Exodus of Reporters Strikes a Blow to the Independent Press in Cuba

The exiled Cuban journalists Mónica Baró, Víctor Ariel González, Yariel Valdés y José Ramírez Pantoja. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 30, 2022 — Cuban independent journalism has had to reinvent itself several times. The police repression and draconian laws against freedom of expression maintained on the Island are not the only obstacles. Emigration is one of the biggest threats to a press that is also still being persecuted and demonized.

Work teams must rebuild themselves every so often because of the exodus of journalists, editors, and contributors. The bloodletting is constant and in the next months the phenomenon could accelerate due to the new Penal Code, which plans to punish, in a stricter manner, any project that receives financing from abroad, such as independent newspapers and magazines.

Many reporters do not continue practicing journalism once they are away from the Island. The numbers of exiles in the trade could even exceed one hundred in the last three years.

In 2016, the journalist José Ramírez Pantoja was the center of one of the most-talked-about cases of censorship within the official press. The reporter was fired from his job at Radio Holguín after being accused of reproducing on his blog the words of the vice president of the official newspaper Granma, Karina Marrón, who showed visionary concern over a possible social outbreak. continue reading

Out of work in the official sector, the reporter contributed to independent media, including 14ymedio, under a pseudonym to avoid major retaliations. However, State Security continued watching him closely. In 2019 he requested asylum in the United States. “They left me without work or sustenance without caring about the years that I worked as a journalist,” he said then.

Now, Pantoja is employed at the Cano Health Clinic and tells this newspaper that he would be delighted to take up once again his “full time journalistic work at a press outlet.” He believes that “from abroad there is greater freedom and security to practice a journalism in favor of a democratic Cuba without dictatorship.”

Pantoja enumerates the list of colleagues who have recently left the Island, including a well-known reporter, a “furious defender” of the Cuban regime, who now lives in Miami.

On his list there are even directors of provincial radio channels. “In sync with the social exodus, journalists are not remaining behind,” he stresses.

Mónica Baró graduated with a degree in journalism in 2012 from the University of Havana, and has contributed to sites such as Periodismo de Barrio and El Estornudo. She left Cuba in January of 2021 for Spain and from there keeps her eye and her pen on the Island. Her reports, in fact, have been key to assembling the scattered information about the detainees of July 11.

Baró has been able to keep practicing her profession on the site CiberCuba and feels “privileged,” because she knows other colleagues who haven’t been able to break into a media outlet. “It’s really difficult when you leave Cuba to find a job as a journalist to support yourself. There are a lot of stigmas regarding the capabilities of Cuban journalists.”

“Distance, of course, poses an obstacle to the practice of journalism, because nothing compares with the terrain, with living that reality. As much as you remain up to date with what’s happening, you have family in Cuba, or you are empathetic, I think that the experience is irreplaceable.”

However, “it’s necessary to ask what it is to practice journalism and what is Cuba. Is Cuba only a geographic territory or all of the Cuba that is spread all over the world? Is Cuban journalism only what is practiced on the Island or is it also what is practiced from exile?” she asks.

“The ideal for me to is practice journalism in Cuba but when I left it was practically impossible to practice the type of journalism that I was doing. What I was doing in my last months there was activism or resisting.” Baró felt that she could no longer continue reporting as before and recounts: between “becoming an activist 80 or 90% of the time or practicing journalism from a distance, I chose the challenge of distance.”

She warns that “when you leave you stop being attractive for many spaces; training programs expect you to return to Cuba to practice what you learned and that in some way cuts off your career and your training. They are basically asking you to return to a context where your safety is at risk.”

“I don’t know if journalism can be sustained much longer,” she stresses in face of the material scarcity that marks the lives of emigrants in their first years.

Entire editorial departments, internationally award-winning journalists, and even directors of media outlets are on the list of those who have settled abroad. Agencies like Hablemos Press succumbed in face of the exit of practically all its reporters, while other news sites have had to relocate their headquarters to Madrid, New York, or Mexico City.

This January, the reporter Yariel Valdés González recounted on his Facebook that he was joining the team of Telemundo 51 in Miami. “Every time that I passed on the highway near that tower I would tell myself: One day I will arrive,” he wrote in front of the channel building. “A great dream made reality since I came to this country, less than two years ago.”

Valdés was freed in March 2020 from an immigration center in Louisiana, after an Appeals Court ratified his political asylum case. While he was living on the Island, he was a contributor to the magazine Washington Blade, the United States’s oldest publication aimed at the LGBT community. Now, he smiles in a photo while holding in his hand his identification as an employee of Telemundo 51.

In other cases, emigration has served some to take up their original professions again. Víctor Ariel González was one of the founders of 14ymedio in May 2014, but previously he had graduated as a civil engineer from the José Antonio Echeverría Technological University of Havana, known as la Cujae. Several arrests and police operations led him to request asylum in the United States, where he arrived in 2015.

González got a job as an editor for the site Cubanet. His time with that outlet, headquartered in Miami and founded in 1994, kept him in contact with independent journalists on the Island. “The change was radical” in the manner of practicing journalism, he recalls. “For me journalism had been making the story” in contact with reality, something that wasn’t possible being abroad.

As an editor, it was his role to apply the editorial “scissors” to the texts that were arriving from Cuba and also to write informative notes. “I chose engineering since I was pre-university, afterwards I discovered journalism and I liked it, but when I arrived in the United States I was impressed by the highways, the buildings, and the structures. I knew that I didn’t want to dedicate myself forever to editing.”

“It was a beautiful moment because it also ended up being a personal rediscovery, like taking out of a drawer all that knowledge I had acquired during my engineering studies and realize that I still had it.” As time was passing engineering “took precedence over journalism,” he concludes.

The regime provokes this exodus by hindering journalism work with regulations, in the style of Decree 370, the dreaded Law 88 and a long list of regulations that penalize the independent exercise of journalism. State Security is dedicated to reinforcing the harassment of reporters and suggesting that they leave the country to put an end to so much pressure.

For Abraham Jiménez Enoa, leaving the Island was full of drama. For five years a travel ban weighed on him and finally at the beginning of 2022 he managed to travel the country for the first time and land in Madrid and then travel to Barcelona. In an article about his exile, which he published in Gatopardo magazine, he defines Cuba as a place where “independent journalists are treated like terrorists.”

Although the column he maintained in that publication was entitled From the Malecón and Jiménez Enoa always thought that “it would last until he left Cuba for the first time, and once he set foot in another place, this repository would have to be closed,” now he considers continue to collaborate with Gatopardo. “But no longer about my ’confinement’, I will leave that room closed and I will go to another.”

“Leaving Cuba is not the same as leaving any other country for the first time,” the journalist points out about the act of crossing national borders, perhaps in a nod to what, almost 80 years earlier, the poet Virgilio Piñera masterfully defined as “the damn circumstance of water everywhere”.

While Jiménez Enoa never ceases to be amazed by the lights he finds in the streets of Barcelona, ​​the bookstores full of titles and the variety of yogurts in the market, thousands of kilometers away, Rafael, a reporter who writes under a pseudonym for an independent media who tries to make his way through the convulsive legal waters of the Island, prepares his escape.

“Training a reporter is something that takes a long time,” says one of the editors of the project Rafael works on and who prefers to remain anonymous. “You must learn to collect information, manage data, take care of sources and get used to the editorial line of a media outlet. When a journalist leaves, you have to start from the beginning when a new one arrives. That is, if he arrives, because each day people are more afraid.”

After almost a year narrating the streets of Havana, the young man has decided to head for Nicaragua to reach the United States. His previous profession was a cook and a cousin awaits him in Miami who drives a truck for a living. Journalism could be just a brief chapter in his life. For the team that remains, his departure leaves a hole with a difficult solution.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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.

Spanish Ambassador to Cuba Attributes Popular Discontent to the ‘US Blockade’ and the Pandemic

Ángel Martín Peccis, Spain’s ambassador to Cuba. (EFE/Archivo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, July 26, 2021 —  Ángel Martín Peccis, the Spanish ambassador to Cuba, attributed the protests in Cuba to the discontent that exists because of problems in finding medicine and food, a scarcity he chalks up to the pandemic and the “blockade” of the United States that “has lasted 62 years.” The diplomat didn’t want to strictly assess the demonstrations, following the words of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to what the Spanish newspaper Heraldo published this Monday.

Peccis, who arrived in Havana in November 2020 to replace Juan Fernández Trigo, explained that the island’s authorities have prioritized health over the economy, with very early closures when there were hardly cases of coronavirus, which has dealt a blow to the situation for the country and its families.

“Everything has been closed: restaurants, stores, tourism. After nine months of this, added to the blockade from the United States and the new measures taken by Trump, everything comes to a very difficult situation, which we believe will pass when the economy begins to reactivate,” said the ambassador, who believes that all of Latin America is experiencing a very difficult situation because of the pandemic. continue reading

In his statements, which he made during a recent visit to Zaragoza (capital of the Spanish region of Aragon, which he comes from), Peccis asked for prudence from his country’s politicians with the goal of maintaining good relations with the authorities on the island, where Spain has large commercial interests. He believes that the important thing is that the protests be peaceful, “the government can meet with its people and there will be no difficulties.”

In his judgment, “things have already calmed down a lot” and everything “will pass and continue to improve as the economy opens and people are vaccinated.” However, the opening of the economy and vaccination have coincided precisely with the opposite, an increase in infections and discontent in a society that grows more and more tired.

Yes, Peccis wanted to comment on the economic and business perspectives on the island, where, he recalled, Spanish hotels like Iberostar, Globalia, NH, and Meliá continue to invest. “There are going to be new projects that are estimated to begin as soon as Covid is controlled, at the end of the year or beginning of 2022,” he said. In his opinion, the Cuban government is convinced of economic openness and what was before a combination of state businesses with foreign ones will now join a private sector that will generate development.

“I think that it is going to be beneficial for the Cuban population, like is happening in Spain, to be able to have small and medium businesses and be autonomous, which will generate a lot of employment,” he said.

The ambassador insisted that good relations with the Cuban government are strategic and that they have been maintained throughout the years independent of what party was at the head of the Spanish government, as well as the position against the embargo, which is identical and in line with the European Union. Cuba, he maintained, must reform “without interference from anyone to be able to enjoy rights and freedoms.”

The diplomat participated in the forum organized by the Spanish Confederation of Business Organizations (CEOE) in Aragon, where the importance of the tourism sector for Cuba and Spain was discussed. Peccis defended the necessity of supplying food to the hotel sector on the island and how this is another business niche for his country. “Just now an Aragonese businessman can put an egg factory in Cuba and sell directly to the hotel sector,” he stated.

Although repercussions of the approval of the Helms-Burton law have in a certain manner frightened Spanish entrepreneurs, the ambassador maintained that there is a “real and legally secure opportunity” to invest in Cuba.

Other business owners participated in the event, including the directors of the company Pastas Romero, which has been exporting to Cuba for 24 years, who explained the manner in which they trade with the Island. Ignacio Santisteve, director of the international department, explained that it’s necessary to be very patient because there are no payment guarantees and consumption is irregular: “You can be waiting for months for government contracts, currency availability, and very regulated administrative procedures to be tendered,” he emphasized.

Nevertheless, their business has doubled since they began operations in the country and for that reason the background of the July 11 protests doesn’t matter to him much, he only hopes that they won’t be an obstacle. “With ongoing orders, we don’t expect to have problems. It’s true that there is a situation of uncertainty. However, we will try to continue taking advantage of the opportunities that this marvelous country continues to offer us,” he added.

Eduardo Monge, commercial director of Pagola Poliuretanos, which sells foam for chairs and mattresses to Cuba and which now seeks to enter the hospitality and construction sectors, also expressed his opinion on the repercussions of the wave of demonstrations this month on the island and believes that changes will come sooner or later. “The protests are an explosion of frustration over the dramatic situation that they have experienced. They have the political system that they have. But that will change. It’s almost inevitable.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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.

Eight Ways to Set Back the Arrival of Freedom in Cuba

Insist that the only solution is an American military invasion, that the protests on the island won’t achieve anything, that the United States has betrayed us, continues to betray us, and will betray us. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Frank Calzón, Miami, July 19, 2021 — If you want to help delay the collapse of the Castrist regime and the liberation of 11 million Cubans, there are few things more affective to achieve that than the following:

1. If you live on the island and State Security comes to arrest one of your neighbors, and the people of the neighborhood protest, surround the pursuers, and don’t let them take him, you don’t get off the sidewalk, because the government has all the power.

2. If you are abroad and they invite you to a demonstration of support for the 16,000 Cubans recently detained for singing Patria y Vida, don’t go, because you have family in Cuba and you want to go on vacation to Varadero.

3. If you are an opposition leader in Cuba and you don’t receive the media attention you deserve, say that the activists are naive, challenge one to a debate, demand that they publicize how they get appointments with ministers of foreign affairs, senators, and international organizations and why they get interviewed on television. State Security will continue reading

thank you.

4. If you have some experience in the anti-Castrist fight, insist that the dissident youth is well-intentioned but uses a vulgar language and doesn’t have experience, for which reason it should coordinate with you and other persons who are equally knowledgeable about politics. Explain to the young people that yours is the only strategy capable of toppling the regime.

5. Instead of sending reports, letters, and emails to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, the Victims of Communism Foundation, the Interamerican Press Society, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Joe Biden, Justin Trudeau, Luis Almagro, Michelle Bachelet, and others, convince everyone of the uselessness of those efforts, because they are a bunch of villains and you don’t want to sink to their level.

6. Don’t write letters to any newspaper. The press is monopolized by the Marxist left and if, in any case you decide to write to them, let the letter be in Spanish, written by hand, and at least four pages. Complain about what imbeciles journalists are and announce that you’re canceling your subscription.

7. Don’t go to protest in front of the Cuban embassy in Washington or other capitals or in front of the Versailles restaurant in Miami because it’s a waste of time. What must be done in Florida and other states is caravans of cars with Cuban flags blocking the highways. Americans will get annoyed because they don’t know what’s happening in Cuba and that is a way of educating them.

8. Above all, insist that the only solution is an American military invasion, that the protests on the island won’t achieve anything, that the United States has betrayed us, continues to betray us, and will betray us.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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.

Dead, Wounded, and Disappeared, the Imprecise Toll of the Repression after the Protests in Cuba

A badly injured man in an unidentified place on the Island, in one of the videos posted on the internet.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 July 2021 — There are deaths, injuries, arrests, and disappearances.  It is unknown precisely how many or where because the internet and telephone lines are cut in Cuba, but little by little, by encrypted channels, messaging, and social networks, the toll of the repression of the popular, massive, and unprecedented uprising, which started Sunday across the country, is becoming known.

“They killed him, they killed him,” screams the crowd that surrounds a badly wounded man in a video shared by user Cubalibre on platforms this Tuesday.  The crowd also rebukes the police who attacked him, on an unidentified street.

A woman from Batabano, in Mayabeque, reported in a video the death of her nephew, amid shouts and expletives against Miguel Diaz-Canel and “his disgusting Communists.”  “They pulled his teeth, set the dogs on him, seven or eight Black Berets beat him,” she said, desperately, and warned: “While the children of the henchmen that you defend are safe in other countries, yours are in Cuba, and they’re going to pay.”

“Facebook groups are reporting several deaths in Batabano tonight, a result of police repression,” reported Jose Raul Gallego, Cuban journalist residing in Mexico.  “Among the names they mention are Aldo and Subyane El Sapo,” he says.  “According to the commentary, they were beaten to death for continue reading

filming the repression.”

Another man called Remy and living in the United States told how they assassinated his brother on the Island in a place he did not mention. “They fell on him with clubs, took out his eyes, his teeth,” he said. “Men kill each other head on, they don’t do what they did to him. I wish they had shot him in the chest or the head and killed him straight out instead of torturing him like that,” the Cuban lamented.

A recording published on Facebook showed the arrival of a gunshot victim at the  Cardenas hospital in Matanzas, which lately has been featured in dramatic news reports for being the epicenter of COVID in Cuba.

“Just as there has never been a protest like this since the time of Hatuey, likewise the repression is brutal,” denounced a Havana priest who wished to remain anonymous. Because of this, he said, “The Government has cut off the internet, precisely so that the truth will not be known.” In the wee hours from Sunday to Monday, as he himself attested, “There were kidnapping, it was terrible, the Police set the dogs on people.”

Through an audio sent by VPN, apologizing for not being able to send video, the priest assured that he is aware that Monday there were “tremendous protests in Camaguey,” from which news of 2,000 injured reached him.

In the capital, he also said, “It’s impossible to do anything;” “it’s militarized” and “under seige,” something that 14ymedio was able to see in a tour around the Capitol. “There is a real army,” said one passerby on seeing the number of police officers, soldiers, and Black Berets, the elite military troops that the Government uses in special circumstances, guarding the place.

Apart from Camaguey, some accounts disseminated on social networks say that on Monday, contrary to what was reported by the official press, which spoke of a “failed skirmish,” protests continued in several places like Guines, Parraga y Arroyo Naranjo, in Havana, or Jovellanos, Matanzas province.

In Guinera, a marginal neighborhood in the capital, it was striking that a housewife was looking after the protesters. “Look out, look out for the rear!” she warned them.

The peace in which Cuba woke up on Monday, the day after the massive protests against the Government in cities all over the Island, demanding food and medicine and shouting “freedom,” was only a facade.  From early on there arrived to this newspaper the accounts of arrestees who had been taken from their homes in Artemisa.

The agency Efe disseminated images of dozens of women gathered at the police station of Zanja in Havana, to find out the whereabouts of their relatives arrested between Sunday and Monday. The place was calm, however, in the afternoon, as this newspaper confirmed.

There is no official arrest figure, but activists on the Island have shared a list that, for now, includes 115 people. Among them are prominent activists, artists, and journalists like Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Manuel Cuesta Morua, Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, Amaury Pacheco, Camila Acosta, and Henry Constantin.

Many other anonymous Cubans, who did not even participate in the protests, were arrested or beaten for defending protesters from the attacks by the Police and State Security Agents dressed in civilian clothes.

To report their cases, a Facebook group, “DESAPARECIDOS SOSCuba” [SOSCuba DISAPPEARANCES], has started and in a few hours has been filled with posts.

This refutes what President Miguel Diaz-Canel said in his televised appearance Monday morning. “Already they come out with in Cuba that we repress, assassinate,” the appointed president defended himself with visible anger. “Where are the Cuban murders? Where are the disappearances in Cuba?”

Tuesday Havana awoke with little movement on the streets, and the strong police presence is still evident. The Plaza of the Revolution, the heart of power, for example, is shielded by a military operation. The tense calm continues.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera; Mary Lou Keel


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.

Deserter From Nicaraguan Anti-Riot Police Reveals He Was Trained By Cubans

Julio César Espinoza Gallegos, in an interview for the Nicaraguan channel “Noticias 12.” (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, March 17, 2021 — Julio César Espinoza Gallegos deserted from the Nicaraguan police in August of 2018, four months after the beginning of the big repression in April, but only now has he spoken with his country’s press, which he told, among other things, that his training was carried out by Cuban officials.

“I passed my anti-riot course with Cuban people and the training is for psychological preparation: that we go forward, forward, and never back. One is prepared for those types of shocks,” he told Nicaraguainvestiga.com.

“They had come to Nicaragua with the objective of training men and not women. They would say that if we were going to back down, we had better get out of the ranks of the Police,” he says from his new residence in Costa Rica, where he exiled himself in November 2020 because of the threats he was receiving.

Espinoza, who is now 32, joined the corps in 2012, in the Department of Special Police Operations (DOEP). Today, he considers himself tricked by the Sandinista propaganda that, he says, insisted to new agents upon their entry on how much the government of Daniel Ortega does for each one of them and that convinces them that the protests by Nicaraguans are “sheer madness.” continue reading

As part of his training, the ex-agent speaks of mentions of a supposed Yellow Revolution. “They knew that at any moment what happened in April was going to blow up, because the anti-riot police were prepared for that,” he says.

In April of 2018, when Nicaraguans began their protests against social security reforms, Espinoza joined as a reinforcement. “They send me to Masaya, which is where it blows up, and I end up injured by a stone-throwing,” he says. That was what kept him apart during three months of active repression.

In that period, and especially starting from the incident in which various opposition figures were killed in a home in a fire started by police and paramilitaries, is when, he says, he opened his eyes and realized that he had not sworn to repress the population, for which reason he decided to resign.

“The commissioner…tells me to work with them because they’re going to promote me, they’re going to give me rank, they’re going to assign me a vehicle and a weapon. I tell them no,” he remembers. At that moment, two intelligence people from El Chipote, the feared prison of the Somoza era, interrogated him and warned him of the consequences if he didn’t return to work.

As he says, a few days later they came to find and arrest his entire family. Espinoza was accused of terrorism, vandalism, kidnapping, and treason.

“Because I didn’t want to repress, they take these reprisals against me,” he says now from an exile which the pandemic has complicated and while he waits for a response on his asylum request.

Although it wasn’t until this crisis that Espinoza left the corps, he accuses the police of having “bloodstained hands” since long before and maintains that those who participate do so because “they like to kill… The police isn’t a job that is going to fire you, in the police you have to receive orders and if you have to kill, you’re going to kill,” he affirms.

Nicaragua will go to the ballot box on November 7, a process that many fear will be irregular. This Sunday, the ex-guerrilla and ex-Sandinista minister of health Dora María Téllez, now a fierce critic of the regime, asked the European Union to take measures before a fraud can consume them. “The Ortega regime doesn’t understand sweet words, the Ortega regime understands blunt messages,” she said.

According to the EFE agency, this Tuesday the Commission of Good Will, made up of Nicaraguan intellectuals, announced a plan to unite the opposition, with the goal of confronting the elections as one bloc. The group finds itself “adjusting the strategy for the rapprochement of the democratic opposition blocs, for which reason working sessions are being developed with the support of the Organization of Independent Professionals of Nicaragua and the Protest Group for Nicaragua.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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.

Russia’s Reflexive Control in Cuba and Venezuela

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Cuban counterpart, Raúl Castro. (Kremlin)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, José Azel, Miami, March 9, 2021 — Reflexive control is a disinformation strategy developed in Russia, in which “specifically prepared information is transmitted to opponents to encourage them to voluntarily make a decision desired by the initiator of the action.” All of the available original literature on reflexive control is written in Russian, a language I don’t know. For that reason, the following argument relies on publications in English.

Psychological studies show that when the brain is repeatedly exposed to the same piece of information, it begins to perceive it as true and discards contradictory evidence. The pioneer of the concept of reflexive control, in the 1960s, was Vladimir Lefebvre, a Soviet psychologist and mathematician. Reflexive control is based on a special type of influencing action: a sustained campaign that exposes an opponent to information selected so that he ends up “voluntarily” making the decisions that the initiator desires.

Reflexive control is taught in Russian military schools and in training programs, and it is conceived as a national security strategy. A key concept of reflexive control is that an opponent receives specific and predetermined information with the explicit objective of controlling the decision-making process. Unlike Western concepts of perception management, reflexive control seeks to control, not just manage, the perception of an opponent. continue reading

For example, during the Cold War, the Soviet Union convinced the United States that Soviet missile capacities were much greater than they really were. Using a series of disinformation techniques, the Soviets created an illusion of military power that forced the Western governments to devote more time and resources to their armed forces. Recently, in 2014, Russia confounded NATO and Kiev with its lightning success in Crimea. In three weeks and without firing a shot, the Ukrainian army turned over all its military bases in the Crimea.

On a research trip in 2019, I personally witnessed Russian techniques of reflexive control widely disseminated in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, where Russia seeks to stoke its ethnic minorities.

Additionally, during the 2016 American presidential election, Russia used techniques of reflexive control with the hope of manipulating our electoral decision-making process. Russia’s objective wasn’t to aid a determined candidate, but rather, fundamentally, to undermine our democratic political system.

The specific mechanisms of reflexive control are complex, but the strategy strives to imitate the reasoning of an opponent to encourage a decision that is unfavorable to the opponent himself. Specifically, it attacks our moral and physical cohesion to stir us to make decisions against our own interests. The Russian military theorist Colonel S. A. Komov has described the following basic elements of reflexive control:

Distraction: Create real or imaginary threats to force opponents to modify their plans.

Overload: Send with frequency a great quantity of contradictory information.

Paralysis: Create the perception of an unexpected threat to a vital interest.

Exhaustion: Force opponents to undertake useless operations.

Deceit: Force opponents to relocate assets in reaction to an imaginary threat.

Division: Persuade opponents to act against common objectives.

Pacification: Convince opponents that military actions carried out are only inoffensive training exercises.

Deterrence: Create a perception of superiority.

Provocation: Force opponents to take measures against their own interests.

Suggestion: Offer information that concerns opponents in a legal way, morally, ideologically, etc.

Pressure: Offer information that discredits opponents in the eyes of the people.

My readers in the south of Florida will recognize these techniques as those used by experts in the Cuban and Venezuelan governments under Russian tutelage. For decades, Cuba and Venezuela have successfully used reflexive control to distract, overload, paralyze, exhaust, deceive, divide, pacify, deter, provoke, suggest, and pressure their respective oppositions.

As a consequence, these citizens rarely unite cohesively to fight for their fundamental political liberties. The reflexive control apparatus has managed to control the decision-making process so that the popular point of view rests more on the economy than on politics. Today, the majority of criticisms and actions against the Cuban and Venezuelan governments emphasize the economic misery that the regimes create, instead of the freedoms they suppress. The people’s choice, incited by reflexive control, has morphed into fleeing, not fighting.

To my consternation and sadness, in these societies the discouraging observation of the Roman historian Sallust is evident: “Few men desire liberty; the majority of them only want a just tyrant.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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.

Medical Missions Are "The Great Capitalist Slave Business" of the Cuban Government

Doctors and nurses of the “Henry Reeve” Doctors Contingent in a ceremony in Havana before traveling to Italy to help in the COVID-19 epidemic. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Rosa Pascual / Yaiza Santos, Madrid, September 22, 2020 — Cuban Prisoners Defenders (CPD) made public this Tuesday its complaint in front of the United Nations and the International Criminal Court (ICC), which it presented on August 24 in the names of 622 doctors from the Island who have been on missions abroad.

In May of 2019, CPD, headquartered in Madrid, announced the presentation of the first complaint, against six Cuban politicians including President Miguel Díaz-Canel and his predecessor, Raúl Castro. The document contained the testimonies of 110 doctors who denounced the conditions in which they were forced to work on international missions.

“We are denouncing situations of authentic slavery for hundreds of thousands of people. We believe that the prosecutor of the ICC could perfectly investigate those acts as crimes against humanity,” affirmed CPD member Spanish lawyer Blas Jesús Imbroda, at that time. continue reading

This Tuesday, in an online press conference, the president of CPD Javier Larrondo gave a hard recounting of the figures and data from the testimony of several hundred professionals included in the complaint, which he says has been very well received in international bodies.

According to the organization’s data, the missions usually last three years and between 50,000 and 100,000 professionals participate in them annually, 70% of them doctors, but also engineers, teachers, and athletes. Larrondo noted that the work of these professionals entails a profit for Cuba of $8.5 billion net ($6.4 billion in 2018, according to the most recent available official data). This is three times the profit that tourism reports, he detailed, while calling the missions “the great capitalist slave business of that country.”

The reports agree that the professionals are forced to participate in “conditions of slavery” with long workdays and restrictions on their freedom, such as, for example, being forbidden to drive a car or having to ask a supervisor’s permission to marry. The law, moreover, penalizes with from three to eight years in prison those who leave the missions, as written in article 135 of the Penal Code.

In most cases, the Cuban Governments takes away the professionals’ passports to retain them and pays them between 10% and 25% of the salary that it charges the receiving countries, under the argument that Havana needs money to finance the Health System.

Larrondo emphasized that these professionals are subject to Cuban law, and specifically Decree 306 of 2012, “On the treatment of the professionals and athletes who require authorization to travel abroad,” and Resolution 168 which, among other restrictions, includes returning to Cuba when the mission ends, informing the immediate superior “of romantic relationships with nationals or foreigners,” asking permission to travel to distant provinces or places, observing curfew from six in the evening, and asking permission to “arrange invitations to family members.”

“They have a special passport and it doesn’t work for customs. They can’t travel without authorization and never without the entire family.”

Nor are they allowed to take a copy of their university degree. “Without passport or degree, you aren’t a person,” said the president of CPD. “What does this sound like if not human trafficking and prostitution?” he stated.

Among the conditions that the healthcare workers suffer in these missions, the NGO included political work and obligatory proselytizing by the bosses, under the threat of being repudiated by their own colleagues.

Two of the doctors who are part of the complaint joined Larrondo. One of them, Manoreys Rojas, who now lives in the US and hasn’t seen his children in six years, told how when he left for the mission to Ecuador in July of 2014, he did it “to fulfill a program that he was not prepared for.”

He did it “because it was a way out economically, the only way to escape the country.” Rojas claims that the Cuban Government places its doctors in the worst parts of the cities, where they frequently suffer robberies, and that it forces them to do proselytizing work and to produce falsely inflated statistics. As for the objective of the missions, he is forceful: “pocketing money [by the government] at any cost and by any means possible.”

For example, medicines were sold by Cuba to Ecuador for $13.8 million, “medicines that they weren’t even able to use.”

Another doctor, Leonel Rodríguez Álvarez, had a similar experience. An internal medicine specialist, he was first in Guatemala and then in Ecuador, where he is now a university professor. Rodríguez related that Cuba sent Island nurses to Guatamala with a course of barely a few months in anesthesia and that they passed them off as specialized anesthetists, which caused conflicts with local doctors, who refused to work with them.

Also, he confirmed that State Security agents were sent to the missions passed off as healthcare workers. “Those of us who already had some experience, we realize when we are having an exchange with people who aren’t of our profession.” These people, specified Rodríguez, are also easily identified because they have a vigilant attitude, denouncing, for example, conflicting opinions. That the Cuba’s G2 security services intervenes in the missions, he asserts, “is an open secret.”

On that subject Larrondo gives as proof the case of Bolivia, where it was demonstrated that of the 702 members of the mission, only 205 were doctors.

The plaintiff organization argues that the ICC can hold accountable the 58 nations that have signed conventions against slavery.

This June, CPD directly accused Norway and Luxembourg of contributing to the financing of the system of slavery of Cuban doctors in Haiti and Cape Verde, and asked them to revise their triangular collaboration agreements to continue being an example in human rights for the entire world and to avoid facing a complaint before the Human Rights Court of the European Union.

The brigade in Haiti was established in 1999 and remains today, with almost 350 healthcare workers of whom the total number of qualified doctors is unknown. Norway, a country that doesn’t belong to the European Union (EU), although it does to the European Economic Area, has contributed a total of $2.5 million via three agreements of this triangular type since 2012 in the support of that mission.

The money provided by Oslo was mostly destined for the construction of permanent medical infrastructure, but a consignment of around $800,000 was planned for the Cubans who, in that country earn $250 per month, an amount lower than the already very poor salary of local doctors, who pocket some $400.

In the case of Luxembourg, which is a member of the EU, the cooperation dates back to this March, when it signed an agreement equipped for almost half a million Euros for the establishment of a contingent of Cuban doctors in Cape Verde.

According to CPD, the group established in that African archipelago is made up of 79 workers who provide support in different areas of health, as well as 33 members of the Henry Reeve brigade to combat COVID-19 financed by a tripartite accord with the European country.

In the specific case of the workers in Cape Verde, CPD cited an example of the vigilance to which they are subjected. According to a report, on August 7, 2017 a communication was sent between the office of then-Minister of Public Health, Roberto Morales, to the embassy in Madrid with a copy to the ambassador in Cape Verde in which was requested, by order of Colonel Jesús López-Gavilán, head of the Health department of the Ministry of the Interior, that an official from the diplomatic headquarters in Spain come to Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas airport to supervise the layover that five doctors would have to make from Cape Verde.

The instruction was for them “to be investigated and check their communication with family members abroad” since, according to the sender, one of them had demonstrated “strong indications and intentions to ’desert.’”

Taking part in the press conference this Tuesday was Gilles Campedel, from the organization Prodie Santé, which has launched what it has called the International Brigade of Free Doctors. It is a project which, he said, is already present in 17 countries, and under whose protection Cuban doctors can work with just compensation – not less than 2,500 Euros per month, according to Campedel – and without intermediaries. “We have fantastic doctors and countries with the desire to receive them,” emphasized Campedel, who stressed that the pandemic is a good opportunity to get it off the ground.

The judge Edel González, ex-president of the Provincial Judicial Power of Villa Clara, seemed to agree that the brigades must “provide a service, but of quality, with transparency.” The objective of any analysis of the missions, he asserts, “is not to eliminate them but to humanize them.” After legally analyzing the complaint, he concludes that the punishments of the doctors who violate the law, like prohibiting them from reuniting with their families, is unconstitutional.

José Daniel Ferrer, president of the human rights organization Unpacu, expressed gratitude for the work of Prisoners Defenders in his case – the organization asked for his release on numerous occasions – and praised the creation of the brigade set up by Prodie Santé.

Ferrer, who noted that he has suffered a police cordon around his home for 74 days, addressed the politicians of other countries who participated in the press conference, including the Spaniard Javier Nart and the Argentinian representative Lucila Lehman, to ask them: “To what extent are the politicians and public opinion of your respective countries aware of the situation? What more can be done to show that the regime is neither in solidarity nor progressive?”

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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.

Venezuela, a Fertile Field for the Chinese Virus

The sectors most affected by social distancing and quarantine are those that depend on contact between persons, like commerce, transport, and services. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miguel Henrique Otero, Madrid, April 12, 2020 — Just this past week, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Cepal) has put into circulation number one of a special report dedicated to the economic and social impacts of COVID-19 in the region.

It’s a disturbing document: starting with evaluating the direct effects on health systems and the indirect effects on supply and demand, it suggests the imminence of enormous negative effects, in the short term (unemployment, decreasing income and salaries, growth of poverty and extreme poverty, negative effects in the health systems, among them, the extremely grave inequality of access), as well as the medium and long term (downward economic growth, reduction of investment, bankruptcy of businesses, deterioration of productive capacities and more).

Cepal warns with stark clarity: “distancing generally implies the deceleration of production or even its total paralysis.”

After making a useful and summary tour of the global economic trends, on reviewing the perspective of the region, Cepal warns that the contraction of the regional GDP could reach 3% or 4%, and could even be worse. continue reading

The document notes five “external channels of transmission:” decrease in economic activities of commercial partners, fall in prices of basic products (the example of oil is the most visible of all), disruption of supply chains, drop in the tourism industry (which is also, for countries like France, Italy, Spain, and England, extremely costly), and the growth of “risk aversion and worsening of worldwide financial conditions.”

It adds a fundamental issue: that the sectors most affected by social distancing and quarantine, those that depend on contacts between persons, like commerce, transport, and services of a distinct nature — generate 64% of formal employment.

Issues like the limited levels of Internet access, the precariousness of healthcare systems, the multiple failures of educational systems, the disproportionate percentages of informal employment, the extensive sectors of the population who live in poverty and extreme poverty, the high levels of social vulnerability, and many others, are elements that form a scenario of vulnerability, for the possible damage that COVID-19 could cause (only alleviated by the fact that the majority of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean is made up of children and young people), as well as for the negative economic and social effects.

But if this is the menacing prospective that the study of trends produces for the region, it is valid to ask, for the state of things in Venezuela — now only comparable, according to experts’ criteria, to the historic situation of misery in Haiti — as well as the available resources of the country destroyed by Chávez and Maduro, what to do to confront a pandemic that has been capable of putting in jeopardy the best healthcare systems in the world, like those of Spain, the United Kingdom, and some regions of the United States.

The results of the National Survey of the Impact of COVID-19, done by the National Commission of Health Experts to Confront the Coronavirus Pandemic, created by the interim president, Juan Guaidó, are terrifying. Simply terrifying.

I note several figures which report on the reality suffered by millions of families all throughout Venezuelan territory: 87.7% do not receive reliable electricity service, but rather the opposite with frequent failures, surges and drops and powers. Something else: almost 3% of the population receives no electricity service.

Almost 18% of homes are victims of what, right now, is much more than a failure of service: it can be considered a crime against life. I refer to the lack, for prolonged periods of time, of potable water, the most essential of resources necessary for combating contagions. But there is more: another 75.1% receive water in an irregular manner and, more importantly, water of low quality.

And what to say of public transit, which half of the citizens absolutely lack, and the other half has access to one that is costly, negative, and irregular? What to say, at this time in Venezuelan life, on the threshold of an epidemic that can have disastrous consequences, that ours is a country without fuel, that the Latin American nation that was the paradigm for its oil industry, and that had a capacity in place to produce a million and a half barrels of fuel every day, can today barely supply fuel to less than 1% of the population, and that its refineries are almost totally paralyzed?

And I still must note an inescapable reality: the situation of the hospitals, where doctors, paramedics, and health workers are absolutely exposed, without resources to protect themselves, as defenseless as their patients, who come to the health centers that have no water, nor constant electricity, nor medical technology, nor equipment, nor supplies of any kind, nor medicine, nor gloves, nor masks, nor body protection, nothing.

If to this whole panorama we add that the Maduro regime’s only response is detaining and persecuting political leaders of the democratic opposition and journalists, for the fact of reporting and denouncing what is happening, then the scenario that could ensue in Venezuela could be simply devastating. And that, because essentially, Maduro and those who surround him are drastically accelerating it: the even greater decimation of the Venezuelan citizenry.

Editors’ note: Luis Henrique Otero is director of the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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.

Cuba Records its First Case of Local Transmission of COVID-19

The Cuban commercial network has again suffered shortages of products like chicken, powdered milk, cheese, yogurt, and detergent. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, EFE, Havana, March 28, 2020 — Cuban health authorities acknowledged this Friday the first case of local infection of COVID-19, which until now had only occurred stemming from foreigners or Cuban travelers arriving with the disease on the Island, according to official reports.

The Cuban Minister of Health, José Ángel Portal, reported this Friday during the television program Round Table that local contagion occurred in the “Cardenas municipality, in the Matanzas province” and came from a hotel host from Varadero.

That man was diagnosed with COVID-19 after being infected by “a group of Italian tourists,” and his case was included on the list of positives for coronavirus that was disseminated on March 21. continue reading

From this patient 53 contacts were identified, who went on to isolation and epidemiologic observation and, of whom, four family members and a friend were found positive for the novel coronavirus.

Until this Saturday, in Cuba 119 positive cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed, 2,000 people were isolated under observation, and 3 deceased, the last of whom was a 52-year-old Cuban man.

The World Health Organization (WHO) had reported Cuba as a country with local COVID-19 transmission since March 19, but it wasn’t until Friday that Ministry of Public Health authorities confirmed it.

 1/ Questions for the Ministry of Public Health Cuba

Why is the WHO reporting Cuba as a country with local transmission of COVID-19 since March 19, but it wasn’t until yesterday, Friday the 28th [sic], that Health authorities confirmed this on state media?

– @invntario March 28, 2020

On the other hand, the Cuban Government announced this Friday, March 27, 2020 measures in the economic sector and retail trade focused on prioritizing the production of food and controlling its distribution to avoid crowds in face of the complex scenario created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Vice Prime Minister, Alejandro Gil, explained during a television appearance that priority will be given to the production of food on the Island and concentrating resources on basic products, like the production of cement, medicine, cleaning products, and renewable energy sources.

“We must respond to this situation in an ordered manner, which allows taking a group of decisions to confront the pandemic with the least economic cost possible and that allows us to recover,” stressed the Minister, who also holds the office of Economy and Planning.

Gil called for looking for solutions “by our own hands,” which, in the realm of food, means promoting agricultural production with short cycle cultivation and the farming in urban spaces of products like plantains, corn, pork, rice, beans, and eggs.

The Minister said that the importation of basic products for feeding the population is “being carried out,” a line to which the country dedicates more than $2 billion per year. “A restriction in import supply is evident because countries are producing less, as well as difficulties in accessing financing sources and external credit, which demonstrates a decrease in the country’s productive levels and in foreign investment,” he said.

In recent weeks, the Island’s commerical network has again suffered from shortages in products like chicken, powdered milk, cheese, yogurt, and detergent, which has produced long lines and crowding that go against recommendations at the time of the contagious coronavirus.

Since last Tuesday the lines have begun to be regulated, keeping the proper distance of at least a meter between people. Stores must enforce the separation and it is necessary to avoid disorder, but the shortages and the popular fears have made it practically impossible to comply with those measures.

In face of the crisis, the Minister of Interior Commerce, Betsy Díaz, announced this Friday the “controlled and regulated” sale of a series of products, to avoid hoarding and resale. She specified that there are products that cannot be marketed by the “ration booklet.”

Starting April 30 there will also be distributed, in a controlled manner, to each person 10 ounces of peas and one pound of chicken — at an unsubsidized price of 20 CUP. In the case of cleaning products like washing and bathing soap, toothpaste, and bleach, those will be sold on a quarterly basis, in modules that will include a quantity of those articles according to the number of members in each nuclear family.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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.

Water, The Best Ally Against COVID-19, Doesn’t Reach Many Cuban Homes

Authorities are also working on the reorganization of transportation, a very problematic means of spreading the virus in Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, March 25, 2020 — The most effective and accessible enemy of the virus, water, isn’t so easy to obtain in Cuba, troubled by drought and the deficient management of a supply more necessary than ever against COVID-19. In Havana, 468,721 of its 2.2 million inhabitants suffer water shortages, according to authorities.

The capital has 111 supply sources affected, 89 partially and another 22 totally, and only one of the five basins that supply them is in good shape, as Antonio Rodríguez, director of the National Institute of Water Resources (INRH), explained this Tuesday on the Roundtable TV program. The deficit rises to 2,447 liters of water per second so far this March with 58,500 people being supplied by cistern trucks.

The shortage of water for lack of rain affects 469,000 people in the western area of the Island, the majority in Havana; some 23,000 in the central area, and some 21,000 in the east. continue reading

According to Rodríguez, among the most affected municipalities in the capital are Arroyo Naranjo, Central Havana, Old Havana, La Lisa, and Boyeros, although he warned that there are also problems in the others. The official pointed out that complaints and inquiries about service have increased and it has been necessary to increase the telephone capacity to deal with them.

“We have the advantage of the fact that we continue working on the interconnection of systems within the capital, to better distribute water,” he said. The works in various areas are accelerating to improve the situation, said Rodríguez, and the drilling of refill and supply wells is being worked on.

Additionally, two small desalinization plants have been installed and other wells will be activated as easy access points. In the capital, the director announced, theoretically there is an average of 648 liters per inhabitant, but the problem of pipe and network leaks (up to 2,000) prevent that quantity from reaching its destination and although 78% of the pipes have been renovated, only 36% of the networks are working properly.

Rodríguez also said that on Monday water arrived in water trucks to 31,909 people in Havana and that measures are being taken to adjust the supply and restrict the sources of shortages to the large consumers, in addition to reinforcing state inspection.

In the midst of all this, the weather forecasts are not optimistic and it will continue raining little at least until April, for which reason the official asked, as usual, for a rational use of water.

José Angel Portal Miranda, Minister of Public Health, also appeared on the program, where he took stock of the situation in Cuba, not without first highlighting that the Coronavirus is affecting 168 countries and that the most afflicted currently, according to the speed at which is spreading, are Italy, the United States, Spain, and Germany.

Cuba has had until now 48 confirmed cases, 29 Cubans and 19 foreigners. All the cases are considered to be imported, since the contagions are not considered to be local until they are transmitted between two people who have not left the country. Three of the cases are serious, there is one discharged and one deceased, while the rest remain stable.

Additionally, 1,229 people remain under observation, 1,055 Cubans and 174 foreigners, “admitted in isolation centers and hospitals planned with this in mind,” specified the Minister of Health.

“We have moved forward to the prevention phases, with measures like the partial closing of borders, because the majority of cases have been linked or were coming from abroad,” argued the Minister, despite the fact that the only control carried out until now was at ports and airports, through which, precisely, the coronavirus has entered.

The Minister of Health insisted that vigilance measures be maintained, specifically among the elderly and other vulnerable groups, and reminded that every province has facilities designated for measures of isolation, hospitalization, and control.

Portal Miranda reviewed other measures, like those taken in the reorganization of health services, with treatments been postponed with the exception of emergencies, and the holding of routine visits (aimed, thus, at reducing the number of patients) and the maternal and infant program.

“We reiterate the call for social distancing and for everyone to stay informed by official media, because the key is in prevention. Nobody can substitute what is necessary to do for their own protection. The success of everybody is in prevention,” stated Portal Miranda.

Reynaldo García Zapata, governor of Havana, asked the population to comply with the measures announced “by the highest leadership of the country.”

The official insisted on the role of the popular councils to guarantee vigilance and to respond to whoever needs help to comply with isolation. He also explained that 3,875 tourists remain isolated in hotels and 5,620 who remain in rented houses will be transferred.

García Zapata said that 770 points of sale have been set up for takeout food, and they are working on having all places able to provide that service, do so. Points of sale of bleach have also been raised to 123, one in every popular council.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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.

Cuba Forbids Citizens From Traveling Abroad and Inside the Country

Cubans who live in Cuba are forbidden from traveling abroad except for humanitarian reasons. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/EFE, Havana, March 23, 2020 — Cubans will not be able to leave the country without authorization nor move about within the country between the provinces, as a measure to stop the spread of COVID-19, Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero, announced this Monday.

The measures “will be of strict compliance” indicated Marrero on a state television program on which the new official measures to confront the epidemic were announced.

Cuba, which until now has recorded 40 cases of coronavirus and more than a thousand people in preventative hospital isolation, will partially close its borders starting tomorrow, Tuesday, and will only allow current residents of the country, both Cubans and foreigners, to enter. continue reading

Authorities have asked that the necessary “social distancing” be kept in mind, although in a country where every day one has to wait in long lines to buy basic products or to travel anywhere, it is difficult to carry out this measure.

Marrero said that in Cuba there are currently 32,574 tourists and 10,299 Cubans who live abroad. In addition he stressed that Cubans who do not live on the island will not be able to enter the country starting this Tuesday.

“From this moment on we are regulating the exit of all our compatriots from national territory,” said Marrero.

The prime minister made clear that those Cubans who live permanently abroad will not be able to return to the country. Cubans who live in Cuba are also prohibited from traveling abroad except for humanitarian reasons.

Marrero added that Cubans who live on the island will only be able to return with one piece of hand luggage and one suitcase. “We cannot continue allowing family members to wait at the airport,” said the prime minister.

The Government also announced that recent arrivals will be isolated in quarantine centers. The transfer will be made by the Ministry of Transport and the National Police.

The prime minister announced that 22,000 Cubans travel every day from one province to another and suspended interprovincial transport.

“We have asked the ministry of transport for this measure to be applied,” he added.

As well as flights, land and train trips are also prohibited, including in the private sector.

Marrero announced that public transportation will be limited and said that two million people get around every day in the very old public transportation system.

“Those movements are now a risk for the people themselves and for others,” he said.

The Government announced that tourists will be strictly forbidden from leaving their hotels. All tourist excursions are suspended.

“There are no tourists in the street starting tomorrow,” he said. The measure also takes effect in private lodging houses. The State announced the suspension of car rentals.

Tourists in Viñales, Baracoa, and Trinidad who are in private houses will be transferred to state facilities near the airports.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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.

In the Face of the Authorities’ Inaction, Cubans Mobilize Themselves Against Coronavirus

“Closed.” Many private restaurants have closed their doors in face of the arrival of coronavirus in Cuba. (Tripadvisor)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, March 20, 2020* — In front of the television screen, Cubans watch the days pass by without authorities ordering the closing of the borders, the suspension of classes, or more strict measures of quarantine. While life seems to continue at its normal rhythm on the Island, many citizens and private businesses are beginning to take measures themselves in face of the inaction of the Government.

According to the official toll, 16 people*, including a deceased Italian tourist, have tested positive for COVID-19, and authorities continue to opt for a series of preventative measures without closing the borders, as various countries have done. The calls for calm continue in official media, which blame social media for generating an unnecessary “alarmism.”

Faced with the apparent normality in the discourse transmitted by television and radio, social media has turned into a hotbed of complaints and reports. In a country where the majority of the population distrusts official statistics, which for decades have been systematically massaged, many place more trust in the information about alleged contagions that arrive from various points of the Island. continue reading

Worry is spreading and various private businesses have locked up until the crisis lessens. “We are not offering services, we are sorry for the inconvenience,” read a sign in a centrally-located private restaurant in Old Havana this Thursday. The famous restaurant La Guarida also preventatively closed, but state-owned cafes and restaurants remain open to the public.

“We are not going in the direction of closing and they don’t allow us to use face masks,” an employee of Plaza de Carlos III who sells pizzas and sandwiches on the ground floor of that crowded market tells this newspaper. “They have told us that we must report it if we don’t feel well, but there is a lot of fear among the employees.”

Among the workers they have bought bleach, some soap, and prepared liquid in a bottle to keep their hands clean. “We take turns going to the bathroom and washing well,” explains the employee. “My sister works at La Covadonga hospital and is in the same situation, whatever they have to protect themselves, they have to bring themselves.”

For their part, medical students have been organized to carry out investigations house by house. “Here one came asking how many people live here and if anyone had had a fever or sore throat,” a resident in a multifamily building in Nuevo Vedado told 14ymedio. “We answered him through the door, because we don’t want to risk opening and getting infected.”

These students must bring their own protection equipment. One video that has gone viral on social media shows a strict professor of medicine demanding a student remove a face mask during an “orientation” meeting. In the video, made on a mobile phone, various young people can be heard protesting: “Don’t take it off, don’t listen to him.”

Some of the few face masks seen on the streets are sold on the black market, but Cuban “mules” — those who travel to other countries and bring back goods — have received a hard blow with the crisis. Some of their favorite destinations, Panama, the United States, and the Dominican Republic, have closed their borders or restricted flights. The constant flow of merchandise that was arriving with these small dealers for the informal market has been drastically reduced and it is beginning to be noticed.

“The vitamins, masks, nutritional products, and all the hygiene products that I brought in February really flew like crazy,” a Cuban from Villa Clara who traveled to the Panamanian area of Colon last month to make purchases tells this newspaper. “Just in time because it seems I won’t be able to return for several weeks.”

Those who have contact with friends and family in Italy and Spain seem to be the ones who best understand the danger. The musician Luis Barbería, who lived for a time in Madrid, shared a photo of an enormous line this Thursday on the corner of Villuendas park in Cienfuegos: “The entire world is in quarantine and Cubans are like this. We believe ourselves amazing and that we can do everything, just by being Cuban. Tell me?”

But the lines are not the only dangerous scenario. A recent study details how long the virus can live on different surfaces and it can remain for four hours on copper, which is present in many Cuban coins. In a “cash society” where the majority of customers do not have a credit card to make purchases, metal money is essential.

In the state-owned stores, which until recently only used convertible pesos but now also accept national pesos, coins of 5, 10, and 25 centavos are often used to pay and give change. Until now, no warning in these places counsels maximizing precautions with metallic money and no cashier wears a mask.

This Thursday on an urban bus the driver was wearing a piece of a condom on the thumb with which he counts bills but the coins were falling directly into his hand. Some passengers were getting onto the bus with an ice cream, others warmly conversing but without maintaining distance between their bodies, a pipe dream on a traditionally packed public transit.

The travelers, rather than worried, seemed imbued with a strange “mysticism of immunity” that the official media has contributed to propagating. A widely shared caricature shows a woman dressed as a nurse hitting the virus with a bat to send it far away. There are those who still believe that the disease, like a feared and capricious hurricane, will change its route and go far away from the Island. But they are fewer and fewer.

*Translator’s note: This translation is being posted 4 days after the article was originally written. As of the date of this translation, 23 March, the confirmed number is 40.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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.

14 Rumors About Coronavirus: Some Cuban and Others Universal

Non-professional face masks can help not infect others, but not to protect oneself. (Pedro Luis García)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, March 16, 2020 — Here at 14ymedio we want to contribute to the truthful spread of information about the coronavirus. We are aware that we don’t have many certainties up to this point, given that the virus is new and research all over the world is beginning to be carried out with the little data available, but there is a lack of scientific evidence that can settle certain questions.

However, we want to help in checking information in face of the risk that Cubans may receive propaganda or disinformation in a centralized system. Here we offer 14 questions and verified answers.

Has Cuba developed a vaccine against the coronavirus?

At this time there is no vaccine against the coronavirus. Neither Cuba nor any other country has developed it although there are various laboratories in some twenty countries around the world that are working on it. The World Health Organization has already warned that it will not be ready in less than a year, since there are many subsequent studies that have to be done. This weekend there was a controversy between the US and Germany, since that country has accused Washington of wanting to make it exclusively with the trial from the pharmaceutical CureVac.

Does Cuba have “the cure” for coronavirus for already infected cases? 

Those infected do not develop the sickness (they are asymptomatic) at a high rate, but around 30 or 40% do, with pneumonia being the most dangerous which, linked with chronic conditions (hypertension, coronary pathologies, diabetes) and depressed immune systems (in cancer treatment or HIV carriers) can become complicated, meaning a risk to life. continue reading

Patients with symptoms are being treated all over the world with different medications and therapies, but until now no country has a totally effective cure, because it largely depends on the point at which the disease is detected, the state in which the sick person arrives at the hospital, and his or her previous medical condition, as well as the medical care they can receive, thus the importance of not filling up hospitals.

Is interferon a “cure” for coronavirus?

In recent weeks the news that the Cuban drug Interferon Alpha 2B has helped thousands of Chinese patients recover from the pneumonia associated with COVID-19 has circulated widely on social media. The trigger for this information was a tweet by Miguel Díaz-Canel in which he assured that it was “Interferon Alpha 2B: the Cuban drug used in China against the coronavirus.” However, the leader’s message did not clarify that it was one of 30 medications being used in the Asian country in the treatment of those patients.

One day after that tweet, the newspaper Granma, official organ of the Communist Party, added that the Cuban drug has had “palpable results in the cure of more than 1,500 patients,” but without citing sources. An investigation carried out by the Venezuelan site Efecto Cocuyo revealed that the figure in reality corresponded with those patients who had managed to recover from the disease up until February 6, but the official Chinese report where that statistic appears for the first time “never attributes their recovery to the effect of the Cuban drug or any other treatment.”

The Cuban Embassy in China also spread the message, on February 5, and touted the role of the drug in Chinese authorities’ fight against COVID-19: “The Health Commission has selected our product among those used in the fight against #coronavirus,” the Cuban embassy in Beijing wrote on Twitter. However, on the website for the mixed Chinese-Cuban company ChangHeber, with headquarters in the city of Changchun, where the recombinant Interferon Alpha 2B is made, there is still no information on its use in patients with coronavirus. The website only mentions its efficacy in treating hepatitis, leukemia, lymphoma, papilloma, and myeloma, among other illnesses.

Cuban authorities have brandished the massive local fabrication of Interferon Alpha 2B as one of the main strengths of the country in face of the advance of the disease; however, some specialists qualify this assertion. “The drug is not going to prevent you from getting infected, it doesn’t cure COVID-19 by itself, and although it has proven useful to alleviate symptoms, there will not be tons of Interferon that will save us in the case that the appropriate measures of containment and mitigation are not applied, and as a consequence, the health system will collapse,” warned the Cuban biologist Amílcar Pérez Riverol.

Do high temperatures prevent infection?

Although there are various scientific theories that indicate that the virus does not tolerate temperatures above 82 degrees fahrenheit, none of them have yet been proven and the WHO maintains that the coronavirus can circulate in any area unless the opposite is proven. This contradicts the propaganda of the Ministry of Tourism that is promoting Cuba as a safe destination for sun and sand. Spreading this information, currently, is irresponsible.

It was only on Sunday, and after the rumor about heat as an “antidote” for coronavirus had widely circulated, that national Cuban television issued a denial. By that point, the deceitful advertisement by Havanatur and Cubatur had already reached thousands of potential vacationers. That advertisement also included the claim that “seawater” kills bacteria, which makes Cuba even more attractive as a destination, but is a matter of confusion because COVID-19 is a virus, not a bacteria.

Will tourists find a “safe destination” in Cuba and free and effective medical attention if they get sick on the Island?

There has been on official pronouncement that the tourists hospitalized in Cuba for coronavirus symptoms will be treated for free. Bárbara Cruz Rodríguez, general director of Marketing of Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism, assured that “clients who decide to come to Cuba will be well received” and “we will give them all services,” an assertion that indicates that the Government could be planning for a time in which the national coffers suffer a serious drop in funds.

To this must be added that, over the weekend, the Italian tourist Marta Cavallo, who is admitted under suspicion of coronavirus at the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine (IPK), reported on the conditions in she is experiencing in that hospital. “We are in a terrible hospital, in dramatic sanitary conditions, they ask us to take the soup from the plate, there isn’t even toilet paper…they don’t give us news of any kind,” she wrote on Facebook.

Can the borders remain open and the arrival of tourists kept up without this influencing the number of infections? Did the airport controls detect the first cases of coronavirus?

The border controls are currently one of the resources most used by the majority of countries, but their success is relative. Border closing has been used in China, which has managed to check the epidemic, but not in South Korea, which is also achieving that.

Border closings can help because it limits mobility and, thus, social distancing is being demonstrated as effective, although it is not effective alone. Airport controls are hardly reliable despite being used in a massive form. The majority of those infected are asymptomatic and especially in the first days, when the viral load is lower. Even tests may not detect it, creating a false sense of security. Quarantine, on the other hand, does guarantee greater security without an investment of resources.

Does keeping classes open help turn schools into detection centers?

In general, the majority of countries are proceeding to close schools. Although children appear to be less likely to present grave symptoms or get sick, they are carriers of the virus in any case and have a high risk of transmitting it through their socialization and lower awareness of the seriousness of the situation.

Although children are encouraged to wash their hands frequently, they touch each other and many surfaces when they play, which is why schools are important transmission centers.

In some places with more elderly populations, like Cuba, where grandparents frequently assume childcare duties while the children’s parents work, it could also be an added risk of infecting one of the greatest high risk groups.

Cuba has 1,125,000 residents aged 60-69, 768,000 aged 70-79, and 392,000 older than 80, rates very similar to those of Italy and Spain, countries battered by the virus. It is a case that can be learned from Spain, where the same thing is happening and where children are urged not to visit their grandparents.

Is early detection enough to stop the coronavirus?

In part yes, but in the case of Cuba the four confirmed cases of coronavirus are people who passed through the airports without any symptom being detected. One of them, a Bolivian living in Milan, arrived on the Island on February 24 and was in Santa Clara without her illness having been detected before she joined, on March 8, her Cuban husband, who was then presenting cough and fever. By then, the tourist had overcome the coronavirus and interacted with dozens of people.

So although early detection can help, the measures of containment and restriction on mobility, entry into the country, quarantine, and self-isolation seem to be more effective to slow down the speed of transmission, thus attempting to not collapse the health systems.

Do the cloth surgical masks that will be distributed in Cuba work as a barrier against the virus?

There are different types of face masks, the majority of which are available to people, as is the case with the cloth face masks that are planned to be distributed on the Island. But these masks do not prevent contagion, although they do prevent transmission.

Infected people can use them to avoid infecting others, but healthy people cannot avoid being infected that way. The clinical ones are more effective, but neither are they the only measure. There is a shortage all over the world of masks, although the industry is making them at a forced march and China has sent shipments to various countries that need them. Cuba already warned that the lack of money will prevent buying them.

Can rum be used to sanitize the hands?

In face of the shortage of soap to wash hands and also other products like sanitizing gel, Cubans are making use of other products to maintain hygiene. Perfumes, colognes, and even rum are some of them, but it is likely that these solutions do not totally protect those who use them.

To sanitize the hands and eliminate the virus requires alcohol in a sufficient quantity as well as glycerine, experts warn. The small boxes (tetrapack) of Planchao or Silver Dry rum that many are using as a hand “gel” only have 36% alcohol when a concentration of 70% is required. Specialists reiterate that a better way of protecting oneself from coronavirus is washing one’s hands with soap and water frequently, for at least 20 seconds each time.

Is it useful to drink alcohol or hot beverages to prevent contagion?

The rumor that hot drinks helps prevent coronavirus comes directly from the belief that temperature has an influence. As we previously said, there is no evidence yet that the virus dies at 82 degrees, but additionally the infection system is not related to the consumption of liquids. Some doctors have even warned that these false tricks can be counterproductive if they affect the mucous membrane. Regarding alcohol, not only is that theory unfounded but it is also very dangerous. In Iran last week 36 people died, drunk from consuming alcohol believing that it would stop contagion.

At what distance can the virus be caught?

A totally secure distance is one greater than two meters. The virus is transmitted through fluids, like drops of saliva and nasal secretions that leave a person who coughs or sneezes, which is approximately one meter. In the case of living with someone who is infected, measures must be taken like isolating them in one room and avoiding sharing a bathroom, in addition to maintaining the hygiene of the home and persons. All these measures are very complicated in the context of the homes and hygiene products found in Cuba. To which must be added that common on the Island are long lines to buy basic products, packed public transport, and overwhelmed bureaucracy offices.

Can pets be infected?

No. Pets like cats and dogs cannot be infected with the coronavirus and, in fact, one of the exceptions to confinement in the countries that have imposed it, like Italy and Spain, is for taking out dogs, although as quickly as possible and only with one person. Despite everything, it is a good idea to maximize hygiene by washing hands very well with soap and water after touching pets.

Is there any home test to see if one is infected?

In some countries there has spread a rumor that one can simply check if he or she has been infected by filling the lungs and seeing if there is no pain in the side when holding the breath for 10 seconds. Neither this nor any other test works for self diagnosis. Following recommendations from health authorities and, in the case of presenting symptoms, self isolating or consulting doctors are the measures that stop the spread of the virus. Ruling out the illness with these types of false tests can only contribute to spreading the infection.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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.

An Italian with Coronavirus Worsens and a Canadian Dies of Influenza in Cuba

The four people sick with COVID-19 are patients at the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, March 16, 2020 — A Canadian tourist who arrived in Cuba on March 5 died of “acute respiratory symptoms,” while the state of health of one of the three Italians who tested positive for coronavirus worsened, as the Ministry of Public Health reported this Monday.

The Canadian vacationer was not suffering from coronavirus, but rather influenza type A, specified Dr. Carmelo Trujillo Machado, head of the Department of International Health Control of the body, but he did not reveal the tourist’s identity nor date of death.

In a press conference, representatives from the Ministry of Health also reported on the four people sick with COVID-19, patients at the Pedro Kourí Institute of Tropical Medicine (IPK) in Havana.

“On the night of March 15, one of the confirmed patients, 61 years old, of Italian nationality and with a history of suffering bronchial asthma, began to show clinical signs of complications typical of the disease, for which he received treatment according to the established protocol,” they detailed. continue reading

“Today, the 16th of March, as of 12 noon, his state has continued to deteriorate, for which he has required artificial ventilation, bringing him to a stable critical condition. A medical team of specialists in intensive therapy and the group of experts from the Ministry of Public Health is maintaining treatment and permanent monitoring,” adds the official note.

According to the text, the rest of the patients with COVID-19 “maintain a stable clinical development.”

Cuban authorities have admitted 13 travelers coming from the United States and 20 from Italy to hospitals on the Island, where they are being monitored for having symptoms of COVID-19.

This Monday the Island allowed the cruise ship MS Braemar, which was sailing through the Caribbean since the end of February, to dock at the Mariel port. The ship has more than a thousand people aboard and five confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the British company Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, which owns the ship.

The official site Cubadebate took advantage of the situation to criticize Cuba’s northern neighbor: “While Mr. Trump wants a vaccine EXCLUSIVELY for the United States and tried to prevent a cruise ship from entering California because the number of patients with COVID-19 in that country would rise, Cuba offers what it has to the world: interferon to the Chinese, expertise to the Venezuelans, and treatment to these anchored cruise ship passengers.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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

The World Shuts Down But Cuba Remains Open To Tourism Despite Coronavirus

Cuban authorities refuse to close the borders to tourism. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, March 15, 2020 — Cuban authorities are opting to keep the borders open and the arrival of tourists to the Island despite the advance of COVID-19. The official propaganda reiterates that the country is a safe destination and assures vacationers that “the necessary protocols to prevent spread are prepared.”

While a good part of the countries affected by the coronavirus are declaring states of alarm or emergency, closing their borders, and suspending flights to the most affected areas, the Cuban Ministry of Tourism confirmed this Friday that there is a strategy in the sector to contain the entry of the disease, but without limiting the arrival of tourists.

Among the measures most advised by international health organizations are avoiding travel, remaining at home, and reducing contacts with other people. However, several social media accounts of Cuban companies linked to tourism have intensified their publicity in recent days to attract tourists. continue reading

With the slogan “Cuba is a safe destination” and appealing to the unconfirmed information that high temperatures inhibit the spread of the disease, tour operators like Havanatur and Cubatur show sale packages for sun and sand, as a refuge to escape the rigors of the cold and the isolation in various countries experiencing a crisis in the spread of the disease.

The Cuban Ambassador to Italy, José Carlos Rodríguez, disseminated the promotion on his Twitter account that Cuba continued to have its “doors open” to the arrival of vacationers and that a “strict protocol for confronting” the disease guaranteed that the Island was a “safe” place at the time of the pandemic.

For his part, Francisco Durán, head of Hygiene and Epidemiology at the Ministry of Public Health, specified that any traveler coming from a high risk country will be submitted to a check in the airport, and “if they visited that country and have any symptom, they will be taken to isolation for 14 days.”

Despite those official declarations, the four confirmed cases of coronavirus up to this point have passed without symptoms through the airports. Among them is a Bolivian woman living in Milan who arrived on the Island on February 24 and only went to the doctor on March 8 when her Cuban husband began to have a cough and a fever. At that time she had already gotten over the virus and had contact with dozens of people in Santa Clara.

The Minister of Public Health, José Ángel Portal Miranda, stated that there are 259 patients “admitted for epidemiologic observation” and of those 90 are foreign and 169 are Cuban. Since January 25 there have been 272 admitted and 15,793 people have been attended in primary care, he detailed.

This newspaper has collected testimony from numerous travelers from Milan and Madrid who have arrived in recent days on the Island and were only asked if they have cough and a fever, after which they were able to continue their trip to national tourist destinations like the keys, Trinidad, Viñales, and the historic quarter of Havana.

“I am not accepting clients,” explains Liudmila, who operates a tourist facility in  Viñales. “Those who have been arriving have mainly been Italians, Spaniards, and Canadians. People are happy because business was a little depressed but they are gambling with their lives.” In her three-bedroom house, the last tourists were from the Lombardy region. “Now we are afraid we are incubating the coronavirus.”

“Here we have our hearts in our mouths, dying of fear,” an employee of El Patriarca hotel in Varadero tells 14ymedio. “We have various European clients with symptoms but they don’t end up putting our place in quarantine because they don’t want to scare the tourist trade,” he explains by phone.

“They gave us a brief training on how to proceed with hygiene but the personnel is very scared of contracting it,” he adds. “The majority of our guests right now are Italians, some who bought last minute tickets to take refuge here because they don’t want to be stuck in their homes in their country.”

The musician Alexander Abreu, leader of the group Havana D’Primera, lamented the situation upon arriving at the Havana airport. “Taking out the bags one by one and massing together flights coming from areas that are in the thick of it,” described the composer, who had to wait a long time in a room “with more than 600 people recently arrived” in the country.

“This way we won’t be able to survive what’s happening in the world no matter how many vaccines or how much medicine we have,” denounced Abrea. “Why close the House of Music if on the ’main stage’ they’re having ’a party.’”

“We have workers who have in their homes elderly parents and grandparents and they are really afraid of becoming carriers who bring the disease from here to those elderly people,” complains another employee from the Hotel Deauville in Havana. “They have told us to wash our hands but we cannot use masks so as not to alarm the customers,” she explains.

“It reminds me of when I was in primary school and Fidel Castro used to say over and over that something had to be done at whatever price necessary,” expresses the employee. “This is not an enemy that one can see, this is not imperialism, this is a virus and it has no ideology, it doesn’t matter to it if we say that ’it shall not pass’ or ’don’t mess with us,’ it’s going to affect us just the same.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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.