Cuban Workers Will be Able to Denounce Labor Abuses in a Telegram Chat

‘Decent Work’ is used to obtain information, for example, about how many vacation days a worker is entitled to, but also to denounce their working conditions. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 18 January 2022 — The Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH) and the Independent Trade Union Association of Cuba (ASIC) have created a tool to respond to users about the rights of workers in Cuba.

The service, presented in Madrid this Tuesday, is called “Decent Work” and can be interacted with through an automatic chatbot on Telegram. As explained by the OCDH, those interested should simply search for @dignotrabajo in the search engine of that messaging application and, when it appears, join the group.

The tool is not only used to obtain information – for example, how many vacation days the worker is entitled to, if he/she could do the work remotely, in what situations a dismissal can take place or what Cuban regulations affect the job. In addition, “It will also allow any complaint of discrimination or abuse, in the workplace, that violates the rights or dignity of a Cuban worker,” the organization details in a statement. continue reading

Within the group, a menu allows you to choose between three options: “ask and receive information,” “report” or “request contact.” In any case, the OCDH specifies, they will attend to the claims “directly and personally” and will be informed of the “circumstances or situation” of the interested party’s work environment.

“If you report, remember to clearly explain the reason and the context,” the NGO asks in a video, in which it clarifies that personal data will be treated “with the greatest privacy.” In addition, they advise “clearing the chat history, in addition to the usual security measures you employ.”


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.

Little Sugar Cane and Many ‘Adversities’ in the Holguin Harvest

The harvest should have started in November, but it started late in December. (DC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 17 January 2022 — The López-Peña sugar mill, in Báguanos, Holguín, should have produced 13,000 tons of sugar this February, but it only has 30% of the planned plan to date, according to Reina Salermo Escalona, ​​director of provincial coordination of Azcuba in Holguín.

The official attributes the delays, which are widespread in the province due to the lack of rain and problems with the machinery, to “technical difficulties in the industrial process,” reports the provincial daily Now on Monday.

Two other plants in trouble are the Cristino-Naranjo, located in the municipality of the same name, and the Fernando de Dios, in Báguanos, which have just started grinding, just eight days ago the first and six the second. The “lack of inputs” and, once again, problems with the machinery, have meant that work could not be done in the last month of the year, raising fears of a new disaster for the harvest.

There is still another plant, the Urbano Noris, which alternates its jobs with the López-Peña. This is currently preparing the boilers to start their task next month. continue reading

The objective is to produce 92,000 tons of sugar in the province, with priority to 25,000, say the authorities, of the basic basket. For this campaign, 11,039 hectares of cane were planted last year, of which it is intended to grind 1,060,000 tons, 80% of the plan.

This 2022, 16,000 hectares must be planted in the province, of which 3,5000 must be between January and April, since the raw material is needed for 2023 and the rest for 2024.

According to the official newspaper, there are 87 “productive forms” that contribute their crops to the production of the product in Holguín and now they have the “additional motivation of the increase in the price of cane per ton.” However, considers the text, the work still needs to be perfected.

Although the price of cane has risen, as Now indicates, so has everything necessary to produce it, from supplies to fuel or electricity, among others, so not everything is motivation for the peasant who, furthermore, does not Nor can he benefit from a profit margin that he does not have left, since inflation has also made current expenses more expensive.

Even so, the newspaper believes that the technical force is well disposed, both to grind the cane and to combat “the adversities that are exacerbated by the cruel blockade imposed by the United States.” The blockade song could not be missing , which, however, appears in the last line of the article, as a ritual denunciation.

Last week it transpired that Cuba was once again having the worst harvest in a century. Ciego de Ávila barely executed 11% of the forecasts and a total of 200,000 tons of cane were left unharvested. The previous harvest barely 816,000 tons of sugar were obtained, 68% of the 1.2 million expected and this year, according to Jorge Luis Tapia Fonseca, deputy prime minister, said in November, worse data was expected . “The industry has more or less collapsed. The situation is worse this year than last and it will take time to turn it around.”

The Granma newspaper indicated this Saturday that the Industrial Technical Services Company (ZETI) is trying to adapt by working on some products that can help recover the important product. For this, chains are manufactured for cane and bagasse conveyors, turbines, vacuum pumps, fans, etc. are repaired. In addition to automating systems, updating software and building collection centers or repairing technological equipment.

And while the official press boasts of industrial preparation to alleviate the situation, the Central de Trabajadores de Cuba convened the volunteer work days until the next day 23, emphasizing that the efforts this time are directed at food production, cane planting and harvest sugar bowl


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Kidnapped Animals, Stolen Crops, the Nightmare of the Cuban Farmer

Another unusual crime is the kidnapping of animals: “They kidnap the animal and then call the owner to tell him that if they want the animal back they have to pay.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 17 January 2022 — The wave of robberies in Cuba not only affects the cities but also the countryside, and complaints are multiplying inside and outside social networks. A family from Sancti Spíritus tells this newspaper how 50 quintals  (11,000 pounds) of black beans were recently stolen, valued at 6,500 pesos per quintal. It is the third time in a year they have suffered a robbery.

“The police came and did not take fingerprints, they did not do their job right,” Luis (not his real name) denounces to 14ymedio. “The only thing they did was ask if we heard something, if we suspected someone; they work with the information you give them, not with what they can look for.”

The thieves, says Luis, broke into the door of the warehouse where they kept the beans, next to the house where they live, and the family did not sense a thing. The next day they saw that the 50 quintals were missing. “One part we had already sold and the other was for us to plant the next crop,” details the farmer.

The first time it happened to them, the thieves “went into the house and took all the kitchen appliances” and they had to install bars, says Luis. The second time, the bars did not stop the assailants, and they took all the bags of fertilizer for fumigating the beans. “Only a farmer knows how difficult it is to get that,” he laments. continue reading

The farmer has no hope that the police will solve the case: “On another occasion they robbed us, they left evidence, hair, blood, and they didn’t catch anyone, much less now.”

Luis hides his name and his place of origin because he fears reprisals from the government. “My family doesn’t want to make a complaint, because the State wants the farmers to sell them their crops this year despite the fact that they did not support them with anything. They didn’t sell them a pair of boots, not even fertilizer,” he explains.

“With electricity prices so high, to be able to use the electric turbines most of the farmers did not sell anything to the State, nor did they pay taxes.” If the complaint is made public, he is afraid of what might happen. “They can focus on us and see that we do not meet our commitments with the State, although almost nobody did.”

But robberies are not the only crimes in the rural areas of the Island. Another unusual crime is the kidnapping of animals. “They kidnap the animal and then call the owner to tell him that if they want the animal back they have to pay,” says Antonio, another farmer from Sancti Spíritus. “They have already done it with cows and horses.”

For Manso, 78, a producer in Villa Clara, the wave of robberies “is nothing new.” Every year he and his family face the looting of part of their crops, cultivated fields or infrastructure. “They even take the wire from the fences, so one day you think your fields are guarded and when you get up there’s no fence.”

Manso has been robbed of barbed wire, posts, seeds and animals. One day, the thieves came closer and carried off an iron pot that had been in the family for three generations. “It was not a small thing, in that pot we used to make ajiaco as well as to make soaps with mutton fat.”

Animals, especially sheep, horses and cows, are targeted by looters. To the point that ranchers have to organize night shifts and have improvised firearms from metal pipes. Owning an old rifle, in a country where they have not been sold for more than half a century, can make a difference.

“This rifle belonged to my father and I keep it, you have to improvise a lot for it to shoot but the best thing is that it intimidates. Here in this area everyone knows that we are armed and they respect us a little more,” a producer in the agricultural area of ​​San Juan and Martínez told this newspaper.

The farmer, who dedicates a good part of his land to the tobacco harvest, also has a plot dedicated to root vegetables and beans. “The things that are stolen the most in this part are tools, animals and everything they come across. If you leave a saddle outside, they steal the saddle; if you happen to go to bed with clothes on the clothesline, they also take them.”

“Here to steal, a few days ago they took a pair of rubber boats that belonged to me and that were all shabby, from my son they took several sacks with seeds that he was going to plant and one day they even took the dog’s collar and we don’t know how it happened because he barks at the sight of people he doesn’t know.”

“Here you can no longer sleep through the night, there always has to be someone watching,” acknowledges the producer. “We have to keep an eye on the old tractor all the time because they steal your oil and when you wake up, the tank is empty and the tires or rims are stolen to use to leave the country.”

A Catholic priest, who lives in the countryside, reflects on the pain that the looting causes: “They steal everything that represents the center of a family’s life, even coal, some rice, a piece of wire.” And there is no authority that protect the farmers.


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

‘The Cuban Government is Slowly Assassinating’ Otero Alcántara in Prison

Otero Alcántara was declared a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 January 2022 — Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has rejected the rights he has as a prisoner because he considers that he should not be one, according to art curator Claudia Genlui, who was able to speak with him in what he says was “his last call.”

“He called to communicate, briefly but firmly, that he is at the limit,” the activist wrote on her Facebook profile.

Genlui affirms that the artist and member of the San Isidro Movement, who has been in the Guanajay prison, Artemisa, for more than half a year, had hopes that the precautionary measure of provisional freedom that he requested last December would be accepted, but it was denied by the Prosecutor’s Office, which considers him to be a “social danger.”

“With the denial of this request, the regime demonstrates once again that its only intention is to humiliate him, to treat him like a criminal when he is not,” says Genlui, who warns that there will be no more opportunities to save the artist, who is at the limit. “He himself has said BASTA (sic. – ‘enough’),” she adds.

Otero Alcántara has refused, according to this information, to receive visitors, food and calls. “It’s over. He knows, like all of us, that being in prison is not a dignified option, that his freedom is being manipulated by State Security and that they are keeping him as a bargaining chip. The path that Luis Manuel has taken is not for that, he will only leave Cuba as a free citizen when he decides and with the ability to return when he wishes. That is a right,” says the art curator. continue reading

The negotiations for Otero Alcántara to be released have been going on for months, according to the artist and activist Tania Bruguera, speaking from the United States, where she is now living temporarily. Bruguera said in October that an attempt was being made to reach an agreement such as the one that led to the departure from Cuba of the artists Hamlet Lavastida and Katherine Bisquet, who went to Poland after being released from prison in exchange for their exile.

However, the stumbling block in this case, according to Bruguera, has been Otero Alcántara’s refusal to accept a release in exchange for leaving the country, a situation that also the case with the rapper Maykel Castillo Osorbo.

“The Cuban government is slowly assassinating an artist who has only shown us light, who has built that hope to which we cling today. Now more than ever he needs us, trusts in us,” Genlui added in her post on Tuesday, in which she ensures that she will continue to report any news.

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has been in prison since July 11 and is accused of public disorder, incitement to commit a crime, and contempt. These crimes were charged to him when, in April 2021, he attended a birthday party in which the residents of the neighborhood where he resides ended up singing Patria y Vida (Homeland and Life). Although he was free pending trial, he was arrested and jailed on July 11 when protests began across the country. In 2019 he was also accused of “insulting national symbols” for a performance with a Cuban flag, although the case was dismissed in 2020.

The repression against Otero Alcántara that the State had exerted since 2018 hardened in November 2020, when he began a hunger and thirst strike together with several activists to demand the release of rapper Denis Solís. The action ended with the police raid on November 26 at the headquarters of the San Isidro Movement in Old Havana, where the members of the group were meeting, and the arrest of the 14 activists who were inside the building.

This event prompted the protest of a group of artists and intellectuals on November 27 at the entrance of the Ministry of Culture to ask the authorities of the sector for solutions. Two months later, the events led to a new dispute in which the officials ended up dealing blows to the protesters.

At the end of April, Otero Alcántara again declared a hunger and thirst strike to demand an end to the police siege outside his home. State Security entered his home at dawn and transferred him to the Calixto García hospital, where he remained for a month controlled by the security forces without explanation.

Last year, the American magazine Time named the artist one of the 100 most influential people of 2021.


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 Myth of Cuba’s Education System

When UNESCO speaks of the high level of education in Cuba, it refers to it as “free,”,. but that does not mean the Cuban system educates its new generations well. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Rolando Gallardo, Quito, 16 January 2022–Determining the quality of the education system in Cuba is a task filled with pitfalls and endless assumptions as it is impossible to access verifiable macro data. So much secrecy incites even more suspicion.

In the Latin American and Caribbean region, we know that the countries with the best educational outcomes are Chile — paradoxically, a window into reviled neoliberalism — followed by Uruguay, Costa Rica and Mexico, according to the list created by PISA testing (Program for International Student Assessment), which measures the application of acquired knowledge in daily life after the completion of mandatory education. Cuba does not appear in the data, for one simple reason: it does not participate in the measurement.

In 2013, the tough nucleus of “21st-century socialism”, Cuba, Bolivia, and Venezuela, refused to participate in these evaluations. For the governments of these countries, education was considered a strength of the social processes they developed and they preferred their “achievements” not to be questioned.

Without access to government information and refusing to provide data to international organizations, one must ask from where the idea came that Cuba is the point of reference for the best education system in the region. continue reading

The United Nations itself is responsible for presenting the Cuban system as the paradigm, but if one reads between the lines, the indicators highlighted by UNICEF are not reliable evidence of the quality of education.

When UNESCO speaks of the high level of education in Cuba it refers to it as free, but the absence of a cost does not mean the Cuban system educates its new generations well.

While in Latin American countries textbooks are updated, on average, every five years, in the case of Cuban textbooks, from physics to Spanish and literature, these were last updated between 1989 and 1990, with the objective of eliminating Soviet propaganda and strengthening the unique social nature of the Cuban revolution.

Indoctrination in textbooks from preschool through the last year of high school is the only thing that has not varied in Cuba in the last three decades. This can be corroborated by reviewing the Cuban Ministry of Education’s books which have been digitized.

When a rigorous measure of poverty is applied to Latin American education systems and the real impact of the lack of family resources has on the quality of education is understood, one forgets that Cuba transitioned from ranking as the 23rd economy globally, in 1958, to compete with Haiti on poverty indicators since the 1990s when the USSR collapsed.

Cuban civil society estimates that 51% of the population currently lives in poverty and rural and suburban areas are in extreme poverty. The minimum monthly salary is 19 USD, according to the real value of this hard currency on the black market. The annual income per capita for Cubans is 300 USD, similar to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In a country where the average family income is so low and access to protein has been difficult since 1990, what can be said about the nutrition students need to face classes in the morning and complete their homework in the afternoon.

Despite the palpable reality in classrooms, UNICEF and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) accept, without questioning, uncorroborated data from the Cuban government about “nonexistent child undernutrition” in Cuba. These types of approaches generate more questions about the role international organizations play in the country.

The starting monthly salary for Cuban teachers is 4,825 pesos (70 USD). To support themselves in the midst of runaway inflation, teachers take on extra work as tutors, for which they charge 100 pesos per session (less than 1.50 USD). Receiving tutoring is not an option for all students, the family’s ability to pay determines who has a greater chance to achieve the best test scores and subsequently secure a university spot in their desired career field. Evidence that the “free” system for all is just a cover for the surreptitious social Darwinism of the system.

The idea we have in Latin America of an average quality education includes the use of the internet and information technologies. In Cuba, this vision is limited to learning the parts of a computer and mediocre use of Microsoft’s Office package. Social access to the internet was approved in the country in 2013 and its use as a resource for research and classwork is a dream which still has not arrived, in accordance with the state policy of maintaining a traditionalist system of education.

The layout of classrooms, the forms of organization, the methodologies, and the promotion of innovation are static and eminently theoretical; in practice, the changes in the last 40 years are barely perceptible. Among the transformations that require a meritorious mention is the implementation of inclusive education policies, which integrated special needs students who formerly were destined for special schools. The first students to be integrated with average students were children and adolescents from reform schools, where they were marginalized as juvenile delinquents until 2003, when they were assigned to regular schools.

Despite these changes, teacher training has had to deal with massive desertion, constant migratory crises, and demotivation as a result of the lack of financial incentives and the declining social recognition of teachers, who are viewed as the spokesmen and spokeswomen of a totalitarian regime and responsible for decades of indoctrination.

Faced with this crisis, in 2000 Fidel Castro opened Emerging Teacher Training Schools, which as their name suggests, train teachers in an accelerated manner. At first, teachers were expected be ready to go to the classroom in six months, later it was after a year. This fix reduced the prominence of university education for teachers and spread the learning weaknesses of these adolescents-turned-teachers.

The dictator’s direct intervention in public education policies resulted in the systematic destruction of the management structure in schools. It reached the point of assuming that a secondary school teacher could teach physics, mathematics, literature, chemistry, and art under the assumption that if “Aristotle could teach his disciples several sciences, integrated general teachers (PGI) could as well.” In the end, the PGI were unable to offer a deep knowledge in anything, though they were required to talk about everything.

Twenty years after the “Emergent Training” disaster, 70% of the teachers in the country at all levels of Cuba’s education system are the result of poor training. When we pay attention to academic training and teaching practices, that should be an indicator when determining the quality of the education provided in Cuba.

Putting these data in the context of the Cuban reality, we should reconsider whether its education model should be the paradigm for Latin America. How many of us would be willing to guarantee free education accessible to all at the expense of our individual liberties? How many parents would choose an ideological education with explicit indoctrination? How many teachers would prefer an education model that is static, traditionalist, in addition to being the lowest paid in the western hemisphere? Some stories are poorly told.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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 Nature of Dictatorships

Fidel Castro with former President of the Spanish Government Felipe González and Daniel Ortega. (EFE/File)

“Totalitarian tyranny is not built on the virtues of totalitarians, but on the faults of democrats.”

Albert Camus

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 18 January 2022 — In popular culture there is a well-known a fable, attributed to Aesop, where a scorpion, to cross the river, asks a frog to allow it to climb on its back. Faced with the amphibian’s doubts, the scorpion offers a reasonable explanation: there is nothing to fear, because if it were to sting her, both would drown. The frog recognizes the logic of the argument and agrees to carry it across. But when they are only halfway across the river something unusual happens: the scorpion sticks its stinger in the frog’s back and the poison begins to paralyze his assistant. The frog, fatally surprised, wonders how such a thing could have happened. And the scorpion, before sinking, offers him a crushing answer: I’m sorry, it’s my nature.

International institutions have been too ambiguous in the face of openly anti-democratic regimes. It is shameful that the longest-running dictatorship in Latin America occupies a seat on the UN Human Rights Commission and that it will remain there, quietly, until the year 2023. The regime in Havana has brutally repressed popular demonstrations, has acknowledged not believing in the separation of powers, has locked up hundreds of protesters, including children, and has handed out very high sentences much more naturally than it distributes rationed bread. If even more human rights have not been violated in Cuba, it is simply because the Universal Declaration has only thirty articles. It would suffice to say that the mere fact of sharing that document has been considered by the police, on several occasions, as a subversive act.

In Nicaragua, days ago, the scorpions have celebrated their party. Smiling broadly, Nicolás Maduro, Miguel Díaz-Canel and Daniel Ortega pose before the cameras. As it seems a small thing to them to laugh at their own people, now they also laugh at the world and invite a criminal wanted by Interpol to pose with them. Mohsén Rezaí, accused of the attack that left 85 dead and more than 300 wounded in Argentina, held “cordial working meetings” with the Cuban dictator. But it is not surprising that totalitarians in the region celebrate fraud, meet with terrorists or mock democracies. What is outrageous is that legitimate governments feign political dyslexia or ideological strabismus. continue reading

Franklin Delano Roosevelt coined a phrase about ’Tacho’ Somoza, later copied by Henry Kissinger to refer to the second dictator with the same last name: “Yes, he’s a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.” And that is precisely what some democratic governments, with progressive agendas, think about the dictators of the Venezuela-Cuba-Nicaragua triumvirate. Going out to defend them is already extremely scandalous, which is why some leaders opt for a less obvious action: to remain silent.  That complicity might sound like “comradeship” if it were the teenage members of a soccer team, but here it is about world leaders who hold the destinies of millions of people in their hands. And that gang mentality is a dangerous time bomb in a historical context marked by instability and polarization.

An effort must be made to understand the logic of some institutions or governments in their relationship with dictatorships. The Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and Cuba clearly states among its objectives “the strengthening of human rights and democracy.”

Forgive me if I insist here on recalling Aesop’s fable, but it is very clear that said agreement, beyond the strategic and economic interests it pursues, is turning out to be a complete failure.  Poverty and repression in Cuba are growing at a dizzying pace, while any hint of a negotiated solution collapses. The dictatorship strengthens its ties with China and Iran, while Russia threatens to move troops to Cuban soil. The regime does not know how to stay in power by means other than force, meanwhile ordinary people find no way out other than fleeing the country at whatever price.

Riding the scorpion’s back is not a gesture of solidarity, it is a reckless bet. The sting is not only constantly piercing the flesh of civil society, but also threatens the credibility of lavish global institutions, unable to prevent outbreaks in territories where chaos was predictable. What are we playing at? Dictatorships do not hide their nature, why, then, are they still on your back?


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.

Obispo Street Protesters are Fined and Pressured to Leave Cuba

The demonstrators agreed “to pay a fine but that it be a smaller amount.” (Mary Karla Ares/Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 January 2022 — The demonstrators of Obispo Street, who spent several months in prison, were informed this Monday in Villa Marista, the State Security headquarters in Havana, that they will receive an “administrative fine” in order to conclude the judicial process against them.

“Serving prison for the alleged fabricated charges of resistance and public disorder is unfair and also paying such a high amount of money [7,000 pesos] is doubly illegal,” independent reporter Mary Karla Ares, denounced on her social networks. She was arrested last year on April 30 together with Thais Mailén Franco Benítez, Yuisan Cancio Vera, Inti Soto Romero, Luis Angel Cuza Alfonso and Esteban Rodríguez, in an act of solidarity with the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara.

Ares specified that the political police let the protesters know that when they pay the fine “automatically” their “immigration restriction would be lifted, which alluded to an invitation to leave the country.” This tactic of the regime with Cuban opponents has been very recurrent in recent months, forcing many to leave the island in the face of threats and warnings of repression.

The political police warned them that “if they do not accept the sanction, the matter will continue to the court and there we would have to comply with what the judge dictates.”

“You take it or go straight to prison and fuck yourself,” Ares adds in her message, which she accompanied with a photo where she appears with her unjustly imprisoned companions and a video where they are heard saying in chorus: “Patria y vida (Homeland and Life). Freedom for the political prisoners. No more dictatorship.” continue reading

Faced with the pressure and blackmail of the instructors, the demonstrators agreed “to pay a fine but that it be a smaller amount.” They will receive a new summons where they will know the “final answer on the value of the fine” to be paid if the Prosecutor’s Office accepts the request, Ares told 14ymedio.

The young woman declared that she was very struck by the insistence of the political police in letting them know that they were going to “lift the immigration regulation” as if it were the most important thing in the meeting on Monday.

The young woman declared that she was very struck by the insistence of the political police in letting them know that they were going to “lift the immigration regulation” as if it were the most important thing in the meeting on Monday.

Of the six activists arrested on April 30, the first to be released from prison was Ares under the measure of “home confinement” after serving almost a month in prison. At the end of September, Thais Mailén Franco Benítez and Yuisan Cancio were released under the same conditions.

After eight months in prison, Inti Soto, Ángel Cuza and Esteban Rodríguez were released on January 4. In the case of Rodríguez, he was transferred from prison to the José Martí International Airport in the capital where he boarded a flight in which he intended to arrive, along with independent reporter Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho, in Nicaragua. Managua denied him entry, they said, and after several hours they were admitted to El Salvador and are currently in an unknown destination.

The demonstrators on Obispo Street were trying to approach the house of the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who was then on a hunger strike, when the Police tried to block their way. At that time, they sat down to protest against what they considered a limitation of their right to free movement and were arrested.

The video, broadcast live from the scene, provoked widespread solidarity with the detainees of that day. Amnesty International was one of the first international organizations to call for the immediate release of these protesters.


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.

United States is Positioned as the Main Source of Food for Cuba

Chicken consumed in Cuba is still mainly bought in the US (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 17 January 2022 — The US continues to consolidate its position as the leading supplier of agricultural and food products to Cuba by registering a 144.2% growth in its sales in November compared to the same month of the previous year.

Chicken, soybeans, fruit, coffee, ketchup, fresh vegetables and pet food are among the products most purchased by the Island, according to the most recent report of the US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

The amount went from $11,339,843 in November 2020 to $27,699,046 in November 2021, although when compared to $2,965,515 in the same month in 2019, the growth is even more spectacular, 834%.

If the data of these same exports made during the first nine months of each year are compared, the growth was 85.4% from January to November 2021, when the US sold agricultural products and food to Cuba worth 276,683,109 dollars, compared to 149,209,570 dollars in the same period of the previous year. continue reading

According to the balance of the last 20 years, the US sold these same products to Cuba for a value of 6,572,910,533 dollars, an average of 329 million dollars a year.

The report notes that, like every month, the sale of food and agricultural products is authorized by the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSREEA) of 2000 and that it allows direct export to the Island from the US in certain conditions among which is the obligation to pay in cash and in advance.

From the Island it is argued that these sales do not deny the impact of the embargo, since they are carried out in “discriminatory conditions,” according to what the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez, said a few months ago.

“These are only unidirectional sales from the United States to Cuba, without the possibility of credit, through the obligation to pay in advance and in cash, and under licenses that the Treasury Department must approve, all of which is incompatible with international trade practices,” claimed.


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Venezuela Increased its Shipments of Fuel and Food to Cuba at the End of 2021

PDVSA export reports noted that supply to Havana in 2021 fell to 56,300 barrels per day. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 January 2021 — Caracas increased its shipments to Cuba of gasoline and food in the last weeks of last year, according to documents from the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA and data from the financial analysis platform Refinitiv Eikon, cited by the Reuters news agency .

The three shipments, which arrived at the ports of Nuevitas, Matanzas and Havana between the end of last November and the beginning of this year, made a total of 197,000 barrels of gasoline, along with other refined products.

In addition, the documents revealed that in December, the Island received 222 containers and hundreds of bags of food on the ships Icoa Uru and Melba, which landed at the ports of Mariel and Santiago de Cuba.

According to Reuters, the shipments were made when gasoline production recovered in Venezuela with the help of Iran, which supported long-delayed repairs and maintenance work at refineries in the country, which was why the government of Nicolás Maduro had reduced fuel exports to the island since the beginning of 2020. continue reading

PDVSA export reports also noted that supply to Havana in 2021 fell to 56,300 barrels per day (bpd) of crude and refined products and some 73,000 metric tons of petroleum coke.

In the first nine months of 2021, although it continued to receive oil from Caracas, the few arrivals marked several energy crises and long lines at gas stations on the island. This newspaper reported the chaotic situation that was experienced in Santiago de Cuba, where carriers spent hours at the La Cubana service center, located in front of Antonio Maceo square, waiting to fill their tanks.

It was last October when Havana once again registered a slight increase in the volume of fuel, receiving 66,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil and refined products, 8,000 more than a month before, while in August it was only 40,000.

Despite the increase, the problems for passenger transport, the low availability of vehicles for garbage collection, the constant calls to save electricity and the reduction of working hours in the state sector have all continued these last months, under the argument that “there is no fuel.”

For Cuba, the shipment of oil tankers from Venezuela responds to the close collaboration between both countries since Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999.

Crude flows averaged 90,000 bpd through 2016, and have since declined as a result of low Venezuelan production and US sanctions. Washington accuses Havana of supporting the Maduro regime with intelligence and troops in exchange for fuel.


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If Taro is So Expensive in Cuba its ‘Murillo’s Fault,’ Say the Vendors

Malanga is hard to find in state markets anymore and prices are unattainable for most Cubans. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 14 January 2021 — “There’s taro, there’s taro!” an informal vendor insistently proclaimed this Thursday at the San Rafael street market in Central Havana. The announcement quickly raised spirits among customers in the crowded surroundings.

In recent months, it is difficult to find in recent months the tuber that is well known to most Cubans since childhood. Boiled, with sauce, mixed with some milk or submerged in a dish of beans, taro is used as a transition food between breastfeeding and solid food, but inflation has made this food disappear, which, until recently, also reigned in fried foods and purées.

“Yesterday you told me 60 pesos a pound and today it’s 70. Does the price go up from one day to the next?” An indignant customer complained to the merchant. The initial expectation was diluted when the buyers learned the price and the seller responded acidly: “It’s not my fault! Complain to Murillo!” As much as the Cuban government has banished the most visible face of the ’Ordering Task’ to his new position in Tabacuba, the population does not forget the person they identify as responsible for the unstoppable rise in prices.

For decades, Taro has been not only a staple children’s diets, but of anyone with gastric problems. Cuban doctors have recommended it for years in purées for hospitalized, sick or elderly patients with swallowing difficulties. For decades, a quantity of this food for the chronically ill was sold on the rationed market, but that is now a thing of the past. continue reading

Now taro is almost exclusively found in privately managed markets. “The farmers want to charge the transporters 29 pesos a pound for taro, because they say that their expenses have increased. In turn, the transporters also want to earn their share,” a vendor explains to 14ymedio. “If taro reaches my hands at 40 pesos or more, how much am I going to sell it for in the market?”

As with most foods, the increase in production costs makes it difficult for the crops to thrive, and taro has its peculiarities. “It demands a lot of water, it likes abundant irrigation,” says Manuel, a producer from the province of Villa Clara.

“Electricity costs have skyrocketed and now I spend much more money to pump the amount of water that a taro field needs,” he details. “Although it is a strong product and you don’t need boxes to move it, right now it’s a headache to buy bags, because the few that exist, when you find them, have also gone up a lot.”

Fuel, another of the products that is frequently in short supply in Cuba, but which has become impossible since 2019, is another factor. “The producer who is in charge of removing their crop from the fields cannot lower the price of 30 pesos per pound, and with that price he is already making losses. I give mine to an intermediary and when he takes it away, it is no longer my problem. He is the one who sets the price in the market,” adds Manuel.

Consumers are annoyed at a rise in prices that especially affects the most vulnerable people in the household. “My mother has been without a dental prosthesis for three years, because first there was no material to make one. Then the pandemic came, and the whole dental issue is almost paralyzed,” explains a resident of the Havana neighborhood of Cerro.

“My mother’s daily meals are purees based on taro or other foods such as pumpkin or sweet potato,” she adds. “At this price I cannot afford it and I am having to look for other alternatives, but they are not very healthy,” she acknowledges. “My daughter is finishing breastfeeding her little girl and she can’t afford these prices to transition her either.”

In private restaurants and digital sites that sell their products to emigrants who buy it for their families on the Island, the product continues to be offered. “Taro puree with a good Creole sauce and crunchy chips,” announces a paladar (private restaurant) that recommends not to stop “trying the fried foods.” To rediscover the flavor that until recently was the star of dishes for the elderly and babies, now you need to have dollars.


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Russia Sends 24 Tons of Aid to Cuba and, for Now, Doesn’t Speak of a Military Deployment

A Russian shipment of donations to Cuba with 24 tons of medical material. (Embassy of Russia in Cuba)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 January 2021 — Russia has sent 24 tons of medical aid to Cuba, including syringes and protective equipment for health workers. The information was offered by the Eurasian country’s own embassy on the island in a Twitter message that it published a few hours before also sharing the news of a possible deployment of its troops in Cuba and Venezuela in the framework of the confrontation with NATO.

“Russia donated humanitarian aid to Cuba that includes multipurpose medical protective suits and injection syringes with a total weight of almost 24 tons,” says Thursday’s tweet, which is accompanied by images of the cargo.

Last year, during the summer months and coinciding with the worst moment of the pandemic on the island, Russia sent tons of humanitarian aid, divided between food and medicine or medical supplies.

In August, a shipment of 41.5 tons of food arrived, made up of wheat flour, canned meat and sunflower oil. A month earlier, 88 tons entered, also of food, personal protective equipment and more than a million masks. continue reading

In addition, Russia has also sent respirators and oxygen concentrators and their help was very relevant at a time when the island was going through a crisis due to gas shortages, essential for respiratory care, including the need caused by covid.

In mid-August, a Russian military team brought in and helped set up a medicinal oxygen plant, according to authorities, in just half a day, at a Cuban base.

“Having put it into operation gives us another guarantee and helps a lot,” said Miguel Díaz-Canel, who attended a propaganda act to supervise the situation and praised those who made “the heroics of putting it into operation in record time possible.”

Russia and Cuba have revitalized the good relations that already existed during the time of the Soviet Union in recent years. The greatest aid is produced in the financial field, where the country has forgiven the Island 90% of the debt resulting from an agreement during the mandate of Raúl Castro.

Cuba is seriously behind on payments of the remaining amount, which had to be returned in easy installments, but Havana stopped paying it in 2020. However, last year, the parties agreed on a two-year moratorium for its return.

Russia considered that the restructuring of the debt would not have a significant impact, since the deficit due to non-payment is 57 million dollars, but between 2022 and 2027 Cuba will return what it owes, in addition to 11 million dollars in interest for the delay.

As a background to this constant exchange, the possibility of Russia deploying troops in Havana and Caracas appeared yesterday to put pressure on the US in the negotiations it is carrying out with NATO.

Russia opposes the expansion of NATO to the east and that organization defends that small countries can join the alliance if they wish and meet the requirements.

This Friday, during his usual press conference at the beginning of the year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned the US and NATO that “he will not wait forever” for a response to his demands to establish legally binding security guarantees to prevent expansion and deployment of weapons near its borders.

“We are waiting for a written response from our colleagues. We believe that they understand the need to do it immediately, and to do it in writing. We will not wait until forever,” he said, in his press conference at the beginning of the year.

Asked about the alleged strengthening of its military presence outside its borders in case its demands are not met, Lavrov replied that Russia has “extensive military ties with our partners and allies and we have a presence in various regions of the world.”

“This is a matter of bilateral relations,” Lavrov said, referring to yesterday’s statements by Sergei Ryabkov, deputy foreign minister and representative in the negotiations with the US in Geneva.


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Cuba’s Director of the International Press Center Joins the List of Repressors

Alberto González Casals, standing on the right, with a delegation from the Cuban Foreign Ministry, during a working visit to Spain in 2018. (Minrex)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 January 2022 — Alberto González Casals, director of the Cuban International Press Center (CPI), has been included by the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FDHC) in its database of repressors.

In a statement issued this Thursday, the Miami-based organization details that they have included González Casals as a “white-collar repressor” and as an “’export’ repressor.”

The first, for being “directly responsible for executing the orders of the Ministry of the Interior regarding the withdrawal of credentials to work in Cuba from journalists from the Spanish agency EFE,” and the second, “for having been part of the Cuban intervention in Venezuela, helping Havana to reorganize the country’s intelligence and counterintelligence services in its favor.”

They also detail that González Casals, responsible within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the foreign press since 2017, is a lieutenant colonel of the Intelligence Directorate who has worked “with diplomatic cover in countries such as Angola, Venezuela and the United States.”

The Foundation recalls that last November 13, five members of the agency were summoned to the CPI to have their credentials withdrawn, arguing that EFE “had put its editorial line at the service of the counterrevolution.” continue reading

In reality, what bothered the Cuban government, in the opinion of the FDHC, was that the Spanish agency, “fulfilling its obligations of journalistic objectivity, had covered the historic protests of July 11 and 12 (11J) in Cuba and was already covering the preparations for the march that had been called for November 15.”

The NGO asserts that the reprisals against EFE are part of the “information blackout” imposed by the regime after the 11J demonstrations. “The information blockade includes more censorship of the official media, additional pressure on foreign correspondents accredited in Cuba and more reprisals against the independent press,” the Foundation said, to which it adds selective or total cuts to the Internet service within the island. .

“The CPI, in the best Stalinist tradition that violates international human rights conventions, filters foreign journalists and rules out the accreditation of those it considers critical,” the statement asserts.

“In order to carry out journalistic work in Cuba, it requires a D-6 visa that can be suspended, revoked or not extended, including the expulsion of the correspondent from the country if it is believed that they have carried out ’inappropriate actions or actions outside their profile and work content, as well as when it is considered that they have lacked journalistic ethics and/or does not comply with objectivity in their offices’.”

The Foundation denounces this strategy of the Díaz-Canel government, while hoping “that EFE does not fold to it or close its presence in Cuba.”

A few days ago, the database of repressors had been updated with the names of a dozen prosecutors, in addition to a judge, participating in the trials of the 11J protesters, which will conclude tomorrow in several cities in the country.


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Three Cuban Activists are Detained in Havana for Denouncing July 11th Trials

Activists Carolina Barrero, Daniel Triana, and Arian Cruz were detained at the entrance to the People’s Supreme Court in Old Havana. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 January 2022 — Three new trials of July 11th (11J) protesters in Cuba are being held this week. According to a report from Justicia 11J they will take place for 45 defendants in Mayabeque and in Havana.

Due to a lack of information from Cuban authorities, civil society organizations and family members of the prisoners continue to provide information about the 11J trial proceedings.

Activists Carolina Barrero, Daniel Triana and Arian Cruz, who arrived at the entrance to the People’s Supreme Court on Obrapía and Aguiar in Old Havana, “to protest” the trials and in solidarity with families of the detained, were themselves arrested on Monday morning.

Inside the patrol car, the young people repeated this verse from the poem by José Martí, Pour Out Your Sorrows, My Heart:

Oh poem, they speak of a God
A host where the dead must go
Oh poem, we’ll be saved together
Or felled by a single blow!

Furthermore, they yelled slogans such as: “justice for the people,” “freedom for political prisoners,” “end extreme cruelty,” and “down with the empire of fear.” continue reading

The prisoner facing the longest sentence, 27 years, is Elieser Gordin Rojas, who will be prosecuted in the trial that begins on Monday and will end on Friday in the Municipal Tribunal of Diez de Octubre, in the capital.

There, they will also try two 17-year-old minors: Nelson Nestor Rivero Garzón and Emiyoslán Román Rodríguez, for whom prosecutor Mabel Palacios Aties — recently included on the  Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba’s list of oppressors — seeks 15 years in jail.

During the trials last week in Havana and Holguín, “in response of to pressure from civil society,” wrote Justicia 11J, “the sedition charges were dropped and the sentences sought by the prosecutor were reduced for 12 minors younger than 19 years old.”

“It is not yet clear which charge would be imposed in its place, and therefore, whether the maximum penalties would still be applied,” continued the statement from the group, linked to the NGO legal platform Cubalex, which is unaware of whether these measures “would also apply to those younger than 19 years of age who were tried in December in Havana, and who are still awaiting sentencing.”

Ten prisoners in Holguín against whom the prosecutor upheld its request for very high penalties initiated a hunger strike after their trial ended Friday.

Prosecutors are also seeking 20 years in prison for sedition during trials this week in Havana for no fewer than 19 defendants: Roberto Ferrer Gener, Santiago Vázquez León, Yosney Emilio Román Rodríguez, Carlos Luis Águila Socarrás, Frandy González León, Adonay López López, Harold Michel Mena Nuviola, Jaime Alcide Firdó Rodríguez, Alejandro Becquer Arias, Amaury Leyva Prieto, Julián Yasmany Díaz Mena, Raudel Saborin González, Juan Carlos Morales Herrera, Eduardo Álvarez Rigal and Yasiel Arnaldo Córdova Rodríguez.

In the capital, Yeinier Ibáñez Boude, for whom prosecutors are seeking 18 years, will also be tried, along with Frank Daniel Roy Sotolongo, Yassell Guerra Campos, Marcos Antonio Alfonso Breto and Yensy Jorge Machado González, who face 15 year sentences.

Another 22 protesters will be prosecuted in San José de las Lajas, Mayabeque, 15 of them between Monday and Wednesday and the rest on Friday.

For the first group, prosecutor Ariagne Pérez Pérez seeks between one year of forced labor with internment (in the case of defendant Sergio Enseñat Valladares) and up to 14 years in prison (in the case of Vladimir Castillo Llanes). In addition to them, Jorge Yenier Ortiz Aguilera, Rogelio Lázaro Domínguez Pérez, Manuel Velázquez Licea, Alien Molina Castell, Humberto Monrabals Camps, Arturo Valentín Riverón, Enmanuel Robles Pérez, Yusmely Moreno González, Danger Acosta Justi, Yaroski Amat Salabarria, Jesús Pérez Quintero, Emelina Pendás Rodríguez and Mailene Noguera Santiesteban.

The defendants who will be tried on Friday are María Cristina Garrido Rodríguez, Angélica Garrido Rodríguez, Alexis Pedro Acosta Hernández, Giorbis Pardo del Toro, Osmany Hernández Rodríguez, Yanet Sánchez Cocho and Patricia Lázara Acosta Sánchez, for whom prosecutor Ruth Reina Rodríguez seeks between 6 and 18 years in prison.

In its most recent report, Justicia 11J denounced the conditions in which those jailed for the massive peaceful protest on that Sunday in July are being held. “We denounce the appalling health conditions in Cuban detention centers,” warned the organizations, “and we raise the alarm about the ill-treatment, which the prisoners continue to denounce.”

As an example, the group shared a letter, dated July 17th, written from prison by Mailene Noguera Santiesteban, who is facing up to a six year sentence in San José de las Lajas; it details the violence with which she was detained, “dragged on the floor” between blows.

“They dragged me and would yell “pig, louse, where are the clothes and money the Americans send you, look how you’re dressed,” she said. “I was almost naked, as they entered my house in the middle of the night and upon taking me and my husband [Manuel Velázquez Licea] left my 8 year old son completely alone.”

Justicia 11J logged a total of 1,377 people arrested for the July protests, of which 727 remain in jail, including 70 women and 15 minors. At least 361 have been tried in “either summary or ordinary trials”.

The first mention of these trials by the state-run media appeared on Monday, for the purpose of launching the new judicial year. “In the same way, it is our responsibility to judge those who, acting as peons in the subversive attack and the destabilization attempts by enemies of the Revolution, they committed acts of vandalism, violent aggression against authorities and officials, and other serious crimes,” mentioned the People’s Supreme Court president, Rubén Remigio Ferrio, according to the state newspaper Granma.

This is the same judge who this past July spoke much more conciliatory words, “Diverse political opinions, including those of a political nature that differ from the prevailing politics in the country, do not constitute a crime, thinking differently, questioning what is being done, that in and of itself does not constitute a crime. Furthermore, protesting, far from constituting a crime, constitutes the people’s constitutional right.”

Nonetheless, for a long time, Remigio Fierro has been considered a hard-line partisan and, for this reason, has been included on FDHC’s list of Cuban oppressors since May 2019.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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Safety Concerns Force Cuba’s Restaurants to Cut Back on Home Deliveries

Recently, reports of robberies and assaults, perpetrated mainly on motorcyclists, has frightened many owners of these types of vehicles.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia Lopez Moya, Havana, January 10, 2022 — El Biky did not have a single empty table on Saturday night and no one seemed worried about his or her safety on this normally busy corner of Infanta and San Lazaro streets in Havana. No one except the staff at this well-known restaurant, which has decided to suspend nightime home deliveries so as not to expose their drivers to the ever growing number of attacks in the capital.

One employee’s explanation left Vilma, a customer who had called to place an order, speechless: “The motorcycle couriers have created a crises over all these assaults. They’re afraid to deliver at night.”

“I was told you delivered until 7:00 PM. It’s only twenty past seven and all I want is a cake. Can’t you ask one of the drivers to deliver it to me?” pleaded Vilma over the phone. But she could not twist the employee’s arm. He told her that the new schedule, which took effect at the end of last year, was the result of “constant complaints by motorcycle couriers.”

The restaurant is located in Vedado, one of the most centrally located parts of the city, near the Malecon. Nevertheless, last weekend the neighborhood surrounding the restaurant was devoid of pedestrians and vehicles, a situation which further frightened motorcycle couriers.

Since the final days of 2021, reports of robberies and assaults, which have been perpetrated mainly on motorcyclists, has frightened many owners of these types of vehicles. The response by cafes and privately owned restaurants, which managed to stay afloat during the most difficult months of the pandemic by offering home delivery, has been to shorten delivery schedules. continue reading

La Rosa Negra, a privately owned restaurant in Havana’s Nuevo Vedado district and popular for its moderate prices, posted this on its Facebook page on December 29: “For reasons of safety we have decided to reduce the hours during which our home delivery service will be available.”

The restaurant’s management said it would not be making deliveries after 8:00 PM. The next day, however, it announced the cut-off would be 6:00 PM, to coincide with the summer nightfall.

It is not just the increasingly common robberies of motorcycles on Cuban streets that the couriers fear. They also risk having their deliveries stolen, or falling victim to the “customer trap.” In this case, someone posing as customer will request a home delivery and ambush the courier upon arrival, taking everything he is transporting, including the vehicle.

“You need four eyes on the street at all times. Driving a motorcycle comes with the threat of physical harm. If they come at you with a club or stick, you have no way to protect yourself,” says Yantiel, a courier who freelances both for a privately owned restaurant in Playa and for Mandao, an popular online service that offers a variety of products through its mobile app.

The delivery schedule cutback has had a big impact on these restaurants’ bottom line. “We get most of our orders close to dinner time. If we can’t make home deliveries at that time, we earn a lot less,” admits the owner of one cafe in Central Havana which delivers pizzas throughout the capital.

But even in daylight hours, couriers take precautions. “I don’t go inside anyone’s house. I don’t go to any floor in an apartment building. And I carry this with me,” says a young man who opens a compartment at the rear of his motorcycle to show 14ymedio the metal pipe hidden inside.

Authorities have not have not officially commented on the increase in assaults though the Ministry of the Interior did issue a statement saying that complaints about this on social media, in particular those related to the theft of electric motorcycles, “are events that occurred in previous years or are fake news.”


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Ten July 11th Prisoners in Holguin, Cuba Begin Hunger Strike Protesting the Sentences Sought by the Prosecutor

Police deployed outside the tribunal in Santa Clara where, this week,  July 11th (11J) protesters were tried.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 15 January 2022 — Ten prisoners in Holguín, for whom the prosecutor maintained its request for very high sentences went on a hunger strike following their trial for the July 11th  (11J) protests. This was reported by Dr. Alejandro Raúl Pupo Casas on his social media, alerted by the mother of one of the defendants, William Manuel Leyva Pupo, a relative of the doctor.

For this 20-year-old, the prosecutor sought 18 years, and the same for Reymundo Fernandez Rodríguez, Jorge Luis Martínez García, Marcos Antonio Pintueles Marrero and Yoel Ricardo Sánchez Borjas.

The same source warned that the prisoners’ families will join their protest, although she did not name the other prisoners who were on hunger strike.

The sentences will be officially handed down on February 11, according to messages shared on Facebook by family members of the accused, and they all take for granted that the judges will bend to the prosecutors’ requests, as is usually the case in political trials. continue reading

Three other trials for 11J also ended on Friday in Santa Clara, Havana, and Mayabeque.

In this city, the news agency Efe reports that according to family members of the prisoners, a trial was held without the families’ prior knowledge.

For now, we know that in Holguín is where they requested the harshest sentences for July 11th protesters accused of “sedition”. Prosecutor Fernando Valentín Sera Planas–included on the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba’s list of oppressors along with dozens of his colleagues–sought 30 years in prison for Miguel Cabrera Rojas, Yosvany Rosell García Caso, José Ramón Solano Randiche and Iván Colón Suárez for the crime of sedition; 28 years for Maikel Rodríguez del Campo and Mario Josué Prieto Ricardo; 25 for Cruz García Domínguez, Miguel Enrique Girón Velázquez and Yasmany Crespo Hernández, and 22 for Yoirdan Revolta Leyva.

The only woman facing such high penalties in Holguín is Jessica Lisbeth Torres Calvo, for whom they are seeking 27 years, the same as her current age.

We are also aware of four minors tried for the same crime–Yeral Michel Palacios Román, Ernesto Abelardo Martínez Pérez, Ayan Idalberto Jover Cardosa and Keyla Roxana Mulet Calderón–the original request of 15 years was reduced to between five and seven years.

During the last day of the trials, State Security stepped up its harassment of the prisoners’ friends and family who have publicly protested.

In Santa Clara, where 16 protesters were tried, activist Saily González was detained for several hours, as were family members of Andy García Lorenzo, arrested in the morning, they were heading to the tribunal, as they did every day since the start of the trial on Monday.

According to sources close to Saily González, her arrest occurred when she was headed to present a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of García Lorenzo’s familyAll of their phones were confiscated and they were each assessed a fine of 3,000 pesos. “She was very agitated, crying, they took her phone, the hard drive on which she had the habeas corpus document, her earphones. Now neither she nor Andy García’s family has a way to communicate,” reported activist Víctor Arias, whom González visited following her release at 7 pm sharp.

Arias also confirmed that Andy García’s sister, Roxana, and her partner Jonathan López were released, but he alerted that his father, Pedro López, “left the interrogation and there is still no news from him.”

Andy García’s family has been one of the most active in denouncing the irregularities of the trials in which, they assure, the prosecution’s witnesses lie. According to Tayri Lorenzo, the young man’s mother, in the courtroom in Santa Clara one of them said that State Security negotiated a fine for him in exchange for his testimony to implicate the accused.

They are not the only ones suffering harassment by the political police. Yudinela Castro, the mother of Rowland Castillo, a 17-year-old accused of “sedition” and for whom the prosecutor seeks 23 years of deprivation of liberty for participating in the 11J protests in Havana, told 14ymedio that State Security has been pressuring her not to denounce her son’s situation.

“Yesterday I received a summons, I was not at home but they called my phone and left it under my door. It was around midnight,” she said. She was so bothered to see that paper as she arrived home, that she ripped it up.

The civilian agents who identified themselves as Ignacio and Elías, she continued, always tell her they are going to accuse her of “contempt or sedition” for what she posts on social media and the declarations she has made to the press. “They tell me I am associated with terrorists and counterrevolutionaries.”

Castillo, incarcerated in Occidente’s Juvenile Prison in El Guatao, is from Mantilla and the Sunday of the protests, he was arrested on the corner of Toyo in the municipality of Diez de Octubre, one of the epicenters of the protests and a place where a patrol car was overturned.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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.