Human Rights in Cuba

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December 2016
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The “Dry Law” After the Death of / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 29 November 2016 — Cintia will never forget the day Fidel
Castro died. Not because she had affection for the old guerrilla or felt
devoted to the figure of the ex-comandante in chief.

One month ago, Cintia’s parents had reserved a room, paid for sessions
of photography and makeup, and invited some 100 people to a party to
celebrate her 15th birthday.

No expense was spared. More than 2,000 convertible pesos, some 2,400
dollars, four years’ salary for a professional. The adolescent’s
birthday coincided with the nine days of official mourning that the
Regime decreed for the death of Fidel Castro.

In accordance with the provincial government’s regulations, bars, night
clubs, shops and markets were prohibited from selling alcoholic beverages.

Cintia’s parents had already invested around 500 convertible pesos in
clothing and 400 in photo sessions and videos. The date of the birthday
celebration, with plans for a dance group, a professional presenter and
a bottle of aged rum on each table, was to take place on Sunday,
November 27.

As a precaution, Cintia’s family, preparing for a shortage of beer, had
already bought 15 cases of Cristal. But they figured they could buy the
rum, which was always available on the shelves of the hard-currency
stores, the day before the party.

The first problem came with the renting of the salon, a State center
that was used at night as a discotheque. On Saturday morning the
administrator returned their money, explaining that “because of the
national mourning after the death of Fidel, recreational and cultural
activities were suspended.”

Cintia’s family understood the reasons. “Look, here almost all the
businesses are State property. So we decided to rent a private house.
The trouble happened later, when we went to buy rum, red wine and
champagne,” the mother says.

They went to dozens of markets and saw that black nylon had been put
over the alcoholic beverages on the shelves, as a sign of mourning.
“Señora, I’m sorry, I can’t do anything for you. If they catch me
selling alcohol I’ll lose my job,” a clerk told her.

When asked where this regulation came from, they pointed toward the
roof. “From above, from the Government.” As always happens in Cuba, when
you want to know the name of the officer or minister who approved an
absurd law, the web of bureaucracy conceals the one who implemented it.

Telephoning departments of the Ministry of Interior Commerce, which
administers the hard-currency shops, the answers were the same: “We’re
in national mourning for the death of the comandante.”

So what do you do with those who wanted to celebrate their birthdays or
their weddings between November 26 and December 3? Or the devotees of
Santa Barbara who always celebrate on December 4?

Although the official press hasn’t announced it, the Dry Law is extended
to the whole Island. The Lourdes Gómez, in Diario de Cuba,
reported that “strangely, you don’t see anyone drinking alcohol. A
cafeteria worker said that they received a directive prohibiting the
sale of alcohol for the next nine days, the period decreed by the
Council of State for national mourning.”

We Cubans are used to getting silence for an answer. Right now, Fidel’s
death is the priority. He’s a genius and an important figure up to the
grave, after his death, built up with a gibberish worthy of a Cantinflas

The celebrated tenor, Placido Domingo, who was going to make his Cuban
debut in the Gran Teatro de La Habana, on Saturday, November 26, had to
pack his bags and leave until further notice. Those who love baseball or
football in the European leagues have to spend the equivalent of two
days wages to get on the to find out the results, since the
official press and other media like radio and television are only giving
news about the trajectory of the Maximum Leader.

By State decree, the of drunkards in Havana, Santiago de Cuba and
the rest of the provinces can’t drink beer or rum. “This would be in
poor taste, to have people drinking and partying in the middle of
national mourning. Where’s the pleasure in that? After December 4 they
will have plenty of time to booze it up,” answers a officer.

Those not suffering from the unexpected tropical Prohibition are the
usual drunks. “Those people will even drink dog piss. The ones selling
“chispa de tren“* are making a fortune now, since it’s not easy to spend
nine days of this fuss without having a drink,” says the owner of a cafe
on the outskirts of Mónaco, south of the Capital.

Private bars, restaurants and cafeterias can’t serve or sell alcohol
either, but under the table, rum and beer are sold for consumption on
the premises.

Coming back to Cintia’s family: At the last minute they were able to buy
several bottles of rum and red wine. Of course they paid dearly for
them. Finally they could celebrate her birthday, with the music at low
volume. So as not to offend Fidel Castro in his national mourning.

*Translator’s note: Literally, “ spark,” referring to the sound
made by train wheels on the tracks. A cheap, homemade rum, distilled
from sugar and mixed mainly with kerosene or residue from petroleum
refining. The toxic rum of the poor.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: The “Dry Law” After the Death of Fidel Castro / Iván García –
Translating Cuba –

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