Some 40 Mexican Doctors Who Don’t Want to Go to Cuba Request Protection Under a Writ of Amparo

Some of the doctors who filed for a writ of amparo—a protection order—protested on February 9 in the Zócalo of Mexico City against being forced to go to Cuba. (Excelsior)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, February 18, 2021 — Around 40 Mexican doctors have come together to file amparo lawsuits for protection from being forced to study their specialty in Cuba by the Government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The writ of amparo—a legal instrument that exists in Mexico to protect citizens from possible arbitrariness by the Stateis based on alleged violations in the selection process, which they agreed to after passing the National Examination of Applicants for Medical Residency (ENARM) last November.

“In Mexico, any act of authority must be duly founded and motivated, and if it had been established in the call for applicants that the only place of destination was Cuba, there would be no problem,” the lawyer Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, representing to the plaintiffs in Mexico City, explains to 14ymedio. “The point is that the doctors took the exam, but they weren’t told that it was to study in only one country.” continue reading

López Obrador announced in May last year that they would create a program of specialty scholarships abroad for doctors due to the lack of places in Mexico. In November, the health authorities reported not only the doubling of places but also the launch of up to 1,600 scholarships abroad, destined for Canada, the United States, Argentina, Cuba and Australia, under the National Council for Science and Technology of Mexico (CONACYT).

It should be noted that in these countries, access to medical residency for foreigners involves strict immigration requirements as well as qualification by a demanding specialty exam, something which the Mexican Government did not mention at any time when announcing the creation of the scholarships.

When CONACYT published the requirements to fill 1,000 places with scholarships on December 15, the students who had already received their ENARM diplomas discovered that the only destination available to them was Cuba.

The Undersecretary of Health Hugo López-Gatell— the visible face of the Government during the Covid pandemic—told the protesters that they “are free” to not go to the Island, but in this case they will have to repeat the exam in the next call.

In this regard, the lawyer recalled that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ensures the rights of people during the pandemic, and that the document asks governments and their leaders to be ethical and clear in their pronouncements. The official’s position, Rodríguez says, was added as evidence in the last lawsuit.

“There were only four locations authorized in Mexico where you could take the exam, and doctors from all over the Republic had to travel to these places. Many of them had to borrow money to do so. They didn’t know that they would have only one option for being placed, and this is something that López-Gatell didn’t consider. He is not taking into account the effort put in by the doctors who participated and won a place in the quota,” the lawyer points out.

“The rules weren’t clear, which is either an inconvenient mistake or a purposeful violation, and that is what we are contesting by way of a writ of amparo,” insists Rodríguez, a member of the Lex Artis Medica, a medical law group.

“Changing these circumstances is detrimental to the rights of resident doctors, who have earned a place in Mexico’s academic system,” he explains. “We want the judge to order the authority to respect the doctors’ rights, since they passed the exam.”

According to the lawyer, the doctors are aware that the Mexican health system can’t take on so many residents, and in the event that the State alleges that there are no places to send applicants, the lawsuit also requests that the quota they’ve already obtained serve them for the following year.

“This is not a problem generated by the doctors; it’s a problem that the State itself created by increasing the number of places, and by the Mexican health system for not having the capacity to accept them,” he asserts.

The lawyer also considers it extremely serious that the Cuban Medical Services Marketing Company prohibits postgraduate studies for HIV carriers and pregnant women. “The State should put an end to these discriminatory barriers and gender-based violence and it hasn’t done so, nor has it issued one single statement of agreement to improve these circumstances,” Rodríguez denounces. “In no way are we asking the Court to issue a recommendation to another country, but it can tell the Government to revise those parts of the agreement between Mexico and Cuba.”

The process began with the lawsuit filed last January by 12 doctors, which was joined at the beginning of February by another group. Little by little, Rodríguez assures, more doctors are being added: “They can either lose their place and retake the exam or join the lawsuit.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has slowed down the process due to the suspension of activities in the courts, but this week the doctors were informed that the lawsuits are already being reviewed. “At any moment we will have a resolution; either they will support the claims or they will ask us to clarify some point for the judge; in the worst case, they will dismiss the lawsuits.”

In March the doctors are supposed to begin residency in their specialties, but the processing of the protection orders could postpone their studies.

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.

Cuban Government Must Normalize Relations With Cubans Before Doing So With The U.S.

The petitioners’ demands are directed to politicians of both countries. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 15, 2021– Cuban citizens residing inside and outside the Island have published a letter asking the U.S. Government not to normalize relations with Cuba as long as the Cuban Government hasn’t normalized relations with its own citizens. The text is also addressed to the Cuban Government and the U.S. Congress.

The signers say that they were disillusioned with the thaw between the U.S. and Cuba that began during the presidency of  Barack Obama in 2014. They learned something from the frustration of that moment, and their petition is based on these lessons.

“During normalization, there were no advances in human rights on the Island. National and international organizations documented high levels of repression against civil society and opponents of the Regime. Many activists, journalists, entrepreneurs, and artists who supported normalization have since gone into exile,” they emphasize. continue reading

The petitioners consider that totalitarianism is inherent to the Regime, and they point out that since Joe Biden was elected President of the U.S., and especially since he took office, the arrests and harassment of several people from civil society have increased.

In addition to alluding to the repressive nature of the Cuban authorities, they refer to problems related to the economic system, which weren’t resolved in the previous reestablishment of relations and, on the contrary, deepened the inequalities. “During the previous thaw, it’s true that a certain urban middle class grew that maintained an attitude of non-confrontation or collaboration with the Regime, but the impoverished majority of the country didn’t benefit.”

In the text, the activists declare themselves committed to the democratic advancement of Cuba and support a new negotiation between the governments of Havana and Washington, but with six conditions, which are, in their opinion, “minimal and indispensable.”

First, they call for diverse groups in civil society to actively participate in the normalization process. In addition, they request that the negotiations be transparent and that what is addressed in the meetings be made known to citizens of both countries and disseminated by the press, without a distinction between the official and the independent press, in the case of Cuba.

“The process should be accompanied by mediators of credibility and experience such as the Vatican, Norway, and the European Parliament, and it should multilaterally involve governments and civil society in Europe and Latin America,” they claim.

The third condition is that there be official recognition of the “civil, economic and political” rights for Cubans, and that the Cuban Government ratify the international agreements on human rights.

They also demand that the human rights agreements have specific goals that can be evaluated and supervised by other governments, and that the process of normalization be discontinued in the case of violations.

The immediate release of political prisoners and the legalization of civil and political organizations should be, they assert, the first requirement, without which no negotiating process should be initiated.

With regard more specifically to the U.S. Government, the document also calls for the restrictions on travel and the sending of remittances “by civil means” as well as through consular procedures to be repealed.

Meanwhile, the Cuban side must eliminate “the prohibitions from leaving and entering the country for doctors, athletes, professionals, dissidents, activists, and all people who are unjustly deprived of these rights.”

“Let Cuba insert itself in the world as a truly sovereign country, respectful of human rights and democratic, something that today is far from being a reality. All negotiations must be focused on this objective,” concludes the text, signed by more than 300 Cubans from inside and outside the Island, among whom are Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Anamely Ramos, Maykel Castillo Osorbo, Camila Lobón, Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho, Henry Constantín, Carlos A. Aguilera, Armando Chaguaceda, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo , Rosa María Payá, Eliécer Ávila, and Rafael Rojas.

The letter comes a week after another letter addressed to U.S. President Joe Biden requesting the restoration of dialogue and normalization of relations between the two countries. In that case, the petitioners were around more than 300 scientists, intellectuals, artists and entrepreneurs, who said that the Cubans expect the President to “take the first step and unconditionally lift the sanctions imposed on Cuba.”

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.

No News of 22 Rafters Who Left Cuba’s Isle of Youth in November

Fabio González, the son of Yanet Paz, was one of the three underage youth traveling by boat. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, February 8, 2021 — The families of a group of 22 Cubans who have disappeared in the Gulf of Mexico since November 29 are desperate. The migrants, three habaneros and 19 piñeros, including three minors, left the Isle of Youth for Cancun, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, but it’s not known if they reached their destination.

Family members of the rafters filed complaints in several Mexican cities, including Chetumal, Cancún and Islas Mujeres, without obtaining a response from the authorities.

Yanet Paz, mother of one of the minors who was on the boat, tells 14ymedio that two lawyers have also presented the case before the National Human Rights Commission in Mexico. Along with the Cubans, Paz says, the three Mexican boatmen they were traveling with are missing. continue reading

The boat left Mexico for the Isle of Youth to pick up the Cubans and return to its starting point. The last they heard about the rafters, from the call to a relative, is that they were near the Mexican coast. “One of the boatmen said that they had run out of fuel and were being towed by another boat. Since then nothing else has been known,” says Paz.

Her son, Fabio Francisco Paz González, is only 16 years old, and although it’s been more than two months, she says that she still has faith and hopes that he will appear along with the other migrants. His goal was to get to the U.S., where she is living.

“No, I didn’t know anything about that trip; my boy didn’t tell me. Three days after leaving Cuba, I found out that he had left in a boat. Since then I’ve searched for him everywhere.”

The 421 kilometers that separate the Isle of Youth from Cancun are one of the most common routes for Cubans trying to escape their country. Another of the most frequent points that serves as a port of departure is the province of Pinar del Río, just under 200 kilometers from the Mexican coast.

According to data published by the Mexican press, between 2014 and 2017, 393 Cubans were rescued on the high seas when they were seen by cruise ships, cargo ships or tourists, who reported them to the Mexican Navy. The average number of people per boat ranges from a minimum of 4 to a maximum of 18.

On November 28, 14 Cubans were rescued by personnel from the Secretariat of the Mexican Navy when they were navigating in the vicinity of Isla Mujeres. The rafters had been on the high seas for more than five days and had intended to reach the coast of Honduras.

In addition, Cubans try to enter the U.S. through South Florida. On January 1, the Miami Border Patrol detained 12 rafters in Key West, the first in 2021 to reach land in a homemade boat.

In 2017, the Obama Administration eliminated the wet foot/dry foot policy that benefited Cubans who stepped onto U.S. territory. However, dozens of the island’s residents continue to jump into the sea in precarious boats to escape a life without a future in their own 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.

Fines Skyrocket for “Speculative Prices” and for Violating Covid Rules

Line to buy sweet potatoes at the EJT [Youth Labor Army] market on 17 and K streets in El Vedado. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 3, 2021 — Fines of up to 15,000 pesos and the confiscation of their merchandise are the penalties to which merchants who violate the new rules on prices and rates published in the Gaceta Oficial Extraordinaria (Extraordinary Official Gazette) of last January 29 are exposed.

The decree-law establishes different penalties, ranging from 5,000 to 7,000 pesos for not displaying on a board the products and prices they offer; from 8,000 to 10,000 for “retaining, reserving, delaying or not putting the products on sale that are destined for retail marketing,” or even from 12,000 to 15,000 if they don’t comply with the ordered measures, for which they consider the prices “abusive” and “speculative.”

The former are defined in the document as those “above a reasonable range, compared to similar products or within the same product family, and that seek to achieve a level of earnings or excessive profit”; and the latter, “the fixed products, mainly of basic need, superior to those established by the competent authority, linked to repurchase, resale or both, with the objective of obtaining profits.” continue reading

The measure is published amid a growing shortage in the country’s agricultural markets, where many products have disappeared from the pallets to plunge into the informal market. Beans, onions, fruits and foods such as yams or yucca are in short supply in state, cooperative, and private stores, while they have become a frequent offering on instant messaging threads, classified ads, and overseas shopping sites.

These provisions join those established in the same Gazette to punish those who fail to comply with health protocols, with sanctions between 2,000 and 3,000 pesos.

All this was brought up by the Havana authorities in their daily meeting on Tuesday, where they again asked for “promptness” in the delivery of the results of the PCR Covid tests that are carried out.

This Wednesday, the Cuban Ministry of Public Health reported 893 new positives for the coronavirus and two deaths from the disease. The total of active cases stands at 5,563; the total since the beginning of the pandemic, at 29,529; and 220 deaths.

Of the total number of daily infections, 34 had a source of infection from abroad, and 25, the official report indicates, are linked to international travel.

No less than 58 patients are in critical or serious condition, six of them under 60 years of age.

With more than half of the day’s infections (492), Havana continues to top the list of affected provinces. For the first time in recent weeks, Guantánamo (138) surpasses Santiago de Cuba (82) in daily infections and is in second place.

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.

Cubans Stuck in Colombia Want a “Humanitarian Bridge” to Panama

“Many illegal boats have been leaving, but we don’t have the money to pay for them, so we had to remain on the beach,” says a Cuban migrant in Colombia, waiting to get to Panama.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Havana, February 4, 2021 — More than a thousand migrants trapped in Necoclí, Colombia, are staying in tents and experiencing hunger and disease due to poor sanitary conditions. On Thursday, a first group managed to leave on a boat for the Panamanian border. When they get to Capurganá, they will try to enlist the support of local authorities to create a “humanitarian bridge” that will allow them to reach Panama, the neighboring country, without having to cross the inhospitable Darien jungle on foot.

“Many illegal boats have been leaving,” Emanuel Novoa, “but we don’t have the money to pay for them, so we had to remain on the beach.” Novoa is a habanero who came from Uruguay to this border point in the Colombian department of Antioquia. He shares a destiny with dozens of Cubans (23, according to official sources, although it’s said in the town that there are actually a lot more).

He was lucky on Thursday, Novoa tells 14ymedio, since he was finally able to get on a boat that will take him to the Panamanian border for 65 dollars, instead of the 400 that the coyotes are charging. From the tourist town of Capurganá, a few hours away, he’ll be just 45 minutes by boat from the Panamanian port of Puerto Obaldia. However, crossing the border could be complicated. continue reading

Because of the pandemic, the border between Colombia and Panama was closed on January 15. Hundreds of migrants remained in Necoclí, most of them from Haiti, Cuba and Africa. The growing makeshift camp has alarmed the authorities, and they’re finally making decisions in order to prevent what could be a serious source of COVID contagion.

“It wasn’t until the arrival of the press here in Necoclí that things began to change, especially because of the Telemundo correspondent,” confesses Novoa, who is just 26 years old. “Only then did we see a light at the end of the tunnel regarding the sale of tickets by the government company that is transferring tourists to the other side of the Gulf of Urabá.”

On Tuesday, the Colombian authorities, in coordination with Panama, began to sell tickets, and the legal transit of migrants in boats is scheduled to begin on Thursday.

Daniel Muñoz, the Telemundo reporter who “worked the miracle,” tells 14ymedio about the suffering the migrants have endured. “They’ve spent this time sleeping in crowded tents or outdoors, without water or food for the children. Older people have had diarrhea and vomiting.”

According to the journalist, most have survived through the help of nearby residents. “To cook they gather wood, pieces of trees, papers or garbage. They prepare what the villagers give them, such as ripe and green bananas or used oil, which is a blessing, because the migrants can at least fry an egg,” adds Muñoz.

Necoclí has ​​registered a low level of Covid-19 infections, the reporter explains, but the situation in the settlement is extreme, because, among other factors, the municipality doesn’t have drinking water. “Imagine how easily the virus can be transmitted in this place, when nobody uses a mask and you can’t wash your hands or use any gel.”

The migrants harbor the hope that, due to the pandemic, Colombia and Panama will create a humanitarian bridge, as several legislators have requested, but the authorities haven’t declared anything yet, and this is something that has never happened before.

However, Novoa insists: “The authorities explained to us that we won’t travel through the different camps in Darien. They will take us to a Panamanian city so we don’t have any contact with the residents.”

According to his version, Cuban migrants would be transferred first to Capurganá (in Chocó, Colombia) and from there to other points, “always with the advice and guidance of the Colombian government, which will support us along the way and receive us at each site.”

Novoa was a teacher in Cuba, where he was in the third year of Special Education at the Enrique José Varona Higher Pedagogical Institute, but on January 31, 2020, he decided to leave the island to improve his future. “I got to Suriname and wanted to stay there, but I realized that there was a lot of unemployment in that country and a very low standard of living.”

That took him to Uruguay, his second stop. “I had to go through Guyana and Brazil and ran into very corrupt policemen along the way,” says the young man, who was even swindled by a Cuban posing as a coyote. “When I reached Brazil, with the help of Venezuelan friends I met, I got to Uruguay and spent ten months there.”

His goal, in any case, was to go to the U.S., and he left on December 15 after collecting some money and organizing a caravan with 14 other compatriots. The group followed trails and avoided migratory checkpoints in Brazil, Peru and Ecuador until they reached Ipiales, in southern Colombia. From there, negotiating with “corrupt policemen,” he continued by bus through Cali and Medellín, until he reached Necoclí.

In the makeshift camp of people, there are also pregnant women and small children. Surayma Bosque, one of the members of the group encouraged by Novoa, traveled with her husband and two children, ages 3 and 6.

“I left Cuba due to the lack of opportunities, the economic situation and the repression, but above all to find a better future and freedom,” says Bosque. In Uruguay, where they couldn’t find work, they didn’t do well and embarked on this adventure, which has stopped for the moment.

“It’s a sacrifice for my children and for me, but I think it will be worth it to reach our destination and be able to offer them a better future. That’s why all we Cubans are struggling to get to the U.S.,” she says with certainty.

The 33-year-old habanera knows that she has embarked on a “long journey where many things can happen,” but she is convinced of something: “If I can’t enter the U.S., I will stay in Mexico. Returning to Cuba is not an option for me, and I have faith that we will achieve our goal.”

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.

Havana’s Obsession With the Nobel Peace Prize in Response to Allegations of Slavery

The sale of medical services provides more than $6,000,000,000 annually to Cuba, triple that of tourism. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Rosa Pascual, Madrid, 2 February 2021 — The perseverance with which the Cuban government seeks the Nobel Peace Prize for the Henry Reeve Brigade in the context of the pandemic is now beginning a new phase. After the nomination period closed on Monday, the official press reported the addition of singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez to the international committee that is promoting the campaign for awarding the prize to the medical contingent.

The Cuban state media reports promptly on the trickle of support from associations, political parties, legislators and international leaders, on which they count to achieve two main goals. One is the pocketing of the prize awarded annually by the Norwegian Committee, which currently comes to 9,000,000 crowns, almost $1,000,000. Second is the legitimizing and recognition of health work that isn’t exactly without profit, since it produces more than $6,000,000,000 a year for the Cuban state, three times as much as is earned from tourism.

Profits from the sale of professional services abroad wouldn’t be in the eye of the hurricane if it weren’t for the fact that they’re based on the exploitation of the workers who maintain the system, the doctors and nurses from all kinds of specialties who enlist in these missions, encouraged by a salary higher than the one they receive in Cuba, although the Government keeps 70% or, in some cases, 90% of the pay they each receive. continue reading

In addition, during their time abroad, the health workers are tightly controlled to prevent them from interacting with the local population and, above all, from fleeing the country. This is practically impossible to avoid for the vast majority of the brigades, despite the fact that such audacity is punished with the prohibition on returning to Cuba for eight years.

Despite the number of organizations that have been alerted about the situation of slavery that Cuban health workers experience in these international missions, the Cuban candidacy hasn’t lacked for promoters.

On February 1, Didier Lalande, the French president of the Cuba Linda Friendship Association, received the commemorative stamp of the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) from the hands of its leader the former Cuban spy Fernando González Llort.

Lalande founded Cuba Linda in 1998 and since then has worked to promote exchanges with Cuba, facilitating the travel of many of his compatriots to the Island. He was also the first to promote, last April, the nomination of the Henry Reeve Brigade through a letter that has been signed by more than 2,400 people.

The start of the competition for the award was determined by his alliance with Michel Lambert, a French-Cuban deputy who has been active in parties with different ideologies (from environmentalists to liberals), and who presented the necessary documentation to formalize the candidacy last September, when registration was opened.

The presentation of proposals to the Nobel Committee is restricted to very few. You must be a member of the legislative or executive branch of a state, a member of an international court, a university rector and professor of various subjects, a director of an institute linked to peace and foreign policy, a previous winner or someone close to the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

The candidacy presented by Lambert was joined by the World Peace Council, a body founded in Helsinki in 1949 in the context of the Cold War and aligned with the Former Soviet Union. Today its headquarters are in Athens, and it advocates “for universal disarmament, sovereignty, independence, peaceful coexistence; and campaigns against imperialism, weapons of mass destruction and all forms of discrimination.”

“There are 14 such brigades working with more than 500 specialized doctors and other health professionals, brave men and women who have been bringing much needed help to peoples in various countries and on all continents, saving countless lives and showing empathy and human kindness for which they continue to be remembered wherever they have been,” reads the letter that this organization addressed to Berit Reiss-Andersen, President of the Norwegian Committee.

The World Peace Council’s letter has been disclosed by Granma despite the strict confidentiality rules imposed by the Norwegian Committee, which prevent the nominees from knowing who nominated them for a period of fifty years. Leaks are constant, and this year it’s already known that Alexei Navalny, Greta Thunberg, Donald Trump and his son-in-law have been selected for nomination. There are also movements such as Black Lives Matter, the Boy Scouts, the Belarusian opposition, the Polish Association of Independent Judges and fact-checkers, journalists and activists from conflict zones among the nominations.

Similar to Cuba, in a year marked by Covid-19, the Coalition for Innovations in Preparedness for Epidemics (CEPI) and the World Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) are also eligible for the award.

The Norwegian Committee, however, has also encountered those who press in the opposite direction. Among the most energetic detractors of the Cuban candidacy is the organization Archivo Cuba, the Cuban Archives Project, which last October sent a letter to those responsible for the choice (whose names are unknown except that they’re five people designated by the Norwegian Parliament) in order to explain the working conditions of the Henry Reeves Brigade, and what it would mean to grant Cuba the moral recognition intended by such a prestigious award.

“It is our duty to inform you of the abundant and overwhelming evidence that makes this medical body an intrinsic part of a scheme of human trafficking by the Cuban Government, which is a violation of international law,” reads the letter, signed by María Werlau.

The award has sought to avoid controversy and arouse a spirit of harmony for many years, but it recently has had several stumbles in this task. Some experts attribute the controversies to the intention of the Norwegian Committee to “sponsor” peace processes that have often been controversial or haven’t turned out well, as has been the case with Yasir Arafat, Shimon Peres and Itzak Rabin for the Oslo Peace Accords, Juan Manuel Santos for the peace process in Colombia and Abiy Ahmed for facilitating a peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea that didn’t last.

Another of the most criticized prize winners was Barack Obama, whose award was considered more aspirational than deserved, as the bottom line of his presidency demonstrated.

Last year’s Nobel Peace Prize went to the U.N. World Food Program for “its efforts in the fight against hunger, preventing its use as a weapon of war and helping to improve conditions for harmony in areas of conflict.”

We will have to wait until October 10 to meet the next Nobel Peace Prize winner, but the Cuban ruling party’s campaign promises to be long and intense over the next seven months.

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.

#Exprésate! (Express yourself!): A New Campaign for Freedom in Cuba

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho, María Matienzo, Tata Poet and Juliana Rabelo, in the video of the #Exprésate! (Express Yourself) Campaign. (Screen Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 February 2021 — The Cuban Youth Dialogue Table returned to the public scene on Monday with the launch of the #Exprésate! [Express Yourself] campaign, which promotes Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to freedom of expression and information.

To do this, it released a video featuring the independent journalist, Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho, the rapper, Africa, and the artists Arián Cruz Tata Poet, Juliana Rabelo and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, leader of the San Isidro Movement (MSI).

According to Kirenia Yalit Núñez Pérez, the coordinator of the campaign, the intention is “to show familiar faces of the people who, in different ways, have tried to exercise their right to freedom of expression, and to serve as a driving force for young people who haven’t yet done so.” continue reading

Alcántara thus joins this new initiative, after the protests of the MSI in November and those of the group 27N in December and January. Last Friday, when he was arrested before heading to a sit-in in front of the Capitol, he was wearing a white pullover with the campaign slogan ” Exprésate!” and the logo, a striped star with the Island in its center.

“Freedom of expression, beyond being a universal right, means being able to say what you want without going to prison,” says the artist in the video, “without being separated from friends and without persecution from a totalitarian, military state.” Alcántara also uses his characteristic phrase: “We are super connected.”

Africa equates this right to “everyone being able to flow in their own energy and associate with people who flow like them and create things in common.”

“I need to speak, I need to communicate, I need them to know what I think,” says Tata Poet. “We should be able to enjoy the full expression of what we really feel, both politically and culturally,” adds Cocho.

Núñez, a psychologist, explains that a fundamental goal guides the campaign: “to expand the ability of Cuban youth to get together and to generate new spaces for participation in a civic movement.”

“Today the video is composed of young people who have already expressed themselves openly, but we hope that new faces will be added in the future,” says the psychologist, who founded the Cuban Youth Dialogue Table just seven years ago.

“During this time,” says Núñez, “they have been focused on educating young people and training them in different areas. If they reappear now,” she says, “it’s because we believed it was time to retake other spaces of participation.”

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.

“Water And Rest”: The Prescription in Cuba in the Absence of Pharmaceuticals

Grandmothers’ remedies are gaining popularity in the face of drug shortages in Cuban pharmacies and hospitals. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 2 February 2021 — It started with a small wound on his foot, but as the days passed, infection and fever set in. Luis Álvaro, 25, went to the emergency room at the nearby Freyre de Andrade hospital in Centro Habana. After looking at his foot, the doctor concluded: “I can’t prescribe antibiotics because there aren’t any. Rest, drink plenty of water and keep your foot elevated.”

Four days later, with a large red area around the wound, the young man posted on Telegram: “I’m exchanging a Nintendo wireless remote for a full course of oral antibiotics and a tube of Gentamicin.” Shortly thereafter, an interested party responded. Luis Álvaro obtained several blister packs of amoxicillin, a drug manufactured in Cuba.

His skills with instant messaging, having something to exchange on the black market and the fact of living in Havana, which has a dynamic informal commerce, played out in favor of this young man, but in regions far from the capital the options are much more limited, and “you can’t find medications even if you have money,” says María Victoria, a resident of San Antonio de los Baños. continue reading

After several days of uncertainty, the health of María Victoria’s relative has evolved favorably, but she hasn’t stopped worrying. “I see sick and chronically ill children and elderly people who can no longer find the medications they need,” she warns. “It’s a desperate situation.”

“We’re very concerned,” this resident of one of the most populated municipalities in the province of Artemisa tells this newspaper. “I have a niece who they thought had leptospirosis, because there were several cases in one part of town,” she says. “She was prescribed rest and water because there wasn’t anything else. We spent days of anguish, and all we could do was wait.”

To avoid crowds in pharmacies, hospital officials have warned doctors not to prescribe drugs they don’t have. “Before, I ran out of prescription pads very quickly, but for months I’ve hardly used them because there’s nothing left to prescribe,” acknowledges a doctor from the Miguel Enriquez hospital in Havana.

“We’re seeing patients who arrive with an infected lesion, and if a topical medicine is used in time there won’t be any pain or complications, but there’s nothing to prescribe,” laments this graduate in Comprehensive General Medicine. “A few days ago I treated a woman with severe ankle pain, and I knew that with a painkiller she would feel better, but I couldn’t write the prescription.”

“As a doctor, I’m aware of what’s happening with the lack of medicines and the risks of the pandemic. I tell my family and friends to avoid going to hospitals unless it’s something serious,” she laments, “because we can’t give them anything to help them and the danger of getting coronavirus is high. ”

In some consulting rooms for family doctors, there are signs posted explaining how to use natural remedies that range from infusions to calm anxiety to the use of softened leaves to treat skin lesions. Grandmothers’ remedies are gaining popularity as the pharmacies remain empty.

Herb growers who offer their products in the city have seen a rebound in the number and variety of plants that their customers request. “Before, what we sold most was basil for Santeria rites and some sticks that are also used for spiritual work, but now this has become a pharmacy,” Ramón, a herbalist from Monte street, tells this newspaper.

“The most requested herb now is chamomile, the leaves of the plant that people call Meprobamato (Plectranthus neochilus Schltr), prickly pear leaves for issues related to foot pain, horse liniment for those who have kidney problems, and I also sell a lot of rosemary for sore throats,” he explains. “There are days when I close at noon because I run out of products.”

But Ramón’s herbs can do little or nothing when a serious illness is involved. “In recent months the situation has worsened, and although the problem has been going on for a long time, we’re now in negative numbers. Medications for chronic patients can’t be found, or only half the dose that the patient needs arrives. If there’s an emergency we have to appeal to social networks,” explains the father of an oncology patient.

“My daughter underwent a mastectomy and now she’s using cytostatic serums, but from the list of medications that she needs to make the process more effective and bearable, we’ve had to get two of them through friends,” says the man. “We have had to buy other medications, but the price doesn’t matter because it’s a question of life or death.”

Instant messaging for some, herbs for others and money for a few are propping up medical treatments in a country that is still seen internationally as a medical bulwark.

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 ‘Coleros’ Are Winning the Propaganda Battle Against the Communist Regime

Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel appearing on an earlier Roundtable TV program — with its updated set — on Cuban State television (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliás Amor Bravo, Economist, August 26, 2020 — Are the coleros (people who stand in line for others) so bad? Is the repression against them justified?

The unending lines that stretch for blocks in the early hours of dawn are a habitual phenomenon in the geography of Cuban commerce, above all for buying basic goods for the daily diet, like oil or chicken, and household cleaning products like detergent.

Many people detest these lines and can’t even get what they want after long hours of waiting. This happens not only to those who are last in line but also because the merchandise is limited and rarely responds to the needs of the population. Others simply can’t be in line, either because they’re at work or have family members who need attention, or simply because they have some disability that prevents them from standing in line.

In all these cases, which are many, the solution for avoiding the lines comes from anonymous citizens who provide them with a service in exchange for a remuneration. It’s normal. The cost of opportunity is fundamental for an economy to function. continue reading

The colero, which is the derogatory term used by the Government against these citizens, sells a place at the front of the line, which assures the buyer that he can get what he wants. But in order to formalize this transaction, the colero has to claim the space by spending the night outdoors in the line and sacrifice hours of his leisure time with his family. Nothing is free.

Seeing that these people have created an informal “market” and are satisfying the needs of citizens, the Regime decided to create “groups to confront coleros and resellers” throughout the whole island, accusing them in official propaganda of being guilty of creating the lines. The idea was that these intervention groups would reduce the participation of people in lines; especially because of Covid-19, since there’s a need to keep a safe distance.

Beginning August 1, the Regime created these groups for preventing and confronting the coleros, resellers and hoarders with the goal of “organizing the lines and eliminating the lists with names and identity card numbers and turns granted to some people for several days”. What’s curious is that these groups include bosses, officials and members of mass organizations, which shows the inability of the police and army to prevent crowds in the present situation of crisis. But there are also doubts about whether these people shouldn’t be at work instead of denouncing and repressing their fellow citizens. In spite of the repressive climate, the protests have been extended throughout the whole country.

However, as expected, these groups haven’t given the Regime the results it wanted, and the lines, each time longer and more disorganized, continue, and the informal commerce increases in a spectacular way. The repression doesn’t help solve problems that have to do, above all, with the scarcity of basic goods. The situation with imports got worse last year because of the Government’s lack of hard currency and the low general productivity of the economic system, especially in agriculture. In addition, the arrival of Covid-19 aggravated these structural factors even more.

Instead of trying to solve the main problems, the Regime goes back to its old ways: repression, denouncement and prison. What it’s always done in these cases. Thinking that the State Security police or the anti-colero groups will be the solution to the problem is stupid, since the problem’s origin is in the general shortages suffered by the country.

In addition, the Regime has failed in other ways with its actions against the coleros. It’s not a matter of isolated cases, and many people have discovered how profitable this activity is, as much for satisfying the needs of others as for earning a profit, the big enemy of the Cuban Communist Regime. Those who have been arrested return to the activity as soon as they can, as do those whom the Regime tries to “reorient” through the mass organizations.

The people who engage in this activity, selling a place in line as a way of life, agree that in spite of the risk of being arrested and prosecuted, they get paid better with this informal work than any employee in the budgeted sector, which is dominated by low salaries, precarious work, poor working conditions and a lack of opportunity for professional and social development.

The Government’s repression has been directed not only against the coleros but also against resellers and those they call “hard currency traffickers”, who offer dollars in exchange for Cuban pesos or Cuban convertible pesos so people can open an account in the banks, get debit cards and shop in the hard currency stores. Other citizens have been prosecuted for alleged crimes of “speculation and hoarding”, for having bought merchandise with the purpose of reselling it.

Some sources on the Island note that behind the shortages also exists “a scheme of misappropriation by corrupt leaders, who never have stood in line exposing their health or that of their family”. Luckily, many citizens have understood that the shortage of goods in the economy is the cause of the huge lines and not the acts of the coleros, hoarders and resellers, and they blame the Regime for not taking responsibility for its own inefficiency. Cubans in the diaspora rarely have to stand in line to buy in stores in Madrid, Hialeah or México. This evil is endemic in the economic system of the Island.

This concept has spread like wildfire in Cuba, and the Regime’s official propaganda hasn’t been successful in its campaign of harassment and denunciation of the coleros and resellers. Now there’s no Fidel Castro to reign in these actions with his traditional uproar, and president Díaz-Canel offers a different kind of authoritarian leadership. Rather, the opposite has been produced, now that the attacks of the official editorials, and on the episodes of the Roundtable program on Cuban TV, and in Party meetings, haven’t managed to exempt the Government leadership and divert attention from the reality, which is none other than the Government’s inability to satisfy the basic needs of the population. And this is good news. There are dangerous curves ahead.

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.

Monetary Unification: The Story Never Ends


14ymedio biggerEliás Amor Bravo, Economist, August 24, 2020 — Perhaps, possibly, together with salaries, housing and the daily worry about food, monetary unification has become one of the main problems for Cubans. There is proof of that. The article published in Granma with the title “Monetary unification is on the horizon in Cuba”, in which several specialists from the Central Bank of Cuba analyzed this question, has had up to now 71 comments (a record for the official Communist Party newspaper). And if they’re analyzed in detail, they are critical and show that many Cubans are feeling hopeless.

With good reason. The Government has spent almost 10 years on this matter, since it occurred to Raúl Castro, in 2011, that he would have to unify the two currencies that circulated on the Island, recognizing that this anomaly created a lot of problems for the economy. Since then, the issue has been like the Guadiana River in Spain, which appears and disappears along its journey but always is there without anyone knowing very well what the result will be, and what Cubans most fear is the consequence of monetary unification on their lives.

Let’s put the problem in perspective. What’s certain is that monetary unification and exchange rates aren’t matters that concern the Government. If they were, it wouldn’t have taken nine years turning over something that, almost always, for one reason or another, keeps getting postponed. Now the justification is obvious, if you take into account the direct impact of COVID-19 on the Cuban economy. continue reading

If the Government doesn’t care, it’s because it benefits from the dual currency. To begin with, it doesn’t have to submit the Cuban peso (CUP) to the international demand for currencies, so, being isolated from international global markets, its value, credibility and responsibility pass to a second plane.

The Cuban convertible peso (CUC) becomes an “intermediary” between the world currency and the nation’s, and thanks to this, the Government keeps a part of any transaction. Hard currencies are needed to stay on the business circuit, which is cut off from the economy, and only small tourism companies have begun to participate, although in a limited way.

The problem is that the CUC loses value as a monetary unit because the relationship between money and production is unbalanced, and its depreciation is perceptible. The Government has adopted several measures to promote the weakness of the CUC in relation to the CUP. However, what has happened is that both monies are sinking. A bad business.

The explanation is found in the Cuban preference for the dollar. Not only because it gives access to a greater number of goods and services but also because it’s a guarantee of stability in the medium and long term. Some have wanted to see a return to the most difficult years of the Special Period, with an eventual dollarization of the economy. Without going to this extreme, the strength of the dollar presents notable challenges to the process of monetary unification.

Why are the CUC and CUP losing buying power so quickly and the dollar now being exchanged at more than 1.25 in such a short time? The explanation is found in the economy. The Government collects CUC and CUP but lacks dollars. And people act in accord even more than is necessary by opening bank accounts to get the debit cards that allow them to buy goods and services, with a significant increase in buying power with respect to the rest of the population.

Some may believe that 1993 and 1994 are back, and they’re right. At that time, the Government stopped penalizing Cubans for having and using dollars; the shops collected hard currency; the export of services, especially tourism, was promoted; and, there was an opening to foreign investment and the authorization of remittances from abroad. In addition, the Government allowed the principal exporters to retain part of the hard currency that was coming in, and certain business transactions were done in dollars. Same lyrics, maybe different music, i.e. same argument, perhaps different implementation.

The problem then and also now is that the Government never adopted measures of discipline and economic control over salaries, subsidies and the other usual costs of the budget in order to cope with a deficit of two percentage points over GDP. This internal lack of control was perhaps the main obstacle to unification. In fact, the CUC rose precisely in an attempt to confront this internal and external lack of control. And thus, with the passage of time, a segment of “poverty” appeared in the Cuban economy, where salaries, security and social assistance, services, food products and many other activities were carried out in Cuban pesos, while another sector of the population enjoyed the advantage of having access to “strong” money and hard currency.

So that the Government has little interest in solving problems that are increasing, like the coexistence of the dual currency and exchange rate, which creates distortion in economic activity with one kind of exchange rate in the entrepreneurial sector (1 CUP=1 CUC=1 dollar), which doesn’t reflect reality and creates an obstacle for exports at the same time it stimulates imports. Problems arise with accounting, pricing, the use of currencies and their deposit, both formally and informally. The tsunami increases every time.

Karina Cruz Simón, a consultant at the Central Bank of Cuba, has explicitly reflected on the origin of the problem. In her opinion, the “stability” of the national money (CUP) is accomplished by ensuring that the printing of money corresponds with the evolution of the real or productive economy. A good choice, which makes us ask when this necessary equilibrium was produced in the Cuban economy.

We need only look at two points of data. With the economy growing at the end of last year by 0.5%, the participation of the money in circulation in the GDP approached 30%. It’s not strange that the spectre of structural inflation appeared from time to time and remains latent in the economy. The authorities solve this by undersupplying the shops. The inflation differential of the Cuban currencies compared to that of hard currencies (the dollar or euro, for example) helps explain the growing deterioration in the buying power of these currencies and, above all, in their credibility.

The bank consultant pointed out that “a favorable scenario for the Cuban peso to comply with its functions and manage to preserve macroeconomic equilibrium implies a type of change that approaches the offer and demand of hard currency, the existence of clear regulations for the printing of money, so that there is just the amount of money needed, and discipline between the Government’s income and expenses (control of the public debt).”

She adds that “it is important that there be coordination among the organizations charged with conducting macroeconomic policies, such as transitioning from an administrative direction to using financial instruments, so that prices can offer signs for a better performance for consumers, producers and the general planning of the economy”.

I’ll say it again: The lyrics are well written, the problem is the music. Or, in this case, the argument is very good, the problem is the implementation.

How can a monetary exchange like the offer and demand for hard currency be accomplished when the two Cuban currencies aren’t present in international markets, nor do they have that goal?

How can you establish clear regulations for the printing of money if the demand for money in the economy, especially coming from the State, doesn’t stop increasing?

What must be done to discipline the State in its management of income and public expenses, especially with a serious situation like the one posed by COVID-19?

The icing on the cake comes with that requirement of “coordination among the organizations charged” to achieve a “stable offer and quality of goods and services that can be acquired in the national money” and “the need to create conditions that stimulate people and businesses to save and obtain credit in the national money”. The question is, how is this supposed to happen? By Machado Ventura’s* “harangues”?

The conclusion is that the Central Bank of Cuba, dominated by the Communist Government and without the autonomy that monetary policy demands, cannot achieve monetary unification from the technical point of view, so this process will end up being the result of a policy decision some day when it’s least expected.

*Machado Ventura, Second Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, “harangued” the farmers in June 2020, calling on them to increase food production by cultivating all the land.

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.

Etecsa Begins the Sale of Cellphones in Dollars in Two Offices in Havana

One of the offers available in the two Etecsa offices in the capital where they sell in dollars. (Twitter@JancelMoreno)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, August 21, 2020 — This week the Cuban Telecommunications Enterprise S.A. (Etecsa) began the sale of cell phones in dollars, and restricting the method of payment to debit cards only.

14ymedio confirmed with customer service in Havana that Etecsa has only two places where you can buy the phones with debit cards: the Cubanacán business office in Naútica, Playa, and the one at 17th and Y, in Vedado. It specified that these are the only places “at the moment” and that the offer they have now is an Alcatel cellphone at $65 and another at $165, with a warranty of three months.

In some images shared on social networks, the equipment they are selling in hard currency comes accompanied by several accessories like a Micro SD card of 16GB, in the case of the $65 cellphone.

The news, which has been spread through company channels, has generated criticism from users on Twitter and Facebook. continue reading

The activist, Jancel Moreno, points out: “#Dollarization. Etecsa begins the sale of cellphones in USD,” and asks at the same time: “What will be the next thing that can you can buy with the money of the enemy?”

Eblis López Guerra, a customer, asks, responding to one of the company’s tweets about the next promotion for an international recharge: “Why today is the sale beginning of cellphones in USD in Guantánamo? Where was this announced? Who said it? It shows a lack of respect on the part of @ETESCA_Cuba”, he complained.

López explains that he only earns 310 Cuban pesos a month (about $12) and wonders: “Where am I, a worker, supposed to get hard currency?”

Last July, the Cuban Government opened shops for the sale of cleaning products and food in hard currency. This type of business began to function at the end of last year, in an attempt by the Government to raise income from abroad, given the lack of liquidity in the national economy, but at that time it was only for the purchase of home appliances.

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 Offensive Against ‘Hoarders’ Comes To The Hard Currency Stores

Line for a hard currency store in Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, August 21, 2020 —  In the middle of the pandemic and the social differences that the hard currency shops generate, a case of corruption related to these State businesses now comes to light.

Several citizens in Guantánamo, in confabulation with workers in the TRD Caribe chain, carried out “illicit actions” to obtain merchandise that later was sold on informal networks, according to the official Agencia Cubana de Noticias [Cuban News Agency].

The Ministry of the Interior (MININT) carried out a raid against several offenses and acts of corruption that occurred in this chain “in the present context of the Covid-19 pandemic”, the agency said.

The investigations discovered that those implicated hoarded articles for resale on the black market or charged exorbitant rates for letting third parties buy with their debit cards in hard currency. So far, the amount of money confiscated is more than 3,300 CUC (roughly 3,300 USD at pre-pandemic exchange rates), 74,500 CUP (roughly 3,00 USD at the same rates), and 150 USD. continue reading

The notice says that complaints from the residents of Guantánamo provoked the police operation and the investigation of the accused. During the search of the suspects’ homes, they found home appliances like freezers, scooters, and refrigerators.

Although there is no clear policy that regulates the amount and frequency of buying in these places, in order to avoid the actions of resellers, the Government has implemented mechanisms of control for the sake of eliminating coleros (people who stand in line for others for pay) and hoarders. In most cases in these shops you have to show your identity card, in order to keep the same client from buying several times.

In recent weeks, hoarders have been repeatedly blamed in the official discourse and by part of the population for causing the shortages.

“The problem isn’t what they buy; it’s that they buy it and don’t need it and get a profit from it. That’s the big problem we have today, and not only with home appliances but also with construction materials and hardware articles,” commented a reader in a note published in Cubadebate.

“If they carry out raids in other shops they’ll see similar results, because the lines last for days when they have home appliances, so many people run to Revolico — an on-line commerce site — and buy them at a higher price,” commented another person in the digital publication.

This newspaper reported, during the first day of the opening of hard currency shops with food and cleaning products, that when locals entered, the employees warned them about limitations on the number of products, especially for those that, in addition, sell home appliances and car parts.

Another person on the site asked a question on Friday: “If the State isn’t selling it in hard currency, why not let people who can sell it to other citizens do so, so they can buy things in the shops?”

A commentator on Cubadebate, resident of Havana, sums up the disagreement and complaints that the opening of these stores has caused in the population:

“Yesterday I went to 3rd and 70th for the first time, to buy some food for my sick wife. I left very disgusted since they had nothing. Only very expensive beef and without having clear prices,” he complained.

“It’s not possible by selling in hard currency to keep the markets supplied. I always thought that would be a solution. These stores aren’t finding a way. They can’t say now that they’d be wrong again about demand. What’s needed is to sell a lot in order to collect a lot, and to not limit sales,” he added.

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.

Cubans are Among the Biggest Winners in the U.S. Visa Lottery

Cuba is the third country of the continent with a large representation among the winners of the 2021 diversity lottery. (U.S. Embassy in Lithuania)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, August 20, 2020 — Cuba was the third country in Latin America with the largest number of winners of the well-known U.S. Visa Lottery, held each year.

Those chosen for the Program of Diversity DV-2021 were 1,872 Venezuelans, 1,559 Peruvians and 1,235 Cubans, who will have to do the paperwork for U.S. residence in the next fiscal year, which begins on October 1, 2020.

The other Latin American countries that participated had between 1 and 246 beneficiaries. The following countries were excluded this year: Bangladesh, Canada, China (born in the continental area), Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica and Mexico. continue reading

The Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs said it offered 55,000 visas that granted green cards to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

The registered applicants for the DV-2021 program were selected randomly from 6,741,128 qualified entries, received during the application period of 35 days that extended from October 2, 2019 until November 6, 2019, they said.

“The visas have been distributed among six geographic regions with a maximum of 7% available for people born in any country,” said the note.

The Island has stood out in the last 10 years as one of the countries with a large number of citizens admitted in the Lottery. For this fiscal year, the participation of Cubans was marked by the incorporation of a new requirement in the draw: having a current and valid passport at the time of entry.

Although the demand can be made only by the applicant, not the dependents, not everyone on the Island can count on having this document of identity because of its high cost, so this new rule influenced some to try their luck later.

To that is added the uncertainty of not being able to count on the presence of a consular section in the United States Embassy on the Island, and they will have to travel to Guyana to request the visa and do other paperwork like that for family reunification. Thousands of people are worried about the migratory veto of the present administration, which is maintained until December.

The Department of State also clarified that in the visa interview, the principal applicant must provide proof of a secondary education or its equivalent, or show two years of work experience in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience in the last five years.

It was also announced that there will be visa lotteries for 2022, and the dates for the program’s registration period will be published in the coming months.

“Those interested in entering the DV-2022 program should consult the web page of the Department of State Visa in the next months,” the press release specified.

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.

 

U.S. Suspends Private Charter Flights to Cuba to ‘Deny’ Resources to Havana

This measure affects flights on private planes that are rented or owned, not commercial charters. (JFI)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 August, 2020 — The United States decided on Thursday to interrupt private charter flights to Cuba, a new measure to put pressure on the Cuban Government. This measure affects flights on private planes that are rented or owned, not commercial charter flights.

“I asked the Transportation Department to suspend private flights to all the Cuban airports, including Havana,” Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, announced.

“This action will suspend all charter flights between the United States and Cuba over which the Department of Transportation exercises jurisdiction, excepting public charter flights authorized to and from Havana and other private charter flights for emergency doctors, search and rescue missions and other trips in function of U.S. interests,” said Pompeo. continue reading

The U.S. Secretary of State explained that the measure aims to “deny” resources to the Cuban Government and prevent it from using them “to commit abuses”.

For the same purpose, this last May, the U. S. Department of Transportation limited charter flights to the Island to 3,600 per year. “Maintaining and limiting charter flights to José Martí International Airport involves controlling the main access for travel from the United States for family visits or other legal ends, at the same time preventing charter operators from increasing service to Havana in response,” the Department said at the time.

These flights, used by Cuban Americans to travel from Miami to Havana since restrictions are imposed on regular airlines, are not affected by the measure announced on Thursday by Washington.

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.

A New Contingent of Cuban Doctors Arrives in Venezuela

The Venezuelan Chancellor, Jorge Arreaza, receives the new contingent of Cuban doctors. (Twitter/@cancilleriaVE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, August 2020 — A new contingent of Cuban doctors arrived in Caracas on Sunday to join the Barrio Adentro mission, according to the Minister of Venezuelan Foreign Relations. This makes 230 health workers added to those already deployed in the Caribbean country to attend to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This was what Chávez and Fidel dreamed about and constructed. It’s up to us to continue carrying forward the dreams of our commandantes and show the North American imperialists that no one and nothing will divide us,” said the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, in his statements on Twitter.

in his speech, Arreaza thanked the Cuban authorities for their support to Venezuela to combat coronavirus, qualifying the Cuban doctors as “heros and heroines who are risking their lives to work in our country”. continue reading

According to official data from the Cuban Ministry of Public Health, most of the COVID-19 positives entering the Island are coming from Venezuela. However, the Ministry has suppressed reports on the exact origin of 41 of the cases reported and where it said “traveler coming from Venezuela”, it now says “source of infection abroad”.

Last July, a group of 26 health workers arrived in Maracaibo, Venezuela, according to authorities, to reinforce efforts before an outbreak of coronavirus that was generated in the Las Pulgas market.

There are more than 20,000 Cuban health workers in Venezuela, including doctors, nurses and technicians, according to official data for 2019. Last April, the Government of Nicolás Maduro announced the importation of 1,200 professionals from the Island, justifying his decision by decreeing an emergency because of the pandemic.

For each health official, Venezuela pays Cuba more than $10,000 per month, in addition to supplying the country with fuel, although the opposition to chavismo has criticized this because of the shortages faced by Venezuela.

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.