“With The Misery that We Have in This Countr”: Listening to Citizens Unburdening Themselves / Gladys Linares

“The transition now is taking place in the most important place, that is, in the soul and mind of Cubans, frustrated and disillusioned by so many broken promises.”
Oscar Espinosa Chepe

Havana, Cuba, November, www.cubanet.org — Every day the discontent of the people becomes more evident. It is not unusual for strangers to take advantage of any forced waiting to let off steam about their own problems, and in many cases, shared problems.

So, now it is customary to hear complaints and curses against the government at bus stops, in lines at the bodega, the butcher shop, the bakery, and in line at the medical clinic.

For example, in line at the clinic, one Saturday at midday, the following scene took place.

The almost thirty seats of the waiting room of the 30th of November Polyclinic  were practically full, because there was only one doctor on duty.  The really needy patients stayed, with no other option than to arm themselves with patience, but some left, figuring that they would not get out of there in two hours.

Catalina had no other option than to do like the former because she urgently needed a prescription and already at the Lawton Polyclinic they had “steamrolled” her: that doctor showed her her pitiful supply of three prescriptions, which, she said, demanded that they economize, so if it was not urgent…

And here the woman was now, waiting, like another twenty-odd people, for her turn.  After a while, a man of about fifty years of age arrived, aching, and asked who was last in line, so he would know his place, in a bad humored voice because of the number of people.

When a woman told him that there was only one doctor on duty, the man answered her that it was natural, if all the Cuban doctors are in Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil or Haiti, or in whatever country except Cuba.  That is why so many clinics are closed and lines are so long in the ones that are open.

A very correct and well dressed young man intervened, who added that, it seems, the medications have gone with the doctors.  Another agreed, convinced that the same thing had happened to medical devices, judging by the news of NTV, in which they often spoke not only of medications freely shared, but entire hospitals donated by Cuba to those countries.

A girl asked where the Government gets what it gives, since when you go to a hospital, there is almost never anything with which to do tomography, nor a plate, nor a blood analysis, to which the gentleman replied that surely it has to do with donations which, instead of delivering them to the Cuban people, for whom they are managed, the Government uses them to earn followers in all of Latin America. Those present were in agreement that that was criminal, with the misery that we have in this country.

And so, between complaints and opinions — that if Maduro goes down the same road, that if medical attention that is worth it in Cuba is that of Cira Garcia or what the Venezuelans receive — time was passing.  Suddenly, another doctor with a foreign appearance arrived, who a little later opened the other consultation room.

Coincidentally, it was this one to whom Catalina was assigned when her turn arrived.  The woman entered with fear that this time too they would refuse her prescription, but by luck the complete opposite happened.  This doctor had an enormous bundle of them, and did not hesitate to give one to her and another to the gentleman who “slipped” in to ask for it.

Catalina left the clinic very happy, because now she could continue with her treatment.  On passing through the waiting room, she heard the patients who were continuing to unburden themselves: that if my cousin was a prisoner in UMAP for having long hair and listening to the Beatles, that if “this guy” is a cheeky one, so much that he prohibited them, and then to send him to make a statue of Lennon and to say that “he too is a dreamer,” that if the scarcity is in agriculture, because in the hotels and in the houses of the “pinchos” — the nomenklatura — nothing is lacking, that what they are going to do to recover the investment of those who had set up video rooms, that they commanded them all to shut down their businesses overnight, instead of giving them a license. . .

And for background music, Juan Gabriel on the laboratory’s mp3 and a blast of water falling from a tank on the roof.

Translated by mlk.
27 November 2013