No News from Alexis

Irina Echarry

Caracas street. Photo:Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — Yesterday I dreamed about Alexis, the friend who I once spoke about here. On that occasion I was talking about his housing problem, while today my anxiety (and his) concerns something else.

Four months ago my old friend went on a government aid mission to Venezuela, where he was located in a state that isn’t pro-Chavez.

Those of us who know Alexis (who’s very much of a city dweller) were worried from the very beginning about his situation; we know that he would have to deal with life in a rural area, since Cuban aid workers can’t choose where they’ll work.

Since the salary they’re paying him is very low, he’s still doesn’t have a computer, and it’s difficult to access his email. Fortunately we can stay in touch over our cellphones, which provide communication that’s a bit smoother, and I can tell something to his family, which doesn’t even have landline at home.

Needless to say, wages in Cuba don’t go nearly as far as those of Venezuela. Here, it’s impossible to pay 1 CUC (just over a dollar) for a single message abroad. But thanks to the Internet I can use a Movilnet webpage that allows one to send messages free.

However since late last month, this mode of communication has been frozen. It turns out that suddenly (after he had already spent a large part of his monthly paycheck), Alexis was told that it would be best if he had some money saved up for whatever emergency that might occur. Therefore — since he doesn’t earn much — he hadn’t made a payment on his cellphone service.

To top it off, precisely during these days of electoral uncertainty, when the service is most needed, the Movilnet page (according to a message on its own webpage) is “undergoing reconstruction.”

All of us are waiting anxiously to find out what will happen on Sunday, October 7.

Over there is Alexis, with not a word from us, scared, tense and with a backpack full of food in case he has to leaving running. In addition to all this, he must be frustrated over the possibility of having to leave the few things he had bought.

Over here, I (and his family) am troubled by the silence, wondering what will happen to the Cubans over there if Capriles wins, or — if Chavez is re-elected — what will happen to them in those states that are not pro-Chavez.

When my father was serving in Angola, I remember some people visiting our house to bring us news from him and to take down our messages for him.

They weren’t friends of my parents; they were there officially to express concern for us as a family of an internationalist fighter. I know that this was a war, but how can one predict what will happen with the situation in Venezuela?

I’ve heard some things from a mutual friend who lives in Caracas, but she lives far away from Alexis. We imagine that precautions have been taken, that the aid workers will be protected, but so far no one has brought us any news about Alexis. No “official visit” has been made expressing concern so as to ease anxiety of his and other families.


Irina Echarry

Irina Echarry: I enjoy reading, going to the movies and spending time with my friends. Many of the people I love are dead, or are no longer in Cuba. I will do my best to transmit my thoughts, ideas or worries via these pages so you can get to know me. I will give an idea of my age, since it helps explain certain things. I’m over thirty-five, and I think that’s enough information. I don’t have any children yet, or nieces or nephews. There are days when I transform myself into a child with no age at all in order to see life from another angle. It helps me break the monotony and survive in this strange world.