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Six years ago I published a text titled “Disqualified for Dialogue,” where I related what occurred in a police station with some State Security agents. Since that date they haven’t returned to attempt one of these semi-friendly conversations in which “they” try to make me believe that they are keenly interested in hearing my concerns, differences or discrepancies with politics of the Party. Since then I have made the decision never to talk to them again. Why?

Because talking with State Security signifies rewarding the belligerence of a repressive institution that has no legal, political nor moral right to engage in making economic or ideological decisions for the country. Because the main purpose of these conversations is to draw out information from us that will affect other civil society opponents and activists.

Because those are the occasions they also take advantage of to cause trouble, to make us believe that others are selling themselves to a foreign power or collaborating with the intelligence agencies, and are people of low moral stature, lacking in ethics and principles.

Because they try to manipulate us saying that we are salvageable, not mercenaries like the rest, and they misinform us with false hopes, as if they were the ones who were in command of all the destinies of the nation and had the power to be the appropriate vehicle to channel criticisms and complaints.

Because the conditions in which these conversations usually occur involve our going to a site, saying our names and showing our identity cards, while they only introduce themselves using pseudonyms.

Because we do have not opportunity to terminate the dialogue and they are the ones who decide how long to continue listening; we can barely gesture or use appropriate terminology without their saying that we are showing a lack of respect or contempt for authority.

Because we are not allowed to record what they say, nor to invite a witness, while they, for their part, can film and edit the conversation, putting their arms around us or putting a pen in our pockets to give the impression that we are their collaborators.

Because we shouldn’t let them convince us that they know everything: our sexual preferences, the routes our children take to school, the private weaknesses of our friends, the money we have at our disposal, the people we see…

Because nothing of what they say, none of the threats they make or the prohibitions they establish, is delivered in writing, with letterhead, stamp, name, grade, title, signature, appealing to the terms and articles of established laws, as these official institutions should express themselves; rather everything is left on the plane of what these anonymous subjects say “personally,” perhaps because they believe themselves to be “more of a man” (or more of a woman) than any of us.

I don’t talk to them any more, because I am a free man and do not have to give an accounting to anyone of where I go, who I meet, or what projects I have.

– See more at: “Disqualified for Dialogue.”

30 December 2013

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Ever since the time, now remote, when dollarization was introduced in the Cuban economy the freebies have been fading away, along with the subsidies and other gifts from the public treasury that our government makes in their inordinate desire — as a poet from the romantic era said — to anticipate the future.

“The invisible currency has disappeared,” we said, surprised and shocked to realize that we could no longer buy refrigerators, washing machines and TVs through merit obtained in our workplaces and that, from then on, it would only be possible to buy those home appliance paying with a currency which, until recently, was known as “the money of the enemy.”

Then came the CUC — the Cuban Convertible Peso — which made the substitution lose some of its obvious symbolic value. The bottom line, however, was not the color of the bills but that, since that catastrophe, it was no longer necessary, in order to acquire useful things, to do voluntary work, attend assemblies, or to participate in a harvest, a microbrigade, or an international mission. Quite the opposite: options include diverting resources, doing things under the table, engaging in some business and in extreme cases selling what one possesses simply because one has a body.

Right now another base (will it be the last?) of the corrosive custom of taming loyalties with privileges is collapsing. The “letters” are over!

Indeed, because when a few years ago the government had “the audacity” to allow Cubans to legally participate in the purchase and sale of private cars, it remained clear that those on display in the agencies, be they new or used, would be sold only to those who could prove that their convertible pesos had been earned in some officially blessed way on some honorable mission backed by the state. Remittances sent from abroad or earnings from a private restaurant or renting rooms to tourists didn’t qualify.

It was then that “the letters” appeared, which at first could only be signed by Carlos Lage — then vice president of the Council of State — and which later were issued by the Ministry of Transport, where the ability of money to be converted into cars rested on a signature.

I’ve been told that there were some seven thousand authorizations to acquire cars that their holders hadn’t yet been able to use, when the order came down from the highest authorities to end this procedure.

Everyone knew that many of the cars bought through this means, at subsidized prices, were immediately resold at market prices, that which a capricious — but not blind — invisible hand, allocated to each commodity; and that the state will now consider it fair to freely sell the vehicles they have in their warehouses.

Those who had the cunning idea of buying the letters before they had been turned into cars have lost their money; those who earned the right to a letter through their diligent work or through flattering their bosses, have lost their illusions. Of what value to them is their noble sacrifice or cowardly silence, their loyal obedience, their abject betrayal?

The next deepening of the Raul reforms could be directed at the buying and selling of home. We are already seeing real estate businesses selling houses and apartments at a competitive or abusive price. But let us have no illusions: those who are waiting in line to receive handouts will not rise up. The old dilemma between applause and desertion will always remain.

20 December 2013

I was eleven on a day in August 1958 when my neighbor Ermeregildo, with tears in his eyes, received his son Jorgito who had arrived covered with bruises after a torture session at the police station in Camagüey. The father of that young man, who was a member of the 26th of July Movement, was a Batista supporter and never stopped saying, between sobs, “The General has to know what barbarities are going on here.”

The general who rules us today has many Ermeregildos who think that he, also, is not aware of certain atrocities, especially with regards to acts of corruption and disrespect for human rights. They assert he is pragmatic and attribute to him a deep paternal feeling for his children and grandchildren; they say his abrupt outbursts are due to so many years surrounded by soldiers; they assert that he prefers to work in a team and even plays the piano very well.

The fault, the grievous fault for the problems of Cuba, cannot be carried by a single person, nor even by the small group of octogenarians who survive at the helm of power under the epithet “the historic generation of the Revolution.” But blame is one thing and responsibility is another.

Those who seek to monopolize the glory of what they exhibit as achievements, should take the responsibility for what only deserves to be called failures.

If there is another Raul I haven’t had the opportunity to meet him. The one I have news of is a man who was looking the other way when his brother committed the errors he now seeks to rectify. The one I know is the one who orders arbitrary arrests and beating, the one who obstinately resists bringing reform to the political camp, the one who proclaims a war without quarter against secrecy and then issues circulars prohibiting the publication of this or that issue.

Ermeregildo declared to me that the general is not to blame. Right now he is writing him a letter to let him know what’s going on.

9 December 2013

Link to Original Blog in Spanish

Please help translate

Reinaldo Escobar (1947), an independent journalist since 1989, writes from Cuba where he was born and continues to live. He received his degree in Journalism from the University of Havana in 1971 and subsequently worked for different Cuban publications. His articles can be found in various European publications, and in the digital magazines "Cuba Encuentro" and "Contodos."

Desde Aquí/From Here is a personal undertaking born from the need to write about those topics that fill my head every day but that cannot find a space in the official Cuban media.

reinaldoescobar@desdecuba.com

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