Demagoguery: A Cardinal Sign of the Cuban “Revolution” / Jeovany Vega

I want you POOR, fanatic, worshipful and grateful

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 20 August 2015 — A few weeks ago we were amusing ourselves with news reports about the vacation tour of Prince Tony Castro. Apparently, tired of playing golf in a country where 99.99% of the natives have never set foot on a golf course, the only Cuban participant in the latest Ernest Hemingway Fishing Tournament (and, coincidentally, its only winner) decided to hop over to the opulent hotels of Turkey. None of this would be especially notable if Tony were the heir to the throne of the Sultan of Brunei; but he is no more and no less the son of the most vertically anti-capitalist personage of the second half of the 20th century: the feudal lord Fidel Castro. Continue reading “Demagoguery: A Cardinal Sign of the Cuban “Revolution” / Jeovany Vega”

By now, however, nothing should surprise us, because demagoguery was always the most cardinal sign of Fidelism from its first moments of existence. This same dictator took it upon himself to practice it whenever he could, raising it to the level of an Olympic sport. Fidel’s ambivalent posture in those first days of the Revolution, making assurances that he was not a communist–only to later shed his skin when circumstances were propitious–is established historical fact. But besides this facet inherent to his high politics, in the personal sphere, also, Fidel always maintained a double life, until time and the public confessions of various high-ranking officials, disenchanted with the Bearded One’s lechery, revealed the truth.

Thus we learned that this gentleman always had multiple lovers. Then I remembered how an uncle of mine, a principled militant communist, and honest (whom I remember on more than one occasion asking my mother for some change so that he could buy cigarettes at the Artemisa Coppelia that he himself managed) was expelled from the Party for the unpardonable sin of having a lover.

A little more recently, following the death of Antonio Gades, we would find out that the Iberian artist was the baptismal godfather of the children of Raúl Castro himself. Then we would recall then how for decades, Party membership was denied to thousands of sympathizers of the regime precisely because of their religious beliefs–and even much worse, how thousands of workers were harassed, and how the future of tens of thousands of young people was truncated as they were expelled from their university studies for not having denied their faith.

Now we know that the feudal lord was a consummate connoisseur of wines and expensive cheeses, and we also learn about all those mini-palaces, yachts, foreign vacations, children sent to European boarding schools, and private hunting preserves for the exclusive use of the olive-green oligarchs–or rather, about a long saga of bourgeois privileges that for decades the big shots enjoyed on the backs of my people.

We should in no way be surprised now that the dandy Tony Castro should treat himself to a little getaway, renting a “humble” yacht worthy of Bill Gates, and pay thousands of dollars in luxury hotel stays for hismelf and his entourage. After all, the boy is only doing what he saw his elders do.

Someone could argue that it is legitimate for any president or son of a president to take these “small” liberties, but this is not the case, at least not in the Cuban case. Fidel Castro spent too many hours giving speeches for 50 years, requesting austerity from the Cuban people, beating his breast and shouting to the four winds that not only were they honorable and good, but also that they were absolutely the best and the most honorable of the universe; Cubans always marked an irreproachable dividing line between that paradigmatic paradise of immaculate honesty bordering holiness, and the “perfidious capitalist rot” that now does not seem to much scare the Antillean Dandy.

Of course, there are also the getaways to Cancún by the leaders during those decades in which foreign travel was prohibited, the secret Swiss bank accounts, the reserves of other generals (also replete with millions which were never revealed), the nauseating corruption that yields millions for the godless bureaucrats in Customs, the mile-long list bribes given to high-level functionaries of the Foreign Trade ministry in exchange for miserable contracts and purchases; among other Kodak moments for the memories of the dictatorship, such as Cause #1 against General Ochoa, which yet stinks of cocaine in the Cuban memory.

Not to be omitted are the businesses and properties owned by other heirs to the Castro/Communist thrones in other countries, where they kiss the asses of the creme of world capitalism, among other familiar “trivialities” that are (always) charged to Liborio’s* tab; all of which would help us calculate, but only intuitively, 7/8 of the hidden parts of this immense iceberg which is the Cuban Robolution.

“Translator’s Note: “Liborio” is a symbol of the Cuban people, or of the essence of Cubanness. He is usually pictured as a mustachioed peasant with long sideburns, wearing a guayabera, a straw hat on his head, and a machete in his hand.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison


Citizen Zero Resumes Publication / Jeovany J. Vega

Dear Friends of Citizen Zero:

Due to an unfortunate error, I found myself unable to publish on my site for more than two months. Thanks to the help of esteemed and friendly hands, as of today I am resuming my publishing. I hope that my faithful readers will forgive me for this lamentable delay. This blog will always be at the service of Truth and Homeland.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

20 August 2015


Examination of the Latest Ministry of Public Health Crusade / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 3 April 2015 — The gods of Olympus have spoken. In their eyes we, miserable creatures, must simply obey and resign ourselves to complying with their divine whims. I will try to translate into the language of mortals the outrageous coercive measures ordered by the Cuban government, through the Minister of Public Health, to try to stem the current exodus of healthcare professionals. In the same order in which they were set out, it would read something like this:

4. Stop the increase of individual contracts* in Angola: Because the African country is forever indebted to Cuba since the 1980s war, it goes without saying that it is obligated to comply with everything that Havana orders. In other words: Cubans in Angola as cannon fodder, yes; Cubans in Angola to work honestly, without being exploited by the Cuban government, never. Continue reading “Examination of the Latest Ministry of Public Health Crusade / Jeovany Jimenez Vega”

5. Confiscate the official passports of all employees upon their arrival at the airport: Here we have the Ministry of Health taking measures that, apart from their obvious illegality, really belong under the jurisdiction of the Directorate of Immigration of the Interior Ministry, in Cuban Customs. This shows, if anyone still doubted, that in this little country everything converges in a single, centralized, and despotic power, which has no qualms about treating all of us, without distinction, as common criminals.

6. Promote agreements with private clinics: Here we have that slavery-promoting monster, the  Distributor of Medical and Health Services, trying to wrap its tentacles of control around each private clinic in every country where Cuban doctors have decided to emancipate themselves from its networks. This shows how sick and delusional its obsession is to block the personal success of our professionals.

7. Review the interministerial agreements so they don’t allow freedom of contract: This proposal, which the leaders of Havana hope to establish in half the world, covering both public and private institutions, is nothing more than a subconscious reflection of what Cuban medical missions have always been: a lucrative method of emotional blackmail. That is, if I provide you with doctors at bargain prices, who are willing to go into those dreaded favelas (off-limits even to the police), exposed to dangers that your own doctors would never accept, you are obligated to comply when I “renegotiate” with you the terms of the contract.

8. Explicitly reflect the commitment of no individual hiring in the individual agreement with the employee: This is actually nothing new. Until now it has always been an uncompromising principle that not only is individual hiring prohibited, but even something as simple as an employee in a foreign country just talking with someone who is an actual or suspected opponent of the “regime friend.” Cuban employees will never be allowed freedom of movement, such that they are prohibited from leaving their assigned place even for something as nearby and ordinary as shopping, for example, without the consent of their bosses—meaning the political hitmen, who are officially and completely in control, placed there by Cuban State Security.

10. Disqualify those who dare to disobey Caesar from practicing their profession: The professionals who today work abroad, for wages far more appropriate than they received in Cuba—including those on official medical missions—are not willing to be used like toilet paper. It is ridiculous to claim that there are only 211 cases countrywide of those who decided to work outside Cuba “without authorization,” when in fact the number is in the thousands.

12. Deem the failure to comply with the requirement of giving advance notice to terminate the employment relationship as a serious disciplinary infraction: If there is some reason in this, then common sense dictates that timely notice should be given of any decision to abandon a certain place in order to timely look for a substitute. But that raises the question—why have thousands of professionals refused to comply with something so basic? Are we Cuban doctors so irresponsible? Or is it that ultimately we cannot rely at all on the “goodwill” of our leaders, after being subjected for many decades to all kinds of arbitrariness, abuse, and despotism, and to our most basic needs being ignored? Aren’t these the same ministerial and governmental authorities who for more than a decade applied the unprecedented policy that required us to wait for more than five years if we wanted to travel abroad, waiting for the “release” from our minister? Finally could it be that these authorities no longer have any credibility in the eyes of their workers? Here I recall the old saying of grandfather Liborio: when there is revenge, there are no grievances.

13. Issue disqualification notices to workers who violate procedures for leaving the country: Professionals who take the irrevocable personal decision to work temporarily or permanently abroad, for wages far more appropriate than those they receive in Cuba including those on official medical missions—are not willing to be used like toilet paper.

14. Relocate those returning to Cuba after working abroad under an individual contract to a lower-status position—never to the position they originally occupied: The punishment, not as a vindicating end, but as an inviolable fundamental principle, as the cardinal sign that never fails in the mind of the despots. This section shows that those who today are exporting as authentic their pretensions of “change” and sweetened “reforms” remain the same miserable characters as always.

16 and 17. Organize, in conjunction with the Foreign Ministry, meetings with the relevant foreign ambassadors in Havana, and direct the team leaders and Cuban ambassadors in their respective countries to discourage individual contracts: Once again they reveal the long tentacles of the political mafia of Havana. Here we have the incredible act of the Cuban government, through its Ministry of Health, taking an openly interventionist position, dictating measures inside other countries, trying to impose decisions about their healthcare policies. It’s a good thing that, with evil US imperialism interfering in the internal politics of other countries, the immaculate Cuban Revolution is there to stop it! Where would these poor people be without this greatest Revolution of ours?

*Translator’s note: A contract made directly between a host country and a Cuban doctor, without payment to the Cuban government.



Minimal Vindication of Jose Marti / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Painting by Carlos Enríquez of the death of José Martí.

Jeovany Jimenez Vega,20 May 2015 — In the laudable attempt to demystify José Martí, pens of the most dissimilar calibers have been employed, and all the efforts seem paltry given the transcendence of his legacy. But not all have headed in the right direction in their efforts. I concur with the argument put forth in a recent article that questions the impact of José Martí on the Cuban people during the phase immediately preceding the uprising of 24 February, 1895.

To gauge Martí’s influence within Cuban society before 1895–which, given the improbable and rudimentary level of which his advanced doctrinal thinking could reach a semi-literate Cuban population relegated to the Cuban insularity at the close of the 19th Century–would be as absurd as to presuppose that his impact would have been exclusively limited to that humble sector of the population, isolating it for no reason from the rest of a society already resounded impatiently at the imminent possibility of the war. Continue reading “Minimal Vindication of Jose Marti / Jeovany Jimenez Vega”

This would always be a biased view, because it would ignore the principal aim of the Master’s* discourse on the pages of Patria [newspaper funded and directed by Martí] and from the lecterns of Tampa and Key West: to the Creole intelligentsia, called to amplify the message precipitating the imminent push into the interior of the Island; to the military leaders, called to drag into the scrubland, inciting them with their natural leadership, the great mass of Cubans who would be the shock troops of the future Liberating Army.

The influence Martí was able to exert over the lowest-majority classes (and ultimately those most decisive in the future conflict) cannot be deduced linearly, but rather it necessarily winds through a typically extensive network of message intermediaries. While it is true that the Cuban peasant had little opportunity to imbue himself with the Martí Doctrine, nonetheless that tide of contained rancor against Spain was ready to overflow by 1895; it was waiting only for the wink of an eye, the order of the commanders of old, to be unleashed in new charges against the merciless metropolis. If that tension reached the critical point of no return, it was precisely because of the enormous and tireless organizational work and political proselytism deployed by Martí–a gigantic odyssey whose importance anyone objectively analyzing the prevailing dynamic of the final phase of the Rewarding Truce will never be able to underestimate or minimize.

It is true that Cuba at that time was going through a precarious and circumstantially complex economic situation, but bitter precedents should be taken into account: the failed attempted coup of the Little War and, later, the great frustration engendered by the failure of the Gómez-Maceo Plan [in 1885]. Therefore, it would not be farfetched to assert that, were it not for the catalyzing miracle of the Apostle,* that hour could well have passed without much fanfare.

Martí was not a military man. His strategic genius was developed purely in the political realm and was based on his exceptional diplomatic skill. This undisputed ability would carve the Master with the steady hand and tenacity of a goldsmith, throughout his life, through an exponential process of self-purification that finally converted him into a man of irascible and reactive temperament within this kind, magnetic, charming and edifying being whom History bequeathed us–so forceful that he conquered for the common cause men who were made as of stone, divided for years. Returning to the course of the Revolution those bronze-like characters was his major accomplishment, and also his way of knocking on the door of every Cuban country hut with the hilt of the liberating machete.

Too many obstacles were at that time coming between the Martí ideology and the poverty of the Cuban peasant. However, the task of translating the martyr of Dos Ríos’ strategic plan to the language of country folk was assumed by principal figures of the big war: one Máximo Gómez who had given to Cuban émigrés an unequivocal sign of his unconditional support for Martí by sending his son, Panchito, along with Martí on a proselytizing tour through the revolutionary clubs of the US; one newly-married José Maceo, who barely had to be urged by the Master to join the enterprise, overlooking his hurt pride at the racism of the last conflict–“only Martí was able to pull me from my love nest,” he would say; and one Antonio Maceo, the final man, who despite the misunderstandings, also added his unconditional machete to the deed and, having barely arrived in Oriente, would lead a massive charge of thousands of mambises through the scrub.

To those rough and uncultured men it was enough to have the presence in the camps of Cuba of their legendary leaders for them to be willing to die for the war previously conceived by Martí’s genius. Many joined, but the decisive presence of every one of these generals in the Cuban scrubland was a personal triumph of the Apostle; if the mambí soldier had greater or lesser awareness of it, very little would it matter to this man so little motivated by personal honors, but History is conclusive in this respect: If the miracle of the uprising was wrought, it was because beforehand, Martí–by way of his most formidable tool, the Cuban Revolutionary Party (PRC)–patiently and systematically organized, with regal intelligence, the colossal conspiracy.

It borders on insolence to reduce to mythical status the exalted merits of the Cuban who combines in himself such a sublime confluence of virtues. Yes, we greatly need to demystify Martí, strip him of the saintly cassocks that he never wore, and take him down from the altars that he never sought for himself. But to demystify him does not imply wiping out his proven merits: let us take care that our repugnance for the saccharine storyline and opportunistic flattery of despots who seek to legitimize themselves does not obscure before our gaze the brilliance and authentic nobility of the visionary hero.

Definitely, it was not a military man who fell at the light of day in the first skirmish, and if he was promoted in death to Major General by the unconquered Máximo Gómez–profound knower of men and quite sparing in conferring honors–it was also because the great soul of the Old Man from Baní, forged in all the pains of war, was ultimately conquered without reservation by the mysterious influence of the Master.

And let us not forget: If one gesture by Gómez was enough to mobilize the entire mambí army, along with this gesture–as his supreme victory–went the order of he who died at Dos Ríos for the poor of the Earth.

See: Martí and the Idea of a Single Party.

Translator’s Notes:

* A common epithet of José Martí in Cuban writings.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison


CUC vs. the Dollar: A Perpetual Tax? / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 31 May 2015 — On Thursday, May 29 Cuba was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. It had been on the list since 1982 because of what Washington saw as the Cuban government’s decades-long history of harboring members of the Basque terrorist group ETA, Colombian FARC guerrillas and more than one fugitive from American justice. It had negative implications for Cuba’s dictators in regards to international banking operations and financial transactions in Cuba. It had also led to expansion of the U.S. embargo, which even today prevents Cuba from utilizing dollars in commercial transactions. Those who carry out such transactions risk confiscation of their assets and/or hefty fines.

Actually, Cuba’s inclusion on the list always struck me as being neither here nor there. It seemed inconsequential compared to the reality surrounding us, with the multiple and eloquent examples of what can only be described — without fear of overstatement — as a policy of domestic state terrorism: an absolute, blatant and always apparent hostility, mercilessly perpetrated by Havana’s gerontocracy against anything which might suggest personal well-being or family prosperity in Cuba. Continue reading “CUC vs. the Dollar: A Perpetual Tax? / Jeovany Jimenez Vega”

I believe the Castro government has instituted a long string of unpopular measures in order to keep the population in a perpetual state of economic insolvency bordering on destitution. The constant pressure to put food on table leaves people neither the time nor the inclination for “dangerous” expressions of civic involvement.

This absurd policy, along with our insulting salaries, means we are subjected to exorbitant gasoline prices at the pump despite the collapse of oil on the world market. Be even slightly careless and you are hit with an electricity tariff. Then there is the outrageous increase in the price of liquefied gas.

Still in place are the arbitrary exchange rates set by CADECA, the government currency exchange, the detestable extortions at gunpoint at airport customs, the constant obstacles with which the private sector must deal and the obscene exploitation of medical personnel working overseas by a government acting as pimp. All these measures, decreed from Havana, make almost any other list of villainies pale in comparison.

This time-honored policy of subjugation has been specifically linked to this arbitrary tax since 1994 when, from his reverberating loins, Fidel Castro decided to tie the U.S. dollar to the sacrosanct convertible Cuban peso, the CUC.

It was a measure which overnight reduced by 20% the purchasing power of everyone who had for decades been receiving remittances from emigré family members scattered across all corners of the globe. It has unquestionably been a lucrative source of income for the island’s economy for years.

On November 8, 1994 the Central Bank of Cuba issued Resolution 80, which stipulated that a 10% tax would be applied whenever U.S. dollars are exchanged for CUCs. Later, in April of 2005, the Committee on Monetary Policy instituted a further 8% currency exchange fee on the U.S. dollar and other foreign currencies.

This means that, when changing U.S. dollars in Cuba, there are three factors to keep in mind: there are the 10% tax stipulated by Resolution 80, the 8% surcharge outlined in Accord no. 15 by the Committee on Monetary Policy, and the approximately 3.5% commercial fee charged by CADECA for such transactions. Based on these considerations, you can calculate that, for every $100 USD you receive, CADECA will give you 80.42 CUC.

But, in a boomerang effect, these decrees carried a hidden cost. In addition to completely distorting the domestic economic system, they inevitably had an extremely negative impact on tourism to this particular spot in the middle of the exotic Caribbean, a region full of beautiful beaches and better deals which attracted millions of vacationers disinclined to pay such excessive taxes and fees.

There could be many possible consequences once Cuba is removed from the blacklist. These days there is one that especially concerns me because of the immediate and direct impact it could have on families in Cuba. I ask myself, given the likelihood that Cuba could will be able to conduct international business transactions in U.S. dollars, which was the argument used to justify the aforementioned tax, will the Cuban government now repeal this onerous levy on exchanges involving this currency and the CUC? Will the military leadership be so shameless as to retain this blatant method of mass extortion, no matter what, in light of this fundamental change?

Repeal of this tax is today inextricably linked to the often announced and often postponed currency unification. Now Cuba’s dictators will have to weigh two factors. On the one hand there is their undisputed and regressive commitment to exploiting the Cuban people by any means possible while promoting anything that leads to financial ruin and insolvency. On the other hand there is the need, as recommended by experts on the subject, to rationally coordinate the mechanisms of Cuba’s economic system in a way that at least appears credible to international organizations, banks and future investors.

Not doing so would increase the already heightened perception of risk on the part of more than one businessman, whose sense of intuition prevents him from relying entirely of the good intentions of Raul Castro. There have been too many stories of swindles and scams for them to think otherwise.

But ultimately, if the Cuban government had one iota of shame, it would immediately repeal this abominable and unpopular tax which has had such a negative impact on the well-being of the Cuban people. It would stop treating our poverty like its principal asset, like a disgraceful pedestal which for more than fifty-six years has served as the foundation for the longest and most refined dictatorship the Americas have ever known.


For Sucelys*, to Be Reborn Tomorrow / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

And Jesus said: Father, forgive them, because they know not what they do.

Luke 23:34

I write without knowing if she will get to read these words, or if she would understand them, because there are matters in life that take us a minute or perhaps an hour to understand, but others take a year, and there will undoubtedly be some that will take a whole lifetime.

Every time I view the video in which she screams at that journalist in Panama, amidst all the vulgarity of the scene, that she financed her airfare with her miserable salary, it does not cease to amaze me.

How could she lie like that, when even a child knows that this is impossible, that all those costs were subsidized by the government? Could she explain how she was able to get by without buying clothes or shoes, how she was able to survive without buying food for years, and all while wholly saving the salary that her “Revolution” pays her so that she could travel for those couple of days to the Summit, only to add her yelling to the din of another hundred activists in the official “civil society,” who supposedly made similar “sacrifices”? Continue reading “For Sucelys*, to Be Reborn Tomorrow / Jeovany Jimenez Vega”

Her lost gaze in Panama provokes more than shame, sadness; there is no conviction behind those shouts, only alienation and fanaticism. Even so, she was honest when she confirmed that the Cuban people funded her expenses.

Perhaps she should have been more cautious, because she was speaking at that moment about something that cuts deep: that Rapid Response Brigade that Raúl Castro sent to Panama to scream (really, they did nothing else) financed their travel with money not paid to my colleagues–doctors and nurses–nor to my children’s teachers, and the thousands of Cuban retirees who survive on eight dollars per month.

This money could have been used to restore a Havana that is at the point of collapse, to repair the millions of potholes, improve the lamentable state of the water supply or our deplorable public transportation system–evils that persist after decades of mis-government that squanders the national treasure on repulsive political “lobbies” such as the one that boycotted, with its egocentric bluster, the forum in Panama.

But, at heart, I understand her. Like her today, I, too, one day believed in the Revolution–with a pure faith I believed in mine, the inner one, the one I never reference in quotation marks–when all the trumpets seemed to herald our apocalypse beneath the storm clouds of 1994. At that time, the future became full of uncertainties, just as the extensive waters of the Florida Straits became full of live balseros [rafters] and dead memories.

At my age of 23 years, having lived under the aegis of absolutism and the megalomaniac cult of the “big brother” iconoclast, I, too, was a fervent militant of her UJC [Young Communist League]. I did not want to–or did not know how to–or could not–(perhaps I will never know for certain) assume another posture.

And while this was going on, Sucelys was still dressing her last dolls, but she had not even been born in 1980, when some Cubans as alienated as she stopped viewing other Cubans as brothers and sisters, and hurled the same offenses that she recycled today in Panama, initiating this era of shame that still haunts us.

But one fine day, my reason adjusted its glasses, I understood, little by little, the terrible error of my distorted view, and that tyrant–formerly irreproachable–became smaller and smaller in my eyes, and returned before me to his natural condition of cockroach.

I awoke one fine day questioning myself on everything, and when I found the answers, there was no going back: I definitively disconnected myself from that matrix and questioned all my assumptions, pulverizing some and reaffirming others, but being born again in the process, from a position of personal liberty, definitively more tolerant of others, and more at peace with myself.

As history tends to repeat itself in the form of a farce, I thank God for not having placed me then in the saddest role of the scene, for having wisely shielded me from playing the part of a hired gun.

I don’t know if she will someday be able to be reborn, but I can’t help but be saddened to see her girlish eyes racked with hate, her hands that are meant to soothe a child or friend, instead of making the gestures of war, and screaming lies that darker and more-sinister others placed in her mouth, the mouth of a daughter, mother or lover.

A good Cuban used to say that in a dictatorship, all of us are victims–including the tyrant, who is the most tortured by his fear–and that almost always, the most captive are those who least perceive their bondage.

Sucelys, brilliant psychologist that she is, must know that in this truth is hidden the key to man’s alienation, to his dissolution en masse until all that’s left is that amorphous and malleable material subject to the whims of the tyrant.

The Social Forum convened at the Seventh Summit of the Americas should have served, at least, to enable the civil societies of America to extract one clear lesson: this is what happens when a totalitarian dictatorship takes over the designs of an entire nation, and alienates whole generations.

In Panama all were witnesses to the transformation of man to beast, to irrational being, to automaton repeating screams and empty slogans but unable to exchange coherent arguments in a quiet voice. May this serve as one more proof that the sleep of reason engenders monsters.

This is why today I wish to leave the balm of forgiveness and harmony on the wound that this foreign shame inflicted on Panama, because the homeland always needs more bridges and fewer walls, and the day will come when Sucelys’ gaze will be cleansed of rancor.

I dream of that day being so beautiful and purifying that the hired guns of today will also become, thanks to the miracle of redemption, part of the authentic civil society of tomorrow. This message will wait, as though in a bottle tossed to the sea, to be read when the rebirth happens.

PHOTO: Official Cuban mob at Summit of the Americas in Panama, April, 2015.

Translator’s Notes:

* This post is in the form of an open letter from the author, Jeovany Jimenez Vega, to Sucelys Morfa Gonzalez. Morfa was part of a contingent of Cuban government supporters ostensibly sent to Panama to challenge dissidents attending the Seventh Summit of the Americas in April, 2015. This article from HavanaTimes.Org provides more background about her. Regarding the incident itself, this report from independent Cuban news site 14yMedio was filed on the day it occurred.

 Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

27 April 2015


My Minutes With the Pope / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 9 May 2015 — What would I say to Pope Francis if I could speak with him minutes before his meeting with Raúl Castro?*  If Jesus came into the world to save the impure, to sit also at the table of the Pharisees (those with souls most contaminated by the splinter of evil), what could I say to His Holiness that would convey to him all the pain of my people, and advise him of the true dimension of disaster through which my country lives?

Tomorrow* the Pope will face the representative of a deformed creation made up to fool the world about its true wretched nature, which hides its true face behind curtains splattered with the blood and suffering of my people. Raul Castro represents the longest-running, most perfidious and subtle dictatorship known in the Americas, whose sinister side is known only by the humble man of miserable means who dares not speak up for fear of certain reprisals; or the censored journalist confronting taboo subjects; or the ethical writer marginalized by an apostate pseudo-intellectualism who, like a prostitute, traded in his dignity for status**; or the civic activist trampled-on for defending her truths. Continue reading “My Minutes With the Pope / Jeovany Jimenez Vega”

This Raúl Castro–at once President, Prime Minister, and Secretary General of the only legal party in my country–is the same one who orders or permits every threat, raid, repudiation rally or beating visited with impunity upon peaceful members of the opposition, every arbitrary detention and prison sentence levied without charges, as well as the constant harassment of a dissident movement not officially recognized but which he fears in his bones.

In short, Raúl Castro is the one ultimately responsible, along with Fidel Castro, for every one of the thousands of abuses that confirms the totalitarian-despotic nature of the regime that he represents. This man does not represent the people of Cuba because he was not elected in a democratic process, because his fear of the Cuban people keeps him from convening a plebiscite. By the same token, his entourage of minions never participate in public debates under equivalent conditions, and just recently, in Panama, offered to the world the most shameful and caveman-like lesson in incivility.

This man will give assurances that his government cares about the world’s poor when in reality, on dozens of official medical missions, he keeps an army of semi-slaves captive in the most despicable state of deprivation of their rights. To say that the primary source of income for the dictatorship is a supposed philanthropic venture, clearly typifies its root strategy: its monumental demagoguery.

In worldwide forums, the government insists that “differences be respected,” yet in Cuba it routinely thrashes dissidents and opponents. While outside the Island it applauds the people’s egalitarian right to technology, at home it denies us free access to the Internet. While it denounces other governments’ policies of domestic espionage, it keeps my people defenseless against the severe and constant vigilance of the political police. While in forums it voices complaints against the injustices of “savage capitalism,” it brutally exploits its own workers, and criticizes neoliberal stopgap measures while it plays the market with astronimical prices and makes daily life unsustainably expensive for the average citizen.

His Holiness should know that this charmless man sustains his government by the people’s fear, by systematic deception, by fomenting the most abject hatred of dissent, by the insolent satiation of the greed and basest instincts of his accomplices in power, by the bribery and blackmail perpretrated by all of his followers, and by the brute force thrust unmercifully against any who deviate from his commands.

His Holiness should know that this man represents the neo-bourgeoisie tied to power on the Island and not to the people of Cuba. All of the Holy Father’s gestures to reconcile this dictatorship with the world do not benefit the wellbeing of the Cuban people as long as our country is not free, and all the riches generated by these changes will inexorably end up in thehands of that indolent elite that despises us.

All this would I tell Jorge Mario Bergoglio [Francis’ name before he became Pope] prior to his visit with this little man–or, perhaps overwhelmed by a pain that I admit I am incapable of conveying in a few minutes, I would manage only to ask for his most humble prayer for retribution here on earth on the dark souls of all tyrants.

View Letter to Pope Benedict XVI

Translator’s Notes:

* This post was written prior to Raúl Castro’s scheduled meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, which took place on Sunday, May 10, 2015.

** Here, the writer is referring to author and former Cuban Culture Minister Abel Prieto, who denounced the presence of independent civil society representatives at the Summit of the Americas in March, 2015.  Various members of the Cuban opposition have expressed disappointment over Prieto’s perceived selling-out to the regime. This sentiment is exemplified in this post by another independent Cuban blogger.  

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Elections in Cuba: The Never-Ending Farce / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Municipal delegate elections. Vote 2015 Cuba.

Jeovany J. Vega, 19 APril 2015 — When on this day, Sunday, 19 April 2015, the last poll closes, nothing transcendent will occur. Despite the statistics manipulated by the newspaper Granma and its libels about an electorate that presumably will have gone to the polls freely and massively to give its “absolute support” to the Revolution, at this stage that never-ending story will deceive very few people.

Irregularities at the polls; ballots that can only be marked “with pencil!” so that they can later be adulterated and thus avoid generating inconvenient statistics; candidacy commissions controlled by the only legal party in Cuba (the Communist one) who handpick the president of every assembly from the municipal level on up to the Council of State: assemblies all of which from San Antonio on the west to Maisí on the east will decide nothing outside the line approved by the one dictatorial party, and they will question nothing, but rather during their time in office they will do nothing more than unanimously approve every “guidance” emanating from Olympus. Continue reading “Elections in Cuba: The Never-Ending Farce / Jeovany Jimenez Vega”

The people of Cuba know only too well that they cannot expect anything new from this farce, that this scheme is all played out and will never offer new paths, that it is only more of the same. Thus I will not beat a dead horse but rather today I will reflect on one detail that emerged weeks ago on various online sites: in an event practically without precedent, two dissidents from Havana managed to be nominated as candidates as potential delegates to the National Assembly of People’s Power by their respective districts – something almost unheard-of in today’s Cuba.

Even so, Hildelbrando Chaviano, from the Plaza de la Revolución municipality, and Yuniel López O’Farrill, from the Arroyo Naranjo municipality, had to resign themselves to being branded as “counterrevolutionaries” in their published candidate biographies, as being part of what the nomenklatura calls “splinter groups,” among other pejorative names — outright calumnies and propagandist accusations.

But beyond it being certain that these candidates in effect openly oppose that concept of “Revolution” sustained by the Demagogues-in-Chief of the Communist Party of Cuba, I ask myself: And the other candidates, what about them?

Perhaps it will not be published in the rest of the biographies, for example, that a certain candidate, despite being an “honorable” Communist militant, also increasingly embezzles the resources of the state-owned enterprise that he runs?

Or that other one, a fervent member of a Rapid Response Brigade and participant in multiple repudiation rallies “in defense of the Revolution,” has been expelled from various positions because of continued stealing?

Or that this one, always the enthusiast in any Mayday parade that is organized, nonetheless also manages to loot any state-run warehouse that falls into his clutches?

Or that this dedicated Party comrade does not live off of her salary, but rather thanks to the natural talent that her prostitute-daughter has deployed in a chupa-chupa — something she is well aware of and approves?

Or that this old CDR-member, so combative in denouncing any countryman who enters his field of vision, yet he tolerates the sale of black-market tobacco in his own home?

Or perhaps that a certain veteran of the glorious Combatants Association does not live off the absurd pension “guaranteed” by his “Revolution,” but off the remittances arriving from that troubled and brutal country to the North that he despises?

Or that this other functionary from the provincial party lives like a millionaire thanks to the shamelessness of her husband, one of the thousands of thieves legalized by the General Customs office at the Havana airport?

To enumerate the list of moral duplicities and corruptions would make interminable the biographies of a good portion of the current candidates — and it would be even more rotten were we to ascend the ranks from the municipal to national levels.

The publication of these biographies filled with distorted information and morbidly dissected — specifically in the context in which they try to dissuade potential voters — well deserves legal action from a respected electoral authority, even the prosecutor’s office — but this would only be possible if we lived under the Rule of Law, and never in the totalitarian Cuba of today.

At any rate, if this were about competing on a level playing field for the vote of the electorate, according to what is established by law, it would be very healthy to air everyone’s dirty laundry and expose their shit equally (and I do not say that the militancy or sense of civic responsibility of Hildelbrando and Yuniel are such).

If this were to occur, I assure you that the stink would rise high and spread far in a country where half a century of absurd laws and legal limos have not left barely a place for honesty and individual prosperity to be sheltered under the law.

Let us be absolutely certain of this: today in Cuba, the “voting” will be done by millions of hypocrites and criminals.

Not participating in the election farce is the answer

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Internet in Cuba, I’ll believe it when I see it / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

 “If you want to free a country, give it the internet.” Wael Gonium

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 25 February 2015 — A vice president who gives an assurance that the country “… is committed to social information” but who then automatically sees it as being led by the communist party, and who sees it as “…a key weapon for the revolutionaries to get participation in the social project we desire“: who at the same time emphasises that “… everyone’s right to the internet presupposes the duty to use it properly and in accordance with the law, and also presupposes the responsibility to be vigilant about the defence of the country and its integrity“, and a Deputy Minister of Communications assuring us that along with the economic development of this sector there must also be running in parallel the “political and ideological strengthening of the society,” are indications that we will not see anything different anytime soon after the recent Information and Biosecurity workshop ends.

The underhand warning which indicates the presence in the front row of Col. Alejandro Castro — implied candidate to inherit the family throne — and the silence whenever the subject turns to his father, President Raúl Castro; Comandante Ramiro Valdés’ permanent position in charge of the Ministry of Communications — twice ex-Minister of the Interior, the most rancid relic from Cuba’s Continue reading “Internet in Cuba, I’ll believe it when I see it / Jeovany Jimenez Vega”

historic establishment and the chief implementer of current repressive methods — all reciting together the same refried speech and the repeated ignoring by the Cuban government of the latest offers of the US telecommunication companies for when the embargo controls are relaxed, are factors which make us think that nothing is about to change in Cuba in relation to the internet, and that we are only starting a new chapter in this soap opera of demagogy and cynicism.

The Cuban-in-the-street can’t see it any other way, living under a government which, up to now, has charged him a quarter of his monthly basic salary for every hour on the internet; for him, every word heard at the end of the workshop referred to continues to smell of bad omens, sounds like more of the same, especially when we bear in mind that this shameless tariff is not for any high quality high-speed service, in the comfort of our homes, as you might expect, but which they have characterised in the worst way, only available in cyber rooms of the dual-monopoly ETECSA-SEGURIDAD DEL ESTADO, and, because of that limited to their opening hours, at a 2 Mb/second speed, and using PCs with restricted copy-paste and often with disabled USB connections, with all keystrokes tracked and with more than one “problematic” page blocked. In fact, nothing you wouldn’t expect from a government which recently created a brand-new Cyberspace Security Centre, presumably intended to become a virtual equivalent to the notorious Section 22 of its police policy.

Meanwhile, in Guayaquil, Ecuador, I repress my swearwords every time I stop in front of a cyber room’s poster offering me three hours of internet for a dollar!, in a country with an average monthly salary of about $500, a country which is also third world, but which offers free wi-fi in many public places, including bus stations, in restaurants and malls, where internet and TV satellite dishes are a common urban sight even in the poorest neighbourhoods. There couldn’t be a more obvious contrast between this reality and what we Cubans have to live with in Cuba.

All the above confirms for me every day more strongly my ongoing conviction that information control will be the last card in the deck that the Cuban dictatorship is going to give up. Nothing will have changed in Cuba for so long as all Cubans don’t have open unconditional uncensored access to the internet from our homes. This is such an obvious truth, and would represent such a decisive step forward toward the real opening-up of Cuban society, that only on that day will I believe that change has started. It’s as simple as that.

Translated by GH


White Flag to the Regime in Havana? / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

By: Jeovany Jimenez Vega — Those who advocate the elimination of the mechanisms of political pressure to which the Cuban government remains subject — I mean basically the United States Embargo and the Common European Position — often wield as a fundamental argument the alleged climate of reform undertaken by Raul Castro during the last few years.

One can suppose that this oversized expectation had its roots in the profound and systematic stagnation that characterized the big government of Fidel Castro, because the incorrigible bearded man became the extreme social framework in an immutable and absurd style that would have been impossible for anybody after him to modify in any way without it being perceived as a relief.

But if we accept the obvious premise that since 1959 one government has existed in Cuba — since it has already shown that in essence the mandate of Raul, with all its sweetening, has not been more than the prolonging of the mandate of Fidel — we can assume also, with a solid level of certainty, that the psychology of the regime continues to be exactly the same.

That drives us to a logical question: Would one expect that, in the case of these sanctions being lifted, that this olive-green oligarchy, at last, would grant the long awaited rights Continue reading “White Flag to the Regime in Havana? / Jeovany Jimenez Vega”

provided by United Nations Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, as well as Economic and Cultural Rights, whose ratification and implementation Havana has kept has a pending topic since February 2008?

The optimists would return to the idea of the Raul Castro reforms, but anyone who can make a more thorough approach to these alleged “transformations” will find that very few have actually represented a practical change, one which would have a beneficial and immediate impact in the life of Cubans on the island.

But we work from very good faith — which our counterpart has not deserved — and we accept that among these measures, some represent a more drastic and positive change than do others; among these the freeing up of the right to travel outside the country and the authorization of the purchase and sale of homes between native-born people.

We cannot forget, nevertheless, that the emigration reform has been in force since January 2013, stipulating that some professions are not permitted to travel freely, “…in virtue of the rules intended to preserve the skilled labor force…“; nor can we scorn that it also establishes as “…inadmissible…” for anyone accused by the Cuban government of “Organizing, encouraging, carrying out, or participating in hostile actions against the fundamental economic and social policies of the Cuban state…” to enter the country, “…When reasons of Defense and National Security are so advised…” and that the government considers that they should “… Be prohibited from entering the country, for being declared undesirable or thrown out.”

It is made more evident by the wide margin of maneuverability that this delicious tool for coercion leaves the repressor.

As for the authorization for the sale and purchase of homes, let us remember that the act has just recently foisted a series of annoying regulations of prices, that results in a return to the government’s hand, interfering where it isn’t called for — to remind us that here good things never last too long.

Now, a look at the rest of the package certainly will show definite signs that reveal suspicious edges in these so-called “reforms.”  Because it is really very difficult to accept the sincerity of these measures such as the “authorization” to buy used cars at astronomical prices; or the corrupt focus on the management of cooperatives like the transport ones, for example, that leaves it members (never owners of their means of working) with a useless margin of autonomy; or the imposition on the rest of the small business owners of unfair fees on prices or excessive taxes and the non-existence of a retail market that would supply them with the most basic primary materials; or all the limitations that make ever more evident the failure of the policies undertaken in the agricultural sector, as well as the refusal to liberate the management of the livestock farming sector while slaughtering and/or selling a cow continues being a capital sin that in Cuba one still pays for by up to 20 years in prison.

These are, among others, current evidence and premonitions that cast a shadow over our overall state in the short and long term and seriously put into question the will of the Cuban government.

But still more serious than the immutability of these “trivialities” of an economical nature, is the persistence of the repressive policy that continues fomenting that lethal duet: Communist Party-State Security. It is from the offices of what continues to be the only legally recognized party that the strategy, then executed by the henchmen in the street, is drawn up.

Today in Cuba arbitrary detentions persist and the most abject precariousness of due process guarantees — bastard daughters of the lack of division of powers — continue to perpetrate with impunity the beatings and repudiation rallies against opponents, without any authority protecting them so that they can avoid it.

Hitmen are ordered to stab the opposition leaders and suppress women who don’t bring arms but carry white gladioli in plain view.

They persist in a strong and absolute censorship of dissident thought by means of an absolute monopoly over the means of broadcasting and all types of press, and in addition, they veto any access to the Internet for the people and it is already the 21st century.

Therefore, we can conclude that in Cuba the “changes” that they have produced are insubstantial and skin-deep, purely cosmetic, nothing that heralds a real opening up to anything that sounds remotely like democracy.

If, in the end, this new mediocre generation isn’t capable of offering anything different, it would be more than logical to doubt its future good intentions or its capacity to conceive a scheme for real prosperity, and very much less so if the formula, whatever it is, includes moving away from the known path.

It is completely questionable that these “reforms” reflect a sincere attempt at opening the doors for the Cuban people to the potential that a globalized economy offers today. It is more coherent to think that we are observing delaying maneuvers that only serve to perpetuate the same people always in power.

Should the international community, the Cuban people and the internal opposition decide to offer a vote of confidence and give way: at what point would they offer guarantees that they would later ratify and implement the Human Rights covenants, and would that produce an immediate opening for democracy? Here all logical reasoning leads to the conclusion that this would never happen.

To revoke the sanctions now, would be translated into nothing more than an immediate oxygenation for the regime, without excluding, of course, its repressive mechanisms. It would not become a more efficient Cuban government from the economic point of view but would simply have more resources within its reach to squander and rob, to fatten still more the millionaire accounts of it oligarchs hidden abroad, and even to ennoble its delusions of grandeur.

The beast has already tasted blood and will stop at nothing. An autocratic government like that of the Castros, once it has released its instruments of political pressure and with the tacit approval internationally that this would imply, would never ratify the human right covenants but, on the contrary would probably repress more viciously than ever dissident thinking but from a much more comfortable position than previously.

This octogenarian generation that subjects the destiny of my country to its whims is definitely out of step with the needs of my people. No original protest has yet affected its dusty epaulets. These neo-burgesses will never consider a dignified exit from the poverty and inequality into which they have plunged us, because they know that this would mean an end to their privileges.

If history teaches us anything it is that unwise concessions, or those made at the wrong time, over the long term do more harm than good to the people who mistakenly assume them, and it also teaches us that there are definitely people who never change, and the pleiade that now leads this country according to their testicular fickleness is an excellent example.

The three decade marriage with the former Soviet Union made clear that the Cuban people will never be the final destiny for these riches; and if history proved that at that time why would we assume it would be different now when the indolence and corruption of the government are higher than ever.

To extend this blank check to the totalitarian government in Havana, and at this precise instant when its better half is tottering in Caracas, without the slightest sign of friendship to the internal opposition nor the recognition of our civil rights–as most recent events have pointed in the complete opposite direction–and without even having ratified and implemented the already signed United Nations covenants on civil and political rights as well as those on social and cultural rights, would be a catastrophe in strategic terms for the Cuban people and possibly delay, for many more decades, the coming of democracy for the long-suffering Cuban nation.

Translated by: BW

9 December 2014


Personal Epitaph to Fidel Castro / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

“Here rests a man who died millions of times” should be the epitaph engraved on the marble that finally covers him. By then, some will feel despondent, as if the earth were caving in on them; while others, no doubt, will receive the news with terrestrial joy. But absolutely everyone will be in agreement about something: that on that day the most loved and most hated man of the last two centuries in Cuba will have ceased to exist.

But Fidel Castro will not have died that day, because before then, little by little, he will have suffered millions of prior deaths. For some, for example, he has been dead since that first morning when he “couldn’t find” the way from Moncada while another group of reliable men were being sacrificed in the assault; and for others, he died when he legalized the death penalty at the beginning of 1959, every time echoes of gunfire from La Cabaña were heard; or perhaps a few months after that, when amid all the mystery the sea swallowed Camilo’s hat–and he was pronounced dead after just three days of dubious “searching.”

Continue reading “Personal Epitaph to Fidel Castro / Jeovany Jimenez Vega”

But later, thousands of Cubans buried Fidel Castro when, after having denied it many times, he suddenly announced out of nowhere that he was communist–even after having accused “traitor,” Huberto Matos, in a brief trial, of being the very same thing–and declaring without apology the socialist character of a Revolution that didn’t belong to him, but rather to the people listening to him with surprise.

Some days later, he would die again for other thousands of Cubans when they learned about the day Che Guevara died, abandoned by Manila [his code word for Havana], in the desolation of the Bolivian highlands.

Certainly for hundreds of thousands of Cubans, Fidel Castro died once and for all that fateful day in March of ’68, when the “Revolutionary Offensive” usurped every family-owned business without the slightest compensation—an act of vulgar and unpunished looting that betrayed those who, just 15 years earlier, he had called “the people” in his self-defense during the Moncada trial.

Also for millions of people in the Third World, he must have died in ’79, when as president of the Non-Aligned Movement, he preferred to be a chameleon and said nothing while Afghanistan, a member state of that world organization, endured an insidious attack by insurgent troops of the Soviet army, the unconditional ally of the incorrigible bearded one. Or perhaps, for those same millions, he already had died slightly more than a decade earlier, when he applauded the emergence of those same Soviet tanks in Czechoslovakia there to extinguish fervor for the Prague Spring.

But not all of his deaths were so grandiloquent and transcendental, because Fidel Castro also suffered many routine deaths during those dark decades: he died every time a Cuban was humiliated at the door of an off-limits hotel or of one of those elitist stores open only to tourists; each time family members were separated or a life was lost at sea because there was no legal way to emigrate from their prison; each time sincerity was punished and, under his personal aegis, hypocrisy and duplicity were praised; every time a defenseless Cuban was beaten while trying to exercise rights that had been taken away, each time a repudiation rally was carried out; he died every time a father was imprisoned or one of his sons was robbed of his future; the great dictator also died with each truncated dream and with each empty plate.

Nonetheless, it’s certain that when the death of Fidel Castro is finally announced–the death of his physical waste, I mean–the news will make headlines everywhere. Then every editorial board or columnist should take some time for reflection, because beyond all the love or hate generated by the eternal bearded one, it is imperative that we learn once and for all the lesson, so that no other people, ever, under no circumstance or latitude whatsoever, once again deposits the same power in the hands of a single man, regardless of how beautiful, just or sublime the cause he proposes appears to be.

But when Fidel Castro suffers his definitive death, it will inevitably be the day when Cuba wakes up with the sun of truth and, with its light, opens Pandora’s box: only then will we be able to know the exact magnitude of his megalomania, re-examine his true face, the mask hidden beneath so many decades of false rhetoric and unmeasured devotion to a personality with sick ways resulting in a pathology of character that extended across an entire society for more than half a century.

He whose dream was to pass for a genius will have left in his barren path nothing less than a country in the most absurd financial ruin and, what’s worse, buried in an abyss of moral ruins. And, if the gospel promises, “by their fruit you will recognize them,” then for that day, on which he will definitively die, my people will finally calibrate in all its magnitude the reach of his betrayal and his proverbial demagoguery.

Precisely now, when all around him there is a ridiculous pact to be silent about facts of indisputable transcendence, while many are making jokes about the idea of his death or his tacitly accepted decrepitude, I raise my prayer to heaven: may God offer him many more years of life, enough so that any day in our near future he shall be granted, in the midst of his well deserved mental fog, intermittent lapses of absolute lucidity.

I would ask God for those days, or minutes, of total lucidity for the tyrant, but it’s important that there be enough of them so that he who caused us so much harm has crystal clear awareness of how my country and my people raised themselves up from the ruins as soon as they could break free; as it will be in the future, the homeland was truly better once emancipated from his despotism.

I would ask God for those few days of lucidity, before returning to ash what was ash, so He may again submerge him in darkness to dodder without glory, ruminating on his permanent defeat. Then, yes, Fidel Castro will depart for the eternal misery that he deserves, as a tenuous and embarrassing memory…and not exactly absolved by History.

Translated by: Kathy Fox

15 January 2015


I also demand / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

*Everyone in Peace /  Raise your hands, unite / our voices /  #YoTambiénExijo /  The 30th at 3:00

By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

For the mere act of having been born a man, to be thinking, already implies in inalienable right to express myself freely without waiting for the permission of another man.

Because my right of freedom of assembly and association are provided for by international agreements recognized by the civilized world, and these agreements are found to be above the decision of the dictators that try to continue enslaving the mind of my people with its out of date demagoguery.

Because the universal right of peaceful protest implies that the streets and plazas that belong to all Cubans and not to that group that tries to set themselves up as the only owner, that group that tries to monopolize the street only for the “revolutionaries.” Continue reading “I also demand / Jeovany Jimenez Vega”

Because if a real revolution is progression, dialectical forward, 180-degree turn forward, then the retrograde breed that from the power hinders the progress of my people today doesn’t deserve anything but to call themselves counterrevolutionaries.

Because more than 50 years of monologue from an undeserved altar already was too much and today it is its turn before the jury of the people of Cuba, to the betrayed, today has arrived, finally, the offended’s turn.

For all this, I also demand:

That the Cuban government ratify and immediately and unconditionally implement the International Covenants on Civil and Political Human Rights and Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights that it left pending as of February 2008.

That the Cuban authorities officially recognize the existence and legitimacy of the Cuban opposition, and consequently call democratic elections where the entire spectrum of the plurality of thought of Cuban society is represented.

That an effective separation of powers be established. In this sense, it would be essential that the People’s Supreme court, highest authority of judicial power, stop being under the Council of State, highest authority of executive power, so that the judges of the People’s courts being affiliated with the Communist Party of Cuba would be prohibited, something that would favor their credibility in the impartial exercise of justice.

Let it consequently stop the harassment, persecution or any type of repression of any individual group that tries to express its political position publicly and peacefully, as well as stopping the arbitrary detentions of civic activists that represent a dissident proposal.

That the Communist Party of Cuba and Cuban State Security stop organizing the sad infamous acts of repudiation, which are profoundly damaging to the dignity of those that they perpetrate, as well as unequivocally noxious to the public morality; consequently those acts become considered as a body of crime by the existing Penal Code, at which moment will be sanctioned under the law as they have always been: authentic acts of vandalism, that include invasion of the home and/or aggression and danger to persons.

That it establish an appropriate legal framework that guarantees a full freedom of the press and total access and without censorship to the Internet as means for the exercise of our freedom of expression, from which all can, without fear of being punished for it, to propose a better way of changing these ruins that we inherit in that nation that we have, as the first law of the republic, the cuban worship of the full dignity of man.

For all these reasons: #YoTambiénExijo

Translated by: BW


Cuba and the United States will resume their relations… alea jacta est* / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

1419224626_989708By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

The decision by the governments of Cuba and the US to normalize diplomatic relations could go down in the record books as the news of the year – and among the most momentous world news of the century so far. The more than 50 years of litigious relations – one of the longest disputes in human history – will justify every headline, column, or essay that will be devoted to this topic.

But it is worthwhile to reflect objectively on the possible consequences that this decision will have on the Cuban people – a decision made without taking into account the internal opposition voices that for years have been sounding alarms about the potential dangers of repealing instruments of pressure such as the US embargo and the European Union Common Position – without the Olive Green government having, at least, ratified and implemented the International Covenants on Human Rights that it signed in February, 2008.

A lifting of these coercive mechanisms without a minimum guarantee that these agreements – as well as other demands made by Cuban civil society – will be implemented, would imply the definitive and certain recognition of legitimacy that this dynastic government so badly needs – right when it knows itself to be crushed by historical evidence, and seeks, desperately and at any price, some escape route. Continue reading “Cuba and the United States will resume their relations… alea jacta est* / Jeovany Jimenez Vega”

For a long time I have counted myself among those who opt for the end of the embargo, because I have always thought that without this great excuse, within a very short time the Havana totalitarian regime’s economic inefficiency, a purely endogenous evil, would definitively be shown for the sham that it is. I am still today convinced of this argument, but the coincidental timing of a series of very specific circumstances, in the midst of an unprecedented context, has made me question several points in this regard.

There is one essential difference between this particular moment in time and any previous phase of this Stalinist regime. By now it is quite clear that the old guard of the Sierra Maestra has run out of time. The failure of their proposition is no longer something yet to be proved; it is established historical fact.

These octogenarians know full-well that the days of free petroleum that Moscow provided for 30 years will never be seen again; that for now, China might be smiling, but in business matters, a deal’s a deal, payment will be required, and then, what will they do?

Cuban officials also know that under the conditions that were in force until this past 17 December – and despite their much-vaunted Foreign Investment Law – they would be unable, given their well-deserved reputations as petty con-men, to deceive any important foreign investor with half a brain in his head. Besides, they know that Cuba’s tourism industry will never take off because it cannot compete with all the surrounding excellence in the region – and that they lack the financial resources to repair this mega-disaster.

On top of it all, they know that their main source of revenue – the exploitation of public health professionals – is in imminent danger of a major setback if its principal market, Venezuela (which appears about ready for the death sentence) succumbs. In addition, the ever-increasing emigration of qualified personnel from this sector augurs the potential downfall of this dirty global money-laundering operation.

For all those reasons, the Castro regime strategists long ago looked towards the brutal and disordered North that despises them and fixed their hopes on that lifeline that Obama is now casting to them just when they were exhaling their last breath…

Now, the generalship (which in another time might have been intransigent) will once again open its legs (as it did for that community of beaten-up gusanos (worms)** in 1980, when it ran out of money in the 90s). Now “The Enemy,”*** which presumably is the same one to whom not even an inch can be given, is suddenly transfigured (to the surprise of some and the rage of others) into the floating piece of wood remaining after the shipwreck, the lifesaver for an eternal Robinson Crusoe who had already wreaked as much damage as possible upon his lost island.

In spite of all this, I remain a supporter of the lifting of the embargo but only – and this is non-negotiable – if this act is accompanied by, or is conducive to, the unconditional deference to the human rights of my people by the low-lifes…I’m sorry, I meant to say, by the apex of the Cuban establishment.****

However, once this decision is made, two unavoidable consequences appear on the immediate horizon. On the one hand the Cuban government will breathe easy, receiving in the short-term a respectable income stream that otherwise would have been out of reach (or, and it’s the same thing, it will feel safe and more secure than ever to refine new repressive strategies).

On the other hand – and this is their favorable edge – this totalitarian government has finally run out of its principal justifying argument against its “perpetual enemy” and can no longer maintain its stance as “a besieged people” (or, and again, it’s the same thing, from this moment on, the world will judge that our economic ruin is really due to the stubbornness of the Cuban leadership that kept this country stuck in the past).

In case things remain as they are portrayed to us, the Cuban people will continue being deprived of such basic civil and political rights as that of opinion and freedom of thought, of assembly and association. The regime will continue vetoing our right to access the uncensored Internet.

In the Castros’ Cuba, the existence of one, single Communist and despotic party – perhaps even more despotic and autocratic than ever – will continue to be legal, as well as one official press subject to the same censorship as always. The world will continue to hear ever more frequent and violent news reports of repressive government actions against an opposition that will continue to be officially unrecognized, and of elections that will continue to be a total farce – with the only possible sleight-of-hand coming from the Plaza of the Revolution.

This is what very likely would occur starting now, assuming that in this mise en place all the pieces have been shown to us. I say this because I do not discard the possibility that between both governments there has been a much deeper and more ambitious roadmap drawn up than what has been publicly announced. At first glance one has the impression that the US gave up too much for the little offered by Cuba – and that if both parties have demonstrated anything in common, it is how obstinate they can be when they think are right.

The evident asymmetry of the proposals is surprising, even suspicious. On the US side, there is so much that reflects a splendidly generous Obama. As for Cuba, we have a grey Raúl Castro focusing on the return of the three prisoners, while relegating the end of the half-century embargo to an aside, as though speaking of baseball season playoffs.

From this I infer that there is much more to these proceedings than meets the eye –especially if we consider, in all its weight, the direct intervention of Pope Francis.

Also, I do not discount the megalomaniac instinct of the Castros requiring that all announcements be issued progressively, in a scattered manner – slowly but relentlessly, in Raulist language – so that there should be no ugly impression that in the end they surrendered before the evidence that Fidel Castro publicly recognized years ago, that the Cuban economic model doesn’t work.

To accept this proposal would not be at odds with the pragmatic North American spirit, for which the only important thing is to achieve the stated goal, even more so if the sole obstacle is something so fragile and simple as the injured macho pride of some little old decrepit men.

But in the end, the die is cast: From now on, Cuba and the US will be good and respectable neighbors. Obama and Castro announced it barely a week after thousands of Cuban opposition members and civil rights activists were threatened and/or beaten and/or detained – but certainly all repressed – this past 10 December, International Human Rights Day, scarcely 90 miles from the North American coast.

However, to let Mr. Obama off the hook, it must be recognized, that 90 miles of open sea is too far for the President to be able to hear the cries of helplessness and the din of the crowds; to be able to perceive the intangibles of fear, pain from beatings, and the taste of blood.

This agreement being the prelude to the imminent implementation of the European Common Pact, we must face this certainty: As of today, we are left alone vis-a-vis the Monster. The fight is being observed by the world at a prudent distance. From now on, the liberty of Cuba will be, more than ever, our task alone.

Translator’s Notes:

*Latin for “the die is cast”
**“Gusano” (worm) is an insult hurled by the Cuban regime and its supporters to any person who has opposed the regime in any way, or who has left the country to escape it. The term has become a symbol of pride among opponents and exiles.
***”El Enemigo” (The Enemy) is a common epithet used by the regime, the state-run media, and supporters, when referring to the US.
****The writer is making a play on words, offsetting the Cuban slang word 
crápula (low-life) against cúpula, which literally translates as “dome” but is commonly used to denote those at the highest level of power.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz and Alicia Barraqué Ellison

22 December 2014

Havana: City of the “Marvelous” Unreality / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jean-Paul de la Fuente, director of New7Wonders, the Swiss foundation behind the online contest to name the seven most marvelous cities of the world, is visiting the Cuban capital. Having been received by Marta Hernández Romero, president of the Havana Provincial Assembly of Popular Power, and Eusebio Leal Spengler, city historian, already De la Fuente takes on, from the moment of his arrival, the typical profile of the tourist who, from his birds-eye view, cannot perceive to what unsuspected point it is difficult for the average Cuban to live in his beloved city.

I cannot understand how anyone who knows at least something of the functioning dynamic of the Cuban capital can propose this city as a contender for such a prize, much less the inexplicable manner in which Havana ended up on the final roster alongside such urban centers as Barcelona, Chicago, London and Mexico City.

From there we can only presume that all these persons who voted to keep La Giraldilla‘s city among the final contestants for membership in that select group of urban marvels have one thing in common: none of them live in a shanty town in El Cerro, in a tenement in Centro Habana or in Marianao on the banks of the Quibú River, subsisting on a salary of 20 dollars a month for sustaining his whole family; none has suffered seeing his child drool over the inaccessible toy; nor does he know what an “un-ration” book is, nor has he asked himself, at five in the afternoon, gazing into his empty larder, “What the fuck are we going to eat tonight?” Continue reading “Havana: City of the “Marvelous” Unreality / Jeovany Jimenez Vega”

He has never endured standing in line for several hours to buy some semi-decomposed ground meat. He never rode at peak times on one of those dinosaur, two-humped “buses” we called “camels,” hanging from the door; nor has he (for decades!) been carrying water in buckets up to a 4th floor flat, or paying 100 pesos a pop for the indolence of the pertinent functionaries.

He has not been forced to live “temporarily” in a shelter (for 15 or 20 years!) after being left homeless by one of those all-too frequent building collapses that occur in this semi-destroyed city.

Enthusiasts could allege that this selection is based on rates of health and education that compose the standards of a deceptively high Index of Human Development — which paradoxically places us above such regional economic powers as Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, México and Brazil.

We would have to see if these enthusiasts would be so ardent after visiting a medical office (in terrible structural conditions), left empty because its doctor was dispatched by the government to a foreign mission — or because the doctor decided to leave the practice because working as a taxi driver provides a much better living.

One wonders if the enthusiasts would be less enthused upon visiting a hospital beset by similar disastrous structural problems, and where the doctors and allied professionals labor under dramatic levels of personal frustration. Such a scene can be perfectly extrapolated to the education sector — the Cuban government’s other trump card — which during the 2000s touched bottom, following Fidel Castro’s failed mega-experiment that brought it to ruin.

It turns out that Havana is (as is the rest of the reality that we Cubans live inside the island) of a complexity so grotesque at times and so subtle at others, that it becomes quite difficult to comprehend for someone who arrives, sips a daiquirí, and then returns to the comfort of his routine, as surely Mr. de la Fuente will, without managing to infer just how profoundly dysfunctional this city can be, a city that is now shown-off from the immaculate balconies of the Ministry of Tourism.

I do not speak solely of the deplorable state of our highway system, with its monumental and deep potholes and clogged storm drains; nor of the generalized absence of garbage containers which contributes to the filth in the streets; nor of the vacant tenements or the buildings in ruins.

The point, beyond all that, is a matter more grave and profound: it is about the incapacity of the Cuban government to solve our problems, and its lack of political will to open us up to the world; it is about the abusive pricing the government sets and the dual currency system it maintains; the punishing customs restrictions that effectively block the transport into the country of merchandise that would make our lives easier, and the oppressive reticence towards anything that would encourage our personal prosperity.

It is the absurd refusal to allow us to purchase an automobile at a minimally decent price, for example, thus to keep Havana still plagued by rickety cars left over from the first half of the last century; it is the systematic prohibition against our access to that same Internet that De la Fuente uses today to sponsor his contest and which is denied to the millions of us Cubans who live on the Island — and who do live on the banks of the Quibú River, eat decomposed ground soy meat, get around on primitive transportation, and cannot access the Internet — our legitimate right to post words like these on his site.

Finally, it is here that one would have to consider all of those “small things” that, all together, ultimately make this city “marvelous” — or asphyxiating — for the humans that reside in it. And up to this point, I have not mentioned at all fear, that ethereal resident of all cities in Cuba, and which is among its most hurtful complications: the fear of being annulled by an all-encompassing power that investigates and controls everything, so well-known by every opposition-member or dissident; this omnipresent fear whose intangible nature makes it impossible to include among the criteria considered in this brilliant contest from Switzerland, New7Wonders.

26 November 2014

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison


Cuban Health Care Workers’ Motives: Idealism or Necessity? / Jeovany Jimenez Vega


Raul Castro waves goodbye to a Cuban healthcare worker leaving for an overseas post
Raul Castro waves goodbye to a Cuban healthcare worker leaving for an overseas post

By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

During an interview last Thursday on his afternoon radio program the host, Ninoska Perez, told me about the mood she perceived in the Cuban medical brigade workers dispatched a few days ago by Raul Castro. She was struck by the “unfriendly” demeanor some of these professionals showed upon leaving for West Africa to confront the Ebola epidemic. I could not comment because I had not seen the television program in question, but her observation did cause me to think about the motives of Cuban health care workers who have joined medical missions in recent decades.

Although regularly presented by the Cuban government as examples of lofty philanthropic aspirations, in reality these missions have become in the span of a few short years the main source of income for this Caribbean nation. We have all witnessed how the government in Havana — rather than simply acknowledging that this is a fee-based service from which it has, on the whole, profited handsomely — continues to portray my self-sacrificing colleagues as selfless messiahs.

At the same time it downplays the notion that a health care worker — someone who is paid poverty-level wages — might embark on such a mission in order to somewhat mitigate his desperate economic situation. The pretense is that this is more than simply a contract labor issue, something for which a fee is paid. In itself this is certainly not immoral, but the assumption is that the “new man” is motivated only by the purest form of altruism.

Far be it for me to question those who put themselves in harm’s way. As I am not God, I have no right to do so. In light of what they are doing, a modicum of humility on my part is in order since I am not the one facing possible exposure. Nevertheless, a number of facts come to mind that cannot be denied.

First of all, the Cuban professionals who have been sent on these missions for more than a decade now do not do so under the same conditions as their counterparts from other countries. Elsewhere, these things follow a natural course. In other words, the workers themselves make the decision to enter into employment contracts based on their own interests and prospects.

Under a totalitarian government like Cuba’s, however, the parameters are quite different since our professional workers are not operating from a position of personal freedom.

It is no secret that a health care worker on a medical mission almost never has any say over where he is assigned. And once in the host country, he is monitored as though he were a child. This applies to his personal relationships — from the people with whom he talks and associates to when and where he goes out with them — as well as to even very small payments for outside work, which are expressly forbidden.

Furthermore, while working overseas, his “salary” is no more than 15% to 20% of the contract price agreed upon by the two governments. In many cases this amounts less than the legal minimum wage in the host country. The remainder is retained by the Cuban treasury.

Upon his return, our colleague is not allowed to bring into the country anything more than stipulated by the mission director, which amounts to a few very limited boxes of merchandise, and then only after his period of service has officially ended. Back in Cuba, he can access only half of the salary he was paid, with the balance remaining frozen in some Cuban bank.

In the event he should decide to end his term of service earlier than expected for personal reasons, he would be considered a deserter and would forfeit all the money he had earned. Even his family would not be able to access his bank account. He would also be strictly prevented from returning to Cuba for eight years, even for a short period to visit his children or in the event of a serious illness or the death of one of his parents.

Given all this, it is understandable why Ninoska would describe the current contingent as “an army of slaves.” Setting aside the harsh description, it is evident that the relationship the government maintains towards individual workers is not one of respect but rather continues to be punitive and despotic in nature.

But there are parts of the world that still do not understand that the government that treats its citizens in such an arbitrary way is the same one that is sending our colleagues to Africa. It is the same one that is killing us at airports with astronomical prices and draconian customs regulations, the same one which pays us salaries that are laughable when compared to a cost of living that reaches soaring heights, the same one that does nothing to mitigate the state of affairs it itself has created and encouraged, all of which are incompatible with its humble proclamations of universal generosity.

Under such circumstances — knowing they face threats from an oppressive force that is both employer and executioner — it is impossible to assess the sincerity of some our health care workers when they appear in public singing the praises of the revolution, the party and proletarian internationalism. It is quite disturbing to see a familiar face among this group after having heard him complain bitterly about living and working conditions that are sometimes simply bad but often are appalling.

This “benevolent” government — the only one that is sends its physicians off to glory or to death — demonstrates its contempt for us in the most brutal way. And the reason it can do this with impunity is because it keeps trotting us around like victory pennants, or like the collateral behind the emotional blackmail it uses to garner votes and commitments from foreign governments in international forums.

That is why in domestic policy they can afford to grossly neglect the welfare of their own people. Who would guess that a government that takes the “laudable” action of sending a contingent to Africa larger than those of the rest of the world combined would be capable of subjugating its own people? How would a world dazzled by such an admirable initiative suspect that our civil rights are not respected or that on a daily basis we are subjected to physical attacks, arbitrary detentions and fully orchestrated acts of repudiation?

When Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, or John Kerry, US Secretary of State, praises the Cuban government — even when it is clear their remarks are limited only to its role in the current health crisis — they voluntarily or involuntarily concede ground and thus give Cuban authorities another slap on the back, allowing them to perpetuate their domestic policy of indentured servitude.

But those of us dealing with this grim reality are not deceived by those who have a monopoly on everything, even when they are disguised as sequined divas on the world stage. We don’t forget that this is the same government which continues to speculate with our most basic needs. We know that they intend to perpetuate our misery because they know that a bankrupt people, materially and spiritually impoverished, will always be more susceptible to their whims than a serene and prosperous people.

From Citizen Zero I wish my colleagues from Cuba and around the world much luck and success in this critical mission, which is essential if humanity is to eradicate this dangerous scourge. At the same time, I cannot help but abhor the way the Cuban government politically manipulates the personal risks these workers are assuming. Ultimately, it will be the infallible, inexorable and certain judgment of history that will separate the gold from the dross and the diamond from the coal.

27 October 2014