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)

  • Luis, I am forgetting my manners, greetings to you too. Glad you are still around and also Grady I enjoy discussing these issues with you guys. Hoping I can shed some light some day into you! 🙂

    I am normally nowadays on the Spanish side of HavanaTimes because I thought It was better for me to be there to kick start the discussions and braking the ice. I am still really trying hard to understand why you guys take the side of the wealthy in Cuba. Can not get my head around that.

    I really have no problem with people being wealthy. I do have problems with people that ask sacrifices from everyone else except for them. This is the case of the Cuban elite. If they live the life of ordinary Cubans then I could not say those things but it is true they live above everyone else.

  • Luis, why is it that every time we do point the failings of the Cuban system you guys go for the hills to sling mud back into our society.
    Havana Times is about Cuba not about any other country but since you insist on bringing this up.

    The difference between the Raul’s grand doughtier and the average Cuban is abysmal None of the average Cuban could do what she does. Just traveling to New York City with her boyfriend or simply having shoes is a major accomplishment for any Cuban. You do lack the perspective of what I am talking about. Search right here in Havana Times pictures of kids almost naked without shoes in the streets. Now when you compare that to the elite. and yes it can be call an elite because it is an elitist government. A government of people that have isolated themselves and that do not live the life of the average cuban. Tell me please. When was the last time you seen a picture or video of Fidel Castro taking a bus in Havana or Raul? When have you seen them doing any lines for anything? Or suffering the scarcities the normal cubans have to endure?
    But yet we can see in the news that Raul went to Egypt with his grand son at the expense of the Cuban people. How much did that trip cost to the Cuban people? The purpose obviously was recreational because he had no business with the Egyptians.

    I have pointed a lot more than beggars on the street I have written a lot here and we can see failures everywhere. The Cuban system is like a big boat making water and full of holes. Those holes are form because they have been unwilling to listen to problems and solve them. To this date any body that dares to be critical of them is considered a traitor.
    I believe they are the traitors because while they spend lunch eating lobsters the average Cuban have hardly anything to eat.

    Now you guys that are supposed to be leftist and defend the underdog take the side of the actually wealthy in Cuba. Take the site of the elite! What a surprise!
    For ones you should be consistent. If you where true to your left leanings you will take the side of the people, those that are oppressed Of the workers that get pay slavery wages of less than 20 dollars a month.
    Is ironic that I am not left and I am taking the side of those that are poor. The reason is because I was there and know what it is and none of you from your arm chair trying to arrange the world can count with that experience.

  • An excellent comment, Walter. Thanks.

  • Earth to Julio: Come back.

    Fidel did not make the Revolution to get a bunch of goodies for himself and “the elite.” If you think he did, then there’s not much I can do for you.

    My view is that Fidel–together with his cohorts–has done his best to transform the lives of the Cuban people for the better, and has succeeded on a number of fronts, to a remarkable degree. It’s not my fault, or his, that you can’t acknowledge this solid fact.

    His failing has been to buy into the personality cult of Marxism, and think that socialism means making the land and all productive enterprise the property of the state. This was utterly incorrect, as a programmatic experiment, and has led the socialist transformation into a blind alley.

    The anecdote of the one-legged beggar in Yusimi’s article shows in–miniature that state monopoly socialism cannot solve all the problems of society, because it is an unnatural system that tries to bring a central feature of a theoretical future society–absence of private productive property–into the present day, where it cannot possibly work.

    But this seemingly-moronic programmatic mistake is a long way from a grasping dictator who only wants personal wealth and power, as you seem unreasonably to rant.

  • Greetings Julio.

    Long time no see. However, this will not be an all-time greeting stance, as you shall see.

    Apparently, you continue to insist on a false premise that is, shortly speaking, that only in Cuba there’s an ‘elite’. This elite, as you pointed out previously, is capable of wearing Adidas jackets and giving their children trips to New York and Blackberries. Forgive me for the irony, but wow, that’s a very horrendous display of billionaire lust!

    The problem fundamentally resides in a deep lack of perspective, and an uneven judgment of Cuban problems.

    Instead of wondering about the causes of these phenomena, like Carlee did – the rise of the tourist industry, rural exodus, lack of social security resources originated from the general poverty introduced in the so-called ‘Special Period’ – you point out that a bunch of beggars in Havana is a proof of the complete failure of the Cuban Revolution, which was not ‘of the humble, by the humble and for the humble’. Well I ask you to question yourself: is the bailing out of the banks in order to save the financial system leaving millions – I said millions – of homeless people out of the blue from subprime mortgage crisis an opposite act of a government ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’? What about the reasons that led the Occupy movement to be? The 99%? And the violence and silence their government offered to them in response? Is it not a clear indicative that the American Revolution has utterly failed its people? What about the social catastrophe that’s happening in Portugal, Spain, Greece, Ireland…?

    This is a logic that can be summed up like this: ‘if Cuba isn’t perfect, then it’s Hell on Earth’, and everything else can be relativized. And a act of throwing stones when you have a glass roof.

    Social inequity… oh well. Let me only say that when somebody in HT posts a photo like this:

    Then we’ll talk.

    Promises. How many broken promises do we see? Starting with the Nobel-prize marionette that’s Obama. From the ending the War to closing Guantanamo to acting even worse than Bush with his policy of ‘shoot first, ask latter’ with the popularization of drones to combat ‘terrorism’… that’s what I call the rule of the ‘elite’, the military-industrial complex, overriding the supposed people’s power and will.

    Off topic, you affirmed that Cuba was better off with Batista and Fidel is ‘worse than Hitler’ or likewise on another post. This is obviously a product of personal frustration and grievance rather than an objective viewpoint, and I shall not comment any further on these affirmatives.


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