Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – My eldest daughter, who is only ten years old, doesn’t really live with me, although she is with me quite often. Awfully enough for her, her mom and I divorced when she was just two years old. It was hard to live separated from my little princess, or should I say, not have her around all the time. I am a very devoted father and try to be present.
The place where her mother took her to live is relatively near, but it is higher up and it has always been worse for my little girl’s asthma. It’s fair to say, though, that her mother has tried to move elsewhere, but it hasn’t been possible. It really is hard to do.
Sometimes, I post comments and photos of the hospital on social media, whenever I have to take her to get an aerosol. This past school year, she had to be admitted into hospital at least twice for respiratory problems. However, she rarely ever gets sick when she stays at mine. It isn’t easy for her mother to be separated from her and give me her custody, it’s completely out of the question, and puberty will soon hit her, and taking so many steroids won’t be good for her hormonal development.
As it’s a family issue, the solution we came up with was to give a plot of land on my father’s ranch to my daughter’s mother, so that she could move there. Her house is a very modest home, made out of wood and tiles, so it wasn’t very hard to move. The legal paperwork involved to change your address is long and tedious, but lucky for us, houses in the countryside don’t use a number, even though they have one. It’s also normal in these cases for paperwork to be simplified with an informal permit from the Physical Planning engineer who answers to the People’s Council.
That’s what we did. The engineer told us that there wasn’t any problem if the land owner, my father, agreed. It was something among us, without any consequences, because it isn’t a new home and won’t affect the information on what’s on his land. It was even consulted with the President of the People’s Council. The inspector was there while my daughter and her mother moved in, he even shared with the builders who put it up after moving the materials from its previous location. Everything seemed to be in order.
Then, suddenly things turned upside down. The head of inspectors at Physical Planning, Enrique, received an order it seems to make me take down the fence around my home. We can imagine where this order came from, the famous “Dark Hand”. Seeking privacy, I covered up the gaps in the fence and everything seems to point to the fact that this ticked off those responsible for keeping me under their watchful eye.
They literally have it out for me, they tried to give me a 500 peso fine, but I protested and they couldn’t. This Enrique guy was suddenly rude and hostile with me, but when I insisted to see the written regulation about this, the Director issued an order to leave me in peace.
Now, a month later, they have sent two inspectors to my home to find a reason to fine me. They gave me a 200 peso fine for a door that has been locked for 20 years, which is now allowed inside your home. Two days later, I got a 2000 peso fine for my daughter’s home, which I explained had been registered with the engineer.
The young man, clearly embarassed, showed up with the two inspectors, the same ones as before, and he reluctantly gave me the fine, you could tell it was hard for him to do. He knew he was doing something abusive, ordered by his superior. “You have to apply the decree,” he was told. This isn’t a matter of fining something illegal, it’s persecution, harassment, repression.
There might be greater violations going on next to you, but that doesn’t interest you. There are many similar cases, but they don’t matter. There are even problems at inspectors’ own homes because everything is a violation in this country with so many regulations that stifle everyday life. However, their interest is to screw me over, to make me feel like there are more consequences for me daring to be an independent journalist. The only one around these parts and they don’t want to accept it.
What they didn’t think about though, is the fact that I’m not the legal owner of the land I work, or the house I live in. They belong to my 72-year-old father, who is retired and receives a 242 peso (10 USD) pension. Of course, we’re going to have to pay this expensive fine. It won’t be my father though, with his miserly pension, or my daughter’s mother who is unemployed: it falls on my shoulders. They know that and that’s why they are doing this.
The “official who deals with me” at State Security, the one who is always interrogating me when I’m arrested; the one who has banned me from traveling abroad for over 600 days; who warned me once: “tread carefully because the slightest slip-up we’ll be your downfall.” The only thing I can do is complain and make this public knowledge. It’s the only thing you can do when you live in a society that is rotting because of totalitarianism.