Without The Countryside There Is No Country

Hoeing weeds. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, July 6, 2020 —  There are serious challenges in the Cuban agricultural sector for more and better production, and Diario de Cuba has confirmed the discontent in large sectors of the campesino population over the repressive measures being applied by the Communist government.

These measures go beyond the precariousness that exists in the country, and what are considered “illegal” practices in Cuba are accepted practices by everyone who farms in countries where the free market regulates production.

In Cuba, the Government’s denunciations against the farmers have their origin in the terrible and deficient administrative judicial structure of the country, which, far from contributing to tackle the problems, makes them worse in an exorbitant way. There are all kinds of denunciations. The League of Independent Farmers, one of the organizations that promote the campaign, “Without the countryside there is no country”, has offered us some clues. continue reading

If there are problems in the food and feedstuff supply for animals, why does the Government have to sanction and repress an efficient producer who has a surplus and sells it to other producers? What reason prevents a pig farmer from obtaining some income from the sale of excess food that will certainly end up being allocated to other intermediate suppliers or the needs of the business itself? But no. This practice has been repressed by the authorities as a consequence of the denouncements that are multiplying among the producers themselves, pressured by the Communist organization, which at the local level maintains an iron control over operations to prevent them from being profitable and growing.

Another example has been the State’s intervention in harvests. Who said that expropriations don’t exist in Cuba? Far from advancing toward a necessary liberalization of the production and commercialization of agricultural products, the Government, in a return to the Communist norm since June 18, has reinforced centralization and State control over economic activities. In reality, intervention in the harvest of a producing farmer means his ruin and the impossibility of resuming the activity, in addition to the sanctions that can be applied.

Moreover, the Regime uses its communication media to blame the producing farmer as someone guilty of hoarding food and creating hunger. Instead of promoting the social image of the campesinos, as agents charged with sustaining the population in these difficult times, they are converted, in the eyes of the population, into thieves whose goal is to hide the harvests dedicated to Acopio, Cuba’s State Procurement and Distribution Agency. An injustice.

This campaign by the authorities to undermine the social base of the free campesinos in Cuba is provoking the first fears founded on the continuous aggression and the instruments of repression that exert a chilling effect on the freedom of economic participants. A sale of a product at a price which doesn’t agree with Acopio, for example, results in the immediate confiscation of the harvest. And the problem is none other than Acopio’s prices. While Cubans have to face elevated prices in the markets where they make their purchases, the producer is barely paid for his work, and furthermore, the debts of the State, prolonged in time, end up generating problems of solvency.

The League has denounced equally the scant attention paid by the Communist leaders to the needs of the farmers, something so simple as repairing a roof by supplying the construction material that the farmers can’t freely acquire. Rains affect the harvest, but without insurance that covers the damage, the losses ravage the field, and the State doesn’t assume its part of the responsibility. This occurs even with tobacco, a product intended for export that provides very important hard currency to the Government, income which barely reaches the producer.

To these problems are added infestations and infections that can’t be combatted because of the lack of pesticides and treatments that, instead of being produced in the country, have to be imported from the exterior. I don’t know what they are waiting for to advance in creating substitutions for imports. The Government is limited to blaming the embargo, but it doesn’t provide solutions to the problems.

Many of us ask how it’s possible that agriculture in Cuba produces these types of problems. That campaign, “Without the countryside there’s no country” is fully justified, because it looks for a 180-degree change in present conditions, certainly complicated, in those who engage in agricultural activity in Cuba.

The demands for freedom by food producers and the suspension of taxation for at least 10 years to strengthen development have been answered with more vigilance and repression. The consequence is that the shortage of food will increase, and Cuba will approach that food crisis spoken about by the United Nations World Food Program, which the Cuban authorities don’t want to recognize.

Time is running out for urgent changes, and hardship approaches. The problem of food is not going to be solved by planting in the yards of city homes, or in pots or on balconies. It cannot be solved until the ownership of the land is returned to the farmers and the free market in order to decide what they deem appropriate for their production and harvests.

It’s not a matter of leasing more land. Raúl Castro’s formula hasn’t given the predicted results. What needs to be done is to reverse the Communist agrarian reform, which has been a big historic fraud for Cuban campesinos, and which has prostrated the formerly competitive Cuban agriculture, in a structural crisis. The Cuban countryside can return, but it needs support and freedom. And thus, it has to be said very clearly, “Without the countryside there is no country”.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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Venezuela is Preparing to Send a New Shipment of Fuel to Cuba

The vessel Sandino was already sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury but continues to transfer crude. (Shipspotting.com)

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14ymedio, Havana, July 6, 2020 — For the second time in the last six weeks, the vessel Sandino was loading fuel this Sunday in the El Palito refinery, in the state of Carabobo, west of Caracas, according to information published by the local press.

With a source on the maritime tracking site marinetraffic.com, El Carabobeño says that the fuel is being shipped under the Cuban flag, and before it used the flag of Panamá, a strategy known as reflagging, which the Governments of Cuba and Venezuela use to evade U.S. sanctions.

The ship was constructed in 2009 and has already made one previous trip to the Island, on May 27, from Puerto La Cruz in Anzoátegui, said the same newspaper. In addition, three other ships from Venezuela—the Terepaima, the Petion and the Teseo—are in Cuba.

The Venezuelan newspaper notes that the El Palito refinery is at less than 50% of operability and can no longer cover the demand of the Venezuelan market. “It’s evident by the long lines of vehicles that start to appear again on the outskirts of the service stations with subsidized fuel en Carabobo and other regions of the country,” it explains.

The Petion and Sandino already have had sanctions imposed by the U.S. Treasury Department, but they have continued transporting crude between Venezuela and Cuba.

The Petion belongs to Trocana World and is operated by Caroil Transport Marine, a company registered in Cyprus. Both businesses are under the control of the brother of Brigade General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba and the head of Department V of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces. In addition, he is the ex-son-in-law of Raúl Castro and the Director of GAESA, the business consortium of the military on the Island.

This past March, Venezuelan opponents complained that Caracas was continuing to supply crude to the Island. Julio Borges contended that the “gifts” from Venezuela to Cuba rose to more than 40 trillion dollars in oil in the last 20 years. This is in addition to the humanitarian aid sent and the electrical plants financed.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The Fourth of July and the ‘Ladies of Havana’

George Washington in 1772, in the earliest known portrait of him. (Washington and Lee University)

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14ymedio, Frank Calzón, Miami, July 4, 2020 – In addition to honoring the independence of its country and the founders of the nation, the United States is celebrating prominent foreigners who helped General George Washington in the feat.

Washington, in addition to being the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army that defeated England, was elected President for three terms of four years, and, like Nelson Mandela years later, ignored those who wanted him to remain permanently in power, retiring to live with his wife, Martha, on their farm in Mount Vernon in Virginia, where he died years later.

Among the foreigners who gave aid to Washington in critical moments were the young Frenchman the Marquis de Lafayette and Henry Frederick, Baron of Von Steuben, who after serving under the orders of Frederick the Great of Prussia, offered his sword to the American colonies, instructing the patriotic Americans in the military arts. continue reading

This noble Prussian died in New York in 1794, while Lafayette was returning to his country to participate in the French Revolution and to challenge, risking his head, the French extremists who created power to make the revolution by basing it on tyranny and terror (something sadly familiar to Cubans) .

Thaddeus Kosciuszko, the military engineer who fortified Saratoga and West Point, and another Frenchman, Rochambeau, whom Washington presented as a “work colleague in the struggle for liberty,” also collaborated. Washington had a lot of reasons to appreciate him, because he knew that every army needs a quartermaster as well as good strategies and great soldiers.

In 1781, the situation of the Continental Army was complicated. In the war, which was approaching Yorktown, the British Commander-in-Chief, General Cornwallis, was counting on finally defeating the Americans.

The historian Stephen Bonsal says that Rochambeau wrote in these moments: “The Continental troops are almost without clothing and footwear. They’re at the limit of their forces.” Rochambeau didn’t hesitate to send the young Admiral De Grasse to secure aid from the islands of the Caribbean, as Charles Lee Lewis, another historian, tells us in his book, Admiral De Grasse and American Independence.

“I can’t hide the fact that the Americans had almost no resources,” wrote Rochambeau. According to the author of this book, Jean-Jacques Antier, when De Grasse arrived in Havana, the Spanish flotilla had already left for Spain, and the colonial Governor of the Island didn’t have enough resources to help the Americans. However, public opinion in the city supported the North American cause, and contributions quickly began to arrive. “The ladies of Havana surrendered even their diamonds and managed to collect the amount of 1,200,000 pounds.”

De Grasse navigated to Philadelphia with sufficient money to face the war that was looming, and this time Washington, traditionally very reserved, couldn’t contain his emotion and embraced De Grasse. The battle of autumn 1781, as well as the war, ended with the defeat of Cornwallis in Yorktown, and, as Bonsal said: “The millions donated by the ladies of Havana can be considered as part of the foundation on which the American nation was erected.”

Today, the contribution of Cuban Americans in maintaining freedom is doubtless less important: electing their governors, paying taxes and respecting the laws, like any person in a democratic society who appreciates liberty.

This fourth of July, we Cuban Americans have not forgotten Cuba and the Cubans who are 90 miles away, and we know that the United States is a nation that was formed and is formed with men and women from everywhere, with their sons and grandsons, men and women who chose freedom, and who contributed to its defense with their lives, their fortune and with what George Washington called their “sacred honor.”

On the day of American Independence, millions of Cubans remember the “Ladies of Havana” who helped Washington, and the Damas de Blanco [Ladies in White], who today, like them, defend the cause of freedom.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Machado Ventura Harangues The Countryside: You Have To Cultivate All The Land

In Cuba, losses during harvest and after collection represent 30% of total production, plus an additional 27% during distribution. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, June 27, 2020 – Machado Ventura, Second Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, is relentless. His call for Cuban farmers to cultivate all the land is repeated over and over in the pages of the official Communist newspaper, Granma, which has carried this message for weeks and months.

“The whole land must be productive,” Machado Ventura said in Holguín, accompanied by Valdés Mesa, the First Vice President of the Republic, recognizing the contribution of the credit and services cooperatives (CCS) in agricultural production.

This is one more chapter in the episode of desperation on the part of the Cuban authorities to make food production reach the whole population, and thus avoid the imports for which they can’t pay since they don’t have hard currency, and to remove the possibility of a food crisis that the World Food Program of the United Nations has anticipated for Cuba in a recent report, which has been noted in this blog. continue reading

Machado’s idea of making the whole land productive has a flip side, showing the harsh and harmful reality of the Cuban countryside: the land isn’t fully used at 100% of its capacity. Nor are the rest of the resources and production factors of the Cuban economy used, and the needed capital isn’t expected.

Machado should ask himself why the Cuban economy doesn’t take full advantage of the resources it has, including the talent, entrepreneurial spirit, assumption of risks and innovation, and he should conclude that if this isn’t happening, as it is in most countries in the world, it’s because the economic and social system imposed by the Communist Regime doesn’t allow it. There is no other possible explanation. Harangues won’t do it.

Recent history shows us that when a communist country gets rid of ideological pressures that prevent it from optimizing the use of productive resources, it leaps into development, like what occurred with Vietnam and the reforms of Doi Moi or the countries of Eastern Europe, where a powerful modernization took place once the chains that tied them to the Iron Curtain were broken.

There is no alternative for having an economy function at 100% other than putting resources at the disposition of the productive process efficiently. And thus, Machado ought to listen to, not direct or control, what the National Association of Small Farmers tells him, along with other organizations of independent farmers, who can explain to him why and how to increase food production in Cuba, by cultivating all the land.

And Machado has to stop, once and for all, asking for the impossible.

If he really wants to cultivate all the land, he has to bet on formulas other than those announced in the Granma article.

Agricultural production can’t be increased with the so-called “State productive poles”; this collectivist formula controlled by the State is a failure. The Cuban agricultural sector must have an open road to allow the cooperatives of agricultural production and the CCS to deploy their plans with total autonomy and freedom, depending only on the democratic and free decisions of their members, as happens in Spain, where the cooperative sector is playing a fundamental role in the present crisis provoked by Covid-19, as it always has in moments of economic difficulties.

Also, forget State enterprises, because their results are well known in Cuban agriculture. The lack of incentives and stimuli prevents the land from being prepared, and precisely-determined fixed work is falsely assumed to give results for the Cuban farmer.

And above all, a new legal system must be given to the farmers, so they can have autonomy and freedom to buy supplies, pesticides, tractors and all types of equipment with the resources generated, not mandated by the State.

The State shouldn’t be the unique “client” for Cuban farmers. The only client should be the consumer, who has to have freedom of choice to consume and be ready to pay, and not bother again with the regulated canasta [the basket of rationed basic goods].

Thus, Machado Ventura’s “request” of the State for increases will only create problems for the farmers, and later there will be defaults, terrible wholesale distribution by Acopio [State Procurement and Distribution] and all the evils derived from the State’s intervention in the economy.

Corollary: Cuban agriculture and livestock breeding should be in the hands of private enterprise, as in China and Vietnam, and other alternatives must be discarded because they have no future. And the example is more than evident.

A warning: What Machado Ventura calls “technocratic problems,” referring to the financial matters of the banks with the farmers, is not going to be solved with harangues. Because really, if the farmers need credit to develop their fields, the banks should be in a condition to help them, as they are in other countries. And credit shouldn’t be granted by political and ideological criteria, but with technical methods and efficiency, because it could be a potent stimulus not only for agriculture but also for the development of the Cuban financial system, which needs it. Certainly the term “technocratic problems” cited by Machado Ventura is terrifying.

Lastly, forget about stopgap solutions like the programs of municipal supply, if you want to feed the whole population. These programs end up giving food to people on three or four blocks in the large cities, but in no way can they meet growing needs. It’s not possible for them, by function and scale.

On the contrary, the solution lies in privatizing Cuban agriculture, increasing parcel size, promoting the merger of campesinos’ land without cooperatives, facilitating free choice for providers and buyers and giving the farmers what they want to plant and harvest. Commercial economic relations and private property rights must be extended to the farmers as soon as possible. It’s obvious that leasing the land doesn’t help. Repetitive harangues are exhausting and draining. And what is worse, they lead nowhere.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuba Tourism Opens Up on the Whole Island Except the Capital

The three-star Hotel Porto Santo, in Baracoa, is one of those that will open to national tourism on July 1.

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14ymedio, Havana, June 29, 2020 – On July 1, only some three-star hotels will open and in no case will inhabitants of Havana be able to reserve them yet. So tourism will start again on the Island after three months of being paralyzed by the Covid-19 epidemic.

With the provinces entering the first stage of the de-escalation, some tourist businesses have started to sell their services. But, if you’re from the capital, where reopening still hasn’t begun, you can’t even make a reservation.

For example, Gaviota, part of the Gaesa military consortium, has already begun offering packages for national tourism in some hotels, the majority of them three stars. The higher-range facilities are available only to foreigners. continue reading

“Today I read that now they opened Varadero and you can reserve in some hotels, but if you’re from Havana, you still don’t qualify,” Lidia Domínguez, a resident of the municipality of Playa, told 14ymedio via Messenger.

“For the opening of tourism to the internal market, Cuban citizens and resident foreigners in the country can stay at the hotel Porto Santo in Baracoa, Villa Pinares de Mayari in Holguín, Villa Gaviota Santiago and the Tourist Complex Topes de Collantes,” the press official said.

According to Trip Advisor, these hotels are described as “middle range,” and most of them receive the worst scores from clients.

Gaviota clarifies that the rest of the hotels and destinations “will begin operations gradually based on demand and the epidemiological conditions of the country.”

Cubanacán also announced this weekend that 13 of its three-star installations already have offers available for the Cuban public, among them Los Jazmines and the hotel Rancho San Vicente, in Pinar del Río; the hotel Caracol and Gran Club Santa Lucía in Camagüey; Atlántico Guardalavaca in Holguín and the Versalles and Brisas del Mar in Santiago de Cuba.

It also explained that restarting operations for international tourism will occur only in the second phase, and only in zones like Cayo Largo, Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo, Cayo Cruz and Cayo Santa María, all with high-range hotels.

Foreign tourists won’t be able in this stage to do city tourism, so they will have to limit their stay to the environment on the key where they find lodging. The information doesn’t clarify whether their family, friends or next of kin, or Cuban residents abroad who stay on the keys would have the possibility of going to visit those guest houses.

The residents of Matanzas already entered the first post-pandemic phase on Tuesday, and they can go the beach in Varadero, according to Ivis Fernández Peña, a delegate of the Ministry of Tourism in this region. “You always have to maintain the physical distance required,” warned the official.

In addition, he said that sales in the reservation bureaus will begin this Wednesday for Islazul and Gran Caribe in Varadero. He also pointed out that only when the demand of clients reaches 60% capacity, will others open, but gradually.

The president of Islazul, Rasiel Tovar, told the press last Tuesday that reservations can be made at points of sale and also on Islazul’s web page.

“We’ve been waiting for this news for some time at home, but we still don’t think we can reserve in any hotel, because none of our favorites are available right now. So we’re all going to Varadero to spend the day with the family on the beach,” Janet Meneses told 14ymedio from Matanzas.

“You have to take advantage now because when people from Havana can come it will be full of  buses so that weekends will bring hundreds of people to spend the day and everything will be full. Here they said that you have to keep a distance, but I still don’t know how they’re going to accomplish this,” she added.

The Government issued the order to close its borders and most tourism services since March 24, with the goal of minimizing the entry of coronavirus cases to the country.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The Andorran Press Mocks the Cuban Medical Brigade

The medical brigade with the Andorran Minister of Health, Joan Martínez Benazet. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, July 1, 2020 — The last members of the medical brigade in Andorra now fly back to Cuba without having made the least mention of the two members who abandoned the mission this past week. The head of the group, Luis Enrique Pérez Ulloa, said goodbye to the European principality with self-praise, affirming that they are leaving “with their duty accomplished.”

The health workers left Andorra in a bus around 4:30 in the morning this Wednesday for Spain, which has a connection only by highway, and they boarded a flight in Barcelona to take them to Havana, where they hope to be received with honors by the the Government general staff.

According to the official press, which dedicated a lot of coverage to the brigade’s work but didn’t mention the defection of two of its members, the Minister of Health of Andorra, Joan Martínez Benazet, said good-bye to the group at the Hotel Panorama, where they were staying. continue reading

“It’s been a luxury to have the Cuban medical brigade in Andorra,” said the Minister in a video recorded by Prensa Latina, calling it a “sister brigade.” We had a rate of infection of 1,100 persons per 100,000 inhabitants, the equivalent of the most affected cities in Europe,” he said. Martínez Benazet attributed the “rapid control” of the pandemic as well as the ability to treat everyone who was sick without exclusion to the discipline of citizens, the good condition of the health system and the reinforcement from the Cuban health workers.

The number of positive cases detected in Andorra is barely 855, and of these it is known that 52 died and 799 recovered. According to official data, the country’s rate of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants is the third highest in the world, behind San Marino and Belgium and ahead of the UK, Spain and Italy.

Pérez Ulloa related the great achievements of the Cuban brigade, among them that there were more than 64,170 individual instances of providing treatment to a patient. In addition, treatment for cases of Covid-19 were listed as “a total of 178 medical procedures, including mechanical ventilation and deep venous treatments, two temporary pacemaker implants essentially by our professionals (…), four pleurectomies  (pleural drainage), nine continuous dialyses, 19 deep vein thrombosis interventions, 14 treatments for airway disease, 31 mechanical ventilations, 56 anesthetic procedures, 14 hemodialysis catheter insertions and more than 540 patients recovered,” he added.

En Andorra, poco acostumbrados a los panegíricos de Cubadebate, la prensa ha mostrado su perplejidad, incluso llegando a la burla en el caso del diario Altaveu.

In Andorra, little accustomed to the panegyrics of Cubadebate, the press showed its bewilderment and, in the case of the daily Altaveu, even resorted to mockery

“If you read the assessment that the media of the Castro Regime has of the delegation (…), it is thanks to Cuba and the Cuban health workers, that the pandemic, the coronavirus, hasn’t swallowed up Andorra and the Andorrans. It’s been a miracle. (…) The figures are such that it’s evident that the brigade has saved the principality from Covid as, in his day, Charlemagne (medieval emperor who determined Andorran independence and the configuration of Europe) saved these latitudes from other threats,” recites the text.

Furthermore, the article, entitled “The Cuban health workers leave ‘with their duty accomplished’ ” raises doubts about the quantity of treatments cited by Pérez Ulloa.

“Supposedly they treated 821 critically ill patients in the Intensive Care Unit of the Nostra Senyora de Meritxell hospital. It’s obvious and it’s clear that the entire ICU of the hospital hasn’t treated this number of patients, there’s just no way. Its collapse would have been brutal. But in Cuba, of course, they will be heroes. They have been decisive in the recovery of more than 700 patients, which is the total number of all officially counted cases cured, and the Cuban health workers saw barely 20% of them,” the article said.

Altaveu also notes the silence around the “deserters.” “ ‘We return in good health, none of us has fallen ill and we have given the best of ourselves’,” stated the nurse, Leidysbet López. They all return minus two, it’s now known, but not one word was said about the defections. Clearly, it’s as if they didn’t exist,” the newspaper says.

This past Wednesday the leading story was the defection of Dariel Romero, one of the leaders of the brigade, a military doctor with family members in politics. The anesthesiologist presumably fled to Spain, where he has family members, with a Cuban nurse whose identity is unknown and with whom he is suspected of having a sentimental relationship that began in Andorra.

Although the details aren’t yet known, this personal situation, along with the climate of discontent with the Cuban consul in Barcelona, Alain González, who supervised the brigade in an authoritarian manner, are among the decisive factors for the “desertions,” according to Andorran sources.

The 39 Cuban health workers arrived in March in the small European state, a tax haven of almost 80,000 people situated in the Pyrenees between Spain and France, as a result of a contract whose terms are still unknown and which was financed by a millionaire family linked to Andorra, the Sirkias.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Detentions and Threats to Prevent a Demonstration in Front of the Yara Cinema

The zone around the cinema, at the corner of Avenue 23 and L, in the center of the capital, threatened to be overrun by agents of the Ministry of the Interior. (Facebook/Jesús Jank Curbelo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, June 30, 2020 – Several activists have denounced detentions and threats this Tuesday after being prevented from attending the demonstration called for 11:00 in front of the Yara cinema in Havana, to request justice for the murder of Hansel Ernesto Hernández at the hands of the police this past Thursday.

The zone around the cinema, at the intersection between Avenue 23 and L, in the center of the capital, threatened to be overrun by agents of the Ministry of the Interior, according to several witnesses. One of them said that in the streets next to the theater, there were several buses with soldiers inside, one of them with only women, dressed in green.

The artist Tania Bruguera was detained early in the morning by agents of State Security when she left home, according to her Facebook page. continue reading

“Tania Bruguera was taken (we still don’t know if it was by soldiers or police dressed as civilians – a kidnapping) leaving her house at this precise moment (6:17 Cuban time) to prevent her presence at the peaceful demonstration that will take place today in several points of the country against #PoliceViolence,” said the publication.

Other activists, artists and independent journalists also reported on their networks, with the hashtag #30JunioCuba, that they were surrounded at their homes or received warnings from State Security to not go out in the street today.

The writer Ariel Maceo Téllez says that two State Security agents woke him up to tell him that he was under house arrest for eight hours without clarifying the reason. In the same way, the independent journalist María Matienzo said on her social networks that a “supposed Major Alejandro” knocked on her door to prohibit her from leaving for the whole day.

The activist Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna, coordinator of the Citizens Committee for Racial Integration, said on his Facebook page that the night before, he went to throw out the garbage and was “kidnapped” by agents of State Security and a police official and taken to the police station.

“Now at 5:30, Major Alejandro interrogated me to tell me that my movement was limited, that I wasn’t to leave my house today, that they’re not going to allow the protest, that there won’t be rebelliousness of any kind, and that whoever protests today will be detained even for “propagation of the epidemic,” he said.

He says he was “escorted” to his home and they warned him that he could be criminally prosecuted “under the Law in Time of Emergency and War”.

The journalist of the digital magazine El Estornudo, Abraham Jiménez Enoa, also said that he is under “house arrest.”

“Several State Security agents dressed in civilian clothing and a patrol car with four officers were stationed on the ground floor of my house to prevent me from going out to cover the march protesting the death of Hansel Hernández,” the reporter complained.

The film maker, Carlos Lechuga, wrote this morning: “I woke up smoking an exquisite cigar so that the smoke would keep away the fat agent they had stationed outside my house.”

The organizers of the protest are asking for justice in the case of Hansel Ernesto Hernández, but also for the activist, Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, who will speak this Thursday at the headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, and for Silverio Portal Contreras, a member of the opposition organization “Cuba Independent and Democratic,” and a prisoner since 2018, for humanitarian reasons due to his health.

Besides the concentration in Havana, the promoters have called on people to come out in every province.

Hernández’s death was discovered last Thursday when his aunt reported the facts on social media. The young man, 27 years old, had an altercation with the police, who went beyond what was necessary, and he was killed by an agent’s gunshot.

According to the official version, published in Tribuna de La Habana three days later, Hernández was caught robbing spare parts from a bus. A patrol tried to intercept him, and he responded by throwing stones, after which the police discharged a weapon.

According to the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH), with headquarters in Madrid, although the official version was adjusted to the facts, there was no proportionality in the police act.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

For the First Time Cuba Sends a Medical Mission to a French Territory

The Cuban medical mission arriving at the airport in Martinique. (Twitter/@CTM_Martinique)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, June 26, 2020 – A brigade of 15 Cuban doctors arrived this Friday for the first time in a French territory, the island of Martinique in the Antilles, to strengthen the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The President of the Martinique Collective receives on the airport runway the Medical Brigade of Cuba that arrived on this territory to offer medical assistance to confront Covid-19,” the Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Cuban Chancellor, Eugenio Martínez, informed the local press.

The mission will last three months and will cover the lack of specialists in areas like pneumology, infectious disease, radiology and intensive medicine, according to Martinique authorities. continue reading

The daily France-Antilles published on its front page that the delegation of Cuban health workers arrived in Martinique at noon on Friday, on a special flight of Air Antilles Express, and was received with honors by the President of the Executive Council, Alfred Marie-Jeanne.

The newspaper explained that the doctors, “expected since April,” would work in the University Hospital Center in the Saint-Paul Clinic on the island.

The French Parliament approved, last year, a project to reform the health system that included a process whereby the territories of the French Antilles could contract doctors and health workers outside the European Union, in order to facilitate the recruitment of Cuban specialists. At the time, they expressly mentioned the sponsors, the senators from Guadeloupe and Martinique, Dominique Théophile and Catherine Conconne, respectively.

In addition to the contingent sent to Martinique, Cuba sent this Friday another two medical brigades of its “Henry Reeve” international contingent, to Anguilla, in the Caribbean, and to Guinea-Bissau, in Africa, State media reported.

The brigades that will provide service in Anguilla consist of five health workers, while the one going to Guinea-Bissau has 23 health professionals who will be added to another Cuban brigade working in that country, according to the Cuban News Agency.

Havana has 29,000 health workers in 59 countries, including some 3,300 who participate in the battle against Covid-19 in 29 nations. Last Saturday, one of the doctors, who held an important position in the brigade deployed to Andorra, defected along with a nurse.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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At Least 16 Ships Carrying Venezuelan Oil Navigate Without Direction on the High Seas

The United States has threatened to increase its list of sanctioned entities if they collaborate in the commerce and transport of oil from the Venezuelan state enterprise, PDVSA. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Havana, June 27, 2020 – At least 16 vessels transporting a total of 18.1 million barrels of Venezuelan crude and fuel are trapped in the waters of several countries, according to what Reuters published this Saturday with data from Refinitiv Eikon, a financial analysis platform.

The buyer countries avoid them to prevent possible sanctions on the part of the United States, which is hardening its pressure in order to reduce exports of oil from Venezuela, the principal source of income for the government of Nicolás Maduro.

Last week, for example, Washington imposed sanctions against two Mexican companies, among them Libre Abordo, under the accusation of “transporting petroleum robbed from the Venezuelan people,” and helping the regime of Maduro to get around the restrictions. The Treasury Department, in addition, has threatened to increase its list of sanctioned entities if they collaborate in the commerce and transport of crude from the Venezuelan state enterprise, PDVSA. continue reading

The United States also penalized five captains of Iranian ships with the blockade of activities in United States territory and the prohibition of operating in its waters, for having delivered 1.5 million barrels of oil to the South American country.

With things as they are, some ships have been on the high seas for more than six months, says Reuters, without being able to unload in any port, since the petroleum “rarely is offloaded in tanks without having a defined buyer.” While they wait, each vessel incurs heavy charges for delays. According to a shipping-line source in the British agency, the tariff for the delay of a ship that transports Venezuelan oil is at least 30,000 dollars per day.

Former clients of PDVSA, affirms Reuters, are worried because sanctions are imposed even for completing permitted transactions, like the payment of debt with oil or the exchange for food.

The difficult situation of exports from Venezuela is aggravated, concludes the agency, by the over-supply of the market, which  permits buyers to acquire crude that is less-risky than the Iranian or Venezuelan.

Last February, Venezuela denounced the United States before the International Criminal Court for the sanctions, accusing Washington of committing “crimes against humanity.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The Risks and Insecurity of Being a Doctor in Cuba

In training sessions, doctors are warned about publishing images that could slander the health system. (flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Cynthia de la Cantera, Havana, June 23, 2020 — Ernesto is considered an “old dog” in his profession as a primary doctor. However, he still remembers how he and his colleagues were “tattooed with fire” after the authorities warned them during a training session about Covid-19 protocols. “Be careful about publishing a photo or information that doesn’t agree with what is official, because notice will be taken at the highest level of what is said.”

The “inappropriate” photo or information refers, in his opinion, to the precariousness of the health system and the working conditions for medical personnel. The polyclinics don’t have bathrooms or rooms in a condition where doctors, who dedicate seven days a week to their jobs for barely 1,600 pesos a month, can rest, and this hampers the performance of all health measures. In addition, once they leave the hospital, the doctors encounter the same problems as the rest of the population: shortages and lines.

Access to medical sources and hospital centers in Cuba requires permission from the Ministry of Public Health, which already has been denied to the independent press under normal conditions. Now that health personnel are at the center of media attention, a public statement with the author’s identity can propitiate a sanction or expulsion from the health system, depending on the seriousness of the offense. continue reading

Ernesto, who uses a pseudonym, explains how his day usually goes. It begins at 7:00 in the morning in an apartment with three rooms, one for a nurse and two for consultations. “We don’t have water in the bathroom; nor in the sinks or the toilet. We have to get it in buckets.”

His first job is to fill out a sheet of paper, writing down the names of patients who are waiting by “medical groups,” a system of categories implemented by the Ministry to classify the population according to risks and vulnerabilities. “I have to see a minimum of 20 patients a day. If I don’t, my work isn’t considered productive.”

At 9:00 am, the medical students arrive and perform their surveys. Ernesto distributes forms and they must visit all the houses to learn how many people live there, their ages and symptoms. This system is based on the epidemiological vigilance that already was done for zika and dengue.

“After the first weeks the neighbors were calling me because the students weren’t coming by every day (as they were supposed to), but they were still handing in daily reports. Falsifying them is easy: first they fill out a complete questionnaire, well done, with all the data, and before handing it in, they take a photo. Then they use this as a template and visit the houses only a couple of times per week,” he laments.

Ernest tried to rotate the students to avoid the trap, but the faculty agreed that they should investigate in fixed areas to get to know their patients, with a maximum of 40 homes. “As you might understand, there are times they go and times they don’t,” he says.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of Ernesto’s patients has gone down, and he is already beginning to note the return to normality. “Most are older adults who come for prescriptions. They request the same thing two or three times, because there is a lack of medication and their prescription expires.” The doctor complains that the authorities haven’t approved extensions for prescriptions as they have for other things. “If I haven’t written 100 expired prescriptions, I haven’t written any. It’s a waste of time and incalculable resources since this country is so poor,” he complains.

Among the most requested medicines are analgesics like dipyrone and naproxen, antibiotics like gentamicin and triamcinolone, and sedatives like lorazepam, which aren’t available.

After lunch, Ernesto visits nearby patients who live alone and those who have declared symptoms to visitors or by the mobile application. “With these last, I have gone by and sometimes arrive and they tell me there’s nothing wrong with them, they’re bored, or they only wanted to see if the application really worked. Almost all are elderly adults. I ask them to imagine how it would be if they really needed me and I was visiting another person that falsified symptoms,” he says, although the application itself indicates that giving false information is subject to sanctions imposed by the law.

When he finishes his paperwork in the polyclinic, he concludes his day and lingers with his colleagues, chatting during the hour or hour and a half he spends waiting for the bus that drops off the medical personnel. Some of them, according to the municipality where they live, must wait for two or three hours.

Ernesto thinks he contracted coronavirus a couple of months ago after coming into contact with an Italian woman from Bologna. One week later, he was at the polyclinic with fever, a headache and fatigue, and they sent him to the Luis Díaz Soto military hospital in Havana. “The doctor looked at me and said, with a straight face, ‘What you have is tonsillitis. Go home’. He knew that I was a doctor because of the referral. The following day they disinfected my house, and I spent 21 days in quarantine. They didn’t do an analysis; I never knew what I had.”

The doctor believes that cases like his allow them to improve the statistics, although he says he doesn’t know of other cases of apparent omission of registering someone contaminated by the virus. “I don’t like to speak about politics, because everything is always misinterpreted, but the way they have of defending the system is by saying ‘look how we are managing the pandemic’.”

In this country they have already reported two outbreaks of contagion in hospital centers, both in Mantanzas. A local media gave details about the working conditions and lack of hygiene, and the scarcity of protective equipment that contributed to the outbreak in the Comandante Faustino Pérez hospital. The floor where the focal point originated had lacked water from more than a year. In addition, with all the personnel isolated in the hospital to avoid new contagion, the number of doctors available in the province was reduced, and the workload of the rest was increased, until a brigade from Mayabque had to be sent to help.

Milena is a medical student, in her last year, and she practices on the front line, but she fears for her pregnancy. “It really gets ugly when you begin to count between 25 and 30 ambulances a day that bring in patients with respiratory symptoms. They authorize specific consultations for them, so they enter on the other side of the hospital. They put me in the emergency room, but still, occasionally, suspicious cases arrive that way, and you have to examine them to do a pre-diagnosis.”

The young woman notes the influence of the international missions on the loss of professionals in Cuba. The Government maintains personnel in 59 countries, 3,300 in the 29 nations where they participate in the struggle against Covid-19, adding up to a reduction of some 29,000 health workers in Cuba.

“They formed groups to go relieve them. The intensive care specialists, internists, gynecologists and pediatricians were obligated to go, but the rest of them went voluntarily. After they took doctors for the missions they had to create more groups because there weren’t enough. No one knew what was going to happen,” she remembers.

“I was really afraid because the security measures weren’t great. They only gave you one cloth mask, the green kind, for the whole shift of 24 hours. They didn’t give out gowns or caps, not even eyeglasses. Only after the donations [of the Chinese Government] did things improve a bit. But still we were worried that some patient would arrive who didn’t have symptoms, coming for something else, and that one of us would get infected,” she says. She brings from home four or five masks, two protective suits, a pair of gloves and a surgical cap.

The Ministry of Health retired personnel over 60 years old with 60% of their salary because they were a group at risk, but not anyone pregnant, since it hasn’t been determined that the virus causes anomalies or severe complications, but Milena is afraid because the immune system is depressed during gestation. “In the case of Covid-19, you can have pneumonia or bronchial pneumonia, which is very dangerous for the life of the mother and the baby,” she says.

These fears have led some health workers who still haven’t reached their second trimester to present medical certificates that permit them to be absent until their due date. Then they extend them to week 34, when they can benefit from paid leave. But Milena had to go back after the first expiration date because she’s a student. “If I don’t fulfill the requirement of 80% attendance, I lose the right to my diploma,” she explains.

Mariela, a family doctor who practices in the Havana municipality of Revolution Plaza, is worried about the Program of Infant Maternal Attention. “The pregnant and lactating women take a series of courses each trimester, a level of monitoring that is one of the most exhausting there is.” This means more tests, more consults, more follow-ups, more information and reports. There’s no rest.

Before she was working from Monday to Friday and Saturdays until 12:00, but now she also has to work on Sundays, for the daily surveys. “No one expected this. And it’s not considered overtime. If we don’t do it like that, cases occur. But from my point of view, you get exhausted, because it’s not just Covid-19. You have a population with other diseases and follow-up programs. In addition, there are medical emergencies, the elderly, those who live alone, the following of contacts and those whom you have to see every day,” she says.

When health workers are tired, Mariela points out, they stop fulfilling the protocols with the same rigor, and now she can only rest in the days following emergencies in the polyclinic, four times a month.

“Have they told you when you could officially rest?”

‘No, I don’t know; I suppose it’s when all this ends.”

Francisco Durán, the head of the Department of Epidemiology of the Ministry of Public Health, has explained that the epidemic would be considered concluded 28 days after the last positive case, the time that corresponds to two periods of incubation of the new virus.

Meanwhile, Havana is full of posters that highlight the triumphant battle against the pandemic. Some include photographs of Fidel Castro and José Martí. There is one where several doctors appear with green masks keeping a distance; the first of them holds a Cuban flag.

It’s very probable that the photo was taken at the time of farewell for a medical brigade leaving on their mission. The text says: “For Cuba, together we will win.” The message is repeated in the State media to remind us that they are our heroes: those who wear the white coats. And really they are, but not for their unconditional support and discipline, but rather because they work without adequate means, without pay for extra hours, without days of rest and without being able to enjoy their families.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The Cuban Doctor who Fled from Andorra is Considered ‘A Leading Man’ of the Brigade

Dariel Romero, the doctor who supposedly abandoned the mission, is shown on the left together with Andorran Minister of Foreign Affairs María Ubach. On their right is Alain González, the Cuban Consul in Barcelona, next to the Andorran flag. (Altaveu)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, June 25, 2020 — With military training and family members in political positions, Daniel Romero, the anesthesiologist who supposedly fled last Saturday from the Cuban brigade in Andorra, was a key element in the delegation of 39 health workers sent to this tiny European country to fight COVID-19. According to the local press, a nurse joined him in his petition for asylum in the neighboring country of Spain, where both have family.

A rapid review of press reports, in Cuba as well as in Andorra, since the arrival of the brigade in Europe at the end of March, reveals Romero’s leading role. The anesthesiologist appears in high-level meetings with the Andorran Minister of Health, Joan Martínez Benazet, and the Consul General of Cuba in Barcelona, Alain González, who coordinated an intense propaganda campaign about “solidarity” and “philanthropy” as motives for sending medical brigades to 59 countries on the planet.

Barely ten days ago, Cubadebate published a video from Prensa Latina in which an Andorran doctor, Raúl Cerro, thanked the Cuban brigade for its collaboration in the Nostrada Senyora de Meritxell Hospital, specifically acknowledging Dariel Romero and the nurse, Yaquelin Oliva, with whom he worked in surgery. continue reading

The identity of the nurse who left with him is unknown; the only leak is that she was one of the youngest people on the brigade.

Apparently, the doctor left behind in his room the Andorran telephone that had been assigned to him plus work documents and a collection of data that the Government had entrusted to him, states Altaveu.

According to what 14ymedio has been able to verify, Alain González, the Cuban Consul, traveled on Thursday from Barcelona to Andorra. Although he is, on a political level, the one who mainly monitors the brigade, and his trips to the Principality have been frequent, it’s presumed that he now is meant to supervise and deal with the situation.

It’s said that González made the health workers uncomfortable, and that those responsible for the brigade were more flexible. González, on his trips to Andorra, imposed restrictions on them. They weren’t supposed to have contact with the population or with Cubans living in the country.

The group of 39 health workers arrived from the Island on March 29 to give support to the Andorran Health Service by caring for those who were ill from coronavirus. The Cubans had worked as specialists in internal medicine in the intensive care unit of El Cedre, a convalescent center for the elderly and disabled.

On May 15, three members of the delegation returned to Cuba, and some days later, another 13 came back. The 23 who remained still had to complete the work mandated by the Government of Andorra until the end of June, after which, in spite of the decrease in patients hospitalized, their stay would be extended for some weeks. The Health Minister, Joan Martínez Benazet, justified the decision alleging that the Cubans were meant to cover different services to allow the local professionals to rest.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Two Health Workers Escape From the Cuban Mission in Andorra

The Cuban health workers in the entrance of the hotel in Andorra where they are being lodged. (Cancillería Cuba)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, June 25, 2020 — A doctor and nurse have abandoned the official Cuban mission in Andorra and left for Spain to request political asylum. According to the Diari d’Andorra, those in charge of the brigade realized last Saturday that the two health workers had fled.

The group of 39 health workers from the Island arrived at the Principality on March 29 to help the Andorran Health Service by attending those ill with coronavirus. The Cubans had worked as specialists in internal medicine in the intensive care unit of El Cedre, a convalescent center for the elderly and disabled.

The delegation was supposed to finalize the work mandated by the Government of Andorra at the end of this month, after which, despite the decrease in patients hospitalized, their stay would be prolonged for a few weeks. The Minister of Health, Joan Martínez Benazet, justified the decision by alleging that the Cubans would cover different services to allow the local professionals some time off. continue reading

With an area smaller than Havana and a population of barely 80,000, Andorra is a tax haven that shares borders with Spain and France. The Principality, which also makes a living from winter sports, has been significantly affected by coronavirus so that even with such a small population, there are 855 positive cases, 52 deaths and 797 recoveries.

Havana has 29,000 health workers in 59 countries, including some 3,300 who participate in fighting COVID-19 in 29 of them.

When a Cuban health worker “deserts”, according to the official terminology, he risks being penalized by being required to wait eight years before he can again enter the Island. Also, the part of his salary in Cuban pesos that he accumulated on the Island is confiscated by the State, and his family doesn’t have access to these funds.

The official Cuban propaganda calls these health workers who decide not to return “deserters”, but several international organizations consider them victims of human trafficking.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

“The Man With the Flag” Protests in Front of the Cuban Embassy in Guyana

The activist, Daniel Llorente, “the man with the flag”, in front of the Cuban Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana. (Cortesía)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, June 23, 2020 — Daniel Llorente, known as “the man with the flag” after interrupting the May Day parade in 2017 by unfurling a United States flag to protest against the Government, had to move away from the door of the Cuban Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana, where he was demonstrating.

The motive of his protest, according to what the activist told Radio Television Martí, is that the diplomatic seat is “promoting the dictatorship” and doesn’t care about its citizens in Guyana.

Cuban officials notified the police that they asked Llorente to leave because “he couldn’t protest” owing to the “power” of his words. The dissident explained to the Miami chain that an employee of the Embassy suggested that he go protest in front of the American Embassy, but he refused. “You’re stupid,” replied Llorente after the Cuban official closed the door, putting an end to the brief exchange. continue reading

In May of 2019, Daniel Llorente reported that he had been forcibly exiled to Guyana, where he’s been for more than a year. His feat during the Workers’ Day march, protesting in front of Raúl Castro and the upper elite of the Communist Party, in addition to the accredited international press, made him internationally known, but it also involved his being sent to a psychiatric center for a year.

When he left the center last year, Llorente was pressured by State Security. In one of the interrogations to which he was submitted, they warned him that if he persisted in his attitude, he would have to choose between leaving the country or prison.

Days later, two agents came to his home and took him to buy a ticket to Guyana. “Before getting into the car they told me, ’Daniel, we’re advising you not to come back. Since you say the Americans are your friends, go tell them to help you. Don’t return. If they don’t help you, continue living there, because you’ll regret it if you come back,’ ” he told 14ymedio at that time.

Llorente’s intention always has been to travel to the U.S., and he has repeatedly requested asylum, but up to now he hasn’t received a response.

The activist has legalized his immigration status as a political refugee in Georgetown, but his economic situation has been very precarious, and he’s been sleeping on the street, according to what he told Cubanet last year.

Although his recognition as a political refugee by the United Nations allows him to receive aid, the amount remains limited for facing expenses like rent and daily living.

Guyana doesn’t request a visa for Cubans to enter its territory. For this reason, many travel to this country with the hope of continuing their route to the United States.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

San Antonio de los Banos Runs Out of Water

“They’re only prioritizing the delivery of water in water trucks, for families who have ill, bedridden members.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, June 22, 2020 — Entire neighborhoods in San Antonio de los Baños, in Artemisa, have been without running water for more than a week. The frequency of delivery has been deteriorating for several months, and the only response those affected receive is that “the water table is dry”.

“The water system in our zone has presented problems for several months. We began having service one day on and one day off, then every 72 hours, but in these last 10 days, we don’t have service at all,” explains Pilar, one of the neighbors.

San Antonio de los Baños is the most important municipality in Artemisa, because it’s where the Ariguanabo River flows for 14 kilometers. Traditionally, water delivery in the zone has been supplied from the river basin, especially from springs and wells next to the river, but the drought, industrial residue and overexploitation have severely damaged its flow. continue reading

“Water delivery, in water trucks, is prioritized for families that have ill, bedridden members, says another neighbor, who notes that the most affected zones are Nodarse and Palenque. Families have to carry water in tanks and buckets long distances in order to perform domestic chores and maintain the hygiene measures recommended to prevent contagion by the coronavirus.

“This town is known for its river and its waters, but now we should change the name, because nothing remains of the “baños” [baths], and the river is almost dead, and there is no water in the houses,” explains an employee of the Las Yagrumas Hotel. “We have a bedridden old woman in my family, and in all these days we’ve only received 20 liters of water to be able to wash her.”

For farmers in the zone, the lack of water is also a problem, although several of them interviewed by this newspaper benefit from private wells. “I use a well in the courtyard for the whole field and the crops, but in the house, water normally comes to us from the street, and in 12 days we haven’t even seen one drop,” says Raudel Ramos, a farmer who lives on the periphery of San Antonio.

“The whole aqueduct network is very damaged and deteriorated,” adds Ramos. “For years here we’ve had problems with water that arrives dirty, contaminated, and even with a bad smell, because the plant hasn’t been maintained for a long time.”

The network of the San Antonio de los Baños aqueduct began construction in 1894 and initially took water from a spring of the Catalina in the Quintica together with the Ariguanabo River. “The whole structure is very old, and now we’re paying the price.”

In light of the complaints of the residents, the local radio station, Radio Ariguanabo, last week interviewed the provincial director of Acueducto y Alcantarillado de Artemisa [Water and Sewerage of Artemisa], Miguel Jiménez Álvarez, who explained that the prolonged drought of the last years has dried up the water table and service will continue to be unstable for several months, also owing to repairs in the infrastructure.

The situation, faced by the almost 49,000 inhabitants of the municipality and their constant complaints brought about on June 12 the emergency meeting of a Temporary Work Group, created by the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources for hydraulic regularization of the Ariguanabo River Basin, but the service has not improved nor have there been new explanations.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

American Baptists Organize a Shipment to Cuba with Food and Hygiene Products

At the beginning of the year, a pound of rice could be bought in the free market for 5 Cuban pesos (CUP) and now has reached 50 CUP in the informal networks.(EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, June 15, 2020 — A family of evangelical parishioners from Waco, Texas, is organizing a shipment of food and hygiene products at the request of the Baptist Church in Cuba. According to Ken Camp, the publisher of a religious newspaper, Baptist Standard, L.M. Dyson, along with his son Peter, and Christian associations from other states, is coordinating a shipment to the Island of a 40-foot container (more than 12 meters, the largest in maritime transport), with beans, rice, dry soup, oil, diapers and non-prescription medicine.

The organizers of the initiative are hoping to send, says Camp, up to 18 containers with a total value estimated at a half-million dollars for the Baptist churches in Cuba to share with those who need it most. He is scheduling the first of these shipments to arrive at the port of Mariel on July 7.

The publication notes that, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, around 265 million people in the world will suffer severe hunger by the end of this year, and that three-quarters of the food consumed by the 11.4 million inhabitants on the Island is imported. continue reading

The arrival of the pandemic in Cuba has aggravated the food-shortage situation, especially the supply of grains, oil and rice. On the informal market, this last product has multiplied in value by ten, and if, at the beginning of this year a pound of rice could be bought in the free market for 5 Cuban pesos, now it costs 50 in the informal networks.

Recently, the city government of Miami and the Foundation for Panamerican Democracy called on citizens to donate “staples” to help the Cuban people confront the COVID-19 crisis through the “Solidarity among Brothers” initiative.

The donations were collected in the Convention Center in the Winwood neighborhood, and it was announced that the shipment would be sent to Cuba and later distributed through a network of Catholic churches.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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