CUBA BRIEF: Political police go on wild goose chase, What Life Is Like for Jews in Cuba, While tourists drink water out of a bottle, Cubans ration and boil theirs

CubaBrief: Cuban political police go on wild goose chase on the eve of Cuban Independence Day according to Spanish language article published by Cubanet. You can read the article in Spanish at the end of this CubaBrief.

The repression unleashed to avoid the celebration of May 20th in the Island denotes that the dictatorship is nervous.

Suddenly the officers and adulators of the political police of dictator Raul Castro thought that thousands of human rights defenders in Cuba would go to the esplanade of La Punta, on the Malecon, to celebrate May 20, as it was done the first time in 1902, when the Republic arose. In the middle of the night on the 19th, they hastened to attack the thousands of opponents.

They visited their houses, located even at great distances of the capital, and made telephone calls to telegram their threats and warnings … They probably spent a lot more Venezuelan gasoline than they used on May 1st to transport their grateful cattle to the Plaza and even the ETECSA telephone lines were congested.

Mosaic, May 11, 2017

What Life Is Like for Jews in Cuba

By Dovid Margolin

Dovid Margolin is an associate editor at

Less than four hours from New York by plane, the dreamy island destination of Cuba—fabled home to vintage American cars, Hemingway mojitos, and charming pastel-colored buildings, and so long closed off to the average American—is easy to get to today. I landed in Havana on the December 2016 day when Fidel Castro’s ashes were buried in the city of Santa Clara, the culmination of nine days of state-imposed, nation-wide mourning.

For generations of leftists, Havana’s fading glory—so unlike the austere grayness of the former Communist eastern bloc—carried a special allure; Cuba under Castro, wrote the late French historian François Furet, “represented a Latin paradise and communitarian warmth.” Now that Americans can easily visit this “Latin paradise,” where the propaganda posters continue to function as ever-present reminders of just who’s boss—yesterday Fidel, today his brother Raúl—I jumped at the opportunity to see first-hand the realities of life for, in particular, its remaining Jews.

Throughout its lifespan as a Communist nation, the Soviet Union held captive one of the largest Jewish populations on earth. By contrast, 94 percent of Cuba’s Jewish community left soon after Castro’s revolution, escaping to the freedom of the United States or Israel. If Jews and Jewish groups visiting their brethren in the Soviet Union back in the 70s and 80s brought books, ritual objects, or humanitarian aid and returned with news of fear, oppression, and poverty, many of today’s Jewish travelers to Communist Cuba return with a message considerably more upbeat. [More]


The Miami Herald, May 25, 2017

While tourists drink water out of a bottle, Cubans ration and boil a limited supply

By Briana Erickson
Special to the Miami Herald

Men sit on the steps and play a hand of cards, women chat outside barred windows, stray dogs missing tufts of fur trot by.

Up the steep concrete steps, a multi-generational family of seven shares a pastel blue apartment and the basic rations common in Cuba — including a sparse and potentially unclean water supply that sloshes around in a dark, old cistern just inside the doorway.

Cuba seems like a water-rich country, with abundant rainfall, rivers crisscrossing the island and groundwater that bubbles up in turquoise springs.

But it has always struggled to provide enough fresh water for its people.

Part of the problem is that the water isn’t where the people are. While Cuba’s capital city is in the wetter western part of the country, its population of over 2.1 million means that it has less water per capita than many other regions. Atop distribution problems, Havana and other parts of the nation also lack sufficient infrastructure and water-quality treatment. The strain has worsened in recent years due to drought. [More]


14ymedio, May 26, 2017

In The Bank or Under the Mattress? Where Do Cubans Keep Their Money?

By Zunilda Mata   

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 25 May 2017 — Finding a little bottle filled with coins that her father hid in the patio was something that happened to Eneida when she was young; now she’s a retired and says that financially she’s “escachada, without a single peso in the bank.” Her family inherited an old mansion in the center of Santa Clara, and also the determination not to put their savings in the hands of the state.

Each month, the pensioner goes to the nearest ATM, takes out the amount of her retirement, equivalent to about $12, and stores it inside an old coffee can. “I prefer to have it close because in most stores there are problems paying with a magnetic card.”

The Santa Claran also fears the authorities because, in her opinion, “you never know when they will confiscate something.”

Eneida has bad memories. Her father owned a bodega that was nationalized during the 1968 Revolutionary Offensive, and before that the small business owner had lost some of his savings with the paper currency swap decreed by the government in 1961. “He kept in the house what little they didn’t take from him,” recalls his daughter.  [More]


14ymedio, May 26, 2017

The Future Is Built With Cement … But There Isn’t Any

By Reinaldo Escobar

Havana, 26 May 2017 — The cranes show off their slender anatomy in some areas of Havana where several luxury hotels are being built. Apart from this landscape of progress, private construction and repairs face technological problems and shortages. This week it has been cement’s turn.

“This is the third time I have come and I am leaving with an empty wheelbarrow,” a customer on the hunt for construction materials complained Thursday in the Havana’s La Timba neighborhood. The employee standing behind the counter confirmed that “they are sending less than before and every day more people come to try to buy it.”

To send, to arrive and to supply are the verbs used to refer to the state distribution of any product, be it eggs, milk powder, or tiles to cover a roof. There is an enormous supply chain responsible for distributing construction materials, in a country where 39% of the housing stock is in “regular or poor” condition.

Since the beginning of the year, gray cement has become the biggest headache for those involved in construction, a situation that has worsened in recent weeks.

Several employees in the stores in the capital specializing in construction materials and that sell their goods in convertible pesos, told 14ymedio that since the beginning of 2017 they have not received cement. [More]


Cubanet, 23 de mayo de 2017

¡A correr oficiales raulistas!

La represión desatada para evitar la celebración del 20 de Mayo en la Isla denota que la dictadura está con los pelos de punta

Por Tania Díaz Castro

LA HABANA, Cuba.- De pronto pensaron los oficiales y tracatanes de la policía política del dictador Raúl Castro que los miles de defensores de los Derechos Humanos en Cuba irían a la explanada de la Punta, en el Malecón habanero, a celebrar el 20 de Mayo, como se hizo la primera vez en 1902, cuando surgió la República. A plena noche del día 19, se apresuraron a atajar a los miles de opositores.

Visitaron sus casas, ubicadas hasta en repartos lejanos de la capital, e hicieron llamadas telefónicas a tutiplén, amenazando, advirtiendo…

Seguramente gastaron mucha más gasolina venezolana de la que utilizaron el 1ro de mayo para transportar su ganado agradecido ala Plaza y hasta las líneas telefónicas de ETECSA quedaroncongestionadas.

Estoy segura que despertaron a los líderes Marta Beatriz Roque, a Cuesta Morúa, a Oscar Elías Biscet, a Berta Soler, a Guillermo Fariñas, allá en la provincia de Santa Clara, a Rodiles, al abogadoRené Gómez Manzano y a un centenar de periodistas independientes que escriben para los portales independientes bloqueados por orden de Raúl, esos que dicen demasiadas verdades sobre su fracasada administración.

Al periodista José Fornaris, presidente de la Asociación Pro Libertad de Prensa (APLP), lo llamaron a su celular para prohibirle una reunión que programaba con vistas a celebrar el 20 de Mayo en su domicilio. Y, el colmo de los colmos, llegaron a los confines de lacomunidad de Santa Fe, al oeste de La Habana, para despertar a esta anciana octogenaria y minusválida y a sus perros para advertirle en tono de esbirro nazi, que no se atreviera a ir a la casa de Fornaris.