Cuba: “Conscious” Participation and the Price of Our Rights

Rogelio M. Diaz Moreno

may-day1HAVANA TIMES — One of the political announcements broadcast by Cuban television in recent days deserves a place among the classics. As you’ll recall, the 7th Congress of the Cuban Communist Party ended a few days ago and May 1st is right on our doorsteps.

In the announcement in question, an impassioned voice calls on the Cuban people to take part in the May Day parade in a show of involvement and “conscious” support for the government and its leaders. The voice seems to forget one detail. The topics discussed during the congress came into being in the strictest secrecy and it was only after heated protests that the leadership has agreed to divulge these and to hold an open debate, at a yet undefined future date.

All the while, our reform or “updating” process continues to follow its peculiar logic. This past Friday, April 22, the Cuban government announced it would lift restrictions barring Cubans living on the island from boarding a sea vessel, to enter or leave the country. If we think of the glass as half full, this is positive, as it involves the acknowledgment of this right. But just look at how things actually went down.

During the negotiations between our government and the magnates on the other shore, they agreed to set up cruise lines. From what I read, the company Carnival got its permits and began to sell reservations. But Cuban-born US citizens began to kick up a fuss. It seems they weren’t being sold any tickets because of the prohibitions imposed by the Cuban government. Without romanticizing things, I would say that, there, people know a thing or two about demanding rights and opposing discrimination and they make companies that “play dumb” pay dearly for this. Carnival had no choice but to issue an ultimatum: “Either you let us sell to whoever we want, or there’ll be no cruises.” A few hours later, the Cuban media announced the “updating” of the migratory norm and the end of the restrictions.

Again, I am happy they finally acknowledged one of our rights. As a right, it is inalienable, even though they can make it impossible for you to exercise it. On the other hand, I am saddened by how long it took, and how this reveals how helpless Cuban citizens are before authority, as well as how, in order to get such rights acknowledged, something has to hurt the pockets of a US company. Perhaps we should talk to General Motors so it will pressure Havana into granting other rights we lack.

Lastly, I would like to share a number of other things that crossed my mind. Last night, I saw part of one of the debates they broadcast (“debate” is something of an exaggeration) during the Party Congress. They spoke of the updating of the program approved during the last congress in 2011, known as the “Guidelines.” What caught my eye was one delegate who also turned out to be a representative of the Amancio Rodriguez municipality in Las Tunas. In his district, they’ve been facing critical water shortages for a long time.

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The delegate was hoping he could help alleviate this situation. Accordingly, he was suggesting that the guideline which established that the State was responsible for “guaranteeing” that the population had a water supply be enriched with the word “systematically.” Far be it from me to question the wisdom of that representative, who is probably highly respected, but I couldn’t help recall what a Martian friend of mine told me.

As it turns out, my Martian friend lives in a canal where there’s very little water, particularly because the pump that services it is broken. Their central government can’t take care of it but promised to include the repairs in the Year X budget (our equivalent would be 2030). Faced with such a long wait, the Martians living in this canal decided to save the money on their own, collecting 5 Martian pesos from each greenling. Those who couldn’t afford 5 pesos pitched in 4, or 3, or made lemonade for those who did the fundraising, or went out and danced the cha cha cha, a very popular dance in the land of the flying saucers. With the money collected, they went out and found someone who fixed the pump or got them a new one.

They even managed to get their government to discount the donated money from the taxes applied on each at year’s end. And they’ve got water.

Then again, as everyone on Earth knows, people on Mars are quite ignorant. They are incapable of coming up with good guidelines and have no interest in parading as a conscious display of support for government plans they haven’t even read.


One thought on “Cuba: “Conscious” Participation and the Price of Our Rights

  • Our city has so much water that it flows down the streets from the leaks.

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