Generals and Doctors

The General

As we are used to reading news that is slanted more or less plausibly, Radio Bemba, that is the gossip network known as “Lip Radio,” is always active. Two weeks ago I heard on the bus that General Rogelio Acevedo, president of the Aeronautics Institute, was “on fire,” with rumors swirling around him. Even I knew the scoop, but I kept it to myself because I had no confirmation of some comment heard at random. Yesterday the daily paper, Granma, in its best grammar of recent times, reported that compañero Acevedo had been relieved of his duties. They said the same thing about José Abrantes when he was dismissed as Minister of the Interior in 1989, and a few days later he was indicted and sentenced. And while idly listening to snippets of that substantive conversation, I could hear more. The talk was of a lot of money lost in a foreign company where Acevedo’s wife worked, which was why the wife was arrested; there was talk of charter flights whose revenues did not flow through State coffers; talk of a package with dollars hidden in the water tank of a director… the trip from El Cotorro on the P-2 bus was short, made so entertaining by the conversations of those two women, well actually of one, because the other remained silent save for a few interjections; like me, she was extremely interested in the story being told.

I like History, and suffer from a slight mania for comparing facts. I don’t know that this information from my seatmates is true, but it reminded me how, from the cadaver of the Soviet Union, “visionaries” emerged who had amassed a little money stealing from “Ivan” and that today they are prosperous entrepreneurs and businessmen. Will we even know to what extent our home-grown bureaucrats decided to copy the idea?

The Doctor

The bureaucracy is a terrible mechanism for those who suffer at its hands. For its own interests, the bureaucracy is as fine-tuned as a Formula 1 engine. In all the organizations of the State (where else!) they engage in monitoring visits of their subordinates, which can be scheduled or unannounced. In both cases, the people visited know in advance the date and purpose of the visit and prepare the scene carefully. Depending on the resources at their disposal, they may paint, hang posters, display ornamental plants; in all cases they will clean, scrub the dusty walls, instruct their workers, and on that day prepare a good lunch as well as an additional snack for the visitors. The result of the check-in is predictable: a good evaluation that will guarantee the receipt of bonuses, and if there are not bonuses there will be perks: directors and administrators will retain their positions and perquisites (houses on the beach, cars with a quota of gasoline to sell, reservations in restaurants and discotheques (which normally only take CUCs) that can be paid for in national pesos at the rate of 1 CUC=1 peso, instead of the usual 1-to-24 ratio.

I have come along this bureaucratic path, which the institutions of the health system have not escaped, to try to understand — understand, NOT justify — the horror of Mazorra and the dozens who died in that psychiatric hospital of starvation and cold. Today’s photos recalled to me a report in the magazine Bohemia from 1959, about this same psychiatric hospital, which then, was an inheritance from capitalism. What is it an inheritance from today? The current images are in color, making the horror even more explicit. The physical wasting of the corpses hit me in the gut. The number of scars and lacerations, both old and recent, of these shrunken bodies is disturbing. I do not recommend to the faint of heart this painstaking forensic evidence that has unearthed scenes which only make me think of documentaries of war and genocide.

After having seen it, I understand even less how the Minister of Public Health, Doctor José Ramón Balaguer, was not dismissed as the first step in the investigation.


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