At the end of April 2021, the CONCUR (Cuban Conference of Religious) of Camagüey, one of the private churches with the largest number of clergy and religious in Cuba, wrote to the government authorities of that province a letter describing the current reality of the country to request their relief, since the Church knows this reality because it is close to the people, accompanying them and bringing hope. But the letter also proposed alternatives. Subsequently, the religious of Camagüey asked the National Conference of Religious to make it public at national and even international level, which was done almost immediately. We believe that it is a good x-ray of what is happening in Cuba and it is good that this is known so that we pray for this country, for the Church and the Consecrated Life that is on pilgrimage there, and above all for these people who are suffering the severity of this situation, added to the pandemic.
With respect and concern we address you, to present to you the situations of painful experiences that we are living as a people with the aim of asking for alternatives to alleviate them. We listen attentively to people’s experiences and our pastoral work pushes us to be by their side and to accompany them, which makes us witnesses of their pain and their needs.
Below we outline some of the appeals made by Cubans, which must be listened to with interest to meet their needs:
- Insufficient wages and rising prices: many people cannot buy the food and hygiene products necessary for a decent life because their wages are not enough. Rising prices in state stores, in private stores, and on the black market are above the purchasing power of workers and retirees with wages or pensions (middle and lower class). Some say that previously with their salary they were able to buy more than today.
- Difficulties with medical care and medication: People with common, chronic or psychiatric illnesses often lack essential medications and medical interventions such as antibiotics, pain relievers, sedatives, medical supplies, working equipment, etc. The queues in pharmacies and at emerging points that have been created are endless. People affected are of all ages, children, youth, adults and the elderly. It is the cause of a lot of anguish, suffering and exhaustion.
- Shortage in stores in CUP (Cuban peso): Cubans who earn their income in CUP (Cuban peso) and who have no family abroad cannot buy the products they need to cover their basic needs. They also cannot acquire foreign currency at any state financial institution. Therefore, they cannot buy in stores MLC (in convertible peso), and “on the street” the prices of products, in general, are very high because there is almost no supply, as has been officially recognized, given the strong demand of the population. So the least privileged Cubans are those who suffer most from stockouts and shortages. They practically have their hands tied with no opportunity.
- Prices of utilities: the prices of utilities such as water, electricity, telephone, gas, cleaning of pits, among others, have increased two, three, four, five, ten times and more; depriving many citizens of the possibility of having the service or reducing expenses in other basic areas of family life, such as food, hygiene, clothing, footwear, etc.
- Attention to the most vulnerable: on many occasions, social workers visit vulnerable people and their needs are not followed up and follow-ups do not materialize.
- Soup kitchens: many elderly people do not have access to lunch /dinner and food for the full month, as before, because, unfortunately, their pension does not allow them, putting them in a more precarious food situation. Sometimes the quality is not worthy of a Human being.
- Housing: many Cuban families live crammed into houses damaged by the passage of time and / or weather conditions. This overcrowding causes family conflicts and a high risk of verbal, physical and sexual violence. Some families have been given grants which do not materialize after years of waiting and others, despite the money available, cannot obtain the materials due to lack of supplies.
- Self-employed workers and cooperatives: Self-employed people find it very difficult to serve the community with the production and marketing of their products and services and to obtain a fair return on their investment. It is difficult for them to obtain the necessary inputs, due to the scarcity and high prices, which make it difficult to maintain their supply with consistency and quality. We do not yet perceive the liberation of the productive forces announced, on the other hand there are many obstacles which do not allow growth as self-employed or members of cooperatives, in particular those who work with agricultural products (both peasants and those who market these products).
- Lack of confidence and freedom of expression: the vast majority of people do not feel confident and free to express what they think in various social contexts, nor to approach authorities at different levels and fields, and ask what they believe, express what they need or suggest alternatives. There is a fear of exclusion. Both fear and lack of confidence and freedom are not unfounded, for we have all witnessed how, through the official media, various peaceful initiatives are condemned and individuals and groups are denigrated. There is also use of the police and shock groups in a coercive manner, violating the Enjoyment of liberty (provided for in article 1 of the Political Constitution) and not complying with article 54 of the Constitution which says: “The State recognizes, respects and guarantees to people the freedom of thought, conscience and expression“. The Cuban people are creative, but many do not dare to express their proposals because it is necessary to create a culture of welcome to different people and to recognize the advantages of diversity.
These situations to which we are witnessing are becoming more and more difficult. People are tired and stressed, which deteriorates social, family and personal relationships. People’s conversations revolve around these topics only, that’s their main concern. We feel that people can no longer take it, it is an unbearable situation. People want workable alternatives that guide the country towards development and social well-being.
This is why we believe that the competent authorities should rethink the path:
- Ensure that the price of the overall basic food basket (not just “shopping”) is below the minimum wage and minimum pension, just like the initial plan announced in the official media.
- Make the liberation of the productive forces of the country, state and non-state, effective and real. Eliminate in particular obstacles and stimulate the production of the self-employed. Our Cuban people have a lot of human talent that can be channeled in favor of the production of goods and services, which allows to satisfy a little more the demand of the population and generate income in family economies. Make it easier for all citizens who so wish to have an economic activity for their own good and that of the community.
- Provide stores in CUP (Cuban peso), as advertised, which is the national currency in which salary payments are made.
- While it is true that the state could not continue to subsidize public services on a large scale, their prices should have gradually increased taking into account the purchasing power of the population. Therefore, it is important that these are redefined.
- Take the relevant steps to ensure that medicines, medical supplies and other health supplies are available to the population. Even accept aid from humanitarian agencies by releasing containers stopped at customs and receiving others that may arrive in the country.
- Make social assistance effective by optimizing the work of social workers and the organizations concerned, as well as raising awareness among staff in general regarding the human dignity of the most vulnerable people.
- Find ways to supply the country with building materials in line with the subsidies granted, the allocation of materials at favorable prices and open sale.
- Open up to the possibility of people giving their opinion, making suggestions, expressing freely what they think, feel and desire in various groups brought together by their citizens, ensuring respect for their integrity and human dignity whatever their ideas. At the same time, create spaces for egalitarian dialogue between the State and the various social actors, sit together at the same table to seek alternatives and unite efforts to move our country forward, which is in a critical situation. Recognize that diversity of opinions is positive in reaching workable alternatives.
Some of these points relate to monetary regulation, but in the months that we have lived nothing has happened, so we believe that it is necessary to ensure consistency between what is said and done, between approaches and actual actions. With political will, dialogue and the participation of all sectors of society, it is possible to build a Cuba with more possibilities, to offer its children a more dignified and prosperous life.
As men and women religious, we are here to accompany our people in their pains and hopes, to be bearers of their voice that have been entrusted to us in the daily relationship, and to collaborate to relieve their sufferings linked by faith. and social engagement.
We appreciate your attention to this letter and hope that you, as the authorities of this province and this country, do your best to realign the path causing so much pain and suffocation in the population.
Sor Cecilia Molina P. Eduardo Marroquín
Sor Alba Natera Hna. Isabel de Armas
Hna. Ileana Urroz Hna. Filipa Bak
- Carmelite missionaries
- Society of Jesus
- Company of Saint Teresa of Jesus
- Mercedaria Intercongregational Community
- Congregation of the Mother of God of Mercy
- Daughters of the Congregation of San Camilo
- Sisters of Charity of Cardinal Sancha
- Missionary Sisters of the Heart of Jesus
- Eucharistic missionary sisters
- Daughters of Mary Help of Christians
- Missionaries of Mother Laurita
- Orden de la Compania de Maria Nuestra Senora
- Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
- Order of Mercy
- Servants of the Heart of Mary
- Servants of Mary Ministers of the Sick
- Society of Saint Francis of Sales
- Sociedad de Hermanas Sociales