More than 60 Percent of Cubans Arbitrarily Detained in 2022 Were Women

The leader of the opposition women’s movement Damas de Blanco, Berta Soler, has been imprisoned on several occasions by the Cuban regime. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 January 2023 — In 2022, Cuba reached the highest rate of women arbitrarily detained in the last four years. The figure is documented by the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH) in its latest report, published this Thursday, in which they attest to more than 5,500 repressive actions by the regime as of the end of the year.

Last year, the repression of the Díaz-Canel government was consolidated and even went further, adds the OCDH in its report, against sectors of the population traditionally not linked to politics.  Imprisonment and exile continue to be a predominant pattern practiced by the regime against dissident voices, while police summonses, threats, and detentions in homes continue.

The organization has recorded that, throughout 2022, Cuban authorities carried out 1,354 arbitrary arrests, of which 832 correspond to women and represent 61.4%, the highest figure since 2018.

The organization has recorded that, throughout 2022, Cuban authorities carried out 1,354 arbitrary detentions, of which 832 correspond to women

There were 1,447 documented detentions of activists, opponents, or relatives of prisoners in their homes, and  harassment against the independent press continued as well, with at least 697 repressive actions against journalists who suffered threats, surveillance, subpoenas and restrictions on mobile data and telephony. continue reading

Similarly, the report denounces that at the end of 2022 there are 976 political or prisoners of conscience jailed in Cuban prisons, the majority for participating in the massive protests of July 11, 2021 and other subsequent expressions of discontent, such as in the city of Nuevitas in August 2022. The Government applies the crime of sedition to prosecute the demonstrators, with sentences that average 10 years of imprisonment.

The Observatory reports that, despite multiple calls to the international community to intervene and verify the Cuban prison system, the Government maintains restricted access for agencies to its 293 centers, which have the highest prison population per capita in Latin America, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Approximately 72% of the Cuban population lives on the threshold of extreme poverty, and eight out of 10 cannot get medicines in pharmacies

The OCDH details that social indicators have deteriorated due to the deep economic crisis Cuba is experiencing, with a general shortage of food and basic necessities. This has led to 72% of the Cuban population living on the threshold of extreme poverty, and eight out of 10 unable to get medicines in pharmacies, according to the fifth report on the State of social rights published in October of 2022.

In its statement, the Observatory reiterates its call on governments and international organizations to “redouble” their support for activists and civil society in Cuba.  It also calls for programs of cooperation with the government to be conditional on “real progress in terms of democracy, human rights and economic freedoms” in addition to the elimination of the new Penal Code.

Similarly, the organization recommends continuing with sanctions against human rights violators under the principles of the Magnitsky Act and other accountability programs in the United States, the European Union and other countries.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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 Investigates the Deaths of Eight Premature Babies at the Diez de Octubre Hospital in Havana

The deaths occurred starting January 11, that is, in just five days. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 January 2023 — Eight premature and low-weight babies have died so far in January at the Diez de Octubre Gynecological and Obstetric Hospital in Havana, the Ministry of Public Health reported on Monday.

Four of these newborn children died “since this past January 11th with presumptive signs of sepsis and the rest, of other causes related to the delicate state of their health,” according to the note released by the official press.

The Ministry assures that, in the hospital where the deaths were registered, “measures have been adopted to deal with this situation, and that it has the necessary resources to care for newborns,” although it has not specified what those resources consist of.

The Ministry assures that “measures have been adopted to deal with this situation, and that the necessary resources are available to care for newborns”, although it has not specified what they consist of

He also noted that a National Health Commission is currently investigating the causes of deaths and “based on the results, the pertinent measures will be taken.”

The event took place a few days after Cuba’s infant mortality data was released, which is bad again. The rate recovered only one tenth, compared to the very bad data for 2021, which was 7.6 deaths per 100,000, and stood at 7.5 in the year just ended.

The worsening of the infant mortality rate has been fast. Cuba exhibited some of the best data on the American continent until 2020, when the rate was 4.9 per 100,000, although the best figures come from 2017 and 2018, when it was only 4.0. continue reading

Compared to those years, the rate increased by 92% in 2021, when the authorities attributed the data mostly to the pandemic, both due to direct and collateral effects.

In addition, some provinces have data that is at the level of some countries such as El Salvador or Mexico. This is the case of Mayabeque, with 12.2 deaths per 100,000 births, Santiago de Cuba with 9.9, Guantánamo with 9.7, Havana with 9.5 and Camagüey, with 9.1.

The main causes of deaths have been perinatal conditions, mainly related to low birth weight, prematurity and intrauterine growth retardation, in addition to congenital malformations and sepsis.

Some doctors have warned that PAMI has lost priority over the years, partly due to the drop in funds allocated to it, but also due to the loss of many professionals

Some doctors have warned that the Maternal and Child Care Program (PAMI) has lost priority over the years, partly due to the drop in funds allocated to it, but also due to the loss of many medical professionals, who have been leaving medicine in recent years due to low wages and high work demands.

In 2021, two babies died in Guantánamo and two had to be admitted in critical condition after receiving treatment with Ampicillin in the neonatology service of the Dr. Agostinho Neto General Teaching Hospital.

In December 2021 there was also a case similar to the one now in Diez de Octubre, when two newborns died at a Havana hospital “despite receiving the maximum care,” according to the Havana Tribune. Although a report on what happened was announced, its contents did not change public opinion.

The news has generated a multitude of reactions among the readers of the official press, which call attention to the precariousness of the National Health System. Some of them point to the general malnutrition of the population, but also the lack of sterilization in hospitals and the shortage of medicines.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Garbage Collection in Cuba: From Creative Resistance to Desperate Patch

“Many containers have lost their hitch and we had to get working to solve it because otherwise it would be more work for us.” (14 and a half)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 3 January 2022 — The rattle of the Community Services trucks has people climbing sidewalks to make way for the giant. Two men get out and push a garbage container cracked on its sides. Among flies and shouts, customers waiting to shop at the Plaza de Carlos III see the garbage bin rise, embraced by an improvised cloth band and drop the waste inside the truck. “Tremendous invention!” ironically exclaims one. “That is the creative resistance that [Cuban president] Díaz-Canel is talking about,” another mocks.

The trick is more desperate than artifice. “Many containers have lost their coupling and we had to get up to do something because otherwise it would be more work for us,” laments one of the workers from the State company who carries one of these bands in case he needs them. “Without this, part of the garbage would fall on top of us when we lift the container or we would have to use shovels to throw it into the truck. Nobody wants to work in these conditions, but it is what it is.”

For decades, Cuban authorities have boasted of the achievements of the National Association of Innovators and Rationalizers (ANIR), an entity that seeks to inventively solve the problems of supplying spare parts. But behind the praise, when an employee replaces an imported gear with one made on a domestic lathe or repairs complex foreign machinery with wire and old tubes, there is more desperation than ingenuity. continue reading

“First we had to invent a soyuz (coupler) to be able to use the garbage trucks donated by Japan with these containers because they were not compatible”

“First we had to invent a Soyuz (coupler) to be able to use the garbage trucks donated by Japan with these containers because they were not compatible,” Walfrido, a former garbage collection truck driver, explained to 14ymedio. Last April, the state worker was blunt when he defined the “little blue ones”:  “They are not just bad, they are very bad.” After a few months, the original Soyuz was useless because, in most cases, the latching mechanism of the tanks broke.

When the azulitos (little blue ones) began to appear on Havana street corners a few years ago, they had that air of novelty that had many believing that the garbage problem in the Cuban capital was going to be solved. But the poor quality of these waste bins soon began to be noticed and was fatally combined with the looting that their less colorful cousins have always been subject to but have also ended up torn to pieces or disappeared in the streets of the Island.

“The pay is low, the salary is not enough for hardly anything and the working conditions are very difficult, but if the daily norm is not met then they are paid much less,” Walfrido details. “Now these bands have been devised, tomorrow we will have to use something else, and the day will come when the garbage will be collected all over Havana with a bulldozer if things continue like this,” he laments. While the “creativity” is provided by the Communal Services employees, the challenge falls onto the residents of the city, who will have to live with more mountains of waste.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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 Traditional Christmas Pig in Cuba, Badly Frozen and Only with a Ration Book

The meat is, according to Havana housewives’ diagnosis, “at room temperature” and the bad smell is impossible to remove, even by frying it in very hot butter. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez/Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 16 December 2022 — The stench comes from the back of the butcher shop, from the bundle of pork that the clerks handle with sweaty hands. As he approaches the counter, having survived being shoved and yelled at while in line, Carlos discovers that the unpleasant smell comes from the reddish suet that mucks up the floor.

The transaction is short-lived. The butcher sets his hooks and knives on the mass of smelly meat, weighs it –always cheating, but even Cubans get used to dishonesty — and throws it inside the shopping bag. The manipulation of the scale does not seem to matter to the policeman who watches over the buyers and who, at the end of the day, will be paid in kind for his “indifference.”

The smell is just the beginning of the odyssey to have a bit to eat to put on the family table during the New Year holidays.

The smell is just the beginning of the odyssey to have a bit of energy to put on the family table during the New Year holidays

The meat just bought is old, gray, and almost greenish. Fat, cartilage and bone predominate. Its texture is perhaps the most unpleasant, typical of pork that has not been well refrigerated and that, when it begins to thaw, becomes slimy to the touch.

Unfortunately, Carlos thinks, he listened to the clerks who were shouting on the outskirts of the butcher shop. “Make the effort and buy now,” they said this Thursday, “this is what’s left and tomorrow is going to be worse.” There were people who were more discerning, who preferred to not buy anything.

The meat that the government puts up for sale for the end-of-year celebrations is, according to the diagnosis of Havana housewives, “lukewarm” and it is impossible to remove the stench, even when frying it in very hot butter. continue reading

The conspiracy theorists in the neighborhood have already launched their explanation: in the absence of a recent product, the government makes available for sale its mysterious “war reserve,” the secret food arsenal that has always been attributed to the regime. It is not pork that has been kept in a refrigerator, hanging on a hook, but in little refrigerated warehouses, one piece on top of another. For this reason, they say, the meat is “crushed” and has an “ugly” color.

Crackling pork rind, fried pork chunks or some roasted ribs have always been part of the Cuban New Year’s festivities, even more than holiday trees and cider. The latter, the official hatred for the Christmas festivities has made them disappear and reappear from homes, but pork meat had remained a constant despite the fact that every December of the last decade its price has risen significantly.

In private markets, a pound of steak or leg is close to 500 Cuban pesos but, as the month progresses and Christmas Eve approaches, the product’s presence decreases

In private markets, a pound of steak or leg is close to 500 Cuban pesos, but as the month progresses and Christmas Eve approaches, the product’s presence decreases. Hence, the official announcement was received with relief that the product would begin to be sold in the city of Havana in a “limited, controlled-release” manner, upon presentation of the ration book.

Silvia, Xiomara and María Eugenia have come to an understanding. Between the three of them they will buy a piece of pork that costs about 7,500 pesos. It is a leg that will be divided for Christmas Eve dinner for their corresponding families. “We’re just going to buy just one because no one has the money for the piece that is allocated to her nuclear family,” María Eugenia clarifies.

Since last Sunday, having been alerted that the sales would begin this Wednesday, the three retirees began to stand in line at the butcher shop on Ermita and Conill streets, in the municipality of Plaza de la Revolución. Since then, they have alternated the hours they spend in line, hoping that the time to go into the establishment will arrive this Friday afternoon. “We have about 80 people ahead of us, and sales are going very slowly.”

The long wait is not because the piece of meat has to be cut, since the customer must purchase the complete piece, a requirement that has made many needy people give up, since they do not have the thousands of pesos that a leg costs at a price of 250 pesos per pound. “They weighed a medium one for me and it came out at 6,800 pesos so I had to share buying it with a neighbor,” warns a nearby resident who went in “among the first” because she started standing in line last Saturday. The delay is attributed to “all the paperwork that must be reviewed before buying.”

According to the woman, it is pork meat “with a lot of fat,” it comes unpackaged, which makes her assume it’s from Cuban pigs, but the employees could not tell her if it was imported or from national farms. “The store has refrigeration problems and when I bought the leg, I ran home to put it in the freezer because otherwise it wouldn’t make it to the end of the year.”

In other municipalities, such as Arroyo Naranjo, the residents have improvised real encampments outside the butcher shops to be able to get a portion of meat

In other municipalities, such as Arroyo Naranjo, the residents have improvised real encampments outside butcher shops to be able to get a portion of meat, since it is known that what is available is not enough for all the households registered in the city’s rationed market. On social networks, some of them have shared photos of people wrapped in blankets or drinking rum to warm up in the cool early morning this December.

“I hope that the piece that I get is tenderloin, which is worth 235 pesos a pound and comes with some ribs for frying that my children love,” commented a resident of El Vedado this Thursday, who has to buy at the local store at 17th and K streets. “You can always convince someone else in line to take your piece if you don’t like it and he prefers it that way.”

However, the man fears that the meat that signals the holidays could also become a matter of contention. “Those who are buying legs for three households are not going to be able to separate it until everything is cut in their presence, because otherwise there will be a dispute due to a little extra lard that goes to one or a few chunks above what the other gets.”

Translated by Norma Whiting

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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 Fight Against the ‘Coleros’ is Replaced by New Controls in Havana Food Stores

Residents of Luyanó were complaining that the authorities are turning a blind eye to irregularities between employees and coleros. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerThe “Operation to Fight Coleros*,” (LCC) which began in Havana in August 2020, is coming to an end. The innumerable cases of corruption linked to these groups, called to organize the waiting lines outside stores, have forced a change in the sales policy in the capital that will hand over control to store personnel, so there are already those who predict that illicit enrichment will simply change hands.

The Havana Government abruptly made the announcement of this imminent change this Wednesday, which begins to be applied today in the municipalities of Centro Habana, La Habana Vieja, Regla, Cotorro and Arroyo Naranjo, although it will also be extended to the rest at a later date.

Each family nucleus will be able to purchase the ‘released’ products — that is the unrationed ones — controlled in the TRD and Caribe stores, through a ticket system that will include the name of the establishment, the number of the store and the nucleus, the number of consumers and a consecutive number. continue reading

“Everyone will know the day and place they’ll be assigned to buy, so as to avoid the exhausting lines and individuals who take advantage of the current situation to act illegally and enrich themselves”

“Everyone will know what day and location they have been assigned, so as to avoid the exhausting lines and individuals who take advantage of the current situation to act illegally and enrich themselves,” states the Capital’s Government.

There will be five defined ‘controlled’ products for sale: chicken, chopped meat, sausage, oil, and detergent. Regarding sales cycles, families of up to eight people will be allotted 5 kilos of chicken, two bottles of oil, four tubes of chopped meat, one kilo of detergent and two kilos of sausages. The figure doubles for family nucleus of nine to 16 members and triples from 17 on.

There will be extended business hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 10 am to 7 pm, for those who cannot go during normal business hours for work reasons. Sundays are fixed for those who cannot go shopping on their turn or to pick up products that “due to a greater problem” made it impossible to guarantee the day when they were supposed to buy them.” The latter is such a common situation that it threatens to overwhelm Sundays. Another of the weaknesses of the system is the organization outside the stores, which will be done “in order of arrival,” that is, a new lie, although a priori on a smaller scale.

The day of purchase that corresponds to each family nucleus will be set by the order of the consecutive number and depending on the daily capacity of the establishment, which must clearly display at the entrance those numbers of each item that are bought each day and the number that is intended for sale to those who could not attend on the scheduled day. The information will also be offered to citizens through the application, and will contain the distribution cycles and the order, by days, of stores and consumers.

The situation will be in the hands of “a person who enjoys prestige and authority in the community to exercise control of the number of products that the establishment receives daily”

 n any case, the situation will be in the hands of “a person who enjoys prestige and authority in the community to exercise control over the number of products the establishment receives daily, with the aim at defining the number of families that can purchase available products that day.” The chosen one, whose merits are not a guarantee of his power to resist bribery, must review the stocks, define and inform the nuclei what they can purchase that day, as well as take stock at the end of the fulfillment of what was planned.

In the case of the “vulnerable,” who will be defined by the municipal governments and will have a document that accredits them as such, they can buy for themselves or through someone who can help them by presenting their identity card and the certificate.

The article released by the Government to announce to the population what changes are being made contains a series of measures that must be taken prior to the establishment of the new system, which makes it doubtful that it can enter into force immediately.

Among the measures is preparing, at a seminar, the personnel who will have control of the ration books and those in charge of supervising the inventory of products. In addition, there is talk of “setting up a meeting with the administrators or managers” to detail the new format and work on a program that communicates the strategy to the population, as well as a pilot test of the TeToca (it’s your turn) and Ticket applications, which will facilitate the organization.

The authorities claim to have made these decisions after verifying that there were “difficulties in the functioning of the municipal groups” and “insufficient confrontation with the ‘coleros’, resellers and hoarders”

The authorities claim to have made these decisions after verifying that there were “difficulties in the operation of municipal groups” and “insufficient confrontation with the coleros, resellers and hoarders” despite the fact that the authorities have “faced” 1,352 so far this year.  Especially significant is the allusion to the “repeated statements of opinion of the population on the functioning of the LCC (Fight Against Coleros) groups, conditioned by irregularities.”

The reaction to the news, disseminated in the official media, has been mostly positive, including requests that it be extended to other provinces soon, and celebrating the end of the “abuse” and “mistreatment” attributed to LCC groups, although there have been demands made about distribution of products by the store or doubts about the new system that seems hasty at the very least.

Although the character of the LCC group has been controversial from the beginning, the death of an elderly man on November 1 in a line at the store on Melones street in Luyanó uncovered a network of corruption which the authorities had no choice but to stop and that may have been the trigger. The siege lasted only a few days, because shortly after the incident, neighbors already warned of the return of the coleros who, in collusion with the LCC, left the shops bare, on this occasion even “renting” ration books.

*Translator’s note: A line or queue in Cuba is called a ’cola’ (literally ’tail) and ‘coleros‘ are people who others pay to hold their place in line, lines that can be hours, or even days, long.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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: The Death of an Old Man in the Food Line of a Store in Luyano Uncovers a Network of Thieves

The old man had been trying to buy for days at the store on Melones Street, in Luyanó, where the police operation was carried out. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 2 November 2022 — The residents of Luyanó, in Havana, say that his name was Arístides and he lived on Manuel Pruna Street, at the corner of Municipio. This Tuesday, he was found dead at the doors of the nearby store on Melones Street, between Enna and Guanabacoa, where he had been standing in line for several days trying to buy something.

Hours after the old man’s body was taken away, the establishment was the subject of a police operation made public on networks by the government of the municipality of Diez de Octubre.

Without alluding to Arístides’ death, a post with images reported on Facebook about the merchandise they found “reserved” at the store. Among the items were 11 packages of chicken “with proof of payment” that, according to the clerks, “belong to the LCC (Lucha Contra Coleros),” that is, to the agents of the groups of the so-called “Fight Against Coleros*.”

They also found “6 packages of chopped meat, 11 bottles of Sedal shampoo,” in addition to three other bottles of shampoo, three bottles of conditioner, valued at 160 pesos each, three “wheels” of H. Upmann cigars and 1,190 pesos inside a drawer in the store manager’s office. In it they also detected “a shortage” of 6,129 pesos “corresponding to sales of October 31, 2022.” continue reading

“You also know that what you found is a small part of everything that goes out the back door”

“All the confiscated products were sold to 5 people from the population, including a mother with a child under 1 year old,” detailed the publication, which immediately filled with comments.

Most of them criticize the military troops deployed to fight coleros, a strategy deployed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic to combat hoarders, for which personnel from the Ministry of the Interior and organizations at the service of the regime were used (such as the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution and the Federation of Cuban Women), which was never cancelled.

“You also know that what you only found is a small part of everything that goes out the back door,” says commentator González Monyk. “The manager, the financial personnel, the clerks, the floor cleaners, etc. steal, and the stolen items are removed from the store by the regular customers who shop daily, or through the back door after hours. I know you know it, but I repeat it over and over again: This system does not work and will never work.”

“The LCCs have been a shame,” says Lissette López. “In an infinite hell they have upturned the lives of hard-working citizens. They mistreat and divert what belongs to the people with absolute impunity.”

“That man had been in line for days without being able to buy, because what they got going in there is astonishing”

Tamara Valdés Pérez agrees with her, and elaborates about another business located on Espadero street, La Víbora, in the same municipality as Diez de Octubre: “Just after the chicken arrived, they tell you that there is enough for only 20 people. You can see the motorcycles come and go with your own eyes, taking chicken. That’s why they keep the lines a block away. If there is no more COVID, what’s the point?”

“Today was horrible in Espadero,” says Nydia Rodríguez. “People standing in line for days, the chicken arrives, 20 people, 15 susceptible, and the chicken in the dependents’ backpack.”

The list displayed in the comments about the stores in which Havana citizens express grief about the corruption of the “LCCs” is long: 15th Street and Concepción in the Lawton neighborhood; The Danube in El Vedado; The Cupet de Lagueruela in La Víbora; the store at 84th and 41 stin Marianao; Concha y Fábrica in Luyanó; Cupet de Luco and Calzada de Luyanó, 15th and Dolores in Arroyo Naranjo, where they also complain about El Eléctrico Development.

All in all, the commentators celebrate the operation in Melones, although they point out that “it should have been carried out periodically.”

“A person had to die for them to come to investigate,” a Luyanó neighbor told 14ymedio. “That man had been in line for days without being able to buy, because what they got going on in there is astonishing.” Indeed, it is not the first time that the Melones Street establishment has been the object of complaints by the population, who have been witnesses to the ‘diversions’ for months.

The residents of the place, as they recorded on social networks, are now looking for the dog that accompanied Aristídes, who walked with a cane and, according to another neighbor, had “a son who lives far away” as his only family.

*Translator’s note: Coleros, from “colas” (waiting lines – the same word also means ‘tail’), are individuals who hold places for others who pay them for the service. 

Translated by Norma Whiting
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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Wombs for Rent or Surrogacy: Cuba Signs Up

Very few countries allow this practice, which is also called surrogacy, surrogate gestation, or surrogate motherhood. (Radio Chain Agramonte)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yaiza Santos, Madrid, 22 October 2022 — One of the main doubts raised by the so-called “solidarity gestation” included in the Family Code, approved in a referendum on Sunday, September 25, is whether it will become another tool of the Cuban government to attract medical tourism.

There are very few countries in the world that allow this practice, which is also called surrogate gestation, surrogacy, or – by its detractors – wombs for rent, consisting in one or two people (from a different or same sex), who want to become parents agree with a woman for her to be the baby’s surrogate. For this reason, some of these nations are the destination of all those who want to be parents who otherwise cannot (infertile heterosexual couples and homosexual men couples, mainly).

The list includes several US states (California, Illinois and Utah), Canada, Portugal, Greece, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, India, Nepal, Thailand, two Mexican states (Tabasco and Sinaloa) and, since The Family Code entered in force, Cuba.

The ethical and legal debate is intense. For some, it supposes the commercialization of the woman’s body (such as, for example, prostitution); for others, it is the woman’s prerogative to do what she wants with her body, as long as it is consensual. continue reading

Two things are clear. First, gestation by substitution would not exist without the development of assisted reproduction techniques, which allow an egg to be fertilized in vitro and implanted in any uterus, so that whoever gives birth is no longer necessarily a biological mother. And second, that if it is allowed, it must be protected by very clear legislation (the law, specifically, must recognize the affiliation of the baby with the biological parents, not with the surrogate mother).

Given the lack of transparency of the laws, there has been no shortage of cases of fraud against couples and, even worse, of abuse of gestational surrogates or the neglect of newborns

 Thailand and Tabasco, for example, took advantage of legal loopholes for years – and many women’s extreme poverty situation – so that a myriad of intermediary agencies and an entire business serving foreigners proliferated, among other things, they paid less than in places where the regulation was very clear, such as California or Canada.

Given the lack of transparency of the laws, there has been no shortage of cases of fraud against couples and, even worse, abuse of gestational surrogates or neglect of newborns, and the scandals brought about changes. Thus, in Thailand and Tabasco, as in Sinaloa and India, today, surrogacy is not allowed for foreigners.

This is not the case in Cuba, where the recent Family Code does not mention possible restrictions based on nationality. Is this a new call for tourism, which has not raised its head since the Covid pandemic began, based on the vaunted fame of medical power?

In principle, this could not be the case, from the very name: gestation is considered “solidarity” because, as stated in the rule in its article 130, “any type of remuneration, gift or other benefit is prohibited, except for the legal obligation to give food in favor of the conceived and the compensation of the expenses that are generated by the pregnancy and childbirth.”

However, no limits are set for those “expenses generated by pregnancy and childbirth” and, on the other hand, foreigners in Cuba know that free healthcare – unlike capitalist countries like the United Kingdom or Spain – does not does not cover the expenses in any way and that, on the contrary, the prices of services in hospitals in Cuba are prohibitive.

Foreigners in Cuba know that free healthcare does not cover expenses in any way and that, on the contrary, the prices of services in hospitals in Cuba are prohibitive

For now, in any case, the Family Code is attracting the attention of the main experts on the subject.

The Argentine María Mercedes Albornoz, a specialist in Private International Law and a professor at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE) in Mexico, published a recently approved post of the regulation in which she analyzed this “innovative” aspect of the new Code, to which she concedes that “the recognition that there is not a single family model but a plurality of family structures accepted by the legislation constitutes a milestone in Cuban family law.”

However, she predicts that “it will still be necessary to modify other laws or enact new regulations in specific areas in order to be in a position to put the innovations of the Family Code into practice” and that “the greatest challenge” of the regulation will be “that of implementation.”

Albornoz, who has spent years studying the legal details involved in surrogacy and the problems it has raised in the international arena, since there is no worldwide unanimity in the criterion of filiation, observes that, in the Cuban Family Code “some issues either have are not yet made sufficiently clear or they give rise to doubts of interpretation”.

To begin with, she highlights that “it has been decided not to provide a definition of joint gestation, which may generate doubts about its legal nature and the formal validity requirements of the agreement.”

Similarly, she draws attention to “the silence on the maximum age and the country of domicile or habitual residence and the nationality of the person who wishes to be a mother or father through solidarity gestation.”

“It has been decided not to provide a definition of joint gestation, which may generate doubts about its legal nature and the formal validity requirements of the agreement”

This, she predicts, “would open the doors to reproductive tourism in Cuba for relatives or people who have emotional closeness with residents in Cuba, with the characteristic that pregnant women will not be able to receive financial compensation for the pregnancy.”

It is also striking for Albornoz, with respect to the surrogate mother, that the age requirement is to be 25 years old, but a maximum limit is not established beyond indicating “being of an age that allows ‘successfully carrying the pregnancy to term’ (article 132, d),” nor is the surrogate required to have gestated at least once before (which would be an indication that her body is suitable for the procedure).

Here, Albornoz detects confusion in the Code: “It is required that the future pregnant woman does not provide her ovum (article 132, f). Regarding this point, there seems to be a contradiction with what is established about multi parenthood in article 57, 1, a, which would allow the surrogate mother a choice to provide her egg or not to do so.”

On the doubts raised by the norm, she insists, throwing the question out there (taking into account the Cuban reality, almost rhetorically): “How will affective closeness be proven? How much friendship length, prior to solidarity gestation, is required? Though access to health care is free for those residing in Cuba, would the Cuban State collect medical expenses in cross-border cases? Would it obtain economic benefits? If so, how would it avoid discriminating against those residing in Cuba versus against those residing abroad? Would Cubans residing abroad have free access in Cuba to the medical services necessary to fulfill a solidarity gestation agreement?

Perhaps the Tourism and Welfare Fair, which was held in Havana this week, provided some answers, although until now it has not transpired in the official media if there was talk of including reproduction techniques within Cuba’s “offer” for foreigners, or at what prices.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

A Cuban is Attacked in Navarra for Appearing with a Spanish Flag on October 12th

“They started shouting ‘take the flag away from him!’ and ‘let’s kill him!'”, says Pons, who had to dodge the punches and did not attack anyone. (Navarre Television)

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14ymedio, Havana, 15 October 2022 — Lázaro Luis Pons Pérez, a Cuban who has lived in Navarra for ten years, took to the streets of Pamplona on October 12 with the Spanish flag draped around his shoulders.

In the center of the city, a group of left-wing Basque nationalists, or abertzales, protested against the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Day. When they saw Pons with the Spanish flag, they began to insult him: “N__, go back to your country, you can’t be here: this isn’t Spain.” Pons remained firm and serene.

“I didn’t go out to provoke anyone,” says the man, interviewed by 14ymedio. “Above all, I am Cuban,” he clarified over the phone, “but I have the right to walk the streets with the flag of this country, which I also feel I’m a part of.”

The abertzales tried to snatch the flag from him to burn it, since one of the postulates of their ideology is independence from Spain. One of them approached Pons and spit at him. He spat back and then they tried to hit him.

“They started yelling ‘take the flag away from him!’ and ‘let’s kill him!’, says Pons, who had to dodge the punches and did not attack any of them. The nationalists did not dare to confront him directly, they cornered him in a group and jumped close to him without being able to snatch his flag.

At the same time, one of the demonstrators approached a Navarra Television cameraman, who was recording the scene, and broke his camera. The video, however, was able to be broadcast on the local network. continue reading

One of the ‘abertzales’ approached him and spit at him. He spat back and then they tried to hit him. (Navarre Television)

“I know them,” he says, “it’s not the first time I’ve seen them.” Pons is the founder of the Cuban Association in Navarra (Acuna) and it is common for nationalists to try to sabotage their demonstrations and make their appearance shouting slogans in favor of the Revolution, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

“The best thing in the world is respect,” he points out, “In this country, everyone chooses their own ideology. There is freedom to think and act for oneself. I respect them, even if I don’t agree with them and even if, to the contrary, they are true instigators.”

The assailants dispersed and Pons returned to his house to avoid another confrontation. “If nothing in Cuba prevented me from saying ‘Down with Fidel!’ Now I’m not going to shut up because of them,” he assures.

For Pons, celebrating Columbus Day is remembering Cuba’s links with the country that welcomed him in exile. In addition, the date also evokes, due to its proximity to Cuban Independence Day, the date Carlos Manuel de Céspedes freed his slaves and invited them to fight for freedom.

“It is the same freedom that I have now achieved in Spain,” says the man, who worked as a teacher at the School of Sports Initiation (EIDE) and at the Higher Institute of Advanced Athletic Training (ESPA) in Villa Clara.

“When the 11J protests took place, a group of Cubans met spontaneously in Pamplona. Ever since that moment we knew we should create an association”

He is still capable of reciting Santa Clara streets and locating his old neighborhood accurately, near Cardiocentro, not far from Parque Vidal.

He emigrated thanks to his marriage to a Spanish citizen with whom he fell in love in Cuba. “My wife supports me and defends our cause. She is Spanish and Navarrese, but she is also very Cuban,” he says.

“When the 11J protests took place, a group of Cubans met spontaneously in Pamplona. Many journalists interviewed us about what was happening in Cuba. Ever since that moment, we knew we had to create an association.”

This is how Acuna was born, of which Pons turned out to be vice president. Its objectives are to help Cuban political prisoners with food, money and whatever can be sent to their families. In addition, they welcome recent emigrants to look for jobs, food and lodging in Navarra.

Cubans state that violence only begets more violent actions, but that it may be Cuba’s only alternative at this point. “You have to fight in the streets,” he says, “and unfortunately, it won’t be peaceful. The streets are the only way: until they hand over power.”

The racist and xenophobic aggression of the Basque nationalists has given more visibility to exile from the Island. (Navarra Television)

Concerned about the infiltration of Cuban State Security agents in Spain, Pons also denounces that many companies launder money from the Island’s dictatorship in Europe. “There is a lot of complicity: those spies would never have entered en masse if it weren’t for the Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez,” he says.

Cuban diplomacy promotes reactions and attacks such as that of the abertzales – frequently extolled by the Cuban official press – in Pamplona, says Pons. “When we managed to get the Navarra government to cancel some aid it had for the regime, the consul himself told me to forget about going to Cuba.”

“Why should I want to go?” says Pons, whose mother died last year and who has little family left in Santa Clara. “When I went to see her, three years ago, I visited many friends. They all had resigned and sad faces. I came back and told my wife: I’m not going anymore.”

Pons’s work does not stop. The racist and xenophobic aggression of the Basque nationalists has given more visibility to exiles from Cuba and demonstrates, for mankind, the intolerance that characterizes the Spanish radical left: the same one that finances the Cuban regime with public funds.

There is another sector: the one that has a romantic vision of the Revolution. “One has to explain history in detail to those, because they think that Cubans are protesting against the ‘blockade’.”

“We are alone,” laments Pons, commenting on the complicity of many governments with the Cuban regime. “I always tell my colleagues in Cuba not to expect anything from the European Union or the United States, that they could have supported Cuban democracy a long time ago and they don’t because they just don’t feel like it.”

“It is important to clarify that I have no ties to any political party here or anywhere. My association is one: Acuna,” he says, since several political representatives have contacted him since October 12 asking about him and asking what they can do for Cuba.

“I don’t want anything,” he says, “only that those who do it, stop sending money to Díaz-Canel. We alone have to walk the path to freedom.”

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Hate Crimes of the Castro Regime

Fidel Castro and Pope Juan Pablo II. (14ymedio)

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14ymedio, Pedro Corzo, Miami, 1 October 2022 — Although the leadership of the Revolution tried to give the insurrectional triumph a certain religious and humanistic aspect, very soon the belief in another superior being became the most feared enemy of the triumphant insurrection, along with proclaimed humanism, as green as palms.

Fidel Castro attacked religions in Cuba with ferocity, just as he did with homosexuals. He anointed himself as the paradigm to follow, he could not allow another religion that was not embodied in his person because, after all, Castroism is a form of mystical fundamentalism.

Church attendance dropped dramatically, as did membership in fraternal associations like Freemasonry. In Cuba a new religion was installed in which Fidel Castro was its God and “castrolicism,” as Gerardo Fundora described it, was truth revealed.

The regime then imposed values and norms that were inspired by Fidel’s beliefs and Marxism, following the dogma that “religion was the opium of the people.” Ethical foundations of society were thoroughly attacked, one of its most important objectives being religions in general, and the Catholic Church was a key target to destroy, in order to build the promised new order.

It was an indelible experience for believers who, in defense of their faith, were discriminated against, persecuted, humiliated, imprisoned and shot, as happened, among many others, with Alberto Tapia Ruano and Virgilio Campanería, who shouted “Viva Cristo Rey”  before they died. continue reading

The regime-imposed values and norms that were inspired by Fidel’s thinking and Marxism, following the dogma that “religion was the opium of the people”

Verbal attacks against religions were very severe, among others, and Church-owned schools confiscated. Parishioners were systematically harassed, and those without deep faith buckled under pressure as a result.

Still, a significant number of the faithful, despite the fact that repression and discrimination became accentuated, maintained their religious commitment, as was the case of young Arnaldo Socorro, a native of Unión de Reyes, Matanzas, whose family moved to Havana during his adolescence.

Socorro had been awarded a scholarship to study at the Belén School, where he joined the Catholic Workers’ Youth. On September 10, 1961, he attended a procession with the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, Patron Saint of Cuba.

The procession was set to start from the Church of La Caridad, under the guidance of the then auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Havana, Monsignor Eduardo Boza Masvidal, one of the most courageous censors of the Castro regime, who was expelled from Cuba a week later with another 130 priests, by order of the hater by trade.

Arnaldo decided to participate in the religious procession that was undoubtedly an expression of rejection of the regime. When he arrived, he learned that the authorities had banned the procession, however, like thousands of people, he remained in front of the church to demand that his rights be respected.

The verbal attacks against religions were very severe, among others, confiscations of church-owned schools

Sheltered by an image of the Virgin, he marched at the head of hundreds of people who decided to follow him, shouting cheers to Christ the King, the Virgin and freedom, just as many of the young people shot by the dictatorship at that time shouted in front of the firing squad.

Socorro’s courage would not be respected by the regime and his henchmen. One of the enforcers, aware of his impunity, unloaded a machine gun into the young man, who fell mortally wounded.

He was 17 years old when he was assassinated, but, as journalist Julio Estorino sustains, “crime and outrage,” was added to the homicide by the regime, by proclaiming that the murdered young man was a revolutionary who had gone to the scene of the events to prevent an act of the “henchmen in cassocks,” as Castro identified Catholic priests.

The murder was blamed on Agnelio Blanco, a priest who was on the Isle of Pines at the time of the events, another cruel lie in Castro’s extensive defamation campaign against his critics. The evil did not end there. State Security officers went to Arnaldo Socorro’s house, threatened his family, buried him as a combatant killed by the counterrevolution and forged another martyr for the motherland.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

‘Let’s See if They Are Going to Fix Our Houses’ With the Millions from the Restoration of the Santa Clara Convent

The imposing structure of the convent occupies a huge block outlined by the emblematic streets Habana, Cuba, Sol and Luz of Old Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 21 September 2022 — Julita is 57 years old and sells avocados next to the Santa Clara de Asís Convent, the oldest cloister in Havana which is in the middle of a capital restoration to return it to its former splendor. A few meters from its painted yellow walls the residents of the area dream that the investment will be enough to also renovate a neighborhood sunk in housing deterioration and crisis.

“Until now, they haven’t told us anything that they’re also going to repair some nearby houses, not even the potholed streets that are quite cracked,” a resident of Calle Sol, who was born in the tenement where she and about twenty families now live, with explains to 14ymedio. “Since 1965, when my mother brought me into this world, the people on this lot have been waiting for their little dwellings to be fixed up.”

Across the entrance where Julita offers her avocados – “some are ready to be eaten today and others tomorrow” – rises the imposing structure of the convent that occupies a huge block outlined by the emblematic Old Havana streets: Habana, Cuba, Sol and Luz. The wall that surrounds the garden and the rest of the facades offer little information about the works that are taking place inside. continue reading

Only one entrance for vehicles allows you to browse and talk with an animated custodian who declares that the works “are already halfway through” and that they are in the hands of a Cuban cooperative, whose name he avoids giving. The view from that location does not help much to get an idea of the repair process, since there are no workers, no hustle and bustle of trucks with materials, and, other than the bored security employee in his booth, no other people can be seen.

 There was “a lot of movement in the neighborhood” a few days ago when the future headquarters of the College of Arts and Crafts of Santa Clara was visited by the ambassador of the European Union in Cuba

 “It is going to be a school and it will be ready in 2024,” explains the man at the top of his voice several meters from a fence that encloses the entrance to the place. But a walk around the block is enough to conclude that the prognosis may be rather optimistic, because only the part of the building that faces Havana Street shows signs of being restored. The rest still shows the scars that time, laziness and the natural elements left on the convent.

Julita and her neighbors saw “a lot of movement in the neighborhood” a few days ago when the future headquarters of the College of Arts and Crafts of Santa Clara was visited by the ambassador of the European Union in Cuba, Isabel Brilhante, according to the Spanish agency EFE. “We realized that someone important was coming because the area was filled with policemen and they even picked up the garbage. Then the diplomatic cars left and everything went back to the way it was before.”

Stones Rain Down from the Top of the Building of the Ministry of Public Health in Havana

The only signal that anyone walking on the sidewalk at that time would have to protect themselves would be the building custodian’s alert (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 19 September 2022 — From the facade under repair of the Ministry of Public Health, in the crucial ramp on 23rd Street, in Havana, numerous stones fell this Monday. They were not large, but they were large enough that, given the height from which they fell, would have caused a head injury to any passerby.

The only signal that anyone walking on the sidewalk at that time would have to protect himself would be the alert from a building custodian: “Walk fast, walk fast, don’t let it fall on you!”

“Is this normal?” A woman who was passing by at the time blurted out. “Stones are falling into the street, there are no signs, they have not stopped traffic. One drives by in a car and the windshield gets smashed, what do you do?” continue reading

Towards the top of the Public Health Building a green mesh can be seen that barely covers part of the scaffolding placed for the works. (14ymedio)

Toward the top, a green mesh can be seen that barely covers part of the scaffolding placed for the works being done to the building. Minutes later, two workers scrambled to sweep the debris from the street.

Fewer security measures can be seen in the works of the controversial tower at K and 23rd Streets, also in Havana’s Vedado district, from where a piece of wood of considerable size shot out, also this Monday.

Also on Monday, a large piece of wood of considerable size shot out from the tower at K and 23rd Streets (14ymedio)

In this case, the building does not have a protective mesh, which is something various specialists have criticized.

The board was dodged by a man in his thirties, to the shock of the rest of the passers-by. “That’s why I don’t go through here,” one of them said to the young man, who was livid. “Because anything that falls might kill anyone and nothing happens.”

The building does not have a protective mesh, something for which it has been criticized by various specialists. (14ymedio)

Translated by Norma Whiting
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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Cuatro Caminos, the Market Where Cuba’s Different Social Classes Come Together

View of pallets at the Cuatro Caminos green market this Friday. (14ymedio)

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14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 16 September 2022 — The fruit and vegetable market at the Plaza de Cuatro Caminos, the largest in the capital, looked bleak this Friday. Old manioc and green plantains were the only things that were being sold in the stands, among empty pallets and counters.

“That manioc is so ugly that it looks like it has monkeypox,” a woman joked to the vendors, who laughed heartily. The memory of this green market, which before and after its major 2019 remodeling was the best supplied in Havana, with adequate prices for the always precarious economy of Cubans was left in the past. “This is empty,” another young man said out loud, one of the few people who could be seen in the place, along with elderly figures, beset by hunger.

In contrast with the scarcity in this part of the square, which is accessed through Matadero Street, the store selling in freely convertible currency (MLC) stands out, with its full shelves and its well-dressed and better-fed customers.

That manioc is so ugly that it looks like it has monkey pox”, a woman joked before the vendors, who laughed heartily. (14ymedio)

Barely grazing that abundance, an invalid woman sells plastic bags for 50 pesos, taking advantage of the blasts of air conditioning that escape outside every time the doors open.

This store has its entrance on Atarés Street, and those who cannot access this establishment due to their lack of foreign currency, can go to the store selling in pesos, which overlooks Monte Street. However, one cannot shop there unless it corresponds to your place of residence, as indicated by the rationing regulations established by the Havana authorities last April.

The area to buy in freely convertible currency in the Cuatro Caminos Market seemed to have full shelves. (14ymedio)

Halfway there, a line suddenly formed to buy a pair of yogurt cups at 16 pesos each and a small plate of ham at 55 pesos at the stand El Rápido. Several worlds in one, in short, with different social classes, something that the Revolution fought so hard against.

In November, 2019, when Cuatro Caminos reopened after four years closed for renovations, the influx of customers was such that the first day became a pitched battle to reach any product. People were stepping on each other to access the interior of the building, shoes were lost in the race. That restart was marked by those strongest or smartest people taking boxes and boxes of the same food.

Buying freely cannot be done in the sales area in pesos unless it corresponds to you by your ration book and place of residence, as indicated by the rationing regulations established by the Havana authorities. (14ymedio)

Nestled at the crossroads of several municipalities, the 1920’s market has always been, more than a sales outlet, the center of economic activity in the area. For decades, its function as a square with pallets for private peasants, private merchants and all kinds of informal vendors that hung around the place contributed to its neighbors’ survival.

The times when residents in the vicinity made a living by renting parts of their homes to store fruits, food and religious accessories, which were later sold in Cuatro Caminos, are long gone. After its last deep reform, the place gained in innovation, but lost the popular and boisterous character that characterized it since its beginnings.

Offer of two glasses of yogurt at 16 pesos each and a plate with diced ham at 55 pesos at El Rápido. (14ymedio)

Without being able to earn a living from the market, residents are now trying to get some income from the proximity of that imposing building that has two cornucopias on its main façade, prosperous cornucopias not reflected inside. The only advantage they seem to have is getting in line earlier than residents of other neighborhoods.

The new way of survival is now reduced to acting as coleros, selling turns in lines, to buy a product or acquire certain merchandise that’s offered for sale for just a few hours, in order to resell them in the informal market. Some of those who were waiting today for the yogurt and ham combo were probably included in that case: taking advantage of a market that is increasingly inaccessible to their pockets.

Enclavado en un cruce de municipios, Cuatro Caminos, construido en 1920, siempre fue, más que un local de ventas, el centro de la actividad económica de la zona. (14ymedio)
Located at a crossroads of municipalities, Cuatro Caminos was built in 1920 and has always been, more than a sales outlet, the center of economic activity in the area. (14ymedio)

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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 Procession for Our Lady of Charity Draws a Crowd in Havana

“I haven’t seen this street so full of people and with so much emotion since July 11,” said a young man who claimed to have participated in the protests on that day last year. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerSome with candles, with very few sunflowers, that is how the devotees entered the church of the Virgen de la Caridad de El Cobre on the corner of Manrique and Salud Streets, in Centro Habana. This Thursday, the day on which the Patron Saint of Cuba is celebrated, inflation has also been noted in the price of sunflowers, the flower that is offered to Cachita (the Virgin’s nickname) because its yellow color recalls the golden mantle worn by her image.

From Galiano Avenue, metal fences and several policemen controlled foot traffic to the church in Havana, where thousands of people attend every September 8 to pay tribute to “the mother of all Cubans.” This year, the date has coincided with a deep economic crisis, which has cut the offerings that are left on the altar at the entrance of the church.

“I only bought one candle and it practically melted in my hand, because it seems that they mixed the wax with tallow. It cost me 50 pesos, but at least I was able to bring something, because the smallest bouquet of sunflowers cost 300,” lamented a young woman who, dressed in yellow clothes, approached the place this morning. “I’m going to have lunch and come back in the afternoon for the procession”. She said goodbye to her friends a while later.

At four in the afternoon, in a crowded church, a mass was presided by Cardinal Juan de la Caridad García, Archbishop of San Cristóbal de La Habana. (14ymedio)

At four in the afternoon, in a very crowded church, a mass was presided over by Cardinal Juan de la Caridad García, Archbishop of San Cristóbal de La Habana, together with the newly appointed auxiliary bishop of the capital’s Archdiocese, Eloy Domínguez. It was attended by the Spanish ambassador in Cuba, Ángel Martín Peccis.

The prelate said that the Church is the house “of all Cubans, the house of the Mother of God, in this house there is room for us all.” And he added that Cachita “wants peace and harmony for all Cubans.” “With God, everything and without God, nothing,” declared the archbishop during his sermon.

After five in the afternoon, the image of the Virgin appeared at the door of the church and was received with applause, tears and hundreds of raised arms trying to capture the moment with their mobile phones. On the church’s facade, a huge Cuban flag fluttered in the gentle breeze this Thursday. In the crowd, people dressed in alternating yellow and white clothes, some with masks and others with their faces uncovered. continue reading

The procession initially walked down Manrique Street, until it reached Zanja and then turned onto Galiano to join the stately Reina Street, where residents leaned out from the rooftops and balconies to follow the cortege. Some flower petals also fell from the heights as the Virgin passed by, although in a smaller volume than in previous years, when it was less difficult for Cubans’ pockets.

Applause, shouts of  vivas a la Virgen and popular tunes like: “And if you go to El Cobre, I want you to bring me a Virgencita de la Caridad” were heard during the tour through one of the poorest and most populated areas of the Cuban capital. Megaphone in hand, on Zanja Street, the Cardinal asked Cachita to pray for “those who have died from Covid, in the Saratoga Hotel accident, and in the Matanzas fire.” The crowd received his words in silence, and then burst into shouts and applause when Juan de la Caridad García added “and those who have died traveling through jungles, rivers and seas, in search of other horizons.”

In Sancti Spíritus hundreds of people gathered and many others joined the procession that began after mass. (14ymedio)

“I hadn’t seen this street so full of people and so full of emotion since July 11,” said a young man who claimed to have participated in that day’s protests last year. The vicinity of the Havana Capitol, especially Galiano, Zanja and Reina streets, were several of the more frequented routes for the protesters, who later gathered around the Cuban Parliament building.

The crowd’s passage was guarded by a strong police operation and the obvious presence of State Security agents dressed in civilian clothes. The first procession after the suspension of public activities forced by the pandemic has also been marked by official edginess after the popular protests of July 11 last year and the demonstrations this summer in various locations in Cuba.

Among the Government’s fears has been that the procession would turn into the scene of some demand for the release of political prisoners, as independent organizations and relatives of those convicted have done in the past.

High prices also affected the devotees of the city of Sancti Spíritus, who had to pay 20 pesos each for roses and candles to be offered at the Church of our Lady of Charity in that city. Hundreds of people gathered at the Church, and many others joined the procession that began after mass. Mobile data network congestion frustrated many who wanted to stream the moment live on social media.

Initially, the procession walked down Calle Manrique until it reached Zanja and then turned onto Galiano to join the stately Reina Street, where residents leaned out from the rooftops and balconies to follow the procession. (14ymedio)

Similar processions were held in other parishes in the country, especially the one that left this Wednesday from the Sanctuary of El Cobre in Santiago de Cuba, where dozens of people participated to celebrate the 410th anniversary of the discovery of the image of the Virgin. This Thursday, a procession was also held in Santiago, from the Archbishop’s headquarters to the Cathedral.

For the remainder, the day has been influenced from the beginning by the calls for harmony and the desire for freedom for Cuba. The nun in charge of the Association “Daughters of Charity in Cuba,” Nadieska Almeida, published an article on Facebook in which she questioned what was going to happen in Cuba after the day of remembrance of the Virgen de la Caridad de El Cobre. “When it’s all over, what will be left?” she asked.

The nun described the current situation in the country with harsh words: “I see nothing but the same misery, the same repression, the same sadness on the faces of so many, tears like those of the family of the little girl who died in Guantánamo in a school disaster, or those of the relatives of the ones who are dying due to lack of medication, especially dengue fever… and so many more”.

Almeida summed up her plea to Cachita directly, and also by alluding to the ecclesiastical authorities in Cuba: “Give wisdom to the rulers and courage to the Church so that it does not stop proclaiming what is right. And there will continue to be a deep desire for a free, hoping and hopeful Cuba, and that we will continue to believe that it will be possible, and why not?

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

A Cuban Priest Will Celebrate a Mass in Miami for the Victims of the Fire in Matanzas

José Conrado Rodríguez, born in 1951 in Santiago de Cuba, is one of the most recognizable critical voices against the government in the Cuban ecclesial panorama. (Facebook/José Conrado Rodríguez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 September 2022 — José Conrado Rodríguez, a Cuban Catholic priest will officiate this Tuesday a mass in memory of the victims of the fire at the Supertanker Base in Matanzas. The ceremony, also accompanied by Father José Lázaro Vélez, will take place at 7:00 p.m. at Saint Raymond’s Church in Miami.

During the celebration there will also be a prayer for “peace, justice, national reconciliation and freedom for all Cubans.”

Conrado, born in 1951 in Santiago de Cuba, is one of the most recognizable critical voices against the government in the Cuban ecclesial scene. Accustomed to harassment by State Security, he was the author of two open letters to Cuban leaders and several books that address the issue of faith and civil society within totalitarianism.

The first of the letters, addressed to Fidel Castro in 1994, demanded that the president be held accountable for the resounding economic crisis of the Special Period. The second, sent to Raúl Castro in 2009, pointed out the need for a change for Cuba, to be in tune with the favorable international panorama and to improve the island’s own situation.

In 2021 and after several months without being able to leave Trinidad, the city where he works as a priest, Conrado gave an interview to 14ymedio about the “rise in social temperature” in Cuba. In his words, he attributed to the Cuban government a “very high share of responsibility” for the country’s misery, and pointed out that the authorities “are in no mood to listen, but that they will have to listen.” continue reading

This Saturday a “presidential decree” was issued to posthumously award six members of the Matanzas Fire Department who died in the fire

While representatives of various religious factions and civil society pay their respects to the deceased, the government has made their deaths a political cause.

This Saturday a “presidential decree” was issued to posthumously award six members of the Matanzas Fire Department who died in the fire, who received the June 6 Order, Second Degree.

The decoration was collected by relatives of the firefighters Dios del Nazco, Luis Ángel Álvarez and Pablo Ángel López, as well as the young recruits Leo Alejandro Doval, Adriano Rodríguez and Fabián Naranjo, who were completing their Compulsory Military Service at the time of the accident.

Since several relatives of the deceased, members of civil society and independent media denounced that young Military Service recruits had been sent to the front line of the fire, the Cuban government has done everything possible to rid itself of that responsibility.

The authorities have launched a national campaign to present the death of firefighters, who fell “in the line of duty,” as a “heroic epic.”. With medals, acts and speeches they have tried to cover up the negligence in the management of the fire and the death of several adolescents who did not have the training or the necessary equipment to face a disaster of this magnitude.

With 16 dead and 146 injured, according to official figures, the explosion at the Matanzas Supertanker Base has been described as the worst industrial disaster in Cuba’s history.

Although groups of skeletal remains were located after the fire was extinguished, the Cuban authorities admitted that it was impossible to identify them.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

A Documentary Rescues the Writer Lezama Lima from the Clutches of the Cuban Regime

The film collects the vision of 28 ‘witnesses’ about the writer. (Ivan Canas)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Xavier Carbonell, Salamanca, 21 August 2022 — In order to “stir up the anthill,” on the 45th anniversary of the death of Cuban writer José Lezama Lima (1910-1976), last Sunday the filmmaker Ernesto Fundora, at the Rosario Castellanos Bookstore of the Fund for Economic Culture, in Mexico City, screened his documentary “Lezama Lima: Soltar la Lengua” [Lezama Lima: Loosen the Tongue].

The film assembles fragments of interviews with friends and disciples of Lezama, collected by Fundora between 2009 and 2015, and finally edited in 2018. Despite the fact that the post-production of the documentary is modest and that there are excessive and almost primitive visual effects, his mind does a wonderful job in remembering the formidable author of Paradiso.

Except for images of his participation in a couple of congresses and around hundreds of photographs, very little visual material on Lezama is preserved. Hence the difficulty that we get the sense that Lezama is being offered to us as something more than a voice and a presence among books. However, Fundora succeeds in having those who knew the author evoke a Lezama who is vital, convincing, and nearby.

Just when he had published one of the essential novels of the Spanish language and was getting recognition outside Cuba, death came to him

Some of the testimonies, such as those of Cintio Vitier, Fina García Marruz, César López and Antón Arrufat, shared the friendship of the Cuban teacher since the beginning and middle of the century; in others, such as those of Manuel Pereira, José Prats Sariol, Enrico Mario Santí, Froilán Escobar and Félix Guerra, his influence and teaching during his youth was essential.

For the devotees of the “Lezama Cult,” the writer is still awaiting continue reading

recognition. The 1959 cultural bureaucracy kept him in the crosshairs as “republican junk” until, after the so-called 1971 Padilla Case, he was banished from editorial and public spaces.

Just when he had published one of the essential novels of the Spanish language and was getting recognition outside Cuba, death came to him without the expected “restoration” and in almost absolute solitude.

Several young writers who accompanied him in his last days, such as Prats Sariol and Reinaldo González, recall their sadness at the empty house and the abandonment of his friends, whom State Security “recommended” not to frequent 162 Trocadero Street. He died on August 9, 1976.

During the Special Period, the movies Fresa y Chocolate and Lista de Espera recovered the Lezamian cultural imprint and were, in a way, promoters of the “liberation” of the taboo. Young people avidly sought dramas that were not only disturbing and difficult, but also marked by exclusion, such as the books by Severo Sarduy, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, and Lydia Cabrera.

The truth however, is that bureaucrats have done everything possible to bury the ‘Lezamian’ work, cancel its study and constantly define it as “hermetically sealed”

The regime and its cultural machinery then began a meticulous work of biographical rewriting, in which old colleagues such as Vitier took part, presenting Lezama as an author “of the Revolution,” an admirer of Castro and Guevara as “messiahs” of a new “imaginary era,” Latin American, according to the paradigm of Casa de las Américas, and a writer who “some officials” did not “correctly” understand.

The truth is, however, that the bureaucrats have done everything possible to bury Lezama’s work, cancel its study and constantly define it as “hermetic,” “intricate,” “incomprehensible” and “elitist.” The celebration of his centenary was mediocre and there is still no center of study named after him. His scattered and poorly organized library is inaccessible to scholars, and no Cuban publishing house has issued critical or annotated editions of Paradiso, La Cantidad Hechizada, or any of his major books.

Hence, Lezama Lima: Soltar la Lengua acquires an exceptional value as rescue and recollection. Exceptional are the last frames, which offer information and clarity about the ostracism, the false promises of rehabilitation with which the Communist Party deceived him, and the unusual conditions in which he agonized and died.

As Fundora himself states, almost half of the 28 individuals who rendered testimonies of him have died, so the film, enriched by photographs and fragments of poems, recollects the final vision of many of them about the writer.

In addition, the documentary works as an excellent initiation for those who have not read the work of José Lezama Lima and deny, through authorized voices, each of the myths with which the regime has tried to appropriate one of the greats of Cuban culture.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.