A Harvest with Far Too Many Thorns / Luis Felipe Rojas

The announcement came straight from the voice of General President Raul Castro himself, as he shared an analysis with the Council of Ministers. The current sugar harvest is going down a very bad path, he said. And the arguments for such a statement reside in the lack of foresight on behalf of the socialist businessmen. According to the plain declarations, the spare parts for  repairs arrived just in time but there were delays in the execution of the chain of command. In other words, they arrived in the country in time, but not to the sugar production plants. Meanwhile, there are deficiencies with the generating of energy. The available resources are not used to their full potential, Granma newspaper has also signaled.

What is certain is that, according to the oldest sugar plantation workers, a harvest programmed for the beginning of December is considered premature, first of all, and it then becomes too long. That seems to be the general consensus among the most experienced workers and specialists of the field.

It is necessary to make two matters clear here for readers like “Cubano 100%” and “Inocencio“. As for Cubano100%, he posted this comment on an entry of this blog: “(…) and, about working 20 hours, it seems like you exaggerated a bit, besides I am sure that, with how capricious Cubans are, they will not let anyone impose such a work regime like the one you say on them. In sum, if they are doing it, it is because they want to, not because anyone is forcing them“.

Cubano, the fact that workers do not have the right to go on strike in Cuba does not make the violations vanish. The framework of government repression and the pressures of State Unions, you know very well, are very difficult to unravel. Ah! And as for the capriciousness of Cuban workers who would not let themselves suffer impositions, well then we will have to erase an entire 50 year-long history of silence and self-restraint. Much to your dismay, I can confirm that the tiresome process of 12 hour shifts on sugar plantations continue in the province of Holguin.

As for “Inocencio”: The workers directly linked to the production process work during shifts which last from 7 AM to 7 PM in two brigades, while the other rests. Yes, they supposedly rest for 24 hours, but in reality the process should be 3 hours long, meaning that each shift is working 4 extra hours…do they pay them for it? It’s true. Can they can rest 24 hours? Let’s see: when a worker, in one of those God forsaken places, leaves at 7 AM, the least he’s done has been to go to sleep, amid quarrels, in order to provide food for the family and food for livestock, that is enough to tire one to the point of wanting to go to bed in the afternoon. I do not know if you can lay down and get some sleep knowing that your children will come home from school and not find anything to eat. I’ve seen it, I’ve been able to witness it and I have the testimonies of many workers whose faces show the physical wear and stress. The work in the central boilers is an enormous danger for people after they have spent 8 hours of continuous tension.

A bit over a week ago, in the Urbano Noris Central of San German, during the time of supposed payment, the workers were informed that they must return the  bonus money which they had been paid during the fortnightly pay. It was a failed process, leading to the payout of nearly 67,000 pesos in national currency.

On the last collection day, they set up a table so that the workers could deposit what was “erroneously” paid to them previously, but very few actually responded with something substantial. Various sources revealed that only the functionaries of the Communist Party “stepped up”. The rest left 5 pesos, 1 peso, or in many cases, just a few cents.

The reprimands by the administration, the nucleus of the Communist Party of Cuba, and the Union did not take long to follow. One of the current vice-presidents of the local government presented himself in a meeting with engineers and shit/brigade chiefs, using words such as “compromise” or “patriotism”. They are practically being pressured so that, at the same time, they incite the workers to give back their incorrect payments. But, apparently, since the money has passed on to the hands of Fuenteovejuna*, there are no intentions of returning what they were paid.

Either more pressures or coercive measures will be sure to follow. Who knows! We will be attentive.

*Translator’s note: Fuenteovejuna– is a Spanish play from 1619, based on the events which took place in the Spanish village of Fuenteovejuna in 1476, when a commander mistreated numerous villagers. In response, the ‘peasants’ came together and killed that commander. When the king’s men rode into the village to ask who had committed the murder, the villagers responded by saying: “Fuenteovejuna did it”. Therefore, the saying signifies that a single person cannot be blamed.

Translated by Raul G.

15 March 2012