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Waiting for a Dialogue….and an Inquest

April 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Nothing will be solved with the hard discourse. There will be no solution because  General Raul Castro launches the call to slaughter against the dissidence. Neither will there be a way out of the deep crisis that Cuba inhabits, with the usual television Roundtables, where four rigid guys share their uniform opinions.

Cuba needs a dialogue, more than ever, not with the European Union or the United States, no. A national serious debate is urgent with our own people. Courageous. And once and for all, talk with the dissidents, government people and the opposition, official journalist and independent ones, bloggers of any tendency, without exceptions.

Now in these days when Cuba celebrates the 49th Anniversary of the Victory of Bay of Pigs, with Fidel Castro at the front, when in only 72 hours they defeated the troops consisting of Cuban exiles, backed by the Eisenhower government, I remember that in March 2001, a debate was held in Havana as a result of the 40 years anniversary of the Bay of Pig Invasion, with the participation of the protagonist of both countries.

Face to face, looking each other in the eye, were ex-CIA agents, former US officials and Cuban exiled fighters defeated by the Revolutionary Armed Forces. It was a civilized conversation, without hatred, with the military officials from the Island, political analysts and Fidel Castro in the flesh.

It was an enriched debate. Nine years later we need other kinds of dialogues, profound and necessary. With monologues and insults, the economy does not function full steam ahead. With calling people who do not agree mercenaries, traitors or paid by the Yankee’s gold, the nation will not be proud of the performance of its government.

The ills that affect the country are someone’s fault. They are not orphans. Let us give credit to the almost 50 year’s embargo from the United States. But the biggest responsibility for the lethal inefficiency of the system belongs to the leaders. I will mention their names: Fidel and Raúl Castro.

The solution to the problems of the Nation belongs to everyone. Because those of us born in Cuba wish and want our country to come out of this motionlessness.

Of course, there will be heated controversies. Passions will be stirred, and everybody will hunker down in their respective ideologies, but from those differences, the measures that will change the status quo will emerge.

From my point of view, the problems of the Island could be remedied with dialogue. At a table.  Everyone. Those who live on one shore or the other. Seated. Smoking as if possessed, or drinking coffee. Carlos Alberto Montaner, Raúl Rivero, Max Lesnik, Zoë Valdes, Enrique Patterson and other intellectuals or high level economists who live in exile.

Together with the opposition like Martha Beatriz Roque, Elizardo Sánchez, Oswaldo Payá, René Gómez Manzano, Vladimiro Roca, Dagoberto Valdés, the independent journalist such as  Reynaldo Escobar y Luis Cino will offer their arguments, the Bloggers Yoani Sanchez and Miriam Celaya, among others.

From the side of the government, along with the maximum leaders, intellectuals, and journalist of caliber would participate, in a civilized way, a series of right measures for the future.

Although some want to stand on the way, there are many things that unite us. I think that the journalist Pedro de La Hoz gets upset like me, when he has to wait three hours to make a simple legal procedure.

I suppose that Rosa Miriam Elizalde the reporter will be indignant when every night she watches the way that 50 percent of the drinking water distributed every day in the city is wasted.

I figure that the disastrous state of the hospitals, the lack of construction materials to repair the housing, the unknown future of the motherland, and the absurd laws not only awake the rage of the dissident lawyer Laritza Diversent, but also of the government attorneys.

We can change this and more, one way, dialoguing among all, I hope we do not have to wait 40 years to realize a profound debate like the one in 2001, among the protagonist of the Bay of Pigs.  Now we are working against the clock.

Ivan García

Translated by: Mari Mesa Contreras

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Stories of Ordinary People

April 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Life for Juan Domeq, age 69, is a vicious cycle. He gets up every morning at 5:30 am and slowly hobbles to a newsstand to buy 50 issues of the newspaper Granma, and the same number of Juventud Rebelde. Domeq spends 20 pesos (less than US$1) for the hundred copies. If he can sell them at 1 peso each, he gets 80 pesos profit, but he doesn’t often sell that many issues.

“People on the street are not very interested in what our press says. Also, the clerk at the newsstand can’t can’t always sell me 100 newspapers. I usually sell between 40 and 50. Then, if I have a good day, I buy some fruits or vegetables for my wife who has been bedridden four years from paralysis; I must also buy milk or yogurt. The little money I earn selling newspapers is spent on food, and I have to keep my eyes open, because several times the police have fined me 40 pesos for selling the newspaper without a license,” says Juan, a sad old man full of aches, who lives in a filthy tenement in the Lawton neighborhood of Havana.

At the same time that Domeq rises to buy the newspaper, Antonio Villa, 64 years old, physically disabled, wakes up and has a cup of hot coffee for breakfast. He goes in his wheelchair to the Monaco bakery, where at the entrance he sells bags (purses) made of nylon for one peso (5 cents U.S.) each.

According to Antonio, a person can sell a hundred nylon purses for 35 pesos. “Selling bags usually takes between 10 and 12 hours a day. Sometimes I have a good day and manage to sell 200 bags, but I usually sell only 80 or 90. With what I get — between 65 to 120 pesos (about 3 to $5) — I buy food and save some pennies to pay a woman who washes my clothes. The police have taken me to the station many times, and in addition to fining me they have confiscated my bags. But when they set me free, I go back to the only thing I can do to earn an honest living,” says Antonio, a black man who lost a leg during the war in Angola in 1987, and lives in a wooden shack with an aluminum roof.

Also not having much luck trying to scrounge a handful of pesos, Clara Rojas, age 70, old, dirty, and poorly dressed, lives in a decrepit nursing home in the La Vibora neighborhood. Clara sells cigarettes at retail. “In the home they give us lunch and dinner, but so poorly prepared that many old people who live there prefer to find some money on our own and eat in the street.”

After spending 14 hours selling cigarettes, the money earned her enough to eat a serving of rice, pea soup, and an unidentified fish full of bones, in a state joint where the prices are low. With a full stomach, she returns to the rest home to sleep.

Juan, Antonio, and Clara are three old people burdened with infirmities, with mild senile dementia, and without a family to care for them. They have to perform miracles to survive in the harsh conditions of Cuban socialism. And they are not unique.

Iván García

Translated by Marlise Lohmann and Tomás A.