with the established regulations.”

The objective, according to the Official Gazette, will be “relocation and better housing conditions for the resident population” in the area as well as “the restoration and conservation of heritage.”  It says another purpose of the new law is to promote “tourist development” and “the provision of social services to the population.”

One of the measures that is causing more controversy is the prohibition on dividing rooms or bedrooms, whether they are “situated in bunkhouses or tenement blocks, except in basic cases of social interest and previous authorization by the Historian’s Office.”

The practice of dividing spaces, whether vertically or horizontally (the well-known barbacoas*), has been used for decades to relieve housing problems in Cuba.  At the end of 2016 there was a deficit of more than 880,000 houses on the Island, and last year only 21,827 new dwellings were built, according to information from the National Office of Statistics.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

*Translator’s note: “Barbacoa” (barbecue) is an unlikely term for a platform built in high-ceilinged room to add another “floor.” Search on term in the linked report by the late architect Mario Coyula to find out more; the first reference is on page 7 and a drawing of a ’barbacoa’ is on page 10.

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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.

Police Threaten A Journalist with More Repression for Working "for An Imperialist Outlet"

The independent journalist Roberto de Jesus Quinones.  (Cubanet)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 July 2018 — The independent journalist Roberto de Jesus Quinones was freed Thursday afternoon following 58 hours in custody in Guantanamo.  The police gave him a warning for “spreading false news that puts international peace at risk” and threatened him with increased pressure, as revealed by the reporter to 14ymedio.

“Last Tuesday, at about eight in the morning some dozen people appeared at my house including police officials and agents of State Security,” says Quinones.  “I demanded that the search order be signed by a prosecutor, and they got the signature in about 15 minutes,” he says.

The reporter, a regular contributor to Cubanet, acknowledges that though he considers himself “an impartial man” he could not avoid calling the officers “henchmen and cowards.” continue reading

After handcuffing the reporter, the officers transported him to the Provinical Jail Processing Unit.  His wife, Ana Rosa Castro, remained in the home during the more than three-hour search.

The authorities took a USB drive, the journalist’s passport and personal documents such as a copy of his mobile service contract with the Cuba Telecommunications Company.

They seized from the wife, among other things, “a desktop computer, a laptop, a radio, a music player, 800 CUC, documents and a camera belonging to Caritas,” a Catholic non-profit for which the woman works.

“I live with the psychological pressure that one day I get up and may have all these people at the door,” says Quinones.

The agents explained that they would review the computers in order to return them or seize them, depending on the results.  The couple are worried because the officers did not leave a certificat detailing what was seized , a requirement when police carry out raids.

“In the interrogations they made clear that they no longer consider me a man of culture or ideas and that from now on I will feel the force of repression,” details Quinones.  “For them I am a counterrevolutionary and I am attacking the government with my writings.”

The officers verbally accused the reporter of being “a mercenary” who works for a press outlet “of the imperialism,” referring to Cubanet, with headquarters in Miami.

“I refused to sign the warning document with which they released me because they did not want to give me a copy,” explains Quinones.

In recent years, activists, dissidents, journalists and members of independent civil society have been victims of searches of their homes that ended with seizure of their means of work.

In 2016 authorities raided the Center for Legal Information, Cubalex, and a year later searched the headquaarters of the Center for Co-Existence Studies in Pinar del Rio.  The home of Eliecer Avila, president of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement and the Circulo Gallery and Workshop which are run jointly by artist Luis Trapaga and activist Lia Villares were also searched.

More recently independent Holguin journalist, Osmel Ramirez, was a victim of a three-day detention and a search of his home.

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 Night Will Not Be Eternal" by Oswaldo Paya is Published

Cover page of the book “The Night Will Not Be Eternal”, by Oswaldo Paya.  (@rosamariapaya)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Miami, 3 July 2018 — With the title “The Night Will Not Be Eternal,” an unpublished book by the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, with proposals for Cubans to emerge from their situation, will go on sale on Amazon this July 5 before its presentation in Miami.

Rosa Maria Paya, daughter of the dissident who died in 2012, said that on July 25 the book will be presented in the Varela room of Ermita de la Caridad, where the Cuban exile received her father in 2002, after he received the Sakharov prize.

The book, subtitled “Dangers and Hopes for Cuba,” has a preface by Paya’s widow, Ofelia Acevedo, and its purpose, as explained by its author, is none other than “to help to discover that we can, indeed, live through the process of liberation and reconciliation and move into the future in peace.” continue reading

“In this book my father reflects on how and why we Cubans have come to this point in history and how we can emerge from it,” says Rosa Maria Paya, director of the Cuba Decides movement which promotes holding a plebiscite so that the Cuban people can decide what political system they want for their country.  “A process of liberation is possible,” says the dissident about what her father left in writing before being “assasinated,” in her words.

The family of Paya, founder of the Christian Liberation Movement in 1988, asserts that the car crash in which he and dissident Harold Cepero also died on July 22, 2012, was caused by agents of the Castro regime.

Rosa Maria Paya says that that same year her father asked her mother and her to remind him that he had to make time for the book that now is going on the market at 282 pages. After the epilogue, the book includes the most important political documents of his organization Proyecto Varela (The Varela Project).

The message of “The Night Will Not Be Eternal” is now even more current than when when it was written, says the author’s daugther, for whom reading this book is like listening to her father speak.

Paya begins by explaining his “intention” in writing this book, in which he reflects on, among other things, “de-Christianization,” “the culture of fear” and the “assault on the family,” but also on education, economics, corruptions, social classes and the “hour of change” in Cuba.

The last part is dedicated to reconciliation.  The epilogue significantly is entitled “We Must Dream.”

In the prologue, Ofelia Acevedo says that Oswaldo Paya enjoyed his work as an electrical engineer, but his “true vocation” was the “unending search for peaceful paths that will permit Cubans to win the fundamental rights that have been denied us by the Castro dictatorship.”

“Hence, the strength of his leadership, which conveyed confidence, security and optimism to those who listened to him, giving us a new hope,” says his widow.

Acevedo emphasizes that in this book Oswaldo Paya invites us to “look to the future with confidence, to keep hope alive, to realize that by ourselves we can leave the apathy where the Cuban dictatorship wants to see us sunk.”

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.

Revolutionary Hunger in Venezuela

Looking in the trash for something to eat has become an alternative for some Venezuelans.  (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reyes Theis, Caracas, 26 June 2018 — “My husband and I eat only vegetables, yucca or potato, we leave for the kids what the box brings.  Sometimes I give them rice with butter in the morning and another little bit at night.”  So says Aurimar, seated on the wall of the San Bernardino church, sheltering herself from the sun, as she waits for the community soup that is delivered every Saturday to needy people.  She is 26 years old but looks older.

Aurimar has three children, the youngest five months, but she is surrounded by more children.  “They are my nieces and nephews.  I bring ten in all, because they have nothing to eat, either,” she explains.

The young woman lives in a house in a popular part of San Bernardino with her partner, a security guard who earns the Venezuelan minimum wage set at 2,555,500 bolivars (a dollar a month on the black market exchange rate).  A kilo of meat is worth between four and five million bolivars. continue reading

The box from the Local Production and Supply Committees (CLAP) helps the family a lot in feeding their kids, but it is not enough.  “It comes once a month and doesn’t last,” laments Aurimar.

The box which the Government sells through a network associated with the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) may contain rice, lentils, beans, powdered milk, oil, corn flour and pasta.  Most of the products are from Mexico and of questionable quality.  A newspaper investigation revealed the low quality of the powdered milk which also has a high sodium content and low protein, which can cause health problems for consumers.

Other works by journalists and the National Assembly have denounced a framework of corruption around CLAP, and the former attorney general of the Republic, Luisa Ortega Diaz, has accused Nicolas Maduro’s presumed front men of being involved in the bad management of that assistance program.

In order to get the CLAP box, one must have the Heritage ID, an instrument of political and social control that was widely used in the presidential election of last May 20.

Aurimar says that in her home they rarely taste animal protein, “that’s why we appreciate the attention they give us in the Church,” she comments.

Father Numa Rivero is a native of Puerto Cumarebo, in the state of Falcon, and was assigned as parish priest of San Bernardino in January 2017.  “One day I was in the office, I heard noises and was startled to see what was happening.  There were people eating from the trash.  It really moved me because I had never seen that even when I was in India,” he says.

The priest then started the solidarity pot project by which parishioners donate food that is prepared by volunteers.  “In March of last year we started giving out 80 bowls of soup, currently we give about 180.  We give it first to the children, then to the elderly, if anything is left we send it to the area’s nursing homes where there is also a lot of malnutrition,” he explains.

The solidarity pots have multiplied across the country, thanks to a combination of private initiatives and religious organizations like Caritas, an association of the Catholic Church very active in humanitarian assistance whose fundamental purpose in Venezuela is to find cases of malnutrition in children in order to be able to help them, assist the family in recovery and refer to the public health system those cases that warrant it, says its website.

In its corresponding report at the end of the fourth quarter of 2017 and with data from 42 parishes in seven of the country’s states, Caritas found 66.6% of children evaluated already had some level of nutritional deficit or were at risk of it.

In terms of the seriousness of the malnutrition, the records indicated that 16.2% of children had moderate or sever malnutrition (global acute malnutrition), 20.9% mild, 30.3% are at risk of malnutrition and barely 32.6% have no nutritional deficit.

Maria Carolina is a senior technician in administration and administrative manager in a medium-sized company.  Her salary comes to about 10 million bolivars (some four dollars) and she lives with her 12-year old son and her elderly mother.  Each of them has lost about 20% of their body weight in the last year, and blood test results show the three have anemia and are receiving low nutrient levels.

“The CLAP box arrives once a month, but it’s not enough.  Also, my money doesn’t go far enough to buy cheese, meat or chicken,” she complains.  Pasta with tomato sauce or plain rice are part of their diet.

The Bengoa Foundation, a private, non-profit organization, has been investigating the Venezuelan food reality.  “There was a very critical period in the Soviet Union during which its people lost on average six kilograms of weight.  The first measurement of the survey about Conditions of Life in Venezuela (Encovi) in 2016 said that the average Venezuelan weight loss was around eight kilos, and we are now going on 11 kilos,” comments Marianela Herrera, doctor and member of its board.

The doctor explains that for an average adult man of 70 kilos, the loss of 11 kilos represents more than 10% of body mass in a year.  “It is serious,” she says.  In the case of children, the situation is even more critical.

In a survey that the Bengoa Foundation did in conjunction with the Andres Bello Catholic University, when they measured children between zero and two years of age, 33% of the children under three years of age in a representative sample of Venezuelans was suffering stunted growth according to the height-age index.

“This worries us greatly, it is a serious problem because in the first 1,000 days children must be protected because that is when the brain develops.  It is when proper interventions can be made for them to recover and it is when problems manifest themselves that later are going to be very hard to solve, like cognitive development.  Then that child will not be teachable or he is going to drop out of school, because he will feel that he can’t,” says Herrera.  She adds that the child will have in the future a significant risk of suffering from chronic diseases like diabetes or cancer.

The cases of Aurimar and Maria Carolina confirm the findings about the pattern of food consumption in Venezuela.

Pre-cooked corn flour has been replaced by Mexican flour from the CLAP boxes, which is not enriched with vitamins and minerals, and there is a great increase in the consumption of tubers.  Animal protein has practically disappeared from the Venezuelan table.

“It is serious that only yucca, yams and rice are being eaten.  The diet should be varied so that there is a contribution of micronutrients, essential nutrients, calories, proteins and healthy fats that meet the human being’s requirements.  A normal pattern is what we had before:  Between 35 and 40 different foods per day.  If you take the number of foods that were in a creole breakfast:  corn cakes, butter, scrambled eggs with onion and tomato, cheese, coffee and juice, we have there at least ten foods,” explains the doctor.

The serious Venezuelan nutritional situation is a result of the collapse of purchasing power.  Venezuela suffers currently from the highest inflation in the world, at 1,995.2%, according to the National Assembly.  The expropriations, confiscations and controls carried out by the Bolivarian Revolutions have weakened the Venezuelan private sector.

Inflation makes prices vary daily and the effect is exacerbated by the black market in currency, which has run wild because the country depends on imports.  These two factors mean the average citizen doesn’t have enough money to buy essential goods, and if he does have it, he probably cannot find the product.

This is why many Venezuelans rummage through garbage containers in search of food.  Nevertheless, it is surprising that well-dressed mothers are doing the same.

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The alliance of Vencuba with 14ymedio and the Venezuelan daily Tal Cual has allowed the production of this reportage.

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.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel