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Veronica Fernandez: I was born in the town of Regla, on the other side of Havana Bay. Over the years, many people from Regla have gone to live in Cojimar, fleeing the contamination from the petroleum refinery in Regla. That's what my family did when I was just four years old. Since I was a little girl I have been drawn to the arts and letters. Poetry and narrative writing are my favorites. I had the good fortune to study philology, a branch of the human sciences dealing with language and literature, at the University of Havana with top notch professors. As a Capricorn, I adore organization, people who are mature, the romantic things in life and the lack of self-interest that is the backbone of these times. I enjoy our typical Cuban food, (white rice, black beans, pork and yucca with garlic sauce) and also Italian food. I also like chocolate and drinking a mojito (rum cocktail) in the historic center of my city.

Will We Ever See the Light?

May 9, 2013 | Print Print |

Veronica Fernandez

HAVANA TIMES — The new vet I’ve hired to care for my dogs came over today. I’d already gotten used to the previous animal doctor, a young man who had finished his training recently, somewhat introverted but very good at his job, to the point of having secured a wide clientele and an excellent reputation around the neighborhood.

Recently, I found out I would not be able to call him anymore because he had left the country. When I heard the news, I felt happy for him, but not for me, for it is difficult to find the right person for certain things in Cuba these days.

Many feel that having a dog in Cuba is a luxury. Others consider it something akin to a need. Yet others think it a kind of hobby, and still others have no interest in dogs whatsoever. I believe that, if I’m going to have dogs, then it is my duty to take good care of them. This is the reason I went in search of a new veterinarian immediately.

The new veterinarian I was able to find is the opposite of my previous one. He is an elderly gentleman, retired from the public health sector, who strikes you as a combination of many things, journalist, policeman, State security agent and dissident among these.

At least, this is the impression he gave me while he interrogated me about many different issues, in a conversation centered on the topic of corruption.

He told me that, thanks to his new occupation, he had been able to remain afloat financially, for no one can make ends meet with the State pension of 225 Cuban pesos a month he was receiving. This isn’t news for anyone, I said to him, adding that no one can even make ends meet with the salary one earns before retiring.

The fellow, now over 60, expressed his surprise at the corruption that has spread across the country at all levels, giving me examples involving himself and his son.

He told me that, six months ago, a cat had bitten his hand and he had gone to the emergency room at the Naval Hospital (located to the east of the Havana Bay area), where he was treated and sent home.

In the early hours of the morning, unable to sleep because of the intense pain in his hand, he had to return to the hospital. There, he run into the same doctor and told him he had had to come back because the pain in his hand would not let him sleep. The reply he’d gotten was that the person being kept up by the pain was he, the doctor.

He also spoke of his son, who owns a small restaurant and gets State inspectors off his back through “gifts”. As is often the case, he had many more stories in stock for me, stories that could have kept him going the entire afternoon.

Nothing of what he said seemed strange to me. That is the way Cuban society works these days, and changing this panorama is going to be extremely difficult, considering the urgent needs people face today.

Talking about these problems has become something as common as drinking a glass of water. But, no matter how much talk we hear about restoring social values, or implementing a new economic and social model in Cuba, plain, daily life makes me think we are light years away from seeing the light.


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    Last night, my wife and I watched a CNN report on TV on the dismal working conditions in Bangladesh where the textile workers earn an average of $50 per month. Bangladesh is in the news because of the recent tragic building collapse. The debate is about who is responsible, the government for not enforcing building regulations or the owner of the building for not making the repairs. My wife pointed out how buildings fall down all the time in Havana and the workers earn far less than $50 per month and it never makes the news. If the world really knew how bad things are in Cuba, more pressure would be put on the Castros to raise wages which would begin to reduce corruption. Havana Times should be commended for talking about what needs to be talked about. Cubans outside of Cuba are no more corrupt than any other people and, in fact, tend to lead in most economic indicators. So why is corruption so bad in Cuba? Easy one: the Castros. Getting rid of the Castros along with raising wages so that an honest person can earn a living wage would bring “the light” not seen in Cuba today.

    • Grady Ross Daugherty

      Once again, Moses, you focus on personalities (the Castros), and not on the real issue (Marxist state monopoly socialism, or something better). And so, although your exposition is well reasoned and well said, you bring it all back to demonizing individual leaders.

      Perhaps this all of which you are capable, which might indicate that you cannot think constructively about social systems, and languish in an individualistic intellectual world of good guys and bad.

      I’m beginning to wonder however if you might be correct on one point. If the old PCC leaders cannot come out of their wooden-headed stupor, their time warp faith in the state monopoly formula for socialism–injected into the movement by Marx and Engels–then perhaps “the light” may have to wait until a new, younger, socialist leadership comes into power.

      I personally can hardly imagine living in a constipated, bureaucratic system in which even decent public restrooms cannot be provided, a self-righteous political party tries to administer everything, and a half-century has to go by before it is evident that they did not know how to conduct socialist construction, in the first place.

      The alternate surely is not monopoly-capitalism, but it most certainly is something different.

  • Grady Ross Daugherty

    Moses, the Castro brother will ultimately go out of power and out of this world due to age and/or natural demise. But this would not, by itself, be a change of substance.

    If the state monopoly mindset of today’s PCC is continued by whoever then heads the gov’t, the same self-defeating economic constipation will continue, albeit with a younger helmsman.

    It is not “the Castros” that is the problem in Cuba. The Castro brothers might finally listen to the cooperative republican socialist movement, re-institute private property rights, and turn things around completely. Stranger things have happened.

    This is not likely to however, because Marxism is not LIKE a religion; it IS a religion.

    The traditional leaders of the Cuban socialist revolution will never be able to think clearly and differently as long as they are victims of the Marxist cult. It is becoming more and more apparent that their warped cult is more powerful than their ability to reason.

    • principiante

      Mr Daugherty, though I agree that emphasis should be made on the structural problem of totalitarian pseudo-socialism, I believe you are greatly underestimating the subjective power of the Castro myth for Cubans. Their demise will indeed be of huge significance. And I don’t believe they are guided so much by what you call Marxist cult than by their incapability to renounce to power and control, seeing themselves as Kings or Messiahs while The People is this mass of immature and faceless children. If they really wanted to protect CUba from the tsunami of the worst strand of capitalism that will fall upon it, they would have begun to introduce gradual changes earlier, now, it is already too late, I am afraid.