Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

21 de Enero del 2000

VERDICT AGAINST THE CHILDREN. By Orestes Martin Perez, Cuba Free Press.

Pinar del Rio.-If the Three Wise Men find out what happened in the city of Pinar del Rio, just at the time when these biblical characters should be appearing, they would surely prolong their absence from this city's households until things get better. They will, of course, not want to be stripped of their yearned-for goodies or of their camels and much less will they want to spend their senior years in a Cuban maximum security prison. Unless, of course, that because of their foreign nature, they have a privilege that the protagonist - a Cuban - of this story that I am about to tell you did not have.

It turns out that our compatriot committed the sin of buying inexpensive cheap toys to distribute among some of Cuba's poor children. No more than $200 was invested in this charitable project. It was money mostly donated by Cubans outside of Cuba.

The merchandise was not purchased east of Jerusalem but at Cuban department stores that sell the wares for foreign exchange and at inflated prices no less. Therefore the profits from this endeavor went directly into the state's purse.

"Guilty of profiteering," ruled the tribunal who sentenced our philanthropic hero to six months in a provincial jail. A quick reference to the dictionary finds profiteering as being the action of acquiring goods to be sold later at a higher price, or in a figure of speech, cornering the market to the detriment of others. This benefactor did not do any of these things. All he did was buy some toys that would have grown old at the shop. His sole intention was to distribute them among the children.

Where is the sin in this? It is simply that the above referred compatriot and probably some of the donors of this insignificant sum have different political views from those in charge in this country. It is that simple.

It is well-known that the 6th of January, according to Christian tradition, marks the biggest milestone of happiness in the life of children right after the parents have feasted and danced to their hearts' content during the union of two years. This is the day when the children have a chance to enjoy a fantasy which is not repeated until a year later.

In Cuba the last religious experience can only be recounted by those who are older than 40. With the government's resolution, out went Christmas, Epiphany Day and the Chinese toys. After 30 years, the doors have been opened to the rescue. But admittance is in dollars and many cannot pay this. The toys, not able to have their day, are anxiously waiting every day for the loving hands of the children. Many parents have had their tough moments at the stores because of toys the children desired but cannot have; they do not understand economics.

With the logical restrictions of a religious entity, the Catholic Church makes great efforts to bring back the Epiphany Day tradition. With this purpose in mind, they distribute toys to a limited number of children. The exiled Cuban community that is in a better economic situation and feels the typical brotherhood of a community that shares the same nationality, tries to add its two-cents worth to the problem. To this effect, they have organized contests and donations to favor the Cuban children inside the island. It has been precisely this community's participation that has irked the authorities in this country.

These toys purchased by the dissident, Victor Rolando Arroyo, were neither marked with a political stamp nor were they being offered with any strings attached to the families that shelter these minors. What's more, not even children of communist homes were excluded. The only purpose for these toys was to allay the sadness of, if not of all, then at least a fraction of the children who would not have had access on that day to toys that children of prosperous families would have. Today it is being said that the authorities assigned the confiscated toys to children at a day-care center.

It was unjust to confiscate property that was acquired legally and then to convict a citizen who was only trying to do a humanitarian act. It also is unjust to give said toys to others. The children who are at the day-care centers are children of working parents who usually have an economic status a bit more comfortable. The poorer children are not members of day-care centers, especially if their parents are unemployed or are languishing in jail. It is fair to ask, then, who will give these children, who do not attend day-care centers, a simple toy?

December and January have been characterized by the exigencies regarding the call for a minor to return to Cuba. Is it not just as important a right that every child in Cuba feel the joy of celebrating Epiphany Day and to be able to have a new toy on such a joyous occasion? No act that will repress a gesture that is in pursuit of a little happiness should be stimulated. And if regrettably the political factor shows its ugly face, it should do so only to be used for good and not for evil, especially after the children have lost this celebration for decades.

Orestes Martin Perez, Cuba Free Press.

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