Words into the Wind / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

By Jeovany Jimenez Vega, M.D.

When I spoke during the discussion of the Draft Law to amend the Labor Code a couple of weeks ago, I said that our industry (public health) generates 50% of the GDP of this country; that it represents an income of between 8 and 10 billion hard-cash dollars every year; that this is a lot of money, which should be enough to significantly increase the salary of the sector that produces it; that those who remain here deserve as much as those who go on work medical missions abroad; that I will never understand why a prestigious professor of medicine, after decades of dedication, earns one-third the salary of an office manager trained for fifteen days.

It’s not just that our salary is ridiculous, but that it is particularly absurd in this country of merciless prices. We have patients who easily earn three to ten times our salary, and not from self-employment, but also from the few state jobs that link salary to performance; or simply through “struggling” — that is, stealing with both hands. It is high time to put an end to this humiliating situation, because if there exists today in Cuba a sector that is able to increase substantially the wages of its workershere we’re not talking about the ridiculous two pesos per hour for nighttime work — it’s public health. I said all this, a couple of weeks ago, when I was able to speak.

My specific proposal? A basic monthly salary for a recent graduate of 800 Cuban pesos (roughly $33 US), increasing by 150 pesos every two years up to, for example, 1,500 pesos eight or ten years after graduation; 100 pesos per each medical shift at multi-specialty and primary care clinics, and between 150 and 200 pesos in hospice facilities depending on the workload assumed by each specialty, never less than 5 pesos an hour for night duty, 200 pesos for biohazard risk, 200 for administrative positions and teachers — it could be higher for provincial or ministerial positions; 250 for certified masters and 500 per specialty completed. And finally, it would be fair to give longevity pay after fifteen years of work at 100 pesos every five years (100 after the first 15 years, 200 after 20, 300 after 25 and so on) and finally a retirement that does not force those who served their people for decades to live on a little less than a beggar would get.

Of course, this is my humble opinion, launched into the ether from the perspective of the sufferer, not remotely like that of an experienced economist. But something convinces me that an industry generating so much money could handle it comfortably. They’ve already made a timid gesture with sports, so why not with the sector that generates similar wealth, which provides reasonable assurances that it will continue, and which is showcased to the world as a success story?

Those who make these decisions should take into account that these are professionals who know that, if they approved a monthly salary like this (I’m talking about 150 U.S. Dollars), it would still be less than they could earn abroad for a few hours of work under circumstances qualitatively very different, despite which — I venture to guarantee — in most cases they would not want to abandon their country. I remains to be seen if the words spoken in meetings all across this country will fall on deaf ears, if it will do any good to throw this bottle into the sea, to throw these crazy words into the wind.

Translated by Tomás A

17 October 2013

Self-Employment: A Key to Disaster / Jeovany J. Vega

The signs in the photo read, “The Revolution; Thriving and Victorious. Keep Moving Forward” and “Towards the Future with Firm, Confident Steps.”

Whenever the subject comes up, I remember an anecdote a friend once told me. One morning in March 1968 he and an uncle, the owner of a small fruit stand, opened their store early. The story behind this hard-working man was that he had gotten his start by making the rounds of the major streets in Artemisa, selling fruit from a pushcart. Little by little he made improvements to the cart until he was at last able to rent a storefront and transfer his operation to that location which, after many years and great sacrifice to his family, was finally his. But as he was waiting on his customers on that fateful morning in 1968, an official dressed in olive green and carrying a briefcase appeared at the doorway.

“Are you the owner?” the official inquired.

“Yes,” said the man.

“Could you please step outside?” the official asked from the doorway.

When the owner went out, the official crossed the threshold and once inside said, “This property has just been expropriated by the Revolution.”

And that was that. My friend told me that the former owner could not go back in even to get a chain that he had left at the cash register along with his wedding ring a few minutes earlier.  Like thousands of other Cubans he was dispossessed of the small family business in which he had invested so much over many years. The old folks tell me that after the so-called “revolutionary offensive” you could not find so much as a fried croquette for sale on the streets.

A recent State of Sats* panel focused specifically on the current state of self-employment in Cuba, a sector whose fundamental dynamics vary depending on what stage of post-revolutionary history we are discussing. Panel members recalled the various phases of uncertainty this sector has gone through to get to where it is today. Many of us remember the circumstances under which this economic alternative was “officially” introduced. At the peak of the Special Period it served as the government’s exit strategy, an escape valve used to relieve the extreme pressure that had built up. I myself remember the giant headline printed at the time in Granma: “Self-Employment Is Not an Economic Solution.” In other words, though they promised to take the policy seriously, government actions in the early years refuted that pledge, making the whole thing seem farcical.

We all witnessed how, as soon as it started feeling more confident, the government began to impede development in this sector by imposing all sorts of restrictions, designed simply to force the self-employed out of business. Faced with the inability to pay the excessive taxes demanded of them and with bankruptcy as their only other option, thousands of small business owners turned in their commercial licenses. There was, of course, political motivation involved. It was about needing definitive proof that private businesses could not compete with the immaculate efficiency of socialist businesses. In the meantime, the government maintained a rigid policy of denying all new applications for commercial licenses for most activities. It was a policy that continued into the following a decade and one whose results are still felt today. It meant that only those businesses that were profitable enough to pay sky-high prices for raw materials on the black market and bribes to inspectors and police officials survived. It also led to widespread moral decay in society in general, a condition which still afflicts us today.

The government claims that this time it has the political will to guarantee a different outcome. But there are indications — some subtle, some overt — that hint at the real intentions covered over by the tone of official rhetoric. For example, there is still a body of legislation on the books giving legal authority to agencies such as the Office of Public Prosecutor to bring charges against individuals — whether they be agricultural producers or newly self-employed workers — who only find out about it after they have lost the shirts off his backs.

Most authorized businesses, which generally are required to show proof of purchase, still have to cope with the insurmountable obstacle of sky-high prices for supplies and raw materials, making any attempt to turn a profit into a joke. The state remains the sole supplier, a situation directly at odds with changes made early this year to the emigration policy. It means that a producer is not allowed to directly import supplies even when it is possible for him to do so. This stands in stark contrast to the “analogous” examples of China and Viet Nam, where such transactions are easy.

Entire crops rot in the field because of the inexcusable irresponsibility of the National Stockpile Corporation — the only body of its kind authorized by the government — which so fears intermediaries that it has never indemnified anyone. Real autonomy has never been granted to these new enterprises, which remain subject to the ludicrous operational methods of the ineffective state system. This is also the case with transportation cooperatives, whose members are prohibited by law from owning their means of production, just one of thousands of problems too numerous to mention here.

In short, I have the impression that the current situation is fundamentally not much different that of the past. When a business fails, it can be attributed to poor management by the owner. But, if we see a massive trend occurring, then we are talking about ineffective management affecting an entire country. Surely we Cubans are not that bad as administrators, especially when it involves risking our meager savings in a family business.

Those who formulate such policies understand mathematics yet have nevertheless designed a dysfunctional system. They doggedly insist on sticking to it because their ultimate goal is not to assure the success of these “nano-businesses.” Rather it is to impede them so that prosperity might be achieved through a management system that has wasted decades through inefficiency and administrative indifference, all of which began on that fateful day in 1968.

I hope I am wrong but, as long as we continue on the current course, I have a feeling self-employment in Cuba, as represented by the small family-run business, will be the key element in a future disaster.

Lice and nits removed.

*Translator’s note: An independent Havana-based organization which sponsors public discussions on civil society and democratic political change in Cuba.

25 September 2013


Cubans: The Plague of the New Century / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Since the Cuban government enacted amendments to an emigration policy that had remained unchanged for over 50 years, a trend that could have been foreseen is increasingly apparent: now almost all embassies suspect that every Cuban is really an immigrant, and consequently they have turned the process of obtaining a visa into a chimerical enterprise, translated into requirements that place the bar too high for most applicants.

These embassies may only exercise the sovereign right of each state to decide who enters their territory and under what conditions they will allow it, but there are stories that are so illustrative that they suspect that within this wood they could also have termites and to illustrate what I am describing here in broad terms, I have the testimony of Israel Reinoso Valdés , a Cuban citizen residing in Guanajay, Artemisa Province.

It turns out that Israel, along with Alonso along Lázaro Gonzáles Alonso and Gerardo García Álvarez — both also Cubans, residing in Guanajay and Mariel, respectively — decided to apply for a visa at the Guatemalan Embassy in January 2013.

The three young men met each and every one of the requirements of the embassy and consequently each was issued a tourist visa under the current procedure (Israel was issued visa No. 1,704,909). The three reserved tickets for February 6 for the price of $599.00 CUC, and flew to Guatemala on TACA flight TA451, which left Havana at 4:55 p.m. and arrived at their destination the same day at 8:20 p.m., local time.

Israel says that once at the airport they were taken aside by the Chief of the Immigration Group, Jose Canisa Valenciaga, who in an extortion attempt demanded from each of them the sum of $1,200.00 USD, which they had to pay through an intermediary, if they wanted to clear Customs; otherwise they would be deported to Cuba.

When they refused, the three Cubans were detained for more than 10 hours, held incommunicado like criminals, and not even allowed to use the restroom or make a phone call to their consulate.

The three young men were actually deported to Cuba on February 7, 7:00 PM, local time. The following day they delivered a first document of complaint to Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX), in which they explained the essential details of the abuses committed against them by the Guatemalan authorities. After over a month with no response, Israel delivered a second complaint to MINREX and then made several more visits and multiple phone calls, all unsuccessful.

MINREX is legally, morally, and ethically obligated to represent its citizens in every country in which there is a Cuban consulate, and to ensure their rights, as is guaranteed in every Cuban passport that is issued. Absolutely nothing justifies MINREX ignoring the humiliation, abuse, and arbitrariness that a Cuban citizen has been or may be subjected to by any foreign authority.

True, the final decision on entry to a country may be subject to the discretionary consideration of the customs or immigration authorities, but here we have the case of citizens who rigorously complied with all the requirements of the Consulate of Guatemala in Havana — which as a result issued a visa that gave them the legal right to enter the country — and who in correspondence submitted all documents in the form requested by the relevant authority, but this was not sufficient to avoid being the victims of such arbitrariness.

There are rules, international mechanisms, and tools that can be used to resolve cases like this, where it is clear that three Cubans were victims of an outrage, because nobody in their right mind would pay hundreds of dollars for a ticket and fly thousands of miles just to drink a glass of water and return the next day without even clearing customs.

It is indisputable here that three Cuban citizens were subjected to a tremendous humiliation, were victims of attempted extortion and an undeniable abuse of power by corrupt officials.

Cuba maintains diplomatic and consular relations with the Republic of Guatemala and MINREX has an embassy in that country, so it has the resources necessary to intercede before the competent authorities — in Guatemala or any other country — to press the appropriate claims in cases like this where they deem that our rights were violated.

If that is not the case, then why are we paying the 100 CUC (the average salary for six months of work) we are getting charged for our passport, which supposedly certifies that, wherever we are, we remain under the aegis of the Cuban Government?

Or does that only apply during the time when we have to fill the plazas during grandiose parades, and not at the time when we need actually need help — away from our land in front of a despotic official? Will they always leave us in a state of helplessness when we decide to leave this country, where contrariwise they treat foreigners with kid gloves?

I doubt very much that their counterparts would stand idly by in a similar situation if a victim in Havana was a citizen of Germany, France, the United States, or any country whose Foreign Ministry is respected.

MINREX, the voice of the Cuban government to the world, should be at the pinnacle of what this moment demands, and it is therefore unacceptable to abandon us so completely — in this case it should never have been so slow as to issue its final response almost five months after the complaint was made, and thus tacitly agreeing that these young men “… did not meet the requirements of the Migration Act …” when in fact they met every requirement demanded by the Guatemalan Consulate. Moreover saying in effect that the three young men lost the money for their passage without recourse.

What if suddenly this case is not an exception? What if we have discovered a clear trend to treat us as the new plague, at least those of us who come to where we want to go?

Today it was Israel, Lazarus, and Gerardo. Tomorrow it could be any Cuban, including me of course. Because as a result of the brutal reality in which we live, and the indolence of our Foreign Ministry, we could be condemned to be seen as outcasts, as those “welcome” in the context of work missions, but then regarded with suspicion if we decide to travel to these countries by our own choice.

We, the children from the same land as the one that declared that “homeland is humanity,” something surely unknown to those corrupt Guatemalan customs officials.

By: Jeovany Jimenez Vega
19 August 2013


About the Beating of Ana Luisa Rubio: An Obligatory Reflection

Ana Luisa Rubio, a censored and dissident Havana actress, received a beating outside her home on the afternoon of Friday, 6 September, that caused multiple contusions on her face, head and the rest of her body. A few minutes later I received her telephone call in Artemesia: I heard her terrified voice trying to tell us, but barely able to give any details.

Ana Luisa then received the supportive visit of several friends, and that night was accompanied by Antonio Rodiles and his wife Ailer to the emergency room at the Manuel Fajardo Hospital, where she received medical attention and a certificate of her injuries was drafted. That same day she made the relevant police report, for the umpteenth time, to bring charges against the aggressors.

It was impossible for me to travel at that time — transport to Havana at that hour is virtually nonexistent — and as I had a 24 shift on Saturday, I was only able to visit her on Sunday morning. It was not until I saw the extensive traumatic bruising around her left eye, in the corner of the mouth on that side, still swollen, as well as on other places on her body, that I realized the magnitude of the aggression.

Then Ana told me that that afternoon some kids, innocent lures, repeatedly rang her doorbell — which, she said, was consistent with a history of provocations that she has been suffering for years, and has reported a dozen times without that law enforcement authorities doing anything. When she answered the door an outrageously angry woman neighbor rushed her ready for action, followed by a stranger and in seconds there were several men, also unknown to her, who joined in the beating. The modus operandi said it all. The images speak for themselves. The impunity confirms all suspicions that State Security was involved.

Now, the obligatory reflection of this Cuban who was not an eyewitness to these events and which I will try to discuss as objectively as possible. To not get suspicious:let’s suppose it was the unheard of case of a neighbor, truly outraged, inexplicably seconded completely viciously by various strangers, men and women included. Would it not be a case of assault against the person,recognized as a crime in the existing Penal Code and therefore punishable?

Why, then, shouldn’t the authorities act vigorously to enforce the law, arrest the main aggressor, who lives a few doors from Ana Luisa — and expose the guilty? Honestly, I feel that this is a very remote possibility if we consider that the attack was consummated on a woman who despite her vulnerable nature has dared to challenge the absolute power.

I am completely certain that if, the attacked had been anyone other than that “uncompromising revolutionary” regardless of the reasons, Ana Luisa would already be ready for sentencing. But in this case something happens that can not be ignored: casually insist several days before — I insist it was casually, not to get too suspicious — in the afternoon of August 24, Ana had undertaken a one-person public act of protest in the Plaza of the Revolution, and that it does explain a lot.

So as I see it: as long as this is a country where there is a separation of powers and the Prosecutor allows such abuses; a country where the police authority, far from ensuring the safety of the person, is congenial in complicity with the oppressors; as long as this a country without a committed press, able to submerge itself in a sterile catharsis, but never risk a finger on the burning sore; as long as State Security and the Communist Party arrogate to themselves the power to organize the notorious rallies of repudiation and infamous beatings — denigrating, not for the alleged victims, but for those who perpetrate them; as long as freedom of opinion and association are constantly violated and fear corrodes the dignity of man; as long as there are cowards capable of taking advantage of the helplessness of women like Ana Luisa, nothing, absolutely nothing in this suffering country has changed.

13 September 2013

Reponsibility is Not Remunerated / Jeovany J. Vega

The story circulated recently on the Intranet: a Cuban doctor, a recently graduated anesthesiologist, was sentenced to nothing less than eight years in prison for the sad death of an obstetric patient. I don’t know the anesthesiologist in questions and I’m not completely versed in the details of the case, but I remain a priori convinced of some truths about this case: she wasn’t absent from her post, she didn’t stop trying the procedure until the last minute, she didn’t try to get out of accepting responsibility, she did not fail through laziness or irresponsibility.

Nor was it about some marginal profiting in the corner from under the table goods, nor was she a functionary collecting the huge benefits from the management circuits, customs, nor hoteliers, nor one of those who emerges from those who hold the upper hand in this country. This young woman gained nothing from this work shift, nothing to alleviate the burden of her home, nothing to benefit her family, no food to put in the mouths of her children, if she has any.

It is a universal rule that the salary received by an individual should be proportional to the effort demanded for their training and, especially, to the amount of legal responsibility assumed when exercising a particular function.

But in this little island that principle is definitely broken: general practitioners, particularly doctors, living as we do amid chaotic and absurd dynamics, working for $25.00 USD a month for authorities who do not blush when they sell a child’s toy for about $80.00 CUC (roughly $80.00 USD). Meanwhile, a simple employee of that same store, just to name one example, takes home five or ten times our monthly salary when he lines his pocket from tips, from fiddling with the prices, and from access to all the rebates and bargains; while this doctor and I earn a little more than a dollar after a day of work, an incredible shift facing influenza, dehydrating diarrhea — including cholera of course, or the risk of meningococcal encephalitis; and this would be our entire pay for assuming the greatest responsibility for the least expected mistake — not necessarily out of neglect or incompetence, but from the logical physical and mental exhaustion, or, and why not, for understandable human error — which can put you behind bars and for what we don’t even remotely perceive that we deserve.

All this sounds like mockery and would be laughable if it were not so serious. The doctor’s previous merits counted for nothing, nor did her desire to finish this most difficult of specializations, nor the five years she was on a medical mission in Venezuela making the best of a bad situation.

Although I respect the pain of the family and do not question their right to channel such a loss to the last resort, as they have suffered pain of unfathomable magnitudes, it would be very healthy, in situations like this, to redirect their focus to those who have rigged the game such that none of us, not this doctor nor the rest of our colleagues, are guaranteed a way to survive in our country with a minimum of tranquility.

by Jeovany Jiménez Vega

10 September 2013

Internet in Cuba: What Iroel Sanchez Didn’t Say to Telesur / Jeovany Vega

Last Wednesday June 5th, at the end of the Telesur programme “Today’s Themes”, our brilliant journalist Iroel Sánchez commented about the “novelty” of the rooms enabling “free” Internet surfing throughout Cuba.  That more than two decades after the Internet became a daily portal for the rest of the world it is even announced in Cuba, with fireworks, that from 118 timid locations in this country of more than 12 million inhabitants will be able to surf “freely”, says it all.

But there are various angles of the issue that Iroel didn’t comment about on Telesur: he didn’t mention the little detail that he himself has had free complete access to the Internet, because it is among the privileges of “official” reporters to access the network from their offices or comfortably from their homes *and* it will be like that as long as he doesn’t  transgress the line of the Rubicon, while Caesar, attentive and scowling, calculates every byte.

Iroel didn’t say that in our case, the connection time is dependent exclusively on the times ETECSA offices are open (from 8:30AM to 7:00PM) in rooms in which between 2 and 6 machines are available — for example in Artemisa, a provincial capital of 800,000 inhabitants, one can only find two — and these tiny pieces wouldn’t be enough if they had conceived of a reasonable price and not an absurd and crazily extorsive one.

He didn’t say that at 4.50 CUC — which is the same as 112.00 Cuba pesos or equal to a third of the average worker’s monthly wages — which would be the same as the charging the average Spaniard 250 Euros for an hour of surfing, but with the additional aggravation in the case of Cuba of living in the most expensive country in the world.

Iroel Sanchez forgot all of these details when he was being interviewed by Telesur.

Meanwhile, this is how I see it: if the Cuban government says it is telling the truth, then why is it so terrified of an exchange of ideas? Because only information, pure ideas, translated into the most simple binary code, can enter the country along an optical cable, and never bombs or rifles. I have the conviction that all the truth, in its natural clarity, is as firm as a rock and can defend itself by its simple presence beneath the sun, for which reason I will never understand why they are depriving my people of something as basic as free access to the knowledge contained in cyberspace.

At times when my country talks about the prospects of transformation, which they are begging for, and on which the government timidly feels its way forward, while the society pleads for faster progress in the changes which sometimes seem more cosmetic than real, at times like that, this is what we get.

I have always said that I prefer a despot to a cynic because the former mocks you to your face, doesn’t hide his natural tyranny, and shows his true colours: yes, I abused you — so what? But the latter, evil at heart, tries to insult your intelligence. Because to claim that such stratospheric charges are affordable by the people, is equivalent to saying that so are the hotels which charge $300 per person — a year’s wages — for one miserable weekend.

Now they are trying to export the illusion that now we Cubans are living happily connected with the world, but they must know that this is a masquerade, as is demonstrated by the empty seats in these embarrassing locations. The Cuban people are awaiting and insisting on real, free, effective and total access to the internet, by way of reasonable contractual terms appropriate to what they can afford and which allow them to explore the virtual world, when they want and full-time.

I want internet in my home in order to explore all truths and weigh them up them against my own … like  Iroel Sánchez but with the difference that I want to have it as a right which I am exercising, and never as an improper privilege. For me that would be the measure that would tell me that finally we are on the path to real changes; as long as we can’t depend upon absolutely free access to the internet everything will be imitation gold and pure fantasy … just a fairy tale.

By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Translated by GH

10 June 2013

Waiting Patiently for What Never Comes / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

IMG_0530The last time I was in the farmers’ market, a couple of days ago,I saw various things on offer which I don’t recall seeing since I was a kid. It was in the mid-80’s that this market – at least in Artemisa, where I live – had its “golden age”. But the economic strategists disrupted the prosperity of the most entrepreneurial and consistent producers and they stopped right then and there, so that the ability to largely meet public demand which was the case a few years previously, was, at the beginning of the following decade, past history. continue reading

During the years following that brief period, the farming sector saw itself, most of the time, prevented from expanding its production as a result of laws which already effectively limited its productivity and threatened the results of its hard work. Up to the present day laws remain in force which give the Prosecutor’s Office the power to confiscate, without much ado, the estimated gains of a producer who is doing too well – and it is obvious what effect this has had on the enthusiasm of those who find themselves at the wrong end of this process.

Several attempts to sort this out were tried by the state — the “Food Plan” of the ’90’s included — among which the wobbly Credit and Services Cooperatives stood out — including their “stronger” variant — which never managed to guarantee a constant, stable supply for the people, as normally they were unprofitable and unviable, falling most of the time into net losses.

Along with the mismanagement of these organisations throughout the country, there also existed another enormous obstacle to produce arriving on the Cuban table: the proven inefficiency and irresponsibility of the state supply company.

The Cuban state monopolised the process of supply in a single company, and in its war against intermediaries eliminated the entire chain for transporting the harvest, leaving this activity almost exclusively in the hands of an entity which, citing lack of fuel, tires, transmissions, or whatever consumables, year after year, has left thousands and thousands of tons of food to rot in the fields.

Inevitably this had profound consequences: the markets continued to be without supplies and with prices going through the roof, production was depressed and plates waited anxiously for food which never arrived.

Now it is not about again taking on the intermediary that transports commodities from the field — because that is just one more activity, that all the producers cannot take on because their activities are so time-consuming.

In order to combat speculation they should create mechanisms that regulate, dynamically and realistically, price policies. But before that the Cuban state has a serious account pending with its people: first of all it should lead by example and adjust its irrational and hostile pricing policy perpetuated in the retail trade and not empty our pockets on collection days.

I have here an excellent first step to take in order to try to normalize everything! Only as the prices imposed by the State stop being scandalous will the peasant have an incentive to lower prices, as scandalous as those, at his stand at the market.

But apparently Raul Castro’s policy, slightly more pragmatic, has already yielded some fruit with regard to the food supply, although it has not happened with all due haste. As I am not an authorized voice, it would be worth listening to the producers’ criteria on this matter, but, judging at first glance, the circumstances today seem different, although the situation is not the same across the country and not all townships have the “privilege” of Artemisa — I have confirmed the great affluence of the regulars from the municipalities surrounding my town’s market.

To the extent that we move away from the capital, the more we look to the east, the more obvious is the deterioration in the quality of life and the greater the decline in agricultural products.

I think everything here is above all a matter of focus, the way to meet our demands could be much shorter than supposed as the example of China demonstrates: from the time Deng Xiaoping determined that the ability to hunt mice was more important than the color of the cat,very few years elapsed before there were tangible results in food production.

The same thing happened in Vietnam — looking at production schemes similar to ours — they substantially increased production when they opened the doors to the small family business.

Ah! But something happens in such cases which is fundamentally different from what happens in ours: Vietnamese producers can go abroad when they need to buy their own supplies and a Chinese businessman may, no one should be shocked by that, amass a personal fortune if he does it by legal means.

And that is what it’s about: it would be much better for the Cuban state, rather than trying to supply all our products, something that has not achieved, so it has had to authorize them to be imported directly as needed, when it has the means to do so, it would be much better to accept that “… to get rich is a duty, whenever it is done by lawful means …” Those are the words of José Julián Martí, not mine, and consistent with his thinking we should reshape our thinking so that we will no longer see all the fruit we cultivated for years with our own hands evaporate overnight.

By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Translated by GH

January 30 2013

Open the Wall! / Jeovany Jimenez Vega #Cuba

Granma-informaba-migratoria-Habana-octubre_PREIMA20130114_0138_40The implementation, as of this January 14th, of the Cuban political migratory reforms has generated hope unprecedented in more than 50 years for a people who suffered already for too long family separation and the grief of terrible deaths at sea. It is supposed that from this day forward that monster of the “white card” — the equivalent of the sacrosanct Exit Permit — ceased to exist and with it also the execrable figure of the “permanent exit” with which every Cuban who decided to leave his country for a specified time was banished against his will and which implied the automatic “outlawing” (that is seizure) of all he left behind, really serious things if you look at them from the correct perspective. continue reading

If I have had until now a rather skeptical position with relation to all this, no one should blame me; you have to keep in mind my condition as a Cuban doctor who lives inside of Cuba subordinated to a Minister who, as of 1999, decided that none of the professionals subordinated to him would leave his country, not even temporarily for vacation, until no fewer than five years passed after having solicited the “liberation” from his minister*.

Now it is said that the phantom ministerial resolution that made this extreme measure available has been overturned, which many digital sites and foreign press outlets have echoed, as have alternative Cuban media, but the truth is that my minister and my government have made no public declaration that officially confirms it, hence the issue unleashes the usual wave of speculation and rumors.

Personally I think that the Cuban authorities could have reasoned as follows: if the new Migratory Law, in Articles 24 and 25, by means of subsection f, establishes plainly that it does not permit professionals to travel freely “. . .by virtue of the rules directed to preserve the qualified work force. . .” then why keep in force that resolution designed exclusively for the personnel subordinated to the Minister of Public Health? Why keep two tools when one is sufficient? After all, in practical terms, something that before only affected professionals in my sector now is made to extend to the rest of the country’s professionals and technicians.

But not to be too intransigent I will hope that the time will come when someone says the last word. I hope that from today on no Cuban will be deprived of his right to travel; that no Cuban will be held against his will, on some pretext, bysome bureaucrat; that no one will be authorized to come and go from his country on conditions. For now, forgive me, gentlemen, I reserve the benefit of the doubt. I have never before wanted so intensely to be mistaken.

Jeovany Jimenez Vega

*Translator’s note: Prior to the so-called “migratory form” that just went into effect, EVERY doctor who asked to leave Cuba had to wait at least five years from the time of making the request before he or she could leave (if they were allowed to leave at all). Doctors on missions in foreign countries have had their passports held so they could not leave from those countries.

Translated by mlk

January 23 2013

Necessary Reminder / Jeovany Jimenez Vega #Cuba

By Jeovany Jiménez Vega

I reread the letter from the surgeons from the Havana “Calixto García” Hospital to Raúl Castro, which was published on 20 September by Cubaencuentro anonymous and undated. At the time of posting my previous post on October 1, I didn’t know that on September 28 another digital site, Cubainformación, had published what it says is the real letter–this time backed by the name of 62 surgeons of the hospital and dated August 15, 2011–in an article that also accused “international media and the so-called Cuban dissidence…” of manipulating the document. The next day, September 29, Cubaencuentro reviewed the indictment and published the full text referred by Cubainformación.

I do not think the letter made public by one of these sites differs too much in its essence from that published by the other. Some words here and there but the poverty, abuse, neglect and hopelessness they describe are unquestionable facts.

So, today I focus not on the presumed authenticity of one or other, but on fact slips into the background here, that this controversial and incredibly important document only comes to light after being published by Cubaencuentro, yet was sent to the highest leadership of the country over a year ago and this is where I ask: did these doctors received any response from the authorities and government policies to their just concerns?

Or perhaps it passed to the Internet because they never received a response to their letter? Did the authorities react with maturity and naturalness or with their usual arrogance? Do events like this finally make the Cuban authorities become aware of the imminent need to accommodate us with more respect or do they eternally perpetuate this laziness?

I hope that by this time this controversy bears good fruit. Hopefully this intolerance that has corroded life is not first and foremost any more since those who from shame have the nobility to speak aloud when others are silent out of fear. Hopefully no other Cuban will suffer what I had to suffer for saying for similar words, which I offer here as a reminder of what must change, but in continuing is the shame of our country.

(*) Letter addressed to the then Minister of Public Health Dr. José Ramón Balaguer Cabrera, on November 11, 2005, by Drs. Jeovany Jimenez Vega and Rodolfo Martinez Vigoa. (Excerpt)

…The worker subject to our Ministry has particular characteristics that must be kept in mind in order avoid falling into simplistic analysis… Whoever graduates and then betters himself, as an unavoidable human consequence, aspires to live decently from the fruit of his labor, but today our particular reality is quitepainful and different: we receive an evanescent salary that is exhausted at five or at the most 10 days, being then in the throes ofthe urgency of expenses of that kind of public charity, from the spontaneous gesture of the grateful patient who knows our imperious necessity. We speak of talented and dedicated professionals, of high human quality, working with threadbare gowns and his only pair of broken shoes, with many of his more elemental needs not covered, who has coexisted with this lamentable situation for more than a decade, burdened by shortages that would fill these pages and that we leave to the imagination.

While it’s true that some of our patients, who barely made it to the 6th Grade, earn no less than $300 Cuban pesos a month, selling candy or peanuts, others can earn that amount daily; it would be absurd to compare with the sector made up of the self-employed.

We then want to bring attention to the state sectors that interact around us, which would be valid to take as point of comparison. For example: A SEPSA custodianearns about $200 Cuban pesos a month, includingCUCs, food, and personal hygiene products. An ETECSA clerk, in similar terms, earns $ 1000 Cuban pesos a month.The MINFAR and MININT pay higher salaries than ours and for years, have been systematically implementing a policy of incentives.In all the above cases,the employee receives a uniform and a pair of shoes on a regular basis.

The list of better-paid jobs in the state sector would be a long one.So, I cannot find the answers to the following questions: If the official argument is the lack and unavailability of resources and funds, then what justifies the fact that the person who guards the door at the hospital earns three times more than a professor of Internal Medicine, who have been training doctors for decades, and even the director of the hospital, when National System of Public Health is an entity entirely subordinated to the State that centralizes such resources and funds.

Isn’t it totally absurd that a month of school pays off several times more and results more ’useful’to an individualthan 12 years of higher education? Does it make any sense that this society, which aspires to full equality, pays more back to a custodian thana neurosurgeon who is now saving lives?

What justifies the reality that an MGI specialist or a dentist or the last super-specialist of the Institute are unable to satisfy their basic needs, and when that’s not the case, they fulfill them at the expense of undertaking some other kind of work, but never from their salary as professionals?

Our workers are asked for an altruistic and selfless spirit and great human sensibility, capable of taking high doses of sacrifices, qualities that they certainly have. Unfortunately, in the chain of CUC stores, where the State sets the prices and sells products very expensively, and where many of the basic consumer goods end up being sold, the hard currency (CUC) we are charged with cannot be called sacrifice, altruism, or dignity (that would be truly touching), but simply CUC… Then, our professionals, left with no other choices, go into the street to face that other ’daily struggle’ to avoid prostituting themselves in their profession, selling under-the-counter “certificates of illness,” medicines, or receive some sort of perk.

It is such an overwhelming situation, which forces the individual to seek an alternative source of income, in many exotic and dissimilar ways that would leave one in awe: raising pigs, taking in ironing, selling pizza, ham or eggs, working as masons, carpenters, shoemakers, or simply renting the car that was awarded for participating in an international mission, for a fixed monthly price, so that they can afford to buy gasoline. And all of these activities share something in common: they are discouraging and time-consuming when placed in the balance with professional growth.They take people away from what should be their only worry: studying, which they should pay back byproviding exquisite attention to their patients, from a scientific point of view.

If today we are flying the flag of internationalism with medical missions in dozens of countries, it also thanks to the spirit of self-sacrifice of those of us who stayed in Cuba. Our workers have had to take onthe work of those who left in missions, and so a single doctor is responsible for the work previously performed by 3 or 4; there are even more dramatic cases, and on top of this, doctors try to deliver the same level of care to their patients while receiving in return the same pay, knowing that your internationalist colleague, certainly well deserved, earns several hundred dollars a month and after her/his return they will receive amonthly stipend, not negligible at all underthe present circumstances…

Under this situation, our staff had bigger expectations regarding monthly salary increases in June 2005, which resulted in true disappointment. A $48.00 Cuban pesos raise to the monthly salary of a doctor, under these circumstances, was less than symbolic.In the hallways of our hospitals and polyclinics, you could hear harsh words being said, charged with grief and resentment; insulting and offensive phrases, that we will not repeat here in the name of decency, were muttered all over the place.

Our Ministry has the moral obligation to offer a respectful response to its workers, given the extreme sensitivity of this issue. These are the same workers who, at the peak and during the saddest moments of the Special Period, remained working for $3.00 USD or less a month, holding high the honor of our work, and they deserve to know that their opinions are taken into account…

Everything that has been said here is completely true; it has been said in a measured and respectful way for a very simple reason: If justice is the supreme ideal of the Revolution, the current compensation received by our workerseven after decades of effort and dedication is neither fair nor proportionate, while other state sectors are paid several times more, the situation is not compatible with Marxist principles… ’one should get paid according to his work.’

… The problem itself is much more controversial and profound, and it will never besolved with palliative measures or timid salary increases. We can only humbly alert; those who have ears to hear, listen. Reality is much harsher than any words, and that one, even when it burns our hands, does not fit in any discourse.

There are thousands of workers… who are waiting for a response. We hope that it will be moderate and fair, well-thought and intelligent, and it will show no signs of clumsiness. The harshness of these times has not made us lose the tenderness inour hearts.We have faith in that decisions, consistent with the spirit of this Revolution for the humble, will be made, by the humble and for the humble.

– End of the Document –

P.S. Eleven months from the date when this letter was delivered at the headquarters of the Ministry of Public Health, both of us, its authors, were suspended from the practice of medicine for more than 5 years.

Translated by Chabeli

October 16 2012


The Turn of the Outraged / Jeovany Jimenez Vega #Cuba

In March 2007 the Attorney General of the Republic replied just once to the first of three applications by two doctors who had been unjustly disqualified. It wasn’t just a technical report issued by a non-political and autonomous body against two citizens who considered their rights had been fundamentally violated, but this retrospective response was a vendetta, a written crucifixion using biased and politically-chargedlanguage.

But for some mysterious reason, and in spite of the fact that more than five years have passed, I woke up this morning with a couple of doubts circling in my mind. This is what they were about: if, hypothetically, the two people affected were now to decide to file a lawsuit at the Peoples’ Tribunal against those responsible for the serious injury suffered, what process would they have to follow? Would it now be considered appropriate for our Attorney General to accuse these officials – who doubtless still occupy public service positions – of having subjected us to public humiliation and grave professional and family damage?

Above all, the conclusion would unavoidably be drawn that we should be reinstated in our profession and recompensed for the salary owed to us to cover the period in which we had been disqualified; the implication would be clear that it was a total injustice, and that in order to throw the book at us they played with the truth, they slandered us and, obviously, someone was responsible. Today I would ask our “honorable” Attorney General who five years ago dismissed all the evidence in our favour, if we still have the right to accuse those persons who, enjoying full authority, never did anything.

I wonder if one could still proceed on the grounds of perjury and defamation against the then Provincial Director of Health of Havana, Dr Wilfredo Lorenzo Felipe, who is now Municipal Director of Health of Guanajay, and his wife, Doctor Beatriz Torres Pérez, who was then Dean of the Western Branch of the Institute of Medical Science of Havana, against the then Minister of Public Health, Dr. José Ramón Balaguer Cabrera, who is now the Head of International Relations of the Central Committee of the Party, who ignored the 10 letters sent to him, and the present-day Minister, Dr. Roberto Morales Ojeda, who ignored several others.

I wonder if one could proceed against the President of Parliament,Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada on the basis of perversion of the course of justice, and against Esteban Lazo, Vice President of the Council of State, and Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, First Vice President of the Council of State, or Raul Castro, our President, who received four letters which were not replied to – just a question. All these persons, even if they weren’t responsible for what happened, at least knew about it for years and did nothing about it.

Moving on, I ask myself if the Attorney General of the Republic would consider it to be in order to commence an action for perversion of the course of justice against itself as an institution, for having, since mid-2007, rejected the evidence which should have resulted in our immediate readmission, as it showed that the facts were twisted in order to punish us for political reasons. I am supposedly living under a Rule of Law – as my government assures us – which gives me the authority, I believe, as an ordinary citizen — perhaps Citizen Zero — to place before the relevant powers such resources as I believe necessary to guarantee my personal liberties.

I am not proposing to dig around in the shit. My long and patient struggle to return to work in my profession has made me grow and rise above my miseries. Now I am only driven by curiosity, because although I have the right to feel resentment still, nevertheless I have decided to follow the noble advice of Reinaldo Escobar and Yoani Sanchez, those blessed miscreants who, just a few hours after my reinstatement, proposed that from that moment I should concentrate on my health and forgive everything; after everything it was those “warmongers” who – paradoxically – put it to me that I should have the courage and stature to forget.

by Jeovany Jimenez Vega.

Translated by GH

November 13 2012


An Indecent Proposal / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

In response to an article published by Jean-Guy Allard in the newspaper Granma on November 12, in which Yoani Sanchez is accused, for the umpteenth time, of being “a mercenary working for the United States.”

Clearly the theme “Generation Y” has escaped the hands of those responsible for calming the troops, and I presume this has upset the dream of countless government operatives, real and virtual, at all levels of Cuban counterintelligence.

As in my role as a doctor I’m obliged to look after the physical as well as the mental health of every Cuban, today I am trying to convey to the author of this article and to State Security — including its Section 21, that maintains a very intense romance with this young woman in Havana — a doubt that assails me: if the U.S. government and/or the CIA have contracted with this “mercenary” and this is what motivates her, financial payments, she works only for this, then the solution to their insomnia is extremely simple: why don’t they bribe her? Why don’t they pay her more and call it good?

If there is something that history has amply demonstrated, it is that the mercenaries, without honor and flag, serve the highest bidder; then the solution is easy: if the people to the north have paid her some miserable half million euros, then pay her, let’s say, a million, or five, or even ten, and surely her eyes will jump out of her head at such an irresistible offer. After all, in this heart vacant of principles there is nothing more than greed, so now it’s time to raise the stakes on this out-of-control woman and you’ll see how fast she changes sides and sinks into an absolute silence, as such a contract would require.

Although I have been to her house many times, the only life of Yoani’s that I know is the publicly visible one. Despite the cordiality with which she treats everyone there, along with her husband — that also irredeemable soul, Reinaldo Escobar — there are barriers that respect and prudence presuppose. Because of this I don’t aspire in this post to offer an apology, not to mention that’s not my personal style, it’s about something much more elemental: someone who has managed to feed a blog that receives, according to Wikipedia, 14 million visits a month — making it the most visited page in the Spanish language network — doesn’t need it.

As for me, I don’t seek anything personal from Yoani either, and what’s more, having never flattered or bowed down to absolute power and the onerous owner of everything around me, capable of ruining my life with a snap of his fingers, then I’m not going to do it before anyone.

But it fries my bacon that in the official Cuban press, which is scandalously silent about the high level corruption overrunning my country, everything is reduced to the old story of money money money — as evidenced by the fact that absolutely every Cuban political opponent, from the oldest and most recalcitrant to the latest upstart, without exception, is accused of this.

So fine, back to the point: paying this “depraved” woman more would be a solution, right? And given that, thanks to the blockade, budgets for repressive activities are tight, something unlikely, say 500,001 euros ought to be enough. After all, for these out-of-control people, according to the official accusation, the difference of a single dollar ought to be enough to make them collapse, drooling, at the feet of their new master.

In a country where millions keep their mouths shut and fake it for a leadership position, for the assignment of a State-owned car, for a little work mission abroad, what wouldn’t this libertine do before such an offer. I think, I suppose, I am saying, the best thing to do with this trifling sum — which would be worth extracting, with due prudence, from the secret account of some tycoon who’s robbed millions from this little country — would be enough to rid the general staff of such a pain in the testicles.

I do want to note, though, that I acted here only from the professional point of view, from an analgesic vocation to relieve the discomfort caused by this chick with iron balls — undoubtedly the largest and most powerful on the island, nobody questions it — and all would be carried out in the most secretive and strict confidentiality.

After all, we doctors work for free in Cuba, it’s nothing to me, but it’s amazing, I remain concerned that the genitals … I mean the genial… strategists of State Security never thought to follow such an elementary strategy.

November 27 2012


Upgrade of Cuban Migration Policy? / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

It is already a fact: the awaited “migration reforms”, announced by Raul Castro a month and a half ago, arrive with a lot of noise — much ado about nothing. Published “casually” five days before the elections for delegates to the Municipal Assemblies of Popular Power, the modification to Law No. 1312 “Law of Migration” of September 20, 1976, was again the plastic carrot hung in front of the herd. Some simpleton might believe his opportunity in life has arrived, but the disillusionment — I really wish I were wrong on this point — sooner or later will reveal the true intention behind a decree where they repeat the verb “to authorize”too much which has ruled the destinies of a people confined to their borders for more than half a century.

According to my understanding of Decree-Law No. 302, issued by President Raul Castro October 11, 2012, and published in the Official Gazette last October 16, nothing changes for the professional Cubans — including thosefrom the Public Health, needless to say — we continue dragging that cross that the government became by havingdevoted ourselves to the cultivation of knowledge. Once again it pays us so: leaving us at aclear disadvantage, violating our right to travel, depriving us ofany opportunity to meet the world. Articles 24 and 25, subsections f, make it very clear when they exclude from leaving the country all those who lack “the established authorization, pursuant to the strict rules of preserving the qualified work force…” which with one blow leaves millions of Cubans out of the game.

One does not have to be really smart to notice that articles 23, 24 and 25, added entirely to the former Law of September 1976, give fullpower to the authorities to refuse passport, to refuseentry and equally to refuse exit from the country, respectively and according to subjective criteria, to any person inside or outside of Cuba, all of which serves to leave bare the true, hypocritical and deceptive nature of this law. Too much ambiguity leaves open Article 32, subparagraph h — and by extension the same subparagraph of Article 25 — when they establish that some clerk can refuse the award of the passport and/or exit from the countryto anyone, “When for other reasons of public interest the empowered authorities determine…”, ambiguity which will serve to continue detaining millions of Cubans under this blue sky every time the Cuban Government feels like it. These articles and subparagraphs will be hanging, like the sword of Damocles, over all Cubans.

The other invidious facet of the matter: Article 24, by means of its subparagraphs c, d and e, establishes as “. . . inadmissible. . .” for entry into the country — because they put them into the same category as terrorists, human and arms traffickers, drug dealers and international money launderers — those accused by the Cuban Government of “…Organizing, encouraging, managing or participating in hostile actions against the political, economic, and social fundamentals of the Cuban State“, “When reasons of Defense and National Security so suggest” and also — this is the little jewel in the crown — all those whom the Cuban Government considers must “Be prohibited from entering the country for being declared undesirable or expelled.” If one wants it clearer, pour water on it: it is a given that those Cubans with politicalstandards divergent from the Government lines will continue being deprived of travel, and in case they do manage to leave the country, they assume a high risk of not being permitted to return, and this includes, of course, the millions of Cubans and their descendants who live outside of their country.

Something remains clear: as long as one authority might prohibit those of us living in Cuba from leaving freely, and also prohibitthat anyone of the millions that live outside return unconditionally to the embrace of their homeland, no one will be able to speak of realfreedom of travel; this is an individual’s exclusive decision and will never be a clerk’s because, right to the end, it is inalienable. As long as they make us leave our families here as hostages as a prerequisite to travel abroad, freedom of thought is abridged with an exit blackmail, if even one Cuban is denied his right to freely come or go as his birthright, nothing will have changed in Cuba. Time will have the last word, but for now everything seems pure illusion; for the moment, on the balcony of Havana, this little room is just the same.

Translated by mlk.

October 25 2012


A Summer Night’s Nightmare / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

This has been a rainy year in Cuba, and as if to do justice to the energy of this season, in Artemisa last Saturday afternoon it rained buckets including a concert of terrible thunder. An hour after having cleared up, around 5 PM, the guest who didn’t make it was seen approaching: the blackout. The strange part of it was that the presumed break waited an hour after the last ray of sunshine to make its appearance on the scene. The hours passed, with midnight the terrible certainty arrived: this would be a long day, we slept without electric current in the midst of this horrid summer. It wasn’t the first time, nor the end of the world nor much less, but in this country of timid advances and serious setbacks, I couldn’t help shuddering at the thought that these nightly blackouts would return to be a part of the daily landscape.

But if we speak fairly, we have to recognize that we haven’t had power outages for years, at least in my and neighboring towns, they stopped being habitual only to convert themselves into real news, then the strategy of getting better autonomy in the territories by installing generators gave, seemingly, the hoped-for results. Today, the blackout occurs only in the case of breakage, and is generally short. But when it comes, it does it with the aggravating factor of finding most Cuban homes enslaved to electrical service, then together with the sensibility of selling us electrical appliances — it must have something to do with an idiosyncratic problem — the insensitivity of shutting down our liquid gas service, by which more than one Artemisan saw themselves dark in the afternoon-night of this Saturday.

Inevitably, my mood soured by the intense heat made my thoughts fly back in time and I remembered — how could I forget? — those summer nights of 1993 and 1994, those tortured nights of neighbors sleeping in doorways, and at the heat of the roofs, at the mercy of the mosquitoes, to flee from the suffocating heat. In those days the “alumbrones*”, because the daily blackouts lasted between 16 and 20 hours, even whole days, they were, together with the scarcity of food and the virtual absence of transport, the most palpable evidence that we had hit bottom.

Although the morning came, it wasn’t until almost Sunday mid-afternoon, after 17 hours that seemed too long for fixing a break, that the service was re-established and I breathed a sigh of relief. Over the kitchen, like witnesses to an involuntary vigil, stood the burned-up remains of the candles and the memory of this nightmare of a summer’s night.

*Translator’s note: “Alumbron” is a Cuban word coined to mean when the electricity is ON. The existence of the word is testimony to the fact that at certain times in recent Cuban history the electricity being ON has been the unexpected state of affairs, while blackouts were the common and expected state of affairs.

Translated by: JT

August 10 2012


The Last Card in the Deck / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Talking some months ago with a friend the polemic centered around the selective prohibitions maintained by our government against all common sense and that directly damage the Cuban people. Then my friend maintained that the last to be lifted, in his judgment, would be the prohibition against travel, but I maintained then, and I still believe it, that the last card of the deck that they will give up will be free access to the internet.

The strict control maintained during the revolutionary phase about all kinds of information, the iron censorship over all kinds of press and the absolute monopoly supported against all slogans over how much radio, publishing, writings, contests, magazines or pamphlets saw the light of day, and finally the more recent odyssey suffered by the ghostly fiber optic cable launched from Venezuela, which has been shrouded by a dense cloak of mystery — a topic officially excluded from our press — are elements that convince me of this.

The right to freely access information without censorship is inherent to the liberty of modern man, and opposing it is something like a confession of guilt by a retrograde power opposed to the most elemental rules of democracy. In the case of the Internet, that matter of touching a key in the morning while still in pajamas and having before your eyes as much publication as has been launched in the world — an unthinkable luxury within Cuba for the average Cuban — is a very serious matter.

I won’t fall for the naiveté of saying that in cyberspace everything is peachy and absolute transparency reins, free from the impurities of a tendentious press, but it is undeniable that, as never before, it offers opportunities to civil society to spread the truths that are contrary to the interests of the powers that be.

Internet censorship has been instituted as one of the crown jewels with respect to limiting our liberties.To oppose now in the second decade of the 21st century what has been one of the most ingenious creations of man, what has turned into a depository of his knowledge and spirituality like nothing else, is simply and plainly a crime. It is a duty of the Cuban people to demand tirelessly this right because from the very moment that it is won we will be much freer.

Although the final labor of censorship continues yielding its fruits. During the last weeks I have had, and I will have in the future, serious difficulties updating my page. Citizen Zero, like other blogs, will enter into a brief, involuntary silence, all for not having a site to connect us with the Internet. This makes me repeat once more the big question: if the Cuban government says it is in possession of the absolute truth, then . . .what does it fear? If the big world press publishes on its web its versions, instead of ours, so “ethical and objective,” publish theirs. It happens that I am an adult, university graduate and I know how to read; I want to access both with my own eyes, and I do not see the sense, now overwhelming me, that a reader on the National News on TV should go to the trouble of doing it for me.

Translated by mlk

May 27 2012


White Coat / Yoani Sánchez

Dr. Jeovany Jimenez on the 11th day of his hunger strike
Dr. Jeovany Jimenez on the 11th day of his hunger strike

Guanajay has a central park that looks like one of a larger town and a gazebo with the majesty of an entire capital. Right there, for 28 days, Jeovany Jimenez staged a hunger strike demanding his right to return to his practice as a physician. He had been expelled from his profession in 2006 when he protested a miserable wage increase for public health personnel. He complained about the meager 48 Cuban pesos ($2 USD), to be added — with great fanfare — to the salaries of surgeons, anesthetists, nurses and other health care professionals. Along with the administrative action applied to him, he was also expelled from the Communist Party in which he was active. In late 2010 and in the absence of any institutional response to his complaints, he opened the blog Citizen Zero on the Cuban Voices platform.

After sending the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) a score of letters over these last five years, the proscribed Dr. Jiménez resorted to a desperate strategy, to stop ingesting food until reinstated in his position. Amidst the sadness of his friends and the curiosity of passersby in Guanajay Park, he started to lose both pounds and hope. From March 5, he refused to eat and saw only two options: abandoning his strike without achieving his goals, or ending up in a coffin. The most unlikely scenario was his legal reinstatement as a doctor, given the stubbornness of our institutions when it comes time to rectify an injustice. And yet, the miracle happened.

On Sunday, two officials from the Ministry of Public Health brought Jeovany Resolution 185, which allows him to return to work in his profession. It even reinstates the monthly salary that he was not paid over those six years of unemployment. To achieve this “happy ending” Dr. Jimenez came armed primarily with his tenacity, this constant that many of his acquaintances cataloged as almost an obsession. This protest didn’t have a political slant, it was work, relying on the magnificent tool of the Internet to give it visibility, along with the microphones of journalists from foreign radio and television stations who shed light on such a disproportionate administrative punishment. But the final touch was his own body. That body that he was sworn to care for in others and that he put at risk in himself to return to the right to heal. A doctor who has struggled so as to return to the clinic, stethoscope around his neck, in the whitest coat, with his prescription pad, deserves more, he deserves a diploma in gold.

2 April 2012