One of the July 11th (11J) ‘Plantadas’ in Cuba is Hospitalized and ‘Very Weak’

Lizandra Góngora Espinosa is hospitalized after several days “plantada”* in Guatao prison. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, September 30, 2022 — On Monday, political prisoner Lizandra Góngora Espinosa, sentenced to 14 years in prison for her participation in the protests of July 11, 2021, was transferred to the hospital at El Guatao women’s prison, in the municipality of La Lisa, Havana, a week after declaring a hunger strike.

Ángel Delgado, father of four of Góngora’s five children, confirmed to this daily that another unidentified prisoner, alerted him that Lizandra was transferred to the hospital in a very weak state of health and with low blood pressure.

On September 20th, Góngora, along with sisters María Cristina and Ángela Garrido, declared a hunger strike to demand their release, and all three refused to use the common prisoner uniform.

On Monday, it was confirmed that El Guatao prison allowed the Garrido sisters’ family members to deliver food, although they remained “plantadas.”* Meanwhile, Delgado stated that he did not know whether Góngora had ended her hunger strike and believed that starvation was the cause for her transfer to the hospital.

Góngora was arrested for participating in the massive demonstrations on July 11th in Güira de Melena (Artemisa province). The activist has explained that she joined a group of demonstrators who positioned themselves in front of an MLC [hard currency] store to demand donated food, which the store was selling; there she injured her leg and fled. Faced with that version, the government accuses her of leading the crowd of protestors. continue reading

Several activists who participated in the 11J demonstrations are jailed and charged with the crime of sedition, one of the most serious in the Criminal Code.

Also immersed in a hunger strike since September 13th, is physics instructor Pedro Albert Sánchez, for whom the liberal Spanish Euro delegate, Soraya Rodríguez, spoke up.

“We want to call on the Cuban government to request his immediate release. His health is in the hands of the Cuban state,” said the legislator. Rodríguez, in a message sent to the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights and published on social media, insisted that the life of the instructor is in danger and urged the European Union to intercede on his behalf with the regime.

On September 20th, Sánchez, who has cancer, was transferred to General Enrique Cossío (National) Hospital as his health status declined. The instructor has been jailed since November 3rd, 2021 and is awaiting trial for announcing a walk in solidarity with the Civic March of November 15th of last year.

On Wednesday in Sancti Spiritus, the death of a common prisoner, who was also on a hunger strike, was confirmed. Andy Reyes had refused to ingest food for almost two months, according to activist Néstor Estévez. The young man, jailed on several occasions, most recently for theft with violence, spent 16 days in the General Camilo Cienfuegos Provincial Hospital where de died.

*Translator’s note: A ‘plantado’ — literally ’planted’ — is a term with a long history in Cuba and is used to describe a political prisoner who refuses to cooperate in any way with their incarceration. “Plantada” is the feminine.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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

The Reasons for the End: In Search of Lost Unity in Cuba

Hurricane Ian left nearby buildings standing in this location, but took down large trees, (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elias Amor Bravo, 2 October 2022 — As of now, that unity has nothing to do with the necessary process of listening to society, interpreting their motivations, tending to their demands and resolving problems, making them participants of the reality. That process is not related to the “teachings of Fidel” nor to the accumulation of nonsense and interference by those in power whom Cubans have had to tolerate for 63 years. The people have said, “Enough,” and they want a new start, one in which a true democratic process of leadership and public management, which have never existed in Cuba, can be applied.

Therefore, to speak of unity to achieve a recovery is a recipe that will not work, it is useless. Cubans have every right to chose other formulas.

The people are fed up when, each time new problems emerge, for which the solution does not seem possible, such as the nationwide blackout due to the hurricane that crossed over the western region, the regime only offers unity, unity in work, solidarity and the public’s own participation. And similarly, in the official language, why not add the influence of the “nefarious monstrosity” of the United States blockade, just as the regime’s conversations requesting assistance from its northern neighbor became public.

Unity and falsehood. A description of the reality which aims to hide from Cubans the truth, which they do not want to change, in fact, they just want to continue at the helm of power. It is the same as insisting, time and again, that the Fatherland does not have “a road map other than the one created by the example of the historic generation of Fidel and Raúl.” Lies. The democratic road map is the one Cubans now want to decide on, to face the future on new foundations that mean progress for all, and not just for the few. continue reading

The official propaganda accuses the “enemy” of “attacking because it fears the continuity represented by the new generation at the helm of the country,” when the new generations do nothing but say they have no interest in leading anything, they simply want to leave the country. The 200,000 Cubans that have left the country en route to the United States this year, are mostly young people who do not want to see unity nor continuity of anything. The leaders no longer know how to interpret the signals and do not wish to do so, and this is another indicator of the end.

While the official press does not skimp on effort as it creates an alternative reality far from human reason when it says, “the enemies of Cuba never offer a solution that does not respond to the interests of subverting our socialist society; and it is in that eagerness that they take advantage — and even fabricate — the vicissitudes we are going through.” Let’s see if the true enemies of Cuba are the ones who insist on staying in power at any cost, waiting out their terms without stepping aside, as is needed. Perspective is very important, in any case.

Is it that perhaps the problems, unresolved for generations by Cubans, are not the responsibility of their government, or regime, which is the same? Of course, the hurricane has also wreaked havoc in the north, but there, very soon, it will be possible to see a return to normality.

In Pinar del Río, many of the destroyed houses had been destroyed by past hurricanes. Problems in Cuba are not fixed, they are frozen. The issue is to gain time. The worst enemy of the Cuban people is its regime or government, which in 63 years has not been able to create professional emergency units to deal with crisis situations and catastrophes, and which is incapable of providing a definitive solution to the problems of the people. It is not good to think about the “other,” without reviewing in depth what lies within.

And thus, the regime’s official propaganda, after trying to justify unity with fantastic and hilarious arguments, launches another much more alarming argument, “healing the damage from Hurricane Ian will not be an easy nor a short-term task.” It will be long term and no one can say they were fooled. Those affected should start looking for other areas or counting on the help of family or those living outside their areas. The recovery will be long and in many cases will not arrive.

Not even international solidarity has arrived well. The usual friends (Iran, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, Mexico, Nicaragua) have their own problems and no one is giving away money during complex times like these. Here, also, the end seems near. The unity argument falls apart, but the Cuban communist regime does not want to acknowledge it. Loneliness is the worst consequence of not knowing how to do things well.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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

Cuba: It Is the End of the Communist Dictatorship

Caption: Dwelling destroyed by Hurricane Ian in the municipality of San Juan y Martínez in Pinar del Río. (Tele Pinar/Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Valencia, Spain, October, 1, 2022 — Reaching the limit and wanting to go further, for the sole vice of maintaining power. At any price. This is the selfish and suicidal lesson the communist regime wants to teach Cubans, so that tomorrow, the whole world will remember the tragic final venture (which in fact, is already here) of the 63 years of communist dictatorship.

The propaganda, repression, juggling games, measures to patch up economic functioning are no longer valid. The communists spoke of a foreign exchange system and have taken the peso to an unprecedented exchange rate of 195 to the dollar. Similarly, they demanded the adoption of an Ordering Task* that, poorly planned, arrived at the worst time, causing a serious collapse of the precarious internal and external balances.

They also talked about ’measures’, specifically, 69 measures for the agricultural sector and 95 measures for sugar, and the results are yet to be seen. They announced, with much fanfare, the launch of the MSMEs [small and medium size businesses] and non-agricultural cooperatives, as the beginning of a private business model, but which was later seen as a maneuver to convert the discontented self-employed workers into MSMEs, thus reinforcing control and intervention over them. Expenditures have risen to unacceptable limits at a time of falling incomes; and the deficit has been financed by monetary expansion without any control by the Central Bank. The balance sheet is certainly disastrous.

Nothing is worth anything anymore. All the partial attempts to get out of the vicious cycle have ended in absolute failure and Cubans suffer and, unlike times past, launch themselves into massive protests throughout the country. The information that arrives from the Island shows that people have taken to the streets, without fear, willing to lead their future, to clear from the political scene a regime that has come to an end and is paralyzed. continue reading

The sequence of events is clear. Cubans suffered an island-wide blackout, difficult to explain, when Hurricane Ian crossed the island at the western end. Inhabitants of the east, who did not feel the winds or the rain, must resign themselves to a lack of electricity supply that had already been affecting the entire country. There is no valid justification from the Union Electric. The arguments of managers on television are hesitant, doubtful, excessively technical, and difficult to understand by a population that has said enough is enough. It is the end, we may not see it clearly, but the nightmare comes to an end.

Díaz-Canel rushed to appear in Pinar del Río dressed in military garb and wearing a raincoat valued at 300 or 400 dollars, which many Cubans would like to have. And there, with the propaganda always attentive, he confirmed to the world what is already known. Unlike other less developed countries, the regime lacks emergency intervention mechanisms to coordinate and launch the processes to repair damages and return to normal life. You have to turn to the neighbors, the neighborhoods and the “communals” of doubtful interpretation. Incredible that, in a Marxist and Leninist state of the Caribbean, in any country, they have to improvise on the fly every time a cyclone hits.

It is the end. In the form of a tragedy in several acts, which can only end in one way: returning power and sovereignty to the Cuban people so that, exercising plural democracy, the course of the nation can be put back on course. The cyclone has come to accelerate the pace of transformation and, above all, to reveal the weakness and serious shortcomings of the political model devised by Fidel Castro 63 years ago. The end is near. With new leaders who know how to interpret the demands of the people and offer solutions to them, who can allocate resources to what is truly productive and beneficial for the people, and not for a particular party or ideology.

The economy can’t take anymore. Neither can Cuban society. We are witnessing a process of widespread loss of confidence in the national currency, of dissatisfaction with the services received from the State, which are paid and paid well, with the work of all Cubans. There is no longer a strategy, nor a vision, much less, a mission that justifies maintaining the status quo. The changes the nation needs do not allow for delay.

In reality, it could all be very easy. The communists should step aside and hand over power, calling free and democratic elections that promote a new National Assembly with constituent capacity and that will lead reforms. Decisions of this caliber can no longer wait, because the Cuban people can no longer bear it. The communists could try to save themselves, but with each passing minute, that horizon appears darker and more complex. It’s time to reset the button and restart. Cuba has already done it in the past and can do it again now.

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

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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

Diaz-Canel is Booed in Batabano and Cuban Television Calls the Visit a ‘Summit Moment’

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel in Batabanó, Mayabeque, in a photo broadcast on national television. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, September 30, 2022 — In a display of populism, Miguel Díaz-Canel toured the towns most affected by Hurricane Ian in the west of the island. Dressed in military garb, Televisión Nacional dispensed with his titles of president and first secretary of the Party, and introduced him as the Chief of the National Defense Council.

The photographers did the rest. Each snapshot aims to compare Díaz-Canel and Fidel Castro, which still excites elderly combatants and tries cast a little credibility on the figurehead hand-picked as president.

During his visit on Thursday to the municipality of Batabanó, in Mayabeque, one of those most affected by the floods, Díaz-Canel and his entourage had to continue on their way. “He is surrounded,” shouts a woman from the crowd that blocks the passage of the Civil Defense’s luxury vehicles, “and they don’t let the people speak.” “Walk so you can see,” they yell at him, calling the Ministry of the Interior agents who push people “brazen” and “snitches.”

“They mock the people” and then “they adorn him on the news,” concludes the same woman, who captures the moment with her phone, while the cars drive away from the center of Batabanó at full speed. continue reading

Hours later, the Noticiero Estelar [Stellar News] reported a “dialogue with the neighbors” of Batabanó, which meant a “summit moment.” “Díaz-Canel visited every corner where the population requested his presence to express their concerns,” said journalist Talía González.

In the images, protected by his bodyguard, he is seen hugging local officials, also in military dress, and greeting several families, who respond by repeating slogans and “long live the Revolution.” Díaz-Canel said he was very concerned about the “Batabanó issue” and about the people who lost their homes during the floods.

“We are making more progress,” he assured the residents, amid collapsed buildings, overflowing ditches and trees uprooted by the cyclone. “The things that are lacking here are also lacking in other parts of the country,” he snapped, “every day you have to chip away at the problems.”

“But here there are people here who have lost everything,” interrupted a woman, to which Díaz-Canel impassively responded with a litany of “uplifting” measures that the government had taken in the face of the hurricane. “We are guaranteeing the issue of mattresses,” he said with annoyance, “because the most important thing is for people to sleep on a mattress.”

According to Cubadebate, 85% of the damages in Mayabeque are concentrated in Batabanó, Melena del Sur and San Nicolás, due to flooding and crop damage. Díaz-Canel also toured the dilapidated Ernesto Guevara thermoelectric plant in Santa Cruz del Norte, which despite the promises of its technicians, is unable to provide enough energy to the National Electric System.

As the hours go by, it becomes more impossible for the government to keep the population satisfied and without protesting. Three days of electrical instability, failing  telephone and internet services, shortages, and the impossibility of preserving foods that require refrigeration, are already triggering demonstrations in various parts of the country.

Protests and barricades in the Havana municipalities of El Cerro, Arroyo Naranjo, San Miguel del Padrón, in addition to cacerolazos [beating on pots and pans] in the provinces, such as those in Holguín, have launched a new wave of social informality.

Some public figures have expressed, also on social media, their desperation and their demand for political change in the country. This was the case of actor Ulyk Anello, sanctioned by Cuban Television in July for granting an interview to an independent journalist and placing a white rose on his Facebook profile; he lashed out at Díaz-Canel during a livestream on Instagram.

“Resign already,” said the artist, “where are the millions that were donated to you to repair the thermoelectric plants?” “Just leave already,” insisted Anello, who bemoaned that his family’s food was spoiling after three days without electricity.

The government response has been, once again, the threat of repression. Throughout the day yesterday, several vehicles of the Special Troops and the Armed Forces, in addition to patrol cars, have driven through the streets of the capital to intimidate Cubans.

In the midst of an energy crisis, the Editorial Office of 14ymedio recorded how the Ministry of the Armed Forces building, in the municipality of Plaza de la Revolución, remained with all its lights on Thursday night. Such waste, in a building usually dark at this time, suggests not only a display of power by the military leadership, but also a sign that they are paying attention so as to repress any possible protest.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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

Cuba: Anxiety Over Food, Electricity and Emigrating Following Hurricane Ian

Dozens of large trees, uprooted by Hurricane Ian, remain strewn on the street in Havana on Wednesday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 28 September 2022 — In La Coloma (Pinar del Río), where Hurricane Ian reached its maximum strength on Tuesday as it passed over the Island, people just want to leave. “If my family comes out of this one, they won’t stay more than six months in Cuba,” bemoans a Miami-based Cuban woman whose parents and brother live in the Pinar del Río municipality.

The woman lost communication with them yesterday, but during their last phone call they told her that the roof of their house had torn off and the flood waters were knee high. The family has animals and crops. “I’ve spent years insisting they leave, but my father would say to me that he didn’t want to leave his little farm, but now everything is destroyed and it will be cheaper for me to pay their exit through Nicaragua than to rebuild their lives in La Coloma.”

They all fear that the day after the storm will arrive with greater scarcity and with it an increasing exodus, which has already reached unprecedented levels for Cuba.

On Wednesday Havana was a city operating at half steam. Most neighborhoods in the capital city awoke without electricity, the water supply shut down due to the lack of electricity and the winds from Ian seem to have given flight to inflation and increasing food prices.

“A bag of six rolls reached 250 pesos yesterday afternoon and 300 by night,” said one of the residents of Los Sitios, who said that today, “vendors have not passed and in the neighborhood they speculate that when they return, it will cost even more.” continue reading

During a trip through Centro Habana, La Habana Vieja and Nuevo Vedado, we witnessed dozens of giant trees uprooted by the powerful winds and strewn across the streets. “And the storm didn’t even pass through here,” remarked an old woman at the Parque Central.

Furthermore, several street lights had also fallen.

The anxiety over searching for missing food, even before the hurricane, had once again became a tonic in the streets of the capital, where several businesses tried to sell what was left at their doorsteps, before it spoiled due to the lack of electricity following the collapse of the National Electric System (SEN).

Pushcart salesmen here and there were some of the few options to purchase food.

The windows of Plaza de Carlos III were all shuttered, and not for the hurricane’s passing. On Monday, the eve of Ian, they were not covered but on Wednesday they were protected, in all likelihood to prevent thefts and destruction amid the widespread blackout.

On the corner of Campanario and Condesa, in Centro Habana, a car had been destroyed by the remains of the old building which once stood in that location, now an enormous parking lot. “Luckily it did not fall on anyone’s head,” said the resigned owner of the vehicle.

In Nuevo Vedado, residents of some of the buildings cleared their surroundings of fallen branches and shrubery, but one of them complained, “the large trees remain strewn there, because they need machinery and we have not seen the State appear anywhere.”

One of the urgent needs was charging telephones, a fundamental communication tool not only for their family and friends, but the world. Thus, it was interesting to see many people charging their mobile phones in hospital hallways, such as Calixto García or Hermanos Ameijeiras, as well as in hotel doorways.

Another worry among Havana residents today was water. Some buildings have pumps but they stopped working when SEN went down this afternoon. Although in many apartments people have water tanks, as the time goes on, these are depleted.

For higher floors it is crazy to try to carry water up the stairs, which in addition are wet and dirty, some for lack of windows for many years now.

Meanwhile, in that same area, the Ministry of Agriculture’s generator has been running for over 24 hours and its humming fills the area. “At least when we stop hearing it we’ll know the power is back on,” one resident said ironically.

On September 28th, the day officials traditionally celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), there’s been no time for revelry nor for slogans of triumph.

In Nuevo Vedado, an enthusiastic CDR member shouted to her neighbors for several long minutes from a 12 story building for them to collaborate in making the traditional stew.

“Let’s go, give some taro, some yucca, a yam for the stew! Or a bit of money to go buy at the market!” she shouted for a good while; a man with a booming voice joined her, “Let’s go to the CDR stew!” The lack of enthusiasm and the discomfort for lack of electricity weighed down the collaborations and finally the enthusiastic organizers canceled the initiative.

On Tuesday night, after the winds of Hurricane Ian died down, in Havana only the fires were alight. Ironically, in the largest Cuban city, one of the only illuminated areas was Turkey’s floating power plant anchored at the port, a power plant full of light in a city of darkness.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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

Cuba: In Deteriorating Health, Instructor Pedro Albert Sánchez is Transferred to a Hospital

Physics instructor Pedro Albert Sánchez during a broadcast on social media. (Facebook/Captura)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 September 2022–Physics instructor Pedro Albert Sánchez was transferred from Valle Grande prison to a hospital, after a week on a hunger strike, according to information provided to 14ymedio by opponent Manuel Cuesta Morúa. Although it is unknown to which hospital he was taken, another prisoner in that jail confirmed that the academic’s health had deteriorated greatly in the last few days.

Albert Sánchez has been imprisoned since November 3, 2021 and, last July, the Attorney General sought a five year prison term but his trial has not yet taken place. The instructor was arrested after announcing a march “for freedom of thought, of expression and peaceful demonstration.”

During the most recent family visit Sánchez received in prison, on September 13th, he refused to receive the food they took him. “I have no way of expressing the frustration and powerlessness I feel right now,” the instructor’s son, Pedro Antonio Albert who lives abroad, stated in a video he shared on Facebook at that time.

“My father’s situation is truly worrisome and I fear for his life,” wrote Pedro Antonio on social media, to accompany his statement. “A physics and mathematics instructor who has taught thousands of students in Havana and Pinar del Río,” that is how the young man described his father and added that the academic is suffering from cancer and ulcerative colitis. continue reading

“His only crime has been freely expressing what he thinks,” stated Pedro Antonio. “My dad is going to die, he has been on a hunger strike for two days. My brother and I are worried because we know that when our father makes a decision no one can intervene and make him change his mind.”

“I don’t want the worst to happen, but I know that it can,” said the young man. and on Tuesday the family’s greatest fears are becoming reality with Albert Sánchez’s transfer to the hospital due to his deteriorating physical condition.

The instructor, heir to a long tradition of marchers, among them emblematic personalities such as Andarín Carvajal, a Cuban athlete who participated in the marathon at the Saint Louis Olympics in 1904, sought to revive citizen freedom on the Island with his initiative of walking through part of Havana.

However, just the announcement of that walk in solidarity with the Civic March of November 15, 2021 was enough to arrest and later transfer him to Valle Grande prison.

“Let him go, because my father is not a criminal. He is a professional, with dignity, which is what you all lack,” the young man stated while addressing agents of the Cuban political police. “That man has more dignity than all of you.”

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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

Physics Instructor Pedro Albert Sanchez Begins Hunger Strike in Cuban Prison

“A physics and math instructor who taught thousands of students in Havana and Pinar del Río,” is how Pedro Antonio Albert describes his father. (Captura)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 September 2022 — Physics instructor Pedro Albert Sánchez, in prison since November 3rd, 2021, is on a hunger strike in Valle Grande prison. In July, the Attorney General sought a five-year prison sentence for the academic, who last year announced a march “for freedom of thought, of expression, and to peacefully demonstrate,” but his trial has not yet taken place.

Sánchez refused the food his family took him during their visit on September 13. “I have no way of expressing the frustration and powerlessness I feel right now,” stated Pedro Antonio Albert, the instructor’s son who lives abroad, in a video he posted on Facebook last Wednesday.

“My father’s situation is truly worrisome and I fear for his life,” wrote Pedro Antonio on social media, to accompany his statement. “A physics and mathematics instructor who taught thousands of students in Havana and Pinar del Río,” is how Pedro Antonio Albert describes his father; he added that the academic suffers from cancer and ulcerative colitis.

“His only crime has been freely expressing what he thinks,” stated Pedro Antonio. “My dad is going to die, he has been on a hunger strike for two days. My brother and I are worried because we know that when our father makes a decision no one can intervene and make him change his mind.”

“I don’t want the worst to happen, but I know that it can,” said the young man.

Heir to a long tradition of marchers, among them emblematic personalities such as Andarín Carvajal, a Cuban athlete who participated in the marathon at the Saint Louis Olympics in 1904, the instructor sought, through his steps, to revive citizen freedom on the Island.

On that November day, despite the threats he had received, he revived his initiative, “The motives are the same as those of previous marches, but more intense, given that the situation in the country is the same, albeit more dangerous.” continue reading

Sánchez refuses to speak with anyone to avoid reprisals against his family, warns his son. “He doesn’t want that State Security agent, the one who calls himself Abel, to visit my brother.”  The young man bemoans that his father has been “locked up without charges, without a trial. He tried hard to use the established pathways to say what he wanted to express and no one wanted to listen.”

“Let him go, because my father is not a delinquent. He is a professional, with dignity, which is what you all lack,” the young man stated while addressing agents of the Cuban political police. “That man has more dignity than all of you.”

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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

Cuba: Ballot Boxes in Captivity

Official promotional poster for Cuba’s new Family Code. (Invasor)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 14 September 2022 — No one will be surprised if on September 25th the regime’s referendum on the Family Code is rejected. In addition to machismo, which persists in Cuban society, the growth of evangelical religions or even reasonable doubts about the implementation of certain areas of the project, the “No” vote will also be a vote of punishment.

The outcome of that referendum cannot be analyzed using the same standards that are applied in countries where these topics have been the subject of debate. In the first place, because Cuba is not a democracy. The Parliament is not group where different views in the country seek counterweight, consensus and balance, but rather, a group of pets belonging to power and accustomed to following orders, wagging their tails, and clapping like seals. Submitting the rights of minorities to a vote has been a strategy of the Communist Party with a less-than-noble purpose.

Anyone who knows a bit about recent Cuban history knows that those in power have never been allies of the LGBT community nor defenders of the family, but the contrary. I am not speaking only of the [prison camps known as] UMAP (Military Units to Aid Production) and the parametrados* those who were ‘parameterized‘*, but rather recent events during which activists have not only been discriminated against, but have also suffered repression with distinctly homophobic characteristics. continue reading

I’m not only talking about the nefarious declarations of Fidel Castro where he called homosexuals “sick little boys,” but rather the permanence of profoundly machista discourse. One only needs to hear the terrible poem one delegate read at the Assembly exalting the virility of the commandante, at the time the Family Code was being debated.

Today our Island is more broken than ever. The dictatorship has had very dark moments throughout its more than six decades but this is the worst. The scarcity, the inflation, the blackouts, the endless lines, on top of the brutal and sustained persecution of any dissent. There have never been as many protests as there are now, nor the constant threat of another large-scale, social uprising. ##Cuba is suffering the largest exodus in our history, which is emptying the country at an intimidating pace. Never before had the regime received such a massive and explicit rejection. The current nomenklatura is, without a doubt, the most inefficient and unpopular since 1959. And there is no remedy for that, because the political gameboard is designed so that only the mediocre ascend, dismissing anyone who shows a bit of their own light.

Worst of all is that if the No vote wins, the authorities will not care. They will say they did what they could, that it was not up to them. They will accuse the opposition of being backward, right-wing extremist, fascist, ultraconservative. And rights will once again be postponed. If the Yes vote wins, the regime will tout the response as meaning total support for the Revolution and the Party. But in the end, they will do very little, in practice, to benefit the people who really need it, because neither the social base nor an efficient structure exist to enforce those rights.

It is true that there is a lot of superficial propaganda on social media, but I completely understand the fears of some about the very delicate issue of child custody. It is also true that in democratic countries there are similar regulations, but let’s not forget that in Cuba there is one Party that is above the Constitution and the laws. They interpret everything, always in their favor, and they have never needed the law to crush whomever they want. With the Code or without it, any Cuban who becomes the target of destruction will be completely defenseless when facing the henchmen in power.

I have always declared my support and solidarity with the LGBT community. I defend their right to have rights to the end, but I respect the decision each person will take on September 25th. Whatever happens, the struggle to conquer as much dignity as possible and to eradicate all kinds of discrimination should continue with greater force.

The debate surrounding the Code had generated so much controversy that very few have noticed that the dictatorship will return to the ballot box in November. Last year they had announced that, due to the pandemic, the delegates’ terms would be extended. The date is very symbolic, November 27th. But that will be the topic for another article.

*Translator’s note: *Parametrados / parametracion: From the word “parameters.” Parametracion (parameterization) is a process of establishing parameters and declaring anyone who falls outside them (the parametrados) to be what is commonly translated as “misfits” or “marginalized.” This is a process much harsher than implied by these terms in English. The process is akin to the McCarthy witch hunts and black lists and is used, for example, to purge the ranks of teachers, and even to imprison people.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez 

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

One of Those Arrested for the Protests in Nuevitas, Cuba is Accused of Sabotage

Neither his family nor his attorney have been in communication with Jimmy Johnson Agosto since his arrest on September 6. (Justicia 11J)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 September 2022 — With an anonymous phone call, and the possession of pellets and a slingshot as evidence, Jimmy Johnson Agosto, who was arrested last week in Nuevitas, Camagüey for participating in last month’s protests, is accused of sabotage, a crime which is considered aggravated for being against national security.

The 26-year-old’s family confirmed that State Security charged Agosto with this crime for allegedly throwing rocks at a generator there, using [as evidence] pellets that were seized during a search of his home.

“They say what they used on the generator were grinding balls (cement pellets), and rocks like those they found in Jimmy’s house; but there in Nuevitas everyone has that. Even I had them,” the young man’s mother, Isabel Cristina Agosto Grimal, told CiberCuba.

Johnson Agosto was arrested on September 6th when he was returning from an electroencephalogram (EEG) following an episode of epilepsy. At the time, Justicia 11J stated that the arrest happened following an anonymous phone call, which accused him of damaging a store window during the protests in Nuevitas at the end of August.

Hours later, instead of charging him with destruction of property, they charged him with sabotage and put him in pretrial detention as a precautionary measure. continue reading

In a public statement on social media, journalist Annarella O’Mahony stated that the young man’s arrest might be the regime retaliating against her as he is her cousin. “It was a matter of time, and the rope snapped on you, a forgotten kid from the neighborhood, a boy with a huge heart. I have not been able to write you a single line, my good child, but you may live convinced that I am moving heaven and earth for you,” she wrote in a note shared on September 8th.

His family stated that they still have not been able to communicate with him directly since he was arrested and taken to the police station in Nuevitas; he was later transferred to the State Security prison in Camagüey, where he was interrogated for three days without access to an attorney, without changing his clothes, and without the medication he needs to control his epilepsy.

O’Mahony denounced that the Constitution of the Republic had been violated by denying the young detainee due process, “as they usually do with all citizens and political prisoners.”

On Thursday, Prisoners Defenders (PD) reported that in Cuba there are 1,016 political prisoners, 43 arrested in September alone and 904 for protesting on July 11th, 2021.

After the protests in Nuevitas, the largest since July 11, 2021 (11J), there have been hundreds of arrests, including adults and minors “savagely” beaten by security forces, alerted the organization

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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

Officials Brag That the Price of Electricity, Ever More Scarce, Does Not Increase in Cuba

Units 6 and 7 of the thermoelectric plant in Mariel, units 4 and 6 in Nuevitas; unit 2 in Felton, unit 4 in Renté, and the one in Otto Parellada are still out of service. (Radio Reloj)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 September 2022 — On Sunday, 83% of homes in Cuba were affected by power outages, which lasted about seven hours on average, according to the reports from Cuba’s Electric Union, which were shared on national television on Monday and a very similar situation is expected today.

According to data published by UNE on its Facebook page — where comments on certain posts are limited — power generations issues were experienced yesterday, with a deficit of 764 MW at night and 850 during the day; tonight a 751 MW deficit is expected and 821 during peak times. That is, if the situation does not deteriorate, because units 6 and 7 of the thermoelectric plant in Mariel, units 4 and 6 in Nuevitas; unit 2 in Felton, unit 4 in Renté, and the one in Otto Parellada are still out of service.

In this context, the state-run press has published an opinion piece by Lázaro Oramas, a member of Cubainformación who lives in Spain, titled Cuba: Electricity Crisis? Or the Effects of War? during which he states, among other things, that despite inflation, “in Cuba electricity prices have not increased” and he compares this to the situation in Puerto Rico, where “with privatized electricity, there are also constant blackouts” and the costs have increased by 60%.

“If in Cuba groups of people protest, desperately, against the power outages, it shows that people ’are in disaggrement with the regime’ and they go ‘to the streets to demand freedom’. However if, in Puerto Rico, the police shoots tear gas at point-blank range at those who protest against the blackouts, or if they hit journalists, why don’t we read the same terms, such as ‘regime’, ‘repression’, or ‘freedom’?” writes Oramas. continue reading

The Puerto Rican electric grid was turned over to a private company in 2020. The system’s instability was evident since 2017 when Hurricane María caused significant damages. Furthermore, the debt had grown at a dizzying speed, which is why the state negotiated with a company to manage and modernize the infrastructure. In April of 2022, a major failure, the cause of which is still undetermined, left half the country without power. The discontent generated by the price increases clashed with the power outage and resulted in the protests which, finally, forced a breach in the contract between the government and Luma Energy.

The situation is far from what happens on the Island, where the power outages and scheduled blackouts are ongoing and are a headache for millions of Cubans each summer, although in 2022 they have become unbearable. The cause, according to Oramas is obvious, “and objective: the technological precariousness of the power plants in a country without hard currency and under a U.S. blockade.”

Several Cuban economists have stated that the investment needed in the thermoelectric plants or in renewable energy would be possible if they would halt hotel development, especially at a time when tourism is declining. But the authorities continue to solely blame the foreigners.

At the end of August, Miguel Díaz-Canel, during a visit to the Fenton power plant where he showed up backed by Raúl Castro, stated that authorities would do whatever was necessary to repair the thermoelectric plant. “It’s easy, taking money planned for hotels, which have occupancy rates of less than 50%, might be a good idea,” stated economist Elías Amor at the time.

That day, the ruler stated that by December, the blackouts would come to an end, but less than 24 hours later, the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant in Matanzas, the country’s largest, was out of service. After several very difficult days, during which the power generation deficit was greater than 50%, they managed to stabilize some of the units at different plants throughout the country, which led authorities to be optimistic.

A few days ago, the daily Escambray solicited the opinions of its readers on whether the power outages should be reduced since an improvement was in sight, but things have deteriorated again.

“In Colombia, an oil-producing country with large foreign investments, there are a half million homes without electricity,” Oramas article continues. “In contrast, Cuba’s electrification, according to World Bank data, is close to 100%. Have you read that?” he says. What he does not state is that it rarely functions.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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

Cubalex Condemns the Wave of Threats, Coercion, and Psychological Torture Against Independent Journalists in Cuba

Cubalex, 9 September 2022 — We at Cubalex condemn and view with concern the threats and coercions against young journalists who work for independent media outlets in Cuba. We remind the Cuban state that it should abstain from any act which constitutes torture and mistreatment through is institutions and agents, which are absolutely prohibited in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, [and] the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The public resignations are not spontaneous. They all contain expressions such as, “Under pressure and blackmail we find ourselves forced to cease our project,” “I am leaving because they are forcing me,” “I will not be allowed to leave the country until certain conditions demanded by State Security are met.” The fragments above demonstrate pressure by State Security agents for them to stop exercising their profession as independent journalists, an act of censorship and a violation of freedoms of expression, opinion and press.

Thus, the Cuban authorities are committing the crimes of abuse of power and torture described in the Criminal Code, when they provoke mental suffering, intimidate, and coerce journalists in order to obtain a confession, information, a resignation from their workplace, and punish them for exercising their profession; this is contrary to the principle of nondiscrimination. It is worth noting that torture is typified as a crime in the Criminal Code which was approved on September 1, 2022 by the National Assembly of the People’s Power, but which has not yet gone into effect.

Some of these journalists have alleged that they resigned not only for their own mental health and that of their family, but also because they do not want to compromise their right to freedom of movement, especially the right to leave the country.

“I’m leaving because they are obligating me. They are forcing me to leave El Toque and not work for another alternative outlet, and therefore, stow my degree under a mattress. Faced with that greater force, which right now is putting in check my right to leave the country and my wellbeing, I prefer to put my freedom and my personal and family dreams first.”

“I’m leaving because, selfishly and cowardly, I prioritize my mental health and the wellbeing of my family. I’m leaving so I will have the right to freedom of movement. I’m leaving because I do not want to see my grandmother’s high blood pressure through the roof again, nor my father’s tears, nor my mother’s depression. I’m leaving because I am putting my future and my dreams of a better and more free life first,” wrote two of the journalists.

The state violates the right to freedom of movement described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in the Cuban constitution, specifically, the right to leave the country.

It is a systematic and generalized practice for state agents to use investigation processes described in the Law of Criminal Procedures, such as citations and interrogations, and to repress, threaten, and torture these people. That is, they take advantage of discretion implicit in the norms to apply them arbitrarily.

Threats are another crime in the criminal law which applies to authorities who force citizens to limit themselves from carrying out activities that are not prohibited by law and which are recognized as constitutional rights such as: the right to work, freedom of the press and speech, the right to human dignity, and free development of one’s personality.

The principle of the law has been violated and those responsible enjoy impunity because the state does not carry out its international obligation to investigate, judge, and apply sanction that would guarantee these human rights violations are not repeated. A misapplication of the criminal law by the state is also evident, when its agents threaten journalists with applying the new Criminal Code, which is not even in effect yet.

When a journalist is prevented from working, not only is freedom of the press being violated, but also all of society’s right to information.

This entry, Cubalex Condemns the Wave of Threats, Coercion, and Psychological Torture Against Independent Journalists in Cuba, first appeared in Spanish on the Cubalex website.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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Senora Bejarano and the Internal Control of Socialist State-Run Businesses in Cuba

Gladys Bejerano Portela, Comptroller General of the Republic of Cuba (Cuba Headlines)

14ymedio biggerElías Amor Bravo, Economist, September 8, 2022–Cuban state-run businesses go from one mess to another. They spend more time receiving orders, executing them and subjected to controls than efficiently producing and generating wealth, which is what they should be dedicating themselves to. And now, as if the demands of the regime were not enough for them to be the core of the economic system, the ineffable Señora Bejarano* arrives with her famous National Internal Control Audit. At the worst possible time.

Not for nothing, but this year they have spared no costs and have selected 305 entities from the business system across all provinces (around 30% of businesses) and they announce the participation of more than 2,000 auditors of which almost a thousand will be university students from related fields and experts. They’re doomed. Will there be enough time to work, produce and manage? Then they ask themselves why Cuban state-run businesses cannot meet their goals.

Comptroller Bejarano returns to her old ways positioning herself at the head of a national-level operation, from September 19th through October 31st. During that time, this woman will return as the all-powerful within the regime and the party, directly responsible for the execution of the XIV National Internal Control Audit, conducting compliance audits among a sample of selected organizations.

On the margins of relevance to quantitative estimates which were announced with great fanfare, or of the relative importance the regime assigns to the practice of research and checks on state-run business, carried out by the Comptroller, it is evident that to know what happens with businesses and obtain information on their financial status and compliance with norms, audits are an instrument widely used in all countries.

In fact, they are carried out by external professionals who, working independently or in groups or partnerships, provide services for which they are paid. In any case, audits require independence of the auditor with regard to the business being evaluated which provide all the information requested and which, upon analysis, results in a professional assessment that is based on whatever was analyzed (the accounts, management, procedures, etc.).

Many of us fear that what Bejarano announced in Cuba now, in its XIV edition, has little or nothing to do with international business audit practices. The so-called National Audit appeared at a time of many changes to the Cuban economy, many of these are still in progress, and really little remains today of that initial push, except for checking the box. continue reading

What, at the time, was announced as a grand operation to discover pockets of inefficiency and poor management which could be corrected through appropriate measures, amid the pandemic, turned into boring, cumbersome, ungratifying practices of relatively low level compared to expectations.

If anything was unnecessary in this whole process, it is the epic and emphatic language of the state press, when the State newspaper Granma stated that “the auditors and all members of the National Audit System, when facing the challenges as a team, have resolved to contribute to perfecting socialist state businesses, which is much needed for the country’s development.

Well, can anyone cite a result, just one, of the last 13 audits which served to improve the functioning of the socialist state-run businesses in any way? It’s that, in addition, over time, many of the regime’s businesses have become insolvent after the Tarea Ordenamiento [Ordering Task*], and what is worse, they remain, without any hope for improvement.

They announced that “the objective of the audits will be to evaluate the application and impact of the measures adopted by the government, with the goal of contributing to strengthening the socialist state-run business; including management of those that produce goods and services for export, as well as to replace imports and general indications to verify the allocation of liquidity and use of fuel.” Hopefully they will succeed.

I recommend they focus on the Ordering Task and start from there. The rest has resulted because since then, state-run businesses have been struggling to get by and that is where most of their problems lie. Their structural weakness, inability to profitably produce, to replace imports or to export stems from an obsolete and failed economic model that the communist rulers insist on maintaining when it has no future whatsoever. But of course, let’s see how the Comptroller can raise her voice under these conditions and, above all, whether it would make sense for Señora Bejarano to lose her relevance in a confrontation with her regime/party colleagues.

These considerations make the National Internal Control Audit an absurd practice, a waste of time, money and effort among many others which, each year, the regime conducts; waste and more waste which throw the accounts off balance and prevent efficient management. And, in addition, this year’s version arrives at an especially complex moment, with increasing inflation, lack of electricity and financial difficulties.

Señora Bejarano has once again included university students in the “selfless work of auditors and supervisors” as stated in Granma. In principle, as a practicum, it is not bad; if students could later establish themselves as independent audit professionals offering their services to all kinds of businesses. Many of us fear that the catalogue of government-sanctioned self-employment occupations does not include this type of professional; on the other hand, what they learn during the National Audit from Señora Bejarano is of little use to conduct the same task in Spain or the Dominican Republic, where business audit practices follow a completely different path.

It is a shame because it could be a magnificent option for a career path which extends beyond the Island’s borders. A process which results in a useless lie, a mere form which must be completed, even as Señora Bejarano describes the National Internal Control Audit as a “preventive and educational” task, she lies and she knows it. This has ended badly for more than one business leader, although they always find a way out. In any case, complex times are ahead; these will be difficult for socialist state-run businesses and working on the audit is just more communist nonsense. Perhaps they should have left it for another time.

Translator’s note: For an assessment of Señora Bejarano when she was first appointed ten years ago, see here.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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

Cuba: Fidel Castro’s Tantrum with Gorbachev

During Gorbachev’s trip to Cuba in 1989, he and Castro could not hide, despite high levels of diplomacy, the abyss that separated their ideas. (EP)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Frank Calzón, Miami, 3 September 2022 — Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader who wanted to salvage communism with his reforms and openings known as glasnost and perestroika, could not convince Fidel of the pragmatism of these reforms during his visit to Cuba in 1989. Fidel did not like the interest generated by the Russian — younger than he — among Havanans, nor did he like his ideas of renewal.

Now, the state-run press in Cuba has limited itself to succinctly informing about his death, which has been the subject of hundreds of articles and commentaries in the most important press outlets around the world.

In an article this week in the Washington Post, Nathan Sharansky, a human rights activist and former political prisoner in the USSR, wrote that Gorbachev, “expressed regret that the U.S.S.R. had fallen apart, but also emphasized his personal achievements, including the promotion of political and religious freedom, the introduction of democracy and a market economy, and, of course, the end of the Cold War.”

In his book titled Perestroika, published in 1987, Gorbachev — who would become the leader of the Soviet Union the following year — wrote that “the world is not what it used to be, and its new problems cannot be solved by the inherited concepts of centuries past.” Gorbechev did not want continuity. continue reading

Those ideas and his willingness to cooperate with the United States were anathema to Fidel Castro, who always wanted to be the leader of a grand anti-American coalition. The immediate result was that Havana banned the distribution of Russian publications, such as Sputnik and Novedades de Moscú [News from Moscow], and began to repatriate the Cubans who lived in Russia to avoid contagion with the dangerous reformist virus.

Among those who were later disgraced for favoring the reforms were General Arnaldo Ochoa, a national hero decorated by Fidel Castro himself and later executed on the dictator’s orders following a sham trial for drug trafficking.

Regarding Ochoa’s case, the Los Angeles Times stated at the time that “it is possible that Arnaldo Ochoa will be spared from a firing squad by his old friend and leader Fidel Castro, but . . . Castro has decided that his Island’s future lies in . . . Stalinist Communism including purges and show trials for those unfortunate apparatchiks who stray from the party line.”

After the Soviet Union disappeared, Irina Zorina, an intellectual, and a group of Russian dissidents founded the Russian Committee for Human Rights in Cuba and the Russian Embassy in Geneva responded to a call from Carlos Franqui and Freedom House, sponsoring a session to hear the grievances of former Cuban political prisoners who were visiting the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in the Swiss city.

The session was also attended by diplomats, journalists and representatives of human rights organizations. Cuba’s State newspaper Granma ran an editorial commentary illustrated with rats, vodka bottles and American flags, alleging they wanted to convert the Russian diplomatic mission into a tavern.

Sharansky’s Washington Post article comments that during Gorbachev’s, “first trips to the West. . .Gorbachev discovered that the Soviet Union had paid a heavy diplomatic and economic price for its treatment of dissidents. As a result. . .he began to release political prisoners and long-time refuseniks (Jews fighting for their right to emigrate to Israel.) ”

Shanasky also wrote in his book, The Case for Democracy, that “three things are necessary for people to achieve freedom: people on the inside willing to suffer to achieve it; people on the outside to help them; and for democracies to condition their political, economic, and cultural relationships on the regime’s implementation of specific reforms, beginning with the release of political prisoners.”

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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

Cuban President Diaz-Canel and the Blackouts: Enemies On All Sides

Cubans are frequently reduced to using candles as their only source of light. (Yoani Sanchéz)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 29 August 2022 — It is one thing to say that Cuba will overcome the current energy crisis; what Díaz-Canel did is quite another matter, he insulted the Cuban people who are fed up with so many lies, and with waiting for “The New Man” who will never arrive. Even Silvio Rodríguez spoke up.

During his trip to two power plants — the Máximo Gómez plant in Mariel and the Ernesto Guevara plant in Serna, Santa Cruz del Norte — the communist ruler provided details of the strategy to overcome the national electricity system’s situation which has resulted in continuous blackouts over several months. But also, according to some, he’s freaking out. What is happening to Díaz-Canel?

Who would have predicted it? Once again the embargo or blockade appears as the justification for all the maladies that accumulate on Díaz-Canel’s agenda. That is,  Cuba’s communist ruler, after acknowledging that the energy crisis has nothing to do “with enemy activity, nor with any bad behavior of the thermo-electric plant employees” he launched harsh attacks against the United States, faulting the blockade [i.e. the US embargo] for “the systematic effects it has provoked, which left the country without possible financing to carry out the maintenance work, repairs and the new investments needed in that sector.” Up until this point, nothing new.

Once again, taking the Doberman out for a walk. Maybe one of the state newspaper Granma’s journalists should have reminded Díaz-Canel of the Soviet-communist origins of the power plants that are still in operation, with several issues of obsolescence. No. Putin, Díaz-Canel’s principle associate, certainly would not like to receive this type of critique of his technology. continue reading

Without taking responsibility for a single one of the events, Díaz-Canel found a new argument, blaming some “presumed enemies of the revolution” for the whole situation, which is being taken advantage of to “create discouragement, uncertainty, to call for vandalism, to promote disorder. Sadly there are people who, with vandalism, indecent behaviors, lend themselves to these activities.” Inconceivable. What is the communist ruler acknowledging publicly?

Not content, he added that this type of behavior should be separated from “the doubt that the population may have at a certain point, of its demands or of the concerns that are channeled through the [communist] party’s system of services, the government, and the revolution’s institutions.” In fact, he did not realize, or he does not want to realize that it is the same, and he is running out of credit. On this, even Silvio Rodríguez agrees with this blog, which is not usually the case.

In addition, Díaz-Canel should understand that when faced with the dissatisfaction that exists, no party line will suffice, it’s simple, get the electricity to work. Problems are not fixed by covering them up, but rather by resolving them.

When Díaz-Canel wastes Cubans’ time by talking about “the hypocritical, double standard, genocidal, inhumane policies to which they subject the country through unjust sanctions and an intensified blockade” he only wastes energy on an argument which not even he still believes. And all he has to do is resolve, as quickly as possible, a problem which cannot last days, nor weeks, nor months because it could all blow up. When he least expects it.

To simplify Cuba’s communist leader’s statement during his trip to the two power plants in Mariel and Santa Cruz del Norte, “today we have a process of accumulated technological deterioration which cannot be resolved in short order.” And how did we arrive at this situation?

The whole situation corresponds to the communist state-run media’s new propaganda campaign which insists, once again, to a people tired of so many promises and lies, that ” Cuba will overcome the current energy crisis created by the effects over several years of the United States blockade.” Then it remains calm because, with that, it intends to buy time and return to the essence of the revolution, which they have not moved away from in 63 years. Meanwhile, Cubans are fleeing the island in one of the largest exoduses of the last 20 years.  [Translator’s note: In fact, ’largest ever’.]

Díaz-Canel observed during his trip to the power plants “intense work, under very difficult conditions, over many hours and with enourmous determination on the part of the power plant employees to recover the power generation capacity as soon as possible and of course, provide more stability, and get us away from these very complex and unpleasant situations which affect our entire population.”

None of that can be criticized, far from it, but did he really expect anything else to happen? Díaz-Canel knows and the plant employees also know that this energy crisis will not be resolved overnight and that its effects will continue, unless a 180 degree turn changes everything.

Díaz-Canel recalled his television appearance in June, during which he said there would be a strategy to eliminate the blackouts by summer, and which Granma described as “a well conceived design.” However, it is evident they must have been talking of another country because this summer, which is not yet over, has been one of alumbrones* more than blackouts and the entire country has been affected by the lack of electricity.

Clearly, it is due to the “accident in the Felton 2 boiler, when the bearing at Felton 1 broke and due to the instability with which CTE Antonio Guiteras, in Matanzas, functions and we have not been able to maintain it to the degree necessary.” Events which they try to present as accidental but which have a peculiar background which should, in any case, be the subject of further investigation.

Somehow, it seems Díaz Canel is crying out for that investigation commission to establish where the responsibility lies when he declared that “for the country’s electrical energy system to function in a stable manner, it is necessary for the hard core where it is generated, which are the Felton and Guiteras plants, to be functioning at full capacity.” If this is known, then what game is he playing?

None. Selling smoke which will dissipate just like the Matanzas fire. Trying to convince Cubans fed up with the situation, that the umpteenth update to the strategy aimed at getting away from the blackouts in the shortest time possible “before the end of the year,” to develop, in 2023, an investment and maintenance group that will stabilize the system and change the energy matrix. And Cubans look at each other knowing that this blah blah blah is more of the same and the way things are going, the problems will continue.

They will continue because the electricity crisis is not resolved with strategies, but with actions. With money, which instead of being dedicated to the hotel industry, should be directed at the capital development of the economy in proportion to the GDP. If this basic infrastructure development indicator, which in Cuba barely reaches 15% compared with 25% in Latin America, there is nothing to do. It is an issue of money and profitability that cannot be repaired with a patch of a few replacement parts. Electricity is either managed profitably or it goes under. Like the rest of the sectors of the Cuban economy.

Financing, once inaccessible, now seems to come mostly to recover unforeseen thermal and distributed generating capacity; in a group of new technologies for generation. The same question then arises, why wasn’t that financing available earlier, and most importantly, from where does it come? Beware of indebtedness, these aren’t the best times for risk-taking ventures.

Díaz Canel neither takes responsibilities for this electricity disaster, nor those of his predecessors, the Castro brothers, who really did very little in all of this. One of communism’s great failures in Cuba has been forecasting, and therefore, the current situation of instability of and decline in electricity supply has not been an isolated event, but rather has been a long time coming. What happens is that when these unforeseen events arise, there is no other option but to see that the social communist system of organization does not have the capacity to confront them.

The response is to continuously follow up on the maintenance and repairs, “to prove how the capacities are being incorporated, how the rest of the system behaves, and which electricity generation results have been achieved.” That is, more of the same as always: bureaucracy and hierarchy, hopefully it will not occur to them to create an OSDE [Organization of Direct Business Services} for all of this. That would be the limit.

What was said does not have a response and now the attacks come from all directions. It’s bad.

*Translator’s note: “Alumbrones” is a word coined in Cuba in the 1990s during the so-called Special Period, to refer to the unexpected moments when the lights came ON, versus the long periods without electricity.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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

Cuba’s Enemy is in the Plaza of the Revolution

Raúl Castro placed his son Alejandro (on his left in front of his grandson Raúl Guillermo) in what he called the Commission for Defense and National Security. (Cubanet)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 31 August 2022 — If we take into consideration that the security of any country is based on the notion of stability, peace, development, as well as in the strategies to achieve these objectives, there is no doubt that the authoritarian powers on the Island constitute the main threat to National Security.

This concept emerged in the United States shortly after the end of World War II. In the context of the Cold War and facing the threat of nuclear weapons, the term focused on prevention, on the capacity to predict danger and strategies to mitigate its effect. Over time and as globalization erodes borders, the term has acquired other connotations.

Today, a state’s National Security does not only depend on external threats. Included in that concept are common delinquency, mafias, environmental risks, pandemics, catastrophes or uncontrolled migration.

In Cuba, Raúl Castro positioned his only son within something called the Commission for Defense and National Security. As usual, none of the delegates asked uncomfortable questions and no one questioned whether placing Alejandro Castro Espín in that area on a whim was in response to a true national interest or only had to do with having a colonel with the last name Castro mindfully watching over (with his only eye) the monarch’s sacred Family Security. continue reading

It is extremely difficult to define the Cuban system. It is not communist because communism does not exist, pure fiction, something which has never been nailed down anywhere on the planet. Socialism, on the other hand has so many definitions, it would be vague or imprecise to describe Cuba as a socialist state, especially when taking into consideration that on the Caribbean island, laborers are not a force with any political weight, nor do they have the opportunity to propel change in any way.

This small portion of the world has been a territory controlled since 1959 by a clan of individuals who have monopolized decisions, development strategies, and the notion of national security. Since then, Cuba has remained under the yoke of a gang which has used the ideologies of the day at whim to justify its empowerment. This caste has already failed precipitously in the country’s economic development, the conquest and guarantee of individual and collective rights, in achieving the wellbeing of the population and even in the state’s own survival.

The situation becomes more complex when the chiefdom, self-legitimized as a result of historical events, biologically disappears, in addition to the elimination of its contrarians or the best press any generation has had. But they’ve been replaced by a gang of legendless bureaucrats. The replacements (tombs in guayaberas) do not appear in the history books read by schoolchildren,  nor have they worked a day in their lives, and no dove ever posed on their shoulder. The forced replacements did not inherit the charisma of their models, they cannot count on popular support, they don’t even have the benefit of the doubt.

The current situation in Cuba is the worst it’s been in decades because, beyond the inflation, lack of bread, or the 18-hour blackouts, people are no longer willing to keep silent. We are the country in Latin America with the most political prisoners, we are at the bottom of most development list, and we compete with the worst countries in rankings of human rights violations.

However, the gang that has recently moved to Siboney refuses to accept democratic solutions. They continue to blame a “blockade” which collapses every time a Cuban buys chicken “made in the USA” in a freely convertible currency (MLC) store. They insist on the threat of foreign military intervention, which even the most recalcitrant opponents in Miami completely discard. They repeat like parrots that all demonstrations of discontent are paid for by the CIA, which must be bankrupt with so many accounts to settle. Officials of team Diaz-Canel beg ordinary residents for sacrifice, babble slogans that seem like tongue twisters, demand “creative” resistance. They appeal to the people to endure face slaps from police, beatings of 11-year-old girls, and all this for a bright future in which no one believes.

Silvia Rodríguez had a point when he predicted that the people will end up confronting the government. It has done so with flowers, songs. . . or stones. Tomorrow could be worse. The main threat to national secuirty is the system itself.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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