Cuba, Where Human Rights Are Seen as Wrong
July 30, 2013
Isbel Diaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES — My life partner, the optometrist Jimmy Roque Martinez,
has just been approached in his place of work and accused of being a
"human rights advocate", and that he has been incited to become one by
none other than yours truly. The Party is now suggesting that he ought
to be laid off.
The accusation is being made by the Secretary of the Cuban Communist
Party (PCC) at his workplace, Berardo Duque Prieto. The whole thing
strikes me as yet another sad, ridiculous farce involving an official
who, for personal rather than professional reasons, decides to get rid
of a worker.
As Jimmy's job is at stake, I think going over the case now is worth our
In addition to being the Party Secretary at this workplace, Mr. Duque
Prieto is also the Chair of the Base Labor Justice Department, the head
of Human Resources and lay judge. Not surprisingly, the guy feels very
On more than one occasion, he has publicly announced that he is powerful
enough to remove the director of Marianao's 27 de Noviembre Polyclinic
from her post, if ever he felt inclined to do so.
What angered this Party man so was an incident that took place days ago,
when he brought a friend of his, the head of the Municipal Labor Office,
to Jimmy's office. This "high" official was treated by Jimmy with all of
the professionalism that characterizes his work.
On being introduced, the official commented that Jimmy's face seemed
familiar to him. My partner replied that, in effect, they had met years
ago, when he had been removed from his government office.
Though the head of the Labor Office was not offended by this, for some
reason Jimmy's remark was enough to hurt the tender feelings of Mr.
Duque Prieto, who (according to his account) called the Military
Counter-Intelligence headquarters to report what had happened. The
counter-intelligence informed him that Jimmy was "a human rights advocate."
I know the whole thing sounds funny, and it would be, were it not for
the tragic underside to the story: Jimmy is the only breadwinner in his
family, which consists of his ill mother, a sister who has been confined
to a wheelchair since birth and a mentally challenged nephew.
Though the management at the polyclinic hasn't penalized Jimmy in any
way yet, Mr. Duque Prieto, who, as I've noticed, is prone to kicking up
fusses at the entrance to the polyclinic, has spread rumors among
employees, looking for support in his efforts to get him fired, and has
called on the "communists" at the workplace.
In addition, he has abused his position as a high Party official and
threatened a number of medical doctors, saying he will not authorize
their trips abroad if they do not cease to mingle with Jimmy, hoping
that he will tender his resignation of his "own will".
Though Jimmy does hold human rights to be valid and would not be afraid
to say so in public, it would be hard to seriously maintain he is a
human rights activist, first and foremost because he is a very shy
person who doesn't like speaking in public. His valuable contribution to
the work of Cuba's Observatorio Critico is the closest thing to any form
of activism he has ever been involved in and the only thing that could
have earned him this amusing label of "human rights activist" – and he
has no intention of denying the work he does there.
Nevertheless, as every Cuban knows, being stigmatized with such a label
can have nefarious consequences. For a considerable part of our
population, ill-informed by our official media, being a "human rights
advocate" is something along the lines of being a terrorist, a
mercenary, a murderer or a fascist.
An uneducated man, the head of human resources is unable to hold any
kind of debate about these issues. On several occasions, Jimmy has tried
to discuss other political issues with this man, to no avail. He
immediately gets worked up, yells out a couple of "revolutionary"
slogans, and storms off.
On one occasion, Jimmy commented on how the anarcho-syndicalist movement
had contributed to the struggle of the Cuban working class at different
points in history, and now Mr. Duque Prieto is showing polyclinic
employees a definition of anarchism (probably taken right out of a
Stalinist manual) so as to discredit the young revolutionary.
Is he, and the counter-intelligence agents, aware of the fact that the
Cuban government is one of the signatories to the Human Rights Charter?
Does that mean anything to them?
In addition, Cuba's out-of-date and highly limited Constitution
enshrines the main human rights, including freedom of thought and
expression and the right to work.
I am almost positive these fellows know nothing of union leader Alfredo
Lopez, of Boris Luis Santa Coloma, who was once the boyfriend of Haydee
Santamaria, a friend of Fidel Castro's and one of the assailants of the
Moncada Garrison, Camilo Cienfuegos' father and union leader Margarito
Iglesias, all of whom were anarchists. They are probably also unaware of
the fact that members of the 26th of July Movement would meet at the
headquarters of Cuba's Libertarian Association.
A couple of years ago, Jimmy went through a similar ordeal, when he was
fired from a hospital because of his environmentalist and political
activism with Observatorio Crítico. On that occasion, the management
trumped up an excuse to get rid of him, concealing the political reasons
behind the decision.
In this case, the Party leader's skills aren't too impressive, and he
has begun a rather ridiculous ideological war. If you want to have a
"battle of ideas", you first need ideas. We hope the management at the
polyclinic will see the absurdity of the situation and penalize this
official for his abuse of power.
Support from those who, in or outside of Cuba, feel this arbitrary
measure as an affront on their ideals, is needed. Any recommendation or
pronouncement on your behalf will be useful in our efforts to put an end
to the petty maneuvers being essayed against my partner.
As for me, I will keep readers, the international community and the
pertinent entities in Cuba informed of how this politically-motivated
affront on a person's rights unfolds.
Source: "In Cuba, human rights are considered evil by the Communist
Party" - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=97205