Reports from Cuba: Standing water causes dengue fever outbreaks in Arroyo Naranjo

By Yosmany Mayeta in Translating Cuba:

Standing Water Causes Dengue Fever Outbreaks In Arroyo Naranjo
Only in the central market Carlos III is a bottle with less than 3.5 ounces of insect repellent available at a price of 1.65 CUC, the equivalent of two days wages.

14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta, Havana, 10 February 2016 — Unexpected rains earlier this year have required the strengthening of anti-vector campaigns against the Aedes aegypti mosquito. In several areas of the Arroyo Naranjo district, in Havana, standing water has caused an increase in cases of dengue fever, according to public health sources.

Maria Mendoza, a doctor with the Mantilla Polyclinic, said that in recent weeks more than twenty people with fevers have been reported in the area, and others have gone to the doctor with symptoms characteristic of dengue fever. “The situation is quite serious,” the specialist added.

A doctor at Julio Trigo Hospital details that rooms for people with dengue fever remain full because “this municipality has several unhealthy neighborhoods and slums, many streets are unpaved and the sewers are not working.” The doctor fears that under such conditions “zika will come to the country and we’ll have a situation favorable to its propagation.”

The problem is worsened by the shortage of repellents and mosquito nets in the stores in the city. A search conducted by this newspaper in shops and markets in Havana, including pharmacies that sell products both in local currency and in convertible pesos, confirms the scarce supply of these products.

Only in the centrally located Carlos III market, in Central Havana, was it possible to find a bottle with less than 3.5 ounces of repellent, and the price was 1.65 convertible pesos (CUC), equivalent to two days’ wages. Mosquito nets, meanwhile, are only for sale in departments for newborns, at small sizes and prices that exceed 15 CUC (more than $15 US).

Cases of patients who are not reported to any health center are also increasing. Many prefer to endure the illness at home rather than in a hospital, where hygienic and supply problems abound. In the case of Lucia, who had “fever, headache, red spots all over my skin,” she declined to be admitted. “”I didn’t even tell my family doctor,” she said.

TV ads warn that when a person is infected with dengue and is bitten by the Aedes aegypti mosquito it acts as a bridge to transmit the virus to others. If the patient does not remain isolated under a net, the chances of infecting family members and neighbors increases significantly.

As a part of urgent measures to eradicate the infestation in the most affected areas of Arroyo Naranjo, family physicians have developed plans for educational talks in the neighborhoods with the highest rate of infestation. In Las Manzanas, with an increased number of identified cases, they have also increased fumigation and inspections for breeding sites and larvae.

Jorge, a vector campaign worker in the Fraternidad neighborhood, explains that “with these rains, the mosquito lays her eggs anywhere water collects and this is how the epidemic grows.” He also warns, “Another danger is the accumulated garbage on street corners and makeshift dumps that trigger outbreaks.”

For many residents in the district, the greatest danger in the area is no longer badly lit streets or the frequent robberies, rather it takes the form of a small mosquito that spreads the dreaded “Breakbone Fever.”

The Zika virus and Cuba: The buzz on U.S.-Cuba diplomacy

zika cuba mosquito

By Sherri Porcelain in UM’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies’ Cuba Focus:

The Buzz on U.S. – Cuba Diplomacy

In an increasingly borderless world with greater speed, further reach and quicker exchange, both old and new diseases have gone global. Unlike the restriction of other undesirables there is no wall to prevent migrating mosquitoes from freely traveling. As a result, the rise in mosquito-borne diseases such as the Zika virus – along with dengue and chikungunya viral infections- has spread rapidly throughout the Americas. The main culprit is the highly resilient aedes aegypti mosquito that has skillfully adapted to environmental changes.

According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the regional arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), 22 countries and territories in the Americas have reported transmission of the Zika virus since the first locally acquired cases were confirmed in Brazil in May 2015. In the U.S. there are more than thirty confirmed cases of the Zika virus from people who traveled to countries with known transmission, two from Miami-Dade County, and no locally acquired cases identified at this time.
Cuba, however, remains silent.

Cuba’s year of unprecedented drought, impact of natural disasters, and failing infrastructure of deteriorating water, sewage, and housing systems forms a perfect storm for the reality of a mosquito population explosion. This is especially significant since the aedes aegypti mosquito, which can also transmit yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya and Zika virus, resides in Cuba with ongoing dengue transmission.

As of January 28, 2015 Haiti and Dominican Republic report local transmission of the Zika virus, suggesting it is likely to have also reached Cuba. Although we know Cuba still reports no cases of chikungunya which seems highly unlikely since according to PAHO statistics, all countries and territories in the Hispanic Caribbean, other Caribbean, in additional to Central and most South American countries and the United States have reported imported and local transmission occurrences since late 2013. (Refer to map link provided below)

In my research I interviewed people who traveled to communities in Cuba in November 2015. They shared stories of both dengue and cholera in the Santiago de Cuba province, and well beyond the Holguin region where there have been officially reported cases. No one denies that Cuba conducts active surveillance with proactive community strategies to reduce the mosquito population and promote improved hygiene. Nevertheless when someone becomes ill with dengue or cholera, the Cuban government’s false denial is obvious with the use of euphemistic terms such as a febrile illness or gastro intestinal upset.

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Video of the Day – Cuba Debate between Mauricio Claver-Carone and William LeoGrande on PBS

mcc pbs

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

NPR’s Weekend in Washington Debate: Claver-Carone vs. LeoGrande on Cuba Policy

A few months ago, NPR‘s famous Weekend in Washington event featured a Cuba debate between CHC Editor Mauricio Claver-Carone and American University Professor William LeoGrande.

It was entitled “The U.S. and Cuba: Changing Policy, Changing Relations.

Director of National Intelligence: Cuba joins Russia, China, and Iran as greatest espionage threats to U.S.

Via Cuba Confidential:

Director of National Intelligence Tells Congress: Russia, China, Iran & Cuba Pose Greatest Espionage Threat to US
Gen. James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence

In testimony yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General James R. Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, said (in part):

Moving to counterintelligence, the threat from foreign intelligence entities, both state and nonstate, is persistent, complex, and evolving. Targeting and collection of US political, military, economic, and technical information by foreign intelligence services continues unabated. Russia and China pose the greatest threat, followed by Iran and Cuba on a lesser scale. As well, the threat from insiders taking advantage of their access to collect and remove sensitive national security information will remain a persistent challenge for us.”

Complete testimony here:  DNI Testimony

Reports from Cuba: A Swede in Burundi, a Uruguayan in Cuba

Regina Coyula in Translating Cuba:

A Swede in Burundi, a Uruguayan in Cuba
Fernando Ravsberg

14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 10 February 2016 – The Uruguayan journalist Fernando Ravsberg has spent years living in Cuba. But after reading his article Uncle Sam’s Cuban Cousins, and pondering it, I think what happened to Ravsberg in Cuba is the same thing that happened to the “disoriented Swede in Burundi” he references in his article.

One finds errors in his article that are the fruit of original sin, because the journalist, despite his close following of national events, speaks of the opposition as a whole; it is never appropriate to speak in phrases such as, “this group,” or “the project opponents.” This is serious because Ravsberg’s blog is not censored in Cuba, many subscribe to it by email, and a reading of the article in question gives the false conclusion that the entire dissidence acts under the umbrella of the United States government although, according to his own words, this same dissidence, in a total contradiction, is trying to boycott the normalization of relations promoted by its master.

The whole article conveys the desire to see one part of the whole. The author’s antipathy toward the dissidence would not worry me if it were not that, as a communicator, he contributes with his opinions to confusing an already badly informed populace.

The journalist says that, “To sit at the negotiations table with the government, one needs be a real political force.” He does not recognize any dissenting voice as having rights, and ascribes to them a lack of legitimacy for supposedly acting as scribes for Washington. But Ravsberg is not candid and must know that no dissenting voice has been able to make itself heard, even when it respects legally established procedures.

When Oswaldo Paya tried to move forward the Varela Project – respectfully, autonomously, following the law, visible thanks to Jimmy Carter mentioning it in the Great Hall at the University of Havana, live and to the press – the government’s response was to ignore the initiative submitted to Parliament and, with an open collection of signatures under its own sponsorship, to modify the Constitution to make socialism an eternal system. But also eternal was its friendship with the Soviet Union and, like that one, there are other eternities that come to an end.

Most of the dissidents are not old enough to dream, as Ravsberg suggests, of “an invasion by the Marines,” nor suicidal enough to support “a blockade that would bring their compatriots to their knees through hunger.” I don’t know a single person who sympathizes with terrorism, but it seems inconceivable to me that a journalist who pretends to be knowledgeable about Cuban issues doesn’t know that even the “enemy” press has been cited on the Roundtable TV program in talking about the scandal of the misuse of money to “buy democracy in Cuba,” those 20 million dollars the author mentions in passing to make the unaware reader believe that this hard cash comes to Cuba year after year.

“To lose touch with reality can prove catastrophic in politics,” Ravsberg warns us. No sir, it IS catastrophic. For journalism as well, but that often happens in countries like ours when you don’t ride the bus, when you have someone who does your shopping for you, and you live in a bubble of functionaries, artists, entrepreneurs and other characters who always know someone who knows someone…

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Cuba, a false realm of redemption

The Editorial Board of Diario de Cuba:

Cuba, a false realm of redemption

Relations have been severed between the Roman Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church for almost a millennium, but now their two leaders will meet at the José Martí Airport for talks.

The establishment of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana and the progress made in the standoff between the two countries, that stems back half a century, seems to have burnished Cuba’s fame as an ideal site for diplomatic meetings. The Colombian government and that country’s guerrillas have met there to negotiate, and the Pope and Eastern patriarch will also seek to overcome a millennium of disagreements on the island. Kirill is touring Latin America, while Francis will stop over in Havana on his way to Mexico.

General Raúl Castro, who appeared in the picture in which Juan Manuel Santos and “Timoshenko” shook hands, will be on hand to host and facilitate this new event. The repressor of national dialogue and any and all differences in his country, and the head of the Hemisphere’s sole dictatorship, will once again receive the Pope’s blessing.

During his visit in September 2015 Francis exhibited signs of complicity with the regime. Though provided proof and news of its repressive ways, he decided to look the other way. By choosing Havana for this momentous meeting, rather than Mexico or another Latin American country, His Holiness furnishes the dictator with even more legitimacy, bolstering his role as a conciliatory figure.

With papal consent, the historic summit between the churches will again establish Cuba as a false realm of redemption, in which foreign clashes dating back centuries can be overcome – but where it is forbidden to even suggest the commencement of such talks between the host country’s own people.

Obama’s arbitrary decision to award Cuba’s dictatorship a trademark they stole questioned by bipartisan group of lawmakers

Although the U.S. has yet to receive anything of value from Cuba’s apartheid dictatorship in return for the multitude of concessions President Obama has showered on island’s apartheid dictatorship, the White House continues to lavish the murderous and criminally corrupt Castro regime with gifts. And in this case, the gift actually belongs to someone else.

Via The Wall Street Journal:

Lawmakers Question U.S. Decision to Give Rum Trademark to Cuba bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers said they are concerned about the Obama administration’s decision last month to award a trademark for Havana Club rum to the Cuban government.

In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on Tuesday, Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.), along with 23 other lawmakers, said they feared granting the trademark could undermine protections for American intellectual property rights holders.

Of the Democrats who signed on, eight of 11 are from Florida. Ms. Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, hasn’t enthusiastically embraced Mr. Obama’s policy shift with Cuba. She has said previously that she is considering the policy shift and hopes Mr. Obama will use it to press Cuba to improve human rights.

“I’ve been firmly committed to protecting the intellectual property rights of American companies, and I was pleased to join this letter with Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and many of my Florida colleagues,” she said in a separate statement, without singling out Cuba.

Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said the U.S. decision to grant the trademark to Cuba was “politically motivated” by the Obama administration’s move to normalize ties with Cuba.

“This original family’s factories and trademarks were confiscated by the Castro regime and the U.S. government should not take any action which would embolden any foreign entity that could confiscate U.S. trademarks and intellectual property,” she said.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control decided last month to grant a license to state-run Cubaexport to renew an expired trademark registration for Havana Club rum in a move that has reignited a decades long battle tension between Bacardi Ltd. and the Cuban government over the use of the Havana Club trademark in the U.S.

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The party is on in Cuba

communist party

University of Miami’s Dr. Jaime Suchlicki in the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies’ Cuba Focus:

The Party is On

The Cuban Communist Party will be holding its VII Party Congress in April, 2016. This comes amidst one of the worst economic conditions in half a century. Cuban export prices of nickel and sugar are at depression levels. Venezuela is reducing its exports of petroleum to the island. Tobacco growing is going thru a major crisis. Brazil and Venezuela seem less and less capable of paying for Cuban doctors, the most important export item of the Cuban economy. Cuba’s crumbling infrastructure requires billions to maintain and repair years of neglect. While tourism and remittances have increased significantly, they are not enough to deal with Cuba’s mounting economic problems and the growing impoverishment of its population.

These daunting problems will challenge an intransigent leadership unwilling to open and modernize the country. The Party, the leading force in the country, is a rubber stamp group supporting and approving the rulings of its Politburo. The 14 members of the Politburo (8 military and 6 civilians) led by General Raul Castro, is where the real power resides in Cuba. They are adamant about not opening the political process and continue to cling to a centralized planned economy, a model that failed in Eastern Europe and has failed in Cuba.

What to expect?

1. No political changes with continued repression.

2. The redefinition of the economic model along centralized planning with decentralized implementation.

3. The reduction in state subsidies and payrolls; minor steps allowing limited, private enterprises and more measures to attract foreign investment.

4. The retirement of older and the promotion of younger leaders that would guarantee a smooth and orderly succession once the original leadership disappears.

5. Two leaders, in particular, will be highlighted as guarantors of the continuity of the regime. General Alberto López-Callejas, General Raul Castro’s son-in-law and head of GAESA, the largest conglomerate of state businesses in the island, and Alejandro Castro Espin, Gen. Raul Castro’s son and currently a colonel in charge of coordinating the military and intelligence services in the country.

6. Gen. Raul Castro, which has promised to step down from Cuba’s presidency in 2018, most likely will be reelected as Secretary General of the Party, thus assuring that he will remain at the helm of the Party and the military; thus guaranteeing the continuity of the system. The appointed next president Miguel Díaz-Canel will be confirmed as a ceremonial figure.

The Cubans will watch in bewilderment and disappointment understanding that the tough times are not about to go away anytime soon. Disillusionment will increase as more people migrate.

Reports from Cuba: Castro regime censors blog calling Raul Castro responsible for UMAP

Diario de Cuba via Translating Cuba:

Castro Regime Censors Blog Calling Raul Castro Responsible For UMAP*

A blog on sexual diversity, Proyecto Arcoiris (Rainbow Project), housed in the government-run blogging platform Reflections, has been censored by the regime after addressing UMAP and publishing a text attributing the responsibility for it to Raul Castro, according to the Global Voices international network of bloggers.

Those responsible for censorship alleged that the blog broke the rules for participation on the site and that the text “defamed the Revolution,” explained blog author Yasmine Silvia Portales Machado to Global Voices .

The censored paragraph from the Rainbow Project blog that refers to the Military Units to Aid to the Population (UMAP) is hosted here; but currently readers get a message that says “This site has been archived or suspended.”

The fragment is part of the text “Cuba’s Mariela Castro and Historical Reparations,” published in December in Havana Times by activist and member of the Rainbow Arc Jimmy Roque Martinez.

Roque called on the General Raul Castro to apologize and accept responsibility for the internment of homosexuals in the UMAP camps.

From his point of view, not accepting responsibility and not apologizing for such acts “are proof of the homophobia” of the current leaders of the island and a sign that they are not repentant.

In the article, the activist says the General and others who are “still alive” as “those maximally” responsible for the camps where dissidents, religious and gay people were defined.

“It’s been 50 years since the creation of UMAP said Roque and not a single official has apologized to the people.”

He also said that “the minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) from that time is now the country’s president,” referring to Raul Castro.

“It is now time for them to apologize for that act of penalization, exclusion and punishment to which they subjected thousands of homosexuals and Cubans with ‘improper conduct’,” said the activist.

Roque demanded that “those responsible, every single one of them, must recognize their error, and ask for a real apology directly to the victims and their families, as the only way of historical reparation.”

The state platform Reflections groups blogs written from the island and is the only one from the island that provides this service. It is managed by the Youth Computer and Electronics Clubs (JCCE), under the Ministry of Communications.

Reflections is accessible from abroad, although it is not possible to create a blog from outside the island, nor to manage it from abroad even if it was created in Cuba. Operating a blog on Reflections requires that the blogger access the blog from a JCCE site.

Obama Cuba policy ’empowers’ Castro henchman in charge of apartheid regime’s human trafficking operation

President Obama’s Hope and Change Cuba policy continues to “empower” Cubans. The problem is that the only Cubans getting empowered are the Castros and the minions they entrust with running their murderous and repressive dictatorship.

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

Obama “Empowers” Castro Henchman on Human Trafficking
Colonel Mario Mendez Mayedo

Under a veil of secrecy, the Obama Administration acknowledged that it recently held “technical meetings” with the Cuban regime on human trafficking.

The meetings took place from February 1-4 in Miami, Florida.

Yet, the State Department didn’t acknowledge the meetings until February 5 — and perhaps wouldn’t have done so if The Miami Herald hadn’t been tipped off and revealed it.

Perhaps the secrecy was partly due to the unsavory characters being flown in for the meetings — let alone their content.

The Cuban regime was represented by a nefarious henchman from Castro’s Ministry of the Interior (MININT) — Colonel Mario Mendez Mayedo.

The MININT is the organ of Castro’s domestic state security and secret police apparatus. It’s responsible for vigilance, espionage and political repression. It’s akin to the Soviet KGB or East German Stasi.

Specifically, Col. Mendez Mayedo is the head of the MININT’s Identification, Immigration and Foreigners department.

In this role, he is responsible for the national identity-card that keeps track of all Cubans, their whereabouts, networks and activities. He is also responsible for tracking the movement of all foreigners who visit Cuba.

(Isn’t it curious how just two days before Obama’s announcement on December 17th, 2014, the MININT announced a new system for Cubans who run “casa particulares” that immediately reports and identifies foreigners staying in their homes?)

The MININT spares no expense for the latest technology to monitor all Cubans, particularly their political activities. They also keep a watchful tab on every foreigner who visits the island. (Yes, even those who ingenuously believe they are not being watched.)

Col. Mendez Mayedo is also frequent traveler to Venezuela, where he oversaw the implementation of the passport and national-identity card system of the Chavez-Maduro regime for its domestic intelligence service (SEBIN).

Adding irony to insult is the fact that the Obama Administration would welcome this henchman to discuss “cooperation” in human trafficking.

Not only is the Castro regime one of the world’s worst perpetrators of state-sponsored human trafficking, but the Obama Administration remains under Congressional scrutiny after a Reuters investigation last year revealed that human-rights experts at the State Department concluded that trafficking conditions had not improved and Cuba did not deserve to be upgraded from a bottom Tier 3 ranking to Tier 2.

Continue reading HERE.

The International Bill of Human Rights and Cuba’s failure to ratify

Human rights do not exist in Cuba, but that doesn’t seem to be much of a problem for many Americans, including the president.

John Suarez in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

The International Bill of Human Rights and Cuba’s failure to ratify

Two important anniversaries

2016 marks an important anniversary. Fifty years ago on December 16, 1966 two important human rights covenants were opened for signature: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that came into force on January 3, 1976 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that came into force on March 23, 1976. Together they are known as the International Bill of Human Rights. The Human Rights Action Center, founded by human rights pioneer Jack Healey in 2010 prepared the following video explaining the two covenants.

Eight years ago on February 28, 2008 the Cuban dictatorship signed both covenants. Less than a year later on January 28, 2009 representatives of the Cuban government extended an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture that was never allowed by the regime.

Continue reading HERE.

Geandy Pavon’s photo exhibit ‘Cuban Americans’ opens in New York City

pavon cuban americans paquito

Via The New York Times:

Cuban-American Exile Up North

Despite Chris Matthews’s dismissive characterization of Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio as “two Cuban guys,” the fact that they placed first and third in the Iowa caucuses is a milestone in Cuban-American history. In the more than half-century since Cubans went into exile and remade their lives in the United States, they have transformed cities like Miami and attained success in business and industry.

Geandy Pavón, an artist who left Havana for this country in 1996, understands that image and its impact. “It’s like, ‘Look at what Cuba lost,’?” he said. “That’s true, but what interests me is to photograph other parts of Cuban-American life. The ideas people have about Cuban-Americans are stereotyped. It’s complicated to just sell the idea of a happy exile.”

For most of 2015, Mr. Pavón dwelled on the hyphen between Cuban and American, looking at the lives of more-or-less ordinary people, many of them living just across the Hudson River from New York in New Jersey. From meals to parties, or scenes of daily life to urban missionaries, he explored a world that is off the radar for many mainstream audiences. His exhibit “The Cuban-Americans” — and, yes, that is a nod to Robert Frank — opens today at the Cervantes Institute in New York.

Continue reading and view slideshow of the exhibit HERE.