Archive for February, 2010

Orlando, a fearful death

Photo: Orlando Luis

Until last February 23rd, it seemed that the imprisonment of the Black Spring 75 had been one of Castro’s utmost blunders. The death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, one of the civic fighters entrapped back then by the strong wave of repression unleashed by the dictatorship, goes to show that the events that took place almost seven years ago continue to have repercussions against the very regime that carried them out.

Not content with having allowed Orlando even a modicum of comfort, to spend his last days among his people, the dictatorship has launched its wolf packs onto the streets to suppress legitimate demonstrations of solidarity and respect by other Cubans for the courage and the resistance of a man who had the high-mindedness to confront the most powerful and protracted dictatorial government Cuba’s history has known. Many independent Cubans were detained, others were threatened, and police operations raged throughout the day on February 24th.

By a strange coincidence, this February 24th, 2010, a date of historic significance for Cubans, was marked by fear, not because of the dignified and free citizens who went to the home of Laura Pollán, one of the Ladies in White, to sign the book of condolences, or on account of those who threw flowers into the sea in memory of the Brothers to the Rescue, also killed in the downing of their aircraft, another one of the “glorious” actions of Castro and his spies, nor by those who attended Orlando’s funeral services. Now, the fear of the regime and the mercenaries at its service is palpable. They cannot conceive the power of shame, are ignorant of the virtue that envelops the sense of decorum, and cannot, even remotely, understand that freedom is a natural gift that is carried inside and it is -therefore- impossible to eliminate with steel bars. The Black Spring 75, Orlando Zapata, political prisoners and all of us who are disobedient are free.

The Cuban regime, on the other hand, is today the real prisoner: it is locked up in the very logic of repression and violence it generates. Victim of the system it alone forged, incapable of producing anything other than hatred and fear, it now shamelessly displays these things while trying to hold on, through terror, to its only real interest: power. The only thing is, many Cubans are losing their fear.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s sacrifice also contains a hopeful singularity: he has died, but Cuba is beginning to awaken. Small niches of previously unconnected civil society, of the opposition, independent journalists, the Church, and ever-widening social sectors from very diverse ends of the island have begun to link. Sooner or later, reality will change: these are not times for dictators.

The Cuban president (the lower case is intentional), Raúl, the Grey, the Second Fiddle, has made a statement to the foreign media saying he regrets Orlando’s death. Of course, this is not a spontaneous expression of sincerity; this time, however, I believe him: he has more than enough reasons to regret this and many other deaths.

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Only a few years ago, in 2005, the “social workers” were born, the Undefeated One’s infallible remedy for combating generalized corruption in Cuba. At that time, I published two articles on the topic: “Social workers: The Magdalene’s new ointment?” (Penned under the pseudonym T. Avellaneda on the digital magazine Consenso) and “Castro’s Angels” (under the pseudonym Eva González, Encuentro Digital Daily on the web), the first article, which I was able to recover, I will publish here, for such readers with enough patience to read it.

The issue would be untimely if not for the fact that, today, social workers are being massively demobilized and “work-relocated” to positions that are urgent to the government, according to current contingencies. It is said that only a required minimum number of workers will remain active, and will be associated with family medical offices and polyclinics, to meet truly needy cases of social assistance. Thus, among the kinglet’s favorites of yore, many men are sent to agriculture and construction work, while women are given a three-month grace period to find a job that is more convenient to them than the one offered by the officials responsible for the “relocation”.

From the outset, it was clear that the experiment would fail. No economy can sustain such a load of expenses and perks, such high salaries for thousands of unproductive people and, even less, so much money for maintenance of what constituted “official bribes”: we know that a high percentage of the total of so-called “social workers” remained idle while receiving their full salaries, a quick way to corrupt the young, who, without effort or merit, received privileges and facilities which most of the island’s population lacks, higher wages than the average Cuban worker, academic careers most coveted by the regular students and the “power” emanating from sacred official protection.

So, shrouded in complete silence, in contrast to the fanfare at its inception, the champions of socialist purity have fallen out of favor and are disappearing from the scene, as if they had never existed. They leave defeated, without glory or confetti, while corruption continues to enjoy overflowing health. Today, the formerly fierce and revolutionary social workers, one of the last spawn of the megalomaniac former Cuban president, have come to join the swollen ranks of the protesters. Too bad opportunists of any denomination or origin never turn out to be reliable acquisitions.

Illustration: Photo by Orlando Luis Pardo

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