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Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

Cuban Activist Losses His Optometrist Job

October 25, 2013 | Print Print |

Isbel Diaz Torres

Jimmy Roque with a patient.

HAVANA TIMES — As I predicted, my partner Jimmy Roque, member of the Observatorio Critico Network, ultimately lost his job because of his political ideas. The management of the 27 de Noviembre Polyclinic, where he worked, came up with a strategy to get rid of him.

The first measure was the arbitrary decision that he was not an “optimal” employee, with which they managed to dismiss him from his position as optometrist (a position that has been filled by another polyclinic employee, with the pretext that this employee must “receive training in a number of technical areas”).

Jimmy’s education, technical knowledge and professional skills are superior to those of his replacement, something the specialists and patients at the polyclinic can attest to.

The decision to remove Jimmy from his post makes no explicit mention of any infraction whatsoever. Nor does it present the evidence reviewed to establish and confirm the alleged incidents that led to the decision.

All of Jimmy’s employee assessments before his dismissal had been satisfactory and neither the polyclinic’s management nor his immediate superior had ever questioned his professional integrity or “suitability” for the job.

Some days later, the management took a “disciplinary measure” and penalized Jimmy with a public reprimand for two alleged absences and four late arrivals. I say “alleged” because Jimmy had only been absent from work once, and with the authorization of his superiors.

On theaverage, Jimmy was late an average of 1.7 minutes on the late arrivals in question, something which in no way affected the ophthalmology services at the polyclinic, as there is only one piece of equipment in use and there are other technicians available to see the patients. What’s more, no complaints were ever received in this connection.

The management’s ill intentions are clear in the text of the decision, which claims, in an exaggerated manner, that Jimmy maintained an “undisciplined conduct” and a “poor attitude towards work”, claims that cannot be supported by any rational argument and which are not substantiated with any evidence.

Finally, on September 26, the polyclinic’s management referred Jimmy to “the review of the Marianao Municipal Health Department,” that is to say, fired him, achieving their initial objective.

Optometrist Jimmy Roque also worked with patients with dissabilities.

Weeks earlier a direct intervention at Jimmy’s workplace by the Observatorio Critico Network frustrated attempts at dismissing him explicitly for political reasons. That is the reason the clinic’s Party Secretary Berardo Duque, the director of the polyclinic Xiomara Iglesias and the Vice-Director Zunilda Crespo, came up with a strategy that managed to get this inconvenient employee fired in less than a month.

To date, Jimmy has been unable to appeal this decision before any Local Labor Court, in violation of the principle which establishes that these types of cases must be reviewed immediately. The reason is that not one such court was in operation for the health sector in Marianao – showing how vulnerable healthcare employees are there.

The officials from the Municipal Labor Office are now trying to have Jimmy present his appeal to the at his former workplace, chaired by none other than Mr. Berardo Duque, the main instigator and champion of the unjust measures taken against him.

Jimmy will be submitting a complaint to the Council of State, the Ministries of Labor and Public Health, the newspaper Trabajadores, the National Workers’ Union, the Provincial Health Department, the Attorney General’s Office, the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), the Municipal Government and the Municipal Labor Office.

These institutions may not be able to right this wrong (as is commonly the case), but, in the future, when they are asked to account for their complicity with the unjust measure, they will not be able to claim ignorance of the facts.

The use of administrative measures to respond to critical political positions has been one of the common strategies used by Cuba’s authoritarian bureaucracy. These illegitimate practices, which are in violation of Cuba’s Labor Code and Constitution, are yet another demonstration of their impoverished political fiber.

Jimmy suffered all of this two years ago, when he was fired from the hospital where he worked for the same reasons. Despite this, he has not renounced his critical posture or to his libertarian socialist ideas. The political police are going to have to come up with a different strategy.


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    Sad story. This is the “internal blockade” that Cubans decry. Why are Castro socialists so thin-skinned that a little sideways criticism merits this kind of retribution?

  • emagicmtman

    Looks like the authorities have no “insight” into the effects (not to metion the affects) of their decision. Their policies are reather “myopic,” especially since Jimmy Roque seems to be extremely competent and compassionate person.
    The authorities continued to allow Oswaldo Paya repair medical imaging devices, since he had the skill and dedication to his profession, so why not allow your partner to continue in his job, too?!

  • CUBAQUS

    Another example of how the Cuban regime is totalitarian in nature.
    As in its Stalinist example the state aims to control all aspects of life: education, housing, work, access to food, …
    The economic crisis and the rise of the independent workers has decreased its control only marginally as there independents depend on being licensed by the state.

  • Elizabeth Faraone

    I abhor the idea that an employer (be it a “communist” government or an individual or corporation in a capitalist country) establishes rules that forbid lateness and absence – it truly goes against nature and kindness. But that’s not the point here, I know … I know. When rules exist like this, it sets up a system that begs for someone to further harm their fellow man. I wish Cuba would grow up. They’re way ahead of others countries by providing medical care and food to all of it’s citizens. It’s time for them to make big leaps forward and clean out out the cobwebs of bad behavior.