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 November, 2015

Censorship, the Vital Artery of the Cuban Regime / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 4 November 2015 — The recent termination of Juan Carlos Cremata as a theater director, the previous suspension of “The King Dies,” his last work on the stage of the Theater Center, and the publication online some days ago of an inflamed letter from the prestigious critic, Enrique Colina, motivated by this fact, once more stoked the embers of the polemic on censorship in Havana. Affectionately remembered for 24 per Second, his excellent program — definitely a reformer of our cinematographic culture and to whom more than one Cuban owes his passion for the best of this art — Colina comes out this time in valiant defense of Cremata and, by extension, of all censured creators in post-revolutionary Cuba.

Whoever wants to follow a common thread along this long life/agony of the Castros’ “Revolution” doesn’t have to do more than wind his finger over the uninterrupted line of censorship, that indispensable tool of the Cuban Regime, together with physical repression, always used to keep itself in power against the will of the people. Such exercise would confirm a historical maxim: as a matter of essence, no dictatorship would ever abandon this aberration simply because it’s codified in its DNA, because it forms an unbreakable indissoluble part of its very nature.

The hierarchs on the Plaza of the Revolution are completely aware of this. They know very well that if the dictatorship stopped repressing and censuring, it would be signing its own death sentence, because freedom of thought and personal morality are incompatible with the grim, closed will of dictators.They are fruits exclusively cultivable in lands fertilized by democracy, and that word is excluded from the technical catalogue of Havana’s own dementors.*

Repression and censorship are as inherent to the Cuban dictatorship as nuclear fusion is to sunlight, as moisture is to water. In fact, this lethal combination constitutes the only way in which someone can stay in power for 56 years in spite of governing so scandalously badly, against the vital interests of the Cuban people, and having sunk his nation into the most serious economic and moral ruin in its history.

Before there were other reasons chosen by the inquisitors, and they didn’t always have a useful or political “justification” that was clear or immediate, but on no few occasions we suffered prohibitions that were simply trivial, like banning those great songs of four boys from Liverpool, or for frankly stupid reasons like prohibiting a religious cult when it wasn’t attacking the Regime’s political stability in any way.

But at this point there are still incidents like that with Cremata, definitively contradicting those who have wanted to limit this systematic governmental rebuke to the Five Grey Years of the ’70s – which some prefer to extend to black decades. Today you can again see behind the curtain the same hairy hand that for half a century ordered the creation of UMAP (forced labor camps) or the ostracism of Virgilio Piñera and José Lezama, or so many others.

No artistic expression exists that has escaped this evil in the Cuba of the Castros. Today the long defense continues and the same dark presence reports that, really, nothing has changed during this long staging, only that these are new times, and the same gerontocracy now prevents full access to the Internet and satellite television, the possibility of an independent press properly legalized and, furthermore, subjects all the official press to the most hermetic censorship. Every radio or television director still has on his desk, very visible, a long list of prohibited music and artists, and the editorials ban annoying authors, almost always giving priority to the most mediocre in the sewer of opportunism.

The hangmen are the same, but now Cuba isn’t; Cuba is definitely tired because it knows by heart, from being repeated so much, the old masquerades that only look for something new, “…retouching the makeup.” So virile gestures of solidarity like those of Colina and unconditional commitments like those of Cremata are always comforting.

Gestures like this are necessary to make it clear that behind that “…appeal made by the greatest urging of the Government to assume reality with a critical sense, with honesty and an ethical commitment” – the only point where it disagreed with Colina – there is nothing but hypocrisy and purely abject demagoguery.

But again the ghost of censorship levitates over the large estates of Birán, like an evil called to endure as long as the hangmen last, an evil not willing to cede, which always makes an effort to extend itself, fatally menacing our consciousness. Again the shadows enthrone their domain in the middle of the medieval village where sad songbirds, already buried by History, stubbornly refuse to die.

*Translator’s note: From Harry Potter, soul-sucking wraiths that live off peoples’ worst fears. 

Translated by Regina Anavy

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Proposal with Regards to the Retirement of a Tyrant / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 12 November 2015 — Recently the octogenarian Raul Castro again spoke about his upcoming retirement in February of 2018. For someone who has never not heard the same last name leading the country during his entire life, this is unusual news, so this Cuban wants to put a humble proposal to his President, so that he can ruminate on it over time: I propose the General, when he retires, continue to be consistent with his career, and have the courage to fully incorporate himself into the society that he, along with his older brother, created — something that certainly no one has seen the tenant of “Point Zero” (i.e. Fidel Castro) do.

To accomplish this the General would have to renounce all the privileges kept during the last five-and-a-half decades of his life — earlier as Minister of the Armed Forces and then as President, but always as a life member of the Council of State and the Central Committee of the Communist Party — and incorporate himself into this flavorsome reality as one more retiree.

He would receive no financial support from his powerful son-in-law General Luis Alberto, nor from his little daughter Mariela, the Lady Di of CENESEX. So, amid his helplessness, he would be left if he dared with the consequences of the austerity always demanded by the Castro brothers for millions of Cubans but never for themselves.

Asking him to return to a certain lost village in east of the country [i.e. Biran, where he was born] would seem excessively cruel, so we would start by moving his residence from wherever he is, to some humble Havana neighborhood — for example Cerro, Marianao or Central Havana — and issue him a ration book, to which, of course, he would have every right in the world.

We would then sign him up for a succulent retirement check, let’s say 1,000 Cuban pesos a month — some $40 US — which would be five times what the average retired Cuban receives — some $8 US a month — and so, in this way, no one could accuse us of bad intentions.

At this point we would dissolve our undeserved fraternity, and from this moment would leave the man who is today the President of the Republic, at the mercy of this picturesque social environment that, for decades, has surrounded more than 90% of retired Cubans.

After several months of picking up his ration quota — six pounds of rice, a quarter pound of beans, some eggs, “chicken for fish”* and half a pound of oil a month — the ex-president’s palate would, gradually, forget the taste of beef filets, lobster, good caviar and those expensive wines that he acquired a taste for from his older brothers.

Given the high devaluation of the currency, his checkbook — due precisely to the erratic policies maintained by both dictators — would be empty after the first ten days each month and our retiree wouldn’t have a cent and would start to feel the full rigor of all the scarcities the rest of the retirees suffer just two or three days after they collect their money.

The ex-president would no longer have a cupboard filled with select supplies and would quickly become accustomed to seeing the monotonous landscape of nothing but frost in the empty freezer, and then he would confront, without resources, the merciless prices of the food markets and the brand new “TRDs” (literally: Hard Currency Collection Stores) which, thanks to the initiatives of the previous government — meaning: his — continue to exfoliate the wallets of the Cuban people.

He would no longer live amid comfortable air-conditioning, because it would consume more than half of his income, but instead he would hold onto some old repaired fan, and he would pray every day to the Virgin that it would not malfunction, and as for buying a second-hand car at one of the State agencies with prices fixed by the previous government — he would understand that it would take seventy years of his retirement income — assuming he didn’t eat, dress himself, buy shoes nor pay the electric bill. He would no longer have cars with full tanks of gas waiting at his door every day, and would be forced to travel using one of the worst systems of public transport in the world — one of the hot potatoes inherited by the following government.

Of course, after several months of poor nutrition, health problems would soon appear, but then the ex-president could no longer access the exclusive hospital known as CIMEQ, nor “La Pradera,” nor the Cira Garcia International Clinic — available almost exclusively to the upper crust and foreigners. But, with lots of luck, he would be admitted to some stinking room in a crumbling hospital, where there would be no shower nor working toilet, where he would have to bring his own sheets, and where there would be a scarcity of medicines and supplies to heal him. There he would be attended by doctors frustrated after decades of poverty-level wages and lack of personal expectations, but despite everything, these professionals would try to attend to his needs as well as the hostile environment would allow them to.

By then the retired General would have seen his desire to take a coveted tourist trip to Mexico go up in smoke for good. He would not be able to travel to that Aztec land nor any other, nor could he even reserve a room in the lowest category Cuban hotel at the risk of dying of hunger, because the previous government — that is, his — established that it would cost an entire monthly retirement check to stay just one night.

It goes without saying that by now our illustrious retiree would have been convinced that there is no sweet tamarind** nor dictatorship with any shame, but if he keeps quiet not out of common decency it will be so as not to expose himself to some of those shameful acts of repudiation that he still orders today, a risk that cannot be discarded now that his friend Furry is not long the Minister of the Interior.

However, at this moment if, out of mercy, one would give Raul Castro one piece of advice, it might be: Never sit in the warm sun at the end of the day at any peaceful Havana park along with other retirees because if the dictator showed up there — much to his disadvantage this title is usually lifelong — he would likely receive his own repudiation rally. He would know first hand, and not through cold police reports or insensitive functionaries, how much resentment and pain is harbored in these old hearts.

He would hear about the irremediable uprooting of their grandchildren, the youth now fleeing the tyranny in migratory waves across the Straits of Florida or through the Central American jungles, and he would hear, with absolute certainty, more than one story of dead rafters.

Only then, under the silence of those trees, would he perceive the tyranny in all its dimensions and how much hate is held by this betrayed generation that lost its dreams and its lives in the shadow of so much infamy.

Translator’s notes:

A common expression in Cuba which indicates ration card holders “may” substitute chicken for their allotment of fish. As fish is virtually never available to ordinary people, the “may” makes it something of a joke.

**Jeovany is remaking an expression loosely related to the English expression: “The best X is a dead X.” Among the frequent examples found on-line is: “There is no good Communist, nor any sweet tamarind.” Other examples are commonly racist, homophobic, or other forms of hate speech.

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