On October 10, Cuba is Living with Police Operations and Internet Cuts

From the early hours of the morning of this October 10, a police cordon surrounded the home of journalist Luz Escobar. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 October 2021 — On October 10, the date on which the wars of independence began in Cuba in 1868, this Sunday, the island has faced a lackluster official celebration, police operations around the houses of activists, and cuts in the internet service. The 153rd anniversary of the start of that long ago feat comes at a time of great social tension after the protests on July 11.

At least a score of activists denounced police sieges, threats and the suspension of their mobile web browsing service. The writer and photographer Ariel Maceo Tellez was one of the most affected on this day, when he even received a visit from a captain of the National Revolutionary Police who gave him a police summons.

The activist, and member of the Archipelago platform, Saily González, published a complaint about the police operation around her home to prevent her from going out on the street. In the images, a State Security agent is seen on a motorcycle guarding the house, in Santa Clara, and threatening a relative of the activist filming the scene. “This is going to cost you dearly,” warns the man.

On the day that recalls the moment when Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, known as the Father of the Nation, freed his slaves and began the fight against Spanish rule, several Cuban dissidents lamented the parallels between the lack of freedoms on the island during the colony and the current violation of human rights.

Luz Escobar, a reporter at 14ymedio, has also been the victim of an operation by the political police to prevent her from going out into the streets. The journalist has a police patrol continue reading

and an agent in civilian clothes around her home, a cordon she has experienced more than twenty times so far this year and in some cases the confinement has lasted more than two weeks.

Reports of internet access cuts on mobile phones have also been repeated throughout the island. In the newsroom of this newspaper, the web browsing service was suspended since dawn and several 14ymedio contributors also suffered similar cuts for several hours.

For their part, the official celebrations were minor, compared with other years, and were surrounded by a wide deployment of security, especially in Havana, where Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel participated in a meeting with official historians, an event that was the framework for the delivery of the National Prize for History, the prizes for Historical Criticism and other decorations.

The president’s presence in the central University Hill of the Cuban capital created a large presence of police and military personnel throughout the area of El Vedado.

In the east of the country, tribute was paid to the grave of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes in the Santa Ifigenia cemetery, Santiago de Cuba, which included floral offerings by Díaz-Canel and Raúl Castro Ruz, the latter who had not appeared in public for several weeks ago.

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After Touching Land in the US, 13 Cuban Rafters Will be Able to File for Political Asylum

The wooden boat that brought 13 Cubans who landed in the Florida Keys on October 7, 2021. (Twitter/@USBChiefMIP)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 October 2021 — A total of 13 Cuban rafters detained by the Border Patrol when they made landfall last Thursday in Marathon Key, south Florida, were released this Friday morning and will be able to defend their request for political asylum in the coming months.

As reported by an immigration officer to América TeVé, the rafters remained in custody for only a few hours at the Krome Detention Center in Miami and had to be released due to an outbreak of covid-19 at the immigration center.

Donelys Suárez, one of the Cubans who made the journey, said that they left Matanzas and took four days to reach the Florida coast. The 23-year-old said that she does not regret the dangers and risks of the journey because she reached what she was looking for: “the land of freedom.”

“I need to be free, I need to be able to have dreams, plans. I need to help my family, have freedom of expression,” said Suarez, who is a nurse by profession and is in Miami. “I was afraid of staying in Cuba. I wanted to take risks. The worst thing is to stay in a country without opportunities,” she continue reading

added.
Another woman and 11 men traveled with Suárez, and most of the journey was made at night to avoid being intercepted by the coast guard.

“The situation in Cuba has become super difficult. For young people there are no longer any possibilities of any kind, neither work nor future prospects nor any dreams. There really is no motivation anymore. In that country they have cut off almost everything,” she said.

All Cubans intercepted at sea are returned to the island, however in recent months several had luck and have passed the test of ’Credible Fear’, as was the case of Ernesto Urgellés, at the beginning of last August.

Urgellés was a police officer in Cuba and had been intercepted along with other rafters, who were returned to the island a few days later by the Coast Guard. The immigrant cannot enter the United States while his asylum request is being reviewed, therefore, he must stay at the Guantánamo base or in a third country that provisionally accepts him, the authorities indicated.

A month later, Julio César Capote was able to begin his asylum process on US soil. The rafter, who spent ten days at sea that left him on the brink of death, was rescued by the coast guard in the vicinity of Fowey Rocks, while sailing in a precarious six-foot boat. Due to the physical damage and the degree of dehydration in which he found himself, the rafter had to be hospitalized.

Regarding Capote’s legal options, Immigration lawyer Willy Alllen said then that in the Customs office there is the possibility that they will grant him the so-called ’parole’, a document with which, after one year and one day, he can opt for US residence according to the Cuban Adjustment Law.

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

A Million Packages are in Cuban State Warehouses, Waiting to be Distributed

Packages sent from abroad stored in Cuba. (Estudios Revolución)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 October 2021 — About a million packages sent to Cuba from abroad have been piled up in state warehouses, some of them for more than a year, while the recipients, overwhelmed by needs, cannot get them delivered.

With the worst economic crisis of this century and a growing shortage in the island’s markets, Cuban families have become increasingly dependent on these packages to survive. These are, in most cases, medicines, vitamins, personal hygiene items, footwear and clothing, products that cost the regime nothing and that, here in plain sight, can not reach the hands of their recipients.

The information about the delay in deliveries came this Thursday from the mouth of the Prime Minister himself, Manuel Marrero Cruz, who demanded, according to the official press, “a definitive solution,” although without specifying how.

Just three weeks ago, after visiting four agencies in Havana that are dedicated to receiving and delivering international parcels, Marrero said continue reading

they were conducting “a weekly checkup” to see how they were “promoting” the distribution process.

The most surprising thing about his statement on Thursday is that Marrero did not blame the US ’blockade’, while acknowledging that the delays in service were also not related to covid-19. And so, he vehemently asked that an end be put to the recurring “delays in these efforts (with and without a pandemic) over time.”

He even said that the management center created in the Ministry of Transport had already delivered “very important results.” Companies that distributed between 1,000 and 2,000 packages a day had gone on to deliver 19,000, the prime minister detailed.

Between September 29 and October 5 alone, some 114,000 packages were received on the island. In that period, just over 305,000 were dispatched and 80,000 were classified as delayed. In the warehouses this Thursday there were around a million packages that must be delivered to just over 500,000 customers, the State newspaper Granma reported.

The official newspaper clarified that 30 days is the maximum term accepted to consider that the delivery is on time: “Beyond that, it is delayed.”

In addition to complaints about month-long delays in deliveries, state agencies are also heavily criticized for corruption and theft of goods. Two of them are Aerovaradero and Correos de Cuba, which have had to acknowledge the habitual embezzlement of packages and apologize to their customers.

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

‘I Threw Myself From the Hotel’s Second Floor Into a Palm Tree’

Cuban player Loidel Rodríguez is already in the US (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 October 2021– The Cuban baseball team was preparing that September 24 to leave for the Yaquis de Obregón stadium, in the Mexican state of Sonora, while Loidel Rodríguez prepared his escape. At 4:35 in the afternoon, he told the journalist Francys Romero, he jumped “from the second floor of the hotel because into a palm tree” and a car was already waiting for him downstairs.

Eleven days after leaving the Quality Inn hotel, this Spaniard applied for asylum in the United States, as did Uber Mejías from Santiago last Sunday. Both are two of the 12 athletes who defected during the U23 World Cup in Mexico.

Rodríguez, who will be represented by RI Total Sports by Carlos Pérez from Havana, had been included in the team led by Eriel Sánchez after averaging 239 with three doubles and two homers in the qualifying stage of the last National Series, reported the site Pelota Cubana (Cuban Baseball).

As the days go by, more details of the stay of the Cuban players in Mexico are known, such as the story of Yudiel González. The player from Ciego de Avila told the Cuban station Radio Rebelde that they were pressuring him to escape through messages that reached his cell phone so that he would lose concentration. continue reading

“In the lobby,” he said, “they approached us so that we would go with them.”

Francys Romero referred to González’s case and detailed that during his stay in Mexico, the player “got into a car but he repented and asked to be returned to the hotel.” The reporter said that “he cannot argue about the pressure exerted” and “not speak of his own attempt” to escape, which seems to have already been forgiven.

Recently it was also announced that some athletes were stopped during their check-in at the airport because “they were carrying cigars in order to market them and get some monetary advantage due to the economic scarcity that prevails on the island.”

This Miami-based journalist also says that the Cuban Baseball Federation “subjected its athletes to a 23-hour journey” to transport them by land to Ciudad Obregón, thereby saving “50 dollars for each of the 40 members of the delegation” making the trip.

Last Saturday the escapes of Loidel Chapellí Jr., 19, Yandi Yanes, 23, Bryan Chi, 22, and Miguel Antonio González, 21, became known. Before that, also escaping were Geisel Cepeda and pitchers Yeinel Zayas, Luis Dannys Morales, Uber Mejías, Dariel Fernández, in addition to catcher Loidel Rodríguez, outfielder Reinaldo Lazaga and infielder Diasmany Palacios.

On the island, the sports authorities have insisted on holding the United States responsible for the athletes’ flight. The National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (Inder) accused the blocking of the agreement between the Cuban Baseball Federation and Major League Baseball, of stimulating “the trafficking of athletes in defense of political interests.”

Romero believes that “these flights are not unique and speak, above all, of the limited horizon of both political and economic opportunities available to Cuban citizens,” he said. “Let us remember that the association with professionalism was never an interest of the Castro government. Rather, it was a farewell.”

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

Dr. Manuel Guerra, Coordinator for the Archipelago Platform, Released From Jail

Guerra was transferred to the Criminal Investigation Center where he was held. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 October 2021 — Dr. Manuel Guerra, who was arrested on Saturday in Holguín, was released on Sunday night after an intense campaign for his immediate release, which was joined by several medical colleagues. The doctor expressed thanks for the solidarity he received after his arrest, on his Facebook account.

“Good evening everyone. I have just been released. I am already at home thanks be to God and to all those who in one way or another collaborated, with his support, in my release. Thank you!  Today I am exhausted because it was a very long day but tomorrow I will clarify everything and what happened,” Guerra wrote.

The doctor, part of the coordinating team of the Archipelago Platform, had been detained at a police checkpoint when he was on his way to visit a patient. The doctor was handcuffed and initially taken to a police station, the group reported on its Facebook page.

Later, Guerra was transferred to the Criminal Investigation Center where he was held, denounced the platform, which demanded his “immediate release.”

“We warn the authorities that they are obliged to act within the frameworks that the Law establishes, otherwise the case will be understood as an arbitrary arrest for political reasons.”

“We demand the immediate release of Dr. Manuel Guerra with the same firmness with which continue reading

we demand the cessation of harassment and the release of all those detained, processed and punished for political reasons,” the text emphasized.
Maylén Álvarez Ramírez, Guerra’s wife, told 14ymedio that the Narciso López y Martí police unit, in the city of Holguín, informed the young man’s mother that her son was being investigated “for contempt of authority.”

In addition, when requesting that Guerra be released so that he could defend his case outside of jail, an officer who calls himself Wilber said that it was not possible and that at some point the family would be grateful that he remained locked up because “the 15th November (15N) is coming.” The officer justified the detention, saying that the doctor had publicly stated in the unit his participation in the July 11 march and reaffirmed that he would attend the 15N march.

As the hours passed, Guerra’s arrest provoked successive displays of solidarity from the medical union. The hashtag #FreeManuelGuerra has also been widely disseminated on social networks in recent hours and several colleagues, especially from the province of Holguín, demanded the immediate release of the doctor.

The resident doctor in the specialty of urology, Beatriz Cruz Suárez, demanded that Guerra be released. The young woman published the message on the social network Facebook accompanied by a photo of herself while working at the Lucía Iñiguez Clinical Surgical Hospital in the capital of Holguin.

In that same hospital, internal medicine doctor Reinier Ávalo Martínez denounced the arbitrary arrest of his colleague and demanded that no charges be imposed on him. “Do not mess with the doctors, respect them. The dictatorship does not want us doctors to just stand up and go on strike,” he added.

General physician Yaniel Villoch Rodríguez also joined the demand. “I don’t think there is a reason to handcuff a doctor in the middle of the street with his gown on,” he lamented in a post also on Facebook. “We are not illiterate or criminal and even if it was not me, it hurts me to see my partner called into question.”

Guerra was one of the doctors who responded to Prime Minister Manuel Marrero when, last August, he accused the Health personnel of doing a poor job, which supposedly provoked constant complaints from patients. “Marrero, how much indignation! How can we blame the doctors for his nonsense!” he wrote.

Last year, Guerra came out in defense of his colleague Alexander Raúl Pupo Casas, who was defamed for publishing his critical opinion on the political situation on the island and resigned from his job at the Ernesto Guevara hospital in Las Tunas, where he was doing his Neurosurgery residency.

The doctor also denounced last October that State Security was investigating him in his neighborhood and at the Nicodemus Regalado hospital in Buenaventura, in the municipality of Calixto García, where at that time he was practicing as an obstetrician, while he was studying the specialty in this matter. .

“My co-workers inform me that a Security agent had been inquiring about me with patients, workers at the center, and even the hospital’s management,” he wrote on his Facebook account at that time. Shortly after, he was arrested by the political police in his own home.

However, his work problems arose much longer ago, when in December 2018 he wanted to go live with his girlfriend in the United States, where his father has also resided since 2013.

Once he decided to leave the country, he knew he couldn’t, because he “was regulated* by Public Health” because of his specialty. Since then, two years have passed and he is still subject to a ban on leaving the Island.

*Translator’s note: “Regulated” is the euphemism the government uses to mean “forbidden to travel.”

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

Havana Restaurants Reopen with Exorbitant Prices and at Full Capacity

It has become impossible to get a table at Rey & Gaby before November (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar & Natalia Lopez Moya, Havana, October 9, 2021 — Rey & Gaby is fully booked until sometime in November. Currently, it is impossible to reserve a table at this privately owned restaurant in El Vedado. Before the pandemic set in, the place always had empty tables. Now that restaurants in Havana are reopening, it has become a go-to place, in spite of its prices. “Rey’s pizza is 150 pesos, which would have been about six convertible pesos. It used to cost three,” remarks a customer who was checking out the menu at the entrance this weekend.

It is not an isolated case. Reservations at the nearby Cocina de Esteban are also up. The place is large and the staff plan to seat anyone waiting in line. But since restaurants reopened on September 24, the number of reservations has exceeded all forecasts, even at state-run establishments.

At the pizzeria on the corner of 23rd and I streets there were five people waiting in line. “We can take your name and, if something opens up, we can seat you but everything is by reservation,” says an employee. She points to the menu board.

“Everything has gone up a lot. Before, you could get a pizza for six or ten pesos. Now it costs forty,” complains a man in his sixties as he waits in line with his two teenage granddaughters.

Not all restaurant and cafe owners are thrilled, however, at the prospect of reopening. Barbaro Dominguez claims continue reading

that, during the quarantine, he learned a lot about how to do business. That is why he is not planning to continue selling pizzas from the covered entryway of his house near the Vía Blanca.

“When I closed, there were 1,000 cases of Covid a day in the country. At the time that seemed like a lot. Now they tell us we can reopen but I’m not sure my family will be safe under these conditions,” he admits. “This is where we live. The bed where my daughter sleeps has a window that overlooks the area where I sell pizzas. If someone sneezes outside, coronavirus could get under the sheets.”

Dominguez does plan to keep operating but will focus on home delivery, which he believes will be much safer. “It’s better for me. I doubt that by year’s end I will still be behind the counter on my front porch,” he says. But not all the changes are driven by the pandemic. “I’m on various websites where people who live overseas buy food in dollars for their relatives who live here. They pay in real money.”

Operating under the names Mercadito XL and Hasta Tu Casa (To Your Door) Dominguez has turned his cafe into a small supermarket that delivers anything from a package of sausages to a bag of prebaked bread rolls to a pack of beer. “It solves a ton of problems like the obnoxious drunk on my front porch and the inspectors who always want more and more money.

“People are complaining about the prices at all those terrace restaurants because, of course, they charge in Cuban pesos and have to exchange a dollar for 70 or even 80 pesos. Every day they have to write the prices on the chalk board because things are constantly changing. I only accept dollars. The people who buy from me are those who have greenbacks,” he says.

Dominguez has posted a classified ad for several items in his cafe. “I am selling a bar, refrigerator with a glass display door, tall wooden stools and a sink with a drain for kitchen work,” the ad reads.

But a beer does not taste the same at home. At least that is what Dayana and Monica think. It has been a year since the two young women sat face-to-face at a restaurant. As soon as restrictions were lifted, they headed to the Maximo Bar, a privately owned establishment near the entrance to the Havana harbor.

“Between the two of us we spent 3,000 pesos but it wasn’t just for the items themselves. We wanted the experience of eating and drinking in a public space,” admits Dayana. The couple met in March 2020 and their relationship has been marked by the pandemic, which is why they want to finally enjoy being in a restaurant together.

“Yes, it’s expensive but we are willing to pay for the experience. We’ve spent months thinking about it. Even if it had cost a fortune, we would have figured out a way to do it, though I don’t know if we would be inclined to do it again tomorrow. Today is the first time but next time I’ll be checking the prices first and maybe we’ll have to settle for some other place,” one of them admits.

There are also those who are frightened by the growing number of zeros on restaurant menus. At the Malecon’s seawall, some carry their thermoses of tea or coffee, their hidden tankards of rum almost rusted out after months of not being used.

“Before, there used to be other problems,” says Lazaro, a fisherman from the outskirts of La Punta. “You were Cuban or you were a tourist. You paid or you didn’t pay… but now everybody is afraid. No one dares take a sip from a stranger’s bottle.”

The drunk guy who used to come here every day died of Covid in March. And the fisherman that I used to share soup with passed away in July. I’m the only one left around here. I used to worry about people bothering me. Now I wish people would come over. No one is fishing and no one goes near anyone else.

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

The Cuban film ‘Corazon Azul’ Receives an Award at the Guadalajara Film Festival

Coyula spent months inviting interested viewers, every Sunday, to see a very peculiar production, within current Cuban cinema. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 October 2021 — The film Corazón Azul (Blue Heart), by Cuban filmmaker Miguel Coyula, won the Jorgé Camera Prize at the Guadalajara International Film Festival in its 36th edition. The film depicts “an alternate reality” in which Fidel Castro uses engineering to build the New Man.

The award was given for the first time this year by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), in tribute to the film promoter Jorgé Camera, who was the main organizer of the Golden Globes awards and also served as president of the HFPA on three occasions.

Gilda Baum, a member of the HFPD, made the announcement that Coyula’s Cuban film won the award for Best Ibero-American Fiction Film, which came with $5,000. “Because it is a disruptive and highly personal work that can only exist in cinematographic language,” declared the jury, made up of producers Hugo Villa and Cristina Velasco, screenwriter Daniel Dreifuss and actor Francisco Barreiro.

“Thanks to the actors and actresses and all those who worked over 10 years in Corazón Azul. Thanks to Habanero, to the jury and to the International Film Festival in Guadalajara ,” Miguel Coyula wrote on his Facebook profile. Coyula is considered one of the great exponents of independent cinema on the Island.

Similarly, one of the protagonists of the film, actress Lynn Cruz, continue reading

who also shared the costume design and production roles with Coyula, thanked everyone who helped “during the long journey of the film.”

The script for the feature film is based on the novel Mar rojo, mal azul [Red Sea, Blue Evil], by Miguel Coyula himself, written in 1999 and published 14 years later by Pereza Editorial de Miami. The expenses have been paid by the filmmaker, who was also in charge of direction, photography, editing, sound design and special effects.

The world premiere of Corazón Azul took place at the Moscow International Film Festival, which selected it from dozens of films from Iran, Russia, China, Italy and Germany.

The story takes place at the beginning of this century, in Cuba’s post-Special Period era, when a dozen mutants attempt to explain the cause of their unusual abilities while trying to find their humanity and inquire about their past. They then come up with the answer that they have undergone a procedure that leads to irreversible results.

After the premiere, Coyula said that he chose science fiction as a way to allude to reality: “It allows me to talk about current problems and society in an understandable way, beyond a specific geographical context; it gives me more freedom to explore and say things without turning into a rant, a pamphlet.”

The film has not been officially released in Cuba and it is unlikely that it will reach theaters here, due to the fact that the author has suffered censorship by cultural institutions for years, a limitation that has sometimes been extended to independent spaces where he wanted to screen his works .

As an alternative, Coyula invites those interested to peek into his work in his own home. The director has spent months, every Sunday, inviting interested viewers to watch a very peculiar production, within current Cuban cinema.

In addition to the award-winning film this week, Coyula, a graduate of the San Antonio de los Baños International School of Film and Television, has won numerous national and international awards. His filmography includes Red Cockroaches (2003), Memories of Overdevelopment (2010) and the documentary Nadie (Nobody) (2016).

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

Havana’s Eastern Beaches are Crowded With Bathers and Police

This Saturday, the people of Havana flocked to cool off at the Playas del Este. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 9 October 2021 –Despite the cloudy skies this Saturday, Havanans flocked to cool off in the Playas del Este, a coastline that was closed to bathers for months. But taking the long-awaited dip required a long line to get on the buses that travel to that area of ​​the Cuban capital or being willing to pay the high prices of private taxis.

Hundreds of people were waiting early in the line for Route 400 that starts near the Central Railway Station and reaches the town of Guanabo, one of the most visited beaches. Those who did not want to wait too long and also wanted to travel more comfortably, then had to shell out 100 Cuban pesos for a position in a private almendrón*.

Despite the cloudy sky on Saturday, many went to take the long-awaited dip on the coast, closed for months to bathers. (14ymedio)

Although a large police operation was evident on the beach, the use of the mask outside the sea was not especially observed. But the uniformed men did seem very strict with the groups of young people, especially those who were black, asking for their identity documents, checking their bags and offering harsh words about the behavior to be maintained on the beach.

The food-service offers also left much to be desired, although since the beaches were opened to the public on September 29, several private businesses have re-established table service. The limited supply of menu options and sky-high prices scared off many bathers. Others, aware of the situation, brought a snack from home, a bottle of frozen water and even music on their wireless speakers.

*Translator’s note: ‘Almendron‘ is used to designate private taxi services in Cuba. The word derives from ‘almond’ and is a reference to the shape of the classic American cars that are often used in this service.

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

Cuba’s Meat Markets to Get September’s Chickens in October

Two women buying rationed food items at a neighborhood store in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodriguez, Havana, October 7, 2021 — “In September they didn’t give us anything. Only eggs and some disgusting ground meat. One tablespoon for two people. Not even my dogs would eat it,” complains Migdalia, a housewife in Central Havana who foresees no end to the ongoing struggles to stock her pantry. Public frustration is growing ever more widespread. Every day sees another announcement of a delay, a substitution or a “failure” that prevents products ranging from chicken and rice to basic supplies such as water and electricity from reaching consumers’ hands.

In September only eggs were available in some Havana neighborhoods. Others got chicken that was supposed to have arrived in August. In some provinces, such as Santiago de Cuba, only bologna and eggs were being sold, though Interior Commerce Minister Betsy Diaz Velazquez claimed meat was being distributed to everyone, though it was a month late.

At the end of September the minister noted that, several months earlier, there had been a steady supply of chicken which could reach the country in seven to ten days.

“Today, though we have the necessary funds and are able to purchase the product, we have had to wait for as much as fifty days or longer for it to get to Cuba. As a result, the public did not receive August’s supply of chicken until September. And in September there will be a similar delay even though the  supplier has already been paid,” she claimed.

Something similar is happening with rice. Plans to provide families with additional pounds of rice over the last few months were cancelled, a continue reading

decision that many attribute to the distribution of international rice donations that have been delivered since early August and that contain several kilos of the grain. In some Havana neighborhoods the distribution of the second batch has already begun.

Diaz had said that in October that families would receive the seven pounds of rice to which they are entitled through the ration book, but delivery of the three additional pounds intended for August and September will be postponed because the product is currently unavailable.

Migdalia, who is on a medically prescribed diet, it also frustrated by the shortage of powdered milk. In late September the Ministry of Food Production announced that, because of delayed deliveries of the product, distribution of the product through the ration system had been changed. Currently, powdered milk is not being provided to people on medical diets.

The ministry also noted that on September 25 monthly sales of the product for children seven-years-old and younger had been concluded in Havana.

The only way to get many foods such as milk is to buy them on the black market, where it sells for about 1,000 pesos a kilo. Sellers charge 250 pesos for a 2.5-kilo of packaged chicken while a ten-pound package goes for twice that.

Eggs are another product for which black market prices are sky-high. “When butcher shops get their deliveries, you can find a carton of eggs on the informal market for 350 pesos (fourteen dollars at the official exchange rate). But if you can get it through the ration book, the same amount goes for 400 pesos,” explains Henry, a resident of Havana’s Playa district.

Along with food shortages, there are also continual disruptions in utility services. The Cuban Electrical Union announced on Thursday that power outages on the previous day were due to “a significant increase in demand” and because Unit 6 at the Maximo Gomez power plant had gone out of service. The state-owned company added that it was anticipating electrical service to be impacted during peak hours. It was not an isolated incident. Beginning in June customers were without power throughout much of the summer, unable to turn on even a simple fan during the hot days and nights.

But the island’s water isn’t flowing either. The company, Waters of Havana, announced on Thursday that there would be service interruptions in some areas between 8:00 AM and 6:00 PM  due to maintenance and repair work on the pipelines and equipment at Meireles Viejos and machinery at Tower 19.” Boyeros and Tenth of October are the areas to be most affected.

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

Havana Residents Make Themselves Heard Through ’14ymedio’

Sewer at the corner of Infanta and San Lázaro, in Havana. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 8 October 2021 — A few days after this newspaper echoed the dire state of many streets in Havana, which puts passersby at risk, citizen complaints have achieved something. Aguas de La Habana (Havana Water), responsible for leaving numerous sewer manholes without a lid, has closed the one that was open on the busy corner of Infanta and San Lázaro, just outside the Alma Mater bookstore, according to 14ymedio. “Now we will have a few fewer sprains,” commented a resident from the Plaza municipality, close to the corner.
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In Cuba the Price of Ice Cream Goes Through the Roof

The Monte Freddo ice cream parlor in San Rafael Street, Havana.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, October 6th, 2021 — The Monte Freddo ice cream parlor this week shows a new price on its notice board. The popular cone with two scoops of ice cream doesn’t cost 50 pesos any longer: now you need 70 pesos to enjoy this high quality ice cream.

Private traders, like this famous ice cream parlor located on San Rafael Street, between Ronda and Mason, in Plaza de la Revolucion, Havana, have been obliged to change their prices to survive the new regulations and anti-covid measures brought in by the government to contain the pandemic.

The prices continue to rise and businesses like Monte Freddo, producing their own ice cream, also don’t escape the problems brought about by the shortage of sugar and unavailability of milk which have also reached exorbitant price levels in the informal market.

Translated by GH

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

Date for Civic Marches in Cuba Moved Up to November 15 to Avoid Coinciding with Military Maneuvers

Protesters in Havana on July 11, 2021. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 October 2021– As a result of the Cuban Government’s declaring November 20th “National Defense Day,” Archipiélago announced this Friday that it has decided to reschedule for November 15th the march that was originally scheduled for that day.

During an eventful press conference, in which the participants suffered telephone and internet interruptions, Yunior García, the architect of the initiative, managed to say that as soon as they learned of the regime’s announcement to schedule the Moncada Exercise for the 18th, 19th and 20th, the activists felt taken for granted. “We knew we had to respond.”

So, he says, they got together to determine what decision to take. Cancel the march, he assures, “we did not contemplate.” “Since more than a thousand people have joined,” he continues, in Havana, Holguín, Santa Clara, Santiago de Cuba, Guantánamo, Cienfuegos, Las Tunas and Pinar del Río, they could not suspend it. Thus, “the first decision was that we had to move ahead.”

This presented another dilemma, reported by another participant, when Yunior García’s communication was cut off: move up the date of the demonstration, maintain it or delay it. After four hours of deliberation, the meeting reached a consensus: the march will be brought forward to November 15th.

Keeping it the same day, Garcia had said, entailed a “great responsibility on their shoulders.” It would be throwing, he asserted, “young people in the middle of an army, something extremely risky.” As a result of the new date announced, this morning the artist himself delivered a new request for the Civic March for Change to the headquarters of the National Assembly.

Although the promoters of Archipiélago did not allude to having considered delaying continue reading

the demonstration to November 27, the anniversary of the spontaneous demonstration of more than 300 artists in front of the Ministry of Culture asking for dialogue and freedom of creation, the suggestion was made by multiple commentators on social networks.

When asked by 14ymedio why they did not choose to reschedule the march for November 27, Leonardo Fernández replied that they chose November 15 “out of necessity,” due to the urgency of expressing discontent through the march.

In addition, that is the day when the Cuban Government plans to fully reopen the country after almost a year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic. “To delay the date was to give in to pressure,” said Fernando Almeyda. Moving it up, on the other hand, seems to them “sensible and firm.”

They also suggested wearing white to the protest, in the peaceful spirit of the demonstration.

Of course, when he rejoined the call, Yunior García vehemently addressed the leftists of the world, “Stop the hypocrisy, a dictatorship is a dictatorship.” We are “in a crisis of three parts, and you have to call things by their names.”

And he also alluded to attempts by the regime and the official media to discredit the group. “Though they call us mercenaries, they know that we are not paid by anyone,” he said. “Let them prove that a foreign government is telling us what to say. They can’t, because they know it’s a lie.”

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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Cuban Coffee in US Dollars

Cubita, of national production, is sold in foreign currency but it is difficult to find it in Cuban pesos. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 7 October 2021– Long faces in line this Thursday at the entrance of the Plaza Carlos III shopping center to buy coffee. “Cuban coffee in American dollars,” one of the establishment’s customers, called Sorpresas, scoffed aloud. The line burst into laughter at this, but a resigned indignation was palpable.

“It is incredible that we pay in MLC [freely convertible currency] for the coffee that is produced in Cuba,” said a woman. “But nothing, we pay for it and we do nothing,” a young man responded quickly.

Coffee is one of the scarcest products in the national trade networks and in the informal market it can reach a whopping 1,000 pesos for a one-kilo (2.2 pounds) package, or 250 pesos for a 250-gram (approx. 9 ounces) package. Despite the official media announcing a supposed recovery in coffee production in the country since 2020, the improvement has not been noticed in stores that take payment in national currency, where the supply of coffee beans or ground coffee is practically non-existent.

The line joked with resignation about the fact of having to pay for the national product in dollars. (14ymedio)

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In Cuba, Salt – Along with Coffee, Electricity and Face Masks – Is a Problem

Cuban homes get their salt damp and in big plastic bags. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, October 5, 2021 — A product as basic and elemental as salt is has become yet another of problem for the island’s authorities. Not a day has gone by when they have not been called to account, even by the official press, for the lack of some consumer product, be it tobacco, electricity, coffee or masks.

On Tuesday salt became the latest item to be added to the list. It is sold in a form so damp that even the addition of rice to Cuban salt shakers is not enough to separate the grains. On Tuesday Jorge Luis Bell Alvarez, director of Ensal, has had to face the press to provide some justification for the problem. He claimed the only Cuban salt producer with technology capable of producing dry salt is in Guantánamo province. In addition to distributing the product locally, the plant also supplies Havana’s rationed markets. In total, it is responsible for 46% of Cuban saline production.

According to Bell Alvarez, the rest of the island is supplied by salt plants in El Real, Matanzas and Zoa, which produce damp salt. He acknowledges that the product, which is now the only option on the market, “is a problem” but adds that the thirteen provinces which do not get their salt from Guantanamo, which has a drying oven, sometimes do have the “benefit” of being able to get salt.

He says the centrifuges used to spin salt, like the ones used in sugar refineries, are not adequate. To fix the problem, the government is trying to import four new centrifuges and is “thinking about” another investment to continue reading

provide the plant in El Real with a machine used to produce dried milk. For the moment, however, all these ideas only amount to castles in the air.

The Granma article notes appreciatively that, despite the quality issue and problems associated with distribution and sale, production targets for the first half of the year have been met. It notes, however, that over the summer the situation was complicated by fuel shortages, particularly of diesel fuel, and frequent blackouts due to problems at electrical generator facilities.

In August salt production was at 92.7% of what had been expected. Producers must provide 475 tons of salt to fulfill their commitments.

Electricity shortages have also impacted production, which in August was 92.1% of estimates. In September it was at 97%. Supplies of one-kilogram bags of rationed salt, he insists, have not fallen significantly, meeting 99.5% of targets and at a comparable level to the previous month.

Nevertheless, the amount of salt provied in the “basic basket”* is not enough to meet the needs of most families, who use it not only in cooking but also to make their own toiletries, cleaning products and disinfectants due to shortages of manufactured goods.

“I wash my dishes with a mixture of powdered detergent, vinegar, baking soda and salt,” explains a Havana resident who has been unable to buy a dishwasher for months. “You can only buy them in hard currency stores and I can’t afford the ones they sell there so I do my own repairs and use some of the salt I get through the ration book to do that.”

Others use salt to increase sales of roasted peanuts, which remains one of Cuba’s most popular street foods. “Everything has gone up. Peanuts have gone up. The sheets of wrapping paper are through the roof and salt is in short supply. I don’t know how much I’ll have to sell to turn a profit,” worries Humberto, a peanut vendor in the Calzada de Cerro area.

The fine table salt allocated to Cuba’s tourism sector bears little resemblance to the salt Cubans themselves consume. To address this discrepancy, the salt usually imported from abroad was replaced with salt from Guantanamo, the only reasonably comparable alternative. In December 2020, thirty tons of fine table salt and 180 tons of cooking salt were delivered. This time around the figures are forty tons of table salt and 120 tons of cooking salt

Bell Alvarez added that the lack of electricity has meant the loss of 344 hours of work, the equivalent of approximately 3,400 tons of salt.

*Translator’s note: A list of basic consumer goods available to all Cubans at subsidized prices and in limited amounts through the ration book.

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“No One Can Shut Me Up,” Says Professor Who Was Fired for Criticizing Healthcare in Cuba

Merladet, 26, had been teaching History classes for two years at the Silberto Álvarez Aroche vocational pre-university in Granma. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 6 October 2021 — Julio Merladet, who months ago made several public complaints about the poor state of healthcare in Cuba, was sanctioned this Tuesday at his workplace with the “separation from the Education sector” for three years. This is, de facto, a dismissal.

Diplomas he was awarded on several occasions, such as “outstanding professor” and “exemplary educator” demonstrate it. The latest one is dated last December.

In August of this year, he posted a video on Facebook that went viral in which he said that his daughter and her partner had not received medical attention at the health centers where they went. After testing positive for Covid, the young man was not transferred to an isolation center and ended up infecting his family.

“If I had stopped a few days before at the entrance to my house and had shouted ‘homeland and life‘, police would have arrived faster than the doctors arrived at my home this time,” he said in that video, where he also indicated that he could be fired from his job. continue reading

“He published two live videos in social networks in an uncomplicated and very rude way, he spoke out against hospital institutions and the Government”

So it happened this Tuesday. That day, they warned him he’d be summoned for “voluntary work”, but in reality, it was a form of punishment. He already expected it: the reprisals had started long before, “while I was still a teacher”, he narrates, “after I published the first videos”.

The document that was handed to him was signed by Denis Alberto Moreno Beatón, director of the Budget Unit for Education in Granma province, and states that Merladet “incurred violations of labor discipline.”

“He published two live videos on social networks in an uncomplicated and rude way, he spoke out against hospital institutions and the Government, then he made a publication where he says that he does not regret anything stated in the videos but he does regret the rudeness used in that video,” the text details, which argues that a teacher violates the regulation “when he does not maintain “conduct consistent with the ethical principles of educational policy, permanently performing the educational work that corresponds to him” or performs “serious acts” that are “contrary to morality and the ideological principles of our country”.

“Publicly defaming or disparaging the institutions of the Republic and the heroes and martyrs of the country”, the notification also reads, is a violation of “the utmost gravity”.

If Merladet regrets something, it is the “curse words” used in the first video “I am a peasant and when I am crossed, I close myself off, and at that moment I was upset when I spoke”, he alleges, “but after that, I did not.” In addition, he had already made the decision not to continue teaching, despite the fact that months before he had been offered “to do a direct doctorate, without doing a master’s degree”.

“Why are they asking me to separate from the Education sector for three years? What rules did I violate?”

Many of his colleagues, he says, have also supported him, and “even offered themselves as witnesses if I decide to appeal”, something that he still has not decided to do. “I have seven business days to make the claim but I’m still thinking about it.”

“Why are they asking me to separate from the Education sector for three years? What rule did I violate?” Merladet asks during Tuesday’s transmission on his social networks. As a citizen, he was expressing himself freely, he claimed, “a right that anyone has in any country in the world”. But not in Cuba.

“I’m not going to starve, I know how to work, I know how to fight it,” says Merladet in the video, which indicates he sells cumin on the street.

At the same time, he asks the ‘workers’: “With your salary, can you shop in an MLC store [one that takes foreign currency only]? You can’t, because they don’t pay us in MLC”, he answers. “You have to have family there, in the empire, among the enemy” he says ironically. “If you are an ordinary worker, barefoot, like we are, you can’t go in there, you have to have a ‘gusano* from Miami’ who will send you dollars to be able to shop there.” His teacher’s salary, he indicates, was 4,845 pesos.

In the same publication, Merladet announces that now he is going to “really” get involved in politics: “There is no one to shut me up anymore,” concludes his video. “Homeland and life. Homeland or death is over. What represents us is Homeland and Life.”

*Translator’s note: The term gusano — meaning worm or maggot — is a derogatory first applied by Fidel Castro to ‘counter-revolutionaries’ and those who wanted to leave Cuba.

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