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 January, 2016

Human Rights in Cuba: Nothing Has Changed / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 11 December 2015 — Seven years have passed since the signing of two United Nations’ covenants on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and exactly one week from the first anniversary of the announcement of the resumption of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States. Now at the threshold of 2016, it would be worth reminding ourselves how we got here.

In the past year some have advocated lifting the tools of political pressure to which the Cuban government is still subject. Basically these are understood to be the US embargo and the European Union’s common position. However, the alleged reforms undertaken by Raul Castro in recent years are still a frequent source of argument.

If we accept the premise that since 1959 Cuba has been a one-party state —  and evidence indicates that the presidency of Raul Castro is in essence a continuation of the presidency of Fidel Castro — we can also assume with a high degree of certainty that the psychology of the regime is exactly the same as it has always been. This logically leads to the following question: Is there reason to hope that, if the sanctions were lifted, the military oligarchs would finally grant the Cuban people the rights outlined in the above-mentioned UN conventions, whose ratification and implementation by Cuba have been pending since February 2008?

Optimists would point to the reforms initiated by Raul, but anyone who takes a closer look at the so-called “transformations” would see that very few of them led to a practical, beneficial or immediate turnaround in the lives of Cubans inside or outside the country.

But if we approach this in good faith, we would have to acknowledge that some measures represent a more drastic and positive turnaround than others. Among them are the restoration of the right to travel overseas and authorization for private individuals to buy and sell their homes.

We cannot forget, however, that the 2013 emigration law stipulates that some professionals may not travel freely “in light of regulations aimed at preserving a qualified work force.”

Nor can we dismiss the fact that the Cuban government may also prevent persons from entering the country who have been accused of “organizing, encouraging, carrying out or participating in actions hostile to the Cuban state… when reasons of defense and national security so suggest;” or that the government may “bar entry into the country to those who have been declared undesirable or who have been expelled.” This makes clear just how wide a margin this delicious tool of coercion gives the repressors to maneuver.

In terms of the authorization to buy and sell houses, let us remember that this law is saddled with a series of burdensome regulations pertaining to sale prices that allow the government to meddle in something in which it has no business, a reminder that here nothing good ever lasts for very long.

However, a glance at the rest of the package does reveal a curious mindset in these so-called reforms. It is extremely difficult to accept the sincerity of the “authorization” to buy used cars when they are set at stratospheric prices; or the corrupt approach by the managements of new cooperative businesses when they remain subordinate to inefficient state enterprises; or the imposition of exorbitant taxes on private businesses when they are deprived of a wholesale commodity market; or all the limitations that have led to an obviously failed agricultural policy, to name a few

But more serious than these economic trifles is the persistence of repressive policies that continue to promote the duet between the Communist Party and State Security. From the offices of what is still the only legally recognized political party, they are still drafting tactics and strategies that will later be put into practice in the street by the political police’s henchmen.

Arbitrary arrests and the weakest of legal protections are persistent problems in Cuba in 2015. They are the bastard offspring that result when there is no separation of powers. Physical assaults and acts of repudiation are still being perpetrated with impunity while no one in authority can be bothered to intervene.

Government henchmen are ordered to stab opposition leaders and harass in broad daylight women who are carrying no weapons other than white gladiolas. An iron-fisted and absolute censorship of dissident thought persists while the regime continues to exercise a tight monopoly on the media and the press.

It still vetoes easy access to the internet, something now well-advanced in the second decade of the 21st century. We can therefore conclude that the changes that have been introduced in Cuba up to this point are insubstantial and of a purely cosmetic nature.

These military oddballs are no longer capable of offering up anything new, so it is only logical to question their good intentions for the future and their ability to conceive a plan for real prosperity, especially if the formula requires any change of course.

It remains to be seen whether these reforms reflect a sincere desire to open the door to a globalized economy for the Cuban people. It is more reasonable to assume that they amount an endless series of delaying tactics by the same old oligarchs to hold onto power.

But in the event that the international community, the Cuban people and the Cuban opposition decide to give them a vote of confidence, would this guarantee that the above-mentioned UN conventions would be ratified and implemented, and that this would result in a turn towards democracy?

In the light of psychological mindset thus far exhibited by the regime, logical reasoning would lead to the undeniable and unmistakable conclusion that this would never happen, that it would only result in a sudden transfusion to all the repressive resources of the regime and its receiving unwarranted international recognition.

There is no chance the Cuban government will become any more economically efficient, only that it can rely on having more resources to squander and more millions in its overseas accounts to feed its delusions of grandeur. Once a beast has tasted blood, nothing else will do.

And once liberated from these instruments of political pressure — and with the tacit international approval that this implies — an autocratic government like that of the Castros will never ratify the UN conventions. On the contrary, it will become even more vicious, as has already been made clear by its repression of dissidents from a comfortable and relaxed position.

History has definitively shown us that some people never change. Three decades of marriage to the Soviet Union demonstrated that the Cuban people were never the intended recipients of all that wealth. If it was not the case then, why would we suppose it would be any different now, especially after so many years of corrupt and lethargic governance?

Clearly, freedom in Cuba is not dependent on the actions of any foreign government. Instead, it depends on the courage and wisdom demonstrated by its people. But unconditionally accepting every international condition without the island’s people having to suffer, struggle or expect anything would not seem to necessarily be helpful.

2015 ends without there being the slightest indication of accommodation regarding our civil rights or of even something as basic as ratification of the aforementioned human rights conventions. In this context, making unconditional concessions to the totalitarian regime in Havana, just as Caracas is teetering on the brink, would be a strategic disaster for my people and would delay by several decades the arrival of democracy, for which as the Cuban nation has waited so long.

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Exodus, Cubans and the Law of Adjustment: the Beginning of the End? / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 30 November 2015 — The present migratory crisis, unleashed by the Nicaraguan Government’s refusal to permit transit through its territory for Cubans walking to the United States, has brought to the foreground a drama that has been going on for decades.

Too many stories of suffering and death have spattered the dangerous route followed by tens of thousands of emigrants from the island going north through Central America. But what could have been a rapid solution of the problem at the meeting of chancellors of the Central American Integration System (SICA) which took place this week in San Salvador was frustrated by the intransigence of Daniel Ortega’s Government, obstinately opposed to permitting the caravan’s passing in spite of the good will shown by the majority of the governments in the region in handling the matter as a humanitarian problem rather than a question of national security.

It’s not by chance that the present crisis generated, a few days ago, Raúl’s recent visit to México. On Aztec soil, the dictator was assured of blocking the last obligatory link of the stopover of these terrestrial rafters, getting from Peña Nieto’s Government — the same one that criticizes the U.S. when it deports Mexicans — its unrestricted commitment, beginning now, to deport any Cuban it encounters passing through.

Scarcely days later, suspiciously, the governments of Costa Rica and Nicaragua also announced measures that were analogous. But the Costa Rican Government revised rapidly and authorized transit visas to the caravan, and later assumed a constructive posture when the Nicaraguans sent army troops to stop the attempt of these emigrants to cross the border. Things still remain at this point two weeks later.

This dramatic situation of thousands of Cubans stranded in Costa Rica, like a shot centered even more attention in the U.S. on the justification or not of keeping alive the Cuban Adjustment Act, and intensified one even chillier polemic that, as never before in half a century, ended by putting this regulation on the dissection table of US policy.

These are compelling questions that line up like daggers toward the center of the problem: would the abolition of this law stop the exodus of Cubans? Is that law really the essential cause of the perpetual flight maintained during decades by a considerable part of my people? What would happen if the Cuban Adjustment Act was repealed this very day?

The matter seems to me as obvious as the question, “What color is a white horse?”  I’m among those absolutely convinced that if the repeal of the law materializes this would only redirect the present exodus from the island. In case speculation turns into fact, it would produce only a momentary reduction in attempts to leave; but once the initial stupor is overcome, and spurred on by the real cause of their flight — the absurd hardships imposed by a Communist dictatorship — Cubans would continue arriving at their own rhythm in the United States, even under an illegal status — amply exemplified by Mexicans — since one river more or one river less would mean nothing to those who also are ready to row 90 miles and brave the sharks.

Trying to reduce the motive for the stampede and the discriminating protection offered by the Cuban Adjustment Act would simplify the matter too much and would disavow the categorical fact that a quarter of the Cuban population remains dispersed outside the country; and if it is true that most live in the U.S., it’s also true that the Cuban diaspora has left barely any virgin space between both poles in its sustained and frenetic escape.

Even if the abolition of the existing Cuban Adjustment Act led to another that was rigorously directed to the contrary, the exodus would continue as long as the present cause exists, which is the absolute lack of hope for Cubans — above all for the youth, of course — under a totalitarian regime, a dictatorship that has hijacked the future of their nation and traitorously curtailed any possibility of wellbeing for its people, that has systematically obstructed their prosperity and has submitted them to the most oppressive and unhealthy despotism that has ever been known in the American hemisphere.

The latest news seems to presage a long wait for those stranded in Peñas Blancas: the lack of agreement of the good will of most of the chancellors meeting in San Salvador before the bad faith of Managua, in addition to the mentioned policy of extradition assumed by México, added to the new migratory policy announced by Ecuador of requiring a visa for Cubans beginning next December and the recent detention of hundreds of Cuban migrants in Panamá by the express petition of Costa Rica thus appear to warn them. The recent UN announcement of support for the Government of San José in its humanitarian attention to Cubans in Peñas Blancas and its intention to find a solution for the crisis – all are very illustrative evidence of the gravity and regional repercussions of the present migratory crisis.

But in all this mess, what stands out above the rest of the elements is the intransigence of Daniel Ortega’s Government: the hermetic posture assumed by Managua is very striking.

They have managed to stigmatize the Cubans on the Costa Rican border as being a mob of criminals, and they arrived at the ridiculous — in their desire to ingratiate themselves with their accomplice in Havana — by demanding that Costa Rica remove the Cubans from the border, because they consider them a danger to national security, even knowing that if they gave them passage the Cubans wouldn’t even stop for a drink of water, and not a single one of them would remain in Nicaragua after 24 hours.

The unconditional acquiescence shown by Daniel Ortega — disguised as ultranationalism in the presumed protection of territorial integrity — is so shameful and boot-licking, and is strictly aligned with his servility to Havana’s directives.

This chapter of the drama has shown America and the world that Cuba continues stuck in time as thousands of Cubans remain stuck in Costa Rica, living testimony to the despair of a people who now expect nothing of the dictators who misrule their country. All the ostensible reforms proclaimed by the regime of Raúl Castro are left unveiled as barren tinsel, and a shattering proof of that is the perpetual flight that never stops.

The very late and biased official pronouncement of the Cuban Government on the subject — blaming, of course, the Cuban Adjustment Act for the disaster — and the scandalous indifference shown by the Cuban embassy in San José in regard to the irregular situation of those thousands of their citizens on Costa Rican soil are highly illustrative evidence that the Cuban dictatorship continues holding exactly the same arrogance and contempt as always for the rights of my people. The despotic message released by the tyrants in Havana loudly and clearly suffices as a warning to those dreamers who still hope to harvest some fruit from the tree.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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