The Battle Between Bacardí and Cubaexport for the Rights to Havana Club Revives After a New Judicial Decision

A Virginia court revokes the dismissal of a complaint brought by Bacardí

A man prepares a drink with Havana Club rum. / EFE

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 18 June 2024 — The Bacardí company will be able to continue fighting for the registration and marketing rights for the Havana Club rum brand in the United States, which are currently in the hands of the Cuban Government through the state-owned Cubaexport. The Court of Appeals of the Fourth Circuit for East Virginia has revoked, Reuters reported, the previous decision of a district court by which the lawsuit of the rum maker, based in Bermuda, was dismissed for “lack of jurisdiction.” The legal battle for the right to use the name began when the Bacardí family, who produced the drink on the Island, decided to leave the country after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959. The company says that it bought the rights for Havana Club from the Arechabala family, which produced the rum until its distillery was confiscated by the Cuban Government.

Cubaexport owned the marketing rights in the United States since it registered the trademark in 1976 until, in 2006, it was denied a renewal in accordance with the embargo laws that prevented it from paying the license without first obtaining an authorization from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the Department of the Treasury, which had not been granted.

Cubaexport owned the marketing rights in the United States since it registered the trademark in 1976 until, in 2006, it was denied a renewal in accordance with the laws of the embargo

Cubaexport challenged before the courts the denial of the permit, which it lost after a 2012 ruling. Later, in January 2016 and during the thaw that occurred with Barack Obama’s mandate, OFAC changed its decision and issued a specific license that authorized Cubaexport to “make all transactions” and make the payments “necessary to renew and maintain the registration of the Havana Club brand.”

Bacardí counterattacked and filed a lawsuit that sought to reverse the measure, contrary to its interests, through an appeal to the court of the continue reading

district of Columbia in which the company accused the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) of making a decision in a “fraudulent way.”

In the lawsuit, Bacardí accused the senior officials of USPTO, including its director, Kathi Vidal, of violating current legislation by renewing the registration of the disputed trademark ten years after its expiration.

The Court of Appeals has now admitted this complaint and revoked the previous judgment, reopening the battle for the rights to the rum.

The (Cuban) state is “confident that the renewal was valid and that the court will agree when it arrives at the substance of this dispute

The defense of Cubaexport, argued by David Bernstein of the firm Debevoise & Plimpton, said that the state-owned company is “confident that the renewal was valid and that the court will agree when it arrives at the substance of this dispute.”

For its part, Bacardí told Reuters that the company is satisfied with the decision, while USPTO declined to comment on the process.

In 1960 the distillery of the Arechabala family, which had produced rum since at least 1930, was confiscated by the Government of Fidel Castro along with some other assets, without receiving any kind of compensation.

Ramón Arechabala, the company’s sales manager, who spent some time in prison after the expropriation ordered by Castro, escaped from the country and arrived in Miami in 1966 with the secret recipe for Havana Club rum. After a few years, he sold the rights to the brand and the original recipe to the Bacardí family.

In 1974, Arechabala’s trademark registrations in the United States for Havana Club rum had expired, and that’s when Cubaexport registered the brand. The business has very juicy figures. In 2021, the company’s international marketing director, Sergio Valdés, said that the company sold more than 4.4 million cases of rum (with 12 bottles to a case) the previous year, 1.7 million of them in Cuba.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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Only Four Cuban Judocas Will Compete at the Olympic Games in Paris

The Judo Federation, a declining sport on the Island, expected at least seven of its athletes to qualify

Idalys Ortiz has won medals at the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020, Rio 2016, London 2012 and Beijing 2008 / JIT

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 June 2024 — Cuban judo is crumbling. Of the seven athletes that the president of the Cuban Federation of this sport, Rafael Manso, intended to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, only Idalys Ortiz, in the 78-kilogram category, Maylín del Toro (63 kg), Andy Granda (100 kg) and Iván Silva (90 kg) got their tickets. The hope of success for the regime is focused on the four-time Olympic medalist Ortiz. The 34-year-old from Pinar del Río was in the nineteenth position of the Paris 2024, qualifying with 2,983 points.

Maylín del Toro will perform in Paris after an outstanding performance at the World Judo Championship, which took place last May in Abu Dhabi. However, her chances of a medal are reduced against competitors such as the French Clarisse Agbegnenou.

Cuban judo “is going through a worrying stage of decline,” said Play-Off Magazine. This discipline, which has awarded 37 Olympic medals to the Island throughout history – 6 gold, 15 silver and 16 bronze – has also been affected by departures.

This discipline has awarded 37 Olympic medals to the Island throughout history: 6 gold, 15 silver and 16 bronze

Pan American and Central American judo champion Magdiel Estrada, 29, fled the Cuban delegation in Brazil last April. With his leave, “judo and the Cuban sports movement lost a prominent figure less than three months away from the great appointment in the French capital. A phenomenon that doesn’t stop,” Play-Off Magazine warned that month. continue reading

Between July and September of last year, nine judocas ended their relationship with the Cuban sport.

The bronze medalist at the Budapest Judo World Championship (2017), Kaliema Antomarchi, boarded a flight to Serbia in September, a route followed by many Cubans to access the European Union. This athlete’s departure coincided with the escape in Canada of Samarys Gregorio, Odelin García and Yurisleydis Hernández, after winning second place in the Pan American and Oceania Championship held in Calgary.

Vanesa Godinez, Mellisa Hurtado, Santa Virgen Romero, Blanca Elena Torres and Lutmary García also left the Cuban team in May, during their training in France.

To the escapes is added the “inattention and lack of maintenance” denounced in an interview with Cubanet by the bronze medalist in Central American games and coach of the Judo Academy in Havana, Yosvani Pérez Hernández. “It’s obvious that they are not doing their job. The health of judo is being lost,” he said.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Teacher Alina Bárbara López Arrested On Her Way to Havana and Charged With ‘Attack’ According to Her Daughter

The teacher was arrested along with her colleague Jenny Pantoja when they were on their way to Havana for a peaceful protest.

Jenny Pantoja Torres and Alina Bárbara López Hernández, in an image shared by the latter’s daughter / Facebook/Cecilia Borroto López

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 18 June 2024 — Historian and activist Alina Bárbara López Hernández “is being informed of charges of an attempted crime,” her daughter Cecilia Borroto López reported Tuesday on her social networks. The historian and a colleague, Jenny Pantoja Torres, have been in the hands of State Security for several hours, since they were detained this morning before reaching the Bacunayagua bridge, in Matanzas, when both were traveling to Havana, where they planned to demonstrate peacefully this Tuesday, as the Matanzas teacher does on the 18th of every month.

“We hope that both Alina’s and Jenny’s integrity will be respected, as every citizen deserves. We hope that this time they do not decide to beat them, since they have decided to violate once again the right of mobility,” Borroto had expressed.

Jenny Pantoja had reported on her social networks this Monday that she had received threats on her cell phone from the number +53 5 505 1333. “Since you arrived in Matanzas very well, I warn you this is the last time you will arrive in Matanzas,”,said the message, so full of spelling mistakes that it made the activist say: “The person who wrote should go back to the twelfth grade”.

Pantoja explained in her post that she was going to accompany López because she could not leave her alone “on a trip to Havana in which she could once again suffer police mistreatment.” She also warned: “I hold State Security, the Cuban government and its police forces responsible for continue reading

anything that happens to me from now on. I have not committed any crime, nor do I have any legal case against me. Only the spirit and the willingness to do the best for my suffering country.” According to what she also said, her house was under surveillance by the Political Police.

Alina Bárbara López had announced on Monday her intention to move her usual protest on the 18th of every month to the Cuban capital – since March 2023, which was the centenary of ‘The Protest of 13’ carried out by intellectuals against the then government of Alfredo Zayas. Her intention is “to be in the Park where the statue of Martí stands.” Her demands, the professor detailed in a long Facebook post, were the same as always: the democratic election of a National Assembly to draft a new Constitution, freedom for political prisoners “without sending them to compulsory exile,” cessation of harassment of citizens exercising freedom of expression and “that the State stops ignoring the critical situation of the elderly, retirees, pensioners and families living in extreme poverty.”

“I warn those who decide everything in this country: if you are going to arrest me, do it with an official arrest warrant”

“I warn those who decide everything in this country: if you are going to arrest me, do it with an official arrest warrant (which must be based on a complaint or well-founded suspicion of a crime, as you well know),” said López Hernández, who also blamed in advance “Counterintelligence” and the Government, “if anything should happen to me in those 100 kilometers that separate Matanzas from Havana: an accident, an assault, whatever.”

The teacher endured a similar detention on April 18, also on her way to Havana and also on the Bacunayagua bridge. López Hernández denounced before the Prosecutor’s Office the attack, which could constitute crimes of “injuries, illegal deprivation of freedom and the disclosure of private communications.”

Meanwhile, in Havana, Professor Jorge Fernandez Era, who regularly shows solidarity with his colleague from Matanzas, reported that his home was also under siege by a police operation on Tuesday. After learning of the arrest of his friend Alina Barbara and Jenny Pantoja, he went up to the rooftop and found that “since early in the morning, the usual fierce fighters, those who squander resources we don’t have in order to watch over a few citizens who think for themselves, have been on my doorstep.”

Art historian Miryorli García also denounced the harassment by State Security for her solidarity with the teacher from Matanzas. In a video broadcast on her social networks, an agent is seen not allowing her to leave her house. “I suppose you have a legal document to present to me to defend this measure of detention in my home, of prohibition to my right to enter and leave my house. If you don’t have it, stop making a fool of yourselves,” she said.

Translated by Hombre de Paz

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Cuba at the Crossroads of the Digital Economy: Employees or Independent Contractors

Hundreds of thousands of private-sector workers in Cuba are experiencing the system’s shortcomings

A “rider” (courier) delivering an order for the mobile app Mandao /EFE

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Juan Carlos Espinosa, Havana, 9 June 2024 — Thirty-five-year-old Jorge takes his cell phone out of a yellow thermal backpack and pulls up an order he is delivering on his bicycle.

He is one of hundreds of thousands of “cuentapropistas” (independent contractors) who have emerged since self-employment was legalized fifteen years ago. His particular type of employment would not have been possible without the introduction of cell phones in 2018 or the legalization of small privately owned businesses (MSMEs*) in 2021.

These changes to the system, however, are not without their shortcomings. On paper, Jorge is free to take on multiple gigs or use his time as he sees fit. In practice, however, he works as an employee but without some of the benefits of being on the company’s payroll.

“It seems we in Cuba only import the bad stuff,” he complains.

The advent of this type of business in Cuba has brought with it the same problems that have vexed capitalist governments and labor unions

Jorge (a pseudonym) works for Mandao, a food delivery app similar to Glovo or Uber Eats. Of the 11,000 legally licensed MSMEs in Cuba, it is one of the most popular. continue reading

Nevertheless, the advent of this type of business in Cuba has brought with it the same problems that have vexed governments and labor unions in capitalist countries.

After being shown contracts the company has with three individuals, two experts both agreed that the workers — commonly known in Cuba as “riders” — are not actually independent contractors but rather salaried employees.

They had differing opinions, however, on just how illegal this might be. The practice is, in any case, problematic.

For example, in two of the three contracts, the company retains 10% of each delivery fee, charges the courier 100 pesos a week ($0.83 USD at the official exchange rate) for use of the backpack, and does not provide coverage in the event of an accident. Nor does the agreement explicitly state how or how much the courier is to be paid.

Laritza Diversent, director of the formerly Cuba-based but now US-based Cubalex legal information center, believes this is a clear violation of Cuban employment law.

Mandao explained to EFE that the rates are set separately and that it does not impose schedules but instead tries to organize shifts by taking into account fluctuations in demand. It also pointed out that, as an MSME, it is not allowed to hire more than a hundred employees. It also argued that, since the workers are self-employed, these are commercial rather than labor contracts.

Cuban economist Tamarys Bahamonde believes that, in this regard, the company is mistaken and that the problem is due to legal loopholes in an obsolete labor law.

She characterizes the document as a hybrid, a cross between a commercial contract and a labor contract.

In this sense, Diversent describes what she sees a clear example of “legal illiteracy.” She is critical of the contract’s prohibitions on couriers discussing its content, something she says prevents them from seeking legal advice.

According to Mandao, its couriers made a monthly net profit of between 8,900 and 17,700 pesos ($74.00 to $148.00 USD) in 2023. By contrast, the average monthly salary of a state employee was 4,648 pesos ($39.00).

Another contract that EFE analyzed was that of a porter who worked in a building owned by Caribe, a state real estate investment company. Though it stipulates the employee’s work schedule and how many days of vacation they get, it is written as though they were an independent contractor.

EFE reached out to Caribe for comment but has so far not received a response.

Cuban economist Tamarys Bahamonde characterizes the employment agreement as a hybrid, a cross between a commercial contract and a labor contract. “It shows a level of legal ignorance of both types,” she says

Bahamonde believes, the company’s contract demonstrates that job insecurity is reaching levels never before experienced in Cuba.”

“We assume it’s the state’s responsibility to protect workers. But if the state isn’t doing it, we can’t expect the private sector will do it,” she says.

When asked about this issue, the Ministry of Labor and the government-controlled Cuban Workers’ Union (CTC) both told EFE that, so far, they are not seeing these practices, at least not in a “statistically meaningful way,” as Leovanis Agora Góngora, a member of the CTC’s National Secretariat put it.

The Ministry of Labor said it anticipated updates to the law regulating Cuban MSMEs this year.

*Translator’s note: Literally, “Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises.” The expectation is that they are also privately managed, but in Cuba this may include owners/managers who are connected to the government.

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

Russian Warships Leave Havana After Their Five-day Stay

One of the tugboats that escorted the Russian ships, this Monday, returning to the port of Havana / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 17 June 2024 — Shortly before 12 noon, one of the tugboats that had accompanied the departure of the Russian warships anchored in Cuban waters since last Wednesday entered the bay. At that time, none of the Russian boats were visible on the horizon. The flotilla, consisting of the frigate Groshkov, the nuclear-powered submarine Kazan, the oil tanker Pashin and the rescue tug Chiker, left quickly in the morning. “More than sailing, they flew,” said a resident of Central Havana who went unsuccessfully to the dock to say goodbye. The image of the capital’s port this Monday, empty, contrasted with that of Saturday, when dozens of Cubans lined up to go on board the ships, in the only visit scheduled for the public.

The port of Havana this Monday, almost empty, looked very different from Saturday / 14ymedio

According to the North Russian Fleet in a statement on Monday, “after the departure from the territorial waters of Cuba, the naval group will continue to carry out missions in accordance with the plan of its crossing.” Although Washington initially said that the Russian flotilla did not pose a threat to its national security, two days after the arrival of the Russian ships, the U.S. Southern Command reported the presence of one of its submarines in Guantanamo Bay. “We will always monitor any foreign ship operating near our waters,” the U.S. authorities said.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The Youth Computer Club in Matanzas, Cuba, Doesn’t Even Have Internet

“There are no parts or budget for the computers, the equipment is broken or obsolete,” explains an inspector

Another problem of the Youth Club is that, in addition to the lack of customers, no one wants to work on the computers / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Julio César Contreras, Matanzas, June 15, 2024 — In the city of Matanzas there are three Youth Computer and Electronics Clubs that, although they seem few for such a large population, are actually superfluous due to their lack of customers. The offices, where young people used to go to play online or to access computers that they did not have at home, have become empty spaces that depend on someone leasing them to survive.

The first Youth Club on the Island was inaugurated in 1987 by Fidel Castro, when money from the Soviet Union was still flowing. Since then, and with the successive crises of the country, what began as a computerization project ended up being a hall to access games such as Dota, Age of Empires or Call of Duty – to mention the most popular. Then it was transformed into a point of sale for phone recharge cards, and now its workers limit themselves to updating antivirus products for a few customers.

“The other day I arrived at Joven Club III, which is on the road of El Naranjal. The only technician there had been talking to two people. I asked him to show me the registration of clients who, at the end of the month, did not total even fifty visits,” Alejandro, a specialist of the Provincial Directorate of the Youth Club and in charge of inspecting them regularly, tells this newspaper. continue reading

The technological obsolescence of these premises frightens the customers / 14ymedio

Another problem of the Youth Club is that, in addition to the lack of customers, no one wants to work on the computers. Almost always the technicians are young boys who use the position as a springboard for other better-paid jobs. “It is true that they do not have good opportunities to develop professionally. So, as is logical, they go to some private company or better-paid state position,” says Alejando, 36, from Matanzas. As a young man and a graduate of the University of Computer Science (UCI), Alejandro says he understands his colleagues when they leave the staff. “If you have at least a little interest in what you do, being in a place that still uses computers from a decade ago and a tape printer kills your desire,” he reflects.

Alejandro explains that technology has advanced rapidly, “but what has not evolved is the institutional conception of what these places should be. Most people have at least one modern cell phone with which they can do almost everything, including access to artificial intelligence. Here, however, they don’t even allow internet access. The supposed online games we offer have to be played here, with the internal network of computers, when young people in the whole world can use their phones for that,” he adds.

In addition, continues the inspector, “there are no parts or budget for computers. Much of our equipment is broken or obsolete, and there is no money even to give a coat of paint to the facade. In those conditions it is very difficult to maintain the operation of the facilities in the province. Some have even had to change their corporate purpose or remain closed while waiting for a solution, which could be a definitive closure.”

This is the case of the Joven Club II, which has had to rent an area of the premises to a private business that repairs cell phones and other electronic devices. Many of these workshops perform functions (installing antivirus, downloading programs or installing applications) that make them direct competitors of the state center, but unlike the workshops, the state centers don’t attract customers.

Joven Club II rented an area of the premises to a private business that is dedicated to repairing cell phones / 14ymedio

“It’s curious, if not worrying, that their computers are more advanced than ours. People arrive asking directly about the workshop, and I would not be surprised if in the future it will expand to the entire place,” says Alejandro. “It’s a shame to say, but the computer scientist who is at the door (of the Youth Club) spends more time explaining how to get to the cell phone workshop than doing his real job. If someone comes specifically to the Youth Club, the answer is almost always one of these three: We don’t have it. It’s broken. That service is not provided here,” he adds. Joven Club I, close to René Fraga Park, is the only one to which some elderly people go sporadically. “They are people who, since they do not master some technical aspects well, seek advice to update programs, install applications on their phones or obtain some specific information.”

Seen from the outside, the network of Joven Club de la Isla does not seem to be in such a precarious state. If you access its website, there are an infinity of community services and projects for students, the elderly and people with disabilities that are theoretically developed successfully. In practice, however, “they are only taking up space.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Only 30 of 3,082 Cuban Applicants Obtained Asylum in Spain in 2023

This represents less than 1%, while Nicaraguans obtained 30%

Archive image of a group of immigrants waiting at the Asylum and Refuge office of the Tarajal border in Ceuta to request an appointment to request asylum / EFE/Reduan Dris

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 17 June 2024 — Cuban refugee applications in Spain more than doubled in 2023 compared to the previous year but very few obtained favorable resolutions. While in 2022 there were 1,392, last year 3,082 were formalized. According to the annual report of the Spanish Commission for Aid to Refugees (CEAR), published on Monday, not only an increase of 54% but also that Cuba is now in the fifth position among the nationalities that applied for asylum in the European country.

CEAR says that the numbers are “a reflection of the political and humanitarian crisis that this country is going through,” but the Island registers one of the lowest protection rates of all those reported, 3.7%. Less than half of the petitions submitted have been resolved (1,157), and of them only 30 received refugee status. A total of 1,127 did not receive any protection, 777 due to an unfavorable resolution and 350 due to rejection of their application.

For Morocco, its citizens occupy sixth place in asylum applications in Spain, with 3,076, 21% less than those registered in 2022 (3,905), but nevertheless these are resolved favorably in a much higher proportion than those of Cubans. In 2023, 4,435 requests from Moroccans were resolved – not only from 2023 but from previous years – of which 273 received refugee status. continue reading

In 2023, 4,435 requests from Moroccans were resolved, of which 273 received refugee status

More favorable are the numbers for Nicaragua, in seventh place in number of applications. Out of a total of 2,759 (30.3% more than the previous year), protection was granted to 837 people.

In the list of the top ten nationalities, Russia enters for the first time in its history (in ninth place), with 1,694 applications in 2023, more than double the 684 in 2022. Among the reasons based on the petitions are the “forced recruitment” for the war initiated by Putin in Ukraine as well as the deterioration of human rights, especially for “reasons of religion and gender identity and sexual orientation.” Of the 1,132 applications received from Russian nationals, 647 received refugee status, and eight, “subsidiary protections,” which represents a spectacular protection percentage of 59.7%.

This is a rate well above the Spanish average (12%) and even the European average (42%). CEAR indicates that Spain, being the third country in the European Union in refugee applications, is, at the same time, the one that least grants them. In 2023, it recorded the highest number of protection requests in its history: 163,220, an increase of 37.3%.

Venezuela is, for the eighth consecutive year, the country of origin with the highest number of asylum applications (60,534), compared to 45,748 in 2022, an increase of 32.32%. It is followed by Colombia, Peru and Honduras. The first three nationalities account for 78.7% of the total registered requests.

“None of these measures has improved access to the international protection procedure in Spain”

The Commission also criticizes the Spanish system of prior appointments, whose “poor availability and unpredictability” caused the existence of “an irregular market for sale.” This system, explains CEAR, “became practically the only way to access the procedure, after payment of 30 to 500 euros, an amount impossible to raise on many occasions by people who have had to invest all their assets to reach a safe place to apply for protection.”

It also recalls the operation carried out in May 2023 against one of the criminal networks that captured appointments with a bot and later resold them (about 69 people were arrested). “None of these measures has improved access to the international protection procedure in Spain,” the organization protests, which indicates that the system even violates European regulations.

The CEAR report also reflects the situation of displaced people around the world, which in 2023 surpassed historical records with more than 110 million people forced to flee their homes, according to figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Similarly, it dedicates a chapter to the main migratory corridor for Cubans — ‘mesoamerica’ — from Nicaragua to the United States. CEAR notes that in 2023 the record of arrests on the southern border of the United States was broken, with almost two and a half million people arrested (2,475,669, an increase of 4% compared to 2022). In Mexico, 140,982 migrants applied for refuge, the highest number ever recorded, of which 18,386 were Cubans (in third place behind Haitians and Hondurans).

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Mexico Frees 10 Cubans Kidnapped With Ransom Demands of $5,000

As of May, 8,029 Cubans have applied for asylum. Migration reports the irregular transit of 27,404 Cubans in five months

Several migrants rest at the Jesús El Buen Pastor shelter, located in Tapachula (Chiapas) / EFE

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ángel Salinas, Mexico City, 18 June 2024 — The authorities of Quintana Roo, in Mexico, freed 10 Cubans who were kidnapped last Friday. The victims, including a woman and nine men, said that armed people had held them for several days in a house located at Supermanzana 26 and “demanded a ransom from their relatives.” However, the Police “found no evidence about the alleged kidnappers that could confirm what was said by the foreigners,” according to Ulises, an agent of the Prosecutor’s Office, who held back the identity of the migrants, who were under the protection of the National Migration Institute.

According to the official, the alleged kidnappers demanded a payment of $5,000 from the woman’s relatives. In case “it’s not paid, she would have to work in bars.” However, it is still not corroborated “if there had been contact” in Havana.

The Police “found no evidence about the alleged kidnappers that could confirm what was said by the foreigners”

Ulises stressed to this media that the Cubans’ version is being investigated to know how long they have been in Mexico and how they arrived in the state where they were kidnapped. He rejected the possibility that these people arrived on the fishing boat with registration PR5348F5a, which was abandoned the first week of June in Isla Mujeres. continue reading

“A witness says that he saw the boat with several people pass by Playa de Mascotes. The maritime authorities have already offered details about the boat to Havana,” said the same official.

The Cubans rescued in Quintana Roo requested advice to apply for asylum. According to data from the Mexican Commission for Aid to Refugees (Comar), the number of Cuban immigrants has decreased by 41.9% in the first five months of the year.

With regards to requests for asylum, Cubans are second, with 8,029 requests. Honduras tops the list with 15,389 recorded; then come Haiti (3,353); El Salvador (2,896); Venezuela (2,068); Guatemala (2,014); Colombia (1,010); Nicaragua (456); Ecuador (337); and Chile (192).

However, attorney José Luis Pérez Jiménez considers that the figures offered by Comar “are a mirage.” The asylum seekers on the southern border have the same numbers as for 2023, but Comar takes so long to help them that it does not later record the asylum requests in its statistics, he says.

“By the time Comar notifies the migrant to go to his eligibility interview, four months have passed,” and these foreigners are already on the border with the United States

Pérez Jiménez explains to 14ymedio that “by the time Comar notifies the migrant to go to his eligibility interview, four months have passed,” and these foreigners are already on the border with the United States. “There has not been a reduction in applications for asylum or refuge. It’s still the same; what exists is procrastination at a turtle’s pace.”

Migration announced this Sunday that in the first five months of this year, the irregular passage of “1,393,683 migrants from 177 countries” was recorded. Of this group, 27,404 are from the Island.

For those months, migrants from Venezuela are the largest group with 377,401; followed by Guatemala (209,540); Honduras (144,499); Ecuador (136,699); Haiti (107,432); and Colombia (70,371).

The report does not detail the number of deportations made by Mexico. As of April, 783 migrants had been deported to the Island on commercial flights.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The Havana Biennial of Political Humor, at the Service of the Communist Party of Cuba

Some 46 cartoonists from 22 countries, including Venezuela, Mexico, Russia, China, Iran, Turkey and Syria, attended the biennial / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Izquierdo, Havana, 15 June 2024 — With Milei, Netanyahu, Hitler, the CIA, Trump and the other “usual suspects,” in addition to a good number of commonplaces – swastikas, missiles, Mickey Mouse – the cartoonists who aspired to participate in the first Political Humor Biennial in Havana had their work cut out for them.

The limits of “political humor” were set this Friday by the cartoonist and cultural commissioner Arístides Hernández (Ares): the event aspires to the “plurality of speech,” as long as no one offends the leaders – historical or current – of the Revolution. “In Islamic countries it is impossible to paint a caricature against the prophet Muhammad, and in the case of Cuba there are limits to humor in relation to the historical figures of the Revolution; that type of satire does not appear in the media here nor in Spain, with the kings,” Hernández alleged.

Cartoonist Alen Lauzán, exiled in Chile and one of the most recognized Cuban graphic humorists of the moment, agrees completely with Ares. “The Islamics would never call for a Festival of Humor about Muhammad; nor in today’s Cuba could one be held satirizing Fidel Castro or the Revolution. As far as I know, we Cubans are not Muslims, nor was Fidel a prophet, nor is the revolution a religion,” he said ironically.

Many works satirize political characters such as Javier Milei, Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump, the usual suspects of the regime / 14ymedio

According to Lauzán, one of the pencils behind the Mazzantini* magazine – a reference for the graphic humor of Cuban exiles – “humor should not have limits, only those that each humorist creates according to their moral and political values, not those that governments and institutions impose. From there to whether it is good or bad, correct or profane, is something else. Even the worst humor has its audience.” continue reading

Hernández, for his part, was right to put tolerance for critical humor in Cuba at the level of Muslim countries such as Iran, but he was wrong to reference Spain, where artists are free to ridicule both the royal family and the Government and its opposition.

Throughout the free world, Lauzán believes, “there have been salons, biennials, humor and political satire contests, but of course, always from the interest of what the organizers of these events understand as convenient and/or politically correct.” But, unlike Cuba, one can also organize an exhibition without asking the State for permission on what topics to deal with or which humorists are allowed to participate.

Despite the restrictions of the biennial, graphic humor made by Cuban authors is booming, and Lauzán, along with group featured in Mazzantini, is one of those responsible. His magazine “of bulls [Tijuana baseball team], goats [Guadalajara soccer team] and cuckolds, of strains and crossbreedings,” and the biennial project, “more than incomparable, they are incompatible.”

“They have nothing to do with each other because they have different concepts of creation and ways of interpreting freedom, not only of expression, but also of creativity. One is governed by what the one-party Ideological Department imposes on all media, and the other by what each publisher understands must be the editorial policy of each publication,” he explains to 14ymedio.

“As far as I know, we Cubans are not Muslims, nor was Fidel a prophet, nor is the revolution a religion”

In the biennial, he concludes, they communicate “the sacred commandments of the PCC* (’Koranist’ Party of Cuba),” but Mazzantini “is governed by another concept: everything that is against the Superior Leading Force of Society and the State.”

This Saturday, only two tourists visited the Gallery on 23rd and 12th Street, one of the venues of the biennial. The international leaders that the official press describes as enemies were repeated in each vignette, but the local authorities or allies were not.

Within the strict thematic channels of the biennial, the jury could only reward works on common themes, such as television criticism, hunger and money. The declared enemies of this “diverse space”: the “ultra-right” governments, which “rewrite history” and promote “neo-fascism,” a sack in which the Argentine president and the Israeli prime minister fit.

About 46 cartoonists from 22 countries – including Venezuela, Russia, China, Iran, Turkey and Syria, nations with very little or no freedom of expression – attended the biennial, convened by the Ministry of Culture, whose head, Alpidio Alonso, was at the presentation this Friday. Other spaces in El Vedado, such as the Riviera cinema, project “classics against fascism” such as ’The National Shotgun’, by the Spaniard Luis García Berlanga, and ’The Great Dictator’, by Charlie Chaplin.

The Ministry of Culture aspires for Havana to become, until June 28, the “world capital of political humor.” However, it has ended up creating an inoffensive world for Cuban leaders. An ideological truce that, after the lashing by more than 40 of Mazzantini’s numbers, they undoubtedly need.

Translator’s notes:
* Mazzantini is a magazine published by The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba – Subscriptions (PDFs via email) are free.
**PCC is the Spanish initials for “Cuban Communist Party” and would also be, in Spanish, the initials for the “Cuban Koranist Party”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The Cuban Regime Expresses Its Displeasure About the Arrival of a U.S. Submarine in Guantánamo

The ’USS Helena’ is on the Island “as part of a routine port visit,” says Washington

The visits of naval ships such as the ’HSS Helena’ are the result of “an invitation, and this is not the case,” says the Foreign Ministry

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 15 June 2024 — The Government of Cuba declared this Friday that it dislikes the presence of a United States war submarine in Guantánamo Bay because the naval visits are the result “of an invitation, and this is not the case.” The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Island, Carlos Fernández de Cossío, said: “Obviously we do not like the presence in our territory and transiting through our waters of a medium of that nature, belonging to a power that maintains an official and practical policy that is hostile towards Cuba.”

“We knew of its presence, because according to procedures that we have followed for years, the United States informed us in advance,” he said in statements to the official state media Cubadebate.

He also pointed out that “the important thing to remember is the illegal and unacceptable nature of the occupation of a part of our territory by a foreign power against the will of the Cuban people. It’s an illegitimate military occupation and that’s what makes the difference.” continue reading

“Obviously we don’t like the presence in our territory and transiting through our waters of a medium of that nature

The U.S. Southern Command reported that a war submarine of its own is in the Cuban bay of Guantánamo, where the United States has maintained a military base since 1903. The Government of Havana demands the return of that territory, which it considers illegally occupied.

According to the report, the fast-attack submarine USS Helena is in Guantánamo “as part of a routine port visit.” The presence of the American submarine coincides with the visit made to the Island by a flotilla of the Russian Navy last Wednesday.

The Russian fleet, which includes a nuclear-powered submarine, a modern frigate, an oil tanker and a tugboat, has generated great expectation in the Cuban capital where it will remain until next Monday on a visit classified as “protocol” by the Ministry of the Armed Forces of Cuba.

The U.S. Department of Defense pointed out that it had been following the movements of the Russian flotilla for days, and it does not pose a threat to U.S. national security.

“We will always and constantly monitor any foreign vessel that operates near territorial waters of the United States. Obviously we take it seriously, but these exercises do not pose a threat to the United States,” said the Pentagon’s deputy spokesperson, Sabrina Singh.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Mexican Police Find the Missing Young Cuban Woman and Return Her to Her Family

Located in Guerrero, Lismailen Galbán Gil, 15, said that she left of her own free will

The Cienfuegos teenager Lismailen Galban Gil / FEM

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mexico City, 16 June 2024 — Lismailen Galbán Gil was located this Saturday in the Mexican state of Guerrero. The young woman, 15 years old, told the authorities that “her absence was voluntary” and denied that she had been a victim of a crime.

Galbán Gil, originally from Cienfuegos, was reported by her relatives as missing in Chihuahua on June 9. According to the report, the family had been living in the Mexican state for seven months and had a home and a job.

According to data offered by the Red Lupa [’Magnifying Glass Network’] platform, as of May 16 of this year, 470 people were under 18 years old when they disappeared, and 63.6 percent were children.

Taking into account that 27.61% of the cases of missing and unlocated women are in the age range between 15 and 19 years, the authorities launched the Alba Protocol. The sharing of information between the security units made it possible to locate Galbán Gil and return her to her family.

Katerin Rodríguez Vázquez has not had the same fortune. The 19-year-old girl disappeared on March 23 on the journey from Tapachula (Chiapas) to Mexico City.

The case of Rodríguez Vázquez was reported by her grandfather, former soccer referee Ramón Rodríguez Cordero. The young woman had recently arrived in the state on the border with Guatemala, after flying to Nicaragua, like thousands of Cubans, and starting the crossing to the United States.

Last February, relatives of the Cuban Melissa de la Caridad Blanco González, who disappeared in Tapachula (Chiapas) in the middle of that month, started a campaign on social networks to find her. The 22-year-old, who was waiting for an immigration appointment to continue her journey through Mexico, was alone and had rented a room.

Galbán Gil, originally from Cienfuegos, was reported by her relatives as missing in Chihuahua on June 9

Mexico continues to be a transit country for Cubans, with several waiting for an appointment with the U.S. immigration authorities. However, last Friday Washington reported that it does not plan to increase the number of daily appointments available in the CBP One application, which allows migrants arriving at the southern border to present themselves at a port of entry to request protection, asylum and access to the country.

In statements to a media group, the Secretary of National Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, said that the Government has a “limited capacity” for processing the cases of migrants.

Currently the United States only offers 1,450 daily appointments through this application for the entire southern border.

After the entry into force of a series of asylum restrictions for those who cross the border irregularly, the US Government said that the CBP One application is now the only tool that migrants in transit have to apply for asylum in the country.

The secretary stressed that, every year, CBP One allows more than 500,000 people to reach U.S. border points to file their applications for protection.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Negligence or Sabotage, the Readers of ‘Cubadebate’ Comment on the Fire at the Guiteras Power Plant

The fire has already been extinguished by firefighters, and “an immense layer of foam covers the place,” according to the official press

The press has avoided alluding to the history of accidents in Matanzas and has downplayed the severity of the latest incident / ACN

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 June 2024 — “We are still waiting for the official reports of the disasters and accidents in the last five years,” complained a reader of Cubadebate this Friday, at the bottom of the announcement of the extinguishing of the fire in a fuel tank of the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant. The accident at the Matanzas power plant is the most recent in a list, from the explosion in the Saratoga hotel to the destruction of the Supertanker Base, about whose causes the Cuban authorities have maintained a strict silence.

The official story is that the latest fire has already been extinguished by the firefighters of Matanzas, Havana and Mayabeque. They claim that it “originated in one of the fuel tanks,” but they do not say what could have unleashed it. Ernesto Torres, the head of the firefighters in the city, limited himself to saying,”We are investigating the cause. There was a repair process on the ladder of that tank, necessary to access its own operation, and this fire arose.”

For his part, Duanys Moreno, the young man who called to report the fire, is suspicious, because such “dangerous” areas suffer accidents so often. “Several fires have happened in that area and it’s not normal. That area must be strictly monitored and millions of dollars had to be invested in the security and maintenance of that infrastructure,” says the young aeronautics fan, referring to the report of a fire in the vicinity of the Supertanker Base that the authorities ruled out as dangerous. continue reading

The burned tank could store 10,000 cubic meters of Cuban crude oil, but it has not been clarified how much fuel was lost

“Those tanks must be prepared to automatically put out any fire from the first moment. That the entire Matanzas fire department, Varadero Airport staff and support from other municipalities had to show up in the area is a sign that those crude oil deposits don’t have the ability to solve an unforeseen event. The entire industrial area of the province needs external support in the face of any incident due to the lack of logistics and equipment,” he says.

The burned tank could store 10,000 cubic meters of Cuban crude oil, but it has not been clarified how much fuel was lost even if they allude to a “considerable level.” “It was practically full,” a local radio station said this Friday. The Guiteras already “stably generates” its usual 260 megawatts of electricity, they pointed out, with the help of the “twin” tank that caught fire this Friday. Now, “an immense layer of foam covers the place.”

The press has avoided alluding to the history of accidents in Matanzas and has downplayed the severity of the latest incident. Torres admitted that it was a fire of “operational complexity” but of”regular” dimensions. “It takes time and strategy to be able to put it out,” he explained.

Luis Guzmán, head of the Cuban Fire Department, says that “so far it is not suspected that it was provoked (intentionally)” and admits that the fire “brought to mind some very difficult days of the past.”

This Saturday, the article about the fire had taken a back seat on the front page of Cubadebate, but readers continue their discussion. “The factor of human negligence” is a constant, they say. “The level of qualified strength in all branches of society has been lowered,” observes another. There are those who dare to speak of “the hand of the enemy,” which sends to the Island “sabotage groups, recruited by the capitalist intelligence operatives based in the embassies and all those who cooperate with the counterrevolution.”

“I do not rule out the possibility of sabotage at all, but we have become accustomed to blaming others. Also, look at the bad condition of our facilities and the difficulties with which we work,” reasoned another reader. Some wanted to lock up “the counterrevolutionaries” as was done during the October 1962 Missile Crisis “in the Sports City,” and send them to “Compulsory Work Farms” to avoid more “misdeeds.”

The fire in the Guiteras began between 10:00 and 11:00 in the morning, according to Televisión Cubana

The fire in the Guiteras began between 10:00 and 11:00 in the morning, according to Televisión Cubana. During the initial phase of the accident, a column of dense black smoke could be seen from several kilometers away, not far from the Matanzas Supertanker Base. The Ministry of Energy and Mines, quoted by the state press, stressed that the workers of the plant were evacuated.

This Friday, the Facebook profile of the official radio station Radio 26 speculated that the flames could have originated from the “maintenance work that was being carried out in the area.” For his part, Ruben Olmos, director of the plant, alleged that “any situation can ignite this fuel.”

The country’s energy situation couldn’t be worse, with eight units out of service due to breakdown, maintenance or lack of fuel (in the thermoelectric plants of Mariel, Santa Cruz, Renté, Felton, Nuevitas and Cienfuegos). This Friday there was a deficit of 972 megawatts (MW), one of the highest values recorded in recent weeks, although the day before it was even worse, with an impact of 1,270 MW.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

Cuban Entrepreneurs Opine About US Measures That Benefit the Private Sector

The guidelines allow Cubans to open, maintain and remotely use bank accounts in the United States

There are more than 11,000 small and medium-sized businesses in Cuba, mostly private, authorized since September 2021 / IPS

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luis Brizuela/IPS, Havana, 15 June 2024 — Cuban entrepreneurs are cautious when evaluating the practical applications and sustainability of the new measures of the United States Government to favor the private sector on the Island, especially in the face of a possible change of administration in the neighboring country and the persistent bilateral dispute.

“I believe that all the measures that contribute to the development of commerce from entrepreneurship will always be welcome, but we need to materialize them,” says Suselmis Martín, general director and founder of the small private company SMG Branding, focused since 2019 on the creation, development and positioning of Cuban brands.

Martín highlighted the opportunity for Cuban entrepreneurs without a tourism or business visa to travel to the United States to open and use accounts remotely. “It is a facility both for the export of services and those of my company, or for colleagues and businesses to import equipment and raw materials from a very close market, with better prices and faster delivery times. But it is often difficult to pay” due to the provisions of the embargo, she claims.

Engineer Pavel Sánchez, general administrator of the medium-sized private company Ecomadeira Cubana, agreed that import and export activities “are made complex for us, especially in relation to financial movement to and continue reading

from Cuba. Finding solutions to this situation is an everyday headache.”

Engineer Pavel Sánchez agreed that import and export activities “become complex for us”

Sánchez also emphasized that Washington’s measures “change some rules of the game, and although we would like a greater scope, it opens other channels for commercial operations. That is where we could benefit if, ultimately, they are implemented.”

Located in the municipality of Fomento, in the province of Sancti Spíritus, Ecomadeira Cubana has stood out since 2014 for the production of plastic or eco-wood, the result of the processing of different types of polymers with which boards, columns, rafters and beams suitable for different constructions are made.

Although the measures were announced two years ago, on May 28 the United States Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) authorized the access of independent Cuban entrepreneurs to internet services, applications and e-commerce platforms, along with channels for electronic payments and commercial activities with the US.

The guidelines allow independent Cuban private sector entrepreneurs to open, maintain and remotely use bank accounts in the United States. They also authorize services with operations on the Internet such as social media platforms, video conferencing and those that operate in the cloud. Likewise, they restore the authorization – suspended in September 2019 – for “U-turn” transactions, which are transfers of funds that originate outside the United States and also end outside the United States, in which neither the source nor the beneficiary are subject to the jurisdiction of that country.

According to the provisions, some officials and members of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), included on Washington’s regulatory lists, are excluded from the benefits.

In addition to considering them “limited” and seeking to “put the private sector in a situation of advantage,” a statement from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs stressed that the decisions “do not touch the fundamental issue of the blockade* against Cuba or the additional sanctions that make up the policy of maximum pressure” towards the Island. However, the Cuban Government indicated that “it will study these measures, and if they do not violate national legislation and if they create an opening that benefits the Cuban population, even if it is for only one segment, we will not hinder their application.”

For economist Omar Everleny Pérez Villanueva, “it is always complex to interpret any flexibility measure” from the United States towards Cuba “because the blockade is maintained, with a very complex legal framework, and the Island remains on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism.”

For the Cuban Government, such a designation, established in January 2021, seeks to justify the approval of sanctions. In addition to financial prohibitions and penalties for people and banks that carry out certain commercial exchanges with those included on the list, the risk for commercial operations increases.

For the Cuban Government, such a designation, established in January 2021, seeks to justify the approval of sanctions

Pérez Villanueva pointed out that the new measures come less than six months before the presidential elections in the United States. “In order for Cuban businessmen to open bank accounts, many legal aspects would have to be modified that may have to be changed if a new administration takes over. I doubt that they will materialize now – perhaps after the elections, depending on the party that wins,” the expert said.

The decisions of the White House are “a first step of many that must be taken,” says civil engineer Yulieta Hernández, president of the private medium-sized company Pilares Construcciones, specialized since 2021 in the construction, maintenance, repair, rehabilitation and remodeling of buildings.

Hernández told IPS that many Cuban entrepreneurs “do not have access to business visas that allow them to look for opportunities in the United States. It is something that these measures do not contemplate.” She also wonders “how many banks will allow the opening of accounts for Cuban entrepreneurs in the face of the perception of high risk for carrying out financial operations with the Island.

“There is a distinct probability that the commissions will be very high. In current conditions for the private sector in Cuba, this can have a negative impact, and the measure will not be used to the fullest,” the businesswoman argued.

The growth of the private sector in Cuba, a country of 11 million inhabitants with a centrally planned economy, has experienced advances, setbacks and criticism of its management from various ideological spectrums. Some have a grudge against the sector by considering it an instrument of groups in the United States to dismantle the political system on the Island and advance a process of the restoration of capitalism.

Others point to the import activity developed by some companies and the sale of final products without added value. There are even those that argue that their authorization serves to create private companies through “frontmen” as a “cover” for the Government to import products, circumvent the embargo and obtain foreign currency.

The creation of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) is limited to non-strategic sectors. They are economic actors legitimized in the governing documents of the PCC and in the Constitution, as part of the socialist model of development. Their activity is considered complementary to that of the socialist state enterprise, classified as the driving force of the internal economy.

There are more than 11,000 enterprises, mostly private, authorized since September 2021 in an environment marked by COVID-19, the shortage of food and essential supplies, and the failed monetary system that accentuated the partial dollarization of the economy and caused a skyrocketing inflation .

The authorities have affirmed that the MSMEs act on equal terms with the rest of the recognized economic actors and that there will be no setbacks or obstacles to the opening of the non-state sector. However, many economists stress the absence of wholesale markets to supply the private sector, the lack of real incentives to export, the payment of high taxes on sales and profits, and the elimination of a tax exemption in the first year. In addition, unlike state entities, the private companies are not subsidized in case of losses.

The realization of an official foreign exchange market where mipymes acquire foreign currencies sufficiently and without irregularities remains unresolved

The realization of an official foreign exchange market where MSMEs acquire foreign currencies sufficiently and without irregularities, in order to carry out foreign trade activities through intermediary state companies, remains unresolved.

Official statistics indicate that the non-state sector on the Island represents 15% of Cuba’s gross domestic product (GDP) and accounts for 35% of the country’s employment. As for foreign trade activities, in 2023 these realized imports of more than $1 billion, but exports did not exceed $200 million, equivalent to 20% of the total exported.

“Not only does the United States Government have to respond affirmatively to banking institutions. We also have to see how Cuba expresses itself in the day-to-day of commercial operations and takes advantage of this small gap in the blockade to implement measures that benefit the Cuban business community,” said Pérez Villanueva.

In the economist’s opinion, “it’s not just about saying that Washington’s measures benefit a part of the private sector. The Cuban Government can also relax the Gordian knot it has on state companies to favor it.”

*Translator’s note: There is, in fact, no US ‘blockade’ on Cuba, but this continues to be the term the Cuban government prefers to apply to the ongoing US embargo. During the Cuban Missile Crisis the US ordered a Naval blockade (which it called a ‘quarantine’) on Cuba in 1962, between 22 October and 20 November of that year. The blockade was lifted when Russia agreed to remove its nuclear missiles from the Island. The embargo had been imposed earlier in February of the same year, and although modified from time to time, is still in force.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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

The Crisis Fuels a Fervor for Afro-Cuban Religions on the Island

Many Cubans look to the orishas for answers to their problems or ask them to help them emigrate

The link between crisis and religion is not new in Cuba / Yoruba Cultural Association

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Laura Bécquer/EFE, 15 June 2024 — When a Cuban woman, Elvira García, knocked on the door of the babalao (Ifá priest) she did so looking for answers to her despair in the Afro-Cuban religion. The retired teacher was at her limit. Because of her difficulties in putting food on the table with the problems of shortages and inflation in Cuba, but also because of her daughter’s illness and the lack of medicines.

She also sought, she acknowledges, to reunite with her family – who had emigrated to the United States – and a spiritual refuge in the face of loneliness and difficulties. “I never professed any religion, but when my daughter had to have throat surgery and she was very ill, I looked to the orishas for the answers that could not be found on the earthly plane,” she explains.

It was then that she arrived at the house of babalao Daniel Oliva, who says that García is no exception. This 46-year-old Yoruba oracle scholar claims that he has seen a “religious explosion with the growth of believers due to the economic crisis in recent years.” This opinion is shared by experts and people linked to different religions on the Island. In the case of these traditional beliefs – which may be practiced by one in three Cubans, according to some studies – it is even more complex, because they are often mixed with Christianity. continue reading

“People are looking for a dream and see in religious places the possibility of helping them achieve it”

“People are looking for a dream and see in religious places the possibility of helping them achieve it,” explains Oliva from his house-temple in Havana. The link between crisis and religion, he says, is not new in Cuba. In the so-called Special Period, he remembers, something similar happened. “Many people turned to religion regardless of denomination – Yoruba, Christian, even Muslim – during the crisis of the 90s when things got bad,” he points out. In Havana, for example, it is common for groups of practitioners to meet on the shore of the sea or some rivers and, dressed completely in white, perform rituals.

Cuba is going through a harsh crisis that is reflected in frequent and prolonged blackouts, shortages of food, medicine and fuel, rampant inflation and a growing dollarization of the economy. The combination of the pandemic, the tightening of US sanctions and failed economic and monetary policies have aggravated the situation even further.

This scenario – and the lack of expectations for a medium-term recovery – has unleashed an unprecedented exodus in the last three years. According to different unofficial calculations, around 7% of the Cuban population has emigrated. Since 2021, some 650,000 have left for the United States and another 100,000 for Mexico. The numbers are even higher if those who have gone to Europe or other Latin American countries are counted.

The desire to leave their country in search of a better life is a recurring theme among those who consult Oliva

The desire to leave their country in search of a better life is a recurring theme among those who consult Oliva. “Ifá (father or guardian of secrets) has been listening to people’s prayers for years. The majority come because they want to live a little better and for that they have to emigrate,” explains the Cuban babalao.

Leaving Cuba “to improve economically” was precisely the reason that led Cuban chef Vladimir Blanes to “ask Orula” (the orisha who owns the Ifá board and divination). “I had several difficulties in achieving my dream, so I saw my last opportunity in religion,” explains the 36-year-old.

Oliva, however, is concerned because “these are times when deception, falsehood and lies increase in the face of people’s suffering.” However, he tells “all Cubans not to lose faith and to continue searching for “el aché ” (luck or blessing) despite the crisis.

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

The British Company Small World Suspends the Sending of Remittances to Cuba From Europe

Fincimex suggested that senders from Europe use other routes

So far there is no known on-line version of Small World that explains the reasons / EFE

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, June 15, 2024 — Remittances that were sent to Cuba from Europe through Small World Financial Services have been stopped. Since 2011, the British company has been dedicated to sending remittances to the Island. This was reported by the Cuban State-owned company Fincimex through a statement that was released this Friday on all its social networks, and that in turn was replicated by the profiles of some Cuban banks, such as the Metropolitan of Havana.

The financial institution belonging to the Cimex Corporation pointed out that so far they do not have an official statement from Small World that explains the reason or the extent of the interruption in its operations.

Nor does the English company’s website contain any statement from its press team. However, some local media have echoed the news confirming the cessation of operations. If a person tries to send money to Cuba from the Small World portal, a legend appears that says “country not available.”

Small World’s operations to Cuba are not available / 14ymedio

Fincimex explained that “they will keep consumers informed about any news of interest” in relation to the interruption of operations by Small World, which was described as “unexpected.” “This financial service was in high demand from Europe, for its stability, security and immediacy. It is continue reading

confirmed that there are no operations in transit or pending at the time of the closure of the operations,” the statement says.

 Fincimex recommended looking for other alternatives for sending remittances from Europe

Given the situation, Fincimex suggested that senders from Europe use other official channels to send their remittances to Cuba. It mentioned several services such as tocopay.com, grupotitanes.com, moneyexchange.es and fonmoney.com through oceancard.com. It added that “these routes guarantee direct remittances to bank accounts, Classic cards and AIS in just 7 minutes and with competitive prices.”

At the beginning of May, after remaining inactive for a few months, Western Union’s remittance service to Cuba from the United States resumed “with immediate effect,” according to Fincimex, “in coordination with its counterpart, Orbit S.A.”

At the end of that same month, Western Union announced its partnership with the virtual shopping site Katapulk, owned by the Cuban-American Hugo Cancio, owner of the Fuego group of companies. In a statement, the American financier explained that the motive behind the union is to create “an additional channel to send money to close relatives in Cuba” and “offer its customers a first-class experience.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

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