Opinion Journalism / Regina Coyula

Once again I’ve seen how public opinion can be conditioned just by preparing a group of people and putting a camera in front of them. I won’t question the sincerity and good faith of those who agreed to give their opinions, but in Cuba there is a tendency to say on camera what one is expected to say and not what one really thinks. In this case, it has to do with neighbors from the district of El Vedado who gathered to see the last episode of the series The Reasons of Cuba.

The first interviewee caught my attention, Thalia Fung, a name that means nothing for most viewers, but who is a Doctor of Marxist Philosophy with a professorship at the University of Havana. Others gathered in the living room of the spacious apartment are also interviewed, even a teenager like my son, of the three that could be seen in the report. They ended with the opinion of a lady absolutely convinced by the arguments expressed in this television show.

This journalistic work prepared as a special report for Noticiero sets the tone of political correctness. I still wonder when they will accept the reality that individuals can have different opinions, that it is necessary for our society to recognize that the double standard can only lead to a worsening situation, that in spite of all the secret and public mechanisms, the government still has no idea of what the people who shout and applaud when they are standing in front of a camera, actually think.

Translated by Dodi 2.0

March 2 2011

A Death That Could Have Been Avoided / Iván García

Every time I pass by the sports fan club in Parque Central, right in the heart of Havana, I think I hear Orlando Zapata Tamayo debating baseball matters.

Baseball was more than a passion for him. It was a style of life. The dissident — jailed for three years in 2003 for the crime of contempt, and then later the sentence was extended to 32 years for his rebellious attitude inside the prison — was a Cuban in its purest form.

I prefer the simple type of Banes, who like thousands of fellow countrymen born in the eastern regions of the island, flee from the ‘obstine‘ (frustration) and poverty in their villages and try to find better luck in the capital.

Zapata was one of those. In Havana he worked as an assistant bricklayer in the construction of Parque Central hotel, where at this very moment I’m composing this note. His political concerns were identical to those of the silent majority of Cubans, drivers with old cars for hire, fritura (fried food) vendors, or bicitaxistas who pedal twelve hours a day.

For several years Orlando was an anonymous dissident. It’s possible to investigate how his personal political transition started and when, openly and publicly, he began to desire a collection of freedoms for all citizens.

Zapata was similar to the front balcony neighbor that criticizes the state of affairs in the country. A desperate man of the street who doesn’t see a way, since constitutionally it doesn’t exist, to move Cuba on a democratic path.

There are many on the island like Zapata. Or in Cairo. Ideally this mulatto, who died at age 42, could be shouting slogans in Liberation Square. Or be Mohammed Bouazizi, the 26-year-old who set himself on fire in a Tunisian town far from the tourist brochures.

A memory comes to me of a chat I had on a cold night in February 2010 with one of his Republican Alternative Movement friends. He described to me those days, when unhappy with the arbitrary laws of the government that had imprisoned 75 dissidents in March of 2003, they left the Estadio Latinoamericano and, without a leader to exhort them, they marched from the baseball debating club in Parque Central along the streets, protesting the arrests.

And of course, I remember a short and sturdy opponent, who had suffered in prisons and hidden her emotions like everyone else, crying in silence in the living room of her house, remembering the young man, quiet, almost invisible, who was together with her on a fast, days before the raid of 2003.

I cannot forget the giant that is Reina Luisa Tamayo, his mother, who will not see Orlando, with his duffel bag in tow, coming down the alley of the poor neighborhood section of Banes where she lives.

A year after his death the message of Zapata Tamayo has force. It was precisely his death which led to a series of marches heard through the streets of Havana by the Ladies in White, shouting “Zapata lives.”

The repercussion and global condemnation over his death forced General Raul Castro’s government to negotiate a solution with the Catholic Church. If today a majority of the Black Spring dissidents can walk freely through the streets of Spain, Chile, the United States, or Cuba, it is thanks to this forceful weapon that was the death of Zapata.

A death that could have been prevented. Due to arrogance the regime did not stop it. They gained nothing. A maxim which every statesman must remember is that they should never use the relentless forces of power against an individual, healthy or dying.

It is not about ideology. It is a matter of humanity. The government of Cuba would gain credibility if, at one year after the death of Zapata, they would apologize publicly. Out of respect and decency they owe it to his mother, so shamefully harassed.

Reina Luisa will never recover her son. But it might be an initiation of the unavoidable dialogue that Cuba needs. The Castros should use leniency as a shield. It would be a way to atone for their faults. And believe me, they need it.

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Translated by DoDi 2.0

February 24 2011

A Wake for Our Cadaver / Francis Sánchez

This February 23 marks the first anniversary of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo after suffering a hunger strike that lasted 86 days. The official press hastened to say that it was just another fallen mercenary in service to the empire. But not everyone in the general public subjected to this propaganda saw it that way, even some avowed communists revealed their bewilderment in remarks circulated by email: can one give their own life, coldly, in exchange for money?

The old discredited argument against dissent, against differences, continues to transmit the classic standard of proof: supposedly all “others” are lacking not only good sense, true motives, but also lack the most minimal ideal or altruism. But now its lack of logic has left this argument without a leg. This victim was different, he had crossed the vast threshold of the pain of an entire people until he entered into death, carried forth by his own sturdy will, over to where Cubans, because of their culture and distinctive characteristics, do not charge or demand, but instead offer to give themselves freely to their fellow man. Apart from puppets, that other cartoonish idea of masochistic dissidents, that they are looking for ostracism and repression in return for a few perks they are thrown from the outside, does not even remotely fit the case. Zapata gave everything. He gave, and here this word acquires its full meaning, his life.

Absolute power, which is always marked by rigor mortis, does not permit even in theory a social actor who dissents legitimately. Seemingly the most elemental human condition is lost when a person questions or doubts the vertical power, receiving the exclusion that is reserved for monsters, that’s why the revolutionary songbook is full of dehumanizing terms such as “worm”, “scum”, “faction”, it has been used over the long course of Cuban history to institutionalize an overwhelming fear of disagreements.

One might ask the tribunal of untainted pure censors this question: what is the prototypical dissident for which they have planned, do they concede to a life the right to question, that those who choose to live could believe that a monolithic social model is unsustainable or impossible. Given this abundant reality and the ideological contradictions why don’t we see an opponent worthy of minimal respect emerge in the national arena, someone permitted to share the same space with them minus the stigma, and a judge that is chosen who will accept all parties: does some type of a priori approved opponent exist? A person who authentically challenges power and its axioms? Is there an application process to follow, some conditions to be met, at least on paper, which won’t cause oneself to deserve punishment or to have oneself compared to rats? Well no. This very complex reality and national history gives us the answer: it has not been planned for. In a Revolution, supposedly more sacred than the existence of the people caught in its vortex, one where the means disrupt the ends, simply put, a good citizen is “revolutionary” or they cease to be a citizen.

They corner and they crush the “vermin” on the pretext of preventing harm to human beings and the community. Denied as individuals the reasons or lack of reasons of the State that enforces a degraded standard of living, what mark of our uniqueness are we left, what tacit humanism, what borderline is there which can be used to avoid mistaking ourselves for the blind murderous deformities that illustrate the official bestiary. Harming oneself is the extreme attitude test, but also practically the only one that comes to a person already cornered and crushed in order to argue for their harmlessness and their human rights: actions like separating oneself from the sheep kept secure in a pen, the renunciation, the fasting or a tragic suicide… Zapata crossed those boundaries. Clearly, not even that was sufficient: official spokesmen cataloged it as perverse. Without a doubt, he made himself a martyr.

To continue the story starting from the same place. They had also wanted this February 23 to be for Pedro Arguelles’ birthday, one of the few prisoners who are left of the 75 condemned in spring of 2003, in spite of causing the government to promise last year to free all of them in November later that same year. So Arguelles had planned his visiting day, which occurs approximately every month and a half, for this date. Yolanda, his wife, had the bags prepared to bring to him, when she received his call: He decided to renounce this visit in order to pass his birthday in complete fasting as an homage to the memory of Orlando Zapata. He who has nothing, but still finds a way to find the strength and express himself civically, sacrificing the little that he still has.

Yolanda must wait another 45 days to see the man she loves and who makes her feel proud. “Stateless” usually encompasses peaceful dissent, here it’s synonymous with traitor and monster. Arguelles has seen his imprisonment prolonged including after the promise of the government, until arriving at that day which shared his birthday and the first anniversary of the death of Orlando Zapata, precisely for rejecting the only condition which until now they have given to him in order to leave the jail: Abandon his homeland.

We are having a wake for our cadaver and, at the bottom of the deep future, trembles a flame, an idea much more daunting than the open eyes of a dead man: the soul in torment from the nation “with all and for the good of all.”

Translated by Dodi 2.0

February 24 2011

Expensive Offers / Silvio Benítez Márquez

By Silvio Benitez

The racket wakes me up. On the corner a heated discussion spreads throughout the neighborhood. Nobody knows for certain what happened. I begin to get impatient and go to see what fuss has provoked such a tumult. A few meters away an indignant neighbor is exchanging swear words with a neighbor… coño… how much longer will we take this communist shit… compadre... not even over the dead grandmother’s tomb will they accept it. Now several items have been removed from the ration book, and at what prices, there’s no one that can put up with this… mi hermano

At last I arrive at the corner where the hot debate was generated. I start off like someone who is unconcerned to ask about the day’s agenda. I’m running behind on my itinerary and need to gather better information. Ariel — the little liar — comes over and in a frightened voice whispers in my ear the latest news, la china (Raul, whom we call “the Chinese girl”) took refined sugar off the ration book at a price of 8 cañitas (Cuban Pesos, CUP) and unrefined sugar at 6. My friend, how tough they’re making things, I don’t earn enough in one day to make myself a lemonade. I breath deeply and walk off toward the grocery to make certain.

Arriving I wait in front of the pizza stand and check if the rumors are true. I take a spin and head back to my home when a buddy calls me a bit suspiciously, I thought that it was to talk about the same theme. When I got close to him I saw that his face was transformed in sync with the news. My brother, how it pains me about the Industriales – our baseball team — and with your kid at every stretch of the competition the pay goes down. Today in Guantanamo they turned on the talented Armadito Ribero, one of the best pitchers of the team, you know how they’re going put things so they don’t even let you get to shore. I give him a wave and continue the march looking at the tenuous clouds thinking that it was the night before Valentine’s Day and I didn’t even have water to offer my sweatheart Alicia.

Translated by Dodi 2.0

February 17 2011

New Yorkabana… / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

NEW YORKABANA…, originally uploaded by orlandoluispardolazo.

Sunday, February 20

To the Big Apple

Everybody!

In memory of

Orlando Zapata Tamayo

On the 1st anniversary of his death

Meeting Place @

Times Square, New York City

43rd St. @ 7th Ave.

Suddenly sometimes on Sundays something happens…

Translated by Dodi 2.0

February 16 2011

Havana No… /Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

The resistance in Cuba passes these days clinging to life. The best insubordination is to survive the Consejo de Estado intact.

www.diariodecuba.com/derechos-humanos/3187-la-calle-no

“Politics is the business of the dead”, said a Cuban mother in The Initials of the Earth, the masterpiece by Jesús Díaz that in its time aspired to be branded as the novel of the Revolution.

It seems a wise statement. Domestic politics of someone who had seen from his bedroom the irrepressible carnival of cadavers that our pathetic poets at the time called Republic. The fictionalized scene penetrates an early 60’s Havana night. With the Revolution there would be no reason to be different. Violence is the only plausible vox populi between neighbors. The wise one lives off the fool. The cemetery as the source of secular law. The Cuban mother as a fierce animal that defends her brood from the distressing enthusiasm of the blind masses. Who would know how to read like this today…!

A national stage empty of spontaneity becomes ipso facto an outdoor puppet show. All institution is imaginary. One must be wary of the other precisely for being puppets. Secrecy as the way of all things. The smallest public act of free will compromises nothing less than the security of the State itself and deserves the maximum penalty, and to make the horror even worse, with some semblance of legality. Under these conditions the street is only for the mob. They seem morphologically–although it would be immoral to ask pears of an avocado–as if they harangue themselves suicidally inside or shamelessly outside of our little post-Siboney farm.

The consequences of a posthumous peace prolonged so long is surely harmful to our notion of civil society and other fanciful concepts, but perhaps also there are some side benefits. We Cubans refuse to kill ourselves like fish in barrel before cameras and microphones who get bored on the island with their high euro-salaries. We Cubans have lost the innocence of clucking slogans believably (polyphonic voices under their sleeves are beating the choir). We Cubans have lost our politicization and in the struggle of everyday life we don’t miss it at all.

Already in the spontaneously terminal phase of a long and torturous totalitarian state, we’re in no hurry to pay the price to turn it into dust with the tap of a grim steering wheel, bloody revolution. There is a constitutional distrust of any attempt to change control. It’s not fear, it’s memory. And that’s why we delegate the misfortune to our crude gurus of our government. That they grind themselves up there on top with their thousand and one ministerial mutations. That they err and rectify and enjoy and wear out in their own triumphant demagoguery. That they feel like materialist Christs created from the podium of their octogenarian biology. In short, the time of our private novel is eternal (he who hopes for much, expects little). Luckily, we Cubans are like that Cuban mother that no one will read again in a forgotten little scene in The Initials of the Earth.

Business. Death. Since our childhood historically we have matured as a people in spite of everything. The resistance in Cuba passes these days by clinging with futile faith to life. Renew this fleeting sickness called hope. The best insubordination would be then to survive the Consejo de Estado intact. No need to go into the streets, without calls more or less charismatic or criminal, that plebiscite of the future Revolution has already lost unanimity.

Translated by Dodi 2.0

February 17 2011

Cries of Freedom / Rebeca Monzo

Health care is one of the two flags of socialism most flown on my planet over all these years. The other is education. Both are faded and frayed. The first thing lost was the color, then the credibility.

There are many stories told by ordinary citizens on the subject of health. Each one more horrifying than the last. Take care! It’s not about the doctors. They also suffer. I’m referring to the services, the facilities, the medicine.

A few days ago my niece was admitted to the old Sacred Heart clinic, today called Gonzalez Coro hospital. They had to give her a cesarean section after working a full day to induce labor. That same night I went to visit her. The only bus route that lets me off nearby never comes, and when it does pass it doesn’t stop, so I decided to walk. Unfortunately at this hour the cemetery, which is the shortcut to Vedado, had closed its doors. I had to go through La Timba neighborhood, but with the evening still light it wasn’t too dangerous. The return would be by 23rd St.

On arriving at the hospital tired from the walk I saw that only one elevator was working and it had a lot of people waiting so I took a deep breath and climbed the stairs to the 5th floor. It was partially illuminated. There was only one light bulb every two floors.

Looking for my niece’s quarters, I stuck my head in every room until I found hers, number 15, handwritten on paper stuck with glue and almost coming off, marked the door. Hugging my niece, still in pain, I saw Laurita at her side in a cradle, pretty, healthy, pink. I reached out my hand to turn on the light and I realized that the electric switch was balanced in a hole almost without plaster. Then the image of that beautiful clinic of the 50’s came to my mind. Only the green granite floor was left intact. It had born the brunt of abuse although now it no longer shone.

My niece, very content, when saying goodbye told me in a conspiratorial tone: Aunt, see how far we’ve come, now when babies are born they no longer need to be spanked to stimulate a holler, they only say to them, “You were born in Cuba, and just like that they start to cry.”

Translated by Dodi 2.0

February 17 2011

Humanly Impossible / Laritza Diversent

Pedro Suarez, aka “El Pantera” thought to reorganize his life according to the guidelines of the Priests of Ifa for this year. In his hands he has the brochure with the work regulations for private business. It proposes to legalize a business that for more than five years have been illegal: a small workshop for the production of guava sweetrolls.

In spite of having friends who warn him in advance, he wanted to free himself from the police reports and accusations for carrying out illegal economic activities. Until now he has never been caught, that’s why they call him “El Pantera” (the Panther), but he feels that at 50 years of age he needs to rest.

He must think of everything, for example, what to say in case the police detain him carrying more than 2000 sweetrolls. The act according to the criminal law is considered a crime of speculation and hoarding. The perfect idea occurred to him: sell orders for weddings, birthdays, and quinceañeras–girls’ fifteenth birthday parties.

“Home-based seller of prepared foods, the license that fits my needs,” he thought. Also it is the only way to distribute products in bulk without causing suspicion from the authorities.

El Pantera had a network of distribution in the city: private kiosks, Poli-cake administrators (state bakeries, that also sell their products “on the left”, that is in the black market, in Cuban Convertible Pesos), and occasionally people who resell goods in the street. All illegal activities according to the work rules for small private business.

“It’s a violation to commercialize bulk products, it’s another to do it with a state entity without being duly authorized, without a doubt it’s all illegal,” he said aloud.

While elaborating on his strategy, logic told him that he should warn his contacts, principally his small business clients, about the list of infractions. They should never say that they bought his sweetrolls to resell. Also it’s a violation to use middlemen to commercialize production. And by acting as such the middlemen they commit a violation too.

Rereading he found another problem: Justifying the legality of the materials that he uses in his business. He was obliged to buy the flour and sugar at the market in Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUCs), and bars of guava paste in the official farmer’s market. However, it was not cost-effective to buy raw materials in convertible currency to later sell his product in the national currency, or Cuban peso.

The cake, sold directly to people, cost about 2 Cuban pesos (about $.08 U.S.), he would have to declare this to be the official price. Nevertheless, he gives his product to middlemen for 1.50 Cuban pesos. If he bought the raw material at the stores selling in CUCs it would make the costs of production more expensive and force him to raise prices, in which case sales would go down.

With calculator in hand he summed it up: He had sales of 120,000 sweetrolls per month and had assumed he would invest 240,000 pesos, when in reality it was 180,000. Under these conditions he would have to declare 720,000 pesos that wasn’t entered on his assets. And if he declared that figure that they would apply a 50% tax to it.

For a week he read, reread, analyzed and formulated, but he didn’t find a way to detach himself from illegality. He would always be accompanied by the risk of being accused of engaging in illegal economic activities or of being subject to confiscation processes for illegal enrichment.

He would reach success and prosperity only if he falsified his sworn statements and bought the raw material, and the receipts for it, in CUCs on the black market. From his study of the legislation he only learned new ways to appear legal, but not how to live inside the law.

The frustration this time affected El Pantera. For the first time in his life he was ready to observe the law and he concluded that, in this country, it’s humanly impossible… unless one is willing to die of hunger.

Translated by: Dodi 2.0

February 16 2011

How To Help / Silvio Benítez Márquez

Help to maintain my voice “Desdelapuntabrava” in the blogosphere and Twitter with Recarga Móvil from anyplace in the world.

The internet is limited in Cuba, only high officials and foreign residents in the national territory can connect to the network from their house. Cubans cannot open a local internet account. The hotels charge from $7-9 USD per hour of internet. This is very limiting for our budgets where, given the reality that we confront, this amount is a luxury.

One way to help our effort so that our voice is heard across the blogs and social networks, like Twitter, is to help recharge our cellphones which we use to send tweets via text messages. Each text message sent this way costs 1 CUC ($1.00 USD), remaining a luxury that limits our voice and prevents us from expressing what is happening in Cuba.

The social networks have allowed many of our opinions to be known inside and outside of our country. With your help our voice will be spread by internet and, above all, it will also help to protect us since, if more people read us and know we exist and are expressing an opinion, then they become a shield for Cubans who want to tell the world what happens in this dictatorship.

You can help in the following way:

  • Recharge our cellphones from anywhere in the world at http://turecarga.com or http://recargasacuba.com/ so that we can send tweets by way of text messages. That way we can report immediately on emergencies and what is happening on our island.

My cellphone number is: +5352541300

  • Link and disseminate this blog on various pages, websites, portals, or on other blogs, and in that way spreads our existence and our publications.
  • I ask you to do the same for the other bloggers who day by day report what is happening in Cuba in spite of the tyranny. You can see on my Blog links to other Bloggers. Those from the provinces need a lot of help.
  • Remember not to use intermediaries to avoid having someone take advantage of your help and our cause. Through this page you can do it directly. If you can, send me a text message indicating that you have helped with a recharge. Thank you very much.

Silvio Benítez

Blogger of “Desdelapuntabrava”
+5352541300

Project Promoter for Voces del Barrio
Havana – CUBA

Translated by: Dodi 2.0

February 16 2011

Reinventing Slavery / Ernesto Morales Licea

Talking about Cuban doctors today brings to mind a new kind of slavery, of sad pieces used on a chessboard. Through misfortune, the doctor Oscar Elías Biscet — a free man in the damp shadow of his cell — is hardly alone.

I believe that few professionals in the world face a situation more precarious in regard to individual liberties, than this army of doctors that in my Cuba of the twenty-first century are not masters of their own lives.

True: No one in Cuba is the master of their life. But the men and women in white coats, even less so.

I am thinking now about one more, one recently arrived in special conditions, pouring a drop into the receptacle of the outrageous. His name is Rafael Fontirroche, pediatric surgeon and he needed to make a hasty escape to the United States, and later on to denounce the corruption of the medical program in Nicaragua, to which he belonged at the time.

Obviously, the story of this surgeon isn’t anything extraordinary. It just joins the ranks of the doctors who, speaking of their lives, knowing the almost eternal punishment that awaits them, decide to escape from the countries to which they were sent by the Government and to remake their lives where they will be the true owners of them.

Everything began with a new economic strategy. The redeeming idea, the injection of a mountain of money in a dying economy, consists of forgetting about carnivals and coffee, forgetting about beaches and tourism, forgetting also about the army of computer specialists with which the Greater Antilles tried to lead a production of world class software. Forget any prior strategy… and look to the men of Healthcare.

Like everything in my island country: A visionary of power gave the order, and the whole nation undertook the task. It will be a bit more than a decade since then.

I seem to remember precisely those times when the medical euphoria had its main peak: I was studying in a high school in my city, year 2000, and suddenly a career until that moment difficult to obtain, privilege of the hardworking and talented few, was made available to everybody.

Entrance exams for careers in Healthcare, especially Medicine, become impossible to fail. The academic level to qualify for the profession fell spectacularly. The sign was clear: “We need to form a legion of doctors.” No matter what.

And later, of course, began the international proposals. Based on what? With what card up the sleeve? Well, with a controversial but true fact: the level of Healthcare professionals, in Cuba, is undeniably high.

We separate scarce technology from educational level. We separate the ruins in which one finds the hospital network in Cuba, with instruments and methods from the Jurassic period — that allow, for example, wrong cancer diagnosis like the one they gave me four months ago — from the talent and dedication that Cuban doctors exhibit in their daily work.

Starting from there, our Government very thoughtfully decided what to do with the destinies of these professionals. “They will be our soldiers in white lab coats” — said the Chief Comandante one time. And things were never the same.

Because soldiers only obey orders. And strict orders, unbreakable, under penalty of hard punishments and strict consequences.

They began to be sent to the most unexpected corners on the planet. Both to countries that established hard cash payments in exchange for medical service, and to regions hit by hurricanes, earthquakes, and so much disaster that they disappeared throughout the four corners of the globe, where the international political lobby was the only reward.

What do these altruistic doctors say, in support, when Cuban Television cameras put a microphone in front of them? They say: “I do it for love of solidarity.” They say: “I do it for internationalism.” And I, and many, are surprised by the skill in lying which has been inoculated under our skin in so many years of revolutionary socialism.

Because the truth is that those men of science abandon their recently born children, abandon their wives — who in many cases, from then on no longer will be — they leave their own lives in Cuba, because it’s the only way to raise their terrible economic state.

And they leave also, the vast majority of them, with heavy hearts bound for Pakistan and Haiti, bound for lands where cholera or poisonous snakes lie in wait for them, because they know well the blackmail underlying the order to leave: If they don’t do it now, if they refuse, they will never be called for “missions” in Venezuela, South Africa, or Bolivia. The countries where they could really make some money.

And let’s say once more “something” about money, because like in all cases, the leaders of their battalion, the think tanks of these solidarity missions, know that he who divides and distributes gets the biggest cut. The Cuban State business in Healthcare professionals is more repulsive by the minute.

Just to give an example: In 2010 the British Medical Journal classified as “slavery” the situation of certain Cuban doctors in Portugal who received a salary much lower than the minimum established in that country, in spite of the Portuguese government paying the same for them as for native-born professionals, the only difference being that they had to pay it through the Cuban Embassy.

In route to their hands the pay was reduced to a symbolic sum. Annoying.

However, since it will never be lower than what they are paid for hours spent in Cuba where the maximum they can reach after years of achievement and experience is around 40 CUC (roughly $40 U.S. a month), these tropical doctors feel themselves fortunate. And they shut up.

Nobody dares to protest. Those who forget their condition as state property and raise their voices against injustice have two routes: Ruthless sacking from their careers on the Island, where they will never return to be full professionals; or the destiny that the surgeon Fontirroche chose: Exile. Forever.

That’s why we then arrive at one of the central points of this condition of medical serfdom: since by grace of a presidential decision they become exclusive property “of the Nation,” nowhere on the globe exist beings with less possibility to emigrate in the usual way than them.

First: Because they are penalized with 5 years of waiting, at times more, until the fantastic Permission to Leave arrives in their hands. In this time they are sent to remote areas, mountainous, sparsely inhabited, as atonement for their sin of wanting freedom.

And next: Because in case they decide to “desert” from the assigned missions, the castle raises the drawbridge forever, and never again can they return to Cuba. They are converted into another crowd of exiles due to the decision of the big bosses of our Gulag.

Here I have met, by the hundreds: Stomatologists who crossed Venezuelan borders with nerves swollen by fear and desolation; nurses, orthopedists, recent young graduates that after landing in Namibia or Guatemala enrolled in semi-illegal expeditions to the United States, knowing that Cuba where they were born and where they left their families and wives will, in the future, continue to feed their memories and melancholy.

While the owners of their Island live, they cannot enter.

Looking behind the curtain of smoke that this case creates, I think that more than pain or insensitivity, the history of some doctors that suddenly lost all autonomy and mutated into state property, should cause fright, some sleepless nights, in those Cubans who still can travel without 5 years of official purgatory.

Raise your hands those who think you know, with total confidence, what will be the next economic strategy implemented by the establishment to save, this time for certain, the Nation from total ruin. Raise your hands whoever is sure that soon the members of a new army whose liberty will be cut off by official decree won’t include chess players, accountants or amateur singers.

Translated by Dodi 2.0 and others

February 14 2011