An English translation of the blog Ciudadano Cero from Cuba. "Citizen Zero" features the testimony of two Cuban doctors disqualified for an indefinite period for the practice of medicine in Cuba for having channeled to the Ministry of Public Health the opinions of 300 public health professionals about their salaries. Dr. Jeovany Jimenez Vega, who administers this blog, authorizes and appreciates the dissemination by any means possible, of every one of his opinions or articles published here.

By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

The Ebola outbreak on the world epidemiological scene will obviously involve a huge challenge for every country that is reached by the current epidemic, already registered as the greatest in history and that in recent days has reached about 9000 confirmed cases — although experts say that figure is an undercount.  The World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported that the epidemic is not being confronted will all the political rigor that the moment demands on the part of the international community and also warned that if the situation is not brought under control in time, by 2015 it predicts an incidence of about a million and a half cases.

It is easy to conclude that arriving at this state of things the danger would only grow exponentially.  We are confronting an extremely contagious illness of non-vectoral transmission, that can be spread person to person through the most subtle contact with any bodily fluid of an infected person — and that may be transmitted sexually to boot, given that the virus is isolated in semen until 90 days after recovery.

Although a first clinical trial for a vaccination has just been implemented, the reality is that for now the medical treatment protocols are in their infancy in the face of a disease that in previous outbreaks has reached a lethality of between 90% and 100% of cases and in the face of which one can only commit to treatments of its severe complications and to practice the usual measures for life support.

Today is raised before man a threat by one of the bad boys of virology, which demands the implementation of the most extreme biological containment measures, as well as the use of the most specialized and scrupulously trained personnel for its handling.

Such a scene places before us the most elemental question: what if Ebola breaks out in Cuba? This is not negligible, and it stopped being a remote possibility after the departure of a detachment of hundreds of Cuban professionals destined for the African countries flogged by the epidemic. Let’s remember the possibility that it was that route used by cholera to reappear in our country, imported from Haiti after an absence of 120 years, and not to mention the everlasting dengue fever.

The eruption of this most dangerous illness in Cuba could simply take on shades of tragedy.  Beyond how dissipated may become the customs of the inhabitants of the alligator, I am inclined to fear by the experience of one who has seen too often the systematic use of recyclable material, the usual practice in Cuba, even when long ago the world definitively committed to the exclusive use of disposable material: the idea of treatment centers for these patients winding up recycling suits, gloves or other materials because it occurs to some pig-headed guy from the “higher level” that this would “guarantee” safety under such circumstances is terrifying.

In a country where too many times a doctor does not have in his office something as basic as running water and soap in order to wash his hands, it will be understood what the demand for costly minimal material demanded for handling patients with Ebola would involve, and if besides we take into account that the almost generality of our hospital infrastructure is not designed or prepared objectively for the containment of this kind of scourge, now we will be able to raise a prayer to the Virgin to save us from the trance.

On the other hand, let’s not forget how reticent the Cuban authorities have shown themselves to be about publicly reporting on the incidence of epidemics when one considers that this might risk the affluence of tourists or the successful conclusion of some relevant international event — the Cuban dengue fever mega-epidemic of 2006 is still an excellent example in that regard.

With all these antecedents at hand, chills are felt before the possibility here considered and the questions that remain unanswered.  Will the Cuban Public Health System be prepared to control the Ebola outbreak with the required speed?  Will we Cuban professionals have the training, methodology and even the discipline necessary for adequately confronting a contingency of this caliber — and that quite few seem to have faced before?  When the moment arrives, will our government be ready to report the truth bluntly to the people and to the world?  Will this “infallible” government that has exported dozens of medical missions around the world have the humility to recognize its inability to control it and to seek help?

Since the strategy followed until now by WHO at an international level may be debatable — which has accepted being faced with the most serious epidemiological problem since the appearance of AIDS — in regard to the transfer of the foreign sick in order to receive treatment in their respective countries.  Obviously this increases considerably the possibility of transcontinental spread of the virus.

Instead, it would be much more recommended and safe to create adequate conditions in the country where each case is confirmed through a centralized and functional network of field installations correctly equipped and with the full extent of security that is presupposed, where each patient is diagnosed, isolated and treated on site.  For example, it would be worthwhile to consider, in order to implement this kind of possibility, the immediate conversion of uninhabited coastal African islands under the supervision of the experts of WHO and similar organizations such as Doctors Without Borders.

Means analogous to these, and apart from any legal or political assessment, would be more convenient and effective for the containment of this epidemic.  Even the UN — which came to air the topic at the Security Council — could deliver strong resolutions that support and regulate these variants, and it would all be justified by the gravity of a moment that is not made for warm cloths.  It requires taking the strongest measures everywhere the illness is found, if with these measure rapid control of the situation is achieved — including the extreme recourse of military quarantine where it comes to be evidently applicable and necessary.

Admittedly, this proposal may be offered to varied readers, but in operative, practical terms it may constitute the only option that guarantees concrete solutions that stop the advance of this fearful scourge.  It may be now or never: we live at a critical time that demands critical measures. What is not rushed today for lack of political will, governmental indolence or timidity by world institutions, undoubtedly will tomorrow charge a much more dramatic and global human and economic cost.

Translated by mlk.

16 October 2014

By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

I avert my gaze with disgust from the broadsheet of troubling portents that the newspaper Granma has become. Recently, the newspaper published new customs regulations the Cuban government has imposed on its own people. In essence, they amount to a significant reduction — now significantly less than 120 kg — in the weight of non-commercial goods allowed to be brought into the country by the average citizen.

There is also a significant reduction in the value of merchandise allowed to be brought in, from 1,500 pesos beforehand to 1,000 pesos now. Everything determined to be above this limit is to be confiscated. Additionally, there is an ominous decision by the Ministry of Finance and Prices to raise the duty on merchandise received by mail from 10 to 20 CUC — some 500 pesos, the equivalent of a month’s salary — on each kilogram above the initial 1,500 grams.

Like a soothsayer looking into his crystal ball, I can clearly see the inevitable consequences of these measures. Without much effort, I can spot the corrupt customs officials in every Cuban airport rubbing their hands and growing increasingly rich, charging the helpless traveller ever juicier extortion fees, enriching themselves with impunity with millions stolen under the impassive gaze of all the political and government authorities gathered around the feast.

They do this under the very noses of the Interior Ministry officials responsible for “catching them.” This is the same Interior Ministry that is so well-informed and ready to suppress ipso facto any activity of the opposition, however small it might be, but that suddenly becomes “blind and disoriented” in the face of these scandalous, illegal transfers of money.

Nevertheless, I do not foresee in the magic ball the flow of “mules” who supply the black market being halted any time soon. They have “greased” too well those same corrupt officials through bribery. Nor do I see these restrictions leading the Cuban people to buy more shoddy, third-rate goods at scam prices in the hard currency stores; people took note of the pillage happening there a long time ago.

In the depths of my imaginary ball I see very clearly indeed people’s increasing disgust with a government that grows ever more out of touch with them, mired in a delusional fantasy and crafting the kind of measures that only serve to make life more miserable with each passing day.

The Cuban government has demonstrated that it knows no limits when it comes to besmirching us. It is sickening to hear the arguments used to justify these despicable measures. Confiscating a mobile phone in an effort to keep it off the flourishing black market is like grabbing the wrong end of the stick, as is trying to grab certain products brought in by certain passengers.

If someone imports dozens of televisions and computers while someone else brings in dozens of printers or desktop PCs and it is done through customs and with the blessing of officials, it means there were good “rea$on$” to permit it. This does not justify adopting a sweeping policy to deal with a few individuals but which ends up affecting us all.

Furthermore, even if an enthusiasm for acquiring wealth by those importing these goods is demonstrable, it is not something that can be demonstrated at the airport, nor is it the responsibility of the General Customs Service to do so. For that there is a body of regulations and inspectors, whose very job is to see to it that legislation is enforced on the ground. But to accuse all of us of the same thing and to make us pay in the same way is a huge stretch.

Without being naive, it is certainly not natural or ethical for someone who does not know my needs or the size of my family to presume that whatever I bring in beyond what he happens to deem appropriate is of a “commercial character.”

We should never forget, however, that the enduring maxim of the authorities of this country is to ignore the principle of the presumption of innocence. Here you are considered guilty until you can prove otherwise.

Meanwhile, we remain the only country where the government insists on fining its own citizens — no matter how much they try to sugarcoat it, this is what it amounts to — at the customs house door for the “crime” of simply trying to improve their lives.

Translated by mlk

14 July 2014

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“Citizen Petition: We Demand the Cuban Government Ratify and Implement the UN Conventions.” — For Another Cuba / Cartoon by Garrrincha, Poster by Rolando Pulido

By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Among the series of international instruments related to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Implementing them requires two basic steps. First, they must be signed. By doing this the state in question agrees to analyze their meaning and by implication to accept their stipulated terms. The second and more significant step requires them to be ratified, an action which requires the state to modify those aspects of its constitution and statutes that are not in accordance with the spirit of the covenants. Once ratified, the government’s position goes from one of tacit compliance to mandatory compliance. Since these amendments become binding, they ensure, at least theoretically, respect for the rights outlined therein.

The campaign “Por Otra Cuba” (For Another Cuba), launched by members of Cuba’s civil society, seeks to secure the rights outlined under the above agreements, which were signed by the Cuban government back in February 2008. Though more than six years have passed since their signing, they have yet to be ratified. In fact Cuba is among an “elite” group of eight governments that have not yet taken this second and definitive step.

What is keeping the Cuban government from ratifying these conventions? What does our ruling elite fear? It would be worthwhile to briefly analyze the implications of what this action might have, at least in theory, on Cuba’s socio-economic dynamic. I say “in theory” because the Cuban revolution was born, consolidated and has withered, all within half a century. Cuba was a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, though this never disrupted the long saga of abuse suffered by its people over this entire period of time.

Ratification of these agreements would “require” the Cuban government, the Communist Party and the state security apparatus — in essence they are one and the same — to officially recognize the existence of civically organized opposition political parties with the right to nominate candidates for elections as pluralistic as the people they would represent.

It would require the government to suspend and subsequently prohibit all repressive actions against individuals and organizations engaged in peaceful opposition, including acts of repudiation and brazen assaults in the street. Those carrying out such assaults would face the risk of trial by impartial courts issuing fair rulings based on due process and without regard to political considerations. It would also require authorities to amend the Penal Code to recognize these actions for what they in fact are: crude acts of vandalism.

It would require them to recognize our right of assembly and association as well as our right to peaceful public protest, and thus to suspend all hostilities against opposition marches organized by the opposition and to halt the waves of arbitrary arrests intended to prevent them, as is routine practice today.

It would require them to respect our right to free expression and the ability to exercise it through all possible means of mass communication, and thus to allow unrestricted access to the media, including the press in all its forms, and immediate, full and uncensored access to the internet.

Ratification would require them to respect the fundamental right of parents to choose the kind of education that their children receive rather than leave them with no choice but stale political indoctrination. It would also guarantee our right to receive a fair salary, one that would allow us to live without having to trade our dignity for paltry handouts.

Today these and other universal rights, which lie beneath the totalitarian aegis, are the focus of these covenants. Their broad scope, representing the vindication of human dignity, explains the strong aversion that dictatorships have always shown towards them.

These conventions are neither “abominable propaganda tools” nor a form of “bourgeois domination” by “global capitalism,” as they are often characterized in government propaganda. They are in fact among the most advanced instruments conceived by humankind to prevent a return to the barbarism from which the UN arose in mid-20th century. This in why only the most retrograde governments openly oppose them.

No one here is talking about “returning to a shameful past — a stale and decrepit slogan — or sighing nostalgically for bygone eras. This is simply no longer possible. The world has changed too much and, along with it, Cuba and its people. The only thing anyone here talks about is bringing the country up to date, of no longer being the breeding ground for laziness, and of the ambition of some to begin turning it into a source equality and prosperity for everyone.

This is why last Monday I “physically” signed this citizen petition along with my wife, Dr. Aliette Padron Antigua (I had already given my “virtual” support a few weeks ago) and submitted it to the headquarters of the Council of State. We endorse this campaign because we firmly believe that another Cuba — one without abuse, where all Cubans live together in dignity and peace, the Cuba for which our forebears gave their lives — is still a valid and possible dream.

30 June 2014

University Entrance Exam in Mathematics to be Repeated in Havana

It happened several years ago and it’s now one of those open secrets that even the kids know about: the bribery of teachers and professors at all levels of teaching has ended up being, as a result of habituation, something almost folkloric; and although it would be unfair to tar the innocent and the guilty with the same brush, it was certainly worth while having fired off warning shots about a matter which has reached scandalous proportions, all the more so for having had the public spotlight shone on it, in view of the terrible moral consequences, with implications for all of us.

We are not always talking about bribery in the form of straightforward cash. There is a whole range of resources available to the brown-nosers and ostentatious people to achieve their objective and once the target teacher has been singled out all you have to do is study his needs and specific tastes in order to fire the shot, which could be delicious snacks, made to measure clothes, expensive perfumes or exclusive invitations, for example.

Without doubt, the lamentable economic hardship suffered by our country´s educators influences all this, with a “salary” similar to that earned up to now by our doctors, and which has kept both groups on the edge of poverty for decades. But, it isn’t for nothing that I write here the word “influences” rather than “determines”.

As a result of mysteries of human nature, at the same time and place as some tend toward hypocrisy, others behave stoically. I know honourable examples of teachers who never were shamelessly two-faced and who have lived with decency while enduring poverty, and for that reason I cannot accept that necessity is enough in itself to affect everyone equally, however oppressive it may be.

It’s clear that in this case as well, the people detained and prosecuted — eight of them according to what was published by Granma — belong yet again to the lower classes. Although transparency is always reasonable, because it is the “raison d´etre” of all genuine journalism, and it is worthwhile making an example, I ask myself if this official melodrama would be equally able to denounce a sacred cow, a commander or historical leader of the Revolution, in the event of it being shown that they were implicated in some such difficulty.

Translated by GH

18 June 2014

Act I: The Barricade

I notice the foul stench the moment I turn the corner and see the piles of garbage blocking the street. A pair of patrols is stationed, threateningly, half a block away. I keep walking as though it has nothing to do with me but a State Security agent — dressed in civilian clothing and without identification, as per usual — stops me and I realize that it is, indeed, about me.

“Good afternoon, where are you headed?” he challenges me.

“To a friend’s house,” I reply, allowing myself this small amusement.

“But… to whose house?” asks a second agent, approaching inquisitively and also dressed as a civilian, of course.

I cut to the chase and look him in the eye. “Yes, I’m going to [Antonio] Rodiles’ house.”

“Let me see some identification,” he demands, as though issuing an order. The radio transmits my information and immediately the agent returns, this time with an unequivocal command. “You cannot pass!”

“Yes, I need to get by,” I reply.

“No, you cannot,” he shoots back.

“Then let’s see what you do about it because I need to pass,” I say self-righteously.

Because of my “insolence,” I am subjected to a thorough search for a cellphone I do not have.

“Frisk him and take him away!” he finally orders. It is 4:20 PM.

 Act II: The Detention

I try telling the agents of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) that the handcuffs are not necessary, but they clamp them on tightly. In a few minutes I am at the Territorial Unit of Criminal Operations and Investigations (DIVICO 3) located on 62nd Street at 7th and 9th in Playa, where I am met along the side of the parking lot.

They take off the handcuffs but their imprint — on the skin, that is — will last for hours. The booking officer asks for my name and the group to which I belong. I identify myself and I say that I do not belong to any group. There is no point in telling him I am a doctor, who would have been at Rodiles’ house for only 20 minutes because the next day I am on call at the hospital for 24 hours and must now get home. Moments later another agent appears and asks, “Haven’t you had problems with your work…  or something like that?”

“Yes, that’s me,” I say, almost interrupting to save him from further reflection. Having verified my coordinates, he leaves. That is when the man I presume to be the boss relaxes his tone of voice a bit. I tell them they are making a serious mistake, that it will lead to nothing, that they have no right to detain me, that they should try other methods.

“So, tell me,” asks the official, “how would you solve this?”

I tell him it was not up to me to solve the problem. He spends the next hour trying to persuade me to go home but I insist that first I have to go to Rodiles’ house.

“You can go there some other time but not today,” he tells me emphatically. “If you try to do it again, we’ll just arrest you again. We’ll be at this all day, so let’s just avoid the hassle.”

During this “impasse” I manage to talk for a few minutes with Gorki Avila, who is in great pain after his “peaceful” arrest. The agents come back, convinced the game is deadlocked. They confiscate my camera and send me to a jail cell.

Act III: Convicted

It is an almost hermetic cell of about 50 square meters and about 6 meters high that, in addition to a door, has a single barred window half a meter tall and about 5 meters from the floor. Three granite benches are the only elements besides the walls, which are painted with several layers of quicklime in an attempt to cover up the graffiti of slogans and curses that bear witness to the cell’s history. Inside are thirteen detainees whose luck today has been similar to mine. They tell me that before they arrived there were others who passed through and estimate that — in this one unit — there may have been fifty prisoners, including several women.

Act IV: The Wait

In time boredom and heat set in, forcing me to remove my pullover. The hours pass in fleeting conversation with occasional outbursts from those screaming at the top of their lungs at the sons of bitches. At the end of the afternoon they bring in Gorki, who is still in pain and complains repeatedly of a headache. After awhile we manage to get him medicated at a nearby clinic and he returns, his pain eased.

About 8:00 PM hunger sets in. Those who so desire are taken to eat but I decline. I guess captivity has taken away my appetite. It is at this moment that the official I saw earlier that afternoon chooses to diffuse the tension— he says to call him Mandy — by playing the good cop. In a tone that in other circumstances might be described as conciliatory, we chat and even philosophize a bit. I take the opportunity to reiterate, for the third time, that I need to call home and, also for the third time, that I am running out of time.

Just then it occurs to me that not only am I being arbitrarily detained but that I am what would technically be described as a missing person. My family will have been waiting for me for several hours without knowing of my whereabouts. For a long time the cell door has remained open, giving the impression that we could leave our confinement and go have a cup of coffee at the corner, if only we were dumb enough to believe it.

The hours pass and little by little the detainees are released so that by 10 PM only five of us remain. Around 10:30 PM they call out for Edilio, an attorney with the Cuban Legal Association, along with another detainee. Now there is only Gorki, Aldo (who manages the Castor Jabao website*) and I. Around 11:00 PM three mats appear and it is then that I resign myself to spending the night in jail.

 Act V: “Liberated”

In the morning the bars finally open and they call out my name. I say goodbye to Gorki and Aldo, who would remain there 12 hours more. At the exit a PNR official shows me a document. In the place where I am supposed to sign, someone has already written, “Did not sign,” which saved me the trouble since that was exactly what I was thinking anyway. The document mentions something about counter-revolution but I tell them they should look for counter-revolutionaries among the crooks who are embezzling this country. They give me back my camera but not before completely draining the battery

After the Terminal Lido stop the bus takes me towards Artemisa. I am gross. I quickly bathe, have something for lunch and head back to Havana for my shift at the hospital because, in spite of it all, it is not the members of my team nor my patients who are responsible for my detention.

Last Act: The Next Day’s Pill

My shift is a killer. When I get home that evening, I open the newspaper Granma to find that in a farewell address at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service, President Raul Castro spoke movingly of the need for the people of Latin America to be “respectful of diversity, with the conviction that dialogue and cooperation are the way to resolve differences and civilized coexistence of those who think differently…”

I do not find out about this until the next day for reasons that are obvious. As the president of this country, who now chairs the United Nations Human Rights Council, is delivering his speech, this Cuban was being detained for 16 hours for trying to attend a State of Sats meeting. This amounted to a violation of his right to freedom of movement, freedom of assembly and freedom of thought, considering he was only thinking of going to this meeting.

The question one then has to ask is, What is the Cuban government afraid of? Could it be that the it has not ratified the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights or the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which it signed in 2008, because it intends to continue its attacks on our civil liberties. This is precisely why, now seven weeks later, I am providing an account of these events. In light of the evidence, further comments are unnecessary.

*Translator’s note: a satirical Cuban website. 

29 January 2014

By: Jeovany Jiménez Vega

The decision of Cuban authorities to ease restrictions on the commercializing of agricultural production (to be implemented in practice as outlined, it would be that and not a greater increase in “flexibility”) must be received with relief in both corners of the ring, for both producers and consumers; the first for obvious reasons, the latter because they are stake-holders from the first round at their local farmers markets.

The decision is logical; that is how every gesture aimed in the right direction should be received. Too many facts condemn the current scheme, directly responsible for thousands of failed crops; guilty of the discouragement of rural people (i.e. farmers) who no longer support the failure of agricultural systems that rot the harvest, and which are largely to blame for the exorbitant prices that leave me the consumer at the end of the chain without feathers and clucking. Over-centralization has led to nothing for decades and the persecution of producers and brokers has lead to only frustration and shortages and high food prices.

Although I will reserve my enthusiasm for when changes become concrete–forgive me those who forget that agricultural producers still live with the legal threat of “illicit enrichment” or “hoarding” hanging over their necks–I do believe that this proposal, now in the experimental phase limited to Artemis, Mayabeque and the capital Havana, if extended to the rest of the country depending on successful outcomes, could lead to an immediate stimulus to the production and trade of agricultural products with benefit to all in the very short term.

On this point I disagree with published studies that predict longer term benefits. Unlike other serious problems in this country such as housing for example, agriculture only requires an appropriate political will to remove barriers and in a few years we will see the rewards, as an example look to the politics of Xiao Pin in China.

Clearly when it is time to regulate and limit prices, the State should take a more responsible attitude to the politics of pricing imposed upon my people. If they require agricultural producers to restrain prices, the State should also restrain their prices that have so far been brutal. It is the State that is responsible for the perpetual extortion suffered by Cubans every time we walk into a store.

Only when actual prices fall to more justified and realistic levels, will the governing powers of this country have the moral justification to demand the same from private producers. Now it remains to be seen what directions are given to the pack of inspectors, from which we have become accustomed to expect nothing good when zero hour arrives.

Although to err is human, to continue the same errors is the failing of fools. This society cannot permit itself the luxury of continuing to ignore the lessons that life has given. It is inconceivable that where nature has provided ideal conditions for agriculture to flourish by the fertility of the soil and a favorable climate, our hands are tied due to man’s own stubbornness.

In order to enjoy success we should free ourselves of burdens, all bureaucratic obstacles preventable and absurd. Congratulations, finally for all that encourages and promotes new ways. We have hope.

Translated by: Yoly from Oly

12 November 2013

“Your health service is free… but it costs”

By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

You’ve been able to see them for almost two years in every health care unit of the Cuban Public Health System, from any primary care office or clinic, passing through each second level hospital, even in tertiary care centers in each Institute.  They welcome us from the door of the consultation room or from the trade union wall and assure us that our omnipotent government has always been zealous to guarantee absolutely fee medical care for our people.

Seen that way, without more, it would seem a simple matter.  In this world, where to the shame of the species, dozens of thousands of children still die of curable illnesses because they do not have access to a few tablets and a measly intravenous infusion, it would be the most natural thing for Cubans to prostrate ourselves in gratitude before such an excess of philanthropy.  But if there is one thing we learned long ago it is that here, when you look into the background of the matter, we have all been charged.

It is true that the hospital does not charge us directly at the hospital or at our children’s school, but without doubt the cash register at the “hard currency collection store” (TRD*) charges us, and in a currency arbitrarily overvalued 25 times in relation to the other currency in which we are paid an unreal salary of little use to us.

These words are not trying to be an inquisitorial onslaught against the health care system to which I belong, whose essential function is impeded by limitations that no sector in Cuba can escape.

Any gratuitous attack would leave on this page the odor of the knife in the back, an aroma that this Cuban detests, but 40 years of hammering did not end up convincing me that guaranteeing a right, or trying to, grants in any way authority to my government to deprive us of other rights as essential as that.

And it is here — more than at the door of the TRD and the hotels, or in the immoral taxes of the General Customs Office, or in the extortionate cost of each consular administration abroad, among other hundreds of shameful examples — where we millions of Cubans have been charged the true currency exchange: it has been through the humiliation of the famous diplo-tiendas*, or in the door of the prohibited hotels, or through the despotism of the migratory authorities or the mistreatment by any other kind of official or through the systematic deprivation of our civil and political rights.

And invariably in the background posters like the one illustrating this post justifying as life-saving the entitlements that crush us at every step.

On the other hand these public governance schemes are not unique to Cuba nor to socialism, as has historically been insinuated to us.  There are dozens of examples of countries — and not necessarily from the first world — that sustain health and education systems as public and free as ours, and all without demanding in exchange such high doses of individual freedom.

Very true it is that sustaining the presumed public health costs each state on a world level very dearly, and Cuba was not exactly going to be the exception, but also I remember here that each Cuban worker has about 30% deducted from his monthly salary precisely to cover these public expenses.

I also remember that when our state undertakes to guarantee public health and education services — the two prime examples — it does not fulfill only a duty but its more conspicuous obligation, perhaps its only authentic obligation.

In particular, I ask myself by what magic method the Cuban government invested $4386.00 pesos in me alone, for the approximately 120 consultations that I did in my last 24-hour medical shift, in which I used only — if we except the $24 pesos that they paid me for night hours — my stethoscope, my blood pressure monitor, and some disposable depressors.

But as I am not an economist, I better leave the accounts to others and dedicate myself, as a good cobbler, to my shoes.  After all, it is true that it costs us . . . and quite expensively, for sure.

*Translator’s note: The government itself named the stores that sell only in hard currency, “Hard Currency Collection Stores”–TRD is the Spanish acronym–making explicit that their major purpose is to capture for the government coffers (through extreme overpricing) a major share of the remittances Cubans receive from their families abroad. Many items are often, or only, available in these stores (or in the black market).  An early incarnation of these stores were known as “diplotiendas,” that is “diplomat stores” catering to foreigners residing in Cuba.

See:  It costs.  By Regina Coyula.

Translated by mlk.
28 April 2014

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