Vicente Morin Aguado
HAVANA TIMES— The official newspaper of the Provincial Committee of the Cuban Communist Party in Holguin (“Ahora”) has published an extensive report, titled La verdad del martes (“The Truth About Tuesday”), aimed at clarifying the events of January 21, at La Central square, where self-employed workers organized a protest in front of the local government house and were allegedly repressed by authorities.
The report is significant, for the customary procedure in Cuba is just the opposite: replying with silence. Reporter Lourdes Pichs Rodriguez offers us a glimpse at the government’s take of the event when she remarks: “How is it possible that a rally organized by some 40 people should be more talked about on the Internet than a scientific discovery or political event of world significance? The answer is easy: it happened in Cuba.”
The report is aimed at establishing that the authorities acted accordingly and at minimizing the magnitude of the protest. Below is a summary of the article.
– Less than 50 people rallied. The protest resulted in disorderly conduct. There was no police repression (says the journalist) and 22 of the protesters were seen by government officials, who took note of their concerns.
– The protesters hold individual licenses under the category of “fashion designer or tailor” and “Seller/producer of assorted articles for the home.”
– The government – not only in Holguin, to be clear – had told these self-employed vendors that, as of the close of 2013, they would no longer be authorized to sell imported products or resell those purchased in Cuban stores.
– In Holguin, whose population and economic significance make it Cuba’s third most important city, offenders were fined 700 pesos for each infraction. Their products were also confiscated and many of their licenses were taken away. The fine applied is well above the average Cuban salary.
The journalist repeats that “lies have short legs.” Let’s tell it like it is, then.
The protesters were selling clothing, footwear and other industrially manufactured products, most of which had been purchased abroad at prices lower than those of similar products sold at Cuba’s monopolistic branch of State stores. In terms of taste and fashion, these sellers were also way ahead of the State.
In particularly unfavorable conditions, the self-employed challenged and began to beat the State’s retail system at its game.
It is true they had no import licenses, nor could they have ever secured them in a country still beset by all kinds of restrictions. They merely found a way to compete with a State that does have every option available to it in terms of importing and selling products.
The report published by Ahora quotes Nidia Castellanos Santana, the secretary of the local union to which the self-employed are afiliated: “The events of Tuesday were blown out of proportion. The laws must be respected.”
One of the many who are not pleased with developments, Yudimir Delgado Gonzalez, who holds a Law degree and chose to leave the judicial scene to sell clothing and other such products, remarks that “forbidding us to sell products purchased from State stores is inconsistent, for the government authorizes the sale of cigarettes, soft drinks and beer (bought from the State) at private restaurants. We do not have a wholesale supplier of raw materials or products we can turn to.”
Another protester, Jorge Rodriguez Abreu, commented: “I took part in the rally because of the insolent way one of the police officers treated a friend. I was actually in no mood to protest or rally against the government.”
The law must be complied with in any civilized part of the world.
The right to peacefully protest laws that are considered unjust exists in any civilized place around the world.
The police are not the ones to judge the actions of those who oppose a government decision.
This was not a personal matter. It is a collective issue that has serious repercussions for the rest of the country.
In any event, I commend the newspaper for publishing the report, because, at least, it acknowledges the event, offers opinions and informs us about a reality unique to our country. As Pichs stated at the beginning of the article, it’s about Cuba and, as such, it’s news.
Vicente Morín Aguado: firstname.lastname@example.org