September Rumors in Cuba: Soldiers in Russia, Splurges for the G-77, Punishment for Small Private Businesses

Mercenaries, according to the alleged contracts with the Kremlin, are offered Russian nationality and an initial payment of $2,000. (Mario Vallejo/Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/Yucabyte, Havana, 18 October 2023 — In a context of maximum international tension, the news that there were Cuban soldiers fighting in the service of Russia during the invasion of Ukraine generated countless rumors. Meanwhile, on the Island, the leaders did not give an official explanation, and soon – after the arrival in Havana of the leaders for the summit of the Group of 77 and the subsequent announcement of a new season of blackouts – the matter was forgotten. However, as 14ymedio and Yucabyte noted, users maintained the discussion on these issues throughout the month of September, and the debate remains red-hot.

Rumors about the participation of Cuban soldiers on the Russian side against Ukraine multiplied last month with the recording of two teenagers from the Island, allegedly recruited under deception to travel to Russia. Since then, a large amount of material on this subject – videos, photographs, direct transmissions and text messages – have occupied social networks.

Some activists claimed that dozens of Cubans were fighting in Ukraine as mercenaries

Some activists claimed that dozens of Cubans were fighting in Ukraine as mercenaries or as support personnel for Russian militias. According to several documents and alleged contracts signed by nationals of the Island, they were promised Russian nationality, a salary of up to $2,000 and benefits that, according to some complaints, “were never met.”

Other videos, allegedly recorded by the Ukrainian Army, showed the capture of Cuban prisoners, gagged and about to be transported in a truck. The Kiev military itself transmitted a message urging Cubans to return to their country and not support Vladimir Putin, since the Island had already made a “mistake” by allying with Russia.

When the regime offered its official version of the presence of Cubans at the front, users pointed out that it contradicted the statements of other propaganda media related to the Government, such as the pro-government troll Guerrero Cubano. Although it is not known how many Cubans are participating in the invasion, rumors have indicated that the figures range from 400 to 20,000 people.

The regime disengaged from the issue in the face of the imminence of the summit of the Group of 77 plus China, held in Havana on September 15 and 16. The event was an important logistical challenge for the Government, and many users pointed out that what was scarce in the Island’s stores – food, coffee, cigars and beverages – would be offered in abundance to visiting leaders and heads of state.

After the event, described by many as an unnecessary “waste” of resources, the blackouts of more than eight hours suddenly returned

After the event, described by many as an unnecessary “waste” of resources, the blackouts of more than eight hours – absent during the course of the summit – suddenly returned, according to netizens. The Government did not devote so much attention, users also added, to the recovery of Pinar del Río after the scourge of Hurricane Idalia. Building collapses, leaks and destroyed crops have remained in the same condition, they insisted.

A group of rumors speculates that, as a result of the rise of privately operated micro, medium and small enterprises (MSMEs), the Government is sending subtle messages for owners to respect their “limits.” Expropriations, warnings and news about the bankruptcy of several businesses would serve, according to users, to keep the MSMEs at bay that are not managed by owners related to the regime. Rumors also indicate that, allegedly, several senior officials of the regime – such as the former spy Gerardo Hernández – have begun to get directly involved with private businesses or that they plan to privatize state rapidos (gas stations) and other establishments.

Other rumors indicate that, for refusing to deposit the company’s money in cash in the bank, a MSME was expropriated in Havana. Allegedly, three vehicles from Trasval – the company in charge of transporting and supplying cash to stores, offices and banks — raided the premises and confiscated all the money they found. Meanwhile, the circulation of high-end cars continues to be attributed to business owners related to the leadership of the regime. This September, the networks were filled with photographs of a red Ferrari that allegedly cruised through the Havana municipality of Marianao.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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