Yusimi Rodriguez

Cubans pay for both calling and receiving calls on a cell phone. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, April 11 – Carlos always tries to participate in the meetings of his CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution) and in the Report-back Assemblies of his community delegate (representative to the city council). He feels these are the appropriate places for raising the problems he suffers as a citizen of this country, as opposed to making simple comments to kill time at a bus stop.

For him, these meetings constitute such important forums that he writes out all the points he plans to make, and he does this well in advance. In the last report-back assembly, Carlos began by posing the following question: “When will Cubans recover their dignity with regard to the freedoms and advantages foreigners enjoy in our country?”

Since the delegate didn’t understand what was meant by the question, Carlos decided to be more explicit: “There are facilities that tourists can use but Cubans can’t. For example, a group of tourists could board a diving ship, but when their tour guide tried to do same thing, the ship’s employees stopped him and told him Cubans aren’t admitted.  The guide used the argument that he was the group’s guide, but he still wasn’t allowed on board. Carlos then referred to how it’s impossible for Cubans to buy houses, cars, stay in hotels…”

At this point in the story (he was telling me what had happened in the assembly), I was forced to interrupt because obviously his information wasn’t up to date. “Cubans were given permission to buy cars and stay in hotels two years ago,” I told him.  (Now that I think about it, the word “permission” gives the impression that Cubans are like little children whose daddy [the State] had just benevolently allowed them to do these things or had rewarded them for behaving so well.)

“Oh yeah?” Carlos questioned, “And who are these Cubans who can buy cars or stay in hotels?  You? Me? A doctor?  Do you know how many employees in TRDs (hard-currency stores) have lost their jobs and even their Party membership cards —if they were members— for staying in a hotel and not being able to identify the source of the money used.  On top of that, they’re accused of being “ostentatious.”

The interesting thing is that this is done after the person has spent the money for the lodging.  It wasn’t like that before when they didn’t have permission.” I sat there silenced, of course, and he continued telling me about the meeting.  He had also brought up the issue of the quality of products sold to people in hard currency stores.  “For example, the juices and sodas: none of them have the flavor stated on the container.  Then you have a lot of soaps that make it to the consumers with pieces of plastic inside.  And the best part is that the prices keep changing – always increasing, never going down.”

Cuban neighborhood scene. Photo: Caridad

Carlos also criticized the inefficiency of the Police in combating delinquency, as well as its slackness in responding to calls when a crime occurs.  “They never come, and I’m absolute when I say that.  When you ask for the name of the dispatcher who’s attending to you and the number of the patrol car they’re going to send, they realize they’re not talking to some illiterate.

They’ll give you the information, but in the end no one ever shows up. Now, if you’re selling peanuts or popcorn to earn a living, or lugging around a sack of cement, a police officer will appear in a moment’s notice – along with the ordinance being violated.”

In terms of cell phones, Carlos accepted the fact that they’re sold in hard currency, the same as the phone line.  He knows that this type of communication depends on satellites, which are expensive.  “But the problem is that on top of them charging for these in hard currency, the line only lasts two months if you don’t put in more funds, when it should last at least three,” he said.

“In many homes, a cell phone is not a luxury but the sole telephone that exists, because getting a telephone here is a nightmare.  People own cell phones so they can see who’s calling them and at what number. Then they go running to return the call from a neighbor’s house or a public phone. That’s because if they take the call on the cell phone they, as well as the caller get charged.”

I’m sure you’re wondering what the reaction was of the rest of the people at the meeting, since Carlos wasn’t the only one there of course.  People nodded their heads in agreement and listened to the comments he made – but no one else spoke.

You’re also probably wondering what response was made to those grievances by the delegate – who is elected by the people and required to report back through these meetings on the actions they’ve taken, address concerns and to look for solutions to the community’s problems.

The delegate reminded Carlos that neither he nor anyone else had been forced to buy a cell phone. (Personally I believe that many people wouldn’t buy them if it wasn’t so difficult to get a normal phone). Concerning the rest of the problems, the delegate said these were things that shouldn’t have been raised at that meeting because they were outside his purview.

Carlos reminded him that people had in fact selected him to search for solutions to their problems and to respond to their concerns, appealing to higher authorities if necessary.  The response to the complaints was left pending, but they didn’t have long to wait: Comrades from the municipal headquarters of the Communist Party went to investigate Carlos on his job and at his neighborhood CDR.

The information they received was that he fulfilled his work responsibilities and was an active and committed member of the CDR. Carlos was undaunted by these probes.  In fact, he’s already written up his points for the next meeting, where he will include the fact that tour buses return to Havana empty from destinations where they drop off tourists, given that it’s forbidden to pick up nationals on the highway trying to get to the capital.


4 thoughts on “When Will Cubans Recover Their Dignity?

  • AND I REPEAT

    1..DIGNITY WILL RETURN WHEN THE IMPERIALIST AMERIKKKNS TAKE THIER FOOT OUT OF OUR COUNTRY AND GIVE US OUR RIGHTS BACK TO LIVE AS WE ARE ORDAINED BY GOD…REMOVING THE EMBARGO WITHOUT STRINGS?

    2..OUR. DIGNITY .WILL OME BACK WHEN OUR” YOUTH/PEOPLE DECIDE ITS TIME FOR TRANSFORMATION VS CHANGE..

    3 AND OUR DIGNITY WILL RETURN WHEN CUBANS..NOT ANYONE ELSE DECIDE THAT FREEDOM IS WORTH THE STRUGGLE ..AND THE DIALOUGE

    4..DIGNITY WILL RETURN WHEN THE CASTRO ADM CEASES AND DESISTS TALKNG AT OUR PEOPLE VS WITH THEM..

    5 WHAT WILL NOT RETIRN DIGNITY TO OUR PEOPLE IS OUTSIDE INTERFERANCE..IF IT IS TO BE IT IS UP TO WE

  • One of the biggest mistakes of the Revolution was to allow “two-tiered” anything. Allowing imperialist tourism into Cuba was a grievous error — but you people were literally starving at that point. Thanks a lot, stalinist bloc for selling out a century+ of Worldwide class-struggle.

    Whatever you people do — GET RID OF SPECIAL PRIVILEGES EVERYWHERE. It’s not only not socialist — it is the absolute corrosive that *will* destroy the socialist dream. Your best bet at this point: pool your resources in the ALBA confederation with Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, etc. And the strict, democratic enforcement of real equality *is* the real basis for real socialism. This CANNOT be done by a privileged, unaccountable bureaucracy, however ‘enlightened’ they may be. Which too many of them aren’t, obviously.

  • The “return of dignity” referred to wud require significant reform of the present Marxian concept of “real” socialism.

    The core Marxian concept is legal ownership of “all” the instruments of production by the state. Full state ownership has destroyed every revolution that has tried to build socialism in accordance w/ it.

    What is needed in Cuba is for a pro-socialist movement to arise–either within the ruling party or within society at large–w/ a clear, concise, step-by-step program of fundamental, pro-socialism reform.

    This program–if it is not to advocate a path back to capitalism by a Chinese or Soviet route–wud re-institute legal private property rights & the free trading market.

    Yet, the private property share of most significant enterprise wud be held by employees thru cooperative structures on the Mondragon model. The state wud hold significant partial ownership. Small entrepreneurs wud be encouraged. The market wud be led by a National Plan.

  • The real problem is that this delegate in Cuba has no power to solve any of this problems.
    Even if he raise them up at a delegate meeting because problems get solve when those at the top want them to get solve. The priorities to solve problems are set at the top. Is undemocratic.

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