Cuba: This Government Cares for Its People (Part II)

Yusimi Rodriguez

HAVANA TIMES — On Sunday morning (February 3), while the elections were being conducted in my country, almost a month after posting my article “This Government Cares for Its People,” I was walking down Obispo Street in Old Havana with two friends.

That was when I saw a policeman helping out a man who was missing a leg. He was helping him get back into his wheelchair, which he seemed to have fallen from, and also gave him the crutch he had dropped.

That was my first impression, or what I believed at first glance. One minute was enough for me to realize that this man — with his frail and rickety body — was struggling to free himself from the strong young police officer. It was a pathetic sight.

The man was like a rag doll against this officer, so helpless, when he started vomiting insults at the government.

The police officer then called for a squad car on his walkie-talkie for them to come and pick up this citizen, whose lack of respect was getting on my his nerves. We were all glad that he didn’t hit the man, though the officer needed to do something to calm him down. It was shameful to see that handicapped man in the wheelchair, helpless before the power, without being able to do anything.

I don’t have any photos of the incident because I didn’t have my camera with me, but even if I had, I don’t think I’d ever point it at a policeman.

My friends and I wondered what this frail man could have done, with his one weak leg and his worn out clothes almost hanging from his body. What could he have done to make it necessary for him to be taken down to the station?

If they were to take in every nut who shouted slogans against the government, in the street or on the bus, there wouldn’t be room in the prisons.

What’s more, the man only began insulting the government when the police officer began moving him, without him being able to avoid it.

I’ve seen him on the same street before, in his wheelchair, silent. Maybe they went after him for something he didn’t deserve. His appearance gives one plenty to talk about, but what harm could this poor guy have done?

This shows the not so pretty face of Cuban life, without makeup. Behind the posters announcing “we’re happy here,” and despite the triumphant slogans, and regardless of the elections in which the vast majority of people participate (they have no choice but to give their support to the revolution, otherwise they’ll single themselves out), there are Cubans who can’t buy virtually anything with their miserable wages. They have no choice but to beg.

As I walked away with my friends, I remembered the interview with Rosa Esther and her certainty in telling me that this government cares for its people, her appreciation because Havana City Historian Eusebio Leal told her she didn’t have to pay taxes for being photographed.

What’s the difference between Rosa Esther and this gentleman who’s missing a leg? Is it necessary for him to lose both of them to live peacefully off of what people give him?

Or is it that the difference is that Rosa Esther wears attractive clothes, speaks well of the government and is proud of her last name (Castro), while this man does nothing to hide his poverty, and if they screw with him he’ll blame the government?

I don’t know if there’s any country without beggars, without people who are disabled from war or since birth. But here, the party line says no one in Cuba need’s to beg. Instead, reality must adapt to that discourse.

But all of this made me angry over my own impotence and having to speculate. Nothing assured me that they had taken in this man for begging, until Wednesday, when I came back to Obispo Street and again saw the man in his wheelchair. He was being pushed by a friend who didn’t want to be photographed.

I think he was wearing the same clothes as on Election Day. I noticed he had difficulty speaking. His friend told me he had been prohibited from begging, which is why he had been picked up that Sunday. But there he was again, in his chair, still in the struggle.


15 thoughts on “Cuba: This Government Cares for Its People (Part II)

  • Blindness is echoed in every word you write, I’m afraid. And it seems to be getting worse. You used to point out the negative effects of the US policies – especially the embargo – upon Cuba. Not anymore.

    No coherent person says ‘Viva Cuba’ and ‘Go USA’ at the same time. It’s offensive to anybody who knows just a little bit about Latin American History in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Monroe Doctrine and the Big Stick.

  • Zihuarob, I agree, it is normal for us human to fail and retry. It is ok to recognized failure. One most not be measure not for the many times one falls but for the times that get up.

    That is where the main problem is with the Cuba government. It does not like to be pointed where is wrong. I think it all comes from Fidel Castro’s ego. He can not tolerate someone correcting him. I do think and I have express my opinion here before that the embargo is counter productive. I think Cuba need contact with the outside world.

    I disagree that the USA is responsible for the failings of the Cuban system. If they USA was not there then they will try to shift the blame into someone else but themselves. They seem unable to recognize the mistakes they make and therefore are unfit to govern. Someone that can not see problems and does not allow people to point them out will get overrun by them. That is why youth in Cuba do not see their future in Cuba. Any government that provokes such desired should not govern any nation.

    I believe the great potential for Cuba will only be unleash with freedom. When everyone can pursue their dreams.

    Viva, Cuba, Mexico y Estados Unidos!

  • Julio, while I think there are certainly many failings to the Cuban Revolution, there are also many failings to the revolutions in Mexico and the USA and certainly many more. Poverty or police cruelty exists in all our countries. Cuba has had the additional hardship of the criminal US embargo added to its Revolution. And yes, a privileged class has sprung up out of the party. I know of know political system in the world where the families of the “public servants” aren’t served an extra portion of the nation’s wealth.

    Cuba has incredible potential thanks to its Revolution, but its psyche has been damaged by fear of retaliation for wanting more than the Revolution has so far been able to offer the Cuban people, and of course that has manifested itself in a belief that escaping to the USA is a goal worth pursuing in life for many Cubans, including the missing dancers of the dance troupe. I agree that the confiscation of private property was a huge mistake, but I understand the need to redistribute the wealth, though I believe the Revolution carried this to an unworkable and unecessary extreme. There should be limits on how much wealth is enjoyed by a few. A society should sink or swim together, and you are right that Raúl, his family and the political elite should not be allowed to live as jet-setters.

    Change will come soon to Cuba and the incredibly creative, hard working and well educated people will find a much more acceptable way to govern themselves and manage their economy, I have no doubt about that. I only hope enough Cubans remain in Cuba to realize and enjoy that change.

    ¡Viva Cuba! ¡Viva México!

  • Grady there is no silver bullet. Your cooperative will translate the problem into new problems but the original problem will still be there in some form. That’s exactly what happen with the Marxist socialism

  • One last blurb to you on this subject. I think our hearts are on the same side, but your brain hit snag and got stranded on the monopoly capitalist shore.

    The problem in Cuba is the same as the problem in each country, that the instruments of production are not owned directly by those who do the work. In both Cuba and the US what is needed is a socialist cooperative republic.

    Finally, for someone like you to believe that he might bring light to someone like Luis or me is arrogant, blind and silly–but best wishes.

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