The Consequences of Having "Dissident" Friends

Nadia tried to escape Cuba on a boat, but was intercepted by the authorities and sent back to prison.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 December 2017 — The Mexican illustrator Joan X. Vázquez has created a series of comics produced by the human rights organization Amnesty International entitled Cuban Lives. These pages illustrate the lives of Cubans and the continuous restrictions to which they are subjected in their day to day existence.

The second issue is dedicated to Nadia, a language student who worked as a tour guide and who, because of having friends considered dissidents, was expelled from the university, threatened and arrested.

We reproduce here some pages shared by Amnesty International.

Nadia. Havana, Cuba.
Nadia was a language student and worked as a tourist guide. She had a lot of friends and several of them were considered dissidents. / Despite that, she had never been involved in political activism. This did not save her from being constantly monitored in her neighborhood, in the street and at the university.

She was automatically seen as suspicious and this brought serious consequences.
First she was expelled from the university and they threatened her with going to prison. / Then she spent several months under house arrest. /Finally, a court sentenced her to a year in prison under an abusive criminal law.
Nadia tried to escape Cuba on a boat, but was intercepted by the authorities and sent back to prison.
She realizes that having actively participated in politics she would spend the rest of her days in prison. / Tired of so much repression she decided to break with her friends and censor herself to protect herself.

In the third issue, the author focuses on the story of Carlos, a young man recruited by State Security services to monitor his fellow students and report on their lives and political ideas.

Carlos, Havana, Cuba
When he was young, Carlos was invited to join State Security because of his physical attributes.
For years, his mission was to infiltrate and spy on his compañeros and report their movements. / Only his close family knew about his activities.
Carlos had immense power over the lives of others. He reported on his compañeros considered “suspicious,” “dangerous,” “anti-social” or “unreliable.” / After some years, Carlos realized that many of his friends were in prison due to information he had leaked to the authorities.
Carlos felt guilty of having ruined the lives of several of his loved ones. / He wasn’t against the Revolution but he didn’t agree with the existing repression, so he tried to join opposition groups.
Carlos began to fear for his life. He knew that all the groups were infiltrated by State Security. / He decided to risk leaving the country before he ended up in prison.

The fourth issue is dedicated to Elias, a nurse who began to be harassed by his employers because he complained about the lack of support to carry out his work. As a result he was forced to leave his profession, and despite moving to another city he was denied the position of nurse because he was considered “unreliable.”

Elias, Havana, Cuba
Elias worked as a nurse in a hospital. He raced from place to place taking care of all the patients because there wasn’t enough staff. / His greatest satisfaction was being able to help others despite such demanding conditions.
Elias could not solve all the demands that arose, and he felt desperate and needed help. He thought it would a good idea to raise his voice to his superiors.
Complaining had two negative consequences for him. His superiors ignored his demands and his co-workers rejected him. He felt trapped.
Little by little Elias was forced to resign. He moved to another city to look for work in other hospitals, but he was labelled an “unreliable” person and was never again able to work as a nurse.
The system is incoherent. It trains you as a professional to help others. But it can destroy your career if you don’t go along with how things are done.

The fifth comic represents the story of Maritza, a university professor of medicine with no interest in politics, who was soon pressed to propagandize her students and join the state’s mass organizations. Due to this pressure, and despite having the work of her dreams, she resigned after one year.

Maritza, Santiago, Cuba
Maritza was a professor of medicine at Santiago University. Since she was a child she dreamt of becoming a doctor because in Cuba everyone can ask for free medical care and she wanted to be able to be useful to others.
Shortly after she started working as a professor, she began to receive invitations from her colleagues and directors to participate in political meetings tied to the state, such as those of the official union. / But Maritza had no interest in politics, she wanted to dedicate herself to what she loved, which was teaching medicine and sharing her knowledge.
As the months went by the insistence grew and the invitations ceased to be friendly. Maritza was pressured to show her commitment to the Revolution and now not only did she have to teach medicine, she had to spread propaganda in the classroom.
Maritza rejected these practices and so she started to be watched by the university leadership.
Martiza couldn’t deal with going to prison. Despite the fact that this was the work she always wanted to do, she had to step down and abandon her dreams.


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