CubaBrief: Why protests started in Nuevitas. Religious in solidarity with victims of repression. Electricity for luxury hotels, not everyday Cubans. Emilio Bacardi at 100.

Yoani Sanchez explains why protests started in Nuevitas, and it has to do with revolutionary expectations not being met. Electricity for luxury hotels prioritized, but everyday Cubans left in the dark by the communist dictatorship..

Religious conference expresses solidarity with victims of repression, and highlights protests in Nuevitas. The centennial of the death of Emilio Bacardi Moreau, the first democratically elected mayor of Santiago, Cuba reminds Cubans of the democratic republic that was lost, and the courage needed to regain it.

Religious men and women in solidarity with victims of repression in Cuba

The Cuban Conference of Religious Men and Women (CONCUR) in a August 27, 2022 Facebook post gave a message of solidarity with the hundreds of citizens persecuted or arrested by the Cuban dictatorship during protests that began on August 19th in the town of Nuevitas: “As religious life calls us to be alongside the suffering people, we make ours the cry of the multitudes in different communities of the country and more recently in Nuevitas, Camagüey, demanding a response to their basic needs and their desire to be able to express themselves in freedom.”

Protest in Nuevitas, Cuba in August 2022.

There are over 1,000 identified political prisoners today in Cuba. This includes Cuban artists Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel Castillo Pérez of the San Isidro Movement. Yesterday some of their friends gathered on the television program Canatalo TV highlighted the cases of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel Castillo Pérez.

Iris Ruiz, wife of artivist Amaury Pacheco, explained that in recent weeks Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara,  the leader of the San Isidro Movement (MSI) “has been in a punishment cell, deprived of making phone calls and they do not give him his materials to paint. She warned that all political prisoners have undergone similar repression.”

Maykel Castillo Pérez “Osorbo” and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara prior to their present jailing.

CiberCuba reports that Maykel Castillo Pérez “Osorbo” suffers from some kind of disease that causes hard bumps under the skin and although biopsies have been performed, they do not trust the official diagnosis. “This has been a very long process,” said activist Anamely Ramos. “It was clear that something had to be done to save Maykel’s life, because we don’t even know what’s wrong with him.” 

Why did protests break out in Nuevitas?

Yoani Sanchez in an August 23rd piece republished in the Havana TimesWhy the Protests in Nuevitas, Camaguey, Cuba?” explained that “in the 1960s, some guerrillas who had just come to power decided to turn it into the ‘industrial city’ of the country, a Caribbean icon of development and modernity.” According to Yoani, “those who packed their bags in other provinces of Cuba and moved to Nuevitas, believing that if socialism was going to bear its first fruits of prosperity and bonanza somewhere, it would be in that piece of land with the smell of the sea. But the bubble burst at the end of the 1980s, when the Soviet subsidy, essential to maintaining that showcase, began to fade.” …”Those who took to the streets on August 19 were, for the most part, the children of those who were made to believe that this beautiful seaport could only experience better times, evolution and splendor.”

Revolutionary priorities in Cuba: Electricity prioritized for luxury hotels, not every day Cubans.

The Grand Aston in Havana inaugurated in March 2022, has electricity while surrounding neighborhoods do without. (Photo: 14ymedio)

The Minister of Energy and Mines, Liván Arronte Cruz, declared that maintaining Cuba’s national electricity system “is expensive” and Edier Guzmán Pacheco, director of Thermal Generation of the Electric Union of Cuba (UNE), explained which blocks or units are out of service and how much it will cost to recover them. Adding up the figures provided by the staff member, he said the amount would be between $245 million and $265 million.

Cuban government officials claim they do not have the money to repair thermoelectric plants, some of which haven’t been maintained for years, but they do have money to build  five-star hotels, and construction hasn’t slowed. For example, the K Tower of El Vedado  built by the Gaesa military conglomerate, that some specialists estimate, cost a minimum of 200 million dollars; an amount that would repair and update most of the thermoelectric plants in Cuba. The money invested in the thermoelectric plants would help millions of Cubans with stable access to electricity, but not enrich the military junta’s coffers with tourist dollars is the ruling class’s thinking.

Emilio Bacardi Moreau on the centennial of his death

​Emilio Bacardi Moreau (1844 – 1922)

Emilio Bacardi Moreau after a life of entrepreneurship and patriotic service, died 100 years ago on August 28, 1922, of a heart ailment in Santiago de Cuba, the city of his birth. The city of Santiago suspended all public events for two days to mourn and celebrate the life of who they had nicknamed “Cuba’s foremost son.” He conspired against Spanish colonialism, was repeatedly exiled, and his son served as an officer in combat against Spanish forces under Antonio Maceo. 

Paying their respects to Emilio Bacardi Moreau following his death in August 1922

Elements of the Cuban regime have tried to co-opt  his memory on the centennial of Emilio Bacardi’s death, but the life he lived is the antithesis of Castroism.

Angel Castro, Fidel and Raul Castro’s father fought for the Spanish crown against Cuban independence. Castro’s father, Angel, according to the 2016 TV3 documentary, “Franco and Fidel: A Strange Friendship” had a photo of Francisco Franco on his nightstand. On Franco’s death in 1975, Fidel Castro decreed three days of mourning in Cuba for the Spanish despot, in an official decree rubber stamped by Cuban president Oswaldo Dorticós.

During the Republic, the Bacardi family not only had enlightened business practices, but also engaged in civic activities that promoted a Cuban democratic culture. Emilio Bacardi was the first democratically elected mayor of Santiago de Cuba. His reputation for honesty and public service earned him a seat in the Cuban national senate in 1906.

Each time that a dictatorship arose in Cuba, the Bacardi’s joined the democratic resistance. A tradition they have continued to the present day, but since 1960, when Bacardi’s assets were illegally taken by the Castro regime, they have done it from exile.

Catholic News Agency, August 30, 2022

Religious stand in solidarity with those arrested during repression of protests in Cuba

Citizen protests against the Cuban regime in Nuevitas, Camagüey, August 2022. | Photo credit: Video capture / Twitter

By CNA Staff

Denver Newsroom, Aug 30, 2022 / 11:00 am

The Cuban Conference of Religious Men and Women (CONCUR) on Aug. 27 posted on Facebook a message of solidarity with the hundreds of citizens persecuted or arrested by the Cuban dictatorship during protests last week in the town of Nuevitas in Camagüey province.

“As religious life calls us to be alongside the suffering people, we make ours the cry of the multitudes in different communities of the country and more recently in Nuevitas, Camagüey, demanding a response to their basic needs and their desire to be able to express themselves in freedom,” CONCUR said in their statement.

“We deplore that persecution and imprisonment are the only response they have received,” the statement continued.

Beginning on Aug. 19, the Cuban regime for several days cracked down on the massive protests against power outages — up to 18 hours every day — that the city has undergone for several weeks.

Some videos posted on social media show a number of people in the streets with flashlights, cell phones, and clanging saucepans, protesting against the regime of President Miguel Díaz-Canel and demanding electricity be restored.

On its social media, the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Justicia 11J said it documented “forced disappearances, arrests, and new incidents of censorship and repression” between Aug. 23 and 24.

“Our figures amount to 18 arrested (including two 11-year-old girls) plus two new forced disappearances. At the time of the posting of this update, the Nuevitas park is completely militarized,” the NGO reported Aug. 24.

In its statement, CONCUR reminded that as a Church, “we offer ourselves once again to accompany detained persons and their families.”

“We ask the good God, Father of all, and the Our Lady of Charity to protect and guide all our people along the paths of freedom, justice, and peace,” the religious concluded.

Independent media from the island point out that the protests in Camagüey are the largest since the historic protests of July 11–12, 2021.

Calling for freedom, the protesters cited concerns about inflation, shortages of food and medicine, and the poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some protesters were beaten and hundreds were arrested, with some given summary trials without a defense lawyer.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/252158/religious-stand-in-solidarity-with-those-arrested-during-repression-of-protests-in-cuba

Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter, August 28, 2022

Cuba’s foremost son Emilio Bacardi Moreau on the centennial of his death

#BacardiCubaLibre

Emilio Bacardi Moreau died 100 years ago today.

Emilio Bacardi Moreau was born in Santiago de Cuba on June 5, 1844, the son of Facundo Bacardí Massó, and after a life of entrepreneurship and patriotic service, he died 100 years ago today on August 28, 1922, of a heart ailment. He was 78 years old. The city of Santiago suspended all public events for two days to mourn and celebrate his life. He had been nicknamed “Cuba’s foremost son.”

Elements of the Cuban regime have tried to observe this anniversary and co-opt the Bacardi name, but the Bacardi family is the antithesis of the Castro family and Castroism in Cuban history through to the present day.

A history of the Bacardi family written by Tom Gjelten, a reporter for National Public Radio titled Bacardi and The Long Fight for Cuba :The Biography of a Cause  explored their role in Cuba’s independence.  A 2008 review of the book in The New York Times by Randy Kennedy touches on the figure of Emilio Bacardi Moreau.

“Emilio Bacardi, especially, comes to life as the book’s most powerful character, though one so strange that Gabriel García Márquez might have invented him. Emilio was imprisoned twice by Spain off the coast of Morocco for his revolutionary activities. But he still managed to hold the company together, to serve as Santiago’s mayor during the unsettled years of the American occupation, to help found a salon called the Victor Hugo Freethinker Group, to practice
theosophy in a predominantly Catholic country and to track down a genuine mummy on a trip to Egypt, which he bought as the centerpiece for a museum he had founded in San­tiago.”

His son Emilio Bacardi Lay actively took part in Cuba’s war of independence. In 1895, he was a field officer for General Antonio Maceo during the invasion of Cuba by independence forces. He reached the rank of colonel by the age of 22.

Emilio Bacardi Lay ( Source: Cuba en la memoria )

In 1895, José Martí landed a boat just east of Santiago, beginning Cuba’s second war of independence. Martí was soon killed in battle. Emilio Bacardi Moreau, who had taken the reins of the Bacardi company, was a disciple of Martí and took great risks during the wars of independence, resulting in his forced exile with his family, on the isle of Chafarinas off the coast of Africa and in Jamaica during the Ten Years War, and during the second war of independence.

Emilio Bacardi Moreau as a young man.

In contrast, Angel Castro, Fidel and Raul Castro’s father fought for the Spanish crown against Cuban independence. Castro’s father, Angel, according to the 2016 TV3 documentary, “Franco and Fidel: A Strange Friendship” had a photo of Francisco Franco on his nightstand.

During the Republic, the Bacardi family not only had enlightened business practices but also engaged in civic activities that promoted a Cuban democratic culture. Emilio Bacardi was the first democratically elected mayor of Santiago de Cuba. His reputation for honesty and public service led to his election to Cuba’s national senate in 1906. This tradition continued in later Bacardi generations. Each time that a dictatorship arose in Cuba under Gerardo Machado in the 1930s, and later Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s, the Bacardis joined the democratic resistance.

The Castro brothers emerged from the worst elements of political gangsterism to impose a dictatorship that has lasted 63 years. The new dictatorship illegally confiscated Bacardi’s assets in Cuba on October 15, 1960, attempted to seize their licenses, and trademarks, but failed.

Bacardi Imports, Inc., re-established its headquarters in Miami in 1963 after having been based for a century in Santiago de Cuba. Emilio Bacardi Lay, who was born in Santiago de Cuba on June 12, 1877, died in exile in Miami on October 14, 1972 at the age of 95. He was the last surviving ranking officer from Cuba’s war of independence with Spain.

On Francisco Franco’s death in 1975, Fidel Castro decreed three days of mourning in Cuba for the Spanish despot, in an official decree rubber stamped by Cuban president Oswaldo Dorticós.

Bacardi in the diaspora would continue to make world class rum, to win awards for their quality, and expand as a business. They would also continue their traditions of service, enlightened stewardship of their company, and support for a democratic Cuba.

Biography of the Bacardi family by Tom Gjelten

This is the history that the Castro dynasty would like to erase or alter. 

Meanwhile, to all who read this please consider that if you wish to make a toast to freedom then do it with Bacardi. 

https://cubanexilequarter.blogspot.com/2022/08/cubas-foremost-son-emilio-bacardi.html

Translating Cuba, August 27, 2022

‘There Is No Money’ to Repair Thermoelectric Plants in Cuba, But There is Money to Invest in Luxury Hotels

Maintenance and repair work of the Felton thermoelectric power plant, in Mayarí, shown on national television. (Captura)

14ymedio, Madrid, 25 August 2022 — The panorama of Cuba’s national electricity system offered by the officials who appeared on State TV’s Roundtable program on Wednesday is catastrophic and, from what they said, will continue to be so for many more months. The Minister of Energy and Mines himself, Liván Arronte Cruz, declared that maintaining it “is expensive” – installing a megawatt (MW) of new power, he explained, costs between one million and 1.6 million dollars – and “it’s not possible to ensure everything.”

After the minister spoke, Edier Guzmán Pacheco, director of Thermal Generation of the Electric Union of Cuba (UNE), explained which blocks or units are out of service and how much it will cost to recover them. Adding up the figures provided by the staff member, the amount would be between $245 million and $265 million.

Specifically, Guzmán Pacheco explained that the Island has “20 thermal blocks” of which only 16 are available. “We have lost four generating blocks, many of them due to large breakdowns,” he said.

These lost units are blocks 6 and 7 of the Máximo Gómez Thermoelectric Power Plant (CTE), in Mariel; block 2 of the Lidio Ramón Pérez CTE, in Felton, in the Holguin municipality of Mayarí, and block 4 of the Diez de Octubre plant, in Nuevitas (Camagüey), precisely where there have been the latest protests.

At the Mariel plant, unit 7 burned down on March 7, and the fire affected unit 6, which was only six months old. To reassemble turbine 7, Guzmán Pacheco acknowledged, “we don’t have the financing,” between 90 and 100 million dollars, he said.

Another fire, on July 8, was also what ruined Unit 2 in Felton, for which the Government has a budget of $55 million. “We don’t have that funding at the moment,” the official repeated.

Felton is also in full maintenance, the authorities reported on the program, and the estimated time for its full recovery will be, they said, “not less than one year.”

As for block 4 of Nuevitas, it will be the first to be ready, “in 40 days,” Guzmán Pacheco said, despite the fact that, at the same time, the “100 or 110 million euros” that the repair costs is “also an amount that we don’t have… We are seeking financing options, looking for credit options that allow us to make this block work,” he said.

If the 20 blocks were working, explained the director of the UNE, they would provide a total of 2,608 MW to the electricity system. With the four breakdowns, they give 2,042 MW. However, these are not constant either, “due to breakdowns and maintenance.”

As of yesterday, for example, block 2 of the Ernesto Guevara CTE, in Santa Cruz del Norte (Mayabeque), was damaged, and blocks 3 of Antonio Maceo, known as Renté, in Santiago de Cuba, and 1 of Felton, were “under maintenance.”

It’s not surprising, if you take into account this other figure provided on the Roundtable program: the average age of Cuba’s electric plants exceeds 35 years.

As usual, officials again blamed the situation on the U.S. embargo. “Due to the financing limitations and the economic siege of the blockade, we cannot count on the continuous participation of technical assistance that allows us to assimilate this technology,” Guzmán Pacheco said.

However, the lack of money for the repair of thermoelectric plants, some of which, they acknowledged, haven’t been maintained for a decade, contrasts with the financing of five-star hotels, whose construction doesn’t stop.

According to estimates by architects, the cost per room in a five-star hotel is 200,000 euros. In other words, an establishment like the 250-room Royalton Habana would have had a construction cost of 50 million, and a hotel with 100 rooms, 20 million.

Regarding the controversial K Tower of El Vedado — also called “López-Calleja tower” because it’s the work of the Gaesa military conglomerate, commanded until his recent death by Raúl Castro’s former son-in-law — some specialists have ventured its cost at a minimum of 200 million dollars; that is, almost the equivalent of the total investment needed to repair and update all the thermoelectric plants.

Translated by Regina Anavy

https://translatingcuba.com/there-is-no-money-to-repair-thermoelectric-plants-in-cuba-but-there-is-money-to-invest-in-luxury-hotels/

Havana Times, August 23, 2022

Why the Protests in Nuevitas, Camaguey, Cuba?

August 23, 2022

The Municipality of Nuevitas north of Camagüey, Cuba. (Radio Nuevitas / Facebook)

By Yoani Sanchez (14ymedio)

HAVANA TIMES – The disproportionate repression against the protests of July 11 of last year had a very clear objective: to prevent people from again taking to the streets to demand democratic change in Cuba. The excessive prison sentences handed down by the courts also sought to send a message of terror that would paralyze any manifestation of dissent. However, the method of instilling fear did not work, and last Friday the residents of Nuevitas, in Camagüey, once again showed civic muscle by chanting “freedom” and “the people united will never be defeated.”

For two consecutive days, social outrage materialized in loud demands, the banging of pots and pans and defense – in the face of police violence and arrests – among residents who exercised their right to public and peaceful demonstration. What has followed is the old script of a dying regime that knows it does not enjoy the support of the people. A strong operation was deployed in that Camagüey municipality, especially in the Pastelillo neighborhood, where the most intense protests took place. There is already talk of dozens of arrests, a militarized town and the blocking of internet access.

In the midst of this stand-off between the libertarian desires of the citizens and the police tonfas, the question arises as to why the most important popular outburst after the 11 July 2021 protests has happened precisely in Nuevitas. With its seaport, the city has the cosmopolitan influence stemming from a long interaction with sailors, and was shaped by trade between worlds, its coastline and its customs activities. In the 1960s, some guerrillas who had just come to power decided to turn it into the “industrial city” of the country, a Caribbean icon of development and modernity.

A factory making barbed wire factory, another making cement, a thermoelectric plant and a plant dedicated to the production of fertilizers were part of that dream of innovation. In those years, there were those who packed their bags in other provinces of Cuba and moved to Nuevitas, believing that if socialism was going to bear its first fruits of prosperity and bonanza somewhere, it would be in that piece of land with the smell of the sea. But the bubble burst at the end of the 1980s, when the Soviet subsidy, essential to maintaining that showcase, began to fade.

After that, everything has gone downhill for Nuevitas. Deterioration of its infrastructure, industries shut down or operating at half strength, inflation, salaries that are not even enough to cover the first week of the month, the exodus of its young people, food shortages, few recreational opportunities and power cuts. The blackouts this summer gave the final blow to a population tired of cutting back on their dreams. Those who took to the streets on August 19 were, for the most part, the children of those who were made to believe that this beautiful seaport could only experience better times, evolution and splendor.

Those who banged on their pots and shouted insults at Miguel Díaz-Canel are the ones who grew up seeing how the sugar mills in the area were dismantled little by little, observing the decline in the flow of ships in the port, the dwindling of products in the markets and the money ever scarcer in their pockets. They, who were going to be the engineers and technicians who would enjoy the abundance of Cuban communism, are now segregated for not having foreign currency and must ask their emigrant relatives to help them buy whatever they need, from a liter of vegetable oil to a fan to alleviate the heat.

It is no coincidence that it is Nuevitas that is the epicenter of social unrest. They made them believe that they would touch the technological peaks, but now they spend more than ten hours a day with blackouts, they fan their children through the night so that the mosquitoes will allow them to sleep even a little ,and they press their faces against the windows of the stores that take payment only in Freely Convertible Currency to observe everything that they cannot acquire. What was going to be the “Industrial City of the Island” is today the best reflection of the national disaster.

Translation by Translating Cuba

Nuevitas, Camaguey, Cuba. Map: Weather Forecast.com