Things are Heating up in Guira de Melena Due to Power Outages, Heat and Dengue Fever

Güira de Melena has been experiencing protests for several days, since, last Friday, neighbors in El Pulguero and the central Calle Real demonstrated against the blackouts. (Captura)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 August 2022 — The neighbors of the municipality of Güira de Melena, in Artemisa, banged pot and pans again on Monday night in protest over the power cuts that prevent them from sleeping.

In a video broadcast on social networks, as usually happens in these cases, a woman is heard saying: “Corea launched,” referring to the neighborhood that protested this time. She says that the video was filmed on August 15, 2022 at “9:15 pm.”

“We’re sick of these blackouts,” “Homeland and life,” “We can’t take it anymore,” she also shouts behind the camera.

“It was quite punctual,” Raudel Espinosa, a resident of Güira de Melena, tells 14ymedio, reporting that the entire area has been without internet access since that moment. When the pans rang out this Monday in Corea, the neighbors had already been “hours and hours without electricity,” on one especially hot night, she says.

“People are very upset, not only because of the heat but also because of dengue fever,” which thrives in this kind of neighborhood.

Güira de Melena has been experiencing protests for several days, since, last Friday, neighbors in El Pulguero and the central Calle Real demonstrated against the blackouts.

It wasn’t the only demonstration on Monday on the Island, which suffers from an unprecedented energy and economic crisis. In Trinidad (Sancti Spíritus), according to several Facebook users, protestors attacked a bank branch. “Someone broke the windows of the bank on Colón Street in Trinidad with a hammer and got inside,” Carlos Sibello wrote. continue reading

Other comments alluded to the fact that the young man who broke the glass was being treated in the hospital, since he was “all beaten and bloody.”

“Last Thursday night, patience reached its limits in Bejucal, Mayabeque Province, where a neighbor in the municipality told this newspaper, “They shut down the power at eleven at night and turn it on at seven in the morning.”

Around midnight, several residents went out with their pots and pans to protest, and, says the same source, “at that moment they turned off the power, they shut down the Internet, they shut down everything, so that people couldn’t mobilize.”

“Some people passing by joined in, like a conga,” says the woman, “asking for freedom and that they turn on the power.”

The local officials, says this neighbor, sent people to “take videos of the demonstrators.” After the protests of July 11, 2021, it was these kinds of videos that allowed State Security to identify the protesters, arrest them and prosecute them, in manipulated trials that ended with disproportionate sentences.

So far, neither the Government nor the official press is reporting on the frequent protests that have occurred since mid-July, when the power outages happened every day. Two night protests against the blackouts took place this weekend in the neighborhood of El Condado, in Santa Clara, where neighbors took advantage of the darkness to demonstrate, shouting slogans and beating on pots and pans in front of the dreaded Fifth Unit of the Police of that city.

On July 15 and on August 1, the Luis Dagnes neighborhood of the Popular Council of Altamira, in Santiago de Cuba, went out on Los Palacios Street, in Pinar del Río.

On August 5, the same day that the gigantic fire began at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, hundreds of people demonstrated in Martí Park in Cienfuegos.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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 Rescuers Find More Human Remains at the Site of the Matanzas Supertanker BaseFire

The Cuban government has not revealed the costs of the Matanzas fire, considered the worst in history. (José Ángel Portal Miranda)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 16 August 2022 — Specialized teams found more bone remains at the site of the large industrial fire recorded in Matanzas, the Minister of Public Health, José Ángel Portal, reported on Monday.

“The tireless search for bone fragments and objects that could have to do with any of the missing people thought to be at the scene of the accident at the time of the explosion continues,” Portal said on Twitter.

The fragments were found on Sunday in “several places in the area” of the fire and have already been sent to “the laboratories for identification.”

Last Friday, the Cuban Government reported that it had located at the site of the fire — which began after the alleged impact of lightning in one of eight fuel tanks with 50,000 cubic meters of capacity — the skeletal remains of four people, presumably firefighters.

Officially, 14 people are listed as missing, mainly firefighters who were working on extinguishing the flames when a large explosion occurred.

Forensic doctor Jorge González Pérez, who directs the work of the investigation of the remains of Matanzas, said on Monday that they haven’t located the place where the 14 victims disappeared, and calculated that this could take “two more days.” He added that he considers it “unlikely” that “there is some laboratory test, for example DNA” that can be performed in this case.

So far, the Government has not disclosed their identities, despite the demand of independent activists and NGOs, who have claimed that some were young people doing military service. continue reading

So far, the relatives of the missing are the ones who have gone on social networks to say that they have no information about them, and some who have been given as dead, such as the young Leo Alejandro Doval del Prado, 19.

The fire was officially declared extinguished on Friday.

The flames affected four fuel tanks in the industrial park, strategic for the country, causing serious explosions, with flares of over 30 feet, and a column of toxic black smoke that reached Havana, 60 miles away.

The Cuban Government has also not disseminated estimates of the economic cost of this event, which is already described as the largest industrial disaster in the country, nor the exact levels of contamination from the accident.

The total, to date, after the incident is two deaths, 132 people injured and 19 hospitalized, according to the daily report of the Ministry of Public Health.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

With Their Beds on the Street, a Family from Old Havana Denounces the Collapse of Their Home

The victims of the collapse, disposed to set up their domestic barricade, prevent the passage of vehicles and pedestrians. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 12 August 2022 — In Cuba, the walls speak as much as the people. Cracks, humidity, bricks, leaks, beams, shreds of clothing, clouds of dust — these are the words of a pained and urgent language: that of the collapsed buildings. They’re not exclusive to Havana, but in Old Havana, punished by salt from the sea air and overpopulation, the boundary between habitable and ruin is more diffuse and matters less.

It’s part of the daily drama that a family, subjected to blackouts and continuous shortages, sees the structure of their house suffer, checks how it trembles during a cyclone and observes how it falls apart due to lack of maintenance.

The roof of a building on Habana Street, between Aguiar and Muralla, in the oldest area of the capital, collapsed several days ago. Not knowing what to do, the inhabitants picked up their belongings and took to the streets in protest.

The faces of mothers, children and the elderly are so desperate that it’s frightening to see. There’s a lot of anger and visceral impotence, because the solution doesn’t depend on personal effort but on the parsimony of the bureaucrats. They tried to appease them with promises: guaranteed food, electricity, materials. But nothing happened.

This Friday they returned to the street again. The junk they have on the street contains their whole life: cribs, mattresses, springs, wash basins, wheelbarrows of bricks, furniture that has been in the family for decades, Soviet devices and Chinese fans, relics of all eras.

The junk they have on the street contains their whole life: cribs, mattresses, springs, wash basins, wheelbarrows of bricks, furniture that has been in the family for decades, Soviet devices and Chinese fans, relics of all eras. (14ymedio)

The victims of the collapse, disposed to set up their domestic barricade, prevent the passage of vehicles and pedestrians. They want the country to stop and listen to them. “No one will pass through here until this is resolved,” shouts a woman, who only agreed to the request to let an elderly woman clinging to her cane continue. continue reading

Local authorities don’t offer solutions or respond to dialogue, but they have already sent the usual gang of State Security agents, motorcyclists with police badges, ex-combatants ready to assert their collection of medals and traffic officers, to divert clueless drivers out of the area.

At the end of the street, a couple of agents try to discredit the screaming women. “They’re being stupid, they’re shameless,” they tell anyone who stops to see the panorama. “They know that they can’t be there and that there are people working to solve the problem. But no: what they want is to put on a show.”

Among those evicted is a woman dressed in white. She’s an initiate in santería and iyawo, but the State Security officers lie to passers-by, telling them that she is a Lady in White.* “No one here cares about whether someone is a saint or a dissident, kid,” someone who passes by answers them. The police are frustrated: the old techniques are of little use.

“Look how the Government helps,” says one woman, pointing to a squalid cardboard box with yellow rice and stale pumpkin, which was distributed in the neighborhood at ten at night. “That’s the food they’re going to help us with,” she says, “I’m supposed to feed my son with that?!”

“We are desperate,” explains another of the victims. “There’s no gas or electricity, and in addition, our kitchens also collapsed. What do we do?”

Those who watch, those who beat people, the bureaucrats, all of them often suffer the same shortages. However, that doesn’t prevent them from complying with the orders of those who live comfortably, without blackouts and fed with imported delicacies.

Meanwhile, a retired old man is preparing to fulfill his “duty” and juggles to interrupt a young man who is filming the scene. No matter where he focuses the camera, the old man harasses him, nudges him and stands in front of the camera, until the young man gets bored and leaves. “We don’t have blood in our veins,” says an angry man who witnesses the scene.

With the barricade and the people shouting, Habana Street is narrowed by sweat and despair. The claim of the evicted, shipwrecked in a country adrift, summarizes the pain of the entire island.

*Translator’s note: An opposition movement founded in 2003 by female relatives of jailed dissidents.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

State TV Newscaster Humberto Lopez Accuses Cuban Exiles of Being Behind Acts of Vandalism

The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba includes Humberto López in its database of “violent Cuban repressors.” (Capture).

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 August 2022 — In the midst of the growing reaction against the Cuban government for the deaths in the Matanzas Supertanker Base fire of several young people who were doing military service, regime spokesman Humberto López, in an attempt to appease the indignation of relatives and the solidarity of thousands towards those affected, returned with a new complaint that was orchestrated, as usual, by Cuban State Security.

López took advantage of his space on Noticiero Estelar, the state television prime-time news program, to report on an alleged act of vandalism that occurred in a store in the Diez de Octubre municipality in Havana, where two subjects were allegedly arrested. In addition, he accused several ’influencers’ of being behind the events.

The spokesman said that a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the metal door of a shop of the Caribe chain and also on the route later taken by the attackers’ vehicle. López said that after throwing the cocktail, they traveled nine blocks and parked to prepare another homemade bomb.

The alleged detainees are two unidentified men, one 38-years-old who travels between the U.S. and Cuba, and another 39, a neighbor in the Diez de Octubre municipality. Both were traveling in a vehicle owned by one of their fathers. López stated that the 38-year-old has made 20 trips between the island and the U.S. continue reading

López said he had many details about the facts and used the recurring words of the regime that the people are “the real ones affected by all these actions.” He also stated that there are links between the perpetrators in Cuba and “terrorists abroad,” alluding to Cubans residing in the U.S. who are on YouTube. In his speech, he said that he has evidence about the orders that one of them gives to an acquaintance of his.

“We have the messages, we have the calls, we have the actions that were indicated to him from the outside; we have the receipt for the payment of the cards, of what they received for each of the actions. What’s more, I was with him one of the times they contacted him,” López said, while stating that he recorded the Cuban with his consent.

“There is plenty of information, do you want it? Of course you do,” the spokesman added. However, he didn’t present any evidence, which suggests a manipulation of the alleged perpetrators by State Security itself.

While recounting the facts and the alleged links abroad, the official announcer showed fragments of videos showing the faces of three people on YouTube: Alex Otaola, Ultrack and Manuel Milanés, but he never said their names.

In April of last year, the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC) included Humberto López in its database of “violent Cuban repressors,” because “he has become the spearhead of these smear campaigns against the opposition and emerging civil society.”

In the national television program he directs and presents, Hacemos Cuba, López defames artists, activists, opponents and independent journalists, accusing them of being “mercenaries” and not inviting them to have the right to reply on his program. Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Tania Bruguera, Yoani Sánchez, Luz Escobar, Iliana Hernández, Maykel Castillo Osorbo and many other citizens have been the targets of his media harassment.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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 Lights Return with a Saucepan Demonstration in Front of the Dreaded Fifth Police Unit in Santa Clara

“That neighborhood is the trigger,” explains Enrique, a resident in the center of Santa Clara. “If El Condado explodes, the whole city will follow.” (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 15 August 2022 — Two night protests against the blackouts took place this weekend in the neighborhood of El Condado, in Santa Clara. Neighbors took advantage of the darkness to shout and beat on saucepans in front of the dreaded Fifth Unit Police Station

A video that circulated on Sunday on several social networks shows dozens of people shouting slogans in a park located on Estrada Palma Street, in the vicinity of the police station.

“El Condado is a prioritized circuit,” Enrique, a resident in the center of Santa Clara, tells 14ymedio, “and the Electrical Union avoids taking away the power. On Saturday they did it for the first time in some time, and people protested. After half an hour they reestablished service. Yesterday, not too late at night, the same thing happened.”

“That neighborhood is the trigger,” he explains. “If El Condado explodes, the whole city will follow.” He points out that the most significant thing about the protests is that they occurred “for the Police to see,” and in front of the Fifth Unit, which has the reputation of handling any incident in El Condado with a “strong hand.”

A recent example of this, Enrique recalls, was the death of the young Zinédine Zidane Batista, 17, at the hands of a police officer. In the middle of a fight, Batista was neutralized by an officer and shot several times, including once in the chest, which ended his life. Although El Condado is characterized by the people of Santa Clara as a “marginal” neighborhood, this episode of violence deeply moved the residents of the city. continue reading

To the discomfort caused by the repression are added the constant blackouts and the difficulty in obtaining food and basic products, even when this neighborhood of Santa Clara also functions as the center of the city’s informal market.

An article published in the local newspaper Vanguardia, on August 11, informed the people of Santa Clara that they would undergo a “rotation of the four energy blocks” to “distribute” the “effects” of the electric service.

The article specified that the province had “300,000 residential customers distributed on 159 circuits,” of which several receive “protection,” such as circuit 3, in the center of Santa Clara, “where services committed to the population are offered, in addition to radio and television transmitters, banks and ATMs.”

In addition, the provincial government announced two “proposals” for the planning of blackouts. “The first proposal consists of 12 hours divided into two periods of time, and the second, of up to 12 continuous hours, whose interruption time could be shorter depending on the conditions of the National Electricity System.”

The “new system of effects” began on Saturday, August 13, coinciding with the protests in El Condado. Some of the comments of readers, outraged by the article, escaped censorship by the Communist Party, of which Vanguardia is the provincial press organ.

“Are we a national vanguard in blackouts? Why are they so unfair to some and accommodating to others? Are we third-rate citizens?” asked one reader. “Impossible,” said another, “we can’t take it anymore. How long? They do repairs, maintenance, and when they start getting back up on the system they have problems again. The issue of programming, keep it in mind, is abusive. We went back to the years of the Special Period.”

“People are very upset in every way,” Enrique tells 14ymedio, “but the Government has been able to regulate the ’pressure’. In reality, very few people in Santa Clara dare to go out on the street, and those who do immediately give in when they turn on the power.”

“In my neighborhood,” the man continues, “very close to the city center, when the light goes out there are three ’security’ women who go out to see what people say. They have children abroad and their cards are loaded with dollars, a very comfortable position to be in for a ’snitch’. Recently, in the middle of a blackout, the banging on two pots and pans rang down the street, and they immediately went out to see what was going on. There are people like that in every neighborhood.”

Night protests against blackouts are becoming more frequent on the island. The explosion at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, on August 5, was a bad omen for a country that was already in the middle of a crisis. Since the night demonstrations against an energy cut in Los Palacios, Pinar del Río, on July 15, this type of protest has been repeated in dozens of towns and cities on the island.

During the most recent ones, in Güira de Melena, in the province of Artemisa, neighbors took to the streets with pots and pans, shouting “Turn on the power, dickhead,” a slogan that has become common to demand an end to the blackouts.

Translated by Regina a Anavy

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

With Just Three Hours of Electricity This Thursday, Pinar del Rio is the Most Affected Province in Cuba

In recent months, protests have been happening throughout the island, which is suffering from an unprecedented energy crisis. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 August 2022 — The Antonio Guiteras de Matanzas Thermoelectric Plant stopped working again this Wednesday due to lack of cooling water, hours after having reestablished its operations.

Two days earlier, the most important thermoelectric plant in Cuba had left the National Electricity System also due to the lack of pressure in the pumped water, as a result of the fire at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, located less than 5 kilometers away.

For its part, the Renté Antonio Maceo plant in Santiago de Cuba had a boiler break down and had to stop one of its units.

The result for this Thursday was, once again, more blackouts on the island. From Pinar del Río, Daguito Valdés said that in the province they will have only “three hours of power a day,” with 12 consecutive hours of suspension of electricity service. continue reading

This Wednesday, the Electric Union of Cuba (UNE) reported a capacity deficit of 24 hours that day, the greatest of which was 1,101 MW, at 8:20 p.m.

The maximum expected shortage for this Thursday is 1,071 MW.

According to the UNE report, units in the Mariel, Otto Parellada, Nuevitas and Felton power plants are out of service due to breakdowns.

A unit is also under maintenance at the Cienfuegos Thermoelectric Power Plant, with “limitations in thermal generation.”

The power cuts, permanent since mid-July, are exhausting the patience of Cubans, who have taken to the streets at night to protest. The last ones were on Tuesday night, in Santa Cruz del Norte, Mayabeque, and in the suburb of La Esperanza, Cienfuegos.

The day before, about 200 people demonstrated at the popular council of Alcides Pino, in Holguín, shouting “turn on the power, dickhead,” accompanied by banging on pots and pans and blaring of vehicle horns.

Since the first demonstrations against the blackouts, on July 15  in Los Palacios (Pinar del Río), protests have been added throughout the island, which suffers from an unprecedented energy crisis.

On August 5, the same day that the fire began at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, hundreds of people demonstrated in the Martí Park of Cienfuegos demanding an end to the blackouts, which in some areas last up to 14 hours.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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 Furthest City

View of Vidal Park and the La Caridad theater, in Santa Clara. (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Xavier Carbonell, Salamanca, 14 August 2022 — Rarely can an exile choose the city in which his days will end. Fortune intervenes, rolls the dice, and the cards are shuffled. Wherever we fall, we live, and we try to make sense of the trip. The city that welcomes the exile can be dizzying or peaceful, but one approaches it as one who caresses a cat. It can receive us but also bite us.

Reinaldo Arenas said that, upon leaving Cuba, he felt the same relief as those who escape from a fire. One is happy to have been saved, but then he understands that his house, his people, his island were definitively burned down. And not only because of the impossibility of returning, but also because the exile already abolished a territory from the map and turned it into a memory.

That distance that establishes the memory between you and your country characterizes the emigrant. And if, years later, we return, it is only to prove that the border is firmer than ever.

Like the fragment of [José María] Heredia that we read as children with boredom and reluctance: “What does it matter if the tyrant thunders? Poor, yes, but I find myself free: Only the soul of the soul is the center.” There are few more resentful verses in our literature. Heredia contemplates from afar, from the boat, the homeland denied to him, and his revenge is to affirm that not even the earth matters, but the soul, the personal memory. continue reading

“Without a homeland but without a master,” José Martí repeats this decades later. That is why the furthest city is not the one that receives the exile, but the one that he leaves behind.

For me, that city was Santa Clara, compact, provincial, quiet. I spent my early youth between the Central University — isolated like a monastery — and the library of the former Passionist convent that is now the bishopric. I lit my first cigars in its cafes and became fond of smoking on the terraces of Vidal Park, wasting the Creole afternoon.

I was not bohemian nor did I participate in the literary life of the city, populated by vultures and poets. Disguised as an editor, librarian and vagabond student, I wrote novels in silence and let myself be carried away by the pirates, conquerors, ships and creatures of the bestiary.

Although my town was the space of myth and dreaming, in Santa Clara the memory of the Island opened up for me. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to write. In the library — the strangest space in the city — I held the only preserved cylinder of the organ from the Parroquial Mayor church, demolished by Machado in 1923. In that same place I browsed books and autographs of patriots, writers, presidents and illustrious people.

I used to sit in the park, looking at the old Gran Hotel Santa Clara Hilton, to guess in which of its rooms Cabrera Infante had spent his first honeymoon and in which other room the insomniac Lezama had stayed; if he had endured being far from Havana, would have been a professor at the Central University. All those characters met in memory with José Surí, the poet apothecary, the benefactor Marta Abreu and the old mambises troops [insurrectionists], who claimed a drink at the mysterious Café del Muerto.

During my last months in Santa Clara, however, everything shut down, like the country. Restaurants closed, the library stopped receiving visitors, smoking was banned, buildings collapsed. Diseases and violence came after the protests. Like many young people, the island crushed us until we had to leave.

Like Heredia on the ship that dragged him into exile, I last saw the contour of the city last winter. We picked up a few books, my great-grandfather’s pipe, two boxes of cigars, some family relics, and we landed in Madrid, a city that I never managed to fully appreciate.

Then I boarded a train that traveled along the Castilian plain to Salamanca. I arrived sad, and the cold prevented me from smoking. However, a walk through the city was enough for me to understand that, from all over Spain, this was a favorite place for exiles, pilgrims and wanderers, like Miguel de Unamuno. I now live next to the Roman Bridge that crossed the Lazarillo, over the Tormes, in front of the cathedral, the university and the orchard of Callisto, Melibea and the bizarre Celestina.*

Salamanca secretly and endearingly rhymes with Santa Clara, as Cuba does with Spain. It is also small and quiet, ideal for writing and retreat, and when I travel outside it, through the Peninsula, I long to return home. Here, between books and thinking about the Island, at last “the soul of the soul is the center.”

Exile, despite the distance, is also adventure and learning. I don’t know when we will be able to return to the furthest city, but — like the ancient Trojans after the invasion — I carry with me the relics of the Island, memory, cigars and old words: any place is my country.

*Translator’s note: Comedia de Calisto y Melibia, written by Fernando de Rojas and published in 1499, was a medieval novel in the form of a series of dialogues, usually performed as a play and considered the first work of the Spanish Renaissance.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Why Are Cubans Right to Distrust Their Banks?

A line at the doors of a bank in Havana after announcements in changes in the system. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elias Amor Bravo, Economist, 14 August 2022 — In the second year of the Ordering Task,* the Cuban communist regime has gone a step further in the line of formal banking procedures for economic transactions with the publication of Resolution 123/2022 of the Central Bank of Cuba, which updates the processes of issuance, use and the processing of payment card transactions. In essence, a set of mandatory rules is established for those who want to operate with “plastic money.”

The focus on banking [versus all cash transactions] in the Cuban economy has been announced on numerous occasions by communist leaders, who are obsessed with the high ratio of money in circulation — known as ’M2’, a measure of the money supply that includes cash and readily available deposits — relative to the GDP. This ratio reached as high as 91% in 2020, to fall to 57% in 2021. However, this data has to be evaluated with extreme care, since it includes the combined effects of monetary unification and inflation, so it likely was not, in fact, so low, but it continues to worry the leaders.

Why do communists want to ’bank’ the economy — that is shift from an economy that operates primarily in cash?

Basically, for two reasons, and both are in the interest of the regime and have little to do with the well-being and prosperity of Cubans.

The first is that the expansive circulation of paper money is a dangerous part of the inflationary spiral. In fact, in the Cuban economy, the acceleration of the GDP or CPI deflator since 2019 had a lot to do with the abundance of cash, especially in the hands of the public. continue reading

##Much of the responsibility for this situation lay with the communist regime in authorizing wage increases without concurrent increases in productivity, which increased the amount of money without increasing the availability of goods and services. Inflation produced from this situation became the economy’s response to very serious errors in terms of wages and pensions.

Therefore, the reduction of cash in circulation, through moving money to banks seemed an option to be developed. Unfortunately, there is no information available on what percentage of monetary circulation continues to materialize through cash in the hands of the public, and what percentage flows through banks, but it’s estimated that the former can be around 80% of the total. The interest of the regime is to control the latter, where higher value-added products and services move. They believe moving to magnetic cards makes it easier, or so they think. It remains to be seen if they succeed.

The second reason is in the DNA of the communist regime. Banks are an instrument of party and state control. They inform, control, and handle customers’ personal information at will. There is no level of protection for personal data in Cuba as in other countries of the world. Cuban banks are empowered to ask customers about the origin and/or destination of the funds they are going to dispose of, a practice that breaks with the elementary principles of bank secrecy.

So, having most of the productive money in the “banked” economy, allows the regime to tighten its control mechanisms over the banks in question. This is one of the aspects that causes widespread mistrust among Cubans towards the banking system, regardless of bank runs, confiscations and other similar practices in these 63 years of communist rule.

The truth is that the leaders want to get away with it, and in recent years they have done their homework regarding how to shift the economy to banks (versus cash), paying salaries and pensions by transfers in a large part of state companies and agencies in the budgeted sector, thus breaking the dependence on the “cash envelope” that was the main monetary link of the population. But is that payment by transfer enough for people to use payment, debit or credit cards?

As always happens with these things, the communist regime wants to impose, through resolutions, economic behaviors that don’t exist in reality, and, as a result, instead of achieving the objective, it ends up encountering the most absolute rejection of the measures imposed by economic agents.

This time the same thing is going to happen, no matter how much the state press supports the campaign. Cuban communists don’t quite know that before imposing a mandatory legal framework, you have to take a moment to see if what you want to regulate already exists in reality. They don’t. They throw themselves into the dry pond and then crash. Resolution 123/2022 of the Central Bank of Cuba (CCB) will be a good example.

The rule is redundant, and, so to speak, it says things that are already known. For example, everyone knows that the power of the Central Bank is to “exercise the regulation and surveillance of the country’s payment systems and dictate the rules of operation, in order to ensure that they function efficiently, within adequate levels of security for participants and the general public.” But is it really dedicated to it or is it just print on paper? Is there a study that reveals the efficiency of the Central Bank in ensuring the proper functioning of payment systems? I don’t know of any.

The relevance of the bank card in its different modalities, which the resolution has opened to the maximum, should be based on a prior knowledge of what percentage of Cubans use that means of payment and, above all, which segments of society, and going a little further, what they use the card for. And more importantly, the state of banking technology that allows operations with plastic money should be investigated. That way no one would get surprises.

The resolution refers surprisingly to “participants who act under license as issuers, payment transaction processing centers and payment card acquirers” as if they want to convey the idea that in addition to banks there may be others that issue cards. It may be causing a real proliferation of plastic money that ends up generating more problems than solutions. The procedure is also simple, if other standards within the Cuban communist regime are taken into account.

In this sense, the concern for the prevention and detection of operations in the fight against money laundering, financing, terrorism, the proliferation of weapons and the movement of illicit capital boasted by the regime should be extended to all types of banking operations and not just cards.

This will be a process to follow over time, because it has just begun. The Cuban communists’ objective of ’banking’ the economy is hampered by the logical and justified fear of citizens of the banking system, and what is even worse, the scarce tradition of Cubans’ relations with their banks. A tradition that was broken in 1959 with the confiscations and expropriations of funds, deposits and all kinds of financial operations of Cubans in the banks that existed in Cuba at the time. Wanting to erase all that with the stroke of a pen, as if it hadn’t happened, will not be easy. There are still many of us left to remember that dark episode of our history.

*Translator’s note: The “Ordering Task” is a collection of measures that include eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and a broad range of other measures related to different elements of the Cuban economy. 

Translated by Regina Anavy  

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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 Triumph” and “Freedom” are the Names of Cuban Boats that Arrived in the United States

A group of 16 Cubans and one other person whom the U.S. Border Patrol accuses of being a ’coyote’ arrived in Florida on this boat last Wednesday. (Twitter/@USBPChiefMIP)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 August 2022 — “El Triunfador” and “Libertad” are the names of two precarious boats in which 35 Cubans arrived at Marathon Cay, FL, in the U.S., between Wednesday and Thursday of this week. The passengers of El Triunfador, three women and 16 men who made landfall this Thursday, were placed in federal custody, and “will be processed for removal proceedings,” according to Walter Slosar, head of the Border Patrol, through his Twitter account.

These 19 rafters have the option of applying for asylum, which involves proving to an officer or judge that they’re afraid to return to their country. If Cubans convince the relevant authorities, they are “given bail and can ask for asylum,” explained Willy Allen, an Immigration lawyer.

The judicial process for the 16 passengers who arrived Wednesday on the Libertad boat will be different, since they were detained after a maritime smuggling operation. Agent Slosar indicated that an alleged smuggler was arrested with them, so an investigation was initiated.

If it’s proven that the Cubans were victims of human trafficking, the alternative, as lawyer Miguel Díaz pointed out to the television network Telemundo 51 in Miami, is to focus on applying for the D visa or the U visa, continue reading

which can be used by victims of crimes, as long as the authorities consider their petitions valid. Those who benefit from this type of visa are granted a residence permit for four years and authorization to work in the United States.

In recent weeks, the departure of boats from the Island has skyrocketed. According to records published by Officer Slosar, in the month of August alone, 143 Cuban rafters, who managed to reach Florida in 14 motorboats, fishermen’s boats and rafts, have been arrested.

A week ago, Adam Linhardt, spokesman for the Monroe County sheriff’s office, predicted the arrival of more rafters, especially from Cuba, which is going through an unprecedented humanitarian crisis with the increase in commodity prices and a notable increase in police repression.

Trying to Stop Dengue Fever with an Inadequate Fumigation Campaign

The racket wasn’t coming from a machine in the sky but from an old fumigation truck of the Comunales company. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 11 August 2022 — Early Thursday morning, the inhabitants of Nuevo Vedado in Havana woke up startled by the roar of what seemed to be a small plane, flying over the streets of the city. However, when they went out to their balconies, they noticed that the noise didn’t come from a flying machine, but from an old fumigation truck of the Comunales* company.

The vehicle dispensed its smoke on the streets, sidewalks and ditches, so that the gas would reach the numerous mosquitos that nest after the summer downpours. It’s a random measure, but one urgently decreed by the Government, which has always lacked a systematic and coherent strategy against the aedes aegypti mosquito which transmits dengue fever.

Another Public Health measure has been the sending of medical personnel to inspect residential buildings in the area. But even when time and human resources are allocated for this, doctors must face multiple daily setbacks on the island.

A doctor on her way to inspect a building in the area entered the elevator to evaluate the upper floors and, between one level and another, was trapped by a power outage. Had one of the neighbors of the building, already accustomed to the “rescue” during blackouts, not come, the woman would have remained there, locked in the elevator until two in the afternoon, when the electricity was scheduled to return.

Other neighbors have filed complaints with Public Health, since health workers appear in homes during the most inappropriate hours, when people need to go to work or out to the street. Their presence must be validated; it’s “mandatory” and decreed by the Government.

As if that weren’t enough, the proliferation of dengue hemorrhagic fever and other mosquito-borne diseases are at their most critical point. The most recent report presented by the Minister of Public Health pointed out, as causes, “vacations” and the “period of rain and intense heat,” but concluded, with the usual rhetoric, that the only possible measure is “surveillance, timely admission, trained personnel, adequate treatment and closing ranks in the areas of greatest risk.”

In contrast to the official optimism, the minister offered concrete data on the transmission of dengue fever in 11 provinces, 23 municipalities and 33 health areas of the island. During the last week of July, the incidence rate of suspected dengue cases increased by 35.5% compared to the previous week, with an average of 68.3 cases recorded per day, mainly in Havana, Holguín, Isla de la Juventud, Guantánamo and Camagüey. continue reading

A report published in Tribuna de La Habana reported that “intensive fumigation” vehicles similar to those of Nuevo Vedado will circulate in the municipality of Playa. The proliferation of insect-borne viruses, which include dengue, Zika and chikungunya, especially affects the coastal area of Havana, where outbreaks abound.

According to Manuel Bravo Fleitas, Director of Health in this municipality in the west of the city, there is a map that records the most affected blocks and the nuclei of dengue transmission, which includes the local polyclinic.

The most frequent practice in this and other municipalities of the island has been home care and the sporadic follow-up of patients. The symptoms that indicate the condition, which neighbors must report to the health directors, are fever, muscle and eye pain, in addition to fatigue and exhaustion.

“Playa shows a similar behavior to the rest of the Havana territories in terms of the number of cases and the number of fevers, with an average of 100-120 per day,” the report says.

As the situation becomes increasingly alarming, the Community Services procedure continues to respond to a precarious pattern: workers irrigate puddles, tanks and swimming pools with little bottles of diluted insecticide. Fumigation devices, in addition to being old and very annoying, usually don’t have the necessary maintenance and fuel, and neighborhoods continue to suffer from unhealthy conditions and systematic deterioration.

Abandoned and collapsing buildings are ideal sources for mosquito nesting, in addition to numerous rubbish dumps and common areas that are barely cleaned of grass and garbage. The impossibility of ventilating houses properly, due to frequent blackouts, facilitates the scenario for night bites of mosquitoes.

Added to this panorama is the fact that Cuba is far from having satisfactory control of the COVID-19 pandemic, and hospitals have a more worrying lack, that of medical supplies, which are indispensable for treatment and recovery from these diseases.

*Translator’s note: Servicios Comunales is a public company in charge of services such as garbage collection, mosquito control, and others.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Promoting an Initiative so Cubans Don’t Send Their Children to Military Service

Carlos Miguel Mateos Rosaenz clarifies that “the petition is not addressed to the Cuban authorities.” (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 August 2022 — 14ymedio, Havana, 12 August 2022 — He left Cuba in 2019 after suffering pressure for opposing the new Constitution and now, from Colombia, he leads an online petition calling for an end to compulsory military service on the island. Carlos Miguel Mateos Rosaenz talks to 14ymedio about the reasons that led him to promote an initiative that has already collected more than 2,000 signatures.

The death of at least four young recruits in the fire at the Matanzas Supertanker Base gave this 49-year-old émigré the final impetus to publish the petition, but he was also motivated by the concern of many mothers he knows on the island “whose children are about to enter compulsory military service.”

His experience in military service marked him very negatively, and now he regrets that these young people have died because of “the irresponsibility and mediocrity of dictators.” In the request on Change.org, he also describes the regime as in great need of “maintaining an army that only serves to perpetuate a corrupt and murderous mafia in power by repressing the people.”

Mateos Rosaenz clarifies that “the petition is not addressed to the Cuban authorities,” to whom he does not even grant any authority. “Rather, it’s aimed at raising awareness among Cubans inside and outside [the island] about one of the many problems we have.” He wants the initiative to reach as many people as possible and to support parents so that they “don’t send their children to die or to repress the people in rebellion.”

“I don’t think it will lead the dictators to do anything, as if they weren’t dictators, but at least it will create pressure, it will inform, it will move wills.” But even if he has only discreet results, Mateos Rosaenz will be happy: “If I manage to get a single boy in Cuba to save himself from these things, I will be satisfied.” continue reading

For this man, who considers himself a political exile in Colombia, his collection of signatures was something that was going to arise at any time. “I have no more merit than that I came up with the idea of the petition. If I didn’t do it, some other Cuban would have done it.” Since he published the application, “cyber attacks on the networks” have rained down on him, but he is not intimidated. “There attacks are praise for me, and they show me that I’m right.”

Now, while continuing to give massages, do acupuncture therapy and teach martial arts, Mateos Rosaenz keeps his eye on the page where every hour the number of people who sign his petition  increases. At the bottom of the text he published, a signatory left a brief message: “We don’t need an army. We have no enemies; the real enemy is the Cuban regime.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Closure of the Matanzas Supertanker Base Forces Oil Tankers to Unload in Other Cuban Ports

The NS Laguna was notified of the change of course and will be diverted to the port of Antilla, in Holguín. (ACN)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 August 2022 — The fire at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, not yet fully extinguished, has had a considerable impact on the port activity of that city. Ships carrying oil usually dock there, and their cargo is transported to other parts of the island by land or pipeline.

However, the destruction of 50% of the Supertanker Base has limited the possibility of fuel storage in Matanzas and has forced the redirection of the ships that were headed there.

On Wednesday, the ship NS Laguna, 249 meters long and 44 meters wide, sailing under the flag of Liberia (Africa) with a shipment of 700,000 barrels of Russian oil, was diverted. According to the Vessel Finder nautical application, the ship left the port of Ust-Luga, in Russia, on July 26, for the Matanzas terminal, where it was expected to arrive in mid-August.

The NS Laguna was notified of the change of course and will be diverted to the port of Antilla, in Holguín, of lower capacity than that of Matanzas. It is expected to dock this Saturday at 11:00 p.m. and discharge the fuel there.

A similar situation occurred on Wednesday, when two Cuban-flagged oil tankers, transporting crude oil from Venezuela to the island, were diverted by the company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (Pdvsa) to smaller terminals.

The oil tanker María Cristina sailed from the Venezuelan port of La Cruz, arrived briefly in Havana and had to interrupt its unloading in Matanzas, where it was docked during the explosion. It had to go to Santiago de Cuba and deliver the rest of the crude oil there. continue reading

The ship Vilma also advanced from the port of José, on the Venezuelan coast, to the Antilla terminal. Lourdes and Esperanza, while the usual ships of the “oil fleet” between the two countries are still in Venezuela.

The shutting down of the port of Matanzas represents a notable difficulty for the transport and processing of crude oil on the island. The delay will affect electricity generation, one of the most critical problems facing Cuba, where long blackouts have led to popular protests.

According to Vessel Finder maps, the only ships anchored in Matanzas Bay are the Mexican Bourbon Artabaze, specialized in firefighting, with technicians and military personnel on board and sent by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in addition to the tugboat Hurricane 1, under a Cuban flag.

The data also reveal that, since the accident, the Cuban tugboat Tormenta 1, the oil tanker Caribbean Alliance, under the Panamanian flag, and the two aforementioned ships have frequented the Havana port.

It is hoped that the Cuban Government, in order not to interrupt the flow of crude oil that the island urgently requires from its Venezuelan, Russian, Iranian and other allies, will redirect other ships in the coming weeks and improve conditions in the ports of Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Antilla.

These terminals have proven to be the only ones capable of processing the oil shipments that, before the Supertanker accident, Matanzas administered.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Fire at Matanzas Supertanker Base in Cuba is Controlled After Five Chaotic Days

Elier Correa, 24, had been presumed dead at first, but was found to have been hospitalized since Friday. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 August 2022 — Although it recognizes that risks still persist, the Cuban Government declared the fire at the Matanzas Supertanker Base extinguished on Wednesday, five days after it began as a result of a lightning strike, according to the official version.

In the four affected storage tanks, out of a total of eight 50,000 cubic meters each (50 million liters) and their surroundings, some active points remain, where emergency teams are located, EFE reports.

In statements by the second head of the Cuban Fire Department, Daniel Chávez, the work is focusing on cooling the area, where “minor” flames may persist for days.

The images shown by the official media that accessed the site of the accident, unprecedented in the history of Cuba, are devastating. Next to the completely melted tanks, fire trucks and other burned vehicles are observed. This is where 14 people went missing while fighting the flames.

The authorities still haven’t provided data on the missing persons, mostly young people who were going through military service and were sent to fight the fire without any experience. Only one person was mentioned: the firefighter, Juan Carlos Santana Garrido, 60, who has died.

In its last statement, the Ministry of Public Health raised the number of injured to 128, of which 20 are hospitalized: 5 critical, 2 serious and 13 “under care.”

Far from offering information, not only about the fatalities but also about the cost of the incident for the perpetually diminished Cuban economy, the official press focused this Thursday on extolling President Miguel Díaz-Canel for visiting the destroyed facilities. continue reading

A man rides a bicycle while observing the smoke that remains from the fire in the industrial area of the port, this Wednesday in Matanzas. (EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa)

Thus, they pick up the words of the hand-picked president: that “what happened in the last few hours didn’t paralyze the country, because many things have been done to continue improving the situation” and that “there was serenity, an ability to reach consensus on how to work.”

Roberto Morales Ojeda, a member of the Political Bureau and Secretary of Organization of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Part (PCC), goes so far as to describe as a “feat” the “integrated, coordinated work, deployed with extraordinary effort.”

The article from the State newspaper Granma, with the pompous title “The five days that shook Cuba, and the lessons gained forever,” devotes only half a sentence to the “25 flights from Mexico and Venezuela,” countries whose help to extinguish the fire was fundamental.

These nations contributed 127 specialists, 45,000 liters of retardant foam and 8 breathing air tanks with armor, in addition to other materials.

Regarding the missing, it simply refers to the statements of the Minister of Health, José Angel Portal Miranda: “The experts who will be in charge of the rescue and identification of the bodies have come prepared.”

About the environmental pollution, which concerns both the residents of Matanzas and those of other neighboring provinces, even Havana, the Cuban Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero Cruz, said that the indicators “are below danger figures” and that “there are no patients with pollution-related symptoms at the hospitals.”

Another unanswered question is what could have caused the tragedy. The Matanzas Supertanker Base, the product of an agreement signed between Cuba and Venezuela, is a facility that is barely ten years old.

Some specialists, such as Alexandr Gofstein, rescuer and former head of the Russian Rescue Preparedness Center, explained that “the fact that the fire spread from one tank to the others shows that there were defects in the very structure of the base, which led to a disaster of such a proportion.”

However, hydraulic engineers Eric Cabrera Estupiñán and Alejandro Alomá Barceló, who worked on the design of the fire system of the facilities, which were inaugurated in 2012, said in an interview with Periodismo de Barrio that the Base had been built with “the necessary security measures of the highest international standard,” including a fire station.

Despite the fact that, as Cabrera said, “a lot was invested,” the troops who were sent to fight the fire initially included boys who were doing their military service at Fire Command number 3 of Varadero airport, 25 kilometers from the accident.

“Apparently what happened is that the lightning generated very strong energy,” the engineer speculated, and hit the top of the first tank. “At the top there is a cooling ring, which didn’t work,” he explained, although he did observe that “the cooling system of the neighboring tanks was working.”

Alomá, for his part, pointed out that the tank where the accident began “was practically destroyed from the first moment, at least the top, due to the many gases that had accumulated there.”

Both specialists stated that they have no way of knowing if the fire detection system, which automatically starts cooling measures in the facilities, worked correctly. “We have no idea if the pumps managed to move the amount of water required for cooling,” Alomá said.

Nor did they see that the necessary chemicals were used in this case — a kind of detergent with foam that eliminates oxygen in contact with the fire and, therefore, extinguishes it — but they didn’t venture any reason.

In a 2020 publication, some specialists warned of the danger of storing fuel for more than two months, referring to the conditions in which the reserves stored by Petróleos de Venezuela are located, in tanks similar to those of the Matanzas Base.

Chemical engineer Fernando Morales, for example, explained that “stopping the production of an oil well causes damage to it,” and Eudis Girot, executive director of the United Federation of Oil Workers of Venezuela, assured that the “structural composition” of the tanks is not designed to house oil for a long time.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Human Rights Group Reports the ‘Young Man With the Placard’ is at Serious Risk in a Cuban Prison

“The young man with the placard” remains incarcerated in the prison of the Combinado del Este. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 August 2022 — The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a resolution in which it considers the situation of Cuban opponent Luis Robles as “at serious risk.” Robles, known as “the young man with the placard,” was arrested in December 2020 for demanding the release of musician Denis Solís, on San Rafael Boulevard in Havana.

In the document, the IACHR, an organization belonging to the Organization of American States, describes several precautionary measures that are necessary to protect the rights and integrity of the imprisoned.

“He continues to be deprived of liberty in the circumstances described and may be further denied his rights,” adds the Commission, which proposes that the 29-year-old inmate get access to adequate medical care and receive medicines for his chronic gastritis. In addition, his relatives and lawyers must be allowed to visit him in prison.

The Commission asks that some “alternative to the deprivation of his liberty” be evaluated and that action be taken against the threats and harassment suffered by Robles in the Combinado del Este prison, in Havana, where he is serving a five-year sentence for the crimes of enemy propaganda and disobedience.

The Cuban State must inform the Commission within 15 days if it has adopted the proposed precautionary measures; however, since the organization Prisoners Defenders, based in Madrid, initiated this request, there has been no continue reading

government response on the case.

Among the background and reports that the Commission used to document its resolution were the contributions of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations, which asked the Cuban State to release Robles “immediately” during its 91st session.

Returning to the complaint of Prisoners Defenders, the Commission reported that Robles has been held incommunicado with his family and that he survives in “inhuman conditions.” It adds that on February 12, 2021, Robles asked for medicines and that “they didn’t give them to him so that he could just die there.” In addition, he has suffered beatings by State Security agents during his detention. The document also reports that “the young man with the placard” remained naked and slept on the floor for two nights, in punishment cells, on the orders of the prison authorities.

“The Commission considers that the proposed beneficiary, deprived of liberty since December 2020 after a demonstration on public roads, would be in severe conditions of detention in the Combinado del Este prison and has not received access to the necessary medicines for his chronic illness to date, after 1 year and 8 months of detention,” the resolution states.

In June, Yindra Elizastigui, Robles’ mother, reported that her son has been maltreated constantly, such as being photographed without clothes, against his will.

The mother, after filing the relevant complaints at the request of the Ministry of the Interior, received as a response from the regime that the photographs were taken for “an investigation into a newspaper report saying that Luis Robles had been beaten,” so they took those images “to show the world that my son had no traces on his body of physical abuse.”

On July 23, Robles’ mother revealed that the head of the prison unit where her son is being held said that he will not be granted the benefit of “the minimum,” that is, the transfer to a labor camp upon serving a year and three months of sentence. “Given that he has not behaved well, because he has made some calls abroad denouncing the abuses to which he has been subjected,” she reported on Facebook.

Yindra Elizastigui has filed complaints about violations of the rights of prisoners and recalls that Luis Robles is the father of a two-year-old boy. “They love to remind the prisoners that they must fulfill their duties, but they forget that they also have rights.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

In the Midst of the Blackouts, a Luxury Hotel Without Customers Illuminates Havana

Greater Aston, located on 1st and D Streets, very close to Malecón Avenue. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 10 August 2022 — In the midst of an almost absolute blackout in Havana’s Vedado, the Grand Aston Hotel Havana seemed to have fallen from another world, less precarious and underdeveloped. All its lamps, windows, spotlights, reflectors and even humble light bulbs were at their maximum capacity, without any attention to the ominous reports of the Electrical Union.

Energy conservation is not an issue of interest to the directors of the Greater Aston, located on 1st and D streets, very close to Malecón Avenue. “The newest and most elegant” hotel in the city, according to its website, also doesn’t seem to concern the Cuban Government too much, which juggles to attract investment from foreign companies in the tourism sector.

It’s not the first time that state hotels and establishments seem to enjoy special “isolation” in the cities of the island, safe from power cuts, the misery of the people, police repression, hunger and protests provoked by all these factors.

On the same day that the Grand Aston threw its luminous aura over the darkened capital, Habaneros watched the sinister glow of the fire at the Supertanker Base in Matanzas.

Also during that day, the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric power plant announced its umpteenth exit from the National Electricity System, under the pretext of not having “sufficient water supply” and no fuel, while an acidic and heavy downpour bathed the rooftops of the city. continue reading

The torment for the Cuban people doesn’t end there. A few days before the explosion in Matanzas, the Minister of Economy formally declared war on the informal currency exchange and provoked the usual question: “If we don’t have electricity, food, well-being or a future, what are they doing with our dollars?”

Neighbors looking at the incandescent tower of the Grand Aston had to think that, perhaps, the hotel was the only place in Havana where those questions referred to a distant reality.

It is not for nothing that managers say that anyone who can afford a room at the Grand Aston will access “a refuge where they can relax and recharge their batteries, while experiencing its glamour.”

The price of the only illuminated Eden in Havana ranges between $179 and $244 per night, tropical and truly luxurious, not like the accommodations of the rest of Havanans.

The Grand Aston, as seen in the photograph, scandalously happy about a Cuba extinguished by the death, exile and hard lives of its citizens, is the most eloquent symbol of how the darkness of the country feeds the government businesses.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.