Taking my second trip to Cuba, I was quite amazed to realize how easily one could classify most Cubans into three categories of people who disagree with the still surviving Communist regime. It became clear to me that the problem of the Cuban communism goes beyond the violation of political prisoners’ human rights, regardless of the fact that this is exactly the kind of impression the Cuban president Raúl Castro is trying to put forward on the outside.
The first group consists of ordinary people who are not in favor of the political system since the system is not able to guarantee them with a satisfactory quality of life. Earlier in November 2010, the Cuban government ended up laying off half of a million of state workers, a number which, according to the prestigious British weekly The Economist , over the next two or three years, is yet to increase by another million of Cubans. And this is happening in a country where the Cuban revolutionary constitution guarantees all citizens the right to work and where people were previously promised to be able to use telephones and the public transport free of charge.
The people who their lost jobs get by thanks to an intricate network of family relations, the black market, subsidized housing (which is in a state of disarray), and modest social benefits which, similarly to job positions, are supposed to undergo major cuts in the future. With no social benefits, the jobless will then take to the streets in protests and the Communist regime will have no shame depicting them as the “the unemployed class” claiming that the other, ordinary, Cubans have to carry the burden of sustaining them, a reason why the country is not doing well. The government will then call on citizens to protect their “hard-won accomplishments” from social upheavals. The Cuban society will be divided between the ones with jobs and the ones without them, “the others”. The ones with jobs will unite around the government that will guarantee them their humble securities, which will enable the regime, on behalf of these citizens and together with the army, to consolidate its’ power. Cuban soldiers will be thankful for their jobs and privileges. After all, Raúl Castro has been nominating well-proven army officers to top managerial positions in state companies already, drawing upon his time when he was the head of the ministry of defense. Consequently, the legitimacy of the regime, based on suppression of social upheavals, will be used to justify a nomination of the Castro brothers’ successor and the preservation of the system as a whole.
The second group is made up of people who made “personal” enemies and were subsequently punished. The dictatorship tends to be the most brutal on the lowest possible level, where the browbeating of every small neighborhood is essential to maintaining the whole political system. I was told a hard-to-believe story of a police officer who started meeting up romantically with a married woman. They both tried to work out a plan of how to get rid of her husband. They came up with a concept of “the assassination on the phone”. In short, while talking on their land line, the woman spoke about her husband’s anti-regime stands. Her husband was then arrested by the police officer. The man ended up in prison for spreading “the enemy propaganda” and the police man was free to move in with the woman.
Nevertheless, the worst conditions I witnessed in the psychiatric hospital Mazorra and other institutions for the mentally handicapped where, in addition to the hospitals lacking state funds, the patients live through cold, hunger and cold water and the torture of electrical shocks. The only thing that the miserable patients did against the regime, was simply to be born handicapped, and as being such they were not entitled, in the Cuban system of “shared properties”, to any other place.
The third group is made up of adamant dissidents who stand with determination against the regime, a fact that requires both physical and mainly mental courage. Every encounter with them was an incredibly powerful experience for me. It is in the Cuban government’s interest to make sure that opposition activists live in extremely poor living conditions and the rest of the society look at them, at the back of their minds, with pity rather than respect and admiration. People unfortunately tend to pay less attention to somebody who is always hungry and lives in a run-down shack. Many of the activists get arrested and imprisoned for what they are doing. And on top of this, most are forced to deal with the conditions in Cuban prisons that are appalling. Earlier this year when renowned dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo went on strike exactly because of the conditions of these corrective institutions, built on “the island of freedom”, in which political prisoners are held. His personal courage to stand up to the regime was so strong that he was not afraid to die and thus to demonstrate the determination of the third group to fight the Cuban regime to the full extent, putting in danger the only thing that left for them “in the socialistic paradise”: their own lives.