Letter Re: Surviving 90 Miles from the US — A Cuban-American Exile’s View

A brief background of myself. I am an Telecommunications Engineer, I served three years in the Cuban army as an Engineer in several units (it was mandatory unless you were integrated with the system, in which case you will get a better civilian job). After I served my time they did not want to release me (basically no one wants to stay unless you are willing to do their bidding) so they offered 2 years to a very harsh unit that stays in the mountains for months end ready to be sent anywhere, or stay for 20 years in very comfortable position as an Engineer, I sucked up the two years (30 months
actually) and then left and never again worked for the government, but I was walking a very fine line. I left the country illegally. They would never let me go, everybody needs permission to leave the country. This was more than 15 years ago and this is the first time that I have talked about it freely with someone outside my very close circle of family and friends. Please do not mention my surname.

The government controls everything, I mean everything, from health, to communications, from commerce to defense. When government controls everything there is absolutely nothing you can do. They determine what is legal and sometimes they let you get away with it, as long as you do not mess with the regime. They can take you to jail for anything because as I said everything is illegal. You cannot legally sell a house, only cars that were in the country before 1959 can be sold legally, [Owning a] DirecTV [satellite television receiver] is illegal. The list goes on and on.

In order to survive you must depend on the government or go black market. There is something called the Comite de Defensa de la Revolucion (CDR), basically is an organization at community block level that monitors everything that happens and reports to the government, it is completely volunteer, but it tells you how low citizens will go.

Electrical Power is obviously controlled by the government, and they impose restrictions so you will have times that power will come on for only a few hours a day, people have converters because generators are hard to get and even harder to get gas for them (it is expensive, a gallon goes for about 8 dollars a gallon last time I heard), to use the converter you hide in a room to watch some TV, have a fan for the heat and that’s it. You must try to hide, as much as you can, the things that you have, because you might get robbed. Being robbed at home is nothing new, you try to be as modest
as you can–otherwise you will become a target, by thieves or the government if you are getting too out of control.

Water is also government controlled, it does the same as with the electrical power, you can go days without water, so every house has water tanks to store water, even in buildings people will have water tanks in the bathroom. Drinking water always needs to be boiled.

People will raise pigs in a bathtub in the bathroom or if you are lucky to have a small backyard and someone to watch over it because it will be stolen. Pig will give meat and the fat you need to cook.

People that live in the countryside can raise animals and food, they can sell it under government supervision, they cannot become wealthy because government will intervene and accuse them of “exploiting” others.

It is illegal to kill a cow or a horse, as the government has a strict control. [If you slaughter one without prior approval and are caught,] you will serve the same time as if you killed a human being. People will slaughter a cow and dispose of it in two hours and “disappear” the remains by burning it with car tires because it burns very hot. And then you have to be careful how to transport [the meat] because they will have checkpoints. They can stop you anywhere, anytime for any reason and ask to search your vehicle.

You have to be extremely careful on who you trust, because they could be a government informer. (Did you see how our government is asking [their allies] to report when they see something “fishy” about [opposition to socialized] healthcare? That scares the h*** out of me.)

Not everyone can move to the countryside because the government controls that, they control movement within the country, you just can’t pick up your stuff and decide to move, so you have to make a living where you are. In the countryside you’ll have more food but they will cut electrical power more often. I used to install alarms (on my own, I refused to work for the government) for farmers that had pigs, pigs are raised in jail-like cages to avoid thievery, so I would install an alarm with battery backup because they had so much power shortages.

It goes without saying that [privately-owned] guns are illegal.

I just wanted to give an idea about how people live under a [total] government-controlled country. They will slowly take away your liberties and you will find out one day that you have nothing. And your fellow citizens will go as low as they can to survive. Government would threaten their family and force you to do what they say. This is always under the [mantle of] “we are doing it for the benefit of the majority, and only because we are in a crisis”, but there is always a crisis.

They will say that you do not want to work for the improvement of the country, that you are against your people, they will make things up, and suddenly you will become a pariah. Does it sound familiar “… these mobs against health care are destroying the democratic process…” Next it will be “they are organized by the enemies of democracy” and suddenly “we need to eliminate this threats to our democracy”.

Never think it cannot happen [here in the United States]. Sincerely, – Ignacio