Cuban Biology Students Object to Mandatory Attendance of ‘Revolutionary Reaffirmation’ Act

From the early morning, buses loaded with participants traveled through Havana avenues heading to the coastline. (Screenshot)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 July 2021 — With an attendance below previous times, at 6 am this Saturday, an act of “revolutionary reaffirmation” took place on the Malecon, in Havana, in which the ruler Miguel Diaz-Canel intervened. On the eve of this demonstration, a group of students from University of Havana’s School of Biology had criticized the decision to organize a mass event in the midst of a pandemic.

The speeches alternated between calls for unity and a good dose of ideological intransigence. Díaz-Canel denounced the existence of an alleged “platform of media intoxication financed by the US Government and the political machinery of Florida, [with the aim] of encouraging unrest and instability in the country taking advantage of the difficult conditions caused by the pandemic, the intensified blockade, and the 243 measures of the Trump Administration.”

Raul Castro was also there, although he did not speak. Dressed in military uniform, he stood next to Diaz-Canel in the front row. The former leader had not appeared in public again since he handed over his position at the head of the Communist Party during the organization’s congress last April.

The official press estimated 100,000 attendees, although the cameras avoided taking the crowd from above and preferred continue reading

closed angles and closer views. “With the fulfillment of the hygienic-sanitary measures,” stressed the portal Cubadebate, which also showed images of a similar demonstration in Pinar del Rio.

From the early morning, buses loaded with participants traveled the Havana avenues heading to the coastline. The demonstration took place in the area known as La Piragua, near Hotel Nacional and a few meters from the Anti-Imperialist Tribune, located in front of the U.S. Embassy.

The choice of venue has raised many questions. Some residents of the vicinity point out that the Tribune has been in remodeling works, and that it was not ready for the event, although other sources say that the square is already finished, and that the Government preferred not to use it to “avoid a view of little attendance, in case many people did not show up”.

The Tribune, a rectangular strip with arches that clearly measure the volume of attendees, has for years been the epicenter of political events in the Cuban capital, displacing even Plaza de la Revolución. Some consider that the change of locations on Saturday was a sign that “they do not want to poke the eye of the United States.”

The place was heavily guarded and with a wide deployment of agents of the State Security, as 14ymedio reporters were able to confirm. “There were many segurosos* and, in the call to participate, they warned how participants had to dress in order to detect anyone who wanted to break up the demonstration,” says one participant.”

“They brought two 82-millimeter anti-tank guns pulled by military jeeps to guard the act,” says analyst Julio Aleaga, a resident of the vicinity who saw the artifacts at the time the act was over, and they were being removed from the scene. The journalist also recognized the weaponry with ease as he spent his military service in a unit where they were handled.

The heavy protection was due, among other reasons, to the fact that several Internet users had alluded to the possibility that the demonstration would repeat the events of 21 December 1989 when a crowd began to boo, and forced Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who had organized a public event to give a speech, to escape in a helicopter.

The demonstration in support of the Cuban ruling party on Saturday was called a few hours in advance, and provoked a bitter debate because it was made during the most alarming resurgence of the pandemic in Cuba. Numerous university students questioned the event they were called to attend, and received a furious response from officials and activists.

The students of the School of Biology were the first to publicly show their displeasure with the act, by posting on their Facebook account a text in which they expressed their “absolute dissatisfaction … Biologists, microbiologists and biochemists warn the authorities, and warn the university authorities of the risk posed by mass events at the moment.”

The publication, with few precedents in a university sector traditionally aligned with the Government, adds that “at a time of health crisis such as the one we face, it is best to stay at home, comply with hygienic measures, and follow the guidelines of the health authorities.”

The students added a call for “peaceful understanding, respect for individual freedoms and non-violence as a way” to solve problems. And finally, they expressed that “we are all Cubans, brothers from the same homeland, let our call be to unity as a principle to build a Cuba with all and for all.”

The controversy spread to other schools at the University of Havana such as Mathematics and Computing, where students were summoned to the event through instant messaging services. In the face of the epidemiological objections that many expressed, the dean of this center of higher education, Raul Guinovart Diaz, was adamant about the need to attend.

The academic, much quoted in the official media in recent months for his predictive models on Covid-19, responded to students who criticized the call to congregate on the Havana Malecon, near La Piragua, with a brief message. Guinovart’s text begins by saying “I understand all the concerns”.

“But when I compare the dangers of risking contracting covid” and attending the event “to defend the country and prove the unity of the people for the Revolution, I choose the second,” the dean said. “I have two backpacks ’one with bullets’ and one with ’medicine’. I can’t carry both. I pick the bullets,” he added, alluding to a phrase by Ernesto Guevara.

“Enemies use the virus as an ally to keep us out of action. If we stay home, they’re going to hit us. If we go to the march, it will delay the defeat of the virus, but the most dangerous enemy will receive a hard blow,” says Guinovart in the message that was answered with much criticism and new questions about his attachment to ideology to the detriment of science.

A similar call was also made in several provinces of the country for this Saturday, such as at the Marta Abreu de Las Villas Central University in Santa Clara. Several students reported to this newspaper the call they received via WhatsApp and Telegram. “I’m going to say that I couldn’t even read it because the instant messaging service here has been blocked since Monday,” one student said.

At the Institute of Higher Education of Havana, a professor also announced to the students that next Monday a meeting will take place with members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party to begin a process of recruiting students willing to face possible anti-government protesters. The call was initiated by the University Student Federation (FEU) and has been extended to all higher education centers in the country.

“It is dumbfounding, especially because it feels like déjà vu: in 1980 I was in the same Institute, and when the events of the Embassy of Peru and the exodus of Mariel happened, we were summoned to beat up and repudiate the students who would emigrate. At that time, I was expelled from the Communist Youth Union for refusing to take part,” says the mother of one of the young men who received the announcement.

“It’s only that now it’s worse, because the ’recruitment’ is done with members of the Central Committee directly,” the woman adds. “They have even been asked to report shifts and schedules they will have for that duty, and that they will receive a snack, which they will have to pay four pesos for.”

Translator note: Seguroso is a Cuban slang term to refer to Cuban intelligence officers dressed as civilians.

Translated by: Rita Ro


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

Tortured in Prison or on House Arrest: The Life of Cuban Activists / Cubalex

Cubalex, 10 June 2021 — Cubalex monitored acts of harassment against the civil society from June 1 to 6, 2021, as well as news related to government measures taken during the pandemic. This report also breaks down the selective internet outages that activists and dissidents have suffered, and highlights the threats, detentions and illegal subpoenas that members of the civil society have suffered in the past week.

Eighty-seven percent of the repression events recorded were against members of the independent civil society, with a total of sixty people affected, twenty-seven of which were women. One of them, activist Thais Mailén Franco, one of the Obispo protesters and the only woman that remains imprisoned for this event, has not been allowed access to medicine since her arrest last April 30, denounced her husband, Michel Hernandez Corria, who has only been able to talk to her once by phone since her arrest.

Our weekly report highlights another violation against an inmate in Cuba. Political prisoner Virgilio Mantilla Arango is in a punishment cell, handcuffed hand and foot to a pole, for denouncing the tortures and ill-treatment of inmates by jailers at the prison.

The incidents of repression most carried out by state agents were: home detention with permanent surveillance (25.8%), repression of persons deprived of liberty and arbitrary detention (22.6%).

You can consult our report here [in Spanish, but the report contains very clear charts].

Translated by: Rita Ro

Diaz-Canel Offended by Biden’s Suggestion to Send Vaccines to Cuba

Image disseminated by the official media about the candidate vaccine Abdala, approved by CECMED last week for emergency use. (ACN)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 July 2021 — The suggestion made on Thursday by US president Joe Biden to send vaccines to the island has provoked an angry reaction from Miguel Diaz-Canel. Without alluding at any time to the matter at hand, the Cuban president has responded this Friday with a series of tweets in which he questions the “humanitarian concern [of Washington] for the Cuban people.”

When asked about the situation on the island at a press conference with German prime minister Angela Merkel, Biden stated, “I would be prepared to give significant amounts of vaccines if, in fact, I was assured an international organization would administer those vaccines, and do it in a way that average citizens would have access to those vaccines.”

The president, who also said that his government is reviewing whether the United States can help reinstate internet access in the island, used the opportunity to declare that Cuba is a “failed state” that “represses its citizens,” and ruled out, for the time being, the reestablishment of the ability to send remittances because “the fact is, it’s highly likely that the regime would confiscate those remittances, or continue reading

big chunks of it.”

One of the demands that was heard in the July 11 demonstrations across the country was “we want medicines,” contrary to the regime’s insistent propaganda about its vaccine candidates, which were still in the experimental phase when a mass vaccination campaign began in May, disguised as an “interventional trial.” This newspaper has published several testimonies from Cubans who are reluctant to receive the national vaccines because they have doubts, raised by the lack of transparency from authorities about the process to develop these drugs.

This very Friday, the state newspaper Granma talks about the progress of “immunization” on the island, declaring that it goes “from milestone to milestone,” but without giving much detail on the numbers of people that have been vaccinated. The vaccines that Cuba has used in its massive health intervention are Soberana 02, which the same health authorities say has an official efficacy of 91.2%, and that Abdala, which was approved for emergency use by the Cuban regulatory agency (CECMED) has an official efficacy of 92.28%.

Officially, they are still in phase 3 of clinical trials, and neither drug has had any results published in scientific journals. Only two preclinical trials in mice with Soberana 02 have been published.

The demands for medicines and complaints against the dilapidated state of the healthcare system are evidence that alluding to the achievements of the international brigades against Covid-19 around the world is futile; the government already had to put them at the service of the internal crisis, sending 200 doctors and nurses from the Henry Reeve brigade to Matanzas last week.

Despite this, the government continues to welcome the mission teams with great fanfare. “Especially now, when the enemies of the Cuban revolution attack it under the pretext of false humanity,” says a note in the official press, two brigades: one from Panama, with 10 health workers, and the last one remaining in Mexico, with 97 members, have returned on Thursday.

Translated by: Rita Ro


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

Cuban Man’s Corpse Left Unattended for Days in a Varadero Hotel

The Cuban died in a room at the Puntarena hotel in Varadero. (Solwayscuba)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 July 2021 — Warning signs of a pandemic collapse keep coming from Matanzas, a province that has been leading the list of daily infected cases for days. In a room at Puntarena, a hotel in Varadero that functions as medical center for positive Covid-19 cases, the corpse of a traveler was left unattended for over two days by the authorities.

The man died on Tuesday morning, as reported by other travelers from the island who are quarantined at this hotel. In a video published on social media, the entrance of the room with an oxygen tank can be seen, as well as the silhouette of the legs of a corpse laying on a bed covered with a white sheet.

“I lent them my phone so they could film the video. I don’t have the guts to see it, but it hurts,” said Katia Jiménez, a Cuban who uploaded the video to Facebook showing what was taking place. The woman, who tested positive for Covid-19, said that the deceased person was continue reading

a fellow traveler who was staying in a room one floor above hers.

“Everyone who knows me, knows that I have a strong character, but I am very sympathetic. He was not my friend, but he was a human being who lost his life due to medical negligence,” she added.

Jiménez also denounced “the lack of medical attention and medicine” at the isolation center. She added that she was treated with Interferon which gave her adverse reaction, and she was not examined by medical personnel. “It is easy to talk about it, but it is harder to go through it like I am.”

Since June 5, the government established that all travelers, who are Cuban residents, arriving at international airports in the tourist towns of Ciego de Avila and Varadero, have to pay a mandatory isolation package at a hotel in foreign currency (MLC).

According to health officials, travelers will have to stay quarantined for seven days. The isolation package includes, besides lodging, transportation from the airport to the isolation center.

People, I am broadcasting live something that happened at this hotel, this hotel [grab this] this hotel Puntarena, in Varadero. Were are people who traveled to Russia and [returned home and] we are here quarantined in this hotel but they really haven’t even treated us with Interferon here. 

You can see there an oxygen tank. What we are going to show you is a human being who passed away three days ago, and this is the time that nobody has come to pick him up. [keep talking]

Three days ago, he passed away.

You can see it there. There he is. [keep talking] There he is, still laying in bed. Waiting. Waiting. We do not go inside because the room is infected. He has been in that bed for… like the boy says, approximately three days, and the doctors, nothing, not even the funeral car, nobody has come to check on him. Not even his family, I think,  because nobody wants to enter the room.

Likewise, isolation packages are also enforced for travelers arriving at Havana and Santiago de Cuba airports, at prices ranging from 378 to 1,907 dollars.

This past Wednesday “a new protocol to confirm positive cases” was announced, which gives prevalence to antigen tests over PCR.

However two days before that, new regulations for travelers arriving from Russia were being implemented. After their stay at the isolation center, they needed to complete  a 14-day quarantine in their respective homes, “complying with all the regulations indicated by the health department,” published by the official media this past Monday.

Health personnel is in charge of “watching” protocol compliance, provided that the homes were these travelers reside are identified, explained Dr. Neil Reyes Miranda, director of the Health Department for Villa Clara province. After ten days, the PCR test will be repeated because “some cases have turned positive on the ninth day. If they have symptoms, they have to report it to the health department so that they can be admitted into a healthcare facility.”

However, these regulations are not enforced for Russian tourists. Around 230 visitors from Russia were in isolation in Varadero because, allegedly, they tested positive for Covid-19. After many of them expressed their discontent on social media, saying that they were vaccinated and had traveled to the island after testing negative on PCR tests, Moscow demanded that Cuba “release” their quarantined tourists.

After the increase of infected cases, the country lives in a dramatic scene where social media has become one of the few channels to voice the collapse of medical centers. Patients and their relatives have demanded medical care, PCR testing, or ICU care.

This is the scene in Matanzas where some healthcare workers and residents denounced the conditions in which several hospitals were at maximum capacity, with no extra beds and patients confined waiting in hallways.

Translated by: Rita Ro


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

Cuban Government Forces Young Men to Join Forces of Repression / Cubalex

Cubalex, 13 July 2021 — The Cuban army is forcing young men (aged 16 to 20), who would have to enlist in mandatory military service, to repress the people.

Imagine that your son is doing military service and they order him to go out in the streets to beat his own family, his people, and if he doesn’t do it, he can be court-martialed, and detained for disobeying an order.

This is what is happening today in Cuba.

Denounce these cases and #contact us at #WA:+1 901-708-0230

Translated by: Rita Ro

People in Cuba Have Been Detained or are Missing for Protesting. Help Us Find Them! / Cubalex

Cubalex, 13 July 2021 — Between July 11 and July 13 at 9:00 am, Cubalex, in collaboration with journalists and activists, started receiving and recording information about detentions or disappearances of 148 people, of which only 12 have been released.

On the 136 people still unaccounted for we can say that:

We are in the process of verifying the status of 81 identified on social media.

It was confirmed that 46 were detained on July 11 and 9 on July 12, most were arrested in their homes or as they were going out.


July 11-12, 2021

We have received reports of detentions or forced disappearances in 12 of the 15 provinces of the country and the Isle of Youth municipality.

Until now we have not received specific information about the number of persons who have been injured or have died.

If you have any information, please contact us here:

Or call: +1 901-708-0230

Translated by: Rita Ro

Details of ‘Operation Hatuey,’ a Plan by Castro’s High Ranking Officials, Are Revealed / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 11 March 2021 —  “Operation Hatuey” was created and approved by the country’s high command in case of a popular uprising so that a group of citizens can protect certain objectives and people with firearms.

A joint strategic plan concocted by MININT (Ministry of Intelligence) and MINFAR (Ministry of the Armed Forces), Cuban military personnel distributed weapons to civilian homes whose dwellers are not even aware of the arsenal they are naïvely protecting.

Juan Juan Al Medio Episode 529/”Operation Hatuey”

The opinions and views expressed in this program are the absolute responsibility of “Juan Juan Al Medio” production team and do not have to necessarily agree with the views of DIARIO DE LAS AMÉRICAS editorial team and our SPONSORS.

Translated by: Rita Ro