US Funds to Rescue the National Art Schools of Cuba

The Quibú River as it passes through the National Art School. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 20 October 2018 — After passing by the Quibú River and in the middle of the growth of the out of control grass, reddish vaults emerge that look like the ruins of a lost city. They are part of the National Art Schools of Cuba that the Getty Foundation, of the United States, wants to rescue with a donation of $195,000, after decades of deterioration.

The group of buildings that today make up the University of the Arts, conceived at the beginning of the 60s as the Cubanacán Arts Schools have gone more than half a century with hardly any repairs or investments. In that time some specific repairs have been made, but the lack of a budget forced the closing of several sites.

Mold and plants grow on walls and domes, a situation made worse by bats and vandalism. (14ymedio)

The School of Visual Arts is in better condition, but in the rest of the buildings mold and vegetation grow on the walls and domes, a situation made worse by bats and vandalism. Walking through the corridors of the school seems more like a trip to an archaeological dig than a complex less than six decades old. continue reading

Despite the deterioration, the place still evokes that era of pharaonic projects in which the government planned to place Cuba at the head of the countries of the region and even the world. Imbued with that competitive spirit, Fidel Castro decided to build the “most beautiful Art Schools of the World” on the old grounds of the Country Club.

Castro’s enthusiasm did not last long and in 1965 the works were left without government support. Thus were born some of the first “modern ruins” of Havana. An unfinished complex that the Getty Foundation wants to aid, although much more is needed than the amount donated to repair the damage done by time and carelessness.

At least repairs are currently being made in the dance building and “new boards have been installed and painted,” says one student. (14ymedio)

With its Catalan vaults, its bricks and terracotta tiles, the buildings have been severely affected by the floods of the Quibú River. Plants have done the same. In 2014, the architect José Mosquera suggested the “cutting and elimination of the plants that thrive in the vaults and galleries” but the weeds continue to grow on several roofs.

It is common to hear students say things like “be careful don’t step in there” or “don’t go in that place, the roof may fall”. All of them seek accommodation in the still functional parts of the buildings conceived by the Cuban architect Ricardo Porro with the Italians Roberto Gottardi and Vittorio Garatti.

The National Art Schools were born as a project of Fidel Castro but over time they lost official favor and with it funding. (14ymedio)

Some years ago, the students themselves cleared rubble and vegetation from the areas of the School of Ballet, where the circus school was later located. With the aid of machetes, sticks and screwdrivers, they cleaned up the galleries. “We were reluctant to let those spaces die,” says Rey, who was a student at the center and now works as a professor.

The young man feels relieved that at least in the building destined for dance, repairs are currently being made and “new boards have been installed and painted”. Behind that process, he points out, “are the students, the professors and also the State.”

The building that serves as a dorm, of Soviet inspiration, contrasts sharply with the rest of the school. (14ymedio)

Other students have not been as lucky and study several subjects in the area of the dorms, buildings of Soviet architecture that contrast with the original facilities. “The spaces are different, the energy of the space is different, the square is not a very inspiring place,” says Rey.

The announcement of the donation to repair some areas has aroused certain expectations that sites that have become unserviceable over the years will be rehabilitated. “The teachers tell me how this place used to be, but now it does not resemble it much,” says a young woman who began studying dance in September.

The students of the National Art Schools often have to take classes in other spaces because the rooms destined for teaching are in terrible conditions. (14ymedio)

“Not only do they have to repair roofs and walls, but the school needs to modernize because even finding an electrical outlet that works now is complicated,” she complains. With the emergence of new technologies it’s the rare student that does not have a phone, a speaker or a laptop that needs to be charged every once in a while.

“It’s a very beautiful place but it has to become a functional place, which right now it is not,” says the young woman. Among her colleagues, the most common opinion is that it is necessary to “reenvision the school, place it in the 21st century”, but “that is not solved only with a budget, it takes will”.

The domes of the National Art Schools, one of its symbols, do not escape the deterioration. (14ymedio)

The complex, which was considered a National Monument in 2013, is a magnet for photographers and video clip makers, because of that mixture of beauty and decadence that surrounds everything. For those who sneak in to take pictures without permission, a strict security guard threatens to call the police if they do not leave as soon as possible.

But, despite the controls and deterioration, the site remains an island within the city, a kind of artistic retreat. “The school is a space of inspiration”, Rey says emotionally, “because these open areas, with trees, these materials that are close to an appearance of little elaboration, connect one with the essence of nature”.

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 Lack of Journalism Freedom Stays the Same Under Diaz-Canel

A little over a year ago, Miguel Díaz-Canel harshly criticized the independent press of the Island. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 October 2018 — Nothing has changed for freedom of the press on the island since Miguel Díaz-Canel became president last April. This is the conclusion reached by the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) in its report presented this Friday at the organization’s General Assembly that will continue until the 22nd in Buenos Aires.

“Censorship seems to have increased,” says the report written by the Camagueyan journalist and director of the magazine La Hora de Cuba  Henry Constantin, who was unable to leave the island to present it. continue reading

The IAPA recalls that Diaz-Canel, who a little more than a year ago harshly criticized the independent press, acceded to the presidency “in the midst of a tsunami of police repression and months of continuous psychological torture against the independent press,” and that the constitutional reform whose approval is scheduled for February 24 “maintains serious limitations on freedom of the press and of expression.”

On this last point, the report makes reference to the controversial proposal for the reform of Article 60 of the Constitution. Although the new text recognizes the freedom of the press for citizens, the media will continue to be “socialist property of all the people, which ensures its use for the service of the whole society.” In addition, “the State establishes the principles of organization and functioning for all means of social communication”.

Government tactics to silence independent journalists have not diminished either, according to the report of the association, which indicates that short-term detentions and the use of subpoenas for interrogation in the offices of the Ministry of the Interior (Minint) are common and aim to intimidate these professionals.

The IAPA affirms that although men are detained more frequently and for longer periods, “it is the women to whom the Minint applies the most prolonged punishments, especially those who have children.” It specifically quotes the case of economist Karina Gálvez, also a member of the editorial board of the magazine Convivencia (Coexistence), who is serving a three-year sentence for tax evasion and is not authorized to practice her profession.

The “frequency and aggressiveness” of verbal harassment against independent journalists in public has also increased, according to the report, which sets forth the case of Iris Mariño. The photographer and reporter at La Hora de Cuba “suffered continuous sexual harassment, in the form of stalking, filming, touching and even kissing from agents of the State Security,” the article reads.

According to the IAPA, not only have searches of the homes of independent journalists increased, but so has the pressure on tenants who are kicked out of their rental homes. In addition, the report states that “State Security has carried out defamatory campaigns against communicators in the areas where they live or on the Internet.”

Other repressive practices of State Security, such as the confiscation of personal and work property, the prohibition against leaving the country or the interrogations or “exhaustive reviews during airport stops” remain almost unchanged.

In its report, the IAPA does not minimize the importance of the new technologies so that independent reporters can carry out their work, and notes that “a score of media websites focused on the country as well as international newspaper organizations” continue to be blocked on the island. And it also points out that “the prices and the poor geographic reach of Internet access prevent the use of the web to inform or share information,” alluding to the low quality of the service provided by the Telecommunications Company of Cuba monopoly, Etecsa.

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 President of Spain Will Visit Cuba on November 22 and 23

Pedro Sánchez and Miguel Díaz-Canel at their meeting in New York during the UN General Assembly. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 October 2018 – The President of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, will visit Cuba November 22 and 23, the first visit by a Spanish president to the island in 32 years. The trip, according to the newspaper El País, citing diplomatic sources, was agreed to during a meeting with President Miguel Díaz-Canel when the UN General Assembly was in session.

“Since then, the staffs of both leaders have been working to finalize their respective agendas,” reads the note. At first it was suggested that Pedro Sánchez visit Havana as part of his trip to Guatemala, where he will participate in the Ibero-American Summit, but this was not possible. continue reading

El País calculates that, given the revised schedule, the Spanish president will have to cross the Atlantic three times in little more than two weeks. First to travel to Guatemala between November 15 and 16, then to go to Cuba on the 22nd and 23rd and, finally, between November 30 and December 1 to attend the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.

The sources consulted pointed out that the surprising thing is not that a Spanish president will visit Cuba, but that none has done so in more than three decades,” according to the note. The last time a head of government of that European country visited Havana was the socialist Felipe González in November 1986. Later, in 1999, the then president José María Aznar visited the island with King Juan Carlos to attend the Ibero-American Summit but it was not an official visit.

Now, the objective of the visit of the Spanish President aims to normalize relations with the island, which with the arrival last April of Diaz-Canel to the presidency isn’t governed by the Castro brothers after the triumph of the Revolution in 1959.

Predictably, Pedro Sánchez will not only meet with the Cuban president, but also with members of the Spanish community who have settled in Cuba and with representatives of the more than 200 companies operating in the country. It is not known if he will hold meetings with the opposition or independent civil society groups.

“A visit (to Cuba) from the King is pending which, if it were to take place, would be the first in history by a Spanish monarch.” If Sanchez’s visit is successful, Felipe VI could travel in 2019, coinciding with the 500th anniversary of the founding of Havana”, the El País note speculates.

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 UN Calls For "Adequate Reparations" For Ariel Ruiz Urquiola For His "Arbitrary Detention"

Ariel Ruiz Urquiola has received help from organizations such as Amnesty International and several well-known personalities. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 October 2018 – The arrest of biologist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola was arbitrary according to the report prepared by the United Nations (UN) Working Group dedicated to this matter. The document asks the Government of Cuba to grant him “adequate reparations,” including immediate unconditional release.

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considers that the arrest of Ruiz Urquiola contravened up to three articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and asks Havana to take “the necessary measures” to solve “without delay” the case “in accordance with the relevant international standards.”

The reports prepared by this UN body are intended to define whether an arbitrary detention is in accordance with the standards of international law and make recommendations to governments who may or may not take them into consideration. continue reading

The document, which has already been sent to Havana, will be published in full in the coming weeks, but the information was released by the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH), which describes it as a “strong setback” for the government in a press release from the organization based in Madrid.

The UN document asks the Cuban government to present, within six months, information on whether it has guaranteed the unconditional release of the scientist, if compensation has been granted, if it has investigated the violation of his rights and approved legislative amendments that achieve “harmonization of the laws and practices of the government with its international obligations.”

Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, who continues his project in Viñales (Pinar del Río) after been released an “extrapenal license,” which means he can be returned to prison at any time, denounces having received pressure and threats from the State Security to return to Havana and affirms that the government of Cuba “is unable to compensate for all the damage” that it has caused him.

The scientist was sentenced to one year in jail for disrespect after an altercation with officials, but has always argued that his case was due to a government plan to destroy his ecological project.

During his career, the biologist had repeatedly denounced the damage to the Cuban ecosystem, such as the indiscriminate felling of trees, the hunting of endangered species and the dumping of toxic substances in the waters of the valley of Viñales.

His family, moreover, has affirmed that it is about revenge on the family, since the father, Máximo Omar Ruiz Matoses, was a high official of the Cuban army and served 17 years in prison for opposing the regime.

Ariel Ruiz Urquiola received help from organizations such as Amnesty International and well-known personalities such as the Bishop of Pinar del Rio, Jorge Serpa, and even the troubadour Silvio Rodríguez, who asked that the case be analyzed with “maturity and dialogue.” “I am going to live my life as a social and honest being, which is what I am,” Ruiz Urquiola said after learning about the UN decision.

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 Hurricane Mascot

Mayabeque’s baseball team mascot represents a hurricane, those crazy winds that in the cyclonic season hit the island. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 15 October 2018 – The Mayabeque province baseball team is also known by their Hurricanes nickname, so the team mascot tries to represent those crazy winds that, in the hurricane season, hit the island.

His costume contains the yellow and red colors of the coat of arms of the province, one of the four that along with Guantanamo, Camagüey and Havana takes on an aboriginal name. The Taínos called cyclones “juracán” and represented this atmospheric phenomenon with a human face whose arms move in a spiral.

The ghostly mask that Mayabeque’s baseball mascot now puts on has the dual purpose of hiding the identity of the bearer of the symbol and bringing a certain terrifying air to the character. Both things are totally pointless, because by merely going on the field the fans of the team often shout the real name of the person who hides under the mascot accompanied by all the nice and atrocious things that occur to the public. continue reading

The bat looks like a toy, but he carries it with a lot of pride, as if he were brandishing a whirlwind like those of the aboriginal deity. There is no shortage of those who want to take a photo together with such exaggerated fury, nor those who wonder in a jocular tone who came up with this symbol, with the damage that actual hurricanes have done to Mayabeque.

In between the teasing and applause, the mascot of one of the youngest Cuban provinces is earning a place in the comments of the public that goes to the stadium to support their team.

Since January 2011 when Mayabeque province was officially established, the team’s performance this season has been the best in its brief history, which fortunately has not been highlighted so far in 2018, at least on the island, by the fury of real hurricanes.

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.

Bolsonaro and Cuba

Jair Bolsonaro, candidate for President of Brazil (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 14 October 2018 – Jair Messias Bolsonaro could be the President of Brazil on October 28th. The Brazilians see themselves in the mirror of their Venezuelan neighbors and they are terrified. The most trustworthy polls give him a 75% chance of winning the elections … as long as he does not rest on his laurels. At the end of the day, he took a 17 point lead over Fernando Haddad, the man selected from prison by Lula da Silva. He won 46 to 29. Democracy is like that: it is often about choosing the least bad option.

Bolsonaro is full of prejudices. He says he prefers to have a dead son rather than a homosexua one. What a cruel stupidity! He says that if he sees two men kissing on the street he would be willing to assault them. Although his time in the Armed Forces was not exemplary — he spent 17 years there and only attained captain as a paratrooper and artilleryman — and although he dares to say that the mistake of the military dictatorship was to torture the detainees, when they could have killed them, his candidacy is better than that of Haddad’s. continue reading

Why? Because Bolsonaro does not mind contradicting himself. He says absurd things that will not have a practical result. He has also made deeply racist remarks, but chose as his vice president a mestizo former general.

The vulgarities that he has uttered against women were not expressed by a misogynist, but by a disrespectful and mouthy guy who has married three times and maintains an intense family life.

And because his homophobia clashes with a tradition of tolerance that makes Brazil one of the most open nations in sexual matters. One of the few that allows marriage between people of the same sex. Against that backdrop, fortunately, he will not be able to reject gays.

There are many reasons to prefer Bolsonaro. Lula presided over a cave of bandits, not a decent government. He has been the main culprit of the devaluation of the Brazilian political class. If the shameless actions of the usual suspects are very serious, those committed by a person of humble origin who promised to clean up public life and did the opposite are worse. What was expected of a labor leader who asked for the votes to face the rot is total honesty in the conduct of official affairs. In Dante’s Inferno there was a terrible place for the hypocrites.

His business transactions with the usual corrupt ones, as demonstrated in the Lava Jato (Car Wash) operation, is unforgivable. He let his ideological cronies from Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, El Salvador and the Ecuador of Rafael Correa steal. His two governments and that of Dilma Rousseff were a cesspool. Presumably, he summoned Haddad to finish the job. First, the professor and former mayor of Sao Paulo would free him from the sentence of 12 years in prison and then the looting of the Brazilians would continue right away.

According to El Nuevo Herald, Cuba is horrified that Bolsonaro may be selected by the Brazilians. The former congressman has said that he is not in agreement with continuing to pay the Castro dictatorship — Fidel is still alive for ideological purposes — for the doctors Brazil rents.

This is a crime that contravenes the international agreements of the International Labour Organization signed by Cuba and Brazil. They are slaves in white coats. That rent is Havana’s main source of income and it looks like the disgusting business that slavers did in Cuba in the 19th century.

The Castros, who embarked on the most unproductive system in the world, make ends meet with the excesses that they charge their friends and accomplices for the hire of doctors, soldiers, sports coaches, spies and other species that they breed in their revolutionary nurseries.

They sell those services with the ignoble purpose of financing the idyllic life that is given to an oligarchy that perhaps reaches three thousand officers of the Armed Forces and the Communist Party, while the country falls to pieces.

It is very likely that Bolsonaro will put an end to this illegal trade in human beings. The function of this hiring is not to improve the health of poor Brazilians, but to subsidize the parasitic Cuban political leadeship.

We will see what happens on January 1, 2019, when Bolsonaro will begin to govern. That day, by the way, will mark 60 years since the beginning of the Cuban nightmare.

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 United States Will Launch an Initiative in Favor of Cuban Political Prisoners at the UN

The UN states that there are approximately 130 political prisoners detained by the Cuban government. (Video capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miami, 13 October 2018 – The United States Mission to the United Nations and the Office of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor will launch a campaign on behalf of Cuban political prisoners, according to a statement from the US State Department.

’Imprisoned for what?’ Will be the title of the speech by Ambassador Kelley E. Currie, United States Representative to the UN Economic and Social Council next Tuesday, on the difficult situation faced by the island’s political prisoners.

“The approximately 130 political prisoners detained by the Cuban government are an explicit sign of the repressive nature of the regime and represent a flagrant affront to the fundamental freedoms that the United States and many other democratic governments support,” denounced the text. continue reading

Washington asserts that the situation of human rights in Cuba forms part of the priorities of the current Administration.

After Ambassador Currie’s speech, Ambassador Michael Kozak will speak, moderating a discussion that will also include the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro.

The event will be open to the press and will be broadcast live through this link.

In June of this year, the independent Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) denounced that there were around 120 political prisoners on the island at the time. The independent entity said that this figure “is very difficult to arrive at as the government of Cuba does not cooperate” with international organizations.

In March 2016 during the visit of US President Barack Obama to Cuba, a foreign journalist questioned Raúl Castro at a press conference about the existence of political prisoners on the island. “Give me the list of political prisoners right now to release them. Mention it now,” the ruler responded.

Castro, who traditionally did not answer questions from the national or international press, was visibly annoyed by the question from CNN reporter Jim Acosta.

Amnesty International argues that the Government of Havana uses ambiguous legal terms to punish dissidents.

“The laws that typify ’public disorder’, ’contempt’, ’lack of respect’, ’dangerousness’ and ’aggression’ are used to prosecute or threaten to prosecute, for political reasons, opponents of the government”, Amnesty International indicated in a report on Cuba.

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.

Journalist Serafín Morán Receives Political Asylum in the US

The reporter had to overcome a long judicial process to prove that his life was in danger inside the Island. (Courtesy of  Serafín Morán Santiago)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana | October 12, 2018 — US authorities have granted political asylum to independent journalist Serafín Morán after six months in a detention center in Pearsall, Texas, according to Cubanet. The reporter had to overcome a long judicial process to prove that his life was in danger inside the Island.

Morán Santiago had been detained in the US since April after requesting political asylum at the border with Mexico, claiming that he was the victim of constant repression in his country for his journalism work. In August, an immigration judge denied bail to the reporter, who had to wait in the Office of Detention and Deportation (ICE) for the hearing where his case was heard this October.

During the months of waiting, Fundamedios and Reporters Without Borders (RWB) expressed their concern about the eventual deportation to Cuba of the 40-year-old reporter. Both organizations feared an increase in the “persecution by the government of the island against him,” said María Fernanda Egas, a journalist with Fundamedios, an organization that defends press freedom in the United States. continue reading

Margaux Ewen, the director of RWB North America, emphasized at that time that “deportation to Cuba (for Morán Santiago), where independent journalists are threatened and harassed by the authorities, is not an option.” Ewen explained to this newspaper that the reporter had demonstrated “a credible fear of returning to Cuba.”

In May of 2017 Morán Santiago was summoned to appear before the Municipal Court of Arroyo Naranjo, in Havana, accused of “simulation of crime,” that is, making a false accusation. The accusation was related to a denunciation made by the reporter against the police officers who allegedly detained him when he got off a bus in Havana.

The journalist said he was arrested by the State Security in the province of Sancti Spíritus on June 3, 2016, and transferred to Havana in a bus “after seven hours of detention.”

In July of the following year, Morán Santiago managed to enter the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana and interviewed Daniel Llorente, the activist who displayed a United States flag during the parade on May 1 (International Workers’ Day) in the Plaza of the Revolution.

Last April, Reporters Without Borders ranked Cuba 172nd out of 180 nations, in terms of press freedom, the worst rating on the continent.

Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria

_____________________

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.

Bus Overturns in Cienfuegos and Leaves 20 Wounded

The injured in the Provincial Hospital Gustavo Aldereguía Lima waiting for relatives. (Juan Carlos Dorado / September 5)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio (with information from agencies), Havana, 9 October 2018 – A bus overturned on Monday in the city of Cienfuegos injuring 20 people, state media reported.

The injured were treated at the Gustavo Aldereguía provincial hospital in Cienfuegos, where none of them were reported seriously hurt, but will remain under observation for a few hours waiting to be evaluated by a medical panel to determine their progress, according to the local newspaper 5 de septiembre.

One of the injured was assessed code “red”, because he suffered post-traumatic stress caused by the accident and a heart condition, hospital sources indicated. continue reading

The accident occurred in the vicinity of the fishing port, when the bus was returning from its usual route between the psychiatric hospital and Villuendas Park. According to a preliminary ruling, the vehicle was traveling on the wet pavement with excessive speed and skidded, went off the road and, when the driver tried to get back on it, overturned.

According to the account of the bus driver, Ramón Vallejo, on state television, the incident occurred when he was passing through an area where there are a lot of potholes. “Before reaching a curve the bus slid on me, the steering got hard and at that moment I felt the bus starting to twist around,” he said.

The vehicle was taken from the scene of the accident and is currently being examined by police experts investigating the causes of the incident.

Traffic accidents are the fifth leading cause of death in Cuba, where last year there was an accident every 47 minutes, averaging one death every 12 hours.

In the first quarter of this year, the number of mass accidents has soared alarmingly in the country and more than 4,400 deaths have been reported due to this cause since 2012, according to official data.

The problem of the numerous traffic accidents that occur on the island was addressed by President Miguel Díaz-Canel during a meeting with the Council of Ministers last July, in which the president urged all to be concerned about the “significant number of deaths and injuries” caused by these events.

On that occasion, the Minister of Transportation, Adel Yzquierdo, cited “social indiscipline”, inadequate signaling, detiorated roads and the operation of vehicles without current inspections as the main causes of accidents.

In 2017, 11,187 traffic accidents were recorded in the country, leaving a total of 750 dead and 7,999 injured, according to reports from the National Road Safety Commission.

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.

Daniel Santovenia is Freed After 27 Years in a Cuban Prison

Daniel Santovenia in a recent photo.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 October — Daniel Santovenia was released this Saturday after 27 years in prison, according to the writer Angel Santiesteban who confirmed it in his Facebook account. The opponent of the regime was captured in 1991 when he arrived clandestinely in Cuba to start a campaign of sabotage on the island.

“As of today he will no longer sleep while imprisoned, except inside the big prison that is the island of Cuba,” wrote Santiesteban on his wall of that social network. “We hope that soon he will be truly free when he arrives in Miami”, he added.

63 years old, Santovenia Fernandez was sentenced to 30 years and spent 22 years in common cells, while for another five he was interned in a “minimum security” camp, according to the Martí News website. continue reading

The arrest of Santovenia Fernández occurred on December 29, 1991 near the city of Cárdenas, in Matanzas, when he arrived on a boat from Miami. He was accompanied by Pedro Álvarez Pedroso and Eduardo Díaz Betancourt and during the capture the agents found weapons and ammunition.

The three detainees were sentenced to death, but in the case of Santovenia Fernández and Álvarez Pedroso the maximum sentence was commuted.

Daniel Santovenia was captured in 1991 when he arrived clandestinely in Cuba to start a sabotage campaign. (OCDH)

Diaz Betancourt appeared in images before the court reading from a notebook that was found on him containing the names and addresses of three well-known opponents, Gustavo and Sebastián Arcos and Yanes Pelletier, members of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights ( CCPDH). Shortly thereafter pro-government picket lines surrounded the houses of the Arcos brothers shouting insults and slogans.

The three members of the CCPDH were associated with the case by the Ministry of the Interior, according to Cuban television, and were arrested hours before the announcement of the sentences.

Petitions for clemency to commute the death penalty of the three defendants came not only from the US Government, which denied any connection to the alleged terrorist mission, but also from the then presidents of Nicaragua and Spain, Violeta Chamorro and Felipe González.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, based in Havana, also made repeated calls to improve the prison conditions of the two convicts who avoided the firing squad. However, Díaz Betancourt was executed on January 20, 1992.

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 Will Issue Stamps with Fidel Castro Despite Legal Prohibition

Stamp to be issued in the Island to commemorate the relations between Cuba and North Korea. (123rf.com)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 4 October 2018 – Next week Cuba will issue the first stamp dedicated to Fidel Castro since the death of the former leader almost two years ago, according to reports from the state entities Correos de Cuba (Cuba’s Post Office) and the Federación Filatélica (Philatelic Federation) speaking to media in Havana.

A month after the death of the former leader, in November of 2016, the National Assembly of People’s Power unanimously approved a bill which prohibited marketing Fidel’s image and the use of his name in public spaces, but this has not prevented the post office from publishing a new stamp. continue reading

The stamp dedicated to Fidel will be part of a postal series dedicated to emblematic patriots of Cuba — among them José Martí, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Ignacio Agramonte and the Maceo family — whose inaugural printing will take place on Tuesday October 9 in the city of Bayamo, in Granma provinces, the entities told the ruling party newspaper Trabajadores (Workers).

The series will be issued to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the October 10, 1868 uprising, which marked the beginning of the struggles for Cuban independence from Spain.

Born in 1926, Fidel Castro governed Cuba from the 1959 Revolution until he fell ill in 2006, when he left power in the hands of his brother Raúl, and he died a decade later on November 25, 2016.

The first stamps with a young Fidel date from shortly after the Revolution as part of the state’s policy to support the cult of personality of the leader, but since his death no stamps had been issued with the face that exercised absolute power in Cuba during more than four and a half decades.

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.

Artemisa, The Clandestine Dairy of Cuba

The transportation of fresh milk becomes difficult for many. (S. Cipido)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 1 October 2018 — The train arrives in Havana from San Antonio de los Baños and dozens of passengers disembark with boxes, briefcases and plastic bags. Among them are sellers of cheese, yogurt and fresh milk for the capital city, foods that are tightly controlled by the government and that will have been sold door to door before the sun goes down.

Artemisa province is the principal supplier of dairy products to the black market in Havana. From the glass of milk that many families have for breakfast to a good portion of the cheese used by private pizzerias, it all comes from that vast plain of red earth that has been called the garden of Cuba because of the fertility of its soils.

Osmani Cepero, 32, who lives in Artemisa, is considered a “master cheesemaker” after two decades of experience in the production of that much desired food. “I started together with my father and I have already trained my own children in these tasks,” says the producer, who every month manages to extract from his kitchen a dozen cheeses “some fresh and others more cured,” he says. He sells most of of them to restaurants, coffee shops and private homes. continue reading

“The problem is that cheese is a product with high demand but it is only sold in stores in hard currency or in some state stores in Cuban pesos,” says Cepero. “The farmers are strictly forbidden from selling it because it is a monopoly of the State.”

In the network of Cuban stores, one kilogram of Gouda-style cheese, imported from Poland, Germany or Canada, can cost up to 9 CUC (cuban convertible pesos, worth roughly $1 US each), while the product that Cepero manufactures is sold at 2 CUC per kilo. “Of course, the difference is brutal and that is why many self-employed people prefer to buy from us.”

However, the State has established strict controls over milk production in the area and the farmers are obliged to sell most of their milking to the government. “We’re just supposed to keep the amount we need for our own consumption,” Cepero says.

At the end of last year there were just over 4 million head of cattle in the island and, in 2016, 425 million liters of milk were produced, 12% more than in 2015 but still far from the figures needed to relaunch a sector that suffered hard with the fall of the socialist camp and the economic crisis of the 90s.

Last August, while transporting five cheeses hidden in several boxesin a cart, a police officer stopped Cepero and asked for an explanation. The encounter resulted in a fine and the confiscation of the cheeses. “I lost weeks of work but I came out of it OK since they did not search the house to take the rest away.”

In San Antonio de los Baños the yogurt production business has turned into a real industry of preparation, gathering of packaging, transportation and sale.

The entire family of Ernestina, 58 years old, works in the alternate production of yogurt. “We begin by collecting the liter and a half bottles, those that people call cucumbers, and in which we package the product,” she explains to this newspaper. “Before, we also sold fresh milk but the yogurt stands up better to transport.”

Ernestina’s clients are, for the most part, residents of San Antonio de los Baños and Havana with small children or elderly people in the family. “This helps them complete breakfast or have a snack,” she explains. “We have many buyers who are parents of children over 7 years of age who are no longer given milk by the rationed market.”

The milk that is distributed to the smallest ones comes, for the most part, from the private producers of the area and also from the state dairy farms. The island has about 120,000 ranchers, but their work is hampered by inclement weather, such as hurricanes and drought, instability in the supply of feed or technical problems such as poor refrigeration, which causes much milk to be lost between the producer and its arrival at the dairies.

Artemiseños complain that the rationed milk “each time it comes, it is more watered down because the owners of the cows adulterate it to meet delivery quotas but keep a bit for private business,” assures Ernestina. For a liter of milk, the State pays a producer a price that ranges between 0.15 and 0.18 CUC, while in the black market  the same amount can sell for approximately 0.50 CUC.

Next to the road that leads to San Antonio de los Baños, a young man holds in his hand a large cheese of about five pounds. “This is quite cured and has a lot of demand among people who make pizzas,” explains the artemiseño. Resident of a nearby farm, the family is totally dedicated to this production.

“In this area you live off the cheese, the yogurt and the guava bars that are offered at the edge of the road,” he explains. “Those who have more luck have already made contacts to sell their goods directly to the owners of restaurants.” Others “get on the train once or twice a week to sell in Havana.”

The train can be a real rat trap in the days of police operations. “There are many controls and when the guards see someone with very large briefcases, they quickly search them,” says the young man. “Of every ten cheeses that we make, we are losing two or three because of confiscations.”

Neverhteless, despite the risks, countless pounds of cheese, bottles of yogurt and liters of fresh milk arrive daily in the Cuban capital. “Artemisa is the dairy of Cuba,” says the young man, “a clandestine dairy, but a dairy.”

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 Remains of the Energy Revolution

A sign outside an appliance repair shop clarifies that it does not accept televisions or refrigerators with “adaptations.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 27 September 2018 – The TV in the  living room arrived 13 years ago at Carlota’s house, during the same days that her youngest grandson was born. Now, the teenager has a girlfriend, but the old Panda brand device sometimes turns on and sometimes not. “It’s a headache  because very few workshops have parts,” laments the retired woman, who at the beginning of this century benefited from one of the last campaigns promoted by Fidel Castro, the Energy Revolution.

During the years that the offensive against high-consumption household appliances lasted, the government distributed, with installment payments and bank credit facilities, refrigerators, energy-saving light bulbs, Chinese-made air conditioners and televisions. “I spent more than five years paying for it and although it was a great sacrifice I managed it”, says Carlota, while recalling that time when “it seemed that the country was going to progress quickly”. continue reading

Beginning in 2005, the Energy Revolution mobilized thousands of people to inventory all the equipment that consumed kilowatts excessively. The social workers, a shock troop created by Castro himself and responding directly to his orders, joined the task and listed old American-made refrigerators that had conserved the food of hundreds of thousands of families for more than half a century throughout the Island.

At least 2.5 million refrigerators were replaced and few incandescent bulbs were saved from that offensive, in which most were replaced by compact fluorescent lamps (CFL). The authorities assured that this change meant an annual saving of 354 million kWh, equivalent to between 3% and 4% of the total electricity consumed in Cuba.

The fans also got their turn. The Electric Union (UNE) reported that 1.04 million of these devices were exchanged, especially those that were the fruit of popular ingenuity that, in order to cool a room, were adapted from old Soviet washing machine motors by attaching blades, a device which could waste more than 100 watts to run, almost triple what a modern device consumes.

The televisions became a symbol of that technological renovation and Carlota felt proud when she went to buy hers. However, shortly thereafter flat screen devices came to the black market and stores that accept convertible pesos and “these devices were devalued,” she acknowledges. The daughter of the pensioner bought a more modern TV for her room and Carlota’s Panda began to break frequently.

Private repairmen kept changing the parts of the apparatus. Many patches were made so it could still be watched but left the TV “rejected by the state workshops where they do not accept those that have ’adaptations’, laments the woman. The last time she tried to have it repaired, a technician sarcastically told her she should “throw away the Panda and buy a Samsung.” Although for that Carlota knows that she will have to pay “in cash with convertible pesos and without any little poster of the Energy Revolution”.

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.

Three Opposition Organizations Describe the Referendum on Constitutional Reform as "Enormous Fraud"

Opposition organizations ask citizens to denounce the “farce” of the Constitutional Referendum. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 September 2018 — The United Antitotalitarian Forum (FANTU) together with the National Front of Civic Resistance “Orlando Zapata Tamayo” (FNRC-OZT) and the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) describe the referendum on constitutional reform as a “huge electoral and media fraud” in a joint statement that the three opposition organizations have launched to make clear their position in this debate.

The signatories affirm that the intention of “the Neo-Raulista dictatorship” is “to appear to change something that, in reality, does not change anything.”

They explain in their statement that there exists differences in the methodologies of the opposition and civil society contrary to the “totalitarianism of the military junta that misgoverns” the nation. These positions range from “total indifference, to voting No in the plebiscite (…) passing through publicly burning the Constitutional Project (…) or providing civic seminars to citizens” and they assert that all of these “should be respected.” continue reading

The three organizations believe that it is their “patriotic obligation” to find points of agreement to ensure that these differences are not taken advantage of by the “common enemy: Castroism,” that is why they are sending an invitation “to other pro-democratic opposition leaders or intellectual personalities and independent Cuban politicians, residents both in exile and internally” to join this initiative.

Aware of the damage to the movement caused by the lack of unity demonstrated during decades, the creators of the declaration summon all to look with understanding on their differences, but ask the “distinct anti-Castro actors” to defend their points of view focusing their criticisms on the Government and not on those who fight against it.

“As the Cuban patriots that we are and fighters for freedom and democracy, we are obliged not to give weapons to our enemies,” they demand.

In the document a “unifying phrase” is set forth as “the essence of this joint declaration” and says: “Cubans: do not let Castrismo become legitimate, do not act with indifference to the fraud of the new draft of the Constitution of the Republic, and take action to denounce it as the brazen farce that it is.”

They also propose “to the different civic players (inside and outside of Cuba)” that  they maintain “a level of ethics with respect to their pronouncements regarding the different ways to fight against the Constitution project of the Republic of Cuba.”

Guillermo Coco Fariñas, José Daniel Ferrer and Jorge Luis García Antúnez put their signatures on the declaration, each representing their organizations, FANTU, UNPACU and FNRC-OZT, respectively.

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 Greatness and Decadence of the United States

A Honduran family fled to the United States because gangs threatened to kill them one by one if they did not submit to extortion. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami | 17 September 2018 — A humble Honduran lady came to Miami to visit her family. All had fled their country in order to save their lives. One of her sons, a hardworking and decent young man, was assassinated with 38 stab wounds. In Honduras, her daughter was a good teacher and her son-in-law was a high-ranking official of a credit institution. Her three grandchildren were (and are) magnificent students. The gangs threatened to kill them one by one if they did not submit to extortion.

They decided to escape to Miami. The teacher today works as an aide in various homes. The accountant works in construction. It is a variant of the beginning of the American dream. Fortunately, the United States granted them asylum. This happened before Jeff Sessions declared that his country would not take into account the risk of losing your life as a sufficient reason to request asylum and protection from Washington. To me, frankly, I can not think of a more valid explanation to flee from a nation in which you were comfortably installed.

The Honduran matriarch admired the economic picture she found. “We live here like the rich live in Honduras,” she said. And then she explained why. They rent a comfortable house (in a clean and modest neighborhood) with three bedrooms and a bathroom that has hot and cold water. The house has electricity, telephone, TV, air conditioning and internet. They are paying for two small used Japanese cars, also with air conditioning, because they need them to work. continue reading

Everyone eats and dresses reasonably well. They have cell phones and, as they know how to save, have even gone on vacation for a week inside the country. The boys study at a good public high school and the girl, who is the oldest of the youthful trio, does so at Miami Dade College, where she has not gone unnoticed by the educated eye of educator Eduardo Padrón, President of that enormous state university, the largest in the country with more than 160,000 students. She is one of the best. She wants to be a doctor and she will achieve it someday. She has a surplus of talent and tenacity.

The United States was already the largest economy on the planet at the beginning of the 20th century. How did it do it? There is no other secret: it is a country of laws and institutions and not of people. The independent nation surged with the industrial revolution and has grown and expanded little by little, at the rate of 2% per year for two and a half centuries, with the exception of the four years of the Civil War. The thirteen apprehensive states that declared independence, with just under 4 million inhabitants, today are 50 states and have 327 million people unequally distributed in a territory that is 6 times larger than the original.

Never has humanity lived better. Never has it lived longer and with more comforts. It is worth reading Steven Pinker’s books to contrast the data. All the reasoned information is there. The hard-working Honduran family participates in the accumulated American wealth (buildings, roads, sewers, bridges, parks, etc.) and the potential wealth that depends on intangible factors (institutions, rule of law, values and shared principles).

Someday, of course, the United States will no longer be at the head of the planet. It has always happened like that. The history of Greece, Rome, Spain, France, Germany and England proves it. China will probably replace the American nation. It is all in combining military power with technological and economic power. It’s possible it may discover a more efficient way to kill human beings than nuclear war. If this happens, maybe they will use it. It will happen in the middle of this century. I hope we old ones won’t live to see 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.