Yusnel Bacallao and Lisandra Ordaz Will Not Participate in the National Chess Tournament

Participants in the 53rd edition of the Capablanca Memorial International Chess Tournament in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 January 2019 – Cuban Grandmaster (GM) Yuniesky Quesada Perez shared on his Facebook account information from journalist Osmany Pedraza on the decision of Matanzas GM Yusnel Bacallao and Pinar del Río GM (absolute International Master) Lisandra Ordaz to not participate in the final stage of the national chess championships.

Automatically eligible, the two chess players, members of the national teams who participated in the last Olympiad of the scientific game in Batumi, Georgia, neither one has stated the reasons why they will not attend the domestic tournament. continue reading

As in the prior cases, once again it was Carlos Rivero González, president of the Cuban Chess Federation, who stated that they declined to participate due to personal reasons.

The information mentions that the women’s tournament begins in Holguin on January 28, while the men will begin to move the chess pieces on February 2 in Santa Clara.

Yuleisy Hernandez from the capital city will also not participate, although nothing has been said about this.

In the case of the Grand Master from Pinar del Rio, Lisandra Ordaz, many experts consider her among the three best Cuban chess players of the current century. Although she has never won a national tournament, she was the first to surpass the 2,400 ELO classification points hurdle and became the first Cuban to be recognized as an International Master, regardless of sex.

Bacallao, on the other hand, was called to occupy a greater leading role after the departures of Leinier Domínguez, Yuniesky Quesada and Lázaro Bruzón. The first days of January brought him a second place in the Zicosur 2019 chess tournament, which was won in Antofagasta, Chile, by the Peruvian José Eduardo Martínez.

Lisandra Ordaz is listed in 67th place among the first 100 women in the world rankings and is the first Latin American on the Elo list updated on January 1st.

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.

Lumberjacks Achieve the Throne of the National Baseball Series

The champions, Las Tunas, already have to start preparations to go to battle in the Caribbean Series in Barquisimeto. (Granma/Ricardo López Hevia)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ernesto Santana, Havana, 18 January 2019 — With four victories against one loss in the final, the Las Tunas team has just made their debut at the top of Cuban baseball against the orange Leopards who neither gave nor asked for a truce, and won 9-4 in the third encounter and lost by scores of 13-6 , 8-4, 7-5 and 8-4, in the first, second, fourth and fifth games, respectively.

After prevailing in their home at Mella stadium, the Lumberjacks arrived at Sandino stadium where the public pondered the defeat. After the start of the duel, Freddy Asiel Álvarez vs. Yoanni Yera, and an inning in which the Tuneros scored four runs against the orange starter, he righted himself and his teammates made a historic comeback. Afterwards Pablo Guillén ended things, striking out six of the ten men he faced to seal the victory. continue reading

The second game in Santa Clara was eminently tactical, with many emotions and controversial decisions. Alain Sánchez and Leandro Martínez started and again the Leopards fought hard, but the lockdown pitching by Yudier Rodríguez and Yoelkis Cruz — the great starters converted by wise decision into great closers — allowed the success that put the home team on the edge of elimination.

The final match at the Sandino was worthy of the grand final. If the Leopards opened by biting fast, the Lumberjacks used that deadly method that has become their hallmark: the epic comebacks every time the opponent takes the lead. The hero of the game, Jorge Johnson, defined the triumph driving in a run in the seventh to make the score 5-4, but, just in case, in the ninth he connected with the hit of the championship, a three run homer. Although Villa Clara threatened by loading the bases with one out, they could not pull it off.

The 39-year-old veteran Yoelkis Cruz-who participated in all five and saved four games- again shone in closing with the victory going to Yadián Martínez, who was credited with the last two wins in Las Tunas.

Although with their gold medal Las Tunas fulfilled the predicitions of many throughout the season, they also broke the supposed curse that the leader in the qualifying round never wins the championship in the end. Either way, this crown is the greatest collective sports success in the 42-year history of the province.

That’s what the “family-team” of manager Pablo Civil was aiming for since he took the field on August 9 to fight for each game as if it were the decisive one, with cohesion and function in all aspects, fast and powerful, where even the last man could be the first, without improvisation, with a heart called Danel Castro (“Without Danel there is no championship!”, the Tuneran fans shouted and sang from the beginning) and a captain like Yosvani Alarcón.

The designated hitter, who is as old as his province, was joyful: “This is big, big, I was a champion with Villa Cara, but with Las Tunas it’s something else. It was what I was dreaming about for my sports career. Now I am enjoying this and we will see what happens next year. I’ll have to think about whether I’ll retire or not. ”

For their part, the Sugarmakers returned along with their leopard mascot to the elite of Cuban baseball, improving with silver medal from their eighth place finish in the previous series and thus achieving its tenth subtitle in the national classic. Eduardo Paret could not make a better debut. Sancti Spíritus, bronze, deserves the most repeated praise.

While the statistics speak for themselves, they do not sufficiently explain the crown for Las Tunas. Although their success was seen coming since 2017, it is based on  very long, patient and focused work, which began prior to Pablo Civil and his excellent body of physical trainers. Suffice it to remember that Ermidelio Urrutia, who played with them, and later managed them also feels happy today with this laurel.

Along the way back to their home territorry, the Lumberjacks have been cheered by admiring crowds, including by their recently defeated Villa Clara and Avilanian rivals. In Camagüey, of course, the celebration was huge, since Dariel Góngora and Alexander Ayala are from there, two of the architects of the triumph. In Las Tunas, of course, who knows how long the fun and madness will last.

But the athletes can’t celebrate too much, because after a short break, they have to start preparing to go to battle in the Caribbean Series in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, between February 2 and 8, against Puerto Rico, Mexico, Dominican Republic and the hosts. Some hope that Las Tunas, reinforced with other good players from the championship series, will help raise at this time the self-esteem of the depressed nature of our national baseball.

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 March of the Prohibited: #I Vote No / Somos+

List of March Coordinators, by Country

The March of the Prohibited

Somos+, 17 January 2019: This coming February 26th will be transcendental for all Cubans abroad, who will answer the call to responding NO to the unacceptable proposal of the constitutional reform that the Cuban government has launched.

Cubans from all over the world will demonstrate against this constitutional project that enslaves Cuba to a single party (the Cuban Communist Party, PCC), and therefore to a communist dictatorship, for life.

Somos+ summons all Cubans who want to support this initiative to join the protests. Contact the coordinator of your country and inform yourself of the exact time and location of the march.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

Believing is Easier than Thinking / Somos+

Somos+, Jorge Pantoja, 3 December 2018 — Upon hearing and studying the history of Cuba, as told by the victors of the so-called Cuban Revolution, there are many points of total incoherence that we, without being experts, can ask ourselves. Did it really happen like that?

Wherever there exist doubt, there is a very high possibility that history was changed to favor of the victors, generally those most disadvantaged until the moment just prior to reaching their objective.

I ask myself, how is it possible that such a ruthless tyranny as Batista’s would give an opportunity to its main opponent, Fidel Castro, to have a fair trial, defend himself and win the court’s ruling, this being perhaps the determining factor of the future as Castro himself removed from the constitution of the republic the right of a Cuban to defend himself in front of a court by his own means. continue reading

Instead guaranteeing with the great lie of judicial security representation by a professional who only responds to the interests of the government because it is his employer; lawyers in Cuba are present only because they have to be there and not because they can perform their work with dignity.

Just the mention of the physical disappearance of Camilo Cienfuegos my stomach churns; Cuba needed one last hero to complete the process and this man was Castro’s sacrificial lamb.

It is very easy to deceive a people when only one voice is heard and others that arise are silenced. What a coincidence that very few survived the year 1959 but the commander-in-chief suffered not even a scratch.

Democracy in Cuba was in good shape but it was well screwed up in the first minute of the Revolution, with those massacres of supposed traitors, that holocaust of silencing competing ideas because we already had the great thinker-in-Chief , I regret how my people let themselves be deceived in this cheap and vile way.

Another murky point in the history of Cuba is that after the Granma there were very few revolutionary’s left, and yet, they were always nearby to defend a peasant family that was under assault by the rural guard throughout the Sierra Maestra.

The great power of the revolutionary government was centered around the survivors of the landing of the Granma, little by little they got rid of those who were not on that boat until creating that closed circle of individuals overrated in heroism. I would say that it was cynicism more than anything and a well thought out plan.

I don’t know about everybody else, but for me, it has become easier for Cubans to BELIEVE THAN TO THINK.

 Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

The Director General of RTV Comercial Has Been Detained and Is Under Investigation

Joel Ortega Quinteiro is the director of the largest state production and marketing company of films and television programs in Cuba. (Cubanow)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 January 2019 — The director general of RTV Comercial, Joel Ortega Quinteiro, has been detained for the alleged crimes of influence peddling and embezzlement, as confirmed by several sources in the sector. The official directed the largest state production and marketing company of films and television programs in Cuba.

Ortega Quinteiro was arrested earlier this month and taken to Villa Marista, the Operations Directorate of State Security in Havana. In addition, the director of artistic representation of RTV Comercial, Wendolyn Ferrer Vela, is under house arrest while the investigation is being conducted. continue reading

According to an employee of the company and another of the Institute of Music, the director is accused of possible mishandling of funds, overpayment of salaries to employees and that some in his family were hired by the departments that buy audiovisual equipment abroad.

The RTV director’s secretary declined to confirm the information in a telephone call with this newspaper, although she said that Ortega Quinteiro would not be available in his office “until the end of February.” When pushed, the employee explained that Friday was his “last day of work in the company” and that he was “liquidating everything” in his office in El Vedado.

The company, directed until now by Ortega Quinteiro, has been in charge of programs such as Sonando en Cuba, a program of musical competition that achieved an impressive audience within the Island. It has also produced the acclaimed film Conducta, winner of the Coral Award at the Havana Film Festival in 2014 and, more recently, the reel “Why do my friends cry?

RTV Comercial has been in recent years the crown jewel of the Cuban Radio and Television Institute (ICRT by its spanish acronym) and has been responsible for obtaining foreign currency to reduce the amount allocated by the State to radio and television productions. With a management model more focused on commercialization, the entity began to be the focus of the economic police more than a year ago.

RTV’s audiovisuals are characterized by resources that are rarely available for regular television programs. “The company accumulated enemies and people who questioned how it handles resources and what projects it assumes,” an ICRT source told the newspaper, who requested anonymity. “It was a matter of time before Joel was knocked down because it was known he was committing irregularities.”

“There were also allegations of delays in payments and possible bribes to be hired to the staff of a program,” adds the state employee. “Although the ICRT has not officially reported anything to the workers, the director’s arrest is the talk of the day in the corridors.”

So far “the projects that RTV Comercial was conducting have not been suspended, but all those involved in these programs have their hearts in their mouths because of the fear of losing their jobs or of not being paid the agreed salary,” the source explained.

Some producers consulted praised the salaries that the company could afford to pay to the creators because the content was later commercialized internationally. However, other sources allude to the fact that many of the programs produced were never sold to other chains, which caused severe losses that have also weighed in the arrest of Ortega Quinteiro.

The technical staff that is hired by RTV Comercial earns high salaries in convertible pesos (CUC — roughly equivalent to the US dollar). The director of Sonando in Cuba, Manolo Ortega, earns 3,000 CUC (roughy $3,000 US or about 75,000 cuban pesos) for one season of the program that lasts less than three months. While any other director of musicals linked to ICRT only earns 2,400 CUP (Cuban pesos — about $96 US) in the same timeframe.

In an interview with the Cubanow site, Ortega Quinteiro stated that RTV applied “a production system that is not very far from traditional production,” although he acknowledged that “national television goes through issues related to material resources that escape from the hands of the creators and the institution,” something that his company sought to improve.

The company was born in 1994, in the midst of the deep economic crisis caused by the end of the Soviet Union. A moment in which a process of decentralization of foreign trade was promoted, so that each state agency could create a team or department in charge of imports and commercialization of its products.

However, it wasn’t until 2007 with the advent of digital television that RTV began to produce content with standards that could be sold in the international market. Since then, programs with audience participation have been its mainstay.

Ortega Quinteiro explained to the official press that the company offered at the beginning “three fundamental services: licensing of audiovisual works, production services and importation of equipment.” Now, it covers “ten business lines,” including the production of revenue-generating audiovisuals and co-productions with other institutions.

The night of December 31, RTV participated in the production of the television show for New Year’s Eve and in tribute to the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. The transmission was praised in the official press but a few days later Ortega Quinteiro was arrested and taken to the headquarters of the State Security.

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.

Jazz Breezes Refresh Santiago de Cuba

For the first time, the Plaza Jazz Festival included performances and concerts in Santiago de Cuba this year. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eduardo Marín, Santiago de Cuba, 21 January 2019 – Santiago de Cuba has lived an unusual week. Not only have the temperatures cooled and long sleeves become more frequent in the streets, but the winds of good music have also blown. For the first time, the Plaza Jazz Festival included presentations and concerts in this city in eastern Cuba.

The inaugural day, January 14, brought a combination of experimentation and tradition with the show of Arturo O’Farrill, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas and the Conga de Los Hoyos at the Martí Theater. It was a night that neither the delay in starting the show nor the hubbub of the audience, formed by students of the Vocational Art School, managed to tarnish. continue reading

O’Farrill showed that his family ties to Cuban music from his father are not only a matter of blood inheritance but that his interpretations are permeated by a mixture of audacity and folklore. He reached the climax of the presentation when he performed the danzón Bodas de Oro (Weddings of Gold) with his two sons and the conga santiaguera.

The jazz festival program also featured throughout the week  the Colombians José Tobón and Sigura Jazz Ensemble, the Canadians Stich Wynston and The Shuffle Demons, along with a good number of Cuban musicians and students from the Esteban Salas Conservatory.

However, the final weight of the event was more inclined towards genres such as son, rumba and salsa due to the existence of very few jazz groups in the province. This musical reality was described by one of the members of the Vocal ConPaz quartet, Gualveris Rosales, who defined the Festival as “50%” jazz.

For several attendees consulted by 14ymedio, the fact that there are few santigueran groups dedicated to this genre born in the United States is due, in part, to the lack of presentation venues destined for its dissemination. “Jazz needs an atmosphere, a more intimate space in which the viewer and the musician connect better,” said Isaac, a young man who was at the Plaza Dolores for the closing of the Festival on Sunday.

So at the closing of the santigueran edition of Jazz Plaza the majority of the public came to dance with Ronald’s drums and his Rumbera Explosion, rather than with the cadence of the saxophones and piano.

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 Multiple Ways the Maduro Regime Kills

Sign: “Studying While Hungry Doesn’t Work.” The author argues that “induced hunger has an advantage: it kills slowly without its victims joining the statistics of violent deaths.” (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miguel Henrique Otero, Madrid, 19 January 2019 — The regime headed by Nicolás Maduro kills without a timetable. It does so throughout the national territory, during the day or at night. The process that consists in depriving Venezuelans of their lives is permanent. And for this it makes use of the most diverse methods, whose results are confirmed at distinct rates.

The method that reaches the greatest number of victims is undoubtedly induced hunger. Over two decades, Chávez first and then Maduro built an economic model, now in full swing, that operates on two premises: hunger and hyperinflation. continue reading

Simultaneously, they liquidated the value of the currency–reduced its purchasing power to nothing–and spread among millions of Venezuelan families the practice of eating less and less, progressively worse, progressively more sporadically. In the design of this perverse, gigantic operation, which has among its glorious antecedents the famines caused by Stalin and Mao, it has counted on the participation of advisors of Castroism and the political party Podemos.

From the plan to turn Venezuela into a State of Hunger, nothing has escaped: the School Food Program ended, productive farms and companies in the agroindustrial sector were expropriated to ruin them, entities have been created one after the other to make the acquisition and distribution of food impossible, the budgets that, until 1998, allowed the operation of soup kitchens and food services in hospitals, orphanages, centers for the elderly, prisons and other institutions have been devastated. A reality that is yet to be reported and photographed: the thousands of industrial kitchens that, throughout the country, are now in useless, rusty and filthy.

The most significant achievement of the “Bolivarian Revolution” in its intent of imposing a dictatorship is expressed in the politicization of the right to eat: the national identity card and the Local Supply and Production Committees (CLAP) that, in particular, act under the most implacable logic of extortion: access to bags of food in exchange for political loyalty. The CLAP system is the most widespread method of humiliation and submission of the Venezuelan society.

Induced famine has an advantage: it kills slowly without its victims adding to the statistics of violent deaths. People — especially children and the elderly — lose weight, lose their body mass, weaken, fall ill and die. The structure of death works perfectly: when the afflicted citizen seeks the help of health services, he does not find it. Thus, the sick person becomes a kind of shipwrecked person: alone, lost, orphaned by the health care to which he is entitled.

To contribute to this politics of death, the regime first undertook one of its most impeccable operations: it destroyed the healthcare system. A perspective view of what happened, shows the multiple factors that were put into play: politicized the performance and operations of the hospitals, persecuted doctors and paramedics, who by thousands and thousands chose to flee the country; took the right measures to create situations of extreme shortage of medicines and hospital supplies; imported from Cuba, not professionals but pirates of the exercise of medicine; and stimulated the return of diseases that had been eradicated and that have acquired epidemic proportions.

They concentrated the purchasing systems in such a manner that it turned them into effective methods for corruption, acquired billion-dollar amounts of bad-quality medicines or counterfeit drugs, destroyed or stole the fleet of ambulances.

They ransacked the dispensaries of the health centers, created their own factory of incompetents under the name of community doctors, allowed the hospitals to become haunts for mafias and criminal gangs; and, if my count is correct, in two decades the so-called Ministry of Popular Power for Health has had, read closely, 17 ministers, one of the biggest posters for an executive power specializing in naming ignorants and thieves as ministers.

To double this process, insatiable and regularly sustained, of killing by hunger and disease, dozens and dozens of other methods are added, more apparent and occurring daily. They kill thousands of defenseless citizens, between 25,000 and 30,000 a year, at the hands of criminals who keep the cities and towns of the Venezuelan territory under control.

Drivers and passengers of vehicles die on highways full of potholes, without illumination nor road signs, in fatal and incapacitating accidents. Hungry people die after eating poisonous food — like bitter yucca — in their starving desperation.

Patients die in operating rooms and intensive care rooms as a result of the extensive and repeated failures of the electrical service. People die due to the lack of ambulance services and emergency care. Entire families die, dragged under by the mud and waters, on rainy days. Thousands and thousands of people die due to lack of medicines and supplies for chronic diseases such as diabetes, blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, HIV and others.

Venezuelan indigenous people die, struck by epidemics. Innocents who live in the neighborhoods of the country die, killed by gang fights or by police operatives or military bodies that shoot indiscriminately. Victims die by hired assassins in charge of the operations. Citizens such as Fernando Albán are killed in torture sessions. Political prisoners die who are denied medical attention. Thousands and thousands of Venezuelans die under the yoke of a regime that hates life.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

Editor’s note: Miguel Henrique Otero is Editor-in-Chief of the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.

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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 Police Removed the Poor From the Streets of Cienfuegos During the Visit of Diaz-Canel

The authorities of Cienfuegos wanted to prevent the poor from “wandering” in the city during the visit of Miguel Díaz-Canel. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Justo Mora / Mario J. Pentón, Cienfuegos / Miami, 19 January 2019 – More than twenty beggars and elderly people were picked up by the police in the streets of Cienfuegos and sent to the Psychiatric Hospital. The authorities wanted to prevent those poor people from “wandering” in the city during Thursday’s visit by the Head of State, Miguel Díaz-Canel.

Various testimonies collected by 14ymedio in Cienfuegos gave an account of the “cleaning” done by the forces of order with a bus that picked up the elderly who were on the Boulevard and other central zones of the city.

“My aunt was picked up on Wednesday, they manhandled and beat her, she still has a bandage on her leg and bruises on her face and mouth. Osniel Gómez, a policeman on the Boulevard, told me that the round up was due to the arrival of Díaz-Canel,” Martha Galán Cañizares, niece of Natividad Cañizares, reported by telephone. continue reading

Galán said her aunt appeared drugged when she picked her up at the psychiatric hospital in Cienfuegos. According to her, nobody could tell her who was responsible for the old woman’s injuries.

“My aunt raised me since I was a baby. Imagine the amount of medication they gave her that she did not even recognize me. When I told these things to the police they wanted to arrest me,” the woman added.

Although she thought about staying in front of the headquarters of the Communist Party to show Diaz-Canel what had happened to her aunt, Galán feared for the consequences.

“My fear is that afterwards they will continue harassing her. My aunt does not get involved with anyone. She is well mentally, the only thing is that she likes to walk around the city and while she is healthy I think she should do it,” she said.

Díaz-Canel visited Cienfuegos last Thursday as part of a tour that has taken him to several provinces in the country. The media presence of the president, appointed by Raúl Castro in April 2018, has grown exponentially. He visited the glucose factory, the university, the provincial hospital and the amusement park, as well as holding a meeting with the principal leaders of the region.

The social networks publish more and more photos and videos of Diaz-Canel strolling through the streets of the  major cities and small peasant villages, where people approach him to pose problems of all kinds.

“Every time a high-level visit comes, the police and the Ministry of Public Health pick up the dirty-looking people who roam the streets and take them to the Psychiatric Hospital,” says a source at the Municipal Social Security Directorate who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.

“The worst of it all is that they pick them up for a few days and then release them again on the streets without any type of asistance,” he added.

According to the same source, during Díaz-Canel’s visit at least twenty beggars and “wanderers” were picked up.

Arelys Silva, who lives in the vicinity of the Calzada de Dolores, one of the city’s main arteries, is “outraged” by the abuse of the beggars.

“Everybody knows that they take advantage of the fact those people have no one to defend them and they commit all sorts of injustices against them.” Since the arrival of Díaz-Canel, the entire scene was set up to show that things are all wonderful. These people live in a lie,” she said.

Silva says she is still waiting for Díaz-Canel to “bring back the quality” of the flour with which they are making bread or to change the filters of the city aqueduct so that the water does not arrive “with a chocolate color”.

“We have lived through decades of promises and calls for resistance but we continue with the ration book and ’eating chicken for fish’*,” she lamented.

Odalis Acea, a self-employed worker, recognized that with the arrival of Díaz-Canel, transportation and garbage collection had improved. “Even bus route 5 to Tulipán is passing by regularly, but when the president gets on his helicopter, all will revert to how it was before.”

*Translator’s note: “Eating chicken for fish” is a widespread complaint about the rationing system. Cubans can buy limited foods through their ration booklets at very low prices. The allocation is supposed to include fish but, as it almost never does, chicken is substituted. There is no explanation for why, on an island surrounded by water, fish is never available.

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.

Hundreds of Cubans will Meet with Pope Francis in Panama

The Cubans who are departing for  Panama World Youth Day are children of a generation that, for decades, could not show their faith in public. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Bertha K. Guillén, Candelaria, 18 January 2019 — This Saturday is the day that Jorge has waited for months. Tomorrow he leaves for Panama along with 470 other Cuban Catholics to attend along with Pope Francis the triennial meeting of the World Youth Day (WYD).

It is the island’s largest delegation in the history of the event, which takes place between January 22 and 27, and for the first time, Cuban pilgrims are assuming their own transportation and lodging expenses. In the past, the parishes of the Island covered those expenses and that is why the Cuban delegations were small. continue reading

Jorge sold an electronic tablet and some household goods to gather the $640 that the trip costs. He has also received help from his parents, who make their living renting a house to tourists. With this amount, the youth can buy a packet of accommodation, food and insurance (at a cost of $250), while the other $390 will defray the cost of the plane ticket.

“I was a minor when the Pope visited Brazil in 2013 and I could not travel at that time, in addition there weren’t any meetings in the parishes so that those interested could pay for the trip,” Jorge tells 14ymedio.

The interest expressed by young people to attend the World Youth Day was so wide, according to parishioners from several parishes of Artemisa and Pinar del Río, that the ecclesiastical authorities decided to make a call for self-financing of the trip to all those who would like to participate.

The consular paperwork was handled through the diocesan board of Pastoral Youth. “That helped a lot because the Panamanian embassy in Havana is very complicated, the line is long and the resellers (Cubans who travel to other countries to buy goods and then resell them back in Cuba) offer more than 300 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos, roughly $300 US) for a place in the line in the informal market,” says Ismael, another pilgrim who has joined the trip.

Ismael’s parents look forward to the presence of their son in Panama. Growing up under the strict atheism of the 70s in Cuba, both professionals began to show their religious faith in public when, in 1991, the Communist Party allowed membership to believers. “They dreamed of something that now I can finally do,” says the son.

Many of those who travel to Panama this Saturday are children of a generation “that could not be baptized or married by the Church,” says Ismael. “Those people had to hide the crucifix and religious images and that is why now they have encouraged and supported the young people so they do not let their religion be taken away and carry it with pride”.

To join the delegation it was necessary to fulfill the requirements of the parish, such as having an active and sacramental life and providing a letter of approval from the parish priest or another religious figure of the community.

In all the parishes of the country, young people were advised to count on having additional funds for any unforeseen event. More than 60% of those interested in the trip arranged for private funds or received help from the religious community and from parishioners who collected money so they could fulfill their dream.

“Paying for our tickets has been a challenge, in which our priest have had the principal role. Most of us are students, so we have appealed to the generosity of priests, nuns and people of good will who live outside of Cuba.” explained to this newspaper a young man from Candelaria, in the province of Artemisa.

The Candelarian has many expectations for World Youth Day, an event founded in 1985 by Pope John Paul II that has become the biggest celebration of young Catholics. “It is also a place to compare our realities, to learn other ways of living the faith and above all to fill ourselves with hope,” he says.

In Panama, they will participate in meetings with Pope Francis. “Since last October we have had formative meetings in the parishes to be in tune with the world’s youth,” explains Mónica Rodríguez, a young woman from Santiago. “It is a great responsibility to represent Cubans who are unable to go on the journey and convey the true reality of our country.”

In Cuba there will also be a digital broadcast via Facebook. “We are enabling sites in order to experience the most important moments of the journey via the Internet”, explains David Yanes. “It is the first time that we are directly connected and we are going to take advantage of it”.

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.

Cubans Abroad will March for Their Rights and the "No" Vote in the Constitutional Referendum

Several organizations of Cubans living in other countries have decided to embrace the call to protest at the diplomatic offices in the countries where they live. (Youtube)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 16, 2019 — A group of Cuban opponents, including Eliécer Ávila, have convened a march for Saturday, January 26, in front of the Cuban embassy in Washington to request a No vote in the constitutional referendum of this coming February 24th. Several organizations of Cubans living in other countries have decided to embrace the call to protest at the diplomatic offices of the countries where they live.

The organizers believe that it is important to “send a loud and clear message (…) with sufficient time in advance about the need to vote No in the upcoming constitutional referendum” Ávila explains to 14ymedio. continue reading

It is not the only demand of the call for a public protest with the motto Protest for all the prohibitions, which attempts to reclaim the freedom of entry and exit to/from the Island “without restrictions, nor black lists.” In addition, the organizers demand “having a passport at an accessible price for all,” dignified treatment in the ports and airports, and the right of Cubans to invest in Cuba with full legal guarantees. Under current law foreigners can invest in Cuba but Cubans cannot.

Added to this list are the petitions for several political rights such as the right of Cubans abroad to vote in all elections and popular consultations that take place in Cuba, the direct vote for the Presidency of the Republic and the claim for a plural and democratic constituent process, in which a Constitution is written that represents, protects and inspires all Cubans.

The call to gather was created by Lucio Enriquez Nodarse and, according to Ávila, has two fundamental slogans: #YoVotoNo (IVoteNo)and #NoMásProhibidos (NoMoreProhibitions). Although the day chosen for the rally was January 28, the anniversary of José Martí’s birth, it was moved to the 26th which is on the weekend. “The birth of the Cuban apostle who dedicated his life to uniting his people seemed inspiring to us to conduct the protest,” he explained.

Some Cubans living in Europe have organized an encounter at the Cuban Consulate in Madrid and another in front of the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Eliécer Ávila introduced on his Facebook profile two of the young Cubans who will be “volunteers” organizing the marches: Osneir Fonseca in Santiago de Chile in South America, and Grette León in Europe.

Ávila points out that the invitation is aimed above all to Cubans themselves in order to “gain self-confidence and raise morale in a struggle that sometimes requires injections of energy.” The event can be, in his eyes, a “very powerful” message for their families in Cuba and “to the dictatorial government that does not believe we are capable of organizing and acting together.”

However, the lack of wherewithal means the march depends on the will and efforts of those involved. “The modest sums that we receive as personal donations only cover 15% of the preparations in other areas. So we spoke very clearly and, to our surprise, personal initiative has been the main protagonist of this call to action. Each individual has given a bit of themselves and we already have hundreds of confirmations of travel by bus, train, family cars, plane, etc. The total opposite of a May 1 in Havana. Here it is not the State nor the Party that is responsible for the expenses, each citizen takes action via his own ideas and resources,” explains Ávila, who foresees a four-hour duration for the event.

Among the organizers of the march in the United States are, among others, the presenter Alex Otaola, the exiled Amaury Almaguer and Siro Cuartel, author of the political satire blog El Lumpen. In addition, Ávila adds that several artists have confirmed their presence, such as Michel Marichal, Randy Berlanga, Dayana Elías and Erich Concepción.

Eliécer Ávila has resided in the United States for more than a year, but has not yet exceeded 24 months abroad, after which Cuba requires additional formalities from its citizens wishing to return to the Island. However, he considers that he must mobilize as if he were affected by the problem. “They have forbidden too many things to me, too many rights. And to my family as well. So that one prohibition more or less  does not make a difference,” he argues.

On the day of the march those present will include “many people who habitually travel to Cuba, but can’t invest, vote, nor have reasonable costs and treatment for their paperwork. The motives are many and each Cuban has them to some extent.”

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.

Cubana de Aviacion Resumes Flights to Martinique and Guadeloupe

The airline Cubana de Aviación halted its flights in May 2018, due to an aircraft availability problem. (Captura)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, January 16, 2019 — Starting next Monday, January 21, Martinique and Guadalupe will be reconnected with Cuba via airplane travel. The company Cubana de Aviación has just announced the resumption of flights between the three islands.

The rotations will be made once a week, every Monday with a Boeing 737-300 that has a capacity of 148 seats.

Departure from Martinique is scheduled for 12:40 p.m. from Fort-de-France with arrival in Havana at 6:05 p.m., while the return flight will leave Havana at 8:00 a.m. and arrive at Fort-de-France at noon. continue reading

In the case of Guadalupe, the departure will be at 3:25 pm from Pointe-à-Pitre with arrival in Havana at 6:05 pm. The return flight from Havana will take off at 8:00 am and will land at 2:25 pm in Guadalupe.

An official of Cubana de Aviación informed this newspaper that those interested should purchase the tickets at the office of the airline on the corner of 23rd street and the Malecón. As he explained, the current price for the round trip ticket for both Martinique and Guadeloupe is 585 CUC (Cuban convertible pesos, roughly $585 USD). He also confirmed that the plane that Cubana will use to cover these destinations is one of two Boeing-737s that “were rented from another company,” whose name he said he did not know.

The airline Cubana de Aviación halted its flights in May 2018, due to an aircraft availability problem. Now, thanks to the fact that the company has contracted for  two Boeing aircrafts, it can resume flights to the Antilles.

The national airline crisis worsened after the May 18 accident involving a Boeing 737-200, leased from the Mexican company Global Air, which crashed shortly after taking off on a flight between Havana and the city of Holguín. 112 of the 113 people on board died.

In the middle of last year, Cubana de Aviación suspended most of its domestic and international flights for several months. At that time, the state airline said that the decision to cancel those flights was the result of “problems that have been accumulating,” among which it indicated was lack of spare parts and “not being able to make repairs to some aircraft.”

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.

Cuba’s Agricultural Markets Can’t Keep Up After the End of the Year

Empty pallets or ones with only a single product have become a frequent scene in Cuban agricultural markets. (Klaussi)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 14 January 2019 — The lack of goods in Cuban agricultural markets after the year-end celebrations is almost a Christmas tradition, but this time, the recovery is slow in coming. The Ejército Juvenil del Trabajo (EJT / Youth Labor Army) market on 17th Street in El Vedado is one of more than 170 places that sell agricultural products in the capital that has for the past two weeks lacked adequate stock.

“A combination of several factors are affecting us a lot in obtaining provisions,” Gerardo Gómez explained to 14ymedio; Gómez is a private truck driver who supplies merchandise to the market on San Rafael Street, one of the most important in Havana after the closure of Cuatros Caminos. continue reading

“There is always, at the end of the year, a reduction in the offerings, because there is little work done in the fields and the truck drivers also do not like to transport during the holidays,” adds Gómez. “But this year we have the additional issue of problems with transportation because police controls have increased at the access roads to the city.”

In recent months the authorities have stepped up inspections of cargo vehicles entering the capital to reduce the arrival of products in the informal markets. The controls also seek to reduce the consumption of fuel stolen from state companies that often ends up in the hands of private carriers.

Last December, a series of measures came into play that regulate the consumption of gasoline and diesel for private transportation owners destined for the transfer of passengers. “That is affecting us a lot because there was a lot of merchandise that also came in via the almendrones (a name that refers to the ’almond’ shape of the cars from the 1950’s used in this service) or the trucks that transport people (many trucks in Cuba are used for passenger service),” said the driver and mentioned smaller products such as onions and garlic.

Gómez adds that this situation is worsened because “there is a serious problem with animal feed and that is why very little meat is coming to this market”. On the premises at San Rafael Street the price of a pound of boneless pork reached a historical record at the beginning of January, when it rose to 60 cuban pesos, the equivalent of three days’ salary of a professional.

In a small paladar (private restaurant) near the market, the owners juggle to provide salads. “We were able to find fresh lettuce and cabbage but we had to buy canned pepper and beans from the stores,” says Carmina, who works at the Sabor Criollo restaurant.

The canned vegetables that Carmina acquired came from Spain. “They are expensive but what else are we going to do if we do not find the product in the agricultural markets,” laments the woman. Cuba spends more than 2 billion dollars every year importing food and more than 80% of the food consumed on the Island comes from abroad.

“Even the carrots we had to buy in cans because the supply in the markets is very unstable, sometimes they have it and sometimes they don’t. Now we have to go very early to the markets to obtain something because there is little merchandise and it runs out quickly,” she laments.

On December 25, Cuban first vice-president, Salvador Valdés Mesa, visited the Villoldo complex, in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, where the state agricultural market La Palma is located. His presence was reported in the official press — which also tweeted the news with a link to the article and photo of Valdés Mesa — and this generated an avalanche of criticism from readers because the photo showed him standing in front of displays full of products.

Now, the market shown in the images as overflowing with products, is also suffering  from the reduction in supply. “What we have right now is plantains, green tomatoes and some very small eggplants”, one of the workers of the place tells this newspaper by telephone. “We do not have pork for sale but perhaps by the weekend we will get a supply,” he concludes.

Employees and customers are hoping the situation improves. “We are giving it time to see if sales pick up,” says Luisa, 72, who goes the Tulipán Street EJT market. “It is true that at every year-end many products are unavailable but we are almost to the middle of January and the supply has not improved”.

The retiree says she is hopeful about the application of the new tax on idle land that took effect earlier this year in the provinces of Artemisa, Mayabeque and Matanzas. “There are many people who have land and are not using it to plant food,” laments Luisa. “This can push them to produce.”

However, Carmina believes that the problem is more complex than unproductive lands. “The entire supply chain is damaged, because of the lack of feed for the animals or fertilizers for the crops, the transportation does not work efficiently and the prices are very high,” she summarizes.

At the paladar where she works, they are seriously considering “removing some dishes from the menu because they can’t guarantee their availability with this lack of supply”.

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.

El Triunfo Bridge in Sagua La Grande is About to be Defeated by Apathy

The state of the El Triunfo (Triumph) bridge has deteriorated with the passing of decades and the lack of maintenance. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Julia Mézenov, Sagua la Grande | 9 January 2019, 2019 – With its rusty structure and missing stretches of rails, the El Triunfo (Triumph) bridge in Sagua la Grande has become a source of concern for the population. The local authorities have not fulfilled their promises to maintain the symbol of this city in the province of Villa Clara.

This work of enginnering, which has lost its former splendor, connects Centro Victoria with Barrio San Juan. Thousands of people pass through it every day, including students from the elementary and middle schools and the only high school in Sagua la Grande.

The importance of this bridge in the daily life of the Sagüeros is such that the majority have expressed a desire in the new year for the repair of El Triunfo that combines safety and functionality with its lost beauty. continue reading

However, it does not seem to be a priority for the local powers that be. The neighbors consulted by 14ymedio lament that for more than five years the authorities have promised capital improvement, but nothing has happened.

To alleviate the flow of people, bicycles and motorcycles (which to cross El Triunfo must be pushed by hand) the so-called “floating bridge” was enabled. In mid-2018 after the heavy floods caused by the subtropical storm Alberto, the old bridge was reopened due to the need to channel the influx of passers-by, since most of the businesses, welfare and work centers are located on one of the banks of the Sagua la Grande river. However, the bridge — one of the few with the Pratt beam technology (one of the most modern of its time) that remains on the Island with its original infrastructure — was reopened without having any improvements made.

“When a disaster happens, then they will begin to take measures,” explains Olguita González, a neighbor of Sagua la Grande who has been crossing El Triunfo every day for more than 40 years. “One day it will not hold up anymore, because, although the passage of trucks is prohibited, that does not guarantee anything, it is very old.”

Located in an area declared a national monument in 2011, El Triunfo was the scene of exciment when the victorious troops of General José Luis Robau passed through it after the end of the War of 1895 against Spain. At that time the bridge, which was then made of wood, was renamed, and, years later, in 1905, the structure was changed to the current one, made of iron.

“If Robau came back now, he would fall into the river,” says Gonzalez ironically, worried about the number of children and elderly people passing through.

With the rising waters of the Sagua la Grande River, thousands of people from the Popular Council of San Juan-Finalet are left practically incommunicado. The deteriorated bridge is the only link when there is a slight flood in the area, since the Carrillo bridge floods and the Clara Barton bridge disappeared, submerged by the waters in 1996.

The last announcement about a possible repair was made in February 2018 in the local press. Elvis Perez Casola, then head of the Investment Department of the Resources of Communal Services Unit, assured that the technical and material means to undertake the work were secured, but nothing else has been said and the neighbors are still in doubt about when the longed for repairs will occur.

That frustrating promise was already déjà vu to another that an official made two years ago when he said: “The subordination of local investments are 100% fulfilled in anticipation of the payment to the builders of the El Triunfo bridge. The rehabilitation work has not started to date due to difficulties of the construction company.”

Since then it has rained, the waters of the river have risen several times, rust and deterioration have continued their advance and the defeat of El Triunfo becomes even more humiliating.

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 Authorities Blame the Driver for the Viazul Bus Crash

Luis Ladrón de Guevara, director of transport of passengers for the Ministry of Transport in Cuba, gave a press conference in Havana. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio biggerEFE / 14ymedio, Havana, 11 January 2018 – The Government of Cuba signaled this Friday that the 55-year old driver was directly responsible for a tragic bus crash; he was accused of having lost control of the vehicle for not taking appropriate safety measures resulting in a toll of seven dead and dozens injured.

“Direct responsibility of the driver in this unfortunate event has been determined,” the Ministry of the Interior (Minint) wrote in a press release in state media, in which it offered news on the investigation of the crash that occurred Thursday afternoon in the province of Guantánamo, the fourth on Cuban roads that involved a passenger bus in less than a month. continue reading

The bus driver, who has 25 years of experience in the sector, allegedly failed to comply with the section of the Road and Traffic Code that requires slowing down or stopping if required by traffic, the state of the road or visibility, and driving with extreme caution in adverse conditions, according to the Minint.

The Viazul state company bus with 40 passengers on board overturned at approximately 4:00 p.m. after the driver lost control on a curve at kilometer 22 of the Guantanamo-Baracoa highway, where the pavement was wet and slippery, authorities of the Ministry of Transport (Mitrans) explained during a press conference.

The driver could face “criminal and administrative sanctions” if it is determined that he committed a crime, said the transport director of Mitrans, Luis Ladrón de Guevara.

In any case, he noted that it is still premature to draw conclusions and indicated that a commission has been created composed of officials from state/local agencies and Víazul to investigate the event in more detail.

Three Cubans, two Argentinian women, a German woman and a French man lost their lives in the accident, which also left 33 injured.

Of the injured, five are in serious condition: a Spanish woman, a French woman and three Cubans, while a three-year-old Spanish child suffered multiple injuries but remains stable.

The list of injured also includes another Spanish man, nine more Cubans, three Argentinian men, two Mexican men and twelve citizens from the United Kingdom, Canada, the US, the Netherlands, France and Germany.

The incident Thursday was the second massive crash reported in the eastern region of Cuba so far this week, after a crash between a bus and a passenger train left twelve injured on January 8.

In addition, on December 27, two people were killed and 33 injured in a traffic crash involving a truck with a trailer loaded with sugarcane and a passenger bus from the state company Astro. On December 12 another incident, again involving a passenger bus, left three dead and 29 injured in the vicinity of Mayarí, in the province of Holguín.

Traffic crashes are the fifth leading cause of mortality in Cuba, where last year one was recorded every 47 minutes, for an average of one death every 12 hours.

In 2018 the number of catastrophic crashes soared alarmingly in the country, which has recorded more than 4,400 deaths since 2012, according to official data.

The most recent report shows that between January and October of 2018 there were more than 8,000 traffic crashes on the island.

Most are attributed to a lack of attention by the driver, ignoring the right of way or speeding, but contributing factors are the poor conditions of the roads and the aging fleet of motor vehicles in the Caribbean country, with cars more than 50 years old on the road.

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.

A Fire at La Benefica Hospital Forces Evacuation of a Majority of Patients

Trained firefighters and hospital workers helped control the flames. (ACN)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 January 2019 — The Miguel Enríquez Clinical Surgical Teaching Hospital of Havana suffered a fire on Thursday night that forced the immediate evacuation of some patients. This Friday morning personnel were still working on the resumption of services and the cleaning of the damaged areas.

As reported by the official press, the incident began in the “ventilation shaft of the acute care area” of the hospital institution, located in the municipality of 10 de Octubre and more popularly known as La Benéfica. The incident affected the electricity and about 100 beds located between the second and seventh floors.

The trained forces of firefighters and hospital workers helped to control the flames so that they did not spread to other areas of the building to where most of the patients were evacuated. Those hospitalized with more serious conditions were transferred to nearby facilities, hospital director Jorge Daniel Poyo explained to the press.

No other details are known currently about what occurred but the cause of the fire is already under investigation as well as an assessment of the damage it caused.

Last year two other health facilities were also affected by fires, the Hospital Oncológico and the Pediatric Marfán, both located in Havana.

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.