A Cuban Radiologist Recounts His Experience From Italy

In Turin, Italy, it’s also difficult to contain the coronavirus. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Galina González, Turin, March 21, 2020 — We here in Italy have already  lived for a month in this nightmare, and in spite of the fact that we haven’t reached the peak of the contagion, we are very aware of the restrictive measures that must be taken. Avoid contact with others and keep a one-meter distance if you don’t have a face mask. Wash your hands often and never touch your face while you are in the street. Avoid going out unless it’s for work or to buy food and medicine. The Red Cross has activated volunteer services to help the elderly.

When everything began in February, I didn’t know very well what I had to do and things were less clear. For me it was more difficult in relation to my work in the hospital, but now I am less worried. I work in radiology where women who have been operated on for breast cancer come to be monitored, but on March 9 they asked us to suspend all exams. My work right now consists of telephoning and giving information to patients. I don’t work with patients infected with the virus.

With all the restrictions that many people have who can’t go to work, it’s good right now to be able to work.

I feel I am living in a future that now everyone outside Italy is beginning to experience, and I’m worried about you. No one is prepared for this epidemic unless you are living inside it. i tried to give some advice to people outside Italy but realized it’s difficult to understand if it’s not happening to you.

I live in Turin, which is not as large as Milan, where it’s very difficult to contain the infection. Here when I go out to work in the morning with my bicycle I don’t have to stop at any traffic lights even if they’re red, because there’s no traffic. But I can see people walking their dogs.

When I finish work at 4:00 in the afternoon, it’s hard to see anyone walking in the center. Everything is closed: bars, shops, theaters, etc. And if the police see you outside your house they can stop and question you just because you’re outside. They’ve never stopped me because I have a certificate already prepared saying it’s for work.

I heard a radio program on the epidemic in other countries, and Cuba seems to be reluctant to take the restrictive measures necessary to avoid contagion. I saw a video on Facebook about a meeting of medical students in Cuba. A doctor was talking and asked someone to take off his mask or leave the room. This is disturbing, not to mention criminal. It could mean disaster. Be vigilant, all of you, and take preventive measures, even if the Government is taking its time to do it.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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 U.S. Embassy in Cuba Suspends its Services Because of Coronavirus

The Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Havana will offer only emergency services for U.S. citizens. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, March 17, 2020 — On Monday, the U.S. Embassy suspended “routine” services for North American citizens owing to the health emergency posed by the coronavirus, according to a diplomatic communication.

“As a result, the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Havana will offer only emergency services for U.S. citizens and non-migrant visa services,” it added.

Applicants who already have appointments will be notified by email when routine services resume, the Embassy indicated.

Cuba now has five confirmed cases — one in a critical state — of the illness caused by Covid-19.

The U.S. had already suspended consular services for immigrant and tourist visas some years ago because of mysterious attacks that required the evacuation of a large part of its Embassy staff in Havana.

Relations between the U.S. and Cuba have cooled since ex-President Barack Obama reestablished diplomatic ties between both countries and traveled to Havana to promote what was known as the “thaw”.

The policy of rapprochement, harshly criticized in South Florida where most of the exiled Cubans live, gave way to an escalation of confrontation after President Donald Trump took office. He blames Cuba for the authoritarian drift of Nicolás Maduro’s regime. Most of Cuba’s economic support comes from Venezuela.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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.

10 Years: A Guy Named Ivan Writes from Havana

July 2009. Iván writing on the first laptop he had, in the room of his daughter, who was then six years old.

Iván García, January 20, 2020 — Three years ago I had a smart phone for the first time. It was a gift from Celeste Matos, a journalist in Miami, with whom I worked for a time. It was robbed, and she offered me another, which was blocked because I couldn’t remember my account ID.

In January 2009, when I began this adventure of opening the blog Desde La Habana (From Havana), I didn’t have a laptop. I used to type on a portable Olivetti Lettera that my mother left me before going into exile in Switzerland in the autumn of 2003.

The Black Spring, as you know, was a repressive wave ordered by Fidel Castro, that imprisoned 75 dissidents, among them 27 independent journalists. It was a tremendous blow to uncensored journalism, and there was a logical retreat. continue reading

My friend Luis Cino, an unsurpassed chronicler, started working as a custodian in a dairy. In order to support my daughter, born February 3, 2003, I had to sell pizzas, snacks and fruit juice from home.

A Swiss reporter used to visit Havana in the month of December and we would meet in the home of Reinaldo Escobar and Yoani Sánchez. I heard Yoani talking about the blogosphere for the first time.

Later I read a very interesting article in Newsweek in Spanish about the importance of personal blogs in the media. This was in 2007. Cino and Juan González Febles had founded Primavera Digital (Digital Spring), an independent site considered illegal by the Regime, and they invited me to collaborate.

In April 2007, Yoani opened her blog, Generación Y (Generation Y*). Her posts were short, well-edited and irreverent. The Sánchez-Escobar couple are like a push-button box: you press a button and out comes an idea. And it occurred to them to open a Blogger Academy in their apartment, on the 14th floor of a Soviet-style building in the suburbs of Nuevo Vedado.

It was then that Yoani invited me to become part of her initiative to set up a platform of bloggers living in Cuba. You are your own publisher, censor and editor. You can write whatever you want. You’re on your own. One month before, I had done an interview with Yoani, which, because of its length, was divided into two parts.

I posted the first part, Conversation with Yoani, on the blog Penúltimas Días (Penultimate Days) on February 9; and the second, Yoani apunta con pistola (Yoani Aims a Gun) on El Blog de Tania Quintero (The Blog of Tania Quintero). It took me a lot of work to convert this long conversation into an interview, since the keyboard on my laptop was in German and didn’t have Spanish accent marks.

Finally, the blog Voces Cubanas (Cuban Voices) created a platform with the name of a musical group containing some 30 bloggers who were keen to win over the world. The idea appealed to me, but I preferred a blog that was more tilted toward journalism. So I invited the independent journalist, Luis Cini, and the lawyer, Laritza Diversent, to write a column.

Each one had their own plan, but I proposed to Laritza that she dissect the convoluted Cuban laws that not even the Government itself complied with. And I, like Cino, wrote posts about the Cuba that the Regime wanted to hide. Also, I tried to monetize the blog to earn some money for the three of us.

As for the Blogger Academy, there I learned everything I know about technology tools. Yoani had insisted that we open our own Twitter accounts. In one class she showed us an iPhone, the first I’d ever seen.

A little later, colleagues in the U.S. gave us modern laptops with Spanish keyboards and decent cell phones. In October 2009, Manuel Aguilera, a world-class journalist, discovered me from the blog Desde La Habana. He hired me for the American edition of El Mundo that Aguilera directed, where I wrote until 2012. In 2013 I began to publish in Diario Las Américas. This was something positive from the journalistic and monetary point of view. The pay for my collaborations allowed me to support my family without many hassles.

But the exclusivity of the blog was lost. The whirlwind of work prevented me and prevents me from writing original posts. Although my texts are reproduced and published on Diario Las Américas and other sites, I haven’t been able to return to writing specific texts for the Desde La Habana blog and El Blog de Iván García y sus amigos. Now I have more time. My daughter is about to enter university, and at present I’m writing only for Diario Las Américas.

For the 10th anniversary of the blog, I promise readers to return to exclusive stories. At least once a month. Up to now I’ve published in private, official, or commercial media. Desde La Habana has been like one of my children. It has opened doors and allowed me to know wonderful people, like Carlos Moreira from Portugal, who has been our administrator for 10 years, as well as innumerable readers who have contacted me through the blog and whom I later met in Cuba.

After a decade, the time to renew oneself has arrived. We will try to do things differently, to incorporate new writers, include videos. I will be telling you along the way what I have in mind.

*Translator’s note: The name refers to the generation born in Cuba during the Cold War whose parents were inspired by Russian names beginning with the letter “Y”.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Hundreds of Chinese Travelers Remain Stranded in Cuba Because of the Corona Virus

The Chinese authorities have taken drastic measures that also affect a large number of tourists in Cuba (14ymedio).

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 3, 2020 — It’s lunch hour, and several restaurants in Havana’s Chinatown are packed with customers. They speak in anxious tones, consult their phones, make calls and constantly look at their watches. Most of them are Chinese who are now stranded in Cuba after numerous flights were canceled because of the corona virus that is hitting their country.

The outbreak in Wuhan has led many airlines to cancel their flights to China. With more than 300 deaths and some 17,000 cases confirmed with the illness, local authorities have taken drastic measures that also affect a great number of tourists on the Island.

Jiang is a young man of 28 who was supposed to return to his country through a combination of flights from Havana to Paris and then by Air France to Peking, but for now the trip is canceled and he has to remain in Cuba. “I’m running out of money, and if there is no solution by Monday, I’ll have to go to the embassy and ask for help. They’ve told me I can fly to Paris and wait there until the connection is reestablished, but I’d rather stay here,” Jiang says. “There is still an option with Aeroflot but I’m not in a hurry to get home because classes have been suspended since the New Year’s vacation .” continue reading

The young man rents in a private home in Old Havana where they offered him housing before this happened. “The owner told me I could stay some extra nights at half-price but all this is very inconvenient for me and my friends, because we came for three weeks of vacation and now we are trapped here.”

Business people in the zone aren’t very bothered by the situation. “With the decline in tourism, at least now this place is full,” says a waiter in one of the restaurants in Chinatown that is popular because of its traditional Chinese cooking.

“They come here not only to eat but also to meet and talk about what they’re going through,” he clarifies. “Although many came on tourist packages and the companies are taking care of them through this, others are not doing well with this whole situation.”

In 2018 Cuba was the seventh destination in Latin America for Chinese tourism, with more than 48,000 visitors, and in 2019 the Island went up to fourth place in the region, a growth that was also noted in tourism offers and commercials focused on Chinese travelers.

“They are very interested in the history, the architecture, the music, but also want the beach and sun,” a private guide specializing in Chinese tourism told 14ymedio. He studies at the Confucius Institute of Havana and alternates his classes with walks and activities designed for groups coming from China.

“Recently I’ve had to help a lot of people with their travel arrangements, but most still haven’t been able to leave the country because the flights to mainland China are canceled, and between going to Europe or the U.S. where they’ll waste much more time waiting, they prefer to stay here,” he said.

“The bad news is that it seems this might be extended for a lot longer. Those who now are considered tourists can soon be in a situation almost of humanitarian emergency, and then the authorities must have a plan to house and feed them,” he adds.

For now, the Chinese Embassy in Havana hasn’t activated a specific protocol for these cases, according to a source who works in the headquarters in Vedado, but “each case is analyzed personally, and Chinese citizens have every right to solicit help and support in this circumstance,” he adds. “They can come and speak with an official.”

There is nothing posted outside the Embassy that contains additional information for tourists who are stranded on the Island because of the corona virus.

From Europe, SAS, Swiss Air, Finnair, Lufthansa and Air France have canceled flights to China. As for KLM, flights are being canceled as the situation with the coronavirus deteriorates.

The airlines aren’t the only ones taking extreme precautions. Cuban authorities are equipped to protect the country’s borders, “to contain the arrival of sick travelers (…) in addition to assuring strict compliance with measures of supervision and control over them, originating from areas with transmission after they have arrived,” said the official press.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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

The Cuban Government Lashes Out Against Bolivia for Receiving Rosa Maria Paya

Jeanine Añez and Rosa María Payá meet in the Palacio Quemado together with other Cuban activists. (Jeanine Añez)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Havana, January 22, 2020 — (EFE). On Tuesday, the Cuban Government reproached the acting President of Bolivia, Jeanine Áñez, for receiving the Cuban dissident Rosa María Payá and described the provisional executive members of the Andean country as “rebels who massacred the people” and “militarized the country.”

“Employees of the U.S. Government are rushing to embrace and support the Bolivian coup plotters who massacred the people, militarized the country, violated the Constitution and are rapidly trying to reverse the social advances in order to favor the oligarchs,” the Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez, wrote on Twitter.

In responding to this same publication, the Director General for Latin America of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Eugenio Rodríguez, noted that “the de facto President of Bolivia enters the miniscule club of authorities from Latin America that receives, under pressure from the U.S., those included on the payroll of U.S.A.I.D. to overthrow the popular Government of Cuba.” continue reading

Rodríguez also said that U.S. Government “employees” born in Cuba or of Cuban origin “only manage to be received by the coup plotters”.

Áñez received on Monday in the Palacio Quemado de La Paz, the daughter of the deceased dissident, Oswaldo Payá, and the promoter of the project Cuba Decides, a platform for Cubans to decide in a plebiscite on the political system they want for the Island.

Other members of the Latin American Network of Youth for Democracy also took part in the meeting, which was held according to the internal mandate to discuss “the situation of the Cuban people and the state of democracy in Latin America”.

“Thank you, Bolivia, for denouncing the criminal interference of Cuba in your country and for being the transition that inspires those of us who are still confronting dictatorships”, Payá wrote later on Twitter. She also met with Ex-President Jorge Quiroga.

Cuba and Bolivia were tightly allied when Evo Morales was President of Bolivia, but the foreign policy of the new President has been marked by distancing Bolivia from its former partner.

A short time after assuming power, when Morales resigned and left the country, the Interim Government broke off relations with Venezuela, and, although it presently maintains relations with Cuba, the ideological positions between La Paz and Havana are now antagonistic.

In November, Cuba withdrew for reasons of security more than 700 professionals who were providing services in Bolivia, mainly in the health sector.

The decision was the culmination of a discussion days earlier about the detention of several Cuban doctors by the Bolivian police. Initially they were accused of promoting protests in favor of Evo Morales, something that the Cuban Government vehemently denied.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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 Exile Community Makes Fun of the "Revelations" on Cuban Television About The Clandestinos

Cuban television links several Cuban exiles in Miami to the Clandestinos.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 23, 2020 — After being pointed out by the Cuban State’s television monopoly as the main person responsible for the activities of the Clandestinos, Ana Olema Hernández responded this Wednesday on the program El Espejo of AmericaTeve. “The system has no credibility. It’s a total defamation,” said the activist.

Hernández, who lives in Miami, was accused in the Tuesday report on the State channel of having paid $600 to Panter Rodríguez Baró, who is presumed responsible along with Yoel Prieto Tamayo, of pouring pork blood on 11 busts of Martí and writing political content on three walls at the beginning of 2020. In order to sustain its accusations, the program showed alleged receipts of money sent by Western Union.

Hernández admitted having known Rodríguez during a brief visit to Cuba in 2018, but she denies any link to the Clandestinos or knowing any of the other three accused. continue reading

“From the very first moment they have tried to find someone guilty in order to keep the image they want to give that the System maintains absolute control of the country,” said the activist, who thinks the situation is out of the control of the Government.

Hernández was accused in the report of being “at the service of the United States and the anti-Cuban mafia located in Florida”, of having ties with “counterrevolutionary and terrorist” organizations and of being, furthermore, a “puppet of subversion” implicated in causing “disorders.”

“The idea of the Clandestinos isn’t mine. They are trying to deny that there is an autonomous and legitimate opposition that is born from popular discontent,” he argued, before demanding that the Government have free elections.

Yonel Fernando Cardoso, another of those pointed out by Cuban television, admitted in a statement to El Nuevo Herald that he administers the Facebook group, “We are all Clandestinos”, which has more than 11,000 followers, but ties to the collective end there.

“I don’t have any relationship with the four people arrested in Havana. On my page, which is different from the Clandestinos page, I publish the Clandestino actions that other activists send me from Cuba,” she said.

The Miami paper contacted the activist, Liu Santiesteban, who also rejected the ties traced by the Cubans between the Clandestinos and Ana Olema Hernández or Ultrak by the mere fact that they had written songs about them.

“The Clandestinos are liked by a good part of Cuban society, although some people feel offended. I’ve seen many people who were first offended but later understood the message. The Clandestinos have taken away faith in the regime from many people, and that’s what scares the Government,” declared El Nuevo Herald.

The newspaper also spoke with the actor Roberto San Martín. “Why do I have to believe a regime that tortures and assassinates? I’m sure they’re trying to discredit Ana Olema, who recently went viral against the dictatorship, and those guys are simple snitches used to denigrate and shut up the opposition,” he said from Madrid, where he resides.

In addition, he said he had received a “suspicious” call by someone who tried to link him with the Clandestinos. “Under threat of execution, as they’ve had those guys, anybody will say anything. I don’t believe a thing the dictatorship says. There have no respect for the most elemental human rights,” he said.

Some of the media mentioned in a diagram used by Cuban State television are El Nuevo Herald, ADN Cuba, Diario de Cuba, Cubita Now and 14ymedio. They are accused of spreading facts of “similar magnitude,” although the official press itself has reported on the activities of the Clandestinios.

The musician Aldo Roberto Rodríguez Baquero, the political leader Rosa María Payá and the announcer Alex Otaola also appear in the diagram. Otaola told the Nuevo Herald that the Government continues to lie.

“As always, it’s a manipulation, a way to blame others for their disastrous system. It’s a ridiculous farce taking advantage of any excuse to create invisible enemies.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

See also:

Clandestinos: Outcome and Teachings of a Hoax / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

The Controversy Over The Identity Of The Clandestinos Is Growing

Clandestinos, Legitimate Protest or Provocation by State Security?

Clandestinos: Heroes or Collateral Damage? / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya


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 Controversy Over The Identity Of The Clandestinos Is Growing

The nature of the group that calls itself “Clandestinos” is unknown, and it’s not clear if it really committed the actions promoted on its social networks.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar/Mario J. Pentón, Havana/Miami, January 9, 2020 — Doubt, controversy and passion surround the Clandestinos, an anonymous group that through social networks says they have dumped pork blood on several busts of José Martí in Havana. The Government says it detained two of the members on Wednesday but the organization says it doesn’t know them.

The official newspaper, Granma, said the police detained Panter Rodríguez Baró, 44, who had a record, and Yoel Prieto Tamayo, 29, for “the profanation of some busts of José Martí,” but without mentioning the name of the group.

“The offense was a dirty media ploy to create the belief that there is a climate of insecurity and violence in Cuba,” said the article, which was read on the news on television. continue reading

The information, read on Primetime News, also questioned the speed with which the news spread on social networks and independent media. “The photos that showed the busts of the national hero covered in pork blood were posted on the Internet a very short time after it was done,” the text pointed out. “Several alternative media that posted the story support those who try to orchestrate lies about the Cuban reality.”

The Clandestinos immediately denied any connection to those arrested. “We don’t know these people. No member of our organization has been detained,” said one of the members, without revealing his identity, in correspondence with 14ymedio and el Nuevo Herald.

“We’re not a political group,” added a presumed member of the Clandestinos, which claimed responsibility for throwing pork blood on Martí because “his image has been very manipulated by the dictatorship.”

“It’s an outrage that his name is used to reproach and abuse people,” he added. According to his version, the group chose the figure of Martí because “he is loved by all Cubans.”

“He’s our national hero, our apostle, and whatever action is taken with his figure has a great impact,” he added.

Since the beginning of the year, the Cuban internauts have been debating whether their actions were a form of protest or vandalism, or if it’s a strategy of the omnipresent State Security to justify its repression against the dissidents, but up to now there is little evidence and few witnesses.

In a tour by 14ymedio of several places where the Clandestinos said they carried out actions, there are few certainties. On January 4, the fence located on one side of the Ciudad Deportiva, where the faces of José Martí, Fidel Castro and Lázaro Peña can be seen, doesn’t show any intervention or traces of having been changed, although two days before, in a video of the Clandestinos, you can see a red stain.

Bust of José Martí outside the Ministry of Transport. On the left is the photo taken by Enrique Sánchez on January 1, and on the right an image by 14ymedio on January 4. (14ymedio).

It wasn’t possible to find a bust with blood outside the Latin American Stadium, where the group said they poured blood over one of the sculptures. Nor were there traces of any action two days later outside the police station on calle Infanta near Manglar.

Attempts to obtain the exact locations of the stained busts from the Clandestinos didn’t help locate them. In addition, the authorities could have cleaned and painted many of them in the meantime.

The group’s name comes from a Fernando Pérez movie that addresses the clandestine struggle against the regime of Fulgencio Batista and it is careful not to give details that would allow identification of any of its members. One of them appeared in a Facebook video covered with a hood, and the press could only speak with him through chatting, and for a short time.

The official Cuban press has given free rein to its indignation but has been very frugal in releasing information concerning the facts, including the content of the arrest warrant. The personnel of the reviews Bohemia and Verde Olivio, whose writing is close to the buildings that are most emblematic of power in Havana, promote an act of repudiation against the Clandestinos, calling them “vile and unpatriotic counterrevolutionaries”.

According to Bohemia, a bust of Martí made by the now-deceased Cuban sculptor, José Delarra, had to be restored after the group’s action, but they didn’t show any photos of the action.

Vague opinion columns, texts of claims around the figure of the national hero, references to expected sanctions in the Penal Code against those “who don’t deserve to be called Cubans” have appeared in media like Cubadebate and Granma and have been replicated by members of the Government, including Miguel Díaz-Canel.

The Clandestinos assert that the photos give them recognition. “Why would the Government complain about something that didn’t happen?” they said, after many Cubans didn’t believe the photos and thought they were a hoax or something that was photoshopped on the social networks.

Anonymity makes it easy for people who don’t initially have ties to the Clandestinos to join the cause, whether by following or even by imitating them. Some Facebook posts are sharing the slogan “We are all Clandestinos”, placing the group in the predicament of having to claim or refute actions that can be carried out independently.

“We want to send a message to the dictatorship: this is war. We are tired of bowing our heads. And to the people the message is clear: The time has come,” said the supposed leader of the Clandestinos.

The organization has members in Cuba and in exile, added the spokesperson, refusing to reveal the number of militants. But he did say that they were mainly young people who were “tired of the dictatorship”.

One of the few witnesses of the Clandestinos’ actions was the meteorologist, Enrique Sánchez. “I was walking through the area of the Ministry of Transport and what called my attention was the stained, vandalized bust,” Sánchez told this newspaper.

“It was on January 1, in the afternoon, when I saw it. It made me mad so I took a photo in order to complain on Twitter about the lack of punishment for whoever was responsible,” he added. Sánchez stated that he didn’t agree with “desecrating national symbols as a mode of protest”.

A little later, this newspaper could confirm that the bust had been cleaned and painted and that an offering of flowers had been placed at the pedestal.

From Miami, where he was visiting, the dissident, Guillermo Fariñas, spoke about the subject with the América Noticias network. He showed an exchange of messages that he had with an internaut who identified himself as a member of the group. “What they’re doing is exercising the right of rebellion,” said the winner of the European Parliament’s Sakarov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

“It’s a group that doesn’t use our same nonviolent methods,” Fariñas said. “Other dissidents and I go down one path, but the right to rebellion exists, and they can go down a different path.”

Bust of José Martí just outside the Cerro Police Station, one of the places the Clandestinos said it carried out its actions. (14ymedio)

Meanwhile, the journalist and director of the magazine Tremenda Nota, Maykel González Vivero, wrote on Facebook, “The problem is that the bust is not alive and cannot defend itself. Martí is one thing, otherwise open to criticism, and the busts and pedestals are another. They speak about who erected them, not only of Martí himself, and they are something dead,” he added.

The dissident, Antonio González Rodiles, criticizes the Clandestinos movement. “In a time where it’s impossible for the opposition to hide anything from the Regime, it will do wonders for showing them as misfits, riffraff, vandals, incompetents–the Government  has always used this line,” he wrote on his Facebook page. Several followers of the dissident said that the actions might be a provocation orchestrated by the Government.

In the last decades in Cuba there have been frequent cases of graffiti on walls and storefronts denouncing the acts of the authorities, with slogans like “Down with Fidel” or “Down with Raúl”. However, actions around the figure of José Martí have been more circumscribed on the artistic scene.

At the beginning of 2018, an intense debate erupted over the censorship of the film, I want to make a movie, directed by Yimit Ramírez. The Cuban Institute of Arts and Cinematography (ICAIC) removed the tape from the ICAIC Youth Show because one of the characters “says something unacceptable” about José Martí, calling him a “turd” and a “faggot”.

“This isn’t something that can be accepted simply as an expression of creative freedom,” said the institution in a statement published on Facebook, which further fuelled the debate over the sanctification of the figure of Martí.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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.

How Does The Cuban Government Keep An Eye On You? / Cubalex

Cubalex, 6 January 2020 — After the publication of Decree-Law No. 389/2019, special techniques of investigation were introduced, including undercover operations, successful collaboration, the use of electronic or other types of surveillance and controlled deliveries.

The same Decree-Law establishes that these techniques are appropriate or necessary for the investigation of criminal acts, which, by their gravity, connotation or organization require them, including operations whose origin or destination are outside the country.

Although the use of these measures is not new in the Cuban context, in the particular case of electronic surveillance there has been a surge in their application now that more people have access to cell phones and Internet accounts, and it’s the first time it has been legalized. The benefit of this new reality is that at least the general guidelines for their application are now published. continue reading

Another positive element is that, at least formally, the Ministry of the Interior is required to guarantee confidentiality of the information obtained through electronic surveillance if it has no relation to the crime. The information will not be divulged and will be destroyed. In addition, conversations between the accused and defense counsel cannot be recorded.

However, there is a big drawback to the regulation, because it can even call into question the constitutional recognition of due process (Article 95), the right to privacy (Article 48) and the inviolability of correspondence (Article 50).

The use of the above-mentioned techniques will not be authorized by the court but by the prosecutor. According to Article 110, paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Law of Criminal Procedure, whatever is drafted after the new modifications will allow prosecutors to authorize the application of the special investigation techniques.

Translated by Regina Anavy

The UN Expresses Concern for Working Conditions of Cuban Doctors on Missions

Cuba negotiates with third countries for payments for its doctors and then gives the doctors themselves a small portion of that pay. (United Nations)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 6, 2010 — The United Nations expressed concern for the working conditions of Cuban doctors sent on medical missions, according to a document made public and sent to the Island last November. The Cuban Government did not respond.

Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, and Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on human trafficking, sent a letter to the Cuban Government expressing concern after the complaint by Cuban Prisoners Defenders, a European NGO, that accuses the authorities of human trafficking and slavery through its medical missions.

“The working conditions reported could be considered involuntary servitude, according to the indicators established by the International Organization of Labor. Involuntary servitude constitutes a contemporary form of slavery,” the reporters wrote to the Cuban Government, which still has not responded to the missive. continue reading

Cuban Prisoners Defenders, in its denunciation, gives details about the conditions in which thousands of Cuban doctors and professionals work in the rest of the world. More than 75% of their salaries goes into the hands of the Cuban Government.

The exportation of services is the principal source of income for the Cuban economy and has averaged more than 11 billion dollars a year in the last decade, according to official sources.

The Cuban medical missions in the region are controversial. The New York Times reported that medical attention in Venezuela was used to get votes for the Government. Bolivia and Ecuador ended their contracts with Cuba after turbulent incidents, and the government of Jair Bolsonaro, in Brazil, pushed for the removal of the doctors, considering the agreement with Cuba a form of “modern slavery”.

The Cuban Government contracts directly with third countries for payment for its doctors but gives the doctors themselves a small fraction of the pay. The pay goes into their accounts in Cuba, and the funds are frozen to ensure that the doctors will fulfill their three-year contracts. In case of defection from the mission, their pay passes to the Government.

There are no legal work agreements, and Cuban Prisoners Defenders has documented working shifts of 62 hours per week, restriction of movement and surveillance by the supervisors of the program.

“Many professionals reported receiving threats regularly from Cuban State officials in the countries where they are sent, and women doctors have suffered rape while participating in international missions,” says the document published by the United Nations.

The U.N. is also concerned about the punishment for doctors who decide to abandon the missions outside Cuba.

“Doctors considered deserters will not be able to return to Cuba for eight years, and the families who remain in Cuba will be subject to stigmatization and repercussions from government entities,” explains the text.

In the letter, Cuban Prisoners Defenders says that other professionals—teachers, engineers or artists—will also be submitted to similar work conditions and lives.

The U.N. asked Cuba for an explanation about the conditions related by the NGO, but the government of Miguel Díaz-Canel didn’t respond. Cuba has denounced what it considers a U.S. “campaign to discredit” the work that its doctors are doing in the Exterior. Cuba says it uses the doctors’ earnings to sustain the national health system.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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.

14ymedio’s Faces of 2019: Alexander Otaola, "Youtuber"

Lately through his YouTube program, ¡Hola! Ota-ola, Alexander Otaola has led the initiative known as the “January halt”.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 26, 2019 — The Cuban presenter and influencer Alexander Otaola Casal had a meteoric rise in 2019 through his program, ¡Hola! Ota-ola, where he mixes humor, interviews, political activism and entertainment. Born in Camagüey in 1979, Otaola took his first steps as an actor at age 10 in school performances and soon after joined a group of theater aficionados in the Casa de la Cultura in the city.

As a teenager, Otaola hosted a provincial television program, Mundo de Fantasía (Fantasy World), and he also was on Radio Cadena Agramonte. For three years he was part of a group of radio actors and interpreted several childike characters. At the age of 15 he wrote two screenplays.

In 1992 he was chosen to be part of the cast of ¡No!, an adventure series, and after a year of recording in Havana, he returned to Camagüey to finish his media studies with a specialty in acting. In 1997 he joined the Conjunto Dramático de Camagüey, where he interpreted several classical characters, and two years later he decided to live permanently in Havana, where he worked at Radio Progreso and Radio Arte. continue reading

Otaola performed in several series and telenovelas, and in 1998 he requested a visa from the U.S. lottery and arrived in Miami in 2003. He worked as a waiter for five years, then a baker and had other jobs until he resumed his career in 2008, acting in soap operas and shows on Spanish television. In 2010, Otaola received an award for Best Theater Monologue of the Year, and in 2011 he obtained recognition as Best Monologue Actor in the International Festival of Short Works.

Lately, and through his program ¡Hola! Ota-ola on YouTube, he has led the movement known as the “January Halt”,  which promotes cutting off remittances, telephone recharges and trips from the exile community to the Island. His audience in Cuba grows every day, and the official press avoids mentioning his work, since he is a harsh critic of the Regime in his show.

In April 2019, the program ¡Hola! Ota-ola had been on the air for two years, and according to data, more than 9,000 people were watching it every day.

Translated by Regina Anavy 


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.

14ymedio’s Faces of 2019: Beatriz Batista, Protecting Animals

Beatriz Batista studies social communication.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 25, 2019 — Beatriz Batista, a young woman of 21 years, is a student of social communication, and she gained popularity in 2019 as the principal organizer of the first demonstration for animal rights in Cuba, held in April. The demonstration took place on calle 25 in Vedado, Havana, and went from Quixote Park up to the Colón Cemetery. It was the first independent demonstration in the last half-century where signs were allowed to be carried.

Unexpectedly, the demonstration brought together more people than expected, and Batista appeared hopeful. She said this would mark a before and after in the struggle to end violence against animals.

Months later, in November, the young woman again mobilized in favor of a law to defend the rights of animals, motivated by the visit of the Spanish Royals for the 500th year of the founding of Havana. The authorities carried out massive sweeps of street dogs and killed them in order to keep the streets “clean”. Batista, together with other animal rights supporters, organized a protest in front of Animal Control and was able to get a meeting with the authorities to discuss the subject. Both parties were satisfied with the advances achieved, and in spite of slow results, already some significant commitments have been made by the Government.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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 Must Wait Days To Take Cash Out Of Their Dollar Accounts

The authorities warn that because dollars aren’t being released by the Central Bank of Cuba, their availability in branch offices may vary. (Flickr/Maxence)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 26, 2019 — Clients who have dollar accounts, which were announced with great fanfare this past October, have to wait several days to withdraw their dollars from the banks “in accordance with existing availability,” according to an announcement by the Central Bank of Cuba in the official press.

“The bank is not establishing limits for the withdrawal of cash; the amount will depend on the balance that exists in the account,” says the notice. It states that “it is not possible for the banks to pre-establish an exact date when the requested U.S. dollars can be delivered.” These limitations are also applied to other forms of hard currency associated with debit cards, like the euro, the Canadian dollar or the Mexican peso.

“Because no money is being released by the Central Bank of Cuba, availability in bank branches may vary.” However, “the bank will always try to respond to requests in the least amount of time possible,” the information says, which comes in the middle of an increase in complaints about how hard it is to withdraw cash. continue reading

For months, this problem has affected the bank accounts in hard currency that existed in the country before the opening of the new chain of shops in foreign money. Many Cubans deposited this money, fundamentally, to meet the conditions of the the consulates of several countries, which require Cubans to be able to show a bank account with hard currency in order to apply for a visa, with the amounts required varying from country to country.

But since the middle of October, and with the opening of dollar accounts associated with debit cards to use in the new hard currency shops, the difficulty of withdrawing the money, known as fulas in popular slang, has increased. This has been accompanied by an increase in the informal market of U.S. dollars due to the uncertainty that surrounds the convertible peso (CUC).

On the black market, where transactions between individuals take place, a dollar can buy 1.20 CUC, much more than the 0.95 rate that it had at the beginning of the year. The rise has motivated many clients to take their dollars out of the bank and resell them on the informal networks where they can get CUCs to resell to tourists from countries like Panama or the U.S.

Hard-currency accounts can be opened without making an initial deposit and don’t have a minimum balance requirement. They don’t earn interest nor charge a commission, explain the employees of the Central Bank. “It’s a method of payment issued by the Cuban banks, which gives them access to purchases in the authrorized stores for the sale of merchandise in U.S. dollars.”

In addition to being used in the hard currency shops, the debit cards associated with these accounts can also be used in the convertible peso shops or to take money out of the ATMs in convertible pesos or Cuban pesos.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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.

14ymedio’s Faces of 2019: Guillermo Garcia Frias, Commander

Guillermo García Frías is a Cuban soldier, politician and commander of the Revolution

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 25, 2019 — Born in Pilón on February 10, 1928, of peasant origin, García Frías was a muleteer for Crescencio Pérez, a peasant who collaborated with the rebels on their expedition through the Sierra Maestra, and who asked the young García Frías to do the same, guiding Castro’s men. Thus he rose through the ranks of the army, and in 1959 became a Commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.

He has been the head of the Western Army, Vice President of the Council of State and Ministries and the Minister of Transport and was decorated as a Hero of the Republic of Cuba. Presently he is the head of the National Enterprise for the Protection of Flora and Fauna.

In 2019, he became the focus of one of the most popular posts on social networks when he appeared on the state TV show Mesa Redonda (Roundtable) and said that the meat of the hutía, a large rodent found in the countryside, has “more protein than any meat” and a skin of “high quality.” He also praised the ostrich and said it produced more meat than a cow. These statements made him a focal point of national humor, and the words “crocodile”, “hutía” and “ostrich” started trending on social media, where an infinity of memes and jokes circulated.

Translated by Regina Anavy 


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.

14ymedio’s Faces of 2019: Yaima Caballero, Mother of Paloma Dominguez

On October 16, 2019, Caballero and her husband were summoned by phone to appear that same day at the Ministry of Public Health in Havana. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 27, 2019 — Yaima Caballero’s life took an unexpected turn in a little more than two months. At the beginning of October she took her one-year-old daughter, Paloma, to a medical center in Havana for the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella. A few days later, the little girl died from complications that, for now, are attributed to an incorrect dosage.

Since then, the young woman has undertaken a personal battle to have what happened thoroughly investigated so it won’t happen again. Although Caballero never complained about the medical attention her daughter received — on the contrary, she thanked the doctors — reprisals weren’t long in coming for having raised her voice.

State Security was present at a meeting with the health authorities, and they warned her that she could go to prison if she persisted in making “false accusations.” The situation sent her and her husband into exile in México, where they had planned a trip.

See also:  14ymedio’s 14 Faces of 2019

Translated by Regina Anavy


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.

Latin America 2020: From Storm Clouds to Storms

“In the last two decades, Latin Americans have often voted for criminals to be their leaders,” says the author (EFE). 

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miguel Henrique Otero, Madrid, December 2, 2019 — All the forecasts that have been published lately say that hard times will continue for Latin America in 2020. The negative trend of 2019, with some exception, will continue into the next year. The growth for 2019 will be barely 0.6 percent, approximately one-third below what had been forecast at the end of 2018. When economists explain the reasons, they repeat the same script: the drop in the economy of China, the main consumer on the continent; the trade war between China and the United States; the poor economic indicators for Mexico, Brazil and Argentina; the political uncertainty that scares off investors; and, of course, the debacle in Venezuela, which is a liability for economic policy in the region.

Beyond the inevitable short-term elements offered by the analysts, no doubt justified, we must reciprocate and ask Latin Americans about the root causes that prevent our countries from reducing poverty and improving the quality of life.

We are about to complete the first fifth of the Twentieth Century and the decade of goals established by Agenda 2030*, and still almost a third of the population (30.8% according to CEPAL) live in conditions of poverty. This is equivalent to a population of 191 million people, of which around 72 million live in conditions of extreme poverty. continue reading

Faced with this state of affairs, many people start pointing fingers without offering solutions. Our continent appears to be trapped by thoughts and practices that prevent us from changing direction on substantive issues. We are at a point where everything we haven’t managed to disentangle and solve could turn against us and condemn us to still worse living conditions. I will mention only five factors, although I could list many more.

One: We haven’t been able to reduce our economies’ dependency on commodities, which makes us vulnerable to oscillations in the prices of oil, minerals and agricultural products.

Two: Our education systems haven’t reached an adequate level to respond to competition, globalization and the digital revolution.

Three: Most countries lack a governmental strategy to cope with the changes that the boom in robotics and artificial intelligence will bring about in the systems of production, with consequences that will be devastating for employment.

Four: We still don’t understand that the politics of the populist Left, among many other political modes, has consequences: destroying work, productivity, businesses, respect for human rights and the State of Law.

Five: In the last two decades, many times through the electoral process, Latin Americans have elected criminals to govern them. The most surprising of all this is that even when we don’t think they’re qualified, we re-elect them. Criminals who rob the public coffers and repress, execute, torture and kill in the streets. Criminal politicians who are involved in drug trafficking, who convert the armed forces into hitmen or bodyguards for the crooked and corrupt.

A very brief review of what is happening in these countries and subregions justifies the alarm.

On balance, the first year of the government of the populist López Obrador in México is a calamity: an economy in recession; an increase in impunity for narcotrafficking; an increase in crime; no advance in his promise to improve income for the poorest sectors; and, yes, a daily policy of encouraging resentment and the political use of México’s history.

If we look at the situation in the Northern Triangle of Central America — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — the picture hasn’t changed in the last decade: armed gangs predominate; narcotrafficking has reached a peak; there are forced migrations; and agriculture has been distorted by the effects of climate change.

Nicaragua: The presidential couple and their respective family clans are not stopping. They steal even up to the last córdoba, and repress and torture the democrats in an atmosphere of total impunity, under the guidance of castroism.

Cuba: The disgrace of  the continent, with a dictatorship that has remained for 61 years, converted into a power specialized in living off remittances and the income from narcotrafficking provided by other countries — the culmination of failure.

In Colombia, President Duque faces the struggle against terrorism and criminal narcoguerrilas.

In Ecuador, Lenin Moreno administers the destabilizing plan directed by Cuba and Venezuela, in support of the fugitive Rafael Correa.

In Bolivia, after attempting an electoral fraud, Evo Morales is preparing, also as a protected fugitive, to light up the country with violent protests, beginning in 2020.

For Argentina, is it necessary to add that a coalition led by the corrupt Cristina Kirchner has returned to power through election?

In Chile, the destructive violence has managed to accomplish an important victory in public opinion: justification and impunity for the crimes, endorsed by the good consciences of those who observe the excesses from thousands of kilometers away.

About Venezuela, everything has already been said: Maduro has destroyed the nation and society, and the impact reaches the economies and daily life of the other ten countries. The perspective is dark; we could pass from storms to something even more serious.

Editor’s Note: Miguel Henrique Otero is the Director of the Venezuelan newspaper, El Nacional.

Translated by Regina Anavy

*Translator’s note: The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) is a regional commission set up to encourage global economic cooperation. Agenda 2030 aims to achieve a rights-based sustainable development, with poverty and inequality as key issues for Latin America and the Caribbean.


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.