Archive | February, 2012

Cuban Unionism, a Shameful Pain

21 Feb

The current Cuban sugarcane harvest, which has been well underway, has set off an alarming buzzer.  The workers have been on shift for periods of 12 hours or more, without voicing considerable protests, except in some cases when the administrations have once again appeased the nonconformists.  In provinces such as Granma, Ciego de Avila, and Holguin, diverse sources have reported the elimination of a fourth brigade in the shifts of sugar fabrication and the increase of work periods to twelve hours, however, when there are breaks or backtracks in the availability of sugarcane, the days wage- by the cut, transported, or grounded- rise up to as much as 21 hours, according to confirmations in the previously mentioned provinces.

What moves the plans of the State to attack without hesitation?  Why do official unionists lie about the hygienic conditions in the workplace in Cuba?  Why do they make the czar of sugarcane Jose Ramon Machado Ventura and not the men and/or women specialists who have decades of experience in the matter?

In the Convention of Forced Labor (1930; num. 29), the International Organization of Labor clearly expresses that: “The State should abstain from imposing forced or mandatory labor, and should not tolerate that others impose it as well.  The State should repeal all laws or rules which plan or tolerate the application of forced or mandatory labor, and should adopt measures so that all employment related to that field of labor, whether it be carried out by people with private scopes or by public functionaries, be considered illegal in the national arena”.

Up to this moment, it has been state-unionism which has promoted sugarcane workers to produce as if it were a matter of National Security, employing terms as “revolutionary commitments” and “decisive efforts” to carry out such obligations.  For some years now, the workers of this sector have no longer been receiving material stimuli which range from a fan (ventilator) to a trip to Moscow.

The Convention on the Security and Health of Workers (1981; num. 155) states that “health”, when it comes to labor, does not only signify the absence of disease but also the physical and mental elements which affect health and which are directly related with the security and hygiene found in the workplace (Article 3, C).  The continuous expositions for more than 90 days of harvest through shifts which triple the 8 hours of work, an achievement reached by Cuba during the first decades of the XX century, are a burden on the movement of Cuban unions imposed by the state, the totalitarian attitudes, and the inexplicable silence of that large working mass which currently fears confronting its employers because they are afraid they will be labeled nonconformists or “negative leaders”.

The Party…Up for Debate?

15 Feb

The following post was written by Luis Felipe Rojas for “Diario de Cuba” and published on Wednesday, February 15th:

During the past few days, fragments of the recently concluded sessions of the Communist Party of Cuba National Conference have been televised.  And the first thing that jumps out at one’s eyes is the lack of confrontation.  The Cuban communists pay no attention to their best mirror: in each corner of any town of the island it constantly turns on the most substantial of discussions.  About baseball or the quality of bread.  Of the neglect of public functionaries or of the frequency with which eggs or beans are distributed in rations.  Still lacking any glints of democracy, a debate – which the deputies of the National Assembly wish they had- surges anywhere.

During the discussion about a possible constitutional reformulation of Article 42, one could see how Mariela Castro Espin (daughter of Raul Castro) was the subject of timid pleas.  Her intention was that they add “reasons of gender indentification” to the mentioned article which lists that no one should be discriminated based on race, gender, nationality, or religion.

The responses from Alarcon and Eusebio Leal refused the necessity to cite these terms in the constitution.  They cited Marti and spoke of unity.  The quick intervention of Esteban Lazo as moderator cut the debate, the television also cut the running time of the event, and as a product of digital magic, we could see when “everyone” raised their hands to unanimously approve something.

There is a contradiction which asks for special attention.  Commission No. 1, according to an article published by Granma newspaper on Wednesday, February 1st, debated the internal functioning of the communist organization.  The intention was to finish with the ruling and meddling of the Party instructors when it comes to productive decisions, while they stated that they would “strengthen the role and faculties of the Party Committees in the work place”.  Any Cuban knows very well about the arrogance of the municipal Party functionaries, and not to mention the visiting officials from provincial committees.  The sole announcement of their visits puts any municipality on guard:  checking work plans, painting sidewalks and once gain reviving gastronomy.

A televised fragment in which the Ministry of Culture and the President of the Cuban Radio and Television Institute bragged about the bad taste provided signals of the stagnant thought within the structures of power.

Minister Prieto alluded to the careerists which sustained themselves by making jokes and parodies, and informed about the juicy gains and the corruption in the provincial centers of music through the evaluation and hiring of artists and artistic projects of low quality and of the worst aesthetic taste.  The dichotomy between what artistic talent offers and what people want continues to be the source of discord which has not been resolved in a commission of Stalinists.  The contemporary television dynamic goes one way while the indoctrination which tries to spread throughout Cuba through soap operas and TV series for adolescents goes the other way.

It is something which is completely evil.  The imposition of stagnant communist ideas as the sole source of political citizen participation does not, after all, result in the ever concealed unity of “all” Cubans.

Debates behind closed doors to later show them edited and served like recipes are the buttons of proof of the single Party.  Regardless, what was not debated or televised must have been more interesting than the gabbles published during these days.  The fact that Raul Castro initiated the closing discourse with his position about the possibilities of a multi-party system made it barely visible, according to some, that the matter was at least in the debate of the work commissions.

The Communist Party of Cuba is a rigid and exclusive option which attempts to perpetuate a system condemned to failure.

Until When?

7 Feb

The mother waits in the hospital lobby.  Outside, it is very cold- very unusual considering the accustomed high temperatures which whip through the Cuban East.  The young man is barely 22 years old, he jumped in to separate two of his friends in a street brawl, and when the police arrived they began to hit them with sticks and kick them.  He suffered the worst part.  One of his friends went to get me because they had convinced him to give me all the details.  The mother shut down all sorts of dialogues in order to protect him.  It was pointless for me to explain his rights to him.  My arguments that he should denounce the events were not worth anything.  She would return home, ‘either way in this country nothing works…get out of here, don’t bother me anymore‘, she told me.

Just three days ago, I was publicly approached by an Honorary Official (OH) of State Security.  His intention was to have me stay in my house.  That way, he would save many hours which he would otherwise be chasing me.  Since I responded to him by citing my citizen rights, he whipped out his blue-lettered ID tag to threaten- not me- but the passer-bys.  Despite the heated discussion and his boasting that he would call a police vehicle, no one responded, no one moved.  When I said- in a loud voice- that the streets belong to the people and not the revolutionaries, no one echoed the phrase.  It’s true that I did not suffer a repudiation this time, but the people are just absorbed by their bags of food and I suppose they do not have time for these trifles, right?

Institutions such as the Fiscal Military, the three kinds of tribunals (municipal, provincial, and national) and, time and time again,  the offices of Citizen Attention dodge the complaints against functionaries of the order and only in counted occasions- after violations are very evident- does the Counter Intelligence do something.  These obsolete organisms have, in part, helped everyday people put on their own censors.  Since no one defends their rights, then they mistrust everything, they fall into the generalized apathy and end up giving in to their very own henchmen. Only after seeing the gloomy face of the television presenter announcing, in yet another trick, some other dismissal, are people able to see that Cuban public institutions are also there to watch for some things, for the interests of some citizens and so that some rights be respected.

Paint Used to Cause Terror

1 Feb

Translation of this collage which shows the homes of some dissidents, targets of state vandalism :

(1st row)

Terrorist paint attack in homes of peaceful dissidents.

It is common practice to carry out these attacks at night, while everyone is sleeping. However, they tend to also do them during mob repudiation attacks, organized by State Security and carried out by paramilitary mobs trained under their shield, known as the Rapid Response Brigades. The photos below show the home of Agustin Cervantes in Contramaestre, Santiago de Cuba.

(2nd row)

The three following photos show the home of Raudel Avila Losada in Palma Soriano, Santiago de Cuba.

(3rd row, on the Right)
The photos on the left are of terrorist paint attacks in the home of Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo in the neighborhood of Rio Verde, Havana.

(4th and last row, to the left)
Blue paint attack in home of independent journalist Luis Felipe Rojas in San German, Holguin, different to the accustomed black tar commonly used.  These are similar to the fascist methods applied against Jews during the Second World War, as their homes were marked.

Marti for Everyone?

1 Feb

This past 28th of January, the Cuban government presented us a renovated Jose Marti amid the shouts of the little red pioneers, portraits of Fidel Castro, and songs of Silivio Rodriguez.  The celebration was also marked by beatings, arrests, and restrictions on movement of various pro-democracy activists throughout the entire island who were trying to pay tribute to the Apostle of Freedom.

For years now, the regime has always acted in this way on this holiday, and it no longer surprises me to see so many arrests, but what I didn’t know was that the masonry lodges and other fraternities have to obtain a permit from the local government and from the Department of Religious Issues of the Community Party of Cuba in order to deposit flowers in any statue of Marti on that day.

In San German, political police officials Captain Abel Ramirez and Lieutenant Saul Vega, accompanied by uniformed agents, punctually showed up to my house this Saturday to arrest Eliecer Palma, releasing him hours later.  Meanwhile, in Banes, Rafael Meneses Pupo, Ariel Cruz Meneses, and Derbis Martinez were arrested for more than 8 hours in order to impede them from honoring the Apostle.

And as if the 28th was not enough with arrests to impede independent tributes to Jose Marti, on Sunday morning olive-green uniformed officials driving a Mosckovich car detained Jose A Triguero Mulet near the Peralta neighborhood of that city.  Mulet, a 68 year old dissident, explained to me that they left him abandoned in a remote zone nearly 30 km away from Holguin.  He added that the soldiers did not explain anything to him, as far as motives for the kidnapping.

In that same city, Caridad Caballero, Suleidis Perez Velasquez, Isabel Pena, Ana Maria Aguilera, Berta Guerrero and Adis Nidia Cruz were also kept from going to church, as they were kept in different dungeons within police units throughout the municipalities located far from their homes (Gibara, Santa Lucia, Cacocum, and the G2 Operations Barrack known as Pedernales).  Meanwhile, the men who were arrested- Esteban Sandez, Luis Jaime Merino, and Felix Tomas Farat- were victims of violence at the hands of their oppressors. Even while they were kept inside cells, the agents trained to beat those who think differently continued to attack the men.

All of this to impede both men and women from going to church for Sunday mass.

My house remained surrounded by uniformed agents, political police officials, and henchmen of the paramilitary Rapid Response Brigades, among them Maikel Rodriguez Alfajarrin, aka ‘The Spark’ (Chief of Home Inspections), and Gustavo Utria Garzon, who has been identified by neighbors  as the culprit of the terrorist paint attack in my house this past 25th of January.  I don’t usually make comments like this, but both Utria and Alfajarrin enjoy the benefits of favors granted to them by emigrated neighbors from San German who live in Miami and who visit the town every year.  Perhaps they do not know about the crimes their friends are committing.

This Monday, I sent a notification to Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, and the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ).  As the pressure and actions against me escalate, the script of the repressive acts should continue and I don’t doubt that “unknown people” will beat me in the middle of the night, after two or three mob repudiation attacks outside my house.  And, finally, if they have no other method to try and make me obedient, they will sentence me for social dangerousness and hold me accountable for having stared a sunset.  Although this alert will not save me from the abuses of power, I want my friends in and out of Cuba to remain attentive and ready to disprove any absurd story about my family.

In fact, I began this post talking about Jose Marti, the most universal of Cubans, a man who dreamed of a nation for all, and I ended up detailing the government repression against non-conformed civilians, a key element for understanding the day to day Cuba.

Oppressors watching. Photo by Luis Felipe Rojas