Feb 22, 2010

Modern slavery: Cuban doctors sue Venezuelan & Cuban governments

Seven Cuban doctors and a nurse have sued both Cuba's and Venezuela's government, and the stated-run company PDVSA over charges of "modern slavery" with the mission "Barrio Adentro".

Flashback: last year, three Cuban workers who managed to escape sued a Curacao shipyard business for conspiring with the Cuban government and forcing them into virtual slave labor. And they won.

This trend is not news. Castro has been doing this with Cuban professionals since he started sending people all over the world in the early sixties.

It's just that world has chosen to look the other way.

Case point: my own family experience.

My parents and I went to Libya in the 80's. My father was the second in charge of a project to build a highway from a tiny village in the middle of nowhere (Araneb) to Al-gatrum, a town near the border with Chad.

Actually, because he was the second in charge of the project, he was able to pressure the Construction Ministry to be allowed to travel with my mother and I; otherwise, he would have had to spent those five years there, separated from us.

We were, literally, in the middle of the dessert, in living quarters (campamentos)  built only for us, Cubans. We were given everything you need to live: food, shelter, clothes, medical attention and the recreational activities tied up to "revolutionary celebrations".

The salaries were paid, in Cuban pesos, to an authorized relative in Cuba. The individual monthly-allowance paid right there, per person, was 10 dinares - no idea what was the equivalent in dollars back then.

But we could not leave those quarters without previous authorization from the communist party committee. To go shopping to a nearby village, we had to go in groups, always led by a member of the PCC.

Once, we visited a Chilean couple that had a daugther more or less my age, in another town called Seba -Ubahri. It was like a six hours drive.

We had dinner really late and a malelé (sand storm; we were in the middle of the dessert, remember?)  formed at dawn, so my parents decided to stay overnight to avoid driving in such conditions. However, our authorization to travel didn't include the overnight stay.

Next morning, when we arrived to the campamento, the entire PCC committe was waiting for us and my parents had already been reported as dessertors to the Cuban embassy in Trípoli - up there, surrounded by persian rugs, air conditioner and private teachers for their children, the embassy's representatives were all worried about us.

There was a huge mess of meetings and explanations for them to believe what my parents were saying.

And we considered ourselves lucky.
Back home, we were seen as privileged.

We were able to travel, we were eating all the beef we wanted (the cows were slaugthered right there to feed us), we could buy lots of stuff to bring back to the family in Cuba, and it was an adventure for me as a kid: I was able to eat all the chocolate (provided by Hassan, the only Libyan we were allowed to freely visit, because he was the head of the Libyan state security in charge of our campamento)  and have all the talking-dolls that my cousins back in Cuba never had.

My father agreed to the mission in order to get some extra money and the government's authorization to buy a car, a Russian Lada or a Polish Mockvich.

Go figure: my father's first car, of his entire property, was bought to him by this gusana Cubanita a month ago. An used Chevy Blazer to be more exact, to follow the lead of being all Coca Cola, apple pie and Chevrolet ;-)

Despite the need every Cuban have to support their family and to have some financial relief, which is part of the moving forced behind agreeing to go in those missions, when you look back in time, whether it is Libya, Venezuela or East Timor, the question remains the same: Is it worth it?

But, who cares? No Cuban still living in the island has a clue of what freedom is, or how modern slavery looks like. You are just thinking in a way to relief your short term objective needs.

Freedom can not be eaten, nor will take you from point A to point B in a country that has not had public transportation system for the past five decades. Neither will become, magically, a modest house for you to raise your family.

That's the worst damage the castro tiranny has done to my homeland.

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