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.

 “If you want to free a country, give it the internet.” Wael Gonium

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 25 February 2015 — A vice president who gives an assurance that the country “… is committed to social information” but who then automatically sees it as being led by the communist party, and who sees it as “…a key weapon for the revolutionaries to get participation in the social project we desire“: who at the same time emphasises that “… everyone’s right to the internet presupposes the duty to use it properly and in accordance with the law, and also presupposes the responsibility to be vigilant about the defence of the country and its integrity“, and a Deputy Minister of Communications assuring us that along with the economic development of this sector there must also be running in parallel the “political and ideological strengthening of the society,” are indications that we will not see anything different anytime soon after the recent Information and Biosecurity workshop ends.

The underhand warning which indicates the presence in the front row of Col. Alejandro Castro — implied candidate to inherit the family throne — and the silence whenever the subject turns to his father, President Raúl Castro; Comandante Ramiro Valdés’ permanent position in charge of the Ministry of Communications — twice ex-Minister of the Interior, the most rancid relic from Cuba’s historic establishment and the chief implementer of current repressive methods — all reciting together the same refried speech and the repeated ignoring by the Cuban government of the latest offers of the US telecommunication companies for when the embargo controls are relaxed, are factors which make us think that nothing is about to change in Cuba in relation to the internet, and that we are only starting a new chapter in this soap opera of demagogy and cynicism.

The Cuban-in-the-street can’t see it any other way, living under a government which, up to now, has charged him a quarter of his monthly basic salary for every hour on the internet; for him, every word heard at the end of the workshop referred to continues to smell of bad omens, sounds like more of the same, especially when we bear in mind that this shameless tariff is not for any high quality high-speed service, in the comfort of our homes, as you might expect, but which they have characterised in the worst way, only available in cyber rooms of the dual-monopoly ETECSA-SEGURIDAD DEL ESTADO, and, because of that limited to their opening hours, at a 2 Mb/second speed, and using PCs with restricted copy-paste and often with disabled USB connections, with all keystrokes tracked and with more than one “problematic” page blocked. In fact, nothing you wouldn’t expect from a government which recently created a brand-new Cyberspace Security Centre, presumably intended to become a virtual equivalent to the notorious Section 22 of its police policy.

Meanwhile, in Guayaquil, Ecuador, I repress my swearwords every time I stop in front of a cyber room’s poster offering me three hours of internet for a dollar!, in a country with an average monthly salary of about $500, a country which is also third world, but which offers free wi-fi in many public places, including bus stations, in restaurants and malls, where internet and TV satellite dishes are a common urban sight even in the poorest neighbourhoods. There couldn’t be a more obvious contrast between this reality and what we Cubans have to live with in Cuba.

All the above confirms for me every day more strongly my ongoing conviction that information control will be the last card in the deck that the Cuban dictatorship is going to give up. Nothing will have changed in Cuba for so long as all Cubans don’t have open unconditional uncensored access to the internet from our homes. This is such an obvious truth, and would represent such a decisive step forward toward the real opening-up of Cuban society, that only on that day will I believe that change has started. It’s as simple as that.

Translated by GH

By: Jeovany Jimenez Vega — Those who advocate the elimination of the mechanisms of political pressure to which the Cuban government remains subject — I mean basically the United States Embargo and the Common European Position — often wield as a fundamental argument the alleged climate of reform undertaken by Raul Castro during the last few years.

One can suppose that this oversized expectation had its roots in the profound and systematic stagnation that characterized the big government of Fidel Castro, because the incorrigible bearded man became the extreme social framework in an immutable and absurd style that would have been impossible for anybody after him to modify in any way without it being perceived as a relief.

But if we accept the obvious premise that since 1959 one government has existed in Cuba — since it has already shown that in essence the mandate of Raul, with all its sweetening, has not been more than the prolonging of the mandate of Fidel — we can assume also, with a solid level of certainty, that the psychology of the regime continues to be exactly the same.

That drives us to a logical question: Would one expect that, in the case of these sanctions being lifted, that this olive-green oligarchy, at last, would grant the long awaited rights provided by United Nations Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, as well as Economic and Cultural Rights, whose ratification and implementation Havana has kept has a pending topic since February 2008?

The optimists would return to the idea of the Raul Castro reforms, but anyone who can make a more thorough approach to these alleged “transformations” will find that very few have actually represented a practical change, one which would have a beneficial and immediate impact in the life of Cubans on the island.

But we work from very good faith — which our counterpart has not deserved — and we accept that among these measures, some represent a more drastic and positive change than do others; among these the freeing up of the right to travel outside the country and the authorization of the purchase and sale of homes between native-born people.

We cannot forget, nevertheless, that the emigration reform has been in force since January 2013, stipulating that some professions are not permitted to travel freely, “…in virtue of the rules intended to preserve the skilled labor force…“; nor can we scorn that it also establishes as “…inadmissible…” for anyone accused by the Cuban government of “Organizing, encouraging, carrying out, or participating in hostile actions against the fundamental economic and social policies of the Cuban state…” to enter the country, “…When reasons of Defense and National Security are so advised…” and that the government considers that they should “… Be prohibited from entering the country, for being declared undesirable or thrown out.”

It is made more evident by the wide margin of maneuverability that this delicious tool for coercion leaves the repressor.

As for the authorization for the sale and purchase of homes, let us remember that the act has just recently foisted a series of annoying regulations of prices, that results in a return to the government’s hand, interfering where it isn’t called for — to remind us that here good things never last too long.

Now, a look at the rest of the package certainly will show definite signs that reveal suspicious edges in these so-called “reforms.”  Because it is really very difficult to accept the sincerity of these measures such as the “authorization” to buy used cars at astronomical prices; or the corrupt focus on the management of cooperatives like the transport ones, for example, that leaves it members (never owners of their means of working) with a useless margin of autonomy; or the imposition on the rest of the small business owners of unfair fees on prices or excessive taxes and the non-existence of a retail market that would supply them with the most basic primary materials; or all the limitations that make ever more evident the failure of the policies undertaken in the agricultural sector, as well as the refusal to liberate the management of the livestock farming sector while slaughtering and/or selling a cow continues being a capital sin that in Cuba one still pays for by up to 20 years in prison.

These are, among others, current evidence and premonitions that cast a shadow over our overall state in the short and long term and seriously put into question the will of the Cuban government.

But still more serious than the immutability of these “trivialities” of an economical nature, is the persistence of the repressive policy that continues fomenting that lethal duet: Communist Party-State Security. It is from the offices of what continues to be the only legally recognized party that the strategy, then executed by the henchmen in the street, is drawn up.

Today in Cuba arbitrary detentions persist and the most abject precariousness of due process guarantees — bastard daughters of the lack of division of powers — continue to perpetrate with impunity the beatings and repudiation rallies against opponents, without any authority protecting them so that they can avoid it.

Hitmen are ordered to stab the opposition leaders and suppress women who don’t bring arms but carry white gladioli in plain view.

They persist in a strong and absolute censorship of dissident thought by means of an absolute monopoly over the means of broadcasting and all types of press, and in addition, they veto any access to the Internet for the people and it is already the 21st century.

Therefore, we can conclude that in Cuba the “changes” that they have produced are insubstantial and skin-deep, purely cosmetic, nothing that heralds a real opening up to anything that sounds remotely like democracy.

If, in the end, this new mediocre generation isn’t capable of offering anything different, it would be more than logical to doubt its future good intentions or its capacity to conceive a scheme for real prosperity, and very much less so if the formula, whatever it is, includes moving away from the known path.

It is completely questionable that these “reforms” reflect a sincere attempt at opening the doors for the Cuban people to the potential that a globalized economy offers today. It is more coherent to think that we are observing delaying maneuvers that only serve to perpetuate the same people always in power.

Should the international community, the Cuban people and the internal opposition decide to offer a vote of confidence and give way: at what point would they offer guarantees that they would later ratify and implement the Human Rights covenants, and would that produce an immediate opening for democracy? Here all logical reasoning leads to the conclusion that this would never happen.

To revoke the sanctions now, would be translated into nothing more than an immediate oxygenation for the regime, without excluding, of course, its repressive mechanisms. It would not become a more efficient Cuban government from the economic point of view but would simply have more resources within its reach to squander and rob, to fatten still more the millionaire accounts of it oligarchs hidden abroad, and even to ennoble its delusions of grandeur.

The beast has already tasted blood and will stop at nothing. An autocratic government like that of the Castros, once it has released its instruments of political pressure and with the tacit approval internationally that this would imply, would never ratify the human right covenants but, on the contrary would probably repress more viciously than ever dissident thinking but from a much more comfortable position than previously.

This octogenarian generation that subjects the destiny of my country to its whims is definitely out of step with the needs of my people. No original protest has yet affected its dusty epaulets. These neo-burgesses will never consider a dignified exit from the poverty and inequality into which they have plunged us, because they know that this would mean an end to their privileges.

If history teaches us anything it is that unwise concessions, or those made at the wrong time, over the long term do more harm than good to the people who mistakenly assume them, and it also teaches us that there are definitely people who never change, and the pleiade that now leads this country according to their testicular fickleness is an excellent example.

The three decade marriage with the former Soviet Union made clear that the Cuban people will never be the final destiny for these riches; and if history proved that at that time why would we assume it would be different now when the indolence and corruption of the government are higher than ever.

To extend this blank check to the totalitarian government in Havana, and at this precise instant when its better half is tottering in Caracas, without the slightest sign of friendship to the internal opposition nor the recognition of our civil rights–as most recent events have pointed in the complete opposite direction–and without even having ratified and implemented the already signed United Nations covenants on civil and political rights as well as those on social and cultural rights, would be a catastrophe in strategic terms for the Cuban people and possibly delay, for many more decades, the coming of democracy for the long-suffering Cuban nation.

Translated by: BW

9 December 2014

By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

“Here rests a man who died millions of times” should be the epitaph engraved on the marble that finally covers him. By then, some will feel despondent, as if the earth were caving in on them; while others, no doubt, will receive the news with terrestrial joy. But absolutely everyone will be in agreement about something: that on that day the most loved and most hated man of the last two centuries in Cuba will have ceased to exist.

But Fidel Castro will not have died that day, because before then, little by little, he will have suffered millions of prior deaths. For some, for example, he has been dead since that first morning when he “couldn’t find” the way from Moncada while another group of reliable men were being sacrificed in the assault; and for others, he died when he legalized the death penalty at the beginning of 1959, every time echoes of gunfire from La Cabaña were heard; or perhaps a few months after that, when amid all the mystery the sea swallowed Camilo’s hat–and he was pronounced dead after just three days of dubious “searching.”

But later, thousands of Cubans buried Fidel Castro when, after having denied it many times, he suddenly announced out of nowhere that he was communist–even after having accused “traitor,” Huberto Matos, in a brief trial, of being the very same thing–and declaring without apology the socialist character of a Revolution that didn’t belong to him, but rather to the people listening to him with surprise.

Some days later, he would die again for other thousands of Cubans when they learned about the day Che Guevara died, abandoned by Manila [his code word for Havana], in the desolation of the Bolivian highlands.

Certainly for hundreds of thousands of Cubans, Fidel Castro died once and for all that fateful day in March of ’68, when the “Revolutionary Offensive” usurped every family-owned business without the slightest compensation—an act of vulgar and unpunished looting that betrayed those who, just 15 years earlier, he had called “the people” in his self-defense during the Moncada trial.

Also for millions of people in the Third World, he must have died in ’79, when as president of the Non-Aligned Movement, he preferred to be a chameleon and said nothing while Afghanistan, a member state of that world organization, endured an insidious attack by insurgent troops of the Soviet army, the unconditional ally of the incorrigible bearded one. Or perhaps, for those same millions, he already had died slightly more than a decade earlier, when he applauded the emergence of those same Soviet tanks in Czechoslovakia there to extinguish fervor for the Prague Spring.

But not all of his deaths were so grandiloquent and transcendental, because Fidel Castro also suffered many routine deaths during those dark decades: he died every time a Cuban was humiliated at the door of an off-limits hotel or of one of those elitist stores open only to tourists; each time family members were separated or a life was lost at sea because there was no legal way to emigrate from their prison; each time sincerity was punished and, under his personal aegis, hypocrisy and duplicity were praised; every time a defenseless Cuban was beaten while trying to exercise rights that had been taken away, each time a repudiation rally was carried out; he died every time a father was imprisoned or one of his sons was robbed of his future; the great dictator also died with each truncated dream and with each empty plate.

Nonetheless, it’s certain that when the death of Fidel Castro is finally announced–the death of his physical waste, I mean–the news will make headlines everywhere. Then every editorial board or columnist should take some time for reflection, because beyond all the love or hate generated by the eternal bearded one, it is imperative that we learn once and for all the lesson, so that no other people, ever, under no circumstance or latitude whatsoever, once again deposits the same power in the hands of a single man, regardless of how beautiful, just or sublime the cause he proposes appears to be.

But when Fidel Castro suffers his definitive death, it will inevitably be the day when Cuba wakes up with the sun of truth and, with its light, opens Pandora’s box: only then will we be able to know the exact magnitude of his megalomania, re-examine his true face, the mask hidden beneath so many decades of false rhetoric and unmeasured devotion to a personality with sick ways resulting in a pathology of character that extended across an entire society for more than half a century.

He whose dream was to pass for a genius will have left in his barren path nothing less than a country in the most absurd financial ruin and, what’s worse, buried in an abyss of moral ruins. And, if the gospel promises, “by their fruit you will recognize them,” then for that day, on which he will definitively die, my people will finally calibrate in all its magnitude the reach of his betrayal and his proverbial demagoguery.

Precisely now, when all around him there is a ridiculous pact to be silent about facts of indisputable transcendence, while many are making jokes about the idea of his death or his tacitly accepted decrepitude, I raise my prayer to heaven: may God offer him many more years of life, enough so that any day in our near future he shall be granted, in the midst of his well deserved mental fog, intermittent lapses of absolute lucidity.

I would ask God for those days, or minutes, of total lucidity for the tyrant, but it’s important that there be enough of them so that he who caused us so much harm has crystal clear awareness of how my country and my people raised themselves up from the ruins as soon as they could break free; as it will be in the future, the homeland was truly better once emancipated from his despotism.

I would ask God for those few days of lucidity, before returning to ash what was ash, so He may again submerge him in darkness to dodder without glory, ruminating on his permanent defeat. Then, yes, Fidel Castro will depart for the eternal misery that he deserves, as a tenuous and embarrassing memory…and not exactly absolved by History.

Translated by: Kathy Fox

15 January 2015

*Everyone in Peace /  Raise your hands, unite / our voices /  #YoTambiénExijo /  The 30th at 3:00

*Everyone in Peace /
Raise your hands, unite / our voices /
#YoTambiénExijo /
The 30th at 3:00

By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

For the mere act of having been born a man, to be thinking, already implies in inalienable right to express myself freely without waiting for the permission of another man.

Because my right of freedom of assembly and association are provided for by international agreements recognized by the civilized world, and these agreements are found to be above the decision of the dictators that try to continue enslaving the mind of my people with its out of date demagoguery.

Because the universal right of peaceful protest implies that the streets and plazas that belong to all Cubans and not to that group that tries to set themselves up as the only owner, that group that tries to monopolize the street only for the “revolutionaries.”

Because if a real revolution is progression, dialectical forward, 180-degree turn forward, then the retrograde breed that from the power hinders the progress of my people today doesn’t deserve anything but to call themselves counterrevolutionaries.

Because more than 50 years of monologue from an undeserved altar already was too much and today it is its turn before the jury of the people of Cuba, to the betrayed, today has arrived, finally, the offended’s turn.

For all this, I also demand:

That the Cuban government ratify and immediately and unconditionally implement the International Covenants on Civil and Political Human Rights and Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights that it left pending as of February 2008.

That the Cuban authorities officially recognize the existence and legitimacy of the Cuban opposition, and consequently call democratic elections where the entire spectrum of the plurality of thought of Cuban society is represented.

That an effective separation of powers be established. In this sense, it would be essential that the People’s Supreme court, highest authority of judicial power, stop being under the Council of State, highest authority of executive power, so that the judges of the People’s courts being affiliated with the Communist Party of Cuba would be prohibited, something that would favor their credibility in the impartial exercise of justice.

Let it consequently stop the harassment, persecution or any type of repression of any individual group that tries to express its political position publicly and peacefully, as well as stopping the arbitrary detentions of civic activists that represent a dissident proposal.

That the Communist Party of Cuba and Cuban State Security stop organizing the sad infamous acts of repudiation, which are profoundly damaging to the dignity of those that they perpetrate, as well as unequivocally noxious to the public morality; consequently those acts become considered as a body of crime by the existing Penal Code, at which moment will be sanctioned under the law as they have always been: authentic acts of vandalism, that include invasion of the home and/or aggression and danger to persons.

That it establish an appropriate legal framework that guarantees a full freedom of the press and total access and without censorship to the Internet as means for the exercise of our freedom of expression, from which all can, without fear of being punished for it, to propose a better way of changing these ruins that we inherit in that nation that we have, as the first law of the republic, the cuban worship of the full dignity of man.

For all these reasons: #YoTambiénExijo

Translated by: BW

By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jean-Paul de la Fuente, director of New7Wonders, the Swiss foundation behind the online contest to name the seven most marvelous cities of the world, is visiting the Cuban capital. Having been received by Marta Hernández Romero, president of the Havana Provincial Assembly of Popular Power, and Eusebio Leal Spengler, city historian, already De la Fuente takes on, from the moment of his arrival, the typical profile of the tourist who, from his birds-eye view, cannot perceive to what unsuspected point it is difficult for the average Cuban to live in his beloved city.

I cannot understand how anyone who knows at least something of the functioning dynamic of the Cuban capital can propose this city as a contender for such a prize, much less the inexplicable manner in which Havana ended up on the final roster alongside such urban centers as Barcelona, Chicago, London and Mexico City.

From there we can only presume that all these persons who voted to keep La Giraldilla‘s city among the final contestants for membership in that select group of urban marvels have one thing in common: none of them live in a shanty town in El Cerro, in a tenement in Centro Habana or in Marianao on the banks of the Quibú River, subsisting on a salary of 20 dollars a month for sustaining his whole family; none has suffered seeing his child drool over the inaccessible toy; nor does he know what an “un-ration” book is, nor has he asked himself, at five in the afternoon, gazing into his empty larder, “What the fuck are we going to eat tonight?”

He has never endured standing in line for several hours to buy some semi-decomposed ground meat. He never rode at peak times on one of those dinosaur, two-humped “buses” we called “camels,” hanging from the door; nor has he (for decades!) been carrying water in buckets up to a 4th floor flat, or paying 100 pesos a pop for the indolence of the pertinent functionaries.

He has not been forced to live “temporarily” in a shelter (for 15 or 20 years!) after being left homeless by one of those all-too frequent building collapses that occur in this semi-destroyed city.

Enthusiasts could allege that this selection is based on rates of health and education that compose the standards of a deceptively high Index of Human Development — which paradoxically places us above such regional economic powers as Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, México and Brazil.

We would have to see if these enthusiasts would be so ardent after visiting a medical office (in terrible structural conditions), left empty because its doctor was dispatched by the government to a foreign mission — or because the doctor decided to leave the practice because working as a taxi driver provides a much better living.

One wonders if the enthusiasts would be less enthused upon visiting a hospital beset by similar disastrous structural problems, and where the doctors and allied professionals labor under dramatic levels of personal frustration. Such a scene can be perfectly extrapolated to the education sector — the Cuban government’s other trump card — which during the 2000s touched bottom, following Fidel Castro’s failed mega-experiment that brought it to ruin.

It turns out that Havana is (as is the rest of the reality that we Cubans live inside the island) of a complexity so grotesque at times and so subtle at others, that it becomes quite difficult to comprehend for someone who arrives, sips a daiquirí, and then returns to the comfort of his routine, as surely Mr. de la Fuente will, without managing to infer just how profoundly dysfunctional this city can be, a city that is now shown-off from the immaculate balconies of the Ministry of Tourism.

I do not speak solely of the deplorable state of our highway system, with its monumental and deep potholes and clogged storm drains; nor of the generalized absence of garbage containers which contributes to the filth in the streets; nor of the vacant tenements or the buildings in ruins.

The point, beyond all that, is a matter more grave and profound: it is about the incapacity of the Cuban government to solve our problems, and its lack of political will to open us up to the world; it is about the abusive pricing the government sets and the dual currency system it maintains; the punishing customs restrictions that effectively block the transport into the country of merchandise that would make our lives easier, and the oppressive reticence towards anything that would encourage our personal prosperity.

It is the absurd refusal to allow us to purchase an automobile at a minimally decent price, for example, thus to keep Havana still plagued by rickety cars left over from the first half of the last century; it is the systematic prohibition against our access to that same Internet that De la Fuente uses today to sponsor his contest and which is denied to the millions of us Cubans who live on the Island — and who do live on the banks of the Quibú River, eat decomposed ground soy meat, get around on primitive transportation, and cannot access the Internet — our legitimate right to post words like these on his site.

Finally, it is here that one would have to consider all of those “small things” that, all together, ultimately make this city “marvelous” — or asphyxiating — for the humans that reside in it. And up to this point, I have not mentioned at all fear, that ethereal resident of all cities in Cuba, and which is among its most hurtful complications: the fear of being annulled by an all-encompassing power that investigates and controls everything, so well-known by every opposition-member or dissident; this omnipresent fear whose intangible nature makes it impossible to include among the criteria considered in this brilliant contest from Switzerland, New7Wonders.

26 November 2014

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

The brand name of this company selling chicken portions in Havana tells you its origin: these products arrive here from the other side of the iron curtain, from the enemy’s shore. This “Product of USA” reminds us that more than ten years ago the US Congress approved licences for selling food products to the Cuban government, on a cash-only basis, but with the result that also for years the chain stores selling in CUC (Cuban convertible pesos, i.e. hard currency) on the island have insisted in selling these chicken portions at up to 4.50 CUC (about $5). If we bear in mind that historically this has been one of the cheapest meats on the world market, we can easily see that food for the people is not exactly treated as a special case by our government when it comes to turning a profit.

But to this type of profit in CUC we have to add its analog in CUP (Cuban pesos). Also years ago the state-run Food and Business Companies joined in the party: many administrators immediately “saw the light” and proceeded to start selling a pound of raw chicken on the black market for 25 pesos, that’s to say, the price  of the prepared product, like fried chicken, and so they keep hold of the surplus oil, and you can guess where that ends up.

In the end, Liborio, [a cartoon character representing the typical poor Cuban peasant] poor man, caught in the cross-fire, doesn’t receive his monthly bag of chicken, oil — and lots of the other things, speaking of Lindoro, [incompetent Lindoro is an archetypal useless boss of an unproductive Cuban company] —  that the people in headquarters get: poor Lindoro, who, in reality is the only loser. And the main culprit in all this continues to be the Cuban government, because of its obstinate and half-assed economic focuses, and also because of its unscrupulous pricing policy — the same one which fixes the price of a USED Geely auto at $38,000, which doesn’t cost $5,000 new, or which tries to sell us a shitty Suzuki moped for over $12,000 which cost a little more than $300.

Here everything comes down to the same thing; simply and straightforwardly our government is always pursuing one goal: blocking the well-being of the people by every means possible. And so, we should ask, who is it that is really blockading us? Lets see what the “Yankee Blockade” theorists have to say about that.

Translated by GH

9 October 2014

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

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