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Dr. Jeovany Jiménez

In September of 2006 Dr. Jeovany Jiménez, exercising his revolutionary optimism, wrote a letter to the minister of Public Health to protest a ridiculous salary increase that didn’t correspond to the needs nor the expectations of the sector. The response was to disbar him from practicing medicine. Jeovany created a blog, and went to the extreme of a hunger strike. Incredibly, his right to practice medicine was returned to him.

I’m not sure if I should congratulate Jeovany, who is lovingly called “the Chinaman” by his friends. It’s true that in the entire labor history of Cuba, never before has there been such a high salary increase as will be received by public health workers as of this May. It’s clear that on this occasion it’s not about a ridiculous salary increase, because the increases in many cases double the original salary, but it’s also true that in the best of cases the increase received will be enough to buy six pounds of pork and a case of beer. Whether this is a luxury remains to be determined, starting from the esteem those professionals are held in, and what we think they truly deserve.

Over five years, Jeovany Jiménez sent a total of 20 letters, never responded to, to the Minister of Public Health and managed to collect 300 signatures in support of his request. Now they will tell him “that wasn’t the time” and that now all that remains is to show appreciation.

24 March 2014

The much discussed Cuban dual monetary system, which has distorted the economy for more than twenty years, seems to be facing its final days. Among the few reports that have been released, it appears it will be the CUP–the Cuban or national peso–that will survive, and the CUC–or Cuban Convertible Peso– that will cease to circulate.

In addition to the actual value of each of these currencies, they differ in that the differ in that if the CUP has a photo of a historical figure, the CUC has a sculpture of the same personage. Also on security issues, CUC far exceeds its alter ego.

The question we ask ourselves is whether there will be a change in the real value of money we earn as wages. How many hours will one have to work–once the money is unified–to buy a pound of spaghetti, a quart of oil or a beer?

We also wonder if we will continue to earn the same and if the prices of merchandise will remain the same. For example, if a refrigerator sells now for 500 CUC, will we have to pay 12,500 CUP for it. To ride the same distance that we pay 3 CUC for in a hard-currency taxi, now costs 10 CUP in an almendrone (the shared taxis for Cubans). How will the price be adjusted when we have a single currency?

The amount of cash that will have to be carried to the store will force the artisans to make larger purses, unless they print new denominations with values of 500 and 1,000 CUP. Rumors are already circulating about the faces we’ll see on the new bills. Juan Almeida and Vilma Espín are the favored candidates.

Although almost no one in Cuba has enough money, some will save the abolished chavitos as souvenirs, at least the coins, a good opportunity for the numismatists.

17 March 2014

Photo: Silvia Corbelle

I recently attended an academic event at the Felix Varela Chair. Lay Space magazine opened the doors of the old San Carlos and San Ambrosio Seminary for the public to freely participate in an exchange of ideas about the reforms undertaken by the Cuban government. I would have had a lot to say about the high scientific level with which they were addressing the problems discussed there, but for now I prefer to focus on a detail brought to light by a question posed by my colleague Iván García.

How is the “Loyal Opposition” defined? Loyal to whom, inquired the independent journalist. According to the panelist Arturo López-Levy, this concept finds its antonym in apostasy.

Although I collect them, I hate to fall into the facile habit of quoting dictionaries, but I have no choice but to refer to the first meaning of the term “apostasy” which is “the repudiation of Christ by those who have been baptized.” In a wider sense it’s appropriate to use it for a very wide range of meanings from resignation to treason. The trouble with synonyms is that the equivalence of meaning between the two depends on the context.

When the academic López-Levy attributes the adjective “loyal” to a certain kind of opposition and uses “apostasy” to refer to those who place themselves at the polar opposite of the opposition milieu, he is crossing a frontier in which those belonging to one or the other group end up identifying the loyal as traitors and the apostates as loyal… and vice versa.

The blame for this confusion lies not with semantics, but with history.

When opponents from exile or from the island support the blockade-embargo, including the Helms-Burton Act; when they receive financing from the “black beast” which is the Cuban American Foundation, or talk with that arch demon Carlos Alberto Montaner, they automatically fall into the list of on apostates from the loyal opposition.

The same can happen to anyone using the microphones of Radio Martí, visits the United States Interests Section in Cuba (SINA), or meets with some representative of the U.S. government, the only one in the world that has a legally structured program to overthrow the government of Cuba. They are betraying the Fatherland! And are denounced by the loyal opposition.

What Fatherland? The other side responds. The one that finds Socialist Revolution synonymous with the Communist Party and with the person of Fidel Castro himself? Will it perhaps be this fatherland that those on the other list claim to be loyal to? Does being a member of the loyal opposition mean belonging to a group of people who are not insulted or beaten by “the outraged people,” people who have never experienced a repudiation rally, who have always been able to enter and leave the country, and even give speeches at foreign universities?

People who have probably never been fired from their jobs, nor expelled from their classrooms, nor even been visited by the “friendly compañeros from State Security’s Section 21″? The ones who can count on an untouchable space and aspire to one day be designated as legitimate interlocutors from the powers-that-be?

Admission to this fiesta bears a high price, especially having the prudence that, once accepted, to never bother the landlord by warning him that out there are others dissatisfied, others with many issues to bring, claims, demands. Political correctness is to ignore this populace that fails to shed the nauseating odor of the dungeons and, better yet, from the prestige conferred by the condition of academic blamelessness, to accuse them of apostasy.

A socialist revolution is not a religious faith, “Revolution and Religion don’t rhyme,” the poet Herberto Padilla warned us. The first is the work of men, the second — I’ve been given to understand — has a divine origin. Those who deny their faith don’t fear going to hell, because they no longer believe in its existence. Those who disagree with ideological convictions that once embraces are simply exercising a civil and intellectual right that in my well-thumbed dictionaries is defined as to rectify. What can we say about those who never believed and from the start chose a different path.

I’m very familiar with another opposition that exercises a loyalty that has nothing to do with the submission of pets. Loyalty to the most pressing desires of their people, loyalty to justice and freedom.

14 March 2014

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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