Eduardo Cardet Receives his First Visit at the Minimum Security Facility Where He Was Transferred

The prolonged confinement of Eduardo Cardet generated protests from international organizations such as Amnesty International. (oswaldopaya.org)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 February 2019 — Yaimaris Vecino, wife of Eduardo Cardet, visited the national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement and prisoner of conscience for the first time at the minimum security prison to which he was transferred last Friday by the authorities.

The visit went “fairly well”, according to Vecino as she explained to 14ymedio, and she believes that Cardet’s living conditions have improved in the new prison. “Everything is better there: the ventilation, the food, it’s less overcrowded … they call that place La Aguada,” she explained.

“His mind is a bit more calm, there he is also still under lock and key, nor can he walk around. He’s still in prison, but there has been a slight improvement in his conditions,” said Vecino. continue reading

Although Cardet has the option of working, he has not been able to do so thus far due to a lack of documentation that is on the way to being solved. “Soon he will have that resolved,” said Vecino.

The new jail administrators will allow Cardet to spend some weekends at home with his family, although before that occurs he will be on probation for 60 days before receiving an initial leave pass.

“Now I can go to see him every fifteen days, everything is more flexible. Phone calls as well; there they are able to make calls whenever they want,” his wife emphasized.

Cardet’s lawyers, according to Vecino, have again solicited his conditional release. “This is the fourth time, the court denied previous requests, objecting that he was not in a minimum security regimen, there is no reason for the court not to agree to give it to him now that he is no longer in that situation. Hopefully all will end well and soon.”

The Cuban criminal code establishes that a prisoner can “receive the benefit of parole” after having completed part of his sentence while showing good behavior or when due to the details of the of the case, it is presumed that the purpose of the sentence can be achieved without its full execution or with only a partial execution”.

Cardet, born in 1968 and a physician by trade, was violently detained in November 2016, five days after the death of Fidel Castro, accused of the crime of assault against an official and sentenced to three years in prison in 2017 by the Provincial Court of Holguín.

Last year, at a ceremony held in Miami, Cardet was named the winner of the Pedro Luis Boitel Freedom Award. Amnesty International declared Eduardo Cardet a “prisoner of conscience” and launched several campaigns urgently calling for his “immediate and unconditional release.”

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Doctor "Deserters" Disillusioned by Bolsonaro Ask for Help from the United States

The Cuban doctors who decided to stay in Brazil are disillusioned with the Bolsonaro government. (O Tempo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 February 201 9 — More than 2,000 doctors who defied the orders of the authorities in Havana and stayed in Brazil after the end of Cuba’s participation in the Mais Medicos (More Doctors) program have sent a letter to Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Menéndez after learning that the Government of Jair Bolsonaro will suspend the health care program and will not offer them work.

In the letter, which El Nuevo Herald had access to, the professionals asked that both politicians continue to support the efforts to reinstate the Cuban Medical Professional Parole program, repealed by former President Barack Obama in 2017, which grants US visas to health professionals who abandon the Cuban international missions.

The physicians claim that they stopped honoring their commitment to the Cuban government after having relied on Bolsonaro’s promise of offering them political asylum and employment, but nearly three months later most have not been able to find work as doctors. continue reading

“The situation of the doctors who decided to stay in Brazil has been darkened by reality, most of us have been abandoned and left in precarious situations surviving with the help offered by friends and many of those who were our patients and who once again have shown their gratitude towards us,” they explained.

The professionals ask in their letter to the senators that, if they are unable to reactivate the aid program, “they dialogue” with the authorities to help them find jobs.

Mayra Pinheiro, the Brazilian Secretary of Labor Management and Health Education, told the press on Thursday that the current government would terminate the Mais Médicos program and replace it with a new project, so there will be no further requests to fill the 8,300 positions left behind by the Cubans. “All vacancies were filled by registered Brazilians,”she affirmed.

With the closure of Mais Médicos, more than 2,000 Cuban professionals who hoped to obtain work in the state program will not be able to fill positions as health workers in Brazil. In addition, the Cuban government prevents recognizing legally the degrees of these doctors, whom it considers deserters.

Pinheiro, who had talked some time ago about the possibility of performing special revalidation exams for the Cuban professionals to speed up their incorporation into the system, now delegates that responsibility to Cuba and, when asked in an interview about the future of those doctors, responded that it was Havana that abandoned the program.

The first secretary of the Federal Council of Medicine, Hermann Von Tniesehause, said, for his part that, “there is great concern in the government in relation to the Cuban doctors who asked for asylum in the country.” Von Tniesehause denied that the physicians can practice without having taken the revalidation examination.

Last November, Bolsonaro, at the time the president-elect of Brazil, said that the Cuban doctors of Mais Médicos were “slaves” of a “dictatorship” and asked for the modification of the conditions of the program. Havana reacted by abandoning the agreement and facilitating the departure of thousands of its professionals, who had been working in complex areas of Brazil for years.

More than 2,000 of these workers decided to stay in the South American country encouraged by the president’s promises, but now they survive without jobs and see their expectations shattered.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Chad will Pay Cuba the Nearly 18 Million Dollars it Owes for the Training of its Doctors

Signing of the memorandum under which Chad agrees to make their delayed payments to the Island. (Apanews)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 February 2019 — Chad pledged to reimburse Cuba before the end of the first half of this year the almost 18 million dollars that it owes for the training of its students in the health field on the island.

Last Friday, the Minister of Finance and Budget of Chad, Allali Mahamat Abakar and Marcia Cobas Ruiz, Deputy Minister of Health and in charge of medical cooperation in third countries signed a memorandum by which N’Djamena promises to pay 50% of the total of the backlog, about 10,200 million FCFA (African Francs).

They will then pay the remaining 50% balance in two equal installment — the first on March 15th and the other prior to June 15, 2019.

The arrears are due to “failures in the Chadian economy,” explained Mahamat Allali Abakar before recalling that “Chad has more than 300 students in Cuban universities.”

For her part, Marcia Cobas Ruiz said that “the Chadian students are very studious, very disciplined and will be very good doctors”.

44 Cuban doctors are currently working in Chad.

In mid-2018, the Cuban government protested the lack of payment for medical services in Ghana and pointed out, as an example, precisely the compliance of poorer countries such as Chad.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Meteorite that Fell in Vinales May Shed Light on the Origin of the Universe

Some witnesses claimed to have seen “a ball of fire” in the sky. (Guerrillero)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 February 2019 – The meteorite that plunged over the Valley of Viñales, in Pinar del Río, may shed light on the origin of the universe, Cuban experts told the state press.

Astrophysicist Oscar Álvarez said that so far not enough carbon has been found in the fragments of the meteorite, which is necessary in order for further study on the origin of life on earth. However, being a chondrite rock, it will help to expand the knowledge about the origin of the Solar System.

Efrén Jaimez Salgado, head of the Department of Environmental Geology of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment of the Island added that so far between 40 and 50 pieces of the meteorite were found scattered in the areas of Dos Hermanas, El Palmarito, Los Jazmines, El Cuajaní and in the vicinity of the town of Viñales. continue reading

The researchers believe that the meteorite could have weighed about three tons but when it hit the Earth’s atmosphere it disintegrated into dozens of fragments. According to preliminary investigations, experts have found metallic crystals on the rock, presumably of iron and nickel.

The meteorite that fell in Viñales released some 1,400 tons of TNT of energy when it entered Earth’s atmosphere, according to estimates published by NASA and corroborated by Cuban experts. The celestial body was seen from Key West, where a radar detected the meteorite at an altitude of more than 7,920 meters (26,000 feet) near Viñales at 1:21pm.

When it fell, the meteorite produced an explosion that was felt in a good part of the province of Pinar del Río, alarming the local population, who took to the streets after the loud noise. In the areas closest to the event broken glass was reported, a result of the shock wave and the shingles of a house were damaged. There were no deaths or injuries to lament from the impact.

Even though scientists are asking for caution with the rocks (to avoid contaminating them) some neighbors picked up pieces of the meteorite and, according to reports from the local press, have even “sampled it” to determine its flavor. Such was the case of Rainel Rivero, a Pinar del Rio resident who had hopes of being cured of his “hypertension.”

In 2013, a meteorite fell in Chelyabinsk, Russia, causing a huge explosion that left hundreds injured and damaged buildings and infrastructure.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Twenty Reasons to Vote No

The text that will be subject to the plebiscite was not the result of a consensual labor among the diverse currents of opinion of the citizenship. Billboard: “My will, my Constitution. I am participating in the drafting of my Constitution.” (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 5 February 2019 — Why should we vote “No” in the February 24 referendum on a new constitutional project? Of the many reasons, these twenty seem the most important.

1. Because the text that will be submitted to plebiscite was not the result of consensual labor among the different currents of opinion of the citizenship, as it would be in a democratically elected constituent assembly, but rather it was written by a team handpicked by the elite of a single party. Party is derived from “part”, so that said text is only the work of the interests of a sole line of thinking.

2. Because that constitution would institutionalize in perpetuity a one-party dictatorial regime implicit in Article 5, as well as the concentration of the three branches of the State, legislative executive and judicial, in the hands of that same elite. continue reading

3. Because this project aims to reaffirm the institutionalization of systematic violations of fundamental rights such as freedom of expression and of association, when in reality the opposite should be sought, the rule of law.

4. Because voting “Yes” would mean giving carte blanche to the same group that in 60 years has not been able to solve vital problems of the population such as the crisis in transportation, in housing and in shortages and that continues to offer the same failed remedies over and over.

5. Because Article 22 seeks to institutionalize the principle of equality in misery for the vast majority of citizens regarding the limit on properties that they may possess, even if they are acquired honestly by their own efforts or by their talent, which blocks the stimulus of creativity and productivity.

6. Because we need a Constitution that offers a legal framework for the protection of workers and retirees and, in particular, self-employed workers, artisans and artists to be free in their creativity and free in economic initiative for their prosperity, which allows freedom of unionization, right to strike and public demonstration.

7. Because the current project does not guarantee ending the policy of excessive restrictions and obstacles to self-employment, as well as the elimination of discrimination against Cubans living abroad in investing in their own country.

8. Because the new Constitution continues to perpetuate a politicized education under the exclusive control of the State, which implies generating culturally one-dimensional citizens, while at the same time, by excluding private education, parents are deprived of the right to choose for their children the type of education they prefer.

9. Because the deletion of Article 68 that defined marriage as “voluntarily arranged union between two people” leaves a gap in the constitutional text regarding the possibility of members of the LGTB community for cohabitation contracts that ensure basic rights such as that of inheritance.

10. Because the text leaves undefined a topic as vital as the death penalty, suspended but still officially in existence, which, because of the dramatic connotation in our history, must be abolished constitutionally. The life of any human being, regardless of his criminal responsibility, must be considered sacred.

11. Because if we can demonstrate that a considerable percentage of the population supports the No vote, even if it is not a majority, it would allow to demand, before international organizations, that the Cuban government be required to respect the rights of that significant part of the population in disagreement with the official policy.

12. Because a high number of No votes would help to create a civic conscience of resistance in the population before the arbitrary impositions of the current power — or any other power — against their rights and begin undermining the mentality of indolence or blind fanaticism.

13. The belief that voting Yes or No is irrelevant because there will be fraud does not take into account that many of the thousands or tens of thousands responsible for the fraud being carried out will not be able to negate their relatives and friends if there is a really significant number in favor of the No vote, and this would be important in raising the consciousness and willingness for change in the citizenry, the first step towards open expression in favor of a better Cuba.

14. The government’s thesis that voting No signifies opposing the supposed achievements in education and medical care by the regime does not hold, because those benefits whose iterations already existed before 1959 such as emergency medical care and public schools are seen as increasingly diminished by an unviable economic model, as the new Constitution does not propose any alternative model but a continuity of what has already failed; so voting No would mean, on the contrary, opting for a different  form of ensuring these universal rights.

15. The thesis that going to the polls, even if voting No, would mean legitimizing a fraudulent election, does not take into account that in many cases in which a dictatorship agreed to popular consultation in the belief that it would win, not even the potential frauds were enough to circumvent the popular decision, as was the case in the famous plebiscite in which Pinochet was defeated, or in the case of the electoral failure of the Sandinistas against Violeta Chamorro.

16. Because the option of abstaining is indirectly a Yes vote, since generally in no country is it interpreted as a rejection but more as a careless attitude of someone likely to vote Yes who doesn’t due to indifference. Silence gives consent. The No vote, on the other hand, leaves no room for doubt.

17. Nevertheless, due to harassment by pro-government elements to go to the polls, the vast majority of citizens who disagree with this proposal are more likely to attend and vote No, since they fear that their refusal to vote will mark them as malcontents by the regime.

18. Every annulled or absent vote subtracts power from the opposition against an adversary that never splits their vote, because it would be as if the opposition presented three separate candidates against the sole candidate of the authorities. They have only one slogan: Vote Yes. The opposition must not act differently with respect to the No vote, but keep the unique slogan: Everyone Vote No!

19. Because this continent lives a historical moment in which the dictatorships of the so-called “socialism of the 21st century” are in retreat thanks to the decisions and courage of the citizens of those countries, and taking into account the role played by our country in that process, we should do no less but instead go to the source of the evil to eradicate it, and this is justly the first step: vote No!

20. Finally, taking into account all the above reasons, it is necessary to vote No, also for our personal satisfaction, not only because it is our duty as citizens, but also because we must be true to ourselves and act accordingly to how we think. Every time we reject an arbitrary and unjust imposition, something very beautiful is reaffirmed within us.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Spain Recognizes Guaido as Acting President of Venezuela

Pedro Sánchez appeared on live television at 10 o’clock in the morning to announce the recognition of Juan Guaidó as acting president of Venezuela. (Captura)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio / EFE, Madrid, 4 February 2019 — The Spanish government has announced that it officially recognizes the president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, as acting president of Venezuela, as explained by the president of Spain in an institutional statement made without taking questions and broadcast live on the major television networks.

Pedro Sánchez explained that the scope of this recognition is clear, “the calling of elections in the shortest time possible: democratic, free and without exclusions.” The decision was made after the passing of the eight-day deadline given to Nicolás Maduro to hold elections without him having taken the requested steps. “Venezuela must be the owner of its own destiny,” he said. continue reading

Sánchez explained in his brief appearance of about seven minutes that Spain believes in defending multilateralism to solve conflicts and that is why it has led the common position of the European Union. Likewise, the Spanish Prime Minister added that the next step he will take will be to promote within the EU and the United Nations the delivery of humanitarian aid. “The Venezuelan people themselves are suffering the consequences,” he said.

I recognize @jguaido as acting president of Venezuela, with a clear scope: the call for free, democratic presidential elections, with guarantees and without exclusions. I will not take a step back. For freedom, democracy and harmony in #Venezuela

— Pedro Sánchez (@sanchezcastejon) February 4, 2019

Pedro Sanchez addressed the “many colonies of Spaniards” residing in Venezuela and the companies based in the country and stressed that he knows that they share with Venezuelans the desire to have a full democracy “which means that there are no political prisoners and that there are elections, free, transparent and with all the guarantees.”

“Venezuela is a beloved brother country and can count on Spain. We are and we will be by its side”, he said in closing.

The statement came minutes after France also recognized Juan Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela.

“We consider today that the president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, whose legitimacy is perfectly recognized, is authorized to call presidential elections,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, in an interview with the public broadcaster France Inter.

“It seems clear to everyone, including the Europeans, that we must get out of this crisis with an election that is completely legitimate” for the head of state, since Venezuela is a country with a presidential government, argued the head of French diplomacy.

He explained that there will be consultations today between France and its European partners to form a contact group with those who wish “to accompany the transition, not to be neutral.”

To the question of whether recognizing Guaidó as president is interference, Le Drian denied it, since Guaidó asked for help. In addition, he argued that “it is an attempt on our part to resolve the Venezuelan crisis calmly and avoid confrontations and violence,” as well as the intervention of the military.

He stressed that Venezuela is a “dead” country in which “there are many refugees, there is oppression, there is horrible inflation, the people are on the street, they want change and we believe that we must avoid” the risk of “civil war and confrontations.”

He also noted that the election of Maduro in May of last year “was very questionable,” unlike that of the National Assembly, which resulted in Guaidó’s mandate.

Shortly thereafter, the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, made the decision public through Twitter.

Venezuelans have the right to express themselves freely and democratically. France recognizes @jguaido as “acting president” to implement an electoral process. We support the contact group, created with the EU, in this period of transition. https://t.co/7cgpdgz7TN

— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) February 4, 2019

United Kingdom, Austria, Sweden, Latvia and Denmark were other countries that today joined in the decision of Spain and France.

The British Foreign Minister, Jeremy Hunt, revealed the decision on Twitter, after confirming that the current president, Nicolás Maduro, “has not called elections within eight days as we established.”

Hunt wished that the recognition of Guaidó will bring closer “to putting an end to the humanitarian crisis.”

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Under Dogma and Stubbornness / Fernando Damaso

José Martí statue in Havana. (The Straights Times)

Fernando Dámaso,29 January 2019 — On Sunday, January 27th, Havana was affected by a strong tornado that caused considerable destruction, mainly in the October 10, Luyanó, San Miguel del Padrón and Regla neighborhoods.

It is striking that the “March of the Torches”, scheduled for that evening and then moved to the 28th, nonetheless was held instead of using the resources and the young people from the march to help the many victims who, as is habitual, despite speeches and promises of opportunity, will swell the lists of those who wait for solutions to similar phenomena, which extend for more than two decades without visible results. continue reading

Recall that, according to official data, on June 7, 2018 there were 1,703,926 homes in poor condition and, of them, 61,051 in total collapse. The current victims, as is logical, will be placed at the end of the list.

Dogma and stubbornness are some of the actions of the partisan and governmental authorities, who always prioritize “idiotology” rather than the most elementary reasoning.

As a result, they have molded the history of this country in their image and likeness and as a function of their political interests, always prioritized, in spite of natural catastrophes.

January 1st is “the day of the triumph of the experiment”, the 8th is “the entrance to Havana of the” supreme maker” (Fidel Castro) and the evening of the 27th “the march of the torches” in honor of the 28th, the birthday of José Martí.

In February, the 24th is the day of the “Grito de Baire” (Proclamation of Baire in 1895 that began the War of Cuban Independence), usually poorly remembered, although this year it has been linked to the spawn of a Constitutional referendum, as if it the two were related.

March is adorned with the “Assault on the Presidential Palace” on the 13th (1957), the bravest action of the whole insurrection, and with the “Protest of Baraguá” (rejection in 1878 of Treaty with Spain ending Ten Years’ War) on the 15th that, although it was a powerful event, was actually an act of stubbornness that did not lead to anything, because it was impossible to continue the war for independence.

April is Girón (Bay of Pigs) and the supposed “first defeat of imperialism in America”.

May begins with the “Day of the Workers”, on the 1st, where they happily parade without making demands, giving thanks for the crumbs given to them, forgetting that Martí died on the 19th and that the Republic was founded on the 20th.

June is for Maceo (2nd in command of Cuban War for Independence) and Ché, artificially joined on the 13th by their birthdays, although in totally different eras.

July is the month of the “supreme maker”, with the “Day of Kings” and the Carnival of Havana, moved absurdly to this month (traditionally it was held in February), and the Assault on the Moncada Barracks, which they unsuccessfully try to make more important than the Proclamation of Baire.

August 13th is the day of the birth of the “supreme maker” with displays of banners and music.

September is the month of the CDR (Committees for the Defense of the Revolution), a government organization for monitoring and controlling its citizens.

November is for the medical students shot in the 19th century by Spanish forces and December is for the “Landing of Granma”, relegating Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, as inconsequential dates.

This imposed “shrine”, where not everything presented deserve honors, crushingly repeats itself annually, trying to dilute in time our true patriotic dates and commemorations, forgetting that history is not a blur and new account, but a chained continuity, where all the links are important.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

Guaido Rejects Dialogue Proposed by Mexico and Uruguay

Juan Guaidó rejects dialogue and does not close the door on military aid, although he claims he will try to avoid it. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Caracas / Bucharest, 1 February 2019 — The head of Parliament and self-proclaimed president in charge of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, told Mexico and Uruguay this Friday that he will not attend a dialogue that seeks to keep “violators of human rights in power” and reiterated that he is only interested in a negotiation that results in  the end of the “usurpation” by Nicolás Maduro.

“We want to express with certainty and firmness that the democratic forces, the legitimate institutions, much less the people of Venezuela, are unwilling to participate in conversations and negotiations whose purpose is to keep human rights violators in power through deception,” he said in a letter published on Twitter. continue reading

We affirm to the governments of Mexico and Uruguay our position of restoring the constitutional order in Venezuela. We have a clear route:

1. Cessation of usurpation 2. Transitional government 3. Free elections

Join our democratic call! pic.twitter.com/88QScWUIUq

– Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) February 1, 2019

In the letter addressed to the presidents of Mexico and Uruguay, Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Tabaré Vázquez, respectively, Guaidó affirms that he will only be interested in a negotiation “when it is the one that agrees definitely to the terms of cessation of the usurpation.”

A negotiation that, he adds, “allows the effective transfer of power to legitimate representatives of the Venezuelan people to initiate a process of transition that culminates with the holding of free elections, in which the participation of all democratic forces is allowed in a fair and transparent manner.”

He also criticized the neutrality of the representatives of the two countries, pointing out that in this moment that Venezuela is going through being “neutral is to be on the side of a regime that has condemned hundreds of thousands of human beings to poverty, hunger, exile and even death.”

Guaidó invited Mexico and Uruguay, which, this Friday, will bring a proposal for dialogue to the UN to promote a solution to the Venezuelan crisis, to reflect and join as “collaborators” to the demand of “restoring the Constitutional order to initiate a transitional government that leads” to a process of free elections.

He stressed that anything else that distances itself from this negotiating framework will only aggravate the crisis.

Earlier today Guaidó stated on the American network CNN, responding to a question about whether he would be open to receiving US military aid, that such a step would not be desirable, but avoided rejecting that option outright.

“Here in Venezuela we are doing everything possible to put the pressure on, so that we do not have to get to a scenario that nobody wants to have,” Guaidó told CNN.

In Europe, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Josep Borrell, warned that the countries of the European Union (EU) maintain an “absolutely overriding” position of rejection of foreign military intervention in Venezuela in the face of the political crisis that the country is experiencing.

“It is very clear, after my intervention in the Cortes (Spanish legislature) and the statements we have made at all times, that Spain will not support and would be opposed to a foreign military intervention,” Borrell told reporters after participating in an informal meeting of European Union foreign ministers.

“I believe this is the absolutely overriding position in the Council” of the EU, he stressed.

At their meeting, the ministers addressed the situation in Venezuela, although they did not reach consensus for recognizing the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, as interim president, mainly because of the non-acceptance by Greece and Italy.

Borrell said he did not know about Guaidó’s statement about possible military intervention: “I do not know about it, I’m not going to judge it, Mr. Guaidó has his opinions, what I’m telling you is the Spanish position.”

The minister explained that he spoke by telephone on Thursday with the American national security adviser, who “has contacted several countries,” and with whom he discussed the situation in Venezuela.

“You have to be very careful with these issues of military interventions,” he said.

With regards to EU States that do not support recognizing Guaidó, Borrell said that “there are some countries, two countries, which base their reluctance not on the National Assembly taking the lead in the call for elections,” but on the “conditions” under which the president of the Assembly is acting.

Italy has been blunt in rejecting the recognition of Guaidó because “he has not been chosen by the people.”

“Change is decided by Venezuelan citizens, we are on the side of democracy and therefore we have to create all the motives to favor new elections,” Di Maio said when commenting on the abstention of the members of parliament from the parties that make up the Italian government, Liga Y M5S, in the voting of the European Parliament.

Asked if the United States had asked Spain to break all dialogue with Maduro, he said he does not know, although he acknowledged that Washington has asked several countries “to proceed to recognition (of Guaidó) days ago.”

Borrell insisted that Spain “is not abiding by guidelines” from the United States and that the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, “set a deadline” (of 8 days for elections to be held in Venezuela), an ultimatum that “will be maintained,” a position that “many other countries have joined.”

Asked if the United States is upset that the EU is going to push for a contact group to support free elections in Venezuela, Borrell said that “there are many countries that do not look kindly at the EU creating this support group.”

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

An IMO Update Leaves Thousands of Cubans Without Messaging Services

IMO has become, in the last three years, the preferred app for Cuban families to keep in touch with relatives who have emigrated. (Flickr /CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar / Mario J. Pentón, Havana / Miami, 15 January 2019 — A recent update of the popular IMO messaging and calling application has left thousands of Cubans on both sides of the Florida Strait without communications. After the update the contacts with the American prefix disappears, inviting the user to open a link to install the application again.

“The problem with IMO coincided with the Nauta Hogar network and the Wi-Fi network throughout the country going offline, and last night I called [the state phone company] Etecsa to ask what was happening and they told me there were problems with the application,” an app user from Cienfuegos who connects through Nauta Hogar said by telephone. continue reading

IMO surpasses in popularity other videoconferencing applications, due to its stability, the ability to operate despite poor quality connections and its free services. Initially, it was used exclusively in Wi-Fi zones, but with the arrival of the internet to mobile phones, users have also started to use it on the 3G networks.

“The app is unavailable throughout the country but it has nothing to do with Etecsa,” clarified a customer service operator who identified herself as Yaneisy.

“We have been receiving calls reporting problems with IMO but we can’t do anything about it because it’s not under our control,” she said.

IMO did not immediately respond to a request for comment made by this newspaper, but in several technology forums users from other countries complained that they could not call any number in the United States through the tool.

Other instant messaging applications such as WhatsApp and Telegram are not reporting problems from the Island for calls or videoconferences, other than those derived from low connection speeds that, in some cases, cause crashes and delays in the arrival of the image and sound.

Luis Castro, a computer scientist who has a repair workshop for computers and cell phones in Havana, recommended that users “use safer alternatives such as WhatsApp, Telegram or Messenger.”

“By consuming less data, IMO is cheaper for the user’s pocket, but that’s also why the quality of the image and sound is worse, not to mention security,” he explained.

A telephone call through Etecsa’s regular service costs 1.10 CUC (Cuban convertible peso roughly equal to the US dollar) per minute to the Americas and 1.20 CUC to the rest of the world, while an Internet browsing card costs 1 CUC per hour.

Cuba allowed navigation through mobile data with 3G technology in Mid-December. The telecommunications monopoly offers several data packages between 7 and 30 CUC. You can also pay through your telephone bill at a rate of 0.10 CUC per Megabyte.

IMO in the last three years has not only become the preferred app for Cuban families to keep in touch with relatives who have emigrated, but has also played an important role for activism  on the Island, where it is used frequently to broadcast calls for assembly and to organize meetings.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Civil Society Organizes to Help Those Affected by the Tornado

Artists and independent journalists have gone to the areas most affected by Sunday’s tornado in Havana to provide support to the victims. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 30 January 2019 — Artists and independent journalists have gone to the areas most affected by Sunday’s tornado in Havana to provide support to the victims. Arriving in several groups at the esplanade of the Church of San Juan, they went into the surrounding streets to deliver clothing and shoes, canned meat, bread, crackers, pasta and blankets they managed to collect in the preceding hours.

The singer Haydée Milanés, pianist Roberto Carlos Rodríguez Cucurucho, actor Carlos Manuel Paiffer, director Alejandro Gutiérrez, journalist Michel Hernández and the musician Athanai were some of the individuals who went to Luyanó and distributed what they could along Mango, Remedios and San Luis streets. continue reading

As they explained, their intention was to come together and bring some essential products they collected from family and friends. In addition, they recorded a video in the streets to ask others to join this initiative. At these times, they affirm, it is important to use the power they have as public figures to bring people together .

The artists Yomil and El Dany, Alex Duval, and Divan also came to the Luyanó area, and appeared on Mango Street with two pick-up trucks which they used to distribute soft drinks, yogurts, juices and sanitary paper to the crowd that surrounded them. The arrival of this group of artists created much confusion among the neighbors and initially many thought they were representatives of the Government. “I’m running to see if it’s Diaz-Canel, I’m going to tell him that no one has come here to take an interest in us,” said a neighbor before she took off up the hill.

“We are all here supporting the cause for those affected and we are happy to have the opportunity to help the people, who are so badly in need at the moment,” said Yomil, a reggaeton singer, as he handed out groceries to the neighbors. The artist came with part of his production team that helped organize the line.

An hour later several neighbors in the area told this newspaper that a group from State Security did not let the artists finish distributing the aid and expelled them from the area.

Several independent media reporters helped to remove debris from houses to the street, including Rafa Escalona, of AmPm magazine. Photographer May Reguera, a contributor to the magazine Garbos, was also seen carrying aid in a small box  for the most affected neighbors.

The Pazillo bar and the tattoo studio La Marca have tacked on their own initiatives for providing relief for the victims through a donation corresponding to their receipts for a day. Some restaurants like D`La Abuela have proposed to bringing, for free, food with a 30% discount for adults and free of charge for children.

El Destino restaurant announced that it is in talks with the provincial government to ascertain information on the location of the victims with the intention of getting them canned liquids and toiletries. “Any contribution is very much needed for these people,” they said.

The Government, for its part, has announced the arrival of material resources to the most affected areas. “Six new locations for sale of construction materials have been set up and it is anticipated that 800 roof modules (fiber cement) and 800 window units will be available,” they reported. Authorities have counted up to 1,286 damaged homes, plus 123 total and 625 partial collapses. They have placed more than a thousand water tanks for the population, replacing the 873 that were damaged.

The Minister of Public Health has updated the number of injured. Of the 195 initial admissions, 74 patients remain hospitalized, 12 in serious and two in extremely serious condition. The death toll remains at four in the official data.

The Council of Ministers, which assessed the damage, indicated 140,000 people were without electricity as of Wednesday morning, a problem that, according to the authorities, will be resolved in the next 48 hours.

Some 5,300 customers have had telephone service restored, but there are still 10,800 customers without it.

According to the authorities, the distribution of potatoes in Havana will begin on Friday, starting with the affected areas.

#FuerzaCuba. A un #Tornado devastador, un tsunami humano de reconstrucción. #Cuba conoce y practica la #Solidaridad. Una sociedad organizada, una economía planificada, un gobierno socialista, siempre tendrán reservas para que nadie quede desamparado. #SomosCuba #YoVotoSí pic.twitter.com/IkX6CKfxGk

— Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez (@DiazCanelB) 30 de enero de 2019

On Twitter, Miguel Diaz-Canel has acknowledged the solidarity of the Cuban people but has specified that the planned economy and the socialist government “will always have reserves so that no one is left homeless.”

For the moment, however, the ruling party has not commented on the donations that Cuban emigrants are collecting in several countries, especially in the United States, Mexico and Spain. The organizers of the collection efforts fear that the General Customs Office of the Republic will not relax its strict import regulations to let the products into the Island.

On previous occasions, the Plaza of the Revolution has preferred to appeal for the help of other ideologically aligned governments, such as Venezuela, Bolivia or Russia, but has rejected aid from international organizations and exiles.

The damage left by the tornado last Sunday has occurred at a time of extreme fragility of the Cuban economy. The country has a chronic lack of liquidity for buying abroad, has accumulated debts and has deepening shortages of basic products within its borders.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Stain of the Torches

Official government march yesterday, for the birth of José Martí. (MiguelDiazCanelB)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Henry Constantin, Camagüey, 29 January 2019 — I did not believe it, I could not believe that they were capable of such selfishness. Our unelected government began its annual torch march in Havana, one day after the tornado had passed.

It is not a march to pick up debris, nor to bring help to people who lost their belongings in the tornado (although they tried to apologize by promising that they will do it, not today, but the next day); it is not a march of solidarity and compassion with the Cubans who today are sleeping in anguish: it is a march of insensitive politicking. And it is not for José Martí, don’t try to deceive us, he would never have prioritized his birthday nor the cult to himself or any deceased caudillo (Fidel Castro) over the tribulations of his people. continue reading

The march serves to remind us that in Cuba politicking is still the priority of the higher-up officials, to the point that they prefer to maintain an expensive parade (how many official vehicles are currently burning the people’s fuel? how many security agents needed to protect the well-known, how much electricity used so there is light and sound for the choreography?, how many press teams are active to cover a ritual that, in the end, doesn’t even touch the edge of the heart of almost anyone in Cuba?).

A few kilometers from the march there are dozens, hundreds of families having a terrible time, without electricity, with injured relatives or destroyed property, surrounded by debris and shortages, and half of those with torches and the wasted resources would have helped them quite a bit. If not to recover their lost belongings, at least to have faith yes, which is the essential thing that people need to make it to the next day.

I admit that yesterday I had to keep quiet. Diaz-Canel immediately appeared in the affected areas, I do not know if it was heartfelt or because it is stipulated by his job responsibilities, God knows. But the image of a leader in pain seeing the suffering of his people did not last long.

Now he is posing among the scenes of the march, by obedience or insensibility, or maybe both; the unelected president with his also unelected boss, and the two freshly-bathed, recently having dined, with their unaffected homes, their happy families and their quiet smiles, because they lost nothing. It is true that, in the end, they do not owe anything to those people the tornado affected: none voted for them for president or anything else.

Let’s see if the people who are suffering find out about it, that Cubans are not worth much to those who are on top — and if they are worth it, it is not when they are in trouble, but when they march obediently — and hopefully they will make it clear in the circus-like referendum of February 24, with anything but the false Yes vote that many plan to mark on the ballot with the same inertia with which they marched today [on Monday] for Martí and the other one (Fidel), then go marching the following day for a visa or to cross a frontier.

If the tornado does not make those still in charge prioritize Cubans in their agenda, at least it will help us to give back to them the lack of importance they give us. Because at the end of a day of pain in so many Cuban homes, what the authorities have done in Havana is not a march. It’s a stain, and one that is not easy to erase.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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Note from 14ymedio: This text was originally published in La Hora de Cuba. We reproduce it here with the permission of the author.

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The European Parliament will Recognize Guaido as President of Venezuela this Thursday

Mauren Barriga and Leonardo Muñoz, and the Spaniard Gonzalo Domínguez, detained in Caracas. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio / EFE, Brussels / Caracas | January 31, 2019 – The European Parliament will vote this Thursday on a resolution recognizing Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela after noting that Maduro “has publicly rejected the possibility of holding new presidential elections” following the European Union’s (EU) request.

Sources from the popular and socialist parties in the European Parliament, the two major parties, confirmed to EFE that they will vote in favor of this resolution, thus giving it sufficient support to pass among the parliamentarians.

“The European Parliament recognizes Juan Guaidó as the legitimate interim president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela according to the Constitution of Venezuela (…) and expresses its absolute support for his road map,” the Parliament said in a resolution that will be voted on Thursday to which EFE obtained access today. continue reading

The resolution drawn up is also enjoined by the parties of conservatives and reformers (ECR) and the liberal group (ALDE), although liberal sources suggest that some members of parliament from this group may not join.

The text also urges the head of European diplomacy, Federica Mogherini, and the EU member states to recognize Guaidó “until new and free, transparent and credible presidential elections can be held to restore democracy.”

The resolution condemns the violence and repression in Venezuela and rejects “any proposal or attempt that may involve the use of violence to resolve the crisis.”

Likewise, it also reiterates that the National Assembly is “the only legitimate democratic organism in Venezuela” and stresses that its powers “must be restored and respected,” including “the safety of its members.”

The resolution urges Mogherini to “contact the countries of the region and other key actors to create a contact group that can mediate to reach agreement to request presidential elections based on an agreed timetable, equal conditions for all actors, transparency and international observers

Meanwhile, in Venezuela, an EFE team of reporters has disappeared in Caracas after being arrested by the authorities ant, according to the president of the agency, Fernando Garea, find themselves the offices of Sebin (Venezuelan intelligence services). It concerns Colombian photographer Leonardo Muñoz, the Spanish Gonzalo Domínguez Loeda and the Colombian Maurén Barriga Vargas.

The three are part of a team that traveled from Bogotá, Colombia to cover the crisis in Venezuela.

According to EFE journalists in Caracas, members of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin) came tonight to the Agency’s offices, where they arrested Barriga and Dominguez and said that Muñoz had been detained by the Military Counterintelligence Directorate (DGCIM by it spanish acronym).

The Sebin agents ordered Dominguez and Barriga to accompany them to the hotel where they were staying in the Venezuelan capital in order to, according to the agents, collect their belongings, and took them away under arrest for questioning.

The director of EFE in Caracas, Nélida Fernández, along with a lawyer followed Domínguez and Barriga to the Sebin offices to try to clear up the situation with the Venezuelan authorities and obtain their release as soon as possible.

The EFE team traveled to Caracas on January 17 to help cover the Venezuelan crisis and upon arrival at the Maiquetía airport they identified themselves as journalists, upon which the intelligence, immigration and customs authorities allowed them to enter without restrictions after subjecting them to several security background checks of nearly three hours.

However, when photographer Muñoz was heading this morning to cover demonstrations against the Nicolás Maduro regime in the Caracas neighborhood of Petare, contact was lost with him and the driver who accompanied him, the Venezuelan José Salas.

For that reason, the Government of Colombia requested on Wednesday the “immediate release” of Leonardo Muñoz, whose whereabouts until recently were unknown.

The “Government of Colombia rejects the arrest in Venezuela of the Colombian national Leonardo Muñoz, photographer of the EFE Agency and demands his immediate release. We demand respect for the life of our countryman,” said Colombian Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo on Twitter.

When they traveled to Caracas, the three EFE journalists had plane tickets to return to Bogotá on February 7.

Fernando Garea, in an interview with Spanish Television, has expressed concern that the time difference resulted in no news in the last hours about the situation concerning the reporters and has assured that the intention of the Venezuelan regime is to prevent witnesses from seeing what is happening

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Guaido’s Envoy in the United States Rejects Maduro’s Dialogue Offer

Carlos Alfredo Vecchio maintains that previous attempts to negotiate with Maduro have been futile. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio / EFE, Caracas, Washington, Brussels | January 30, 2019 – Carlos Vecchio, Juan Guaidó’s highest representative in the United States, rejected on Wednesday the offer of dialogue by the president of that country, Nicolás Maduro, considering that he seeks to “manipulate” the international community and gain “space” to continue “repressing.”

“His dialogue always seeks to manipulate, deceive, seek space, stop the political momentum and then repress. We do not agree with a dialogue that is made to deceive,” Vecchio said during a debate on Venezuela at the Atlantic Council think-tank in Washington. continue reading

Vecchio said the opposition is not “willing” to participate in the dialogue on the “terms” of the Chavista authorities and that “the only thing” they are willing to discuss is the “agenda” of Guaidó to achieve the “exit” from power of Maduro, occupant of the president’s office of Venezuela since 2013.

As justification for his response, Vecchio referred to the failure of previous attempts at dialogue, including the one that took place in 2014, after days of violent protests, and the one initiated in 2017 in the Dominican Republic with the participation, among others, of the former president of the Spanish Government José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

“We are not performing an abstract analysis (…) one cannot be manipulated again by the dictatorship,” said Vecchio.

This was the initial response of the Venezuelan opposition to the offer of dialogue made by Maduro today in an interview with the Russian agency RIA Nóvosti.

Russia is prepared to participate in “international formats” of mediation to try to resolve the current situation in Venezuela, said Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“We are ready to participate in international efforts (mediation) in those formats that are acceptable to the Venezuelan parties”, the head of Russian diplomacy told a joint press conference with his Iraqi counterpart, Mohamed Ali al Hakim.

Maduro said he was willing to sit down with the opposition to dialogue with an open agenda about “peace and the future” of Venezuela; and also opened the door to dialogue with US President Donald Trump, in “private, in public, in the United States, in Venezuela or wherever he wants, with an open agenda.”

But the president of the United States, Donald Trump, is far from considering any proposal of this type and this Wednesday reiterated, via telephone call, his “full support” for Guaidó, the parliamentary leader explained in a message on Twitter.

“I appreciate the call of the president of the United States, Donald Trump, who reiterated full support for our democratic work, commitment to humanitarian aid and the recognition of his administration of our presidency (in charge),” Guaidó wrote on his Twitter account.

US President Donald Trump had boasted shortly before that Nicolás Maduro was “willing to negotiate” with the opposition thanks to “US sanctions” on oil revenues. The leader recommended that US citizens not travel to Venezuela “until further notice”.

“Maduro is willing to negotiate with the opposition in Venezuela after US sanctions and the reduction in oil revenues,” Trump wrote in his Twitter account about the measures taken by Washington on Monday against Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA.

On the verge of a demonstration today called by the opposition, a new diplomatic front has been opened to Chavismo by the president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, who demanded Wednesday the “immediate release” of two journalists from the National Television of Chile (TVN) who were arrested on Tuesday night in Caracas. “Our Foreign Ministry is taking all the necessary steps. Freedom of the press is another of the victims in Venezuela. The peaceful solution is free and democratic elections, now,” Piñera signaled in his Twitter account.

According to TVN, journalist Rodrigo Pérez and cameraman Gonzalo Barahona were detained in the vicinity of the Miraflores presidential palace, headquarters of the Venezuelan Executive.

The National Syndicate of Press Workers (SNTP by its spanish acronym) of Venezuela denounced that, along with the Chileans, Venezuelan journalists Maiker Yriarte and Ana Rodríguez of the VPI online channel were also arrested, although these two were freed Wednesday morning.

It is believed that the journalists were covering  the vigil in defense of ruler Nicolás Maduro convened by the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV by its spanish acronym) last week.

Chilean chancellor Roberto Ampuero said that Roberto Araos, charge d’affaires at the Chilean embassy in Caracas and head of the diplomatic mission in Venezuela, has been working all night to obtain the release of the press team.

Ampuero said on his Twitter account that he expects an “early release” of the detainees and added that the situation should be clarified “in the shortest possible time.”

Chile is one of the countries that has backed the president of the Venezuelan Parliament, Juan Guaidó, as the ruler in charge of Venezuela since his proclamation on January 23. On Tuesday, the government recognized Guarequena Gutiérrez, the diplomatic representative appointed by Guaidó in Chile, and welcomed him.

In Europe, where several leaders headed by the Spanish Prime Minister asked Maduro for elections within eight days, one of its main institutions, the European Parliament (Legislative) has recognized Guaidó as “sole interlocutor”, according to President Antonio Tajani

“I have spoken on the phone with President Guaidó, our only interlocutor, to assure him of the support of the European Parliament,” Tajani said at the start of the plenary session of the European Parliament held this week in Brussels. The institution cannot remain “silent”  before the latest developments in the Latin American country, said the Italian politician.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

"When We Left We Had No Ceiling in the Living Room, and No Walls"

Neighbors desperately wonder how they will resolve things from now on, after the destruction caused by the tornado. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 29 January 2019 – The sun invades every last corner of the houses after the tornado took everything: ceilings, walls, electric poles, street lamps, warehouses, pharmacies, schools, markets …

Entering from Luyanó Road and turning into Teresa Blanco one arrives at a disaster area. The street full of debris, water tanks, pieces of zinc covers, trees, a television, a record player, a car with a tree trunk on top, another further up overturned with the wheels facing the sky. But the tires are gone. continue reading

Rubble is thrown down from roofs and the neighbors try to delineate a safe area on the sidewalk and give a warning every time they toss down a rock. Lucinda was leaving through the front door at the same time that her neighbor was tossing a rock the size of a soccer ball off the roof. She was saved from injury by mere seconds.

The man stopped short just as he raised the stone over his head to throw it when he saw Lucinda taking short hops from her doorway to the street and heard all the neighbors scream:! Luciiiiiiiiinda!, who continued along oblivious to what might have occurred.

Entering from Luyanó Road and turning into Teresa Blanco one arrives at a disaster area. (14ymedio)

In the main streets there are policemen, ambulances, brigades from the phone company Etecsa, electricians raising utility poles, work crews cutting trees and collecting debris, but in the side streets of the affected areas of the 10 de Octubre (10th of October) municipality there was no such hustle and bustle.

Elaine sweeps the street because she does not know what else to do, she says that when she looks at her house she dies of sadness. “My father does not stop crying, he can’t get rid of the fright from last night. We were eating when everything started and, the moment we understood that the noise we heard was not from an airplane, he put us all in the bathroom. When we left we had no ceiling in the living room, and no walls,” she recalls.

The horror is evident in her facial expression. The sidewalk is full of rubble but she insists on removing the dust that falls ceaselessly from among the ruins that surround her with her broom. “We rescued the neighbor from under the wall that had fallen on top of him. After everything happened we heard a little voice saying: ’help, help’, and between my sister and I, together with other neighbors, we got him out. Luckily he did not have any injuries.”

People removed the debris from their homes in boxes one after another and threw them out on the sidewalk. (14ymedio)

Elaine takes off her handkerchief and places it back on, she puts her hands on her head and starts crying. “Now I just found out that my cousin’s husband is in a very serious condition in the hospital. He called my cell phone. He said that last night, when he was getting out of the car here on the road, a utility pole fell on his head. They already operated and everything, but he is not well”, she says while she cries relentlessly. She puts her hands on her head, she uses her handkerchief, puts it back, and continues sweeping.

From a hallway a young woman emerges holding her son by the hand, the mother carries a black bag full of clothes and the child a small basket full of plastic toys. “I’m going to my mother’s house, there’s nothing left here, I am not  picking up anything else,” the woman said as she walked down the street stopping every now and then to rest. At midday, a helicopter was flying over the area, but nobody paid attention to it.

“You’re a journalist? Come look, come in. Take a photo of my patio, my roof, everything was destroyed, this is the only part where one can stay,” and points to the ceiling. In the bodega (grocery store) on the corner nothing is left, the blue wood walls are bare. The gocer opens his arms and shows what was left of the store while opening his arms.

A school on Pedro Perna Street was left without a roof and without walls, only the bust of José Martí remained intact on one side of the courtyard. “This was Pedro Perna, now you can’t tell what it is”, responds a young man who took pictures and took notes in a notebook.

On Remedios Street, between San Luis and Delicias,  is the house of Bárbaro Ravelo Fernández.

“When the newscast was over, a very strange noise began to get louder. Luckily I was at my neighbor’s house and his daughter said: ’It must be the car that is parking.’But forget that, it was a very strange noise that grew louder. In seconds there was a roar and I went without thinking to close the window, but something threw me backwards. My neighbor had part of the ceiling fall on his arm and now it is injured and I have a blow to the head because part of the false ceiling fell on me.

“I stayed there with them, and that’s what saved me. It did not last very long, look I have seen tornadoes out in the country but never in the city. It had a very high pressure, it was very strong, in a few seconds it razed everything. My neighbor’s house is gone, mine too, Look how it smashed my television, and my record player. It busted everything, now we’ll see what happens here in order to resolve things,” he says pointing to a pile of rubble.

A mixture of solidarity and tension floats in the air. Suddenly, in one of the street corners, a group of people screams while looking at the roof of a house. It’s a quarrel between two men because the owner of the house almost killed his daughter when he was tossing debris from the roof.

They shove each other, they argue and punch while the people down below provoke them with shouts of: “hit him, punch him”. The youngest stand on the stricken cars out in the street, the elderly stand on tiptoes to look or climb up the neighboring houses.

The small houses near the church all lost their roofs, the neighbors are outside, young people playing music with their portable speakers, mothers with children in their arms, parents looking for bread and water for their children. “The church lost its cross,” one child tells another as they play ball on the esplanade in front of the church of San Juan. “Yes, look, and the horses came out to eat,” replies the other child, pointing with his finger at the grazing animals.

On the 10 de Octubre road, the destruction was also enormous. There were crews that erected utility posts, but the danger was still present on each block. The poles that remained standing swayed and sometimes seemed ready to fall. The neighbors removed the rubbish in boxes from their houses and threw them on the sidewalk, where tree limbs and broken objects were piled up.

On Monday, none of them went to work or school. No bus passed either on Luyanó road, or on 10 de Octubre. Getting in and out of there was only possible by walking.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Amid the Chaos in Venezuela, Cuba has No Plans to Evacuate Its Doctors

Cuban doctors during an event in the state of Carabobo, Venezuela. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Pentón / Luz Escobar, Miami / Havana, 29 January 2019 — Kept quartered in some states and working in others, the thousands of doctors that the Cuban government maintains in Venezuela await the outcome of the conflict between the president-in-charge Juan Guaidó and ruler Nicolás Maduro, without evacuation plans.

“Since Guaidó assumed office as president, they told us that we should continue working as if nothing was happening. We are scared because nobody is guaranteeing our security and the situation is deteriorating rapidly,” says a Cuban professional, who, like the rest of her colleagues, is prohibited from speaking with the press. continue reading

Several doctors who spoke with this newspaper under condition of anonymity said they were afraid of finding themselves in the middle of a crossfire if tensions lead to a civil war. “The Venezuelan army is waiting for an invasion from the United States and the criminal gangs move with total freedom,” said a general medicine specialist in Tachira who was speaking by telephone.

“In the state of Bolívar, they looted a CDI [Comprehensive Diagnostic Center] and they took all the medical equipment.” In other offices, doctors have been forced to provide emergency services to criminals and motorizados* [Chavista paramilitaries], illustrated a third doctor .

In Caracas and some other cities the doctors were ordered to remain “quartered” while the the protests last in the country. The entire mission is strictly forbidden from going out on the streets after 4:00pm and thay have been asked to limit their contact with the opposition.

Cuba maintains a contingent of 21,700 health professionals in Venezuela which will be joined in the coming days by another 2,000 doctors that Havana had taken out of Brazil after the electoral victory of Jair Bolsonaro. In return, Venezuela subsidizes the oil it sends to the Island, which has been reduced to 30,000** barrels per day, according to Reuters, although other sources say it is 40,000. In addition to the doctors, Cuba has thousands of teachers, technicians, military advisers, electricians and construction workers in Venezuela.

The work of the doctors provides the Island with more than 10 billion dollars annually, according to official figures. Several countries have denounced this work as “slave labor”. The US Senate has asked the State Department to reactivate a special program to grant Parole (refugee status) to doctors fleeing missions while in Spain the Popular Party (opposition) urges the Socialist government of Pedro Sanchez to grant political asylum to Cuban doctor “deserters”.

On Friday, those responsible for the medical mission in Venezuela asked the coordinators to carry out “special mornings” to demand from the doctors “discipline and firmness” in the current situation, as was made known to this newspaper by three sources. In addition, courses of “reflection and debate” were held to discuss the situation in the country.

“They have kept some of the doctors quartered in the capital for fear of reprisals. Thus far they have not informed us of a plan to withdraw if Maduro leaves power,” said one doctor, who also recalled that Cuba had maintained all their staff in Venezuela even during “the coup against Chávez in 2002”.

The interim president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, said on Friday that Cubans “are welcome” in the country,” but demanded that they end their interference in “the armed forces and decision-making positions.”

On the island, relatives and friends of the Cuban professionals say they are worried because they have no information about what is happening in Venezuela.

“The only thing we know is what is seen in Telesur and what is said on Cuban television, that there is an attempted coup d’état and that the collaborators are doing fine,” said Joanna, daughter of a “collaborator”, via telephone from eastern Cuba.

Doctors in Venezuela also lack information about what is happening in the country.

“The internet is lousy, extremely slow, in the mission we are only allowed to view Telesur and the newscasts from Cuba. I have bought few things, in case we have to flee, but until now we have not been informed of any contingency plan” explains one of the doctors interviewed in the state of Carabobo.

Translator’s notes:
*”Moto” (from motor[cycle]) is a word for a motorbike or motorcycle; “motorizado” (“motorized”) is a reference to the paramilitaries who ride them.
**Down from a previous 100,000 barrels

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.