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Thursday, May 15, 2008

49 Years Without Human Rights!

To show my solidarity with Blog Catalog on this Thursday, May 15 as bloggers across the world unite for human rights, I felt compelled to describe my country of origin. It is where my parents were born, raised and lived until they were in their thirties. It is a country I cannot remember but know only by the stories that have reached my ears countless times. Cuba, a beautiful island in the Caribbean, is home to over 11 million people and a vacation paradise for thousands of others who visit the island every year.

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The Cuban people enjoy an excellent educational system because it is free to everyone. Yes, you learn basic skills along with the indoctrination and constant reminder of the benefits of communism, Marxism and Leninism. Unless you are sick or handicap, once you turn 12 or so, you only have to work in the fields for 45 days every year picking tomatoes, potatoes or "yuca," most commonly known as cassava, to earn your right to this "free" education. If you are one of the lucky ones and you get to attend boarding school, you "only" work in the fields Monday through Friday for the school year. A typical productive day for a youngster in a Cuban boarding school includes waking up at 5:00 am in morning, having breakfast, heading to the fields by 7:00 am and working until 11:00 am. The young boy or girl then returns to the school, showers and gets dressed. Then after lunch he or she attends class, has dinner and goes to bed. As an extra bonus, the government allows the young child to go home to his or her family on the weekends.

You can also go to college for free as long as you actively participate in the political party by attending all revolutionary rallies, gain no enemies in your neighborhood who claim you disagree with the government and get the green light from the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution. There are many career choices as long as you support the government. If you show any dissent, then you are denied a career as was Yoani Sanchez a Cuban blogger who was featured in Time Magazine's "World's Most Influential People." If you are fortunate enough to become a doctor, you must have a relative who lives in the United States and can send you pens and paper; otherwise, you will have no supplies as you study physics, chemistry and biology in hopes of one day curing the sick and the dying.

The health system in Cuba is so good that my aunt had hip replacement surgery for free. There was a small problem, however, the hospital did not have the right size metal hip, so she received a smaller piece. She only spent a few years limping or barely walking until she left the country and had a second hip surgery in Europe. This time the hospital had the right size in stock.

Medicine is also free if you can find the medicine in the pharmacy. If the pharmacy has no medicine, then you can always try the black market, but you must bring US dollars to those smoke filled dark back rooms. Wait, what if you don't have US dollars because Cuba uses only "pesos?" Not a problem, you just make a call to your family in the US and someone will arrange for a transfer of dollars. The Cuban people do not have to worry because if they cannot buy vitamins or antibiotics on the island even with the US dollars, the only thing they need to do then is call a family member or friend in the US and we will send it to them.

The greatest conservationists in the world live on the island of Cuba. If you want to see a nation with a proven track record of environmental efforts, you need only travel 90 miles south of Key West. Remarkably, Cuba conserves electricity by having rolling blackouts on a daily basis. Since the residents spend much of the day without the use of their stoves or refrigerators and enjoy cold showers, they minimize their electricity consumption and save money on their utility bills. No home, unless you are a high military or government official, has central air conditioning or pools with pool pumps. Landfills are kept small because there is little to throw away when there is little to buy.
To save gasoline and preserve a cleaner environment, the government discourages new or used car sales by allowing no car dealerships on the island. Instead, many people young and old alike happily ride bikes or walk to improve their health.

Each family receives a "libreta" that documents their food rations for the month. It is basically a booklet that lists what you are entitled to buy each month. If you consume all the food in a week, however, there is no need to worry about the other three weeks as long as you have an uncle or aunt or father or sister who works in a store, restaurant or hotel and they are willing steal.

Cuba also has an excellent military which needs never to recruit, for every young healthy man at the age of 15 or 16 automatically joins and serves approximately three years. Of course, everyone joins, for the alternative is incarceration in one of the best prison systems in the world. In the 80's each young man received a generous pay of $7.00 a month from the government when he joined the military; I am sure they receive much more today.

Living in a communist system guarantees the same thing for every single person. No one has more and no one has less; every one has the same things even if those things are "no...thing." Does this system inspire innovation, creativity and opportunity? Does every one have something to live for and work for? Do they seek greatness in their lives everyday? Can someone, anyone, please tell me?

In Cuba, you can say anything you want as long as you do not speak your mind, tell what is in your heart and disagree with the government. In Cuba a citizen of the country can do anything he or she wants except walk into a hotel, restaurant or night club that is guarded exclusively for the foreigners who vacation there. In Cuba you can go anywhere you want as long as you do not leave the island.

Don't get on a boat and set sail for the Bahamas on a visit. Don't try to book a flight to Miami. Don't leave on an inner tube in the middle of the night trying to escape the tyranny that has consumed all the hope you ever had. Don't protest; don't speak up; don't dream; don't expect. And you may live.

Revered Martin Luther King Jr's last words in his I Have a Dream speech sum up my hopes and prayers for the oppressed people in Cuba and in all parts of the world who desperately yearn for freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

"When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and a white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the old words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God almighty, we are free at last!"

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  1. Excellent post, Fearless Blog. I learned a lot.


  2. Thank you for this post. What an excellent contribution to the human rights theme today. Your words created pictures in my mind. You have a powerful voice and I am better for it today. I join my hope with yours for the people of Cuba.

  3. I agree! An excellent article from the soul!

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Yes -- many things I didn't know, presented cleanly. Thank you.

  5. Excellent post. Written with conviction and passion. Thank you.

  6. I also learned so much from your post. I am so thankful you and your family made it safe to the U.S.A.
    Wonderful job! I know it meant a lot to a great many people for that story to be told.

  7. Oh my word,I am stunned by the passion, power and clarity of your voice in this piece. It is an EXCELLENT article. You ought to consider publishing or syndicating it. It really stands out. It is one of the absolute best pieces on human rights and Cuba that I've ever read. I am astounded. I couldn't stop readying; I was riveted. I not only learned more about Cuba...the things that really interest me, but my heart (or resolve) was strengthened from reading this. Thank you dear one very much.

  8. Oh, my goodness I had no idea. So, is there a way to help out? A way to get pencils and paper to these children? Do you know of anything? I'll have to research.

  9. An excellent post! Unless one reads things like this there is little widespread knowledge of the real conditions in Cuba.
    Your post makes me both feel the need to pray for Cuba more and to remember to not take the every day blessings in my life for granted.
    Your efforts are a blessing and inspiration to me and I know,to many more as well.

  10. Thank you for sharing with us the critical situation in Cuba. I knew that human rights were bad, but you brought it to light in a way we don't hear. I learned a lot from your article. My prayers are with the Cuba people. God Bless.

  11. I hope that your hope for Cuba's liberation from the grips of the Castros will soon become a reality. For the sake of all the oppressed Cuban people, I pray that the younger Castro is more sympathetic to their plight by granting them their freedom and liberty in their pursuit of happiness .

  12. Most of those children who get up at five am to go work in the fields will so so without anyone in the outside world ever knowing. But you have told their story. Now they exist for all of us.

  13. Yes, I love it, and I totally agree. Writing for freedom,Spiritually,Emotionally and Physically.

    Brittney H.

  14. im curious to know where you got most of your information from?

  15. this was a very interesting article . i loved it !!


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