One fine day the decision was made to sell cell phones to ordinary, everyday Cubans.
To many of us, who had never been “authorized” to have a landline in our house, they are now selling phones … cellulars.
But, like so many other things that are hard to understand in this country, cell phones proved to be one of those insoluble contradictions, because before their appearance in society, it was possible to keep many “awkward” events hushed up. Now thousands of people walk down the street with them and it is not so easy to maintain the “secrecy” of some events.
So, if there is an altercation in a baseball stadium, “alternative” telephones are there to quickly let everyone know what happened, and occasionally include an on-scene video.
If a person is arrested on a public street (ordinarily without an arrest warrant) as usually happens to those on their way to journalism courses, there is always someone to take snapshots of what occurred, or to make a “live” report from their location giving details and identifying the patrolmen involved and even the license plate numbers of the police cars.
But as every action is followed by a reaction (at least that’s what we learned in physics), the police tactic has been to remove the license plate whenever there is danger of it being filmed in some way. So many citizens have been able to verify this “act” on repeated occasions.
To be fair, we have also seen law enforcement officers who do not hide their plates in these circumstances, and officers willing to fully identify themselves; but the truth is that these are in the minority.
Another reaction has been to prevent the taking of pictures. Thus, in a recent building collapse caused by rain on Monte Street in central Havana, just a few days ago, a person taking pictures of the place was about to be arrested by the police because (this is what that they argued) “you cannot take pictures of building collapses or fires.”
Nothing was said, however, about those responsible for the fall of the building.
In even more extreme cases, the approach has been to forcibly seize the person’s camera or phone (or both) — items that in many cases those deprived have never seen again … without explanations of criminal proceedings of any kind.
The latest thing I’ve heard on this subject was told to me by a friend from Pinar del Río last week. A police dog was checking for drugs in some luggage. My friend liked the dog and took a picture … and ended up in a jail cell where he had to go on a hunger strike before they finally released him some days later, because “police dogs cannot be portrayed while they work.”
It is possible that readers from other countries will see in these words an exaggeration or an intention to discredit. Neither is true, it is just that – for our tragedy – Cuba is today, as much as it hurts us, a country of ABSURDITIES.
If the feeling of oppression in totalitarian countries is in general much less acute than most people in liberal countries imagine, this is because the totalitarian governments succeed to a high degree in making people think as they want them to. The Road to Serfdom
By Enrique García Mieres
How can citizens change the president? It seems a truism deserving of a trivial answer: electing someone else for the job. But if we rephrase the question directed at Cuban citizens, then the answer acquires an unusual aspect: they can’t.
Not only because it’s a dictatorship that in the end is used to cheating on the results of elections to perpetuate itself, provoking a fatalistic impotence in the citizenry, but because Cubans simply have no such attribution: they cannot change the president.
In a parliamentary system, as the Cuban pretends to be, the head of the government is elected indirectly by the citizens who vote for the deputies to the parliament, and they in turn choose the president.
In Cuba there is a variant of this process that makes it even more indirect: the parliament names a Council of State — an elite parliament — and they in turn select the head of State. Seen like this there seems to be no grave impediments to the popular will finally coming to pass, it’s more or less a given.
The problem starts when we assume that the system always addresses this “popular will,” the desire for a political program that the citizens, and the person who should lead it, want. In other words, that the elected deputies are the bearers of the will of their constituents.
But in Cuba it doesn’t happen this way, the parliamentary candidates cannot run on some program, nor can the citizens choose between private or partisan political proposals. They choose among candidates based on their biographies and professional credentials to occupy a seat in parliament, and fulfill the function and role reserved for the lower house (in Cuba there is no Senate), that is a functionary (the deputy on taking possession of his seat becomes a cadre of the State) lacks any real job. This results in a parliament that does not serve civil society through its representatives, and they neither resolve differences nor choose between similarities.
Against this background what would be the sense of having deputies for or against anything, they look for a common denominator with the electoral programs — in Cuba political parties are not permitted and they must come together around a common project — establishing political alliances that culminate in the majority necessary to govern.
It makes no sense, and so the parliament raises its hands unanimously in a predestined way. Nor do they try to pass any motion of censure, because what options would the deputies add or subtract when there are no program options in parliament.
The only possibility, radical and surreal, for the citizens to change the current president of government is to try to prevent his taking a seat in the parliament, that is to convince the voters of the remote little village from which he always runs not to vote for him, renouncing their folklore and their pride in being those who choose this eminent representative. Setting aside the popular will, the local government of this village could recall the deputy (Article 6, Law 89), but this is too reckless.
Are Cuban citizens aware that they cannot change their president? It’s like asking the degree of conscience in inertia. Inertia that comes from the seventeen years prior to the current Communist Constitution, during which period the Cuban people were never consulted about the political system nor the head of the government, a fatalistic routine that has done nothing more than institutionalize itself.
There is a word that when you hear it, it’s difficult not to evoke the barbarity of the Inquisition that forced a 20th century Pope to apologize to humanity for actions so inappropriate for the Church of Christ.
Faced with the subject it’s common for names such as Dachau, Treblinka, Auschwitz, Gestapo, Gulags, Lubyanka, and Siberia to come to mind, just to cite a few.
The word in question is TORTURE, a method of obtaining a confession from (or punishing) a person at any price, a practice that, unfortunately, has continued from the time since the confession was considered the “queen of evidence.”
Unfortunately, torture has been used in Cuba at different times in its history. We saw chilling photos of these procedures during the Batista dictatorship; this was after the Revolution and during the trials where people shouted “To the wall!” to demand the execution of those who had tortured.
But, like any human creation that persists over time, torture evolved. Its forms and methods have become more subtle, more refined, more painful.
Now it is too coarse to brutally beat a prisoner, pull out his fingernails or put him on the rack. Now there are psychological tortures and others with a ’scientific’ basis.
Faced with the continuation of such practices, Human Rights Organizations of our time have repeatedly tried to curb such excesses that show the worst of human nature.
Thus we read in the United Nations’ Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, from June 26, 1987:
Considering the obligation of States under the Charter, in particular Article 55, to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms…
Having regard also to the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted by the General Assembly on 9 December 1975…
Nevertheless we recently get the news that in the particular case of Cuba, a Rapporteur on Torture has been named to visit (and the government has accepted). Unusual, right?
The point is that this already happened once and the international official designated for this mission… was never authorized to enter the island.
Now history repeats itself because the government says it will accept the visit, but as often happens in our troubled country, the problem turns out to be WHEN, and once again no date is set for this visit.
We regards to this new UN rapporteur for this little island — which should not fear the visit it if has nothing to hide — well, we could paraphrase the great Shakespeare:
As a consequence of the sad social deterioration and the weak rule of law in our country, for years now there has been an increase in the dangerous behavior of the citizens and other state entities that refuse to fulfill the sentences dictated by the courts, also due to the limited powers that these courts have to enforce their decisions.
The Cuban Constitution states in its article 123:
“The sentences and other final court decisions … are of unquestionable compliance by the state agencies, the economic and social entities, and the citizens.”
The complementary law covering the objectives, functioning and procedure of the Cuban courts is Law 82 of the People’s Courts. Its Article 7 summarizes clearly their mandate and responsibility:
“Article 7. – Legality in the judicial process is guaranteed by:
“The obligation of state agencies, state organizations and public entities to comply with and enforce court sentences and all final tribunal resolutions, dictated within the limits of their power.
“Citizens, political, social and mass organizations, associations, and private national and foreign entities must comply with and enforce court sentences and all final tribunal resolutions…
“Tribunals must effectively carry out the dictated court sentences and must watch over their compliance and the work of the entities in charge of enforcing these sentences.”
There are countless examples, that have come to our Association, of issues that, in sad and dangerous ways, are affecting our safety and public order, and even worse, the trust and faith in the highest-level judicial institutions of our country, such as:
Sentences authorizing the occupation or vacating of a citizen’s residence.
Resolutions to compensate a worker who was unlawfully deprived of his or her job.
Firm sentences against entities for non-compliance with their contracts.
Resolutions against the Housing Department for illegal actions towards homeowners, etc.
The level of conscious compliance with norms and rules that we would have wanted to achieve in the XXI century is a utopia, and for many reasons, we Cubans have been moving from respectful to undisciplined, along with being trusting, subsidized, manipulated, passive and destructive people.
Incredibly, since we are children of the extremes, there is also an official tendency to be part of the problem, not a part of the solution. In addition to the fact that our judicial system has no agents with the official authority, in the name of justice, to enforce court decisions, sentences or resolutions.
The greatest danger lies in the near future. We all want the judicial restructuring of social infrastructure, property, constitutional rights, the restoration of safety and public order, of pardons, the restitution of freedoms and that the courts, as guarantors of legality, are respected and make themselves respected; otherwise, we would lose a large part of the core values that, as a Republic, we have defended so much, and that we Cubans want to peacefully reconquer.
“A ghost is traveling around Europe: it is the ghost of Communism” said Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their famous Manifesto.
Over a century later, when he was Foreign Relations Minister and the one who best interpreted the thoughts of the Commander in Chief (Fidel Castro), a photo of Felipe Pérez Roque shaking hands with Mr. Ban Ki Mon, Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), appeared in the newspaper JuventudRebelde, on February 28, 2008.
The snapshot was taken on the occasion of the signing, by Foreign Relations Minister Felipe Pérez Roque, of the two International Covenants on Human Rights (ICCPR and ICESCR) that came out of the UN in 1966 and started to be signed and ratified worldwide, going into effect in 1976, 10 years later.
The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, despite the overwhelming moral commitment that it entails, is only a recommendation, not a binding treaty for any government.
Precisely, because of its non-obligatory condition (or non-binding, as you would say in the language of international law), the UN created these two International Covenants, detailing and more specifically defining the rights laid out in the Universal Declaration. The two Covenants are: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), (or first generation), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), (or second generation).
Four years after this event, there are several questions to be answered if we want to analyze it:
Why would the Cuban government take 32 years to sign such important documents?
Why did the citizens never receive an explanation about the reasons why the documents were signed?
Why have the Cuban people never been exposed to the content of these Covenants?
What implications would the ratification of such legal instruments of justice have for the Cuban people?
Why, since their signing date, have these agreements been kept in the “secrecy” that today is criticized by the authorities?
The problem is that, right now, we continue to face this widespread crisis that seems endless, just like the absence of deep and serious responses from the side of the government.
Outraged people are not only in Europe, in Wall Street or in Arab countries. A group of citizens from Cuban civil society is demanding the ratification of the UN Covenants signed on behalf of the Cuban people, precisely because we are… outraged.
Ghosts have always existed throughout history. Yesterday, Communism was Europe’s ghost. Today, in Cuba, a new ghost starts moving around, horrifying and frightening for some: the ghost of the Human Rights Covenants of the United Nations.
The multifamily building lies in ruins. A mountain of rubble rises now in its place occupying a part of Monte, a very central street of Havana. Passers-by run, there is noise from sirens of patrol cars and firefighter equipment since there are most probably dead and injured.
Within the drama all of this implies the most serious thing, however, is not the collapse of the building but that occurrences of this nature are being repeated with a lot of frequency in the whole country.
It is very sad and at the same time unpleasant to see images as these…just because it rains a bit.
And it is that during more than fifty years those facilities were not repaired, were never subjected to maintenance of any nature neither on behalf of the State nor of its inhabitants since, in the case of the latter, they did not have the necessary resources at their disposal to do so.
Another circumstance that would bring about laughter if the problem were not so dramatic (it is unknown what will become of the persons who were left homeless, where they will go and if they will remain during many years in shelters crammed with others who suffered the same fate), is that one is not permitted to take photos of the collapse.
Those who dare to do so may be detained.
The image of a Cuba where buildings collapse only because nature fulfills her duty of making it rain, should not circulate around the world. It would be a discredit to the genuine representation of the proletariat.
But not only the buildings and streets are cracking.
The credit of the authorities splinters (constant cases of corruption at that level, admitted failure of the programs of the Party, promises of recovery that we do not see, changes that don’t get to the bottom of the problems).
Each day the peso and CUC are more devalued by the continuous increase in prices.
Thousands of Cubans continue, especially the young, trying to abandon the country by whatever means.
And this list could also continue ad infinitum.
The real lifeline, perhaps the only ones that we see, are the Pacts with the UN which the government of the island signed in 2008 but does not ratify and of which not a single word is spoken.
If tomorrow there appeared in the official press that the current authorities have ratified those most important documents, many of us would think the real changes have begun to arrive to our country and that it is the start of speaking and acting seriously for a transition that is real, peaceful and controlled in order to avoid disorder and violence that is unwanted by the great majority of us.
While that is not the attitude, this building in ruins, one more of the many I have already seen, aside from being the disaster that it represents for those who once lived in it, constitutes an inevitable and dangerous OMEN.
An unhappy multitude marches dragging the misery of its moral life, chained to its ignorance and defenselessness.
Prisoners without hope and without solace: slaves without redemption and without relief, traveling on this boat of society lacking faith, orphans of will, with null understanding, blind to reason and alien to the rights they should know and defend.
Upon initiation of the shipwreck, they are the first victims because it falls upon them, due to their ignorance and their lack of educational preparation, to serve as a bridge for the salvation of others, to be a step for others to ascend.
That is the major captive, the eternal prisoner, the slave without horizons:
The one who groans under the shackles of their intimate sentence; because lacking will and character, without the light of intelligence, without knowledge of their own soul and being denied their human and constitutional rights, they lack liberty of conscience and become one forced to the opprobrious bench of the strange galley, where screaming and with a level of public announcement increasingly encompassing demands: we want justice, THE TRUE JUSTICE AND LIBERTY OF THE CITIZENS.
We Cubans have had imposed upon us faking or simulating something with which we are not truly in agreement. The fear and lack of knowledge which exempt no one from responsibility in life, do not permit establishing a system of inquiry or dialogue, because we would not know if the responses are in keeping with the truth or with the double standards, so rooted in personal interests.
Not only are they hypocrites those who tell lies feigning good faith, but also those who know they are lies and pretend they are truths. Worse yet, they become merged with the falsehood.
It is an ill planted in Cuban society by an ideology and principles that do not accept difference of opinions, a situation which clearly manifests the disrespect and the violation that rides roughshod over the most basic civil rights of our population. What will become of Article 54 of our Law of Laws:
The rights of assembly, protest and association are exercised by the workers – laborers and intellectuals, farmers, women, students and other sectors of the working public – for which they have use of the means necessary for such ends. The mass and social organizations can make use of all the facilities for the development of these activities and so that their members may enjoy the greatest degree of FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND OPINION, based on the unlimited RIGHT to initiative and criticism.
Lying, along with hypocrisy and a double standard, continues to be another irreparable evil. Institutions themselves make use of it daily. It is a means of survival used to put to rest or to hide many truths which constitute CRIMES and that have led many Cubans to death, exile or prison. It is a means that has led to to the separation of families and the rupture of their emotional bonds. I cite the following:
Article 35. The State shall protect the family, motherhood and matrimony.
The State recognizes the family as the fundamental unit of society and attributes to it essential functions in education and the formation of new generations.
Our opinions are deemed as trash and lies paid for by the U.S. government, however the high level of acceptance of these by the people cannot be hidden, because they thirst for information and legal instruction, for knowledge of legal procedures, for justice and in general, for all of their citizen rights.
Every person has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right is inclusive of not being disturbed as a result of their opinions, that of investigating and receiving information and opinions, and that of diffusing them without limitation of borders, by whatever means of expression, Article 19 UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS.
Almost the entire nation has been turned into pretenders, although they have been demonstrating criticisms of nonconformity that were once highly dangerous, such as: “I didn’t know!”, “If only someone had told me!”, “Where I go, no one clarifies or explains things to me.”, “How much longer, what is going on?”, “Who will resolve my problem?”, “I’ve had it, that’s enough!”
The methods of mis-information of the Government that repeats daily about the economic, political and social problems of all of the capitalist countries and that justifies its actions against the people by using what happens in other parts of the terrestrial globe. It’s the same old same old. The truth is that what we are most interested in are the millions of problems which we Cubans face daily and, if you please, the question is forced but the reply is unseen: How Much Longer?
The struggle to maintain the political system, and not that of benefiting the country and its people, is the first goal on behalf of the Leaders, but without any doubt to also keep them handicapped of hearing and sight to what occurs in the country. This brings with itself among other things, the lack of knowledge of the laws and their procedures, of the knowledge of Legality and the ways and methods of imparting Justice; as well as their Constitutional and Human Rights.
Additionally, but in the same way and style, we put up with listening and reading of the priority to JUDICIAL SERVICES, in the informational spaces of Cuban Television such as Mesa Redonda (Roundtable), in the words of judicial star Maria Esther Reus Gonzalez, … We HAPPEN UPON a wide range of functions and services to persons natural and legal in the country… It is fundamental in our current daily work to detect an action that goes against ethical principles, to carry out an even greater effort to develop strategies in order to perfect the Services and continue decentralizing and extending them… We have identified our vulnerabilities and with the valuable human capital we have, we will struggle to perfect our daily activities and achieve the satisfaction that our people deserve. It is furthermore explained that the quality of legal services is not yet optimal, that more jurists are needed and that which in Cuba should be at the level of the culture, the conscience acquired by our people (?) and will satisfy the needs in this matter.
Recently I have seen on banners and signs and have heard from the newscasters in the Primero de Mayo parade – the day of workers, by the workers and for the workers – that: WORK IS THE ONLY FOUNTAIN OF WEALTH. Could it be that the Cuban Legal Association may at some time be wealthy? Well I affirmatively believe that we already are, as long as they allow us to reach our objectives with an affirmative response of its legalization for the well-being of those who truly will be rich. Rich and knowledgeable of their legitimate rights, of the proceedings and in most instances their disrespected terms, of the manipulations and intricacies by Judges and Tribunals at any level, of the abusive actions on occasion by Agents of Interior Order and the officials who should take care of our Security of State, without fear I say in that manner we will be very rich and will have enough to share mutually and internationally.
We have not saved all justice, but we must save that justice which we have already conquered.
Alberto Mendez Castelló (work appeared in the June 1, 2012, cubanet.org)
A violation of the Municipal Department of Education here, committed to the timetable for the publication of examination results of incoming students to university, reveals that the Ministry of Higher Education would restrict parental authority.
For several months across the island, Cuban families faced a stressful career stage: preparing young high school graduates for university entrance.
These past few months, students, teachers and family had to strive to correct the failures accumulated during years of a poor education system.
In Cuba it is not uncommon to find university graduates–whether doctors or lawyers–with poor speech, who can not write, or do so with glaring spelling mistakes. Many barely know the history of their country.
To mitigate the pandemonium, forged in a social setting where the family was estranged from its original role with regards to school performance borders on idiocy; the high school graduates must pass exams in mathematics, Spanish and history before entering the university.
Since the students or their parents are entitled to complain about unsatisfactory grades–a student was given grade of zero when in fact they had scored 90 points–the national timetable for the information of test results announced in the case of History is as follows:
— Publication of the results of complaints: May 25th, at 9 am in senior high schools.
— Sample review: May 26th, 9 am to 2 pm at the universities.
But the municipal department of education in Puerto Padre violated that schedule. All day the 25th teachers, parents and students waited for a response to their claims… that never came.
According to official sources, it was at 2:47 pm on Friday, May 25th, when the city official in charge of this task presented himself at the university for the results of the claims.
At 9 am on Saturday the 26th, a family in this eastern town (Puerto Padre), was hastily notified to appear just when they should have been there, at the University of Las Tunas.
A quick trip can not be made by bus, but in general cargo trucks adapted to carry passengers, like cattle for the slaughter.
A father and his 17-year-old son had to pay 40 pesos to get one of these vans from Puerto Padre to Las Tunas. If they had a rental car, the price would amount to 200 pesos, that is, about half the average monthly salary in Cuba.
But at the University of Las Tunas they were waiting for a disheartening response.
“Sorry Dad, but only the student can participate in the review of his exam,” they were told, friendly but firmly, by the advisor of the Rector in charge of the Revenue Commission, protected by an ordinance issued in January 2012 by the then Minister of Higher Education, today, vice president of the nation, Miguel Diaz-Canel.
Under Article 38 of the Constitution, parents have the duty to assist their children in the defense of their legitimate interests and the realisation of their just aspirations.
Does the review of a test that is critical to get into the university not qualify as a legitimate and just aspiration?
In Cuba the children reach adulthood at age 18 or by having been “emancipated” of parental rights by marriage.
In accordance with Article 85.5 of the Family Code, parental authority–that is, the authority of parents over their children of unemancipated minors–includes representing them in all legal acts and transactions in which they have a timely interest and exercise oppotunities, and the actions in which they are entitled to defend their interests and assets.
Is it not a parent’s interest to defend the correct classification of a test that his child can gain or lose entrance to a university and thus, his future?
Too bad that a right so sacred to some, is insignificant to others. Perhaps this is because for too many years they separated the children from their parents. Or because they still put a gun in the hands of the boys before they can shave.
Maybe restricting the parental authority of a father in Cuba is a harmless act, if ultimately the Constitution of the Republic Article 43 says that, without distinction, citizens living in any sector, zone or area of cities or staying in any hotel, where segregation is swilling that has undergone an entire nation at the hands of a socialist government telling, the benefits of the country reserved for himself and for the benefit of foreigners.
I always thought that when the situation came to be the present one, the authorities (especially the political police) would behave with a greater degree of seriousness and, above all, of professionalism. The reality ruins my expectations.
Just moments before sitting down to write this post for the Asociación Jurídica Cubana (AJC: Cuban Legal Association), the facts are as follows.
As is known, since we do not hide it at all, the AJC, in collaboration with Estado de SATS, is recording a series of informative programs for the legal education of the population. To those ends we have published: “Detention” and “Searching Inhabited Homes”.* Coming soon another program will be published, this one with the title “Habeas Corpus”.
Once edited, these programs are published by Estado de SATS on the INTERNET so that they can be accessed by all those who want to do so outside of Cuba. For the interior of Cuba, discs are burned or they are recorded in (portable) memory; will we ever have Internet?
The programs to which I am referring have a didactic and informative objective with a very precise subject: that which is established by national law in relation to certain penal, procedural or constitutional topics.
I don’t believe that any government truly democratic nor certain of its people would object to having its legislation spread among its citizens. But, it seems, here we cannot count on either of those two characteristics.
That’s how things are, and so that he would participate in this latest program I have mentioned, I invited a young lawyer from Las Tunas, who takes care of the activities of the AJC in that city in the Eastern part of the country and he, kindly, accepted.
Since we do not feel that deception (in any of its forms) is a decorous way of doing things, it was explained to the attorney Yunieski San Martín Garcés, who furthermore knows well what we do and how we do it, what his stay here would consist of and what would happen once the material in question was recorded. In good faith, Yunieski boarded a bus to Havana.
But… (and in the current state in which we live there will always be a BUT), leaving the municipality, the bus on which Yunieski was traveling was detained by various patrol cars. He was forced to get off, the bus driver was told that he was transporting a well-known counterrevolutionary, he was taken to a police station by State Security and there he was informed that his arrest was due to the fact…he was coming to film with us material to be turned over to USIS (the United States Interest Section in Cuba).
Once again we find State Security, the USIS, the show in the middle of the road, the plot in the shadows against the government, the international intrigue, the treason by nationals against our worried and self-sacrificing patricians (who, incidentally, in 50 years did not fulfill the agreements of their own congresses), etc., etc., etc.
I already stated that we publish what we do on the INTERNET, something the political police does not do with its arbitrary acts and especially, with its illegalities of all types.
The people of Cuba have the right to know their laws and to employ them to defend themselves against those who, incapable of showing themselves with the truth, and hiding their identity, recur to this which is nothing more than resorting to lies.
*Translator’s note: Article 218 of Cuban criminal law authorizes the search of inhabited dwellings even if the inhabitant refuses to allow it.
“With Money and Without Money.” “Why Some and Not Others?” “Take What You Want; Pay What You Will.” These are titles of some articles that appeared in our print media, and all of them – all – deal with the oft recurring and very familiar topic of ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE AND PAYABLE. They would seem to be fiction, but a fiction so real that it is impossible to avoid. It has become a part of our culture.
Will our economy perhaps be strengthened in reality or in virtual reality? Will we be permitted to acquire a product or article, or to receive a service in a state-run store without “paying” for it? When we purchase our daily bread, which we get at a price of $0.05 Cuban pesos, would the sales clerk be so humanitarian and sympathetic that he would accept our saying, “We will pay for it tomorrow, or whenever we can?”
It has become common practice. The accepted rhetoric is that we do not have the ability to pay, but ample ability to receive. In state owned enterprises paper money (hard, cold cash) never changes hands. Half cash (or more aptly, vouchers) are used for collection and payment instead. The preferred method of payment in our system is the check – an instrument that often and not surprisingly is issued without the resources (funds) to back it up.
You would have to hold who knows how many events, meetings, seminars and congresses to solve the issue of collection and payment. Delinquency and default have become rooted in our system like a chronic plague that we don’t know how to eradicate or extirpate. Our way of seeing and thinking is similar to HIV; it is killing the defense mechanism of our economic system, even though the opposite is claimed. Will we again take up the old slogan, Today I don’t sell on credit; tomorrow I will?
“To be or not to be” It is not enough to feel or to believe oneself a businessman in the fullest and deepest sense of the word (to be autonomous and independent). It would be impossible, given the complacency of some and the detrimental impact it would have on others, to move forward under the weight of restrictions – instructions, directives, etc. – “issued from above.” These restrictions impede the normal and appropriate interactions between buisnesspeople “below” from taking place as they should. The director of the milk-producing company should be able to suspend deliveries to the Office of Public Health or to the Office of Education if they do not pay what they owe. All or most such actions are, in theory at least, legal.
At what point do we stop blaming, rightly or wrongly, “circumstances,” or the impenetrable blockade in order to avoid dealing with the inability to resolve the problems weighing us down like a knapsack on our back? If the blockade were to disappear tomorrow, the consequences from that would surely be blamed instead. It would not matter that it no longer existed; its spirit would live on. As the old Cuban saying goes, nothing bad lasts a hundred years, nor would anyone allow it to. But the hard, cold reality is that we are only at the mid-point of those hundred years.
Rest assured that the causes and conditions preventing collections and payments from taking place, and how to deal with the problem through legislation, are being studied with seriousness, depth and restraint. And you can also be quite certain that this will remain an unresolved issue in the coming year. Of this I am sure.
“A specter is haunting Europe: it is the specter of communism,” said Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the Communist Manifesto.
Over a century later, when he was the Foreign Minister and the best interpreter of the thinking of the Comandante en Jefe, Felipe Perez Roque appeared in photo in the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) on February 28, 2008, shaking hands with Mr. Ban Ki Mon, Secretary General of the United Nations (UN).
The snapshot was taken on the occasion of the signing by the Cuban foreign minister two Covenants on Human Rights UN documents that had been created by this international organization in 1966 and enacted in 1976, that is ten years later.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights UN 1948, notwithstanding the overwhelming moral burden it entails, is only a recommendation that governments can adopt or not, without it being binding on them.
Precisely because of its non-compulsory status (or non-binding, as is customary to say in the language of international law), the UN implemented a posteriori those Covenants that do have that character, detailing the Declaration in two documents, one on Civil Rights and Political (or first generation) and one on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (or second generation).
There are several questions that immediately come to mind when analyzing this event of more than four years ago, namely:
– Why the Cuban government, which was already in power in 1976, would take 32 years to sign documents so important for any country on earth?
– Why Cuban citizens have not received any explanation of the reasons for this signing?
– Why have the content of these covenants never been communicated to Cubans?
– What would be the implications for all of us if these legal instruments were ratified?
– Why are these agreements, signed and dated in “secrecy,” now being criticized by the current authorities in the country?
The problem is that, right now, we are continuing to face the generalized crisis that we again see in Cuba — and that appears to have no end — without any deep and serious solutions from the government.
The outraged are not only in Europe, confronting Wall Street, or in Arab countries. A group of citizens from Cuban civil society who have called for the ratification the UN Covenants, signed by the former foreign minister in the name of the people of Cuba, are exactly that… Outraged.
Specters have always existed throughout history. Yesterday in Europe it was communism. Today in Cuba a new specter is beginning to move, too terrifying for some: the Human Rights Covenants of the United Nations.
A journalist from abroad asked me about the content and the implementation of something known in Law as Right of Appeal, which in Cuba turns out to be problematic.
In our case, the first problem is that our multi-awarded compatriot Yoani Sanchez brought this action against the Minister of Interior, General Abelardo Colome Ibarra.
The reason why Yoani did such a thing is that she has been invited, on nearly twenty occasions, to receive her awards abroad, but has never been given a “White card” — the permission to leave the country — so she can receive her awards in person.
The second problem is that in the XXI century the world has evolved enough, so that in any country its citizens are the most important thing. And that means we must treat these people with the human dignity that José Martí claimed for the Cubans and that is now found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The third problem is that “according to the law” the actions of the government and the state must have legal foundations and legal procedures that are clearly established, known, and within reach of citizens, enabling them to defend their rights in any given situation.
The fourth problem is that when we act ignoring the laws and legal procedures that exist, we fall in the arbitrariness of the authorities, something not very well regarded in these times.
The fifth problem is that the people will never tolerate this arbitrariness indefinitely, and they will begin, as the well-known blogger has, to use the resources that the national law gives… to the protesters.
The sixth problem is that the problem now created (and forgive the redundancy) could have been avoided by respecting Article 63 of the Constitution of the Republic:
Every citizen has the right to make complaints and petitions to the authorities and to receive the attention or the appropriate responses on time, according to the law.
Perhaps we can find a moral in all this: Problems can be avoided … when rights are respected.
It has never been a good practice to carbon copy what has been done in other countries, particularly in the political, economic and social areas, to apply it in one’s own reality.
It has been said time and time again that every people, with its own reality, idiosyncrasies and history, is unique unto itself and that, for the most part, an implementation of its dynamics somewhere else, almost always results in failure.
We have seen that in our own country; they wanted to faithfully introduce the Soviet model to our problems, and here are the results: you only have to look around.
And, disgracefully, the most visionary of all of us warned of this danger a long time ago:
Each people is healed according to its own nature, which requires different dosages and even different medicines depending on the presence of this or that symptom in their illness. We need neither Saint‑Simon, nor Karl Marx, nor Marlo, nor Bakunin, but the reforms that suit our body politic.
But we must be careful. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
Exploring other realities, analyzing the solutions, clarifying how complex issues were addressed by other administrations, governments or peoples can be useful when we are facing our own problems.
The Master — Jose Marti — did not ignore this other reality when he added, to the phrase quoted above:
To assimilate what is useful is as wise as it is foolish to imitate blindly.
And this is precisely what happens when we study the history of development of individual rights in the world, full of beautiful and magnificent examples through the centuries; beginning in ancient England, passing through the 13 colonies in North America and arriving in the restless nineteenth century France.
No one shall be subjected to torture nor to cruel, inhuman or degrading …
In the early days of U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, in the course of military operations, a scene shown on Cuban television remained in my memory.
A fighter against the Taliban power entered a small town where, shot down by insurgents, there were several bodies on the floor. Approaching one of them, which he seemed to recognize, he began to kick it furiously.
A question immediately came to my mind: What relation could the dead man have had with him, to fill him with such hatred? What had happened between them?
I’ll never know what happened, but it immediately brought to my mind words like these:
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the inviolability of his person.
Did the Taliban, possessors of total power at the time, think that it would last forever and they would never have to answer for their actions and in that belief they acted as they did?
Examples of such attitudes abound, but there they are, for those who want document them, Nero and Caligula in ancient Rome, Adolf Hitler in Germany, Benito Mussolini in Italy, Joseph Stalin in Russia, Mengistu Haile Mariam in Ethiopia, Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania, Pol Pot in Kampuchea, and many others who would make this list too long.
But there are other examples that call in another direction:
And it is not land that constitutes what is called the integrity of the Homeland. The Homeland is more than oppression, more than pieces of land without freedom and without life, more that the right of possession by force. The Homeland is a community of interests, unity of traditions, unity of purpose, sweet and comforting fusion of love and hope.
This and no other is the direction in which we should go. Because we must avoid, before it is too late, having to hear these words:
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind…
Whereas it is essential that human rights are protected by the rule of law, so that no man be compelled to have recourse to rebellion against tyranny and oppression…
On our way to the pharmacy, three individuals in plain clothes arrested me and my wife as we left the building where we live. They showed us an ID card: DSE [Department of State Security].
I thought they were trying to prevent us from attending a tried being held at the 10 de Octobre Municipal Court, very near our house.
There was a patrol car with police officers every hundred yards. At a signal from the agents there was a screeching of tires.
It was around 11:30 in the morning. We were in the street with many people watching.
As the patrol car pulled up, one of the plain clothes agents took out some handcuffs.
“You are being arrested,” he told me, putting my hands behind me and adjusting the handcuffs to be as tight as possible.
My wife tried to get an explanation from a young agent in a yellow T-shirt. I urged calm and entered the police car before my astonished neighbors. They took me to the Aguilera police station at in Luyano.
They removed the handcuffs and ordered me to sit near the file cabinet. My wrists are sore and red. I wonder what could be happening for such an action. Later I seem to understand. After half an hour the young man in the yellow shirt appears. He identifies himself as agent Brian and tells me to enter a nearby room. He sits down and directs me to a chair across from him, with a table between us.
He begins to talk about our work at the Cuban Legal Association (AJC), which he considers “within the law and correct.” He seems to know a lot about what we do. (Later I will learn that he is just repeating what my wife told him in front of our house, in reality he knew nothing about us.)
He goes on to “advise me” that I not associate myself with “counterrevolutionary activities.” He names some names. I respond that the AJC tries to help every Cuban who comes to it because neither the Law Collectives nor the national courts are trusted by many people in the country. Several minutes of conversation are enough for me to realize that this young man (he is 28), who could almost be my grandson, lacks the knowledge and debating skills for an exchange of opinions.
Forty minutes later, he returns my identity card and by way of saying goodbye asks if he can come to my house and see my work. I respond in the affirmative, although I am convinced that his superiors will never allow a closer relationship with us.
Once outside, I seek a reason for what happened … and I find it.
1. For a long time, when control of information was tight, the letters DSE produced in any citizen a paralyzing effect. That and the flamboyant operation point to a prophylactic action, not so much for me as for the curious and those who will learn about it third hand.
2. It was a subliminal way to get my attention for my participation in various programs of the Estado de SATS.
If my speculations are true, more problems will come, because I act from the deepest conviction.
I am aware of the dangers of demanding rights in a totalitarian government, so if the consequences of my actions have a fatal outcome, I want to express my thanks to those who put me in such an honorable position I never thought I deserved: The pantheon of unforgettable.
I endorse the words of José Martí, who experienced it first hand:
“Death is not real when one has fulfilled one’s life work well.”