The Change in Cuba Has No Turning Back

Cuban musician Pavel Urkiza. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yaiza Santos, Madrid, July 31, 2021 — The singer, composer and music producer Pavel Urkiza was born in Kiev (Ukraine), but right away, when he was three months old, he was taken to Havana where he grew up. His parents, both engineers, were part of the first Cuban student brigade in the Soviet Union. You glimpse the pain when he says that he met his mother when he was five years old: his mother’s family took over caring for the child and sent the woman back to the USSR, to “fulfill the mission of the Revolution.” Urkiza, over time, learned to forgive her: “She melted down, she had a mental disorder.”

This conversation reached his familial twists and turns unintentionally, because what 14ymedio wanted to talk about with Urkiza – a complete musician, founder of Gema and Pavel, the cult duo that put to music the harsh early 90s in Cuba with its opposites of the New Trova and the slogans – was his latest song release, Todo Por Ti (Everything for You), which he sings along with Daymé Arocena and which extols the historic July 11 demonstrations.

Yaiza Santos:  Did you have any of “Todo Por Ti” composed before July 11, or did it come to you at that moment?

Pavel Urkiza: I composed it the following day. I had already done two things in November: the first, “A Drop of Truth,” in homage to the San Isidro Movement and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara; and the second, “The National Whistle,” as a result of the call they sent out to whistle every day at nine at night. This was inspired by a film of Fernando Pérez titled “Life is to Whistle” (1998), in which, curiously, a character decrees the happiness of all Cubans for 2020. And that is very strong, because things really did begin to move a little more in 2020, with people like Luis Manuel Otero and Maykel Osorbo, people for whom, as Carlos Manuel Álvarez says, the Revolution was made and whom the Revolution abandoned, relegated, and marginalized.

On July 12 I spoke with Eliécer Jiménez-Almeida, a tremendously talented brother, and we said “we have to do something.” I composed the song and decided to write to Daymé Arocena, who lives in Toronto now, and she answered me almost crying, very emotional. Her husband, Pablo Dewin, also a visual artist, filmed Daymé, and Eliécer did the editing. He had the idea of doing it in a square format, so that it would be easier to watch on cell phones. The mixing and mastering of the song was done by my Madrid brother Javier Monteverde in the studio where I worked when I lived in Spain. And that’s how the theme arose. On July 21st at 7 in the morning it was already launched on the social networks.

Yaiza Santos:  And it was immediately answered by Abel Prieto . . .

Pavel Urkiza: More than that, he posted it on Casa de las Américas. That’s strong! That means it hurt. He begins like this [reads]: “Yesterday the song Todo Por Ti by Pavel Urquiza and Daymé Arocena was released on YouTube. Insignificant as a work of art, they want it to work as political propaganda. They used images of ’the people’ for the video clip when they attack a patrol car and policemen who, most of the time, retreat from aggressions by the people.” The guy is lost, he is ridiculous. I read it and continue reading

decided to reply to him on Facebook as well.
Yaiza Santos: If something exposes these reactions in the regime, it’s because the music has made them very nervous …

Pavel Urkiza: From Patria y Vida [Homeland and Life]. That was the first and it is an indisputable theme. It simply changed the motto, and showed that “homeland or death” has become obsolete and forgotten . . . Later many things have come out, but they seem to me rude, very aggressive — “Díaz-Canel singao” [motherfucker] and such. And the message that I want is another, more sophisticated one, you understand? In addition, Daymé Arocena right now is one of the Cuban artists with the most reach — young, with light, but she also comes from that place that Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel Osorbo come from, persons of the people who will no longer give more. That’s also why it hurt them, because this song is on another level.

If you read Abel Prieto’s reasoning, everything is with questions. In my answer I say to him: “I find it curious that you — I am treating you as ’usted’ [using the formal ’you’ in Spanish] — question the song with questions. Do you doubt its arguments?” Yotuel Romero has been called “hustler” and “mercenary,” but Abel Prieto knows that he can’t say “mercenary” or “hustler” to me, because I know very well how the leaders in Cuba live. So I tell him: “I know that you go to Cimeq [the Surgical Medical Research Center], to the 43 clinic [the Kohly Clinic, only for high-ranking State officials] . . . I’ll tell you about things I know, because I come from a powerful family in Cuba, my mother’s family.”

My uncle replaced Che Guevara when he stepped down as Minister of Industry, my other uncle was head of Fidel Castro’s bodyguard at the beginning of the Revolution, my aunt was a colonel in the Ministry of the Interior . . . People I have nothing in common with and they stayed at my house in Cuba, anyway . . . Abel Prieto knew my grandmother well, the actress Raquel Revuelta, who became Vice Minister of Culture.

Yaiza Santos: Music is such an important factor in the change in Cuba, and nobody saw it coming.

Pavel Urkiza: As I said in my message to Abel Prieto, freedom also conquers with the cutting edge of ideas, and that is what the songs are doing.

Yaiza Santos: You’ve brought up your family history.

Pavel Urkiza: I come from privilege. My maternal family was from the old communists. My maternal grandmother, the one who raised me, was born in 1903 and did not baptize her children. And my grandfather, Fidel Domenech, who did not know the Revolution, was also an old communist [from the Communist Party of Cuba, founded in 1925]. Many of them were linked to the Revolution, but they came into conflict with the process, and there are many communists whom Fidel himself removed from political life.

Yaiza Santos:  When did you become aware and how did you decide to say: “I don’t want this, I’m leaving Cuba”?

Pavel Urkiza: At 17 years old, when the Mariel thing happened, I had already begun to question many things. The acts of repudiation that were carried out in Cuba against those who wanted to leave . . . People died there, it was a fascist thing. But I didn’t know the world, I hadn’t gone out. The first time I left Cuba was in 1985, to Czechoslovakia. Later, when you enter university [he studied Industrial Economics in Havana], you begin to see another world, to have a more critical sense.

My own grandmother Raquel was a very critical person, and she had a great communist friend, with whom she had many conversations that I listened to. They said they were corrupt, that this was not socialism. In fact, in 1987 my grandmother directed a play, Public Opinion, written by a Romanian [Aurel Baranga], which was a complete questioning of the socialist system. She was a highly respected woman in Cuba and she could do it. When homosexuals were persecuted, she took many out of UMAP [the labor camps called Military Production Aid Units] and put them in her theater group. I owe a lot to her in the sense of looking at reality with a critical eye and with an artistic eye as well.

Yaiza Santos:  What about the rest of your relatives, did you question them?

Pavel Urkiza: With my aunt the colonel, above all, that she raised me and that she was blind. One day I went out to the street naked and began to write on the wall “down with the dictatorship,” and my aunt, imagine this, followed after me, erasing what I had written . . . In the 80s I also began to read Milan Kundera, for example, covered with brown paper, hidden, and when perestroika came, they got out of hand. Those Novedades de Moscow and Sputnik magazines, which nobody was interested in because they were the same crap, continued to arrive in Cuba and with perestroika we began to read them and we began to understand, to question a pile of things and to realize that what we were experiencing was a total failure.

I also had an episode of repression. One day I went with the pianist Omar Sosa to a hotel to visit a musician who played, and the police arrived, put us in a patrol car and locked us in a cell. That’s nothing, of course. There are people who have suffered really deep, really harsh repression, like María Elena Cruz Varela. As I say, I’ve been privileged; I was gradually realizing through my friends, through people who were visiting their homes, seeing how they lived, and I began to really ask myself whether this revolution was a great sham. By ’92 I was already ’green’.

Yaiza Santos:  In that year, you left for Spain — also thanks to your grandmother Raquel — not to return.

Pavel Urkiza: I went out with the group Teatro Estudio de Cuba, to the celebrations of the fifth centennial of the discovery of America. The theater group also helpd me a lot, because artists tend to be more critical of reality and have access to certain reading and other types of music, things that begin to open your mind to realize that you’re living in a bubble, deceived by a system that makes you believe that this is the best thing in the world. And I came to the Spain of ’92, which was great.

Yaiza Santos:  What impression did the Spanish opinion of Cuba make on you at that time?

Pavel Urkiza: They were super defenders of the Revolution, and we somehow tried to make them see what the reality was like. In fact, I think that many began to see it differently, decided to travel to Cuba and realized that there really is something wrong there. Many were disappointed and others were not, among them great friends of mine. But that’s fine with me, everything is tolerable. That’s the great thing about a democracy: you can think what you want and so can I and we can debate and respect each other. All well and good, and the one more people vote for wins the election, that’s the way it is. As the U.S. Constitution says, “We the people,” we are the ones who tell the Government what to do, the Government doesn’t tell us.

Yaiza Santos:  And why did you go to the United States?

Pavel Urkiza: Well, I married an American, a love story that didn’t work out in the end, but here I stayed. After living in Washington, I came to Miami because it has social capital and it has a good climate. It’s a place where we Cubans feel at home, and it is really a very cosmopolitan city. The world’s view of Miami is quite stigmatized: the mafia thing and all that is something that belongs to the past. In fact, in the city of Miami the Democrats win.

I think the United States in general is a stigmatized country. Even living in Spain you despise it a little. Because you grow up with that! When you start to live the experience, you say, “Wait, I have to think for myself.” And I believe that the United States has many virtues. It is a country of laws, there is greatness here.

And I’ll tell you something: I always had leftist tendencies, obviously, and when I was in Spain I already began to say that I was a humanist, but now I feel that I’m an anarchist-humanist-libertarian. The left has disappointed me a lot. There is a whole strategy there that has nothing to do with real desire to change for the good of the people. I already wrote a song about it in La Ruta de las almas (The Route of Souls) — Resurrection – which says “free me from everything I have learned, return me to the point of nothingness, to the total absence of accumulated life.” I’ve had to rebuild myself, but from my own vision, not from the one they put in me there.

Yaiza Santos:  How do you see Cuba from now on, after July 11? Is change coming?

Pavel Urkiza: This has no turning back, it has no turning back. It may take another five years, but it will come about. People are not going to stay calm anymore. As that woman said in one of the videos of the protests, that she is also an old woman, do you think that this old woman is a criminal? This is how I will remember July 11 all my life: the moment when the people of Cuba took off the cloak of silence.

Translated by Tomás A.

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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.

Che Guevara Goes from Defeat to Defeat

The defaced mural is located in the National University of Comahue, in the province of Neuquén, Argentina. (Agustin Antonetti / Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 30, 2021 – “They tremble, freedom advances.” The phrase appeared this Friday on the face of Ernesto “Che” Guevara painted on a mural at the National University of Comahue, in the province of Neuquén, Argentina. The young human rights activist Agustin Antonetti shared on his Twitter account an image of the graffiti, which also contained the word “Genocide” and the phrase “More Hayek, less Marx.”

The Argentine, who studies International Relations at the Inter-American Open University of Rosario and frequently criticizes the human rights violations committed by the Cuban regime, wanted to record in his publication the meaning of what happened: “A great change is taking place in young people and it shows.”

“We are seeing a gigantic change in the mentality of young people in Latin America, although in many universities they are pressured by professors not to speak; now is the time for us to accompany them and promote them. A change has already begun and there will be no turning back,” Antonetti, who is also coordinator of the Youth Group of the Freedom Foundation, added in the Twitter thread.

Antonetti is one of the human rights activists who has most echoed continue reading

the denunciations of the repression carried out by the Cuban regime against the July 11 protesters. On the same social network, he has shared the many reactions of Cubans both inside and outside the island, of governments and organizations, and in addition he has issued alerts about the hundreds of detainees and “disappeared” after the protests.

Also in Argentina, a group of young people from the group “Alternative” that belongs to the Faculty of Political Sciences of the National University of Rosario, is promoting an initiative to revoke the title of “illustrious citizen of Rosario” to Che Guevara. “Out with the dictator,” they argue via the citizengo.org platform and also affirm that they support “the fight of the Cuban people for freedom.”

The promoters of the initiative note that while in Cuba “there is no free expression, basic goods are scarce, and 51% of the population lives in poverty, in Argentina the authoritarian leaders who plunged Cuba into this chaos are honored and worshiped.”

Meanwhile in Spain, the Zaragoza city council approved this week, in an extraordinary session, that “Che Guevara” Street be renamed after Ana María Suárez (a Zaragozan victim of the 2017 jihadist attack in Catalonia), and that “Guevara” Park take the name of the Paralympic athlete Teresa Perales.

The announcement was made during the debate on a motion of the Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos (Cs), in charge of the municipal government, to condemn the Cuban regime’s repression against civil society demonstrations and to defend a transition towards democracy on the island.

A week earlier, in Galicia, more than fifty people gathered in front of the statue of Che Guevara located in a roundabout in Oleiros to demand the removal of this figure, and freedom for Cuba. The attendees, assembled by the Patria y Vida platform, where the Association of Victims of Castroism is located, exhibited Cuban, Spanish, and Venezuelan flags, as well as banners that read SOS Cuba, and also chanted slogans such as Viva Cuba libre, We want freedom! and Homeland and Life.

In Mexico, after the 11J (11 July) protests, several politicians resumed the debate to remove the sculpture in the capital that portrays Fidel Castro and Che Guevara seated together.

“It must be withdrawn. Last year the PAN (National Action Party) presented a resolution to withdraw it because the two characters were human rights violators, and are responsible for the misery in which the Cuban people find themselves. They are dictators that led a people to be prisoners of the elite that controls power and the economy,” said the deputy of the Congress of Mexico City, América Rangel.

Another member of PAN, Diego Garrido, spoke with Rangel, and agreed, according to Sé Uno, that the Cuban regime is repressive and that it violates the human rights of its own people. “They’ve kept their people in extreme poverty, in conditions of misery. Hundreds of people flee the island every year, so it is absurd that they have statues to commemorate these characters.”

Translated by Tomás A.

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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.

Cigarettes Return to the Rationed Market in All Cuban Provinces

On the informal market a pack of the Criollos brand can cost up to 50 pesos each. (Mercado Libre)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 29, 2021 – What was announced last June as an exceptional measure just for the capital, became the norm for the entire country this past Thursday: the sale of cigarettes will be rationed. This was reported by Tribuna de La Habana, which said that it has gotten to this point “due to problems with the availability of raw material.”

This shortage caused the Tabacuba Group to deliver “24 million fewer packs of cigarettes for one month,” according to information from the Ministry of Internal Trade.

The Minister of Commerce, Betsy Díaz Velázquez, explained to the official press that, although this is not a product that is part of the regulated family basket, its sale will be controlled due to “a monthly supply deficit of 37 million packs” in order to “prevent hoarding.”

The minister asserted that there are families, none of whose members smoke, who nevertheless continue reading

buy cigarettes, which “affects” those who do smoke. Just like, though a bottle of wine is not a regulated product, the wine shops ask whether the buyer is the consumer of that product or not. Díaz insisted that as production from the factories and from Brascuba [the Brazilian/Cuban joint venture] decreased, prices in the market rose “due to speculation and hoarding;” so it was decided to regulate the sale of this product “as a containment measure.”

In the informal market a pack of the Criollos brand can cost up to 50 pesos each.

Díaz pointed out that though cigarettes are covered by the ration book “this does not mean that this is a product of the regulated family basket.”

The General Director of Merchandise Sales of the Ministry of Internal Trade, Francisco Silva Herrera, reiterated that the “interruptions in production” are due to difficulties “with the arrival of raw materials in Cuba.” He explained that for that reason the volume of cigarettes available for sale doesn’t meet 100% of the country’s demand, and pointed out that so far this month they have received only 34% of what the plan called for.

Silva Herrera said that, depending on the available supply in some provinces, they are going to limit sales to “a tiny amount” of packs per person, sometimes limiting them to people over age 19, or by family.

For months, Cubans have faced the dilemma of acquiring packs of cigarettes on the black market or buying them in stores which only take payment in foreign currencies (MLC). In the capital’s state-owned shops and cafes, the shortage gets worse every day and huge lines form.

“I buy in quantity. I pay 750 pesos for the H. Upmann wheel, which gives you 10 packs, otherwise it’s impossible to always have it on hand, because there are days when no matter how far you walk, you won’t find cigarettes of any kind for sale on the street,” Leonardo Felipe, a 26-year-old man told 14ymedio.

Added to the dilemma of not finding the desired cigarettes is the complaint of many smokers about the poor quality of the product. The flavors have changed, and sometimes the cigarettes come incompletely filled, or with little glue, so the filter separates from the rest.

Translated by Tomás A.

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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 Cuba, the Number of Those Vaccinated is More Than 50% Higher Than Those Infected, Well Above the World Average

CECMED (Center for State Control of Drugs, Equipment and Medical Devices) noted that Abdala (a COVID-19 vaccine developed by CIGB, the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Cuba) presented “an adequate safety profile.” (ACN)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, July 29, 2021 – “One underestimates this about Covid. I walk stumbling like this, with short steps, falling on both sides.” Caridad, a resident of Centro Habana, fell ill with Covid-19 just after receiving her first dose of Abdala, the only Cuban vaccine candidate approved for emergency use by CECMED.

Its developer, the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) established its effectiveness at 100% “in the face of severe disease and death,” but insisted that the vaccine did not stop contagion and it was essential to maintain prevention measures, such as is being done in the rest of the world. Despite that warning, the data is worse than expected.

According to the Ministry of Public Health, to date 3,484,672 people have received at least one dose “of one of the Cuban vaccine candidates” (the official reports do not specify whether Soberana 02 or Abdala), of which 2,954,759 have also received the second and 2,460,919, the third. That is, 20% of the population has received the complete vaccination schedule.

But what is more worrying is continue reading

the number of people who have already been vaccinated. At the national level, the authorities give assurances that “work is being done” to “establish how many of the sick people have been vaccinated with all three doses in order to be able to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine,” but they have only provided figures from Havana.

This Saturday, Emilio Delgado Iznaga, provincial director of Health, announced that of the documented infections “96% were symptomatic and 73% were already vaccinated.” This supposes an increase compared to the previous day, when the Havana Tribune calculated that of the total confirmed, 71.7% “appear vaccinated” (although it was around 56% vaccinated with the three doses).

Cuban immunologist Eduardo López-Collazo, director of the Research Institute of Hospital La Paz, in Madrid, hypothesizes that those who have received a dose have become confident and relaxed their safety measures for avoiding contagion. “As we already know, none of the vaccines is completely sterilizing, that is, they do not completely cut the contagion, but rather reduce the possibility of suffering from the disease,” he recalls.

However, after studying the “few data” that the authorities provide, he raises another possibility: that the vaccines are not effective against the new variants.

This would be consistent with the fact that the trajectory of the island’s case curve has skyrocketed at the same time that the Beta and Delta variants of the virus have expanded (the Delta is considered more contagious and aggressive).

Delta has come to complicate the situation of the pandemic even in areas with the highest vaccination rates, as the authorities discussed ten days ago during a Roundtable program on Cuban TV aimed at analyzing the usefulness of Soberana 02 and Abdala in the face of new variants.

Although investigations are ongoing, Dr. Verena Muzio González, director of Clinical Research at CIGB, said that correct immunity is achieved only with the complete regimen (three doses in Cuba) and that you have to wait at least two weeks for the immune system to generate the appropriate antibodies to defend itself against the most serious forms of the disease.

The data are comparable to other countries, but it is difficult to find similar examples in which the percentage of infected is so high among those vaccinated. In Spain, where more than half of the population (26 million people) are already immunized, only 5.5% of those infected were fully vaccinated (11.4% among those who received a single dose). In addition, although the country is experiencing a fifth wave that is beginning to cause worry, most infections occur among young people (who are not yet vaccinated) and the average age of those hospitalized has dropped dramatically to below 50.

In the United States, where immunization has lagged and the most contagious variants are spreading, “more than 97% of people hospitalized for COVID-19 are not vaccinated,” according to a New York Times report.

The closest case to the Cuban situation is that of the United Kingdom, where according to an investigation conducted by the Financial Times, the number of positive cases among those vaccinated with a complete schedule has shot up to almost half in recent weeks. However, the director of the study, Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at Kings College, clarified to the local press, “although the figures seem worrying, it is important to note that vaccines have greatly reduced severe infections and that Covid for the post-vaccinated is a much milder illness for most people. ”

Spector did not go into assessing whether the rise in the contagious vaccinated has to do with the expansion of the Delta variant. British health authorities worry that good weather, and the lifting of the latest restrictions on July 19, may shoot up the number of cases in the summer.

Several reports have come to this newspaper, of people who have contracted the disease while being vaccinated with one or two doses of the compound. On case is that of Yoel, from the Havana neighborhood of Nuevo Vedado, who lost the sense of smell and taste after his second dose with Abdala, the second week of July, and is still awaiting the results of a PCR Covid test.

Although some are beginning to fear that it was the vaccine itself that caused the disease, this is scientifically impossible in the case of protein subunit vaccines, which this vaccine is.

“It is not possible for this vaccine to cause the disease because it is made with a harmless protein from the virus; they are not injecting an attenuated virus or anything like that,” explains Dr. López-Collazo.

Last week, a team from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO / WHO) office in Cuba visited the National Center for Scientific Research (CNIC) to learn more about the efficacy results of the Cuban vaccine candidates.

That day, Vicente Vérez, the director of the Finlay Vaccination Institute, was optimistic about next month, since at the end of August, 14 days will have passed since the application of the last dose to the general population of Havana, which will allow knowing more data.

As he explained, the British medical journal The Lancet is reviewing a study by Soberana that would shed some light on the opaque and controversial Cuban vaccines. So far, there are no public results of clinical trials of Cuban vaccine candidates, nor are there any articles in scientific journals, except for two on Soberana 02 about a preclinical trial on mice.

Translated by Tomás A.

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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.

Cubans Can Now Import Solar Panels Without Paying Duty

The new provision will allow electric self-sufficiency to Cubans who can install a solar panel on their homes. (wikimedia.org)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 29, 2021 — In the midst of a pressing electricity shortage, the Cuban government has taken a step demanded by the population to authorize the duty-free import of photovoltaic systems, including parts and pieces of panels that generate energy by direct transformation of sunlight into electricity.

The resolution, published this Wednesday in the Official Gazette, allows the populace to purchase these products abroad as long as the purposes are not commercial. That is, Cubans who generate electricity must dump the surplus of their personal consumption into the National Electric System so that it may be distributed among the rest of users.

The document specifies that the panels, the inverter, the support structures, the electric boards, the cabinets for parts, and the grounding system are considered essential parts and pieces, therefore they are exempt from customs payment. continue reading

The rest of the components — direct and alternating current buffers, batteries for energy storage, electric conduit, battery charge regulator, and system components and electrical accessories for assembly — are considered common use and are subject to the usual tax rates.

The Gazette establishes that the person who acquires the panel will be responsible for the system and its maintenance, in addition to re-contracting the service to the Electric Utility, which must certify that the requirements for installation are met and verify the meter for energy measurement.

The tax exemptions have been approved, argues the text, “with the aim of increasing participation of renewable energy sources on the electric power generation grid.”

In 2019, through Decree Law 345, the sale of surplus electricity generated by private producers from this type of source was authorized, but the provision did not modify the state monopoly of the Electricity Union, the only one authorized to buy, distribute, and commercialize energy of private origin.

The Cuban Electricity Union (UNE) specified that an average household on the island needs around 185 kWh per month. To cover these needs, 5 solar panels of 260 watts are necessary.

The importation of tax-free solar panels was in high demand by those who are eager to supply their own electricity, an increasingly precarious good on the Island. Depending on the power, the rates (before the Tarea Ordenamiento* [Ordering Task] took effect) ranged from 200 to 1,000 pesos for panels generating from 900 watts to 15 kilowatts.

In March, the authorities began to pitch the idea of bonuses or exemptions for those who wanted to import panels. But the blackouts, which have increased this summer, when municipalities throughout the Island have seen their number of hours of electricity regulated, and the historical protests in more than 40 cities on the island, may have accelerated the decision.

To date, the panels available in Cuba were sold through the state virtual store Bazar Virtual, where 270-watt installations could be found, at a cost of $2,549.

Most of the solar panels on the Island, due to the high cost involved, are in the hands of the State and have been donated by China. The announcements by two companies — Spanish and German — that wanted to install these devices in several Cuban provinces, came to nothing, and the telephone number of one of them is no longer in service.

Solar energy is one of the government’s biggest bets for taking advantage of a natural resource that Cuba has in abundance, but the main problem continues to be the investment necessary to build a solar park.

Before the pandemic, the Island had planned to build 65 facilities of this type, and another 15 were under development, in order to increase the currently installed power by 42 gigawatts, which accounts for barely 1.15% of national consumption.

*The so-called ’Ordering Task” — Tarea ordenamiento — is a collection of measures that includes eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and others. 

Translated by Tomás A.

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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 Spanish Consulate in Cuba Suspends August 2 Passport Appointments

The Consulate of Spain issued the information through a tweet, without explaining the reason for the suspension of its computer system nor answering questions from users. (exterior.gob.es)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 30, 2020 — The Consulate General of Spain in Havana warned this Thursday that its computer system will not be operational on August 2 and asked all those who have appointments for that day to reschedule “through the new centers” to renew a passport or obtain one for the first time.

The diplomatic office issued the information through a tweet, without explaining the reason for the suspension of its computer system or answering questions from users. For example, one of them asked if the appointments to sign up in the Consular Registry have also been canceled, and another, “when do they plan to activate the appointments for those registered in 2021 for their first passport?”

Last spring, the Spanish Consulate suspended its services for a few days due to an employee’s close contact with someone who was Covid-19 positive.

Cuba has the third-largest community of Spaniards living abroad–about 200,000 according to the 2019 census–after Argentina and Venezuela, due in part to the passage of the Historical Memory Law in 2007 by the Government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The law allowed the nationalization of at least 80,000 Cubans of Spanish descent.

Translated by Tomás A.

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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.

Lawyers Group Denounces the Exploitation of Cuban Healthcare Workers in Uruguay

For years Uruguay has been a place highly sought after by Cuban doctors to go on an official mission, due to its social stability. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 28, 2021 — The Alliance for Global Freedom (GLA) filed a complaint this Monday with the Attorney General of Uruguay in which it denounces the continuous exploitation and forced labor to which the Cuban medical brigades are subjected in that country.

The lawyers’ group alleges that the island’s health workers “are compensated at such a minimal rate that the work they carry out in the South American nation is considered slave labor.”

“The personnel of the medical brigade are subjected to long hours of work without fair wages, and are pressured to participate, for fear of reprisals by the Cuban state if they do not comply,” the Alliance alleged in a statement published on its website.

“We continue to fight for human rights and appeal to the republican culture and respect for human rights in this country,” said lawyer Sabrina Peláez Iglesias, a member continue reading

of the GLA in Uruguay.

The organization, headquartered in Washington DC, has been seeking for the last two years “records and information on Uruguay’s cooperation agreement with Cuba.” Among other actions, Peláez also filed a complaint with the National Institute of Human Rights and Uruguay’s Ombudsman in July 2020.

According to the statement, currently about 30 health workers, most of them ophthalmologists, make up the mission, and unlike Uruguayans and other professionals, Cubans do not have to certify their postgraduate degrees with the Ministry of Public Health to practice.

The Governments maintain two health agreements: the first began in 2007 and includes ophthalmological services, and the second, finalized a year later, covers orthopedic care for people with disabilities. Both have been renewed to date.

The second bilateral agreement, extended in 2018, set a cost for Uruguay of 174,000 dollars per year, of which $124,000 is paid directly to Havana and $31,000 is designated as stipends for professionals and technicians on the Island, as well as their national and international transportation, accommodations, and other expenses, according to an investigation by the Cuba Archive.

But it was only recently divulged that the first agreement required that Montevideo spend 250,000 dollars a year on Cuban collaborators, including a monthly stipend of $800 for each one, but the contract did not clarify the amount that Havana received for the services.

The preparation of Cuban doctors has been questioned in several countries where they have worked under agreements with the Cuban Government. In 2019, the press reported that nine specialists from the Island had deserted and that they tried to accredit their degrees in Uruguay, but six of them did not pass the exam and the others did not receive a final definitive qualification.

When these facts became known, suspicions among Uruguayan professionals increased, among them the members of the Uruguayan Association of Ophthalmology. Its president, Andrea Merrone, stressed that they are not opposed to foreign doctors coming to the country, but she insisted on knowing if the professionals “have sufficient qualifications” to practice.

For years Uruguay has been a place highly sought after by Cuban doctors to go on an official mission, due to its social stability. The selection of professionals who travel to that country is made within Cuba and the brigades rotate every two years.

In July of last year, the Alliance for Global Freedom presented a demand to the Uruguayan Government for disclosure of the records related to the hiring of Cuban health workers. Their demand was mainly focused on the bilateral agreements on the service at the José Martí Hospital for exchanging funds and making commercial arrangements.

It is not the first time that the conditions in which Cuban doctors are forced to work in the missions have been denounced. Organizations such as Cuban Prisoners Defenders (CPD) have carried out various actions to expose the medical missions as the Cuban government’s “great capitalist slave business.”

In August 2020, CPD filed a complaint with the United Nations and the International Criminal Court on behalf of 622 Cuban doctors who have been on missions abroad. In its report, the Madrid-based NGO warned that these professionals are forced to participate in “conditions of slavery” with long working hours and restrictions on their freedom.

In most cases, the Cuban government takes away their passports in order to keep a hold on them, and pays them between just 10% to 25% of the salary it charges to recipient countries, arguing that Havana needs money to finance the Health system.

Translated by Tomás A.

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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.

11th of July: Day of National Dignity / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

“Citizen Zero,” Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 20 July 2021 — Throughout last week a hornet’s nest buzzed in my temples and I didn’t have a minute’s rest from ruminating on so much news and thinking about my long-suffering Cuba. I was moved to the core by that flood of people that swept away in a few hours more than six decades of indoctrination and terror until, for three days, in more than fifty cities, the most perfidious and best structured dictatorship in this hemisphere was pushed back. This was already an indisputable victory for my people, and, whether it admits it or not, the most devastating political defeat for the dictatorship in more than six decades.

That day my people carried out their vindication before History. Just as past generations had their Yara and their Baire, their Baraguá and their Palo Seco; just as they dethroned a tyrant in the 30s, and later rose up in the mountains or resisted with stoic heroism in the cities during the Revolution of 1959, before being betrayed by the Castros. This July 11, our people recovered for our homeland its lost dignity. Each of these milestones in history was the pride of their respective generation, as from now on that memorable day in July will be our pride.

There is no reason for disappointment here, worthy patriot, because on that jubilant day the great winner was, without a doubt, the Cuban people! It does not matter what Castroism claims to have seen. What millions of Cubans starred in and the world saw that glorious DAY OF NATIONAL DIGNITY – let’s call it by name now – was a dictatorship on the defensive against a rebellious people who responded without fear of the henchmen, pushing back a repressive machinery, well-tuned and honed for more than half a century with the same public treasure that it had stolen from them. During those days we saw for the first time terror on the face of the stunned regime, which could not continue reading

contain us, and which reacted with irrational violence, just confirming how much it fears us.

Today’s scenario, a week after the uprising, was totally predictable. It is not to be expected that a regime founded on six decades of social indoctrination and systematic terror will be struck down at the first blow. Was this the dream of millions of Cubans? Of course! But in real life, with such a consolidated totalitarianism, which Castroism typifies, it never happens that way. There are plenty of examples to prove it, and ours is not exactly the exception.

But there was no cry of defeat on July 11, but rather the opposite. In reality, Cuban, you were defeated every time that you kept complicitly silent in the face of some clear injustice; every time you apathetically raised your hand in some absurd assembly to approve decisions made by others that harmed you as a worker or as a common citizen; every time you waved little flags in a parade ordered by those who disrespect you so much, and you dug your own grave by thus strengthening this merciless despotism that today pounces vengefully, like a hungry beast, on your brothers.

In reality, Cuban, you were defeated when you went abroad on humiliating work missions, under oppressive contracts, knowing that they would enslave you miserably and rob you until they were satisfied, succumbing to the pretext of poverty that today finally launched us into the streets. You were defeated when you did not defend your honorable neighbor from the “acts of repudiation” of the communist mobs, or when you militated without conviction in the antics that the ruling party calls “civil society” only to display it to the world as a cynical insignia. In sum, you have suffered thousands of daily defeats over long decades every time you paid some tribute to that paralyzing fear that turned you into the shame of yourself, into a shadow without dignity, at the mercy of the powerful and the thieves.

But that changed forever on July 11, brave Cuban, because the true weapon of Castroism was never its rifles, or its tanks, or its riot troops, or its wasps of whatever color they paint them: its main weapon was always that fear rooted in your brain like a cancer. That and no other has always been the definitive weapon of Castroism!

The same one that this people, becoming millions, snatched from them when the time of the Homeland arrived, and of which it will be deprived forever. From now on, without your fear, the dictatorship is doomed to be extinguished. But though the beast may be stunned, it is definitely not dead. That is why the two phrases are the order of the day: PASSIVE RESISTANCE – do not cooperate at all with your oppressors; and ACTIVE SOLIDARITY – organize and relentlessly support the liberation of all brothers imprisoned during the raising of that DAY OF NATIONAL DIGNITY.

Let us not allow this huge tide of people to dissipate into a bland emotional clamor, for very little is achieved with useless catharsis. This war could be cruel; it is destined to be difficult and to have many battles; it may be long; it must be fought on all fronts and it can never be conceived as a short-term sprint, but rather as a commendable long-distance race, a demanding marathon, where our people will have to use all their forces, and the Civic Resistance will be called to be the most decisive key.

But regardless of what happens from now on, we have one certainty left: as of this July 11, nothing else will be the same, because now we will be freer, since freedom — like its antithesis, slavery — is an intangible state of mind more than a visible external condition. The freedom that you just tasted is a state of grace that lives in you, Cuban who hears me, and depends more on the nobility of your heart than on the thickness of your chains.

Translated by Tomás A.

Free Internet Access for Cuba: Wishes and Realities

The Internet is a tool, but it is not the only one available for overthrowing the dictatorship. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Tintorero, New York, July 28, 2021 – Since last July 11, the demand for free internet access for Cubans has become a trend, supported by Senators, Congressional Representatives, and a multitude of public and political figures in the United States. There has been no lack of promises, including that of President Biden, to satisfy this demand, and many are waiting for this wish to come true at any moment. There has also been no lack of fake news, some well intentioned and others not, of “enabling satellite internet for Cuba,” and other niceties.

Pardon me for being the bearer of bad news, but this is not as easy as many think, nor does it depend exclusively on the political decision of some  particular person. In the field of telecommunications there are limitations dictated by physical laws that cannot be ignored, much less modified for someone’s convenience. But even with significant recent technological advances, there are solutions that are impossible to implement, as I will explain below.

Satellite Internet

The existence of commercial satellite internet services is a reality, but in order to use these services it is essential to have a specific modem to connect to the corresponding satellites. These modems are popularly known as BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network), which is just the trademark of one of the most popular continue reading

providers of this service.

The need to have one of these modems to access satellite internet is easy to explain. These satellites mainly use 3 commercial frequency bands: C band, X band and Ku band. None of these frequencies match those used in cell phones, either CDMA or GPRS. The only phones capable of connecting to these services are satellite telephones specifically designed for this, and, as you would expect, they are prohibited in Cuba, as are satellite modems or BGAN.

The only satellite signal capable of being received by mobile phones is GPS service in any of its variants (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, etc.), but communication in this case is unidirectional, that is, it works only from the satellite to the mobile phone, but not vice versa.

To use the internet, communication must be established in both directions — to both receive and send data packets. It’s like a conversation between two people: one speaks and the other listens; then the second responds and the first listens. If these people walked away from each other they could continue talking through megaphones, but each would need one, otherwise one could listen but would be unable to respond. The megaphones in this case would be the satellite and the BGAN modem.

In short, there is no such thing as free “satellite internet access” for Cuba or anywhere else. Regardless of whether the satellite internet service providers agreed to provide their service without charge, if you don’t have a compatible modem, it’s impossible to access the service.

Mobile phones, smart or not, can only be connected to radio base stations (or cells, hence the name “cell” phone), which in this case all belong to Etecsa (the Cuban telecommunications monopoly) and use GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) technology.

GPRS

In order to provide internet service using this technology, it is necessary for mobile phones to connect to base stations that don’t belong to the Etecsa network, something that doesn’t exist in Cuba. It’s impossible to deploy an alternative cell network without permission from the Cuban government. Alternative solutions for deploying base stations are emerging, such as drones, balloons, or some other type of platform.

But, and here is the limiting factor, these platforms must be located at a distance (or height) that guarantees that the signal can be received by mobile phones and that these in turn are able to communicate effectively with the base stations. It’s possible to boost the transmission power of a base station so that its signal reaches the mobile phones, but that doesn’t increase their power to connect to the base station.

But locating any of these platforms over Cuban territory would be considered a violation of its airspace, with all the implications that entails. Here, in addition to technological limitations to overcome, the political decision factor for their implementation is primary, something for which there does not seem to be a will at any level, given the diplomatic and other consequences.

The other connection option for using mobile phones is Wi-Fi, a different technology that we’ll analyze below.

Wi-Fi

This type of technology allows the connection of devices in a relatively small area, for example the Wi-Fi services enabled in some parks, as well as at the residential level. A possible contribution to the free internet that Cubans are demanding could be the enabling of Wi-Fi access by the embassies of countries supportive of freedom for Cubans. Clearly this would be something very limited, restricted to specific areas in the city of Havana, which the dictatorship could impede simply by preventing people from approaching those places to access the connection (adding another to its habitual diplomatic scandals).

But in exceptional cases, it could help citizens, activists, and independent journalists to get valuable information out of Cuba in moments of a total blockade by Etecsa. This would also require a lot of political will and decisiveness on the part of those governments that decided to support the Cuban people.

There is also equipment that, using this same technology, allows distant subnets to link to each other, such as what is known as SNet in Havana, and similar ones in other Cuban cities. In any case, even using Nano-type devices or equivalents of greater or lesser capacity or power, they have to connect to a point that has internet access through a service provider other than Etecsa.

This could be a solution, assuming the existence of one or more of these connection points, but even so, there are also limitations.

First, the effective connection distance through this type of device usually doesn’t reach more than ten miles, or slightly more in ideal conditions.

Second, a stable connection requires an unobstructed line of sight between the two connecting devices.

And third, a secondary network is required to share this connection and give access through Wi-Fi or local area networks (LAN) to the end-users’ mobile phones, tablets or computers.

Given these limitations, especially the first one related to distance, it is easy to conclude that locating connection points outside the limit of Cuban territorial waters, regardless of the cost involved, would place them beyond the effective scope of this technology.

This is without even mentioning the need to establish a network within the Island to “distribute” the connection from points near the coast into the interior, with all that would imply in terms of investment, coordination on the part of the citizenry, and the propensity of the dictatorship to persecute those involved, seize equipment, etc.

Conclusions

Even if some combination of the technologies described above could be deployed in certain localities, the reality is that there is not a solution currently available that would satisfy the desire we all have for free internet access in Cuba. This doesn’t mean that we should give up the fight, but rather that it’s necessary for us to take advantage of what little is available and use it effectively.

Wishing and hoping for a miracle that will suddenly grant us free access to the internet doesn’t help, but disarms us at a time when the fight for freedom should not cease. If tomorrow a loophole opens in the dictatorship’s information blockade, we must make the most of it, but we must also recognize that these are the conditions we have to deal with. The Internet is a tool, but it is not the only one available to overthrow the dictatorship. Our will and our action are the only things that will achieve that.

Translated by Tomás A.

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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.

Distribution of Donations: Bread for Today, Hunger for Tomorrow

A Youth Labor Army market in Havana lists few foods for sale while empty stalls predominate. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, July 29, 2021 — The Cuban communists announced in the State newspaper Granma that they have begun the distribution of food products that have come from international donations (Russia, Mexico, etc.) into the network of state warehouses.

An insistent rumor had been circulating on social media: the products will end up for sale in the MLC stores — which take payment only in foreign currencies — in order to obtain foreign exchange at a crucial time for the regime. But this has been flatly denied by the Minister of Internal Trade, Betsy Díaz, who took the opportunity to link the distribution of donations with the rollout of the August standard family basket – in the ration stores — in 98% of the country’s municipalities, another way for the regime to appease the social unrest that led to the explosion of July 11th.

Under the communist regime, the regulated basket continues to be the only option for those Cubans who don’t have dollars, and therefore can’t shop in MLC stores, or informal markets, where it’s easier to find essential products, but at greatly inflated prices.

This perverse mechanism, which eliminates at its roots Cubans’ right to free choice, has been in force for more than 60 years. Never before in history has a scarcity-based rationing system continue reading

lasted so long in a country. In Spain, it did so for almost two decades after the civil war. In Cuba there have been no wars, no climatic or natural disasters. Only the express will of a communist regime for controlling the population from the point of view of consumption.

Now, at a critical moment when Cubans’ blindfolds have completely fallen off their eyes, and they’ve identified the communist government as responsible for the national economic disaster, the authorities have once again trotted out the standard family basket in an attempt to sidestep the protests. They have a difficult task.

Basically because when you look closely behind the standard basket, you realize how perverse the mechanism is. Let’s take an example: each Cuban receives from the “ration book” a total of 7 pounds of rice per month. This amount is set by central planning because rice is a product in high demand in Cuba. And they may be right, but what about those Cubans who don’t like rice and would rather eat, say, cookies, or taro, or potatoes? That doesn’t matter to the planner. Cubans, all Cubans, regardless of their tastes and preferences, have to eat rice. And whoever doesn’t like it can do whatever they want with their 7 pounds. But can you come up with a stupider mechanism for regulating consumer choice? It’s hard.

Even more so when, as a result of the donations received, it’s announced that those 7 pounds for the month will be increased by an additional 3,  so that if you don’t like rice, the regime will now give you 10 pounds. The book and its political regulation are above individual preferences. No free choice is possible. Well, a solution may be for you to sell your monthly ration to a neighbor, or give it to someone. But it doesn’t matter what individual Cubans do with the rations that the state gives them. All that matters is the need to deliver that rice, in this case 7 pounds plus another 3.

Who can get their head around this distribution mechanism, with arbitrary allocation, perverse in the 21st century? When will the Cuban communists realize the uselessness of the basket and all the instruments they have to control the population? Someone will say that they have been a success, in view of the last 62 years in which they have done and undone whatever they wanted in Cuba. And therein lies the quandary, that this is over, that there is no way to continue deceiving and manipulating Cubans, and that either they change, or they are going to have a very bad time.

The communist planners know more than we think. If that economic intelligence had been put in the service of a rational and efficient functioning of the economy, it would be a different story.

The Minister of Internal Trade explained that, thanks to donations and the existence of large volume of a certain group of products, food modules have been designed with rice, pasta, grains, and sugar, which will be delivered at a rate of one per household, to all Cuban families, gradually. The territorial sequence established for deliveries is Havana, Matanzas, Ciego de Ávila, Santiago de Cuba, Holguín, Guantánamo and the special municipality of Isla de la Juventud, giving priority to the most densely populated areas where the social explosion of 11-J was most intense.

In addition, she said that products arriving in the country through donations that cannot be “confirmed for all the households on an equal basis” (without explaining very well what this confirmation consists of) will not be included in the distribution; and this is where the logical doubts arise about what is going to happen to these “non-approved” products and where they are going to go.

Meanwhile, canned meat delivery is announced in specific places; oil in other areas; cans of tuna, in others; beans; powdered milk to those over 65 in other areas, and thus, by means of a light rain the authorities intend to put out the fires of social protest and at the same time announce that, if you behave well, you will have powdered milk or tuna. A series of political arbitrariness that confirms the perverse nature of the system of the regulated basket, the old ration book.

There are those who think that the regime is going to take advantage, for its own benefit, of the international donations in order to calm the social protests and buy time. Bread for today and hunger for tomorrow. The underlying problems are not solved with donations, but by changing the productive structure of the nation so that Cuba, the Cubans, can be more efficient and productive. Moreover, there are those who think that these donations will merely act as a palliative of the most intense pain that the nation is suffering, and as soon as they are used up, which will surely happen, the discomfort will return because then there will be no one to stop it.

If the regime wanted to buy time with this distribution of products in order to promote structural reforms, its action would be correct. But we fear that the necessary 180-degree turn towards economic freedom that Cuba needs doesn’t enter into its plans. The donations will be bread for today and hunger for tomorrow.

Translated by Tomás A.

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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.

Political Police Harass Cuban Journalist Camila Acosta and Her Friends

Camila Acosta has been barred from leaving the country for more than a year.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 27, 2021 — Journalist Camila Acosta, a contributor to the Cubanet news portal, was detained for several hours this Monday in front of the home of her friend Fabio Corchado, who had given her shelter in his house for the last few days. The reporter was trying to persuade the political police to release Corchado’s younger brother, who had been taken to State Security’s Villa Marista for no good reason.

“I’ve been under house arrest since they released me on the 16th and I hadn’t come out. Today I did, at 6:20 in the afternoon, because Fabio Corchado told me that his brother wasn’t answering his cell phone. We were worried because he didn’t show up. When we confirmed his arrest, I went out to speak directly with the security agent who is watching me. They then picked me up and took me to Zapata and C [police station]” the journalist told this newspaper, after being released at 10:00 pm.

“First they took me to the jail, and then they brought me up to interrogate me. The officers told me that Víctor [Corchado] had declared that I gave him a flash memory with some videos of the July 11 demonstration for him to upload, because he works in the Government and has a good [internet] connection,” the reporter explained, describing the words of the State Security agent as a lie, and saying that she believes they are using the brother to pressure Fabio Corchado.

“Now they have the boy in Villa Marista. They already called his mother to continue reading

bring him toiletries tomorrow. What they are doing is pressuring the family to get Fabio out of the house,” said Acosta. He has already been evicted from several rentals due to pressure from State Security, to get him to abandon his journalistic work.

According to the writer Ángel Santiesteban, State Security officials have been carrying out “provocations” since Sunday at Fabio Corchado’s home. The author told 14ymedio that around midnight agents knocked on Corchado’s door to talk to him, and when he refused because it was very late, “they completely shut off his phone line.”

“In the morning they arrested his younger brother, who was only going to work, and then they kidnapped Camila. Now Fabio has asked me, because he doesn’t have internet access, to report that even if they arrest his mother, he is not going to throw Camila out of his home,” added Santiesteban.

Camila Acosta was arrested on the 12th after her participation in the July 11 protests and released on the 16th with a precautionary measure of “house arrest” while the investigation continues. As the reporter explained at the time, the officers intend to prosecute her for the crimes of “disrespect” and “public disorder,” for having recorded videos during the demonstrations.

The journalist has also been barred from leaving the country for more than a year.

Translated by Tomás A.

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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’s Foreign Minister Blames U.S. for ‘Terrorist Act’ Against Cuban Embassy in Paris

When Paris firefighters arrived at the embassy, the fire had been put out. (Embassy of Cuba)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 27, 2021 — The Cuban Embassy in Paris was the target last night of an attack with several incendiary devices that left minor damage, according to the French capital’s fire department. The Cuban Government, which has described the act as a “terrorist attack,” holds the U.S. Administration responsible for its “campaigns against” the Island.

“Terrorist acts like this are incited by the campaigns of the United States Government against our country, instigating actions and resorting to violence,” the Cuban Embassy in France said in a statement.

The attack took place at the Cuban diplomatic headquarters, located in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, shortly before midnight on July 26-27.

Foreign Ministry sources indicated that three Molotov cocktails were thrown: two struck the outside of the embassy and one penetrated it, causing a fire that was put out by mission officials. continue reading

Firefighters and police subsequently went to the scene and reported that “the two devices, which caused minor damage, were extinguished before their arrival.”

Diplomatic staff at the Embassy were not injured.

“We denounce the terrorist attack with Molotov cocktails against our Embassy in Paris. I hold the US Government responsible for its continuous campaigns against our country,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez also said on Twitter.

No one has so far acknowledged responsibility for the attack.

Translated by Tomás A.

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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.

Bad Streak for Cuban Generals: Four Have Died in a Week

Manuel Eduardo Lastres Pacheco was a native of Yara, in the province of Granma. (Government of Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 26, 2021 – Reserve Brigadier General Manuel Eduardo Lastres Pacheco died this past Monday, according to a brief informational note released by the Ministry of the Armed Forces. He is the fourth high-ranking military officer to die in recent days in Cuba; the cause of death was not specified in any of the cases.

The statement with the information, read during the Midday News program on Cuban Television, recounted that Lastres was a native of Yara, in the province of Granma, joined Fidel Castro guerrillas in 1957, and was also under the command of Camilo Cienfuegos in Column Two, which carried out the invasion of western Cuba.

After Castro’s rise to power in 1959, Lastres served as a battalion chief in the fighting against the rebels in the Escambray region, also as an infantry division brigade chief of the Territorial Militia Troops (MTT). He was one of the senior officers who commanded Cuban troops in Angola. continue reading

The body of the general “was cremated and his ashes will be displayed for a family tribute on a date that will be announced in due course,” the note added.

This Saturday the official press also reported the death of Reserve Major General Rubén Martínez Puente, who died at the age of 79. Martínez had been indicted in the United States for the murder, on February 24, 1996, of four members of the Brothers to the Rescue organization, created to help rafters who escaped from the island.

The general was accused of having transmitted Raúl Castro’s order to fire missiles from Mig fighter planes of the Cuban Air Force, to shoot down the planes in which the exiles were traveling. The attack occurred over international waters, though the Cuban government claimed that the planes had entered the island’s airspace.

Last Tuesday, the official media reported the death of Reserve Brigadier General Marcelo Verdecia Perdomo, who was Fidel Castro’s bodyguard in the Sierra Maestra. And On Saturday, July 18, the death of another general was announced, the head of the Eastern Cuban Army, Agustín Peña (b. 1963) from undisclosed causes, but knowledgeable sources indicated that Covid-19 was the cause of his death.

Translated by Tomás A.

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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.

Social Protests, the Embargo, and the Cuban Communist Regime

The Cuban dictatorship has militarized the streets of the island to prevent the protests from multiplying. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, July 26, 2021 – It’s easier to blame the US embargo or ’blockade’ for all the ills of the Cuban economy. And also to believe it. But this is nothing more than an irresponsible attitude, which has reached its end.

The Cubans who came out to protest on July 11, and who will do so again at another time, know that the problems in the economy are due to poor management by their leaders. they are through with excuses, and blaming others.

The propaganda of the regime through its media, sometimes suffocating, doesn’t get through to Cubans, who are ready to demand accountability as soon as the right moment arrives. People turn off the television when the “Roundtable” comes on. A program lacking in credibility.

The demand for holding the rulers responsible begins to take shape. Responsibility for having created an economic system that restrains existing productive potentials, that just seeks to appropriate the latest hard currency entering the country in order to spend it on the objectives of that system.

Responsibility for having frustrated for 63 years the aspirations of several generations of Cubans to continue reading

have their own private assets, to be owners of the means of production, and to use them according to criteria of profitability.

Responsibility for installing a distribution mechanism based on rationing and scarcity, eliminating the efficient action of the market in driving the economy.

The list of responsibilities is so extensive that we could occupy a good part of this blog space, and all of them could be summarized in one: the communist social model does not work.

It has not worked, nor can it be expected to do so in the future. Its days have come to an end, and Cuban society wants change. This can be done in one of two ways: either through a rupture that puts and end to a stage that can be classified as permanently lost; or through government negotiation and dialogue with society to promote an orderly transition.

Of course there are numerous intermediate positions between these two, and nothing is yet to be written about the future of Cuba, but there is no doubt that the people spoke very clearly on July 11, and the regime should take note.

Clearly a change is coming, and a profound one. Even within the regime there is no room for inflexible positions, since many leaders have become aware that things are really very bad, so that there is no place for superficial changes or cosmetic patches, but rather more profound changes and changes must be made, and quickly, with positive expectations for the future. There are many leaders who know that this chimera of a “prosperous and sustainable socialism” will never be achieved because the model itself prevents it.

Despite this perception of reality, the Cuban communists continue to delay any structural change that modifies the fundamental aspects that prevent the economy from improving. In the current situation, they rely on the effects of the pandemic and the loss of income from tourism, among others, but in reality they are fleeing from assuming responsibilities, and that behavior is not the most appropriate.

Cubans increasingly disbelieve the story of the sanctions against Cuba and that the interference of the United States complicates the process from within, and they see it as a permanent excuse, aimed at avoiding necessary changes that, moreover, are urgent.

Perhaps for this reason the recent sanctions against members of the regime have not provoked a reaction similar to previous times, largely because many Cubans know that these measures have a limited duration and appear more as symbolic reprimands than anything else.

The authorities look askance at the neighbor to the north because what really worries them is that there will be a final cut in remittances. Much more than a denunciation of members of State Security (known as black berets) or a high-ranking military officer, as has happened. The serious thing about the situation is that while this was happening, hundreds of very summary trials were being conducted against the participants in the social protests on the island without procedural guarantees, sending people to prison.

The time has come to speak accurately. Cuba is neither blockaded nor embargoed by thousands of ships that surround the island. That image is absurd and really only existed for a few days when the Soviets tried to turn the island into a base to launch their nuclear missiles at cities in the United States.

The blockade does not exist; Cuba trades with, and receives investments, tourists, and capital from 192 countries of the world, with absolute freedom. As long as there are analysts and observers who entertain themselves in codifying something that does not exist, it is not helpful.

The debate must be about the problems and solutions that are within Cuba, and which have to be resolved among Cubans. Thinking about Obama, Trump, or Biden, believing that they are worried about losing votes, and that therefore they act in one way or another because of  electoral pressure, is a misconception.

Relations between the United States and Cuba are well defined by a partisan consensus that has much to do with the inability of the Cuban authorities to resolve a dispute that, moreover, was originally caused by Cuba, and not by the United States.

The Havana regime holds the key to resolving this dispute between the two countries. The Cuban people during their peaceful protests on July 11 said this very clearly.

But the regime’s wanting to do it or being interested in doing it is another thing altogether. To conduct a debate about concessions by the United States to soften these measures is to waste time.

The hunger and desire for democracy in Cuba have less and less to do with the alleged embargo/blockade, no matter how much the regime pretends otherwise. The solution to end it all is in the hands of the regime. It is past time to get to work.

 Translated by Tomás A.

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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.

Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and the United States, Among More Than 20 Countries That Condemn Mass Arrests in Cuba

The signatories urged the Cuban Government to respect “the rights and freedoms of the Cuban people, guaranteed by law, without fear of arrest or detention.” (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE / 14ymedio, Washington, July 26, 2021 — The governments of 21 countries, including the United States and five Latin American nations, condemned on Monday the “mass arrests and detentions” of protesters in Cuba and demanded respect for human rights on the island.

The declaration was signed by the foreign ministers of Austria, Brazil, Colombia, South Korea, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Ecuador, the United States, Estonia, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland and Ukraine.

The statement recounts that on July 11, “tens of thousands of Cuban citizens participated in demonstrations throughout the country in protest against the deterioration of living conditions and to demand changes,” and denounces that in the face of these marches “the Government responded with violence.”

The ministers of the countries named above also stressed continue reading

that the protesters “exercised the fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and the European Convention on Human Rights.”

That is why they exhorted the Government of Cuba to respect “the rights and freedoms of the Cuban people, guaranteed by law, without fear of arrest or detention.”

“We urge the Cuban government to release those detained for exercising their rights to peaceful protest,” the statement added. “We ask for freedom of the press and the full restoration of internet access.”

The largest protests in more than six decades occurred with the country mired in a serious economic and health crisis, with the pandemic out of control, and severe shortages of food, medicine, and other basic products, in addition to long power outages, which drove Cubans to take to the streets to criticize their government.

Cuban authorities insist on blaming the United States for both the demonstrations and the extreme shortages that the country suffers.

Translated by Tomás A.

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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.