Tele-Classes Begin in Cuba, Though Students’ Homes Have Neither Pencils nor Notebooks

The school year in Cuba will begin on September 6 with tele classes. (Bohemia Magazine)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana | September 02, 2021 — Four days before the school year begins, there is no trace of notebooks or pencils for the students, but there is a lot of uncertainty. This Wednesday’s Roundtable program on State TV, dedicated to the restart of classes, which will be in tele-class mode, did not clear all doubts either.

“I thought that yesterday at the Roundtable they would have already broadcast the television schedule with the subject’s programming, but I have not seen it published yet,” Ana Miriam Rosado tells this newspaper. As a nurse, she is always working during tele-class hours, and her mother is in charge of ensuring that her 11-year-old daughter does not miss the lessons.

She explains that her daughter has already been promoted to sixth grade, but in reality “she has not been able to finish because the school year was interrupted” by the advance of the pandemic, which forced the suspension of face-to-face classes in January 2020. “Today I called the teacher to find out what content they were going to give and he told me that the tele-classes will be a consolidation of the same material that was taught the previous course,” she says.

“Here we have the books they gave us when she finished fifth grade, and they graded her and everything, but we don’t have notebooks, pencils, continue reading

or ballpoint pens,” laments Rosado, referring to the school supplies, which up to now, the school has always provided. “I will have to invent, because you cannot even buy the stuff in the stores to complete what little they give you for school, as was done every year. The only thing that is currently available for sale in the state stores are food and cleaning products.”

“Here we have the books they gave us when she finished fifth grade, and they graded her and everything, but we don’t have notebooks, pencils, or ballpoint pens”

Another issue that worries parents and one which has generated many doubts is how the vaccination process will be carried out. Many relatives wonder without finding an answer: Will children be forced to get vaccinated? What options are there for parents who do not want to get them vaccinated?

These are questions that the Roundtable did not answer, where the Minister of Education, Ena Elsa Fernández Cobiella, reported that, at the beginning of this month, the vaccination will begin for students who are in 12th grade, third year of Technical and Professional Education and third and fourth of Pedagogical Training. For this group, the official assured, the courses will be face-to-face starting October 4th.

In the case of students who are between 12 and 18 years old, she said that vaccination is scheduled to begin “on September 5th,” and she specified that sixth grade students are included in this group. She added that the idea is to resume the course in the face-to-face mode for them as of November 8th. “Vaccinations for children in Primary Education will begin on September 15th, therefore, they will resume the course in person starting November 15th,” she said.

Despite the inconveniences of the resumption of classes, many of the mothers have not stood idly by. This is the case for Linda Reloba, who has already agreed to go this weekend to the La Cuevita Fair with a friend: “You will always find everything there, so I hope to solve some of the problems with notebooks and pencils, because if not, I don’t know where or what my children are going to write with.”

She is upset because “at school they have not given the materials as they always do” and the only thing she has to start the tele-classes with are books that she was given at the end of the previous year.

Nor was it mentioned on the Roundtable, Reloba complains, “if they are going to sell new uniforms before the start of classes or if they are going to take other measures, such as allowing them to wear street clothes.”

It is a concern shared by many other families, who have to deal with the fact that their children have grown or gained weight and the uniform of a year and a half ago will not work for them.

The other option is to compare these materials on the black market, but “a 200-page lined notebook does not cost less than 75 pesos and neither do the graph ones that are used for mathematics.”

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

“My People Will Never Allow any Kind of Injustice to be Done to Me”

Yomil believes that ‘De Cuba Soy’ is the most important song in his life because he is committed to a just cause, even putting part of his career at risk. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, Luz Escobar, 31 August 2021 — It’s not so long since the reggaetoner Roberto Hidalgo Puentes, known as Yomil, distanced himself from politics and asked that artists be left alone, but it’s been an eternity. The death of his colleague in the duet, El Dany, changed everything forever and now he not only claims justice to clarify the negligence that cost his “brother” his life, but he also takes to the streets of Havana shouting “freedom,” as he did on July 11th with thousands of other protesters. Now, with his song De Cuba Soy, he has once again placed himself in the spotlight and speaks openly with 14ymedio about his commitment to democracy.

Escobar. You presented De Cuba Soy stating that it was “the most important issue” of your career, why do you see it that way?

Yomil. I believe that when an artist joins the just cause knowing that he may lose everything he has fought for, the work surpasses all successes. It is the greatest contribution I can make to my people.

Escobar.The video is risky, starting with the choice of the director who was controversial within [Cuba’s] institutions, and continuing with its aesthetics, which is quite unusual. How did this collaboration with Yimit Ramírez come about? Was he aware of the risks involved?

Yomil. I started a friendship with Yimit some time ago. I saw his work and it interested me, I take a lot of risks when working with talented filmmakers and he was not going to be the exception. I knew I would do something tough, knowing how important this topic is to my life, and I just let him create and go free, but I never thought he was going to impress me so much. I’m very proud of the result and his creativity, that’s why I respect him a lot.

“I knew I would do something tough, knowing how important this topic is to my life, and I just let him create and go free, but I never thought it would impress me so much. I am very proud of the result”

Escobar.It has been less than a week since the song and the video were released and it has already received attacks and threats from the official press and cultural institutions. Did you expect it? Do you have support around you?

Yomil. Of course, I knew that this was going to happen when I saw how they have acted with other artists who have manifested themselves in the same line. I knew they were going to threaten, offend and defame me, that’s not news to anyone. But on the part of my team continue reading

, they have known how I think for a long time, so that did not take them by surprise either; and as for the public I am more than satisfied with the reaction and support. I am very happy because I know that since I was at zero hour with my people, my people will never abandon me or allow some kind of injustice to be committed against me. That’s what keeps me calm, because if not, things would be very different.

Escobar.Other artists who have openly assumed their critical vision towards the Government are imprisoned today, such as Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Maykel Castillo or Hamlet Lavastida. Are you afraid of finding yourself in a situation like that?

Yomil. I believe that I have not crossed any limits, since I am an artist and I have the right to be free in my work. Since I decided to risk everything, I am psychologically prepared for the worst, but I think the government is idiotic in reacting to some things and very smart about others. If something like this happens to me, they know that young people follow me and are capable of doing anything for their favorite artists. The proof of that was the loss of my brother Dany, when the people, spontaneously and without any convocation, went out to bid farewell to him in different provinces and cities around the world. Something like this had never happened in the country and I think the Government realized the great level of appeal that Yomil and El Dany had in Cuban society, so I don’t think they will make unexpected decisions that make their situation worse. There could be another July 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th and they know it. So I think they will leave it at that. 

“The Government is idiotic in reacting to some things and very smart about others. If something like this happens to me, they know that young people follow me and are capable of doing anything for their favorite artists”

Escobar.Speaking of El Dany, at one point in the song you refer to him and the need for justice to be done, to what do you think the lack of answers about what happened in the hospital that day is due?

Yomil. It was medical negligence, and the treatment they gave him was a total lack of respect, since only they know the measures they took with the nurse who was on duty that morning. That’s why, because of the respect and brotherhood that I have towards Daniel, I will always ask for justice, because if that had happened to the son of any high-ranking leader in this country, believe me, they would imprison the whole country, but they looked the other way when it came to my brother, and that hurts and offends.

Escobar.On July 11th, you took to the streets together with those who were demonstrating against the Government. Did your vision of Cuba change from the political and social point of view then?

Yomil. I think that my vision on the social political issue of my country changed since I began to travel and worry about the serious problems we are experiencing, noticing that the Government has a hard time accepting different points of view and criticism, when I go out on the streets of my Havana and see how it deteriorates more every day, when arriving at any province and seeing how suspended in time it continues to be, when seeing the way the Government acts in the face of the thousands of problems that exist due to its mismanagement, when seeing how disconnected they are from reality, and so on. There are many things that I have seen, I have lived and I have learned. When one is acquiring maturity and knowledge, one must contribute his grain of sand to try to accelerate that process of change that my country is sorely lacking. I live here and I know that the most precious thing human beings have is time and that Cuba is in no condition to lose it, on the contrary, it is time to recover it, because there is only one life.

“I live here and I know that the most precious thing that human beings have is time and that Cuba is in no condition to lose it, on the contrary, it is time to recover it, because there is only one life”

Escobar.Yomil and El Dany sang the song Música Vital with several Cuban artists who today remain silent in the face of the repression that took place on July 11th. How do you feel about that?

Yomil. I don’t really know, because I haven’t seen any of them making any statement against me, but I did have a meeting last Saturday with the president of the Institute of Music. They summoned me at 10 am at my company to explain the reason for my song and I explained all the reasons in a meeting that lasted more than two hours. She told me that, on the part of the institution, nothing was going to happen, but that she would wait for the response of several artists from the union who were supposedly outraged, since they are committed to socialism. I respect their position always and when they respect mine, and depending on their answer, they will have mine too.  I think they are not prepared to put up with being told a few truths (laughs), but so far, these are just speculations, so let’s wait and see.

Escobar. What do you visualize when you think of “a change” for Cuba?

Yomil. I see Cuba being State with the rule of law, where ordinary Cubans are the highest authority, where there is no abuse of power, repression or censorship for thinking differently, where dialogue is accepted as a way to solve problems, because I think that the first thing we have to have is a change of mentality and make it an open country, not only of the so-called “revolutionaries” who, for me, have nothing of revolutionaries. It must become a country of everyone and for everyone, also for those Cubans who had to leave it, many risking and losing their lives in order to have a better future, who had to start a life from scratch in a foreign country to help their families and have a dignified life. I want my country to be one of the best in the world and I tell you with total confidence that it can be done, as long as everything that needs to be changed is changed.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

Cuban Police Blackmails Mothers by Detaining their Children if They Go Out on the Street

Women “are the driving force behind the demonstrations, since they are victims of a totalitarian government,” say the Ladies in White. (14yMedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 4 August 2021 — Institutional neglect and violence are two scourges that many Cuban women suffer, but not only this, they also cry out for democracy, freedom and human rights. It is something that is increasingly seen in citizen protests, as several organizations have accredited.

“When women in Cuba protest the social conditions they are suffering, they are also victims of institutional violence”, Elena Larrinaga, executive director of Red Femenina de Cuba [Cuban Women’s Network] points out to Efe in Madrid, which promotes the role of women as “agent of change” in the “peaceful” demonstrations in Cuba this past July 11th.

Cuba’s mentality continues to be “anchored in the past”, laments Larrinaga; suffering gender-based violence in the family is understood “as a scourge carried by all members, so it is not usually something that is discussed openly”.

According to legislative provisions, gender violence will be considered a crime starting in 2028, so Cuba is “the only country in the Western Hemisphere where it’s not criminalized,” she explains. Until then, the activist asserts, some 400 women will have died.

So far this year, at least 26 women have died violently at the hands of continue reading

their partners, according to this network, and during 2020 there were about 30, according to the #YoSíTeCreoCuba [I do believe you, Cuba] platform and Alas Tensas [Tense Wings] magazine.

The last ones, Daniela Cintra Martín, 23, and her mother, Liena Martín, 42, died on July 25th in a rural community of Villa Clara at the hands of Daniela’s former partner.

The threats they tell young people are: “be careful what you do, remember that this is going to have an impact on your family”. They don’t realize that families no longer care about repression

“Women have been working in Cuba for a long time to empower females in a civic way, and this movement has grown and will continue to do so,” Marthadela Tamayo, vice president of the Council for the Transition in Cuba, tells Efe from Cuba.

Women “are the driving force behind the demonstrations, since they are victims of a totalitarian government that does not take into account the physical, psychological and mistreatment they suffer”, María Cristina Labrada, a member of the Ladies in White, a pioneer group in the peaceful struggle for freedom, also denounces from Cuba.

Women are now the “instigators” of this new wave for freedom. “It was demonstrated in San Antonio de los Baños, when they got up to shout “It’s over, we want freedom and democracy!'” Tania García, a human rights defender, told the Spanish agency from Havana.

After the protests that arose on the island there is an “irreversible” social change, she points out. “They are no longer a minority of women opposed to the Cuban government, there aren’t that many subjected to the current Cuban system, these demonstrations are helping many realize that rights have been taken away from us and we must recover them”, says García.

At a high price, that is: “With great pain, mothers are seeing how their children, who have come out peacefully to defend something legitimate, freedom, are jailed in prisons and their whereabouts are not known”, says Larrinaga.

Various independent organizations have documented more than 700 detainees since the July 11th protests, including minors and missing persons, with the country plunged into a serious economic and health crisis due to the Covid-19 epidemic.

One of the ways that the Cuban government has to exert “pressure” on women is through their children, these activists denounce.

“The threats they make against young people are: “be careful what you do, remember that this is going to have an impact on your family. They don’t realize that families no longer care about repression”, because in Cuba “fear has changed sides,” says Larrinaga.

In addition to threatening the young children of the women who come out to demonstrate, they also take them from their homes. “They knock on the door, take the children, mothers cry and scream and they carry them away”, she denounces.

María Cristina Labrada denounces the same: “In schools, children are forced to repeat regime-prepared slogans to indoctrinate them.  Mothers who refuse to allow their children to repeat them are judged and threatened with taking their children from them.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

Cuban State Security Continues to Harass Activists After the July 11 Protests

Sadiel González was taken out of his house in handcuffs on Monday night and his family is still unaware of the legal situation in which he finds himself. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 4 August 2021 — “If you have nothing to hide, come join us, let’s talk”. With the arrogance that characterizes the political police in Cuba, several agents showed up at Sadiel González’s house to take him away this Monday.

He’s not the only one. Since July 11th, social networks have been flooded with posts denouncing the arbitrary arrest of dozens of Cubans who filmed or participated in the protests.

This Sunday afternoon, González had broadcast live images of young people on the streets of Old Havana with the text: “Barrio de Jesús María, youth poured into the streets. Patria y Vida [Homeland and Life]“. As of this Tuesday, he still has not been released, so his relatives and friends fear that he is being detained.

The “visit” of State Security to his home occurred after nine o’clock at night, at which time the city of Havana initiates a curfew that prohibits citizens from going out into the street or moving from a place to another.

On his Facebook profile, González was able to denounce, through a live broadcast, the moment when the agents arrived, arrested him and took continue reading

him to the police station without presenting a warrant. When the young man, a resident of the municipality of 10 de Octubre, complained to the authorities that he must be summoned at least 24 hours in advance, the agent replied “you’re leaving with me now.”

“Sadiel, you are making it difficult for me (…) if you have nothing to hide, please join us (…) we are going to talk to the police”, said the officer, who identified himself as “the head of State Security in the municipality”.

As confirmed to ‘14ymedio’ by independent reporter Iliana Hernández, Sadiel González participated in the April 30th protest and in the one on July 11th

In the video, the activist’s mother is heard saying that they are taking him “to the sixth station” while the man specifies: “It’s an interview mother, don’t worry.” When González finally comes out to the police patrol in handcuffs, with the officers, the State Security agent explains to his mother:

“Your son is committing counterrevolutionary acts, about a month or two ago he was involved in a counterrevolutionary provocation in Havana (the Obispo Street protest of April 30th) and we have been following him since that date. Today your son did a direct one, inciting the people to carry out violent acts and to hold demonstrations. He is inciting the population to take to the streets”.

He also told her that, after July 11th, everything that her son has been doing “is wrong… He is telling lies, saying that it was a demonstration when all it was were young people playing in the street, he is manipulating information and that is a crime”, referring to a live broadcast carried out on Monday afternoon from the Jesús María neighborhood in Old Havana.

“I arrived with a lot of respect, but I almost had to threaten him to open the door for me, I told him ‘either you open the door or I’m looking for an order to knock it down’, (which I can do, too). If I come with an order and I knock down the door, how would you feel? With what money will you fix that? the officer added and concluded: “We cannot allow what your son is doing.”

As confirmed to 14ymedio by independent reporter Iliana Hernández, Sadiel González participated in the April 30th protest and in the one on July 11th .

Of the demonstrators who protested on Obispo Street, seven are still detained, awaiting trial and, as of this week, and have been deprived of liberty for three months. All were arrested on April 30th at the demonstration on Obispo Street when they tried to get to the house of artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who was on his sixth day of a hunger and thirst strike so that the siege to which State Security has subjected him would cease. During this protest, the participants shouted “Homeland and Life” and “Down with communism”.

Other activists who have taken to the streets to protest peacefully are also in prison awaiting trial. This is the case of Luis Robles Elizastigui, the young man arrested on December 4th during a protest on Havana Boulevard

Reporter Esteban Rodríguez, ADN Cuba correspondent, is in the Combinado del Este prison; activist Thais Mailén Franco Benítez, is imprisoned in the Guatao women’s prison, in La Lisa, Havana; Christian youth Yuisán Cancio Vera, is in the Combinado de la Construcción Augusto César Sandino Prison, in Pinar del Río; and Inti Soto Romero in the Taco Taco Prison.

Ángel Cuza Alfonso also remains in jail while journalist Mary Karla Arés and activists Nancy Vera and Leonardo Romero Negrín are under a precautionary measure of house arrest.

Other activists who have taken to the streets to protest peacefully are also in prison awaiting trial. This is the case of Luis Robles Elizastigui, the young man arrested on December 4th during a protest on Havana Boulevard. His brother, Landy Fernández Elizastigui, reported to 14ymedio this Tuesday that he has not received calls from him for almost a month.

“I still haven’t received a call from Luis since last July 4th,” he told this newspaper. He also said that the lawyer had received a new refusal of a change of precautionary measure that he requested last month but that he presented a new one on August 2nd.

“The lawyer showed me a new application that he presented this August 2nd and it is based on the words of the President of the Supreme Court, who said in a press conference on July 24th that thinking differently, questioning what the process is doing, or demonstrating does not constitute a crime”, he pointed out.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International, the Inter-American Press Association, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the United States government, the European Parliament, and the International PEN have spoken in favor of the immediate release of the Cuban protesters.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

What Led the Cuban Regime to the Current Explosive Crisis

The same resource is used again to justify the tidal wave of mass protests throughout the country: the “imperialist blockade” is blamed for the lack of food. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 20 July 2021 — The model born in Stalin’s Russia and imposed by communist parties in each country where they have succeeded, carries, by its very nature, a degenerative evil that makes it unsustainable: since there are no private owners, only administrators appointed by the state leadership, real productive stimulus does not exist.

These bureaucratic administrations are not officially allowed to take full control of the profits of the companies they run, but they do have access to them, so the State also requires other officials in charge to carry out audits.

But auditors are also human beings, vulnerable to corruption. Thus, a corrupt bureaucratic caste is being generated which is responsible for constant “deficiencies” and resource diversions that are undermining the economic system and giving rise to a permanent, structural crisis.

Consequently, the Party-State elite will always need two external supports to survive: an ally with sufficient resources to subsidize its survival and an external enemy to blame for the situation of precariousness of the population finds itself in and for provoking internal protests.

If the first one is missing, a terminal decomposition process begins. If the second is lacking, the Party-State elite remains naked before continue reading

the population and international public opinion as the main culprit of the internal evils.

A corrupt bureaucratic caste is being generated which is responsible for constant “deficiencies” and resource diversions that are undermining the economic system and giving rise to a permanent, structural crisis

In Cuba, these two supports were taken into account for many years. In the first two decades there was not much need for the first one, because they counted on the high prices of sugar in the international market, profits that were used in military adventures, especially in Africa and in support of Latin American guerrilla movements. Meanwhile, here at home, the population suffered housing and transportation crises and shortages of food and clothing, not to mention the successive blackouts, something similar to what would later occur in Chávez’s Venezuela despite the high prices received for the oil exported by that country.

When the so-called socialist camp in Europe collapsed, the Cuban economic system appeared in its true nature. The critical period that began then was not, in fact, a “Special Period”, as Fidel Castro baptized it, it was the same as always, a structural and permanent crisis, but without the subsidies the Island had received until then.

Then, “on the edge of the abyss” — these are not my words but Raúl Castro’s — they managed to find a new ally to sponsor them: Chávez’s Venezuela. Thus, they were able to postpone the implosion of the system for a while longer. But as Venezuela followed in Cuba’s footsteps, it began to endure more and more of the same mayhem. Halfway through, some Venezuelans lamented that they were “hitting rock bottom.”

I told them in an article: “No, we Cubans know that you are not there yet.” Until they finally did learn what it was like to hit rock bottom. Many wondered how a country so rich, so prosperous, has fallen into such misery.

For Cuba, this meant the loss of the subsidiary source once again. And of course, the start of a new “special” period was announced. But since that word brought traumatic evocations, the term “conjunctural” arose, with the implied additional meaning of “temporary.” Whatever it is called, it is the system just as it is, with no one to subsidize it. As no new sponsor appeared, the country collapsed and the people took to the streets.

How did they not realize that this was going to happen? Many inside and outside of Cuba warned and advised them: you have the solution in your hands: open the markets, lower taxes, let the agricultural workers sell their products to whoever they want and at market prices, allow “roundtables” so that people voice their opinions and we all look for solutions. But they did not listen.

Now, when the people cry out for the resignation of those who are truly responsible for the disaster, they bring out the police, the Black Berets, the riot forces and the paramilitary mobs with batons, bats, firearms and even anti-aircraft guns. The exact number of detainees, and of the wounded and dead, is not yet known.

“No, we Cubans know that you are not there yet”. Until they finally did learn what it was like to hit rock bottom

From that moment on, the second resource – the external enemy to blame – was required more than ever: “the imperialist blockade.” When you say “blockade” you tend to think that all ports are obstructed by military ships to prevent the entry of food and other merchandise, but in reality, it is about another nation that refuses to trade with Cuba due to the property confiscations carried out at the beginning of that regime. That said, many still wondered how there is also a shortage of countless food products produced in the country itself that were never lacking on Cuban tables.

Cuba has diplomatic and commercial relations with around 70 countries in the world, and, as if that were not enough, after the end of the Cold War, the United States became Cuba’s main trading partner in terms of agricultural products, though under the condition that Cuba must pay for its purchases in cash, simply because it has lost the trust of its creditors due to an astronomical debt that Cuba has not been able to pay.

Many opponents have naively argued that the embargo should be maintained because it can be used as a “bargaining chip” to achieve concessions from the regime, but a bargaining chip only serves when the one to whom it is offered is interested in receiving it, and that leadership has repeatedly shown that it wants just the opposite. To pressure Cuba, instead of intensifying the embargo, it would be preferable to threaten to lift it, because despite the fact that Cuba publicly condemns it, behind the scenes it uses its continuation as a justification.

Many examples could be cited from Gerald Ford’s presidency, when Carlos Rafael Rodríguez secretly negotiated with Henry Kissinger for a rapprochement like the one made with China, but it was sabotaged by Castro himself when he sent Cuban troops to Angola.

Then, there was another process in Carter’s time, starting with the dialogue in ’78 and cut short in ’80 with the Mariel exodus.

In 1996, when the Helms-Burton Bill to intensify the embargo was about to suffer a crushing defeat in Congress, Cuban forces shot down two civilian airplanes operated by ‘Brothers to the Rescue’, resulting in the death of four exiled young men, which only hastened approval of the Bill.

Negotiations with the Obama Administration led to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and could have culminated in neutralizing the fangs of the embargo, but the Cuban leader, now officially retired, forced a political turn with his critical ‘Reflection’ article, titled Brother Obama.

A bargaining chip is only useful when the person to whom it is offered is interested in receiving it, and that leadership has repeatedly shown that what it wants is the opposite

Now the same resource is being resorted to again to justify the tidal wave of mass protests throughout the country: the “imperialist blockade” is blamed for the lack of food and medicine that has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people, including many children and the elderly, and the despair of a large portion of the population.

Even the decision to take to the streets was diabolically forged abroad by the “empire and its lackeys.” Of course, they don’t mention that they repeatedly denied permission for aid from abroad and even from a humanitarian corridor, because Cuba, a “medical power,” does not need it.

But the vast majority of protesters were humble people with very low resources whom no one can accuse of being wage earners of the “empire.” If at this point, after 62 years of a Revolution supposedly in favor of the poorest, there are so many “confused” people, better pack your bags, because this country has already begun to write its own history.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

Los Van Van, Chucho Valdés, Leo Brouwer and Other Cuban Artists Take ‘The People’s Side’

Cuban musician and producer Leo Brower. (DC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid | 14 July 2021 — Voices of international Cuban artists, critical of the repression unleashed by the regime since Sunday’s protests, are multiplying. Among them are those of figures formerly related to the regime, and those of figures who have been very prudent in expressing their political opinion are striking, for example the musicians Leo Brouwer and Chucho Valdés, who signed a letter in 2003 justifying the execution of three young people for hijacking a ferry in an attempt to leave the country.

“The abuse of power has reached such sadness and pain!” Brouwer writes on Facebook. “I never imagined that the sectors in charge of order in Cuba would attack the ordinary and peaceful people of Cuba. When Cubans protest, there is no doubt that politics, or rather, political and military power, has been exceeded”, and he asks: “How can they live in peace?”

The members of the famous Van Van orchestra also spoke via social networks. “Cuba’s Van Van exists thanks to our people; therefore, we will always support the people, whoever they are, whatever they think, defend the ideology they defend, always with the utmost respect”, they publish. “We support the thousands of Cubans who demand their rights, we must be heard. Let’s say “no” to violence and outrage, let’s call for peace in our streets.” continue reading

“I am very saddened by what my people are suffering, including my family”, Valdés wrote in his official networks. “Enough of deceit and lies! International humanitarian aid is essential”

Chucho Valdés and Haydée Milanés spoke in the same sense. “I am very saddened by what my people are suffering, including my family,” Valdés wrote on his official networks. “Enough of deceit and lies! International humanitarian aid is essential”.

Milanés, who sided with artists who on November 27th achieved, in a peaceful demonstration, dialogue with the Vice Minister of Culture, Fernando Rojas, stated on Monday that the Cuban people “have peacefully taken to the streets with their demands” and that the Government has “the obligation to listen to them”. It is inadmissible, he asserted, “that the authorities are calling for a confrontation among Cubans. Enough of the repression, enough of the violence!”

Singer Leoni Torres, who had already spoken out in favor of Sunday’s protests and released a video clip with Willy Chirino last month, made a live broadcast from Havana on Tuesday, with his wife, actress Yuliet Cruz, condemning “the violence unleashed by the Government of Cuba against its people”. “There is no justification,” Cruz declares, “all this could have been avoided”. “You cannot repress people who are asking to be heard”, the actress continued. “They have their total and legitimate right to state what they don’t want, and it’s the rulers’ duty to listen and respond to that demand”.

Torres adds: “Fostering a civil war among Cubans is not the way. That was the worst decision the rulers could have made”.

Other musicians, who until now had never spoken out, are Pupy Pedroso, Elito Revé or Adalberto Álvarez.

Yunior García Aguilera, one of those arrested last Sunday, made public his resignation as a member of the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists

“With pain and indignation, I see how my people are mistreated,” Pedroso wrote, “just for disagreeing with what they do not want, just for protesting”. And he expressed: “My people, I am on your side”.

Revé, for his part, stated that “violence is the incompetent’s last resort”. “Say no to violence against my people, brothers, friends, public and family”.

“It is impossible to remain silent about everything that is happening in our country”, said Álvarez. “The blows and the images I see of violence against people that go out to the streets to express peacefully what they feel, hurt me … The streets of Cuba belong to Cubans”, he argued. “To these people I owe what I am today and I do not care about anyone’s way of thinking” because “beyond political thought is the human right”.

Artist Lázaro Saavedra has gone further and, in a video comment that he shared on Monday, in which officers, dressed in uniform and civilian clothes, are observed attacking with sticks an individual who is defending a young man. He stands: ” I will no longer exhibit in any State institution in this country, and I am canceling my personal exhibition with my children for this year at Galería Habana”. There is no justification, says the artist among exclamations, “for this excessive use of force against civilians and particularly with the intervention of special troops.”

Similarly, playwright Yunior García Aguilera, one of those arrested last Sunday, announced his resignation as a member of the Union of Writers and Cuban Artists (UNEAC). “I cannot continue to belong to an organization that turns its back on a considerable part of the population, and chooses to show obedience to an abusive power. I cannot remain in a choir that sings praises to those who ordered the repression against young people and battle against Cubans. I cannot be part of a group of artists and intellectuals who have preferred silence or complicity”, García wrote on his Facebook page.

On Wednesday, popular comedian Ulises Toirac stated that the Cuban government “has taken the path of repression and has closed itself off from any possibility of understanding”. “I cannot support the people’s claims be answered with violence. It is not a people’s government that beats and subdues. I beg the forces of power not to comply with orders of unjustified violence. They are facing their relatives, their friends, those that they swore to defend”, he said.

Carlos Acosta, an outstanding dancer and choreographer, joined the expressions of support for Cubans who took to the streets this Sunday: “I am absolutely opposed to all kinds of violence and all kinds of intolerances. It is not a crime to want to be heard, it is not a crime to aspire and want a better country. Cuba deserves to reach maximum capacity in its development. The people need to be heard. A better future is possible for everyone, but in order to achieve it, we must know how to listen and live with our differences. In this, I trust and believe”.

“To be aired live in Spain, I hold the Government responsible for anything that may happen to me”

So far, there are no official deaths, injuries, or arrest figures. The Government has only acknowledged one deceased so far, a 36-year-old man who participated in a protest on Monday in the marginal neighborhood of La Güinera, in Havana. Civil organizations estimate about 5,000 arrested or investigated since July 11th, including 120 activists and journalists.

One of the arrests could be seen by Spaniards, live on open television this Tuesday. The well-known Cuban YouTuber Dina Stars, who had published a video of her participation in a peaceful demonstration in Havana on Sunday, was in an interview with the program Todo es Mentira, on channel four, when State Security agents broke into her home to take her to the Zapata and C station, according to the promoter. “Spain Live, I hold the Government responsible for anything that may happen to me”, she said, before having to cut off the communication.

According to Efe news agency, Edy Suárez, who witnessed the arrest, he and other friends went to the central station to inquire about the young woman’s whereabouts, but the agents explained that she had been transferred to another detention center several kilometers away, east of Havana.

“We don’t know her whereabouts. We are concerned”, Suárez told Efe, who hopes “that Dina’s example will help people show solidarity with other missing Cubans who were arrested on Sunday and whose whereabouts are unknown”.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

The Unforgivable Crime of Confronting Cubans on Two Sides

This Tuesday, in Havana, the National Revolutionary Police was preventing passage in the areas surrounding the Capitol, as a measure against the anti-government protests of recent days. (EFE / Yander Zamora)

14ymedio biggerThe streets of Centro Habana are overrun with policemen and paramilitaries disguised as civilians. I can easily identify them: the experience of years living under the harassment of surveillance leaves in the harassed the sad ability to discover the hyenas, no matter how hard they try to blend into the urban landscape.

Political police officers swarm on their Suzuki motorcycles which, far from concealing their presence, make them known instead. They want to be seen, they show haughty faces, an arrogant attitude and a great desire to be feared. I am not afraid of them. They are the ones who should feel afraid.

Under the summer heat, common people circulate through portals, line up at stores and fill the buses like any other day. But below the surface, nothing is normal anymore. You do not feel the usual vibe, the ease, the eternal street chatter among Cubans, whether they know each other or not. There is a feeling of anxiety in this silence, or better, in this strange non-dialogue, so alien to us. I am struck by so much silence in people who are usually outgoing, loquacious and chatty.

It is a deceptive silence because continue reading

, in poor neighborhoods like this one, with decades of accumulated shortages and frustrations, is just where popular revolts are forged

It is a deceptive silence because, in poor neighborhoods like this one, with decades of accumulated shortages and frustrations, is just where popular revolts are forged, which broke out on Sunday, July 11th and continue to take place, despite all the disproportionate repressive deployment, riot troops included.

Patrols circulate along Avenida Carlos III with their sirens at full throttle, followed by caravans of repudiators that the Government sends to beat and repress the rebels. They carry sticks tied to their wrists to lash out at the unarmed protesters.

It’s a sad spectacle, to see these Cubans, also poor and deprived of rights, so willing to crush their brothers with hatred and violence just to defend the privileges of the members of the power class, the ones that oppress and humiliate everyone equally. Nothing will save them tomorrow from such shame.

Since Sunday I feel that we are inhabiting a different city, a different country. The scab of fear has cracked and fear has been transferred to power, its henchmen and scribes.

Now the puppet on duty, the jockey of continuity, has committed the unforgivable crime of inciting violence, confronting the Cubans on two sides and, what is worse, has stained his hands with blood.

It is a pity that, with all this, the so-called president has ruined the opportunity to dialogue with the people, who have so generously offered him many civil society voices to seek a way out of the crisis and have him lead the essential process of change. One could not imagine greater ineptness.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

Cuban Citizens Mobilize to Help the Province of Matanzas

A part of the medicines and medical supplies collected through these campaigns has reached Matanzas this week. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 10 July 2021 — Cuban citizens have mobilized to help Matanzas, the province with the most serious situation due to COVID-19. Cuban emigrants, opponents, activists and international organizations are compiling donations and also advocating for the creation of a humanitarian corridor to Cuba in the face of the acute health crisis that the country is experiencing.

Dozens of complaints in different provinces, mainly Matanzas, have shown the collapse of hospitals, deaths of covid patients in homes, lack of medicines and medical supplies and insufficient attention from the Cuban health system. With the hashtag #SOSCuba, social networks have made dozens of these cases visible.

For its part, the Council for Democratic Transition in Cuba, recently created in Cuba, issued a Declaration of Humanitarian Crisis this Saturday in which it states that “the chaotic health situation in Matanzas” reflects “a triple crisis” in Cuba: of leadership, of model and of human rights.” continue reading

“It is cruel nonsense that many of our countrymen don’t have the necessary and basic resources to successfully face the COVID-19 pandemic and that the Government prevents others from helping, and even persecutes those who try to help the ones who need it most,” denounced the Council, made up of opponents, activists and independent journalists.

In addition, they expressed their support for the position of the Free Cuban Medical Association that requests “an urgent humanitarian intervention” in Cuba, and for the campaign promoted by Cuban emigrants who “ask the Government of Cuba, solely responsible for this crisis, to create a humanitarian aid corridor to alleviate the consequences of a self-inflicted disaster situation.”

“It is cruel nonsense that many of our countrymen don’t have the necessary and basic resources to successfully face the COVID-19 pandemic”

Contrary to accepting aid from Cubans outside the island, from international organizations or from other countries, “the government continues to be stuck in a mixture of arrogance and immature petulance, believing that only it can face a complex situation.” The result of this refusal, continues the Council, is “the combination of a potential famine with a health crisis on automatic pilot”, denounces the Council.

From Spain, with the tags #SOSCuba, #SOSMatanzas and #CorredorHumanitarioYa, several activists have created, on digital platforms such as Change.org, appeals to request logistical support and diplomatic mediation in the creation of a humanitarian corridor to Cuba. This is the case of the initiative managed by Massiel Rubio to send medicines and medical supplies from Madrid.

According to Rubio, the donations “are used to buy and pay for supplies and shipments that go directly to the neediest people.” He also assures that the aid is reaching Cuba thanks to people who “have donated their kilograms(i.e. luggage weight allowance)” when flying to the country.

Since last April, Rubio, along with other activists and artists, had demanded this corridor from the Government of Miguel Díaz-Canel. They demanded the opening of “humanitarian flights” in view of “the serious health crisis, shortages of medicine, food and cleaning products” that Cuba is undergoing.

In midweek, the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC) advocated for international solidarity and the support of Cubans living abroad, in the face of “the COVID-19 catastrophe in Cuba” that “has exposed the nation’s pre-existing problems and plunged the country into an extreme humanitarian crisis.”

The NGO (Non-Government Organization) calls on Cuban authorities “to enable and support the cohesive flow of material and human resources” of Cuban emigrants and to help implement a “civic and solidarity chain” that includes humanitarian naval flights and transportation. It also affirms that “this tragedy can be an opportunity for everyone to demonstrate in practice their love for the country above their mutual differences. To block shipments would be a crime against humanity.”

The regime’s response has not been long in coming. The official press and voices related to the Government have described these campaigns as “opportunistic,” and consider them an instrument for “discrediting” the Cuban health system.

“The COVID-19 catastrophe in Cuba has exposed pre-existing national problems and precipitated the country into an extreme humanitarian crisis”

Official journalist Arleen Rodríguez Derivet, one of the directors of the Roundtable, insisted that the “#SOSMatanzas” initiative is “a campaign that looks very well organized” and that it tries to “raise alleged humanitarian motives to carry out humanitarian aggressions” and then “military interventions.” Rodríguez made her statements on her program Chapeando Bajito, which is broadcast on Radio Rebelde station.

Johana Tablada, Cuba’s Deputy Director General for the United States in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also posted on Twitter that “the real objective of some who today promote” such campaigns as the humanitarian corridor for Cuba is “to divert attention from the main responsibility of the US blockade that threatens the well-being, integrity, life and health of our population every day.”

This Saturday, at a press conference, Dr. Francisco Durán, National Director of Epidemiology, considered it an “important” measure to extend, from seven to fourteen days, the isolation of travelers arriving through the Varadero and Cayo Coco airports. The provision, which will begin to be implemented on July 15th, was also confirmed by the Civil Defense, which clarified that these travelers are limited to entering the country with only one piece of luggage “to reduce handling.”

Durán also specified that 6,750 positive cases of covid and 31 deaths were confirmed this Friday, figures that represent two new records in these daily reports. Of the total number of cases, 2,657 were registered in Matanzas, the province with the highest number of infections at this time.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

Dozens of Cubans Demonstrate in Front of the UN to Demand Freedom for Political Prisoners

Among others, journalist Carlos Manuel Álvarez, teacher Omara Ruíz Urquiola and artists Luis Eligio D Omni, Javier Caso and Kizzy Macías participated in the protest. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 23 June 2021 — A group of Cubans demonstrated this Wednesday in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York to demand freedom for political prisoners, while the General Assembly prepared to vote on the annual resolution against the United States embargo on the Island. It received the support of 184 countries, the US and Israel voted against it and there were three abstentions: Colombia, Ukraine and United Arab Emirates.

The protest that took place near the UN building was attended by, among others, journalist Carlos Manuel Álvarez, professor Omara Ruíz Urquiola and artists Luis Eligio D Omni, Javier Caso and Kizzy Macías. “We are demanding that all political prisoners be released, that human rights and civic freedom be recognized. These are requirements to achieve a democratic country and to represent all Cubans, wherever they are,” said Cuban Tomás Castellanos during a live broadcast that the magazine El Estornudo aired from that location.

“We have decided today to give visibility to all Cubans who have expressed, in one way or another, their way of thinking that differs of course from the dictatorial Government line and who have paid the consequences for it,” he added. continue reading

The writer Carlos Manuel Álvarez used a reproduction of the Garotte Vil that artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara used to handcuff himself, in solidarity with the leader of the San Isidro Movement. Later, several of the protesters also approached the seat, where they were immobilized by the neck while their hands were handcuffed behind their back.

“The way in which we are here, projecting ourselves towards New York City, is neither gratuitous nor exaggerated,” said the writer in another of the broadcasts. “This is the faithful representation of how people live in Cuba. Cubans live with their hands tied and with a kind of club around their neck and subjugated by a regime that does not respect civil or individual rights.”

In the demonstration, the participants waved Cuban flags and a unique version of the national pennant, the work of Cuban artist Julio Llópiz-Casal. (14ymedio)

Other participants covered their heads with a paper box with the images of political prisoners such as Maykel Castillo Osorbo, Yuisán Cancio Vera, Luis Ángel Cuba Alfonso, Thais Mailén Franco Benítez, Esteban Lázaro Rodríguez López, Inti Soto Romero, Yeilis Torres Cruz and Adrián Coroneaux Stevens.

In the demonstration, participants waved Cuban flags and a unique version of the national pennant in blue, black and white, the work of Cuban artist Julio Llópiz-Casal and entitled Cuban flag for the spilled milk.

“The three blue stripes represent the three skies that protect the three Cuban social classes that we Cubans know very well: sky of the rich, sky of the poor and sky of the untouchables (rich or poor),” the artist explains in a manifesto that accompanies the piece. “The two black stripes represent the impurity of national ideals when they are sullied, manipulated, frustrated or contaminated with mediocrity, selfishness and lack of love towards Cuba. The lonely brown star represents the false sovereignty of the country when its destiny is determined by external interests and those of a handful of Cubans, “to which he adds that the white triangle” represents spilled milk: the mistakes made by Cubans in the name of their freedom, whether it was due to naivety or pride, resignation or fear.”.And he concludes: “Cuba is a state of mind. We are going to give Cuba a reason to feel good.”

Speaking to 14ymedio, the artist, who lives in Cuba, said that “we Cubans, who feel that the Island lives under an autocracy which sacrifices and violates the most elementary rights in the name of conserving its place in power, we don’t have much more than to perform symbolic gestures. A peaceful demonstration in the streets of Cuba and this protest at the UN headquarters are just that.”

While this was happening in New York, several artists woke up in Havana under State Security surveillance. Tania Bruguera, Carolina Barrero, Katherine Bisquet and Camila Lobón reported early in the morning that police officers were guarding their homes to prevent them from going out.

At the end of the protest, the participants moved in front of the Cuban Mission to the UN, where they stayed for several minutes and from a truck with three screens, they transmitted images of the repression in Cuba while shouting “freedom,” “homeland and life,” “down with the dictatorship,” among other slogans against the Government. Then they went out in a caravan throughout the city” so that everyone could get the message that there is a dictatorship in Cuba,” artist Douglas Arguelles Cruz explained in a live broadcast.

 

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

‘In Cuba Your Mind Cannot Advance Because You Are Focused on Your Survival’

Journalist Náyare Menoyo, director of the documentary ‘Leonardo Padura, a Squalid and Moving Story’, which won her the King of Spain International Journalism Award. (EFE / Zipi)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yaiza Santos, Madrid, 20 June 2021 — Náyare Menoyo (Baracoa, 1995) created Leonardo Padura, A Squalid and Moving Story as a graduation project from the University of Havana, where she studied Journalism. She did it, she tells this newspaper, “alone, alone, alone,” with a camera her faculty lent her and the help of her cameraman friend, who did the work for free.

The documentary, premiered out of competition at the Havana Film Festival in 2019, has just received one of the King of Spain International Journalism Awards, the Television Award, among whose recipients is also Don Quixote, won by another Cuban, Carlos Manuel Álvarez, director of the independent magazine El Estornudo.

“It has the value of being a television piece presented by the Havana School of Communication in which things are said that cannot be said in Cuba,” the jury said in its ruling. “It is a work with limitations that reflects remarkable height and elegance.”

Menoyo, who lives in Madrid and will be starting a Master’s degree at the Complutense University in the fall, spoke with 14ymedio about the award and her projects.

14ymedio. How did you approach Padura to make the documentary?

Menoyo. I first encountered Padura as a writer, because I started reading his books, and the more I read, the more I liked them. Later, studying journalism, despite the fact that he is a writer who has little visibility within the Cuban State media, the professors always set him as an example, not of a good writer but of a good journalist, and recommended many of his texts.

About halfway through the run, we put together a magazine as a final project on emigration, the subject and the issue we were presenting, and it occurred to me that we could interview Padura, because the film Return to Ithaca was being aired, for which he was a screenwriter. That was my first personal approach.

Padura is not on television. If it is announced that an interview is going to be broadcast, ultimately on the day that it is going to be shown it is not aired. They state there were technical difficulties, the show was lost… continue reading

I searched the Etecsa phone listings and called him. I apologized for calling him at home but I had no other way to contact him. With tremendous Cubanness, he responded that I should not worry, that it was OK, that he worked at home, where he met with people and that I should come over. He was granting me the interview.

From there, my career continued and I discovered that I really liked television, so I said: I’m going to graduate with a documentary and it’s going to be about Padura, because this is the only time I would be able to do a documentary about this writer and decide as many things as possible I want to say about him. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to do it at any other time in Cuba, much less when I finished at the university, when I would have to do my social service commitment. I was not going to be able to.

It also made me very angry that a sector of the people who direct Cuban culture were so unsympathetic towards him. Despite there being the Padura National Prize for Literature, and despite his being a world-renowned writer, his books are rarely taken to the Book Fair, his presentations are not scheduled, and it is almost impossible to find any of his books in bookstores. Padura is not on television. If it is announced that an interview is going to be broadcast, ultimately the day that it is going to be shown it is not aired. They state there were technical difficulties or that the show was lost… Fifty thousand stories. My contribution was to make his work visible.

I also wanted, more than presenting the award-winning writer, to make a documentary with a biographical cut, to bring him closer to those readers who know him and who know who he is but who are not able to see him anywhere.

Obviously, it is not a documentary that attacks the Government, it is not a documentary that speaks directly about anything political

14ymedio. You complained bitterly a few days ago that no representative of the Cuban Embassy was present at the awards ceremony and that no official media has sought you out about the award. However, the documentary does not talk about politics at all and, if there is any reference, it is veiled. What explanation can you find for the officials to ignore the documentary and the award?

Menoyo. What can I tell you. It’s nonsense. The stubbornness of some people who run Cuba and that is why things that are so bad and it is difficult for them to change. Obviously, it is not a documentary that attacks the Government, it is not a documentary that speaks directly about anything political. It’s not that I wanted to make the things he says subtle for any reason, but that they came out that way. My goal was not to make a political memorandum, but a personal portrait of Leonardo Padura.

In the Communication Faculty they have a program, transmitted through the Havana Channel, to publish the students’ work when they graduate so it doesn’t remain mere university work, and it includes a prior interview with the director. They interviewed me, we commented on the documentary, everything was good, and it was going to be broadcast to coincide with the news of the award. They announced that it was going to be put on, everyone was waiting, but the documentary did not air. Did anyone call me to explain why the documentary was not shown? No one. Has the documentary been played after three months? It has not. A friend, who was not the person assigned to call me, told me that it had technical failures. A lie, it had no technical flaw, it is pure and hard censorship.

Now, with the award, there are those who say that it may be because Carlos Manuel Álvarez was first, who is a very talented journalist but “has a discourse against the Cuban regime,” but that is also an excuse, that is also a lie. Because when the documentary was mentioned at the Trieste Festival, it didn’t appear in any media either, nor did anyone call me to interview me.

A friend who was not the person assigned to call me, told me that it had technical failures. A lie, it had no technical flaw, it is pure and hard censorship

14ymedio. And what was the reaction when it premiered at the Havana Festival?

Menoyo. Supposedly the documentary was going to be shown only once, not in a competition but at the exhibition. But at the premiere it was full, people had to sit on the floor, there were people who were left outside, and they put it on again. The second time there was Padura and, the same, the room was full, full. In the end we ended up doing three projections. I was very happy. From what I expected when I made the documentary, with the resources that I had, versus what happened, it has been fabulous.

14ymedio. Why did you decide to come to Spain, what are you doing in Madrid, what are your dreams from now on?

Menoyo. It is a complicated question. I am in Spain because the economic situation in Cuba did not satisfy me. In Cuba, one can spend a lifetime working, honestly and hard, and never have a home. Or have five or six jobs and, in the end, have the money, but there is no chicken or oil [to buy]. Wages had risen when I left Cuba, and mine was the equivalent of about 180 euros. But the State paid me in one currency and the food and basic necessities stores only accepted MLC (freely convertible currency). Though I worked on television and had a salary, I could not buy things because the State paid me in Cuban pesos and I did not have relatives living abroad who could send me foreign money.

In Cuba, it is not that you die of hunger, but you do not eat what you need to live and you do not even eat what you want to eat and what you like; it’s what you can. A survival. I didn’t want to live my whole life like that. I used to say: “Well, now my parents are young, but when they get old, how will I support them? How do I give them what they need to live? And professionally, you can always do things that you feel proud of, but those things are accomplished through a lot, a lot of work, a lot of wear and tear, and in the end, you are so tired that you take the wheel and you do the same thing you said you were never going to do again. Because if you have to have five jobs but you are full of worries, that you don’t have the money to pay the rent, that the house is in bad shape, how can you buy a pair of shoes. If you have that in your head, you cannot think. Your mind cannot advance, you cannot focus on a project, because you are focused on your survival.

It seemed to me that Spain was a good country to go because of the culture, because of the language, because if I could do journalism somewhere, it would be here, because of the cultural similarities. I want to work on Spanish Television! [laughs] I want to do the whole migration thing. I don’t want to be in Spain writing for a Cuban medium because it is like being there in the middle of the Atlantic. I want to do journalism but I want to do it in a Spanish medium. That’s where I am.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

Cuban Reporter Covering the Rape Case of a Minor Arrested for 24 Hours

The journalist was arrested this Thursday around two in the afternoon outside the Western Army Military Court in Arroyo Naranjo. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 18 June 2021 — Writer Jorge Enrique Rodríguez, a journalist for Diario de Cuba and a collaborator of the International Institute of Artivism Hannah Arendt (Instar), was released this Friday after being detained for 24 hours.

The journalist was arrested this Thursday around two in the afternoon outside the Western Army Military Court in Arroyo Naranjo, where the trial was held against six people accused of sexually abusing a child under 13 years of age, which took place in September of last year.

Rodríguez, who had not been heard from in 24 hours, tells 14ymedio that he was taken to the nearby El Capri station. “Members of the family of those involved were outside, and very aggressive,” he says. “All this time, they have said that the fault lies with the girl and her mother because they uploaded the complaint to social networks. When verifying that I was the journalist who was following the case, they got their contacts involved. A patrol car arrived immediately, one of the relatives approached it and the officer apparently called State Security.  A few minutes later a female officer arrived, arrested me and took me to the station.” continue reading

When he arrived at the station, the journalist continues, he asked the reason for his arrest, and they answered that “it was because he was taking photos,” but Rodríguez denies it: “That is false, it was all a story the family of the accused made up.”

The girl’s mother, Cleida García Díaz, tells this newspaper that she herself has now “received death threats”

The girl’s mother, Cleida García Díaz, whom Cenesex (National Center for Sexual Education) contacted to investigate her case after the complaint she made in independent media, assures this newspaper that right now she has now received “death threats.”

“It was around seven o’clock at night when I left at the end of the trial, and all the relatives of the six accused were outside and they insulted me and told me that they were going to kill me,” he says. “The police officers who were there asked me to get in the car quickly, I did so and we immediately left.”

She also says that her husband had to be taken through the back door of the court, “through the exit where the prosecutors leave,” because the situation at that time “got ugly… Immediately, the whole block was full of patrol cars because the family members became very aggressive,” she points out.

The woman, who lives in the municipality of El Cotorro, in Havana, says that she filed a complaint about the threats, so that the police would be aware of everything and record the facts. “Now I rarely go out because I have a newborn baby, but I told them that I was not going to hide. What happened was very serious, they attacked me when I was leaving the court with my baby in my arms and they threatened me, it was horrible.”.

The woman, who lives in the Havana municipality of El Cotorro, says that she filed a complaint about the threats, so that the police would be aware of everything and record the facts

García specifies that the prosecutor’s office is asking for 21 years and six months for the three defendants who were undergoing military service at the time of the attack against his daughter, and 21 years for the other three, but the final sentence won’t be determined until July 5th.

“I spoke the whole truth in court: that my daughter was threatened and harassed by these men. At the trial they reproached me because I made a complaint to the independent press, but I told them that I did it and that I do not regret it, because at that moment all the doors were closed and no one was giving me any answers. Where was my country at that moment that abandoned me like that?” she cries out.

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

Cuba’s New Bank Resolution: More Shadows than Lights / Miriam Celaya

A line in front of a bank in Havana. (File photo)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 11 June 2021 — An informative note from the Central Bank of Cuba (BCC) presented on Cuban TV’s  Roundtable program this Thursday, June 10, announced the temporary suspension of US dollar deposits in Cuban banks by individuals and legal entities.

As expressed in the note, this measure, which will go into effect on June 21, is “necessary for the protection of the banking system” and will affect cash, but not accounts in freely convertible currency (MLC), which will be able to continue receiving US dollars from abroad. The provision does not affect other currencies such as the Euro, Canadian dollars, Pounds Sterling, etc., in which deposits and other transactions can continue.

Presentations on the subject were given by Carlos Fernández de Cossío, Director General of the US Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Marta Sabina Wilson González, Minister President of the BCC, and the Vice Minister Yamilé Berra Cires. None of the interventions sufficiently clarified the implementation of this new edict. continue reading

Resolution 176 of the BCC is based on the impossibility of depositing physical US dollars in international banks in Cuba due to the restrictions imposed by the “extraterritorial nature of the blockade,” which makes it increasingly difficult to find banking institutions that will allow Cuba to carry out transactions in that currency.

According to Fernández de Cossío, with the tightening of the blockade applied by the Trump administration since 2017, but with greater force since 2019, “the US seeks to depress income and generate hunger and misery” in order to achieve a social outbreak that will do away with the Revolution. The emphasis on affecting the financial sector, laments the official, “has had surgical precision,” with “devastating impact.”

The official maintains that the limitation of remittances since 2019 and the suppression of the institutional channels to process them -he refers directly to the express prohibition of conducting of US dollar transactions through FINCIMEX — turns it into cash arrivals in Cuba, introduced by Cuban and foreign travelers, which causes a “disproportionate” circulation in that currency without being able to give it its due course.

The matter is confusing, especially considering the pernicious lack of liquidity that Cuban authorities often complain about, which was the reason given for the controversial opening of MLC-operating stores. Now it turns out that the “blockade” has generated an accumulation of dollars in Cuba which the government alleges it has no way to process.

According to Minister Wilson, an accumulation of physical money has been created that is without value because it cannot be circulated; “No foreign trade operation can be carried out with it.” She says that “the incisive effect on the financial system” and the loss of counterpart foreign banks is an additional damage caused by the US blockade against Cuban banks. “Placing Cuban entities on a black list implied the limitation of transactions with those entities”, she points out. Therefore, “people must understand that we have no other option” than the application of this resolution.

June 20 was established as the deadline for the public to make dollar deposits. It was also announced that the application of the new provision is temporary and that it will not result in penalties for holding dollars.

The duration of this measure, insists Wilson, “will depend on the duration of the restrictions imposed by the United States on Cuba,” which leaves the alleged “sovereignty” that the Island’s government authorities boast so much about in very bad standing.

For her part, Vice Minister Yamilé Berra was in charge of another array of calamities suffered by the Cuban banking system from the pressures established by Trump, which “Biden has kept intact.” Among them, he mentioned the conclusion of operations with Cuba on the part of 35 foreign banks, 12 of which were fined hefty multimillion-dollar fines under the Helm-Burton Act.

Berra also stated that, as part of the measures implemented since 2017 by the Trump administration, Cuban banking messaging system was canceled and several banking services have been closed operationally, including messaging and correspondent codes, and the refusal to accept Cuban operations using letters of credit.

“In 2020 alone, there were more than 190 actions by foreign banks against Cuban banks,” declared the vice minister, who regrets that Cuba is considered a risky country for these banks, a rating that has the “blockade” as one of its reasons. The official did not refer to other possible reasons -such as the recurrent defaults on the overwhelming debt- for the existence of such reserves against the Cuban banks.

In short, the statements by government officials on the Roundtable program, far from being enlightening, left many unanswered questions, in addition to omitting some questions of great interest. It would have been interesting to know if the non-acceptance of US dollars by Cuban banks includes the suppression of their purchase in the CADECAs at the rate of 24 x 1, given that this entity is part of the same financial system. It is assumed that the dollars collected by the CADECAs would also accumulate in bank vaults and thus lose their user value.

Another question corresponds to the statement of the CADECA management, a few weeks ago, about its lack of liquidity to change the national currency into foreign currency, as in cases of visitors who return to their countries of origin and try to get rid of the CUP. It turns out that — and is contradictory at a minimum — in a country where vaults are full of dollars that cannot be given their user value, it is not possible by a financial entity created for that purpose to exchange currency.

Nor can we ignore the possibility that the new resolution of the BCC has the unconfessed purpose of suppressing, or, at least, of limiting, the rampant illegal market of currencies, of which the most present is indeed the US dollar, a market that, among other secondary evils, encourages the development of illegal trade with products that are sold exclusively in MLC stores.

For the moment, in the days to come, corresponding reactions to these illicit activities should take place, typical of economies in crisis, as the Cuban case has been for decades. It is to be expected that the value of the dollar will tend to fall — at present it is around 70 CUP — while the Euro should rise considerably.

Attention, Cubans, new distortions are coming.

Translated by Norma Whiting

The Endless Drama of the Cuban Rafters, Where Are the Causes?

Cuban rafters intercepted by the US Coast Guard October, 2020. Photo Coast Guard

Miriam Celaya, Cubanet, 8 June 2021 —  On January 12th, 2017, when Barack Obama, the then outgoing president, repealed the dry feet/wet feet policy that had been in force since 1995 — a result of immigration agreements between the US and Cuba after the Balseros Crisis (1994) — Cuban authorities considered that decision as “an important step” for the advancement of relations between both governments. In addition, Raúl Castro, then Cuban president, gave himself credit for the event as a result of the secret negotiations that his government had held with the northern neighbor for more than a year.

It should be noted that, though years ago the Cuban side had accepted in principle the conditions proposed by the Clinton administration regarding the return of migrants who were intercepted at sea, it had previously refused to do so. Since 1995, the Cuban dictatorship had insistently spoken out against the existence of that policy that, it claimed, encouraged illegal migrations from the Island, putting the lives of thousands of Cubans at risk while causing a “brain drain.”

For their part, Cubans living in and outside of Cuba reacted virulently against what they considered Obama’s flagrant betrayal, despite the fact that visas had multiplied under his government and that the entry of Cuban migrants to the US had increased, especially since the announcement of the reestablishment of relations between our two countries raised the fear — not entirely unfounded — of losing the immigration privileges Cubans had enjoyed, including the Adjustment Act, in force since 1966. continue reading

As a reference, it should be noted that in fiscal year 2015-2016 alone, about 47,000 Cubans arrived in the United States, doubling the number who had arrived in the previous fiscal year.

But, although the repeal of the wet-foot/dry-foot policy meant a severe setback for tens of thousands of Cubans, whose maximum aspiration was (and is) to settle in the United States, and despite the fact that the first impact, while not eliminating it completely, did manage to considerably reduce the flow of rafters from Cuba, the truth is that, since the beginning of 2021, the trend of escaping from Cuba by sea is increasing.

Figures don’t lie. In 2018, a total of 259 Cubans were intercepted at sea, while the figure rose to 313 in 2019. In 2020 — at the start of the pandemic — there was a pause, when only 49 Cubans were captured in their vessels, while so far in 2021 that number has increased more than six times, with 323 rafters trapped so far.

The drama of this migratory flow is accompanied by a heavy dose of tragedy and death, which is why it continues to make headlines in numerous international media. The shipwreck of a boat with 20 Cubans on board was recently revealed. Two of them were found dead, floating at sea, 10 disappeared and only eight survived, rescued by US Coast Guard vessels, so that, eventually, the culmination of their sacrifice will be to face almost certain deportation to Cuba.

The increase in the illegal exodus by sea despite the fact that Cubans no longer have the prerogative that allowed them to remain in the United States legally and access permanent residence just by being able to touch that country’s territory (dry feet), and the evidence that they prefer to assume the uncertainty of living under undocumented status, just like the rest of the millions of illegal immigrants of other nationalities in that great nation, confirm that the causes that also compel Cubans to face the dangerous journey by sea, risking their lives in pursuit of a dream that not everyone manages to achieve, rest exclusively on the failure of the sociopolitical system imposed in Cuba more than six decades ago, in the permanent economic crisis derived from it, in the absence of freedoms and rights, as well as the repression inherent to the dictatorial regime.

Meanwhile, against the grain of the most elementary common sense that indicates that no one would escape from a country where everything is fine, where a Revolution was “made for the humble,” where social justice prevails and opportunities for a better life abound, Cuban authorities, alienated to the reality that is revealed before everyone’s  eyes, and with its intrinsic cynicism, continue to point to the Adjustment Act, the embargo and the “provocations” of the different US administrations as the causes that motivate the escapes.

But the indisputable truth is that the Cuban rafters, hostages of politics on both sides of the Straits of Florida and a bone of contention between extreme positions, are a direct result of the Castro Regime. It’s a sad chapter, unknown to our pre-1959 history. The escapes have existed since the first years of the “Revolution,” the rafters crossed the waters of the Florida Strait even before the existence of the Adjustment Act and the policy of wet-foot/dry-foot, and they will continue to exist and surrender to the uncertain fate of the unpredictable Caribbean as long as there is a dictatorship that prevents all of us from manufacturing our own dream of prosperity and democracy in Cuba. There is no alternative.

Translated by Norma Whiting

“The Police Have Kidnapped Me in My Home for 60 days,” Denounces Iliana Hernandez

A policeman and a State Security agent guard the surroundings of Iliana Hernández’s house, in Cojímar, Havana. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Miami, 7 June 2021 — CiberCuba activist and reporter Iliana Hernández has been besieged for two months at her home by police and State Security agents. Not only do they prevent her from going out, but they also do not allow any of her friends to visit, and they have cut off her mobile data internet service.

In conversation with 14ymedio, Hernández points out that the last time she was able to leave her home was on April 8, but she ended up arrested on Obispo Street in Old Havana along with other activists. “Since the 9th, I woke up surrounded by surveillance, until today,” she points out.

The journalist assures that in the 60 days that she has been in home detention, she has been “documenting the oppressors… Even at night, when they get close to my home, I record them,” she says. “On Sunday, one of them tried to hide behind a post so as not to appear in the video and in the end, his hiding was useless, because I later caught him around the corner. It is one of the best images I have of this repression.” continue reading

“They brought me to El Cerro in another patrol car and one of the security agents warned me not to go too far,” says Otero Alcántara

This Sunday, artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Art Historian Carolina Barrero tried to visit the reporter and ended up being detained by the officers who were part of the siege. “A block before, we saw a patrol car and we got out of the car we were in,” Otero Alcántara tells this newspaper. “Right there, the policeman told us that we couldn’t go to Iliana’s house and they put us in a patrol car and took us to the Cojímar police station. They brought me to El Cerro in another patrol car and one of the security officers warned me not to go that far.”

For her part, Barrero pointed out that she wanted to go see Hernández “because she has been inside the barricade for many days,” when in reality there isn’t “either a complaint, nor a process, nor a precautionary measure” which will legally prevent her from leaving her home. “I wanted to see her, bring her some things, have a coffee with her, so that she feels accompanied, and Luis Manuel told me that he wanted to go with me because he also wanted to see her,” she says.

Barrero details that the police had her sitting on a bench in the police station for a while, and after some time a patrol went to look for her and left her at her house in Old Havana. “Luckily, no security agent appeared, no one came to ask me anything,” she adds.

In an article denouncing in her social networks the arbitrariness that Hernández has experienced in recent weeks, Barrero pointed out that “the authority” that today is preventing Hernández from leaving her house “is not legitimate” and that “it is discredited for a lack of respect to rights and to the law itself.”

“What I found funniest was that they told me that they were masters of my life and writers of my destiny,” said reporter Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho

Journalist Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho was also arrested this weekend when he tried to visit Iliana. Upon reaching the corner of the reporter’s house, he was put in a patrol car that took him into custody at the Cojímar police station and then he was transferred to Infanta and Manglar, in El Cerro. “They wanted to draw up a warning report for violating a security action but I refused to sign it. They threatened me again by preventing me from going to a training course, confining me at home, inventing a cause to take me to jail,” Cocho complained to this newspaper.

“What I found funniest was that they told me that they were masters of my life and writers of my destiny,” noted the reporter, a contributor to the news portal ADN Cuba.

Iliana Hernández says that State Security would like her to leave Cuba but that they know perfectly well that she is not going to leave Cuba “forever”.

“They know it and that is why they still have me regulated [banned from traveling outside Cuba], they denied me the complaint I made to the Ministry of the Interior, the Supreme Court gave it no place, breaking all the laws because there is no justification for me to be regulated. I am not going to tell them that I want to leave and never return, this is my country and they do not own Cuba. They have kidnapped me but they are not the owners, we are recovering Cuba from the kidnapping,” she declares.

She also stated that right now for her “there is no idea” in her head other than to continue with her activism and her work as a reporter: “My priority is my country’s freedom and they are not going to get me to give up, they can be out there as long as they want, when I need to go out, I’m going to go out.”

On April 24, after two weeks of the police siege, a group of activists who went to visit her ended up being arrested, including Hernández herself who was accompanying them.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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Like Coffee and Rum, Tobacco Disappears from Stores in Cuban Pesos

With the disappearance of tobacco in stores that sell in Cuban pesos, anyone who can’t pay in hard currency has to resort to the black market. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López, Moya, Havana, 3 June 2021 — On the island of cigars and cigar rag (cut tobacco), Cubans find themselves with the dilemma of acquiring packs of cigarettes on the black market or buying them in stores in freely convertible currency (MLC). In state stores and cafeterias, where this product is marketed in pesos, the shortage becomes more acute every day and huge lines get longer.

“I buy cigarettes from people who sell in my neighborhood because they are gone from the stores, but when I went to the Boyeros and Camagüey shopping center, there they were, all brands looking pretty, but in MLC. Tremendous lack of respect”, Jorge, a resident of the Havana neighborhood of Los Pinos, tells us. He adds that he should take advantage of the situation to quit smoking, but that it is quite difficult for him given the daily stress of living in Cuba.

Along with rum and coffee, two of the other symbols of Cubanness, smoking is no longer affordable for the pockets of the ordinary citizen. In addition, tobacco rose in price on January 1, with the start of the so-called ‘Ordering Task’*, but the rise was the least of the problems for some consumers who had seen the product disappear months ago. continue reading

In addition, tobacco rose in price on January 1, with the start of the ‘Ordering Task’, but the rise was the least of the problems

Many smokers have been forced to stop smoking their favorite brands. Those who preferred Hollywood, now have to turn to Rothman, which late last year replaced the former. But soon after, the Rothmans disappeared from the peso sales and can only be found at US$2.20 a pack. Consumers have had to opt for other alternatives, such as the green Popular or the H. Upmann, but now, those are also scarce and are only relatively easily found in sole proprietorship businesses for up to double their usual price.

Added to the dilemma of not finding the desired cigarettes is the complaint of many smokers about the poor quality of the product. The flavors have changed and sometimes the cigarettes come with little filler or scant glue, so the cork or filter separates from the rest. They also arrive with yellowish spots on the paper, a product of humidity, a sign of improper storage and handling.

“You may find either a stem of the tobacco leaf or a piece of plastic just as easily. It happened to me once, I noticed it because of the burnt cable stink, and almost called the fire department, but before I did, I realized that the smell was coming from the cigarette. After I performed the autopsy, I found a two-centimeters long piece of plastic.  I still wonder how that ended up in the cigarette,” a Centro Habana barber told 14ymedio.

On the other hand, the few places where they carry the odd brand, especially “strong”, are hotbeds of desperate people trying to get the product at cheaper prices. “First I went to the Sylvain and there was only blue Popular, then I arrived at the Cupet, at Infanta and San Rafael Streets but they were very crowded, it took over 2 hours to get them and quantities were limited to purchases of 5 packs per person, which means that in four or five days I’ll have to wear out my shoes in search of the darn cigarettes again,” says a worker at La Quinta de los Molinos.

The mixed Cuban/Brazilian Company, Cigarrillos S.A., popularly known as Brascuba and founded in 1995, is the one that supplies stores in foreign currency and, although some prices continue to be unchanged, it has increased others.

At the beginning of last year, company executives declared that, in order to guarantee the constant flow of production and so that “there is no impact,” Brascuba had expanded its portfolio of suppliers and the main raw material, tobacco, came “directly from the Virginia project, in Pinar del Río, and that the company’s partners have contributed to its growth and improvement.” However, months later, reality tells a different story.

Faced with such a shortage, some people who are astute and have good memories, have resorted to the homemade manufacture of cigars, the so-called Tupamaros

Faced with such a shortage, some people who are astute and have good memories, have resorted to the homemade manufacture of cigarettes, the so-called tupamaros. They use the artisanal machines to roll, manufacture and produce cigarettes from different raw materials, such as sweepings or surplus that is usually discarded at the factories, or also by creating the filling from chopped tobacco leaves. Almost any paper can be used, as long as it’s a thin sheet, as long as the glue is a mixture of flour and water.

Francisco, a neighbor of the La Corona Tobacco Factory in Old Havana, performs very well in these tasks. He has dusted off his cigarette machines not used since the late 90’s and, after maintenance, he’s gotten down to business. “The situation has become very difficult, especially for us retirees,” he explains.

“Buying food is already complicated, so being able to smoke is so much worse, that’s why I remembered that I had the little machines to make cigarettes, so taking advantage of the shortage, I started production with what I can resolve. This way, I guarantee mine and sell to people from the neighborhood to recoup the investment and earn a bit of change, although sometimes I also trade cigarettes for sugar, chopped meat or whatever they offer me.”

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

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