Biologist Ruiz Urquiola Accuses the Cuban Government of Injecting Him With the AIDS Virus

The biologist, detained on May 11 in a gay rights march in Havana, doesn’t know if his is an isolated case in Cuba. (Facebook)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Geneva, December 2, 2019 — In a statement to EFE on Monday, Dr. Ariel Ruíz Urquiola, biologist, environmental activist and gay rights advocate, spoke before several German NGOs and denounced the Cuban Government for injecting him with the AIDS virus. He hopes they can bring his case before European forums and the United Nations.

In a telephone conversation from Neuchatel, Switzerland, Ruiz Urquiola said he has medical proof that he was injected with a strain of the virus in the provincial Abel Santamaría Hospital of Pinar del Río, while he was in the final phase of his hunger and thirst strike.

“The Swiss and German infectious-disease doctors have the proof in their hands,” Ruiz Urquiola indicated. This past November 27, he officially presented his case before the International Society for Human Rights and the Gay and Lesbian Union of Germany, both located in Frankfurt. continue reading

Ruiz Urquiola pointed out that both NGOs were working on trying to bring the case before the European Human Rights Court and the Office of Human Rights of the United Nations. This last institution already stated that the Government of Cuba had arbitrarily detained him.

The biologist told EFE that he is “absolutely certain” that he was injected with the virus in the Pinar del Río hospital, where they gave him physiological serums as well as supposedly concentrated glucose injections to treat the weakness he suffered during his hunger and thirst strike.

A little later, and two or three days after he was given permission to leave prison by the Pinar del Río Provincial Justice Court, he suffered symptoms of flu that he first suspected were an indication of tuberculosis. However, he discovered through an analysis that he was experiencing a reaction typical of the first phase of HIV infection.

Ruiz Urquiola explained that he had been tested for HIV the last time he was in prison and after leaving the provincial hospital, and he was negative both times. But he tested positive last June in Switzerland when he decided to have another test once he was reunited with his partner, a doctor.

“It’s another crime committed by the Cuban Government, like the one they committed against my sister,” he said. In the past he had staged a hunger strike to demand that the National Cancer and Radiobiology Institute treat his sister‘s cancer with monoclonal antibodies.

Since 2012, Ruiz Urquiola has been studying the origin and biological evolution of the Sierra de Los Órganos of Cuba, in a joint project of the University of Havana with Humboldt University of Berlin.

The University of Havana expelled him and boycotted his study, according to what he told EFE, but the University in Berlin wanted his work to continue, together with another professor, Dr. Thomas von Rintelen.

The biologist, who was detained on May 11 for demonstrating in support of gay rights in Havana, doesn’t know if his is an isolated case, but he says there is still a “social stigma” toward gays and people with the HIV virus or who have full-blown AIDS.

“Trolls on social networks accuse me of having caught AIDS in ‘one of my escapades’ or in prison, given that homosexual relations are stigmatized in Cuban society,” he said.

“What they don’t say is that I had no symptoms during the 11 months I was in Cuba, and that the virus was detected and characterized scientifically in Europe,” he emphasized.

Ruiz Urquiola reminded everyone that in another Communist regime, that of Nicolae Ceausescu in Rumanía, there was testimony that they practiced inoculations of HIV, especially on gays, “to crush the opposition and generate terror in the population.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The First Group of Doctors Expelled from Ecuador Arrive in Cuba

Most of the healthcare personnel stayed in Santiago de Cuba, following the trip of 58 workers to Havana  (@APPP_StgoDeCuba).

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, November 19, 2019 — The first group of Cuban doctors coming back from Ecuador arrived on the Island very early in the morning this Tuesday at Santiago de Cuba. Of the 177 aid workers who returned in this contingent, 119, all from the eastern provinces, remained on the ground. The flight continued on to Havana, where the 58 remaining were received by the authorities, as usual.

The Minister of Public Health, José Ángel Portal Miranda, and Anayansi Rodríguez Camejo, the Vice Minister of Foreign Relations, were on the official committee in charge of welcoming the advance guard, since more than half of the Cuban healthcare workers didn’t return.

“Cuban doctors always go where they’re needed, respected and recognized,” said Portal Miranda from Terminal 3 of José Martí International Airport. continue reading

The Ecuadorian Government, on November 12, put an end to the arrangement with Cuba for doctors, which had around 400 people working in the country. María Paulo Romo, a government minister, announced the rupture and argued that at least 250 people with official Cuban passports entered the country while violent protests were going on at the beginning of October.

”Governments of every country have the authority to issue passports to their citizens, at their discretion. Our Foreign Ministry is working with the Cuban Embassy to figure out the reason for these passports. In most cases, they were used by Cuban doctors,” she said.

The Cuban Ministry of Public Health said their doctors in Ecuador “strictly” fulfilled the responsibilities of their contracts and blamed the U.S. for trying to “sabotage” and “discredit” the prestige of their ”international cooperation” in Latin America.

Cuba’s medical cooperation in Ecuador began in 1992 and was strengthened in 2009 with the signing of a framework agreement in matters of health during the visit of Ecuador’s then-President Rafael Correa to Cuba.

From the beginning of the collaboration, some 3,565 Cuban health professionals have worked in Ecuador, deployed in 23 of the 24 provinces of the country. They’ve performed more than 6.7 million medical consults, 212,360 surgeries and given 100,084 vaccinations, according to official data.

But again, there is exploitation by the Cuban Government, which pays each doctor between 700 and 800 dollars per month, while receiving $2,641 per month from the Ecuadorian Government, according to statements by Cuban doctors who worked on the medical missions.

Furthermore, the health workers, as in other countries where they’re deployed, have renounced the holding of their passports, the falsifying of statistics and the obligation to participate in the Regime’s propaganda. All that under the constant threat of preventing their return to the Island for a period of eight years and being separated, as a result, from their families.

For Cuba, international medical cooperation is one of the pillars of its foreign policy and the largest contribution to its economy. Last year Cuba reported earnings of more than six billion dollars from the work of its professionals abroad. The Government keeps around 75% of the salaries paid for the ‘cooperators’, a method very similar to that used by North Korea.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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I Can No Longer Stay Silent

Bruzón is presently living in Missouri in the United States and is a member of the chess team at the University of Webster.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lázaro Bruzón, Missouri, 21 November 21 — The final blow was my conversation with someone very special in my life. Now I need a catharsis, first to clear my mind and then to be able to sleep well and release a weight from my shoulders that I’ve been carrying around for some time.

I’m also doing it in case it helps someone who can identify with my words. I would like to share some ideas. Putting everything in print won’t be easy, but I’ll try. I’m participating less and less in social networks because it costs a lot to give an opinion and ends up being extremely stressful. Even as I do it, I wonder if I’m contributing something useful or just satisfying my ego.

Sometimes I think that Cuba is not a country but rather a planet, and we Cubans are an alien species. Why is everything that happens with Cuba and Cubans so out of the ordinary? Why are things that should be simple and are so in every part of the world become totally chaotic when it comes to Cuba? In my opinion, all Cubans in one form or another are very much affected. When I analyze society and how we behave on social networks, I see many feelings of frustration, hatred, impotence, aggression, and above all else, fear: We have a lot of fear.

Sometimes we don’t “Like” a post for fear of repercussions. It’s unhealthy. continue reading

For a long time I didn’t pay attention to politics. There are many reasons, and each person has to follow his own path and that’s what I did. Today, without thinking I’m more patriotic than anyone else, I want to add my two cents to the subject of Cuba and give my opinion, with respect but above all with sincerity and transparency.

For this reason, ever since I came to the United States, I searched for all the information I could find on Cuba, trying to understand certain things about my country. I had some general knowledge about certain subjects but only that. Being the obsessive person that I am, I invested hundreds of hours, enough to reach certain conclusions that today make me critical of the system and the laws of my country.

Once you learn about freedom, respect for different opinions, and being able to express yourself without being questioned, nothing can ever be the same. There is no worse prison than having to censor your ideas for fear of reprisals by the simple act of giving an opinion. That is what happens in Cuba to those who think differently.

Before, when I heard the words opposition, dissident, they were immediately accompanied by adjectives like mercenaries, enemies, criminals, and all that propaganda they have told us for such a long time. Today I know there are many good people, people who struggle for civil rights and are mistreated, imprisoned, fired from their jobs, and their lives made impossible by the simple act of not agreeing with the system in Cuba. (Moreover, for those who argue there are many in the opposition making money from the struggle in Cuba, that does not take away from the strength or the truth of their message.)

Today I condemn all that on principle, and I don’t accept it. I can’t say the Cuban Government protects a majority while it crushes a minority, reducing it to zero: This is criminal. All the social victories that we have always displayed with pride are overshadowed totally by these persecutions.

For how long will the Cuban Government continue to put ideology over the objective reality of the Cuban nation? Perhaps they can’t see what is happening. The general discontent, the number of Cubans who leave and those who want to emigrate to anywhere else. Is it too complicated for them to see that a country that prioritizes ideology and propaganda in every sphere cannot progress? How much do they spend on ceremonies and massive marches?

In a country like ours facing so many economic problems, is that what we need the most? When are we all going to ask ourselves honestly if this is the country we really want or if it can be made better, if we can aspire to something better?

What are the hopes and dreams of Cubans? It’s unsettling to see how much we conform, especially those who are the most affected. The ordinary Cuban, who each day manages to survive on his salary, has to wake up and realize that other possibilities exist. He must not keep thinking that the ”blockade” is to blame like they’ve been telling us. You don’t have to resort to violence to demand your rights and oppose injustice, but it’s difficult to recognize that we’ve been wrong, that we’ve been deceived.

I could also keep quiet by convenience. Most of us turn a blind eye knowing what is going on around us, and we act only when they tread on our toes, but I can no longer do that. I’m one more who thinks things can be better for all Cubans.

Our nation needs more justice, that we all be treated equally before the law, which includes all Cubans, that we live in peace in spite of ideological differences and political disagreements, so that dissenting is not a crime, so that Cubans aren’t prohibited entry to their country without a good reason or prevented from leaving because they think differently. So that Cubans can live honestly from their salaries; that the Constitution of my country not be a servant of the Communist Party, and that those who don’t identify with this system not be marginalized. That isn’t correct.

I want to clarify that this is a positive message, one of love, and my personal opinion. These are my thoughts, and no one else is behind this statement. I know the weight of my words and assume all responsibility for my acts.

Once again I repeat that I’ll always be grateful for everything positive my country has given me, but I can’t be quiet about what I feel forever. What I say or do is based on respect and in search of tolerance. If someone wants to distance themselves from me, I have no problem. There have been already been many, and I understand. Whoever really knows me knows that I prefer to disappoint people by being honest and consistent rather than hiding things so I don’t hurt certain people—above all those I hold dear who don’t share my ideas. I prefer to take off my mask once and for all.

Editor’s note: This text was published on Facebook by the author, who gave us permission to reproduce it in 14ymedio

At only 18 years old, Lázaro Bruzón, originally from Las Tunas, was world junior chess champion. He became a Grand Master in 1999, and shortly thereafter  obtained the highest title in the International Chess Federation. In September 2018, at age 36, he was expelled from the national chess preselection for refusing to return to Cuba. At present he lives in Missouri in the United States and is part of the chess team at the University of Webster.

Translated by Regina Anavy and Alberto de la Cruz

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Trivago Removes Several Cuban Hotels From Its Search Engine, Including the Havana Libre

Last June, the Rivero Mestre LLP law firm, based in Coral Gables, Miami, filed a lawsuiit against Trivago (from the “Trivago Buisness Blog”).

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, November 9, 2019 — The German company Trivago has removed several hotels that operate in Cuba from its search engine, after the United States activated Title III of the Helms-Burton Law. Trivago was sued some months ago for “trafficking in stolen property” on the Island.

Among the accommodations affected by this decision are the emblematic Hotel Tryp Habana Libre in Vedado and others managed by the Spanish firms Iberostar and Meliá. From now on, an important group of Cuban hotels will not be available when people search on the Trivago site.

The large Spanish hotels operating on the Island realize that the new restrictions may cause problems. Some of them have announced to their shareholders “possible losses at year-end,” according to the Spanish daily, La Información. continue reading

The Meliá firm is one of the most affected because the numerous establishments it manages in Cuba have lost visibility on this important tourist search engine. In its last quarterly report, its directors announced that “they expected an impact from Trivago’s recent decision to remove its numerous group of hotels in Cuba from its sales channels.”

It points out that “all these circumstances point to a reduction in the RevPAR — Revenue for Available Room — for digital media compared to the year before.” Meliá adds that the most affected hotels will be the ones located in Holguín, Cayo Largo and Havana, three of the largest tourist zones on the Island.

This blow is added to the drop in occupancy and income that hotels in Cuba have been experiencing for months. According to the closing data for the first nine months of the year, the first indicator descended more than five points to 53% and the RevPAR was lowered by 9.8% to 42.7 euros, a situation that spread to other companies like Iberostar and Barceló, which together with Meliá add up to 70% of the accommodations in Cuba.

Last June the law firm Rivero Mestre LLP, headquartered in Coral Gables, Florida, filed suit against Trivago for trafficking in property confiscated by the Fidel Castro regime at the beginning of the 1960s. Trivago, headquartered in Dusseldorf, Germany, earned approximately 1.2 billion dollars last year.

Meanwhile, in the first nine months of 2019, the number of tourists who came to Cuba continued to fall, especially from the European Union. The National Office of Statistics for Cuba published figures up to September 2019 showing that 3.3 million people traveled to the Island, a loss of 6% compared to the same period in 2018 (213,151 fewer visitors).

The worst data for tourism to Cuba comes from Europe. Five large travel agencies posted lower rates: for Italy, a dramatic drop of 25.8%; for the UK, 25.7%; and, significantly for Germany, 13.9%, France 13.5% and Spain 13.3%.

Cuba doesn’t recognize the legal validity of the Helms-Burton Law and guarantees foreign investors State support, although it’s not clear how Cuba could defend them in a U.S. court. For its part, the European Union, as the principal foreign investor, has promised the Cuban Government that it will oppose the sanctions dictated by the U.S. courts against the businesses on the Old Continent.

Among the subjects discussed during the King of Spain’s visit to Cuba was the situation of the Spanish businesses on the Island, which face difficulties caused by the strengthening of the U.S. embargo, but also the defaults on payments owed on the part of Cuba.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The Government Invokes “International Tensions” to Cancel the Annual Conga Against Homophobia

The conga had become one of the fixed events of the program of activities against homophobia. (EFE/Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, May 7, 2019 — The National Center of Sex Education (Cenesex) announced this Monday that the conga against homophobia that is organized every year was canceled “by order“ of the Minister of Public Health.

The communication of the institution, headed by deputy Mariela Castro, justifies the decision by some “determined circumstances that are not helping successful development,” neither in Havana nor in Camagüey, where the marches were programmed for May 11 and 17, respectively.

“New tensions in the international and regional context directly and indirectly affect our country and have tangible and intangible impacts on the normal development of our daily lives and the implementation of the Cuban State’s policies,” said the note about the ministry’s reasons, which were published on Cenesex’ Facebook page. continue reading

According to Cenesex, this change in the program doesn‘t mean the suspension of the rest of the planned activities, like the academic forums.

The conga has taken place since the beginning of these celebrations, which now are 12 years old, always in the context of the Cuban Day against Homophobia, held in May.

The LGBT activist and official journalist, Francisco Rodríguez, known also for his blog Paquito el de Cuba, responded to the abrupt cancellation with a post entitled La Conga va pro dentro o Nadie nos quito la bailado y por bailar (The Conga will happen inside or No one takes away the dancers and our right to dance), in which he requests that “such a setback“ not spoil the party.

“The conga burst upon the scene as the initial activity of the first days, and its percormance has become a whole tradition, as the main moment of visibility for LGBT people in Cuba,” he said.

The announcement of the cancellation sparked reactions on the activist social networks of the LGBT community.

The independent journalist and director of the digital magazine Tremenda Nota, Maykel González Vivero, lamented the briefness of the note and the fact that it ”doesn’t offer a clear argument” for the cancellation.

The activist and general coordinator of the Alianza Afro-Cubana, Raúl Soublett López, wonders why they didn’t cancel the May 1 parade and sees an excuse in the allusion to international tensions because “they’ve always been the order of the day,” he adds.

For his part, the activist Adiel González Maimó wonders if the measure is the result of  pressure brought by the religious community against equal marriage rights. “What happened? Did the fundamentalists get afraid?” he asks. “This is unforgivable, a lack of respect. I don’t understand why they didn’t also suspend the May 1 march. . . . It‘s for this reason that LGBT activism in Cuba can’t be linked anymore with the State. It can’t be.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Trumpa€™’s “Pressure Cooker” Policy

Caption: Cuban demonstrators in the spontaneous protest known as the maleconazo in 1994. (Karl Poort)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, May 4, 2019 — The comings and goings of Trump officials in Florida lately to meet with exiled Cubans and Venezuelans, and the measures taken against the Maduro dictatorship and Castroism, clearly have an electoral interest, which is very common.

All politicians, Republicans and Democrats, have always done the same thing. What is new is the application of Titles III and IV of the Helms-Burton Law, which no president, since Clinton and Obama, has dared to apply before now, because it would affect the interests of many allies—above all, in Europe.

Now this extreme step has the tinge of a last resort, because the possibilty of presidential reelection seems less clear, especially because the Democrats now have a majority in the House. And Florida, as we know, will determine whether Trump gets a second term. continue reading

Limitations on trips and remittances were added, supposedly to reduce what reputedly is the principal source of the Havana Regime”s hard currency. And, as if this weren’t enough, Trump threatens a “total embargo,” all part of a repressive policy that has failed for more than half a century.

The theory of many defenders of the hard line is based on thinking it will work this time, because the measures would be added to the profound economic crisis that, according to clear indications, will give rise to a new Special Period of calamities in what was once called the Pearl of the Antilles, and that the country would not be able to withstand a sequel.

And maybe they’re right, not only because “sequels are never good” but also because since that time the citizens have advanced in many ways, as much in frustration at so many false expectations and unfulfilled promises as at lack of access to new communication technologies. The final objective of this policy has always been to do whatever explodes the pressure cooker, so that the multitudes throw themselves into the streets against the dictatorship until it bursts.

As it is offered—like many other times—on a silver platter to the octogenerarian leaders as an opportunity to make “the Empire” responsibile for all of Cuba’s economic problems, they repeat the illusion that the main problem of Cubans is the contradiction between a great power and the small, heroic country that it wants to subdue. By this logic, it’s possible that people might actually take to the streets, but I don’t know if many would do it to demonstrate against the dictatorship or to curse Trump and imperialism. And although this reaction might seem logical, I suspect that the result would be worse than the illness.

A maleconazo multiplied by ten or twenty not only would provoke a devastating destruction but also would be accompanied this time by an incalcuable number of wounded and dead. Examples, although perhaps on a minor scale, can be seen in the demonstrations in recent years in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

Did anything good come of them? The only good thing has been the experience of what shouldn’t be done. It appears that the Venezuelan opposition has assimilated this very well, and Juan Guaidó’s message has been clear: no violence, although it can’t be avoided that there are those on the periphery of the movement who didn’t get the message.

Furthermore, the main people affected will be employees, private entrepreneurs, retirees, everyone. But none of these people have the right to vote in elections in Florida.

One day, someone asked Manuel Moreno Fraginal why such a rebellious and heroic people as the Cubans weren‘t rebelling against the dictatorship, and the prestigious author of El Ingenio answered: “Because in Cuba for some time there has been no middle class, which has always been the leader in these events.” It’s true. The middle class has nothing to lose, nor any economic strings attached.

This class has begun to emerge in Cuba for some years with private entrepreneurs, the black market, artists, bloggers and independent journalists who don’t have ties to the State. They could lead a broad, peaceful movement in favor of change, like the pre-revolutionary Third Republic in France. But now, with the Trump administration’s policy, this process might come to a halt.

If the President is removed by a political trial because of his blunders or loses the election, since many voted for him only to oppose the “Establishment” and, in particular, the politicians, these measures probably won’t last, but if he wins, we’ll have them for a long time.

But with or without Trump, the historic leadership of Cuba will be involved in the dilemma of having to make major concessions like what has happened up to now, if it wants to avoid grave dangers and the headaches that follow. Cuba could rise and thrive in very little time.

It would be enough to liberate and stimulate the creative forces of Cubans. But that would mean renouncing the monopolistic control of the rich. If the leaders don’t do it, others will have to, and those others won’t be just the dissidents but all of civil society: academics, professionals, students, independent journalists, bloggers, writers, film makers and other artists, agreeing to draw up a joint, agreed-upon program of necessary changes and raising their voices high.

This is not a wish or a whim but an emergency and a duty for all Cubans if they want to avoid the tragedy that is approaching.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

It’s Forbidden to Say the Word "Crocodile" on Cuban Television

The actor Luis Silva, who incarnates the character of “Pánfilo,” denounces censorship in a program where bread in the form of a crocodile was shown. (Luis Silva/Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 May 2019 — The popular actor, Luis Silva, known for his comedic character, Pánfilo, reported this Wednesday that one of the episodes he had recorded in January for the program Vivir del Cuento (Living by One’s Wits) wasn’t put on the air because of a joke about bread in the form of a crocodile.

“Because of bread in the form of a crocodile, this episode wasn’t released on Monday. You can’t mention a crocodile, a hutia, or an ostrich. Worst of all, this episode had been recorded in January,” the actor wrote on social media.

The censorship is related to a declaration made by a  comandante of the Revolution, Guillermo García Frías, on the program Mesa Redonda (Round Table). The military nonagenarian, in charge of the National Enterprise for the Protection of Flora and Fauna, said that the meat of the hutia, a type of large rat found in the fields of Cuba, has more protein than “all the meats” and a “high quality” skin. continue reading

García also praised the ostrich and said it produced more meat than a cow. After his declarations, the words “crocodile”, “hutia” and “ostrich” trended on social media, where a multitude of memes and jokes about these animals circulated.

However, Luis Silva didn’t mean it as a joke and said the bread that appeared on Vivir del Cuento was a gift from the people of Triunvirato, a small town in Matanzas Province. “I decided to show it on the program as an expression of gratitude to the town. Draw your own conclusions. Friends of Triunvirato; I tried.” added the comic.

After publishing his first post, the actor qualified the situation and added that “the episode will be shown, surely. But with that scene cut.”

Comments weren’t long in coming. “What a shame that a comedian can’t mention it, and a high official of the country robs a comedian’s work and makes himself a national laughingstock,” said one user identified as Claudio Cabrera. For Idalia Quintana, “We Cubans are the only ones on planet earth who laugh at our misfortunes.”

Another “internaut” thought it ironic that the icon of Matanzas’ baseball team is a crocodile and suggested that they “change the name to a lizard.”

In comedy programs on Cuban television, jokes about the bureaucracy, the absurdities of the socialist state enterprise and intolerant ideologues are frequently included, but jokes against the Communist Party or the revolutionary leaders are still taboo.

Vivir del Cuento is one of the few programs that has survived on Cuban television with a critical script that focuses on everyday difficulties, the hardships experienced by retired people and the problems in buying food.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Dozens of Congolese Tightly Guarded in Havana Await Repatriation

Police surround the outskirts of the Embassy of Congo in Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, April 27, 2019 — Dozens of Congolese students who are studying medicine in Cuba find themselves being detained and guarded in a place close to the international airport in Havana, waiting to be repatriated to their country, according to several students who managed to remain in the Salvador Allende Faculty of Medicine in the Cuban capital.

”They took them in a bus on April 18, and at first we thought it was for a meeting where they were going to explain things, but they never came back,” one of the students who remained on the university campus said, under condition of anonymity. “They’re not letting them speak with anybody, but we’ve learned that they are holding them in a well-guarded place to send them back to the Congo.”

“They carried out a raid at the Faculty of Medicine and put them on a bus,” the neighbors confirm. “All of us in the neighborhood thought that finally the situation was going to be managed because later we saw only a few buses return,” they add. continue reading

This newspaper can’t confirm if repatriation of the students has begun, but several sources said that they are awaiting “a response from the Congolese.”

Last Monday, an opposition group in this African country, in a comminication, had denounced the fact that the students were called to the Embassy of Congo in Miramar under the pretext that they were going to receive part of their overdue stipends. “Actually, the Cuban and Congolese authorities laid a trap for them,” the opponents explain.

“Shortly after they arrived, the students were separated into groups, and more than 200 were forced, by Congolese and Cuban agents, to get on the bus, supervised, and then were taken to an unknown stop. Other students waited more than 6 hours for their friends, without success. The telephones of the detainees had been out of service this whole time,” explains the text.

New images have come to light of the violent repression against students from Congo by the Cuban police. The student interns were protesting because of the delay of two years for their stipends and the poor conditions in which they are living on the island. Images here

— Mario J. Pentón (@marijose_cuba) April 9, 2019

The detention was also confirmed on the Facebook page, “I’m not returning without my diploma,” created by Congolese students to demand back-payment of 27 months of their stipends. On this platform, the students clarify that the protests that began at the end of March aren’t the work of a leader manipulated by “dark forces” as claimed by the Congolese Government.

The group of medical alumni also said that they presented legal remedies in agreement with Cuban law, and they launched a petition to the authorities on the island to allow release and academic reinstatement of the detainees.

After this happened, the Chancellor of Congo, Jean-Claude Gakosso, went to Havana, where he met with Miguel Díaz-Canel and presented him with a letter from the Congolese President, Dennis Sassou Ngueso. However, the official press only mentioned the visit as an opportunity to strengthen commercial and political ties.

Junior Bokaka, a Congolese student of epidemiology, who has been featured as one of the protest’s spokesmen, said on Facebook that the complaint about the stipends for the Congolese students has “nothing to do with the Cuban Government.”

Bokaka took advantage of the opportunity to point out that, contrary to what some press media have said, he is a simple student who reported the situation on his Facebook account, but he doesn’t consider himself a leader of the demonstrations nor a student representative.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Assault on Cuban Doctors’ Home in Caracas

Cuban doctors in the Herminia Farías school, Venezuela (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, April 26, 2009 — A home in Caracas where 20 Cubans lived was broken into on Thursday by six men in hoods who carried knives and blunt weapons. According to the victims, the criminals robbed them of cell phones, televisions, a power generator and $1,300 dollars in cash, the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional reported.

Troops from the Bolivarian National Police and the Corps of Scientific, Penal and Forensic Studies went to the home, located in Alta Florida, to begin the investigation.

Members of Cuba’s medical mission in Venezuela have repeatedly complained about being victims of the widespread violence that exists in this South American country. continue reading

In July 2018, eight armed, hooded men attacked a group of prominent Cuban doctors in Venezuela and robbed them of more than $152,000 and 30,000 pesos, according to statements collected by this newspaper.

The thousands of doctors that the Cuban Government maintains in Venezuela are experiencing the political struggles and growing violence without any plans for evacuation.

After Guaidó’s proclamation as President, many health professionals confessed to feeling they would be in the middle of a crossfire if the tension led to civil war.

“The Venezuelan army is expecting an invasion from the United States, and the criminal gangs are rampant,“ a doctor of general medicine in Táchira told 14ymedio.

in addition, they are under suspicion of having been infiltrated by members of the Cuban Armed Forces who support the Chavista government, and some have complained about being used to transmit the regime’s ideology.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Factual, a Project That Supports Young Cuban Journalists

Xochiketzalli Rosas and Jordy Meléndez, promoters of the “Factual” project that supports young journalists in Latin America. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, April 3, 2019 — All over the world, young journalists hope to be published in prestigious media, to be in contact with recognized professionals and to have alternatives in order to better themselves, but frequently there are more obstacles than support. in the case of Cuba, the situation is complicated.

The independent press on the Island is illegal and has been officially stigmatized. Journalists have had to sort out problems of connectivity and, on more than one occasion, several have been prohibited from traveling outside the country as reprisal for their work.

For this reason Factual, founded in Mexico in 2014, decided to take a chance on Cuba, in order to smooth the way for more reporters. The project is the creation of the Latin American Network of Young Journalists, which organizes a forum of digital media and maintains a web platform where reporters can make their work known and develop networks of contacts. continue reading

Xochiketzalli Rosas and Jordy Meléndez, two of its principal founders, told 14ymedio that “Our main goal is to identify this talent in the under-30 group who are barely known.” The support includes “an educational process and learning sessions with some of the best journalists in the digital sphere in Latin America.”

Menéndez confesses that when they initiated the network, they had barely defined its purpose. “We didn’t have a clear idea of how we were going to finance it or what programs we would develop. We only counted on the desire to generate interaction, networks, communities and, above all, learning.”

Up until now, Factual has had three open calls to join the network. In 2014, 150 journalists applied, from which 16, between the ages of 20 and 28, were selected, coming from 11 countries. In the second round in 2016, there were 315 candidates, and 28 between the ages of 20 and 29 were selected, from 14 countries.

Rosas explains that they missed something in their projects. “We talked a lot about Latin America as if the Caribbean didn’t exist, and the most notable absence was Cuba.”

This omission was resolved with a call for applications that the promoters of the initiative called “the third generation.” At this time, 220 journalists from 21 countries, between the ages of 22 and 32, applied, and at the end of October, 2018, it was announced that 42 had been selected, among them several Cubans.

Mendéndez explains that up until the last minute they were not sure if the Cubans would be able to attend the virtual meetings. “We know the difficulties with connectivity on the Island, but we’re very happy to see that, in spite of the problems, the Cubans have had a good presence in the meetings.“

“Beginning with this, the regional character of our meetings was enriched, because in any analysis about Latin America, it’s essential to know what is happening in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba,” Rosas points out.

Factual has helped its members publish in 28 international media, and, in addition, it sustains a web platform where more than 40 reports, the fruit of the work done in the workshops, can be read.

Every Saturday, online learning sessions take place with highly-qualified professionals (Yina Morelos, Javier Sinay, winner of the 2015 Gabo Prize, or Pablo Rivero), an opportunity to express their experiences and expand themes, focuses and ways of constructing an informative text.

They work on creating a micro-profile in order to capture the essence starting with the description of physical and psychological features. “Some of the best profiles are created by them,” says Meléndez.

”How much of Cuba is there in Latin America?” we ask.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re in San Salvador, Buenos Aires or México City.  It’s a matter of ascertaining the connection you can maintain in spite of the distance, through music, gastronomy, history or politics,” says Rosas.

The third program of the Factual project is the Latin American Forum of Digital Media and Journalism, which has taken place for seven consecutive years in Mexico City, and will happen again in 2019. Cuba was present for the first time last year, and its attendance was inaugurated with a table dedicated to independent journalism.

Factual, a context where the press media isn’t controlled by the Communist Party, will gain space on the Island. Its initiatives and projects help elevate the quality of reporting, and it connects journalists with other professionals in the hemisphere and promotes new informative subject matter, resulting in an injection of life for the sector.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Fourteen Cubans Detained near Caimanera to Prevent Exodus to U.S. Base

Caimanera is next door to the U.S. Naval Base in Guantánamo. (EFE/Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, April 1, 2019 — Fourteen young people were incarcerated recently  in Caimanera, Guantánamo, for trying to enter the U.S. Naval Base. A rumor had been spreading for weeks that the U.S. would take in any one who tried to leave the island by getting onto the base, and this caused a streak of detentions and strict militarization of the zone by Cuban State Security forces.

According to sources cited by the Spanish newspaper ABC, the army prevented non-residents from entering the province, and on Sunday, some 159 people were detained by the municipal police for trying to bypass the system of access control.

The U.S Government decided to notify Cubans in Caimanera that they had been the victims of a hoax. “It is not true that the U.S. Naval Base is processing Cubans for immigration,” the Department of State’s communication said. continue reading

“We continue to support safe, legal and orderly immigration under the laws of the United States,” it pointed out.

According to ABC, those arrested up to now are: Argelio Lechuga, Yorie Céspedes, Daniel Manuel Estrada Gorra, Rafael Vadari Sánchez Ruíz, residentes en Guantánamo; Roinel Espinosa y Adonis Domínguez, of Holguín; Amari Martínez, Yordanis Ramírez, Yasiel Galván, Aniel Martel, Lázaro Valdez, Jesús Miguel Aguilar, Carlos Antonio García and Yasmani Marcelino Mendoza, of Cienfuegos.

According to ABC sources, they have been accused of “violating the security perimeter” and “disobedience,” but not of “intent to exit the territory illegally.”

Yulieth Yero and Lisbeth Téllez, the wives of Rafael and Daniel Manuel, said that their spouses arrived at the Naval Base, where they were met by U.S. military authroities, who facilitated a safe-conduct pass for them to avoid detention before being deported according to the migration accords. However, according to their spouses, the documents were taken away from them by the Cuban police, and they were detained in order to be processed.

The families of Jesús Miguel Aguilar and Aniek Martel also spoke with the newspaper and reported that the detentions were meant as an example to prevent similar cases. “If the Cuban Government had denied the rumor on time, our sons wouldn’t have been prosecuted,” they protested. Both families say that their sons are being mistreated in prison.

Since the end of February, in the context of the constitutional referendum, Guantánamo’s neighbors have denounced the excessive militarization of the province. At that time, the deployment was interpreted as a method of control for possible protests, but weeks later, the army and the police continue controlling the entrances and exits to the territory, with special emphasis on Caimanera.

According to what a neighbor from the town told ABC, several journalists have tried to contact him to get information about the situation, but none has been able to get through. At the National Revolutionary Police control points on the highway at the entrance to the city, they denied access to them after taking down their names on a list,” he said.

ABC’s correspondent in Havana, Jorge Enrique Rodríguez, was detained for approximately 24 hours on March 21. The journalist had, days before, reported the unusual military activity and notable influx of people with the apparent intention of approaching the Caimanera Naval Base of Guantánamo in order to leave the country. His release was made possible by the intervention of the Ambassador from Spain in Cuba at the request of the Director of the Spanish newspaper.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Exile in Miami Urges a Declaration of ‘Void’ for the Constitutional Referendum in Cuba

Rosa María Payá criticizes the referendum, saying that the “constitutional text directly violates the most basic rules of democracy.” (@RosaMariaPaya)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Miami, February 25, 2019 — Opposition and Cuban exile organizations called on the international community today to declare the process of constitutional reform in Cuba invalid and to ignore the official results of the “fraudulent” referendum of Sunday.

Rosa María Payá, the leader of the Cuba Decides movement, told EFE that the process has been “flawed since the beginning,” and she denounced the increase in repression and intimidation of civil society during the voting held this Sunday on the island.

She said that at least “nine people are missing and a hundred detained,” and dozens of opponents were beaten during a day that also lacked “national and international observation.” continue reading

The activist considers the process in which more than 7,000,000 Cubans went to the polls this Sunday to decide on a new constitution “illegitimate” and said that it doesn’t modify the Communist political system.

Cuba Decides and other exile groups in Miami, among them the Movimiento Democracia, denounced the constitutional referendum as an “imposition” of the ex-President and leader of the governing Communist Party of Cuba (the only legal party), Raúl Castro.

In this sense, they urge the international community, including the democratic governments of the region and the European Union to follow the Organization of American States (OAS) in disavowing “whatever result” the constitutional process produces.

The Secretary-General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, said today that it “does not recognize the acts and institutions” created by the new constitution in Cuba.

Opponents and exiles say that the referendum originates from a commission formed by the Communist Party and members of the National Assembly, “none of whom were chosen in free, just and plural elections.”

During a news conference, attended by Miami Mayor, Francis Suárez, the Cuban exile groups complained that the “constitutional text is designed to guarantee the perpetuity in power” of the Cuban Communist Party.

Payá also stated that the “constitutional text directly violates the most basic rules of democracy” and threatens with the “use of arms” Cubans who “want to change the system it defines.”

The activist said that on the island there is also a sense of nervousness over the crisis of political legitimacy in Venezuela facing president Nicolas Maduros and that it contributed to the repression this Sunday.

The day was marked by “the lack of transparency and verbal and physical violence against members of civil society and the opposition by repressive forces and, in many cases, the electoral authorities,” said Cuba Decides.

In addition, Payá condemned the raids on homes, the absence of conditions for a secret vote and propaganda in favor of the official option in polling places, among other irregularities.

According to official Cuban data, of the more than 8 million voters registered, more than 7.5 million (81.5%) had already voted one hour before the polls closed on Sunday.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Apathy in the Streets and Unease in the Cuban Government

Antonio, a habanero who lives on the street, says that he has “nothing to lose. I’m going to vote No.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana / Camagüey | 23 February 2019 — Clown performances promoting a Yes vote on the referendum, long lines to buy food and a general apathy about voting on the new constitution shape the scene on Saturday in Cuba, a few hours before the polling places open, where government officials have more at stake than a new charter.

From early in the morning families have been lining up at the Coppelia ice cream parlor and people are crowding into the agricultural markets. The cinemas and theaters are running their usual programs, but the countdown for the vote this Sunday has increased police patrols in the streets, with uniformed troops and members of State Security.

In the cafeteria of the Hotel Tulipán, in Nuevo Vedado, a clown encourages the toddlers with statements about the Constitution. “Raise your hands, children, if you’re going to wake up early tomorrow,” says the blue clown, played by the actor, Noel Torriente, in a show called Children also vote for the fatherland. continue reading

In the Hotel Tulipán, the blue clown puts on a show called Children also vote for the fatherland. (14ymedio)

A man of 36 years who offers guide services to tourists on the outskirts of the Plaza de la Revolución doesn’t seem very enthusiastic and adds that the new constitution won’t do much to put “beans on my table”. He is one among many who believe that the referendum has nothing to do with their own interests.

In the Market at 17th and K, in Vedado, there are carrots and beets, but the longest line is for pork, even though the price per pound is more than a worker earns in a day. The seller screams “No photographs!” when he sees a reporter approach; his kiosk is papered with posters for a Yes vote.

The pork seller screams “No photographs!” when he sees a reporter approach. (14ymedio)

Nearby, in the doorway of the bus terminal, Miguel sells newspapers and believes that the correct thing to do is to go and vote, because he considers it “important for the country. In the assemblies everyone expresses their opinion and now you have to go and ratify,” the old man of 80 years adds.

Esperanza, a school employee, doesn’t share his opinion. “Everyone should vote No, to see the Government’s reaction.” She has already decided to reject the constitutional text but hasn’t told her colleagues and friends because she “doesn’t want to lose my job” or be marked as a “counterrevolutionary”.

Outside the Immigration and Naturalization office on calle 17 in Vedado, people barely interact to avoid any critical opinion aborting their trip abroad. The Yes propaganda is everywhere, and one joke assures that “after February 24, passports will be cheaper,” which they all pretend not to hear.

Outside the Immigration and Naturalization office on calle 17 in Vedado, people barely interact to avoid any critical opinion aborting their trip abroad. (14ymedio)

Outside Coppelia, Antonio takes in the sun. Homeless, missing a shoe and with years of living on the street, he says that he is registered to vote in Playa. “I have nothing to lose. I’m going to vote No.” He says this categorically while the passersby move away.

In Camagüey, the authorities have increased the presence of civil police, especially around the long food lines. (14ymedio)

Hundreds of kilometers from the capital, in the streets of Camagüey, the residents are more interested in the shortage of food than in the constitutional referendum. This Saturday, there are also a larger number of police and members of State Security, dressed in civilian clothing but identifiable by their Suzuki motorcycles, traditionally used by the political police.

“Every day more products disappear,” comments Ariel Almansa, a young entrepreneur who waits in line at DiTú on 12 Plantas del Avenida Finlay, to buy two packages of chicken, a product that has been absent in previous days. Among the merchandise that has disappeared, he enumerates “oil, eggs, deodorant and condoms.”

The shortage has increased the popular malaise, a discontent that could be reflected in the ballot boxes in a rejection of the new Constitution. “I’m going to vote No because this has become unsustainable,” another client who waits in the food line tells 14ymedio. “It’s not that I reject the Constitution; it’s that this can’t continue,” she adds.

In Camagüey, the authorities have increased the presence of civil police, especially around the long food lines. “They say they’re here to avoid fighting and that now the cooking oil has been delivered,” explains Damaris Marín outside a market in the Montecarlos area.

The reappearance of the product hasn’t passed unnoticed, and many think it’s an electoral maneuver for the referendum on Sunday. “Now a little chicken and oil appear in some shops because they want us to vote Yes tomorrow,” says a woman at the bus stop on Route 19.

In these last weeks, officials have used all the resources at their disposal to promote ratification of the constitutional text. The residents in Camagüey were surprised these last days when groups of kids, with school uniforms and during school hours, ran through the streets leaving propaganda in favor of a Yes vote under doors.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Controversy in French Guayana Over the Project to Hire Cuban Doctors

French Guayana needs at least 15 dental surgeons, three oncologists, and five pulmonologists. (OPS)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 22, 2019 — The project announced in the middle of February to contract Cuban doctors to address the shortage of personnel in French Guayana is facing resistance from the organizations of national professional health workers, who question the technical skills of the Cuban doctors.

Rodolphe Alexandre, President of Guayana, explained to the AFP agency that last Tuesday, February 12, he met in Paris, together with Senators George Patient and Antoine Karam, with the Cuban ambassador in France, Elio Rodríguez Perdomo, and with the Vice Minister of Health Marcia Cobas, to discuss the details.

Since 2005, Guayana has had an ordinance that permits the hiring of doctors outside the European Union. continue reading

Alexandre explained that there is a real urgency in Guayana and that the idea would be to bring “one hundred specialized (Cuban) doctors into hospitals to overcome the medical shortage. At least 15 dental surgeons, three oncologists, five pulmonologists,” said the French agency.

The President added that it would be the Cuban State that would directly receive payment for the service.

If the project manages to be finalized, he would study on a case-by-case basis the candidates who want to offer their services overseas.

This possible new agreement happened two months after the exit from Cuba of Mais Médicos, the program that supported 8,471 Cuban doctors in Brazil.

The rift with Jair Bolsonaro, who wanted to revise the agreement so the professionals would stop receiving their salaries through the Government of Havana, caused the precipitous return of the doctors from the South American country.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Decree Law 349 and the Cuban State a€™s Cultural Politics in 7 Points / Cubalex

Cubalex, 15 August 2018 — The Council of Ministers, in Decree Law No. 349, on April 20, 2018 (effective on December 20, 2018) establishes sanctions for not complying with the cultural policies established by the Ministry of Culture, in relation to the suitability, professionalism and remuneration of artists, whether they are graduates of art education, general education or amateurs. The following 7 points summarize this policy:

1. Cuban artists, whether they are graduates of artistic education, general education or amateurs, in order to practice professionally, have to be qualified by the State.

2. Only artists who have been approved or enrolled in the Registry of Creators of Plastic and Applied Arts can exhibit, provide artistic services in public or have commercial space for their art. continue reading

3. Artists will be required to establish links with a State institution in order to receive remuneration for their work. Those who don’t comply with this policy can be subject to disciplinary measures by their work institution, including measures that affect their economic support.

4. Only institutions that are authorized by the Minister of Culture or the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television can establish work relations with artists and represent them to market their productions and artistic services in public.

5. Artists will not be able to benefit from productions or shows, or develop and expose their skills, talents and artistic attitudes in public without State authorization. Nor can they express their identity using national symbols. People who are not considered artistis are excluded from access to practices, benefits and cultural services.

6. State officials have it within their discretion to decide if a book doesn’t comply with ethical and cultural values; if audiovisuals, music or artistic presentations promote discrimination, violence or use sexist, vulgar and obscene language. Victims, affected groups, denunciations or guarantees of due process are not required for accusations.

7. State supervisors and inspectors will decide, at their discretion, if fines between 1,000 and 4,000 pesos or confiscation of goods are merited. Both measures can be applied to any person, organization, business, etc. “in places of State and non-State public installations,” which do not comply with the policy stablished by the Ministry of Culture. They also can suspend, immediately, any show or film and request cancellation of authorization for independent work activity.

Translated by Regina Anavy