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