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

State Security Cites Inalkis Rodriguez for "Damage to Public Property"

Inalkis Rodríguez, environmental activist and contributor to ‘La Hora de Cuba’. (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 June 2018 — Inalkis Rodriguez, member of the independent magazine Cuba’s Hour, was summoned Thursday by State Security in Camaguey to inform her that she has been accused by the Office of the Historian for, supposedly, having painted “posters on the facade” of the house of Iris Marino, as reported by the publication’s editor, Henry Constantin, to 14ymedio.

In the interrogation, almost an hour in length, they prohibited Rodriguez from leaving the province or country without prior authorization.  “She must present herself next Tuesday to the same police unit,” complains the independent journalist.

Iris Marino, actress and team member for Cuba’s Hour, decided at the end of May with her husband and well-known theater actor, Mario Junquera, to convert the facade of their home into a public platform for graphic expression. continue reading

The front of Iris Mariño’s house has been painted with all kinds of offensive phrases, slogans and quotes.

“Some posters degrading my husband and my family showed up on the facade of the house.  The expressions mocked his politics, so he decided to denounce the fact to the prosecutor and the police,” says Marino.

After inaction by the justice agencies, the actress and her husband called for “everyone” who might want to leave a thought on the facade to do it.

“They can come to this space of freedom here at 77 Padre Valencia and leave opinions in favor or against,” explained Marino to this daily.  So far there is graffiti that recalls expressions by Jose Marti and others that support or criticize the government.  The couple’s home is just across from Camaguey’s principal theatre, in an area that is managed by the city’s Office of the Historian because that site was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2008.

A quote from José Martí written on the wall is the reason why Inalkis Rodríguez was cited by the authorities. The quote says: “A man who does not dare to say what he thinks is not an HONORABLE man.” (CC)

The journalists of Cuba’s Hour have been frequently accosted by police authorities who impede their work.  Henry Constantin, Iris Marino Garcia and Sol Garcia Basulto were threatened with being charged with the crime of “usurpation of legal capacity” — i.e. working in a profession without a legal license to do so — for their journalistic work, which could result in them spending a year in jail.

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.

Cuba Has Debts with More than 250 Spanish Companies, says Jaime Garcia-Legaz

The Melia Cohiba Hotel in Havana, Cuba.

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Havana, 14 June 2018 — Spanish companies with a presence in Cuba seek to overcome the financial difficulties they face in order to maintain their privileged position in the market and increase investment, said visiting company representatives this Thursday in Havana.

“Cuba is a market and a country of the future, and when it is finally integrated into the global market, we Spanish companies have to be first in line,” said Alfredo Bonet, international director for the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the XXII Spanish-Cuban Business Committee begun today in Havana.

Representatives of the Spanish business sector and its Cuban counterparts addressed, on the first day of the meeting, ways to overcome “the financial difficulties of the last two years,” according to Bonet, which affect approximately 250 Spanish companies with presence on the Island.

Specifically it has to do with the “the Cuban public sector’s unpaid debts” to these companies, explained the Spanish co-president of the bilateral committee, Jamie Garcia-Legaz, a problem that makes continued business projects as well as new investments on the Island difficult.

“The Cuban government is making every effort that is within its reach in order to make payments, although the macro-economic situation does not help either,” said Garcia-Legaz in relation to the recent bump Cuba experienced as a consequence of the deep crisis of recent years in Venezuela, its principal partner and defender in the region.

Thus, both parties have put in place financial tools in recent years, like the lines of support from COFIDES for the internationalization of small and medium businesses and especially the exchange fund created with 400 million dollars of debt that Spain forgave Cuba in 2015.

This fund, which still finances five operations and is looking at another five, “has permitted co-financing investments by Spanish companies and helping finance everything possible in local currency,” according to the international director of the Chamber of Commerce.

The Bilateral Committee meetings are held annually, though no meeting was held in 2017, and are the main channel of dialogue and connection between the Spanish businesses and Cuban authorities.

During Thursday’s work day, Garcia-Legaz and his Cuban counterpart at the head of the committee, Orlando Hernandez, signed the work program for 2018 and 2019, and tomorrow will conclude the meeting with institutional visits by the Spanish delegation made up of by 88 members.

After China and Venezuela, Spain is Cuba’s third commercial partner, to which it exports about 900 million euros’ of various products, from food to parts and machinery, according to data from the Chamber.

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.

Cuba’s Real Estate Market Is Going Through Tough Times

On the Paseo del Prado in Havana, an open-air classifiedad site, for every ten sellers there are two buyers. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymeido, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 10 June 2018 — On the web site Revolico, with more than 40,000 classified ads for houses for sale, thousands of ads are maintained for months without finding a buyer.  The lack of money, the slowdown of the diplomatic thaw between Cuba and the United States together with the freeze on the delivery of licenses to the private sector have shrunken the Island’s real estate market.

At the end of 2011, when Raul Castro’s government authorized the sale of houses after decades of prohibition, a frenzy overtook many Cubans ready to acquire or get rid of a house.  The measure was a starting point in a country with 3,700,000 dwellings, some 85% of them the property of individuals. continue reading

Fewer than two years after the ban was lifted, the emerging real estate market reached some 80,000 transactions, according to information offered then by Aniuska Puente Fontanella, specialist from the Directorate of the Commercial Property Registry and of Assets of the Ministry of Justice.

Now the scene is different.  Although there are no new official figures about the behavior of the sector, sellers complain of less demand and buyers complain of high prices.  Real estate agents point to a deceleration of the sector.

On Paseo del Prado in Havana, an outdoor site for classified ads, for every ten sellers there are two buyers.  “There’s a lot on offer and little demand,” Luis Oscar Gomez, a permutero (broker) who ended up in real estate management.  “Five years ago it was different because there were many more people buying,” he recalls.

“Many people who were buying did it because they believed that the country was going to fill up with Americans, but that hasn’t happened.”

“Others bought in order to do business, like starting a restaurant or a guesthouse for foreigners but right now they are not giving out licenses for that, which discourages investment in houses,” adds Gomez.  The end of the US wet foot/dry foot policy also is, in his judgment, a factor that negatively influences the market.

“May people sold houses at lower prices in order to pay for leaving the country, but now that has diminished with the closing of the path to the United States and the road to emigrate is longer because the fees have increased,” he adds.  “A house that three years ago went for 50,000 dollars, now that same family wants 75,000.”

Nevertheless, Gomez recognizes that “many sellers also have had to repeatedly lower their prices because there is no money for buying.”  In his judgment, the lack of liquidity, due to the fall in tourism and “the country’s situation which does not improve and the possibility of saving money for a house is very difficult in this situation.”

A few meters from the Paseo del Prado, a wide colonial mansion with columns and arches has a “For Sale” sign hanging on the balcony.  “We have spent a year waiting, but this is the kind of house that is bought for business because it is located in Old Havana and has very big rooms, perfect for a restaurant or tourist rental,” explains Rosa, the owner.

“I had a buyer who was enchanted but last August when they stopped giving licenses for self-employed work the man changed his mind,” she recalls.  “Spending 80,000 CUC on a house like this and not being able to make money is crazy.”

The boom in private real estate firms arising from the liberalization of the section has also experienced a slump.

Many of those private offices, which operate under a manager’s license for the sale and exchange of homes, have been closed.  Some because they were left behind by the intense competition, others prosecuted in the courts when it was proven that they charged the client a commission for the transaction, something prohibited by the law.

In practice, these managers pocket between 10% and 25% of the total figure that the buyer pays, but legally they can only charge for connecting and informing people interested in carrying out these kinds of deals.

“The whole real estate market is fed also buy the construction sector,” points out Loraine Garcia, an employee of one of the real estate firms closed by the police.  “The new houses that go on sale greatly influence the dynamism of that market in any part of the world but in Cuba that is an element that suffers a lot of stagnation.”

Cuba registered a deficit of more than 880,000 houses at the end of 2016, and last year only 21,827 new houses were finished, according to data from the National Statistics Office.

“The market is tainted because hardly any new houses come on, and the offerings that have not met with success are mostly houses that are too much above the buyers’ means,” adds Garcia.

“Houses that are under 30,000 CUC did not move much at first,” but with the passage of time “those houses changed hands and those that were higher than that were left for sale and have less demand,” she points out.

Garcia thinks that the changes in the tax rates for these operations also have burdened the market.

Initially the authorities set a 4% tax on the exchange of goods and estates to those buying and on personal income of those who sold.  In practice, however, a good number of transactions were made with amounts much higher than the figure declared in order to avoid the taxes.

In 2017 the Ministry of Finance and Prices tried to correct the problem and modified the payment of taxes on the sale and donation of dwelling between individuals.  Now the value of the encumbrance is established by its characteristics, location and size and not the amount reflected as the value of the property.

“Many camouflaged a sale as if it were a gift in order to pay lower taxes, but right now that is almost impossible because the law establishes the family ties that are needed to do something like that,” explains the former real estate agent.

In spite of those setbacks, Garcia believes that the housing market “is going to raise its head.”  Her hopes are based on the fact that “these types of swings are normal, and a real estate boom cannot be maintained permanently,” but “if the country opens investment and permits small or medium businesses, sales will take off again.”

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.

Storm Leaves Western and Central Cuba Tense with Thousands of Evacuees and Large Areas Flooded

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 29 May 2018 — Tuesday dawned in the city of Havana with intense wind gusts and a lot of rain brought on by subtropical storm Alberto.  In the center of the country the situation is much more complex with serious floods, damage to bridges and roads and extensive flooding in agricultural areas.

The provinces with the most serious problems at the moment are Villa Clara, Cienfuegso, Sancti Spiritus and Ciego de Avila, with parts of their territories flooded, thousands of people evacuated and a forecast of continued rainfall throughout the day.

In Villa Clara there are 16,000 evacuees and several towns isolated by road closures and floods.  Sixty-four homes have totally collapsed and 138 partially. continue reading

In the city of Sancti Spiritus at least 130 homes have suffered partial or total damage due to the rains and winds that accompany the first storm of this season a week in advance of the north Atlantic hurricane season which begins June 1.

From the town of Las Tozas in Sancti Spiritus, activist Aimara Pena reports 198 houses partially or totally collapsed in Foment and that ground transportation is still interrupted.  In the town of Condado, the Puerto Rico elementary school suffered the collapse of its roof.

Also in this province, agriculture has been seriously damaged, especially corn and yuca.  Authorities estimate 8,000 tons of rice ready for harvest but still uncut are under water in La Sierpe.  In Yaguajay, beans have been the crop with the most problems, with more than 800 hectares damaged by the rains, and in all of the Espirituano territory the waters have ruined 600 hectares of unharvested tobacco and some 3,000 tons of drying tobacco, reported provincial radio.

Travellers by bus and train crossing the region for other destinations in the east or west of the Island have been sheltered in the Lino Salabarria Pupo School of Sports since the highways and other means of transit have been closed.

The tourist town of Trinidad has almost-deserted streets because of the climatic situation which has required many foreign visitors to seek safety within the area’s houses.

Damages in Cienfuegos have required 11,483 people to evacuate, most of them to the homes of family and neighbors, as reported by press official Marilyn Hernandez Ferrer, vice-president of the Provincial Commission of Evacuation.

“We had to leave with the clothes on our backs because the water started to rise, and when we realized it we almost couldn’t save anything,” laments Manuel Rojas, a resident of the Cienfuegos town of Aguada de Pasajeros who says he has lost “furniture and animals,” among them pigs and chickens.

Rojas has moved into the house of “some neighbors who live in a higher area, but the water keeps advancing, and we may also have to get out of here soon,” he said by telephone to 14ymedio.

According to reports from the authorities in Cienfuegos, the pumping of water to homes will be affected by the flooding of the pumps and transformers in the Damuji plant.  Service will be available only every four or five days.  The provincial directors have said that the situation should be resolved in 72 hours after the waters recede.

The Abreus dam discharge is keeping the residents of Aguada de Pasajeros isolated.

With transportation services and sales of bread and milk interrupted, the residents of the Rodas township try to protect themselves and spend the most difficult moments with the provisions that they managed to stockpile before the weather situation deteriorated.

“We have joined three families in the top floor of this house because it is made of masonry and is quite strong,” says Osniel Sosa, area resident.  “But the biggest problem that we have now is supplies because there are several children and old people who need products like milk, and there is none.”

The Damuji River, which crosses the settlement, is out of its banks, and the houses closest to its channel have been partially or totally covered by water.

The Cienfuegos resident complains that “so far there has been no food distribution” for those who are trapped by the waters in their own homes or those of neighbors or relatives.  “We have been isolated and thanks to radios with batteries that some have and the charge that remains in some cell phones we have been able to learn that the rains will continue.”

The official media have labelled the situation “very tense” in the Cienfuegos refinery where emergency teams work through the dawn in order to prevent the continued discharge of the contents of the oil pools into the area of clean waters.

So remained the refineries’ petroleum pools of #Cienfuegos, #Cuba, when the hydrocarbons met with clean water. [Video shows people ‘fishing’ in the flooded streets]  

— Adonis Subit Lami (@asubit) 28 May 2018

Technicians are trying to install a barrier to stop the environmental disaster of the refinery’s oil winding up in the sea, and its general manager has promised before local media that the state entity will repair “any environmental damage.”

In recent hours the province received some 200 millimeters more in the rain guage, and several settlements in the mountainous region of Cumanayagua have become isolated.

The Water Resources provincial delegate, Pablo Fuentes, asserted that the six reservoirs of the Cienfuegos territory are 109.6% full and are all releasing excess water.

In the capital the weather has worsened with the dawn, and the weather forecasts point to a day of intense rains.  Rains again complicate the routine of Cuba’s biggest city and aggravate the situation of countless homes in the city that are in a state of good or bad repair.

“Yesterday we were afraid that the sun would come out, and on drying, the walls or roof would fall, but now the fear is that it will keep raining,” says Yanisbel Ponce, resident of Reina street at Escobar.

Authorities had activated the Civil Defense in the province, and most of the city’s schools have been empty or half-empty of students since Monday.  On the local Havana radio, government authorities recommend not going out to the streets because of the danger of collapse of balconies and facades or the fall of electrical cables, while in the streets the people ask why the Civil Defense did not announce in time the hurricane “alert” or “alarm” before the rains from storm Alberto.

In the area of Infanta and Manglar, an area that usually floods with strong rains, residents have been ready since Sunday for any contingency.  The majority of families in the area have spent years dealing with these types of phenomena and have created means of protection.

“Here the entrances to the houses are not at ground level, but most people have made stairs and walls that, although inconvenient, protect from the water,” says Mariacarmen Gonzalez, resident of a building located on the central corner.  “Anyway, when there are so many days of rain, it is best to evacuate the mattresses and refrigerators.”

A few meters from the place, several residents of a small, marginal neighborhood take advantage of a brief pause in the rain in order to reinforce their roofs, like a resident of El Platanito who says:  “I got a tarp that is going to help me cover a leak that I have in the roof over the bed.”

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 New Crypto-currency is Born in Cuba, The "Etecso"

A Cubacel user on the mobile web network (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Havana/Miama, 26 May 2018 — The Telecommunications Company of Cuba (Etecsa) announced Thursday on Round Table program that beginning on June 5 people will be able to make three balance transfers daily between cell lines in the country and the charge for this service will be 20 cents CUC for this service instead of the current 30.

The measure triples the number of times that was permitted to send money from one phone to another and facilitates transactions for those who use the cell phone balance as a virtual currency.  It is not clear if this practice is legal or not, but it spreads every day.

“This is very good,” says Yosvany, a clandestine clothing and footwear seller on the Cienfuegos boulevard.  The man laments that the company does not allow an unlimited number of transfers, which according to him, would facilitate his business. continue reading

“It’s not the same having to carry CUCs and pesos to make a transfer from cell to cell,” he says.

The fear of a sudden and announced monetary unification, the poor quality of the bills as well as the presence of fake bills or simply the convenience of carrying out transactions without the need to count cash means that many Cubans prefer to use the phone balance transfers as their payment currency.

“For me this is marvelous.  My son reloads my phone every month from abroad and I pass some of the money to each of my relatives,” Angelina Verdecia, resident of Gloria street, told this newspaper by phone.  The woman, 68 years old, says that she does not understand much about technology, but her grandson uses the cell phone “even to pay the courier who runs errands for the bodega.”

Verdecia, however, laments that the transfers that she makes through her phone do not count for extending mobile lines’ annual contract.  In Cuba, one must add a balance before the year ends so that the line does not expire.  If the line owner does not, he loses the 40 dollars he paid for it.

The balance transfer is a service that Etesca implemented for prepaid customers (most cell phone users on the Island) in 2015, with a cost of 30 cents CUC for each transfer.  After this Friday the service will have a cost of 20 cents CUC (about five pesos in the CUP national currency).

In order to transfer balances from one cell to another one enters the access code *234# and follows the system instructions.  From once cent CUC up to 2,999 CUC can be sent.  “Within the company many of us are aware that there is a group of unscrupulous people who improperly use this service that Etecsa provides,” says an Etesca director from Santa Clara; he prefers not to reveal his identity because he is not authorized to speak with independent media.  The telephone company manager is referring to the use of the cell balance as money to pay for products or services or carry out commercial transfers.  “Those citizens should know that they could be committing a crime, and the company could cancel the contracts of those phone line owners who are involved,” he added.

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.

"You Are Not in Control Here," the Refrain that Silences Women

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 26 November 2017  — In the Havana neighborhood of La Timba a teenager loudly sings Latin trap song that causes a stir among young Cubans:  “You are not in control here, silence/Pay attention you evil woman.”  The rhythm is gaining ground on the Island with its lyrics charged with misogyny and gender violence.

Born in the United States in the ’90’s and censored in the Island’s official media, a good part of trap music glorifies drug use, casual sex, violence and criminal acts.  Its refrains have managed to displace the popular reggaton that from the beginning of this century dominated the Cuban music scene.

Trap has gone viral thanks to technology.  Many of its follower are under twenty and use bluetooth in order to send songs from one phone to another.  Mobile applications like Zapya and services like YouTube are the best record labels that the exponents of this catchy music count on. continue reading

The Colombian Maluma, the American Arcangel, together with the Puerto Ricans Bad Bunny and Ozuna, are the best known stars of the new phenomenon in Cuba.  Their lyrics are loaded with stories about slums where scheming, drugs and weapons are part of the day-to-day life.

In the trap music context women are often seen as property of the man and dependent on his whims.  Scenes of sexual assaults, young people drugged or tied to the bed and continuous infidelities are hummed by children and teens on the bus, in the classroom or on the sidewalks throughout the Island.

Some lyrics are pure dynamite in a region where gender violence indices are alarming.  A recent report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and UN Women warns that Latin America and the Cariberrean have the highest rates of homicide against women in the world.  “The role of the media as transmitters and builders of cultural models” makes them allies or adversaries in the “fight for equality,” warns Amnesty International.

The image of women in the media is also included in the analysis of these acts of aggression.

Trap musicians defend themselves against accusations of misogyny by claiming that they simply hold a mirror to poor neighborhoods where machismo reigns. They make themselves out to be chroniclers of a daily reality wherein women are often used as bargaining chips between gangs or to settle disputes.

The Cuban authorities have reacted to the spread of trap music with an avalanche of articles in the official press, in which they accuse the genre of depicting women as mere objects of desire. The song, 4 Babys, by Maluma, has been censored from television and radio playlists.

Nonetheless, the Columbian’s voice can be heard frequently in recreation centers, school parties and on public transportation. “They always give me what I want / They put out when I tell them / Not one says no,” a dozen students could be heard chanting during recreation at a primary school in Centro Habana.

“I have forbidden my grandson to play those songs because nothing good can come from those lyrics, but there is no way to prevent it because it’s all over the place,” complains Lucinda, 72, a resident of the city of Santa Clara. “It’s not enough to tell him that he cannot listen to that music at home if they’re playing it even at school,” she laments.

Patriotic ballads are often alternated with the most raw reggaeton and trap. The thousands of teachers barely past adolescence who are staffing the classrooms of the nation, due to the personnel shortage in education sector, are avid fans of these genres.

“I want do do Fifty Shades of Grey to you, tie you to the bed with tape, start at 11 and end at 6,” says the song, 50 Shades of Austin, by the singer Arcangel–which is on the phone or tablet of every student in the Old Havana prep school.

“I don’t see anything wrong with it because it’s not real, it’s a story the singer made up to have a good time,” says middle school student Magela. “It’s not like we’re listening now to Arcangel and then are going to do what he’s saying. It’s like a video game, where you don’t really die,” she explains.

The discussions over the new style have reached the television studios. During a recent debate, Israel Rojas, the lead singer of the duo Buena Fe, was pointing to educational deficiencies in school and at home as the soil in which trap music takes root.

However, Joseph Ros, an A/V producer, warned against the dangers of censoring those themes and of a lack of dialogue over decisions about political culture in the country. The censoring of political or erotic content tends to feed the popularity of songs and videos.

During the 90s, the independent Association of Women Communicators, or Magín, convened more than 400 professionals, largely from the world of television and radio, with the objective of changing “women’s image in the media,” according to one of its founders, Sonnia Moro.

Magín members tried to “confront sexism, taboos and stereotypes,” and the messages that help reinforce “the patriarchal mindset,” but the group was quickly “deactivated” by the Central Committee of the Communist Party. “We were stunned,” admits Moro, who also points to “an absence of focus on gender” in Cuban education.

Last Friday in the WiFi zone on La Rampa, Melisa, barely 9 years old, was asking her mother to download the Soy Peor [“I’m Worse”] video. “Go on your way because I’m better off without you / Now I have others who do me better,” sings the Puerto Rican, Bad Bunny. “If I was a son of a bitch before / Now I’m worse, because of you.”

With a few clicks and no hesitation, the woman booted up the material that the girl would later share with her friends.

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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.

Translated By: Mary Lou Keel and Alicia Barraqué Ellison

The Cuban ‘Big Brother’ Seen by 57 Writers

About 90 people showed up at the bookstore Altamira Books for the presentation of the book ‘El compañero que me atiende.’ (14ymedio)

The book ‘The Compañero Who Watches Me’ was presented last Thursday in Coral Gables (Florida) and reflects its authors’ preoccupation with the omnipresence of surveillance in Cuba

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 3 November 2017 — Writing a book can be like an exorcism, especially when trying to leave behind ghosts of the past. This is the case with publisher Hypermedia’s new book, El compañero que me atiende (The Compañero Who Watches Me), a compilation of fictional stories by 57 authors, collected by Enrique del Risco, about the omnipresence of surveillance in Cuban life. Something that marked the national literary output.

“This book is not a memorial of grievances, nor is it a book about repression. In the Cuban case, on the list of those aggrieved by a regime that is close to finishing its sixth decade, writers score rather low compared to other parts of society,” clarified compiler Del Risco. continue reading

The book, almost 500 pages long, was presented Thursday in the bookstore Altamira Books, a very welcoming place in the city of Coral Gables (Florida); the store’s purpose is to “foster knowledge and use of the Spanish language,” according to its owners.

Del Risco, the renowned Cuban poet and narrator Legna Rodriguez Iglesias, Abel Fernandez Larrea, Jose M. Fernandez and Luis Felipe Roja, journalist for Radio Marti, presented the book to almost a hundred people among whom were some of the best Cuban writers in exile.

“This book began as an idea and was written thanks to the enthusiastic response of the authors who are in Cuba and in the diaspora. We have stories by 57 writers who are not only in the United States but in different parts of Latin America, Canada and Europe,” explained Del Risco.

El compañero que me atiende collects for the first time passages by authors who speak of the surveillance work of the Cuban state and how this influences the Island’s literature. Del Risco told 14ymedio that the response exceeded his expectations. “We have writers of all ages. Censorship and surveillance is a national phenomenon that has happened at all social levels and is a common denominator in the whole revolutionary process,” he said.

“The book also helps those writers and artists who have been censored and surveilled feel part of a society that suffers that as a whole. It is not just something that belongs to intellectuals but workers, women, students, everyone has been a part of and victim of this phenomenon,” explains Del Risco.

Among the authors who live on the Island is the writer – recently released from jail – Angel Santiesteban, who presents his story The Men of Richelieu, part of an unpublished book entitled Zone of Silence.

Also from Cuba came stories by the actress and writer Mariela Brito, Raul Aguiar, Atilio Caballero, Ernesto Santana, Jorge Angel Perez, and Jorge Espinosa, among others.

‘El compañero que me atiende’ will be for sale on Amazon and in some Florida bookstores. (14ymedio)

The central idea of the anthology is to give voice to writers so that they can describe the surveillance atmosphere created by the totalitarian state as a consequence of the political system installed in Cuba after the 1959 Revolution.

Writer Jose M. Fernandez, who emigrated to the Dominican Republic in 1998, recalled that in his writings he had proposed the thesis that the Cuban political system, in spite of having declared itself atheistic, “was organized as a profoundly religious structure around a dogma.”

“It had its Christ and its martyrs, and the compañero who watched us was the ghost,” explains Fernandez.

Writing his story, removed from the politics but addressing the lurking danger of being heard in a country in which each person seems to be an ear of the state, “freed” him.

“I realized that it was like a salvation because the trauma accompanied me throughout my life. It was not caused by the censorship itself but because those who were my friends, my companions and those with whom I had to finish five long years of university lent themselves and caused it to happen,” says Fernandez who has had a prolific career in the Dominican Republic.

According to the author, although a good part of his story is fiction, there are some events that did occur in the city of his birth, Santiago de Cuba. On sharing his story with a friend, the response she gave surprised him: “As always happens in Cuba, the reality surpasses the fiction,” she told him.

Fernandez has planned to send a sample of the book “to the companion who attends him” with this dedication: “You fucked me over, but I immortalized you.”

Legna Rodriguez, for her part, said that a good number of Cubans do not realize how powerful the surveillance they are subjected to. “It is not felt or seen, but it becomes a sickness, an amorality, a cancer,” said the writer.

Luis Felipe Rojas remembered the long interrogations to which he was subjected by the authorities because of the passages that he published on his blog Crossing the Barbed Wire.

“I always thought that I should write about this, that I could fictionalize it, but it wasn’t until I left Cuba that all that flowed. Inside it would have been impossible,” said the communicator.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Clothing Store Clandestina Makes the Leap to Online Sales of its Designs

In spite of the difficulties of connecting to the web in Cuba, the business founded in 2015 by Idania Del Rio and Leire Fernandez has opted to distribute its products on the internet. (14ymedio)

The store gained international popularity after President Barack Obama’s visit to the Island in March 2016, when the leader ordered a t-shirt for his daughters.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 October 2017 – Clandestina, the clothing store that markets its own brand, this June became the first store of its kind on the Island to sell its products through the internet. Its creators emphasize the international character of their business, with clothing designed in Havana, sewn in Nicaragua and finished in South Carolina (U.S.).

In spite of the difficulties of connecting to the web in Cuba, the business founded in 2015 by Idania Del Rio and Leire Fernandez has opted to distribute its products on the internet. “We have barely had any internet this past week,” they say on their website. continue reading

Currently the store operates under the domain clandestina.co, but after November they will be able to move it to the better known “.com” which until now it has not been available.

Clandestina earned international popularity after President Barack Obama’s visit to the Island in March of 2016 when the leader mentioned the business in a televised interview and asked where he could find a t-shirt of that brand for his daughters.

All the products that will be sold on the web by by the small business are exclusive designs of the studio and can be acquired for 28 dollars.

The virtual store’s offerings includes six t-shirt designs, among which are some with the phrase “99% Cuban Design,” a slogan that defines Clandestina. Other more controversial designs show the face of an adolescent Ernesto Guevara labeled within the “revolutionary” category.

The virtual store offers six t-shirt designs, among which are some with the phrase “99% Cuban Design,” a slogan that defines Clandestina. (14ymedio)

With the new website, the small space located in the heart of Old Havana stands out among the private businesses that are using new technologies in order to promote their products on the Island.

So far, the presence of individuals on the web for business purposes has been limited to the vacation rental sector, as is the case with those who rent rooms in their homes to tourists through platforms like Airbnb or their own digital pages.

Some musicians, like the Singer Haydee Milanes, also have managed to sell their records on iTunes, and several app developers have placed their products in Google and Apple stores, but almost always with the help of some friend who lives abroad and can collect customers’ payments.

In Clandestina’s case, the fact that Fernandez has Spanish citizenship has permitted her to register the business in the United States in her name, and this opens “more opportunities for business.” Her idea is that “all the creation and art is done here and then produced in the U.S.”

The site sells products for delivery in the United States, Canada and Mexico, but its managers aspire also to hire a supplier in Europe to lower the cost of transporting merchandise to the Old Continent.

Clandestina intends to play with the image of international icons like Ernesto Guevara, from whom it has designed a youthful version. “It is a young Che . . . still a boy. He hasn’t done anything bad, he has not done anything,” says Fernandez, who nevertheless acknowledges being “tired of seeing Che on every street in Havana.”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Dissidence Museum in Havana Pays Homage to Poet Juan Carlos Flores

The artist Amaury Pacheco performed an artistic action in homage to the poet Juan Carlos Flores who committed suicide last year. (Dissidence Museum)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 22 October 2017 – Damas Street in Old Havana awoke Friday to the terrifying image of a man hanging from a balcony. After their fright passed, the residents realized that it was an artistic installation by Amaury Pacheco in homage to the poet Juan Carlos Flores.

The body that hung from a rope opened the exhibition Another Poet Commits Suicide, organized by the Dissidence Museum and the group Omni Zona Franca, in order to remember Flores and reflect on the “tradition of suicide that exists in Cuban culture,” as its organizers explain. continue reading

“Some time ago Luis Manuel Otero and Yanelys Nunez [managers of the museum] told me that they wanted pay homage to Flores but we did not encounter the moment and, now, the opportunity presented itself,” explained Pacheco to 14ymedio, minutes before the afternoon’s poetry recital.

Flores, born in 1962, committed suicide in the middle of last year at his house in the Alamar neighborhood after having struggled for several years with depression and psychiatric problems. Among his best known books are Group Portrait, Different Ways of Digging a Tunnel and The Kickback.

Pacheco, who belongs to the Omni Zona Franca Project to which Flores had close ties from its inception, added personal objects belonging to the poet to the exhibition. “I brought his manuscripts, clothes, the rope with which he committed suicide, and some of his other belongings to exhibit,” he explained.

The exhibit includes personal objects of the poet Juan Carlos Flores and the rope with which he committed suicide. (14ymedio)

“There were 20 years of friendship, and he embodied the poet his whole life, both in his imagination and in the social space,” emphasizes Pacheco, who believe that Flores’ verses “strongly touch on Cuban social reality.”

Yanelys Nunez, responsible together with artist Luis Manuel Otero for the Dissidence Museum, said that the title of the event is inspired by a text by Rafael Rojas about the death of Flores, an end that requires reflection about the incidence of suicide among Cuban artists.

Nunez recalled, before a dozen attendees, the end of Raul Hernandez Novas, Angel Escobar and “others who died in exile” like Guillermo Rosales and Carlos Victoria. To the list can be added also the writer Reinaldo Arenas and the painter Belkis Ayon.

Readings by poets Ariel Manzano, Cinecio, Osmel Almaguer, Irina Pino and Antonio Herrada began at six sharp in the small room, plus narrator Veronica Vega shared some remarks about the beginning of Omni Zona Franca in Alamar.

Poet Juan Carlos Flores was remembered with a poetry reading this Friday. (14ymedio)

Between coffee candies, cigarettes, water, rum and speeches, verses were read loudly in order to overcome the natural bustle of the Belen neighborhood.

For these artists, the homage to Flores is also “a way to rescue those poets important to Cuban history” but whom “the government or institutions render invisible,” Nunez notes.

The artist and curator thinks that these omissions are due to “cultural- or power-level intrigues.” Thus the exhibit Another Artist Commits Suicide permits retaking “those dark areas in Cuban culture.”

The poetry day this Friday, which began with the disquieting performance by Pacheco, closed with a hip hop concert headed by David D’ Omni and other guests. This Sunday the homage to Juan Carlos Flores will conclude with verses and questions, just as did his own life.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel