Cuban Migration Part 6 – Encounter with Angel, the Gang Member Who Fled from Crime

Río Usumacinta, que divide Guatemala de México. (14ymedio)
Usumacinta River, which divides Guatemala from Mexico. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Alejandro Mena Ortiz, 28 April 2022 — The entrance to Mexico was incredibly calm, it was as if we were arriving home. There was also one of these mobsters there, I guess waiting for a payment. After a while, the guide returned with a very modern Nissan and took us to a warehouse to wait.

I met some Nicaraguans there and we started a conversation.  They began to tell me about the atrocities that Ortega was doing with the elections. That if the country was screwing up, that if it was soon going to be the new Venezuela, that if they were afraid and decided to go out to try their fortune in the United States… They left with the intention of earning money for two or three years and coming back… which I don’t understand, because if they think that their country is a mess…

We spent a couple of hours until they came to pick us up and took us to Palenque along an incredibly long highway, where there were many túmulos (grave mounds), which is what we call in Cuba police officers acostados (lying down), in other words, ‘speed bumps.’

The man accelerated and I thought: “My God, we’re going to die!” Nobody in the car was wearing a seatbelt: the driver in front, two women next to him, one sitting on top of the other, and four in the back, three Nicaraguans and me, very uncomfortable. At 180 kilometers per hour, if the car hits a stone on the road I would have died, just like that, without saying a word.

After four hours, we arrived at Palenque, which is where we changed trucks again. They kept us parked for about an hour and twenty minutes, the seven of us squeezed together. I was desperate to get off and because of the uncertainty, because the cartels already operate directly over us.

Finally, the truck left and suddenly we went from being alone to joining an immense caravan, so huge that I could not see neither tip nor tail of it: they were all nine-seater trucks, all loaded with migrants.

In Palenque they took us to a warehouse, which is what they call the places where they leave migrants, a three-story, though very narrow house. That place was just horrible, and it disturbed me. There were many Cubans inside. It was drizzling and we went in there, all wet and muddy from the coming and going of shoes, very dirty, very dark, with many children. continue reading

It was drizzling and we went in there, all wet and muddy from the coming and going of shoes, very dirty, very dark, with very many children

The children played with each other on very thin foam mats and the mothers were desperate. One approached us and told us: “Hey, you have to go in, you can’t stay there” because according to what they said, the migra (Immigration agents) and the Federals were constantly passing by and shouldn’t see anyone outside. But in reality, everyone knows what happens there. Everything I saw in Mexico was too much.

Luckily, the driver took us to his house, which was on the outskirts, and had one of these empty warehouses, so we were the only ones there. His wife was very friendly, she treated us very well. She made us some fried fish and she gave us a drink. They would say to me: “Look, Cuban, try this fruit.” On the farm they had pigs, birds, rabbits, everything. There, I ate fruits that I had never eaten in my life, fruits I didn’t even know existed.

We slept in a bed each, with air conditioning, though I was already beginning to feel the Mexican cold.

The next day was February 14th, the Day of Love and Friendship, and they had a celebration with streamers and tequila. They gave me beers from Mexico to try and they asked me about Cuba. I wanted to be more discreet there, but I told them a few things. That man belonged to a cartel, according to other migrants, of the Zetas, and God knows what things he must have done, because he had a good position within the cartel. All in all, that man was very sympathetic to the Cuban situation that I was telling him about: he didn’t know anything and he told me that he hoped everything would happen soon, because Cuba must be a beautiful country.

They were planning the route to go to Cancun, because from Palenque they distribute migrants to Villahermosa and to Cancun

That night, three Cubans arrived, two young girls and a young man, who were surprised to find out how quickly I had gotten there. They were planning the route to Cancun, because from Palenque they distribute migrants to Villahermosa and to Cancun. There, they had to board these famous Mexicali flights, from where you cross the border on foot. In other words, there is no river there, they open a small door for you, you cross and you are already in the United States.

The next day, the man calls and tells his wife to get ready, because there are 80 Cubans on the way to the house. And I couldn’t believe it, there was hardly room for 30! But I started organizing with her and I even helped make food for everyone, and they thought I was one of them, and I had to tell them that no, I was just another Cuban.

There, because the world is as small as a handkerchief, I found a person who stood in line at Trimagen, a store in my Havana neighborhood. The man started talking to me.  He used to stand in line holding places for others, for a fee, but that the pandemic… “you know,” and the son was in the US, so he and his wife managed to get money to get out. That entire group, all 80 of them, went by way of the Cancun visa. They protested a lot, because they said that they were treated like cattle and they had paid a lot of money: some about 5,000 dollars, others 7,000 dollars. Each one is different.

Among the 80, there was one who turned out to be Uruguayan, with his heavy accent. So I asked him. This guy traveled to Cuba in 2021, and while he was there, he decided to get a Cuban identity. He did not want to explain to me how he did it, only that it cost him 11,000 dollars, and he told me that in this way, he could get the benefits that we Cubans get, to stay in the United States. He had gone out into the streets on July 11th, but not to protest, just to watch. That’s what the Uruguayan said, but Alison and I speculated that he had some problem in his country, or that he was a fugitive. He seemed like a nice person, but you never know.

That afternoon they finally took us to Villahermosa. The caravan was composed of about eight vehicles and we were evading some controls, but the truth is that everything went great, everyone was talking: the driver, Alison and the three Cubans.

There were two Nicaraguans who were indeed quieter. The driver also thought that Cuba was the pearl of the Caribbean, but one of the girls told him that she was from Las Tunas, where she worked as a teacher, and her income was not enough to feed her son. The driver said: “Well, but if they live on an island, they must have fish, they have to have fish.” I laughed.

We told him that there was a dictatorship in Cuba, and he said that he had lived through hard times in Mexico, but he had never had to worry about what he was going to eat tomorrow.

I left that car quite depressed, after remembering so many things about my country, but I arrived in Villahermosa at a warehouse and since then I haven’t seen any more Cubans. It was a very large and very nice house, very modern, in which I spent four days with 50 or 60 Hondurans. Every morning, the managers brought us food and we distributed the housework to each other: some cleaned, others cooked, others tidied up… The only thing we couldn’t do was be on the porch, in case they saw us.

The driver kept saying: “Well, but if they live on an island at least they must have fish, they have to have fish” I laughed

In one of the rooms where I had to sleep in that house, we had some of these mats that have a blue lining, like a swimming pool, with a quilt, and in each room, for example, 12 or 13 people slept in mine, the men below and the women above, separated.

I thought, since there were no Cubans, who was I going to talk to? but it was very nice. “Look, a Cuban,” many said, because they had never seen a Cuban. In fact, I think not one of them had. Then they began to ask me things and we talked and we had a lot in common. That group arrived at the border together and we helped each other a lot, all the time.

I made a lot of friends with Ángel. He was 21 years old and had two small children, that’s why he identified with me, because I also have two. He told me that he was from northern Honduras, a large area of San Pedro Sula and its surrounding towns, where a lot of gangs, MS-13 and Barrio 18, operate. Ángel became acquainted with the wrong people and ended up being a hitman. He made it clear to me that he did not kill, that he was a driver.

Then he told me that he had to lead the hit men to kill people and once they had to kidnap one on the orders of his brother, apparently because of a drug problem. The brother paid about 10,000 dollars not only to have his brother killed, but to be tortured. He wanted the brother to be hung in one place and skinned alive. When he saw that, he couldn’t stand it and had to leave so he could vomit.

Then they began to ask me things and we talked and we had a lot in common. We and that team got to the border together and we helped each other a lot, all the time.

He saw horrible things, one of the other rival gangs had problems with him and, in the end, he ended up talking to his hitmen friends to go kill all those who were threatening him. So he finally did, he ended up firing a gun and killing, killing people. And for that reason, he left. He first went into hiding, and left after a month.

Ángel has a brother who lives in California who was helping him get out of that movie set environment. As much as they tell me, I can’t imagine something like that in real life.

The thing about the gangs in Honduras is terrible. I heard horrible things about that country, like if you wear a specific shoe worn by Gang 18, without being a member, they will shoot you, or that you can’t drive by with tinted car windows… Alison, the girl who travels with me, is 17 years old and has lived there all her life, but someone who was involved in a gang took an interest in her and ‘made her life a yogurt’, as we say in Cuba [made her life impossible]. He chased her, tried to rape her… Then she told her father, who has lived in the US for 13 years: “Daddy, I need you to get me out of here, because they are going to rape me.” And he, of course, did the impossible to get the money.

Tomorrow

To Mexico City, a 17-hour bus ride, standing.

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Cuban Migration Part 5 – At the Border with Mexico, if You Don’t Pay the ‘Tax’, You Get Shot

We got on a little bus that took us down a rather ugly road, through which we arrived at La Técnica. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Alejandro Mena Ortiz, 27 April 2022 — In that motel there were rooms and hammocks, which were outside, in the yard, and those with the fewest resources stayed there, sometimes women with children. Juan, the trafficker, would then say: “Come to the room, even if you don’t pay me, it doesn’t matter. Give them food, get milk for the children, I’ll pay for it.” The man showed his gentle side from time to time.

There, I also met three Hondurans, to whom I told the story of Cuba, emphasizing what had happened last year and since Díaz-Canel became president, and they said: “But how can it be? Why don’t you go to the streets?” And I explained to them: “You don’t know what a dictatorship is.” When I finished telling them the story, they felt very sad and identified with the cause. They gave me a lot of support and strength. They were very Christian, they told me: “God is going to help the Cuban people. God is going to liberate them.”

These boys were between 20 and 25 years old and were police officers in southern Honduras, and said that there are no gangs in that area and the agents do not accept bribes. In their case, they left because, like everywhere, there is a lot of inflation and their income was not enough. Their intention was to work for a few years in the US and return to Honduras with money because, according to them, you can live there in peace and tranquility. The North is bad.

I also met another Honduran and we conversed, although he ended up stealing some cigarettes from me. He didn’t even know Cuba existed. They assaulted him in Guatemala and they took everything from him. He had to spend three days there, sleeping on a hammock, waiting for his brother, who lived in California, to send the coyote some money so he could continue. continue reading

I also met three Hondurans there, and I told them the story of Cuba, emphasizing what had happened last year and since Díaz-Canel took over the presidency

I spent four days living practically like a king. Juana took care of me perfectly. I requested what I wanted to eat, and then I told her that I needed a coat, a hat, and gloves, because they had told me that it was very cold further north, especially in Mexico. I gave her 27 bucks and she bought me all of that. I gave her a white shirt, the shirt I left Cuba with. I told her: “Look, I wore this shirt when I left Cuba and I don’t think I’m going to wear it anymore, give it to one of your grandsons.” And she, very grateful, gave me a chocolate and an orange that her son sent.

While I was there, like on the third day, two young women in nurses’ attire came with portable coolers and clipboards and papers, asking who was not vaccinated. They had Moderna vaccines, and Juana was missing the third dose, that is, the booster. “I’m missing the third, can I get it?” she asked them. “Yes, come this way, please sit over there.” And in less than a minute they gave her the dose, and filled out her data… and I kept thinking: “Well, in Cuba, even to get vaccinated you have to stand in line.” She told me that the first few days there was a waiting line to get in, but not anymore. There are many people who have not wanted to be vaccinated, for example Juan and the coyote.

On the fourth day I met two other people: the one who would be my guide, who was called El Gordo (Fatso), and a 17-year-old Honduran girl, Alison, who would come with me to the very border, to the Rio Grande.

At four in the morning, they woke me up and, after cleaning up to leave, they told me that, since I was Cuban, I had to separate myself from the group, to go around a border point before reaching a place called La Técnica, where the Usumacinta River is located, which divides Guatemala from Mexico. Of course, getting charged a lot more than the others. So they put 30 people on a wagon and I went in a car.

They took me to a house about three blocks away, where there was a Cuban in a hammock, and told me to wait with him. I got scared and told myself that something strange was happening, because the guy was a bit mysterious.

According to what he told me, he had lived in Russia for three years and, after falling on bad times, with only the 50 euros that he had arrived with, he began to pick up Cuban tourists at the airport, or those who went there to shop, and set them up in apartments. But then the pandemic came and, since his sister lived in the US, he decided to come here. He explained to me that a Cuban cannot go directly to Nicaragua from Russia, but that he had to return to Cuba. From the same airport in Managua, he had gone directly to Santa Elena, without stopping. He was exhausted.

We were there, talking, when a car came to take us both. The driver also talked a lot with us about Cuba, and he too could not understand how people put up with so much, with so much ruthlessness. The man asked us to carry 20 dollars in our pocket in case the police came, and the trip was very tense. I had to lend the Cuban-Russian the 20 dollars, which he did not have, in case they asked us, because we are Cubans and we have to help each other.

There was a huge number of Cubans, at least 40 or 50, with two or three guides who seemed to be bull-fighting Cubans, because as someone in Palenque told me, we are a bit undisciplined. (14ymedio)

The driver told us: “Take these 100 quetzals. If the policeman says something to you, give them 100 quetzals, and if they want more money, give him the 20 dollars and that’s it. There is no more money and then it’s OK for them to kill you.” He told us, just like that.

Luckily, we only found a small checkpoint and the driver said: “Hello, I have two little boxes here. I’ll give you this. It’s all I have, because there may be more checkpoints ahead, if I give it all to you now, I can’t then give it to the others, and look, it’s just two little boxes”. The policeman told him, “Ok, no problem, go ahead.”

Later, when we were bordering the mountains, we had a motorcycle in front of us that was warning us of where there were policemen or cars, then, we would avoid them by turning on a different block. Although it was quite a harrowing journey, I saw some truly beautiful scenery. The geography of Guatemala, in general, is spectacular. If it hadn’t been for the danger we were in…

In the end, we arrived at a little town with barely three houses, and he stopped the car at a grocery store, which are small stalls that are in front of the houses where they sell everything. We went in and bought some chips, some juice and some soda crackers before continuing. We were very close to La Técnica. 

“Take these 100 quetzals. If the policeman says something to you, give them the 100 quetzals, and if they want more money, give them the 20 dollars and that’s it”

There, a man got out of a thicket and almost scared me to death. This guy explained to us that we had to walk approximately one and a half or two kilometers, but not to worry, there was no slope to climb, that everything was flat, but please, we had to walk as fast as possible. On the other side, a man would be waiting for us on a motorcycle to take us to the wagon where the others were going.

We crossed two pastures with barbed fences and some huge cows. One stared at us and the man told us: “Stay still, because if you run, he will come after you.” Finally, we arrived where the motorcycle was. I had kept the 200 quetzals that I had in my pocket where I keep my cell phone, but I had taken it out to film videos and the bills must have fallen on the road.

When El Gordo asked us for the money, of course, I couldn’t find it. So I had to give him those 20 dollars from before, which the Cuban-Russian had already returned to me, and we got on a little bus that took us down a rather ugly road, through which we arrived at La Técnica. It is a place that might seem touristy, but in reality, it is full of migrants: a good number of those who try to reach the United States cross through there.

They sit down on a ladder and charge you a tax. If you don’t pay them, you don’t cross. Or you get shot. (14ymedio)

We had lunch in that area, in a restaurant on the way down to the river, and immediately a man came and asked us for unlocked phones. There, we changed the phone lines that we brought, mine from Nicaragua and Alison’s from Honduras, to an already configured Telcel line, with mobile data and everything.

There was a great number of Cubans, at least 40 or 50, with two or three guides who seemed to be bull-fighting Cubans, because, as someone in Palenque told me, we are a bit undisciplined.

The tickets to go to Mexico are sold there.  I don’t know how much they cost, because our guide bought them. It is controlled by a cartel that manages the passage of migrants.

Our guide knew them: “Hey, guys! What’s going on? I’ve got two little boxes here.” He paid them and we were able to take one of those boats, like a very large wooden canoe, with an outboard motor.  Then we crossed the river, which had a very strong current.  The landscapes were beautiful and I was able to enjoy them.  We crossed to the other shore without any more incidents.

Tomorrow:

Encounter with Ángel, the gang member who fled from crime____________

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Cuban Migration Part 4 – Scare in Guatemala: They Viewed Cubans with Distrust

The agents, we’d been told, had already been paid, but they’d suggested we carry a $20 bill, just in case. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Alejandro Mena Ortiz, 26 April 2022 — That day they woke us up at four in the morning and gathered us together as if it were a show at dawn, grouping and distributing us: some by car, others in vans. I was assigned to go in a hermetically closed truck, with 27 other people. I said to myself: “My God, I can’t believe they’re going to put me in one of these closed things for so long!” But luckily, the trip was ten minutes. And then, in the forest: “Run, run!” and it continued until we got on a ‘coaster’ heading to Santa Elena.

There were many children in that group. With us, there were five: a one-year-old baby and others between 7 and 10 years old. Two kilometers after we were on our way, the police stopped us. The agents, we’d been told, were already paid, but they’d suggested we carry a $20 bill, just in case. It was $20 each for 27 people, just imagine.

Then the guide got out, they spoke, and the policeman told him: “Ok, go on.” We hadn’t even advanced 500 or 600 meters, when the patrol car came behind us at full speed, with the siren on, beeping for us to stop. At that moment we said: “Well, this is screwed up,” because one of the guards got on, with a lot of gesturing and a machine gun, and told the guide: “You’re a liar, I should shoot you in the head.” The children began to cry, a woman began to scream… and the two of them kept arguing:

– Hey, no, look here, the boss…

– I don’t want to talk to your boss, you’re a liar.

Apparently, the man had told him that the chief of police knew about us, but the other said he didn’t. I don’t know if they had not given him enough money.

– I’m not going to talk to anyone, move to one side because I’m taking all of you prisoners. Turn around. continue reading

Normally the guides say that if they take us prisoner, they take care of it, but my faith was a bit shaky at that moment. We hadn’t gone back even a kilometer and a huge black truck appeared, with the famous boss. They positioned themselves in the middle and got off. The policeman would point with the machine gun and I thought: “They’re going to shoot each other here and I don’t know what’s going to become of us.”

But they managed to fix the situation by slipping him some dough, which is what Guatemalans call money, and the policeman allowed us to continue, with the black truck in front of us all the way, making way for us. Thus, every time we passed near a patrol car, those in the black truck were there and waved their hands at us to advance.

We arrived at a restaurant in the middle of a town. It was 10 in the morning, too early to eat, but we had to eat. They gave us orange juice, a tortilla, cheese, beans, beef, very tasty, with onions… They told us that wherever we stopped to eat, we should do so, because one never knew when we could do it again later.

We headed out again, and when we reached a river intersection, we parted ways. I was going to Santa Elena and the others were going to a place called El Naranjo, on the border with Mexico, further north, because they were going to Cancun, to sort out the famous fake visas and be able to fly to Mexicali to cross the border. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard anything from them or from Lauren. That was the last place we saw each other. I hope they have arrived safely at their destination.

When we crossed the river, the guide in the black van told me: “Come, Cuban, you’re going the other way.” And then he spoke with a man in a minivan, which was on route to Santa Elena, and he took me with him. I told him: “Hey, are you going to leave me alone?” And he replied: “Don’t worry, if that man hands you over to someone other than the one I’m telling him about, we’ll kill him. Him and his whole family.” He told me just like that.

He gave the man $40 and said: “Listen to what I’m going to tell you: hand him over there, and make sure nothing happens to him. And if it goes well, I’ll have more work for you.” So, the man took me to a little town, one of those typical ones that have many small markets outside the houses – there was such beautiful fruit, melons, oranges, grapes, even strawberries – and I didn’t understand it.

The man took only me, but in the end, about five more people got on board, and I had to ride while hiding my nationality, because, according to what I heard, if they found out you were Cuban, they viewed you with distrust.

Finally, the man left me in Santa Elena. Just before arriving, I contacted the person who had to pick me up and sent him my location via WhatsApp. He was waiting for me, he got in front of the truck and said: “Unload the Cuban,” as if I were a sack of potatoes.

From there, he took me to a motel, a very humble, simple little hotel, but the truth is that those were the few days I was able to rest from the entire trip, which had been quite stressful until then. In fact, I felt very safe in Santa Elena, in Guatemala.

I met Juan and Juana, the manager of the little motel and the cook, a very nice old lady, very friendly. She had lost her husband in the pandemic and she had to sell everything to go live with a son, but she was building a house thanks to the work the manager gave her.

Despite being what he was, because he was a human trafficker, I saw that man help several people in the four days that I was there. The first day I saw a Cuban couple, his name was Yasmani and he was an ambulance worker in Cuba.

On July 11th, he took to the streets to protest, but afterwards he was so disappointed… The funny thing is that he told me that the next day they were handing out clubs to defend the ambulances’ parking lot, and to beat Cubans on the streets. “But how is this possible?” He told me. So, he came in and said, “Hey, the ambulance is smashed, it can’t go out today.” And he turned around and went home.

“Brother, after what I experienced on July 11th, the repression, the beatings and those who were imprisoned, I said to myself: “I can’t continue in this country,” he told me. He asked his relatives for help, took out a little money that he had collected from a business and set off for Nicaragua.

They were going to take the girl and him to Los Naranjos first, and then to Cancún and Mexicali. They were charging them $7,000 each, in addition to the ticket. By the way, first they had to travel to Barbados, then to Jamaica, with a stopover in Panama and from there, to Nicaragua. Huge rounds they had to do. I didn’t see them again afterwards, because they left at dawn. And those were the last Cubans I saw in a long time.

Tomorrow:

On the border with Mexico, if you don’t pay the ‘tax’ you get shot

Translated by Norma Whiting
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Cuban Migration Part 3 – Armed ‘Coyotes’, Powerful Toyotas to Cross Honduras

We left there at five-something in the morning, and they took us to some mountains in the north of Honduras, next to a steep hill, where one had to wait for the trucks. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Alejandro Mena Ortiz, 25 April 2022 –The next bus, which we boarded at San Pedro Sula, had more capacity than normal, because it had three seats on one side and two on the other, so, luckily, we were able to sit down. I think that on the other bus some people did have to stand up, but on ours they put the bags and backpacks in the aisle and people sat on top of them.

We left there at five-something in the morning, and they took us to some mountains in the north of Honduras, next to a steep hill, where we had to wait for the trucks that were going to take us through that mountain range to enter through Morales, in Guatemala.

We were there, on a muddy hill from the rain, and fear took hold of some of us, because the drivers and passengers carried pistols, some even long weapons. That stunned us, but at the same time we felt protected. We told ourselves: “Well, if these people are armed it will be more difficult for them to rob us on the road, but even if someone has a problem, they will surely shoot him in the head and throw him down a ravine.”

Then, between 20 and 25 trucks arrived and they put 15 people in each one, although there were 12 or 13 of us in mine. In the mountains, the situation was quite complicated. The truck, a Toyota with a lot of engine power, shook a lot as we went near the cliffs and the bushes. Men grabbed each other and made a mesh, protecting the women. It seemed that we were going backwards. Then, a girl from Cienfuegos began to cry; we all tried to calm her down, but she didn’t stop the whole way.

In some parts, where the hills were too steep, and everything was full of mud and stones, we had to get out of the bus, and the men ran as we pushed the bus.  The first two hills were easier and I managed to climb on the bus at the same time as the others, but the third time I thought I wasn’t going to make it.  I’m asthmatic and was thinking: oh, my God, they are going to leave me here, abandoned. Luckily, one of them helped me considerably. He got down from the bus, grabbed me, helped me up and gave me some water. In addition, they all agreed that if pushing the bus again was necessary, I would not do it. continue reading

Throughout the journey, despite being so unpleasant and having mud everywhere, we saw some very beautiful landscapes, with exuberant vegetation, and a river with transparent water. All the Cubans who had been traveling in a now disabled van were washing themselves there.

We didn’t know we had crossed the border until we saw a stone, half covered by vegetation, that indicated it: “Welcome to the Republic of Guatemala”. There, they took us out of the vans and put us in some other smaller, cramped vans. There were almost 200 of us in three vehicles. We arrived at a post where there were many Guatemalan soldiers, with their machine guns, but what they did was open the fence and let us through, no problem.

When we arrived in Morales, they left us in a house on the outskirts that was full – of course – of Cubans. We crowded into the patio of that house, because they told us to please not to stay outside so that the police wouldn’t see us. Inside the house itself, a woman had a table where they sold everything: drinks with electrolytes, to avoid dehydration, soft drinks, water, apples, bananas… A captive audience, we bought some things, although they sold at a fairly expensive price.

The intermediaries that were there said that they would contact the relatives of those who did not have money, so that they could send it to them

Coincidentally, the group of 15 Cubans who had been robbed in Honduras, at the Danlí terminal crossing, was there. Most were from Havana. According to their version, the old man who was driving the van was in cahoots with the assailants, three Hondurans who appeared from the middle of nowhere, at four in the morning, in the dark, with guns that they began shooting into the air, telling everyone to get down from the bus. Then they lined them up and searched them everywhere. They took absolutely everything; they only left them their clothes and coats. Although they had come this far because they had paid for it in advance, they couldn’t continue, because at that point they had to pay more money.

The intermediaries that were there said that they would contact the relatives of those who did not have money, so that they could send them some. At least half fell by the wayside. The rest of us were sent to a small hotel to rest and to continue the next day. They called us by the coyotes’ names. They told us: “Junior’s list, top, money”, for example, although, in many cases, the coyotes already had our money, from the relative who advanced it, so they gave it to us to pay for food and basic things.

From the house in the outskirts to the hotel in Morales, we arrived in something similar to a cocotaxi, whose driver told us: “Do you know that Ricardo Arjona is Guatemalan? I’m going to play a song by him called Mojado, (Wet) because at the end you ‘re going to get wet in the Rio Bravo and this song is about that.” I tell him: “Come on, yes, put it on”. I went with a girl and a guy, and the three of us sang it. There was an emotional moment, because one wonders: “What am I doing here? What am I doing here?” It is a little difficult.

Drivers and passengers carried pistols, some even long guns. That impressed us, but at the same time we felt protected. (14ymedio)

In that hotel there were more Cubans, two from Santiago, with whom I spoke. One of them had the loud voice of a television announcer but multiplied by ten, but it was to make a video call to his daughter and tell her that he might not see her again, because they were going to kill him on the way, and he burst into tears. That made me remember my family, call them and cry too, like them. From Cuba, my wife and my parents encouraged me, told me that everything was fine, although I knew it wasn’t, that their pain of being separated was the same as mine.

That night I was able to sleep, although there were eight of us and there were four beds, two in each. I was also able to bathe, with very cold water, which came directly from a spring.

I brought enough wet wipes from Nicaragua and I began to clean my clothes, my shoes, my backpack, full of mud, as best I could. We were also able to buy water, beer, soft drinks in a small lobby… I spent a dollar on a bottle of apple-flavored water and I didn’t like it. The others bought beer and drank it. I wasn’t in the mood for beer.

Since the food was not that good, someone suggested that we buy some pepperoni pizzas that cost 15 dollars and, since they were very large, we shared them between two. They also brought us three-liter bottles of a carbonated orange soft drink that I loved and drank throughout my stay in Guatemala. Imagine, Little Caesars Pizza… The pizza made our night a happy one; it was a moment like being with family.

Tomorrow:

Scare in Guatemala: they looked at Cubans with distrust

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

Cuban Migration Part 2: Caravan Through Honduras: There Were 30 Motorcycles with 30 Cubans Riding on Them

 Llegando a un retén que se llama Las Crucitas, nos pararon dos guardias, que se subieron y empezaron a pedir los documentos a todo el mundo. (14ymedio)
Arriving at a checkpoint called Las Crucitas, we were stopped by two guards, who got on and began to ask everyone for their documents. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Alejandro Mena Ortiz, 24 April 2022 — Trojes is a very poor village in southern Honduras. I stayed in a typical country house, very humble. However, the food was not lacking. In that house lived three women and a man who knew life in Cuba well, because many Cubans had passed through there before me.

That made me happy, because Cubans are also waking up their Latin American brothers about the lie that Fidel Castro has invented all his life, continued by Raúl Castro and now by Díaz-Canel. We dismantle that lie wherever we go.

They gave me typical Honduran food, some corn tortillas, dried red beans, and beef, in sort of a sauce. They also gave me “fresh” – that’s what they call soft drinks – pineapple and orange.

After resting until two in the morning, we met at a point where we found many motorcycles, about thirty, to undertake the difficult journey from Trojes to Santa María, where one boards buses to Tegucigalpa. I was very happy to see so many Cubans, whom I had not seen since I left Managua. All the stress I had felt disappeared.

Cubans are waking up his Latin American brothers about the lie that Fidel Castro has invented all his life, which was continued by Raúl Castro and now by Díaz-Canel

There was a Honduran there who seemed to be one of the brightest of the group and he told me that he liked Cubans very much because they had the best doctors in the world. I replied that Cuban doctors were also the lowest paid and he wanted to hear more about it. I gave him many examples about the health system, which is presented as an achievement and is trash. He told me that the Cuban doctors who were there on mission were given money by the locals, because they knew that the government was not giving them everything they were owed. continue reading

That also had an impact on politics there. Many Hondurans I met complained about Juan Orlando Hernández, who was recently extradited to the United States, and he told me that they are happy with Xiomara Castro for now, but that “if she started playing funny games, they would remove her.” At the end, when I got on my motorcycle, the man said goodbye to me and said: “Cuban, long live free Cuba!” And he raised a fist at me and tears came to my eyes.

We started to climb mountains, muddy paths, at night, in absolute darkness. We were a 30-motorcycle caravan with 30 Cuban riders. On the way, we also passed five vans, which normally carry at least five people in front and another 15 in bed behind them.

There was an incident on the way, because one of the Cubans fell into a ravine, but he was lucky that both he and the driver got caught in some branches and, with help, managed to get out. The motorcycle was lost, but the Cuban was put on another one and we all arrived safe and sound.

Already in Santa María, the owner of a truck, who had come by a less cumbersome road, said that he was bringing 15 Cubans when three Hondurans assaulted them at gunpoint in the middle of the road and took everything they had. I met those 15 people later, when I arrived in Morales, in Guatemala.  I will tell you more about that a bit later.

There were two yellow buses with just 10 people on them, but many more were waiting to fill the buses. Of course, almost all of them were Cuban, although there were some Nicaraguans and a few Hondurans. We saw each other’s faces and made signs to each other. I said to many: “Free Cuba.” It was very emotional.

The trip to Danlí was pretty smooth, but I had a problem because of a wrong decision I made.

The one who was taking me on a motorcycle had entrusted me to a guide who was taking three Cubans. “Hey, please, take care of this little Cuban. Help him out,” he told the guide, who replied not to worry. I had to continue on that bus, very uncomfortable, by the way, to Tegucigalpa, but the guy told me: “Hey, we’re going to change buses, because we’re very uncomfortable here. It costs five dollars, it’s not much.”

So, we boarded the other vehicle – the number of migrants in that city getting on buses to the capital was amazing – after buying something, a pizza, bread and a hamburger each and a Coca-Cola (all very cheap, like a dollar and a half). Changing buses had not been necessary. At our arrival at a checkpoint called Las Crucitas, we were stopped by two guards, who got on the bus and began to ask everyone for their documents.

– Where are you all from?

– From Cuba.

– Passports?

The man left with the passports, crossed to the station, checked them, came back and told us: “Have a good trip”. Just like that, no more. To this day, I don’t know if they paid for that or if they let us go that easily.

We went through some incredible landscapes, many crops and cattle, and we arrived in Tegucigalpa, a rather gray city. It is very developed, but there they do attack you in a dirt quarter, as we say; they rob you and take everything from you. They tried to take my phone from me when I was taking pictures, but we were able to protect each other.

Something that struck me about Tegucigalpa, something that I had not seen in Nicaragua and even less in Cuba, was the number of begging children. We are not talking about children aged 10 or 12, but of 6 or 7-year-olds. “Please, sir, buy from me, buy from me so I can bring home some water, please buy from me”. Children at that age should not have to work.

Terminal de ómnibus en Danlí, municipio del departamento de El Paraíso, en Honduras. (14ymedio)
Terminal de ómnibus en Danlí, municipio del departamento de El Paraíso, en Honduras. (14ymedio)

There, too, I was shocked to see a 40 or 50-year-old man sniffing something in a large jar.  He sniffed it hard and sniffed it again and again, and I said wow! I had only seen this once, in a documentary, that people sniff to get high. But of course, in Cuba there is no glue for everyday use, much less for that.

I took a taxi to the Sultana terminal, where the buses to San Pedro Sula are taken, and I met three Cubans – there were Cubans everywhere – who told me their stories, almost all of them, in short, the same. Some said, and that bothered me the most: “No. Political problems don’t interest me.” I have heard that everywhere. People are not interested in politics, or political prisoners, or anything.

Those three Cubans I met there were from the eastern provinces. One was from Granma, Daniel, a pre-university teacher, who had an animal business that the pandemic did away with. He left for Jamaica, where everything was very expensive, according to what he said, and then Costa Rica or Panama. Later he went to Nicaragua and here we were. The other two were from Las Tunas, one an engineer, who told me that he had parachuted. The vast majority were 40 and under, many were young people, 25 or 26 years old.

I had to give my contact at the Sultana fifty dollars more, after hearing how he argued with my coyote because the money he had given him seemed too little. After he was satisfied with the money, they took me to a place close by, where there were many more Cubans, Haitians, Hondurans, people of all Central American nationalities. There was even a Russian woman -or from a neighboring country- who came with a Cuban. There were so many people that they didn’t have enough buses to take them to San Pedro Sula.

The trip was hard, about seven hours, with many curves, and in those ‘stools’… but San Pedro Sula is beautiful

Before sitting on one of the stools I chatted with Lauren, a Cuban from the eastern part of the Island, who had lived in Havana for many years. She was about 30 years old, very alert, very pretty. Her husband paid for her trip and she went alone, although she had a child of about six years old whom she had decided not to take with her. So, we decided to go down the road together.

Every seat was taken, and there were about five or six more people sitting on buckets or plastic stools in the aisle. A man, a little older, complained often that they lied to him, because they told him that they were going to take him from Nicaragua by car. He is one of those who were going to pick up visas in Cancun and that’s what they had been told. My friend Lauren had the same thing happen to her.

The trip was hard, about seven hours, with many curves, and on those little stools… but San Pedro Sula is beautiful. There, after a taxi ride, they placed us in a motel full of Cuban migrants. There, someone played Patria y Vida, and it was very exciting to hear it: everyone sang it.

In that room of the little hotel, we were five men and three women. Two of them were brothers and were traveling to reunite with their families in the United States. They had left their mother in Cuba and that hurt them a lot. I saw them crying. One, whose occupation in Cuba was slaughtering cattle, told me: “My chest hurts, because I think I’m not going to see my mother anymore.”

Cogí un taxi hasta la terminal de la Sultana, donde se cogen los ómnibus para San Pedro Sula y allí me encontré a tres cubanos. (14ymedio)
I took a taxi to the Sultana terminal, where buses go to San Pedro Sula, and there I found three Cubans. (14ymedio)

He spoke that the future was in Yuma and not in Cuba, that he was going to work and get ahead, but he also told me that politics did not interest him. There was also another girl from Cienfuegos who told me something similar, and that she had left two children there, one 10 and the other 12-years-old.

That night people continued to arrive from everywhere, but the important thing was to get some shut-eye, because they warned us that we had to leave early. I had to sleep on the floor, there were pitched battles to charge the cell phones. We bathed as best we could, the shower was only a small cold-water trickle, and we left around four in the morning.

They had told us that we probably wouldn’t all fit, so I said: “Let’s sit near the entrance, because that way we can get a seat on the bus”. And that’s when the mafiosos (because there is no other name for them) stood up, organized us, more or less, and opened a small door through which they began to take us out three by three. We were 177 people, 170 of whom were Cubans.

Tomorrow: 

Armed Coyotes, powerful Toyotas to cross Honduras

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

Cuban Migration Part 1: The Volcanoes Route: I Trembled with Anguish, I Felt That I Was Leaving Everyone Behind

My trip began one day at 6:30 in the morning, when a taxi picked me up and left me at the Managua terminal. There, I boarded a bus to Ocotal, in the north of the country. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Alejandro Mena Ortiz, 23 April 2022 — I had never left Cuba in my life, so emigrating was the most difficult decision I have ever made. I had to painfully say goodbye to the people I love: my children, my grandmother, my mother, my father, my wife, my brothers. There is only one reason to have done it: despair.

Thanks to a relative overseas, I managed to arrange a ticket to travel to Nicaragua. My plan was, like that of so many others, to later cross Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico until I reached the United States. Before leaving, many feelings collided within me. On the one hand, I felt very sad and disillusioned with my country, but at the same time, I was looking forward to finally having the opportunity to carve out a future for my children.

During the trip to the airport, I trembled with anguish: I felt that I was leaving everyone behind and that I had a very uncertain future ahead of me. At the José Martí Airport there was a line of 150 people. Even to escape from this country you have to wait in line.

The vast majority of passengers talked about the same thing: where they planned to leave from, how much their ‘coyotes’ charged them, who they would travel with…

I had a very stressful time at Immigration, when, as they checked my details and my passport, they asked me to wait. After a few minutes that seemed like forever, an official looked at me and said contemptuously: “Oh, he’s from Archipíelago [platform].”

I had given my name at the beginning, when Yunior García Aguilera formed the group, but I didn’t think that it would leave a mark on me. The officers told me to relax, but the passengers on my flight were already in the waiting room and I was still there. Finally, they let me go: “Have a good trip,” the official told me with indifference. Later, I heard more similar testimonies: continue reading

they maintain uncertainty until the end. Until the plane took off, it was not clear to me that they would not make me disembark.

The vast majority of passengers talked about the same things: where they planned to leave, how much their coyotes charged them, who they would travel with… Nobody around me was going to Nicaragua as their final destination. It was a mass exodus before my eyes.

The treatment was not very good upon arrival in Nicaragua. As soon as I arrived, I was scammed into buying a Claro phone card for $20 that was supposed to have 13 GB of data and unlimited social networks, among other benefits. The next day, I had to recharge it for 100 córdobas, about three dollars.

Observing Managua from the plane, all lit up, shocked me. At the airport and on the way to the hotel, many advertisements, cafes, restaurants. The hotel was nothing to write home about, but it was cozy and had a pool. However, no one was swimming. It is hot in Managua and no Cuban goes swimming, because everyone knows what they are there for.

The first day I went out with a guy I had met and we passed by a gas station. My impression was great when we entered that tiny gas station and saw the immense variety of products they sold: all kinds of gum, chocolates, soft drinks, hotdogs… And that still hadn’t reached Walmart. I can’t even describe here what I felt when I saw all that abundance, all that immense space, with so much and so much merchandise, so varied. I didn’t even know in what direction to walk.

Then I felt very sad. I didn’t understand why we didn’t have these things in my country, why we have to go through so much trouble to buy a piece of frozen chicken or some hamburger meat or some eggs to be able to eat. When I got back to the hotel I talked to my family on WhatsApp and I got a lump in my throat, I felt very powerless to be able to have all that here and that they didn’t have it there.

The coyotes came to pick up many Cubans here during the first day and a half that I was there. I met two of them. One was a medical student in Cienfuegos and he told me that he had to take advantage of the opportunity, because in the third year they are regulated and they cannot leave Cuba. The boy has family abroad and he paid $6,000 to be dropped off at the border. He was nervous and I tried to calm him down by encouraging him.

One was a medical student in Cienfuegos and he told me that he had to take advantage of the opportunity, because in the third year they are regulated and they cannot leave Cuba

The other was named Lazarito, a slightly confused boy, from Havana. His father is in the US and paid for his ticket, in addition to the $7,000 for the coyote. He was even more nervous, because the coyotes had to come pick him up at 6:00 in the morning. They arrived at 8:00 and he finally left with them.

My trip began one day at 6:30 in the morning, when a taxi picked me up and left me at the Managua bus station. There, I boarded a bus to Ocotal, in the north of the country.

It was a very calm trip, very beautiful, the landscapes caught my attention, the fields of Nicaragua are planted, not like those of Cuba. On the way, I talked with Brenda, a 38-year-old Nicaraguan who lives in Ocotal but works in Managua, and she told me that she has three children. She works in the house of a rich man, she told me, taking care of the children, and she only gets four days off a month. During those four days, she takes a bus, takes care of her family and returns, and spends one more month locked in that house. She has been doing it for 5 years, she says, to ensure a future for her children.

Managua Terminal from where buses leave for Ocotal. (14ymedio)

I got off at Ocotal, which despite being a small town has many things, something that continues to impress me wherever I go. There, something caught my attention that I did not see in Managua: a lot of Sandinista propaganda. I arrived at my guide’s house, where I rested and was able to taste Nicaraguan beer, La Toña, very tasty, very similar to the Cuban Cristal, which brought back many memories. In the afternoon, we left for the border, a fairly long journey but in a very comfortable van.

It was night when we arrived at the border crossing, which connects the municipality of Jalapa, in Nicaragua, with a very small town called Trojes, in southern Honduras.

There, we got out of the car in the middle of a field and had to cross an area of crops that measured about 400 meters, in total darkness. There was practically nothing to be seen and we had to walk fast so that the police would not catch us. On the other side, there was a barbed wire fence, and a man with a motorcycle was waiting for me. The guy revved it up to about a million mph, and it was cold. My forehead froze, but in just three minutes, I was already in Trojes.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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Tomorrow: Caravan through Honduras — there were 30 Cubans traveling on motorcycles.

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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 Burglar Steals from the Same House Twice and Remains Free Despite Complaints

Liss Echevarría González, the property owner, points to the garage from which the motorcycles were stolen. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 April 2022 — A family from Nuevo Vedado, in Havana, still does not know if they are living inside a movie with a lousy script. A thief has broken into their home twice, and the alleged perpetrator has yet to be arrested or brought to justice. Desperate, the victims have chosen to make known publicly the irregularities of their case.

It all started when Radiel, 26, entered Omar Díaz Escaurido’s and Liss Echevarría González’s house at dawn on July 29th, 2021. Accompanied by other accomplices, the young man picked the exterior gate lock, entered the garage and stole two motorcycles. He took advantage of the fact that the couple was sleeping and that 38th Street and Zoo Avenue, where they live, is located in an area of the city with little traffic.

After noticing the vehicles’ absence, the couple knew who the culprit was, since they knew him as a client of the mechanic shop that Díaz runs in his home. In addition, one month earlier, the impatient thief had posted on social networks an ad for the sale of those motorcycles. With that suspicion, they reported him to the police. The uniformed men arrived at Radiel’s house, found the vehicles and recovered them.

It seemed that the situation was over, but an unexpected turn of events awaited the family. The investigators accused Radiel of a crime of reception (concealment of stolen goods) and not that of robbery with force in an inhabited house. The difference is one year in prison in the first case, 30 years behind bars in the second. In addition, the defendant was able to be released pending trial. continue reading

Barely three months later, the same criminal broke into the house for a second time and stole again.

The padlock on this outer fence was broken to get into the house. (14ymedio)

The victims would still have to live a disturbing déjà vu. After just three months, the same criminal entered their house for a second time and stole those two motorcycles again, plus a third one.

The same day of the robbery, Radiel had an accident while driving one of the stolen vehicles. He ended up in the hospital with a broken leg and his victims saw in that mishap the opportunity to call the attention of the police authorities. Now the thief was not going to be able to escape the iron hand of justice, or so they thought.

But the response of the uniformed men was not what they expected. Since the suspect was convalescing, the police officers at the Zapata y C Street station in El Vedado argued that they could not interrogate him in this condition and that they were not going to include all the documentation obtained when analyzing the scene of the traffic accident in the investigation file.

Dissatisfied with the police process, the couple managed, after much pressure, to have the case transferred to the Technical Department of Criminal Investigation on Picota Street, in Old Havana. But the transfer of the file did not start off on the right foot. The new investigators refused to prosecute the offender, citing his state of health.

Radiel took advantage of that time and sold the vehicles for parts, according to what his victims denounced to 14ymedio. The complaints to the municipal and provincial prosecutors, to the Department of Attention to Citizenship of the Ministry of the Interior and, much less, the letters sent to the Council of State were of little use. So far, all those claims seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

“There has been negligence and, in some way, abuse of power, especially when we, who are the victims, have been treated like criminals”

Diaz keeps his clients’ motorcycles that are undergoing repairs in this garage. (14ymedio)

The family also complains of the mistreatment received during their complaints. “There has been negligence and, in some way, abuse of power, especially when we, who are the victims, have been treated like criminals,” says Liss Echevarría forcefully.

To highlight the absurd situation, the family has sent a lengthy complaint to all official or independent media outlets that they know. Last Sunday, Echevarría showed this newspaper the garage of the house where both robberies occurred. The motorcycles of clients whose vehicles Diaz repairs are kept in the place, so it is not uncommon for there to be several of them every day.

Echevarría clings to a miracle: that the publication of his complaint reaches the ears of high-ranking police officers in Havana. “We have tried to arrange an interview with Colonel Moraima Bravet Garófalo, head of the General Directorate of Criminal Investigation of the Ministry of the Interior, who we have been told is very strict, but we have not been able to get her to assist us,” he lamented.

“I’m hopeful that when her name comes up in the media, she’ll know we want her to listen to us.” The couple is tossing a bottle into the turbulent sea of so many reports of theft that are heard throughout the city.

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 Cries of Cuban Bread Consumers Reach the Official Press

Some residents consider that the now restricted product could no longer even be called “bread”. (Escambray)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Havana, 28 March 2022 — The excuses of Cuba’s Provincial Food Industry Company (EPIA) about the poor quality of the bread sold through the ration book do not convince even the official press. This Monday, the newspaper Cinco de Septiembre published a long article against what it calls “the prevailing impudence in the production of the valuable food.”

The local newspaper refers to, specifically, an EPIA statement published on Facebook where the state-owned company claimed, while defending itself from criticism received from consumers’ criticism, that what affects the “correct preparation of the final product” is the wheat flour that it gets, which “has weak quality characteristics.”

In spite of the efforts of master bread makers, workers and directors striving for creating a quality product,” EPIA acknowledged that, “The bread that is obtained is coarse, uneven, it crumbles to the touch and has little volume, darkened color, strong musty smell and an acid taste caused by the longer-than usual fermentation time in order to obtain the dough.”

Similarly, they predicted that this situation would continue, “taking into account that the wheat flour in reserve for the coming months has the same characteristics.”

The note in Cinco de Septiembre, entitled El Infortunio del Pan (The Bread Misfortune), a “soap opera reruns” says that such a response from EPIA “stoked the fire,” and states that “around 75% of users” questioned “the arguments presented,” considering them “excuses,” “regrets,” “unjustifiable justifications” and a “script that no one believes any more.” continue reading

“They are fodder wheats from second and third harvests from nations such as France, and occasionally from Argentina and Germany,” the official details

“The wheat we receive today is not ideal but it’s what the country can afford to buy,” Esther Arbolay Escobar, head of the Cienfuegos Cereals Base Business Unit Laboratory, told the provincial newspaper. “They are fodder wheats from the second and third harvests from nations such as France, and occasionally from Argentina and Germany,” the official details, admitting: “They are of terrible quality, with a high percentage of impurities, because they contain seeds from the field, corn, and sometimes they even have a mixture of green peas.”

However, the report continues, the certificates issued by the National State Inspection Office (ONIE) of the Ministry of the Food Industry in Villa Clara, “validate the levels of confidence” of the flour produced in Cienfuegos, and certify that “it is in perfect condition and meets the conditions in terms of smell, color, and other parameters.”

The poor quality of the material is not the only problem with bread, they argue from EPIA in the note. Thus, another official of the company, Jeny Hurtado Alejo, alluded to the fact that “we have not won in workers individual improvement,” that is, that the workers also have more responsibility.

In addition, “the technological conditions of the bakeries” are influencing factors. The director of EPIA, Magaly Torres Abreu, says that “the 48 installed Chinese modules” are deteriorated, and that “the breakages cause some to assume the load of others, but they no longer have the capacity for that.”

Laments abound not only among consumers, but also among bakers, such as Julián Alberto Brunet Abreu, who says that, at the Santa Elena bakery, near the Paquito González Cueto Pediatric Hospital in Cienfuegos, “even the carts to move the bread are in poor condition, and we run the risk of dropping the product when moving it from the oven to the stove.”

According to data from the ONIE in Cienfuegos, during 2022, some 14 bakeries – 11 from EPIA, and three from the Cuban Bread Company, which supplies outside the regulated basket and whose product has a slightly better quality – have been fined, “fundamentally, due to the low weight of the product,” says Cinco de Septiembre, which, they add, “has nothing to do with the quality of the raw materials.”

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.

July 11th Protests ‘Risked the Nation’s Stability’, Cuban Regime Declares

Protests in Cárdenas during July 11. (Girón)

14ymedio bigger

The long prison sentences that the Cuban courts have been imposing on the July 11th (11J) protesters in Havana are taking their toll on the courts’ public image, even there, where they preserve it. That some people from the ruling party’s orbit, among whom is troubadour of the Revolution, Silvio Rodríguez, who has publicly criticized the sentences, has encouraged the regime to start a campaign to justify the sentences.

This Friday, Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party published a piece, which, despite being titled Victimizing the Victimizers is the Enemy’s Strategy, is not included in the opinion section, which defends the thesis that people judged for the acts of July 11th “put the stability of the nation at risk.”

The article begins with three brief testimonies of people allegedly attacked in the maelstrom of the demonstrations, two of them, police officers from Havana, who were involved in the altercations. Two others are public officials who, according to Granma, were carrying out tasks related to the pandemic, although they were not injured in that context but rather for “defending the material assets of the people.”

The text also mentions the alleged attack on the Cárdenas hospital, of which there is no graphic testimony, only the statements of several people to Cuban television

One of them, Reynaldo Rosado Roselló, head of logistics at the University of Informatics Sciences and who suffered a wound to the forehead, reported in July that the events occurred when he went with several colleagues to the area of the disturbances, although Granma infers that the demonstrators were the ones who appeared before institutions that housed patients.

The article also mentions the alleged attack on the Cárdenas hospital, for which there is no graphic testimony, only the statements of several people on Cuban television.

According to the Granma note, on July 11th, “violence, disorder and vandalism prevailed” and they accuse “the enemies of the Revolution” of trying to “portray the Cuban people’s demands as just.” Although the article admits that there was a lot of discontent among the population, it argues that the people who peacefully expressed their discomfort withdrew when they saw that “that unbridled mob had no sincere demand, but rather responded to external interests that were not at all beneficial to the people.” continue reading

The ruling party defends itself by insisting that the people who have been severely penalized were violent and looters, not political prisoners

The ruling party defends itself by insisting that the people who have been severely penalized were violent and looters, not political prisoners. However, the highest sentences in the case of Havana recently, or in Holguín last month, have not been for those who were accused of committing violent acts, but for sedition.

This is one of the most serious type of crime in the legal codes of every country, because it involves standing up against the government in order to overthrow it. But the demonstrations against the authorities in democratic countries, in which slogans and insults are shouted against the leaders who are held responsible for the problems of the population, are part of freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate. In the event that they result in some act of vandalism or violence, the fine or penalty for that act is applied but the protester is not accused of sedition, as has happened in Cuba in these processes.

However, the Granma note insists: “Impunity, when order and citizens’ peace are at stake, is something that we will never allow, because no one is above the law in Cuba.”

The article emphasizes that the protesters actions were instigated from abroad, which aggravates the situation

The article emphasizes that the protesters actions were instigated from abroad, which aggravates the situation. “Those who provoked such acts, who incited chaos, were in many cases far from Cuba, calmly and coldly observing the result of their actions and, of course, counting the dollars they received as payment,” the newspaper says, before emphasizing that Cubans decide their destiny in their own way “with creativity, with depth of thought, with peace, with love and commitment… Anyone who thinks that it can be otherwise is guilty of being naive,” it warns.

The article is an extension of the podcast published hours earlier by Cubadebate in which statements by alleged witnesses and victims of the “violent acts that cannot be denied” are inserted. The prolific dissemination of audios of those who corroborate the government’s version is striking, compared to the absolute absence of those who deny it. In that program, they also show notable annoyance with the Spanish newspaper El País, which published an editorial this Thursday against the 11J trials entitled “Ruined Lives in Cuba.”

The interviewees do not explain that what bothers them is the journalistic approach but, curiously, that the newspaper is dealing with a topic that is outside its borders “given all the problems Spain has.” This same Friday, Cubadebate highlights the million deaths from Covid-19 in the US and the marches in Serbia on the anniversary of the NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999.

The interviewees do not explain that what bothers them is the informative treatment but, curiously, that the newspaper is dealing with a topic that is outside its borders “given all the problems Spain has”

The program also dedicates several minutes to accusing the United States of hypocrisy for asking Cubans on their social networks not to risk traveling illegally to the country, while the country fails to comply with immigration agreements, leaving those who intend to leave the country without the legal channels to do so. Adding that, of course, that people leave for economic reasons, “which they try to say is political exile.”

The message is in line with the umpteenth statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs this Thursday, highlighting that Cubans are traveling to Guyana to access US consular services in that country, because of the lack of measures aimed at reactivating services in Havana.

To counteract the effect of intellectuals, inside and outside of Cuba, critics of the 11J sentences, whose discontent was reflected in their Manifesto Against Silence, for justice, signed by more than 40 personalities from, among other fields, the cinema, the press and literature. The Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) and the Hermanos Saíz Association have published their own articles.

“We can discuss any opinion about our reality, and we do so with total freedom. But we do not accept the maneuver of only using concerns to serve as an instrument for the enemies of the Homeland”

In it, they accuse the signatories of the Manifesto – “of different origins, of dissimilar professional results, most of them residing outside of Cuba” – of assuming the representation of Cuba’s intelligentsia, which, immediately afterwards, they attribute to themselves.

What they describe as a pamphlet turns out to be, in their opinion, “a condensed falsification in a few lines, without a hint of serious analysis” of the “riots of July 11th and 12th“, and they ignore “the embargo and the external aggression.”.

“We can discuss any opinion about our reality, and we do so with total freedom. But we do not accept the maneuver of using fair concerns to serve as an instrument for the enemies of the Homeland. They are not interested in the poor, nor do they intend, in any way, to solve the problems that affect the conditions of their material and spiritual life,” the article concludes.

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.

How to Overthrow the Cuban Regime from a Havana Barbershop

Facade of a private barbershop in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 March 2022 — Regardless of the more than a thousand political prisoners, the surveillance of any place where a riot could take place – the latest one, the Embassy of Panama – the harassment of any discordant voice, the discrediting of activists and opponents in the official media, small corners of freedom of expression are proliferating more and more in Cuba.

They do not shout in the streets, as in the unexpected demonstrations of July 11th, silenced with repression, threats and trials with disproportionate sentences; nor do they confront the authorities directly. But an insinuation on a bus, in a taxi or in the chicken line is enough for Cubans to launch their opinions, in many cases against the government, without any type of censorship.

The next scene took place in a barbershop in a Havana neighborhood. The names are pseudonyms, but the conversation happened, word for word. It is a sign that ordinary Cubans not only feed on information outside the state press and television, on social networks and independent media, but that they are no longer silent.

Roberto: Do you remember when Marrero said that the repair and construction of hotels were for the good of our people? Later, they recorded a telephone call that his sister was on, they posted it on social networks, detailing everything she had for sale: aluminum marquetry, windows and several other things in MLC (freely convertible currency). continue reading

The other day he was reading that he reduced the tobacco quota for all tobacco growers, and I asked myself, what does Murillo know about tobacco? Just smoking it and nothing else

Yuri: And there it is, nothing happened to him. Look at Murillo, they took him out of a volcano and put him in Tabacuba. He will become a millionaire now. The other day I was reading that he reduced the tobacco quota for all tobacco growers, and I wonder, what does Murillo know about tobacco? Just smoking it and nothing else.

Ernesto: We have what we deserve, neither more nor less. We are like this because it is what we want. Look at Ukraine, they are fighting with a power and the whole town is out on the streets, the ordinary people fighting, mixed in with the tanks so as not to let them pass, and they send us a bunch of wormy policemen who are but a quarter of a man and we go silent. We are very damaged as citizens.

José: It is that our ideological politics of so many years has paralyzed us. Since you are a child at school, they are indoctrinating you to be like Che. Fidel was a genius of evil: what of the CDR, the surveillance, the snitching among neighbors… All of this has penetrated very deeply into the Cuban subconscious.

Alexander: The Ukrainians have already tasted freedom. Cubans do not know what that is. Here, the only Cubans who know a little about freedom are those who came out on July 11th and let off steam.

Damien: The Ukrainians are anti-Russian because the Soviets did a lot of damage to them. Too much oppression time, that’s why they don’t want to have anything to do with Russia. The same thing is going to happen here, too much accumulated resentment and hatred. When this system fails you will see how much anti-communism, reckoning and revenge we will manifest.

Fidel was a genius for evil: what of the CDR, the surveillance, the ‘snitching’ among neighbors

José: Speaking among ourselves, who understand each other, don’t you think that these guys here shit their pants on July 11th? Everyone saw that. They were left not knowing what to do, but then the hand-picked one [Díaz-Canel] said that they had to hit the people with all they got and gave the combat order.

Yuri: The problem is that we behaved well, despite all the lies that are told on television. The protests were too peaceful. If they had been violent, as they say, there would no longer be a dictatorship in Cuba. I was there, I saw it with my own eyes: people shouted “freedom,” “down with communism”. The violent ones were the ones [police/security forces] who hit the people with crushing blows.

José: They never saw it coming, never. It was all of Cuba, a chain reaction, city by city, town by town, started to rise. Oh, and without organization, it was something spontaneous.

Yuri: I say that it will happen again. When the people get tough, they are not going to be able to stop them, when a whole people squares off there is nothing they can do, they cannot put everyone in prison, nor do they have the space.

José: They were born again, that day they were born again.

The problem is that we behaved well, despite all the lies that are told on television

Roberto: Did you see people in a town in the interior on December 31st, how they shouted “Díaz-Canel singao” [motherfucker] at a party, a ton of people shouting loudly, listening to and singing Patria y Vida [Homeland and Life]?

José: And in the Las Tunas game, in the stadium, they insulted the Police, to their faces: “cocksuckers Police, cocksuckers Police.” I saw it on Facebook.

Yuri: I keep saying that if everyone stands up, they’ll have to go. They are at a disadvantage. Even the Communist Party is a minority in this country. They have no chance against a million people in the streets, sitting on the ground, doing that is all that there is to do. Nothing else.

Alexander: If they could put everyone in prison, all of us who went to the protests would be in prison. Yomil would have been in prison, since he was there too. They charged those who stood out the most, those in whom they saw leadership potential, those who shouted the most and went into the fire.

Damián: They say that young people don’t want the PCC [Cuban Communist Party] card, I saw it on 14ymedio. Nobody is for that, who is going to want to get entangled to eat fire while the Party bosses are becoming millionaires. They are a gang of thieves and hypocrites.

Take advantage, because what we’re doing, now in April will be a crime, in the new Penal Code

Roberto: The problem is that we have not become aware that we are the ones in charge here, and not them. The day we realize that, they will be finished. When the people want, the people want, and when the people don’t want, the people don’t want. What happens is that we Cubans don’t know about that, the people of Ukraine know that, they took a dictator out, on the streets, camping in the streets.

Gilberto: Take advantage, because what we’re doing, now in April will be a crime, in the new Penal Code. If a repressor sits here and gets all over your face, you go there.

Roberto: Well, I want to see that, compadre, they will have to build many prisons for that.

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.

Anamely Ramos Stands with Photos of ‘Osorbo’ and Otero in Front of the Cuban Embassy in Washington

Art curator Anamely Ramos continues her protests in front of the Cuban embassy in Washington. (Facebook / Anamely Ramos)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 March 2022 — “Enough of allowing a dictatorship to set the rules,” said art curator Anamely Ramos, who announced last Friday that she was camping out in front of the Cuban embassy in Washington. “It is my right to return to Cuba. My home is there.”

Ramos, who was prevented by the Cuban regime from returning to Havana, has been posting images of political prisoners Maykel Osorbo Castillo and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara since last Thursday in front of the Cuban diplomatic headquarters. That day, she shared photos and posted messages on her Facebook account: “Carry your shame!”

In addition, she announced her departure from the San Isidro Movement a few days ago and recited the beginning of the poem Dos Patrias by José Martí by pointing out: I have two motherlands: “Cuba and the night. Or are the two one?”

On Friday she reinforced her protest on her social networks, just hours after posting a message informing that the rapper’s lawyer “received notification that the trial process would begin.”  The imprisoned man has been waiting for his trial since he was arrested last May 18th, accused of “attack,” “public disorder” and “evasion of prisoners or detainees” for some events that occurred on April 4th. continue reading

“Enough already of allowing a dictatorship to set the rules,” said art curator Anamely Ramos

The art curator announced that the police prevented her from “placing the photos of the prisoners on the fence” of the Cuban embassy and she then decided to “wallpaper” a campaign tent where she spends the night. “The lives of those inside Cuba depend on how much we can push. We can do it less dangerously”.

In her message, she stated that “the intention of the dictatorship is to isolate them alone inside. We cannot leave them.”

In a previous message, Ramos recalled that “the UN has already ruled that Maykel must be released,” but the regime decided to put him on trial. “It does so even as Maykel’s health worsens and we remain without an accurate diagnosis.”

About the conditions in which they keep the rapper, Ramos reiterated that “the cruelty of the dictatorship has no limits. She stressed: “Cuba will put on trial a person who is sick, who is innocent and that the UN itself demanded that he be released.”

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.

Four Years of Forced Labor for a Young Woman Attacked on July 11th by a Police Officer in Camaguey

Reyna Yacnara Barreto Batista, being hugged by her father before entering the Granja 5 prison, in Camagüey, this Thursday. (La Hora de Cuba)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio,  Havana, 11 March 2022 — Reyna Yacnara Barreto Batista will serve four years of correctional work with internment in the women’s prison of Granja 5, in Camagüey, for having taken part in the demonstrations of July 11 (11J). The 21-year-old girl entered the prison this Thursday, accompanied by her parents to the door.

According to the independent media La Hora de Cuba, Barreto will have to remain in prison for a few days and then she will be transferred to “work at the camps,” where she will serve her sentence, probably in agricultural production.

The young woman was sentenced in a trial held on October 7th in which the Prosecutor’s Office initially asked for five years in prison for the crimes of “attack” and “public disorder,” and on December 24th she lost the appeal to the final sentence, four years of correctional work with internment.

Barreto has said that when she took to the streets that Sunday, like thousands of Camagüey citizens, the attitude of the protesters was peaceful at all times, and that the aggressive ones were the agents, uniformed or in civilian clothes, who confronted the citizens. continue reading

Before Barreto could say anything to him, he kicked the girl on her left thigh. “A kick from a robust man’s boot to me, a girl all skinny”

One of the police officers, she stated in an interview with La Hora de Cuba, hit an older man – which was recorded in one of the numerous videos shared on social networks around those days – and a boy threw himself on the ground to protect him. “Until that moment nothing had happened; Patria y Vida  (Homeland and Life), ‘freedom’, even the National Anthem was sung” she told journalist Henry Constantin.

Later, Barreto recounted, she also received a blow from an officer, whom she went to confront. Before she could say anything to him, he kicked the girl on her left thigh. “A kick from a robust man’s boot to me, a girl all skinny”, she narrated. All these actions were also recorded on video.

In the arrest of the young woman, which occurred on July 18th, a week after the protests, 15 policemen intervened, and she was missing for a few days. After two weeks in isolation due to Covid symptoms, she was released, but she continued to be harassed by State Security, according to the Cubalex organization in its list of 11J prisoners.

La Hora de Cuba points out that Barreto “has no criminal record” and that “the evidence and testimonies presented against her in the trials do not justify the aggression she received, much less the sentence imposed on her.”

They judge her, assures the Camagüey portal, “because ‘she has not shown repentance,’ according to Elizabeth Rojas, head of the court that presided over the trial appeal.”

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.

Letter from a Cuban Addressed to the Left Around the World

“Tyrannies do not stop being what they are because they define themselves as left or right,” says Hidalgo. (Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 6 March 2022  —  The person who’s writing to you, a former professor of Marxist Philosophy in the high schools in Havana, and author of a book that was chosen as a supplementary bibliography for all writing careers on the history of the labor movement in Cuba and the first Cuban socialists, wishes to alert you of the mistake which, due to ignorance or fanaticism, could tarnish your names before the possible damning judgment of future generations, for placing yourselves on the wrong side of history.

I do not question your good intentions, your loyalty to the cause of social justice and your commitments to all those human beings in this world who suffer from misery, exploitation and oppression, but the Cuban regime is not what you have believed it to be, and it is necessary that I warn you, with words pronounced by José Martí, who was the numen of Cuban independence, about “the violence and hidden rage of the ambitious who, in order to rise up in the world, begin by pretending so they’ll have shoulders on which to rise up, frantic defenders of the homeless,” which did not mean the renunciation of that ideal, since he himself declared that such attitudes “do not authorize souls of good birth to desert their defense.”

I do not question your good intentions, your loyalty to the cause of social justice and your commitments to all those human beings in this world who suffer from misery, exploitation and oppression

On September 23rd, 2019, the New Politics Journal, considered an “independent socialist forum,” published one of my articles addressed to the Democratic Socialists of America, who at the Atlanta Convention had expressed their support for the Cuban Government. In it, I told them that “the social economic system established in Cuba without a plebiscitary consultation was copied from the Russian Stalinist model, an arbitrary and opportunist interpretation of the Marxist theory of socialist revolution, which returned to the most reactionary aspects of Hegelian thought embodied in The Philosophy of Law about a State that should absorb all civil society and all individual wills.”

Teaching classes to workers in the so-called workers’ faculties in the 1970s, I received numerous testimonies from my students of repeated conflicts of interest between the administrations designated by the State and the rank-and-file workers, which made me question the repeated assertion that these were the owners of the means of production, and motivated me to carry out the investigation of the Cuban economic-social system that concluded, as a professor in a pre-university institute, with a manuscript where I expressed my disagreement with the politics and the economic model established in Cuba, which years later would be published abroad under the title of Cuba, the Marxist State and the New Class.

continue reading

I was just proposing a different model of socialism. However, the consequences were my expulsion from the country’s educational system in 1981 and, later, under the accusation of “left-wing revisionist,” I was sentenced to eight years in prison in a sentence that added: “and as for his works, destroy them by fire.” As if this were not enough, I was held incommunicado in a narrow walled cell in the death rows of the Combinado del Este prison for more than a year. Such was the fear of the words of a man almost naked but not willing to keep the truth silent.

I was just proposing a different model of socialism.  However, the consequences were my expulsion from the country’s educational system in 1981

The prison brutalities that I would witness, as well as my subsequent encounter with many other innocent convicts imprisoned solely for expressing their ideas, led me, along with five other prominent political prisoners, to join what would become the first group to defend human rights, which can be considered as the main nucleus of the current dissident movement spread throughout the country today.

I have not yet thanked in the way they deserve many left-wing intellectuals, such as Noam Chomsky and many others, both in the United States and Latin America, for having signed letters requesting my freedom, as well as the campaigns of international institutions, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, thanks to whom I was released in 1988 after seven years in prison.

But the left must reevaluate its vision and its position with the Cuban regime, and its peers in Venezuela and Nicaragua, just as they previously condemned Pinochetism in Chile and Francoism in Spain. Tyrannies do not stop being what they are because they define themselves as left or right. On the contrary, they contribute, as Stalin did in the Soviet Union, to spread a denigrating image of just causes, so they must free themselves of that defamatory ballast.

I have condemned in many articles the embargo imposed by the United States on Cuba, above all because it has served as an alibi for the Cuban historical leadership to present itself as a victim, obtain international support, and justify all the economic nonsense of its misrule, because in reality, Cuba It is one of the main trading partners of the United States, and another type of blockade has been more damaging: the one that this leadership has imposed on its own people for more than sixty years. 

But the left must reevaluate its vision and its position with the Cuban regime, and its peers in Venezuela and Nicaragua

It is time to tear down the lies raised for many years about what is still called the “Cuban Revolution,” because that revolution ended in 1968 to give rise to what I have described as “reverse socialism,” because in that year, with the so-called “Revolutionary Offensive,” not only were the workers not empowered but, on the contrary, what little they had was taken from them: grocery stores, cafeterias, barbershops, laundries, grocery and food stalls, and even street vendors, such as ice cream carts and shoeshine boys, among others.

It is said that there are no longer monopolies in Cuba. In reality, a monstrous absolute monopoly has arisen, the State itself, which has devoured everything, from which we can affirm what Martí himself said about monopolies: “an implacable giant sitting at the door of all the poor.” The lands were not distributed among dispossessed peasants, nor were the large estates eliminated, but rather they were nationalized, so that the State became the “supreme landowner” — which Marx spoke of in Volume III of Das Kapital — which continued to exploit the farm laborers.

A similar fate also befell the workers of the cities in the different confiscated companies: businesses, industries, banks and the media, among others, at the head of which officials were appointed, not because of their ability, but because of political loyalty, bureaucrats who because of their inability, and above all their proclivity to corruption, have dragged the country into misery and plagued the population with endless calamities.

Many of the struggle comrades of that leadership opposed to this model were imprisoned or put to death. Tens of thousands of people went to jail and around two million preferred to face the rigors of exile.

The thousands of Cubans who took to the streets in dozens of Cuban cities on July 11 were not protesting the problems of the coronavirus, as some media said, but the most repeated word at that event was “freedom.”

The comparison is eloquent. If we call the Batista regime a dictatorship, what should we call this one?

The architects of the assault on the Moncada Barracks during the Batista dictatorship that caused the death of numerous people only received sentences of up to 13 and 15 years and were granted amnesty two years later. In contrast, the protesters of July 11 did not kill anyone or use any violence, but the regime began with a brutal repression, resulting in at least one death, many injuries and more than 1,300 detainees, of which more than 700 still remain in prison, including 32 minors, with prosecutor requests of up to 20 and 30 years in prison.

The comparison is eloquent. If we call the Batista regime a dictatorship, what should we call this one?

I will not tire you with more details that could fill many pages. I only ask you to reason what I have exposed to you without passion and draw your own conclusions, and above all, to take into account from which side of history do you want to be remembered.

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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.

University of Havana Offers Unrestricted Admittance Even if Students Fail the Entrance Exam

Archive image of the University of Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 28 February 2022 — All  Cuban high school graduates who want to continue their studies at the university level will be able to do so this year even if they fail the entrance exams. This is how René Sánchez Díaz, an official from the Ministry of Higher Education, informed the official press as he boasted that everyone “will be able to obtain university degrees.”

The results of the entrance tests will only determine the order of the ladder for granting the available places, he specified.

The first group of students who will have the right to choose a university career will be those who have passed the exam with a minimum of 60 points, then those who have failed, and then the pre-university graduates who did not take the entrance exams

Lastly, graduates from Technical and Professional Education, from the Worker-Peasant Faculty, as well as from previous pre-university courses and other cases “assessed by the Provincial Admittance Commission” will be placed. continue reading

Reynaldo Velázquez Zaldívar, another director of the Ministry, clarified that, for now, this measure is of an “exceptional” nature, without specifying the reasons that have led them to take it

The new school year will begin on 18 April  2022 and will run until 3 February 2023, for a total of 35 weeks, which is nine weeks fewer than the duration of an ordinary course.

Reynaldo Velázquez Zaldívar, another director of the Ministry, clarified that, for now, this measure is of an “exceptional” nature, without specifying the reasons that have led them to take it, and assured that the number of places offered is 100,022, 9,000 more than the last year.

This increase in places contrasts with the notable decrease in the number of students getting a university degree. According to official figures, in the 2019-2020 academic year, 88,000 students entered Higher Education, compared to 90,691 in 2015-2016.

The official decision is reminiscent of what happened in the 70’s and 80’s in Cuba, when University education was accessed without tests and when only the students’ grades in their exams during the course were taken as a reference for the ranking.

The consequences of the abolition of these meritocratic customs, together with the indoctrination that has accompanied education for more than 60 years, have caused the quality of university studies to decline, something recognized even by Cuba’s own authorities.

This same Monday, in a note published in the newspaper El Invasor about the malfunction of State companies, an official from the University of Ciego de Ávila stated that they had detected “training problems in Cuban standards in university education itself”.

Since March 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic began to affect the Island, students of all levels have attended classes virtually, through national television

Starting in the 1990’s, with the acceptance of the dollar in Cuba, university courses began to suffer a strong devaluation relative to trades where foreign currency could be acquired, especially in the tourism sector, even if the jobs required little training, such as cleaning in hotels.

In any case, the scheduled dates for the entrance exams are March 1st, 4th and 8th (for the subjects of Mathematics, Spanish and History, respectively), with an extraordinary call for those who, justifiably, cannot attend those first days, which will be held on April 4th, 6th and 8th.

Since March 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic began to affect the Island, students of all levels have attended classes virtually, through national television. After health authorities and the Government decreed a relaxation of the measures, classes have restarted in person and programs have been adjusted so that students can make up for lost time.

Higher education students were the first to join classes last year. They did it virtually through a platform created specifically for university students. This way, they were able to attend some classes that had been postponed due to the closings.

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 Official Cuban Press Regrets that Young People Do Not Want to Join the Communist Party

The PCC leaders are not exempt from criticism of corruption from Internet users. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 February 2022 — Girón, the official newspaper of Matanzas, has bemoaned that militant of the Young Communist League (UJC) who do not want to join the Party are “like children who refuse to eat food without even trying it.”  In an article published on Facebook, the media attributes this rejection to stereotypes about the organization and not wanting to “assume responsibilities”.

The article by Girón, a newspaper currently without a website, details a phenomenon that has been going on for several decades: the galloping loss of membership of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC). The Constitution consecrates this entity as the “organized vanguard of the nation” but, since 2016, it has not published its membership data, which at that time was a little more than 670,000.

According to the Matanzas media, young people wield “lack of maturity and preparation, among other pretexts, to evade the growth process” to the PCC, and classify this as a “worrying phenomenon” given the need to “guarantee generational continuity,” which is in crisis in a country where the aging of the population is one of the most pressing issues on the national agenda.

In the article, the widespread idea that the PCC is “an organization marked by meetings and payment of dues” is branded as an “erroneous stereotype” and it calls for “achieving a creative design” to include young people, in addition to, “softening” the ways in which they communicate and socialize.” continue reading

“They are our continuity, and that is why we must attract them, convince them and make them proudly recognize themselves as members of the Communist Party”, emphasizes the article that has already caused more than a hundred comments, most of them negative and with harsh criticism of the management of the PCC, which was founded in October, 1965.

“Many of us got the card when we were 14-16 years old. When we still believed in the socialist dream of equality, opportunities for all and the welfare state. When our parents shielded us from the harsh reality”

Some, like Jorge Fuentes, point out the immaturity and ignorance with which one enters the UJC. “Many of us received the card when we were 14-16 years old. When we still believed in the socialist dream of equality, opportunities for all and the welfare state. When our parents shielded us from the harsh reality.”

The commentator warns of the process that subsequently takes place among young Cubans: “when it comes to the process of the PCC, at the age of 27, we already know what all the speeches and slogans are about.”

In April 2021, a nonagenarian Raúl Castro confirmed delivery of the leadership of the Communist Party of Cuba to his successor, Miguel Díaz-Canel, after completing the two statutory periods that he himself imposed for high-level positions. Despite the rise of younger faces, the organization is still seen as orthodox and aged.

Other Internet users who give their opinion on Girón’s article point to the desire to emigrate as a strong incentive to reject joining the ranks of the PCC. “Today, young people are thinking of emigrating to another country where they can buy things with the currency they are paid [their wages in],” says Cristian Reyes, referring to the Freely Convertible Currency stores, the few moderately stocked stores in Cuba.

Over the years, the militants of the UJC or the PCC who request a visa for the United States or, once there, when seeking to avail themselves of the migratory advantages offered by the Cuban Adjustment Law, deny belonging to both organizations in order to avoid being rejected from receiving benefits.

“Today, young people are thinking of emigrating to another country where they can buy things with the currency they are paid [their wages in]”, says Cristian Reyes, referring to the Freely Convertible Currency stores, the few moderately stocked stores in Cuba

To which is added that among the sanctions applied to Cuba during the Donald Trump Administration was the restriction on sending of remittances to Cuba, specifically prohibiting the sending of them to relatives of Cuban officials and members of the Communist Party, and limiting them to 1,000 dollars per quarter per person in all other cases.

Among Girón’s commentators, some go further and propose the creation of other parties, so that Cubans can choose which one to belong to. “If the old Family Code of 1975 needs to be changed because it no longer fits the reality of the current Cuban family, the same is happening with the Penal Code of 1987, so you can imagine the PCC,” writes Nayaris Díaz.

The leaders of the PCC are also not exempt from criticism and numerous Internet users point to corruption, the distance that separates officials from daily life and the history of Secretaries of the UJC who have fallen into trouble or have been fired as other reasons for the rejection that both organizations generate among young people.

“The essence of the Party is to put in power those people who are not elected by the people and who blatantly lie to their people,” says another commentator.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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