Life has led me to two basic conclusions. The first: the solution to the world’s most serious problems will not be capitalism, because although it fosters creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit, it’s also an exclusionary system that exacerbates man’s most primitive instincts.
Despite the few dozen countries that have achieved a good economic status under this scheme, more than 150 are in a more or less dramatic state of poverty — a dynamic consistent over several centuries and that persists in relation to the social stratification within countries — and given its speculative nature, it has been proven to be incapable of avoiding the economic crises that characterize it.
This scheme has failed to rid the world of hunger and its neoliberal variant only ended up accumulating political and economic power in a select block of nations that have turned global institutions in a casino that articulates the strategies of domination against the poorest countries. Capitalism seems to me an intermediate stage or step on the way, perhaps a necessary one, but never the end goal of the human species.
The second conclusion: the solution is not the “socialism of the barracks,” a sequel to the Soviet model, whose Stalinist variant produces dire consequences for the individuality of man. After 50 years of implementing this scheme, the economy of my country is destroys, my people are subjected to a constant and unjustified impoverishment, directly opposed to the entrepreneurial spirit of man and his freedom of expression, generating a sickening climate of immorality.
If the Cuban Revolution triumphed specifically to end class privileges, half a century later there persists a caste that lives above the law and that enjoys privileges denied the common people. Although in Cuban well-stratified social classes still persist — an exclusivity that some ideologues attribute to multiparty capitalism — because if someone earns 100 times the income of a doctor and looks over his shoulder, it’s because he feels he belongs to a different social stratum.
So far I would only consider that what point societies governed by democratic socialism, but despite their boasting enviable standards of living and social security, they are not exempt from political corruption, nor do they escape the consequences of capitalist crises like the current one, which left the world bankrupt when the bubble burst.
When I venture into these neophytes meditations — very personal, indeed — I am stepping on a minefield and run the risk of being stranded in no man’s land, but to assert otherwise would be dishonest on my part, or would be speculating on matters that remain, for us, too distant in time.
The name does not define the essence, but whether it’s called communism, or Project Venus of the Reign of God on the Earth, I am referring to that future society that we all want to live in — which would make us all potentially communists or Venusians or Christians — where man freed of selfishness finally thinks of his neighbor as himself; a world without famines or wars, generator of the most advanced technology that would function exclusively for the progress of humankind; a future where states would be supplanted by a superstructure that would harmonize the pulses of a single global society in the midst of universal peace.
But before this can happen man would have to be reborn. This hypothetical world — which would be the final solution — is still not visible, it’s far beyond the horizon and in any case it remains to be seen whether it would be possible within the next 500, 1000, or 2000 years, and if so it would be only if we escape the annihilation that threaten us because of human greed and stupidity.
Never has man known his world better, never has he launched a deeper or more profound look at the universe or at the details of a cell, and yet never has there been more spiritual poverty or known less about himself; never has he been so helpless against his own demons.
Thus, I conclude that the next leap must be qualitative: it would be a profound ethical transformation that would be called upon to save humanity. So far these are just chimeras for a being that carries with him too many miseries. But sometime will happen that brings us the humility and reminds us that we are only ephemeral stardust left by chance by God navigating the universe. Even if after everything the end of the world doesn’t come, perhaps he wants to say that the forgotten, condemned to 100 centuries of solitude, this time will have a second opportunity on the earth.
2 December 2013
By Jeovany Jimenez Vega, M.D.
When I spoke during the discussion of the Draft Law to amend the Labor Code a couple of weeks ago, I said that our industry (public health) generates 50% of the GDP of this country; that it represents an income of between 8 and 10 billion hard-cash dollars every year; that this is a lot of money, which should be enough to significantly increase the salary of the sector that produces it; that those who remain here deserve as much as those who go on work medical missions abroad; that I will never understand why a prestigious professor of medicine, after decades of dedication, earns one-third the salary of an office manager trained for fifteen days.
It’s not just that our salary is ridiculous, but that it is particularly absurd in this country of merciless prices. We have patients who easily earn three to ten times our salary, and not from self-employment, but also from the few state jobs that link salary to performance; or simply through “struggling” — that is, stealing with both hands. It is high time to put an end to this humiliating situation, because if there exists today in Cuba a sector that is able to increase substantially the wages of its workers — here we’re not talking about the ridiculous two pesos per hour for nighttime work — it’s public health. I said all this, a couple of weeks ago, when I was able to speak.
My specific proposal? A basic monthly salary for a recent graduate of 800 Cuban pesos (roughly $33 US), increasing by 150 pesos every two years up to, for example, 1,500 pesos eight or ten years after graduation; 100 pesos per each medical shift at multi-specialty and primary care clinics, and between 150 and 200 pesos in hospice facilities depending on the workload assumed by each specialty, never less than 5 pesos an hour for night duty, 200 pesos for biohazard risk, 200 for administrative positions and teachers — it could be higher for provincial or ministerial positions; 250 for certified masters and 500 per specialty completed. And finally, it would be fair to give longevity pay after fifteen years of work at 100 pesos every five years (100 after the first 15 years, 200 after 20, 300 after 25 and so on) and finally a retirement that does not force those who served their people for decades to live on a little less than a beggar would get.
Of course, this is my humble opinion, launched into the ether from the perspective of the sufferer, not remotely like that of an experienced economist. But something convinces me that an industry generating so much money could handle it comfortably. They’ve already made a timid gesture with sports, so why not with the sector that generates similar wealth, which provides reasonable assurances that it will continue, and which is showcased to the world as a success story?
Those who make these decisions should take into account that these are professionals who know that, if they approved a monthly salary like this (I’m talking about 150 U.S. Dollars), it would still be less than they could earn abroad for a few hours of work under circumstances qualitatively very different, despite which — I venture to guarantee — in most cases they would not want to abandon their country. I remains to be seen if the words spoken in meetings all across this country will fall on deaf ears, if it will do any good to throw this bottle into the sea, to throw these crazy words into the wind.
Translated by Tomás A
17 October 2013
Whenever the subject comes up, I remember an anecdote a friend once told me. One morning in March 1968 he and an uncle, the owner of a small fruit stand, opened their store early. The story behind this hard-working man was that he had gotten his start by making the rounds of the major streets in Artemisa, selling fruit from a pushcart. Little by little he made improvements to the cart until he was at last able to rent a storefront and transfer his operation to that location which, after many years and great sacrifice to his family, was finally his. But as he was waiting on his customers on that fateful morning in 1968, an official dressed in olive green and carrying a briefcase appeared at the doorway.
“Are you the owner?” the official inquired.
“Yes,” said the man.
“Could you please step outside?” the official asked from the doorway.
When the owner went out, the official crossed the threshold and once inside said, “This property has just been expropriated by the Revolution.”
And that was that. My friend told me that the former owner could not go back in even to get a chain that he had left at the cash register along with his wedding ring a few minutes earlier. Like thousands of other Cubans he was dispossessed of the small family business in which he had invested so much over many years. The old folks tell me that after the so-called “revolutionary offensive” you could not find so much as a fried croquette for sale on the streets.
A recent State of Sats* panel focused specifically on the current state of self-employment in Cuba, a sector whose fundamental dynamics vary depending on what stage of post-revolutionary history we are discussing. Panel members recalled the various phases of uncertainty this sector has gone through to get to where it is today. Many of us remember the circumstances under which this economic alternative was “officially” introduced. At the peak of the Special Period it served as the government’s exit strategy, an escape valve used to relieve the extreme pressure that had built up. I myself remember the giant headline printed at the time in Granma: “Self-Employment Is Not an Economic Solution.” In other words, though they promised to take the policy seriously, government actions in the early years refuted that pledge, making the whole thing seem farcical.
We all witnessed how, as soon as it started feeling more confident, the government began to impede development in this sector by imposing all sorts of restrictions, designed simply to force the self-employed out of business. Faced with the inability to pay the excessive taxes demanded of them and with bankruptcy as their only other option, thousands of small business owners turned in their commercial licenses. There was, of course, political motivation involved. It was about needing definitive proof that private businesses could not compete with the immaculate efficiency of socialist businesses. In the meantime, the government maintained a rigid policy of denying all new applications for commercial licenses for most activities. It was a policy that continued into the following a decade and one whose results are still felt today. It meant that only those businesses that were profitable enough to pay sky-high prices for raw materials on the black market and bribes to inspectors and police officials survived. It also led to widespread moral decay in society in general, a condition which still afflicts us today.
The government claims that this time it has the political will to guarantee a different outcome. But there are indications — some subtle, some overt — that hint at the real intentions covered over by the tone of official rhetoric. For example, there is still a body of legislation on the books giving legal authority to agencies such as the Office of Public Prosecutor to bring charges against individuals — whether they be agricultural producers or newly self-employed workers — who only find out about it after they have lost the shirts off his backs.
Most authorized businesses, which generally are required to show proof of purchase, still have to cope with the insurmountable obstacle of sky-high prices for supplies and raw materials, making any attempt to turn a profit into a joke. The state remains the sole supplier, a situation directly at odds with changes made early this year to the emigration policy. It means that a producer is not allowed to directly import supplies even when it is possible for him to do so. This stands in stark contrast to the “analogous” examples of China and Viet Nam, where such transactions are easy.
Entire crops rot in the field because of the inexcusable irresponsibility of the National Stockpile Corporation — the only body of its kind authorized by the government — which so fears intermediaries that it has never indemnified anyone. Real autonomy has never been granted to these new enterprises, which remain subject to the ludicrous operational methods of the ineffective state system. This is also the case with transportation cooperatives, whose members are prohibited by law from owning their means of production, just one of thousands of problems too numerous to mention here.
In short, I have the impression that the current situation is fundamentally not much different that of the past. When a business fails, it can be attributed to poor management by the owner. But, if we see a massive trend occurring, then we are talking about ineffective management affecting an entire country. Surely we Cubans are not that bad as administrators, especially when it involves risking our meager savings in a family business.
Those who formulate such policies understand mathematics yet have nevertheless designed a dysfunctional system. They doggedly insist on sticking to it because their ultimate goal is not to assure the success of these “nano-businesses.” Rather it is to impede them so that prosperity might be achieved through a management system that has wasted decades through inefficiency and administrative indifference, all of which began on that fateful day in 1968.
I hope I am wrong but, as long as we continue on the current course, I have a feeling self-employment in Cuba, as represented by the small family-run business, will be the key element in a future disaster.
*Translator’s note: An independent Havana-based organization which sponsors public discussions on civil society and democratic political change in Cuba.
25 September 2013
Since the Cuban government enacted amendments to an emigration policy that had remained unchanged for over 50 years, a trend that could have been foreseen is increasingly apparent: now almost all embassies suspect that every Cuban is really an immigrant, and consequently they have turned the process of obtaining a visa into a chimerical enterprise, translated into requirements that place the bar too high for most applicants.
These embassies may only exercise the sovereign right of each state to decide who enters their territory and under what conditions they will allow it, but there are stories that are so illustrative that they suspect that within this wood they could also have termites and to illustrate what I am describing here in broad terms, I have the testimony of Israel Reinoso Valdés , a Cuban citizen residing in Guanajay, Artemisa Province.
It turns out that Israel, along with Alonso along Lázaro Gonzáles Alonso and Gerardo García Álvarez — both also Cubans, residing in Guanajay and Mariel, respectively — decided to apply for a visa at the Guatemalan Embassy in January 2013.
The three young men met each and every one of the requirements of the embassy and consequently each was issued a tourist visa under the current procedure (Israel was issued visa No. 1,704,909). The three reserved tickets for February 6 for the price of $599.00 CUC, and flew to Guatemala on TACA flight TA451, which left Havana at 4:55 p.m. and arrived at their destination the same day at 8:20 p.m., local time.
Israel says that once at the airport they were taken aside by the Chief of the Immigration Group, Jose Canisa Valenciaga, who in an extortion attempt demanded from each of them the sum of $1,200.00 USD, which they had to pay through an intermediary, if they wanted to clear Customs; otherwise they would be deported to Cuba.
When they refused, the three Cubans were detained for more than 10 hours, held incommunicado like criminals, and not even allowed to use the restroom or make a phone call to their consulate.
The three young men were actually deported to Cuba on February 7, 7:00 PM, local time. The following day they delivered a first document of complaint to Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX), in which they explained the essential details of the abuses committed against them by the Guatemalan authorities. After over a month with no response, Israel delivered a second complaint to MINREX and then made several more visits and multiple phone calls, all unsuccessful.
MINREX is legally, morally, and ethically obligated to represent its citizens in every country in which there is a Cuban consulate, and to ensure their rights, as is guaranteed in every Cuban passport that is issued. Absolutely nothing justifies MINREX ignoring the humiliation, abuse, and arbitrariness that a Cuban citizen has been or may be subjected to by any foreign authority.
True, the final decision on entry to a country may be subject to the discretionary consideration of the customs or immigration authorities, but here we have the case of citizens who rigorously complied with all the requirements of the Consulate of Guatemala in Havana — which as a result issued a visa that gave them the legal right to enter the country — and who in correspondence submitted all documents in the form requested by the relevant authority, but this was not sufficient to avoid being the victims of such arbitrariness.
There are rules, international mechanisms, and tools that can be used to resolve cases like this, where it is clear that three Cubans were victims of an outrage, because nobody in their right mind would pay hundreds of dollars for a ticket and fly thousands of miles just to drink a glass of water and return the next day without even clearing customs.
It is indisputable here that three Cuban citizens were subjected to a tremendous humiliation, were victims of attempted extortion and an undeniable abuse of power by corrupt officials.
Cuba maintains diplomatic and consular relations with the Republic of Guatemala and MINREX has an embassy in that country, so it has the resources necessary to intercede before the competent authorities — in Guatemala or any other country — to press the appropriate claims in cases like this where they deem that our rights were violated.
If that is not the case, then why are we paying the 100 CUC (the average salary for six months of work) we are getting charged for our passport, which supposedly certifies that, wherever we are, we remain under the aegis of the Cuban Government?
Or does that only apply during the time when we have to fill the plazas during grandiose parades, and not at the time when we need actually need help — away from our land in front of a despotic official? Will they always leave us in a state of helplessness when we decide to leave this country, where contrariwise they treat foreigners with kid gloves?
I doubt very much that their counterparts would stand idly by in a similar situation if a victim in Havana was a citizen of Germany, France, the United States, or any country whose Foreign Ministry is respected.
MINREX, the voice of the Cuban government to the world, should be at the pinnacle of what this moment demands, and it is therefore unacceptable to abandon us so completely — in this case it should never have been so slow as to issue its final response almost five months after the complaint was made, and thus tacitly agreeing that these young men “… did not meet the requirements of the Migration Act …” when in fact they met every requirement demanded by the Guatemalan Consulate. Moreover saying in effect that the three young men lost the money for their passage without recourse.
What if suddenly this case is not an exception? What if we have discovered a clear trend to treat us as the new plague, at least those of us who come to where we want to go?
Today it was Israel, Lazarus, and Gerardo. Tomorrow it could be any Cuban, including me of course. Because as a result of the brutal reality in which we live, and the indolence of our Foreign Ministry, we could be condemned to be seen as outcasts, as those “welcome” in the context of work missions, but then regarded with suspicion if we decide to travel to these countries by our own choice.
We, the children from the same land as the one that declared that “homeland is humanity,” something surely unknown to those corrupt Guatemalan customs officials.
By: Jeovany Jimenez Vega
19 August 2013
Ana Luisa Rubio, a censored and dissident Havana actress, received a beating outside her home on the afternoon of Friday, 6 September, that caused multiple contusions on her face, head and the rest of her body. A few minutes later I received her telephone call in Artemesia: I heard her terrified voice trying to tell us, but barely able to give any details.
Ana Luisa then received the supportive visit of several friends, and that night was accompanied by Antonio Rodiles and his wife Ailer to the emergency room at the Manuel Fajardo Hospital, where she received medical attention and a certificate of her injuries was drafted. That same day she made the relevant police report, for the umpteenth time, to bring charges against the aggressors.
It was impossible for me to travel at that time — transport to Havana at that hour is virtually nonexistent — and as I had a 24 shift on Saturday, I was only able to visit her on Sunday morning. It was not until I saw the extensive traumatic bruising around her left eye, in the corner of the mouth on that side, still swollen, as well as on other places on her body, that I realized the magnitude of the aggression.
Then Ana told me that that afternoon some kids, innocent lures, repeatedly rang her doorbell — which, she said, was consistent with a history of provocations that she has been suffering for years, and has reported a dozen times without that law enforcement authorities doing anything. When she answered the door an outrageously angry woman neighbor rushed her ready for action, followed by a stranger and in seconds there were several men, also unknown to her, who joined in the beating. The modus operandi said it all. The images speak for themselves. The impunity confirms all suspicions that State Security was involved.
Now, the obligatory reflection of this Cuban who was not an eyewitness to these events and which I will try to discuss as objectively as possible. To not get suspicious:let’s suppose it was the unheard of case of a neighbor, truly outraged, inexplicably seconded completely viciously by various strangers, men and women included. Would it not be a case of assault against the person,recognized as a crime in the existing Penal Code and therefore punishable?
Why, then, shouldn’t the authorities act vigorously to enforce the law, arrest the main aggressor, who lives a few doors from Ana Luisa — and expose the guilty? Honestly, I feel that this is a very remote possibility if we consider that the attack was consummated on a woman who despite her vulnerable nature has dared to challenge the absolute power.
I am completely certain that if, the attacked had been anyone other than that “uncompromising revolutionary” regardless of the reasons, Ana Luisa would already be ready for sentencing. But in this case something happens that can not be ignored: casually insist several days before — I insist it was casually, not to get too suspicious — in the afternoon of August 24, Ana had undertaken a one-person public act of protest in the Plaza of the Revolution, and that it does explain a lot.
So as I see it: as long as this is a country where there is a separation of powers and the Prosecutor allows such abuses; a country where the police authority, far from ensuring the safety of the person, is congenial in complicity with the oppressors; as long as this a country without a committed press, able to submerge itself in a sterile catharsis, but never risk a finger on the burning sore; as long as State Security and the Communist Party arrogate to themselves the power to organize the notorious rallies of repudiation and infamous beatings — denigrating, not for the alleged victims, but for those who perpetrate them; as long as freedom of opinion and association are constantly violated and fear corrodes the dignity of man; as long as there are cowards capable of taking advantage of the helplessness of women like Ana Luisa, nothing, absolutely nothing in this suffering country has changed.
13 September 2013
The story circulated recently on the Intranet: a Cuban doctor, a recently graduated anesthesiologist, was sentenced to nothing less than eight years in prison for the sad death of an obstetric patient. I don’t know the anesthesiologist in questions and I’m not completely versed in the details of the case, but I remain a priori convinced of some truths about this case: she wasn’t absent from her post, she didn’t stop trying the procedure until the last minute, she didn’t try to get out of accepting responsibility, she did not fail through laziness or irresponsibility.
Nor was it about some marginal profiting in the corner from under the table goods, nor was she a functionary collecting the huge benefits from the management circuits, customs, nor hoteliers, nor one of those who emerges from those who hold the upper hand in this country. This young woman gained nothing from this work shift, nothing to alleviate the burden of her home, nothing to benefit her family, no food to put in the mouths of her children, if she has any.
It is a universal rule that the salary received by an individual should be proportional to the effort demanded for their training and, especially, to the amount of legal responsibility assumed when exercising a particular function.
But in this little island that principle is definitely broken: general practitioners, particularly doctors, living as we do amid chaotic and absurd dynamics, working for $25.00 USD a month for authorities who do not blush when they sell a child’s toy for about $80.00 CUC (roughly $80.00 USD). Meanwhile, a simple employee of that same store, just to name one example, takes home five or ten times our monthly salary when he lines his pocket from tips, from fiddling with the prices, and from access to all the rebates and bargains; while this doctor and I earn a little more than a dollar after a day of work, an incredible shift facing influenza, dehydrating diarrhea — including cholera of course, or the risk of meningococcal encephalitis; and this would be our entire pay for assuming the greatest responsibility for the least expected mistake — not necessarily out of neglect or incompetence, but from the logical physical and mental exhaustion, or, and why not, for understandable human error — which can put you behind bars and for what we don’t even remotely perceive that we deserve.
All this sounds like mockery and would be laughable if it were not so serious. The doctor’s previous merits counted for nothing, nor did her desire to finish this most difficult of specializations, nor the five years she was on a medical mission in Venezuela making the best of a bad situation.
Although I respect the pain of the family and do not question their right to channel such a loss to the last resort, as they have suffered pain of unfathomable magnitudes, it would be very healthy, in situations like this, to redirect their focus to those who have rigged the game such that none of us, not this doctor nor the rest of our colleagues, are guaranteed a way to survive in our country with a minimum of tranquility.
by Jeovany Jiménez Vega
10 September 2013
Last Wednesday June 5th, at the end of the Telesur programme “Today’s Themes”, our brilliant journalist Iroel Sánchez commented about the “novelty” of the rooms enabling “free” Internet surfing throughout Cuba. That more than two decades after the Internet became a daily portal for the rest of the world it is even announced in Cuba, with fireworks, that from 118 timid locations in this country of more than 12 million inhabitants will be able to surf “freely”, says it all.
But there are various angles of the issue that Iroel didn’t comment about on Telesur: he didn’t mention the little detail that he himself has had free complete access to the Internet, because it is among the privileges of “official” reporters to access the network from their offices or comfortably from their homes *and* it will be like that as long as he doesn’t transgress the line of the Rubicon, while Caesar, attentive and scowling, calculates every byte.
Iroel didn’t say that in our case, the connection time is dependent exclusively on the times ETECSA offices are open (from 8:30AM to 7:00PM) in rooms in which between 2 and 6 machines are available — for example in Artemisa, a provincial capital of 800,000 inhabitants, one can only find two — and these tiny pieces wouldn’t be enough if they had conceived of a reasonable price and not an absurd and crazily extorsive one.
He didn’t say that at 4.50 CUC — which is the same as 112.00 Cuba pesos or equal to a third of the average worker’s monthly wages — which would be the same as the charging the average Spaniard 250 Euros for an hour of surfing, but with the additional aggravation in the case of Cuba of living in the most expensive country in the world.
Iroel Sanchez forgot all of these details when he was being interviewed by Telesur.
Meanwhile, this is how I see it: if the Cuban government says it is telling the truth, then why is it so terrified of an exchange of ideas? Because only information, pure ideas, translated into the most simple binary code, can enter the country along an optical cable, and never bombs or rifles. I have the conviction that all the truth, in its natural clarity, is as firm as a rock and can defend itself by its simple presence beneath the sun, for which reason I will never understand why they are depriving my people of something as basic as free access to the knowledge contained in cyberspace.
At times when my country talks about the prospects of transformation, which they are begging for, and on which the government timidly feels its way forward, while the society pleads for faster progress in the changes which sometimes seem more cosmetic than real, at times like that, this is what we get.
I have always said that I prefer a despot to a cynic because the former mocks you to your face, doesn’t hide his natural tyranny, and shows his true colours: yes, I abused you — so what? But the latter, evil at heart, tries to insult your intelligence. Because to claim that such stratospheric charges are affordable by the people, is equivalent to saying that so are the hotels which charge $300 per person — a year’s wages — for one miserable weekend.
Now they are trying to export the illusion that now we Cubans are living happily connected with the world, but they must know that this is a masquerade, as is demonstrated by the empty seats in these embarrassing locations. The Cuban people are awaiting and insisting on real, free, effective and total access to the internet, by way of reasonable contractual terms appropriate to what they can afford and which allow them to explore the virtual world, when they want and full-time.
I want internet in my home in order to explore all truths and weigh them up them against my own … like Iroel Sánchez but with the difference that I want to have it as a right which I am exercising, and never as an improper privilege. For me that would be the measure that would tell me that finally we are on the path to real changes; as long as we can’t depend upon absolutely free access to the internet everything will be imitation gold and pure fantasy … just a fairy tale.
By Jeovany Jimenez Vega
Translated by GH
10 June 2013
What you see here was once the seal of the centrifuge of our washing machine. A frightening little sound every time we turned it on that announced it was already signing the song of the peanut seller, until more than a month ago it told us, gentlemen I’m retiring, and it expired along with the motor damp underneath.
Between naiveté and hope I went in vain to the State repair workshop and collided there with the predictable evidence: in the intricacies of the black market — virtually the only one available for these purposes — this piece of rubber would cost between 20 and 25 CUC, that it at least 500 Cuban pesos, plus the usual labor cost, without which we would have to wash our clothes by hand.
This happened exactly when our ministry decided to start “paying” doctors 2.00 Cuban pesos (less than 10¢ U.S.) an hour for each night shift from 7:00 PM to 7:00 AM, which is 24 Cuban pesos per night shift — and so with an average of five night shifts a month this comes to 120 Cuban pesos, or the equivalent of some $5.00 U.S. now added to our monthly salaries for this work.
The incontrovertible evidence strikes us in the face again: while we public health professionals devote ourselves to our work, we continue to be the last link in the food chain; the pittance added to our salary today proves it. Other sectors triple or quadruple the pay, however mine, which for more than a decade has been the greatest source of hard currency entering the country (in exchange for doctors on “medical missions” abroad in countries like Venezuela), is kept destitute, in practice and deliberately.
Luckily selfless helping hands took on our repair, and although we always have to buy the part, having had to pay the full price for the disaster would have tripled our cost.
However, this still meant paying an entire month’s salary. While this is happening our minister determines that we do not deserve more than 2 Cuban pesos per hour for night duty, which destroys our health. They definitely do not respect us.
By: Jeovany Jimenez Vega.
29 May 2013
I confess that I, like many, was surprised how hard-fought the fight was. Fewer than 300,000 votes difference, and both candidates with more than 7 million votes, is virtually a dead heat that calls for a deep reflection: how is it possible that after all these missions implemented by the Government of Hugo Chavez even half of Venezuelans voted for the alternative, Capriles? Could Venezuelans be so ungrateful? Or is what is hidden behind this shift a part of history that always escapes whenever you look through a single prism?
As I said in my second to last post, almost every reference on the subject has brought me colleagues who are returning from Venezuela, workers who left under conditions that I refrain from judging so as not to stoke the demons. But the truth is that now we get indisputable evidence: half of the electorate voted for the project that advocates reversing more than a decade of Bolivarian Revolution and choosing to return to the previous scheme.
I know well, from my own experience, that the ocean waves tend to distort the reality emitted by the antennas; so it is that hundreds of millions of earthlings still have a distorted sense of the Cuban reality, for example, and by analogy the same thing could happen in this case.
I speculate on the possibility that behind Hugo Chavez’s discourse, however sincere, is sheltering this opportunistic element that never fails in these situations: a whole caste of officials who in the name of the movement have filled their pockets and positioning themselves just to see how much they can benefit themselves, something that could be seen every day by this whole mass of people who voted on both sides, and that is not transmitted, presumably, on Telesur.
But personally, my sixth sense makes me doubt the alternative, Capriles; I simply do not see that he has the charisma to lead a nation. With the entire economic livelihood of the oligarchy there to count on for logistical support, I suspect that the money has been their only currency. It puts me in the dilemma of choosing, never having opted for someone so devoid of magnetism.
Although to offer an opinion from more than six hundred miles of stormy Caribbean away implies a margin for error, “especially when dealing with such complex realities,” this is something that I assume mine isn’t more than one opinion among millions.
I hope that whatever path this sister nation takes, whatever it is, includes the most absolute political and economic independence and the greatest justice and social inclusion possible, and that it all comes through paths of peace because it is this and no other dream that I desire for my own people. But as I see things now, the government of Nicolas Maduro will have to walk a very fine line if he wants to continue his ambitious social project, because it’s absolutely certain that, from inside and outside the country, powerful and dark shady deals are going to be working against him.
23 April 2013
“…because, although a nation may collapse, its mountains remain. And with the mountains there remains man’s eternal responsibility to preserve what is essentially his, which is his soul. And with that responsibility there remains the possibility of yearning and striving and the satisfaction that comes with doing it.” Hanama Tasaki
Fifty years ago the triumph of the Revolution was a paradigm for an era about to begin. The serious social problems that it sought to stamp out and the head-on antagonism towards the U.S. government marked its early years with a tense and radical tone. The justice of that struggle, the immense jubilation of a sea of people celebrating victory and later developments such as the literacy campaign, the invasion at Bay of Pigs and the October missile crisis would confer glory on its charismatic bearded leaders. It was a romantic image that resonated with every leftist movement throughout the world. At the time, as so often happens in similarly fervent eras, it seemed that anything was possible.
As one might imagine, to bring these dreams to life, a different type of man was needed. He had to possess his species’ highest virtues, be capable of making huge sacrifices while losing nothing. He had to be someone trustworthy, who acted in accordance with his principles to the point of being willing to die for them. There was an urge to forge an altruistic being, indifferent to the miseries of the past and without the slightest trace of selfishness. There was a need for a man aware of his moment in time and of the legacy he should leave. He aspired to be the perfect being “outlined in the speeches of Che Guevara” and was called upon to be the model for an idealized future. In other words, he was the dream of the New Man.
But that vision did not lead to a smooth road towards the promised land. While large estates, foreign holdings and properties belonging to the wealthy were nationalized in the early years, with the onset of the “revolutionary offensive” of 1968 such government measures were redirected against the very Cubans who had so fervently supported the Revolution less than a decade earlier. They often found themselves stripped of their small family businesses, whether they were simple little neighborhood stores, humble produce stalls, or tiny shoeshine stands. These misguided and extreme measures were followed by decades of economic stagnation and a flourishing bureaucracy that did nothing but demonstrate how inappropriate it was to adopt a carbon copy of the Soviet model.
The passage of time also saw an absence of civil guarantees, the lack of a separation of powers and an ethical impoverishment brought on by a press subjugated by censorship, all of which created an atmosphere of social hypocrisy that could only grow exponentially. The initial promise of plurality was necessary to motivate the people to wage war against tyranny of Batista’ as well as against assassins the likes of Ventura Novo and Cañizares, of Pilar García and Rolando Masferrer. It ultimately degenerated into a civil and spiritual poverty that today we recognize with embarrassment.
Now, fifty-four years later, I ask myself what remains of that dream. What of the utopia of the New Man have young people today inherited? The fantasy died in the cradle and in its place arose someone capable of the full range of hypocrisy, someone who runs from truth like vermin from light.
In he shadow of fear was engendered a lazy and selfish being, unable to put himself forward civilly with principles, unable to concern himself with anything that doesn’t have to do only with him. Insensible to the pain of others inadvertently powerless to go further, beyond the boundaries of his little plot, and in his Kafkaesque insect dimension, vegetates in his own harvest of misery without ever uncovering the great common parcel.
I don’t want to say that my inquisitive mind or judgement are infallible, nor do I want to wipe the slate clean, but it greatly distresses me that the behaviors that should be dark exceptions are the shameful norm: I look with sadness at the minimum level of spirituality of this youth, focused on fashion and reggaeton but too uneducated and superficial to notice major issues.
Elevated concepts like nation, commitment, duty or sacrifice are as alien to the average youth of today as the concepts of quantum physics. And it’s not that it’s wrong to live intensely, to wear the latest fashions and dance to the point of delirium, “because youth only comes around once and as beautiful as it is, it is fleeting,” but there should be, along with joy, depth… isn’t this Guevara?
The mega-experiment of the schools in the countryside had everything to do in such moral devastation, which for decades kept several generations of Cubans away from their families in the most critical phase of their adolescence, while their personalities crystallized.
In the classrooms of these boarding schools there was a climate of adequate teaching, “high quality in many cases,” while in the dorms many times the prison code prevailed: good had to adapt itself to sign of evil, and never vice versa, if you wanted to survive; their that young person in the making could descend to the most obscene unscrupulousness.
To this must be added the unfathomable crisis of values that came with the decade of the ’90s. The profound deterioration of people’s living standards prompted a mass exodus of teachers from the National Education System with its logical consequences, and meanwhile in the streets the law of the jungle was definitely enthroned.
Then libretazo of the 2000s “with its never achieved its Comprehensive General Teachers, its video-conferences and massive graduations of emerging, and volatile, teachers,” struck the final blow. The sad result we are touching today; it is my generation and my daughter’s generation that is the product of those years: the insensitivity, the worst education, the most arid vulgarity are the norm and, after so much time, have reached epidemic proportions. In short, we have created a Frankenstein and today we do not know what to do with it.
But I maintain the stubborn hope that not all is lost. Against such desolation I offer in opposition Jose Marti’s unshakable faith in human improvement. I have a living certainty that my people will draw, from the illustrious examples of their history, the strength necessary to rise from its ruins; so that the New Man we dreamed of one day, and whom I resist considering an impossible chimera, is finally born as the “son of universal values, not of political indoctrination” for the ultimate good of the fatherland.
We do not need the man of prefabricated harangues: essentially we need to rescue this man from the moral abyss dug by simulation and lies. We urgently need a Revolution of the soul.
“What can we count on…?!” the myopic skeptics scream. And the response worthy is what Agramonte shouted that shook the insurgent swamp: “The shame, we can count on that, the shame all Cubans deserve!”
by Jeovany Jimenez Vega
25 March 2013
By Jeovany Jimenez Vega
With the attempted coup of April 2002, the Venezuelan oligarchy tried to remove from power and/or murder Commander Hugo Chavez, leader of the nascent Bolivarian Revolution. There were moments of intense drama: the uncertainty of the early hours of his ouster and then the tsunami of people, the fiery waves that came down from the hills to restore their elected president to Miraflores Palace, a display of pure courage. That was an impressive and spontaneous reaction; since then the world was certain that something was brewing in Venezuela, something more important than simple ascent of a leader: this was a people with real aspirations, who performed an incredibly brave act of atonement for their true leader.
Parallel events, like the Llaguno Bridge Massacre, widely manipulated by the pro-coup media — “snipers who smashed the skulls of Venezuelans on both sides so as not to arouse suspicions when it came time to accuse the Chavistas,” they reported — and others like the siege of the Cuban embassy, the violent closure ot the official TV channel, and the precipitous recognition by various nations of the “transition government” that lasted no longer than an ice cube in the sun, largely defined Latin American during the following decade and are now Histroy, like it or not by the detractors of Hugo Chavez.
I have never visited Venezuela, so I can not offer an opinion with complete certainty about a reality that I never experienced. Many of my references have come to me from Cuban doctors, nurses or technicians who served there during different stages and I who told me about an excessive social violence, “the painful legacy of past decades,” with youth organized crime, with trigger-happy almost-kids perpetrating crimes in cold blood; they tell me of constant political tensions, the rising scarcities of life, and the opportunistic showing its face on both sides of the conflict.
If there is anything I am aware of, it’s that for the government of Hugo Chávez nothing was exactly easy. But I’m convinced that “I could be wrong about all that,” that in the Venezuelan case the scarcities referred to are greatly speculative, driven by wealthy opponents, because I can’t understand how this could be in such a rich country, with the largest recognized oil reserves in the world.
But one cannot ignore the fact that this oligarchy still retains enough economic power to sabotage, should it decide to do so, precisely because the Government of Hugo Chavez “in addition to its socialist project, but different from the Cuban experience,” respected private property in Venezuela, giving the State control over the most strategic sectors.
Recently we Cubans watched how Maduro delivered his first speech as President, “in which he immediately called elections” under the same roof with known pro-capitalists opponents who listened with respect and were treated with respect, and, through Telesur, the station that could be called the Chavista “official” TV, we watched Capriles deliever his clumsy speech quite naturally before this and other media of the press; a lesson in tolerance we need to learn.
With regards to the elections of this coming April 14, I have few doubts. With hisspeech to the country, Capriles simply dug his own grave. The opposition leader gave a masterclass in political stupidity, in how to incisively attack not only the institutions, but the human sensibility of people still in deep mourning, with a tirade that left a bad taste in the face of elections too close to allow times to make amends.
I am convinced that this slip will cost Capriles tens or hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of votes. I predict that this election, with the emotional component in his favor, will be won by Maduro by a margin greater than the last one won by Chavez.
To his credit, the commander left a legacy of millions of literate, owners of new homes, through missions like Robinson, Barrio Adentro, Habitat and Great Housing Mission, among others who completed a total of 21 and who sought, above all, to humanize the life of ordinary Venezuelans.
Commander Chavez died after a long battle during which he never lied to his people about his health. With Honorary Doctorates from 10 universities, the “José Martí” International Award of UNESCO, and he earned dozens of international awards, honors and medals, he died convinced of the justness of his struggle, that neoliberal capitalism is guilty of the serious problems in Latin America, of the great hoax and lying to the third world by global institutions like the IMF and the World Bank. He died believing that Bolivar gave us a saving proposal two centuries ago, and therefore embraced that dream until his last breath.
The media of humanity honored him, including the UN General Assembly, the OAS and virtually all regional bodies. Fifty heads of state and government, as well as hundreds of world personalities attended his funeral and left an undeniable mark on the new dynamics of North-South relations. All this convinces me that Hugo Chavez will not belong to us but to history, and maybe not today but tomorrow, History will issue the final verdict.
1 March 2013