Letter to Pope Benedict XVI / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Artemisa, 20 February 2012

To His Holiness Benedict XVI:

Like most Cubans, I greatly rejoice in your announced visit to our country, which will undoubtedly be welcome. You come to a country living in the most complex moment in its history. When you come, certainly, our authorities will show, among others, the achievements of our Public Health and will ensure that this is a proof of the Cuban government caring for its people.

So you must know, Your Holiness, that there is a part of the story that will be hidden from You and from the world: the desperate economic situation, bordering on poverty, which forces us to live the artifices of the miracle. But the most degrading facet of the case – still more grave, if you will, than the fact itself – is that our government does not admit questioning and punishes, inexorably, anyone who dares to criticize the poverty in which it forces us to live.

I write you as a Cuban doctor who graduated in 1994, barred from the practice of medicine in my country indefinitely, since October 2006, along with my colleague Dr. Rodolfo Martinez Vigoa. As unlikely it seems, we never put at risk the health or life of any patient, nor did we  violate work discipline and we never failed in our Code of Medical Ethics. To be deprived of the exercise of our profession it was enough that we channeled, to the then Minister Public Health, the opinions of 300 healthcare professionals regarding a disrespectful wage increase realized in mid-2005 under the government of Fidel Castro.

Your Holiness: Although our government assures us that their differences with the Church are of the past, that we live in different times and that they themselves have changed, however, the intolerance they created during the 60’s with the infamous UMAP forced labor camps — in which tens of thousands of believers were also incarcerated — was exactly the same as that which 40 years later disqualified us to speak to that minister, hence we denounce that smile that they will show you today as nothing more than pure simulation.

When our authorities talk about the laudable health indicators, Your Holiness; when they comment on successful organ transplants; when they show advances in genetic engineering and biotechnology applications in medicine and speak about the medical missions supported by the Cuban government in more than 70 countries, they will not say, however, this miracle was achieved thanks to an army of professions who receive the miserable monthly salary of $25.00 U.S., even though the medical services provided in foreign countries — which have become the first line export of this country — generate at least eight billion dollars a year.

Nor will they tell you that healthcare workers are forcibly retained for five years by our ministry if we want to travel abroad and that we are defenseless against the most outrageous abuses, that we do not have a guild nor effective union representation, given that the powers-that-be, in exchange for our admirable work, show us a complete lack of attention.

The proverbial injustice that motivates this letter – reported in my blog “Citizen Zero”, which is found on the portal “Cuban Voices” – was committed with the consent of all the central institutions of our country; this includes the Attorney General of the Republic, the Party Central Committee, the President of the Parliament, the Council of State – including four letters to President Raul Castro and two to Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura – and of course, the Ministry of Public Health, to which we turned 20 times with no response.

About 80 documents sent over five years – including two serious attempts at hunger strike – illustrate the insensitivity of the Cuban authorities to the problems of their people. In addition, Your Holiness, as part of our effort, since October 2010 we went to the Archbishop of Havana,  through documents sent to His Eminence Cardinal Jaime Ortega, where we ask, in virtue of the role played by the Catholic Church as mediator recent political events, it to intercede for our case to the Cuban Government so that this injustice can be amended.

Your Holiness: The government that now receives You, which claims to be respectful of Human Rights and does not hesitate to display doctors as a trophy, is the same one that deliberately keeps is in poverty, while perpetrating a villainy as this. The case that I outline here, transcends mere personal interest and is highly illustrative of how an intolerant government is projected to its people.

This affront to human dignity, which has remained unpunished for more than five years, definitely belies the apertures that the Cuban Government boasts of today. For all this, Holy Father, with all humility, I ask You and thank You in advance to intercede with our authorities to restore to us our profession that was usurped. Today I am writing to you as the head of the Catholic Church and as the man in Jesus Christ in whom we are compelled to feel in our own cheek the outrage committed against the cheek of any man.

With all respect, thank You for Your attention,

Jeovany Gimenez Vega
Calle 54 # 2914. Artemisa.
Provincia Artemisa. Cuba.

March 6 2012