By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – “I like the debate in the corridors more, where people really say what they are thinking,” Evarista says before the meeting begins, which is being held at the home of Panfilo, the protagonist of the TV show “Vivir del Cuento” (Living by one’s wits) on the program broadcast on Monday, November 5th.
Facundo, the neighborhood “Communist”, had previously told neighbors that they shouldn’t make any annoying comments as a “pair” of guests would be taking part. Even though sarcastic jokes were made, such as confusing them for singers, they at no point dared to specify that these were a “pair from the Communist Party”, who have been present at every meeting in order to monitor and lead the debate. They were just presented as “two experts” on the matter at hand.
Ruperto was the first person to speak about the constitution and he started off by talking about Article 68 (like people have been at every meeting), which deals with the concept of marriage between two people, without establishing their sex. After a long play on words, he finished off by saying that he didn’t agree with it. This article alone would have hogged up the entire debate, which has been the case at most meetings, if it weren’t for Panfilo’s timely intervention, saying that there were many other articles of interest, that Article 68 wasn’t the only one. A criticism which also lends itself as an invitation to those who steer these debates
All of our people’s concerns about the draft Constitution document that has been put forward by the Communist Party, were dealt with in a general sense. And things aren’t always being called for what they are, just like what is happening in Cuban neighborhoods today, and just like Evarista predicted, where people aren’t afraid to be honest in corridors.
Chacon asked for the article referring to wealth accumulation to be amended, explaining that he earned an honest living as an independent worker and that instead of saving this money, he wanted to invest it in his cafe or in a new carpentry workshop. He also asked why it was a bad thing for his daughter abroad to send him a new saw. Why is it banned saying that it is for commercial use? Why can’t she send it?
On the other hand, Panfilo found it contradictory that artists and journalists are able to fill their pockets yet they are banned from investing this wealth in Cuba, limiting the private sector to just one authorized activity and also referring to foreign investment in Article 28. “Why can foreigners invest and we Cubans can’t?” he asked.
Cachita, a woman who rents out a room in CUC (Cuba’s dollar equivalent), mentioned that her German renter Peter wanted to start a sausage factory in Cuba. And Ruperto interrupted her to ask why a Cuban couldn’t produce them instead, insinuating with an innuendo that his sausage might be better or better suited to our people’s taste.
In keeping with his character, Panfilo couldn’t give up the opportunity to talk about the rations booklet, asking that no more products be taken off it, that it be kept as it is at least, because many items had disappeared forever. And Chacon, his eternal opponent, joked about the fact that Panfilo couldn’t buy them where they “have reappeared”, in hard-currency stores.
The wages issue couldn’t be left out either, which according to the constitution “pays and incentivizes work.” Ruperto suggests that they add that “resolving” or whatever is understood as “struggling” also be included as an incentive. The “Party pair” went red in the face saying such was stealing and trying to explain the inexplicable, they dug a bigger hole by reading Article 76, where it stipulates that “Everyone receives the same wage for equal value of labor.” Examples from people present came flooding in immediately, refuting this lie in the Cuban economy.
Parallel to the constitutional debate, something else happened: the manager of a state-run cafe asked Panfilo earlier in the day to store some products (for renovations so he said) at his home. Then Aguaje, the neighborhood thief, came while the meeting was taking place and stole all of these with a rope from the roof, but he was caught in the end after Panfilo and Chequera had been the initial suspects. This event highlighted the fact that the biggest thieves in Cuba are managers of state-run companies and the importance of “due process” and civil rights when people fall into the Ministry of Interior’s (MININT) hands.
Ruperto acted as Panfilo and Chequera’s defense attorney, demanding that they have legal council from the very beginning, their phone call and that they be considered innocent until proven guilty by a fair trial. Roberto Perdomo, the police detective, had to recognize the fact that they still hadn’t been arrested. Which is difficult to achieve in Cuban reality because there isn’t a Court of Constitutional Guarantees or Ombudman who receives complaints about human rights violations. Cubans can only complain to MININT (the alleged offender).
It was a pleasant and realistic dramatization of a constitutional debate. Panfilo ended up asking for an article to be added that would give us hope that things would get better, that the inconveniences and red tape in Cuba to do anything and everything would finally end. “We have to work for everything: to work, to get to work, to get home from work, to get something done, to eat, etc.” He used this tongue-twister to ask them to promise that we will stop living in an impoverished and dysfunctional system.
And Ruperto asked for them to promise that their suggestions would be taken into account, that they would influence the final draft. Such happening stirs widespread doubt among the citizenry as there is no way of knowing or democratically monitoring whether there will be a serious and fair analysis of our suggestions. There is nothing that forces the Communist Party to include amendments suggested at these neighborhood debates which might go against their absolute power in Cuban society.
Here is the program for our readers who understand Spanish: