Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

April 28, 1999.

CUBA CONTINUES IN FIRST PLACE - FOR SUICIDES By Orlando Bordón Gálvez, Cuba Free Press.

HAVANA - Nowadays the Cuban family concentrates a ignificant amount of effort in guaranteeing the basic care needs of its youngest members. The main dilemma is nutrition.

Nevertheless when people discuss the consequences of the deep economic crisis in which the country now lives, everyone says the seniors suffer the worst abuse. The arguments which back this conclusion are first of all that if the 200-pesos' mean salary of a worker is not enough to cover more than 30 percent of a person's essential personal needs, how could a retired senior depend on miserable pensions of much less to live? (Twenty pesos equal one dollar in buying power.)

The following preoccupation also surfaces in the discussions: If the fight for survival demands both great mobility and the ability to obtain the necessary resources, what can you expect from those who are unable to move out of their homes and neighborhoods, are fenced in by the lack of public transportation and who, as is expected, have lost essential faculties?

This large social sector of seniors appears in significant numbers before the public eye looking hungry, tattered and, what is worse, with no hope.

They may be found selling unauthorized loose cigarettes without a license. Yhey also may be seen searching the garbage cans for trash, sleeping in the bus terminals or the state stores' portals or begging.

I recently heard of the suicide of Eustaqio Márques, in San José de Las Lajas, Habana province. He jumped from the fourth floor of a public housing building. According to the investigations the motive was that he could not pay the 1,500-pesos fee imposed by the police after they found him selling cigarettes without a license.

The "Márquez Case" is no exception. Though official statistics do not always reveal the truth or it is simply not published, it is well known that Cuba holds one of the first places in the suicide index. It is also known that seniors have the highest incidence of victims.

María is just one retiree with a distressing economic situation. She often roams the Santiago de Las Vegas bus station in the municipality of Boyeros loudly begging for five cents so as to eat. Even though none of those present avoid her, what María raises is insufficient for her needs.

No one must deny that the economic crisis hurts all, although not evenly. I recently heard a suggestion made to this poor retiree at the Santiago bus terminal. "Look, madam, if Fidel Castro fabricated this revolution for the poor and by the poor, why don't you address the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party and demand from the man the money you need to eat?"

Those present only mumbled words or made gestures of approval to the adviser or silently assented. No need to further elaborate.

Orlando Bordón Gálvez, Cuba Free Press.

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