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 the ‘Translator: GH’ Category

Internet in Cuba, I’ll believe it when I see it / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

 “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

Who is really blockading us? / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

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

About The Matter of Academic Fraud in Havana / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

University Entrance Exam in Mathematics to be Repeated in Havana

It happened several years ago and it’s now one of those open secrets that even the kids know about: the bribery of teachers and professors at all levels of teaching has ended up being, as a result of habituation, something almost folkloric; and although it would be unfair to tar the innocent and the guilty with the same brush, it was certainly worth while having fired off warning shots about a matter which has reached scandalous proportions, all the more so for having had the public spotlight shone on it, in view of the terrible moral consequences, with implications for all of us.

We are not always talking about bribery in the form of straightforward cash. There is a whole range of resources available to the brown-nosers and ostentatious people to achieve their objective and once the target teacher has been singled out all you have to do is study his needs and specific tastes in order to fire the shot, which could be delicious snacks, made to measure clothes, expensive perfumes or exclusive invitations, for example.

Without doubt, the lamentable economic hardship suffered by our country´s educators influences all this, with a “salary” similar to that earned up to now by our doctors, and which has kept both groups on the edge of poverty for decades. But, it isn’t for nothing that I write here the word “influences” rather than “determines”.

As a result of mysteries of human nature, at the same time and place as some tend toward hypocrisy, others behave stoically. I know honourable examples of teachers who never were shamelessly two-faced and who have lived with decency while enduring poverty, and for that reason I cannot accept that necessity is enough in itself to affect everyone equally, however oppressive it may be.

It’s clear that in this case as well, the people detained and prosecuted — eight of them according to what was published by Granma — belong yet again to the lower classes. Although transparency is always reasonable, because it is the “raison d´etre” of all genuine journalism, and it is worthwhile making an example, I ask myself if this official melodrama would be equally able to denounce a sacred cow, a commander or historical leader of the Revolution, in the event of it being shown that they were implicated in some such difficulty.

Translated by GH

18 June 2014

Internet in Cuba: what Iroel Sanchez didn’t say to Telesur / Jeovany Vega

By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Last Wednesday June 5th, at the end of the Telesur programme “Today’s Themes”, our brilliant journalist Iroel Sánchez commented about the “novelty” of the rooms enabling “free” Internet surfing throughout Cuba.  That more than two decades after the Internet became a daily portal for the rest of the world it is even announced in Cuba, with fireworks, that from 118 timid locations in this country of more than 12 million inhabitants will be able to surf “freely”, says it all.

But there are various angles of the issue that Iroel didn’t comment about on Telesur: he didn’t mention the little detail that he himself has had free complete access to the Internet, because it is among the privileges of “official” reporters to access the network from their offices or comfortably from their homes *and* it will be like that as long as he doesn’t  transgress the line of the Rubicon, while Caesar, attentive and scowling, calculates every byte.

Iroel didn’t say that in our case, the connection time is dependent exclusively on the times ETECSA offices are open (from 8:30AM to 7:00PM) in rooms in which between 2 and 6 machines are available — for example in Artemisa, a provincial capital of 800,000 inhabitants, one can only find two — and these tiny pieces wouldn’t be enough if they had conceived of a reasonable price and not an absurd and crazily extorsive one.

He didn’t say that at 4.50 CUC — which is the same as 112.00 Cuba pesos or equal to a third of the average worker’s monthly wages — which would be the same as the charging the average Spaniard 250 Euros for an hour of surfing, but with the additional aggravation in the case of Cuba of living in the most expensive country in the world.

Iroel Sanchez forgot all of these details when he was being interviewed by Telesur.

Meanwhile, this is how I see it: if the Cuban government says it is telling the truth, then why is it so terrified of an exchange of ideas? Because only information, pure ideas, translated into the most simple binary code, can enter the country along an optical cable, and never bombs or rifles. I have the conviction that all the truth, in its natural clarity, is as firm as a rock and can defend itself by its simple presence beneath the sun, for which reason I will never understand why they are depriving my people of something as basic as free access to the knowledge contained in cyberspace.

At times when my country talks about the prospects of transformation, which they are begging for, and on which the government timidly feels its way forward, while the society pleads for faster progress in the changes which sometimes seem more cosmetic than real, at times like that, this is what we get.

I have always said that I prefer a despot to a cynic because the former mocks you to your face, doesn’t hide his natural tyranny, and shows his true colours: yes, I abused you — so what? But the latter, evil at heart, tries to insult your intelligence. Because to claim that such stratospheric charges are affordable by the people, is equivalent to saying that so are the hotels which charge $300 per person — a year’s wages — for one miserable weekend.

Now they are trying to export the illusion that now we Cubans are living happily connected with the world, but they must know that this is a masquerade, as is demonstrated by the empty seats in these embarrassing locations. The Cuban people are awaiting and insisting on real, free, effective and total access to the internet, by way of reasonable contractual terms appropriate to what they can afford and which allow them to explore the virtual world, when they want and full-time.

I want internet in my home in order to explore all truths and weigh them up them against my own … like  Iroel Sánchez but with the difference that I want to have it as a right which I am exercising, and never as an improper privilege. For me that would be the measure that would tell me that finally we are on the path to real changes; as long as we can’t depend upon absolutely free access to the internet everything will be imitation gold and pure fantasy … just a fairy tale.

Translated by GH

10 June 2013

The Turn of the Outraged

In March 2007 the Attorney General of the Republic replied just once to the first of three applications by two doctors who had been unjustly disqualified. It wasn’t just a technical report issued by a non-political and autonomous body against two citizens who considered their rights had been fundamentally violated, but this retrospective response was a vendetta, a written crucifixion using biased and politically-charged language.

But for some mysterious reason, and in spite of the fact that more than five years have passed, I woke up this morning with a couple of doubts circling in my mind. This is what they were about: if, hypothetically, the two people affected were now to decide to file a lawsuit at the Peoples’ Tribunal against those responsible for the serious injury suffered, what process would they have to follow? Would it now be considered appropriate for our Attorney General to accuse these officials – who doubtless still occupy public service positions – of having subjected us to public humiliation and grave professional and family damage?

Above all, the conclusion would unavoidably be drawn that we should be reinstated in our profession and recompensed for the salary owed to us to cover the period in which we had been disqualified; the implication would be clear that it was a total injustice, and that in order to throw the book at us they played with the truth, they slandered us and, obviously, someone was responsible. Today I would ask our “honorable” Attorney General who five years ago dismissed all the evidence in our favour, if we still have the right to accuse those persons who, enjoying full authority, never did anything.

I wonder if one could still proceed on the grounds of perjury and defamation against the then Provincial Director of Health of Havana, Dr Wilfredo Lorenzo Felipe, who is now Municipal Director of Health of Guanajay, and his wife, Doctor Beatriz Torres Pérez, who was then Dean of the Western Branch of the Institute of Medical Science of Havana, against the then Minister of Public Health, Dr. José Ramón Balaguer Cabrera, who is now the Head of International Relations of the Central Committee of the Party, who ignored the 10 letters sent to him, and the present-day Minister, Dr. Roberto Morales Ojeda, who ignored several others.

I wonder if one could proceed against the President of Parliament,  Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada on the basis of perversion of the course of justice, and against Esteban Lazo, Vice President of the Council of State, and Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, First Vice President of the Council of State, or Raul Castro, our President, who received four letters which were not replied to – just a question. All these persons, even if they weren’t responsible for what happened, at least knew about it for years and did nothing about it.

Moving on, I ask myself if the Attorney General of the Republic would consider it to be in order to commence an action for perversion of the course of justice against itself as an institution, for having, since mid-2007, rejected the evidence which should have resulted in our immediate readmission, as it showed that the facts were twisted in order to punish us for political reasons. I am supposedly living under a Rule of Law – as my government assures us – which gives me the authority, I believe, as an ordinary citizen — perhaps Citizen Zero — to place before the relevant powers such resources as I believe necessary to guarantee my personal liberties.

I am not proposing to dig around in the shit. My long and patient struggle to return to work in my profession has made me grow and rise above my miseries. Now I am only driven by curiosity, because although I have the right to feel resentment still, nevertheless I have decided to follow the noble advice of Reinaldo Escobar and Yoani Sanchez, those blessed miscreants who, just a few hours after my reinstatement, proposed that from that moment I should concentrate on my health and forgive everything; after everything it was those “warmongers” who – paradoxically –  put it to me that I should have the courage and stature to forget.

by Jeovany Jimenez Vega.

Translated by GH

November 13 2012

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