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.

I want you POOR, fanatic, worshipful and grateful

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 20 August 2015 — A few weeks ago we were amusing ourselves with news reports about the vacation tour of Prince Tony Castro. Apparently, tired of playing golf in a country where 99.99% of the natives have never set foot on a golf course, the only Cuban participant in the latest Ernest Hemingway Fishing Tournament (and, coincidentally, its only winner) decided to hop over to the opulent hotels of Turkey. None of this would be especially notable if Tony were the heir to the throne of the Sultan of Brunei; but he is no more and no less the son of the most vertically anti-capitalist personage of the second half of the 20th century: the feudal lord Fidel Castro.

By now, however, nothing should surprise us, because demagoguery was always the most cardinal sign of Fidelism from its first moments of existence. This same dictator took it upon himself to practice it whenever he could, raising it to the level of an Olympic sport. Fidel’s ambivalent posture in those first days of the Revolution, making assurances that he was not a communist–only to later shed his skin when circumstances were propitious–is established historical fact. But besides this facet inherent to his high politics, in the personal sphere, also, Fidel always maintained a double life, until time and the public confessions of various high-ranking officials, disenchanted with the Bearded One’s lechery, revealed the truth.

Thus we learned that this gentleman always had multiple lovers. Then I remembered how an uncle of mine, a principled militant communist, and honest (whom I remember on more than one occasion asking my mother for some change so that he could buy cigarrettes at the Artemisa Coppelia that he himself managed) was expelled from the Party for the unpardonable sin of having a lover.

A little more recently, following the death of Antonio Gades, we would find out that the Iberian artist was the baptismal godfather of the children of Raúl Castro himself. Then we would recall then how for decades, Party membership was denied to thousands of sympathizers of the regime precisely because of their religious beliefs–and even much worse, how thousands of workers were harrassed, and how the future of tens of thousands of young people was truncated as they were expelled from their university studies for not having denied their faith.

Now we know that the feudal lord was a consummate conoissieur of wines and expensive cheeses, and we also learn about all those mini-palaces, yachts, foreign vacations, children sent to European boarding schools, and private hunting preserves for the exclusive use of the olive-green oligarchs–or rather, about a long saga of bourgeois privileges that for decades the big shots enjoyed on the backs of my people.

We should in no way be surprised now that the dandy Tony Castro should treat himself to a little getaway, renting a “humble” yacht worthy of Bill Gates, and pay thousands of dollars in luxury hotel stays for hismelf and his entourage. After all, the boy is only doing what he saw his elders do.

Someone could argue that it is legitimate for any president or son of a president to take these “small” liberties, but this is not the case, at least not in the Cuban case. Fidel Castro spent too many many hours giving speeches for 50 years, requesting austerity from the Cuban people, beating his breast and shouting to the four winds that not only were they honorable and good, but also that they were absolutely the best and the most honorable of the universe; Cubans always marked an irreprochable dividing line between that paradigmatic paradise of immaculate honesty bordering holiness, and the “perfidious capitalist rot” that now does not seem to much scare the Antillean Dandy.

Of course, there are also the getaways to Cancún by the leaders during those decades in which foreign travel was prohibited, the secret Swiss bank accounts, the reserves of other generals (also replete with millions which were never revealed), the nauseating corruption that yields millions for the godless bureaucrats in Customs, the mile-long list bribes given to high-level functionaries of the Foreign Trade ministry in exchange for miserable contracts and purchases; among other Kodak moments for the memories of the dictatorship, such as Cause #1 against General Ochoa, which yet stinks of cocaine in the Cuban memory.

Not to be omitted are the businesses and properties owned by other heirs to the Castro/Communist thrones in other countries, where they kiss the asses of the creme of world capitalism, among other familiar “trivialities” that are (always) charged to Liborio’s* tab; all of which would help us calculate, but only intuitively, 7/8 of the hidden parts of this immense iceberg which is the Cuban Robolution.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

“Translator’s Note: “Liborio” is a symbol of the Cuban people, or of the essence of Cubanness. He is usually pictured as a mustachioed peasant with long sideburns, wearing a guayabera, a straw hat on his head, and a machete in his hand.

20 August 2015

Dear Friends of Citizen Zero:

Due to an unfortunate error, I found myself unable to publish on my site for more than two months. Thanks to the help of esteemed and friendly hands, as of today I am resuming my publishing. I hope that my faithful readers will forgive me for this lamentable delay. This blog will always be at the service of Truth and Homeland.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

20 August 2015

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 3 April 2015 — The gods of Olympus have spoken. In their eyes we, miserable creatures, must simply obey and resign ourselves to complying with their divine whims. I will try to translate into the language of mortals the outrageous coercive measures ordered by the Cuban government, through the Minister of Public Health, to try to stem the current exodus of healthcare professionals. In the same order in which they were set out, it would read something like this:

4. Stop the increase of individual contracts* in Angola: Because the African country is forever indebted to Cuba since the 1980s war, it goes without saying that it is obligated to comply with everything that Havana orders. In other words: Cubans in Angola as cannon fodder, yes; Cubans in Angola to work honestly, without being exploited by the Cuban government, never.

5. Confiscate the official passports of all employees upon their arrival at the airport: Here we have the Ministry of Health taking measures that, apart from their obvious illegality, really belong under the jurisdiction of the Directorate of Immigration of the Interior Ministry, in Cuban Customs. This shows, if anyone still doubted, that in this little country everything converges in a single, centralized, and despotic power, which has no qualms about treating all of us, without distinction, as common criminals.

6. Promote agreements with private clinics: Here we have that slavery-promoting monster, the  Distributor of Medical and Health Services, trying to wrap its tentacles of control around each private clinic in every country where Cuban doctors have decided to emancipate themselves from its networks. This shows how sick and delusional its obsession is to block the personal success of our professionals.

7. Review the interministerial agreements so they don’t allow freedom of contract: This proposal, which the leaders of Havana hope to establish in half the world, covering both public and private institutions, is nothing more than a subconscious reflection of what Cuban medical missions have always been: a lucrative method of emotional blackmail. That is, if I provide you with doctors at bargain prices, who are willing to go into those dreaded favelas (off-limits even to the police), exposed to dangers that your own doctors would never accept, you are obligated to comply when I “renegotiate” with you the terms of the contract.

8. Explicitly reflect the commitment of no individual hiring in the individual agreement with the employee: This is actually nothing new. Until now it has always been an uncompromising principle that not only is individual hiring prohibited, but even something as simple as an employee in a foreign country just talking with someone who is an actual or suspected opponent of the “regime friend.” Cuban employees will never be allowed freedom of movement, such that they are prohibited from leaving their assigned place even for something as nearby and ordinary as shopping, for example, without the consent of their bosses—meaning the political hitmen, who are officially and completely in control, placed there by Cuban State Security.

10. Disqualify those who dare to disobey Caesar from practicing their profession: The professionals who today work abroad, for wages far more appropriate than they received in Cuba—including those on official medical missions—are not willing to be used like toilet paper. It is ridiculous to claim that there are only 211 cases countrywide of those who decided to work outside Cuba “without authorization,” when in fact the number is in the thousands.

12. Deem the failure to comply with the requirement of giving advance notice to terminate the employment relationship as a serious disciplinary infraction: If there is some reason in this, then common sense dictates that timely notice should be given of any decision to abandon a certain place in order to timely look for a substitute. But that raises the question—why have thousands of professionals refused to comply with something so basic? Are we Cuban doctors so irresponsible? Or is it that ultimately we cannot rely at all on the “goodwill” of our leaders, after being subjected for many decades to all kinds of arbitrariness, abuse, and despotism, and to our most basic needs being ignored? Aren’t these the same ministerial and governmental authorities who for more than a decade applied the unprecedented policy that required us to wait for more than five years if we wanted to travel abroad, waiting for the “release” from our minister? Finally could it be that these authorities no longer have any credibility in the eyes of their workers? Here I recall the old saying of grandfather Liborio: when there is revenge, there are no grievances.

13. Issue disqualification notices to workers who violate procedures for leaving the country: Professionals who take the irrevocable personal decision to work temporarily or permanently abroad, for wages far more appropriate than those they receive in Cuba including those on official medical missions—are not willing to be used like toilet paper.

14. Relocate those returning to Cuba after working abroad under an individual contract to a lower-status position—never to the position they originally occupied: The punishment, not as a vindicating end, but as an inviolable fundamental principle, as the cardinal sign that never fails in the mind of the despots. This section shows that those who today are exporting as authentic their pretensions of “change” and sweetened “reforms” remain the same miserable characters as always.

16 and 17. Organize, in conjunction with the Foreign Ministry, meetings with the relevant foreign ambassadors in Havana, and direct the team leaders and Cuban ambassadors in their respective countries to discourage individual contracts: Once again they reveal the long tentacles of the political mafia of Havana. Here we have the incredible act of the Cuban government, through its Ministry of Health, taking an openly interventionist position, dictating measures inside other countries, trying to impose decisions about their healthcare policies. It’s a good thing that, with evil US imperialism interfering in the internal politics of other countries, the immaculate Cuban Revolution is there to stop it! Where would these poor people be without this greatest Revolution of ours?

*Translator’s note: A contract made directly between a host country and a Cuban doctor, without payment to the Cuban government.

 

Painting by Carlos Enríquez of the death of José Martí.

Jeovany Jimenez Vega,20 May 2015 — In the laudable attempt to demystify José Martí, pens of the most dissimilar calibers have been employed, and all the efforts seem paltry given the transcendence of his legacy. But not all have headed in the right direction in their efforts. I concur with the argument put forth in a recent article that questions the impact of José Martí on the Cuban people during the phase immediately preceding the uprising of 24 February, 1895.

To gauge Martí’s influence within Cuban society before 1895–which, given the improbable and rudimentary level of which his advanced doctrinal thinking could reach a semi-literate Cuban population relegated to the Cuban insularity at the close of the 19th Century–would be as absurd as to presuppose that his impact would have been exclusively limited to that humble sector of the population, isolating it for no reason from the rest of a society already resounded impatiently at the imminent possibility of the war.

This would always be a biased view, because it would ignore the principal aim of the Master’s* discourse on the pages of Patria [newspaper funded and directed by Martí] and from the lecterns of Tampa and Key West: to the Creole intelligentsia, called to amplify the message precipitating the imminent push into the interior of the Island; to the military leaders, called to drag into the scrubland, inciting them with their natural leadership, the great mass of Cubans who would be the shock troops of the future Liberating Army.

The influence Martí was able to exert over the lowest-majority classes (and ultimately those most decisive in the future conflict) cannot be deduced linearly, but rather it necessarily winds through a typically extensive network of message intermediaries. While it is true that the Cuban peasant had little opportunity to imbue himself with the Martí Doctrine, nonetheless that tide of contained rancor against Spain was ready to overflow by 1895; it was waiting only for the wink of an eye, the order of the commanders of old, to be unleashed in new charges against the merciless metropolis. If that tension reached the critical point of no return, it was precisely because of the enormous and tireless organizational work and political proselytism deployed by Martí–a gigantic odyssey whose importance anyone objectively analyzing the prevailing dynamic of the final phase of the Rewarding Truce will never be able to underestimate or minimize.

It is true that Cuba at that time was going through a precarious and circumstantially complex economic situation, but bitter precedents should be taken into account: the failed attempted coup of the Little War and, later, the great frustration engendered by the failure of the Gómez-Maceo Plan [in 1885]. Therefore, it would not be farfetched to assert that, were it not for the catalyzing miracle of the Apostle,* that hour could well have passed without much fanfare.

Martí was not a military man. His strategic genius was developed purely in the political realm and was based on his exceptional diplomatic skill. This undisputed ability would carve the Master with the steady hand and tenacity of a goldsmith, throughout his life, through an exponential process of self-purification that finally converted him into a man of irascible and reactive temperament within this kind, magnetic, charming and edifying being whom History bequeathed us–so forceful that he conquered for the common cause men who were made as of stone, divided for years. Returning to the course of the Revolution those bronze-like characters was his major accomplishment, and also his way of knocking on the door of every Cuban country hut with the hilt of the liberating machete.

Too many obstacles were at that time coming between the Martí ideology and the poverty of the Cuban peasant. However, the task of translating the martyr of Dos Ríos’ strategic plan to the language of country folk was assumed by principal figures of the big war: one Máximo Gómez who had given to Cuban émigrés an unequivocal sign of his unconditional support for Martí by sending his son, Panchito, along with Martí on a proselytizing tour through the revolutionary clubs of the US; one newly-married José Maceo, who barely had to be urged by the Master to join the enterprise, overlooking his hurt pride at the racism of the last conflict–“only Martí was able to pull me from my love nest,” he would say; and one Antonio Maceo, the final man, who despite the misunderstandings, also added his unconditional machete to the deed and, having barely arrived in Oriente, would lead a massive charge of thousands of mambises through the scrub.

To those rough and uncultured men it was enough to have the presence in the camps of Cuba of their legendary leaders for them to be willing to die for the war previously conceived by Martí’s genius. Many joined, but the decisive presence of every one of these generals in the Cuban scrubland was a personal triumph of the Apostle; if the mambí soldier had greater or lesser awareness of it, very little would it matter to this man so little motivated by personal honors, but History is conclusive in this respect: If the miracle of the uprising was wrought, it was because beforehand, Martí–by way of his most formidable tool, the Cuban Revolutionary Party (PRC)–patiently and systematically organized, with regal intelligence, the colossal conspiracy.

It borders on insolence to reduce to mythical status the exalted merits of the Cuban who combines in himself such a sublime confluence of virtues. Yes, we greatly need to demystify Martí, strip him of the saintly cassocks that he never wore, and take him down from the altars that he never sought for himself. But to demystify him does not imply wiping out his proven merits: let us take care that our repugnance for the saccharine storyline and opportunistic flattery of despots who seek to legitimize themselves does not obscure before our gaze the brilliance and authentic nobility of the visionary hero.

Definitely, it was not a military man who fell at the light of day in the first skirmish, and if he was promoted in death to Major General by the unconquered Máximo Gómez–profound knower of men and quite sparing in conferring honors–it was also because the great soul of the Old Man from Baní, forged in all the pains of war, was ultimately conquered without reservation by the mysterious influence of the Master.

And let us not forget: If one gesture by Gómez was enough to mobilize the entire mambí army, along with this gesture–as his supreme victory–went the order of he who died at Dos Ríos for the poor of the Earth.

See: Martí and the Idea of a Single Party.

Translator’s Notes:

* A common epithet of José Martí in Cuban writings.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 31 May 2015 — On Thursday, May 29 Cuba was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. It had been on the list since 1982 because of what Washington saw as the Cuban government’s decades-long history of harboring members of the Basque terrorist group ETA, Colombian FARC guerrillas and more than one fugitive from American justice. It had negative implications for Cuba’s dictators in regards to international banking operations and financial transactions in Cuba. It had also led to expansion of the U.S. embargo, which even today prevents Cuba from utilizing dollars in commercial transactions. Those who carry out such transactions risk confiscation of their assets and/or hefty fines.

Actually, Cuba’s inclusion on the list always struck me as being neither here nor there. It seemed inconsequential compared to the reality surrounding us, with the multiple and eloquent examples of what can only be described — without fear of overstatement — as a policy of domestic state terrorism: an absolute, blatant and always apparent hostility, mercilessly perpetrated by Havana’s gerontocracy against anything which might suggest personal well-being or family prosperity in Cuba.

I believe the Castro government has instituted a long string of unpopular measures in order to keep the population in a perpetual state of economic insolvency bordering on destitution. The constant pressure to put food on table leaves people neither the time nor the inclination for “dangerous” expressions of civic involvement.

This absurd policy, along with our insulting salaries, means we are subjected to exorbitant gasoline prices at the pump despite the collapse of oil on the world market. Be even slightly careless and you are hit with an electricity tariff. Then there is the outrageous increase in the price of liquefied gas.

Still in place are the arbitrary exchange rates set by CADECA, the government currency exchange, the detestable extortions at gunpoint at airport customs, the constant obstacles with which the private sector must deal and the obscene exploitation of medical personnel working overseas by a government acting as pimp. All these measures, decreed from Havana, make almost any other list of villainies pale in comparison.

This time-honored policy of subjugation has been specifically linked to this arbitrary tax since 1994 when, from his reverberating loins, Fidel Castro decided to tie the U.S. dollar to the sacrosanct convertible Cuban peso, the CUC.

It was a measure which overnight reduced by 20% the purchasing power of everyone who had for decades been receiving remittances from emigré family members scattered across all corners of the globe. It has unquestionably been a lucrative source of income for the island’s economy for years.

On November 8, 1994 the Central Bank of Cuba issued Resolution 80, which stipulated that a 10% tax would be applied whenever U.S. dollars are exchanged for CUCs. Later, in April of 2005, the Committee on Monetary Policy instituted a further 8% currency exchange fee on the U.S. dollar and other foreign currencies.

This means that, when changing U.S. dollars in Cuba, there are three factors to keep in mind: there are the 10% tax stipulated by Resolution 80, the 8% surcharge outlined in Accord no. 15 by the Committee on Monetary Policy, and the approximately 3.5% commercial fee charged by CADECA for such transactions. Based on these considerations, you can calculate that, for every $100 USD you receive, CADECA will give you 80.42 CUC.

But, in a boomerang effect, these decrees carried a hidden cost. In addition to completely distorting the domestic economic system, they inevitably had an extremely negative impact on tourism to this particular spot in the middle of the exotic Caribbean, a region full of beautiful beaches and better deals which attracted millions of vacationers disinclined to pay such excessive taxes and fees.

There could be many possible consequences once Cuba is removed from the blacklist. These days there is one that especially concerns me because of the immediate and direct impact it could have on families in Cuba. I ask myself, given the likelihood that Cuba could will be able to conduct international business transactions in U.S. dollars, which was the argument used to justify the aforementioned tax, will the Cuban government now repeal this onerous levy on exchanges involving this currency and the CUC? Will the military leadership be so shameless as to retain this blatant method of mass extortion, no matter what, in light of this fundamental change?

Repeal of this tax is today inextricably linked to the often announced and often postponed currency unification. Now Cuba’s dictators will have to weigh two factors. On the one hand there is their undisputed and regressive commitment to exploiting the Cuban people by any means possible while promoting anything that leads to financial ruin and insolvency. On the other hand there is the need, as recommended by experts on the subject, to rationally coordinate the mechanisms of Cuba’s economic system in a way that at least appears credible to international organizations, banks and future investors.

Not doing so would increase the already heightened perception of risk on the part of more than one businessman, whose sense of intuition prevents him from relying entirely of the good intentions of Raul Castro. There have been too many stories of swindles and scams for them to think otherwise.

But ultimately, if the Cuban government had one iota of shame, it would immediately repeal this abominable and unpopular tax which has had such a negative impact on the well-being of the Cuban people. It would stop treating our poverty like its principal asset, like a disgraceful pedestal which for more than fifty-six years has served as the foundation for the longest and most refined dictatorship the Americas have ever known.

And Jesus said: Father, forgive them, because they know not what they do.

Luke 23:34

I write without knowing if she will get to read these words, or if she would understand them, because there are matters in life that take us a minute or perhaps an hour to understand, but others take a year, and there will undoubtedly be some that will take a whole lifetime.

Every time I view the video in which she screams at that journalist in Panama, amidst all the vulgarity of the scene, that she financed her airfare with her miserable salary, it does not cease to amaze me.

How could she lie like that, when even a child knows that this is impossible, that all those costs were subsidized by the government? Could she explain how she was able to get by without buying clothes or shoes, how she was able to survive without buying food for years, and all while wholly saving the salary that her “Revolution” pays her so that she could travel for those couple of days to the Summit, only to add her yelling to the din of another hundred activists in the official “civil society,” who supposedly made similar “sacrifices”?

Her lost gaze in Panama provokes more than shame, sadness; there is no conviction behind those shouts, only alienation and fanaticism. Even so, she was honest when she confirmed that the Cuban people funded her expenses.

Perhaps she should have been more cautious, because she was speaking at that moment about something that cuts deep: that Rapid Response Brigade that Raúl Castro sent to Panama to scream (really, they did nothing else) financed their travel with money not paid to my colleagues–doctors and nurses–nor to my children’s teachers, and the thousands of Cuban retirees who survive on eight dollars per month.

This money could have been used to restore a Havana that is at the point of collapse, to repair the millions of potholes, improve the lamentable state of the water supply or our deplorable public transportation system–evils that persist after decades of mis-government that squanders the national treasure on repulsive political “lobbies” such as the one that boycotted, with its egocentric bluster, the forum in Panama.

But, at heart, I understand her. Like her today, I, too, one day believed in the Revolution–with a pure faith I believed in mine, the inner one, the one I never reference in quotation marks–when all the trumpets seemed to herald our apocalypse beneath the storm clouds of 1994. At that time, the future became full of uncertainties, just as the extensive waters of the Florida Straits became full of live balseros [rafters] and dead memories.

At my age of 23 years, having lived under the aegis of absolutism and the megalomaniac cult of the “big brother” iconoclast, I, too, was a fervent militant of her UJC [Young Communist League]. I did not want to–or did not know how to–or could not–(perhaps I will never know for certain) assume another posture.

And while this was going on, Sucelys was still dressing her last dolls, but she had not even been born in 1980, when some Cubans as alienated as she stopped viewing other Cubans as brothers and sisters, and hurled the same offenses that she recycled today in Panama, initiating this era of shame that still haunts us.

But one fine day, my reason adjusted its glasses, I understood, little by little, the terrible error of my distorted view, and that tyrant–formerly irreproachable–became smaller and smaller in my eyes, and returned before me to his natural condition of cockroach.

I awoke one fine day questioning myself on everything, and when I found the answers, there was no going back: I definitively disconnected myself from that matrix and questioned all my assumptions, pulverizing some and reaffirming others, but being born again in the process, from a position of personal liberty, definitively more tolerant of others, and more at peace with myself.

As history tends to repeat itself in the form of a farce, I thank God for not having placed me then in the saddest role of the scene, for having wisely shielded me from playing the part of a hired gun.

I don’t know if she will someday be able to be reborn, but I can’t help but be saddened to see her girlish eyes racked with hate, her hands that are meant to soothe a child or friend, instead of making the gestures of war, and screaming lies that darker and more-sinister others placed in her mouth, the mouth of a daughter, mother or lover.

A good Cuban used to say that in a dictatorship, all of us are victims–including the tyrant, who is the most tortured by his fear–and that almost always, the most captive are those who least perceive their bondage.

Sucelys, brilliant psychologist that she is, must know that in this truth is hidden the key to man’s alienation, to his dissolution en masse until all that’s left is that amorphous and malleable material subject to the whims of the tyrant.

The Social Forum convened at the Seventh Summit of the Americas should have served, at least, to enable the civil societies of America to extract one clear lesson: this is what happens when a totalitarian dictatorship takes over the designs of an entire nation, and alienates whole generations.

In Panama all were witnesses to the transformation of man to beast, to irrational being, to automaton repeating screams and empty slogans but unable to exchange coherent arguments in a quiet voice. May this serve as one more proof that the sleep of reason engenders monsters.

This is why today I wish to leave the balm of forgiveness and harmony on the wound that this foreign shame inflicted on Panama, because the homeland always needs more bridges and fewer walls, and the day will come when Sucelys’ gaze will be cleansed of rancor.

I dream of that day being so beautiful and purifying that the hired guns of today will also become, thanks to the miracle of redemption, part of the authentic civil society of tomorrow. This message will wait, as though in a bottle tossed to the sea, to be read when the rebirth happens.

PHOTO: Official Cuban mob at Summit of the Americas in Panama, April, 2015.

Translator’s Notes:

* This post is in the form of an open letter from the author, Jeovany Jimenez Vega, to Sucelys Morfa Gonzalez. Morfa was part of a contingent of Cuban government supporters ostensibly sent to Panama to challenge dissidents attending the Seventh Summit of the Americas in April, 2015. This article from HavanaTimes.Org provides more background about her. Regarding the incident itself, this report from independent Cuban news site 14yMedio was filed on the day it occurred.

 Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

27 April 2015

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 9 May 2015 — What would I say to Pope Francis if I could speak with him minutes before his meeting with Raúl Castro?*  If Jesus came into the world to save the impure, to sit also at the table of the Pharisees (those with souls most contaminated by the splinter of evil), what could I say to His Holiness that would convey to him all the pain of my people, and advise him of the true dimension of disaster through which my country lives?

Tomorrow* the Pope will face the representative of a deformed creation made up to fool the world about its true wretched nature, which hides its true face behind curtains splattered with the blood and suffering of my people. Raul Castro represents the longest-running, most perfidious and subtle dictatorship known in the Americas, whose sinister side is known only by the humble man of miserable means who dares not speak up for fear of certain reprisals; or the censored journalist confronting taboo subjects; or the ethical writer marginalized by an apostate pseudo-intellectualism who, like a prostitute, traded in his dignity for status**; or the civic activist trampled-on for defending her truths.

This Raúl Castro–at once President, Prime Minister, and Secretary General of the only legal party in my country–is the same one who orders or permits every threat, raid, repudiation rally or beating visited with impunity upon peaceful members of the opposition, every arbitrary detention and prison sentence levied without charges, as well as the constant harassment of a dissident movement not officially recognized but which he fears in his bones.

In short, Raúl Castro is the one ultimately responsible, along with Fidel Castro, for every one of the thousands of abuses that confirms the totalitarian-despotic nature of the regime that he represents. This man does not represent the people of Cuba because he was not elected in a democratic process, because his fear of the Cuban people keeps him from convening a plebiscite. By the same token, his entourage of minions never participate in public debates under equivalent conditions, and just recently, in Panama, offered to the world the most shameful and caveman-like lesson in incivility.

This man will give assurances that his government cares about the world’s poor when in reality, on dozens of official medical missions, he keeps an army of semi-slaves captive in the most despicable state of deprivation of their rights. To say that the primary source of income for the dictatorship is a supposed philanthropic venture, clearly typifies its root strategy: its monumental demagoguery.

In worldwide forums, the government insists that “differences be respected,” yet in Cuba it routinely thrashes dissidents and opponents. While outside the Island it applauds the people’s egalitarian right to technology, at home it denies us free access to the Internet. While it denounces other governments’ policies of domestic espionage, it keeps my people defenseless against the severe and constant vigilance of the political police. While in forums it voices complaints against the injustices of “savage capitalism,” it brutally exploits its own workers, and criticizes neoliberal stopgap measures while it plays the market with astronimical prices and makes daily life unsustainably expensive for the average citizen.

His Holiness should know that this charmless man sustains his government by the people’s fear, by systematic deception, by fomenting the most abject hatred of dissent, by the insolent satiation of the greed and basest instincts of his accomplices in power, by the bribery and blackmail perpretrated by all of his followers, and by the brute force thrust unmercifully against any who deviate from his commands.

His Holiness should know that this man represents the neo-bourgeoisie tied to power on the Island and not to the people of Cuba. All of the Holy Father’s gestures to reconcile this dictatorship with the world do not benefit the wellbeing of the Cuban people as long as our country is not free, and all the riches generated by these changes will inexorably end up in thehands of that indolent elite that despises us.

All this would I tell Jorge Mario Bergoglio [Francis’ name before he became Pope] prior to his visit with this little man–or, perhaps overwhelmed by a pain that I admit I am incapable of conveying in a few minutes, I would manage only to ask for his most humble prayer for retribution here on earth on the dark souls of all tyrants.

View Letter to Pope Benedict XVI

Translator’s Notes:

* This post was written prior to Raúl Castro’s scheduled meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, which took place on Sunday, May 10, 2015.

** Here, the writer is referring to author and former Cuban Culture Minister Abel Prieto, who denounced the presence of independent civil society representatives at the Summit of the Americas in March, 2015.  Various members of the Cuban opposition have expressed disappointment over Prieto’s perceived selling-out to the regime. This sentiment is exemplified in this post by another independent Cuban blogger.  

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

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