With the Approval of 4,700 Cubans and 26,000 Venezuelans, Mayorkas Points Out the Success of the ‘Parole’ Program for Migrants

The Secretary of Homeland Security of the United States, Alejandro Mayorkas, at the Cultural Center of Little Haiti in Miami, this Monday. (EFE/Cristobal Herrera)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Miami/Madrid, 30 January 2023 — The Secretary of National Security of the United States, Alejandro Mayorkas, said on Monday that the humanitarian program for Cubans, Venezuelans, Haitians and Nicaraguans applied since the beginning of January has brought down the irregular arrival of those migrants to the country by 90%.

At an event held at Little Haiti Cultural Center in Miami, Mayorkas defended that one must reach the United States “legally and without taking risks,” alluding without specifying the many Cubans and Haitians who go to sea in rudimentary boats headed for the US shores.

“Those who decide to come to the United States illegally should know that we will use all the instruments of the law to expel them,” stressed the secretary, who stressed that the program “is being very successful.”

Born in Havana in 1959, Mayorkas said that the issue of Cuban migration touches him personally, since he and his parents had to leave Cuba in 1960, and stressed that the Biden government wants “a solution” to the problem of immigration,” and spoke about it with his Latin American peers at the last Summit of the Americas.

“Those who come with this program will be able to work, so no resources from the administrations will be used,” said the official.

Mayorkas began his schedule this Monday with a meeting with Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. The mayor, after emphasizing that Miami-Dade “is a community of immigrants,” said that during the meeting she held with Mayorkas they discussed the need for more federal resources for immigrants. continue reading

After the meeting in Little Haiti with the Haitian community, he plans to meet –in an event closed to the press– at the Miami hermitage dedicated to the patron saint of Cuba, the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, with representatives of the Cuban community in Miami, which welcomes most of the migrants from the four countries covered by the program.

Mayorkas also met with congressmen Mario Diaz-Balart, Maria Elvira Salazar, Debbie Wasserman and Carlos Giménez.

The secretary’s visit to this city aims to explain the immigration policy of the government of US President Joe Biden, and the recently approved humanitarian permit known as ‘parole’ for Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans, which expanded the one that already existed since October for Venezuelans.

This program, challenged in the courts by twenty Republican states, allows up to 30,000 of these migrants to enter the country every month since January 6, who must meet certain requirements such as having a “sponsor” who supports them financially and covers their living expenses. health. The permit is for two years and allows them to work.

Those who enter irregularly await deportation, according to this humanitarian program, which takes into account the difficult political and economic situation of the four countries.

As of last Friday, according to CNN with a source in a National Security official, more than 4,700 Cubans had been authorized to travel through the new parole program, along with 2,000 Haitians and 800 Nicaraguans. As for Venezuelans, for whom the program was established in October, 26,000 are approved.

Since January 6, when the program came into force, more than 1,700 people have arrived in the United States under this process from Cuba, Nicaragua and Haiti.

Translated by Regina Anavy

____________

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

Cubans Must Pay in Dollars for U.S. Consular Services in Havana

U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Havana, 31 January 2023 — As of March 1, the U.S. Embassy in Havana will charge all its consular services in US dollars. The diplomatic headquarters has issued a statement on Tuesday in which it announces that it will “no longer accept Cuban pesos” in payment for visas, notarial services or parole.

“The U.S. Embassy does not accept the use of a credit card to pay for its services,” adds the brief note published on the official website of the diplomatic headquarters. The decision leaves aside the national currency, with which, until now, part of the consular procedures could be paid, and obliges payment with dollars in cash.

The measure was coming. The US consulate was closed to the public for three years, including the months after monetary unification, carried out in Cuba in January 2021, which eliminated the convertible peso (CUC) from circulation. After restarting the processing of visas last January, payment was allowed in Cuban pesos or dollars, a duality that many pointed out as unsustainable.

The cost of managing an immigrant visa for family reunification, the type of procedure that since the beginning of this year has been carried out again at the consulate of Havana, rises to $325, while the cost for winners of the Diversity Lottery is $330.

Last June, a resolution of the Central Bank of Cuba entered into force that prevents consulates on the Island from converting their accounts in pesos into foreign currency. The measure caused the paralysis of consular services in several diplomatic headquarters that were forced to choose between collecting their procedures in pesos or in freely convertible currency (MLC).

Consulates that chose to continue operating in Cuban pesos, the favored option of citizens, who more easily have the national currency, can only make bank deposits in that currency and are not allowed to transfer to accounts in MLC or transfer funds abroad.

Translated by Regina Anavy

____________

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

Cuba Plans to Activate the New Cable between Cuba and Martinique in April to Improve Connectivity

Orange, through its subsidiary in Martinique, promotes the construction of the Arimao submarine cable. (JR)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 1 February 2023 — Cuban authorities plan to have the new underwater internet connection cable running in three months, as announced in an article published by the official press which tries to respond to the multiple complaints of low connectivity in recent weeks through the state telecommunications monopoly Etecsa, the Island’s only gateway to the Internet.

“We hope to launch the Arimao submarine cable in April,” said Tania Velázquez Rodríguez, president of the company, who explains the short circuit in ALBA-1, the connection between Venezuela and Cuba, the was launched in 2013. “The capacities we had in ALBA-1 are saturated, so in those high-speed schedules the demand is not met. The new cable will offer important capabilities for navigation. Likewise, we must increase the capabilities of the software that enables that output so that everything flows correctly,” she adds.

Arimao was announced in December, before Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel’s tour of several Caribbean islands, and foresees the connection from Martinique, deployed by the French Orange company through its subsidiary on this island. The fiber optic cable is 2,500 kilometers long and reaches the Tricontinental Port of Cienfuegos. The maritime installation to Martinique was completed at the beginning of January, when the land connections began. When they have been completed, it will be time to do tests.

In this Wednesday’s note, Velázquez Rodríguez offers figures for the growth in demand for connection in Cuba, which in 2022 increased by more than one million users, reaching a total of 6.7 million customers, most of them 4G. That has caused a 63% increase in traffic volume, from 189,000 terabytes in 2012 to 309,000 in 2022. The average user demand has varied from 5.65 gigabytes to 7.23 in a year.

The infrastructure has not grown, however, which generates the congestion problems detected by users. According to Etecsa data, more than two million people connect simultaneously between eight and ten at night, the busiest time, which saturates the network and results complaints from the population. continue reading

“The growth not only demands investments in the access network, but also forces us to do work on other layers of the network that allows the smooth transit of that mass of data demanded by customers. Likewise, we must take into account the international traffic,” adds the directive, referring to Arimao.

The promotion to quintuple the capacity has been on everyone’s lips when it comes to explaining the problems of access to the network. Velázquez Rodríguez confirms that these offers have effects, although it justifies the urgent need to obtain currency along the way.

“It is an incentive to stimulate recharges from [family and friends] abroad since from the exit of the combined packages there has been a shift towards the consumption of national packages with CUP (Cuban peso) payments, and income from abroad has decreased. We are very pleased to have offers in CUP that please most of our customers, but it is also important to offer alternatives to capture the currencies that allow us to sustain the service and do it with quality,” he says.

The director also talks in the interview about how blackouts have affected navigation and reveals that radio bases have batteries but only 20% of the 5,000 on the Island have energy support, which suspends the connection.

The argument could technically explain the cuts denounced during the long blackouts last summer, which gave rise to a multitude of demonstrations in which the Government was held responsible and the restitution of the current was demanded. However, there is a suspicion among the population that internet cuts were intentional to prevent protests from being disseminated through social networks, with a contagion effect.

The official adds that they have tried to get more batteries, but the cost per unit (about $30,000) prevents them from having enough. “It is satisfactory for our company to show growth in traffic and in the number of subscribers, although we recognize that there is dissatisfaction with quality,” he admits.

Velázquez Rodríguez refers to other areas of telecommunications, such as fixed telephony, which will increase by only 16,000 lines in 2023 because, although he assures that it is still in high demand in Cuba, the priority is the cellular “for its rapid deployment and wide capacity to assimilate customers.” In addition, he has also talked about the slow deployment of wireless networks for the Nauta Hogar [Nauta Home] network or the sale of equipment in pesos, which “will be carried out when economic conditions allow it.”

The frequencies of transmission or the digitization of some services also appear in the interview, in which, as a novelty, the MiTransfer channel (a virtual money account associated with a mobile number) stands out as a preliminary step to the short-term virtual wallet.

Translated by Regina Anavy

____________

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

The Hotel Company Melia Achieves Another Success in its Lawsuit for the Use of Confiscated Land in Cuba

The Sol Río y Luna Mares hotel, in Playa Esmeralda, Holguín, is on land that belonged to the Sánchez-Hill family before 1959.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 2 February 2023 — The Spanish court that in May 2021 issued the provisional dismissal of the lawsuit against the hotelier Meliá filed by the Sánchez-Hill family, for the exploitation of its land in Cuba confiscated by the Cuban government, has dismissed the case for the second time.

The head of the Court of First Instance of Palma that heard the case, informed Expansión on Wednesday that it agreed with the Cuban state company Gaviota and declared the lack of jurisdiction of the Spanish courts in this judicial process.

The order, dated January 27 and to which the economic newspaper had access, indicates that the Spanish Justice cannot recognize, in a legal sense, the confiscation, “given that it was a sovereign act carried out by Cuba through its own laws.” The Court does not rule on its international competence since the lack of jurisdiction is sufficient reason for the filing of the procedure, which sets a precedent in other claims based on the Helms-Burton law against Spanish hoteliers.

In 2019, the Sánchez-Hill family sued the Balearic network Meliá for the exploitation of two hotels, Paradisus Río Oro y Sol and Río y Luna Mares, on land that belonged to their family before 1959. On that occasion, the judge already issued the provisional file of the case for the same reasons as now, but the Sánchez-Hill family appealed to the Provincial Court (higher court) upon considering that the company’s tax domicile made the lawsuit possible.

The plaintiffs then extended the complaint to the Cuban State, as the owner of the land, although the State decided not to appear. Instead, Gaviota did, whose allegations were joined by Meliá. continue reading

The state company maintained in its brief that Cuba enjoys immunity from jurisdiction and, since the lawsuit was directed against the Island, the privilege extended to the rest of the defendants. In addition, Gaviota added that meeting the demand meant ruling on goods located within Cuba without extraterritorial effects in Spain, as well as something impossible: ruling on the sovereign acts of a State.

Meliá sources consulted by the Spanish newspaper limited themselves to showing their satisfaction with the dismissal of the case, in which the family claimed at least ten million euros for the “illicit enrichment” of the hotel.

However, the case has generated problems for the chain, including the ban on entry into the United States that hangs over Gabriel Escarrer, executive vice president and CEO of the company, as a result.

The manager, however, said that when he learned about that measure he didn’t “tremble” because of the pressure, and his commitment to Cuba was unconditional. Despite the severe collapse of tourism on the Island, which after the pandemic has failed to recover the past figures and is even below the poorest forecasts, Meliá has not relinquished its expansion strategy.

In addition to the 34 hotels that the Balearic chain manages on the Island, projects are frequently reactivated. The most recent is the December 2021 agreement with the Cuban Medical Services Marketer to include its establishments in the health tourism promoted by the regime, an agreement that is already being implemented, according to the authorities in May 2022, for dialysis patients.

In addition, in the short term Meliá plans to open, although without a specified date, other establishments, such as the Sol Caribe Beach in Varadero and the Meliá Trinidad Peninsula, in Sancti Spíritus. When it has inaugurated these two, it will have 36 hotels, 10% of the total of those in Cuba, and 14,844 rooms, 15.2% of the availability on the Island.

Translated by Regina Anavy 

____________

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

A Free Homeland to Live In

The filmmaker faced a thousand dangers to leave a memory of the popular rebellion that shook the country in 2018. (fotograma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 2 February 2023 — I have seen the documentary Nicaragua, patria libre para vivir  [Nicaragua, a Free Homeland to Live In], three times, and all three times it has shaken me to the core. Its director, the Andalusian poet and philologist, Daniel Rodríguez Moya, says that you can be born anywhere in the world and love it, but you can also choose a land to love, without necessarily having been born there. And he decided, 20 years ago, to fall in love with Nicaragua.

Daniel sold his poetry publishing company in Granada to finance his film. He went with his camera to the land of volcanoes and faced a thousand dangers to leave a memory of the popular rebellion that shook that country in 2018. Beyond the award at the Invisible Film Festival in Bilbao, what excites the poet is that Nicaraguans have found in his images a bastion against forgetting.

Because they show convulsive times. Sometimes the world prefers to look away and ignore that there are dictatorships in our America, the same or worse than those that stained the Twentieth Century with blood. Sometimes sanctions are not enough to stop those who violate human rights with impunity, trampling on democracy. Sometimes there is an “idiotic left,” as sociologist Sofía Montenegro calls it in the documentary, that continues to support these tyrants in the name of a sick romanticism.

The testimony of someone like Sergio Ramírez, a Cervantes award winner and former vice president of Nicaragua, is overwhelming. Sergio had the moral stature to move away from a revolution that had already lost its course. And after the 2018 protests, Ortega ordered his capture. The novelist had already suffered persecution under Somoza. Now he would be persecuted by his own comrades in the struggle. The founder of the literary festival Centroamérica cuenta, the most important literary festival in the region, recounts how he preferred to be considered a traitor by the beasts, rather than become one of them. continue reading

One shudders to hear the verses of Gioconda Belli, a multi-award-winning writer who has also had to go into exile. The author of La mujer habitada [The Inhabited Woman] would never accept being an accomplice of someone who overthrew Anastasio Somoza to end up becoming another dictator. Nicaragua’s best children have had to leave or are trapped in its dungeons.

I have told Moya that I would love for Cubans to be able to see his movie. It is obvious that the Island’s regime would never allow such a film at its festivals, much less dare to put it on television. But it would be fabulous if it could sneak into the paquete* [“Weekly Packet”] so Cubans could look at themselves in the mirror. There are too many similarities to our own history.

Every time Rosario Murillo, current vice president and wife of Daniel Ortega, mentions the word “love,” one feels nauseated. But in Cuba they also hide behind words such as “solidarity” or “humanism,” while the minions beat our young people in the streets, surveille our poets and condemn an entire country to the most abject poverty.

I have rarely seen an entire audience cry in front of a documentary. And with this one it has happened to me three times. When the father of one of the murdered boys talks about his last meeting with his son, you can’t help but break down. There is too much truth in his words and too much helplessness in his eyes, but not a single trace of hatred. And I think of all the mothers of our boys in Cuba. I think about everything that went through their heads when they saw the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo meet in Argentina with the Cuban dictator who gave the order to fight against our children.

How could those illustrious ladies forget the origin of their causes? How can they put ideological interests before the most elementary sense of justice? I prefer to believe that they are very stunned by the “lobby” and the propaganda displayed by a regime addicted to lies. I prefer to tell our mothers: forgive them, because they know not what they do.

Even the title of this documentary has a close relationship with our reality. The Sandinista revolution has used as its motto a phrase that Augusto César Sandino used as a battle cry in 1927: “A free homeland or death.” And in Cuba, since 1960, Fidel Castro would culminate all his endless speeches with the slogan: “Homeland or Death.” It is no coincidence that both Cubans and Nicaraguans have developed that rejection of the word “death.”

It is time for us, in Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba, and in every corner where there is a stupid and hypocritical dictatorship, to close ranks. It’s time to replace death with life, and not just in songs.

*Translator’s note: El Paquete Semanal, the weekly package, is a collection of digital material distributed underground.

Translated by Regina Anavy 

____________

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

In Cuba, Prices Rose by 39 Percent in the Official Economy in 2022 and by 140 Percent in the Informal Economy

Items for sale in a state store in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 February 2023 — Prices in Cuba officially rose by 39% in 2022, a figure that reflects the great deterioration of the population’s economy and mainly affects food, with an increase of 62.9%, as published on Wednesday by the National Office of Information and Statistics (Onei).

The data are much better than those of the previous year, when December closed with a 77.3% increase in the consumer price index (CPI,) dragged down by Transport, which grew by 188%, and Housing, by 153%. That year, food prices increased by 114%. This does not hide the fact that Cubans have spent twice as much as a year ago on eating, accumulating increases. In addition, the authorities themselves are aware that the official calculation is far from reality, since  most citizens have to resort to the informal market to find food.

This month’s price increase is more moderate than in the past, although not insignificant. Prices rose by 3.7% in December, somewhat less than in November, when they increased by 4.1%.

Highlights include the increases in very essential products in the daily life of the average Cuban, such as red beans (13%), toilet paper (10.5%) and black beans (10%). Sweets and flour increased by more than 8%. However, in some state markets, tomatoes (-19.8%) and pepper (-5.7%) have gone down.

By sector, Food and Non-alcoholic Beverages are once again taking center stage, rising by 5.6% this December. Here you can also see, once again, the cost of animal protein. Pork (8%), lamb and ham (more than 6%) have gone up, and eggs and rice ((5.4%). The basic accompaniment of dishes in family meals continues to go uo, and in December the  price increased by 3.7%.

Restaurants and Hotels is again the sector that closely follows food in its escalation. This December, prices increased by 4.22% and throughout the year it accumulated 55.6%. The rise is in the price of snacks (7.8%), followed by breakfast (4.6%), takeaways (3.5%) and soft drinks (2.5%). continue reading

The third sector that most affects price variation is that of Goods and Services, although its rise is discreet (2.6%). Education is ahead of it, with prices that increased in December by 3.9%. Furniture and Household items increased by 2.7%. However, the top three win, because of how much they impact daily life: the increase in the cost of toilet paper, dye (6.1%), shampoo and perfume (both around 3.8%).

The only sector whose prices fell was that of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (-0.12%), undoubtedly dragged down by the drop in cigars (-0.8%). However, throughout the year the price variation is more than 25%, remaining globally the third group of products by price increase in all of 2022.

Other lower-impact increases are in Transport (0.3%, although 13.5% per year), Housing (1.2%, but 13.2% in 2022), Recreation and Culture (0.34%) and Clothing and Footwear (0.41%). Much more insignificant is the rise in Health and Communications prices, which, without falling, barely rise by 0.09% and 0.06% respectively.

“The data subscribe to the difficulty of the economic scenario, in which price increases are combined with lower economic growth, which points to a complex situation of stagnation (acceleration of inflation and stagnation of production), whose solution can be much more complex,” the Cuban expert based in Spain,  Elías Amor, points out in his blog,  Cubaeconomía, and he adds that the authorities of the Island do not seem to be doing much to control the situation.

The American economist Steve Hanke, who makes calculations taking into account the informal economy, put 2022 inflation in Cuba at 140%, more than three times higher than that provided by the Government with official prices; although since the beginning of the year it has reported increases in the environment of 60%, very high again, but considerably lower. In addition, the expert also accounted for the devaluation of the peso, which since January 2022 has fallen by 57.65% against the dollar.

Translated by Regina Anavy 

____________

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

Inflation Wreaks Havoc on the Cuban Economy During 2022

Food prices in Cuban markets and establishments have only risen in the last two years. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 2 February 2023 — It’s the news of the day but let no one look for a single reference to the data in the communist state press. And that, despite its importance and that it has a prominent influence on the living conditions of the population. I am referring to the inflation rate of the Cuban economy in 2022, which has just been published by the National Bureau of Statistics and Information, ONEI.

In fact, the data are not good. In 2022, Cuba closed with a year-on-year inflation rate of 39.07%, one of the highest in the world and with very negative effects that the regime does not seem to know how to control or mitigate. This rate, without going any further, is almost 5 times higher than that recorded in the neighboring Dominican Republic, and almost 4 times higher than that of all Latin American countries.

Inflation also has very negative features if the behavior of the different components is analyzed. Food and non-alcoholic beverage inflation increased to a spectacular year-on-year rate of 62.95%, more than 30 percentage points higher than the average, and that of the Restaurants and Hotels component to 55.64%, another 20 points more.

The two rates have an intense impact on the increases in the index, with Food at 76% and Restaurants at 12%. The rest of the components have a lower weight in the year-on-year rate, and from an objective perspective the regime should know where it has to concentrate its efforts in the fight against inflation, but it does not, or what is worse, it may not know how to do it.

Other equally negative aspects can be pointed out from inflation in 2022. The most worrying was its acceleration throughout the year, which can be measured by the monthly variation rates. In December, the rate for the entire CPI was 3.74% in a single month, but in the case of Food it reached 5.66% and in the Education component (which is a public service of the state) the price increase in the month was 3.96%. continue reading

The upward profile of inflation throughout the year is detected when it is found that the monthly increases were smaller at the beginning of the year, growing continuously from the second half of the year. This is a direct consequence, not only of the shortage of supply of goods and services that it has been planning all year round about price tension, but also of the effect of greater public spending that increases as the year progresses, generating the problems of lack of monetary control that feed inflation.

But, in addition, inflation in Cuba over the last two years has broken the foundations of the functioning of the economy in a very prominent way. In 2021, the year-on-year rate was 77.3% as a result of the impact of the Ordering Task.* In 2022, it grew by 39.07%, as mentioned above.

To know the impact of this rise in inflation in two consecutive years, let’s think of a salary of 3,000 pesos on January 1, 2021. Its purchasing power at that time was equivalent to 3,000 pesos, but with inflation of 77% in 2021, that purchasing power in December was equivalent to 690 pesos.

Throughout 2022, with inflation of 39.07%, those 690 pesos would have become 420 pesos. In other words, the 3,000 pesos of January 1, 2021 would have an equivalent purchasing power of 420 pesos on December 31, 2022. The accumulated loss would be 86%. The purchasing capacity of Cubans, with the average index, decreased by 86% since January 1, 2021, but obviously it would be much greater if the data of the Food and non-alcoholic beverages component are taken into account. However, economists measure purchasing power with the general index, which has caused that erosion of 86% in salary, or pension.

This erosion of the purchasing power of nominal incomes also hits bank deposits and any other asset that Cubans possess, because inflation is an unfair, asymmetric tax, which hits the most disadvantaged groups more intensely, as is happening in Cuba. You have to imagine the distortion that requires business accounting to continually update income and costs so as not to lose competitiveness. A true chaos.

In addition, analyzing the individual behavior of the prices that make up the “basket” that defines Cuba’s CPI, surprising results are obtained. The products that see prices rise the most intensely are the basic foods red and black beans (13% and 10%, respectively), and toilet paper, 10.65%, another product of necessity.

Inflation falls harshly on the most disadvantaged groups, whose incomes and pensions are lower, to cope with these uncontrolled prices. ONEI emphasizes that tomatoes with a drop of 18% or peppers, with 5.8%, were the products that experienced the greatest price declines.

There is then miscellaneous data on price increases during the month of December for other products, such as pork, 8.1%, ham, 6.3%, snacks 7.8%, breakfast, 4.68%; in addition to the toilet paper already indicated is the application of dyes at 6.1%.

The data underpin the difficulty of the economic scenario, in which price increases are combined with lower economic growth, which points to a complex situation of stagnation, for which the solution can be much more complex. There is the sense that communist leaders are being condescending with the evolution of inflation and aren’t seriously engaged in fighting against a serious evil that distorts prices and wages, the value of assets — in short, the functioning of the economy.

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

Translated by Regina Anavy 

____________

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

A ‘Mule’ is Punished for Trying to Send a Toy Helicopter to Cuba

On another previous occasion, Carlos had sent a remote-controlled toy helicopter to Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miami, 31 January 2023 — One of the few consolations of Carlos (fictitious name), who left Cuba last year for Nicaragua, desperate like so many other Cubans to seek a better life in the United States, is that at least now his children and nephews, who were left on the Island, could have decent toys for birthdays or Christmas.

Carlos buys them in a department store in Miami, at the good prices allowed by competition from the free market, and sends them to Cuba through an agency. He uses Fe, located in Hialeah. He has also sent remittances for his family through that agency.

He never had any problems. In these months in the United States, he has sent, for example, probes for his father (sick with cancer in Havana), gloves for his mother, seasonings and coffee for his wife, a robot for his eldest son, and a stuffed unicorn for his little daughter. On one occasion, he even sent a remote-controlled helicopter for his son’s birthday. Barely 8 inches  long, the object was light, barely weighing 5 ounces.

The problem arose when he sent, for Three Kings Day, another one for his stepson. When inspecting the shipment, as they usually do in this type of agency, he got the first disappointment. “To begin with, this time they wanted to charge me a fee [an extra fee] for the helicopter,” Carlos tells this newspaper, and says that he reminded the employee who attended him: “How are you going to charge me a fee, if the other time I already sent a helicopter with you and I didn’t have to pay?” After claiming that he was sending a large package, and even $300 in remittances, the girl kindly agreed not to charge him the fee. continue reading

Days later, he had another surprise: “On the day the arrival of the package was scheduled, they called me from the agency to inform me that they had seized the helicopter at Cuban Customs.”

The explanation they gave to Carlos is that “the ban on the entry of drones now applies to anything that flies a little and has remote control.” Indeed, in June 2021, the Cuban government issued a law that regulated “unmanned aircraft,” with the intention of restricting the use of drones for model aircraft purposes or specific aerial work and always under the supervision of a state entity.

Carlos doesn’t understand how, on the one hand, the first helicopter did pass and, on the other, how that rule can affect a simple toy of just over 20 dollars, “which only flies for seven minutes per charge, a very short distance and at very low altitude.”

His stepson didn’t understood either and spent days crying. “I think it’s a huge lack of respect!” denounces Carlos.

The agency only had an answer for the first question: the other time they simply didn’t open the suitcase of the man to whom they sent things. “These types of agencies work with mules,” Carlos explains. “The mule sells his pounds to the agency and it resells them to the customer for 7 dollars a pound of medicine, food and toiletries and 9 dollars for the rest.”

When the man handed over the rest of the package to the family, he complained: “That helicopter caused me a tremendous mess in Customs. I’ll never bring anything that flies again!”

Carlos had the consolation that when the mule returned, the helicopter would be returned to Customs and, one day, when his family met with him in Miami, his stepson would finally have it in his hands. But that wasn’t the case. “The agents told him that Customs was equipped with cameras and were like ‘border guards.’ Not only did they not return the helicopter to the man, but they also they gave him a warning [an alert], ‘and he is marked from now on.’ In other words, every time he travels to Cuba, they will open his suitcase to check his luggage.”

Even then, the young employee who had taken care of him offered him hope: “The girl asked me for the purchase receipt, for the man to show at Customs, to see if they return the helicopter and remove the warning.” He wasn’t very optimistic: “I don’t know why, but it seems to me that that toy already has an owner in Cuba.”

There was still one last episode, weeks later, with the owner of the agency, who called him a few days ago about the bad outcome, to inform him that he had fired the employee.

“For a moment I thought I had returned to Cuba and was talking to an Etecsa* official, who thinks you are a servant instead of a client,” says Carlos, who conveyed his surprise at the firing of the girl. “That’s my problem, not yours!” the lady screamed at him.

In the middle of the harsh words and the untimely treatment, Carlos knew what really happened at Customs: “The woman told me that the man at Customs, when he went to get the helicopter back, they asked him for money, a tax in dollars, but he refused to pay it, and then they said that the helicopter had lights and a camera and was a coastguard.” Definitely, the innocent toy had found an owner other than his stepson, who still angrily remembers the Three Kings’ gift that he did not receive.

*Translator’s note: Etecsa is the Cuban state telecommunications company, and is notoriously difficult to deal with.

Translated by Regina Anavy 

____________

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

‘Here We Do Not Receive a Salary, Only a Stipend’, Admits a Cuban Doctor in Mexico

Part of a group of 13 Cuban specialists who are in the Mexican state of Michoacán. (Government of Michoacán)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mexico, February 2, 2023 — The 620 Cuban doctors who have been in Mexico since January 27 receive from the Government of Cuba “a stipend for their needs.” With those words spoken in an improvised interview, uploaded to YouTube by the newspaper Reforma, the Cuban geriatrician Juan Andrés Echemendía, stressed: “We do not receive a salary here.”

“Our salary is in our country, in Cuba,” insisted this specialist, who affirms that they still do not have “the certainty” of how much the stipend will be. According to the legal agreement collected and announced in August last year by Prisoners Defenders, the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS) Bienestar will give the Comercializadora de Servicios Médicos de Cuba, S.A. up to 1,283,728 dollars per month (more than 15 million dollars a year).

La Comercializadora, identified by human rights organizations, agreed with Mexico in May of last year to hire 641 specialists. An official who opts for anonymity revealed to 14ymedio that for each specialist the Government of the Island will pocket 2,042 dollars per month and for the services of a general practitioner 1,722 dollars.

Echemendía is one of the Cuban doctors who was received last Sunday by the Morelos authorities at the IMSS Bienestar hospital in Temixco María de la Luz Delgado Morales. He arrived in Mexico two days earlier along with a group of 68 health workers.

The general director of the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS), Zoé Robledo, said that 10 specialists in geriatrics and gerontology arrived, 9 in dermatology, 7 in allergies, 6 in physical medicine and rehabilitation, 6 in ophthalmology, 4 in general surgery, 3 in cardiology, 3 in internal medicine and another 20 undefined.

According to Robledo, these health workers will provide service after receiving introductory courses in the states of Colima (11), Guerrero (11), Michoacán (8), Morelos (8), Tlaxcala (8), Oaxaca (5), Veracruz (5), Baja California Sur (3), Campeche (3), Nayarit (3), Zacatecas (2) and Sonora (1).

The authorities did not offer details about whether the hospitals in which the specialists will be located are in remote areas, which is supposedly why they were hired by the Administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The Cuban dermatologist Ramón González Rodríguez, who proclaimed that they are there “voluntarily” and at the request of the Mexican government, announced that an anesthesiologist, a geriatrician and a dermatologist would stay at the Temixco hospital, but he did not know the fate of the other 5 health workers.

As usual, the accommodation, food and transport of the specialists will be covered by the state governments.

Translated by Regina Anavy 

____________

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

The Trial on Cuba’s Sovereign Debt in London, in Five Questions

Demonstration of opponents of the Cuban regime, in front of the Rolls Building, headquarters of the commercial division of the High Court of London. (EFE/Judith Mora)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), London, February 3, 2023 — The trial in London of the  claim for non-payment of the CRF I investment fund to the National Bank of Cuba (BNC) and the Republic of Cuba for 72 million euros (78 million dollars) of public debt went to trial on Thursday.

1. What will be decided in this trial?

The trial before the commercial division of the London High Court of Justice seeks to establish whether CRF is a legitimate creditor of Cuba — if it has the right to claim the payment of sovereign debt from Havana — and whether this court has jurisdiction over the issue. After the end of the public part, it will be weeks, even months, before the court issues a judgment. The court does not have to publish it, and its dissemination may depend on the parties. In addition, the ruling will not be final, so it could be appealed, prolonging the process. As for the substance of the issue, experts agree in pointing out the significance of the ruling for Cuba, which is going through a very delicate financial situation after more than two years of serious economic crisis.

2. Who are the plaintiffs and the defendants?

The lawsuit was filed by the CRF I irrigation capital fund, founded in 2009 and based in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven. According to different sources, it is Cuba’s largest sovereign debt holder and holds bonds of 1.2 billion euros (1.3 billion dollars).

The BNC is a Cuban state bank with commercial powers, but until 1997 it also served as a central bank. In that year, the Cuban Government created the Central Bank of Cuba (BCC) and limited the functions of the BNC to commercial ones. However, it  continued to take responsibility for the registration, control and service of the debt it had placed. This means that the BNC would be the entity that would respond in the first place to the debt. That’s why CRF I also sued the Republic of Cuba. In the event that it wins, it can also claim from the Cuban State the satisfaction of the debt with its funds and assets.

3. Where does this debt come from?

The debt originated as a result of two loans that Cuba closed in 1984 with two European banks, the French Crédit Lyonnais and the Italian L’Instituto Bancario Italiano, with the BNC as guarantor. Three years later, then Cuban president Fidel Castro declared his country’s debt — and in general that of all the ex-colonies — “unpayable,” and the Island ceased to comply with its creditors.

The situation changed with the arrival of his brother Raúl Castro to the presidency in 2006, as he tried to reopen the door of international financial markets as part of the economic reforms he launched.

Cuba renegotiated its debt with the Paris Club (where the main creditor nations are located) in 2015 and again in 2021. As did Russia, which forgave Cuba much of the credits granted during the Soviet era and improved conditions again in 2022.

But Havana did not negotiate with the London Club (where private creditors are grouped). CFR I says that it contacted Cuba on several occasions to reach an agreement, but that in seven years it did not get a response. In February 2020, CFR I filed the complaint that led to this trial.

4. What have been the arguments of the plaintiff and the defendant?

Cuba has reiterated that CFR I is not a legitimate creditor. Its argument has three fundamental points:

– That the fund took over this debt illegally, bribing an employee of the BNC. About this, the former worker himself, convicted of bribery, has testified electronically from a prison on the Island.

– That the procedures for the acquisition of this debt were not complied with: the two relevant signatures were not obtained, nor was government authorization received.

– That CFR I is a “vulture fund” that only seeks litigation and does not act as a “responsible” creditor.

CFR I, which denies being a “vulture fund,” assures that it did not bribe any employee and has questioned the veracity of the testimony of official in prison, claiming that he could have been pressured by the Cuban government. CFR I also states that it acquired the debt correctly and is, therefore, a legitimate creditor.

5. What could be the consequences of the trial?

The court has to decide whether CFR I is a legitimate creditor and, more importantly, whether the court has jurisdiction over this issue.

On the first point, it could decide either way, and that would mainly affect CFR I and whether or not it could claim the debt.

But the fundamental thing, as Cuban-American lawyer Luis Carlos Battista explained to EFE, is whether the court “decides that there is jurisdiction,” because new lawsuits from other creditors could arrive. There are billions of dollars at stake.

They would claim the debt from Havana and even try to satisfy it with state assets abroad, where Cuba has a network of companies, including banks. Many of them belong to Gaesa, the business conglomerate of Cuba’s Ministry of Defense, which controls telecommunications, remittances, imports and tourism on the Island, among other sectors of the economy.

For this, another trial would be necessary, in which the creditors — on whom the burden of proof would fall — would have to ask the court to lift the corporate veil of Gaesa and its subsidiaries.

Translated by Regina Anavy 

____________

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

A Brazilian Court Orders the Rehiring of the 1,789 Cuban Health Workers Who Were Dismissed

In the five years that the Mais Medicos program lasted in Brazil, Cuban health workers occupied 18,240 places. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 31 January 2023 — The Federal Justice of Brazil authorized the reinstatement of 1,789 Cuban health workers from the controversial Mais Medicos [More Doctors] program, which was canceled in 2018 by then-President Jair Bolsonaro, who considered it a way of injecting money into the Island regime in exchange for doctors who, sometimes, lacked a specialty.

Rafael Matos Medina, with professional studies at the Medical University of Camagüey and currently residing in Espírito Santo (Brazil), told the local media Seculo Diario that the judicial decision was given 11 months after the group appealed to the Federal Court of Brasilia arguing that their contract was not renewed during the Médicos por Brasil [Doctors for Brazil] program, created during the Bolsonaro Government and which replaced Mais Medicos.

Represented by the National Association of Medical Professionals Graduates in Foreign Institutions and Exchange Students (Aspromed), health workers were informed last Friday that they were favored by the ruling of Judge Carlos Augusto Pires Brandão.

Translation: GOOD NEWS! Federal Court determines rehiring of Cubans from ’Mais Médicos’. TRF1 decision determines immediate rehiring of 1,789 doctors from the 20th class of the program, who left in 2018. — Helder Salomão (@heldersalomao) January 28, 2023

“The failure of the legitimate expectation of these doctors is evident. Most of them have already formed families on Brazilian soil,” Pires Brandão said. “They rescheduled their lives according to the expectations formed from these hirings, and it seems fair to recognize that they now intend to remain in Brazil,” the judge concluded.

Although it is not specified, these doctors are part of the 2,000 Cubans who decided not to return to the Island after the cancellation of the program created in 2013 by then-President Dilma Rousseff with the aim of attracting professionals to rural areas that suffered from a lack of medical assistance.

In the first week of January, Brazil announced its intention to resume Mais Medicos, without confirming Cuba’s participation. The Secretary of Primary Care of the Ministry of Health, Nésio Fernandes, reiterated on January 26 that priority will be given to Brazilian professionals.

According to the new scheme, the first stage would be the hiring of doctors registered in Brazil or foreigners with an approved revalidation exam. In the second stage, Brazilians trained abroad without revalidation would be hired. The third stage, if there is a quota, with foreigners without the Revalida, which is the validation exam of the degrees issued by a foreign higher education institution.

The redesign of Mais Medicos promoted by the Government of Lula da Silva does not convince the doctors. The president of the Federal Council of Medicine José Hiran Gallo warned that there would be “front-line assistance in large capitals and second-line assistance in small towns in the interior or on the periphery of large settlements, where there may be people without recognized training,” published the newspaper Estado de Minas.

In 2018, the National Bureau of Statistics and Information revealed that with Mais Medicos the Government of the Island pocketed 6.4 billion dollars for the sale of health services. Cuba kept 75% of the $3,300 of the monthly salary of professionals, a common practice that has been described by different international organizations as a form of modern slavery.

In five years of the program, Cuban health workers filled 18,240 positions, and treated 113.3 million Brazilian patients, according to official data.

Translated by Regina Anavy 

____________

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

The Cuban Regime’s Defense Begins its Final Arguments Against the CRF Investment Fund

The trial between CRF and Cuba ends this Thursday with the reply to the allegations. (Judicial Office, UK)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, London, 1 February 2023 — The National Bank of Cuba (BNC) and the Republic of Cuba have begun their final arguments this Wednesday in the trial in London against the CRF investment fund to settle the ownership of the 72 million euro sovereign debt that it claims.

Attorney Alison Macdonald has refuted one by one the legal arguments raised since January 23 by CRF, which this afternoon will do the same with the Cuban position, before both have the right to reply on Thursday.

Macdonald reiterated that the transfer to the fund of the contractual rights to that debt which, until then, was managed by the ICBC Standard Bank, was “defective.” It was authorized on November 25, 2019 by former BNC director of operations Raúl Olivera Lozano, who has testified that he himself failed to comply with the procedures.

The lawyer asked Judge Sara Cockerill of the commercial division of the London High Court to “reject” CRF’s allegation that Olivera’s 13-year sentence in May 2021 was “a farce” for allegedly accepting a bribe of Jeetkumar Gordhandas, a consultant to the investment group registered in 2009 in the Cayman Islands.

“There is no evidence, much less admissible evidence in this trial, that supports the allegation that the Cuban sentence and the investigation processes and the trial that led to it proceeded on the basis of false or invented evidence,” Macdonald said. continue reading

The lawyer added that “there is no evidence” to “challenge the honesty” of the Cuban authorities who, after receiving another request from CRF in November 2020, expressly denied the reassignment of the debt, considering that it was a “vulture fund” focused on claiming its payment through the court.

Her colleague Anton Dudnikov then questioned “the experience” and rigor of the testimony offered to CRF by the Spanish-based Cuban lawyer Hossana Rodríguez Calvo, who did not hide “her feelings against the Cuban regime,” and pointed out that his own legal expert, Juan Mendoza, was more reliable.

The Cuban Minister of Justice, Oscar Silvera, arrived in the United Kingdom on Tuesday to witness the last sessions of the trial. “I’m in London. I will participate in the final days of the hearing at the High Court of England. We defend the truth: Banco Nacional and Cuba confirm that CRF has not been and is not its creditor,” he wrote on Twitter.

The parties are expected to conclude their arguments on Thursday, when the magistrate will indicate the approximate date on which she could pronounce her ruling, which may take weeks.

Once it is known, the parties can appeal, so the process could be extended in time.

Translated by Regina Anavy

____________

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

‘On-Line Tool’ is Launched to Send Complaints of All Kinds from Cuba

The Human Rights group will first submit the complaint to verification, the details of which have not been provided. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 31 January 2023 — The  Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH), based in Madrid, has launched a new online tool to denounce any violation committed by the authorities against citizens. The alert, channeled through a web page, can be sent through a WhatsApp message, by filling out a form or a Word document.

The organization admits complaints from very different fields, from the police or judicial, including unjustified fines, arrests, threats or persecution, through labor rights — expulsions, unpaid wages, sanctions or disciplinary measures — and lack of social protection. This last section includes lack of supplies, housing in poor condition or medical and pharmacological neglect.

The objective is to be able to document and account for all kinds of problems that affect citizens, although for this the complaint will first be subjected to verification, the details of which have not been provided.

This is the second mechanism of this type that the OCDH has activated, after the launch of  Digno Trabajo [Decent Work]  last year, in alliance with the Independent Trade Union Association of Cuba (Asic). On that occasion, the tool consisted of a Telegram robot (bot) capable of answering labor-related questions, as well as reporting cases of abuse in the workplace.

Digno Trabajo allows “asking and receiving information”, “reporting” or “contacting” and, according to the observatory, claims are dealt with “directly and personally” to report the “circumstances or situation” of the workplace of the interested party. continue reading

In its last annual report, from 2022, the OCDH recalled that the social indicators have deteriorated even more with the crisis that is affecting the Island and that it has caused an extreme shortage of food, the prices of which have also risen by around a 40% in the official market. At least 72% of the population lives below the poverty line and 8 out of 10 Cubans have problems getting medications.

Access to basic supplies, especially electricity, has also worsened, with cuts for at least six months that have exceeded 16 hours.

Throughout the year, more than 5,499 repressive actions were verified, at least 1,447 detentions of activists, opponents or relatives of prisoners in their homes and at least 1,354 arbitrary detentions, of which 832 corresponded to women.

In addition, throughout 2022 trials have been held against 11J (11 July 2021) protesters, some of whom have resulted in prison sentences of more than 25 years for crimes of sedition, which have been rejected by lawyers from around the world and human rights associations.

The repressive pattern that has most characterized the year has been the forced exile of a multitude of opponents of the regime, intellectuals and journalists, while the population has emigrated massively; the population lost in the last year is estimated to be close to a quarter of a million people.

____________

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

Poet and Official Loyal to the Cuban Regime, Teresa Melo Dies at the Age of 61

Teresa Melo worked at Editorial Oriente during the last days of her life. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 31 January 2023 — Cuban writer and editor Teresa Melo, 61, died this Monday in Santiago de Cuba of a heart attack, as confirmed by 14ymedio with sources close to the poet.

The announcement of her death in Cubadebate was accompanied by a brief biographical note where she is described as “one of the primordial lyrical voices of the eighties.” Melo was born on October 21, 1961 in Santiago de Cuba and studied Philosophy at the University of Havana.

Melo was among the first signatories of the declaration of unconditional support for the Cuban regime signed in December 2022 by national and foreign intellectuals allied with the Government of the Island.

She was the director of Ediciones Santiago, a member of the cultural associations of the regime and was part of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (Uneac). In addition, she published the poetry books El vino del error, El libro de Estefanía and Las altas horas.

She received several official awards, including Criticism, the Nicolás Guillén of Poetry and the Distinction for National Culture, from the Ministry of Culture of Cuba. She directed the magazine Cúpulas, of the Instituto Superior de Arte, and collaborated with the publications La Jiribilla, El Caimán Barbudo and Sic. continue reading

As an official, she served as director of the Provincial Center for the Book and Literature in Santiago de Cuba and coordinated the Poets of the Caribbean Festival. In addition, she was invited to join several literary award  juries.

The official press also stressed Melo’s loyalty to the regime and her “unwavering vocation to serve her Revolution.” During the last days of her life she worked at Editorial Oriente.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel dedicated a tweet to the death of Melo, whom he called “our friend” and “an impeccable woman.” The same was done by Alpidio Alonso, Minister of Culture, who said that “her honest word was always ready to defend the culture and the Revolution.”

Melo published articles of absolute fidelity to the Government in the official newspaper Granma and other newspapers of the regime. Two months before the outbreak of the protests on July 11, 2021, she wrote that Cuban opponents were leading an “individual and predatory search.” She criticized the proposals of intellectuals and artists opposed to the regime and stated, unequivocally, that she did not believe in “their demands” or in “vulgar protests.”

Melo’s wake will continue until noon on Tuesday at the Casa del Caribe, in Santiago de Cuba.

“Teresa was much more than just a friend in those difficult years of the early nineties, when the little room where she and Sigfredo [Ariel] lived in the America building was so often a refuge for so many,” Cuban writer Odette Alonso, based in Mexico, wrote on Facebook when she learned of Melo’s death. “At that time, my poetry engaged a lot with theirs, with that of other generations. Then we distanced ourselves, for the political reasons that everyone knows.”

Translated by Regina Anavy 

____________

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

The Cuban State’s Foreign Exchange Reserves Registered a Sharp Drop in Three Years

Headquarters of the Central Bank of Cuba. (Flickr/Maxence)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 January 2023 — Cuba’s international reserves have fallen at a dizzying rate, according to information published in recent days about what was until now a state secret. In the absence of data certified by an independent authority, economists estimate that the country’s foreign exchange resources have decreased by between 22% and 64% in just three years.

The news comes from the analysis by the British agency Reuters of extensive articles published by the Government in Cubadebate the first week of the year in which José Luis Rodríguez, former Minister of Economy and currently an advisor to the World Economy Research Center (CIEM), reveals that the reserves went from $11.528 billion in 2019 to just over 9 billion in 2021. The fall is about 2.5 billion, 22% of the reserves in just three years.

To identify both figures and connect them, you must carefully follow the series delivered by the official media, entitled “The Problems of International Insertion of the Cuban Economy through the Years” and published in three parts on January 1, 4 and 6. In the second part, in the penultimate paragraph, Rodríguez reveals that between 2015 and 2018, “it was possible to maintain (…) 11.528 billion USD in international reserves, which would be vital to face the last three years.”

Two days later, in the third part, addressing the economic context that emerged from the pandemic, the current status of those accounts is indicated. “In relation to international reserves, a reduction of $2.55 billion is estimated in two years, which covers only 76.9% of the reduction in current account income.”

An anonymous and “well-connected” Reuters source claims that the Cuban government’s reserves are now at about $8 billion. The agency, however, contacted other Cuban economists living abroad who consider the reality to be even worse. continue reading

Pavel Vidal, a former economist at the Cuban Central Bank and currently living in Colombia, does not dare to give figures but affirms that he expected reserves to be “much lower” and opens the possibility that the official numbers will contemplate, in addition to savings, other goods in strong currency.

“If they are talking about money saved by the State, that would be a very broad definition… because companies, commercial banks and non-bank financial institutions can be included and many things can be added. But what the data show is that reserves are shrinking, a bad sign for any country,” he says.

Omar Everleny Pérez, economist and former director of the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy, who now resides in the United States, agrees that, whatever the detailed data, the important thing is the abrupt fall. “These data show that international reserves have decreased a lot, and that is very serious,” he told Reuters.

Pedro Monreal, an economist living in Cuba, puts on the table another figure, the one estimated by The Economist Unit for 2022, just $4.104 billion, 64.4% less than the reserves of 11.528 billion in 2019 indicated by former Minister Rodríguez.

In its note, Reuters, which tried unsuccessfully to contact official Cuban sources, explains that the regime’s usual argument for exposing its macroeconomic data or doing so with great delay is to prevent the United States from having more information about its finances that would allow it to modulate the embargo at its convenience.

The anonymous source of the agency says that last week, at the monthly meeting of economic aggregates of the members of the European Union in Havana, the data released by Cubadebate were on the agenda, although there was not enough information about how the calculations were made or why they had been disclosed.

“None of my colleagues had information to support Rodríguez’ statement,” he alleges.

The last time the authorities gave reserve data was in 2014, during the debt renegotiations. At that time, Cuba was alleged to have $10 billion that could be slightly increased in the following few years in which, after the thaw and with the cancellations of debt and renewals of payment agreements with other countries, Cuba experienced a relative bonanza.

In 2019, and after the tightening of US sanctions and the Venezuelan crisis, problems began to accumulate for the Government, which stopped payment on its debt to other countries. The pandemic and the war in Ukraine have finished putting Cuban finances in check, and reserves are running out at great speed due to the high cost of imports, especially food for the population.

Coinciding with the dissemination of this data, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, Granma, published on Wednesday an article entitled “Victims, Creditors or Embezzlers of the Wealth of the Nation,” in which it talks about the fall of reserves in the years of the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. “On January 1, 1959, Cuba’s gross international reserves, in gold and dollars, were less than 70 million, of the 509 million dollars that existed at the beginning of the decade,” it explains.

The official newspaper takes great care to note that, until 1959, the Cuban peso was on par with the dollar, which made it unnecessary to maintain a high level of currency reserve.

In any case, the purpose of the text is to accuse the United States’ Helms-Burton law of being the instrument to recover “the goods stolen from the people” who in the period of Batista used “the public funds to construct the buildings that the mafia would use for its nest egg and for the benefit of its members.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

____________

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