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Las cifras son alarmantes Continue reading
… is closer to Haiti than Havana. Until a highway from Guantanamo … flew Cubana airlines (www.cubana.cu ) direct to Santiago de Cuba and flew … Cuba in Santiago de Cuba (melia.com). Know: You can only buy Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) in Cuba and can’t … Continue reading
Güira de Melena, Artemisa, Jorge Bello, (PD) Cuatro ciudadanos acusados de ser los principales sospechosos del robo efectuado la pasada semana en horas de la madrugada en la Cooperativa de Producción Agropecuaria (CPA) Amistad Cuba-Países Nórdicos, fueron conducidos a la unidad de la Policía Nacional Revolucionaria (PNR) del municipio Güira de Melena, provincia Artemisa, según informó el Presidente de la entidad agrícola. Según se pudo conocer por un obrero de esa cooperativa, quien se identificó como Alain Ramos Forteza, las […] Continue reading
El Cerro, La Habana, Emaro, (PD) Han vuelto a las mismas de meses atrás en cuanto a los precios y las formas de operar de los taxistas privados, conocidos como boteros. Parece que de todas formas, el gobierno no entiende. En realidad, nunca ha entendido. Seguramente alguien encumbrado -lo cual dudo pues estos personajes tienen varios autos a su disposición con más que suficiente combustible- o algunas personas de a pie cercano a estos anteriores, se han quejado de nuevo […] Continue reading
Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 21 February 2017 – People say that when an event happens repeatedly it stops being an accident. The fire that took place on Monday, February 20th, 2017, in “La Mezclilla” store, in the neighborhood of San Leopoldo (Municipality of Centro Habana) is the third one in less than a month in … Continue reading "Set Fire To Havana In Order To Hide The Body? / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya" Continue reading

Mario J. Pentón

La repentina suspensión de los mensajes de solo texto (SMS) a Cuba desde sitios web como Cuballama, DimeCuba y Cibercuba ha provocado la afectación de miles de usuarios que utilizaban estas plataformas para comunicarse con sus familiares en la Isla.

Según reportó el sitio Cubanet y fue corroborado por especialistas de la Empresa de Comunicaciones de Cuba (Etecsa) a 14ymedio, el bloqueo de los mensajes de texto se hizo efectivo a partir de este lunes tras una decisión de Cubacel. La empresa cubana de telefonía celular busca acabar con aquellas compañías que acusa de fraudulentas y que según cifras oficiales les ha costado unos seis millones de dólares.

“Estamos entre los afectados por la medida. Hemos tenido reclamos de cientos de clientes porque los sms no están pasando”, dijo a 14ymedio un agente de la compañía DimeCuba en la ciudad de Miami.

La empresa cobraba 0.05 dólares por el envío de sms a la Isla, pero a partir de las nuevas regulaciones los usuarios no podrán continuar utilizando la plataforma.

Las ofertas de mensajes de texto desde Cuba ofrecidas por la compañía a 0,18 centavos de dólar también se encuentra entre los servicios afectados.

Muchos usuarios acuden a los servicios de estas plataformas debido a los altos precios de los mensajes desde y hacia Cuba. Un SMS enviado desde Cuba hacia el extranjero cuesta 0.60 CUC, tres veces el costo al que lo ofrecen las agencias.[[QUOTE:Muchos usuarios acuden a los servicios de estas plataformas debido a los altos precios de los mensajes desde y hacia Cuba]]Agentes de Cuballama, la compañía a la que el pasado noviembre Etecsa acusó de fraudulenta confirmaron que también presentan problemas con el envío de mensajes a Cuba.

“Hemos recibido llamadas de usuarios sobre este tema pero no podemos dar más información”, explicó el agente, aunque aseguró que la congestión en los envíos no es responsabilidad de su compañía.

Los envíos regulares de sms a través de las operadoras que tienen convenio con ETECSA no están bloqueados. Usuarios de las principales compañías telefónicas en Estados Unidos podrán continuar enviando sms a Cuba.

Cubamessenger, SMSxMail y Web2Mail también están entre los servicios afectados por la decisión de Etecsa.

Luis Manuel Mazorra, director ejecutivo de CiberCuba, un sitio web de noticias, explicó vía telefónica desde España que la guerra de Etecsa es contra las páginas de recarga y de envíos masivos de mensajería desde internet.

“Eso nos afecta a nosotros que damos el servicio de envío gratis de sms a Cuba”, explica.

Para Mazorra el propósito de las autoridades es obligar a los clientes a que paguen los servicios al costo elevado que ofrece el monopolio estatal.

“Esperamos que esta situación sea temporal”, agrega.

Continue reading
Los participantes podrán votar por SMS a un costo de 0,16 CUC Continue reading
Las pensiones y la Mesa Redonda Con todas sus necesidades cubiertas, los dirigentes se alejan más de la realidad cada día Martes, febrero 21, 2017 | Miriam Leiva LA HABANA, Cuba.- El propósito de convencer sobre las bondades del Gobierno y lograr el agradecimiento de la población fue evidente en las explicaciones sobre el Presupuesto […] Continue reading

Dice la voz popular que cuando un hecho comienza a repetirse deja de ser casualidad

The post ¿Candela a La Habana pa’ esconder el muerto? appeared first on Cubanet.

Continue reading

Con todas sus necesidades cubiertas, los dirigentes se alejan más de la realidad cada día

The post Las pensiones y la Mesa Redonda appeared first on Cubanet.

Continue reading
Private Taxi Drivers Feel Harassed By The Cuban Government / Iván García

Iván García, 15 February 2017 — Decidedly, equanimity isn't one of
Pastor's strong points. He's an industrial engineer transformed into a
private taxi driver, and six days a week he drives a 1954 Dodge with a
body from a Detroit factory, patched up a couple of times in a Havana
workshop and improved with a German engine from a Mercedes Benz, a South
Korean transmission and a steering wheel from a Lada of the Soviet era.
With this car he operates on a fixed-route as a shared-taxi.

This mechanical Frankenstein is the livelihood of Pastor, his wife, four
children and two grandchildren. "When I stop driving, it's felt in the
house. So I have to be driving 12 or 13 hours daily. My family and even
my in-laws live from my almendrón (old American car). The government
considers us taxi drivers as tycoons, newly rich. But that's not true,"
says Pastor, while he drives his taxi through the narrow Monte Street in
the direction of the Parque de la Fraternidad.

At the end of the trip, he parks very close to the Saratoga Hotel and
enumerates details of the collective taxi business in Havana. "There are
two types of taxi drivers. Those who own their car, like me, and those
who lease it to someone who owns five or six cars and makes money
renting them out. We all pay the same tax, which the State raises each
year, by using some ruse," he comments, and he adds:

"The study that ONAT, the National Tax Office, did, which controls
private work on the Island, is very elementary. Its calculations are
removed from reality. The deductions for the time we aren't working are
erroneous. Sometimes the car has to be in the shop for two or more months.

But the transportation problem, which the government tries to blame us
for, is something that they haven't resolved. If my business is one of
supply and demand, then no one should stick their nose into my prices.
It doesn't concern the State. If they want to improve public
transportation let them buy hundreds of busses and taxis, so they can
see how low prices have fallen," says Pastor, who, as we're chatting,
becomes impassioned, and more than a few swear words sprinkle the
conversation.

"This can only happen in a dictatorship. If they really want things to
get better they would have had a dialogue with us, the taxi drivers, who
in the capital alone number more than 10,000. Compadre, the State
doesn't give a shit about helping us. They don't give us so much as a
single screw. We pay them everything. What would have been a good
solution? To sell us gas, which now costs 1.10 Cuban convertible pesos
(roughly $1.10 US) in the government filling stations, at 10 or 15 Cuban
pesos (roughly $0.40 to $0.60 US), and then require us to have fixed
prices on a route," says Pastor, indignant.

If you talk with any of the private taxi drivers in Havana, you will
note their barely-contained irritation. "It's simple: If the government
continues fucking with me, I'll surrender my State license tomorrow and
work under the table. Actually, there's a ton of people who are doing
that. They don't have enough police to be going after 15,000 illegal
taxi drivers," says a taxi driver who drives the Havana-Playa route.

Eliecer, a driver on the Lisa-Parque Central route, explains his
accounting. "I drive for a lady who owns the auto. I pay her 25 CUC
daily. But I have to pay for repairs and gasoline. After the 600 Cuban
pesos that I turn over to the owner, I earn between 400 and 500 Cuban
pesos daily. But I don't have any rest. I kill myself working."

What especially bothers Osvel, a retired soldier, is the arrogance of
the authorities. "What would it cost the government to meet with us and
negotiate a good agreement? But no, they do it as they see fit. It's
true that you can earn 10 times what you would working for the State,
but you always have to put money aside in case of breakdowns, because
the cars are old and need frequent repairs. The easiest way is to force
it on people, an old government custom."

In a note published in the government newspaper Granma on February 8,
the authorities divided the city into 30 routes and determined the
prices that they think should be charged from one stretch or destination
to another in the city.

The other side of the problem is the customers. Eight out of 12 people
interviewed said they were upset by the increase in taxi prices in
Havana. "The taxi drivers have some nerve. Because they've had the balls
to double and triple their prices. If they think the government is
abusing them, then let them have a strike in the Plaza de la Revolución,
but don't try to get out of it by raising prices and fucking the
passenger," comments Daniel, who says he spent an hour waiting for a
taxi on Calzada de Diez de Octubre.

In July 2016, the Regime decreed that prices were going up, and they
opened a telephone line for complaints from the population. Many taxi
drivers stopped driving for several days, and the majority decided to
split the routes. For example, the route from La Palma to the Parque de
la Fraternidad, which cost 10 pesos, was divided into two: 10 pesos up
to Toyo and Calzada de Luyanó, and another 10 pesos up to the Parque de
la Fraternidad.

"The problem is that before, you could get gas on the black market. But
since last spring, the government began controlling the fuel that was
being stolen from State businesses. Now you have to buy it in CUCs, and
it costs more than double than it did under the table. And then they
raise the prices, explained a taxi driver.

All those interviewed agree, taxi drivers as well as users, that with
these populist measures the government is trying to disguise who's
really guilty and their proven inefficiency and incapacity to design a
functional model of transport.

Pastor, angry, goes further. "It's an undeclared war on private workers.
Why don't they raise the prices for taxis rented from the State? They
work almost without using the taximeter and then charge twice or three
times as much as they did two years ago. And in CUCs."

The fleet of modern autos painted yellow that circulate in the city, for
use by tourists or citizens with deep pockets, pay 55 CUC daily to the
State as a leasing fee.

The government isn't stupid. They're not going to start a battle with
taxi drivers who report their income. And in CUCs.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: Private Taxi Drivers Feel Harassed By The Cuban Government /
Iván García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/private-taxi-drivers-feel-harassed-by-the-cuban-government-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Iván García, 15 February 2017 — Decidedly, equanimity isn’t one of Pastor’s strong points. He’s an industrial engineer transformed into a private taxi driver, and six days a week he drives a 1954 Dodge with a body from a Detroit factory, patched up a couple of times in a Havana workshop and improved with a … Continue reading "Private Taxi Drivers Feel Harassed By The Cuban Government / Iván García" Continue reading
Cuban Customers: Collateral Damage In The Tourism Boom / 14ymedio, Luz
Escobar

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 16 February 2017 – In the photo the
couple smiles with one glass of beer in hand, all they were able to
obtain after waiting in a long line at a Varadero resort. Nine years
after the government allowed Cubans to enter hotels in Cuba (a right
previously denied them in what was commonly called 'tourist apartheid'),
local customers continue to be discriminated against relative to foreign
tourists in the midst of the current boom in tourism.

Eugenia and Guillermo, retirees from the transport sector, are trying to
make up for lost time after decades of being unable to enjoy the tourist
facilities of their own country. With the remittances sent by their son
who emigrated and the profits on a house that they sold a few months
ago, they decided to enjoy the natural beauties of the Island and its
multiple hotels.

Nevertheless, the so-called smokestack-free industry is experiencing
tense times caused by the increase in the number of foreign visitors. At
the end of last year, the country reported a record of more than 4
million tourists, good news for the national coffers but which does not,
however, represent a better situation for local customers.

Cuba has more than 65,000 hotel rooms and some 17,000 private houses
that provide lodging. The tourist boom of recent years tests that
infrastructure and the complaints accumulate, especially with regards to
the facilities managed by the state or by joint ventures.

Eugenia and Guillermo were among the first customers to purchase
an all-inclusive package back in 2008 to spend a weekend in a four-star
hotel near the city of Holguin. They recall the experience as
excellent. "It was like living a dream and enjoying what, before, only
foreigners could have," recalls Guillermo.

However, with the passage of time that initial joy was transformed into
discomfort. "The prices have gone up and the quality of the facilities
has decreased a lot," comments the retiree. At the end of last year they
booked four nights in Pasacaballo, a hotel in Cienfuegos from which they
say they left "horrified."

"The all-inclusive was actually rationed," says the wife. "The initial
times when you could eat and drink whatever you wanted are now just a
memory." Despite having paid for an "open bar," the Cuban guests found
themselves with their food and drink rationed.

For the retirees, that regulation of consumption reminded them of "the
ration market bodegas," they say. "We wanted to escape reality, to
disconnect a few days but it turns out that we found ourselves in the
same situation we wanted to escape," Guillermo points out.

In the Pasacaballo restaurant "the main courses are limited," he
clarifies. You can only choose one meat, fish or chicken course. On
arrival, each guest received a card that allowed them to consume a
maximum of 64 beverages, including two liters of rum for the four nights
of their stay.

The situation is repeated in other accommodations around the Island. Not
even the Royalton Cayo Santa Maria, with five stars, is immune from
these types of restrictions. "We had to supervise the domestic guests
better because they were cleaning out the hotel," a maid told 14ymedio,
on condition of anonymity.

Managed by the Gaviota Tourism Group, a business arm of the Cuban
military, special controls are placed on the accommodations of guests
from Cuba. "We have lost huge amounts of towels, cups, glasses and
cutlery," complains the employee. She blames "the Cubans who come and do
not understand how things work in a hotel, they think this is a boarding
school in the countryside."

"They want to eat at breakfast what they don't consume in two months at
home, so there are many excesses," she says. "While a Canadian will
breakfast on an omelet, a Cuban wants to put a hunk of cheese in their
pocket, take twenty servings of bread for their room and carry off all
the jam they can find."

Maria del Pilar Macías, Director General of Quality and Operations of
the Ministry of Tourism, told the official press at the end of last year
that the fundamental challenge was to achieve a competitive service
"without disregarding international standards" based on "quality and
innovation."

In 2014, the influx of domestic tourists to hotels reached 1.2 million
guests, an increase of 23% compared to the previous year. On that
occasion, the locals spent 147.3 million CUCs in those facilities,
according to a report published by the National Office of Statistics and
Information of Cuba (ONEI).

The Communist Party has urged in its guidelines "to expand and push the
development of national tourism by creating offers that make it possible
to take advantage of the infrastructure created in hotels and other
recreational and historical tourist attractions."

Eugenia and Guillermo prefer hotels with managers from another
country. "They are much more attentive and do not seem to differentiate
in the treatment of national tourists." In those run by the state and
under the control Gaviota the situation is different. "If you're a
national, they leave you with the word in their mouths or with
half-service while they run off to look after a foreigner."

The reason for that difference in the treatment lies in
tipping. Although most are all-inclusive accommodations, foreign guests
"always leave something," comments the maid at the Royalton Cayo Santa
Maria. Also, according to the employee, "there have been many incidents
with Cuban clients who mistreat workers."

Varadero is the main beach resort on the island and Cubans have become
the second largest group of guests in the resort, behind the
Canadians. "Cuba's customer today not only goes to standard hotels but
also goes to the chain's highest quality hotels," said Narciso
Sotolongo, deputy sales director of Meliá Hotels International in Cuba.

The Hotel Group Islazul gets the worst comments among islanders. "I
dropped something on the floor and when I looked under the bed I was
surprised at the amount of dirt," Guillermo says. The curtains were old,
there was no minibar in the room and for several days there was no water
in the sink or shower. The manager never showed up for explanations,
despite repeated customer complaints.

For the retired couple, the most difficult thing is to accept the price
increases. "So before we paid between 70 and 85 Cuban convertible pesos
(about the same value in $US) per night with all inclusive; now we can't
find it for less than 120 or 140 CUC," the woman complains. An employee
of Cubanacán who manages a tourism bureau at the Hotel Vedado denied
that there has been an increase in rates.

"We are in the high season and prices are rising every year," she
explains to 14ymedio. "Now what is happening is that there is much more
demand and the cheaper offers are sold abroad, through the internet and
with a credit card." But Eugenia and Guillermo have never connected to
the great world-wide-web and only know about cash.

Source: Cuban Customers: Collateral Damage In The Tourism Boom /
14ymedio, Luz Escobar – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuban-customers-collateral-damage-in-the-tourism-boom-14ymedio-luz-escobar/ Continue reading
Los artistas suplen la escasez de materiales por el ingenio en el Salón de Camagüey SOL GARCÍA BASULTO, Camagüey | Febrero 17, 2017 Con predominio de la técnica mixta y materiales reciclados, los creadores camagüeyanos disimulan en el Salón de la Ciudad la escasez de materias primas. La cita artística inaugurada el pasado 2 de […] Continue reading
In Cuba Most Small Businesses Are Still Illegal
February 17, 2017
By Eileen Sosin Martinez

HAVANA TIMES — Mairim Rodriguez* used to spend her days looking through
Revolico and other ad websites, seeing "what jobs were out there on the
market." She quickly found out that there were lots of other people in
the same position as her, and others wanting to find employees for their
private businesses.

Then, Mairim had an idea: "there isn't a job center for the
self-employed, which links owners to employees. So I had the idea of
putting out a job management ad, to connect both parties. And I got
called one day."

In the beginning, everything was experiential, until I managed to set up
a job fever system. Owners of restaurants, hair salons, home rentals…
contact her when they need staff with so and so requirements. On the
other hand, those who seek out opportunities outside of the public
sector also call her or send her an email.

She draws up a customer file where she collects all the essential
information; then she matches this information and sets up an interview.
If the employer and employee agree, and the person is hired, Mairim
charges them 5 CUC (5.70 USD) each. Given the time and energy she saves
them, the price is very reasonable.

"I started out with this because I came across a niche in the market.
Over 20 people call my house everyday, and while I'm talking, other
people leave me several messages on my answering machine," she tells me
and confirms that her initiative has been a great success.

Mairim is a chemical engineer and after having started up her job
agency, she has studied legal and economic issues. "In fact, I'm taking
a small business management course."

In spite of her interest and the tried-and-tested usefulness of her
business venture, what she's doing isn't allowed. Like a kind of legal
lifeline, she has taken out a license as a "Collector-payer" and wants
to present a "new activity project" to include what she really does to
the Ministry of Labor and Social Security, "let's see if they accept it."

That's it?
When we talk about the private sector in Cuba, some officials boast that
in 2010, 178 jobs had been accepted, and there are over 200 today. 201,
to be exact. Several economists have warned about the fact that even
though the number of self-employed people increased, licences continue
to be restricted, because it's being regulated the other way around.

That is to say, the State should limit itself to stating what is banned
(instead of what's permitted); which would specify that you can do
anything except x, y and z. "No marijuana and coffins, but everything
else yes," says a black market salesman.

"Sometimes, self-employment awakes a lot of people's imagination, who
are tired of spending more time traveling to get to work than they do in
the company of their families," researcher Librada Taylot wrote in her
book "Me? Self-employed!", which was published in 2013.

And this imagination, the Cuban people's proverbial creativity, is too
much for any list, it doesn't matter whether there are 201 or 500
authorized jobs. "You can't make laws which creativity then overcomes,"
explains lawyer Ernan Garcia*.

So, let's take a look at licenses. There are 19th century activities,
such as Palm tree pruner, woodcutter, shearer and shoe-shiner. Others
seem to have come out of a vernacular fair: Gypsum figure
manufacturer/seller, Pinata manufacturer/seller, Dandy, Havana woman,
Artificial flower seller… It would be very interesting if the Ministry
of Labor published stats on just how many people are Button liners.

Without wanting to belittle the people who practice these jobs, we're
talking about a country which spends around 25% of the State budget on
education.

"The kinds of self-employment approved for the non-governmental sector
don't correspond to the profile outlined for Cuba's work force. The vast
majority of jobs included on the authorized list can be classified as
low-value aggregates, where the requirement for complex skills is
reduced," rounds up economist Ricardo Torres.

However, it keeps progressing… just in the background. If there is a
demand, supply will follow. For example: Cynthia Rodriguez* set up a
"travel agency" for Cubans who want to travel to other provinces. She is
in charge of buying the tickets, depending on her customer's ideal date
and if they want, she can also arrange accommodation and other services
at the destination. Is what she's doing wrong? Does it go against the
principle of socialist society in any way? Then why is it illegal?

Last October, several restaurants in Havana received "special"
inspections. The authorities used several arguments, among them, that
they were operating as clubs or nightclubs. Just think about how many
problems would have been simply side-stepped if they just allowed
private bars to exist. How is that risky business? OK: let's discuss it,
let's establish rules, and make them pay taxes… But insisting on the ban
of these activities just means banging your head against the door again.

"Let's think about a weird case," the lawyer puts forward, "if I want to
earn a living by dancing on one foot on top of a tree, and suddenly I
have a large audience who pay to see me, are you going to tell me that I
can't do it?"

Freelance work, which is so common in the rest of the world, isn't
officially recognized in Cuba. Damian Fleites* is an architect and works
of his own accord or as he puts it: "freelancing". "Of course, I would
love this to be legal; it would give you peace of mind being able to
practice your profession without fear. There are a lot of people who,
like me, want to formalize their businesses, have a logo, a place, place
ads, pay taxes…"

The benefits of broadening job opportunities are clearly obvious:
transparency, job security, greater financial incomes… Meanwhile, the
country would take advantage of its greatest asset: the Cuban people's
high education level.

Sixty-eight percent of people who undertake private ventures, have no
link with their past job. Let's put it like this, they were unemployed
at home, or on the street, "inventing", "struggling", until they saw an
opportunity to work for themselves. Many others continue "to work behind
the curtain", waiting for the day when what they do is legalized.

[*) Names have been changed at the interviewees' request.

Source: In Cuba Most Small Businesses Are Still Illegal - Havana
Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=123728 Continue reading

Ricardo Fernández

La Casa de los Vinos de Pinar del Río empezó con mal pie el día de su inauguración. La ceremonia de apertura, celebrada este martes, tuvo que retrasarse varias horas al no haber concluido las obras constructivas y la afluencia de público fue escasa.

Los grandes ausentes fueron los productores locales, impulsores iniciales ‒junto con los trabajadores de la agricultura urbana‒ de esta iniciativa, pensada para la degustación de vinos artesanales. La idea, fracasada por la falta de apoyo estatal, fue retomada por la Empresa de Comercio Interior, pero sin la presencia de los vinicultores privados.

En la Isla, a pesar del clima y el limitado acceso a las materias primas, un número creciente de productores se inclina por los vinos artesanales, a partir de la fermentación de frutas como la guayaba, naranja, frutabomba, piña, guanábana y mango.

El nuevo local en territorio pinareño, situado en la calle Gerardo Medina 8, busca potenciar la inventiva vinícola y tiene capacidad para 26 consumidores. "Priorizamos la producción local de vinos artesanales", dijo a la prensa oficial su administrador, Julio Corrales Baños.

El día de la inauguración, sin embargo, sólo se ofertaron vinos industriales hechos en la provincia por la falta de acuerdo con los productores de la zona. La ausencia de un marco legal que permita al Estado contratar directamente las producciones de estos emprendedores está limitando la actividad del local.

Artemisa y Mayabeque son actualmente las únicas provincias que cuenta con mayor flexibilidad en los contratos con el sector privado. El Gobierno de Raúl Castro ha brindado autonomía a los Consejos de la Administración en relación con las Asambleas del Poder Popular para experimentar otro tipo de gestión.

Para los vinateros pinareños, contar con algo así, significaba un salto considerable en las ganancias debido al aumento de la demanda que se ha notado en la región en los últimos años.

Por el momento, la venta de vinos de gestión particular se realiza en portales y estantes situados en las calles más transitadas de la ciudad. Una treintena de productores los comercializan, la mayoría de ellos con excelente calidad, a pesar de no cumplir los estándares internacionales por la inclusión de azúcar en el proceso de fermentación de las frutas.

Los vinos que se producen en la Isla tienen altos grados brix, [unidad de medida de los azúcares presentes en una bebida] y suelen ser dulces o semidulces, con un bajo volumen de alcohol.

Ernesto Reinoso, de 81 años, lleva 26 produciendo Vinos de Rey de forma artesanal. "Si el objetivo era crear un espacio donde los pinareños puedan consumir vinos, tendrían que fijarse en los precios, porque los vinos que nosotros comercializamos son muy baratos (1 CUC la botella)", opina sobre el nuevo local.

Al frente de la primera etapa de la Casa de los vinos estuvo Julio del Llano, ingeniero agrónomo retirado que lleva 27 años comercializando su marca, Vinos del Llano. El productor lamenta que ningún productor particular fuese invitado a la inauguración. Del Llano, de la tercera generación de vinicultores de su familia, es promotor de la calidad entre los productores y fue el primero del territorio en registrar su marca.

"Los vinicultores tendremos que seguir comercializando a través de los trabajadores por cuenta propia, como lo hemos hecho hasta hoy", concluye Del Llano, multipremiado en concursos nacionales de calidad.

En febrero del pasado año, en el XXV Festival de vinos artesanales, celebrado en la Feria Agropecuaria de Rancho Boyeros (La Habana), se realizó un certamen en ocho categorías, vino blanco, rosado, tinto, espumoso, seco, semiseco, dulce y semidulce. Luis Bermúdez Rodríguez se alzó con el gran premio con una muestra de vino semidulce de piña y plátano, de 2013, con 12,8 grados brix.

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14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 16 February 2017 – In the photo the couple smiles with one glass of beer in hand, all they were able to obtain after waiting in a long line at a Varadero resort. Nine years after the government allowed Cubans to enter hotels in Cuba (a right previously denied them in what … Continue reading "Cuban Customers: Collateral Damage In The Tourism Boom / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar" Continue reading
The Two Marielas / Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, Havana, 14 February 2017 – The
story I want to relate has two parts, one is true and the other is
fiction. The real one is an event I was involved in at the Carlos III
market while in line to buy yogurt, one of the products in shortest
supply in this country – despite the fact that it is sold in hard
currency – and in this case with a price of 0.70 Cuban convertible pesos
(CUC), although there are other yogurts sold in different containers for
as much as 5 CUC (1 CUC is roughly equal to $1 US).

In front of me, while we were waiting, was a young woman of around 30
something, but I could see she'd had a pretty rough life. She had the
money in her hand, some of it in 5 and 10 centavo coins in CUC and a
note for 5 Cuban pesos (CUP) – because, as you know, now the stores have
to accept both currencies. All of a sudden she dropped a 10 centavo coin
and to her great misfortune it rolled under one of the display cases and
although the woman made a great effort to retrieve it, she could not.

She turned to leave the line and I asked, "Are you leaving?" and she
said, "Yes, I had the exact amount of money and I dropped 10 centavos
under that case." Without thinking twice I said, "No, don't leave, take
the ten centavos."

She accepted with the happiest look on her face and told me, "You have
no idea how grateful I am, because my older daughter is sick and she
doesn't want to eat anything."

From that moment, with the facility a Cuban has to establish
communication with another person, even if they don't know them, we
spent the next thirty minutes while we continued to wait in line talking
to each other.

She explained that she worked as a teaching assistant at an elementary
school, but often had to be the teacher because there aren't enough
educators. She is divorced and the monthly support she receives from the
children's father is 50 Cuban pesos (roughly $2 US). That plus her own
salary is not enough to live on and she has to "invent" and go begging
to her mother. She told me, literally, "You have no idea what I have to
do to be able to feed my kids."

Like any good Cuban, she lives in a building considered uninhabitable,
but she won't accept going to a shelter because she knows other people
who live in those conditions and it is dangerous for the girls, now that
they are becoming young ladies. Because her apartment is on the second
floor and nothing works, she has no running water and every other day
has to carry up 10 or 12 buckets of water to meet highest priority
needs, although she says she is grateful to her mother who washes and
irons the girls school uniforms.

"Imagine. My mother was a member of the Party (Communist) and worked in
the Federation of Cuban Women and as for my my father, may he rest in
peace, his surname was Castro, so it occurred to her to name me Mariela
[after Raul Castro's daughter]. Now she regrets it."

Then she said that she did not listen to her mother and married a man
who drank a lot, and when he came home he beat her. It took a lot of
work to get out of that torture and now she regrets not having listened
to her mother's advice.

He left them that disastrous apartment where they live in Centro Habana,
and now she is stuck because her sister is married and has two children
and also lives in the divided living room, which doubles as a room for
both her and her sister's families in the home of their parents.

She confessed to me that she had been so distressed that she takes her
daughters and walks along the Malecon. And she said the girls understand
the whole situation and do not ask for anything. But they're growing up
and they have to have shoes and school uniforms and something to eat for
a snack at school, which is almost always a piece of bread, because at
breakfast they eat half of her daily quota (on the ration book).

I think she had a great need for someone to listen to all her problems
and saw the opportunity to vent.

With a little imagination, while I was on my way to my house, I began to
think about how the other Mariela might live, the one her mother named
her after.

At the entrance, everyone can see that other Mariela's super residence
in the Miramar neighborhood even has a pool, always filled with water.
There are several cars and they and the house are all beautifully
maintained. This is something that you don't have to imagine, and it is
not fiction.

But surely that Mariela Castro does not line up to buy yogurt at 70
cents CUC and much less would she be sad if she dropped a coin, as all
her food problems are taken care of without her even having to leave the
house.

When she gets up for breakfast she does not "donate" her bread to the
children. A maid prepares the food, certainly with ham, milk, bread,
juices, etc. She is assured of coffee every day, very likely imported,
she probably gets the most desirable brands brought in from Miami.

She doesn't have to worry about what time the bus will come to take her
to work; in the first place because she doesn't have to mark a timecard
and in the second because she has a modern car to take her to work
without having to get all sweaty and push her way onto the bus with all
the other people.

I could continue imagining things that we all know are part of the
standard of living of the high government hierarchy, but I leave it to
the reader so we can all share in this fictional (?) part of the story.

Source: The Two Marielas / Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello –
Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/the-two-marielas-cubanet-martha-beatriz-roque-cabello/ Continue reading
El cliente nacional, una víctima colateral del ‘boom’ turístico LUZ ESCOBAR, La Habana | Febrero 16, 2017 En la foto se ve a la pareja sonriente y con un vaso de cerveza en la mano, el único que pudieron alcanzar tras una larga fila en un resort en Varadero. Nueve años después de que el […] Continue reading
Las medidas adoptadas contra los taxis colectivos son discriminatorias y contraproducentes Continue reading
Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, Havana, 14 February 2017 – The story I want to relate has two parts, one is true and the other is fiction. The real one is an event I was involved in at the Carlos III market while in line to buy yogurt, one of the products in shortest supply in … Continue reading "The Two Marielas / Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello" Continue reading
Birthrate Is Not Just a Matter of Resources / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez

14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 15 February 2017 — Concerned about
low birthrates, this month the Government has launched a campaign
focused on fertility and a package of measures to stimulate births of
two or more children per woman.

Since 1978 fertility rates have declined throughout the Island, dropping
below population replacement levels. By 2050, the country will rank 9th
in the world for elderly population. The aging demographics will
exacerbate the lack of economically active people.

The new regulations to stimulate birth, made widely known by the paper
Gaceta Oficial (Offical Gazzette), are composed of two decrees and four
resolutions. These measures include the paid participation of family
members in the childrearing process.

"Now my mother will be able to stay home with my daughter while I go to
work," says Sahily Cuevas, mother of a four-month-old baby and an
employee of a Cooperative of Credits and Services in the municipality of
Güira, Artemisa.

The grandmother, employed in the State Gastronomic Network, will receive
60% of her salary as a social benefit, a benefit that up until February
was only available to the father of the child. It is true, however, that
this payment is equivalent to $11, the price of three packs of
disposable diapers.

The majority of women surveyed point to lack of resources as the main
cause for postponement or interruption of a pregnancy. In the period
between 2006-2013, birth rates rose from 1.39 children per woman to
1.71, but that figure should reach a minimum of 2.1 to get out of the
red zone.

"I would not dare have a second child," exclaims Tahimí, 27, resident of
Aguada de Pasajeros. "The list of necessities to have a baby is so long
that the extra money will be like a drop in the ocean, it will serve
very little use."

The women believes that the 50% discount on subsidized childcare rates
for parents of two or more children can help "the poorest families,"
especially in rural areas. With the third child the family will become
exempt from payment, a benefit extending to couples that have multiple
deliveries at once.

Returning to work after giving birth has also received new stimuli.
Mothers who return to work after 18 weeks of maternity leave will
receive, in addition to 100% of their salary, an extra provision of 60%
of their pay, from three months to one year after giving birth.

The private sector, with more than half a million employees in the
country, has also received a reduction in monthly taxes for
self-employed workers with two or more children under 17 years old. But
the labor demands in private businesses leave little room for women to
take a more extended family leave.

"I would not leave from here because they would replace me and this is
my family's livelihood," comments an employee of La Mimosa, a restaurant
in Chinatown in Havana. "There is a lot of competition and getting
pregnant is the same as being left out," adds the employee, who chose to
remain anonymous.

Maipú, 21, has had four abortions. The first two with the technique of
menstrual regulation performed on an outpatient basis that does not
require anesthesia. For the last two she entered an operating room where
they used the technique of scraping, known as curettage. The young woman
refuses to have children at the moment.

"I live with my parents and my grandparents, as well as my two
brothers," she says to 14ymedio. Housing problems are the main cause for
postponing motherhood, but she also has her eyes set on emigrating.

In recent years, without publicly announcing it, the Ministry of Public
Health has restricted abortions. "Now the requirements to receive an
abortion are stricter," says a nurse of the Obstetrical Gynecological
Hospital, Ramón González Coro. The employee believes that "it is
difficult to complete all the paperwork in time for a menstrual
regulation technique or an abortion."

However, the informal market has also flourished in that field. Maipú
paid 50 CUC for her last abortion. "I did not have much time because I
was already at 12 weeks," she recounts. She spent the equivalent of a
doctor's monthly salary. There was no record of her procedure on her
medical record.

The director of the Center of Population and Development Studies, Juan
Carlos Alfonso, has tempered the weight of the economic crisis and
immigration in the rejection of pregnancies maintained by Cuban women.
For the specialist, "social processes like female emancipation "also
influence in the decision to push back maternity.

A 2009 fertility survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (ONEI)
found that 21% of women aged 15-54 had experienced at least one
pregnancy that ended in intentional abortions. Eighty percent of the
population reported having used contraception.

"Obtaining one visa is not the same as obtaining two," affirms Maipú in
a pragmatic tone. However, she acknowledges that she has always wanted
to "be a mother and have many children running around the house."

Translated by Chavely Garcia.

Source: Birthrate Is Not Just a Matter of Resources / 14ymedio, Marcelo
Hernandez – Translating Cuba -
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El “jineterismo virtual”, la nueva prostitución que trajo WiFi a La Habana 14 de febrero de 2017 – 21:02 – Por Daniel Castropé Idalia es una joven cubana que, como muchas otras en la isla, ha sabido sacarle provecho a los puntos de conexión inalámbrica a internet para obtener beneficios de “amigos” en el extranjero […] Continue reading
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¿Quién miente en Cuba? No pocos en la isla llevan consigo la costumbre, bien arraigada Miércoles, febrero 15, 2017 | José María Ruilópez GIJÓN, España.- Hay algunos cubanos que llevan consigo una costumbre arraigada desde hace tiempo como es la de mentir. En algunos sectores sociales, la mentira forma parte del tipismo de ambos sexos. […] Continue reading
No pocos en la isla llevan consigo la costumbre, bien arraigada Continue reading
Feria de La Habana: Pacotilla, presentaciones sin libros e inundación de Fidel Castro ADRIANA ZAMORA | La Habana | 15 de Febrero de 2017 – 21:22 CET. Todos los años el Día de los Enamorados coincide con la Feria del Libro y todos los años es uno de los días que más se llena de […] Continue reading
14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 15 February 2017 — Concerned about low birthrates, this month the Government has launched a campaign focused on fertility and a package of measures to stimulate births of two or more children per woman. Since 1978 fertility rates have declined throughout the Island, dropping below population replacement levels. By 2050, the … Continue reading "Birthrate Is Not Just a Matter of Resources / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez" Continue reading

Marcelo Hernández

Preocupado por la baja natalidad, el Gobierno ha lanzado este mes una campaña centrada en la fecundidad y un paquete de medidas para estimular el nacimiento de dos o más hijos por mujer.

Desde 1978 los números de la fecundidad han caído a lo largo de la Isla, hasta llegar por debajo del nivel de reemplazo poblacional. Para 2050, el país se ubicará en el noveno puesto a nivel mundial en población de ancianos. El envejecimiento demográfico agravará la carencia de personas económicamente activas.

Las nuevas regulaciones para estimular la natalidad, dadas a conocer en un número extraordinario de la Gaceta Oficial, están formadas por dos decretos y cuatro resoluciones. Entre las medidas se incluye la participación remunerada de otros familiares en el cuidado de los hijos.

"Ahora mi madre se podrá quedar en casa con la niña mientras yo mantengo mi vínculo laboral", cuenta Sahily Cuevas, madre de una bebé de cuatro meses y trabajadora de una Cooperativa de Créditos y Servicios en el municipio Güira, Artemisa.

[[QUOTE:El descuento del 50% en las tarifas subvencionadas de los círculos infantiles para los padres con dos o más hijos puede ayudar a "las familias más pobres", en especial en las zonas rurales]]La abuela, empleada en la red gastronómica estatal, recibirá el 60% de su salario en calidad de prestación social, un beneficio que hasta este febrero solo cubría al padre del menor. Es cierto, sin embargo, que esta remuneración equivale a 11 dólares, el precio de tres paquetes de pañales desechables.

La mayoría de las mujeres consultadas atribuyen a las estrecheces materiales la causa principal para la posposición o interrupción de un embarazo. En el período 2006-2013 la natalidad aumentó levemente de una tasa de 1,39 hijos por mujer a 1,71, pero ese valor debe alcanzar un mínimo de 2,1 para salir de los números rojos.

"Ni loca tengo un segundo hijo", remarca con determinación Tahimí de 27 años y residente en Aguada de Pasajeros. "Es tan larga la lista de necesidades para un bebé que ese dinero extra que van a dar es como una gota en el mar, sirve para muy poco".

La mujer considera que el descuento del 50% en las tarifas subvencionadas de los círculos infantiles para los padres con dos o más hijos puede ayudar a "las familias más pobres", en especial en las zonas rurales. A partir del tercer hijo la familia quedará exenta del pago, un beneficio que se extiende a las parejas con bebés nacidos en partos múltiples.

El retorno al trabajo tras el nacimiento también ha recibido nuevos estímulos. Las madres que regresen tras 18 semanas de licencia de maternidad cobrarán, además del 100% de su salario, una prestación extra del 60% de su paga, desde los tres meses y hasta un año después de dar a luz.

El sector privado, con más de medio millón de trabajadores en el país, también ha recibido una rebaja en los impuestos mensuales a las cuentapropistas con dos o más hijos menores de 17 años. Pero las exigencias laborales en los negocios particulares dejan poco margen a que las mujeres se acojan a una licencia de maternidad más extendida.

"Ni loca me muevo de aquí porque ocupan mi plaza y este es el sustento de mi familia", comenta una empleada de La Mimosa, un restaurante en el Barrio Chino de La Habana. "Hay mucha competencia y quedar embarazada es igual a quedar fuera", añade la trabajadora, que prefirió el anonimato.

Maipú tiene 21 años y se ha practicado cuatro abortos. Los dos primeros con la técnica de la regulación menstrual que se realiza de manera ambulatoria y no necesita anestesia. En los dos últimos entró a un salón de operaciones donde le hicieron un raspado, conocido como legrado. La joven se niega a tener hijos por el momento.

"Vivo con mis padres y mis abuelos, además de dos hermanos", comenta a 14ymedio. Los problemas habitacionales son el motivo principal que esgrime para postergar la maternidad, pero también tiene la vista puesta en la emigración.

[[QUOTE:El director del Centro de Estudios de Población y Desarrollo cree que "procesos sociales como la emancipación femenina" también influyen en la decisión de postergar la maternidad]]En los últimos años, sin anunciarlo públicamente, el Ministerio de Salud Pública ha restringido los abortos. "Ahora los requisitos para lograr una interrupción de embarazo son más estrictos", cuenta a este diario una enfermera del Hospital Gineco obstétrico Ramón González Coro. La empleada considera que "es difícil lograr todos los papeles a tiempo para una regulación menstrual o un aborto".

Sin embargo, el mercado informal también florece en ese campo. Maipú pagó 50 CUC por su última interrupción de embarazo. "No tenía mucho tiempo, porque ya tenía 12 semanas", recuerda. Gastó el equivalente al salario mensual de un médico en practicarse la interrupción. En su historial clínico no quedó registro alguno de la intervención.

El director del Centro de Estudios de Población y Desarrollo, Juan Carlos Alfonso, ha matizado el peso de la crisis económica y la emigración en en el rechazo al embarazo que mantienen muchas cubanas. Para el especialista, "procesos sociales como la emancipación femenina" también influyen en la decisión de postergar la maternidad.

Una encuesta sobre fecundidad, llevada a cabo en 2009 por la Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas (ONEI), arrojó que el 21% de las mujeres entre 15 y 54 años había experimentado al menos un embarazo que terminó en aborto provocado. El 80% de la población declaró haber usado métodos de anticoncepción de manera regular.

La psicóloga Mayra Rodríguez, subdirectora del Centro Nacional de Educación Sexual (CENESEX), considera al aborto "un logro social que no se puede perder" y opina que tras enero de 1959 "la mujer tuvo la oportunidad de incorporarse socialmente y de tener un pleno desarrollo profesional", una situación que le permite decidir “en qué momento tener un hijo".

[[QUOTE:Muchas féminas refieren que han pospuesto tener hijos por desean alcanzar un mayor desarrollo profesional y mantener su independencia económica]]Muchas féminas refieren que han pospuesto tener hijos por desean alcanzar un mayor desarrollo profesional y mantener su independencia económica. La población laboralmente activa cuenta con más 1,6 millones de trabajadoras, de las que 927.200 han concluido estudios en la enseñanza media superior y alrededor de 618.400 son graduadas universitarias, según datos del Anuario estadístico de Cuba 2015.

Varios estudios revelan que entre las mujeres con mayor nivel educativo, las radicadas en las cabeceras provinciales y aquellas que ostentan cargos administrativos, la edad de el primer hijo se demora cada vez más. Algunas de las consultadas por este diario aseguran que prefieren programar el nacimiento de un hijo pasados los 30 años para lograr una posición sólida en su vida laboral.

Además, "no es lo mismo conseguir una visa que dos", afirma Maipú en tono pragmático mientras reconoce que siempre ha querido "ser madre y tener muchos niños corriendo por la casa".

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La agresión a un botero, señal de alerta sobre la ‘satanización’ de los transportistas privados PABLO PASCUAL MÉNDEZ PIÑA | La Habana | 14 de Febrero de 2017 – 19:42 CET. En la madrugada del domingo 12 de febrero un grupo de individuos asaltó a un botero en la intercepción de las calles Línea y […] Continue reading
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Detenidos activistas de la Alianza Democrática Oriental en Santiago de Cuba febrero 14, 2017 Luis Felipe Rojas Cinco disidentes detenidos en Santiago de Cuba, un registro domiciliario y un opositor a juicio, acusado de Peligrosidad Social Pre-delictiva fue el saldo detallado por Rolando R. Lobaina. Varias detenciones se sucedieron este lunes contra activistas de la […] Continue reading
Lawton, La Habana, Paulino Alfonso, (PD) Sr. Modesto: A pesar de que hace pocos años, su industria Bio Cuba Farma aseguraba ante la televisión oficial (su televisión) que los medicamentos estaban resueltos en un 85% con producción nacional, la escasez, consustancial a su socialismo próspero y sostenible, establece la ausencia de los medicamentos que demanda una población cada vez más depauperada. Un reportero cubano independiente, Steve Maikel Pardo, explicó por vía telefónica en el programa Cuba al Día, de Radio […] Continue reading
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Zunilda Mata

Una fuente de chocolate derretido y catorce rosas rojas adornan la mesa que esta noche servirá para celebrar San Valentín en casa de Viviana y José Alberto. Son novios desde hace una década, eligieron el día de los enamorados para casarse y han apelado al sector privado para abastecer la celebración.

En medio del desabastecimiento que se extiende por los mercados de la Isla, la pareja ha tenido suerte. "Los globos, los platos plásticos y los vasos desechables los trajo una vecina que viaja a Panamá", cuenta la novia a 14ymedio. El surtidor lo alquilaron y los anillos los hizo un orfebre de la barriada del Vedado, en La Habana.

Los jóvenes esperan "celebrar las bodas de plata con el mismo entusiasmo", un propósito cada vez más inusual en un país donde una alta cifra de uniones terminan en separación. En 2015 en la Isla se produjeron 33.174 divorcios, más de la mitad de las 61.902 uniones matrimoniales que tuvieron lugar.

Pero Viviana y José Alberto están empecinados en contradecir las estadísticas. En un inicio los recién casados pensaban comer en un restaurante pero "todo estaba lleno por el día de los enamorados". Con una larga tradición entre los cubanos, durante esta jornada se abarrotan los locales gastronómicos, las discotecas y todo tipo de espacio recreativo.[[QUOTE:Las zonas wifi también se convierten en espacios para los que quieren mostrar su afecto]]Este año la mayor actividad recae sobre los negocios por cuenta propia que brindan todo tipo de servicios para la ocasión. Dos copas de piña colada y una tapa se ofrecen por cinco pesos convertibles en un pequeño restaurante en la calle L, a pocos metros del Habana Libre. Desde temprano las mesas comienzan a llenarse de parejas.

De los 535.000 trabajadores privados o no estatales que había en la Isla al cierre de 2016, unos 59.700 se dedican a la elaboración y venta de alimentos, según datos del Ministerio del Trabajo y Seguridad Social. El gremio vive hoy una jornada de frenesí con las cenas por encargo, los pedidos a domicilio y un aumento en el número de clientes.

Las zonas wifi también se convierten en espacios para los que quieren mostrar su afecto. Surelys, de 32 años, ha llegado hasta el Parque Trillo en Centro Habana para mantener una videoconferencia con su novio, uno de los cientos de cubanos varados en México tras el fin de la política de pies secos/ pies mojados.

"Pensábamos pasar este día juntos en Miami, pero el cambio de leyes me dejó con el boleto comprado para México", cuenta la joven. No obstante tiene esperanzas de que Donald Trump revierta la decisión de Barack Obama y de "llegar a Estados Unidos".

Para Surelys el mejor regalo que le podrían hacer este 14 de febrero es pequeño y colorido: una visa que la lleve directo hacia sus sueños en el país del norte. Pero reconoce que "la situación es complicada" y se prepara para "una larga separación" de su pareja.[[QUOTE:La Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (Etecsa) ha aprovechado también la oportunidad para activar una recarga con bono desde el exterior]]A pocos metros de ella un emprendedor promociona sus servicios. "Configuro la aplicación IMO para que puedas mandarle muchos besos a la gente que quieres", asegura a una señora que se le ha acercado con el teléfono en la mano. Por 3 CUC, el hombre le deja listo el dispositivo y la cara de una sonriente amiga comienza a hablar desde la pantalla.

Un centro de belleza, en el municipio Playa, promociona sus opciones para la ocasión. "Un día de belleza y mimo para tu pareja", explican en la publicidad que han desplegado para este día. La Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (Etecsa) ha aprovechado también la oportunidad para activar una recarga con bono desde el exterior.

"Voy a llamar a mi novia que está en misión médica en Venezuela", cuenta a este diario un joven que organizaba una recarga en la diminuta oficina de un trabajador por cuenta propia que vende tarjetas para saldo de telefonía móvil y cuentas de navegación a Internet.

A las afueras del Cementerio de Colón los vendedores de flores hacían su agosto. "El Día de las Madres y el de los Enamorados es cuando más vendemos" cuenta Guillermo, un comerciante con dos décadas en el negocio. "La mayoría de la gente que viene son viudas, pero también amigos cercanos a los difuntos", explica.

Por la salida trasera de la necrópolis un emprendedor ofrece corazones hechos en granito. En su patio asoman ánforas y lápidas. "El día de los enamorados viene mucha gente", asegura. "Como mismo hay gente que va a comer en un restaurante o a una fiesta, también hay quien la pasa aquí, con el amor que se les fue", sentencia.

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Invasive Marabou Weed, An Enemy That Became An Ally / 14ymedio, Bertha
Guillen and Ricardo Fernandez

14ymedio, Bertha Guillen and Ricardo Fernandez, Artemisa/Pinar del Rio,
9 February 2017 – When he was a boy, Jorge Luis Ledesma Herrera played
around the charcoal ovens his father had built. Now, approaching 50,
this Pinar del Rio man dedicates his days to a shrub that is both hated
and appreciated: the invasive marabou weed, raw material for the first
product that Cuba has exported to the United States in more than five
decades.

Ledesma lives in El Gacho, a few miles from San Juan y Martinez, where
the best tobacco on the island is grown. Also growing in the area is the
spiny plant that has invaded the island since its arrival 150 years ago.
Now, its hard branches provide sustenance to thousands of families
across the island.

Cuba annually exports between 40,000 and 80,000 tonnes of
charcoal produced from marabou, which occupies roughly 2.5 million acres
of land that would otherwise be suitable for agriculture, or almost 17%
of the island's arable land.

Livestock areas have also been affected by this invasive weed that has
conquered 56% of the land used for animal husbandry. The plague of
threatening thorns spreads, thanks to the plant's strong nature, but
also due to the neglect and poor organization that affects the Cuban
countryside.

The state maintains a good deal of control over land despite the fact
that in recent years the cooperative sector has been expanded and land
has been leased in usufruct to private farmers.

The Basic Units of Cooperative Production manage 25% of the land, the
Agricultural Production Cooperatives 8% and the Credit and Services
Cooperatives 38%, while state farms manage 29%, according to figures
provided in 2015 during the XI Congress of the National Association of
Small Farmers (ANAP).

Popular jokes praise the marabou as if it were the royal palm. They
propose to replace that haughty national emblem on the Republic's coat
of arms and in its place enshrine the tangled anatomy of the invading
species.

A decade ago Raul Castro joked about the repudiation of the bush during
a speech in Camagüey, during the official commemoration of the assault
on the Moncada Barracks. "What was most beautiful, what stood out in my
eyes, was how beautiful the marabou was along the whole road," he said
after traveling from Havana to that central province.

After that harangue, the crusade against the marabou took on ideological
status and became a symbol of Raul's government, right alongside the
promises of eradicating the dual monetary system, curbing corruption and
lowering food prices. Shortly afterwards, enthusiasm for the battle was
lost and it disappeared from the government's list of critical projects.

In an irony of fate, the enemy plant has gradually become an ally. In
2007 the Spanish company Iberian and Solid Fuels (Ibecosol SL) began to
commercialize charcoal made from marabou in several European
countries. Its ability to burn slowly and the delicate flavor it adds to
food has earned it a good reputation.

Jorge Luis Ledesma Herrera knows these qualities well, because part of
the marabou he processes ends up in his own stove. Every morning he
spends hours cutting the logs that he then transports in an oxcart. His
life is not very different from his grandfather's, but he boasts of
being able to count on "legal electricity" in an environment where low
voltage "clotheslines" – as makeshift electrical wiring is called – abound.

He describes working with marabou as a real hell. The main limitation is
the tools he has to work with. The axes and machetes are of poor
quality, bought on the black market, and must be repaired all the
time. With ingenuity, some have recycled blades from sugar cane
harvesters to aid in cutting.

About two hundred yards from the farmer's house is the flat ground where
the oven is built. The earth is burned and looks fine, like black
powder. The marabou must be heated to temperatures between 750° and
1300° F, with the wood stacked in a cone, covered over with straw and earth.

"Two months ago I took out of the oven an amount I calculated as 20
sacks – about half a tonne – and it started to rain. Although the rain
only lasted a few minutes the hard coals cracked like broken glass," he
said. "I could only save five sacks.

In the nearby Artemisa Joaquín Díaz, 56, has been engaged in the
manufacture of charcoal since he was a child. He has been using marabou
for years to cook, but now, with the news of its export, he processes it
more delicately and takes greater care of the ovens. Like Ledesma, he
only has access to water through a well, takes care of his personal
needs in a latrine outside the house and his house has a light weight roof.

This charcoal producer in the village of Fierro, in the municipality of
San Cristóbal, bears up under the sting of the rebellious shrub; like
other farmers he uses gardening gloves to protect himself. Keeping his
eyes away from thorns is also part of the precautions. When he prepares
an oven he tries not to leave a gap between one stick and another,
because "it doesn't hold in the fire and then it goes out." Care is
essential. "As long as white smoke is coming out, the wood isn't
burned," and it will only ready to dismantle when the smoke turns blue,
which may take a week or more, Diaz explains.

In Pinar del Río, the companies that buy charcoal from the burners are
the state-owned Acopio and the Integral Forest Enterprise. Payment is
made through a temporary contract that allows them to be paid directly
and not through the cooperatives. The charcoal-burners thus avoid the
check cashing fee charged by those entities.

The state pays for charcoal at 1.20 Cuban pesos (CUP – roughly 5 cents
US) per kilogram (2.2 pounds) wholesale, or 30 CUP for a 25 kilogram
sack. For premium charcoal they pay 0.10 CUC (roughly ten cents US) per
kilogram. With luck, the producer will pocket the equivalent of 150
dollars for every tonne of best quality charcoal, which the state
enterprise will sell in the United States for 420 dollars, almost three
times what the charcoal-burner makes.

However, selling to the state comes with many problems of late payments.
In addition, "the rigging of the process of selection and the weighing
of the premium coal, makes it more reliable to sell it to private
individuals," says Ledesma. The private buyer pays 40 CUP per sack, "and
many owners of pizzerias and private restaurants in Pinar del Rio" come
to him to stock up.

Ledesma dreams of being able to sell his marabou charcoal directly,
without going through the state as an intermediary. "If that could be
done, I would buy myself a chain saw to increase production so I could
change the way I live." Of course if that were the case, he reflects,
"even doctors would come here set up charcoal ovens in El Gaucho."

Source: Invasive Marabou Weed, An Enemy That Became An Ally / 14ymedio,
Bertha Guillen and Ricardo Fernandez – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/invasive-marabou-weed-an-enemy-that-became-an-ally-14ymedio-bertha-guillen-and-ricardo-fernandez/ Continue reading
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14ymedio, Bertha Guillen and Ricardo Fernandez, Artemisa/Pinar del Rio, 9 February 2017 – When he was a boy, Jorge Luis Ledesma Herrera played around the charcoal ovens his father had built. Now, approaching 50, this Pinar del Rio man dedicates his days to a shrub that is both hated and appreciated: the invasive marabou weed, raw … Continue reading "Invasive Marabou Weed, An Enemy That Became An Ally / 14ymedio, Bertha Guillen and Ricardo Fernandez" Continue reading
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Bertha K. Guillén y Ricardo Fernández

Cuando era niño, Jorge Luis Ledesma Herrera corría alrededor de los hornos de carbón vegetal que levantaba su padre. Ahora, con casi medio siglo de vida, este campesino de Pinar del Río dedica sus días a un arbusto tan odiado como apreciado: el marabú, materia prima del primer producto que Cuba exportó a Estados Unidos en más de cinco décadas.

Ledesma vive en El Gacho, a unos pocos kilómetros de San Juan y Martínez, donde se cultiva el mejor tabaco de la Isla. En los alrededores también crece esa espinosa planta que ha invadido la Isla desde su llegada hace 150 años. En la actualidad, sus duras ramas son el sustento de miles de familias a lo largo del país.

Cuba exporta cada año entre 40.000 y 80.000 toneladas de carbón producido a partir de marabú, que ocupa poco más de 1 millón de hectáreas de tierras aptas para la agricultura, de las más de 6 millones con las que cuenta la Isla.

Las áreas ganaderas también se han visto afectadas por esta epidemia que ha conquistado el 56% de los terrenos destinados a la cría de animales. La plaga de amenazantes espinas se extiende gracias a su fuerte naturaleza, pero también a la desidia y la mala organización que afecta al campo.

El Estado mantiene buena parte del control sobre la tierra a pesar de que en los últimos años se ha ampliado el sector cooperativo y se han entregado tierras en usufructo a productores privados.

Las Unidades Básicas de Producción Cooperativa gestionan el 25% de los terrenos, las Cooperativas de Producción Agropecuaria un 8% y las Cooperativas de Créditos y Servicios el 38%, mientras que las granjas estatales administran un 29%, según cifras aportadas en 2015 durante el XI Congreso de la Asociación Nacional de Agricultores Pequeños (ANAP).

Los chistes populares ensalzan al marabú a la categoría de la palma real. Proponen reemplazar a este altivo emblema nacional del escudo de la República y en su lugar colocar la enmarañada anatomía de la especie invasora.

Hace una década Raúl Castro ironizó sobre el repudiado arbusto durante un discurso en Camagüey, en el acto oficial por el asalto al Cuartel Moncada. "Lo que más bonito estaba, lo que más resaltaba a mis ojos, era lo lindo que estaba el marabú a lo largo de toda la carretera", aseguró tras viajar desde La Habana hasta esa provincia central.

Después de aquella arenga, la cruzada contra el marabú cobró tintes de tarea ideológica y se convirtió en un símbolo del Gobierno raulista, junto a las promesas de erradicar la dualidad monetaria, poner freno a la corrupción y bajar los precios de los alimentos. Poco tiempo después, la batalla perdió entusiasmo y desapareció de las primeras planas.

Por ironías del destino, el enemigo vegetal se ha vuelto poco a poco un aliado. Desde ese mismo 2007 la empresa española Ibérica y Combustibles Sólidos (Ibecosol S.L.) comenzó a comercializar el carbón de marabú en varios países europeos. Su capacidad de quemar lentamente y el delicado sabor que agrega a los alimentos le han ganado una buena reputación.

Jorge Luis Ledesma Herrera conoce bien estas cualidades, porque parte del marabú que procesa termina en su propio fogón. Cada mañana pasa horas cortando los troncos que después acarrea en un carretón de bueyes. Su vida no es muy diferente a la que llevaba su abuelo, pero se ufana de poder contar con "electricidad legal" en un entorno donde abundan las tendederas y el bajo voltaje.

Describe el trabajo con el marabú como un verdadero infierno. La limitación principal está en los útiles de labor. Las hachas y los machetes son de mala calidad, comprados en el mercado negro y deben ser reparados todo el tiempo. Con ingenio, algunos han reciclado cuchillas de combinadas cañeras para auxiliarse en el corte.

A unos doscientos metros de la casa del campesino se extiende la explanada donde monta el horno. La tierra está quemada y parece más fina, como polvo negro. Debe calentar el marabú a temperaturas entre 400 y 700 °C, apilar la leña en un cono, y cubrirla con paja y tierra por encima.

"Hace dos meses saqué un horno que calculé en 20 sacos -aproximadamente media tonelada- y comenzó a llover. Aunque la lluvia duró solo unos minutos, el carbón caliente crepitaba como vidrio roto ", cuenta el pinareño. "Solo pude salvar cinco sacos", recuerda.

En la cercana Artemisa, Joaquín Díaz, de 56 años, también se dedica a la fabricación del carbón desde que era un niño. Hace años que usa el marabú para cocinar pero ahora, con la noticia de su exportación, lo procesa con más delicadeza y cuida con más atención los hornos. Al igual que Ledesma, solo tiene acceso al agua a través de un pozo, hace sus necesidades en una letrina fuera de la vivienda y su casa es de cubierta ligera.

Este productor del poblado de Fierro, en el municipio de San Cristóbal, aguanta los pinchazos del rebelde arbusto y, como otros agricultores, usa guantes de jardinería para protegerse. Mantener los ojos lejos de las espinas también forma parte de sus precauciones. Cuando levanta un horno, trata de que no quede hueco entre un palo y otro para que "no se ahogue y apague". El cuidado es esencial. "Mientras suelte humo blanco, la leña no está quemada", solo estará listo para desmontar cuando éste sea azul, lo que puede tardar una semana o más, explica el artemiseño.

En Pinar del Río, las empresas que compran el carbón a los campesinos son las estatales Acopio y la Empresa Forestal Integral. El pago se realiza a través de un contrato temporal que permite hacerlo directamente y no a través de las cooperativas. Los campesinos evitan así el gravamen que esas entidades cobran por hacer efectivos los cheques de pago.

El Estado paga el carbón a 1,20 CUP el kilogramo al por mayor (30 CUP por saco de 25 kilogramos) y después de seleccionar el carbón de primera paga 0,10 CUC por kilogramo. Con suerte, el productor se embolsa el equivalente a 150 dólares por cada tonelada de óptima calidad que la empresa estatal comercializa a 420 dólares en Estados Unidos, casi el triple de lo que obtiene el campesino.

Sin embargo, la venta al Estado tiene muchos problemas de atraso en el pago y "lo amañado del proceso de selección y pesaje del carbón de primera, hace que sea más seguro venderlo a los particulares", aclara Ledesma. El comprador particular paga a 40 CUP por saco y "muchos dueños de pizzerías y restaurantes de Pinar del Río" llegan hasta el lugar para abastecerse.

Ledesma sueña con poder vender su carbón de marabú directamente, sin tener como intermediario al Estado. "Si eso pudiera hacerse me compraba una motosierra para aumentar la producción y así podría cambiar la forma en que vivo". Claro, reflexiona, si fuera así, "hasta los médicos vendrían a hacer hornos en El Guacho".

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