Empty Hallways


Ministry of Agriculture building in Havana

Ten in the morning. In those hallways where last week people gathered and chatted during working hours, today not a soul passes. What happened in the seventeen floors of the Ministry of Agriculture that no one steps foot outside their office? The answer is simple: Many fear being on the list for the next cuts, so they avoid appearing away from their posts and thus seeming to be dispensable. Where before they roamed around the office, arms crossed, the strategy now is to look busy, even if it means having to sit behind one’s desk for eight hours.

This scene is not an exaggeration. A friend who works in one of these state agencies, where over-staffing is a chronic disease, described it to me. She explained that there’s not even a long line in front of the water cooler like there was in the past, but that not even that will save them from layoffs. The institution has told them that only those who are indispensable will remain and some have already been notified of their dismissal. My friend squints her eyes and laughs. “They are certainly not going to kick out the director, nor the secretary for the nucleus of the Communist Party, and much less the woman who runs the union,” she concludes, sarcastically.

I’m surprised by the mixture of fear and disdain with which Cubans have taken the drastic reductions in personnel already implemented. On the one hand no one wants to lose their job, but on the other there’s a feeling that unemployment can’t be worse than working for the State. When I recommended to my friend that she take out a license to become a self-employed button-coverer, or a coat-hanger maker, she jumped up from her chair waving her hands, No! No! “If my name is on the next list,” she said, “I’m going to create a scene that will be heard in the office of the minister and every hallway.” But I don’t believe her; like many others she prefers to hide her protest.


15 thoughts on “Empty Hallways

  1. As I said in a previous comment… even thou Cubans say they hate socialism they don’t… they hate Fidel only. They are socialist and paternalist: the state that must provide and take care of them, from cradle to grave, give them cozy jobs where they can chit chat the whole day and so forth.

  2. The percentages of unemployment are quite interesting and revealing. Official “unemployment lists in the usa are quite doctored and plain fake. 30 million is out of work. But when to that sum we add the real numbers of those who work part-time (average part time in the usa is less than 20 hours per week. No one can live on that salary.), temporary jobs and those unlucky that have to work full time for less than the minimum salary, and there are millions of those – just ask any K-market or Wall-mart “associate”. They are not even employees. They are +associates”!!!!

    That means that they get less than the minimum pay, because they are not really employed and their “employers” expect them to make up the difference through the tips.

    How do they earn tips? By pushing hte trolleys and loading cars for the customers.

    But in this climate, no one is leaving the tips any more.

    So the real picture of unemployment in the usa is around 50 millions. According to some analysts it may be as high as 60 millions. That is around 20%.

    What a paradise the “democratic and pragmatic capitalism”, yoani team is selling to their own compatriots!?!?!?!

    But hey, traitors do just that sort of thing. Lie and manipulate their own blood.


    Because they want to be the dictators for a change. It is never about the altruism and sincere concern for the people. Only one’s own interes.

    Yoani team are building the scene for their own interes. Who gives a damn about the Cubans?

    Yoani certainly doesn’t.

  3. A cording to Raúl Castro, “The Cuban government and its enterprises might have more than one million excess workers on their payrolls.” (http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/04/11/1574950/raul-castro-admits-that-island.html)

    To the total open unemployment of “more than one million,” it would be necessary to add the “hidden unemployment,” kind of underemployment, and the latent one. An approximate calculus of the open, hidden and latent unemployment could surpass the number of 2.5 million people unemployed in today’s Cuba.

  4. In an oblique way it reminds me of the stories I heard about the prisioners of the nazi concentration camps & their reaction once they found themselves free … some just cryed, some did not belive … some fought but all were at lost as to what to do, feel or say … until anger took a hold of them …
    Freedom can be confusing after years of subjugation …

  5. Castro brothers’ regime is a permanent basket case, completely hopeless, unable to take care of itself. There is no decent health care for Cubans without dollars, food is scarce and now not even meager paid employment is guaranteed. They aren’t concerned about the welfare of the Cuban people.

    I think that laying off 500,000 government employees is an indication that the regime may be in the process of collapsing. Dictatorships are maintained in power by privileged elite, and when they start downsizing, they start to lose control over the people and consequently their power.

  6. Frank Delgado en Concierto – Miami
    Manuel Artime Theatre
    Sunday, December 5th Time: 7:00PM

    Manuel Artime Theatre
    900 SW 1st St # 100
    Miami, FL

    Frank Delgado (born October 19, 1960 in Consolación del Sur, Pinar del Río) is a Cuban musician, and a member of the novísima trova, heir to the nueva trova movement.
    He was born October 19, 1960 in Consolación del Sur, Cuba. He took part in the university cultural movements, and won some awards in different festivals. He is a hydraulic engineer by the Instituto Superior Politécnico José Antonio Echeverría.

    His first songs (Orden del Día and Río Quibú), were performed and brought to fame by other groups, but later on he sang his own songs. He has sung in more than 120 cities, in over a dozen countries, and his music has been used as soundtrack for radio, television and cinema.

    His songs are remarkable because of their lyrics, and speak about love, social affairs and deeply ironic criticism of current Cuban politics and society.


    YOUTUBE: frank delgado “La otra orilla”

    Yo siempre escuché hablar de la otra orilla
    envuelta en una nube de misterio.
    Allí mis tíos eran en colores
    aquí sencillamente en blanco y negro.
    Había que hablar de ellos en voz baja
    a veces con un tono de desprecio.
    Y en la escuela aprendí que eran gusanos
    que habían abandonado a su pueblo.

    Bailando con Celia Cruz, oyendo a Willy Chirino.
    Venerando al mismo Santo y con el mismo padrino.
    Allá por la Sawesera, Calle 8 o Jallalía
    anda la media familia que vive allá en la otra orilla.

    Un día tío volvió de la otra orilla
    cargando con su espíritu gregario
    y ya no le dijeron más gusano
    porque empezó a ser un comunitario.
    Y al fin llegó el fatídico año ‘80
    y mi familia fue disminuyendo.
    Como años antes pasó en Camarioca
    el Puerto del Mariel los fue engullendo.

    Bailando con Celia Cruz, oyendo a Willy Chirino.
    Venerando al mismo Santo y con el mismo padrino.
    Allá por la Sawesera, Calle 8 o Jallalía
    anda la media familia que vive allá en la otra orilla.

    Aún continúa el flujo a la otra orilla
    en vuelos regulares y balseros.
    Y sé que volverán sin amnistía
    porque necesitamos su dinero, o su consuelo, yo no sé.
    Se hospedarán en hoteles lujosos
    y pagarán con su moneda fuerte.
    Y aquellos que les gritamos escorias, como yo
    tendremos que tragarnos el nombrete, no digo yo.

    Bailando con los Van Van, oyendo a Silvio y Pablito.
    Haciendo cola pa’l pan, o compartiendo traguito.
    La dignidad y la distancia son más de 90 millas.
    Yo decidí a cuenta y riesgo
    quedarme aquí en esta orilla.

    Bailando con Celia Cruz, oyendo a Silvio y Pablito.
    No le digan más escoria, que esos son los marianitos.
    Bailando con Celia Cruz, oyendo a Silvio y Pablito.
    En mezcla tan informal, merengue con planito.
    Bailando con Celia Cruz, oyendo a Silvio y Pablito.
    Puede que el pan se demore, aguanta hermano un poquito.
    Bailando con Celia Cruz, oyendo a Silvio y Pablito.
    Por mucha escasez que haya yo te brindaré un traguito.
    Bailando con Celia Cruz, oyendo a Silvio y Pablito.
    Esa emisora mi hermano, ponla un poco más bajito.
    Bailando con Celia Cruz, oyendo a Silvio y Pablito.
    Dicen que vienen llegando, cuidado con tu optimismo.

  7. Cuba faces Nov. 7 deadline for freeing remaining 13 dissidents who balk at going into exile-By Paul Haven (CP)

    HAVANA — Angel Moya has told relatives he will never stop fighting for political change in Cuba, and hopes to be a thorn in the government’s side if he is released from jail. Hector Maseda’s wife says he will leav…e prison only if his freedom is unconditional.

    After releasing many of Cuba’s best-known prisoners of conscience, the communist government has a week left to make good on a promise to clear Cuban jails of 52 activists, opposition leaders and social critics. Those that remain, however — including Moya and Maseda — may be the toughest releases yet for a government that describes dissidents as subversive U.S. agents bent on toppling the socialist system.

    All of those released so far — including 39 dissidents arrested in a 2003 crackdown and eight others arrested separately — have agreed to go into exile in Spain along with their families.

    But the last 13 prisoners from the 2003 crackdown seem bent on remaining in Cuba, a direct challenge to a government that would much prefer they take their views elsewhere.

    “We want to stay in our homeland,” Moya’s wife, Bertha Soler, told The Associated Press. “The second he gets out of prison, he will continue his fight for democracy.”

    Cuba has been ruled by Fidel Castro and his brother Raul since they overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

    Moya, a 46-year-old construction worker who turned to dissent in the 1990s, is serving a 20-year sentence for treason and other charges. Soler is a leader of the Damas de Blanco, or Ladies in White, which is comprised of the wives and mothers of prisoners of conscience.

    Laura Pollan, another Damas leader, says she met with her jailed husband, Hector Maseda, on Oct. 17 and he told her that “he will not let anybody throw him out of his country.”

    She said her husband, who is 67 and also serving a 20-year term, would refuse to leave prison unless he is freed without any conditions.

    “We won’t accept parole,” she said. “We want a pardon.”

    Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to release the prisoners after a July 7 meeting with Havana’s Roman Catholic cardinal, Jaime Ortega, and then Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos. Their talks were held a few months after jailed dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo died following a long hunger strike.

    At the time, the church said all 52 dissidents still in prison from the 2003 crackdown would be freed “within three to four months from this moment.”

    The church said the prisoners would be allowed to leave Cuba, but did not say exile was a requirement for release. Since then, family members of the prisoners say they have been contacted by church officials including Ortega himself and asked if they were willing to go to Spain. Those who said no remain jailed.

    Cuba has won praise from European leaders for the deal, and even a grudging acknowledgment from Washington that it is moving in the right direction, though not quickly enough.

    Now, the government has a tough decision to make before Nov. 7: Go back on its word and lose the international goodwill it has earned, or let the releases go forward and risk giving voice to a more vocal opposition while the country is in the midst of widespread layoffs and difficult economic changes.

    While the church’s announcement in July didn’t expressly set Nov. 7 as the date for the government’s promise to be completed, Catholic officials have said privately that they consider it to be the deadline. Dissidents express a similar view.

    Guillermo Farinas, a dissident who won Europe’s Sakharov human rights prize in October after staging his own 134-day hunger strike in support of the prisoners, told the AP last week that he will stop eating again Nov. 8 if the remaining dissidents are not in their homes.

    The Damas de Blanco have also vowed increased activity if the government backs away from its promise.

    “We are really approaching this kind of gladiator showdown, and it will be interesting to see who blinks,” said Ann Louise Bardach, a Cuba expert at the Brookings Institute and author of the book “Without Fidel.” ”The Castros, and particularly Fidel, never blink … but this is a situation where they may have to because of the economic pickle they are in.”

    The government has often allowed its most vocal detractors to leave the island, a strategy that has helped lower the tension level and keep the opposition marginalized.

    In 1979, hundreds of political prisoners were freed into exile following a dialogue between Fidel Castro and the Cuban exile community. In 1984, the Rev. Jesse Jackson helped negotiate the release of 26 prisoners, most of whom left the island.

    Some 300 Cuban prisoners — about 80 of them dissidents — were released following a historic visit by Pope John Paul II in 1998, and nearly all went into exile.

    Partly as a result, Cuba’s dissident community remains small and fractured, and enjoys little following on the island. Cuba’s leaders characterize all the dissidents as mercenaries paid by Washington to destabilize the government.

    Elizardo Sanchez, head of the Havana-based Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which monitors dissident activity and advocates for the release of political prisoners, said the government faces no real threat from the presence of a dozen more activists.

    He said Cuba’s leaders have nothing to gain — and everything to lose — by keeping the last 13 prisoners in jail.

    “By releasing them, the government improves its international image and removes a weight off its back. If it does not, it will gain only the world’s condemnation,” Sanchez said. “Not freeing them would be unthinkable.”

    Associated Press reporter Andrea Rodriguez contributed to this story.


  8. ***
    Cuba used to have enough food for the people. Now Cuba has food scarcities. And the Castro Regime won’t permit Cubans to plant crops to feed themselves. What an evil government. Don’t blame the “embargo”–blame the evil king.
    Antes Cuba tuvo bastante comida por la gente. Ahora Cuba tiene escasidad de comida. Y el Gobierno de Castro no permite los Cubanos plantar cropas para sostener ellos mismos. Que mal gobierno. No culpa el “embargo”–culpa el Rey malo.
    John Bibb

  9. The monthly salary of the average Cuban is 429 pesos according to the National Statistics Office (ONE). This is equivalent to $20 according to the official estimate. The lost of this modest income of $0.67 a day will have a grave impact on their daily live.

    The low salary earned at the jobs provided by the regime is not enough, and the employees have to find ways by wheeling and dealing on the black market to make ends meet. They can’t live with those low wages and the food provided in the ration book; so they are force to “resolve”, euphemism for stealing, to feed and clothes their families and survive. I believe that this “new reality” is going to be a clear step towards the inevitable failure of the regime.

  10. Sergio! Que “EMBARGO”? What “EMBARGO”?

    NOTE: All figures are in millions of U.S. dollars on a nominal basis, not seasonally adjusted unless otherwise specified.

    2010- 271.1 million
    2009- 532.8 million
    2008- 711.5 million
    2007- 447.1 million


    In a recent report on Cuban economic development
    and prospects, the United Nations Economic Commission
    for Latin America (Comisión Económica
    para América Latina y el Caribe, CEPAL) estimated
    that remittances to the island from residents in the
    United States amounted to $900 million in 2003,
    roughly 3% of the country’s gross domestic product,
    further stating that such remittances “had determinative
    influence on the country’s financial stability and
    on the level of consumption of households”


  11. ***
    Where are there any jobs when the state controls everything? Anyone losing their job will have to become a beggar, thief, or hooker. The state controls everything.
    Donde hay trabajos cuando el estado controlla todo? Cualquier persona quien pierda su trabajo tendra que trabajar come mendigo, ladron, o jinetera. El estado controlla todo.
    John Bibb

  12. What happened in the seventeen floors of the “Ministry of Agriculture” that no one steps foot outside their office?

    The same thing that happened in the “Ministry of Truth”!

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