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.

Archive for August, 2012

A Summer Night’s Nightmare

This has been a rainy year in Cuba, and as if to do justice to the energy of this season, in Artemisa last Saturday afternoon it rained buckets including a concert of terrible thunder. An hour after having cleared up, around 5 PM, the guest who didn’t make it was seen approaching: the blackout. The strange part of it was that the presumed break waited an hour after the last ray of sunshine to make its appearance on the scene. The hours passed, with midnight the terrible certainty arrived: this would be a long day, we slept without electric current in the midst of this horrid summer. It wasn’t the first time, nor the end of the world nor much less, but in this country of timid advances and serious setbacks, I couldn’t help shuddering at the thought that these nightly blackouts would return to be a part of the daily landscape.

But if we speak fairly, we have to recognize that we haven’t had power outages for years, at least in my and neighboring towns, they stopped being habitual only to convert themselves into real news, then the strategy of getting better autonomy in the territories by installing generators gave, seemingly, the hoped-for results. Today, the blackout occurs only in the case of breakage, and is generally short. But when it comes, it does it with the aggravating factor of finding most Cuban homes enslaved to electrical service, then together with the sensibility of selling us electrical appliances — it must have something to do with an idiosyncratic problem — the insensitivity of shutting down our liquid gas service, by which more than one Artemisan saw themselves dark in the afternoon-night of this Saturday.

Inevitably, my mood soured by the intense heat made my thoughts fly back in time and I remembered — how could I forget? — those summer nights of 1993 and 1994, those tortured nights of neighbors sleeping in doorways, and at the heat of the roofs, at the mercy of the mosquitoes, to flee from the suffocating heat. In those days the “alumbrones*”, because the daily blackouts lasted between 16 and 20 hours, even whole days, they were, together with the scarcity of food and the virtual absence of transport, the most palpable evidence that we had hit bottom.

Although the morning came, it wasn’t until almost Sunday mid-afternoon, after 17 hours that seemed too long for fixing a break, that the service was re-established and I breathed a sigh of relief. Over the kitchen, like witnesses to an involuntary vigil, stood the burned-up remains of the candles and the memory of this nightmare of a summer’s night.

*Translator’s note: “Alumbron” is a Cuban word coined to mean when the electricity is ON. The existence of the word is testimony to the fact that at certain times in recent Cuban history the electricity being ON has been the unexpected state of affairs, while blackouts were the common and expected state of affairs.

Translated by: JT

August 10 2012


Footnotes to a Speech

I re-read the version in the press and what grabs me are the footnotes, meditations scattered at the margin of this reality we live in that has so little to do with speeches. In his brief words at the recent central commemorative event for the 26th of July in Guantanamo, our President Raul Castro spoke indirectly about core issues while omitting others completely, which is inexplicable given their day-to-day importance and the high expectations generated from the moment they were publicly announced by Raúl himself, though at this moment they seem to elude him.

He spoke briefly about wages, but only to make it clear that despite their being low and spurious, for now no one can dream of a centavo more. The President knows well that teachers and doctors in Cuba are the last links on the food chain — we earn “… very little…” but a period and then he goes on to state, scandalously… “… but so do we all…”

We will have to investigate the senior management circles in the firms and joint ventures, in the hotels and privileged tours lived in convertible pesos, ask the legalized thieves at Customs in Cuban airports, the mafia politico-financiers who already have their booty well and safely hidden in discrete foreign banks, and the corrupt directors, the generals who never lacked for anything, indolent during the darkest years of the Special Period feeding good meat to their dogs while my parents had one frugal meal a day of rice soup and bread.

We will have to ask my President to investigate to see which of those guys tries to feed, clothe, put shoes on their feet and educate their family and children with a salary like mine, equivalents to $25 U.S. a month. Definitely, and we are not all, and it would be nice if my President, if he doesn’t know it, finds out.

This time President Raúl completely avoided mentioning important topics for our people, like the announced “update” of the country’s travel and immigration policy, or the very necessary free access to the Internet, and when will we have that? What about the also announced constitutional reforms, when will they happen, or what finally resulted from the investigations undertaken — according to the same man’s words when he referred to misappropriation in high finance, several scandalous cases of “white collar crime”?

These are questions that so far my President has left unanswered. This does nothing to stimulate the imagination of the people on the street who, in the absence of seriousness in the Cuban press to report clearly or to denounce something even if it’s an open secret. People can not help but speculate and spread rumors, which ends up being more harmful to everyone. Meanwhile, today these footnotes are waiting patiently to see if the next speech reveals some of these mysteries, after all I ended up getting used to the fact that in this country changes are produced… “… without haste… little by little… little by little…”

See: Letter to Raúl Castro.

August 1 2012

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