Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. - http://www.cubafreepress.org

17 de Enero del 2000

TO MARCH OR NOT TO MARCH, THAT IS THE QUESTION By Armando Añel, Cuba Free Press

Havana.- Marches, ceremonies, concentrated gatherings of people and a number of other activities seeking the return of Elian Gonzalez Broton to Cuba from Miami have been a steady theme for the last two months in Cuba. Last Friday the official media claimed 200,000 mothers (something close to a mathematical impossibility) had paraded on the street across from the U.S. Interests Office here in the capital.

At first telling it would seem the regime's ability to mobilize and manipulate a number of sectors of the population remains intact. Still, on close analysis, people question the ciphers the spokespeople throw about as well as the methods the government used to get the masses mobilized. This journalist came upon this information when hearing comments from participants in many of those marches as well as from others who shirked their call to join the masses…and wish to remain anonymous.

Office worker Martha, 32, said, "I have gone only once to one of those marches. At my office it is the union that gathers the people and takes them to the meetings. The union has a small bus to carry people back and forth. They give us a small bag every month and $60 a trimester as long as we do what the party and the union's want. After that first time at one of the Elian marches I would tell everybody I had seen them there...but later I would get on a girlfriend's motorcycle and we would both take off to our homes."

Architect Oswald, 37, said, "At my job site there are about 300 workers. The union and the management are jointly in charge of getting us to the marches. Usually they get those more politically involved to go which is about 20 percent of the labor force. But I must say we don't really feel much pressure. I believe my firm is an exception, not at all typical. You can even refuse to participate in a march, come up with any excuse...of course, you can't always get away with it."

Student Javier, 20, said, "I feel obligated to go to the marches, the mobilizations. At the university we have something called the 'academic yield' and something else called 'integrality.' Both count when the faculty begins tallying up your ranking, which comes along later when you are looking for a position after graduation. For the integrality your participation in extra-curricular and political activities - such as these marches - counts above all…My faculty has been mobilized on this matter at least eight times. Your professor keeps track of your participation at rallies right in front of the U.S. Interests Office. You can not risk losing points on your integrality...That affects your ranking directly, no matter how good your grades are. If your score is bad, you put yourself at a disadvantage when competing against others for a good position."

Laborer Carlos, 43, said, "It is not true that anybody is forced...People tell a lot of nonsense. I have never seen anybody thrown out of a job for missing a march. In my job people go because they want to. Of course going every day, that's tiring. Why doesn't the father just go get the kid?"

Retired Jose Manuel, 71, "In this country everything works through fear. If you don't go to those gatherings you get in trouble at your job or at your school...Even the children know that. It may be that they won't kick you off your job but if you win a trip overseas they won't give you an exit visa. Or if a TV set is raffled, you are excluded. If you apply for a transfer, it gets fouled up by the fact you missed this march or that other meeting. If you are a student, they won't throw you out of your school but your file is 'marked' and nobody wants to live with that mark for the rest of your life. If you don't believe me just watch how the majority of those marching are students. Are you a foreigner? You should know how things work in this country. You have to be inside the monster to study its entrails."

Primary grades' student Robelquis, 11, said, "My teacher told me I was to bring my mother to the Elian's march. I told her my mother worked and she said that didn't matter since her salary would not be discounted for that day away. Some other students were told that if their mothers did not go with them to the march they would still need to come with them to the principal's office. I don't plan to go anywhere; my mother and I will come up with something!"

Armando Anel, Cuba Free Press.


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