“15 Years Ago, They Told Us That They Were Going to Demolish the Building That Fell This Thursday”

Alderete says that he has lived adjacent to the building that collapsed for 16 years, but he clarifies that he used to live on that same corner that collapsed on Thursday night. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerLuz Escobar, Havana, 18 December 2021 — At 9 p.m. on Thursday, December 16th, on the eve of Saint Lazarus Day, Miguel Alejandro Alderete Recio and his 81-year-old mother, Rosalba, were listening to a radio program, El Nocturno at their home. A roar broke the tranquility. A wall of the adjoining house, at the corner of Angeles and Monte streets, had collapsed. Neighbors took to the streets to search for possible victims under the rubble. Ambulances, police and firefighters arrived. They found the lifeless body of a passerby, Rolando León.

Alderete is uneasy, he talks about the shock that he experienced at that moment, and both his mind and his body still feel it, his voice too. This Friday, after four in the afternoon, he brewed coffee for a visit and, after saying goodbye, he spoke with 14ymedio about the anguish and disgust that has remained after the collapse.

“I saw it all,” he says, and his hands move up and down in an effort to point out every crack in the ceiling, every dampness, every wall about to collapse. The noise from the central avenue, increased by the work of a crane and dozens of onlookers who still come to see what happened, dies down when one walks through the entrance at Monte 429.

Rosalba has just arrived from the hospital where she spent several hours after the collapse on Thursday night. (14ymedio)

Alderete says that he has been in that place for 16 years, adjacent to the building that collapsed, but he clarifies that, before, he lived in that same corner that collapsed on Thursday night and that, being “up there”, they always had “shelter in place order”, to move to one of those places of temporary accommodation. He remembers that continue reading

the place was in “terrible condition” and that one day one of his brothers “had his foot sunk into the ground in such a way that he fell down completely”. He claims that if it hadn’t been for a beam that he tripped over, he would “have gone down completely”.

As a result of this incident, the authorities took the whole family to a nearby but unventilated place and it was then that they offered to go to where they live to this day.

“When they relocated us in that place, it was like in 2005 or 2006, we had to do an enormous amount of cleaning and enable the premises to barely live there. A year after being here they told us that they were going to demolish the upper part but they did not come until today, after what happened, happened. They did not demolish at the time and look at the demolition now, after there has already been one death,” lamented Alderete.

He also remembers that a bus once collided with a column on the façade and knocked it over completely. “The top of the bus hit the door. Luckily, there was no one there at that time, but a man who stood guard there, who lives next door and his name is Claudio, almost got killed” he said.

He says that as a result of the column that fell “they put two sticks there and until the sun came up today” it was the same. “That was 10 years ago and they never took care of it again… ah! but now that this collapse occurs, they immediately come to remove the old props and put in the new ones, do we have to wait for that?” he wonders. “No, we shouldn’t wait till people die” he answers himself.

“I saw it all,” says Alderete, and his hands move up and down in an effort to point out every crack in the ceiling, every damp spot, every wall about to collapse. (14ymedio)

“Then, afterwards they will say that you’re a counterrevolutionary but no, you have to tell the truth. I am stubborn, after the collapse no one has come to hear from us yet, the ones who arrived were the demolition workers but Housing has not come here, I’m very upset”, he says, very angry.

For a moment, his disgust turns into indignation, he would like to express his discontent on the street but he fears for his mother’s health: “Do you know why I didn’t go out to the street? Because of my mother, who is there and yesterday they had to take her to the Calixto García Hospital because her blood pressure was so low, she got very nervous. We felt the noise and I opened the door and went out, so I see the movement and the collapse, after a few minutes they had to take her by ambulance”.

Rosalba, who is listening to the entire conversation from a chair, says: “Before, I lived where the collapse took place, now I feel better, but I got so scared that I had tachycardia.” Her son is very concerned about his mother’s health and the consequences that living in such poor conditions may have for her. “Just like that, my mother will get messed up too, it’s too much, that lady is 81 years old and I’m praying that before she closes her eyes, she is able to see her little house, the only thing I miss is that one day she can live like normal people”.

This man, who has worked at the old Woolworth’s on Monte Street for 28 years, first as a cook and now as a confectioner, does not understand why “we have to wait for Havana to fall down” to make the right decisions. “Those Government people come here to Quisicuaba, and yesterday they were there with Silvio Rodríguez, but nobody has come here”, he criticized, referring to the delivery of the National Community Culture Award to the singer-songwriter, which took place the same day, very close to the collapse.

From Calle Ángeles, a brigade of workers pruned the Yagruma tree that comes out of Alderete’s house. (14ymedio)

He remembers when the tornado “completely engaged Havana and they immediately gave shelter to those affected” and he was outraged when he saw on the news that the Diez de Octubre nursing home, which had been closed for nine years, was immediately enabled for 70 families. “Do you have to wait for the tornado to pass to do that? No, that’s totally disrespectful”.

This man does not stare at each crack without doing anything, but he considers that the repairs that the property needs are so extensive that they are beyond his ability. “I have thrown a pile of melts (waterproofing mixture) on that roof to contain the water but it is too much, cracks always appear and the melt lasts a month and then it’s leaks and leaks. I cannot wait for them because it is always the same slobber and they never do anything, it’s too much. ”

“I repeat, because of my mother I did not go out [to demonstrate] on November 15th, for my mother, I did go out on July 11th, and for my mother I did not go out yesterday or today. It is only because of that lady that I refrain, because if I throw myself onto the street, something will happen to her. Until when? One is here, being a good citizen, waiting, and they are doing whatever they want, no, I’m very upset”, he insists.

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.

‘If More Mothers Unite, We Will Achieve Our Children’s Release’

Barbara Farrat went on a hunger strike this Saturday to demand freedom for her son. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 14 December 2021 — The only gleaming corner in the home of Jonathan Torres’s family, one of the young people arrested after the protests on July 11th (11J), is the corner with the crib for the baby, who is almost two months old. The clean sheets, the mosquito net, the wet wipes and the neatly arranged disposable diapers, contrast with the rest of the house, a precarious construction on the Diez de Octubre Boulevard in Havana, with crumbling ceilings, rotten beams, cracks in the walls and damp stains. Here, you can breathe poverty, but also dignity.

Bárbara Farrat, Torres’s mother, abandoned the hunger strike that began three days ago this Monday night to demand her son’s freedom; he has been in prison since August 13th accused of attack, public disorder and spread of epidemic for having thrown a stone at the police without hitting anyone.

The young grandmother, who has become one of the most active faces in defense of the 11J prisoners, has said that she abandoned the strike because of her own mother, who suffered a spike in blood pressure yesterday that was about to cause a stroke, according to Farrat.

“I will not continue to worry about my mother. Her only grandson is in prison. I will not leave my mother fearing that she will have to bury a child,” she said in a video broadcast on social networks. continue reading

The young grandmother, who has become one of the most active faces in defense of the 11J prisoners, stated that she abandoned the strike because of her own mother, suffered a spike in blood pressure yesterday

The hunger strike was abandoned two days after Farrat, just 33 years old and suffering from health problems herself, received 14ymedio at her home, where she resides with her husband, Orlando Ramírez, and her son’s girlfriend – her grandson’s mother – who is 16 years old. The Havana woman, who never imagined that what life has handed her could be possible, told this newspaper what life’s been like in the last four months, with her son imprisoned and the constant pressure from State Security. She also regrets that Torres has only been able to enjoy his baby, born October 27th, “one half an hour at a time during the three visits he has had.”

Farrat declares that her son was caught up in the tumult of that day by chance. That Sunday, when Torres turned 17, the family was celebrating at home, but they ran out of drinks and her husband went out to buy something to continue the party. “We had the music on and hadn’t seen either the newscast or the information from Díaz-Canel saying that the combat order had been given,” she says.

At one point, she relates, the street “began to fill with people coming down the entire Diez de Octubre Boulevard,” a very scary situation, so she decided to go out and look for her partner. Torres, however, dissuaded her and asked her to stay home with his girlfriend, who was pregnant at the time, while he was busy looking for his stepfather (“although he calls him dad because he raised him his whole life”).

On Serafines Street, Torres found Ramírez, hidden behind a wall. “Up the street from Serafines, the police would not let anyone pass,” says Farrat. “Someone among the protesters said that the objective was to reach the Plaza de la Revolución and the officers stood on the Vía Blanca warning that no one else was going to go any further. It was at that moment that the shots and stones began,” he continues. 

“Someone among the protesters said that the objective was to reach the Plaza de la Revolución and the officers stood on the Vía Blanca warning that no one else was going to go any further”

He has already related several times what happened next: on Friday, August 13th, two agents of the Technical Directorate of Investigation appeared at the door of his house and took Jonathan Torres, whom they had identified in one of the videos broadcast in networks on the day of the demonstrations.

At that moment, he began his ordeal. Three hours after they took him away, she learned that he was not in the Acosta police unit, as the officers had told him, but in Aguilera, where she went with his son’s girlfriend. It was not until Monday, as he was finally transferred to the station, when he was first told that he was accused of public disorder, spread of epidemic and attack.

The instructor at that time showed the video in which Torres appears throwing a stone, but it can also be seen, he says, that it is the same stone that the police had thrown at the protesters. “He threw it and it fell 50 meters from where the policemen were standing, and it did not hit a patrol car nor hit anyone, it just fell on the street” says Ramírez.

After 14 days, her son phoned to say that he had been transferred to the Manto Negro prison in Havana, a former women’s prison converted into a prison for minors.

Farrat says that it has been “an odyssey” to face this criminal process, because initially they did not even want to give her her son’s file number. She then sought the advice of a family lawyer, who, since he took over the case, has already unsuccessfully requested six changes to the pre-trial detention measure that keeps the adolescent in jail, “He filed a seventh, which of course they will also deny him. By this Monday, December 13th, my son will have been in detention for four months and does not even have a petition from the prosecutor,” she protests.

Farrat has also denounced that her son, who suffers from coronary hypertrophy, has not had access to his medications for two months. “They not only wanted to play with my son’s freedom, but they were also playing with his life,” she came to denounce on the networks.

She too is not taking the medications she should be taking. She is HIV-positive, and, like her husband, has not taken her retroviral since August

She too is not taking the medications she should be taking. She is HIV-positive, and, like her husband, has not taken her retroviral since August. “I have been very busy and nervous with my son’s case, and although I have the medicines, I have not taken them,” she confesses. “I feel guilty that he is in prison, I can’t get it out of my head that I’m the one who should be in jail, and this is a way that I have found to punish myself,” she says confusedly, by way of explanation, crumbling into tears.

The pressure she has received from State Security is also affecting her health. Last Friday, when she returned from visiting her son, she saw the officer who has questioned her several times hanging around the neighborhood, without knocking on her door, but talking to her neighbors, whom, she believes, they intend to intimidate into “informing” about her and her family.

“I got sick, my husband had to take me to the hospital at midnight because I started with an asthma attack,” she says. The agent “had already been here on Wednesday with his threats, telling me that if I continued making complaints on social networks, he was not going to let me in to see my son.”

Orlando Ramírez intercedes: “The exact words were that he had been called by the head of State Security that runs the Western youth prison to tell him that, if his mother continued to make these publications talking about her son, it was very possible that she would not be allowed any more prison visits to him again.” The stepfather replied to the agent, whom he reminded that they could not question the boy without having his family or his lawyer close by.

Ramírez points out that Torres was offered a sentence reduction – “up to seven years” – if he “cooperated… Our politics, our ideology, are outside of him.”

“They told my son: if you can stop your mother from posting anything on social media, I’m going to give you calling privileges,” Farrat continues. “He only replied that he did not want privileges, that he only wanted what is rightly his: ‘The two calls that I get a week, I do not want anything I’m not entitled to.’ As for my mother to stop publishing, she should decide that, not me.”

Bárbara Farrat says that, even if she abandons her hunger strike, she will continue to denounce the government abuses, but she adds that “a single tree does not a forest make and more mothers should join” in her cause

 Farrat insists that her son only cares about his baby and his studies, he is in his second year of welding. “It was always clear to him that this decision to be a father so young and while studying could not affect me and my husband, that we are sick,” she says. “He always had our support, but he also understood that it was his responsibility, as it was my responsibility when I decided to have him when I was young. He often would leave school to sell bread, to be able to buy clothes for his little one.”

Bárbara Farrat says that, even if she abandons her hunger strike, she will continue to denounce the government abuses, but she adds that “a single tree does not a forest make and more mothers should join” in her cause.

“I know well that as a people we matter little to them” she says, referring to the authorities. “But I have received a lot of support on social media and I know that this pressure can get the government to give me an answer about my son.

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 Filmmaker Rolando Díaz Denounces the “Despicable” Acts of Repudiation to Repress 15N

Filmmaker Rolando Díaz (center) with actress Lynn Cruz and director Miguel Coyula. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 7 December 2021 — Repression on the island frustrated “through despicable acts of repudiation” the November 15th march (15N), events that marked “a before and after in the recent history of Cuba,” filmmaker Rolando Diaz denounced in Havana. The creator, who left the country in the mid-90’s, spoke to the public who attended the Acapulco cinema on Monday night to watch his film Dossier de Ausencias, a Dominican film that has just won the Best Production Award at the Festival Ibero-Latinoamericano in Trieste, Italy.

In his words, he not only rejected the acts of repudiation that took place against the activists who participated in the call for the Civic March for Change of 15N, but also sent a message of solidarity to young filmmakers of the Island who are suffering censorship by State institutions.

“Those without a voice have the right to have it. I consider myself part of the national cinema, especially of what has been accomplished by young, highly talented filmmakers, such as Carlos Lechuga, Miguel Coyula, José Luis Aparicio, Fernando Fraguela, Carlos Quintela, Heidi Hassan and Patricia Pérez. The last three are already in exile,” he said during the presentation that was part of the 42nd edition of the New Latin-American Film Festival, which takes place in the Cuban capital between December 3rd and 12th.

Díaz also considered that ignoring “the courage of those who only ask for the right to speak, think differently and demonstrate peacefully” would be “a cowardly act” for not recognizing those truths. continue reading

Speaking to 14ymedio on Tuesday, Rolando Díaz said that, for him, “it is very important” to make this type of “sincere and honest statement” because “the way the official press behaves” is already known

A director of well-known films, such as Birds Firing the Shotgun and En Tres y Dos, Díaz received a public ovation at the end of his speech, and he stated: “I cannot conceive of a country without diverse voices, fear, that fear that I feel for expressing these ideas now, it devours the soul. Those who like movies know what I’m talking about. Fear devours the soul, but dignity is the only antidote to eating ourselves alive.”

Speaking to 14ymedio on Tuesday, Rolando Díaz said that “it is very important” for him to make this type of “sincere and honest statement” because “the way the official press behaves” is already well-known.

“I am afraid that my press conference this Tuesday will only be used in terms of ‘just another one who was in attendance at the event, who participates in a film and no more’. I wholly reaffirm my statement from yesterday, and want to reaffirm that this is my true belief and my true feelings about my presence in Cuba at this Havana Festival.”

In his presentation at the Acapulco cinema, Díaz insisted that, although he is a Spanish national and has been living outside the country for 30 years, he is also Cuban and that, since he had not visited Cuba for a long time, he wanted to make that “kind of statement” before his public.

The director stated that his relationship with the Festival of New Latin-American Cinema “has been controversial” since he left Cuba, because some of his films made outside the country such as Melodrama, (1995), “were badly mistreated” and their “exposure was very limited.” Something similar happened with Si me Comprendieras, another Cuban-themed film, which was even banned from being shown at the University of Havana in 1999. 

“I wholly reaffirm my statement from yesterday, and want to state that this is my true belief and my true feelings about my presence in Cuba at this Havana Festival”

“Then I shot Cercanía in Miami, a film with Reinaldo Miravalles, Carlos Cruz and many other Cuban actors and it was not selected. I sent it to the Festival and it was not selected. Aissa’s Roads, a documentary that I also made in Spain about migration, was placed in an international documentary film show but it went under the table,”,added Díaz in his statement.

The filmmaker Carlos Lechuga thanked Díaz for his words with a post published on his Facebook profile, and he highlighted Díaz’s decency and courage to stand up and say things as they are.”

“I admired this director and now I do so much more,” he added.

In the same way, actress Lynn Cruz considered Díaz’s words very important and transcribed her statement on her social networks. “Because it is in this space where both institutionalized and independent people have been censored, where it is possible to question and criticize those who, protected by a cultural policy, exclude films, filmmakers, actors, and film professionals in Cuba.”

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.

“Wake up!” Says Pablo Milanes to the Mobs that Serve the Cuban Regime

Cuban singer-songwriter and guitarist Pablo Milanés offered a message of support for the protests called by 15N. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 November 2021 — “It is a beautiful thing that we coincide in showing our claim for absolute freedoms through flowers”, wrote singer-songwriter Pablo Milanés in a message in support of the protests called for this Monday throughout Cuba. Like the author of Yolanda and Yo no te Pido, dozens of Cuban and foreign artists have expressed their support for the Civic March for Change on November 15th.

“My contempt for those mobs that they use to ‘represent the best of the people’ “Milanés said when expressing his support for Yunior García Aguilera and all the Cubans he represents and who fight inside and outside of Cuba”.

The troubadour also shared the lyrics of his song Flowers of the Future, along with a video performing the song at a concert in Alicante (Spain), on November 11th. Among the song’s verses is: “Not everything is dead / there is someone awake / who will be thinking / for you and for him”.

“All eyes are on our Cuban brothers, Ojos Sobre Cuba” From Miami, Rosa María Payá asked, after the Cuban Government denied landing authorization for a flight to Cuba on Monday morning in which, in addition to the activist, MEP Hermann Tertsch and influencer Alexander Otaola would travel to support the demonstrations. “Today, the regime could prevent it, but the reunification of our nation is unstoppable, because the people, both inside and outside Cuba are determined to recover the Homeland and Life”, Payá wrote on her social networks. continue reading

I am ashamed that people of my race lend themselves to be like the ancient hunters of savages in their own torture and pain. They are using them

Yotuel Romero, one of the interpreters of the theme Patria y Vida (Homeland and Life), wrote: “On November 15th, history will definitely change for our suffering people”. Alexander Delgado, from the duo Gente de Zona and also a participant in the song Patria y Vida that has become the anthem of the protests in Cuba, condemned the acts of repudiation against opponents who have made public their intention to participate in the civic protest. “The reality is that the demonstration is a worldwide right,” he said.

“Today is another day that this dictatorship is more despised,” Yomil Hidalgo wrote on his social networks this Sunday, a message that he accompanied with a photo of a silhouette of the Island of Cuba made with white roses. “It is very difficult to live being kidnapped and repudiated for thinking differently, enough injustices already, Cuba belongs to no one or a few, it belongs to all Cubans”, added the reggaeton artist who lives in Havana and asked for freedom “for our people”.

Another musician of the urban genre who presented himself was the Puerto Rican Don Omar: “I go to my Cuban brothers, I bet on the freedom and justice they need so much. They have innocently died in search of respect for the rights of others, which has always been peace”. In other messages supporting the protests, he has used the tags 15N #, #somosmasynotenemosmiedo (there are more of us and we are not afraid) and #patriayvida.

In addition, the clarinetist, saxophonist and composer Paquito D’Rivera directed a “salute of solidarity” to all Cubans who are going to participate in the 15N march “for Cuba’s final freedom”, which has been “prey to totalitarianism for over 60 years”.

On the other hand, clarinetist, saxophonist and composer Paquito D’Rivera directed a “salute of solidarity” to all Cubans who are going to participate in the 15N march “for Cuba’s final freedom”

In a transmission on social networks during a demonstration in support of 15N in Miami this Sunday, trumpeter and pianist Arturo Sandoval, together with Cuban-born actor Andy García, vowed “to support the cause of Cuba’s freedom”.

“Very soon it will be 63 years of that shameful dictatorship of Cuba. It is too much. I believe that these people need freedom, they need to breathe, they need to know what freedom is,” Sandoval said. On November 15th, he affirmed that it was a day that all Cubans looked forward to with “great anxiety”.

“This is the time to tell the Cuban people that we are with them,” García said, emphasizing: “That repressive dictatorship that exists in Cuba can no longer be allowed”.

“Cuba’s youth, in which I believe a lot, will be able to show the world what it is to live in freedom and democracy and they will be able to teach the triumph of what a new Cuba is”, musician Emilio Estefan said for his part. His wife, singer Gloria Estefan, also expressed her support for 15N, noting that Cubans “will raise their voices peacefully as they did on July 11th to express their dissatisfaction with that regime that has oppressed them for over 62 years”.

Actor William Levy asked that all eyes in the world be on Cuba. “Let the whole world see what happens. We need all your support to end this dictatorship,” he wrote on Instagram. “One day I left Cuba, but Cuba never left me,” he said in another message.

Very soon it will be 63 years of that shameful dictatorship of Cuba. It is too much. I believe that these people need freedom, they need to breathe, they need to know what freedom is”

Panamanian singer-songwriter Rubén Blades expressed his full support for the Cuban people and their right to self-determination in a video posted this Sunday on his Facebook page. “I believe in the exchange of ideas on its own, I believe in the possibility that a society can determine its path and its destiny, so, based on that, I am with the people of Cuba, as I have always been”, said the musician.

“In the case of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, we support, as always, those who demand freedom to express their thoughts, the right to vote, and we condemn the government’s repression of their dictatorships,” he added.

On November 10th, a group of former leftist presidents, artists and writers who support Cuba’s regime, signed a letter published by the official Cubadebate media in which they blamed the United States for any demonstration against the Government of Cuba. They also asked that the United States “stop its attempts to destabilize a nation that at no time has taken action against US security”. Among the signatories are journalist Ignacio Ramonet, writers Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Martín Almada, and musician Chico Buarque.

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.

‘I Don’t Sleep Much for Fear that a Piece of the Roof is Going to Fall on Me’

América is concerned that her life will “end in tragedy” because of the poor condition of all the roofs. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger

América de Jesús Prada bent over and over again to fill  the water bottles that she had placed in front of two other ladies’ buckets that were also full of water. The building’s cistern has been dry for almost a month, and when they bring the tanker truck that supplies them, they have to rush to store as much water as possible.

The woman has been living for 54 years on the top floor of the building marked with number 909, located at the intersection of Infanta and Carlos III streets, in Centro Habana. One of her neighbors, sitting on the stairs, waits patiently for her turn while she complains that there is hardly a “trickle” from the sink and that it is almost time “to go to the kitchen to start dinner.”

Water, however, is not the biggest problem for the inhabitants of this building. The worst thing is to endure the passing of the years with the anguish of living in the “uninhabitable.” América says that she has had to give up living with her children and her grandson who, in the face of so much danger, found it necessary to leave the house and that now they are “lent out” living in other homes. “This here has no solution, every now and then there are partial collapses that make us lose sleep,” she laments.

The stairs are missing pieces and every time it rains another piece falls off. (14ymedio)

The last one was on September 5th, when a part of the roof fell in the common area of the building. “The firefighters, Government, and Housing, Demolitions & Shelter officials came. They all continued to come all that week, but now, after the moment passed, no one else has come.”

América is concerned that her life will “end in tragedy” because of the poor condition of all the roofs. “That day of the last collapse there had been some five children sitting under the roof that fell. They continue reading

did not get hurt because they had come inside just moments before,” she recalls. “They are always sitting in the common area or on the stairs, which are in very bad condition. The other day I fell when I was going up because there are missing parts and I stumbled, also every time it rains, another piece falls off.”

Prada points out every hole in the ceiling, every beam, the sunken parts of the floor that she never walks over as she opens the door to her apartment. “Inside here they had to write down everything, the ceilings are falling apart, the walls are cracked. I have gone to see the Housing and Shelters and they told us that this building has been listed for demolition since 1972,” she complains. “In the end, it is being demolished by itself with us inside it and they do not come up with a solution,” explains América, who is tired of “going there and returning with no answers at all” to get something that the officials responsible for the area should solve.

The “most difficult part” is at night: she finds it difficult to fall asleep due to fear of a collapse and she has had to find a method with which to feel more secure. “At bedtime I put an armchair over the bed right on top of the pillow and so at least I save my head, which is the most serious thing. Anyway, I hardly sleep at all, fearing that a piece of the roof will fall on me.”

América has never been able to make arrangements on her own because she can barely pay her daily expenses. “I worked for 33 years and my retirement is 1,700 pesos. Now, that is very little, everything is very expensive, I cannot even fix a window here.”

A difficult moment for the residents of 909, known in the neighborhood as “the avenues building,” is when they announce that a hurricane is approaching the Cuban capital. América says that before the imminent arrival of a hurricane, the Government has never evacuated them to safer places and that each one is organized to go to a relative’s house. “Most of the time I go to my sisters’ house. Then I return, always with the fear of arriving and finding some ruins.”

“I have gone to see the Housing and Shelters and they told us that this was for demolition since 1972.” (14ymedio)

The bottle with Prada water has been filled and it is the neighbor’s turn who has waited all this time on the stairs. The woman, who prefers not to identify herself, confesses to this newspaper that though she shares her fear with her roommate at bedtime, she has almost adapted already, nine years after moving in. “At first, if I slept for two hours it was a lot. Now I got used to it a bit, and when dust or pebbles from the ceiling fall on me when I am in bed, I get up all nervous, but I dust off and continue to sleep on the other side.  In terror, but I fall asleep again.”

The woman resists the distant possibility of going to a State shelter. “They have nowhere to put us because there is no capacity, but I prefer a thousand times to be here than to live in a shelter. I don’t like living with people I don’t know. In addition, you lose your privacy and the security of keeping safe the few belongings you have.”

In the midst of all the disaster, a neighbor is painting one of the windows of her apartment green. She carries the paint container in one hand and the brush in the other. She climbs on a chair and retouches the frame while she comments that she lost half of her roof once a brigade sent by the Government arrived, supposedly to repair a part that had collapsed on the outside. She now lives like this: half the house under a roof and the other half, under the sky.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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It is Forbidden to Bring Veterinary Vaccines to Cuba Due to the Risk of “Biological Aggression from the United States”

A young man sitting next to his pet at Havana’s Malecón at the end of September 2021. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana | 26 October 2021 — Vaccines and other biological products for veterinary use “can be vehicles for building diverse and powerful biological weapons.” That is the argument of the Ministry of Agriculture of Cuba to prohibit its importation and its exclusion in Resolution 430/2021.

The agency considers that “veterinary vaccines, antisera, culture media, products obtained by genetic engineering and genetically modified organisms” may “contain in their composition strains of pathogenic microorganisms different from those that circulate” in Cuba, and that this type of aggression has been used by the United States.

Pharma biologist chemist Ernesto Mediola assures 14ymedio that he understands Cuba’s position, but does not share the bans “because the drugs are regulated and go through meticulous health protocols.”

“Strictly speaking, viruses, bacteria, toxins, to name a few, could be used to cause disease, but to state that a patented vaccine is the basis of a biological weapon is an extreme position.”

The news has not been well received by a community of animal lovers and protectors that have been waiting for months for veterinary drugs, and vaccines in particular, to reach clinics and stores in the country. Stories of critically ill or dead animals from preventable continue reading

diseases can be heard everywhere.

“We placed an ad stating that we would be willing to pay whatever it took to buy it here because last year we had another little puppy die from distemper”

Duque died of parvovirus when he was only six months of age. The vaccine that was needed to immunize him against the disease did not reach Cuba in time, after an emigrant cousin sent the owner of the puppy a dose of the pentavalent that also immunizes against distemper, adenovirus, hepatitis, and kennel cough.

“We placed an ad stating that we would be willing to pay whatever it took to buy it here because last year we had another little puppy die of distemper,” the troubled owner of the two dead animals told this newspaper. “But they are practically not selling it on the black market because, with the reduction of flights, they almost never arrive.”  In addition, the vaccine must maintain a strict cold storage chain.

Roberto Miró, who runs a small place where he trims animals’ nails and treats them against scabies and ticks in Santo Suárez, explains to this newspaper that “you have to buy the vaccine only from a source in which you have a lot of confidence because, if the packaging was not at the right temperature all the time, it’s like throwing your money away.”

A dose of pentavalent exceeds 1,500 pesos in the informal market and there isn’t a constant supply. Most of the veterinarians who practice privately, seeing animals in their homes, have preferred to withdraw immunization with these antidotes from their catalog of services. “What would I have to charge to give the injection if the vaccine costs me that much? Few clients are willing to pay that amount,” Miró acknowledges.

In the main veterinary clinics of Havana, the product has been conspicuous by its absence for more than a year, even in the exclusive Almiquí, with high prices in convertible currency, the pentavalent has barely arrived a couple of times in recent months. “Animals die of diseases that would be very easy to prevent with a timely vaccine,” says Miró.

The Ministry of Agriculture also prohibited the import-export of  “hormones and growth promoters, drugs, narcotics, psychotropics, blood samples, strains of microorganisms” and equipment, devices and materials for veterinary laboratory diagnosis.

In the information offered for travelers, the agency specified that the importation of antibiotics for veterinary use is permitted, as well as antifungals, antiparasitics, vitamin supplements, instruments and accessories for pets, which must be in their “original containers, duly labeled and identified with the commercial and generic name or international common denomination.”

“My dogs have not been able to go out to the street for almost two years because I have not been able to vaccinate them”

Mendiola believes that the ban is more aimed at the centralism of a government that is questionable, given the lack of medications. Cuba has reached such extremes that, in the face of the scabies plague they are experiencing, those affected have had to resort to an antiparasitic that is used in animals. “It is not recommended because it can generate adverse reactions. Before prohibiting, Cuba should open the entry of drugs in general,” warns the chemist.

In the absence of protection, many pet owners reinforce the measures. “My dogs have not been able to go out to the street for almost two years because I have not been able to vaccinate them. I already suffered a lot with the death of a ten-year-old dog who got sick with distemper and I do not want to go through that again. What we do is leave them at home and we have rags with chlorine at the entrance to clean our shoes and avoid bringing them diseases from the outside,” says a resident from El Cerro.

“We have American pentavalent, just brought from Miami,” states an ad in one of the most popular sites of classifieds sales in Cuba. I administered it to the animal at home,” it reads. “Life is priceless,” the ad concludes immediately after the price of the drug: 1,800 pesos.

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Las Tunas Joins Peaceful November Marches in Cuba

Protesters on a street in Havana on July 11, 2021. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 7 October 2021 — Las Tunas joined the initiative for a peaceful demonstration called by the Archipiélago collective for this coming November 20th,[Ed. note: now moved to the 15th] just as Havana, Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, Guantánamo, Holguín and Pinar del Río did before.

Archipiélago reported that a group of citizens signed the document notifying the Tunas authorities of the march “against violence, to demand that all rights be respected for all Cubans, for the release of political prisoners and for the resolution of our differences through democratic and peaceful means.”

They also point out that “peaceful demonstration is a human right recognized in the Constitution” and that “violating or preventing the full exercise of this right constitutes a crime.” The group hopes that the authorities “act in strict compliance of the law and respect the dignity” of each participant in this citizen initiative.

“Whatever the defenders of single thought and exclusion say, the Homeland belongs to everyone, and so do its streets,” they conclude. continue reading

In the town of Consolación del Sur, in the province of Pinar del Río, another group of Cubans presented the letter on Wednesday, and the action was recorded in a video shared on social networks.

“Whatever the defenders of single thought and exclusion say, the Homeland belongs to everyone and so do its streets!”

“This is a unique moment in the history of Consolación del Sur,” is heard on the recording, which was made at the entrance to the building of the Popular Power. Yahima Díaz, one of the signatories, explained to 14ymedio that the document was received by Olga Lidia Prieto Blanco, the employee in charge of customer service, who refused to sign the notification, but said that the document would be delivered to the mayor.

This municipality was the second one in Pinar del Río to sign up for the initiative.  The provincial capital had joined earlier. As Manuel Cuesta Morúa, a member of the opposition, reported on his Twitter account, it was dissident and former political prisoner José Cásares Soto who was in charge of delivering the document to the authorities in that town.

In the city of Santiago de Cuba, an attempt was made to deliver a similar document last Tuesday, but activist Dariem Columbié was detained by State Security and the police while on his way to the headquarters of the governments of that province.

Members of Archipiélago also denounced this Thursday that “harassment” was being suffered by several mothers of the organizers of the march. “As they cannot confront us with ideas, they resort to intimidation, defamation and blackmail. Enough of the baseness!” they warned before concluding with the demand that the cowardly harassment of our mothers, friends and other relatives cease immediately.”

“My mother was summoned at work again. She called me crying for fear of losing her job,” one of the signers, who preferred not to identify herself to protect her family, reported to 14ymedio.

“My parents were in tears when they begged me to leave the group and I had to do it. I’m very nervous, this town is very small and everything is known”

The repression of the State Security has also reached universities. A young resident in Sancti Spíritus denounced to this newspaper that they are threatening and persecuting students “for belonging to the Archipiélago group.”

“They have already mentioned several friends of mine. Although they have not mentioned me yet, I am very afraid. They ask them why they are in the group, how did they get in, if they plan to demonstrate on the 20th, and one of them even proposed he come work for them. They touched on the subject of his career and told many that they have to be ‘revolutionaries’ if they want to graduate.”.

“My parents were in tears when they begged me to leave the group and I had to do it. I am very nervous, this town is very small and everything is known,” he said.

Several of the petitioners have suffered arbitrary arrests or are being summoned by State Security for interrogations where harassment and the threat of jail have not been lacking. Cuesta Morúa was arrested last week when he left his house, warning him that they would not allow the march.  The same thing happened to activists Marthadela Tamayo and Osvaldo Navarro.

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.

“No One Can Shut Me Up,” Says Professor Who Was Fired for Criticizing Healthcare in Cuba

Merladet, 26, had been teaching History classes for two years at the Silberto Álvarez Aroche vocational pre-university in Granma. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 6 October 2021 — Julio Merladet, who months ago made several public complaints about the poor state of healthcare in Cuba, was sanctioned this Tuesday at his workplace with the “separation from the Education sector” for three years. This is, de facto, a dismissal.

Diplomas he was awarded on several occasions, such as “outstanding professor” and “exemplary educator” demonstrate it. The latest one is dated last December.

In August of this year, he posted a video on Facebook that went viral in which he said that his daughter and her partner had not received medical attention at the health centers where they went. After testing positive for Covid, the young man was not transferred to an isolation center and ended up infecting his family.

“If I had stopped a few days before at the entrance to my house and had shouted ‘homeland and life‘, police would have arrived faster than the doctors arrived at my home this time,” he said in that video, where he also indicated that he could be fired from his job. continue reading

“He published two live videos in social networks in an uncomplicated and very rude way, he spoke out against hospital institutions and the Government”

So it happened this Tuesday. That day, they warned him he’d be summoned for “voluntary work”, but in reality, it was a form of punishment. He already expected it: the reprisals had started long before, “while I was still a teacher”, he narrates, “after I published the first videos”.

The document that was handed to him was signed by Denis Alberto Moreno Beatón, director of the Budget Unit for Education in Granma province, and states that Merladet “incurred violations of labor discipline.”

“He published two live videos on social networks in an uncomplicated and rude way, he spoke out against hospital institutions and the Government, then he made a publication where he says that he does not regret anything stated in the videos but he does regret the rudeness used in that video,” the text details, which argues that a teacher violates the regulation “when he does not maintain “conduct consistent with the ethical principles of educational policy, permanently performing the educational work that corresponds to him” or performs “serious acts” that are “contrary to morality and the ideological principles of our country”.

“Publicly defaming or disparaging the institutions of the Republic and the heroes and martyrs of the country”, the notification also reads, is a violation of “the utmost gravity”.

If Merladet regrets something, it is the “curse words” used in the first video “I am a peasant and when I am crossed, I close myself off, and at that moment I was upset when I spoke”, he alleges, “but after that, I did not.” In addition, he had already made the decision not to continue teaching, despite the fact that months before he had been offered “to do a direct doctorate, without doing a master’s degree”.

“Why are they asking me to separate from the Education sector for three years? What rules did I violate?”

Many of his colleagues, he says, have also supported him, and “even offered themselves as witnesses if I decide to appeal”, something that he still has not decided to do. “I have seven business days to make the claim but I’m still thinking about it.”

“Why are they asking me to separate from the Education sector for three years? What rule did I violate?” Merladet asks during Tuesday’s transmission on his social networks. As a citizen, he was expressing himself freely, he claimed, “a right that anyone has in any country in the world”. But not in Cuba.

“I’m not going to starve, I know how to work, I know how to fight it,” says Merladet in the video, which indicates he sells cumin on the street.

At the same time, he asks the ‘workers’: “With your salary, can you shop in an MLC store [one that takes foreign currency only]? You can’t, because they don’t pay us in MLC”, he answers. “You have to have family there, in the empire, among the enemy” he says ironically. “If you are an ordinary worker, barefoot, like we are, you can’t go in there, you have to have a ‘gusano* from Miami’ who will send you dollars to be able to shop there.” His teacher’s salary, he indicates, was 4,845 pesos.

In the same publication, Merladet announces that now he is going to “really” get involved in politics: “There is no one to shut me up anymore,” concludes his video. “Homeland and life. Homeland or death is over. What represents us is Homeland and Life.”

*Translator’s note: The term gusano — meaning worm or maggot — is a derogatory first applied by Fidel Castro to ‘counter-revolutionaries’ and those who wanted to leave Cuba.

Translated by Norma Whiting
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Let’s Lay the Foundations of the New Cuba

Hundreds of Cubans were arrested during the July 11th demonstrations. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 2 October 2021 — Since the Cuban people have finally conquered freedom, since true liberation begins in the human spirit, it is time to start laying the foundations of the New Cuba.

Those who still believe that they govern the country, ignorant that no one governs without the consent of the governed, will believe that they have finally managed to put the noose on the people, and that they can deceive them once again as if by magic, making changes here and there so as not to have to change anything.

They do not understand at all what has really happened. Just as they did not believe that July 11th could happen, they now think that everything will return to its place, that everything will continue as before that date. They don’t see reality or they don’t want to see it, and that can be dangerous. Nobody will deceive the people again, because they have become aware of their rights and, sooner or later, they will come out to demand them. And it will not be like that day, but multiplied by ten. Now it could be the State that is expropriated, as in the 1960’s the leadership did with the population, including independent workers.

The State seized all the wealth of the country by force in the name of all the people.  It seized the lands, the factories, the shops, the banks, the hotels and even the most modest means of subsistence of humble workers who made a living through their own efforts, without exploiting anyone. Who got liberated? From that collective looting began the subjugation of all the people, who have lost all their freedoms since then. They were no longer able to express their opinions, associate freely, make their own way in independent economic activities, so they stopped being an entity in order to become a mere screw in the State machinery.

That leadership only succeeded in creating an immense monopoly, though it claimed to have put an end to large Estates and all monopolies

That leadership, though it claimed to have put an end to large Estates and all monopolies, only succeeded in creating an immense monopoly, the largest concentration of wealth that could have been conceived, which later engendered a corrupt bureaucracy, administrations designated by that State which has squandered all the goods that did not belong to it, and has dragged the population to a life of needs and calamities.

Now, only one owner has to be expropriated, the supreme landowner, the only monopoly that has been left standing. Now it is up to the State to be expropriated by those people whom the current constitution itself recognizes as the legitimate owner.

Now that people have the right to expropriate the expropriators and get rid of all those corrupt administrations that control those companies, not one by one, but all at once, urging all the grassroots groups in the centers and companies under the guardianship of that State, and, on their own account, create democratically elected workers’ councils to direct all those means of production instead of that bureaucracy.

Each work nucleus is more productive if it feels that the center belongs to it and that it is going to obtain part of the profits from what it produces, and those councils, should they deem it necessary, will hire the ones who will direct them most efficiently.

The people must declare the State as incompetent, for having entrusted and appointed all those corrupt bureaucrats. They must replace it, due to its lack of ethics and for having systematically violated their rights. Not only rights of free expression and association, but even of life, having ordered the sinking of two ships on two different occasions, the Río Canímar and the 13 de Marzo. Both events led to the deaths of numerous citizens, as well as thousands of executions in summary trials lacking any procedural guarantee.

That Government was never elected, but rather it was handpicked by others who were not chosen by the people either. The Constitution was drawn up by constituents who were also handpicked by the sovereign will of a so-called historical leadership with all-encompassing powers based on the supposed glories of a distant past. Therefore, this Government lacks any legitimacy and must be temporarily supplanted by a civic council of men and women who have earned the admiration and respect of all the people. Not to govern, but to restore the rights and freedoms of the citizenry, to convene a new constituent, and to organize free elections.

There will be those who say that I am delirious, that I am building castles in the air, but a rebellious philosopher of the great American nation, Henry David Thoreau, who influenced great men like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and José Martí, said: “If you build a castle in the air, you haven’t wasted your time. The castle is there. You just need to lay its foundations.”

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.

Tabacuba Explains Why There’s Shortage of Cigarettes, and it is Not Because of the ‘Blockade’

In Cuba, “more than 40 million packs are consumed per month, including 400,000 Criollos in the capital alone. (Ahora)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 October 2021 — Cigarettes have become one of the first things whose scarcity is not officially attributed to the ‘lockdown’. In statements to Radio Rebelde, the directors of Tabacuba explained that the delays in the arrival of supplies to Cuba “were not all due to the restrictive measures imposed by the US blockade.”

José Liván Font Bravo and Raúl Hernández Ferrer, First Vice President and Director of Industry of the State company respectively, told the official press that the pandemic and “unforeseen breakdowns” in factories such as Lázaro Peña in Holguín, which accounts for 60% of production, have caused product shortages.

The explanation comes after it became known this Tuesday that the factory, which markets Criollos cigarettes in Holguín, had barely delivered 33% of what was expected for the month of September.

The cigarette shortage already goes back several months and forced the rationing of the product in Havana last June, something that is explained now, with the officials’ statements, which reveal that “a large part of its staff fell ill with COVID,” which has kept the factory at half production levels from July to September, with deliveries less than 50% of the plan. continue reading

Tabacuba leaders maintain that production at the end of September was at 81% and added that throughout the year there have been other problems, such as the lack of wrapping paper, labels, and parts for the factories, the result of the lack of liquidity.

In addition, the Ranchuelo factory, in Villa Clara, was stopped twice this year, a total of 24 days, due to equipment breakdowns. Juan D. Matas Reyes, in Trinidad, has also been in this situation. Both, along with Segundo Quincosa, in Havana, are recovering their old levels of production, so the managers affirm that little by little they will return to normal production.

In any case, tobacco will not be available normally until the first quarter of next year, provided that the forecasts are met, since to date it has not begun to have “a certain level of financing.”

This money is destined to pay for the resources to guarantee the production of cigarettes and, in addition, according to Tabacuba, the raw material is assured, since there is enough unmanufactured tobacco available.

“If from now on the daily production stabilizes in the country’s four factories above the 1,400,000 packs of cigarettes, in the retail trade network a better presence of this line will begin to be seen gradually, but not enough yet,” they said.

A very small scale ‘black market seller’ offers a few packs of cigarettes, some toothpaste and other items.

Cuban smokers will have to continue standing in line and paying the high prices in the black market where, in recent days, packs are already above 120 pesos.

Hernández Ferrer stated during the interview that more than 40 million packs are consumed per month in Cuba, and in the capital city alone the figure is about 400,000 Criollos which, he alleges, are preferred by many consumers.

On the street, however, these cigarettes are known as chest-breakers and smokers remember that they have always been of poor quality. “They were badly glued, stained, but they were a solution for those of us who worked in the State sector and earned just over 310 pesos,” an Habanero told this newspaper this week.

However, the shortage is overwhelming and these maligned cigarettes have now become an object of desire for many Cubans, due to the unattainable price of other higher quality brands.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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Cuba: The Line Became a Roar When the Ice Cream Ran Out

Employees of the El Italiano Pizzeria in Havana, carrying the tubs of ice cream they got without having to stand in line. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 21 September 2021 — A crowd gathered this Monday at the Infanta and Carlos III premises known as El Cuchillo at the same time that ice cream began to be unloaded from a recently parked vehicle. Dairy pleasure is increasingly scarce in Cuba and, therefore, all the passers-by who happened to be around came, eager and ready to line up.

Many of those who desperately asked “who’s last in line” — so they could take their proper place behind them —  did not even know what flavor they were going to get, much less its price. When they had been waiting for a while and found out how much it was going to cost, some of them had to leave the line because they did not have enough cash on them.

The 10-liter box of vanilla ice cream cost 520 pesos and only one was being sold per person. There were also small guava popsicles, at 15 pesos each, with a limit of 10 per buyer. continue reading

“The police have to come and mistreat us in order for us to get organized,” said one of those who waited under the sun at one in the afternoon. “Look how they have us, just to try to buy some ice cream, this is the last straw”

“The police have to come and mistreat us in order for us to get organized,” said one of those who waited under the sun at one in the afternoon. “Look how they have us, just to try to buy some ice cream, this is the last straw.”

The fascination for ice cream does not come only from the heat and the need to put something very cold in your mouth. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Fidel Castro became obsessed with large livestock schemes that would make Cuba a dairy power.

Numerous cheese, yogurt and ice cream factories were established and, with technology from the socialist camp, State ice cream parlors opened throughout the whole country.

A man “organizes” the line to buy ice cream at the store known as El Cuchillo. (14ymedio)

But little remains of those menu boards that announced dozens of flavors, and the product is scarce in Cuban pesos. Now, ice cream is barely sold in some parts of the Cuban capital, and when it appears, it provokes more conflicts and fights than relief.

Just as a plainclothes agent was giving orders to position people, before the sale to the public began, those already lined up watched with surprise as workers from the El Italiano Pizzeria, located opposite El Cuchillo, came out with tubs of ice cream without having to wait for a place in line. The line then became a roar, but the protests were of little use: they only sold to the first 12 lucky ones, and the rest had to settle for 10 popsicles per person. Most left with empty bags and the bitter experience of having lost almost an hour of their lives.

“This is disrespectful, are they going to tell us that they only unloaded 12 boxes, nothing else?” One woman wondered indignantly. “How far will these people’s impudence against the citizens go? What do I tell my children now? That they have no right to eat ice cream? No ice cream, no candy, nothing,” she exploded. 

“This is disrespectful, are they going to tell us that they only unloaded 12 boxes, nothing else?” One woman wondered indignantly. “How far will these people’s impudence against the citizens go?”

At the casual market and at home delivery outlets, the same tub of ice cream costs twice as much. This Tuesday, several establishments that make home deliveries offered vanilla flavored tubs at 1,100 pesos each. The resale market is a profitable business in the case of this product, highly sought after by families with children and convalescent patients who cannot eat solid foods.

On the outskirts of La Dependiente Hospital, in the Havana municipality of Diez de Octubre, three out of five people who waited this Monday to deliver lunch containers to their hospitalized relatives, such as Covid patients, also brought ice cream. “My cousin just wants to eat this, so if I have to look for it buried underground, I’ll do it,” commented a woman.

The fights to get the most precious dairy product every day are not new. Recently, this newspaper found the same problem at Ditá, at 26th and 37th Avenues in the Nuevo Vedado neighborhood in Havana. More than 40 people lined up in the sun to try to buy six-packs of ice cream, which were selling for 258 pesos.

Meanwhile, the famous ice cream parlor of the capital, Coppelia, has limited the purchase of ice cream to a few scoops per person and its offers are purely to take away, as long as each customer brings their own container, since they do not sell containers there. Despite this, this Tuesday the line in Coppelia was stubborn like the drizzle under which Havana dawned.

“We Cubans are going to kill each other,” protested a woman in a custodian uniform as she left El Cuchillo this Monday, when the ice cream had already run out. A young man replied: “Those who are going to kill us are those up there, those who do not line up and have us all day running from here to there.”

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.

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.