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Cuba in the Name of Deception

Cuba in the Name of Deception
May 10, 2016
By Maykel Paneque

HAVANA TIMES —I don’t recall when I began to distrust the Cuban
government. It may have been a Saturday near the end of the 90s, during
a hot month like August, when I first heard about a series of forced
labor camps that existed in Cuba, known as the UMAP.

At that age, misinformed by the press here (or lack thereof), I had
believed those infernos had existed only in Nazi Germany or Stalin’s
Russia, that they were unthinkable on an island that had undertaken a
socialist revolution to dignify the people.

I do however recall when I lost all confidence in and respect for the
policies traced by the government. After a long wait, some ten years
ago, this government finally raised worker salaries. I can still recall
the faces of many, satisfied they’d be earning 20 or 30 extra pesos, as
if it was yesterday – as though such a raise represented any significant
change in their real purchasing power.

The following month, some subsidized products offered through the ration
booklet would go up in price. When you think about it, the raise was
actually a way of leaving the salary as it was, as those 20 or 30 pesos
had to be spent in products that cost less before. It was a master move
by the Cuban government, if you wish, but it is nonetheless deceitful.

Now, after Obama’s visit, those who took part in the 7th Congress of the
Cuban Communist Party say they discovered that Cubans need salaries that
afford them purchasing power. How many decades did we have to wait for
this realization? What money did the previous Congress participants and
the Cuban government think workers had to buy things with? Have these
“deep-thinking” leaders only now come to the realization that wages
aren’t enough (and haven’t been so for nearly 30 years) even to buy rice
and beans for a month? How do they think we average Cubans have managed
to get by for so long, if not through corruption and the “crime” of
roughing it to put food on the table?

One of the agreements reached during the 7th Congress was lowering the
price of some products by 20%. So that we have a true sense of the
magnitude of this “benefit,” suffice it to note that a 10 kg box of
chicken cuts costs 17 Cuban Convertible Pesos, the equivalent of 425
Cuban pesos, a sum well above the full monthly wages of 90% of workers
(which is around 365 pesos). If that worker wanted to eat chicken the
entire month, he would not have enough to buy it with, not to mention
the fact that he’d have to eat that chicken raw and without any kind of
seasoning.

It’s hard to persuade a country’s citizens with hypocrisy, speeches that
are out of touch with reality and hackneyed slogans. Saying that the
revolution continues is one thing, defending it with conviction and
faith is quite another. Disingenuousness and double standards have
doubled Cuba’s population from 12 to 24 million, as can be easily
demonstrated any May 1st.

I recall a saying that captures our ability to adapt to a country where
the government believes it is smarter than the average fellow: “the
State pretends to pay us and we pretend to work.” It’s hard to believe
this popular saying, which I’ve been hearing for centuries, never
reached the ears of those “chosen” to take part in the Party Congress
and the country’s leaders. To believe that the Cuban people live in a
bubble, as they did in the 80s, is to be far too naïve. Pretending and
being loyal are two very different things.

I’ve forgotten when I came to suspect that living is more than having
the guarantee of an education and free healthcare. “It’s free education
and medical attention that they will charge you for life, offering you a
salary that won’t buy enough food for the month,” a friend of mine said
to me yesterday. She’s quite right. Living is fulfilling one’s dreams
and leaving the world a better place than we found it. Living is more
than breathing. It is also believing in the future of a country, not
leaving it. Living should never be associated to monotony,
disenchantment and frustration.

Like so many other Cubans (myself included), my friend went to work in
Venezuela. She is very upset and unhappy, and with good reason. It’s
been a year and a half and she still hasn’t been paid for November and
December of 2015. In Venezuela, our superiors told us the money had
already been deposited by the Oro Negro Foundation, that we’d find it in
our accounts when we got back.

The new version of events they’re peddling now is that the Venezuelan
government did not deposit the money and that our own government, in an
act of “altruism” (as though our wages were a gift) would take care of
it, though we don’t know when that could be. My friend dreams of the day
when they’ll announce the payment. I would love to see that day, but
I’ve lost faith. “It’s not enough the government scams us, it even gets
offended when you remind it of this. But I still have hope,” my friend says.

Part of life is not losing hope, and also breaking the silence about
injustice and cheating. It’s true many get away with murder, and this
includes the Cuban government. Some of us are irritated by its
unreliability and the long terms it announces such that its lies can one
day become truth. I tell my friend she should not lose hope, as scams
also have a lifespan, as do the villains who hide behind them. The lot
of many of us is to stick around to express repugnance and deception.
That doesn’t make us heroes, of course, only citizens.

Source: Cuba in the Name of Deception – Havana Times.org –
www.havanatimes.org/?p=118650

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