14ymedio

Cuba: Nursing Student, with Covid After Being Vaccinated, Receives no Healthcare

The nursing student, Irasema Escobedo Herrera, is confined at home with her parents by Covid-19. (Courtesy)
14ymedio, Irasema Escobedo Herrera, Cumanayagua, 1 August 2021 — My name is Irasema Escobedo Herrera, I am 19 years old, I study nursing and I am infected with Covid-19. I write this text in desperation because no medical personnel are following up with my family and we do not have access to medicines. I tried to post my words on the Facebook page of the Ministry of Public Health, but they censored me.
I have nothing to hide, so I accompany this testimony with my personal data and those of my parents. I live on Calle Orlando Gómez 25, between Calle Rafael Trejo and Artimes, in the municipality of Cumanayagua, in the province of Cienfuegos. When I woke up at home on the morning of July 20, I felt a fever and muscle aches.
I guessed that I was infected and went immediately to the Aracelio Rodríguez Castellón Polyclinic in Cumanayagua. But they had no antigen tests or molecular tests (also known as PCR), although there was a list of more than 400 people waiting. As of Sunday, July 18, these materials had not arrived.
To top it off, there was only one doctor treating people who arrived with respiratory symptoms. Only one for an entire municipality. They put me on a list and told me I could go home. The next day I called early to see if the tests had come but nothing yet. On Thursday I made another call and they finally had the tests.
I hurried over and arrived around 8:30 am, and there were already more than 300 people waiting, some having slept on the benches to get a test. As the hours passed, many had to leave without taking the test because the wait was too long. That day there was also only a doctor and one nurse to attend to those suspected of being infected.
Looking at all this, I asked myself “Where are the doctors in my municipality? Where have those hundreds of professionals who graduate annually in my province from the medical and nursing faculties gone? I understood less and less.
Noon passed, three in the afternoon arrived, five o’clock and the line was barely moving forward. There were women with babies in their arms, small children and many old people. Finally at 5:40 pm they did my rapid antigen test. After me there were only 25 kits left and there were more than a hundred people waiting.
My result was positive and I was taken to a room with more than 30 people crowded together. There were several small children and elderly people, bedridden, and we had to wait to do the PCR test. I was finally able to get the test around 7:30 pm. They also filled out a form with my data and as there was no fuel for the buses or taxis, I had to walk back home.
On Saturday, July 24, the doctor from the medical office stopped by our house. When I asked him if I was going to receive any medicine or medical follow-up, he replied that people who are already vaccinated do not receive any treatment. As a nursing student, I have already received all three doses of Abdala, but my parents have not had access to any. That’s why I couldn’t help but ask the doctor what they were waiting for to give us some kind of assistance. AmI going to die? Is that why they sent me home? To die?
On Sunday, July 25, my PCR test was confirmed positive. They put a sign on the door of my house warning that our house had an infected person. My parents, Maité Herrera Peña, 48 years old; and Omar Escobedo del Sol, 50, began to show the first symptoms of the disease.
On Monday the 26th, the polyclinic was given tests again and a group of doctors arrived at our house looking for a certain “Lázara Escalante Herrera,” while my name is Irasema Escobedo Herrera. I do not understand how they can confuse the name of someone who is positive for Covid in that way. Something like this only shows the lack of the organizational level that exists in confronting this pandemic.
They put my parents on a bus and took them to the polyclinic to carry out the test. Upon arrival, the same image of days ago was repeated: more than 400 people waiting, three hours later the kits ran out and my parents had to return without having been tested. This is how they continue to this day, still not tested, and my father already has a cough and shortness of breath when he goes to bed.
The days have passed and they have not brought us any medicine, although the official media repeat all the time that Cuba is a medical power. What medical power do they speak of, when there is not even a pill to lower a child’s fever? What medical power do they talk about when it is not possible to X-ray a person with Covid-19 pneumonia?
I am studying for a Bachelor of Nursing at the University of Medical Sciences of Cienfuegos and I am very disappointed in the whole system and the protocol that is being followed in this pandemic. They cancelled my school vacations and sent me out to investigate possible Covid-19 infections, but they do take care of me and my colleagues. Are we not a priority?
How can they tell me that they are not going to put me on medication because I am not serious yet? Do I need to be seriously ill to receive care? In other words, if I or a member of my family is not about to die, does the country do nothing for us?
On top of that, since we can’t leave the house, we have absolutely no opportunity to go out to buy food, but they haven’t brought us any food supplies either. We have had to survive with some food we have in reserve and the solidarity of neighbors and relatives who leave something for us to eat in the doorway, such as an avocado or a little chicken.
Honestly, I am very disappointed. I urgently need my parents to be given some medication to treat the symptoms. This can not go on like this. I have decided to write and publish this testimony because to help my family I would do the impossible and much more.
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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.

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The Change in Cuba Has No Turning Back

Cuban musician Pavel Urkiza. (Screen capture)
14ymedio, Yaiza Santos, Madrid, July 31, 2021 — The singer, composer and music producer Pavel Urkiza was born in Kiev (Ukraine), but right away, when he was three months old, he was taken to Havana where he grew up. His parents, both engineers, were part of the first Cuban student brigade in the Soviet Union. You glimpse the pain when he says that he met his mother when he was five years old: his mother’s family took over caring for the child and sent the woman back to the USSR, to “fulfill the mission of the Revolution.” Urkiza, over time, learned to forgive her: “She melted down, she had a mental disorder.”
This conversation reached his familial twists and turns unintentionally, because what 14ymedio wanted to talk about with Urkiza – a complete musician, founder of Gema and Pavel, the cult duo that put to music the harsh early 90s in Cuba with its opposites of the New Trova and the slogans – was his latest song release, Todo Por Ti (Everything for You), which he sings along with Daymé Arocena and which extols the historic July 11 demonstrations.
Yaiza Santos:  Did you have any of “Todo Por Ti” composed before July 11, or did it come to you at that moment?
Pavel Urkiza: I composed it the following day. I had already done two things in November: the first, “A Drop of Truth,” in homage to the San Isidro Movement and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara; and the second, “The National Whistle,” as a result of the call they sent out to whistle every day at nine at night. This was inspired by a film of Fernando Pérez titled “Life is to Whistle” (1998), in which, curiously, a character decrees the happiness of all Cubans for 2020. And that is very strong, because things really did begin to move a little more in 2020, with people like Luis Manuel Otero and Maykel Osorbo, people for whom, as Carlos Manuel Álvarez says, the Revolution was made and whom the Revolution abandoned, relegated, and marginalized.
On July 12 I spoke with Eliécer Jiménez-Almeida, a tremendously talented brother, and we said “we have to do something.” I composed the song and decided to write to Daymé Arocena, who lives in Toronto now, and she answered me almost crying, very emotional. Her husband, Pablo Dewin, also a visual artist, filmed Daymé, and Eliécer did the editing. He had the idea of doing it in a square format, so that it would be easier to watch on cell phones. The mixing and mastering of the song was done by my Madrid brother Javier Monteverde in the studio where I worked when I lived in Spain. And that’s how the theme arose. On July 21st at 7 in the morning it was already launched on the social networks.
Yaiza Santos:  And it was immediately answered by Abel Prieto . . .
Pavel Urkiza: More than that, he posted it on Casa de las Américas. That’s strong! That means it hurt. He begins like this [reads]: “Yesterday the song Todo Por Ti by Pavel Urquiza and Daymé Arocena was released on YouTube. Insignificant as a work of art, they want it to work as political propaganda. They used images of ’the people’ for the video clip when they attack a patrol car and policemen who, most of the time, retreat from aggressions by the people.” The guy is lost, he is ridiculous. I read it and decided to reply to him on Facebook as well.
Yaiza Santos: If something exposes these reactions in the regime, it’s because the music has made them very nervous …
Pavel Urkiza: From Patria y Vida [Homeland and Life]. That was the first and it is an indisputable theme. It simply changed the motto, and showed that “homeland or death” has become obsolete and forgotten . . . Later many things have come out, but they seem to me rude, very aggressive — “Díaz-Canel singao” [motherfucker] and such. And the message that I want is another, more sophisticated one, you understand? In addition, Daymé Arocena right now is one of the Cuban artists with the most reach — young, with light, but she also comes from that place that Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel Osorbo come from, persons of the people who will no longer give more. That’s also why it hurt them, because this song is on another level.
If you read Abel Prieto’s reasoning, everything is with questions. In my answer I say to him: “I find it curious that you — I am treating you as ’usted’ [using the formal ’you’ in Spanish] — question the song with questions. Do you doubt its arguments?” Yotuel Romero has been called “hustler” and “mercenary,” but Abel Prieto knows that he can’t say “mercenary” or “hustler” to me, because I know very well how the leaders in Cuba live. So I tell him: “I know that you go to Cimeq [the Surgical Medical Research Center], to the 43 clinic [the Kohly Clinic, only for high-ranking State officials] . . . I’ll tell you about things I know, because I come from a powerful family in Cuba, my mother’s family.”
My uncle replaced Che Guevara when he stepped down as Minister of Industry, my other uncle was head of Fidel Castro’s bodyguard at the beginning of the Revolution, my aunt was a colonel in the Ministry of the Interior . . . People I have nothing in common with and they stayed at my house in Cuba, anyway . . . Abel Prieto knew my grandmother well, the actress Raquel Revuelta, who became Vice Minister of Culture.
Yaiza Santos: Music is such an important factor in the change in Cuba, and nobody saw it coming.
Pavel Urkiza: As I said in my message to Abel Prieto, freedom also conquers with the cutting edge of ideas, and that is what the songs are doing.
Yaiza Santos: You’ve brought up your family history.
Pavel Urkiza: I come from privilege. My maternal family was from the old communists. My maternal grandmother, the one who raised me, was born in 1903 and did not baptize her children. And my grandfather, Fidel Domenech, who did not know the Revolution, was also an old communist [from the Communist Party of Cuba, founded in 1925]. Many of them were linked to the Revolution, but they came into conflict with the process, and there are many communists whom Fidel himself removed from political life.
Yaiza Santos:  When did you become aware and how did you decide to say: “I don’t want this, I’m leaving Cuba”?
Pavel Urkiza: At 17 years old, when the Mariel thing happened, I had already begun to question many things. The acts of repudiation that were carried out in Cuba against those who wanted to leave . . . People died there, it was a fascist thing. But I didn’t know the world, I hadn’t gone out. The first time I left Cuba was in 1985, to Czechoslovakia. Later, when you enter university [he studied Industrial Economics in Havana], you begin to see another world, to have a more critical sense.
My own grandmother Raquel was a very critical person, and she had a great communist friend, with whom she had many conversations that I listened to. They said they were corrupt, that this was not socialism. In fact, in 1987 my grandmother directed a play, Public Opinion, written by a Romanian [Aurel Baranga], which was a complete questioning of the socialist system. She was a highly respected woman in Cuba and she could do it. When homosexuals were persecuted, she took many out of UMAP [the labor camps called Military Production Aid Units] and put them in her theater group. I owe a lot to her in the sense of looking at reality with a critical eye and with an artistic eye as well.
Yaiza Santos:  What about the rest of your relatives, did you question them?
Pavel Urkiza: With my aunt the colonel, above all, that she raised me and that she was blind. One day I went out to the street naked and began to write on the wall “down with the dictatorship,” and my aunt, imagine this, followed after me, erasing what I had written . . . In the 80s I also began to read Milan Kundera, for example, covered with brown paper, hidden, and when perestroika came, they got out of hand. Those Novedades de Moscow and Sputnik magazines, which nobody was interested in because they were the same crap, continued to arrive in Cuba and with perestroika we began to read them and we began to understand, to question a pile of things and to realize that what we were experiencing was a total failure.
I also had an episode of repression. One day I went with the pianist Omar Sosa to a hotel to visit a musician who played, and the police arrived, put us in a patrol car and locked us in a cell. That’s nothing, of course. There are people who have suffered really deep, really harsh repression, like María Elena Cruz Varela. As I say, I’ve been privileged; I was gradually realizing through my friends, through people who were visiting their homes, seeing how they lived, and I began to really ask myself whether this revolution was a great sham. By ’92 I was already ’green’.
Yaiza Santos:  In that year, you left for Spain — also thanks to your grandmother Raquel — not to return.
Pavel Urkiza: I went out with the group Teatro Estudio de Cuba, to the celebrations of the fifth centennial of the discovery of America. The theater group also helpd me a lot, because artists tend to be more critical of reality and have access to certain reading and other types of music, things that begin to open your mind to realize that you’re living in a bubble, deceived by a system that makes you believe that this is the best thing in the world. And I came to the Spain of ’92, which was great.
Yaiza Santos:  What impression did the Spanish opinion of Cuba make on you at that time?
Pavel Urkiza: They were super defenders of the Revolution, and we somehow tried to make them see what the reality was like. In fact, I think that many began to see it differently, decided to travel to Cuba and realized that there really is something wrong there. Many were disappointed and others were not, among them great friends of mine. But that’s fine with me, everything is tolerable. That’s the great thing about a democracy: you can think what you want and so can I and we can debate and respect each other. All well and good, and the one more people vote for wins the election, that’s the way it is. As the U.S. Constitution says, “We the people,” we are the ones who tell the Government what to do, the Government doesn’t tell us.
Yaiza Santos:  And why did you go to the United States?
Pavel Urkiza: Well, I married an American, a love story that didn’t work out in the end, but here I stayed. After living in Washington, I came to Miami because it has social capital and it has a good climate. It’s a place where we Cubans feel at home, and it is really a very cosmopolitan city. The world’s view of Miami is quite stigmatized: the mafia thing and all that is something that belongs to the past. In fact, in the city of Miami the Democrats win.
I think the United States in general is a stigmatized country. Even living in Spain you despise it a little. Because you grow up with that! When you start to live the experience, you say, “Wait, I have to think for myself.” And I believe that the United States has many virtues. It is a country of laws, there is greatness here.
And I’ll tell you something: I always had leftist tendencies, obviously, and when I was in Spain I already began to say that I was a humanist, but now I feel that I’m an anarchist-humanist-libertarian. The left has disappointed me a lot. There is a whole strategy there that has nothing to do with real desire to change for the good of the people. I already wrote a song about it in La Ruta de las almas (The Route of Souls) — Resurrection – which says “free me from everything I have learned, return me to the point of nothingness, to the total absence of accumulated life.” I’ve had to rebuild myself, but from my own vision, not from the one they put in me there.
Yaiza Santos:  How do you see Cuba from now on, after July 11? Is change coming?
Pavel Urkiza: This has no turning back, it has no turning back. It may take another five years, but it will come about. People are not going to stay calm anymore. As that woman said in one of the videos of the protests, that she is also an old woman, do you think that this old woman is a criminal? This is how I will remember July 11 all my life: the moment when the people of Cuba took off the cloak of silence.
Translated by Tomás A.
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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.

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Che Guevara Goes from Defeat to Defeat

The defaced mural is located in the National University of Comahue, in the province of Neuquén, Argentina. (Agustin Antonetti / Twitter)
14ymedio, Havana, July 30, 2021 – “They tremble, freedom advances.” The phrase appeared this Friday on the face of Ernesto “Che” Guevara painted on a mural at the National University of Comahue, in the province of Neuquén, Argentina. The young human rights activist Agustin Antonetti shared on his Twitter account an image of the graffiti, which also contained the word “Genocide” and the phrase “More Hayek, less Marx.”
The Argentine, who studies International Relations at the Inter-American Open University of Rosario and frequently criticizes the human rights violations committed by the Cuban regime, wanted to record in his publication the meaning of what happened: “A great change is taking place in young people and it shows.”
“We are seeing a gigantic change in the mentality of young people in Latin America, although in many universities they are pressured by professors not to speak; now is the time for us to accompany them and promote them. A change has already begun and there will be no turning back,” Antonetti, who is also coordinator of the Youth Group of the Freedom Foundation, added in the Twitter thread.
Antonetti is one of the human rights activists who has most echoed the denunciations of the repression carried out by the Cuban regime against the July 11 protesters. On the same social network, he has shared the many reactions of Cubans both inside and outside the island, of governments and organizations, and in addition he has issued alerts about the hundreds of detainees and “disappeared” after the protests.
Also in Argentina, a group of young people from the group “Alternative” that belongs to the Faculty of Political Sciences of the National University of Rosario, is promoting an initiative to revoke the title of “illustrious citizen of Rosario” to Che Guevara. “Out with the dictator,” they argue via the citizengo.org platform and also affirm that they support “the fight of the Cuban people for freedom.”
The promoters of the initiative note that while in Cuba “there is no free expression, basic goods are scarce, and 51% of the population lives in poverty, in Argentina the authoritarian leaders who plunged Cuba into this chaos are honored and worshiped.”
Meanwhile in Spain, the Zaragoza city council approved this week, in an extraordinary session, that “Che Guevara” Street be renamed after Ana María Suárez (a Zaragozan victim of the 2017 jihadist attack in Catalonia), and that “Guevara” Park take the name of the Paralympic athlete Teresa Perales.
The announcement was made during the debate on a motion of the Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos (Cs), in charge of the municipal government, to condemn the Cuban regime’s repression against civil society demonstrations and to defend a transition towards democracy on the island.
A week earlier, in Galicia, more than fifty people gathered in front of the statue of Che Guevara located in a roundabout in Oleiros to demand the removal of this figure, and freedom for Cuba. The attendees, assembled by the Patria y Vida platform, where the Association of Victims of Castroism is located, exhibited Cuban, Spanish, and Venezuelan flags, as well as banners that read SOS Cuba, and also chanted slogans such as Viva Cuba libre, We want freedom! and Homeland and Life.
In Mexico, after the 11J (11 July) protests, several politicians resumed the debate to remove the sculpture in the capital that portrays Fidel Castro and Che Guevara seated together.
“It must be withdrawn. Last year the PAN (National Action Party) presented a resolution to withdraw it because the two characters were human rights violators, and are responsible for the misery in which the Cuban people find themselves. They are dictators that led a people to be prisoners of the elite that controls power and the economy,” said the deputy of the Congress of Mexico City, América Rangel.
Another member of PAN, Diego Garrido, spoke with Rangel, and agreed, according to Sé Uno, that the Cuban regime is repressive and that it violates the human rights of its own people. “They’ve kept their people in extreme poverty, in conditions of misery. Hundreds of people flee the island every year, so it is absurd that they have statues to commemorate these characters.”
Translated by Tomás A.
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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.

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Cigarettes Return to the Rationed Market in All Cuban Provinces

On the informal market a pack of the Criollos brand can cost up to 50 pesos each. (Mercado Libre)
14ymedio, Havana, July 29, 2021 – What was announced last June as an exceptional measure just for the capital, became the norm for the entire country this past Thursday: the sale of cigarettes will be rationed. This was reported by Tribuna de La Habana, which said that it has gotten to this point “due to problems with the availability of raw material.”
This shortage caused the Tabacuba Group to deliver “24 million fewer packs of cigarettes for one month,” according to information from the Ministry of Internal Trade.
The Minister of Commerce, Betsy Díaz Velázquez, explained to the official press that, although this is not a product that is part of the regulated family basket, its sale will be controlled due to “a monthly supply deficit of 37 million packs” in order to “prevent hoarding.”
The minister asserted that there are families, none of whose members smoke, who nevertheless buy cigarettes, which “affects” those who do smoke. Just like, though a bottle of wine is not a regulated product, the wine shops ask whether the buyer is the consumer of that product or not. Díaz insisted that as production from the factories and from Brascuba [the Brazilian/Cuban joint venture] decreased, prices in the market rose “due to speculation and hoarding;” so it was decided to regulate the sale of this product “as a containment measure.”
In the informal market a pack of the Criollos brand can cost up to 50 pesos each.
Díaz pointed out that though cigarettes are covered by the ration book “this does not mean that this is a product of the regulated family basket.”
The General Director of Merchandise Sales of the Ministry of Internal Trade, Francisco Silva Herrera, reiterated that the “interruptions in production” are due to difficulties “with the arrival of raw materials in Cuba.” He explained that for that reason the volume of cigarettes available for sale doesn’t meet 100% of the country’s demand, and pointed out that so far this month they have received only 34% of what the plan called for.
Silva Herrera said that, depending on the available supply in some provinces, they are going to limit sales to “a tiny amount” of packs per person, sometimes limiting them to people over age 19, or by family.
For months, Cubans have faced the dilemma of acquiring packs of cigarettes on the black market or buying them in stores which only take payment in foreign currencies (MLC). In the capital’s state-owned shops and cafes, the shortage gets worse every day and huge lines form.
“I buy in quantity. I pay 750 pesos for the H. Upmann wheel, which gives you 10 packs, otherwise it’s impossible to always have it on hand, because there are days when no matter how far you walk, you won’t find cigarettes of any kind for sale on the street,” Leonardo Felipe, a 26-year-old man told 14ymedio.
Added to the dilemma of not finding the desired cigarettes is the complaint of many smokers about the poor quality of the product. The flavors have changed, and sometimes the cigarettes come incompletely filled, or with little glue, so the filter separates from the rest.
Translated by Tomás A.
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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.

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To Calm Cubans, Discontent, Distribution of International Aid Donations to Begin Tomorrow

The minister of Domestic Commerce stressed that the state would pick up the costs of aid distribution.  (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Havana 29 July 2021 — Tons of aid that partner nations are sending to the island will be distributed to Cuban families starting Friday. The process will begin in Havana, epicenter of the July 11 protests. It will continue in other provinces with large populations and where demonstrations were significant — Matanzas, Ciego de Avila, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin, Guantanamo and Isla de La Juventud — before extending throughout the country.
The minister of Domestic Commerce, Betsy Diaz Velazquez, said the aid will be distributed “for free,” Normally a shipment of humanitarian aid would not require such an unnecessary clarification but there is widespread fear in Cuba that aid from Russia, Mexico and Nicaragua will end up for sale on the rationed market or, even worse, in hard currency stores.
The minister stressed that the costs associated with distributing the aid — which will consist largely of rice, grains, cooking oil, tuna, canned meat, past and sugar — will be covered by the state.
Diaz explained that each province will also receive extra shipments of certain products. For example, the city of Pinar del Rio will receive canned meat as well as flour to be used in the production of bread and cookies.
Each household in Cienfuegos will receive a liter of cooking oil, Sancti Spiritus residents will get flour for cookies, families in the eastern provinces will get tuna while Villa Clara, Camaguey, Mayabeque y Las Tunas will get dried beans. Havana will get flour for bread and cookies as well as milk, with priority for the latter be given to seniors over the age of sixty. This generated critical comments on government media outlets from people who considered this unfair and demanded that the milk go to entire households instead.
The minister thanked “friendly nations” for their contribution of aid to the Cuban people during the pandemic and once again laid all blame for the current economic crisis on the US embargo despite the fact that the country is the island’s main food supplier.
In recent days Cuba has received tons of humanitarian aid from its main partners. On Sunday two Russian planes carrying ninety tons of humanitarian aid touched down in Havana. The cargo consisted mainly of wheat flour, canned meats and sunflower oil as well as a million surgical masks. (Domestically produced masks, which were expected to available for sale by the end of June, have yet to appear in stores.)
Two ships have arrived from Mexico with deliveries of fuel, food and medicine. Among the main foodstuffs are powdered milk, dried beans, flour, canned tuna and cooking oil.
On Wednesday Nicaraguan First Lady and Vice-President Rosario Murillo announced the pending arrival of a shipment from Nicaragua, though she did not provide details. Murillo stated, “Very soon our people, our government, will be sending… a boat with Nicaraguan food supplies to Cuba to contribute [to relief efforts] in these pandemic times, which include a pandemic, the Yankee plague, which we are battling.”
In the words of Madrid-based Cuban economist Elias Amor, the aid is “a treatment for pain more intense than the nation is experiencing.” In a post about the planned aid distribution, which also discussed the 60-year-old basket of rationed foodstuffs that that has long curtailed people’s freedom of choice, Amor warns that this new humanitarian aid is “bread for today but hunger for tomorrow.”
Although the aid’s arrival could mollify those who took part in the July 11 protests out of desperation and weariness, Amor believes further outbreaks could occur once supplies run out.
“If the regime wanted to use this aid to buy time in order to implement structural reforms, that would make sense. But many of us fear the necessary 180-degree turn towards the economic freedom that Cuba needs is not part of their plans.”
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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.

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In Cuba, the Number of Those Vaccinated is More Than 50% Higher Than Those Infected, Well Above the World Average

CECMED (Center for State Control of Drugs, Equipment and Medical Devices) noted that Abdala (a COVID-19 vaccine developed by CIGB, the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in Cuba) presented “an adequate safety profile.” (ACN)
14ymedio, Madrid, July 29, 2021 – “One underestimates this about Covid. I walk stumbling like this, with short steps, falling on both sides.” Caridad, a resident of Centro Habana, fell ill with Covid-19 just after receiving her first dose of Abdala, the only Cuban vaccine candidate approved for emergency use by CECMED.
Its developer, the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) established its effectiveness at 100% “in the face of severe disease and death,” but insisted that the vaccine did not stop contagion and it was essential to maintain prevention measures, such as is being done in the rest of the world. Despite that warning, the data is worse than expected.
According to the Ministry of Public Health, to date 3,484,672 people have received at least one dose “of one of the Cuban vaccine candidates” (the official reports do not specify whether Soberana 02 or Abdala), of which 2,954,759 have also received the second and 2,460,919, the third. That is, 20% of the population has received the complete vaccination schedule.
But what is more worrying is the number of people who have already been vaccinated. At the national level, the authorities give assurances that “work is being done” to “establish how many of the sick people have been vaccinated with all three doses in order to be able to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine,” but they have only provided figures from Havana.
This Saturday, Emilio Delgado Iznaga, provincial director of Health, announced that of the documented infections “96% were symptomatic and 73% were already vaccinated.” This supposes an increase compared to the previous day, when the Havana Tribune calculated that of the total confirmed, 71.7% “appear vaccinated” (although it was around 56% vaccinated with the three doses).
Cuban immunologist Eduardo López-Collazo, director of the Research Institute of Hospital La Paz, in Madrid, hypothesizes that those who have received a dose have become confident and relaxed their safety measures for avoiding contagion. “As we already know, none of the vaccines is completely sterilizing, that is, they do not completely cut the contagion, but rather reduce the possibility of suffering from the disease,” he recalls.
However, after studying the “few data” that the authorities provide, he raises another possibility: that the vaccines are not effective against the new variants.
This would be consistent with the fact that the trajectory of the island’s case curve has skyrocketed at the same time that the Beta and Delta variants of the virus have expanded (the Delta is considered more contagious and aggressive).
Delta has come to complicate the situation of the pandemic even in areas with the highest vaccination rates, as the authorities discussed ten days ago during a Roundtable program on Cuban TV aimed at analyzing the usefulness of Soberana 02 and Abdala in the face of new variants.
Although investigations are ongoing, Dr. Verena Muzio González, director of Clinical Research at CIGB, said that correct immunity is achieved only with the complete regimen (three doses in Cuba) and that you have to wait at least two weeks for the immune system to generate the appropriate antibodies to defend itself against the most serious forms of the disease.
The data are comparable to other countries, but it is difficult to find similar examples in which the percentage of infected is so high among those vaccinated. In Spain, where more than half of the population (26 million people) are already immunized, only 5.5% of those infected were fully vaccinated (11.4% among those who received a single dose). In addition, although the country is experiencing a fifth wave that is beginning to cause worry, most infections occur among young people (who are not yet vaccinated) and the average age of those hospitalized has dropped dramatically to below 50.
In the United States, where immunization has lagged and the most contagious variants are spreading, “more than 97% of people hospitalized for COVID-19 are not vaccinated,” according to a New York Times report.
The closest case to the Cuban situation is that of the United Kingdom, where according to an investigation conducted by the Financial Times, the number of positive cases among those vaccinated with a complete schedule has shot up to almost half in recent weeks. However, the director of the study, Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at Kings College, clarified to the local press, “although the figures seem worrying, it is important to note that vaccines have greatly reduced severe infections and that Covid for the post-vaccinated is a much milder illness for most people. ”
Spector did not go into assessing whether the rise in the contagious vaccinated has to do with the expansion of the Delta variant. British health authorities worry that good weather, and the lifting of the latest restrictions on July 19, may shoot up the number of cases in the summer.
Several reports have come to this newspaper, of people who have contracted the disease while being vaccinated with one or two doses of the compound. On case is that of Yoel, from the Havana neighborhood of Nuevo Vedado, who lost the sense of smell and taste after his second dose with Abdala, the second week of July, and is still awaiting the results of a PCR Covid test.
Although some are beginning to fear that it was the vaccine itself that caused the disease, this is scientifically impossible in the case of protein subunit vaccines, which this vaccine is.
“It is not possible for this vaccine to cause the disease because it is made with a harmless protein from the virus; they are not injecting an attenuated virus or anything like that,” explains Dr. López-Collazo.
Last week, a team from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO / WHO) office in Cuba visited the National Center for Scientific Research (CNIC) to learn more about the efficacy results of the Cuban vaccine candidates.
That day, Vicente Vérez, the director of the Finlay Vaccination Institute, was optimistic about next month, since at the end of August, 14 days will have passed since the application of the last dose to the general population of Havana, which will allow knowing more data.
As he explained, the British medical journal The Lancet is reviewing a study by Soberana that would shed some light on the opaque and controversial Cuban vaccines. So far, there are no public results of clinical trials of Cuban vaccine candidates, nor are there any articles in scientific journals, except for two on Soberana 02 about a preclinical trial on mice.
Translated by Tomás A.
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Cubans Can Now Import Solar Panels Without Paying Duty

The new provision will allow electric self-sufficiency to Cubans who can install a solar panel on their homes. (wikimedia.org)
14ymedio, Havana, July 29, 2021 — In the midst of a pressing electricity shortage, the Cuban government has taken a step demanded by the population to authorize the duty-free import of photovoltaic systems, including parts and pieces of panels that generate energy by direct transformation of sunlight into electricity.
The resolution, published this Wednesday in the Official Gazette, allows the populace to purchase these products abroad as long as the purposes are not commercial. That is, Cubans who generate electricity must dump the surplus of their personal consumption into the National Electric System so that it may be distributed among the rest of users.
The document specifies that the panels, the inverter, the support structures, the electric boards, the cabinets for parts, and the grounding system are considered essential parts and pieces, therefore they are exempt from customs payment.
The rest of the components — direct and alternating current buffers, batteries for energy storage, electric conduit, battery charge regulator, and system components and electrical accessories for assembly — are considered common use and are subject to the usual tax rates.
The Gazette establishes that the person who acquires the panel will be responsible for the system and its maintenance, in addition to re-contracting the service to the Electric Utility, which must certify that the requirements for installation are met and verify the meter for energy measurement.
The tax exemptions have been approved, argues the text, “with the aim of increasing participation of renewable energy sources on the electric power generation grid.”
In 2019, through Decree Law 345, the sale of surplus electricity generated by private producers from this type of source was authorized, but the provision did not modify the state monopoly of the Electricity Union, the only one authorized to buy, distribute, and commercialize energy of private origin.
The Cuban Electricity Union (UNE) specified that an average household on the island needs around 185 kWh per month. To cover these needs, 5 solar panels of 260 watts are necessary.
The importation of tax-free solar panels was in high demand by those who are eager to supply their own electricity, an increasingly precarious good on the Island. Depending on the power, the rates (before the Tarea Ordenamiento* [Ordering Task] took effect) ranged from 200 to 1,000 pesos for panels generating from 900 watts to 15 kilowatts.
In March, the authorities began to pitch the idea of bonuses or exemptions for those who wanted to import panels. But the blackouts, which have increased this summer, when municipalities throughout the Island have seen their number of hours of electricity regulated, and the historical protests in more than 40 cities on the island, may have accelerated the decision.
To date, the panels available in Cuba were sold through the state virtual store Bazar Virtual, where 270-watt installations could be found, at a cost of $2,549.
Most of the solar panels on the Island, due to the high cost involved, are in the hands of the State and have been donated by China. The announcements by two companies — Spanish and German — that wanted to install these devices in several Cuban provinces, came to nothing, and the telephone number of one of them is no longer in service.
Solar energy is one of the government’s biggest bets for taking advantage of a natural resource that Cuba has in abundance, but the main problem continues to be the investment necessary to build a solar park.
Before the pandemic, the Island had planned to build 65 facilities of this type, and another 15 were under development, in order to increase the currently installed power by 42 gigawatts, which accounts for barely 1.15% of national consumption.
*The so-called ’Ordering Task” — Tarea ordenamiento — is a collection of measures that includes eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and others. 
Translated by Tomás A.
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The Spanish Consulate in Cuba Suspends August 2 Passport Appointments

The Consulate of Spain issued the information through a tweet, without explaining the reason for the suspension of its computer system nor answering questions from users. (exterior.gob.es)
14ymedio, Havana, July 30, 2020 — The Consulate General of Spain in Havana warned this Thursday that its computer system will not be operational on August 2 and asked all those who have appointments for that day to reschedule “through the new centers” to renew a passport or obtain one for the first time.
The diplomatic office issued the information through a tweet, without explaining the reason for the suspension of its computer system or answering questions from users. For example, one of them asked if the appointments to sign up in the Consular Registry have also been canceled, and another, “when do they plan to activate the appointments for those registered in 2021 for their first passport?”
Last spring, the Spanish Consulate suspended its services for a few days due to an employee’s close contact with someone who was Covid-19 positive.
Cuba has the third-largest community of Spaniards living abroad–about 200,000 according to the 2019 census–after Argentina and Venezuela, due in part to the passage of the Historical Memory Law in 2007 by the Government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. The law allowed the nationalization of at least 80,000 Cubans of Spanish descent.
Translated by Tomás A.
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‘Che Guevara’ Park and Street Name Changed in Spain in Rejection of Repression of Cuba

From now on, the Che Guevara Park will be called Teresa Perales Park. (Google maps)
EFE, via 14ymedio, Zaragoza, 29 July 2021 — In Spain, the government of Zaragoza has approved, in an extraordinary session on Friday, that Che Guevara Street will, from now on, be called Ana María Suárez (a Zaragoza victim of the jihadist attack in Cambrils), while the park with the same name will bear the name of Paralympic athlete Teresa Perales.
The announcement was made during the debate on a motion of the People’s Party (PP) and Citizens (Cs), led by the government, to reject the Cuban regime’s repression against civil society demonstrations and to defend a transition towards democracy on the island.
The initiative has gone ahead with the vote of the PP, Cs, Vox and the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) in response to the concern for human rights in Cuba and, in particular, the ABC correspondent Camila Acosta, who was released after five days detention and is in home confinement awaiting trial.
During the debate, councilor Alberto Cubero, general secretary of the Spanish Communist Party in Aragon, defended the Cuban regime as a demonstration that “another world is possible,” and has presented the island as an example of a country in which there is no eviction, because the banks have no more power than the Government, in the face of the “dictatorship of capital” in the West.
“Go live in Cuba,” replied the mayor of Zaragoza, Jorge Azcón, adding “not on vacation” but to stay and live, if he really believes that it is a “communist paradise.”
“When he loses a few kilos, he will return to Spain and will be convinced that it is the best country in the world,” he added.
Previously, the PP spokesperson, María Navarro, had reiterated that “all those who live in communist countries want to get out of them” and that everyone who does not defend human rights and democracy at all costs is not a democrat.
“No matter how much you don’t say dictatorship, there is a dictatorship in Cuba,” she remarked in response to the left of the vice mayor and spokesperson for Cs, Sara Fernández, who added that “they have remained in the symbolism and have closed their eyes to reality.”
From the PSOE, its spokesperson, Lola Ranera, has justified her rejection of most of the points of the motion because “you have to be respectful of the Cuban people”, who are carrying out their own transition and, consequently, you have to stand with them and not use them as a “political football.”
For her part, Amparo Bella (of the Podemos communist party) has urged not entering into the “partisan use” of human rights made by the “extreme right” and has defended the correction of Cuba’s democratic deficits as the only viable and peaceful solution to the conflict.
“How easy it is to be a communist in a free country and how difficult it is to be free in a communist country!” Said Vox spokesman Julio Calvo, who said that he is ashamed to see how the Spanish “far left” parties position themselves in favor of the Cuban regime.
Likewise, the government team has given the green light to the renaming of Pedro Lázaro and Agustina Simón streets, in compliance with the Democratic Memory Law of Aragon, although the Francoist names of 12 other streets remain unchanged.
On July 25, a group of young people from the university group Alternative, from the Faculty of Political Sciences of the National University of Rosario, in Buenos Aires, demanded the revocation of the title of “illustrious citizen” of Rosario to ’Che’ Guevara, and through the citizengo.org platform published: “Out with the dictator Che Guevara from the City of Rosario.”
The petition was addressed to the mayor of the city of Rosario, Pablo Javkin, and the president of the Deliberative Council, María Eugenia Schmuck, and published on July 15. It already has 17,847 signatures, and states “Young people from Rosario support the fight for the freedom of the Cuban people.”
The promoters of the initiative note that while in Cuba “there is no free expression, basic goods are scarce and 51% of the population lives in poverty, in Argentina the authoritarian leaders who plunged Cuba into this chaos are honored and worshiped.”
For this reason they ask the political class for honesty and coherence and demand the revocation of the title of “Illustrious Citizen,” granted in 2003 by the Deliberative Council of Rosario, to a person who facilitated the arrival to power of the Castros. In addition, the ask for renaming the Plaza del Che with a name voted on by the Rosario citizenship. “Also, we request the removal of the Guevarist mural from the Plaza de la Cooperación.”
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‘Call the Dictatorship by its Name’, Ask Cubans Living in Spain

Repression of the political police of protesters during the protests of July 11, 2021 in Havana. (Marcos Evora)
14ymedio, Jorge Ferrer, Ginés Górriz and others, Barcelona, 29 July 2021 — We have witnessed a popular uprising in Cuba like no other that has been known in the last 60 years. The inertia and fear generated by decades of that sinister cocktail that is made by mixing enthusiasm with repression — the exact symbolic reverse of a free Cuba — was blown up on July 11 under the push of a generation of young Cubans who have abandoned the aspiration to emigrate, but they refuse to be part of a system that now only gives them the spurious illusion of Cuba’s exceptionality.
They are Cubans who want to live in a more prosperous and more just country, and who, spurred by the hunger for bread and freedom, together with concern for the health management of the pandemic, are raising a rebellion these days that places the Cuban youth in the same range of desires manifested by young people all over the world.
Cuba, for some years, and resoundingly now, is no longer an exception. Quite the contrary, young Cubans are part of a world and a generation that claim a preponderant role in the construction of a society of equality and rights. It is not for pleasure that the demand for political and economic freedoms made by Cubans has been accompanied in recent years by urgent demands regarding race, gender or animal rights.
The testimonies of the passion and despair of those young people that we have seen marching through the streets and cities of Cuba are eloquent. On Sunday, July 11, tens of thousands of Cubans took to the streets in many locations, which included Santiago de Cuba and Havana. They did it without more coordination than that dictated by the echo that resonated on their mobile phones, on social networks. It was beautiful until the beatings began, because the images of the repression we have witnessed are no less eloquent.
Men and women dragged, beaten and detained by government troops and paramilitary forces that have been used for decades to repress, frighten and silence Cubans. Kidnappings, house raids, detainees who are still missing, at least one dead…
In a televised address to the country in the mid-afternoon of that day, Miguel Díaz-Canel, who today serves as president of Cuba, called for violence, unequivocally, for civil confrontation between Cubans: “The order to combat is given: the revolutionaries take to the streets,” he said. It was the natural extension of a motto he inherited from the Castro brothers. That “the street belongs to the revolutionaries” as the perpetrators of the “repudiation rallies” have chanted for decades,
His words meant that the physical integrity and even the lives of the protesters were threatened from the highest authority of the State. But those words meant even more: the divorce between the political hierarchy in Cuba and the people is already an incontrovertible fact. Just a few hours later, the police began shooting at people.
In the midst of this exciting and terrible situation, those of us who signed this letter, mostly Spanish citizens born in Cuba, are witnessing with amazement and indignation the refusal of the Government of Spain to adopt a clear and firm position in favor of the protesters and against the authoritarian regime in Havana.
The refusal, hurtful and pathetic, to recognize that a dictatorship prevails in Cuba that deprives citizens of basic human rights, the verbal pirouettes of leaders of the main left-wing parties in Spain who hold the highest positions in the Government (Pedro Sánchez , Nadia Calviño, Yolanda Díaz, Isabel Rodríguez …) to avoid a clear and resounding denunciation of a despicable regime, does not seem consistent with politicians and parties that, with so much passion, claim to defend the expansion of citizens’ rights.
They are immersed in the denunciation of the dictatorship that Spain suffered for decades, and ultimately they present themselves as parties of progress. Don’t Cubans deserve to enjoy the same rights and freedoms as the rest of the citizens of Latin America? What’s more, do the tens of thousands of Cubans who have nationalized ourselves inSpain and have made this country of freedom ours, do we deserve such contempt on the part of the government?
Nothing can, nothing should prevent the political leaders of the Government of Spain and the left-wing parties that govern today from denouncing the Cuban dictatorship. Neither the opposition to the North American embargo that weighs on the island, nor the short-term calculation that seeks to protect Spanish investments in Cuba — taking advantage of the immorality of claiming economic advantages by taking advantage of the same embargo that they denounce — are useful. These are two equally slave excuses of a landscape before the one that Cuba and Cubans now inhabit. Cuba no longer lives in the territory of the debates of the past. Taking to the streets to ask for freedom, Cubans have leaped ahead a century and drag us, and also Spanish politicians from the right and the left, with them.
That the Cuban economy is a disaster, that its military and civil elites — if anyone can call them that — are corrupt, that in the last decade the reforms in favor of opening up to the private economy, the so-called self-employed, have been squandered. These are truths available to even the laziest of today’s Cuba cheerleaders.
At this point, we Cubans do not ask for compassion. After decades of loneliness, of so many years watching the governments of the world, and those of Spain as well, look the other way and respond to the policy with both bravado and victimizing of the Havana regime with concessions and the sterile exercise of “fellow travelers,” a colonial transcript of appeasement, many of us no longer even ask for solidarity.
But respect yes. Respect for the truth. Respect for the young people who these days take Cuba out of the night of history to put it suddenly in the landscape of protest and the global demand for rights and freedoms. Respect for those who face a regime armed to the teeth with the mere strength of their bodies and the voices with which they shout. And they shout, aware of the nature and size of the monster they face: “Down with the dictatorship!”
Together with Jorge Ferrer and Ginés Górriz the following signatories add their names:
Cesar Mora
Abilio Estevez
Rolando Sánchez Mejías
Antonio Jose Ponte
Juan Abreu
Heidi Hassan
Carlos Quintela
Ladislao Aguado
Leandro Feal
Pio Serrano
Eduardo López-Collazo
Pablo Diaz Espí
Patricia perez
Marco Castillo
Dean Luis Reyes
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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in the newspaper El Mundo.
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Cuban Military Figures Continue to Die: Commander Cardero Sanchez Makes Six

Image of the building where the headquarters of the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces is located in Havana, Cuba. (Cuba-Explore)
14ymedio, Havana, 29 July 2021 — Gilberto Antonio Cardero Sánchez is the sixth military man to die in Cuba in less than two weeks. The national television news program confirmed this Wednesday the death of this “Rebel Army fighter” who came to occupy the position of commander. Before him, five generals died in nine days, after the protests on July 11, and without the authorities having detailed the causes of the deaths.
Like the five deceased soldiers, the body of Cardero Sánchez was cremated and, according to a note from the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, “his ashes deposited in the veterans’ pantheon of the Necropolis of Colón, where they will remain until their subsequent transfer to the mausoleum of the Frank País Second Eastern Front in the province of Santiago de Cuba.” The text does not specify t Cardero Sánchez’s military rank or his age.
In May 1957, Cardero Sánchez participated in the clandestine struggle and joined Column 1 of the Rebel Army under the orders of Fidel Castro. He founded the Frank País Second Eastern Front under the orders of Raúl Castro, “where he remained until the triumph of the Revolution,” says the Ministry’s statement.
In the Revolutionary Armed Forces he was in the units dedicated to the construction of works for defense. He does not seem to have had a prominent role as he does not have a profile on Ecured, where he is only mentioned in passing due to a slight injury he suffered in 1958 when he was captain of the Rebel Army.
On July 17, a week after the start of the 11J (11 July) demonstrations, the head of the Eastern Cuban Army, General Agustín Peña, 58, died. On the 20th, Reserve Brigadier General Marcelo Verdecia Perdomo died and on Saturday 24th, Reserve Major General Rubén Martínez Puente, identified as the soldier who ordered the downing of the Brothers to the Rescue planes.
Finally, this Monday 26, Reserve General Manuel Eduardo Lastres Pacheco died and the Central University of Las Villas Marta Abreu gave the news of the death of FAR Brigadier General Armando Choy Rodríguez.
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Five Cuban Generals Die After July 11: Strange Coincidence or Purge?

Agustín Peña, Marcelo Verdecia Perdomo, Rubén Martínez Puente, Manuel Eduardo Lastres Pacheco and Armando Choy Rodríguez, the five high-ranking Cuban military personnel who died this July. (Collage)
14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 29 July 2021 — Although I am not a fan of conspiracy theories, I think it would be very necessary, to heal open wounds and put the accounts clear for history, to have a commission without political and ideological prejudices to investigate, seriously and professionally, many mysterious deaths reported in Cuba from 1959 to the present.
I am not referring to opponents such as the case of Oswaldo Payá, who although there is no conclusive evidence, it is generally presumed that he was murdered. Rather, above all, I’m talking about people from the regime itself. The list of “injured” or “suicidal” people would be very long, longer than a moderately informed reader would believe, and I will not be the one to list them. The task will be left to that future commission.
But what cannot wait, due to the relevance of the circumstances, are the successive deaths of five generals of the Armed Forces, one at the time, in just a space of nine days. I say five generals and I do not know if the number will increase by the date this article comes out. [As of 29 July the number is now six.]
The deaths began six days after the massive popular demonstrations took place on July 11 in nearly forty towns in the 14 provinces of the country, beginning on the 17th with Agustín Peña Pórrez, head of the Eastern Army, followed on the 20th; Marcelo Verdecia Perdomo, Brigadier General of the Reserve, then on the 24th; Rubén Martínez Puente, director of the Military Agricultural Union of the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, on the 26th: Manuel Eduardo Lastres Pacheco, brigadier general of the Reserve, and on the same day, Armando Choy Rodríguez, brigadier general and general coordinator of the Group of History of the Las Villas Combatants.
All these deaths have in common that the causes of their deaths were not revealed and that their bodies were cremated immediately without receiving the honors normally given to high officials. The hypothesis that they were all of advanced age and that they probably died from the Covid, as some people disaffected to the regime have suggested, face some questions: Did they all agree to die in the days after the protests and the subsequent brutal governmental repression? How many generals died in the two weeks before the protests? Does anyone remember them? Were these five successive deaths a few days after the protests just by chance? Something that I have learned in these 62 years is that in the political world of Cuba there are no coincidences.
I do not affirm anything, but these deaths are very similar to the purges that were carried out in Stalin’s Russia. He executed so many Red Army generals that he later found himself in a tight spot when Nazi troops invaded the Soviet Union. If this is the case in Cuba, obviously it would have to do with those events that occurred in the previous days.
In the first place, we must take into account what it must have been like for many of those who dedicated their lives to defending that regime, to realize that the vast majority of the people, for whom that “revolution” was supposedly carried out, repudiated that regime.
It was not a demonstration in a neighborhood or in a town, but in all of Cuba, and they were not demonstrations of 20 or 30 people, but of hundreds and thousands in each of those populations.
And second, it must have been shocking for many of those high officials to see the repression so brutally carried out against the people, first in the streets and then in the homes, house by house, to violently remove people who were presumed to have participated in the protests.
The soldiers of the Revolutionary Armed Forces have not had a history of repression against the people as has the Ministry of the Interior and, in particular, State Security. It has been said that one of those generals was the one who gave the order to shoot down the Brothers to the Rescue planes in 1996. In reality, the one who gave that order was Raúl Castro according to the wish of his brother-in-chief, and the pilots were very well chosen: the stepchildren of Wilfredo ’Felo’ Pérez, the one who piloted the plane that fell in Barbados by a bomb allegedly planted by the enemy.
That in the present circumstances a soldier or a sergeant expresses concern about the demonstrations and repression and thinks that changes should be made could get him fired, but that a general does so, with the influence he can exert on his troops, can be considered as treason.
Commander Húber Matos, when he was still at the head of the rebel troops in Camagüey, served 25 years in prison for asking for the leader’s resignation. They simply, could have replaced him, since he had the support of the people at that time, and yet they did not take that risk. Now, with the regime’s weakness, do they have the luxury of letting it go.
So it will not be at all strange that high officials continue to die for unknown reasons.
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Lawyers Group Denounces the Exploitation of Cuban Healthcare Workers in Uruguay

For years Uruguay has been a place highly sought after by Cuban doctors to go on an official mission, due to its social stability. (Facebook)
14ymedio, Havana, July 28, 2021 — The Alliance for Global Freedom (GLA) filed a complaint this Monday with the Attorney General of Uruguay in which it denounces the continuous exploitation and forced labor to which the Cuban medical brigades are subjected in that country.
The lawyers’ group alleges that the island’s health workers “are compensated at such a minimal rate that the work they carry out in the South American nation is considered slave labor.”
“The personnel of the medical brigade are subjected to long hours of work without fair wages, and are pressured to participate, for fear of reprisals by the Cuban state if they do not comply,” the Alliance alleged in a statement published on its website.
“We continue to fight for human rights and appeal to the republican culture and respect for human rights in this country,” said lawyer Sabrina Peláez Iglesias, a member of the GLA in Uruguay.
The organization, headquartered in Washington DC, has been seeking for the last two years “records and information on Uruguay’s cooperation agreement with Cuba.” Among other actions, Peláez also filed a complaint with the National Institute of Human Rights and Uruguay’s Ombudsman in July 2020.
According to the statement, currently about 30 health workers, most of them ophthalmologists, make up the mission, and unlike Uruguayans and other professionals, Cubans do not have to certify their postgraduate degrees with the Ministry of Public Health to practice.
The Governments maintain two health agreements: the first began in 2007 and includes ophthalmological services, and the second, finalized a year later, covers orthopedic care for people with disabilities. Both have been renewed to date.
The second bilateral agreement, extended in 2018, set a cost for Uruguay of 174,000 dollars per year, of which $124,000 is paid directly to Havana and $31,000 is designated as stipends for professionals and technicians on the Island, as well as their national and international transportation, accommodations, and other expenses, according to an investigation by the Cuba Archive.
But it was only recently divulged that the first agreement required that Montevideo spend 250,000 dollars a year on Cuban collaborators, including a monthly stipend of $800 for each one, but the contract did not clarify the amount that Havana received for the services.
The preparation of Cuban doctors has been questioned in several countries where they have worked under agreements with the Cuban Government. In 2019, the press reported that nine specialists from the Island had deserted and that they tried to accredit their degrees in Uruguay, but six of them did not pass the exam and the others did not receive a final definitive qualification.
When these facts became known, suspicions among Uruguayan professionals increased, among them the members of the Uruguayan Association of Ophthalmology. Its president, Andrea Merrone, stressed that they are not opposed to foreign doctors coming to the country, but she insisted on knowing if the professionals “have sufficient qualifications” to practice.
For years Uruguay has been a place highly sought after by Cuban doctors to go on an official mission, due to its social stability. The selection of professionals who travel to that country is made within Cuba and the brigades rotate every two years.
In July of last year, the Alliance for Global Freedom presented a demand to the Uruguayan Government for disclosure of the records related to the hiring of Cuban health workers. Their demand was mainly focused on the bilateral agreements on the service at the José Martí Hospital for exchanging funds and making commercial arrangements.
It is not the first time that the conditions in which Cuban doctors are forced to work in the missions have been denounced. Organizations such as Cuban Prisoners Defenders (CPD) have carried out various actions to expose the medical missions as the Cuban government’s “great capitalist slave business.”
In August 2020, CPD filed a complaint with the United Nations and the International Criminal Court on behalf of 622 Cuban doctors who have been on missions abroad. In its report, the Madrid-based NGO warned that these professionals are forced to participate in “conditions of slavery” with long working hours and restrictions on their freedom.
In most cases, the Cuban government takes away their passports in order to keep a hold on them, and pays them between just 10% to 25% of the salary it charges to recipient countries, arguing that Havana needs money to finance the Health system.
Translated by Tomás A.
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Free Internet Access for Cuba: Wishes and Realities

The Internet is a tool, but it is not the only one available for overthrowing the dictatorship. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Jorge Tintorero, New York, July 28, 2021 – Since last July 11, the demand for free internet access for Cubans has become a trend, supported by Senators, Congressional Representatives, and a multitude of public and political figures in the United States. There has been no lack of promises, including that of President Biden, to satisfy this demand, and many are waiting for this wish to come true at any moment. There has also been no lack of fake news, some well intentioned and others not, of “enabling satellite internet for Cuba,” and other niceties.
Pardon me for being the bearer of bad news, but this is not as easy as many think, nor does it depend exclusively on the political decision of some  particular person. In the field of telecommunications there are limitations dictated by physical laws that cannot be ignored, much less modified for someone’s convenience. But even with significant recent technological advances, there are solutions that are impossible to implement, as I will explain below.
Satellite Internet
The existence of commercial satellite internet services is a reality, but in order to use these services it is essential to have a specific modem to connect to the corresponding satellites. These modems are popularly known as BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network), which is just the trademark of one of the most popular providers of this service.
The need to have one of these modems to access satellite internet is easy to explain. These satellites mainly use 3 commercial frequency bands: C band, X band and Ku band. None of these frequencies match those used in cell phones, either CDMA or GPRS. The only phones capable of connecting to these services are satellite telephones specifically designed for this, and, as you would expect, they are prohibited in Cuba, as are satellite modems or BGAN.
The only satellite signal capable of being received by mobile phones is GPS service in any of its variants (GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, etc.), but communication in this case is unidirectional, that is, it works only from the satellite to the mobile phone, but not vice versa.
To use the internet, communication must be established in both directions — to both receive and send data packets. It’s like a conversation between two people: one speaks and the other listens; then the second responds and the first listens. If these people walked away from each other they could continue talking through megaphones, but each would need one, otherwise one could listen but would be unable to respond. The megaphones in this case would be the satellite and the BGAN modem.
In short, there is no such thing as free “satellite internet access” for Cuba or anywhere else. Regardless of whether the satellite internet service providers agreed to provide their service without charge, if you don’t have a compatible modem, it’s impossible to access the service.
Mobile phones, smart or not, can only be connected to radio base stations (or cells, hence the name “cell” phone), which in this case all belong to Etecsa (the Cuban telecommunications monopoly) and use GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) technology.
GPRS
In order to provide internet service using this technology, it is necessary for mobile phones to connect to base stations that don’t belong to the Etecsa network, something that doesn’t exist in Cuba. It’s impossible to deploy an alternative cell network without permission from the Cuban government. Alternative solutions for deploying base stations are emerging, such as drones, balloons, or some other type of platform.
But, and here is the limiting factor, these platforms must be located at a distance (or height) that guarantees that the signal can be received by mobile phones and that these in turn are able to communicate effectively with the base stations. It’s possible to boost the transmission power of a base station so that its signal reaches the mobile phones, but that doesn’t increase their power to connect to the base station.
But locating any of these platforms over Cuban territory would be considered a violation of its airspace, with all the implications that entails. Here, in addition to technological limitations to overcome, the political decision factor for their implementation is primary, something for which there does not seem to be a will at any level, given the diplomatic and other consequences.
The other connection option for using mobile phones is Wi-Fi, a different technology that we’ll analyze below.
Wi-Fi
This type of technology allows the connection of devices in a relatively small area, for example the Wi-Fi services enabled in some parks, as well as at the residential level. A possible contribution to the free internet that Cubans are demanding could be the enabling of Wi-Fi access by the embassies of countries supportive of freedom for Cubans. Clearly this would be something very limited, restricted to specific areas in the city of Havana, which the dictatorship could impede simply by preventing people from approaching those places to access the connection (adding another to its habitual diplomatic scandals).
But in exceptional cases, it could help citizens, activists, and independent journalists to get valuable information out of Cuba in moments of a total blockade by Etecsa. This would also require a lot of political will and decisiveness on the part of those governments that decided to support the Cuban people.
There is also equipment that, using this same technology, allows distant subnets to link to each other, such as what is known as SNet in Havana, and similar ones in other Cuban cities. In any case, even using Nano-type devices or equivalents of greater or lesser capacity or power, they have to connect to a point that has internet access through a service provider other than Etecsa.
This could be a solution, assuming the existence of one or more of these connection points, but even so, there are also limitations.
First, the effective connection distance through this type of device usually doesn’t reach more than ten miles, or slightly more in ideal conditions.
Second, a stable connection requires an unobstructed line of sight between the two connecting devices.
And third, a secondary network is required to share this connection and give access through Wi-Fi or local area networks (LAN) to the end-users’ mobile phones, tablets or computers.
Given these limitations, especially the first one related to distance, it is easy to conclude that locating connection points outside the limit of Cuban territorial waters, regardless of the cost involved, would place them beyond the effective scope of this technology.
This is without even mentioning the need to establish a network within the Island to “distribute” the connection from points near the coast into the interior, with all that would imply in terms of investment, coordination on the part of the citizenry, and the propensity of the dictatorship to persecute those involved, seize equipment, etc.
Conclusions
Even if some combination of the technologies described above could be deployed in certain localities, the reality is that there is not a solution currently available that would satisfy the desire we all have for free internet access in Cuba. This doesn’t mean that we should give up the fight, but rather that it’s necessary for us to take advantage of what little is available and use it effectively.
Wishing and hoping for a miracle that will suddenly grant us free access to the internet doesn’t help, but disarms us at a time when the fight for freedom should not cease. If tomorrow a loophole opens in the dictatorship’s information blockade, we must make the most of it, but we must also recognize that these are the conditions we have to deal with. The Internet is a tool, but it is not the only one available to overthrow the dictatorship. Our will and our action are the only things that will achieve that.
Translated by Tomás A.
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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.

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Distribution of Donations: Bread for Today, Hunger for Tomorrow

A Youth Labor Army market in Havana lists few foods for sale while empty stalls predominate. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, July 29, 2021 — The Cuban communists announced in the State newspaper Granma that they have begun the distribution of food products that have come from international donations (Russia, Mexico, etc.) into the network of state warehouses.
An insistent rumor had been circulating on social media: the products will end up for sale in the MLC stores — which take payment only in foreign currencies — in order to obtain foreign exchange at a crucial time for the regime. But this has been flatly denied by the Minister of Internal Trade, Betsy Díaz, who took the opportunity to link the distribution of donations with the rollout of the August standard family basket – in the ration stores — in 98% of the country’s municipalities, another way for the regime to appease the social unrest that led to the explosion of July 11th.
Under the communist regime, the regulated basket continues to be the only option for those Cubans who don’t have dollars, and therefore can’t shop in MLC stores, or informal markets, where it’s easier to find essential products, but at greatly inflated prices.
This perverse mechanism, which eliminates at its roots Cubans’ right to free choice, has been in force for more than 60 years. Never before in history has a scarcity-based rationing system lasted so long in a country. In Spain, it did so for almost two decades after the civil war. In Cuba there have been no wars, no climatic or natural disasters. Only the express will of a communist regime for controlling the population from the point of view of consumption.
Now, at a critical moment when Cubans’ blindfolds have completely fallen off their eyes, and they’ve identified the communist government as responsible for the national economic disaster, the authorities have once again trotted out the standard family basket in an attempt to sidestep the protests. They have a difficult task.
Basically because when you look closely behind the standard basket, you realize how perverse the mechanism is. Let’s take an example: each Cuban receives from the “ration book” a total of 7 pounds of rice per month. This amount is set by central planning because rice is a product in high demand in Cuba. And they may be right, but what about those Cubans who don’t like rice and would rather eat, say, cookies, or taro, or potatoes? That doesn’t matter to the planner. Cubans, all Cubans, regardless of their tastes and preferences, have to eat rice. And whoever doesn’t like it can do whatever they want with their 7 pounds. But can you come up with a stupider mechanism for regulating consumer choice? It’s hard.
Even more so when, as a result of the donations received, it’s announced that those 7 pounds for the month will be increased by an additional 3,  so that if you don’t like rice, the regime will now give you 10 pounds. The book and its political regulation are above individual preferences. No free choice is possible. Well, a solution may be for you to sell your monthly ration to a neighbor, or give it to someone. But it doesn’t matter what individual Cubans do with the rations that the state gives them. All that matters is the need to deliver that rice, in this case 7 pounds plus another 3.
Who can get their head around this distribution mechanism, with arbitrary allocation, perverse in the 21st century? When will the Cuban communists realize the uselessness of the basket and all the instruments they have to control the population? Someone will say that they have been a success, in view of the last 62 years in which they have done and undone whatever they wanted in Cuba. And therein lies the quandary, that this is over, that there is no way to continue deceiving and manipulating Cubans, and that either they change, or they are going to have a very bad time.
The communist planners know more than we think. If that economic intelligence had been put in the service of a rational and efficient functioning of the economy, it would be a different story.
The Minister of Internal Trade explained that, thanks to donations and the existence of large volume of a certain group of products, food modules have been designed with rice, pasta, grains, and sugar, which will be delivered at a rate of one per household, to all Cuban families, gradually. The territorial sequence established for deliveries is Havana, Matanzas, Ciego de Ávila, Santiago de Cuba, Holguín, Guantánamo and the special municipality of Isla de la Juventud, giving priority to the most densely populated areas where the social explosion of 11-J was most intense.
In addition, she said that products arriving in the country through donations that cannot be “confirmed for all the households on an equal basis” (without explaining very well what this confirmation consists of) will not be included in the distribution; and this is where the logical doubts arise about what is going to happen to these “non-approved” products and where they are going to go.
Meanwhile, canned meat delivery is announced in specific places; oil in other areas; cans of tuna, in others; beans; powdered milk to those over 65 in other areas, and thus, by means of a light rain the authorities intend to put out the fires of social protest and at the same time announce that, if you behave well, you will have powdered milk or tuna. A series of political arbitrariness that confirms the perverse nature of the system of the regulated basket, the old ration book.
There are those who think that the regime is going to take advantage, for its own benefit, of the international donations in order to calm the social protests and buy time. Bread for today and hunger for tomorrow. The underlying problems are not solved with donations, but by changing the productive structure of the nation so that Cuba, the Cubans, can be more efficient and productive. Moreover, there are those who think that these donations will merely act as a palliative of the most intense pain that the nation is suffering, and as soon as they are used up, which will surely happen, the discomfort will return because then there will be no one to stop it.
If the regime wanted to buy time with this distribution of products in order to promote structural reforms, its action would be correct. But we fear that the necessary 180-degree turn towards economic freedom that Cuba needs doesn’t enter into its plans. The donations will be bread for today and hunger for tomorrow.
Translated by Tomás A.
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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.

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Cuban Government Opponent Yandier Garcia Labrada Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

García Labrada (left) and Mantilla (right) are members of Cuban opposition organizations. (Collage)
14ymedio, Havana, 28 July 2021 — The activist Yandier Garcia Labrada, of the Christian Liberation (MCL) Movement, was sentenced to five years in prison in a (non-contact) Telematic trial, according to the opposition organization, which denounced the action. On October 6, 2020, García Labrada was arrested when he protested in a line to buy food in Manatí, Las Tunas, on seeing some store employees handling some products “under the table.”
After the arrest, considered “violent”, the members of his family went almost two months without any news of his whereabouts. Since then, García Labrada has been in the El Tipico prison in Las Tunas and, according to a complaint from the MCL, the process and trial were “full of irregularities.”
The prosecutor asked for five years in prison for the crimes of “contempt, attack on authority and spread of epidemics,” a request that was confirmed on Tuesday.
Since García Labrada’s arrest, the political police have not stopped harassing his family. His brother, Iran Almaguer, was detained in June for three hours at the police station in the town of San Andrés, where he lives.
The European Parliament denounced the case of Yandier García Labrada at the beginning of June, when it approved a resolution condemning the human rights violations in Cuba. Similarly, the Inter-American Council on Human Rights issued Resolution 5/2021 in January of this year to grant precautionary protection measures in favor of the activist, considering that he is in a serious and urgent situation of risk of irreparable damage to his rights.
Another activist who has also been sentenced to prison in recent days is Virgilio Mantilla Arango, founding leader of the Camagüeyana (Cuba) Unit for Human Rights. As reported by Radio Televisión Martí, Mantilla was sentenced last Friday in Florida, Camagüey, to nine months in jail for the alleged crime of “contempt.”
The opponent had previously been arrested on July 16, in the town of Céspedes, where he resides, when he peacefully complained about the lack of medicines and the problems of the health system in that town, according to the activist Jiordan Marrero Huerta speaking to Radio Televisión Martí; Marrero Huerta is a member of the Cuban Christian Democratic Party.
“Virgilio was arrested in the afternoon that day in the polyclinic. The accusation is made by a colonel of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR), who says that Virgilio offended him and that he tried to attack him, which is a lie, that could be checked,” Marrero added.
“At the moment Virgilio is in the dungeons of the Florida municipality police station; he has not yet been transferred to Cerámica Roja, a reception center for convicts in the province, and we are waiting to see what decision the authorities will take with the appeal..
Mantilla made a call to Marrero to warn him that if he returned to prison he would declare a hunger strike: “They gave him a minute and a half, and he told me: ’My brother, I am not going to serve an unjust prison sentence again for this dictatorship. I’d rather starve to death’,” said the activist.
Virgilio Mantilla Arango had been released on July 4, after serving a seven-month sentence in the Kilo-9 prison, in Camagüey, for the alleged crime of “hoarding” food. The opponent was arrested after publicly expressing his solidarity with the San Isidro Movement.
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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.

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‘The Cuban Health System Has Simply Broken,’ Denounces the OCDH

Corridors of the Julio M. Aristegui de Cárdenas hospital, in Matanzas, where beds are piling up due to the increase in covid cases. (Screenshots / collage)
14ymedio, Madrid, 28 July 2021 — Although the numbers on the pandemic provided by the Cuban authorities have only grown so far this year, the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH), based in Madrid, suspects that they are just the tip of the iceberg. In a statement released this Tuesday, the organization has requested immediate action from the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization in the face of what it considers a hospital collapse aggravated by the lack of medical supplies.
According to the document, medical sources on the ground warn of this extreme situation. “There is no way to treat patients in Cuba, nor supplies as simple as oxygen. It is hard and sad (…) We are dying little by little. Here in Guantánamo we are falling like flies, without words,” two doctors told the OCDH, which adds a lack of staff, beds, pulse oximeters and basic medications to the list of shortages.
In this context, the organization calculates that the mortality data offered by the Government may be far below reality to the point of accusing hospitals of manipulating death certificates.
“This latest complaint is repeated in all regions of the country. The Government has decided not to mention Covid-19 as a cause in official death documents for hundreds of people. In return, it records that they died of pulmonary thromboembolism or pneumonia,” says Alejandro González Raga, Executive Director of the OCDH.
As an example, the NGO cites the case of Santiago de Cuba, where its sources affirm that a hundred corpses were piled up on the weekend without refrigeration. “They had to look for trucks to take them to the cemeteries, there weren’t even enough coffins. In Santiago they are burying the deceased in mass graves in the Siboney, El Cobre, Juan González and El Cristo cemeteries, due to lack of capacity.”
“None of those deaths are in the official death figures.” The local cemetery, Santa Ifigenia, already had space problems at the beginning of the year and the rise in deaths from covid-19 has aggravated the situation.
Another of the hospitals in which an extreme situation has been detected is that of Ciego de Ávila, “where there are no nurses after eight at night and there is only one doctor covering three Covid wards.”
The organization accuses the island’s authorities of wanting to maintain an image of normality to pretend that the situation is under control, but the reality, they maintain, is very different: “The Cuban health system has simply broken.”
“We call on the government of Cuba to request and accept all international humanitarian aid, and not selectively, as has been happening until now,” they demand.
The complaint comes a day before the authorities have communicated their record number of infections to date. This Wednesday, the Ministry of Public Health has reported 9,323 new cases of Covid-19 and 68 deaths.
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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.

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Cuba’s Santa Clara Diocese Laments the Placing of a July 26th Movement Flag on a Church

During the commemorative event for the official Day of Rebellion, the Corralillo church was adorned with two gigantic flags: the national ensign and the one alluding to the 26th of July Movement that emerged after the attack on the Moncada Barracks. (Facebook)
14ymedio, Havana, 26 July 2021 — The placement of the 26th of July Movement’s red-and-black flag on the facade of a church in Corralillo (Villa Clara province), annoyed the parishioners and obliged the bishopric of the diocese to publish a note lamenting the event and calling for the churches not to be involved in “political acts.”
On July 26, Corralillo was the “headquarters” of the official celebrations in Villa Clara, with the visit of Communist Party’s highest provincial authorities, who echoed the model of the commemoration in Havana, dedicated to productive tasks or visits to centers of economic value, such as the volunteer work in which Miguel Díaz-Canel participated in an urban garden.
During the commemorative event for the official Day of Rebellion, the Corralillo church was adorned with two gigantic flags: the national ensign and the one alluding to the Movement that emerged after the attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba, on July 26, 1953, a date on which dozens of young people under the command of Fidel Castro died.
After the image of the church with the two flags was disseminated in the local media, the press office of the bishopric of the province, based in Santa Clara, felt obliged to publish a text in which it emphasizes that “it is the principle of the Church that our temples are not involved, under any circumstances, in political acts.”
Political act on the occasion of July 26 in Corralillo, Villa Clara. (CMHW)
The note indicates that the placement of the red and black flag generated “the concern of many for this unusual event.” The statement clarifies that “the religious congregation in charge of this temple is made up of foreign nuns, recently installed in the place,” as an explanation of why it took them some time to realize the political nature of the display.
“In communication with the mother superior, she lets us know that authorization was requested to place the Cuban flag, without mentioning any other symbol.” The note continues to say that “in the Diocese, the only authority competent to authorize a matter of this nature is the diocesan bishop, who had no knowledge of this matter.”
“We regret what happened, and we trust that events like this will not be repeated,” concludes the document signed by the Vicar General of the Diocese of Santa Clara, Arnaldo Fernández Berroa. The note, published on the diocese’s Facebook page, is accompanied by a photo taken from the local official press.
The flag of the M-26-7 has for decades represented a political movement, involved in several violent events in Havana and armed struggle in the mountains of eastern Cuba. This banner is frequently placed in official and partisan entities, as well as in public places during the commemoration of the anniversary.
This Monday the celebrations have been atypical, just two weeks after the protests that took place in more than 40 cities throughout the island and the consequent repression. “More than the Day of National Rebellion, it seems the day of national sadness,” says a neighbor from Centro Habana as she gazes at the door of La Época store, lacking its usual lines of customers waiting outside.
The ruling party called on its followers to place Cuban and M-26-7 flags on balconies and facades, but, in a tour of several municipalities, this newspaper confirmed that the presence of the ensigns was scarce, in part because for decades they could only be bought in convertible pesos or were given to officials and high officials.
“In my block only one family took out a flag and played music with speakers on the balcony, but no one responded to the rhythm,” a resident of Cayo Hueso in the Cuban capital told this newspaper. “People are very quiet and in no mood to celebrate.”
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Lobster and Ground Meat to Calm Tensions in Havana

A line of customers outside a fish store on San Lazaro Street in Havana. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodriguez, Havana, July 27, 2021 — On Tuesday a rare scene unfolded on the corner of San Lazaro and Soledad streets in Central Havana. The fish market on that corner, which had been poorly stocked for months, suddenly had items which generated expressions of astonishment and long lines. Customers saw lobster, ground beef, snapper and processed ham listed for sale on the store’s chalkboard.
“They have so many things,” says a delighted Marcelo, a retiree who lives across the street from the store. “Normally, all they have are some really bad fish croquettes with a lot a flour but very little fish. It’s been a long time since they had anything worthwhile,” he observes while noting the prohibitive prices: “The lobster is more than 219 pesos a kilo.”
“The lobster was not good quality but they’ve already sold out because demand is so high. It flew out of there,” says Marcelo.
“This is all an attempt to calm people down,” speculates Aurora, a resident of Cayo Hueso, who got in line early, hoping for a little ground beef. “Lately, we’ve been seeing products we haven’t seen in a long time so, of course, everyone is wondering, if all this was in the warehouses, why they weren’t selling it; if people had to take to the streets to get them to release it.”
After widespread protests on July 11, government officials announced ration card holders would be entitled to an extra two pounds of rice per person. Farmers markets were also set up in Havana neighborhoods where demand has been high, such as La Lisa, El Cotorro and El Cerro. Unlike other occasions when the government tried to tamp down discontent, however, selections are few and supplies are limited.
“I remember one time there were power outages for several days in my neighborhood. After people started painting placards and throwing bottles off their balconies, they sold us canned meat, pastas, candies and even beer. That was when Hugo Chavez was sending over a lot of petroleum but times are harder now,” observes a neighbor of the San Lazaro fish market.
Nevertheless, in spite of the high prices and limited selection, the shortage of recent months has spurred dozens of local residents to join the line outside the store. “They’ll supply us with something this one time, then forget about us again,” observes a customer. “I am definitely going to buy some lobster, even if it costs me a week’s pension, because I want to experience the taste of seafood again before I die.”
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Cuba Registers Highest Number of Daily Covid Cases: 9,323

Havana concentrated most of the positive cases for SARS-Cov-2 with 1,583. (EFE)
EFE, via 14ymedio, Havana, 28 July 2021 — Cuba registered 9,323 cases of Covid-19 this Wednesday, the highest number of confirmed cases in a day since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, according to the Ministry of Public Health (Minsap).
The previous record was from Sunday, when 8,854 SARS-Cov-2 positives were reported in one day.
Health authorities reported today that 68 people died from complications arising from the disease, for a total of 2,560 deaths so far. The total number of infections now amounts to 358,378.
To diagnose today’s patients, of which 19 cases were imported, 51,209 samples were analyzed, according to Minsap.
There are 84,684 people are admitted to hospitals and isolation centers: 43,593 active cases — 149 critical and 201 serious — plus 37,459 with suspicious symptoms and the rest under epidemiological surveillance.
Most of the cases are concentrated in Havana with 1,583, followed by the western province of Matanzas (1,314) and the eastern province of Guantánamo (936).
In risk areas, including the capital, a health intervention study of the two most advanced formulas of the five vaccines developed by Cuba against the coronavirus is being developed: Abdala and Soberana 02.
The first of these is already a vaccine, the first Latin American anti-Covid vaccine, upon receiving authorization for emergency use after showing an efficacy of 92.2% in clinical trials.
Soberana 02, meanwhile, awaits that authorization by showing an efficacy of 91.2% with a scheme of two doses and an extra of Soberana Plus, another of the compounds that scientists on the island are investigating.
More than 3 million Cubans, out of a population of 11.2 million, have at least one dose of these formulas after clinical trials and intervention studies carried out at the same time as the healthcare one.
Cuba has not purchased vaccines on the international market, nor is it part of the WHO Covax mechanism created for low- and middle-income countries to access them.
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Cuba: A Warning to Latin America

Police officers arrest protesters in front of the Cuban Capitol in Havana on June 11. (EFE)
14ymedio, María Werlau/Archivo Cuba [Cuba Archive], Miami, 28 July 2021 — Although the repressive apparatus has controlled the streets of Cuba for now, the regime faces its bankruptcy both economically and legitimately. Among the consequences that deserve attention are the regional implications. Presumably, the Cuban regime, cornered, will increase the subversion of the democracies of the region to distract international attention, keep governments occupied in the defense of their own democracies, and blackmail them with the threat of more violence, as well as to attract resources with the expansion of “XXI century socialism” (Castro-communism).
Since its inception in 1959, the Cuban regime has financed, trained, and coordinated countless individuals, groups, organizations, and political parties to subvert the democratic order throughout the Western Hemisphere, and advance its imperialist plans. Their tactics have always included a set of asymmetric methodologies, such as guerrilla warfare, the formation of cadres for urban mobilization, and clandestine penetration. As of 2019, the coordinated violence unleashed in the region has neutralized collective action against the Venezuelan regime and promoted the expansion of the Cuban-Chavista model.
Our book, Cuba’s Intervention in Venezuela: A Strategic Occupation with Global Implications, (2019) describes the above and details how Cuba works.
Thousands of agents of the Cuban dictatorship promote its agenda around the world.
The Cuban libretto appears intact over and over again, in the press and on the lips of influential personalities. Recently, it tries to neutralize the damage done by the recent protests by blaming external forces for the lack of freedom and well-being in Cuba. Many people of goodwill adopt this story inadvertently, often lacking information or knowledge. But many are prepared agents, with precise instructions.
The statement that the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry released on July 16 seems to have been written by the Cuban regime, although President Lasso soon corrected his government’s position, to support Cubans who are asking for freedom. According to former Cuban intelligence officer Enrique García, at the time of his desertion in January 1989, Cuba had at least four agents (recruited clandestinely) with the rank of ambassador in the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry. We wonder if some are still in the Foreign Ministry or simply adopt Cuban rhetoric for lack of judgment.
Cuba has an important penetration in all the countries of the region, in the governmental, legislative and military institutions as well as in the mass media, the academic circles and the entire sociocultural and political spectrum. Until 1989, the only exception was Paraguay, which did not have diplomatic relations with Cuba and had managed to contain the Cubans.
Thousands of spies and collaborators of the Cuban dictatorship throughout the world support the gigantic apparatus of disinformation, propaganda and influence of the regime. It is estimated that in the United States alone, the Cuban intelligence services have around 5,000 secret relationships.
It is evident that the best way to defend the freedom of Cubans and of all the peoples of the region is for the Cuban communist dictatorship to leave power.
How can the United States Government help Cubans obtain their freedom?
Many media outlets, analysts, and others have asked us how the Cuban people can be helped to regain freedom, and some members of the United States Congress await suggestions. We present some:
1. Provide or facilitate free internet access for all Cubans.
2. Apply the Magnitsky Law to agents of the Cuban state, which authorizes the United States Government to punish human rights violators, freeze their assets and prohibit them from entering the country. Issue a public statement to announce it and dedicate government resources to identifying the perpetrators.
3. Invite Canada and Brazil to co-lead a multilateral effort that includes the world’s democracies to:
Channel humanitarian assistance of all kinds to Cuba in a way that it only reaches the people directly and through independent groups, entities, churches and individuals, without the mediation of any entity of the Cuban State, and prohibit aid to all entities controlled by the State, including NGOs, as well as members of the Communist Party.
Demand the immediate release of ALL political prisoners in Cuba: those imprisoned before, during, and after the July 11 protests as well as those imprisoned for all political causes and legal aberrations such as the “crime” known as “pre-criminal social dangerousness” and economic “crimes,” such as the slaughter of livestock or the possession of food, medicine and basic products are legally sold only by the State.
Demand a peaceful transition to democracy and, if the Cuban government refuses, take multilateral actions of increasing intensity to press in that direction.
Encourage and help pro-democracy leaders in Cuba to outline, together, a roadmap for a peaceful transition to democracy.
4. Maintain open lines of communication with potential reformists within the Government and the Armed Forces of Cuba to encourage them to support a democratic transition.
5. Lead an effort within international organizations such as the OAS and the UN, through their multiple entities, to hold the Cuban regime accountable for its human rights violations and crimes against humanity.
6. Prioritize counterintelligence resources to monitor and counteract Cuba’s activities in the United States.
7. Report on the threat that Cuba represents to national, regional and global security and allocate more resources to collaborate with the counterintelligence services of regional democracies to counter the work of Cuba and its flag-bearers.
8. Defend regional security, invoking the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance to:
Support the  efforts for democracy in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua with non-war measures.
Discuss urgent collective measures to counteract the regional subversion of democracy and the rule of law by Cuba and its representatives or allies.
Send a message to Russia, China, Iran and all external actors that assisting in the repression of those peacefully protesting for freedom in Cuba will be considered acts of aggression that will have consequences.
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Political Police Harass Cuban Journalist Camila Acosta and Her Friends

Camila Acosta has been barred from leaving the country for more than a year.
14ymedio, Havana, July 27, 2021 — Journalist Camila Acosta, a contributor to the Cubanet news portal, was detained for several hours this Monday in front of the home of her friend Fabio Corchado, who had given her shelter in his house for the last few days. The reporter was trying to persuade the political police to release Corchado’s younger brother, who had been taken to State Security’s Villa Marista for no good reason.
“I’ve been under house arrest since they released me on the 16th and I hadn’t come out. Today I did, at 6:20 in the afternoon, because Fabio Corchado told me that his brother wasn’t answering his cell phone. We were worried because he didn’t show up. When we confirmed his arrest, I went out to speak directly with the security agent who is watching me. They then picked me up and took me to Zapata and C [police station]” the journalist told this newspaper, after being released at 10:00 pm.
“First they took me to the jail, and then they brought me up to interrogate me. The officers told me that Víctor [Corchado] had declared that I gave him a flash memory with some videos of the July 11 demonstration for him to upload, because he works in the Government and has a good [internet] connection,” the reporter explained, describing the words of the State Security agent as a lie, and saying that she believes they are using the brother to pressure Fabio Corchado.
“Now they have the boy in Villa Marista. They already called his mother to bring him toiletries tomorrow. What they are doing is pressuring the family to get Fabio out of the house,” said Acosta. He has already been evicted from several rentals due to pressure from State Security, to get him to abandon his journalistic work.
According to the writer Ángel Santiesteban, State Security officials have been carrying out “provocations” since Sunday at Fabio Corchado’s home. The author told 14ymedio that around midnight agents knocked on Corchado’s door to talk to him, and when he refused because it was very late, “they completely shut off his phone line.”
“In the morning they arrested his younger brother, who was only going to work, and then they kidnapped Camila. Now Fabio has asked me, because he doesn’t have internet access, to report that even if they arrest his mother, he is not going to throw Camila out of his home,” added Santiesteban.
Camila Acosta was arrested on the 12th after her participation in the July 11 protests and released on the 16th with a precautionary measure of “house arrest” while the investigation continues. As the reporter explained at the time, the officers intend to prosecute her for the crimes of “disrespect” and “public disorder,” for having recorded videos during the demonstrations.
The journalist has also been barred from leaving the country for more than a year.
Translated by Tomás A.
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Cuban President Diaz-Canel Hides Behind “Voluntary Work”

Miguel Díaz-Canel has tried to present an image of a modern president close to the people.
14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, July 27, 2021 — They say that the Díaz-Canel government is not responsible for the national economic disaster. But every day they give us evidence of it. The State newspaper Granma now echoes a report of the communist leader’s day of “voluntary work” in the Havana neighborhood of Fontanar, in the Base Business Unit (UEB) Granja Boyeros, belonging to the Metropolitan Agricultural Company.
Díaz-Canel turned up there to celebrate his own July 26, and to send a message to “the generations of living Cubans whose working days at the foot of the furrow during those seasons we will never forget. They are at the center of all nostalgia, the time to remind us that working with our own hands is a necessity and a privilege that Cuba deserves to have.”
Tremendous. If he believes that, he’s lost. If he doesn’t believe it, he’s a great actor. Those of us who are Díaz-Canel’s age think of volunteer work with anything but nostalgia. It was a coercive nightmare of a regime that forced everyone to think and act in the same way.
Volunteer work was a communist instrument of social coercion implanted at the very beginning of the revolutionary process to divide Cubans. Those who went to volunteer work were the favorites, the ones who deserved praise and rewards. Those who freely showed their disagreement were classified as ‘gusanos‘ (worms), enemies of the revolution, and were professionally and socially punished. Castroism was very simple in mechanisms of punishment and reward. Either you were with him, or against him. There was nothing in between.
Voluntary work, linked to the land, failed to increase productivity and procure more food. Quite the opposite. Requiring people lacking agricultural knowledge to work in various tasks, many of them specialized, caused production yields to plummet.
Any responsible politician would have immediately put a stop to volunteer work by observing those indicators, but Fidel Castro, who already had millions of dollars in Soviet subsidies at that time, thought otherwise. And volunteer work was not only maintained, but the specialized Schools in the Countryside were established for high school youth, and UMAP (“Military Units to Aid Production’) farms for homosexuals.
Those were the years of the communist regime’s greatest cruelty, so I don’t know how nostalgically Díaz-Canel should remember those dramas unless he has a masochistic bent.
Granma’s chronicle doesn’t hold back, and presents Díaz-Canel’s workday as a gondola ride through the canals of Venice. Yes “a heartwarming morning . . . closing with a relaxed meeting, marked by music, photographs that many young people took with the president, and a joy that is born of mutual understanding, of feeling that they had celebrated, in the best way, a special day in the country’s history.” A way of hiding from the reality of arrests and very summary trials of those who peacefully protested in the demonstrations.
Also, volunteer work is not your thing. And immediately the act came truffled with corporate elements of the regime that is currently immersed in a serious crisis. It is not surprising that the National Coordinator of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) and Hero of the Republic of Cuba, the former spy, Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, passed by. Whose presence should be interpreted as reinforcing the most hardline wing of the regime to Díaz Canel, the encouragement he needs to continue with the arrests and summary trials of the protesters. There were, of course, allusions to Fidel “who from being an accused went on to become a defender of the people through ‘History will Absolve me’” in an interpretation of historical events as always manipulated and uncertain.
But the best of the gondola ride came when Díaz-Canel wanted to talk about the future.
And that set off alarms, due to its dangerous distancing from reality. The pact with the hardline sector has worked. And instead of Díaz-Canel talking to the Cuban people to resolve the crisis, he shut himself up in the postulates that have led him to disaster. Maybe from sunstroke during the short day of volunteer work. These things happen.
The most surprising thing was that he then mentioned the entrepreneurship of young people, as well as continuing to promote more spaces for dialogue. The usual dialogue, that of “inside the revolution everything, outside the revolution nothing.” He questioned “the difficulties they have been facing in the midst of Covid-19” without providing solutions to them, and proposed “increasing the legal foundation for everything that society undertakes; and continuing to improve our concepts, our culture of public and business administration.”
From so much talk about companies and entrepreneurs, some were left waiting for an allusion to volunteer work, but there was only a reference to “community work that has always been developed in the revolution; to make the socialist state enterprise more efficient; to renew the ways of participation of the population; to renew the role of mass organizations,” while insisting on “eliminating the causes of marginalization, of crime, of vulnerable people and families.”
Then he talked about preventing children from dropping out of school, so that they don’t become criminals, so that young people disengaged from study and work don’t become criminals, adding that “if someone commits a crime, that we have a social program in prison that is capable of transforming them, so that after they leave prison the society is able to assimilate them and they can feel that they are advancing in society and not regressing.”
After citing the features that distinguish us, he introduced the concept of “creative resistance,” not understood as overwhelming, but quite the opposite: “to resist and see how I advance, how I rip a bit out of each problem every day, how I multiply myself, how I grow, how I find prosperity faster for myself and for everyone.”
They have no remedy.
According to Díaz-Canel, creative resistance and unity “are the two conquests that want to fragment us, if they promote hatred, division, if they take away our ability to resist creatively, then they colonize us because we lose our identity.”
Obsessive and outdated ideas that have very little to do with the reality of the times and the demands of a society that is fed up with so much talk, and wants actions, like those demanded by the protesters in the streets of San Antonio de los Baños.
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Mexico Will Send Cuba Two Ships With Medical Supplies and Food

SEMAR [Secretariat of the Navy] personnel ready the boats with aid to be sent to Cuba. (Video Capture)14ymedio, Mexico, 23 July 2021 — This Sunday, Mexico will send two vessels of the Secretariat of the Navy to Cuba with health aid such as syringes, T-type oxygen tanks with 9,500 liters and mouth coverings, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) said in a statement.
The shipment also includes foodstuffs — powdered milk, beans, wheat flour, cans of tuna, cooking oil — and diesel. The agency said that the assistance sent is “in line with the Mexican Government’s policy of international solidarity.”
The SRE’s announcement came on the same day that the U.S. government toughened its measures towards the island by sanctioning the Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba (FAR), Alvaro Lopez-Miera, and the elite military unit known as the boinas negras [Black Berets], who it held responsible for the repression of the anti-government protests of July 11 in Cuba.
In them, thousands of people shouted “freedom,” “down with the dictatorship,” and “homeland and life,” in the midst of an unprecedented economic and health crisis, and hundreds of people, including some minors, were arrested.
The government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador has expressed its opposition to the U.S. sanctions and has called for them to be lifted.
Regarding the embargo on Cuba, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, after participating in a meeting of the United Nations (UN) Security Council in mid-July, said: “The blockade on Cuba and other countries where extreme sanctions are applied are causing serious impacts in terms of suffering and humanitarian conditions that we should all respect.”
With the dispatch of the two vessels, the Mexican Foreign Minister pledged to send more oxygen and Mexican-made respirators, used during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, if needed.
Translated by: Hombre de Paz
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Cuba’s Foreign Minister Blames U.S. for ‘Terrorist Act’ Against Cuban Embassy in Paris

When Paris firefighters arrived at the embassy, the fire had been put out. (Embassy of Cuba)
14ymedio, Havana, July 27, 2021 — The Cuban Embassy in Paris was the target last night of an attack with several incendiary devices that left minor damage, according to the French capital’s fire department. The Cuban Government, which has described the act as a “terrorist attack,” holds the U.S. Administration responsible for its “campaigns against” the Island.
“Terrorist acts like this are incited by the campaigns of the United States Government against our country, instigating actions and resorting to violence,” the Cuban Embassy in France said in a statement.
The attack took place at the Cuban diplomatic headquarters, located in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, shortly before midnight on July 26-27.
Foreign Ministry sources indicated that three Molotov cocktails were thrown: two struck the outside of the embassy and one penetrated it, causing a fire that was put out by mission officials.
Firefighters and police subsequently went to the scene and reported that “the two devices, which caused minor damage, were extinguished before their arrival.”
Diplomatic staff at the Embassy were not injured.
“We denounce the terrorist attack with Molotov cocktails against our Embassy in Paris. I hold the US Government responsible for its continuous campaigns against our country,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez also said on Twitter.
No one has so far acknowledged responsibility for the attack.
Translated by Tomás A.
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Social Media Rallies for the Release of Cuban Who Shared First Live Video Of July 11th Protests

Yoan de la Cruz shared the first live video of the July 11th protests. (Facebook)
14ymedio, Havana, July 26th, 2021 — Yoan de la Cruz, who shared the live broadcast of the first protests in San Antonio de los Baños that sparked the demonstrations all over the island, was arrested last Friday, according to reports from his family and friends on social media.
“He is my nephew, a really good kid, whose only crime to record from his house the protest that took place July 11th in San Antonio de los Baños. He has been in prison for two days. My sister and we all are having a really hard time jut thinking in what they must be doing to him,” wrote Ivis Cruz, the aunt of the Cuban young man, on Twitter this past Sunday.
Several friends had already started to share the same message, barely a few hours after the arrest, demanding his release on social media, and vindicating his role in the unprecedented protests that have shaken the island in the past two weeks.
“Yoan de la Cruz, Cuban from Ariguanabo, but even more, the courageous young man whom with a cell phone and a few megas, showed the entire world that San Antonio de los Baños might be a small town, but it is full of brave people like him, that are fed up with living imprisoned and took on the streets screaming for ’FREEDOM’. Release him now, cowards! You think you’re all so powerful and a young man with a phone on his hands shakes the house of cards where you live.”
Another friend, a transgender known as Vida Bohemia, has also demanded De la Cruz’s release, and considers it a great injustice that a peaceful individual that has not committed any violent crime is in prison. “He didn’t throw a stone, he didn’t break glass, he didn’t assault anyone, he didn’t yelled ’Down with anything’. Please, release him now. He has a mother, a grandmother, a family and thousands of friends that are suffering.”
Jhans Oscar, a youtuber from the LGBTI+ community, echoed the demands of Yoan de la Cruz friends and family, and this past Sunday what was a mere whisper on social media became breaking news in a matter of hours. “The guy who shared the first live video from the protests in San Anthonio de los Baños that went viral has been arrested. Right now he is wrongfully imprisoned by the dictatorship,” denounced Oscar on Twitter.
“We can’t allow anything to happen to him,” added the content creator.
Alejandro Díaz Jerez, a member of the San Antonio de los Baños Facebook group, also posted about De la Cruz non-violent behavior last Sunday, when the wave of protests started in Cuba. “He is not a criminal, he is not a terrorist, let alone a mercenary paid by another country or organization, as the Cuban dictatorship has labeled him. We demand the immediate release of Yoan de la Cruz, and all those unjustly arrested.”
“The thousands of Cubans who marched on the streets last July 11th, and those who continue to protest in Cuba and in more than 45 cities all over the world, are demanding freedom despite the repression unleashed by the cowards in the armed forces. (De la Cruz) is not a discontented homosexual coming from a broken family nor a problematic traitor as the authorities on this island are trying to make you believe. (People protesting) are good people, with families and trying to make a living, tired of the archaic and obsolete, illogical and utterly failed communist system that has only brought us famine, misery, backwardness and major shortcomings. Its been the maximum expression of indoctrination for more than 60 years. Thank God the theater crashed down, and today the entire world knows the true reality of Cuban communism,” he added.
Fifteen days after the protests erupted, the government has not yet released an official list of the people arrested. The news about arrests or people released are just trickling down informally thanks to the amplifying power of social media.
Up until July 26th, the most updated list compiled from Cubalex included 689 people reported involved as detained or missing: 263 with confirmed arrests, 238 under verification process, 152 were detained and released and 36 reported as still forcibly missing.
Translated by: Mailyn Salabarria
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Spanish Ambassador to Cuba Attributes Popular Discontent to the ‘US Blockade’ and the Pandemic

Ángel Martín Peccis, Spain’s ambassador to Cuba. (EFE/Archivo)
14ymedio, Madrid, July 26, 2021 —  Ángel Martín Peccis, the Spanish ambassador to Cuba, attributed the protests in Cuba to the discontent that exists because of problems in finding medicine and food, a scarcity he chalks up to the pandemic and the “blockade” of the United States that “has lasted 62 years.” The diplomat didn’t want to strictly assess the demonstrations, following the words of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to what the Spanish newspaper Heraldo published this Monday.
Peccis, who arrived in Havana in November 2020 to replace Juan Fernández Trigo, explained that the island’s authorities have prioritized health over the economy, with very early closures when there were hardly cases of coronavirus, which has dealt a blow to the situation for the country and its families.
“Everything has been closed: restaurants, stores, tourism. After nine months of this, added to the blockade from the United States and the new measures taken by Trump, everything comes to a very difficult situation, which we believe will pass when the economy begins to reactivate,” said the ambassador, who believes that all of Latin America is experiencing a very difficult situation because of the pandemic.
In his statements, which he made during a recent visit to Zaragoza (capital of the Spanish region of Aragon, which he comes from), Peccis asked for prudence from his country’s politicians with the goal of maintaining good relations with the authorities on the island, where Spain has large commercial interests. He believes that the important thing is that the protests be peaceful, “the government can meet with its people and there will be no difficulties.”
In his judgment, “things have already calmed down a lot” and everything “will pass and continue to improve as the economy opens and people are vaccinated.” However, the opening of the economy and vaccination have coincided precisely with the opposite, an increase in infections and discontent in a society that grows more and more tired.
Yes, Peccis wanted to comment on the economic and business perspectives on the island, where, he recalled, Spanish hotels like Iberostar, Globalia, NH, and Meliá continue to invest. “There are going to be new projects that are estimated to begin as soon as Covid is controlled, at the end of the year or beginning of 2022,” he said. In his opinion, the Cuban government is convinced of economic openness and what was before a combination of state businesses with foreign ones will now join a private sector that will generate development.
“I think that it is going to be beneficial for the Cuban population, like is happening in Spain, to be able to have small and medium businesses and be autonomous, which will generate a lot of employment,” he said.
The ambassador insisted that good relations with the Cuban government are strategic and that they have been maintained throughout the years independent of what party was at the head of the Spanish government, as well as the position against the embargo, which is identical and in line with the European Union. Cuba, he maintained, must reform “without interference from anyone to be able to enjoy rights and freedoms.”
The diplomat participated in the forum organized by the Spanish Confederation of Business Organizations (CEOE) in Aragon, where the importance of the tourism sector for Cuba and Spain was discussed. Peccis defended the necessity of supplying food to the hotel sector on the island and how this is another business niche for his country. “Just now an Aragonese businessman can put an egg factory in Cuba and sell directly to the hotel sector,” he stated.
Although repercussions of the approval of the Helms-Burton law have in a certain manner frightened Spanish entrepreneurs, the ambassador maintained that there is a “real and legally secure opportunity” to invest in Cuba.
Other business owners participated in the event, including the directors of the company Pastas Romero, which has been exporting to Cuba for 24 years, who explained the manner in which they trade with the Island. Ignacio Santisteve, director of the international department, explained that it’s necessary to be very patient because there are no payment guarantees and consumption is irregular: “You can be waiting for months for government contracts, currency availability, and very regulated administrative procedures to be tendered,” he emphasized.
Nevertheless, their business has doubled since they began operations in the country and for that reason the background of the July 11 protests doesn’t matter to him much, he only hopes that they won’t be an obstacle. “With ongoing orders, we don’t expect to have problems. It’s true that there is a situation of uncertainty. However, we will try to continue taking advantage of the opportunities that this marvelous country continues to offer us,” he added.
Eduardo Monge, commercial director of Pagola Poliuretanos, which sells foam for chairs and mattresses to Cuba and which now seeks to enter the hospitality and construction sectors, also expressed his opinion on the repercussions of the wave of demonstrations this month on the island and believes that changes will come sooner or later. “The protests are an explosion of frustration over the dramatic situation that they have experienced. They have the political system that they have. But that will change. It’s almost inevitable.”
Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera
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Bad Streak for Cuban Generals: Four Have Died in a Week

Manuel Eduardo Lastres Pacheco was a native of Yara, in the province of Granma. (Government of Granma)
14ymedio, Havana, July 26, 2021 – Reserve Brigadier General Manuel Eduardo Lastres Pacheco died this past Monday, according to a brief informational note released by the Ministry of the Armed Forces. He is the fourth high-ranking military officer to die in recent days in Cuba; the cause of death was not specified in any of the cases.
The statement with the information, read during the Midday News program on Cuban Television, recounted that Lastres was a native of Yara, in the province of Granma, joined Fidel Castro guerrillas in 1957, and was also under the command of Camilo Cienfuegos in Column Two, which carried out the invasion of western Cuba.
After Castro’s rise to power in 1959, Lastres served as a battalion chief in the fighting against the rebels in the Escambray region, also as an infantry division brigade chief of the Territorial Militia Troops (MTT). He was one of the senior officers who commanded Cuban troops in Angola.
The body of the general “was cremated and his ashes will be displayed for a family tribute on a date that will be announced in due course,” the note added.
This Saturday the official press also reported the death of Reserve Major General Rubén Martínez Puente, who died at the age of 79. Martínez had been indicted in the United States for the murder, on February 24, 1996, of four members of the Brothers to the Rescue organization, created to help rafters who escaped from the island.
The general was accused of having transmitted Raúl Castro’s order to fire missiles from Mig fighter planes of the Cuban Air Force, to shoot down the planes in which the exiles were traveling. The attack occurred over international waters, though the Cuban government claimed that the planes had entered the island’s airspace.
Last Tuesday, the official media reported the death of Reserve Brigadier General Marcelo Verdecia Perdomo, who was Fidel Castro’s bodyguard in the Sierra Maestra. And On Saturday, July 18, the death of another general was announced, the head of the Eastern Cuban Army, Agustín Peña (b. 1963) from undisclosed causes, but knowledgeable sources indicated that Covid-19 was the cause of his death.
Translated by Tomás A.
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Biden Opposes Cuban Communism

US President Joe Biden during a meeting at the White House on July 12th. (EFE/Sarah Silbiger/Pool)
14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 24 July 2021 — Lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was tortured and killed by the Russian political police in 2009. He had denounced tax fraud for more than 200 million dollars in his native country. They killed him or left him to die in his cell. It’s the same thing.
In 2012, Democrat Senator Ben Cardin, with the support of Republican John McCain, presented a bill to the United States Congress that he entitled “Sergei Magnitsky’s Rule of Law Accountability Act.” It was signed by President Obama. As there is an American tendency to abbreviate the language, they have applied the “Global Magnitsky Act” to the Cuban state and have sanctioned General Álvaro López Miera, Minister of Defense, in charge of the armed forces and the feared Black Berets.
The Russians, led by Putin, have vigorously opposed the globalization of justice, but the trend continues. The idea that “we are the only ones who should judge our own crimes” does not work at all. It generates impunity. England, Canada and the Baltic countries are on board with the “Global Magnitsky Act.” Pretoria is studying it, along with France and Germany.
In any case, the first demand of the Cuban exiles to President Joe Biden was that he restore the internet to the Island of Cuba. It is known that, technologically, the United States can do it.
But the second demand, according to María Werlau, the soul of “Archivo Cuba,” was that he implement the Global Magnitsky Act, and it seems that they have listened to her or have concurred. (I don’t know if the people who oppose globalization know that they are playing a game of cards shamelessly marked by Vladimir Putin.)
Many years ago, I received a message from Gustavo Arcos about General Álvaro López Miera. There were the names of other generals in the letter that I won’t reveal. Gustavo was a hero in the fight against Batista and later opposed his former friend Fidel Castro and ended up in jail.
Gustavo asked me to closely follow the figure of López Miera. I did so. He is from Santiago, although born in Havana, the son of Spanish Republicans, who had been semi-adopted by Vilma Espín and Raúl Castro. His father was a professor at the Universidad de Oriente. Supposedly, Alvaro was 14 years old (he was born in December 1943) when he rose up in arms, and then he pursued a military career in the USSR. “Vilma loved him like a son,” those who knew the ties between the two families told me.
I don’t know why Gustavo mentioned this name, but I find him once again accused as a repressor of the human rights of Cubans. For now, I remember Venezuelan General Manuel Ricardo Cristopher Figuera, former head of SEBIN. He went over to the enemy and the sanctions were lifted. There are two epigraphs that justify that wonderful Jordan. One is “genuine repentance” and the other, because, at the request of the President of the United States, it is convenient for National Security. I don’t know which of the two criteria were applied to the Venezuelan general. Perhaps both. Anyway, there is no doubt that the sanctions exist to be eventually lifted.
There won’t be an American invasion against Cuba, despite the wishes of the Cubans inside and outside the island, unless the resistance inside Cuba provokes a generalized massacre, abundantly filmed. Faced with these facts, for humanitarian reasons, American society can be dragged into combat, but it’s very difficult for it to happen. Not even Donald Trump ordered an intervention against Nicolás Maduro, despite having flirted with “all options are on the table.” Trump was playing to scare Maduro, but he didn’t talk seriously with his generals about the possibility of destroying the Venezuelan armed forces from the air, something that would have been very easy.
This outcome is only possible if the US takes seriously what is happening in Latin America and creates an organization like NATO in its hemisphere, but I don’t see the slightest intention of implementing political decisions with full force. Nor is there, in this part of the world, a will to defend democracy like the one observed in Europe, where the United States is forced to bomb the Serbs or Libyans from the air. We are used to living with Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia and soon we will get used to Mr. Pedro Castillo in Peru.
That doesn’t mean that the Cuban regime is getting away with it. Despite what AMLO in Mexico or Mrs. Cristina in Argentina shout, the protests on July 11 and 12 have served to deny the dictatorship any significant support. The obscene images of young policemen and communist militants dressed in civilian clothes, arriving in buses and equipped with bats and sticks to silence the opposition, are unforgettable. That happened throughout the island.
Although the protests were drowned in blood, the few investments that will flow will be, for the most part, unholy money. No serious and law-abiding person will want to mix with that small world of criminals.
We are very close to the end. How will it come? In the same way that the revolt of mid-July began. Unexpectedly. But it will come.
Note: This translation is from Montaner’s own blog.____________
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Cuban Political Police Claim the Power to Vaccinate

The first few minutes with the young medical student were very uncomfortable. She was looking at her cell phone and I was looking at mine. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 23 July 2021 — Last night I was thinking over and over again that when morning dawned I would have to go to the doctor’s office to receive the third dose of the Abdala candidate vaccine. It would not be a problem for anyone to walk a hundred meters and receive an injection, but for the past 13 days I have had a State Security officer guarding the entrance of my house and preventing me from leaving.
This morning, at 9:40, I tried to leave my house but, when I reached the ground floor of the building, the policeman got up from his chair and repeated, mechanically: “You can’t go out.”
“Today I have to receive my third dose of Abdala so I must and will go out,” I replied. But the agent does not understand explanations. It was like trying to convince a wall. “If you have to go to the office, wait for me to call the patrol right now to take you,” he said.
“There’s no way I’m getting into a police car as if I were a criminal,” I replied. “Then I will go with you,” he answered.
The doctor’s is one block away, I opened the door of the building and went out. The man walked beside me, commented on the weather, and at fifty meters he told me that we had “different ideals.” I didn’t answer him.
At 9:45 a.m. I arrived at the doctor’s office, a small room with several chairs and, in the same entrance, a table where a young second-year medical student had the task of taking the blood pressure and temperature of all those who arrive, before registering the name on a spreadsheet.
I asked who was the end of the line, a man answered me and I sat down. The young student told me that it was also necessary to wait at least ten minutes for the person to recover from the exertion of the walk. As I sat down, the officer approached the girl and said something in her ear, she got up and looked for the doctor. The upshot of that conversation was that I was told to walk past the dozen or so people who were waiting.
Annoyed, almost ashamed of having to skip the line, mostly elderly, I went to the doctor who asked for my identity card and vaccination card. After a few brief questions, he jabbed my shoulder with a syringe while I was still dumbfounded and annoyed. Then I was left to wait in another room for an hour to monitor any adverse reactions.
But State Security has its own protocols that do not obey medical or scientific logic. A few minutes after being there, the policeman burst into the room and said: “No, let’s go to your house now.”
The doctor ended up giving in to his pressure, gave me back the documents and again I walked the short distance that separated me from my house, with that impertinent shadow to one side.
Before entering the elevator, the police officer had the nerve to try to make amends for the violation of my privacy and the disrespect he had committed toward the health regulations: “Sorry for the bad time I put you through,” he said, while I was just thinking about my two daughters, trusting that their mother had only gone to “get a jab” and that I would return as soon as possible.
No sooner had I entered my apartment and without being able to process all that, they knocked on my door. On the other side were the State Security officer, the nurse, and the young medical student who had received me at the vaccination center. They asked me if it was possible to “monitor” my physical situation at home. The two women came in.
The nurse left and the first minutes with the young woman were very uncomfortable. She was looking at her cell phone and I was looking at mine. I offered her coffee but she declined, she says she doesn’t like it and she brought her thermos with water. We don’t talk much, we barely exchange a few words, cordial, routine. At 10:45 am the nurse came to pick her up and they left.
The State Security officer is still on the ground floor of the building, and I don’t know how many more days he will stay. Outside at the corner there is a patrol car ready in case I break out in an attack of rebellion and try to leave, despite the warnings. This is the context that surrounds me since July 11 when thousands of Cubans took to the streets to ask for just what I need now: Freedom.
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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.

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Open Letter From a Swedish Citizen to Miguel Diaz-Canel

The Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, in his television appearance on July 11. (Screen capture)
14ymedio, Hans Lunell (Letters from Readers), Stockholm, 26 July 2021 — I am writing this letter from Sweden, one of the most developed countries in the world as it is free, democratic and capitalist. You live in one of the poorest and most unsuccessful countries in the world since there is no freedom, it is totalitarian and communist.
I do not write “president” because you were not elected but appointed, so you do not have any legitimacy as president. Nor do I write “doctor,” as I have not seen your thesis and I cannot judge if you deserve that title; I fear not. But “sir,” yes, this I can write, at least to identify your sex.
I am writing to you as a lover of Cuba for its climate, its nature, its architecture (what remains), its traditions, its music and its friendly people. But not  for its government, a government that has not been elected and therefore has the same lack of legitimacy as you. Everyone knows that the so-called elections in Cuba are just a sham.
You were named in 2018 as the crown prince of a country already bankrupt and torn to pieces by more than half a century of bad government. Since you took office, you have not been able to do more than increase poverty and misery in your country. However, the time has come to choose the future path. You have two options and the one you choose will decide how you will be remembered by your children, your grandchildren, your family, the Cuban people and the whole world. It is not a decision, then, to be taken lightly.
You can follow the same path as until today and you will be remembered as a puppet, a coward, a simple messenger carrying out the orders of those above. In other words, a buffoon who is becoming more ridiculous and less dignified every day. This path is the path of repression, that of a totalitarian and tyrannical system that has already proven futile for many years, a system that brings misery to the people and fills the pockets of people who are already dying.
The other path, on the contrary, is that of a Bolívar, a Martí, a Gorbachev, with whom you can be remembered as a liberator, a hero, the man who opened the doors to a better future for his country and his people. It is the path to freedom, democracy, the market economy. It was the way of Cuba before the Revolution, when the Island was one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America.
To embark on this path, here are some tips:
First, review and change the Constitution, especially all the articles that refer to communism, Marxism, socialism and other similar denominations, including the idea of ​​the one party.
Second, call a fair referendum to set the new Constitution.
Third, allow the formation of different political parties and let them establish themselves with leaders and free programs.
Fourth, allow a campaign open to all parties on equal terms.
Fifth, allow elections with all parties and allow international organizations to monitor them.
Sixth, accept the result and let the winners form a new government.
It may be that there are some elderly generals and other hierarchs who do not agree with these measures. Then take them prisoner. There is always some Cuban law that can be applied. And if there is no room in the prisons, release all political prisoners. You will have a lot of space.
Do you have the courage to undertake this path?
Think ahead, not only for your country, but also for yourself. How do you want to be remembered by your children, your grandchildren, your family, the Cuban people and the whole world? With contempt and shame or with admiration and pride? The time to choose has come and it will not be repeated.
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Social Protests, the Embargo, and the Cuban Communist Regime

The Cuban dictatorship has militarized the streets of the island to prevent the protests from multiplying. (Twitter)
14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, July 26, 2021 – It’s easier to blame the US embargo or ’blockade’ for all the ills of the Cuban economy. And also to believe it. But this is nothing more than an irresponsible attitude, which has reached its end.
The Cubans who came out to protest on July 11, and who will do so again at another time, know that the problems in the economy are due to poor management by their leaders. they are through with excuses, and blaming others.
The propaganda of the regime through its media, sometimes suffocating, doesn’t get through to Cubans, who are ready to demand accountability as soon as the right moment arrives. People turn off the television when the “Roundtable” comes on. A program lacking in credibility.
The demand for holding the rulers responsible begins to take shape. Responsibility for having created an economic system that restrains existing productive potentials, that just seeks to appropriate the latest hard currency entering the country in order to spend it on the objectives of that system.
Responsibility for having frustrated for 63 years the aspirations of several generations of Cubans to have their own private assets, to be owners of the means of production, and to use them according to criteria of profitability.
Responsibility for installing a distribution mechanism based on rationing and scarcity, eliminating the efficient action of the market in driving the economy.
The list of responsibilities is so extensive that we could occupy a good part of this blog space, and all of them could be summarized in one: the communist social model does not work.
It has not worked, nor can it be expected to do so in the future. Its days have come to an end, and Cuban society wants change. This can be done in one of two ways: either through a rupture that puts and end to a stage that can be classified as permanently lost; or through government negotiation and dialogue with society to promote an orderly transition.
Of course there are numerous intermediate positions between these two, and nothing is yet to be written about the future of Cuba, but there is no doubt that the people spoke very clearly on July 11, and the regime should take note.
Clearly a change is coming, and a profound one. Even within the regime there is no room for inflexible positions, since many leaders have become aware that things are really very bad, so that there is no place for superficial changes or cosmetic patches, but rather more profound changes and changes must be made, and quickly, with positive expectations for the future. There are many leaders who know that this chimera of a “prosperous and sustainable socialism” will never be achieved because the model itself prevents it.
Despite this perception of reality, the Cuban communists continue to delay any structural change that modifies the fundamental aspects that prevent the economy from improving. In the current situation, they rely on the effects of the pandemic and the loss of income from tourism, among others, but in reality they are fleeing from assuming responsibilities, and that behavior is not the most appropriate.
Cubans increasingly disbelieve the story of the sanctions against Cuba and that the interference of the United States complicates the process from within, and they see it as a permanent excuse, aimed at avoiding necessary changes that, moreover, are urgent.
Perhaps for this reason the recent sanctions against members of the regime have not provoked a reaction similar to previous times, largely because many Cubans know that these measures have a limited duration and appear more as symbolic reprimands than anything else.
The authorities look askance at the neighbor to the north because what really worries them is that there will be a final cut in remittances. Much more than a denunciation of members of State Security (known as black berets) or a high-ranking military officer, as has happened. The serious thing about the situation is that while this was happening, hundreds of very summary trials were being conducted against the participants in the social protests on the island without procedural guarantees, sending people to prison.
The time has come to speak accurately. Cuba is neither blockaded nor embargoed by thousands of ships that surround the island. That image is absurd and really only existed for a few days when the Soviets tried to turn the island into a base to launch their nuclear missiles at cities in the United States.
The blockade does not exist; Cuba trades with, and receives investments, tourists, and capital from 192 countries of the world, with absolute freedom. As long as there are analysts and observers who entertain themselves in codifying something that does not exist, it is not helpful.
The debate must be about the problems and solutions that are within Cuba, and which have to be resolved among Cubans. Thinking about Obama, Trump, or Biden, believing that they are worried about losing votes, and that therefore they act in one way or another because of  electoral pressure, is a misconception.
Relations between the United States and Cuba are well defined by a partisan consensus that has much to do with the inability of the Cuban authorities to resolve a dispute that, moreover, was originally caused by Cuba, and not by the United States.
The Havana regime holds the key to resolving this dispute between the two countries. The Cuban people during their peaceful protests on July 11 said this very clearly.
But the regime’s wanting to do it or being interested in doing it is another thing altogether. To conduct a debate about concessions by the United States to soften these measures is to waste time.
The hunger and desire for democracy in Cuba have less and less to do with the alleged embargo/blockade, no matter how much the regime pretends otherwise. The solution to end it all is in the hands of the regime. It is past time to get to work.
 Translated by Tomás A.
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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.

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Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and the United States, Among More Than 20 Countries That Condemn Mass Arrests in Cuba

The signatories urged the Cuban Government to respect “the rights and freedoms of the Cuban people, guaranteed by law, without fear of arrest or detention.” (EFE)
EFE / 14ymedio, Washington, July 26, 2021 — The governments of 21 countries, including the United States and five Latin American nations, condemned on Monday the “mass arrests and detentions” of protesters in Cuba and demanded respect for human rights on the island.
The declaration was signed by the foreign ministers of Austria, Brazil, Colombia, South Korea, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Ecuador, the United States, Estonia, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland and Ukraine.
The statement recounts that on July 11, “tens of thousands of Cuban citizens participated in demonstrations throughout the country in protest against the deterioration of living conditions and to demand changes,” and denounces that in the face of these marches “the Government responded with violence.”
The ministers of the countries named above also stressed that the protesters “exercised the fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights, the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and the European Convention on Human Rights.”
That is why they exhorted the Government of Cuba to respect “the rights and freedoms of the Cuban people, guaranteed by law, without fear of arrest or detention.”
“We urge the Cuban government to release those detained for exercising their rights to peaceful protest,” the statement added. “We ask for freedom of the press and the full restoration of internet access.”
The largest protests in more than six decades occurred with the country mired in a serious economic and health crisis, with the pandemic out of control, and severe shortages of food, medicine, and other basic products, in addition to long power outages, which drove Cubans to take to the streets to criticize their government.
Cuban authorities insist on blaming the United States for both the demonstrations and the extreme shortages that the country suffers.
Translated by Tomás A.
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They March in Madrid for Freedom in Cuba and Spain’s People’s Party Joins the Demand

Of course Cuba is a dictatorship, said the president of the PP (Partido Popular / People’s Party) Pablo Casado Blanco. (@pablocasado_)
EFE (via 14ymedio), Madrid, July 25, 2021 — With the slogan “The hour of freedom has arrived. If Cuba is in the street, we are too”, the March for Cuba was held this Sunday from the Plaza de Cibeles to the Plaza de Callao Madrid.
Among the participants were the Venezuelan opposition leader, Juan Gauidó and the president of the Popular Party, Pablo Casado, who through his Twitter account declared: “Of course Cuba is a dictatorship” and made it clear that his attendance was to “support #SOSCuba and Yotuel,” one of the composers and performers of ’Patria y Vida,’ the soundtrack of social protests in Cuba.” We are here, he said, “to seek democracy and freedom for the Cuban people.”
As a show of support, the People’s Party will present in the municipalities of the autonomous community motions of support to the Cuban people to demand that the Cuban government end the “repression” of its population.
While the regional secretary of the party, María José González Revuelta, in statements to the Europa Press agency expressed her concern about the human rights situation on the island and rejected Miguel Díaz-Canel’s “call to combat,” she also asked for the cessation of “unjustified” violence and “arbitrary” detentions; She also joined the “call” of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) to guarantee human rights, in particular the right to protest.
Also, the actor Yotuel had organized another subsequent march in a nearby area, also in the center of Madrid; but through a video he communicated that it was disbanded. He encouraged both the Spanish “freedom lovers” and the Cubans in Spain to join the earlier march to “defend the rights of the young people who are being massacred in Cuba.”
The singer, front man of the group Orishas, has supported from Miami, where a good part of the Cuban exile is concentrated, the social protests that broke out in Cuba on July 11, shouting “freedom.”
Different organizations have denounced the repression of the protests by the Cuban authorities, with hundreds of detained and disappeared, while Justicia de Cuba [a government organ] has claimed that so far there have only been 19 judicial proceedings involving 59 people and has denied that there have been summary trials.
Translated by Tomás A.
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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.

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Flotilla Brings Cuba a Noble Message of Support

On Friday 7/23/2021, Havana residents opted for climbing on rooftops to watch the fireworks from the flotilla. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Havana, 24 July 2021 – A strong police-military operation prevented hundred of Cubans from trying to approach the Malecón in Havana last Friday, where they tried to watch, from the seawall, the fireworks from the flotilla that a group of Cubans from Miami displayed from the ocean. The flotilla was an initiative to support people on the island, following the protests that started July 11th. The regime’s forces started cordoning off the Malecón early in the afternoon, and they patrolled an extensive area along the neighborhoods of Centro Habana, El Vedado and Habana Vieja.
The flotilla included five vessels and left in the early morning hours of Friday, heading to the international marine limits between the United States and Cuba. The boats left the bridge from Key Biscayne after 8 am, headed to Key West, where the US Coat Guard inspected them, and sailed another 15 miles towards the international limits with the Cuban shorelines.
In response to the police operation along the Malecón, residents from the shoreline neighborhoods climbed to the rooftops of their multifamily buildings to be able to watch the flotilla of Cuban exiles approaching the horizon and their fireworks display. Despite the strong police presence on the streets, Cubans sought refuge on the rooftops, where it became harder for the police to identify who was watching the fireworks or not.
According to several Havana residents, the day was cloudy and overcast since the morning, with a heavy fog that blocked the view of the horizon. Even during the night, while the fireworks were going off, they could see the light flashes but they needed to be really close to the coastline to see better.
The 14ymedio newsroom received reports that on the shoreline of the eastern side of Havana, in the Alamar neighborhood, several people where able to get close to the shores and were able to watch, video and photograph the fireworks.
Not only the Malecón was heavily patrolled by police, though. In the coastal neighborhood of Santa Fe, in Playa, the situation was the same. “There were patrol cars, police officers and military all over the coastline. If you would try to get closer, they’d tell you could not be there due to Covid-19 restrictions. Nobody believed that excuse, I walked around that area every single day without any problem,” said a resident from the area.
Meanwhile in Miami, the flotilla was considered a noble gesture to support the Cuban people who has been protesting on the streets since July 11th, and also, as some sort of generational relay from the Cuban exile community.
Ramón Saúl Sánchez, a known leader in the exile community and one of the flotilla organizers, went out Friday to say good-bye and provide advice to those on the vessels heading to international waters. He told EFE News Agency that, in a certain way, it meant they were passing the torch to a new generation of activists.
Sánchez, who is also the president of the Movimiento Democracia, initially advised against the idea due to lack of timely planning, but later supported the flotilla and said he was relieved to see there were a few boats and that the vessels were big enough, which, he said, “reduces the changes of problems with the wind and waves.”
The activists, who in 23 years has organized around 27 flotillas to the island to condemn the dictatorship, and has had vessels confiscated and been tried for entering Cuban territorial waters, was expecting the Cuban regime would try to prevent people on the island from approaching the Malecón to watch the fireworks display, organized by Cuban American Osdany Veloz.
For Sánchez, the flotillas represent “some sort of spiritual bridge between the two parts of the Cuban people that are divided by the dictatorship.”
The vessels departed the United States waving Cuban and American flags. Veloz told the press gathered that they were bringing a message of freedom and support to people on the island, “so they can keep fighting” for a free Cuba.
The US Coast Guard already issued several warnings, through the local media, that the vessels did not have any authorization to cross into Cuba’s territorial waters and reminded the flotilla that doing so would be illegal.
Cuba’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, Bruno Rodríguez, asked the US government to get “serious” about the flotilla and considered the recently announced sanctions of the Biden administration against the Cuban military to be “irrelevant.”
On Friday, Sánchez also reminded the group that their previous flotillas would sail up to 12.5 nautical miles from Cuba’s shorelines, which he said makes the perfect distance for the “lights of liberty” to be seen.
On Veloz’s Instagram account, several comments of support were gathered, some of them from users in Cuba.
Once their demonstration concluded, the flotilla sailed back to the United States without any incident.
Translated by: Mailyn Salabarria
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Weapons of Mass Disinformation

Police arresting demonstrators during protests on July 11, 2021 in Havana. (Marcos Evora)
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 24 July 2021 — Debate is ongoing as to whether the 2003 war in Iraq was caused by faulty intelligence that confirmed the existence of weapons of mass destruction or whether those reports were inflated by George W. Bush to justify the invasion. What is not in question is that the lack of transparency senior government officials often employ when dealing with spies and their sources can have devastating consequences.
The distance between Washington and Baghdad is over 6,000 miles, which allowed the American president to claim he had been mislead.
The travel time from Havana and the town of San Antonio de los Baños, where protests on July 11 began, is less half an hour by car, such that President Miguel Diaz-Canel could easily figure out — based on all the booing — that what the protesters were really unhappy about was the way he has been managing the country.
Blaming the disturbances on the imperialist machinations and naively denying widespread popular disgust arises from a need to come up with a pretext for unleashing ruthless repression. This leads to a kind of of reverse engineering in which State Security has to prove that all causes are external.
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez was the first to present to foreign press reporters in Cuba the results of a study allegedly showing that the hashtag #SOSCuba had originated abroad. Then the smoke cleared and official news media outlets claimed that the protests had been instigated from the United States, later claiming they had been organized by the US government itself.
This was not about finding arms of mass destruction to attack another country but “arms of disinformation” supposedly launched from overseas. It was an attempt to shift blame and justify the incarceration of anyone repeating this alleged disinformation, thus building a bridge of complicity for anyone who might be confused.
It may seem twisted that, in order to maintain the privileges that come from its institutional stature, State Security agencies would exaggerate the alleged threat posed by political adversaries. But what is even more perverse is that the upper echelons of political power would require State Security agents to plant evidence of a crime not committed.
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In Cuba ‘They Have Taken Away Even Our Freedom to Think’

Robles was arrested on December 4 for protesting on Boulevard San Rafael, in Havana. (Capture)
14ymedio, Havana, July 24, 2021 — Luis Robles, known as the young man with the sign, has been in prison for eight months and, as his brother Landy told 14ymedio, they have again denied the defense request for a change in the precautionary measure of provisional confinement. His trial was scheduled for July 16, but was finally suspended as a result of the massive protests that occurred in the country a few days earlier.
Robles was arrested on December 4 for protesting on Boulevard San Rafael, in Havana. He demonstrated peacefully, by displaying with his arms raised a placard on which he asked for freedom, an end to the repression, and the release of the contrarian rapper Denis Solís.
This Friday, a Facebook page created with the activist’s name to demand his freedom, published a video in which Robles talks about his thoughts, wishes, and also the reasons that led him to be a protestor. The material was recorded on December 1, “a day before his birthday,” it reads. Three days later he was arrested and the regime accuses him of “enemy propaganda” and “resistance”.
We transcribe the full text of this declaration that, more than seven months in advance, reflects the terrible frustrations of the young people who took to the streets across the country on July 11.
“Good evening my Facebook people. First of all I’m going to introduce myself. My name is Luis Robles Elizastigui, I’m 27 years old and I’m concerned about everything that is currently happening on social media. I tried to post directly but I don’t know why it wasn’t possible. Many young people like me don’t agree with what’s happening here in Cuba.
“We wholeheartedly desire a change, a change in the system, a change in the country, because really communism has turned this country into a true hell, a hell where it is practically impossible to breathe, not only to breathe air, but also to breathe peace, to breathe tranquility. Like me, many times I say, this is a demolition of people, of souls.
“This dictatorship has converted us . . . we are no longer human beings because we have no rights; we don’t have the right to express ourselves freely, we don’t have the right to be heard. When we say what we think anywhere, the police beat us down. This is for the people of the world to see: this is the reality that ordinary Cubans live in, those of us who have nothing, not even dreams, because here in this country you can’t even have dreams because they have clipped our wings. One thing they will never be able to cut off is dreaming of freedom, because a human being without freedom is nothing.
“Freedom is the greatest thing that one can have in life, and since these shameless communists arrived they have cut us off from all kinds of freedoms — freedoms to a free religion, freedoms to a free ideology, freedoms to elect who you want to win, not the one they impose on you. They have taken away even our freedom to think, they want to dictate even what we think about.
“I’m going to tell you a brief anecdote. I demonstrated in the Plaza de la Revolucion for an injustice that had been committed against someone I loved very much. I thought it was unfair and I went to Citizen Services; I went to court; i went to I don’t know how many places; and no one, no one took me seriously. So the last thing I did, when I saw myself with no way out, was to go to the Plaza de la Revolucion and there I made my film. I took off my sweater and I screamed. I shouted that in this country rights are not respected. I only told the truth.The police didn’t touch me, they looked to pass me off to State Security. They handcuffed me, put me in a patrol car and took me to a unit near the Plaza de la Revolucion. They put me in a cell with a pile of people, and took away my belongings.
“Then they told me that a State Security agent was going to see me. When the guy arrived, he was a young captain and they put me in a room alone with him. The guy asked me why I did it; I told him my reasons. He pretended to listen to me and said: ’Kid, how old are you?’ I told him my age and he said this: ’You’re a young kid, you have no priors. Because you’re a young person we don’t want to encumber your life. We’re going to let you go, but don’t let this happen again. They gave me a warning letter. I currently have a warning letter on my criminal record.
“That day I understood one thing, that if you demonstrate here, even if you’re right, they encumber your life if they want to, they encumber your life and you’re no longer a person. That’s the mechanism at work here on this island, and it’s what I want many people in the world and here in Cuba to open their eyes to. It is time to end this dictatorship.
This generation is not willing to continue holding out. No. This is our time  and we have to take advantage of it. That is why I ask everyone who listens to me to join the fight. I have joined. Yes, I recognize that I may be afraid. I’m afraid that they will “disappear” me, that my life will be destroyed. But what I’m more afraid of, and what scares me the most, is to continue being afraid. No, I cannot continue to allow myself to feel afraid in my own country, where I have to feel free. I have to feel fulfilled and not destroyed as a person.
“I have a son here and I desire with all my heart for him to grow up in a free country, to grow up in a country where he can have dreams, expectations of progressing. And we don’t have that in this country today, where three old men decide what you can and cannot do. No, that is not the country I want for my children. I don’t know if many will have this feeling, but if I would give my life for my son, maybe others would give their lives for their own. Then, if I join the fight I’m not doing it just for myself, I’m doing it for my children and I’m doing it for all of ours.
“Many people who live in Cuba today are going through the same thing that I’ve gone through, having to do twenty thousand miracles to be able to support my son. I’ve even had to do things that nobody could imagine. The salary here is a joke. The only thing this system has is slaves. You kill yourself working for a month and they pay you a pittance of a salary, which they even deduct from. I worked for the State and they even deducted for numerous things. So brother, this isn’t the country that i want for my son, no.
“I have also thought about opting for the alternative that many have taken, and that is to flee. Yes, fleeing is an option. But people have a feeling for their land, and always want to return to their land. And, my brother, if there is a possibility, only one, to see my land free, I’ll take it. That is why I ask that if you want to join as well, if we unite and we are one, Cuba can be free. If you think about it, Cuba can be free.
“So brother, the struggle begins. The San Isidro Movement has lit a flame of freedom in the hearts of many Cubans. That is why I hereby ask that this flame not go out, that this flame continue to burn and grow even more and become a devastating fire and put an end to the scum that has destroyed our country, that has destroyed dreams, that has turned us into machines, merely surviving.
Translated by Tomás A.
See Also: “I Am Not Afraid, I Will Not Stop Asking for My Brother’s Freedom”
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In Cuba ‘Young People Must Be and Will Be the Engine of Change’ says Pablo Milanes after July 11

The 78-year-old singer made it clear that he will continue to express his opinions as long as his health allows. (EFE)
14ymedio, Havana, July 25, 2021 — This Saturday Cuban singer-songwriter Pablo Milanés described as “irresponsible and absurd” the use of repression by the Cuban government against the people, “who have sacrificed and given everything for decades to sustain a regime that in the end imprisons them.”
Milanés’ statement comes in the heat of the 11J (11 July) protests and the wave of repression and violence unleashed by the Government against the protesters. International organizations and civil society, relatives of the detainees and independent media have denounced hundreds of arrests, mainly young people, and also minors have been charged.
“For a long time, I have been speaking about the injustices and errors in the politics and government of my country,” the singer continued, emphasizing that in 1992 he reached “the conviction that the Cuban system had definitely failed” and he denounced it.
“Now I reiterate my pronouncements and I trust the Cuban people to seek the best possible system of coexistence and prosperity, with full freedoms, without repression and without hunger,” added the 78-year-old singer, who made it clear that he will continue to express his opinions as long as his health permits.
“I believe in young people, who with the help of all Cubans, must and will be the engine of change,” he concluded.
Added to the arrests of hundreds of people for participating in the marches are the house arrests of activists, artists, and independent journalists who didn’t even set foot on the streets on Sunday, July 11.
The mass arrests have drawn criticism from the international community, including that of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who called for the urgent release of the detainees and an investigation.
The protests, in which citizens asked for freedom, took place with the country mired in a serious economic and health crisis, with the pandemic out of control and a severe shortage of food, medicine and other basic products, in addition to long power cuts.
The authorities, for their part, insist on blaming the United States for both the protests and the extreme shortages that the country is suffering.
In addition, this Saturday the Cuban government denied that it is proceeding with summary trials against detainees for the protests, but confirmed that there are minors under investigation who, if convicted, will receive sanctions with “differentiated treatment.”
Almost two weeks after the massive demonstrations, the authorities have not released the official number of those detained or prosecuted, so the only reference is the lists that activist groups and independent organizations are collecting and circulating on social media.
Translated by Tomás A.
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Cuba’s State Newspaper Doesn’t Know What Democracy and the Rule of Law Are

Fidel Castro speaking to the multitudes. Among his famous pronouncements: “Within the Revolution, everything, against the Revolution, nothing.” and “Elections? What for?”
14ymedio, Elias Amor Bravo, Economist, 24 July 2021 — The Cuban communists believe so little in democracy that they go so far as to explicitly insult democrats with the things they say and do. Only a completely ignorant person who despises government of and for all people, can say in a headline of Granma, the official newspaper that expresses the opinion of the regime, “the people of the United States send syringes in order to save us, while their government seeks to sow chaos in Cuba.”
This distinction between the people and the government in democratic countries  makes no sense, since in a democracy, the sovereign people elect their government, which, once it assumes authority, directs the affairs of the nation serving the interests of everyone. Understanding these principles isn’t easy for those who have spent 63 years making and unmaking the destinies of the nation at will, so that later, Spanish or Italian deputies will have doubts about whether the Cuban communist regime is a dictatorship.
At Granma they are surprised that in the United States there can be a difference of opinion between a government and the society it represents. But clearly that’s the case. In a democracy, all ideologies coexist without a second thought. Coexistence allows societies to advance from a plurality of opinions. Fortunately, in democracies, there is no Fidel Castro who proclaims to the world “Within the revolution, everything, against the revolution, nothing.” Or the even more insulting, “Elections? What for?”
In a democracy, it is even legitimate for the government to have a different opinion from that of other social sectors; but there is no repression or torture, there are no political crimes. The important thing is compliance with the Law, which arises from popular sovereignty represented in a legislature in which all voices fit. Justice dictates sentences based on these laws, regardless of political power. In a democracy, there are no enemies, only adversaries, and differing political options are measured in the electoral arena, where all parties compete for maximum social support.
I insist that those writing for Granma at the dictates of the regime should not be surprised that the US solidarity movement with Cuba announces the shipment of six million syringes for vaccination against COVID-19, and, at the same time, that “the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) shouts from the rooftops that now, in order to give the counterrevolution access to the latest two million dollars destined for subversion, it must adapt its proposals to what happened after July 11.”
This difference in positions between civil society and government is what the communists don’t acknowledge. When they rule, the Bolshevik hierarchy prevails: you are either with them or against them. Intermediate positions are not valid. Adversaries must be eliminated or demonized as despicable “gusanos” (worms), who are not given the slightest opportunity for involvement. Those who survive the degrading political repression have no choice but to flee to other countries. Cuba has 2.2 million natives abroad, many of them people who want to live on the island, but are not allowed to.
The Cuban communists cannot understand this. It doesn’t fit with their obtuse, Cold-War-era thinking, that in a democratic country a government agency makes rules and acts according to the guidelines of the government on which it depends. Its operation is regulated and subject to periodic audits. It responds to a legislature that demands accountability, and if the taxpayer’s money is not spent correctly, responsibilities are assessed. This procedure is unknown in Cuba and goes in other directions. USAID, like all U.S. government agencies, works like this.
But at the same time, in free societies there may be associations, organizations, and entities in civil society and the private sector that hold positions different from those of the government. They finance themselves with their own resources, design their plans independently of political power, and answer to their owners. In Cuba, obviously, these types of entities are prohibited by the communist regime, except for mass organizations that act as conduits of communist power.
Returning to the issue at hand, the Cuban communists are obsessed with everything that threatens their imposed position of authority. Justifying whatever they need to, they don’t care about clandestine arrests, the absence of habeas corpus, and slapdash summary trials that condemn even minors. For this reason, USAID announced a few days ago that it would grant financing of up to two million dollars to those projects that promote democracy and human rights in Cuba. What’s wrong with that? If the Cuban communists don’t voluntarily take steps toward democracy, this type of strategy seems to be the most successful way to help the Cuban people.
It is logical that they attack the government of the United States and its institutions, describing their programs as “one of the most obvious interventionist strategies of the United States around the world, and historically used against the Cuban revolution,” and although there is some truth in this, there is no doubt that if this “strategy” were successful, many problems would be solved that do not seem to have a solution, but that the Cuban people demand, whether you see the proclamations of July 11 or not.
There is nothing wrong with the solidarity movements of the United States, Spain or Mexico sending syringes or whatever else is needed to Cuba. Hopefully the regime would act with greater flexibility in all international cooperation programs directed at the island, and not only with those that benefit its interests. In the different democratic countries, pro-Castro associations operate with absolute freedom, exert pressure on governments, and keep an active watch on the most active opponents and dissidents. In Cuba, no one thinks of the operation of organizations that are contrary to the regime. They are all outlawed.
This is reality, and we are not inventing anything new. Cuban democrats want the best for Cuba and we are not going to question the shipments of syringes, medicines, antibiotics, etc., that Cuban industry does not produce or that it sells abroad before delivering them to its citizens, if this can help our fellow citizens who live on the island.
But what we will never question are the legitimate actions of a democratic government, because that would be throwing stones at our own roof. The governments of the United States, Spain, and Mexico, are entitled to follow the political actions that they understand to be the most appropriate to promote peaceful changes to democracy in Cuba.
And the same can be done by the European Parliament, the OAS and any democratic organization or country that sympathizes with the Cuban people, subjected to a one-party dictatorship which has remained in power for 63 years without allowing free and democratic elections.
Confrontation against the people and government of the United States is a failure of responsibility, a shame that reveals the true face of the Cuban communist regime. They are running out of ammunition.
Translated by Tomás A.
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Thousands of Argentines Seek to Revoke Che Guevara’s Title of ‘Illustrious Citizen’ of Rosario

In Cuba “there is no free expression and 51% of the population lives in poverty.” (citizengo.org)
14ymedio / Manuel Mons, Argentina, July 25, 2021 — “Out with the dictator Che Guevara from the City of Rosario,” demands a group of young people from the Alternative University Collective, of the Faculty of Political Sciences of the National University of Rosario, in Buenos Aires, through the citizengo.org platform.
The petition is addressed to the mayor of the city of Rosario, Pablo Javkin, and the president of the Deliberative Council, María Eugenia Schmuck. Published on July 15, and already containing 17,847 signatures, and it states: “Young people from Rosario support the fight for the Freedom of the Cuban people.”
The promoters of the initiative note that while in Cuba “there is no free expression, basic goods are scarce, and 51% of the population lives in poverty, in Argentina the authoritarian leaders who plunged Cuba into this chaos are honored and have a cult following.”
For this reason, they ask the political class for honesty and coherence, and demand the revocation of the title of “Illustrious Citizen,” granted in 2003 by the Deliberative Council of Rosario, to one who facilitated the coming to power of the Castros. In addition they seek to to rename the Plaza del Che to a name voted by the Rosario citizenship. “In the same way, we request the removal of the Guevara mural from the Plaza de la Cooperation.”
Meanwhile, through the Twitter de Alternativa account they strengthened their demand by ensuring that young people from Rosario “don’t swallow the party line and stop treating murderers as if they were heroes. It shows a lack of respect for the Cuban people and the victims of communism.”
And so they expressed their sentiments on July 17 in front of the Flag Monument, in the city of Rosario, where a group of young people gathered to demand the liberation of Cuba shouting “Homeland and Life” in opposition to the official slogan of “Homeland or Death.”
They noted that there have been more than 60 years of repression on the island, a time when “about 2 million Cubans had to go into exile, 78,000 died trying to escape, 11,000 were murdered, and 15,000 died in military interventions abroad.”
The expressions against Che Guevara have also been felt in Madrid, where more than fifty people gathered by the Patria y Vida platform assembled on Saturday in front of the statue of the guerrilla, to express that it represents persecution of the victims of Castroism, so they asked that it be removed from a roundabout on Oleiros (A Coruña, Spain).
Cubans, Venezuelans and Spaniards all chanted slogans such as: “Long live free Cuba!” “We want freedom!” and “Homeland and life.” In statements to Efe, the Cuban Fran Vega, from the Association of Victims of Castroism, proclaimed an end to violence in Cuba and that there should not be one more reprisal, nor one more death.
Translated by Tomás A.
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Cuban General Ruben Marti­nez Puente Dies, the Third General in a Week

Martínez graduated as a pilot in 1961 and was commander of the Cuban Air Force from November 1987 to 1999. (Capture)
14ymedio, Havana, July 25, 2021 — Reserve Major General Rubén Martínez Puente died this Saturday at age 79, according to a brief note released by the Ministry of the Armed Forces in which the cause of death was not specified.
Martínez was born in 1942 in Santiago de Cuba. He was part of the Rebel Army, joining the Revolutionary Armed Forces in 1958 as a soldier in the Frank País Second Eastern Front, under then commander Raúl Castro Ruz. He graduated as a pilot in 1961 and was commander of the Air Force from November 1987 to 1999.
Since 2003, Martínez and fellow pilots brothers Lorenzo Alberto and Francisco Pérez Pérez have been indicted in the United States for the murder, on February 24, 1996, of four members of the Brothers to the Rescue organization, created to help the rafters who escaped from the Cuba.
Martínez was charged with having given the order to fire the missiles, from Mig fighter planes of the Cuban Air Force, to shoot down the planes in which the exiles were traveling. The attack occurred over international waters, although the Cuban government justified the shoot-down by claiming that the planes had entered the island’s airspace.
Among other positions, Martínez was also head of the San Antonio de los Baños Air Brigade, Deputy to the Minister of the FAR (Revolutionary Armecd Forces), and Director of the Military Agricultural Union. He was part of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and also a deputy to the National Assembly of People’s Power. He was deployed in the military in Angola and received various official decorations.
“His body will be cremated and his ashes will be displayed for the family tribute on a date that will be reported in due time,” the note states.
With the death of Martínez, three generals have died in Cuba in the last week. Last Tuesday, the official media reported the death of reserve brigadier General Marcelo Verdecia Perdomo, who was Fidel Castro’s bodyguard in the Sierra Maestra.
On Saturday, July 18, the death of another general was announced, the head of the Eastern Cuban Army, Agustín Peña (b. 1963) from undisclosed causes, but knowledgeable sources indicated that Covid-19 was the cause of his death.
Translated by Tomás A.
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Cuba: There is No Time Left, You Have to Act

Pre-Covid, tourists take pictures in the Havana’s Plaza Vieja. (EFE)
Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, July 22, 2021 – No one should be deceived. The Spanish or Italian tourist who travels to Cuba for pleasure and vacation has as much interest in the current political situation on the island as those legendary Swedes who came to Spain in the 60s in search of sun, sand, and the “macho Iberian.”
Those Scandinavian women didn’t know who Franco was, didn’t give a damn that freedom fighters in the cities were being arrested by the secret police, or that the trade unionists were seeking sanctuary in churches to claim holy ground and avoid repression by secret police.
They were going to spend a week or two in Benidorm, the Costa Brava, Marbella, or Mallorca; in short, more or less the same thing that happens with Italians and Spaniards in Cuba, who choose Varadero, María La Gorda, or Holguín to enjoy paradise.
Since the “Special Period,” tourism trends to the Island have been adapting to the times, but rarely does a tourist seek out activists or dissidents, and in many cases they even reject them. Here we also find no differences with the “Swedish”.
I remember not long ago that some Spanish friends who visited Cuba told me that when they saw the Ladies in White marching with their gladioli near the church of Santa Rita, the tour guide informed them that they were crazy, or rather, mentally ill, and simply recommended ignoring them, let alone approaching them. When they returned to Spain and learned who those brave women were, they couldn’t believe it.
The same thing happens with foreign investors. Spaniards, Canadians, Italians, or Dutch come to Cuba to do business, involving very large sums of money, deal with people who are Party leaders holding positions in the Administration bureaucracy. They are trapped in a vicious circle that they escape at the earliest opportunity. Even those who try to take advantage of the benefits offered by the Government for those doing business in the Port of Mariel  Special Benefits Zone, find that they cannot freely hire the most qualified workers, but must resort to a state entity which, at its discretion, supplies them with the employees that they designate. And they leave.
In Spain, the manufacturers of capital equipment and intermediate goods established during the Franco dictatorship continued to expand their scale of production during the democratic stage, and few if any businesses left the country forced by political change and supposed situational requirements.
One might think that tourism and foreign investment could open for Cuba an opportunity for growth and development similar to the one that Spain experienced for decades in order for it to reach its current levels of prosperity. It’s not advisable to think that it’s the same. Because it’s not.
There are very important differences that explain why those small coastal hotels on beautiful Mediterranean beaches could be transformed into international hotel chains with thousands of well-managed and profitable shopping districts. Or, that the small open-air cafes could evolve and end up obtaining several Michelin stars. Similarly, car and truck manufacturers and foreign companies established in the 60s and 70s did not leave the country during democracy–quite the opposite–and reached significant levels of development.
In Cuba, no one should wait for these processes. Where does the fault lie? Of course, it’s not necessary to think about the blockade or embargo, which is always the standby argument of the communists. The responsibility is much closer than what is believed, and has to do with the economic and social model that governs the country, based on the Marxist-Leninist ideology that turns the human being into a slave of state political power. A system that has proven to be a failure, and for this reason it has been disappearing in all the countries of the world where it was implanted by force, allowing economic capabilities to appear that have improved the quality of life and prosperity of their inhabitants.
Cubans see that the years pass, and that the communist ideological obsession prevents things from improving. Tourism, which set the goal of 5 million travelers years ago, struggles to survive the Covid-19 pandemic without approaching the figures cited in any year. Foreign investment stagnates and, what is worse, decreases, not only because of the global economic crisis, but because the regime does not offer attractive alternatives, nor does it allow international entrepreneurs to do business freely with self-employed workers.
If the economy prospered in Spain, yet doesn’t in Cuba, despite both betting on similar drivers, it’s necessary to wonder why. And it’s not necessary to go very far to discover that Cuba’s 2019 constitution maintains a Marxist-Leninist model in which ownership of the means of production is in the hands of the state, and the market as an instrument of allocation is subject to government intervention.
And that this model is precisely what prevents the Cuban economy from loosening up and improving the living conditions of the people. This model is a backwardness, an anachronistic element that no one wants to maintain, as the Chinese or Vietnamese have done, and that Cuba, its authorities, will have no choice but to do the same, and more drastically and without so many detours.
Social protests throughout Cuba have clearly indicated which path the communist authorities should follow: negotiate and disappear. Nobody wants communism, nobody wants it to continue the same as it is now. Cubans want change, and they are willing to fight for it. The way is clear. You have to get to work as soon as possible. One minute wasted in this process can be terrible.
Translated by Tomás A.
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At the Youth Music Awards, ‘Freedom’ for Cuba was Loudly Heard

The Puerto Rican singer Farruko during his performance at the Premios Juventud, this Thursday in Miami. (Capture)
EFE / 14ymedio, Miami, July 23, 2021 — The 2021 Premios Juventud (Youth Awards) ceremony, this Thursday in Miami, was marked by the call from Cuban artists about the situation that exists on the island after the protests unleashed on July 11th in dozens of cities.
To the shout of “Viva Cuba libre” (Long Live Free Cuba) by Emilio Estefan and Pitbull, the singers Joncien, Lena, Malena Burke and Yailenys Pérez performed Libertad (Freedom), while Gente de Zona and Yotuel Romero offered a special version of Patria y Vida (Homeland and Life), the theme that has been turned into an anthem for those, inside and outside the island, who call for the fall of the Castro regime.
Earlier, a message had been transmitted from Cuban artist Camila Cabello, wearing a T-shirt that read “Patria y vida,” who made an appeal in Spanish to American and Latin American youth to support protesters in Cuba.
“I feel very proud of my Cuban blood and even prouder of those who have taken to the streets to lead the change, despite the repression, despite the fear. Let us unite our voices with theirs, Patria y Vida!” Cabello said.
Previously, the Puerto Rican artist Farruko had come on stage wearing a T-shirt that read “Miguel Díaz-Canel singao” (motherfucker), an insult widely used these days to refer to the Cuban president.
But one of the most emotional moments of the gala was when the audience at the Watsco Center welcomed Venezuelan artist Chyno Miranda, who appeared for the first time on television after more than a year fighting severe health problems.
The moment also marked the return of the Venezuelan duet Chyno and Nacho after their separation in 2017. The artists performed a medley of their greatest hits such as Mi Niña Bonita and Andas En Mi Cabeza, and later they sang Queriendote, the new single from their new album.
Miranda, who was always a great dancer, had serious movement difficulties due to peripheral neuropathy and encephalitis that he suffered as a result of his covid-19 infection in March 2020.
The night’s guest of honor was Puerto Rican reggaeton performer Daddy Yankee, who received the “agent of change” award for his fight against child hunger, as well as his help to families affected by the onslaught of Hurricane María.
The Colombian artist Karol G won six Juventud prizes out of the twelve awards to which she was nominated, the same number as her compatriot Camilo was nominated for, but he won none.
The interpreter of “Bichota and 200 cups” won the awards for “young female artist”, “the catchiest ” and “the most trendy”, among others, while Bad Bunny followed closely, with five awards, including two most coveted, “album of the year” and “song of the year.”
From Mexico, Grupo Firme finished with four awards, while Natti Natasha received three, and Becky G and Los Dos Carnales took two each.
Other artists who left the Watsco Center in Miami happy tonight were Puerto Ricans Jhay Wheeler and Franchesca, who were recognized as the best new artists.
In previous years, the songs performed at Premios Juventud were traditionally the most popular of the moment. However, the absence of concert tours in Latin America seemed to stimulate artists to present new music on stage.
During the ceremony, mention was also made of the collapse of the residential building in Surfside, Florida, where about a hundred people died this month, and the use of masks and vaccination against Covid-19 was urged, because it was a night in which music was not detached from the problems of these times.
Translated by Tomás A.
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Foreign Tourism Businesses Complain About Cuban Government Repression

Arbitrary arrests in Cuba contrast with the image to attract tourism, say foreign companies in the Cuban tourist business. (EFE)
14ymedio, Havana, 23 July 2021 – Tourism businesspeople from several countries (Germany, the United States, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom) complain about the violence inflicted by the Cuban Government by pointing out that the “arbitrary arrests” during the demonstrations of July 11 contrast with the image promoted abroad by Cuban authorities to attract visitors.
Through an open letter sent to the Cuban Minister of Tourism, Juan Carlos Garcia Granda, they express their annoyance with the Government, their “commercial partner,” for “silencing the voices in the capital as well as in towns in the interior of the country.”
Their disagreement, they say, has also been asserted in the past against laws and regulations that limit the right of both Americans to travel to the island, as well as the prohibition against Cubans entering hotels reserved for tourists.
They are in favor of “dialogue, freedom of expression, unrestricted Internet access, truth, and unrestricted travel, including for US citizens, when COVID-19 conditions allow it.”
In the message sent to García Granda they emphasize that as promoters of Cuba “we treasure its people, culture, history, and the natural beauty of the Island. Together, we have welcomed and accompanied more than a million visitors from more than 100 countries.”
And due to the increase in coronavirus infections, in July the Cuban Ministry of Tourism extended the suspending of reservations for tourist packages made by Cubans residing on the island.
According to data from the National Statistics and Information Office (Onei), 114,460 visitors were received from January to June, only 11.6% of the 985,199 visitors received in the same period of the previous year.
More than half of the tourists who came to the island are Russians (72,304 of 114,460), followed by the Cuban community from abroad (12,207), Germans (4,719), Spanish (3,753) and Canadians (2,296).
Among the requirements to visit the island, a tourist must present a PCR test from less than 72 hours before entering, submit to another test upon arrival, and isolate for five days in a hotel.
Among the signatories of the letter sent to the Cuban Minister of Tourism are: Eddie Lubbers, of Cuba Travel Network (Netherlands); Karel Pérez Alejo, from Okori Digital (Netherlands); Michael Sykes, from Cuba Cultural Travel (United States); AJ Leon, from Misfit (UK); Rainer Klee from Aerticket GmbH (Germany); IJede van der Kooij, Cuba Travel Network (Curaçao); José Luis Herrera, from Thruads (United States); Reinder Hartholt (Netherlands) and Georges Druon (France).
Translated by Tomás A.
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What Led the Cuban Regime to the Current Explosive Crisis

The same resource is used again to justify the tidal wave of mass protests throughout the country: the “imperialist blockade” is blamed for the lack of food. (Facebook)
14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo, Miami, 20 July 2021 — The model born in Stalin’s Russia and imposed by communist parties in each country where they have succeeded, carries, by its very nature, a degenerative evil that makes it unsustainable: since there are no private owners, only administrators appointed by the state leadership, real productive stimulus does not exist.
These bureaucratic administrations are not officially allowed to take full control of the profits of the companies they run, but they do have access to them, so the State also requires other officials in charge to carry out audits.
But auditors are also human beings, vulnerable to corruption. Thus, a corrupt bureaucratic caste is being generated which is responsible for constant “deficiencies” and resource diversions that are undermining the economic system and giving rise to a permanent, structural crisis.
Consequently, the Party-State elite will always need two external supports to survive: an ally with sufficient resources to subsidize its survival and an external enemy to blame for the situation of precariousness of the population finds itself in and for provoking internal protests.
If the first one is missing, a terminal decomposition process begins. If the second is lacking, the Party-State elite remains naked before the population and international public opinion as the main culprit of the internal evils.
A corrupt bureaucratic caste is being generated which is responsible for constant “deficiencies” and resource diversions that are undermining the economic system and giving rise to a permanent, structural crisis
In Cuba, these two supports were taken into account for many years. In the first two decades there was not much need for the first one, because they counted on the high prices of sugar in the international market, profits that were used in military adventures, especially in Africa and in support of Latin American guerrilla movements. Meanwhile, here at home, the population suffered housing and transportation crises and shortages of food and clothing, not to mention the successive blackouts, something similar to what would later occur in Chávez’s Venezuela despite the high prices received for the oil exported by that country.
When the so-called socialist camp in Europe collapsed, the Cuban economic system appeared in its true nature. The critical period that began then was not, in fact, a “Special Period”, as Fidel Castro baptized it, it was the same as always, a structural and permanent crisis, but without the subsidies the Island had received until then.
Then, “on the edge of the abyss” — these are not my words but Raúl Castro’s — they managed to find a new ally to sponsor them: Chávez’s Venezuela. Thus, they were able to postpone the implosion of the system for a while longer. But as Venezuela followed in Cuba’s footsteps, it began to endure more and more of the same mayhem. Halfway through, some Venezuelans lamented that they were “hitting rock bottom.”
I told them in an article: “No, we Cubans know that you are not there yet.” Until they finally did learn what it was like to hit rock bottom. Many wondered how a country so rich, so prosperous, has fallen into such misery.
For Cuba, this meant the loss of the subsidiary source once again. And of course, the start of a new “special” period was announced. But since that word brought traumatic evocations, the term “conjunctural” arose, with the implied additional meaning of “temporary.” Whatever it is called, it is the system just as it is, with no one to subsidize it. As no new sponsor appeared, the country collapsed and the people took to the streets.
How did they not realize that this was going to happen? Many inside and outside of Cuba warned and advised them: you have the solution in your hands: open the markets, lower taxes, let the agricultural workers sell their products to whoever they want and at market prices, allow “roundtables” so that people voice their opinions and we all look for solutions. But they did not listen.
Now, when the people cry out for the resignation of those who are truly responsible for the disaster, they bring out the police, the Black Berets, the riot forces and the paramilitary mobs with batons, bats, firearms and even anti-aircraft guns. The exact number of detainees, and of the wounded and dead, is not yet known.
“No, we Cubans know that you are not there yet”. Until they finally did learn what it was like to hit rock bottom
From that moment on, the second resource – the external enemy to blame – was required more than ever: “the imperialist blockade.” When you say “blockade” you tend to think that all ports are obstructed by military ships to prevent the entry of food and other merchandise, but in reality, it is about another nation that refuses to trade with Cuba due to the property confiscations carried out at the beginning of that regime. That said, many still wondered how there is also a shortage of countless food products produced in the country itself that were never lacking on Cuban tables.
Cuba has diplomatic and commercial relations with around 70 countries in the world, and, as if that were not enough, after the end of the Cold War, the United States became Cuba’s main trading partner in terms of agricultural products, though under the condition that Cuba must pay for its purchases in cash, simply because it has lost the trust of its creditors due to an astronomical debt that Cuba has not been able to pay.
Many opponents have naively argued that the embargo should be maintained because it can be used as a “bargaining chip” to achieve concessions from the regime, but a bargaining chip only serves when the one to whom it is offered is interested in receiving it, and that leadership has repeatedly shown that it wants just the opposite. To pressure Cuba, instead of intensifying the embargo, it would be preferable to threaten to lift it, because despite the fact that Cuba publicly condemns it, behind the scenes it uses its continuation as a justification.
Many examples could be cited from Gerald Ford’s presidency, when Carlos Rafael Rodríguez secretly negotiated with Henry Kissinger for a rapprochement like the one made with China, but it was sabotaged by Castro himself when he sent Cuban troops to Angola.
Then, there was another process in Carter’s time, starting with the dialogue in ’78 and cut short in ’80 with the Mariel exodus.
In 1996, when the Helms-Burton Bill to intensify the embargo was about to suffer a crushing defeat in Congress, Cuban forces shot down two civilian airplanes operated by ‘Brothers to the Rescue’, resulting in the death of four exiled young men, which only hastened approval of the Bill.
Negotiations with the Obama Administration led to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and could have culminated in neutralizing the fangs of the embargo, but the Cuban leader, now officially retired, forced a political turn with his critical ‘Reflection’ article, titled Brother Obama.
A bargaining chip is only useful when the person to whom it is offered is interested in receiving it, and that leadership has repeatedly shown that what it wants is the opposite
Now the same resource is being resorted to again to justify the tidal wave of mass protests throughout the country: the “imperialist blockade” is blamed for the lack of food and medicine that has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people, including many children and the elderly, and the despair of a large portion of the population.
Even the decision to take to the streets was diabolically forged abroad by the “empire and its lackeys.” Of course, they don’t mention that they repeatedly denied permission for aid from abroad and even from a humanitarian corridor, because Cuba, a “medical power,” does not need it.
But the vast majority of protesters were humble people with very low resources whom no one can accuse of being wage earners of the “empire.” If at this point, after 62 years of a Revolution supposedly in favor of the poorest, there are so many “confused” people, better pack your bags, because this country has already begun to write its own history.
Translated by Norma Whiting
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