Cuba: 27N Makes Public Four Demands to Build the Country it Dreams of

More than 300 Cuban artists and intellectuals gathered at the doors of the Ministry of Culture on November 27th. (Reynier Leyva Novo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 April 2021 — The group, known as 27N (27th November) because of the date they held a protest in front of the Ministry of Culture, has released a manifesto this Monday in which they express their idea of Cuba the country, and summarize the four fundamental demands through which to achieve it. 14ymedio is reproducing it in full below.

27N Manifesto

On November 27th, 2020, more than three hundred intellectuals, artists and journalists went to the Ministry of Culture to demand the recognition of our freedoms and citizen rights; and to express the rejection of state violence, sustained for years, and increased in recent months. The trigger for this demonstration were the events that occurred in the San Isidro neighborhood the night before, from the need to continue the path of demands that began on that day, and from the will to participate in the present and future of Cuba. The 27N evolves from this.

We are an open, diverse community, driven mainly by young artists and intellectuals, brought together by chance and united by the desire to build a more dignified and just country for all Cubans. Constituted horizontally, we try to replace the verticality of traditional leaderships through debate and the generation of consensus that respond to the diversity of its membership and not to the unanimity of criteria, which encourages more democratic, plural and inclusive practices.

We are not a political organization or movement, but a civic one, with artistic creation and intellectual work as our main tools. Through decisions taken collectively and under constant interaction, we organize ourselves into work groups, voluntarily integrated by activists according to their time availability, their talents and abilities, without implying hierarchy or privilege within that community that grows each day and of which any Cuban citizen can be part of, regardless of their ideology, occupation, place of residence, etc., provided that they are accompanied by honesty, civility and respect for freedom of expression. continue reading

We do not act in secret because we do nothing illegal, we make our ideas visible on our digital platforms. We do not accept discriminatory pronouncements that promote political hatred or violate the freedoms and rights defended by our community. Our actions are civic, peaceful, supportive, with exchange of ideas, committed to the sufferings of current Cuban society and its aspirations for a future of democracy and well-being. There are no profit motives or influence of foreign interests or political organizations, the only thing that governs is the will of the Cuban citizenship.

 We base our existence on the political and legal principle, contained in the International Bill of Human Rights, as well as in the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba approved on April 19th, 2019

We base our existence on the political and legal principle, contained in the International Bill of Human Rights, as well as in the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba approved on April 19th, 2019, that the citizens of a State must have guarantees to enjoy with full equality of all rights and freedoms, without distinction of race, color, gender, sexual identity, political position, level of economic access, social origin, place of birth, religion, disability status or any other condition. In this way, we assert our right to express ourselves, associate and demonstrate freely, condemning before Cuba and the world any act that violates these human rights. We demand that the Cuban government take responsibility in its administration to listen to the citizens and to promote peace and respect for our rights.

The country we dream of:

We want an inclusive, democratic, sovereign, prosperous, equitable and transnational country.

We want a nation where expressing oneself freely is not an act of courage, but a natural consequence of autonomous thinking, where there is no political hatred, police violence, repression, censorship, media manipulation, violation of privacy or acts of repudiation.  In short, the abusive practices of power exercised by a centralized, military and partisan political leadership, which discriminates and annuls those who disagree, violating their human rights. We claim the legitimacy of open and free discrepancy and critical thinking as a vital exercise to avoid immobility, corruption and wrongdoing by officials or any other entity in society that threatens their development. As a country, we need to heal the damage that has been caused by indoctrination, replace the learned lies and bad habits with the will and commitment to rescue honesty and love of truth as a principle.

Cuba requires a change and, for this, it needs to build a more participatory citizenry with a greater degree of awareness which the political and economic future of this country depends on ourselves. In order to rebuild our nation, honesty must serve as a fundamental principle. It is urgent to decentralize and recover the political power that has usurped from us, and that our future Cuba be designed according to the needs and desires of all Cuban citizens, with equal rights to participate in its design, regardless of their ideology, political affiliation or place of residence.

Consequently, we advocate for laws that guarantee our right to develop as a heterogeneous society, where laws created for the benefit of the majority do not restrict or disregard the rights of minorities.

We need to reaffirm ourselves as different people among each other, as ecumenical citizens, tolerant, respectful of the opinions of others. Consequently, we advocate for laws that guarantee our right to develop as a heterogeneous society, where laws created for the benefit of the majority do not restrict or disregard the rights of minorities. We are not enemies, but Cubans who dream of a better Cuba to bequeath to our children, which will be with all and for the good of all.

We aspire to work for a society with social justice and well-being, where each Cuban can live in his country from the fruits of his work, where the productive forces are freed and bureaucratic parasitism is replaced by a capable and proactive civil service. That we may leave behind the misery and shortages imposed by the incompetence of the prevailing system, and that the rights to a decent life be guaranteed, with assurances – among other things – to health and public education.

In order to advance in the construction of the country we dream of, our community is setting the following objectives:

  1. To promote citizen participation for the re-acknowledgement of rights

We seek to vindicate rights and freedoms, violated by the political power in Cuba and constitutionally endorsed. For this, citizen participation and the exercise of personal freedom are essential in the face of censorship, repression and any attempt to subject the Cuban people to the will of an authoritarian and exclusive government.

  1. Create, strengthen and promote conditions for the creation of consensus

We intend to work with various groups of the Cuban civil society, associations and actors in general in order to find common concerns, interests and strategies, to establish spaces for debate, alliances, projects and goals together, to collaborate with each other, and move forward together – from each one’s diversity – in the construction of a better country.

  1. Promote the legalization of independent positioning

By asserting the right to free association, we claim and exercise the right to create public and private spaces, both physical and virtual, that allow greater collective and personal autonomy.

Our main demands are:

  1. Political rights:

We demand respect for the legitimate right to freedom of expression, of creation, of protest or peaceful demonstration, of political representation and participation, of association and mobility, of open and public debate in the search for citizen consensus. Political freedom is essential to be able to exercise any human rights, given their interdependent nature. There can be no prosperity or freedom of creation in any sphere of society without political freedom.

We demand that all people who have been tried for expressing ideas contrary to the political system be released. We advocate that the norms of criminal due process in Cuba be complied with, and that the Criminal Procedure Law be updated in terms of providing the accused greater guarantees than those that exist today.

We demand the cessation, by the institutions of the State, of repression of citizens who think differently. We demand a stop to media discredit campaigns against independent creators, political, cultural and civic activists and against civically active subjects in any area of society who claim unrecognized rights, including the right to protest.

  1. Economic freedoms

We affirm the right of every citizen to different forms of economic participation, ownership and management. We recognize the role of private initiative and the exercise of economic freedoms that enable the promotion of productive capacities and are generators of essential goods and services for the nation’s development.

We defend the right of every citizen to enjoy decent work and the fruits that it generates. We consider any form of work legitimate as long as it does not harm human dignity or other citizens’ rights and their ability to prosper. We are convinced that, without the consolidation of a decent material base, well-being and social equity cannot be achieved.

  1. Legalization of independent media

We urge the Cuban State to legalize the so-called independent press media, so that they can achieve legal status and register as such. By abiding to Cuban laws, these media could count on legal norms that would protect them, harassment of their journalists would cease, and they could transparently render accounts to society, complying with their ethical, technical and tax responsibilities. In a climate of tolerance and legality, a relationship between the State, the press, and society would be generated where the imperative for all the media would be truth in the news and rigor in their focus.

  1. Right of association

We claim the right to generate communities to actively participate, without further delay or pretext, in the construction of a better reality, where our considerations and expectations are taken into account. We understand that the right of association is essential to achieve true citizen participation in the economic, social and political processes of the country.

We demand that the freedom of association that Cuba has endorsed in Convention No. 87 of the International Labor Organization and in the Labor Code of our country be respected, for the protection of the labor rights of all citizens, linked or not, with the State, through employment contracts, without distinction of race, gender, creed, or political position.

With the conviction that winning these rights begins with the will to defend them with bravery, we encourage all Cubans, whether they are in Cuba or elsewhere, to maintain union and peace, understanding and communication, to search for the truth by expressing what one thinks and feels, defending in solidarity those who are repressed and defamed for expressing themselves freely. 27N was born out of an act of solidarity, and it continues to live by its sense of responsibility, creating and adding, for the right to have rights and so that love and poetry may unite our people.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

“The Mambises had Machetes in the Fight for Freedom. We have Telephones and Paintbrushes”

Reynier Leyva Novo’s installations, his photos and projects, are a constant reading and rereading of the national memory. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 5 April 2021 — The hero, the high priest, the Revolution, slavery… The controversial issues that Reynier Leyva Novo (Havana, 1983) addresses in his work have made him one of the most important Cuban visual artists of his generation.

Novo’s work, which has been exhibited in Mexico, the United States, Italy, Germany and Brazil, as well as in Cuba, weaves the story together with stitches of poetry, and embroiders, in the poetic, signs that come from the political. His installations, photos and his projects are a constant reading and rereading of the national memory.

Currently, the artist is exhibiting the second part of the show “What Is, What Has Been” at the gallery El Apartamento. It is conceived in two parts. The first, “Neither Marble nor Sighs, The Nation’s Fundamentals”, was exhibited in December.  During these days, the artist prepared the second installment: “Cartography of Freedom, Prison, Economy and Liberty”.

14ymedio: You did not graduate from the Higher Institute of Art (ISA), why?

Novo: I resigned from ISA: I fell madly in love with a girl and I went to Mexico with her, but before that, I presented documents indicating I was sick with hepatitis, and while there, a document arrived at my house stating that I was no longer enrolled due to desertion. Of course, I did not agree with that decision, because I had my medical documents in order, and when I returned, exactly one year later, I submitted a letter of complaint to request re-enrollment and it was approved. A few months later, I voluntarily decided to drop out of school because I felt like I wasn’t learning much. There was a crisis, it was the 2008-2009 academic year, the teachers competed with the students and were almost at the same level as us. The teaching system was very rigid and very precarious. continue reading

A few months later I voluntarily decided to drop out of school because I felt like I wasn’t learning much.

14ymedio: Then, one day you decided not to return.

Novo: I had been in Mexico for a whole year. I visited the great murals of David Alfaro Siqueiros while I was there, Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, I had seen the colors, the monumentality of those stimulating works, I had been in their presence. Well, one day I came to a Latin American Art class at ISA and they were teaching Mexican muralism. They began to show these works through faded slides, projected small on the wall. I realized that this had nothing to do with reality and I said to myself: “If this is the case with this subject, it must be more or less similar with everything. Maybe when they teach me some philosophy it will be at this same level”. I made a horizontal parallel line of all the degree subjects and I understood that they were teaching us in a distorted way. I said to myself: ‘I have to get out of here’.

14ymedio: Do you think that Cuban art academies try to impose a pattern of what it is to be an artist?

Novo: There is a part of the school that is very repetitive, you imitate great teachers and nature a lot. In that process there really is not much creativity. I began to create personally around the third year of San Alejandro thanks to a teacher named Rolando Vázquez who gave us more conceptual exercises. In attempting to solve these exercises I began to have ideas of my own. This is how I started in the world of sculpture, to work with space and that type of dynamics, something that was later strengthened at the ISA with research and the theoretical study of creative processes.

There is always a guide, because in the end everything has to do with success. Everyone does something to get to places and people create formulas. In my case, I was quite radical, intuitive. I was a bad student, at that time I was already living in Párraga and I was missing school, I was absent, super late, and it was very difficult for me to get into that rigid space where certain things had to be done. Many times, I would start to go to school and would stray with members of the neighborhood, and I would play rumba as well as talk garbage. That space was also stimulating and creative for me, I always went to drink more from the sources of life itself than from art.

14ymedio: At that time you had already gone through the Tania Bruguera’s Cátedra de Arte de Conducta (Behavior Art School). What did that space mean at that time?

Novo: I was there for two years and it was parallel to my first courses at ISA. The Cátedra was a time of great expansion. Now I see it and compare it with the moment when I opened up to social networks for the first time, when I became a Facebook member, for example, which was a huge expansion, suddenly finding many people who I thought were lost. People who are in other countries are suddenly by your side. Your social body expands because you post a photo, which could be in your wallet or at home, but if you post it on social networks it expands, and the Cátedra de Arte de Conducta was that for me. It was like fragmenting the mind into thousands of pieces, like dynamite, with people coming from all over the world to teach us. That program is most likely one of the best that has taken place in Cuba at the level of artistic education. The environment was completely different from the school, although it was born as an academic project within the ISA.

14ymedio: Throughout your career you have encountered censorship several times.

Novo: I think the moment where I experienced censorship firsthand, raw and frontally, was at the 50th Anniversary Collection exhibition at the Visual Arts Development Center in 2009. Sachie Hernández ran the place at that time. The exhibition was a series of T-shirts, posters, collages with clippings from the Granma newspaper, a commemorative baseball, a collection of stamps, a book; a kind of ideological advertising campaign of about 50 years of the Cuban Revolution.

The wording on the T-shirts and the iconography of the posters had a lot to do with the editorial aesthetics of Granma at that time. The signs I generated with the collages were really strong, politically strident, very confrontational. I remember that on inauguration day, a demonstration for non-violence was held, that Yoani Sánchez was not allowed to get there, and music acts were invented to extinguish any type of demonstration. That day, the Development Center got hot, because people from the march began to arrive and communicated what was happening. Amaury Pacheco and Adrián Monzón were among other artists who were already, in some way, connected with the dissent. The days were warm, the atmosphere was tense. 

They brought an order that said that Los Aldeanos could not sing at State cultural institutions, and I could not do anything

14ymedio: But at what point did the censorship arrive?

Novo: I wanted everything to be a multimedia show, we did visual projections and we had invited several rappers to sing, Los Aldeanos, Silvito el Libre, Maykel Xtremo and Danay Suárez. Everyone but Los Aldeanos was able to participate. It was an explicit censure. I remember several meetings with Sachie and the National Council of Plastic Arts. They brought an order saying that Los Aldeanos could not sing in State cultural institutions and there was nothing I could do.

I tried so that the part that was being censored did not sacrifice the whole of the entire exhibition, although it had already been mutilated. Some posters and collages had to be taken down from the wall, but even so, there was still a majority that wanted them to be displayed. Later, I learned that the pressure on the director of the Center had been enormous and that the State Security had summoned her several times, in addition to some anonymous ones who sent tor her questioning the exhibition. Within a few months, she was officially separated from her position. That was the first chapter of censorship that I experienced.

14ymedio: You were among the artists who protested against Decree 349 and among those who were in front of the Ministry of Culture on November 27th. What leads you to get involved in these causes?

Novo: I have always looked for trouble, perhaps because I raise my voice when I have to because of my sense of justice. In the historic moment that we are living, to ignore what happens is to be part of the problem and I want to be part of the solution. I want things to change because they don’t have to be this way, we live in a country where everything has to be done in a specific way and it doesn’t have to be that way. I think the wrong side is not raising your voice. I feel like I’m in the right place doing what I have to do.

14ymedio: Do you think that this has resulted in a deterioration of your relationship with the country’s cultural institutions?

Novo: My relationship with the Ministry of Culture and with the authorities in power has changed radically, the thing is that I am not interested. I continue to greet all the officials in the same way. I feel that my position is not against them, but against the institution they represent. For some time now, I have not been interested in using Cuban institutions for anything, although they are there for a reason and they could accomplish a completely different job, I think they have closed the doors to me. However, I feel that I can be an institution, and that all of us, together, my group of friends, for example, generate spaces as legitimate as the institutions themselves.

For some time now, I have not been interested in using Cuban institutions for anything, although they are there for a reason and they could accomplish a completely different job, I think they have closed the doors to me

14ymedio: Since launching the song Patria y Vida [Homeland and Life] a wave of much official controversy has been generated. How do you see the concept of “homeland”?

Novo: The homeland is full of death, because we have built that concept based on sacrifice and heroism, but homeland can also be something else completely different. The concept that has been followed since 1959 has a dark meaning of sacrifice. That is what the Cuban State asks of the people, to sacrifice themselves, that one has to die for the country, but in reality, if you die, the country ends for you, therefore, it is better to live for it.

There is also a very great vice of following things literally and it has a lot to do with the lyrics of the Cuban National Anthem, when it says that “to die for the homeland is to live”. Things must be seen at the time and according to the historical context that was taking place. The Bayamo anthem is from 1867, Cuba was under an iron colonial system and it must be understood that, at that time, Cubans who fought for independence were able to think that way and were willing to give their lives for that independence. They interpreted the motherland as the need to die for her.

Now it doesn’t have to be this way, we are in the 21st century and we have the ability to see things differently. The problem that has been generated with Patria y Vida is because they cannot accept the content and the truths in the song, palpable truths. They do not want a break in their rhetoric brought by people who do not currently live in Cuba, such as some of those musicians who created the musical theme. The homeland space has been circumscribed to the national territory, so if you are outside the Island, you are no longer recognized as part of this homeland, however, this is not so. The homeland is a transnational entity that surpasses the country’s borders, it is within us all the time. The controversy that has been generated around such a beautiful song that promotes something so human is meaningless.

The homeland is a transnational entity that surpasses the country’s borders, it is within us all the time

14ymedio: Many artists of your generation have gone to live abroad, did you choose to stay in Cuba to fight for freedom?

Novo: The Cuban nation owes a debt to peace and freedom. From our small projection space and with our own tools we are fighting for freedom. The mambises had machetes and we have telephones, computers, and paintbrushes. Each one of us, in the circuit of friends we are connected to, is thinking of a prosperous Cuba with freedoms, democratic and open. That Cuba we dream of, the one that should be, and that I believe that in some way we are achieving. I don’t like to think about it all the time because it is like doing a historiography of the present. Sometimes one solves more by washing a plate than by thinking that the plate can be washed in one way or another. The important thing is to get things done, to be here.

I have never seriously considered leaving Cuba, although the reality is getting more difficult every day. There is a great lack of everything, and an overwhelming poverty of spirit and material. I have traveled to many places and I know that you can live differently, but I have always thought that this is where I have to do things and you reach a point where you say: ‘If I am here it is because I have decided to be here, and I am fulfilling a function’. I hope I can fulfill a function.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

The Cuban State’s Fear of a 22-Year-Old Journalist

Pérez had to return to Costa Rica this Thursday after being stranded for several hours at the Tocumen International Airport. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eloy M. Viera Moreno, Havana, 2 April 2021– On March 19, we enjoyed a true media show, when the Director of Communication and Image of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained to Cubans the need for the State to defend itself against a 22-year-old girl, although some details were omitted.

A few hours before, Karla María Pérez González had gone to the Cuban consulate, where she carried out and paid for the immigration procedures. She bought the essential tourist package for her trip, and began her happy return to Cuba without being made aware of any prohibition. Government authorities waited until the flight’s first stopover to inform her of her arbitrary deportation, literally leaving her in migratory limbo: without homeland or country of residence. Indescribable, for the premeditation and treachery of it, it is one more performance of the ever-henchmen.

Regarding this case, let us look at an event that took place in the same migratory field, but with diametrically opposite response on the part of our State: the return to the homeland in the summer of 1939 of Cuban volunteers of the International Brigades participating in the Spanish Civil War, among whom were numerous communists. From the beginning, they started out “on the wrong foot”. The last of them arrived in Spain coinciding with the efforts to withdraw foreign troops from the conflict, starting with the Munich Accords between the European powers, in September 1938. continue reading

What was the performance of the Cuban domestic communists in this situation? Enjoying the freedom of association of the time, they organized the Committee for the Repatriation of Cuban Combatants

At the end of that year and the beginning of the following year, they were part of the half million Republican exiles who crossed the Pyrenees in indescribable conditions, to spend about a hundred days in dismal circumstances at concentration camps organized by France, a country that also failed to welcome them.

The Brigades were organized mainly by international communism (Komintern) and received direct support from the Government of the USSR until a few months before the Republican defeat, when Stalin withdrew his backing because they no longer served his political interests.

In their homeland, Cuban brigade members faced the automatic loss of citizenship for having taken up arms in a foreign nation without permission from the Cuban Congress. This situation was a threat to the integrity of their people and an obstacle for the Government in the event of providing official assistance.

What was the performance of the domestic communists in this situation? While enjoying the freedom of association of the time, they organized the Committee for the Repatriation of Cuban Combatants, chaired by Sarah Pascual (she would later become the longest-serving Cuban communist in the party). Through public events, demonstrations, meetings and other “media shows” (as the Foreign Ministry official would label them today), they managed to awaken Cubans’ humanitarian sentiments, including those of some openly anti-communists, and thereby exerted pressure on the government. 

The domestic communists, through popular pressure on the Government, achieved the humanitarian return of hundreds of Cuban citizens, despite explicitly going against our laws

In response, the State turned a legal blind eye, mobilized its diplomatic personnel for repatriation, contracted maritime freight for transportation, and provided medical assistance in public hospitals to the wounded among the several hundred repatriated Cubans.

A phrase by Eduardo Chibás uttered in those days (he was a supporter of the Second Republic and favored the return of the nationals), describes the humiliation to which the brigadistas were subjected: “If the republicans killed in Madrid trenches could resurrect, they would raise their bloody fist to hit Stalin the Traitor in the face”. 

Cuban communists, through popular pressure on the Government, achieved the humanitarian return of hundreds of Cuban citizens, despite explicitly going against our laws

Karla María is not family to most of those who read this complaint, they don’t even know her. Let’s not, however, do as the poem by German Protestant pastor Martin Niemöller (attributed to Bertolt Brecht) recalls: “When Nazis came looking for the Communists, I kept silent, / because I was not a Communist”, and let’s not forget that, in the end, when “they came to look for me, / there was no one left who could protest”. Today, it happened to Karla Maria, tomorrow it could happen to any one of our children.

At any rate, I confirm the fear and the indecision of the Cuban State against which, with vile and deliberate intentions, it has “defended” itself from a young woman without any antecedent nor potential to turn into a danger to the nation.

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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.

“A Green Tour” by Ecotaxi Through Havana, Although Not So Green

Ecotaxis are advertised “100% ecological” and at a price of 4 pesos per ticket. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 2 April 2021 — Among old and polluting almendrones*, the new Ecotaxis that carry passengers gleam on the outer edges of the National Bus Terminal in Havana. The vehicles are part of a project, funded with international capital, that seeks to preserve the environment, although they still need fossil fuel to function.

Yellow and with “100% ecological” and “zero emission” stickers, the 23 tricycles that circulate in the Cuban capital have received wide coverage in the official press. However, five months after the service started, the solar panels used to charge the batteries still do not function, and the Ecotaxis depend on the electricity grid for supply.

According to Cubadebate, the project was possible in part thanks to the Small Grants program of the Global Environment Fund, which included the installation of a photovoltaic park with 10-kilowatt power to charge the tricycles.

The photovoltaic modules “are already installed,” Ernesto Reyes, director of Taxis Cuba agency number 9, to which the vehicles belong, explains to 14ymedio by telephone. However, they still do not work.

At the moment, the units “are being charged approximately seven hours, from ten at night to five in the morning” connected to conventional outlets

“Only one converter is missing” for them to start working. Meanwhile, the option is to connect them to the national electricity system, which is 95% supplied with fossil fuels.

At the moment, the equipment “is being charged for approximately seven hours, from ten at night to five in the morning,” connected to conventional outlets that consume the electricity that reaches the state entity, stated Reyes. The operation is conducted “after peak hours,” he adds.

Activating the panels “is more complicated”, acknowledges another employee of the entity, who prefers to remain anonymous.

An engineer who also does not want to reveal his name, explains another problem to 14ymedio. The battery capacity of this equipment is 14.4-kilowatt hours (kWh) and the motor consumption is 3 kW. Each vehicle’s engine can work at maximum power for more than four hours for and travel 120 kilometers.

Of the total of 23 vehicles in operation, 11 cover the route that goes from the National Bus terminal to the train terminal, and the rest from the railway terminal to the Hospital Hermanos Ameijeiras. (14ymedio)

“The most powerful solar panels that are usually installed locally are 450 watts (W)”, details the specialist. “Ten panels represent 4.5 kW, and 14.4 kW is needed in order to charge a battery. 30 solar panels are needed to charge once a single motorcycle. To recharge the 23 motorcycles, 331.2 kW will be needed per day”. This, in any case, says the engineer, “will probably be more economical than using fuel”.

“It could be said that it is ecological, but not one hundred percent”, he says.

The other issue highlighted by the professional is that “to generate that amount of energy they need a solar generation system of approximately 55 kW per hour”, which translates into “450 W of 120 solar panels”, a figure well above of the 10 kW that the company’s photovoltaic park could guarantee, once it is in operation.

Currently, a total of 23 teams operate under the Ecotaxi system, of which 11 cover the route that goes from the National Bus terminal, through Infanta, Zanja, Curita Park, Fraternity Park and Cienfuegos Street, to the train terminal. The rest goes from the railway terminal to the Hermanos Ameijeiras hospital.

“Many of us worked as Cocotaxis drivers, and now we are providing our services here. The rest switched by virtue of having licenses to drive both a car and a motorcycle”

The project is funded primarily by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to “promote the empowerment of women through income earning, and to achieve gender equality.” Which is the reason why all the drivers are women.

Yanitza de Caridad Reyes Ramírez, one of them, states that during her time as a driver she has done “very well” and that “it is an excellent job opportunity”.

She found out about the job “through the call made by the Federation of Cuban Women right here at the base,” agency number 9 of Taxis Cuba (on Desagüe Street). “Many of us worked as Cocotaxis drivers and now we are serving here. The rest switched by virtue of having licenses to drive cars and motorcycles,” she says.

Reyes does not want to specify how much she earns per month after taxes and how much the company keeps, but she assures that she “does well”, because the course “is relatively short, and the price is more accessible to the public than any taxi”. She also pointed out that in reality “most of the time customers leave the five pesos”, one peso more than the ticket costs.

Ramona Vázquez, a former cycling and skating athlete, explains that in order to participate in the project, you must have at least three to five years of experience and a car license. “Someone who has recently obtained a driver’s license cannot take part in the project, people are transported here, and the lives of the passengers imply responsibility,” she says. “We do not have a fixed salary. The owner has to provide 125 pesos a day, the one who is hired, 300. I am not the owner, I am an assistant, but I am already working to become the owner”.

“We do not have a fixed salary.  The owner has to provide 125 pesos a day, the one who is hired, 300. I am not the owner, I am an assistant, but I am already working to become the owner”

In an approximate calculation, if there are 6 seats, in one trip the driver could earn at least 24 pesos that would add up to 432 after completing the 18 trips of the day. If they have to deliver 125 to the company, the daily profit would be 307 pesos before subtracting 10% for the National Tax Administration Office (ONAT).

This is for the owner-drivers. The hired or assistants, on the other hand, have to give 300 pesos to the company and they keep 132.

Sometimes the team breaks down and they have to stop working and, of course, income goes down. “It is the same system as the Gazelle, we can have an assistant, we take turns, three days for her and three days for me, the issue is that she has to be a woman and have car and motorcycle licenses”.

Another of the women who preferred not to tell us her name, does it in a different way, declares that this job does not “give her business”, but that it is convenient for her to have a link with the State and that is why she was contracted.

In addition to the payment to the ONAT, she also pays the cost of repairs done on the motorcycle. “I don’t make enough,” she asserts. “It is not profitable for me to have an assistant. Today, I don’t feel well, yet here I am at the helm. With what I earn, I hardly have enough for my daily expenses, and cannot afford to dream of putting something in the bank. If you do not have access to another income, you are in trouble”.

*Translator’s note: The classic American cars still common in Cuba are nicknamed “almendrones” in reference to their “almond” shape; many of these are used as taxis.

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.

State Violence and the Sin of Complicity

Yaira Jiménez Roig / Karla Pérez González (Photo: Twitter)

Miriam Celaya, Havana Cuba, 31 March 2021 ─ The case of young Karla Pérez González, who had to complete her studies as a journalist in Costa Rica after being expelled from a Cuban university for political reasons is the most recent example of selective exile applied by the Cuban dictatorial regime against one of our compatriots. The Cuban authorities denied her re-entry into the country when she was already in the flight’s technical stopover phase at Panama’s Tocumen Airport to continue to Havana.

The rest of the episode is well known: the solidarity with Karla reflected profusely on social networks, the presence of several colleagues at the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanding explanations and the ambiguous press statement of the spokeswoman for said ministry justifying the “no reinsertion” of the journalist in her own country.

Apart from the absurd legal considerations -which are not “legitimate”- established in the highly controversial Migration Law, by virtue of which those born in Cuba lose all rights at the end of the two years from the date they leave the country, the truth is that Karla’s case is far from being an exception. continue reading

The right of admission and the exit permit for Cubans is one of the regime’s oldest and most widely used instruments of political control and blackmail, despite the apparent “flexibility” introduced by the 2013 immigration reform, which merely consisted of an extension of the “permit” to stay abroad, from 11 months and 29 days to two years. What was formerly known as the “white card” (or exit permit), was not eliminated in practice but instead mutated and remained latent under the rhetorical figure of “regulation,” which maintains, at the government’s discretion, the permit or denial of departure from the country.

This is how, against all rights, the character of a prison fiefdom has been maintained by the will of the dictatorial elite. Today, it constitutes one of the most abusive measures applied against Cubans, both inside and outside the Island, which is why it is doubly surprising that there are still those who try to justify this other form of state violence, especially when the incident comes from an independent press site that can be accessed from inside Cuba.

To some extent, accrediting this and other habitual outrages of the Castro regime, by placing responsibility for the outrage on the victim, and arguing a supposed “lack of citizen training” to confront the State in these “critical episodes” is incomprehensible nonsense, to say the least.

According to Maykel González Vivero, author of this nonsense, Karla herself sealed her fate by “accepting the function of victim” and returning to Costa Rica with refugee status. The naive journalist believes that Karla – mired in legal limbo and completely defenseless at the Panamanian airport – should have said “I have no country other than Cuba.” Instead, he reproaches her for having declared, since her return to San José, “Costa Rica is my new homeland,” thus resolving what he believes would otherwise have been a “diplomatic crisis” that would have allowed her entry in Cuba.

Definitely, some people tend to reverie. Over the years, examples abound about Cubans adrift around many of the world’s airports without a diplomatic crisis arising from it. The article in question does not provide us with elements to suppose that, in Karla’s case, the question would be different.

Nevertheless, up to that point, only a sin of naivety or absentmindedness, typical of an impulse of goodwill could be attributed to the Tremenda Nota article that, involuntarily, twisted the way. If it were not for some inexplicable reason, the author took the opportunity to mix in the same text the hunger strike carried out by a group of young people from the San Isidro Movement (MSI) and the failed and most recent attempt at dialogue by 27N [27 November] with the cultural authorities. In all cases, he accuses the protagonists of having aided “the justification for violence.”

“This predisposition to feel defenseless, to justify our defeat in the face of an arbitrary government, is one of the attitudes that make any claim of the citizenry fail.”

Maykel makes mention of “citizenship” as if more than 60 years of totalitarian dictatorship had not torn apart the entire civic fabric of Cuba, as if there existed in Cuba rights of expression and free association, as if we had legal mechanisms to defend ourselves and as if the frequent arrests, beatings, and jail sentences against dissidents were merely timid excesses and not the violence of a colossal state against a society whose glimpses at citizenship have barely begun to sprout.

In the case of the San Isidro Movement, González Vivero understands that the group “was politically discredited” for starting a hunger strike that “they were not willing to sustain,” while the 27N “justified” the violence of the police and institutional officials by refusing to enter to the Ministry of Culture for dialogue.

Thus, the note conveniently omits events as significant as that the raid on the MSI headquarters occurred when some of its members were still on hunger strike, and that police violence against 27N had preceded the attempt at dialogue with a strong operation, closing of streets, mobilization of the repudiating militias and several arbitrary and brutal arrests against activists which prevented them from reaching the place.

Such a trap – which González Vivero does not ignore – could not be the propitious framework for dialogue, hence the reluctance of the activists to enter the Ministry’s headquarters. Attributing to them, in addition, some of the responsibility for the violence unleashed against them is not only false and harmful, but represents an accomplice wink to the dictatorial regime, whether or not that is the author’s intention.

Furthermore, seeking justifications for the violence that the State has been exercising against Cubans for decades is to tarnish the memory of all those who, over four generations, have suffered firing squads, jail, torture, family fracture, hunger, poverty, blackmail and numerous other forms of violence that the Castro regime has committed and continues to carry out.

To some extent, all we Cubans have been victims of the dictatorship, although some of us rebelled against it and others, like González Vivero, are not even aware of it. May their sins be limited to that.

Translated by Norma Whiting

The History of the CUC, or How the Dollar’s Bastard Brother Shaped the Lives of Cubans for 27 Years

Dual currency became law in Cuba on August 13, 1993, at the most critical moment of the Special Period. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carla Gloria Colomé Santiago, New York, 28 March 2021 — The CUC has died and died young, like Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin, just 27 years old. The CUC, the Cuban convertible peso or chavito, as it has also been called, would become the substitute actor of the dollar that, at times, has taken the place of an extra or a double, since it entered and left the stage at the convenience of the Cuban economic theater.

The CUC was also a kind of bastard brother of the dollar that sometimes took on a name that did not belong to it. For years we continued to call the CUC a ‘dollar’, we continued to call the coins kilitos en dolar, and openly and crudely we also called them fulas [a word that means a troublesome person].

The CUC always carried with it that lack of identity, always in the shadow of the dollar and, in the end, the legitimate brother ended up imposing himself on the bastard. continue reading

The currency, issued by the Central Bank of Cuba, began to circulate in 1994, shortly after the country bottomed out with the crisis kindly called the Special Period.

The currency, issued by the Central Bank of Cuba, began to circulate in 1994, shortly after the country hit bottom with the crisis, kindly called the Special Period, which made Cubans understand the true meaning of the word hunger.

In December 1991, the Soviet Union disappeared and the following years were particularly hard for Cuba, when important economic sectors, such as industry and agriculture, collapsed.

The Cuban Government printed money to pay wages, although many workers stopped having real activities to perform. The result was galloping inflation, which reached 200% that year and evaporated the population’s consumption capacity.

Since the Cuban peso had the capability to buy less each time, those who could replaced it with the dollar, which reached exorbitant values in the informal market. A dollar reached a cost of 150 pesos, when before it had been priced at just five. Five pesos.

The Government then decided to legalize the dollar, and a few months later, in 1994, they invented a national currency that would have parity with the US currency. For every dollar that entered the Cuban economy, a CUC would be issued, and both currencies would be used in the economy that was beginning to emerge, dependent on tourism, remittances and foreign investment.

In this way, the Government tried to isolate the dead parts of the old economy, in which the peso was used, from the new, more lucrative activities, dominated by the dollar and its bastard brother, the CUC.

Both could be used in the new Hard Currency Stores, where it was possible to find everything that did not exist in the rest of the stores.

But, true to its role as a supporting actor, already in these early years the CUC was reduced in importance against the dollar.

Tourists, who began to arrive in the millions, could pay with dollars. State companies linked to tourism or foreign investment could maintain bank accounts in dollars and use them to buy items abroad.

The dollar had purchasing power and the challenge was how to get it working.

From the United States, it was easier for exiles to send foreign currency to their relatives, thanks, in part, to services by Western Union, which began operating in Cuba at the end of 1995.

Over time, remittances would become one of the most important income sources for the country.

During the 90’s, these measures brought some stability to the country, where three currencies coexisted simultaneously, although in reality it was divided between those who had dollars and the rest

During the 90’s, these measures brought some stability to the country, where three currencies coexisted simultaneously, although in reality it was divided between those who had dollars and the rest.

The CUC was born within an emergency context, but with the new century, it started positioning itself in the Island’s economy.

Dollar usage by Cuban State-owned companies had not gone unnoticed by the United States, which, in May 2004, imposed a $100 million fine on a Swiss bank for operating dollar transactions with Cuba and other sanctioned countries.

It was a warning from the George W. Bush Administration that motivated the Cuban authorities to take the next step: the dollar would take a back seat, and the CUC would be the central character.

Since 2003, the CUC had been imposed as the currency with which state companies had to operate, but in November 2004 it was decided that the dollar would stop circulating as currency for the purchase of goods and, from now on, only CUC or Cuban pesos (CUP) were to be used.

Circulation of the dollar in Cuba was not prohibited, although its use, especially cash payments, was discouraged by creating a 10% exchange tax. Dollar bank accounts continued to exist.

From then on, the reign of the CUC in the country began, and Cubans were divided between those who had convertible pesos and the rest.

With the Cuban peso you could pay in certain places, with the CUC in almost all of them. Even if the sale was not in CUC, if the seller saw that you had such a currency, his eyes would take on a shine and he would sell you the product, valuing the convertible peso, for example, at Cuban 23 pesos, when the official exchange rate was 25.

The most palpable example were the taxi drivers in Havana. Who never rode in an almendrón* (taxi), and on reaching your final destination, if payment was in CUC, the change was always in Cuban pesos and less than the amount than you actually expected?

If you dared to voice a claim, the taxi driver would seriously answer that that was the exchange rate at which he accepted CUC’s and if you did not agree, the option was to pay with Cuban pesos, which you were not carrying. Then you had no choice but to slam the door of the ’57 car (or even earlier) and leave, the driver being right or not.

There were CUC coins in 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents, equivalent to 1, 2, 5 and 10 Cuban pesos, respectively. Those coins were the well-known dollar kilitos en dolar which every Cuban child asked his father to keep. As for the bills, they circulated in 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 convertible pesos, equivalent to the price that the seller considered convenient to set, with respect to the Cuban peso.

The CUC, which never went beyond Cuba’s borders and was forbidden to be taken abroad, brought us not a few joys and sorrows, like everything in life

The CUC, which never went beyond Cuba’s borders and was forbidden to be taken abroad, brought us not a few joys and sorrows, like everything in life.

If you managed to score one of those jobs where they paid you 450 Cuban pesos and 10 CUC, you were still a very poorly paid worker and, even so, you were one of the luckiest workers in your neighborhood, in your municipality, even in your province. The rest of the workers received their full salary in Cuban pesos.

The sad phenomenon of “job reorientation” also appeared around this time, according to which, if you had attended university and had an academic degree, you would earn less than the person who worked in the gastronomic sector or as the driver or chef for an embassy, who, in general, had earnings in the coveted CUC.

With the CUC, the figure of the “reseller” was also born, an illegal trade that Cubans invented to buy and sell dollars indistinctly from CUC on the black market, always at a better rate than that of the banks or the Cadeca, the State exchange houses.

In Cuba, there were stores where everything was worth one CUC: putting on fake nails cost one CUC; private English classes cost one CUC per hour; the bumper carts at Varadero amusement park cost one CUC; on Teacher’s Day, each classroom collected a CUC for the collective gift. And so, we adapted to speaking in the language of that currency.

The CUC was a kind of opium for Cubans: it had the ease to separate you, to alienate you with apparently simple numbers. For example, being told that a pair of shoes cost 20 CUC was not the same as telling you that the same pair cost 500 pesos. They got us used to low figures, thus coloring us with chaos and misery.

Tourists came to the country and did not understand the reason for so many currencies and so many exchange rates for each one of them. How to explain this whole complex system to foreign visitors, if we barely understood it ourselves?

An ordinary citizen who received a CUC or a dollar as a remittance could exchange it for 24 or 25 pesos. On the other hand, for a worker in the Mariel Special Development Zone, each CUC earned, in theory, was converted into 10 pesos. While for State companies’ accounting purposes, the dollar, the CUC and the peso were comparable.

The result of this was a country in which there was an incentive to import everything, sell it in CUC and continue importing. Exporting or producing for the local market was impossible. And the problem of wages in the State sector did not seem to have a solution. With salaries that became 20 or 30 CUC, you could hardly buy those same imported products.

The panorama was shaping the new economy, which little by little stopped producing food or industrial products that the domestic market needed.

These could always be imported as long as tourism continued to flow, while Cubans continued to emigrate to the country where they could earn dollars, and while Venezuela and other countries continued to contract for medical services.

That the CUC was destined to die began to be sensed in 2011, when the Congress of the Communist Party approved the so-called Guidelines, which ruled that the country should “conclude” the monetary and exchange unification.

That the CUC was destined to die began to be sensed in 2011, when the Congress of the Communist Party approved the so-called Guidelines, which ruled that the country should “conclude” the monetary and exchange unification.

By then it was becoming clear that multiple exchange rates were a problem and the parity between the CUC and the dollar was no longer real. For years, new CUC bills had been printed without being backed in dollars.

State companies could no longer convert them into dollars, but relied on documents called Liquidity Certificates issued by the Government, which defined which CUCs were equivalent to dollars and which were not.

But in Cuba, these types of changes, if they happen, usually happen slowly. In fact, it took almost ten years, the collapse of the Venezuelan economy and the arrival of a global pandemic that ended tourism (at least temporarily), for the unification to be “complete.”

The last decade would be that of the decline of the CUC. Like a patient diagnosed with a terminal illness, the CUC lived on, knowing that its days were numbered.

In 2014, the government announced that it had created a plan to unify the two national currencies, something that would happen on what was called Day Zero. That would be the CUC’s death date and the birth of the Cuban peso as the only currency in circulation.

From then on, the supposed and imminent arrival of Day Zero became a recurring rumor that hung over the life of the CUC.

In 2016, the official media published articles stating that the decision could not be postponed.

In 2017, Raúl Castro, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba and then President of the country, said that the solution to the problem “cannot be delayed any longer”.

But it was not only delayed, but in October 2019, the authorities once again turned to selling products in dollars. History, as they say, is cyclical. The country again had three currencies: Cuban peso, CUC, and the US dollar.

It became clear, then, that even if the CUC were eliminated on Day Zero, there would still be more than one currency in the country.

Initially, only domestic appliances, vehicle parts and other products that were defined as “high-end” were traded in foreign currency. Then, in July of 2020, stores opened, selling all kinds of food and basic necessities.

These stores, called freely convertible currency (MLC) stores, only accept payments with magnetic cards linked to a bank account with dollars or euros. To attract the dollars to these stores, the authorities decided to withdraw the 10% tax that had weighed on the US currency.

Once the stores in MLC were opened, the stores in CUC were completely relegated, with shelves increasingly empty and their offers – already scarce – even more impoverished.

By losing its usefulness in buying basic goods, the health of the CUC entered a terminal phase. Cubans no longer knew what to do with their accounts, savings or holdings in CUC.

Many businesses no longer accepted CUCs or returned the change in pesos. As the dollar re-installed, the CUC lost value every day. At the end of 2020, the currency that one day had parity with the dollar was exchanged on the black market for half a dollar.

On December 10, 2020, it was announced that Day Zero would finally happen on January 1, 2021

On December 10, 2020, it was announced that Day Zero would finally be January 1, 2021.

The death of the CUC was announced by President Miguel Díaz-Canel, with Raúl Castro at his side, when he stated that what they had been cooking for years was finally starting to take off: monetary reunification or the ‘Ordering Task’, as the process has also been called lately.

For the general population, including for the self-employed, now the peso will coexist with the MLC. Income earnings will be received in the first currency, although many of the things they will need to buy will be sold in the second, as was the case in 1993.

For most State-owned companies, only the peso will exist. And they will only be able to access dollars at the same exchange rate that applies to citizens: 24 pesos for every dollar.

This will spell ruin for many of those companies, which will either disappear or will have to be rescued, authorities have said. This will also produce inflation, which according to some estimates will be between 470% and 900%, worse than was recorded in 1993, the hardest year of the Special Period.

The CUC will be relegated to the memories of Cubans, to the memories of the last 30 years, which are the memories of scarcities and of shortages.  Nevertheless, nobody will miss the CUC, which died young.  Experts and those who know have stated, however, that it should have died even younger.

*Translator’s note: Almendron is the name given to what is usually a classic American car in use as a taxi, often operating in fixed route service. The name comes from the “almond” shape of old vehicles.

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Editor’s Note: This work was supported and edited by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), an independent not-for-profit organization working with the media and civil society to promote a positive change in conflict zones, closed societies and countries in transition all over the world.

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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.

We Are Cuban Forever

Young journalist Karla Pérez had to return to Costa Rica on March 18th, after being stranded for several hours at the Panama airport, subsequent to not being allowed to board her plane to Cuba. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Dagoberto Valdés Hernández, Pinar del Río, 24 March 2021 — Young Karla María Pérez González could not enter Cuba, the country where she was born, grew up and attended school, because an authority left her stranded at the Panama airport and she had to return to Costa Rica, where she had gone to attend school after being expelled from her [Cuban] University for political reasons. The details of this case have filled the networks in recent days. Now I want to get to the bottom of the matter and highlight the perpetuity and inviolability of the Cuban condition of everyone who has been born in this land.

The 2019 Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, in force today, dedicates six articles on the subject of citizenship.  Title IV establishes:

Article 33. Cuban citizenship is acquired by birth or by naturalization.

Article 34. The following are Cuban citizens by birth:

a) Those born in the national territory, with the exception of the children of foreigners who are in the service of their government or international organizations. The law establishes the requirements and formalities for the case of children of foreigners who are not permanent residents in the country. continue reading

The acquisition of another citizenship does not imply the loss of Cuban citizenship

Article 36. The acquisition of another citizenship does not imply the loss of Cuban citizenship.

Article 38. Cubans cannot be deprived of their citizenship, except for legally established causes. The law establishes the procedure to be followed for the formalization of loss and renouncement of citizenship and what authorities are empowered to decide it.

Article 39. Cuban citizenship may be recovered after fulfilling the requirements and formalities prescribed by law.

Article 128. It corresponds to the President of the Republic to:

a) comply with and ensure respect for the Constitution and the laws;

m) decide, in the cases that concerns it, granting Cuban citizenship, accepting resignations to Cuban citizenship and disposing of deprivation of citizenship.

From these constitutional precepts we can conclude that all of us who have been born in this land and are children of Cuban parents are Cuban citizens because of our birth, as established in the aforementioned article 34, while article 38 clearly states that Cubans cannot be deprived of their citizenship except by established legal decision, which is the prerogative of only the President of the Republic.

We are, therefore, Cubans by birth and in perpetuity unless a legal process and the explicit decision of the president deprives a person of it. The person can, however, recover it according to article 39.

We are, therefore, Cubans by birth and in perpetuity unless a legal process and the explicit decision of the president deprives a person of it

So, if we are Cubans and have the same rights and duties, all those recognized by the Constitution must be respected, because no law can go against the Constitution, which is the Magna Carta that governs coexistence among all Cubans. I seem to hear some who might comment that these rules are dead paper and are frequently violated. Well, we can argue at least two things:

Without the Constitution, without laws, and without respecting it, the country is led into chaos, and peaceful coexistence becomes almost unfeasible. Therefore, even theoretically, the Constitution, legitimate or not, can, and should be an instrument of peaceful and civilized order. Otherwise, citizens would fall into total helplessness, and disorder would reign. This is not convenient to anyone, least of all to the authorities responsible for keeping the order. Whoever violates these rules of coexistence not only commits a serious crime, but also threatens national stability and peace.

That they are systematically violated, or that they are interpreted ad libitum, according to the will of those who have the duty to respect them and take care that they are respected, does not mean that these freedoms, rights and duties are not valid, necessary and convenient.

This does not apply only to Cuba; it is part of the universal legal heritage.

To freely enter and leave the country

Another of the current constitutional precepts that nothing and no one should violate because it is also common sense, incontestable ethics and jurisprudence in all countries, is that every citizen has the inviolable right to enter and leave her own country. This is what the current Constitution says in its article 52:

Article 52. People are free to enter, stay, transit and leave the national territory, change their domicile or residence, without any limitations other than those established by law.

In Cuba, a status euphemistically called “regulated” has become almost common and current.

It is in the public domain that this constitutional precept cannot be denied by a lower regulation that leaves the free will of a person, or of an organism that is not a competent court of justice in each case. However, a status euphemistically called “regulated” in Cuba has become almost common and current, which leaves the decision of non-legal persons or institutions the free decision to “regulate” the departures of the country to people who have no pending cause, neither criminal nor civil.

In the same way that we know of cases in which people who have unexpired legal causes are granted an exit permit. Now the case is that, whatever the cause, a Cuban citizen has had to be welcomed by special intervention of a country that is not her own because she has not been able to resolve an immigration procedure whatsoever if she had any. That would correspond to Cuban consulates anywhere in the world to detect it, alert it and resolve it.

Situations like these, and other similar ones in relation to the free exit or entry of the country or province where one resides or was born, only contribute to destabilization and feed mistrust, uncertainty and illegalities.

Several questions arise in these irregular situations: are they somehow justified by authorities, regulations or protocols that are contrary to the Constitution, and therefore legally unacceptable, or are they simply the errors of intermediate officials? Who is or are empowered to make these decisions that go against human rights and against the letter of the Constitution? Why have these errors or unconstitutional regulations not been corrected, if they were? What are the legal mechanisms with which citizens can claim these and other arbitrariness, or do we simply remain defenseless due to attributions of organisms of non-legal character?

The situation in Cuba is not in any condition to add to the economic, health and existential crises these types of events that produce tension and disaffection

The situation in Cuba is not in any condition to add to its economic, health and existential crises these types of events that produce tension and disaffection even greater than those that already exist in the daily life of Cubans.

Whatever the answers to these and other questions, something is clear in the universal conscience and in the international regulations which Cuba is a part of, and that is:

That we are Cubans forever, and that we have the inalienable right to enter, leave, reside and change our address simply because of our condition of being Cuban, and even more, because of our condition of being human.

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Convivencia and is reproduced here with the author’s permission.

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.

And What Will You Ask of Biden?

“Americans should also demand of their president to be a watchman of respect for human rights throughout the world.” (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Desde Aqui, Havana, 22 March 2021 — Some friends often ask me “And what will you ask of Biden?”

Since Mr. Joe Biden was proclaimed President of the United States, he has received various petitions in his White House office, some public, others private. From the interior of his country, he has been asked to take decisions related to the pandemic, the sale of weapons, racial discrimination; from the borders, emigres shout for him to open the doors, and wherever the world’s highest power plays a role in its international politics, be it Hong Kong, Syria, Israel, Russia, China or Afghanistan, requests of various tendencies arise.

As far as Cuba is concerned, the range of requests covers the entire spectrum of political debate and is expressed both in ways of requests as well as suggestions and even demands.

Basically, two trends can be identified with their intermediate points.

One of them is in favor of maintaining, including intensifying, trade restrictions, sanctions, inclusion in the list of countries that collaborate with terrorism, suspension of travel and remittances. The other favors full reestablishment of diplomatic relations, lifting of the embargo and, in some way, for the continuity of the policy of rapprochement initiated by President Barack Obama. continue reading

 Those who are betting on the tightening of the screws hope that those measures will cause an economic collapse with the supposed consequence of a social explosion

Those who are betting on the tightening of the screws hope that those measures will cause an economic collapse with the supposed consequence of a social explosion that will end with the final capitulation of the regime.

Among those who opt for a second edition of the thaw, it is debatable whether conditions should be met “in advance” or whether those in command in Cuba should be given the opportunity to respond to the dismantling of restrictions with economic reforms and political openings.

Critics of Obama’s policy insist that too much was granted in exchange for nothing or almost nothing, which creates an intransigent stance against the possibility of those mistakes being repeated. For their part, those who disapprove of the decisions made during Donald Trump’s time point out that what was done did not bring an improvement in human rights or in the lives of Cubans, and that, ultimately, said measures only served to justify the causes of problems generated by the system and increase repression.

It is very difficult to remain silent or to claim neutrality in the face of the dilemmas that arise in the face of such predicaments. Sooner or later the question ‘what will you ask of Biden?’ will have to be answered.

I start with the obvious fact that Joe Biden is not my ruler. He reached the presidency of the United States in a contentious election in which he did not have my vote, either for or against, which means that he has no obligation to fulfill any electoral commitment to me.

The civic duty to make demands of their president to first respond to the interests of that nation corresponds to US citizens, including hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans.

The civic duty to make demands of their president to first respond to the interests of that nation corresponds to US citizens, including hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans.

In relation to Cuba, these immediate interests include fair payment in compensation for confiscated properties; extradition of persons living in Cuba who committed serious crimes in that country, and not granting commercial credit until there is a guarantee that the debts can be repaid by Havana.

Americans must also demand that their president be a watchman of respect for human rights throughout the world, but that he fulfill that obligation under the rules that govern international law in order to respect the sovereignty of other nations and avoid armed conflicts.

At the end of January of last year, numerous American and Cuban-American protesters asked the Biden government to put an end to “the criminal blockade against the people of Cuba” and to uphold the slogan “Bridge of Love” as the name of a project that claims to put forward family before politics.

Eliécer Ávila, a Florida resident and leader of the [political group] Movimiento Somos + [We Are More],when calling for a march in front of the White House on March 20th, explained his wishes that, when the policy towards Cuba is announced, “it should be a policy aimed to end that dictatorship, and not for the purpose of having the dictatorship function better or to make it easy somehow for it to continue to remain in power”.

We Cubans who remain on the Island have experienced the results of a dictatorship for six decades, the consequences of the actions to overthrow it carried out by our powerful neighbor to the north, and the frustration of seeing our intentions fail when attempting to change things with our own efforts.

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.

Electronic Commerce in Cuba, Another Gordian Knot

Photo: Cubadebate

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 24 March 2021 ─ On March 22nd, the official Cubadebate website has published an analysis on electronic commerce in Cuba one year after the implementation of the TuEnvío platform. Despite the forced omissions imposed by the dictatorship’s orders to its spokespersons, the article recognizes some of the numerous problems that weigh down this “new” service to nationals, although the author, Oscar Figueredo Reinaldo, washes his hands of possible indictments by pointing to the “blockade”, the global economic crisis and the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration as the root causes of the inefficiency of virtual stores: insufficient supply.

Among the successes of the TuEnvío state platform, which promotes sales of the CIMEX and Caribbean chains, is that with this option the crowds of the eternal queues in each store in the country are avoided, with the consequent risk of multiplying contagion and expansion of the disease. In the text, mention is made of elements that have been introduced to improve the platform, such as the acquisition of new equipment in order to improve network traffic, readjustment of shopping hours and reduction of delivery times and (supposedly) a greater stability of the offer.

However, these improvements are not reflected in the experience of users, among whom a “collective sense of frustration and disappointment” predominates. For these, in addition to technology inefficiency, the main obstacle lies in the gap between the growing demand of the population and insufficient store supplies. continue reading

This tends to be confirmed in the data provided by CIMEX executives through other media, and that in the reference article reflects a decline in the delivery of between 5,000 and 6,000 daily modules of food and sanitary items in relation to last October, despite the fact that, at that time, the daily dispatch (20,000 modules) far from satisfied the platform’s registered customer demand, which currently amounts to approximately 800,000.

Other problems are added to the limitations of the offering, that are reasons for recurring complaints by customers. These are related to technological failures, such as page instability, connection drops, saturation, emptying of the “shopping carts” before having completed the cycle, disappearance of some items after they have been selected, as well as the practice of imposing “combos” that forces customers to purchase products that they do not want or need as a part of a package. Frequent difficulties with banking service are also reported through the Transfermóvil application, to which national cards are attached.

Of course, in the analysis of yore, the complaint against hoarders and resellers is ever present and has become an obligatory reference in all official press releases related to real or virtual trade, as if said phenomenon were the cause and not the consequence of the chronic shortages of food and other basic necessities, a phenomenon typical of a highly unproductive and incompetent economic system.

A line stretches into the night (Photo by the author)

Thus, with exquisite “ingenuity”, the author discovers that “the battle to acquire scarce hygiene and food products has shifted to online spaces”, generating the resurgence of a “parallel market” (of hoarders), which implies resales at higher prices which “affects the pockets of millions of Cubans and defeats the government’s efforts to increase the quality of life of the population by increasing wages.”

Thus, this communicator ─ who is not by chance the Editorial Coordinator of Cubadebate and a regular journalist on the Roundtable television program, who has special permission to make moderate “criticisms” of the national reality ─ seems to ignore that the resale of scarce products has not only always existed among us, but has also been perfected and diversified to the extent that the shortages suffered by the population and the inability of the State to satisfy them have both multiplied, so the underground market (which is not “parallel”) has not “moved” to online spaces, but has expanded from real to virtual space, beyond the intended righteousness of a government whose most palpable show of goodwill towards its people is also the unstoppable increase in official prices, much higher than the artificial rise in wages and pensions of Cubans from the overhyped (un)-Ordering Task.

What Cubadebate qualifies as a return to “feudal times”, endorsed in the exchange (barter) and “trading of merchandise by online groups” is the appropriate response to the reality of a feudal economy driven by a government that stubbornly refuses to move towards the inevitable: an opening towards the freedoms of vernacular entrepreneurs and national commerce that increases production, sanitizes the internal economy and satisfies those market demands that do not depend on imports and that have nothing to do with the hackneyed U.S. “blockade”.

(Photo by the author)

Meanwhile, in recent times an interesting phenomenon has been registered in relation to an evident change in attitude of Cubans, who have gone from acceptance to criticism, as can be seen in the comments of the forum members on the pages of the official press, and whose interventions are much more revealing and realistic than the complicit texts of the scribes of the Castro press. The stubborn reality shows that you cannot have an entire people deceived all the time, and even less so in this era of the Internet and social networks.

Increasingly irreverence, questioning and mockery are the popular response to the disrespect of the regime and its scribes, as sealed in the case at hand with the satirical comment of one of the forum members: “TuEnvío seems very good to me, the whole day to shop, you don’t eat but are entertained”. Let that sentence function in summarizing the perception that Cubans have about electronic commerce one year after its implementation on the Island.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Young Cubans’ Nightmare

Some young people’s parents allow them to go out alone, but most spend much of their time at home. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 22 March 2021 — Alicia Quevedo’s dream was to turn 18 so that she could go out with her friends at night, stay over at her boyfriend’s house and be allowed to spend a weekend at the beach. On January 11th, the expected day arrived, but two months later, she has not yet been able to fulfill a single one of her three wishes. Her mother and her grandmother insist that she stay home and avoid unnecessary visits.

“The challenge of having adolescents confined for the year this coronavirus crisis has lasted has been very tough. Young children are harder to take care of, physically, it is true, but teenagers do not like to be under the family’s radar 24/7, they get very rebellious and anxious”, says the mother. “Sometimes I relent and allow her the occasional short visit, but most of the time she is at home without being able to see her friends or go out with them”, she adds.

And of course, that is what Alicia wants the most, she’s dying to see her friends. “My mother spends the day watching what I do, watching that I don’t smoke, don’t listen to that music or do not talk to a certain friend whom she dislikes. In normal times she would not even know what I do, but of course, now we are together all the time and she does not take her eyes off me”, she laments. continue reading

“In normal times she would not even know what I do, but of course, now we are together all the time and she does not take her eyes off me”

In general, parents of adolescents find it difficult to explain the dangers posed by COVID because they feel invincible.

“My daughter watches the news and knows perfectly, according to the data, that her age range is not the most problematic and that makes it very difficult for me to convince her to stay home, I have to get tough. I even talked to a psychologist but she told me that it is normal, that at that age it is a problem to make them follow the current measures because they want to see their friends and be able to go out and in no way understand to what extent social distancing helps them keep them away from contagion”, she explained.

According to this mother, the specialist recommended that she speak clearly to the young woman and tell her that the problem is not in them, that the important thing is to make them see that they could be asymptomatic carriers and infect others. “I tell her, look, you can’t know if your friends are well or sick, and if you catch it, nothing will happen to you, but if your 76-year-old grandmother gets sick she could die, that’s how hard it is. I spoke to her that sternly but she still complains”.

It is a consensus among psychologists that, for adolescents and young people, being with friends is the most important thing in their lives. One of these specialists who spoke to 14ymedio – asking to remain anonymous to avoid problems at her workplace – commented that one has to “have a talk with the kids” and listen to what they are feeling in order to “try to understand them”, and for them so see that the family understands how frustrating the isolation is for them.

It is a consensus among psychologists that for adolescents and young people, being with friends is the most important thing in their lives. (14ymedio)

“From time to time you can be flexible in some of the measures. Letting them talk on the phone and spend time on social networks can help fill that void in socialization that they are living through right now. One has to find ways to motivate them at home, with family board games, watching a movie or a series together, activities that involve everyone”, she recommended.

The mother complains that there are things that do not help, because “not all parents take the measures seriously” and that makes it difficult to make her daughter see the severity of the problem. “There are some parents who are not complying with all the established measures, and allow their kids to be out on the street all day. So, what can I say to my daughter when she looks out the window and sees one of her friends playing dominoes in the park or sitting on the benches talking?”

She also says that her daughter is very distressed because she is “missing out on things: she missed her best friend’s 15th birthday party, her theater workshop graduation, and her boyfriend’s birthday party. But I can’t risk her being where there are so many people because I have to care for my mother. Besides, the last thing I want right now is to have any of the family hospitalized”.

 A survey conducted by UNICEF at the end of last year shows that the COVID-19 crisis has had “a significant impact” on the mental health of young people in Latin America and the Caribbean

A survey conducted by UNICEF at the end of last year shows that the COVID-19 crisis has had “a significant impact” on the mental health of young people in Latin America and the Caribbean. The study collected the comments of 8,444 adolescents and young people between the ages of 13 and 29 in nine countries in the region and broke down feelings they had to face during the first months of the pandemic, specifically in September.

Some 27% of the participants said they felt anxiety and 15% were depressed in the last seven days, while 46% reported having less motivation to do “activities that they normally enjoyed”. According to the study, young people’s perception of the future has also been negatively affected.

However, other adolescents have looked for better ways to pass the time and, within the pandemic, they have found motivations. Jennifer de la Vega is now finishing twelfth grade, but according to her grandmother “she is helping high school boys” who live in the building with reviews of the subject where she considers herself “a specialist”, and where many of her neighbors “are lazy”: mathematics.

“I go to their houses and help them solve the tele-classes exercises. I also explain the new content. It is a bit like playing teacher, something that I liked to do a lot when I was little, but now my students are not stuffed animal puppets, but friends from the building,” says the girl who confesses that her friends at school made fun of her for being “always on time” and always studying.

“I also like to read a lot. I have downloaded several books on the phone and spend hours on it. I also want this to be over, but I am taking advantage of my free time in productive things to avoid going crazy thinking about what I am missing. Like many, the arrival of the coronavirus has changed our routines and I have tried to make it better, not only for myself, but also for those around me”, says Jennifer.

Maceo Park, which normally welcomes young soccer fans, looked deserted this Friday afternoon. (14ymedio)

The parks where young people usually gather in Havana are empty. Maceo Park, which normally welcomes young soccer fans, looked deserted this Friday afternoon. The same panorama was seen in the Parque de los Mártires, in Infanta and San Lázaro, and also at the intersection of Línea and L Streets, in the El Vedado neighborhood. Despite the disappointment, most of the young people are at home, waiting for the nightmare to end.

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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.

Will the Next Congress of the PCC Clear up the Doubt About Property: “Coming” or “Going”?

The VIII Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba will be held between April 16th and 19th, 2021. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 17 March 2021 –With one month remaining until the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), it has been reported that in the process of updating the 274 Guidelines approved in the Seventh Congress, only 17 will remain, 165 will be modified, 92 will be eliminated and 18 will be added, so that the new document will only have 200 guidelines.

A suggestion is being made to modify 80 paragraphs of the 342 being proposed regarding the document of the Conceptualization of the Economic Model.

It should be assumed that this last writing has a hierarchical level higher than the guidelines, therefore, any variance in the wording of a given topic, however slight, will need to be read with great care.

In the five years that have elapsed since the previous great partisan edict, neither the issue of the practical application of the Guidelines (liniments in popular slang) nor the theoretical formulation of the conceptualization have constituted material for debate in the official or in the independent press, and even less so on the street. “Who cares?” Thalía would have asked in the popular theme song. continue reading

I would like to point out the evolution that this issue has had since April 2011, when in the Sixth Congress of the PCC approved that “in non-state matters of management, the concentration of property in legal or natural persons will not be allowed”

At the risk of appearing too optimistic, I would like to point out how the issue of property concentration will remain both in the new guidelines and in the rewriting of the Conceptualization of the model.

Since it is a core issue, I would like to point out the evolution that this issue has had since April 2011, when in the Sixth Congress of the PCC approved that “in non-state matters of management, the concentration of property in legal or natural persons will not be allowed”

It turns out that after five years, on 18 May 2017, to be more precise, the Third Plenary of the Central Committee of the PCC agreed to raise the issue to the next congress in this way: “In non-state management issues, the concentration of property or material and financial wealth in non-state natural or legal persons will not be allowed. Continue updating regulations to prevent them from contradicting the principles of our socialism”.

Perhaps the most significant thing is that “material and financial wealth” was added and that the prohibition was based on “the principles of our socialism”.

When presenting the Conceptualization approved as a proposal at that same meeting of the PCC, the wording of the problem required two paragraphs:

“The appropriation by the holders of non-state forms of ownership and management of part of the surplus of the results of the work of contracted people takes place in a social context in which socialist relations of production prevail, as opposed to social systems based on the exploitation of the work of others”.

“Consequently, the concentration of property and material and financial wealth in non-state natural or legal persons is the object of regulation, so as not to allow it to run counter to the principles of our socialism.”

Here, “what was prohibited” (not allowed) became “subject to regulation”.

It is noticeable that in the highest instance where these details are discussed there are two positions: one, that of prohibiting the concentration of property, and the other, that of only regulating it

However, in April 2016, at the conclusion of the Seventh Congress, the paragraph in the Guidelines was approved in this way: “In non-state forms of management, the concentration of property and wealth in legal or natural persons will not be allowed, but will be regulated”.

And in the Conceptualization approved by that same congress: “The concentration of property and wealth in non-state natural or legal persons is not allowed in accordance with the legislation, in a manner consistent with the principles of our socialism”.

In this back and forth it is noticeable that in the highest instance where these details are discussed there are two positions: one, that of prohibiting the concentration of property, and the other, that of only regulating it and at the same time including in what is prohibited or regulated “material and financial wealth”.

The question of whether the existence of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be approved in the next congress depends entirely on how this point is written, both in the Conceptualization and in the Guidelines.

The formal approval of SMEs is a point of no return in the often slowed down economic reforms suggested by specialists and demanded by entrepreneurs. Small and medium-sized companies that have a wholesale market and the right to export and import; entities with legal personality backed by laws that protect the freedom to produce goods or provide services, to set prices and hire workforce without being subject to taxes that suck dry their profits.

We’ll need to see if it will follow the line that there can be nothing “that runs counter to the principles of our socialism”.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

The Failure of an Operation: I Continue to Do Journalism in Cuba

State Security agent who was part of the State Security surveillance operation on March 8 and 12. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 15 March 2021 — “You can’t go out today.” It is the ninth day in a short span this year that I get the same blunt message from a State Security agent who prevents me from crossing the threshold of the building.

Decried by various international organizations, besieging independent journalists and activists has been the dominant repressive strategy in recent months, along with arbitrary arrests lasting several hours.

I’m one of those who has suffered from it from time to time since December 2014, when artist Tania Bruguera called for a performance without permission in the Plaza of the Revolution. In addition, since May 2019, a ban on leaving the country has been weighing on me, and I have been the victim of several arbitrary arrests, suspension of my cell phone line and threats to my family members. continue reading

However, the harassment escalated since last November. During that time, almost a score of artists from the San Isidro Movement (MSI)were imprisoned and some of them went on hunger strikes for the release of rapper Denis Solís, sentenced in a summary trial to eight months in prison for an alleged crime of “disrespect”.

Decried by various international organizations, besieging independent journalists and activists has been the dominant repressive strategy in recent months

But the State Security agent who identified himself as Ramses did not provide any reason last November 23rd to prevent me from leaving my building with my two daughters. He didn’t know why he was doing it, he told me. He was only following orders.

“We are not going to allow you to influence the public space”, he told me on November 25th, once again blocking my way.

The following day, the political police, disguised as cleaning men, violently evicted the MSI activists from their headquarters, and on the 27th, a peaceful demonstration of 300 artists in front of the Ministry of Culture ended in a meeting of about thirty of them with the vice minister Fernando Rojas.

Since then, they have not given me a break. In December, they didn’t let me leave the house for a whole week. “You can’t go out”, they repeated every day. On the 10th, fed up, I told the officer on duty: “Tomorrow I’m going to leave whether you like it or not, this is turned into an abuse”, and he remained silent. On December 11th I was able to hit the street.

 In December, they didn’t let me leave the house for a whole week. “You can’t go out,” they repeated every day

On January 27th, two months after the demonstration, a new “siege” of my front door began that would last four days in a row. That Wednesday, several members of the 27N group once again planted themselves before the Ministry, located in El Vedado, to attend a meeting with Rojas and demand the release of some of his colleagues who had been arrested early that morning. Within hours they were violently evicted and transferred by bus to a police unit.

On February 2nd and 22nd, the operation was repeated for no apparent reason. That time, they also cut my mobile service. In no case do the officers give explanations, but repressive acts do not fail to take place on significant dates, such as International Human Rights Day or the anniversary of the death of Fidel Castro.

“Luzbely, you can’t go out today.” Again, the order was issued on March 8th, International Women’s Day, which is why the agent on duty, a skinny man she had never seen before, felt compelled to cynically say goodbye: “Congratulations!”

On March 12th, I ran into the same guy. The night before, on national television, the presenter Humberto López denounced, during his spot on the News program that some opponents had planned a protest in the Plaza de la Revolución, something completely false.

This March 15th is the third day of this month that I am under surveillance. This Monday’s agent is accompanied by two female officers and he refused to show me his ID. He says that I have already seen him “at other times”.

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.

Private Activities in Certain Areas Will Need Permission from Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior

Notary Office at 20 de Mayo Street, Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Havana | 1 March 2021 — The Ministry of the Interior will have the last word in carrying out some social, economic and political activities in certain areas of Havana. The authorities justify the creation of the rule based on the need “to guarantee the protection and fulfillment of the missions related to security and internal order”.

With this decision, taken by the Council of Ministers and published in the Official Gazette on February 24, technical installations, construction, repair or work maintenance, and licenses for the exercise of the different forms of non-state management will require a ministerial authorization, as well as changes in use, transfer and transmission of real estate, homes, premises, land and spaces.

The standard defines two categories to be applied in the different areas it establishes: “to consult” and “to inform”. continue reading

In the case of those that are subject to consultation, there are productive and service, political, cultural, sports, recreational and religious activities when they are carried out on public roads. In the second case, it will be enough to report the fulfillment of the activities according to the established norms.

The largest number of government, political, tourist and diplomatic entities are concentrated in the affected areas and roads of interest. 

The largest number of government, political, tourist and diplomatic entities are concentrated in the affected areas and roads of interest

The largest number of government, political, tourist and diplomatic entities are concentrated in the affected areas and roads of interest. The areas are located in the popular councils Siboney-Atabey, Cubanacán, La Coronela, Plaza, Vedado, Príncipe, Colón Nuevo Vedado, Ceiba-Kohly, Vedado-Malecón, Sevillano and Tallapiedra, as well as others in the municipalities of Marianao, La Lisa and Boyeros.

The new regulation means a return to the practice of requiring an authorization to exchange or acquire a home in what in previous years were called “frozen areas”. At that time, the entity that gave the go-ahead was the Directorate of Personal Security of the Ministry of the Interior.

The decree does not specify whether the procedures to open a privately owned business in the so-called areas to be consulted can be carried out in the “single window” created to streamline paperwork and bureaucratic processes and defined as “an innovative tool” for the management of the private sector.

In addition, it is determined that the urban nucleus of Antilla (Holguín) also has special regulations, since the place “constitutes an area of high significance for tourism and is located in the municipality of Antilla, in the province of Holguín.” Currently, Gaviota is building a luxury hotel in this area, at the entrance to the Great Bay of Nipe.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

Cuba’s Poorest Find it Impossible to Pay the Gas Bill

As of January 1st, 2021, and as part of the Ordering Task, manufactured gas service went from 0.11 pesos per cubic meter to 2.50. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Serafín Martínez, Havana, 9 March 2021 — The times when all the burners were lit in a kitchen or of simmering beans for hours are over for many Cubans. Increases in the rate of manufactured gas has redesigned culinary practices and has also put in check the families who cannot pay the new prices, in force since January.

Enma Quiala Povea, 31, a single mother of three and pregnant with another, does not know how she will be able to pay the cost of the “street gas” that she supposedly consumed during the second month of this year.  She just received a 1,000 pesos bill, more than 50 times what she paid last December, and she gets social aid that barely covers the purchase of basic products.

As of January 1st, 2021, and as part of the Ordering Task, the cost of manufactured gas service increased from 0.11 pesos per cubic meter to 2.50. However, the increase is part of a package of increases that also includes new costs for electricity, transportation, and products from the rationed market, which further strains people’s pockets. continue reading

Quiala, a neighbor who lives at Velázquez #514, between Guanabacoa and Melones, in Luyanó, Havana, explains to 14ymedio: “I live with my father and my children and we usually pay between 14 and 19 pesos a month for the gas bill, which is a hundred and some cubic meters per month according to the meter reading”.

Surprisingly, “this February, the gas reading according to the meter rose from the usual one hundred and some cubic meters to 400. That seems impossible, because my father is a Covid essential worker who is always mobilized and there was no additional consumption”

Surprisingly, “this February, the gas reading according to the meter rose from the usual one hundred and some cubic meters to 400. That seems impossible, because my father is a Covid essential worker who is always mobilized and there was no additional consumption,” claims the woman.

“I am aware that if I had spent it, I would have to pay for it, but I am not going to pay 1,000 pesos to allow a collector’s error. I receive 2,860 pesos from social assistance to take care of my children, which is not enough for my living expenses, and I cannot work outside my home. I can’t afford all that money in gas”.

While other rates such as electricity, the cost of contributions to the official press and liquefied gas have been ‘rectified’ after popular complaints, the price for manufactured gas that is consumed in Cuba, especially in Havana, has remained as established in the new economic adjustment policy.

“We are two adults and two children here,” Moraima Ríos, a resident of the Cerro municipality in the Cuban capital, explains to this newspaper. The youngest of her children has cerebral palsy and is bedridden, requiring continuous care, special food preparation and hygiene requiring high gas consumption.

“In this house, our income has practically not changed, because although the fees for the mechanical services my husband performs as a business owner have increased, the resources he needs for his work have increased as well, so now his earnings are practically similar to before but we pay more for everything, including gas.”

“I had to go to complain, but before doing so, I needed to pay the bill, because they told me that the case cannot be reviewed unless the bill is paid in full.”

During the month of February, the family received a bill for 1,260 pesos for the consumption of manufactured gas that month. On the street where they live in the Cerro neighborhood, most of the neighbors “got the same surprise” when they reviewed their accounts. “I had to go to complain, but before doing so, I needed to pay the bill, because they told me that the case cannot be reviewed unless the bill is paid in full.”

Since March began, Ríos barely lights the stove. “I have become afraid of the kitchen because one does not know how much the gas bill will be later,” she explains to this newspaper. “With these cold days I have had to prioritize heating the water to be able to bathe my son, but I cannot turn on the oven in the kitchen or do anything that is not basic”.

When she went to claim the February invoice, a worker from the Manufactured Gas office, managed by the state-owned Cuba-Petróleo warned Ríos that “the country is going through problems with manufactured gas and she needs to save,” so the rise in price was going to “help avoid waste”.

However, the head of domestic fuels at Cupet, Lucilo Sánchez, recently assured the national press that “there are no difficulties” for consumers of manufactured natural gas, which is processed from existing oil deposits in Cuba’s north western strip.

Cuba produces 3.5 million tons of oil per year (22 million barrels), of which 2.6 million tons (16.3 million barrels) of crude oil and approximately 1 billion cubic meters of natural gas are obtained, covering 97% of what is used to generate electricity and domestic gas consumption in Havana.

“I do not understand that one day they say that manufactured gas is guaranteed and that most of it is produced nationally, and the next day they charge us these prices,” claims Ríos. “I can understand that this happens with an imported product, such as food that is not produced in Cuba, but this is something that comes from our own soil, which is owned by the people.” 

“Since the new rates for manufactured gas were established, there has been a notable increase in the influx of customers”

At the Cupet office for collections to the population at Paz Street in the municipality of Diez de Octubre, an official acknowledges the problem.  “Since the new rates for manufactured gas were established, there has been a notable increase in the influx of customers,” she says.

The employee, who prefers to remain anonymous, insists that the high bills are mainly due to customer ignorance and to bad practices in the daily use of gas. “The population has not become familiar with the new tariff of the Ordinance Task of 2.50 pesos per cubic meter of manufactured gas, where there are meters installed”.

“It will take them time to adjust, but each case will be analyzed promptly. If a customer does not have money to pay, they can request the presence of an inspector to check for leaks. But in the end, you will have to pay for your consumption because the objective is to eliminate undue freebies and promote energy savings and efficiency in the population”, advises the employee.

“If I pay this money, I don’t have anything left to buy food for my children, but if I don’t pay, I run out of gas to cook the food they need. What do I do?” Moraima Ríos wonders. “While I make the claim and they check my meter, I run out of money for everyday expenses.” The solution that she has created for the moment is “to trash some of her furniture and build a wood fire in the yard”.

And she concludes: “The neighbors are already complaining about the smell of smoke, but I don’t want to use gas at those prices and with those surprises. Nor the electricity, either, which is also very expensive”.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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

“Cuba has Helped to Bleed Venezuela, the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg”

Hugo Chávez with Fidel Castro in Havana, in 1994. (Prensa Latina)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yaiza Santos, Madrid | 27 February 2021– Throughout the past five years journalists, behind the pseudonym Diego G. Maldonado, documented in detail, with direct sources, newspaper archives and cross-public data, to what extent Cuba has blood-sucked Venezuela dried, stretching to the recesses of the Armed Forces and intelligence services. The result of this research is La Invasión Consentida (Debate) [The Authorized Invasion (Debate)], published at the end of 2019 in Mexico, and currently in Spain. Its authors answer, via e-mail to maintain safety, 14ymedio’s questions.

14ymedio. When did you think it was time to write this book?

Maldonado. The issue always caught our attention and the attention of so many people because of its political implications, and because we have never before seen Venezuelan Government’s attachment to another country, and so much deference from a president to another government. But we began to think about thoroughly investigating the relationship between Venezuela and Cuba in 2013, after the death of Hugo Chávez. The fact that the president had decided to receive treatment in Cuba rather than in his own country and that he agonized there, was quite revealing of the dynamics he had established with the Government of Cuba.

14ymedio. The book begins in 2009, “Year 10” of the Bolivarian revolution, and ends a decade later. What are the main data that show that in this time everything had gotten worse in Venezuela?

Maldonado. All socioeconomic indicators show that the situation has worsened. Venezuela is today one of the poorest countries in the region. We have had years with the highest inflation in the world, the national currency has practically disappeared, public services have collapsed, monthly salaries, which in 2019 were equivalent to about 8 dollars, today are less than one dollar a month, and more than five million people have left the country. Venezuela was one of the main oil exporters, and today the industry is ruined. You live through the unimaginable: in a country used to having the cheapest gasoline in the world – it cost less than water – there is a shortage of gasoline, and it’s now dollarized. The book details the crash of the economy. continue reading

During that decade, the political field circle was closed. For students of the process, it was clear that fraud and imposition would come by force once the popularity of Chavismo ended. Chavismo summed it up in the slogan “they will not return.” During a decade, we went from the 2009 approval of the indefinite reelection to Maduro’s great fraud in the electoral farce of 2018. In 2015, we saw the last free elections, when the opposition won the qualified majority in Parliament. From then on, with unbeknownst to the Assembly, the Government permanently removed its mask.

14ymedio. In the first pages, we see Chávez say: “Cuba is part of this homeland, of this union […] the infinite Cuba we love. For Cuba we cry, for Cuba we fight, and for Cuba we are willing to die fighting…”, but that outburst did not always exist. The Chávez of the first hour was the one who said: “I am not a Marxist but I am not an anti-Marxist. I am not a communist but I am not an anti-communist.” What was the beginning of Hugo Chávez’s idyll with Cuba?

Maldonado.There may have been a romantic idea of the Cuban Revolution since his youth, but it is very likely that the idyll, as such, began in 1994, when the Cuban Government invited him to the Island, receiving him as a celebrity. It was reinforced from 2002, after the coup, when Chávez decided to entrust Cubans with intelligence tasks to protect themselves against future military conspiracies. The Chávez of the first hour was a presidential candidate and a rookie in power, aware that the Cuban dictatorship was frowned upon among Venezuelans and, strategically, he navigated in ambiguity during the 1998 election campaign and in his two first years of government, when he presented himself as a politician with no other ideology than Bolivarian jingoism.

14ymedio. And vice versa? It is clear in the book that Fidel’s appetite for Venezuela – or Venezuelan oil – coincides with the beginning of the Revolution. The rivalry between Rómulo Betancourt and Castro as two opposing Latin American figures is very interesting: both liberated their countries from dictatorships, but one was a democrat who consolidated his country, and the other, a dictator who destroyed his. When does Castro discover that Chávez can be useful to him?

Maldonado. Everything indicates that it would have been starting in 1994, when Castro received him at Havana airport with State honors, and with greater security in 2000, when he signed the first major bilateral cooperation agreement, which guaranteed Cuba an oil supply under favorable terms and opened the door for all kinds of business.

14ymedio. The substance of the book, from its title, is that the Cuban regime entered Venezuela but not vice versa. Cuba has everything, oil, armed forces within the Venezuelan intelligence apparatus, and Venezuela?

Maldonado. If truth be told, Venezuela has never had any kind of influence on the Cuban government or its decisions. Maduro could not even prevent them from confiscating his participation in the Cienfuegos refinery, reactivated with Venezuelan funds during Chávez’s time. Nor in the Cuban Armed Forces. No Cuban officer is suitable for a Venezuelan one. Venezuela’s role against Cuba is completely passive.

14ymedio. It is known about the medical missions and the oil, but not the entire network of interference. What were you most surprised to discover?

Maldonado. It is a difficult question. Throughout the investigation, many things surprised us, but there were some that struck us in particular. For example, the Chávez government paid Cuban instructors, who had never left Cuba, to come to teach Venezuelan culture and to work on a supposed program to strengthen national identity. The Culture mission, designed in Cuba and bought by Chávez, was one of the grossest political indoctrination operations in poor neighborhoods. It was surprising to hear a Cuban say that he had taken a 15-day course to teach our traditions here as if it were a course in origami.

It was also shocking to discover that in a country with unemployment and underemployment problems, the Government was paying Cuban drivers and tractor operators to carry out land work, or that it imported workers, administrators and secretaries, and even clowns from Cuba, or that Fidel would personally take charge of the purchase of medical equipment for Venezuela and when spare parts could not be bought due to the embargo on Cuba, or that Venezuela would buy old dismantled sugar mills from Cuba as if they were new. There are many more things, but the saddest thing was discovering the scope of Cuban penetration in the Armed Forces and the submission of Venezuelan officers.

14ymedio. María Werlau’s book Cuba’s Intervention in Venezuela: A Strategic Occupation with Global Implications has the same purpose as yours, with the difference that your sources are not only bibliographic, but direct. Where did you find it most difficult to find these people?

Maldonado. There were many difficulties due to the fear that exists to speak about the subject on the part of Venezuelans and Cubans. It is understandable, but the investigation took five years, a long time. Many Cubans who worked in Venezuela and who escaped to other countries refused to give us their testimony for fear that we were agents of the Venezuelan or Cuban governments. Many Venezuelan public employees had great reservations against speaking and did not tell everything. The phone was blocked many times. The biggest difficulty was overcoming fear. Fortunately, some trusted that we would not reveal their identity and offered us valuable clues, information and testimonies to put the puzzle together.

14ymedio. Another thing that is not discussed so much is the working conditions of Cubans in Venezuela. Could you elaborate on this from your experience with the sources?

Maldonado. Certainly, this is not discussed a lot, and it is regrettable because, with the open complicity of the Venezuelan Government and those of other countries, Cuban workers are exploited by Havana, monitored and subjected to a semi-slavery regime. The book dedicates a chapter to explain their situation. They earn a tiny fraction of what Venezuela pays the Cuban government for their work. Out of $10,000 a month, they will only see $300, and the Cuban Government keeps the rest. The case of computer scientists is disgraceful, because Cuba charges for an hour or two what it pays them in a month. They accept it because it is ten times more than what they would earn in Cuba. It is unfortunate for a country to obtain its principal source of hard currency from the exploitation of its citizens’ work, in what Havana denominates “exportation of professional services”, which the world perceives as a legitimate and very normal activity.

14ymedio. In the book, you also show that the history of Cuban meddling in Venezuela is also a history of corruption.

Maldonado. Clearly. All agreements – there are thousands – are confidential, and there is no way to subject them to public control or scrutiny. Neither Cuba nor Venezuela are accountable. Many transactions have been made through companies in tax havens. In fact, some things have become known through document leaks like the Panama Papers. It has been possible to document the losses in some failed joint ventures for the amount that was allocated in the budget, but so far, it is impossible to have a global idea.

14ymedio. Despite the shortage in Venezuela, denounced by the opposition and international organizations, the Maduro regime continues to send fuel to Cuba. Why?

Maldonado. It is unusual that a country that subsidized Cuba, its greatest benefactor in recent years, ended up owing the Island. A government that is not capable of guaranteeing food for its own population, or public services or medicines, and that no longer even manages to produce gasoline to satisfy domestic demand, despite having the largest oil reserves in the world, has gone so far as to import gasoline to send fuel to Cuba.

What is Venezuela paying Havana? We can speculate, but there is no way to see the bill, to know what Cuba is charging, because both governments hide it with zeal. The only thing that is clear is Maduro’s relationship of dependence and vassalage towards the Cuban government. Chavismo turned Venezuela into a satellite of Havana.

14ymedio. Sometimes alarm voices are heard in other countries (such as Mexico, with López Obrador, or in Spain, with the Podemos party of Vice President Pablo Iglesias), who say “could this become Venezuela”? Do you think they are founded?

Maldonado. Each country has its specificities. They are fears that are latent but that we would have to document thoroughly in order to be able to give a proper opinion on whether they are founded or not. There are populist attitudes everywhere.

14ymedio. What are the red flags? How does a prosperous and democratic society start to rot?

Maldonado. I would say that the crisis of political representation, such as apathy or lack of confidence is a warning sign for anyone. Why do the citizens of a certain country stop believing in its institutions, in justice, why does part of the population begin to hear mermaid songs? In the case of Venezuela, the traditional parties took democracy for granted, they did not know how to renew themselves, they stopped meeting the demands of the majority, and they also engaged in personal political revenge. That, not counting the tremendous damage inflicted by corruption. It is not easy to notice the precise moment when the snowball begins to roll downhill.

14ymedio. “Well, Venezuela is not Cuba.” Do you agree with this statement?

Maldonado. Each time, there are fewer and fewer people who say that. In fact, we haven’t heard it in a long time. Venezuela is not Cuba – let’s say that technically there is one difference or another – but it is quite similar. Both countries share a lack of liberties and economic precariousness. And their peoples also share a lack of hope. That, perhaps, is the worst. The Venezuelan government has gone to great lengths to destroy what was once the richest country in South America, and the Cuban government has helped to bleed the goose that laid the golden egg.

14ymedio. Did Hugo Chávez die in Venezuela?

Maldonado. Due to the opacity with which everything was handled, Venezuelans have no certainty as to where his physical death occurred. We do not know if he took his last breath at Havana’s Cimeq or at Caracas Military Hospital, as the Venezuelan Government swore in March 2013. But, for all intents and purposes, the Hugo Chávez we knew died in Cuba. We saw him alive there for the last time. On that island, to which he gave everything, he disappeared forever.

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Editing Clarification: María Werlau, author of Cuba’s Intervention in Venezuela tells us that “it is incorrect” to say that her book is based “only on bibliographic sources.” “[My] book cites numerous direct sources as well as other publications of my authorship that were developed with direct sources”, she adds in an email sent to the Web.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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