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 July, 2015

Examination of the Latest MINSAP Crusade / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

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.

 

Minimal Vindication of José Marti / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

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

CUC vs. the Dollar: A Perpetual Tax? / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

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.

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