Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

20 de Marzo del 2000


Placetas.- "The leased farms are one more sham of this government, like the swindle of the 20 hectares that they 'gave' to me," says Orlando Visiedo Pacheco, a 35-year-old farmer.

A leasing consists of whatever the authorities want. The government told Orlando to "clear the land first." There were no contracts or other papers for the government's promises in writing. And although it was a farm so small that not even "telegrams of deaths reach it," he accepted the directive and spent all his money to clear the land.

He even sold a little 1946 Ford tractor that he owned for 14,000 pesos. He also even removed the balsam trees that could eventually yield telephone poles. His sacrifice was so great that his weight dropped from 240 pounds to 192 pounds in eight months.

When Visiedo had finally cleared 17 hectares, the rulers noted he had associated with dissidents, even some of what are called "the peaceful opposition." So then they proposed what he calls "a bad deal." Young Visiedo had planned to cultivate malanga to get his family out of their misery and he was close to happiness with his small plot of land.

However, the government's agriculture officials had other plans. They told him, "We're going to give you goats." They wanted him to nurture goats instead of planting malanga. Then the returns would be 30 percent for Visiedo and 70 percent for the government. And that's how the sacrifice of eight months of intense work failed. After having been sleeping in an improvised lean-to and eating government peas, Visiedo found himself ruined.

Now he learns that there was a friend of some government official who was interested in using Visiedo's land, since it was ready for cultivation. The government told Visiedo, "Either goats or nothing."

That only made Visiedo look at the work of the dissidents even more seriously. While he was talking with a member of the Democratic Solidarity group, an agent of the Technical Department for Investigations (TDI)named Vega summoned Visiedo to the First Unit so as to try to intimidate him. Vega told Visiedo that he was going to give the farmer a kick in the ass because he was a "worm" (i.e., a dissident).

Visiedo answered that he was anti-Castro and anti-communist but not a "worm" because a worm is something that destroys, that kills. "Look up the word 'worm' in the dictionary," he told Vega. "It's a bug that destroys. Who has destroyed our country? The leaders. They can't tell me that I've destroyed. Yes, they have destroyed me. They don't give me work because I am a peaceful member of the opposition."

Visiedo adds that he has always been a farmer. He knows how to till the land, milk cows and is a tractor mechanic who knows how to repair farm machinery and equipment. He can repair plows, mincing machines and other equipment but because he associated with critics of the regime, he has no work.

When any employer learns he's a dissident, he loses the job. He gets a job for 15 days and when the employer learns who he is, "I go by train because the bus is full," says this young farmer with a chuckle to indicate that they fire him from the job. He adds that he is not going to steal and that "here the only thing that lives on air is the windmill, and if you don't oil it, it breaks down."

He is at present living with his family, i.e., his mother, sister and nieces. He does some illegal fishing. The problem is that everything he does is illegal, because everything he does is controlled by the government. The fines for fishing if he were caught could be as much as 5,000 pesos.

There is a brigade of the Military Intelligence Center (CIM) made up of retired men of the community who devote themselves to keeping an eye on those who fish at the Zaza dam.

It is difficult to live in such circumstances. This young farmer survives under threat because he has no work, cannot get work because they won't give him any, and is watched constantly.

The possibility of getting back the farm does not exist. He is unwilling to work at just any farm under unfavorable conditions. "There are things that one cannot give in to and unfavorable working conditions is one of them."

This man of the rural countryside says, "I will not work if intimidation or repression are used against me because I was doing something so that the circumstances of everyone in the country would be bettered."

Juan Antonio Soto, Cuba Free Press.

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