Archive for the ‘Translator: Mari Mesa Contreras’ Category

Popular Representatives: The Best and Most Qualified.

April 26, 2010 Leave a comment

To exercise the vote in the Cuban context is to serve a revolutionary duty. The revolution is sacred, it is the motherland. To keep its successes we have to sacrifice. Socialist lessons that are taught from the cradle to the new generations. Ideological verses repeated again and again.

“Don’t close your eyes to the things done badly and denounce any transgressions,” is another of the communist demands that it is very hard to fulfill. In the end, the rule is that nobody can enjoy privileges: “We are all the same and we have to live as equals.” Except if you are the son or daughter of a Minister, a General or a Commandant.

It is not a matter of seeking what is best for all or that somebody studies or works harder than others do, but rather keeping an eye on your neighbor so that he does not live better than you.  Whoever abides by these rules, at least in appearance, has the merits and capacity to occupy public office within the State Communist apparatus.

For example, a Cuban who wants a phone in his house has to accumulate merits and denounce the transgressions of his neighbor. The comrade Mayito, vice-president of the Assembly and of the Municipal Administration Council of Arroyo Naranjo, showed the town people of Calvario how a revolutionary could get what he wants.

That is the way the popular representatives are: realist, sincere, grateful, energetic and fair. The best and most qualified.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by: Mari Mesa Contreras

Cuba and Its Socialist Democracy (I)

April 24, 2010 Leave a comment

In Cuba the Transcendental of the municipal elections is not exercising the vote, but what comes afterward: the development of the socialist democracy. Its maximum expression: the Accountability and Disclosure meetings of the delegates and their voters. I recorded the last of these meetings from the term of office just ended, that was held in my neighborhood. The constituency #86 from the popular council Calvario-Fraternidad in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo.

It took place towards the end of November, beginning of December 2009, the neighbors refused to hold the meeting only with the delegate Enrique. I do not recall his last name. It is going around the neighborhood that he is an alcoholic and that he accepted the nomination to solve his housing problem.

The voters demanded the presence of the leadership of the Municipal Assembly. In the past the local authorities had promised the solution to the community problems.  By the time the second accountability and disclosure meeting occurred, it turned out that the majority of the agreements were not fulfilled; the delegate did not have the resources nor the means at his disposal to solve them.

The tasks requested of the delegate by the voters do not require great resources: trim the trees, sell food in the community market, water supply, electrical power, public phone lines, repair and completion of the small appliances of the Electro-Domestic Revolution. Listen to the audio, Enrique the delegate is speaking.

Revision of agreements.

The presidency of the Municipal Assembly accepted the requirement of the voters. Its president, Victor Vassó, its vice-president, the comrade Mayito, and other leaders of the local government made their appearance at the meeting.

The Communist Party does not take part in the elections, but they participate in the meetings and the things that have to do with local administrative affairs. The delegate admitted that he participated in the meetings of the political and ideological group acting as the government, after confirming his commitment “in the defense of the interests of the Revolution.”

The neighbors were annoyed. Without hiding anything, they poured their hearts out and demanded some explanations. It is very interesting that the biggest laments and complaints came from senior citizens older than 62 years old, retired from the Revolutionary Armed Forces. Listen to their declarations.

Link to partial audio

(I did not have enough connection time to upload the Audio, so please excuse me.)

Laritza Diversent

Translated by: Mari Mesa Contreras

Proclivities to Crime

April 21, 2010 2 comments

Yuniel Mariño recently reached his eighteenth birthday. He does not work or go to school. He spends his mornings at the park with his friends. The afternoons the same, but passing a rum bottle from hand to hand. He arrives home silently in the early hours of the morning even though he had more than a few drinks.

El Chama, that is his nickname in the neighborhood. He wears chains, bracelets and several gold teeth. His dad lives in Miami and sends him a monthly allowance for his expenses. The young man is smart, and so as not to run out of money, occasionally he invests in some small business.

Too much speculation for the liking of the head of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). Mariño came up in the monthly meeting  of the Commission of Social Prevention as someone with the potential to be a criminal.

This Commission has the fundamental objective of preventing people in the neighborhood from engaging in dangerous activities or crimes. It consist of, among others, the members of the Popular Power in the locality, chief of the Police sector, the Municipal delegate, the president and the head of vigilance for the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) and the secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba in the Zone.

The Social Worker who persuaded Yuniel to get involved in the labor force offered him a job in a basic Farming Production Unit that specializes in vegetables. He declined. He alleged that with his foreign monthly allowance he does not need to work for a salary of 315.00 Cuban pesos in the farming industry.

In spite of his arguments, the chief of the Police Sector, started a proceeding of warning for antisocial behavior, and gave him an ultimatum to find a job. An order that he did not obey. Afterward he received another job offer, this time for construction. He declined.

Yuniel was reprimanded by the Police authority, according to the Penal legislation, for an attitude potentially dangerous to the social, economic and political order of the Socialist State.

Two more warnings followed his denial, and the beginning of a Judicial Case. The District Attorney of his Municipality solicited the courts to impose a Security Measure pre-transgression for showing signs of dangerous potential.

In his stubbornness, Chama never thought they would be able to demonstrate that his conduct was contradictory to the norms of the Socialist Morals. That his way of life disturbed the community order; as a result, they considered him a person with a proclivity to crime.

Yuniel never had gone inside a neighbor’s house to steal. He did not traffic in nor consume drugs. He did not attack or kill anybody. Nevertheless, he was sanctioned to work in a farm for a year and six months, jailed in a correctional. This is the fate run by youth who dare to defy the regime.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by: Mari Mesa Contreras

Two Yardsticks for Measuring the Cuban Government

April 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Saturday April 3, members of the Ministry of the Interior, in the name of the Cuban government, visited the home of Laura Pollán, and with her other Ladies in White, and verbally communicated the adoption of a series of measures.

In one of those measures, to justify its decision to impose conditions to exercise their legitimate right to protest, reference was made to an international practice (requesting permission from the police for assemblies and demonstrations in the streets), which is not a legal regulation established within the Cuban legal system

The international instruments that regulate citizens’ right of assembly and demonstration in the public thoroughfare, among them the Universal Declaration of the Human rights, signed by Cuba in 1948, and the Pact of the International Civil and Political Rights, pending of ratification by the Cuban State, does not establish general practices, but they regulate the essential requirements that allow the practice of that right.

Each State, in its national legislation, can provide the specific details required for the exercise of that right, within their respective territories. Until now, the government of Cuba has not legislated on the matter.

It is a great hypocrisy to refer to an international practice, when the Cuban State not only has not ratified international treaties in the matter of human rights, but when it considers that these treaties constitute unacceptable agreements and impositions within the Island.

The referred international legal instruments recognize also as legitimate the peaceful demonstrations and assemblies, establishing as the only limit the protection of the public interest and the rights and liberties of the others. In this sense, in the internal legislation of different countries, common elements can be seen in regulating the exercise of this right.

For example, among others the laws of Spain and Venezuela allow demonstrations in public streets, as long as the corresponding authorities are notified in advance, communicating the site, time and objective of the march among other details.

Those laws recognize the faculties of the authorities to adopt measures, should their organizers do not satisfy the demanded legal requirements, disrupt the public order, or when the demonstrators use paramilitary uniforms. In addition, the citizen right is recognized to appeal governmental decisions before a court.

Although in Cuba there are no domestic regulations in this area, there are frequent demonstrations and parades through downtown streets, all called and organized by the rulers themselves and with a distinctly political-ideological character.

In addition, the organized Action Rapid Brigades (paramilitary) repudiation meetings of the very excited masses against the dissidents are very common, and with the participation of uniformed and military personnel dressed in plain clothes. The official communication media ratify these violent meetings of action and words as legitimate.

Also common are the “rallies of repudiation” of the “enraged masses” organized in a rapid response brigades (paramilitary) and with the participation of uniformed and plainclothes military of civil control, directed against dissidents. The official media guarantee these demonstrations, violent in word and action, as legitimate.

Nevertheless, However, criminal law punishes causing fights or altercations in public places. The penalty is tripled if the acts were done with the purpose of altering in any way the established order.

What if one of the participants in a demonstration was hurt or killed at the hands of a protester authorized to arm themselves roughly with sticks, rods and cables? Also, who would pay for the damages caused to public property or that of third parties?

Who would respond? The administrator or the party responsible for carrying out the plan against disruption of the order and counterrrevolutionary disturbances or their superior, a member of the Communist Party or State Security, in representation of the government?

The members of the Rapid Action Brigades act with total impunity because the ones in charge of carrying out the laws do absolutely nothing, in spite of the disruption to the public order, the traffic interruptions and the possible violent confrontations that could occur during these encounters.

The limitation to the right of assembly and demonstration that the Cuban government wants to impose to the Ladies in White is motivated by questions of political interest. The government applies a double standard, irrefutably discriminatory, when it tries to justify its attitude citing that it is an international practice.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by: Marcus Fredric; Mari Mesa Contreras

The Land of Easy Pickings

April 17, 2010 1 comment

Cuba, the island of the tropical climate and, as the group Los Aldeanos says in their song, “The land of the easy-to-reach-mangoes.” What happens here does not happen in any other place in the world. Can you imagine Obama telling the American people that he ignores how much the country spends on imports? Here that is normal and nothing happens.

The president of the Councils of State and Ministers, Raúl Castro, in his most recent speech, publicly acknowledged on national television that people would be awestruck if the Economy Bureau would report on the millions and millions of dollars spent on the import of beans of all kinds, which can be produced in this country. Good grief! Note that he only listed one example.

It seems that certain matters are not on the agenda of the highest representative of the Cuban government. In another part of the planet that comment would have cost him the presidency, in the next elections.

If the historical leadership, which for so long has held all the power of the State, does not know those details, then who is in charge and who controls the failed national economy?  What is the purpose of those who sacrificed for fifty years and who enjoy the honey of the power? We know that they have many titles and that because of their age, they cannot command them all. Fine, they should retire!

A leader with self-respect would never commit the imprudence to acknowledge to the world that he knows nothing of certain details of the management of the government. However, the tropical climate is too relaxing. The important stuff often turns into a joke and the insignificant is a matter of the State. The country is falling apart while the government pours all its potential in mistreating a group of women who march in silence through the streets.

Nevertheless, Mr. President and all the officials that follow him, can give themselves the luxury of talking like that, because all his problems in his home are solved. What does he care if the majority of the people he governs have no rice to eat? Much less if their salary will only last them the first five days of the month.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by: Mari Mesa Contreras and Karen vB

Celia’s Dilemma

February 19, 2010 1 comment

Celia recently turned 20 years old.  Since age 15 she has been in a non-formalized marriage.  She is a preschool teacher.  Two years of study were enough for her to get the title.

When the Revolution put out the call, she was in ninth grade, and stepped forward.  They needed teachers. In the bargain they gave her a short time of studies and a monthly stipend of 110 pesos in national currency.

But those making the offer didn’t foresee that she had no talent and no patience to tolerate “the bad behavior of those unbearable kids.”  After eight months she stopped going to work.  “Too much work for such a little pay,” she says to explain the reasons she didn’t complete her social service.  She stopped going period, nobody cared, and nothing happened.

Today things have changed for her.  She is forced to be a housewife. Her husband doesn’t let her work. At home, the division of labor is well-defined: he takes care of all the financial needs and she takes care of all domestic tasks. He commands and she obeys.

There are no checks and balances. As the young woman in the relationship, she makes no decisions, unless it is which day to wash clothes and at what time to cook. She is dissatisfied, but accepts her subordinate role. Her husband is stubborn and imposes his will on her by taking extreme positions:  obey or end the relationship.

The former is more comfortable. She doesn’t have to worry about where the money comes from. But at the same time she feels empty, wanting to do something that gives her satisfaction. She wants to be an independent woman, but if you ask her what she’d like to do, she doesn’t have an answer.

Celia has not yet decided her vocation. She dreams of working and making a living for herself, but doesn’t know how to realize her dream. In her mind there are no overriding plans or future projects for her life.  She thinks about the second option. She knows that if she works in the street, their relationship will end.

She analyzes the opportunities she has. She knows that the salary of a state employee is barely enough to get by.  She would have to go home to her parents and contribute to the upkeep of the household. She would also lose her privacy, sharing a room with two of her four sisters.

It is paradoxical that a young woman in a country that gives her free access to studies and a chance to succeed, prefers to subjugate herself, rather than assert her rights as a woman and a human being. It is sad that a nation’s economic situation, where legally and formally there is gender equality, prevents women from realizing their full potential.

It is a shame, that conformity and resignation kill aspirations.  The evil afflicts Celia and many young Cubans today, a kind of unbridgeable gulf between dreams and real life, a vacuum they cannot identify or try to cross.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by : Mari Mesa and Tomás A.