The Central Bank of Cuba Legalizes Cryptocurrencies in National Transactions

In the text published this Thursday, the entity declares itself free of any liability that may arise in cases of scams.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, August 27, 2021 — Cuban authorities finally approved regulating the use of cryptocurrencies in national transactions and will grant licenses for service providers that operate with these virtual assets. The resolution, published yesterday in the Official Gazette, will take effect on September 15.

The text, signed by the head of the Central Bank of Cuba (BCC), Marta Sabina Wilson González, indicates that the entity must establish “the use of certain virtual assets in commercial transactions” in “operations related to financial, exchange, collection, or payment activities” within or from Cuban territory.

The permission of the BCC will be essential so that “financial institutions and other legal entities” can use “virtual assets among themselves and with natural persons, to carry out monetary and commercial operations, and exchange and redemption.”

The entity has warned of the risks of operations with virtual assets, due to their high volatility, and because continue reading

they are carried out on the internet, with the lack of regulation and supervision that this implies.

The new legal framework is based on Decree-Law 317 regarding “the prevention and detection of operations in the fight against money laundering, the financing of terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” The rule, approved in 2013, indicates that the BCC is the competent authority to act against this type of crime and for this it must establish the guidelines to prevent it.

In the text published this Thursday, the entity declares itself free of any liability that may arise in cases of scams.

“Natural persons assume the risks and responsibilities that in the civil and criminal system derive from operating with virtual assets and virtual asset service providers that operate outside the Banking and Financial System, even when transactions with virtual assets are not prohibited between such people,” it says.

In May of this year, Miguel Díaz-Canel warned that the possibility of regulating cryptocurrencies was very real and its “convenience” was being analyzed. In the midst of a landscape of serious crisis and lack of liquidity, virtual currency opens up some possibilities, but it also carries risks and uncertainty.

The deficit in the balance of payments, the non-participation in multilateral organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, its high debt, repeated defaults, and the effects of the US embargo, hinder Cuba’s access to financial markets and its international transactions. But the authorities have allowed cryptocurrencies to operate only in the national orbit.

On the island, users of this type of asset have grown notably, and it is estimated that at least 10,000 people use bitcoins.

The BCC warned months ago of the scams that could occur in this area, and indicated that the operations carried out by a list of companies it designated have “little or no transparency and hide behind apparently technical but meaningless verbiage.”

The companies were Mind Capital, Mirror Trading, Arbistar, Qubit Life / Qubit Tech, X-Toro and Trust Investing, the most popular in the country with tens of thousands of partners. Its director in Cuba, Ruslan Concepción, was detained in April of this year for alleged “illegal economic activity.”

After his arrest, several Cubans linked to the company were investigated and some assets were confiscated from them. The platform is accused by several international analysts of operating “a Ponzi scheme — it doesn’t have a real product and pays its investors with their incoming money,” although its affiliates in Cuba deny this.

Some experts consider that cryptocurrencies could be a solution for Cubans who do not trust the peso but have little access to dollars since remittances have been reduced due to the limitations imposed by the Donald Trump Administration. But they also call for caution because of scams that occur in this area.

Among Cuban cryptocurrency users, opinions have not been long in coming. Michel Aragón, who has a finance channel on YouTube, has been very annoyed by the control that the BCC will impose on both companies and citizens who want to participate in the system, while Erich García, founder of Bitremesas, is optimistic and thinks that an opportunity has opened up.

“Yes, I’m Cuban. Yes, I use cryptocurrencies a lot. Yes, I’m a natural person. Yes, I’m going to request the necessary licenses to operate with that” digital asset. “I live in Cuba and I must comply with the laws of Cuba. If it doesn’t fit me, I’ll pass. Just normal,” he told his followers.

Translated by Tomás A.


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Two Cuban Judokas Escape from the Official Delegation During a Stopover in Madrid

Nahomys Acosta during a match at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games. (Juventud Rebelde)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, August 21, 2021 – Cuban judokas Ayumi Leyva and Nahomys Acosta left the island’s delegation during a stopover in Madrid, Spain. The athletes were going to participate in the qualifier for the Junior Pan American Games in Cali, Colombia, which took place on August 14 in the same city, but they never made it to the event.

As reported on Tuesday by the official site JIT, Leyva and Acosta were together with 12 other athletes who continued to Colombia but were withdrawn from the tournament after seven of them tested positive for covid-19.

The seven men and five women suspended from the contest “had to win their spots in the last of the seven events with scores for the ladder,” although JIT says that at least two “women are pending access by ranking.”

Due to pandemic-related flight restrictions, many athletes from the Island who are going to compete in tournaments in Latin America must first travel to Madrid and from there take a plane to a nation in continue reading

Central America or South America.

At the end of June, the athlete Raudelis Guerra also abandoned the Island’s basketball delegation in Spain, on the way to the qualifying tournament for the World Cup, which took place in El Salvador.

Guerra escaped from the entourage at the same Madrid-Barajas Airport, where part of the national team made a stopover before continuing to the Central American country.

“I left the delegation for a very, very personal reason. Maybe many don’t know what it is and those people will judge without knowing. But I know, and my family will understand me,” the Guantanamamian told Play-Off Magazine shortly after.

About a month earlier there were other defections by Cuban athletes and assistants. Lázaro Blanco, a pitcher for the national team that participated in the Pre-Olympic Baseball Tournament of the Americas held in Florida, decided to stay in Miami on June 4 and not return to Saltillo, Mexico, where he had a contract with a local team.

“The important thing is that I feel good about the decision I’ve made, a new life that I’m going to start right now. I am very happy to be here,” said Blanco shortly after his decision was known.

Days earlier, César Prieto, one of the promising players, had left his teammates just hours after landing in Florida. A few days later, Jorge Sile Figueroa, a psychologist for the baseball team, also decided to leave the delegation and stay in the United States.

Translated by Tomás A.


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.

What’s Happened to Human Rights in Cuba During the Pandemic? / Cubalex

Cubalex, 29 June 2021 — During the last two years Cubalex has monitored the epidemiological situation and the restriction of human rights in the context of the pandemic

Our organization concludes that the Cuban State is using the health crisis as a justification for suspending human rights without having declared a State of Emergency, as required by international law. We observed that:

Disproportionate and discriminatory actions against human rights defenders have increased, including: deprivation of liberty, and arbitrary home confinement.

The economic context worsened due to high unemployment rates and has been aggravated with the implementation of the ’ordering task’*. continue reading

They increased repressive measures against non-state sectors to control the high prices of food and basic necessities.

Excessive application of severe fines for carrying out economic activities, especially those related to sale and resale.

In this report we break down some of the violations that the country’s government has committed and feature those affected.

The report — a series of slides — is available in Spanish here.

*Translator’s note: 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 other actions throughout the Cuban economy. 

Translated by Tomás A.

ARTICLE 19 and CUBALEX Demand the Immediate Freedom of Journalists Detained During the Protests in Cuba

Cuban activist Henry Constantin. (Twitter)

UPDATE July 20, 2021 — In follow-up to the communique that ARTICLE 19 and CUBALEX published on July 16, which stated that as of that date the following people had been detained: Henry Constantin, director of La Hora de Cuba, along with his colleagues Iris Mariño, and Niefe Rigau; Orelvys Cabrera, from Cubanet News; Pedro Luis Hernández, from the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and Press (ICLEP); and Mario Félix Ramírez, from Arbol Invertido. Today we update the situation of these jailed journalists.

At the time of this update, journalists Henry Constantin, Iris Mariño and Niefe Rigau, of La Hora de Cuba, and Orelvys Cabrera, of Cubanet News, remain jailed.

In the case of the director and the collaborators of La Hora de Cuba, ARTICLE 19 contacted Henry Constantin’s relatives, who reported that a writ of habeas corpus was filed with the Camagüey Provincial People’s Court as a result of his arrest. On July 15, the Court declared that the Habeas Corpus proceeding filed on behalf of Henry Constantin, Iris Mariño, and Niefe Rigau was invalid and consequently ordered “that they be kept in custody.” continue reading

The Court found that “the citizens . . . were arrested on July 11 as part of the disturbances caused that day by a group of people, among whom were these citizens, carrying out public disorders in the streets, behaving in an offensive and violent manner by making disrespectful demonstrations and committing aggressive acts by using sticks and stones with which they attacked the people who confronted them, and acting in preventive support it was necessary for the authorities to conduct them to the police stations to carry out various investigations, and in the specific case of the aforementioned citizens, the three were charged in Complaint 10946/2021 with the crime of aggravated public disorder . . . and they are subject to the imposition of the precautionary measure,” which implies that they will be in prison until their case is decided.

It is important to point out that since July 11, the date of their arrest, the three were detained in the Second Police Unit of Camagüey, where they were held incommunicado until the 16th, when they were transferred to the UTI, an infamous site where tortures are carried out against detainees, according to Henry’s family.

The situation of Orelvys Cabrera, a Cubanet News contributor, is similar. According to the story that his family shared with ARTICLE 19, Orelvys was detained by agents of the State Security Department on July 11, while he covering the mass demonstrations in Cárdenas, Matanzas Province. So far the authorities, using the pretext of the pandemic, have not allowed his family to see him.  Nor has his family been informed of the charges against him, and he has no defense lawyer. The only information they have is that he is under investigation by the Department of State Security.

Given these facts, ARTICLE 19 demands that the State of Cuba guarantee fair and impartial judicial processes for the detained journalists and that it investigate any indication of abuse of authority committed by officials of the Executive and Judiciary.

Mexico City / Havana, July 16, 2021 — ARTICLE 19 and Cubalex have documented the arbitrary detention of at least 11 journalists in Cuba following the citizen protests that began on July 11. At the time of this update, 5 have not been released.

Since then, we have been able to observe how the Cuban government criminalizes and attacks protesters, through the excessive and disproportionate use of force – which has resulted in an undetermined number of people injured and detained – and police operations in the homes of journalists and activists, restricting the exercise of their right to peaceful assembly, expression and demonstration, dissemination and access to information.

On July 11, Henry Constantín, Iris Mariño, Niefe Rigau and Mario Félix Ramírez were arrested in Camagüey; Maykel González, in Havana; Niober García and Rolando Rodríguez, in Guantánamo; and Orelvys Cabrera, in Matanzas. The following day, Camila Acosta Rodriguez was arrested in Havana. And, on July 15, Alberto Corzo, in Matanzas, and Pedro Luis Hernández, in Sancti Spíritus, were arrested.

Henry Constantin, director of La Hora de Cuba, along with collaborators Iris Mariño and Niefe Rigau; Orelvys Cabrera, from Cubanet News; Pedro Luis Hernández, of the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and Press (ICLEP) and Mario Félix Ramírez, of Inverted Tree, are still in jail.

Some people who have been attacked already had a history of systematic harassment, such as Camila Acosta, a collaborator with the ABC of Spain and Cubanet News, who is being kept under house arrest after having been released.

An example of the constant siege against the press is the case of Iliana Hernandez, who since April of this year has been under house arrest, unable to go out to carry out journalistic or personal activities. Her situation has been replicated these days with journalists such as María Matienzo, Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho, Katherine Bisquet and Luz Escobar, among others. In addition, it was possible to record the digital attack on the Diario de Cuba site on July 14, which made access to the portal difficult.

Added to these attacks are the imprisonments carried out on April 30 against journalists Mary Karla Ares from Cibercuba and Esteban Rodríguez López from ADN Cuba in the context of the protests in the vicinity of the house of artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who was on a hunger and thirst strike at home but under a sentence of house arrest. Likewise, the journalist Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca, detained on June 15, remains deprived of his liberty.

As on other occasions, elements of the National Revolutionary Police, the Anti-Riot Brigades, and the Department of State Security have been identified as perpetrators of the attacks.

Due to this situation, ARTICLE 19 and Cubalex echo the call for dialogue that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, made today for the government of Cuba to immediately release all the persons detained, address protesters’ demands through open dialogues, and respect the rights of individuals to peacefully assemble and exercise freedom of opinion and expression, as well as to fully restore of access to the internet and social media platforms.

Translated by Tomás A.

Cubalex Lawyers Give Their Opinion on Decree-Law 35, Recently Approved by Cuba’s Council of State and Council of Ministers

Cuban protesters on 11 July2021.

CUBLEX, 7 August 2021 — On August 17, Decree-Law No. 35 (DL35) was published in the Official Gazette: “On Telecommunications, Information and Communication Technologies, and the Use of the Radioelectric Spectrum” and Resolution 105 “National Action Model for the response to Cybersecurity incidents.”

What are the implications of these new rules? Do they criminalize freedom of expression on the internet?

Cubalex shares the opinions of our legal team on the matter:

Laritza Diversent: The state is appealing to its sovereignty in order to restrict human rights. This new legal regulation irrationally restricts freedom of expression. National sovereignty cannot be used as a legitimate basis to restrict human rights, according to international standards. Therefore, the Cuban State’s argument for publishing this decree is not based on international law.

If they are going to act within “legal frameworks in accordance with universal practice in telecommunications,” as the decree says, the decree is not consistent with the international conventions they have signed, nor with the services associated with this instrument, because the services have nothing to do with the content of the publications that could be punishable by applying DL35.

The State has to hunt for other resources to protect its services without the need of falling into rules that penalize freedom of expression, especially in social networks, which is the objective of this new censoring decree, and now with special interest as a result of the protests of #11J (11 July 2021).

Julio Ferrer: It’s worth asking the Council of State, which has resumed the practice of issuing decree-laws (one after the other and without the National Assembly of People’s Power meeting), whether Decree-Law 370 is still in force. The recently issued Decree-Law 35 makes no reference to it. They’ve returned to the nefarious practice of promulgating and continue reading

approving a large number of legal rules to regulate the same subject matter. They prefer to rule on the basis of decrees.

Alain Espinosa: Sovereignty is not violated or put at risk by the exercise of rights inherent to human beings. That is the first manipulation, then above that I see violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which establishes the causes that can lead to a restriction of rights, and then expressly establishes a group of them that  can never be restricted.

Giselle Morfi: This is the whip of free speech. It is a rule focused on State Security and not on the rights of citizens. The Law of Transparency and Access to Information was foreseen in June 2021 in the Cuban Legal Calendar; instead this regulation comes out and the only thing it does is censor.

In a preliminary or superficial analysis, just reading the introductory titles of the decree, we are faced with a stamp of prior censorship, which establishes limits that are too broad and abstract and that go against all international standards of human rights related to freedom of expression and the right to information.

Regulating false or fake news as a crime is very dangerous. For example, let’s remember what’s happened in China and Venezuela, where without concrete evidence of actual harm and with discretionary limits left to the authority that applies the norm, they can sanction any person for “cyberterrorism,” directly undermining freedom of expression without any legitimacy. Decree-law 370 is nothing compared to Decree-Law 35.

Laritza Diversent: According to Article 2 of Decree-Law 35, any form of publication on social networks from Cuba within the category of “telecommunications” could be sanctioned with this rule. They don’t stipulate which are the specific contraventions except those that are highly dangerous. Aside from sovereignty and this broad framework that covers any publication on social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook mainly, or even in WhatsApp or Telegram groups, this regulation has complementary legislation that already establishes fines.

From now on we watch with concern that one of the consequences is that arguments from Decree-Law 35 offer the possibility for State institutions to restrict human rights, but we are not only talking about freedom of expression, but also the use of technologies, because there are fines for the importation, use, or possession of certain equipment that today would allow people to have greater access to the Internet. And with it to publish and share more information.

That is, there is not only the part that affects my right to express myself, but it goes further: it would limit the use of devices such as antennas, nano and repeaters that allow greater connectivity on the Island and are essential to exercise the right to information and free expression. They will limit people to consuming the few national television channels and official media, which only broadcast political propaganda. They also prevent the economic development of people who want to expand, grow, or exercise self-employment, since the technological restrictions cut the ability to earn income.

Thus, the State would be justified in continue to persecute other types of economic activities that represent a threat to it. We already see how it constantly carries out operations against certain entrepreneurs such as the so-called “coleros”* for example [people who stand in line for others], in times of pandemic, but there are many other examples in the difficult task of survival of the self-employed in Cuba. One of the questions that we have been asked since the publication of this decree is whether it could be applied retroactively to the protesters of July 11. Laws cannot be applied retroactively, it is a principle of law, only criminal laws can be applied retroactively, as long as it is for the benefit of the accused person.

Alain Espinosa: To the question of whether this and other harmful decrees could be deregistered, we must refer to article 108 of the Constitution that establishes the powers and obligations of the National Assembly and among them is:

e) exercise control of constitutionality. (A subject that has a lot of fabric to cut through in our legislation.)

g) To totally or partially revoke decrees, laws, etc., that contradict the Constitution or the laws. (This is the case with Decree-Law 35 because it is in direct contradiction with article 54 that guarantees freedom of expression).

To this we must add that in Cuba there is no judicial control over  constitutionality — no entity having the last word on declarations of constitutionality for each specific case. And today the new currents of constitutionalism suggest that all the powers and organs of the state are obliged, each in its sphere, to exercise control, not only of constitutionality but also of conventionality [i.e., general acceptance], in direct accordance with international human rights treaties.

Julio Ferrer: Yes, the appropriate legal action against Decree-Law 35 is to urge the Assembly not to ratify it and to declare it unconstitutional.

Cubalex has not been able to unravel all 75 pages of the decree, but for the Hotline on Wednesday the 25th, or the one for tomorrow, August 18, we promise a more in-depth analysis.

The entry “Our lawyers give their opinion on Decree-Law 35, recently approved by the Council of State and the Council of Ministers” was first published in Cubalex.

Translated by Tomás A.

And Russian Oxygen Arrived to Bail Out the Cuban Government

Díaz-Canel visiting the San Antonio de los Baños plant this Monday. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, August 17, 2021 – Authorities have expeditiously alleviated the oxygen problem. It is unknown when oxygen began to be scarce in Cuba, although there are many patients who claim that the situation has been going on for months, but the way in which the state press has reported it to the population minimizes its importance. Just 24 hours after indicating that they had a problem with the supply, the country’s maximum leader visited the military plants that have come to the rescue, with the help of the Russians.

On Monday, Miguel Díaz-Canel showed up to walk through the oxygen factory of the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), located at the San Antonio de los Baños Air Base. According to the State newspaper Granma, the two Army plants have been providing support for “a few days” to the Industrial Gases of Cuba company, which produces medicinal oxygen. A broken part in its Havana factory (which puts out 95% of the country’s supply) left the one in Santiago de Cuba (responsible for the remaining 5%) alone in a task that has now become a matter of life or death.

These two plants have been joined by a third, donated and built by the Russians in just half a day at the same military base. “Having put it into operation gives us another guarantee and helps a lot,” said the Cuban president, after interacting with “those who have made possible the heroism of continue reading

putting it into operation in record time,” in the words of the official press.

Lieutenant Colonel Boris Portuondo Tartabull, head of Gas and Electricity in the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, said that the new equipment was similar to the two that were already in place and was installed “in little more than twelve hours of arduous work after it arrived in Cuba around two in the afternoon last Sunday.” That is, shortly before the population was informed that oxygen was in short supply.

After its start-up in the early hours of this Monday, it increased production capacity to 360 cylinders every 24 hours, in three work shifts, says Granma.

Díaz-Canel approached the runway of the air base where official propaganda recorded the videos broadcast on Monday, with the soldiers transporting oxygen to provinces such as Pinar del Río, Cienfuegos and Villa Clara, and dedicated himself to encouraging the troops. “’Your work has been decisive,’ he told them, while proudly patting the shoulder of one of the crew,” reads the official text.

The presidential tour continued through the Industrial Gases of Cuba plant, where he observed the work of those who fill the oxygen cylinders distributed in the area of the capital and other nearby provinces, which is currently carried out in 24-hour shifts.

The official press did not refer to the breakdown that supposedly affected this plant and caused the interruption of the supply of medicinal oxygen, precisely when demand was at its highest point in hospitals for Covid patients.

The afternoon was dedicated by the president to other issues, such as visiting two businesses that are about to become SMEs*, and tweeting praise those who work in the fight against the pandemic, a new task that the president seems to have set himself since his prime minister charged healthcare workers with allegedly violating protocols, thereby contributing to the spread of Covid-19.

The authorities’ fear of the anger of the professionals is palpable. Regardless of their ideology, for days they have been expressing their distress at these words coming at a time when they face a pandemic with a shortage of personnel and means, so for the last three days Díaz-Canel has been trying to appease them through dispatches, with uneven success.

“What we have noticed the most in this time is the patriotism of our people, of the Healthcare personnel, of the scientists, of all those involved in Operation Millimeter of Oxygen, people who are working full time in complex situations. Thanks to all!” said the president last night on twitter.

The official newspaper of the Communist Party reinforces the task in a text entitled “At the foot of the patient, the hero who does not serve in enemy campaigns,” which it dedicates to pay tribute to the healthcare workers who face the pandemic without complaining.

“We are talking about those heroes, not about the ones that new enemy campaigns manipulate for their convenience, now exalting them as ’victims’, or putting them at the center of fabricated protests over the conditions in which the country faces Covid-19, and wanting to make them spokespersons of their anti-Cuban offensive, the same doctors and nurses they called slaves . . . Our heroes, the real ones, have names and many hours of sleeplessness,” says the note, which will not help placate those who, by explaining what in their opinion is being done wrong, has caused them to no longer be “real heroes.”

*Translator’s note: SME = Small/Medium size Enterprise

Translated by Tomás A.


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.

This Has A Name, It Only Has One Name

Reinaldo Escobar holds Fidel Castro responsible for all the ills of the Island in this text for Castro’s birthday. (Marcos Evora)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, August 13, 2021 — I heard your voice for the first time when I was eleven years old. It was 1958 and Radio Rebelde (Rebel Radio) broke the censorship that the brief dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista imposed to keep what was happening in the Sierra Maestra Mountains from becoming known.

In January 1959 I imagined I saw your face in each of the bearded men who paraded through Camagüey, and from whom we children asked for a “balita” [little bullet] as a souvenir and as a symbol that peace had arrived.

I keep one of those projectiles.

I learned that “Triumphal March of the Rebel Army” by the Indian Naborí and I knew how to lower my voice to recite the verses where it was said “and this has a name, it only has one name”* and then came the cataract of your speeches, from which I got to memorize phrases that I repeated aloud while I slept.

Little by little disappointment came: over Prague; over the failure of the sugar harvest; and one good day in 1970, as a university student, I had my first and only discussion with you where I indicated to you my sincere disagreement, and I could no longer remain the same.

I cannot pinpoint the exact date when you entered my past, “in the past of my life,” as the tango says, but I can say that I finally had to give in to the arguments of those who preferred to demonize you. Always, out of academic petulance, I preferred to put all the blame on the system, which it has, and it cost me a lot of work to understand the dose of personal evil that was hidden behind each of your decisions.

Cuba owes you its misfortune. This country should have saved you from coming into the world on a day like today 95 years ago. It will not be possible to describe our sad reality without putting all the blame on you.

I hope this gets to be told one day, and that afterward you will be forgotten, and that no one will remember your name.

*Translator’s note: This is the penultimate line of the paean to Fidel, “Triumphal March of the Rebel Army,” by Jesús Orta Ruiz aka “El Indio Naborí.” The next line of the poem is simply: FIDEL CASTRO RUZ

Translated by: Tomás A.


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.

‘He Doesn’t Know What He’s Talking About’, a Doctor from Placetas Responds to the Cuban Prime Minister

Cuban hospitals can no longer care for the sick with the resources they have. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, August 13, 2021 — “Since the community transmission phase was declared, we are all on the red line, we’re soldiers in a nuclear war going into battle with slingshots.” Dr. Kenia Castellón works at the North Polyclinic of Placetas (Villa Clara Province) and knows first-hand the reality of Covid-19 patients on the Island. That’s why she exploded against the statements of Prime Minister Manuel Marrero, who appeared on national television last Tuesday blaming part of the responsibility for the increase in Covid cases on healthcare workers.

“This province is the same as the others with the lack of antigen tests, the lack of medicines, the same objective problems. But there are more complaints of subjective problems than objective. When you add up the lack of medicines, this, that and the other, they’re lower than the number of complaints and reports of abuse, neglect, lack of visits. That’s incredible,” said Marrero at a work meeting on the pandemic.

Although the prime minister’s statements referred to Cienfuegos, the outrage has spread among many healthcare workers from different parts of the island, aware that the situation of shortages is the same throughout the country.

“The shortage of medicines and other things, which he glossed over quickly without continue reading

going into details, are what have our health personnel (to whom I belong) exhausted, terrified, and disappointed. Those other things, which he didn’t mention, include lack of adequate means of protection,” the doctor says reproachfully, revealing that healthcare workers are even forced to resort to the black market to purchase masks, since the ones provided are not sufficient for the long hours of work.

Castellón lists the endless shortages that hospitals face on a daily basis: oxygen canisters; diagnostic measures for critical patients, including antigen testing and PCR [polymerase chain reaction tests for Covid]; coffins; transportation, including hearses for the collection of the bodies of the deceased; even health professionals themselves, many of whom are absent due to infections.

Every one of these shortcomings is constantly being pointed out, both by the independent press through complaints from family members and health workers, and by provincial officials, who no longer hesitate to resort to the same media outlets to relate the desperate situation being experienced during this summer of the pandemic peak in Cuba.

Yet the Government, while recognizing the material shortages, diminishes their importance, unless they can blame them on the embargo, and prefers to highlight the violations of protocols, which, although they occur, are not the greatest of evils in a “battlefield medicine” context.

“When indiscipline starts, when established procedures are not complied with, we add an extra impact to that produced by the pandemic, and the consequences are worse then. We have to be ashamed of that. And here mistakes are being made, here there are indisciplines,” exclaimed a scandalized Marrero.

“Make a list of the subjects responsible for the problem and I’m sure the doctors will be fine in the end,” says Dr. de Placetas.

“It’s obvious he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Before so calmly criticizing doctors, put yourself in our shoes. View things from our perspective. We’re conditioned to save, alleviate, improve, and reduce suffering. If you’re going to look for the guilty parties, leave the healthcare personnel out of it. We’re literally laying down our lives in this, and we see that we’re now alone. First brave, then applauded, and now . . . guilty? It’s true that when the shipwreck happens, the rats are first to abandon ship.”

The message of Kenia Castellón, who also works at Villa Clara Medical Sciences University and was previously a specialist in caring for AIDs patients in Placetas, has been highly applauded by hundreds of beneficiaries who extol her bravery for answering the challenge from within the system and exposing herself to its possible consequences.

Others are also grateful that she is among those who dare to raise their voices. “There are many other things that the healthcare system needs: hospitals free of rodents, cockroaches, extreme dirt, plumbing problems and more, so that doctors and other health workers can care for a sick person. It’s necessary to have the required medicines, equipment, sutures, gloves, surgical supplies . . . But first you need dignity.”

Translated by Tomás A.


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

Cuban Opposition Calls for a National Strike on August 13

Protesters on July 11 in front of the Cuban Capitol, in Havana. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, August 12, 2021 — Cuban activists, inside and outside the island, encouraged by the success of the July 11 demonstrations and the apparent weakness of the regime, faced with its worst crisis since 1959, have announced a national strike this August 13th. This decision does not attract unanimity within the opposition, and not just because it coincides with the 95th birthday of Fidel Castro.

On the one hand, this is the call launched through the Twitter account identified with the name of the well-known philosopher and political scientist Gene Sharp (@ GeneSharp11J), who posted on August 10: “National strike from August 13 until we achieve what we want.” On the other, the call from Miami from the coordinator of the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, Orlando Gutiérrez Boronat.

The first call includes a group of demands such as the requirement for the Government to “release without charge the participants in the #11J protests” when thousands of Cubans took to the streets of various cities in the country and shouted “freedom”, “homeland and life” and “down with communism.”

It also demands “that [the government] stop the media campaign to discredit independent creative artists, political, cultural, and civic activists” and end “the repression of those who disagree.” Similarly, it asks for continue reading

an update to the Criminal Procedure Law “to provide those accused with greater guarantees than currently exist.”

Another of the demands of this call is to develop “a plan to support the Cuban private sector that takes into account its needs, its potential, and the current needs of the country as determined in a previous meeting.”

That “the media of the independent press be legalized” and “the right of association be respected and not coerced” are other demands, which conclude with a call for “a binding plebiscite as soon as possible through which the people choose whether they want the country to be run by the Communist Party or not.”

Saily González Velázquez, the young founder and director of the first co-working space for entrepreneurs in Cuba, shared the initiative on her social media networks with the tags: #QuedateEnCasa #SOSCuba #SOSCubaLibreDelComunismo.

In conversation with 14ymedio, González commented that the idea seems “very good” but that so far it “has not had the reach that it needs for it to really happen.”

“I don’t think Twitter is the social network where most of the Cuban people are, rather it is Facebook, where it has been shared in some buying and selling groups, but it hasn’t been enough,” she laments.

She also explains that “due to people’s fear of being judged guilty of incitement to commit a crime,” the call has been shared “from new profiles with few followers and little engagement,” which in her opinion “limits its scope.”

Nevertheless, she says she and her team are going to strike. “I believe that even if it doesn’t come off, at least it would remain as a precedent for future calls.”

For his part, Gutiérrez Boronat, coordinator of the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, a platform that brings together opposition organizations in Cuba and outside Cuba, declared this Wednesday from Miami that July 11 was “a national rebellion that shows the world the deep desire that the Cuban people have to live in a state of law.”

The activist expressed his conviction of the need to move to a “new stage of civic struggle” that ends with a “national strike” and the organization of “protests,” and included in his appeal phrases such as “homeland and life,” “we want freedom and the end of communism” and “we want the dictatorship to fall.” Those goals, he asserts, are “the center of our struggle.”

In his opinion, the exile at this time is “more united than ever” and also identified the “national strike” with a “state of conscience” that means “not cooperating” with the Government of the Island.

The dissident and academic Manuel Cuesta Morúa, a member of the Unity Roundtable for Democratic Action (MUAD), considers that “strike announced strike aborted,” especially if they take place “in totalitarian societies like ours.” In his opinion, when “there is no civic space for civil society” this type of call has to occur as happened on July 11, and that “since that date the bet should be on spontaneity and authenticity based on the awareness of people.”

And he concludes: “I don’t believe that a national strike announced with great fanfare on social media will occur.”

The activist and journalist Boris González Arenas views the current scenario with a little more optimism: “We’re on the crest of a wave” and it doesn’t matter where you want to see the beginning, whether on January 2019, when Díaz-Canel “left running from Regla” after a tornado where people rebuked him saying he was a fraud, or on November 26 or April 4, “now we are on a peak and, as always, still more initiatives and more forces are coming.”

“Though I don’t really know where this thing for August 13 is coming from,” he acknowledged, “for me it’s clear that it’s part of that huge wave, and I applaud all these initiatives.”

But the call comes at a time when the workday in state centers is practically paralyzed, with classes suspended for several months in schools, and a good part of the bureaucratic procedures suspended as a result of Covid-19, a situation that will make it difficult to measure the results of this strike.

Translated by Tomás A.


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

Cuban Tobacco Growers Denounce State ‘Manipulation’ of Their Prices

Cuba authorities have notified producers that they can charge for the product at the current price, without committing in any way to making a later retroactive payment. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, August 10, 2021 — The tobacco farmers of San Juan y Martínez have run out of patience. With the product picked and without news of the announced price increase, Pinar del Río farmers have sent a letter to the country’s top leaders denouncing a possible manipulation of the information provided to them in order to keep them calm and prevent them from scrapping the planned harvest.

The producers, who supply the State with threaded black tobacco and shade-grown tobacco, to be rolled into cigars and exported, explain that the rise in prices that occurred at the beginning of the year with the Ordering Task* affected the entire sector. As they have complained on numerous occasions, January 1, 2021 arrived without a price having been provided, and it was decreed without having the cost sheet (the model where the necessary data is collected to calculate the planned unit cost of a product or the provision of a service).

Production prices skyrocketed throughout the supply chain: fuel went from 2 to 14 pesos, motor oil from 3 to 55 pesos, machinery tripled in cost and, of course, the wages of hired workers increased. But tobacco only doubled, from 2,560 pesos to 5,641.

The growers explain that, in the midst of this scenario, delays in bank loans during the first quarter of the year ended up sinking them, because, in the best case, most of them had to go into debt or continue reading

sell assets in order to push on.

“We took all these economic measures in order to be able to continue the harvest — despite the fact that it was easy to see the low profitability between costs and the established price — because we were already in the middle of a process that is our reason for being, and our livelihood as farmers,” they say.

But their effort was not rewarded. Although they submitted their complaints described above, the officials of the Saiz Brothers Collection and Benefit Company, the leaders of the Agriculture of San Juan y Martínez and the cooperative assemblies assured them that the State was going to create a new cost sheet to set another price more in line with the reality of the country. Producers relied on this and continued to work amid the growing difficulties.

Tobacco harvested in San Juan y Martínez this year, when it was still not known what price the State would pay for it. (Facebook)

When, in February, the increase in some stockpile prices was announced “in order to increase production,” according to the authorities at the time, the tobacco growers were asked to be patient and wait until May due to “the complexity of the sector.”

“It was reported in various places that a new cost sheet and price proposal have been prepared by the state company since June, and that this was already in the hands of the ministries that are responsible for preparing and approving the resolution,” the producers wrote in their open letter to Miguel Díaz-Canel and the Minister of Finance and Prices, Meisi Bolaños Weiss.

But August has arrived and, more than a half-year having passed, patience has reached the limit, since the new prices have not only not arrived but the authorities have notified the producers that they can charge the product at the current price, without committing themselves in any way to making a later retroactive payment.

“This creates great uncertainty and distrust among the farmers as to whether the promised price increase is a serious commitment for this campaign or was a manipulative stratagem by the institutional framework that sought to avoid a decrease in production without taking into account the damages that it would cause to the producers and their families,” they charge.

The farmers categorically reject being paid at the current price and feel they are victims of a manipulation designed to make them work and produce normally, incentivized by a profit that is now not going to be realized.

“The State has an ethical, economic, and legal obligation to the producers, and to its own process of economic reorganization, to legislate a new pricing law that responds to the commitment assumed by the state company that represents it before the farmers,” they assert.

The signers demand that at least the two final conditions they set are met. First, an official statement about their case and situation; and second, the promulgation of the promised new law on tobacco prices, which will take effect with the payments to producers for the 2020-2021 campaign.

Last May, a producer from Pinar del Río told 14ymedio about their precarious situation. In his opinion, the Ordering Task left them “to face the peak of the campaign with credit based on a previous price deficient by 70%,” which “left people without money.”

The signers of the letter include several members of the Pérez family, who for at least three generations have grown tobacco on the La Isleña farm, located in San Juan y Martínez. The municipality is internationally known as the mecca of tobacco in Cuba for the quality of its product, which in the 1950s employed more than 5% of the island’s working population.

One of the most valued cigars in the world is produced in the Hoyo de Monterrey area, although since the 1960s the decline of the industry has been slow but unstoppable. In 2020, the last year with reported results, the Spanish-Cuban company Habanos earned 507 million dollars, 4% less than in 2019.

*Translator’s note: 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, including measures relating to agriculture as discussed in this article. 

Translated by Tomás A.


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.

Violent Arrests and Ridiculous Sentences for Daring to Challenge the Myth of a Happy Cuba

Hundreds of Cubans were detained during the July 11 demonstrations. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Alberto Reyes, Havana, August 9, 2021 — I’m saturated. I read over and over the endless testimonies of what has happened and continues to happen in Cuba since the 11J (July 11) protests and I’m breaking down inside: people willing to arbitrarily detain, beat, torture, attack another human being with dogs, with sticks, with anything that could harm them. Violent arrests, humiliations, beatings, fabricated crimes, ridiculous sentences, intimidations, threats, many threats . . . and something in me refuses to believe that  so much evil together is possible.

It’s true that this isn’t something that came out of nowhere. As the prophet Hosea said: “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.” And much later, Saint Augustine would say: “When one flees from God, everything flees from one.”

From the beginning of this so-called “Revolution,” God was seen as the enemy — God, Christ, the Gospel, the Church, the Christians. That “pernicious superstition,” that backward, retrograde, and bourgeois mentality, that “opium of the people,” the origin of injustice and hatred, had to be uprooted.

Well then, here is the result, here is the New Man, here is the promised paradise, with its new angels adorned with red and black berets, accompanied by their dogs, and, protected both physically continue reading

and legally, walking in groups against vulnerable civilians.

This is what is built when God is banished from the heart of a people.

But I resist, I refuse to believe that the soul has been extinguished in all those people who today are repressing, humiliating, mistreating, abusing civilians who . . . I was going to say, who haven’t done anything wrong, but no. On second thought, it isn’t so.

In reality, all those people who have taken to the streets to demonstrate, to shout “freedom” and “homeland and life!” are guilty. They are deserving of the highest most cruel punishment, because they have dared to challenge the greatest of myths: the myth of a happy Cuba, the myth of a people proud of their communism, the myth of a society that considers itself by decree “the lighthouse of America,” the myth of a communism that works.

Yes, all those protesters deserve condemnation, because they have broken the showcase of Latin American communism, they have demolished the carefully constructed and cared-for image of a Cuba put forward as a social paradigm.

And we already know how the stage works: foreign leaders of all kinds and categories who from their secure capitalist situations defend tooth and nail a system in which they would never come to live; people who, in fear, shout “homeland or death!” while they receive remittances from the “enemy” country or silently await their chance to get out of this nightmare forever. Neighbors who surveil and inform as the best protection for themselves and their children while also dreaming, deep down, of a Cuba where neither they nor their children have to pretend. And a media system of press and television that lies — lies, looking you straight in your eyes — because the lie has become second nature. Yes, where we were going to build a paradise without God, we have built a swamp.

And among the demonstrators of one side or the other, those who attack, those who “carry out orders,” those who are beating, at times sadistically, their brothers.

This breaks me. But despite so much brutal and absurd violence, despite so many institutionalized lies, I want to believe that in all of them the voice of conscience has survived, that they ask themselves questions, that they realize that this is not the way, they are aware that what they are doing is wrong. I understand that they are afraid, I understand that they feel compromised, but I cannot accept so much gratuitous evil.

Maybe I’m just naive. I’ve never been a fan of John Lennon, but his words in “Imagine” keep coming to mind: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.”

Because despite what is happening, we do not stop being a single people, who have been thrown into fighting by those who don’t care about their people, but only about power and impunity over their own people. We are one. And you, who today lend yourself to repress your equals, have a father, mother, brothers, children . . . because you, who today defend the “conquests of the Revolution,” have dreams that you know you will never be able to achieve within this “Revolution;” because you, who today detain and beat, know that a mere slip is enough to go from persecutor to persecuted, and that in a system like this you will never be safe, neither you, nor yours.

I want to believe that we still have time for forgiveness and reconciliation. I want to believe that we can all put ourselves on the right side of history. But each one needs to seek strength in the best of his soul, and decide, once and for all, to do what is right, because it is what is right.

Translated by Tomás A.


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 Cuban Government Has Built a Trap to Attract Capital From the Diaspora

An economist wonders why investment in local development is scarcely allowed. Billboard: Achieve the maximum efficiency and quality. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Elias Amor Bravo, Valencia, August 10, 202114ymedio bigger

Not with my money.

And of course, not now. The official Castroist press has reiterated that the Cuban communist government is now considering promoting investment on the island by residents living abroad. One more return to what is supposed to be the principle from which the nation’s economy should never have departed? Absolutely. It is not advisable to be wrong.

In reality, the fundamentals haven’t changed, because the 2019 Constitution does not alter, but maintains the socialist-communist model of economic management. In this text, the ownership of the means of production continues to be “collective” in the hands of the State, the market continues to be prohibited from allocating resources, and private enrichment is penalized.

Nothing has changed in the fundamental foundations of the system, because even expropriation and confiscation remain in the constitutional text as Government weapons to destroy private property and accumulated wealth. You have to be very careful when investing in Cuba, because the economic system is completely different from the one that exists in the rest of the world, except in North Korea.

But the government has decided to build a trap to attract continue reading

Diaspora capital. The capital that is not allowed to be generated in Cuba by the population residing on the Island, is now intended to be brought from abroad. It is no longer just a matter of attracting remittances, but that Cubans from abroad, unlike their compatriots who are prohibited from doing so, can participate privately in the processes of socio-economic development in the nation. It’s what was missing.

All the countries of the world that have residents abroad, organize policies to attract their capital, technology, experience, and relationships. Spain did it in the 1960s, and Mexico, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic do it today, and they are successful at it because they know what to do. Nationals of one country who emigrate to another to work and carve out a future do so always thinking of a return, and for this, part of their earnings are used to accumulate capital, a business, or an activity that allows them that return.

Cubans haven’t been able to act in this way since 1959. Leaving the country in search of a better life and freedom brought with it the conversion into “worms” — enemies of the regime who had to be crushed or forgotten. Under such conditions, who is the government going to ask for money, and what for? I don’t think this policy is going to be successful, but if it is, some of the features it will have, as announced, are worth listening to.

Apparently, the regime intends that the policy of attracting capital from Cubans abroad only applies to those priorities established by the government’s agenda. In other words, a Cuban resident in Spain or France will not be able to invest freely in what he wants or considers pertinent, but in what the regime authorizes beforehand. But of course only after going through a long and complex bureaucratic process whose end God only knows.

Ernesto Soberón, who is behind this whole new “experiment,” has made sure to make this point very clear, so that no one is misled, and this should be enough to close the portfolio and forget about it. Soberón knows how investment decisions are made in a free economy, so his initiative to direct capital from abroad to only certain activities has very little to do with economic rationality. Another failure is looming on the government ledger. Most likely they will end up blaming the embargo, but in this case, the regulatory system is so intrusive that it will end up being the origin of the disaster.

The search for links between the Island and Cubans living in other latitudes offers a stark idea of the regime’s predicament: it is desperate to find financing, which isn’t coming, because tourism and export earnings are paralyzed by the pandemic.

So if this financial need is so urgent, it is impossible to understand why the regime has decided to allow Cubans living abroad to only invest in local development projects and cooperation exchanges – areas absolutely controlled by the State – which will significantly limit the business opportunities that can be developed.

Cubans will not be able to invest in the agricultural sector, in housing or real estate, in other companies (because they are state-owned) or in education or health (because that is prohibited). Ultimately, it is intended to take a bite out of remittances, not only from their usual use of buying necessary goods and services that are not offered by the regulated (rationed system) basket, but also from the possibility of the family in Cuba investing in a business that could  generate income for themselves.

Soberón acknowledged that they are still working on the regulations, and that they still need to create the legal bases and consider another series of issues necessary for an effective implementation of this entire process, so they are still far from any final approach on this matter. He added: “All this is being worked on, beyond the manipulation on the subject that there will always be by certain media and sectors.”

Manipulation? Who is manipulating what? And how? It isn’t worth wasting time on something that won’t work, because Soberón doesn’t wants the Diaspora’s capital to come to the island, and Cuban businessmen living abroad should not fall into this mousetrap that the Government is preparing, with what is truly very poor quality cheese.

Instead of liberalizing the economy and leaving behind the socialist-communist model, which weighs down the performance of the economy, the authorities tangle everything up with an issue they have invented in order to continue blaming the embargo or “blockade” for all the evils of the economy.

Now they say that, although for someone to invest in a country they must bring money, market or technology, the main difficulty, not only for Cubans, but for everyone, is transferring hard currency to the nation. And this is due, according to the Government, to the permanence of the blockade imposed by the United States, which is also true in the case of remittances and their possible use in enterprises.

Soberón maintains that if the US government obstructs these shipments, if it prevents money from arriving, that is another problem for the Cuban community that does not depend on what Cuba can do. Once again, the responsibility lies with the United States. In reality, I don’t see how the United States can prevent a Cuban retiree in Spain from sending a payment by way of a Spanish bank he’s done business with all his life to an investment project in Cuba.

In fact, I know of the case of someone who has returned to Spain after verifying how unfeasible it was to return and that he would find himself in a much worse situation than the one he left behind. It will not be an easy matter. The money must be profitable and its allocation must be free, with limits only on criminal activities. In reality, I’m afraid that the regime doesn’t want the Diaspora’s money. What it’s after is another argument to say, once again, that the United States is to blame for everything. They never get tired.

Translated by Tomás A.


Editor’s Note: This text was originally published on the Cubaeconomía blog and is reproduced here with the author’s permission.


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 Defense of the ‘Young Man With the Placard’ Reclaims the Right to Protest

Considered a political prisoner, Robles remains in prison awaiting trial. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, August 10, 2021 — Luis Robles Elizastigui, the “young man with the sign” arrested on December 4 during a protest on San Rafael Boulevard in Havana, spent 15 days in a punishment cell in the Combinado del Este prison. This was reported to 14ymedio by his brother, Landy Fernández Elizastigui, who managed to speak with him after a month without receiving any news.

During the call, which this newspaper had audio access to, Luis Robles explained to his brother the reason why he was locked up in the punishment cell: they found some photos which, Fernández told 14ymedio, were “some images of the campaigns that have been carried out calling for freedom.”

In any case, Robles assured his brother that he is “calm.” “I’m a little weak because I lost some blood, and my blood pressure got out of control,” he says, but until today what he has done “is rest” to see if his body will recover.

He also mentioned that he was seen by a doctor, who told him continue reading

that he was going to refer him to a hospital outside the prison for a medical check-up, but that this has not happened yet.

Luis Robles has been threatened in prison. “It’s difficult, a very difficult time. They’ve threatened to put you in jail,” he explained to his brother.

Landy Fernández had previously told this newspaper that the lawyer had received a fourth denial of his request to change the precautionary measure to allow Robles to await trial at his home.

“The lawyer showed me the latest application that he presented on August 2, based on the words of the President of the Supreme Court who said in a press conference on July 24 that ’thinking differently, questioning what the process is doing, or demonstrating, constitutes a crime,’” he said.

Considered a political prisoner, Robles is in prison awaiting trial for protesting peacefully last December 4, calling for the release of rapper Denis Solís and an end to repression in Cuba.

Robles, 28, doesn’t belong to any opposition group, but he is suffering in his own body what it means to be a political prisoner in a Cuban jail for exercising his right to protest. His brother reported that in May he had received mistreatment and punishment that caused a skin allergy that triggered severe wounds.

During their Sunday conversation, Robles and his brother also spoke about the family: “My mother is very worried about the whole situation of my father and yours,” Fernández told him, referring to his father, who was sick with Covid.

At the end of July, a Facebook page created with the activist’s name to demand his freedom, published a video in which Luis Robles talks about his thoughts, his wishes, and also the reasons that led him to be a protestor. The material was recorded on December 1, three days before he was arrested by the police and accused of “enemy propaganda” and “resistance.”

Seven months after Robles was arrested for expressing himself with a sign in the streets of Havana, thousands of Cubans took to the streets and plazas of more than 40 cities throughout the island demanding freedom, the resignation of Miguel Díaz-Canel, and the end of the regime. Hundreds of them remain in detention and are being prosecuted for alleged crimes of public disorder, contempt, or transmission of epidemics.

Translated by Tomás A.


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.

Sancti Spi­ritus Will be Without Water During the Maximum Worsening of the Pandemic in Cuba

It was not possible to start the repair work earlier because the necessary resources “were outside the territory,” said an official from the province. (@DelegacionSsp)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, August 4, 2021 – The city of Sancti Spíritus will be without water for at least three days next week due to repair work. But  the authorities warned that it could be longer, given the possibility of a new “impact” that is not foreseen in the plans for fixing the “biggest leak in the city.”

The cutoff of the water supply affects 70% of the population of that area, about 90,000 of whom reside in the city, according to a note in the local press.

The Director of the Provincial Aqueduct and Sewer Company, Franklin Lantigua Moreno, said that “the work requires the complete replacement of one of the pipes and two 900-millimeter-diameter valves, located on the first street of the Camino de La Habana.”

“We’re talking about the entire central and northern part of the city, from the central park (Serafín Sánchez) to the north of the city and continuing toward the exits from the city: Los Olivos, Reparto Toyos, Kilo 12, Huerto escolar, Reparto July 26,” he said. He pointed out that the southern area of the city, housing 30% of the population, should not be affected by the work because it is served by the Yayabo Water Treatment Plant.

The official is blunt about an alternative for guaranteeing the supply of water by other means: “We don’t have a way to supply the entire population by water trucks.”

The solution that he has asked the residents to make is to set aside water reserves “that will allow them to supply their homes for at least 72 hours.” He did say that they are prepared to guarantee continue reading

sufficient supply through water trucks to “care centers, the Provincial Hospital, polyclinics, and isolation centers.”

Lantigua Moreno explained that what started as a leak of 15 to 20 liters per second is now more than 60 liters. “The material of the new pipe that we are going to install is iron, it is very resistant. According to experts it should last more than 60 years,” he said.

As he explained, they couldn’t start the repair work earlier because the necessary resources, such as valves, flanges, flange cutters, and 900-millimeter pipes, “were outside the territory.” According to him, they have had to hunt down all the necessary replacement parts for “interconnection” in Havana and Ciego de Ávila.

He says that they have several brigades in order to be able to work “continuously” because their goal is to finish before the weekend — “the days with the city’s highest water consumption.”

The cutoff of the water supply comes while the province is suffering an exacerbation of the Covid pandemic, with more than 200 positive cases a day. Of the 262 confirmed at the end of Tuesday, all were local with one exception, and included three deceased, one in Yaguajay and another two in Jatibonico and Trinidad.

The provincial capital is in the lead, with 102 patients, while Jatibonico has 44 patients, Taguasco 40, and Cabaiguán 25.

But the high figures are not only in the city of Sancti Spíritus: Trinidad registered 18 positive cases yesterday and has now imposed a curfew starting at two in the afternoon.

Throughout the province, the incidence of confirmed cases in the last fortnight is 669 per 100,000 inhabitants, a rate exceeded in several municipalities such as Taguasco with 1,648, Jatibonico with 896, and Sancti Spíritus with 778.

Translated by Tomás A.


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.

Amnesty International Seeks to Enter Cuba to Verify the Situation of Those Detained in the Protests

The Government has not provided data on detainees and it is unknown how many there are. (Marcos Evora)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/ EFE, Havana, August 8, 2021 – Amnesty International (AI) asked the Cuban Government this Saturday to allow it to enter the country to verify the situation of the people detained on July 11 (11J) after the protests that were generated on the island.

“For years, we in AI have requested entry to Cuba, without success. Today I reiterate my request to (President) Miguel Díaz-Canel to enter the country to verify the situation of people unjustly imprisoned for exercising their right to protest,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s director for the Americas, on her official Twitter account.

She also shared a letter sent on August 5 to the Cuban authorities requesting that they provide information regarding the number of people who were detained in the protests.

In the letter, the organization asked for information on the number of people who have been released to date, “and how many remain in the custody of the State and under investigation.”

On July 11, hundreds of Cubans took to the streets to protest against the Government with cries of “down with the dictatorship,” “freedom,” “we are not afraid” and to blame the regime for continue reading

the shortage of food, basic products, and medicines, the proliferation of shops with exclusive payment in foreign currency, and the chronic power outages.

Cuba is going through a serious economic crisis, with its coffers empty and unable to cope with its debts, to which has been added in recent weeks a dangerous rise in Covid-19 cases.

During and after the protests, which ranged from peaceful demonstrations to clashes with the police and looting in some towns, there was a wave of arrests of participants and alleged instigators, including anonymous citizens, artists, opposition activists, and independent journalists.

The Government has not offered data on detainees and it is unknown how many there are, although organizations have carried out their own studies that number them from more than one hundred to thousands throughout the country.

According to judicial authorities, as of August 5, 62 people have been tried for their participation in the protests, but the official number of detainees is still unknown.

In this context, AI requested in its letter that the Cuban government send information regarding the specific location of the detention centers where the people are detained, as well as the breakdown by jail or other place of detention in different parts of the country.

Finally, it requested that the authorities indicate the criminal charges made, broken down by number of people detained, and by gender or sex.

The greatest shouts of the 11J protest “were political: Freedom! and Down with the dictatorship!” insisted the Cuban Center for Human Rights (CCDH), led by the opposition activist Martha Beatriz Roque.

In its most recent report, the Havana-based organization alleged that, even if there had been little evidence of human rights violations in Cuba before, the events during the demonstrations and the days after “have made clear how the dictatorship breaks the very laws that it has passed, and how it handles those who participated in these protests, and their families ,behind the scenes. ”

In the same way that countless people tell “how they were beaten and tortured,” the regime “denies that this happened and wants to make it look like all the arrests were carried out with due process guarantees.” But, the CCDH insists, “the many videos, photos, and testimonies uploaded to the social networks support the version of the protesters.”

“The feeling of defenselessness about any type of right, which until now belonged mostly to the opposition, has spread to the social fabric, and many families have now felt at a visceral level ’not being able to do anything,’ not even knowing where their loved ones are,” decries the organization.

Along with the arrests and repression for the 11J protests, the CCDH indicated that the harassment and police siege of artists, activists, and independent journalists is continuing, as is the case with reporters Luz Escobar, from the daily 14ymedio, and Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho, of ADN Cuba, who was also arrested last month.

Translated by Tomás A.


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