HAVANA TIMES, Jan. 16 – The next meeting of the Report-back Assembly in the area of Alamar where Pedro lives was scheduled for November 2009 [the preceding meeting was discussed in Accountability in Cuba and What Reaches Cuba’s People.)
On the day it was to be held, however, the delegate decided to postpone it because representatives of State-run businesses and food service operations in the neighborhood couldn’t be present, as he had been counting on. He had been depending on them to respond to certain issues brought up by people he expected to attend.
Perhaps the delegate thought the only matters that would be raised by residents would be those related to these two industries, though he didn’t really ask anyone; nor did he consult any of the residents about suspending the meeting.
Nevertheless, the next day he told residents he was going to call a special meeting to talk about telephone assignments…finally.
At the end of 2008, the delegate had assured residents that the State was going to begin assigning telephones (though not to all apartments because there weren’t enough phones) and that these would be installed around the first of the year.
When pushed for a specific date, he had said it would be in the first trimester of the year. The first trimester came, and the second, and the third – but no phones. The telephones that were supposed to have been installed and operating by those dates had still not been assigned, nor did anyone know who would be the recipients.
However, when the residents got to the meeting place, they found out that the matter of telephone assignments was not going to be dealt with at all; instead, they were going to have their Report-back Assembly, despite the absence of neighborhood representatives of State-run businesses and food service operations.
As in previous assemblies, those attending sang the refrains of our national anthem, followed by the delegate proceeding to read his report. But in contrast to other meetings, the residents didn’t have any complaint or issues to raise when he finished reading. Maybe all the problems had been solved during the period that had lapsed since the last meeting.
Or perhaps they were more concerned about the assignments of telephones, which constitute items of almost basic necessity. (Since there aren’t enough for everyone who needs one, the assignments are therefore made keeping in mind the merits of the aspirants, their attitude toward the Revolution and their participation in voluntary labor.) But since there was nothing to say, the residents began to disperse and return quietly to their homes… until a hand rose to ask permission to speak. It was —once again— comrade Pedro.
In a section of the delegate’s report regarding building repairs (which had still not been completed), he said he had only recently realized that the buildings in his district were not included in the rehabilitation plan for the present or the following year. Therefore, he said he would have to fight for them to be included – but just as quickly he relapsed into talking about the resource shortages.
Pedro began his comments by saying that the Cuban people are asked for greater effort, understanding and trust, but that authorities were continuing to turn their backs on them and that their problems remained on the back burner, with the excuses being the nation’s lack of resources and the US trade blockade.
He contrasted the situation of the buildings in his district and of housing across the country with investments that continue to be made in the tourism industry; he gave the example of the cays north of Villa Clara Province, where plans continued to be implemented involving outlays of many millions of dollars. These expenditures, he explained, are carried out by Gaviota, a tourism umbrella corporation that operates under the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR).
Pedro continued by noting that the country was carrying out several programs overseas, for example medical and literacy missions. He cited the example —reported on television— of twenty polyclinics donated to Ecuador.
Likewise, he mentioned the production of Bactivec, a substance used outside of Cuba for the eradication of mosquito breeding grounds, to prevent the transmitting of dengue. Bactivec was used only on a couple of occasions in a few Cuban provinces, Pedro remarked. Here, people continue to use a less effective product known as Abate.
The resources that are invested, he stressed, are generated by people through their work and sacrifice, but they are not consulted prior to making these investments, nor are the outcomes reported.
Pedro had also wanted to bring up problems related to the food situation, but he was unable to because the delegate interrupted saying, “You’re not very well informed, you don’t know where the money comes from.”
So Pedro then demanded the delegate to inform him, since that’s the principal problem in the area: people aren’t well enough informed. He admitted that there could be quite logical answers to the questions he had raised, but the fact is that people don’t receive that information and there’s no way to explain any real or apparent contradictions in them.
The solution the delegate found was to accuse him —aggressively— of organizing counterrevolution and carrying out a campaign in support of the enemy. Other residents had to jump in to hold the two back, because it seemed like the delegate was going to attack Pedro and that a fight was about to break out.
Pedro continued by saying, “Let’s talk, let’s discuss the problems.” But the delegate decided to end the Report-back Assembly right then and there, thus interrupting this exercise of government by the people, the same people who elected him, and undermining what is supposed to be the cornerstone of our democracy.