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Pablo Menéndez testimony: From a peaceful Cuba

Pablo Menéndez  |  Issue: August 2021
Cuba demonstration

I was born and raised in California. My father was a New Yorker and my mother, born in Detroit, is singer Barbara Dane.  (Google her!)

In 1966 she was the first US public personality to visit Cuba after the ‘59 Revolution and the US prohibition on travel to the island.  

After ‘66, she visited often, singing all over the country and became a symbol of the friendship between our two countries. 

I came to Cuba in 1966 to study at the National School of Music, planning to be here for a year.  But I liked it so much and felt I was living in the center of the world, so I’ve been living here and making my living as a musician ever since.

My band is named “Pablo Menendez & Mezcla”

You can find us on YouTube etc.

Cuban flag

Over the years I have noticed that every time there is the slightest chance of better relations between the US and Cuba, the “war on Cuba industry” greatly steps up their propaganda war.

They are more powerful than ever and have huge budgets and also new tools now. Just as drones and cruise missiles have replaced bombers and napalm, now the world sees how you hear next to nothing of the dramatic situation in Latin America or places where the US has invaded or bombed or the dramatic UN votes against the USA or the statements of heads of state in solidarity with Cuba yet every result of the 62 year old “pressure cooker” strategy against Cuba is magnified to incredible levels of criminal absurdity.

Many alarmed friends from the United States have asked me to describe “what’s happening in Cuba!”

All I can tell you is that my wife Barbarita, is a doctor and goes to work on public transportation every day and attends to patients from every walk of Cuban life. 

This gives us pretty good first-hand information about how life is in CUBA for everyone. We have family all over the country and my band members are in different neighborhoods all over Havana, so, I can speak not from what I saw on a little screen but from first hand reports on life here.

I have been at home for the last 18 months of quarantine.  No live concerts since March 2020.

So far, the Ministry of culture has guaranteed 100% of my band’s salaries which, as my wife Dr. Barbarita’s also, has been multiplied by 400%

As the Cuban government quite openly says, practically no money is coming into the country and they are having a very hard time to provide even the most basic services. Yet they have not risen prices and on the contrary now they unified the currency so that the same money that pays our salary buys everything that is possible to put on sale. 

I am sure that this is confusing because of all of the news about “stores in dollars” that have been unpopular and attacked by vandals and looters.  (These seemed more drawn to looting tvs and appliances than food)

I can’t tell you much about the dollar stores because they are monopolized by every day Cubans with dollars that get online as soon as they open and buy everything possible, for resale and speculation. 

I have not even been able to enter one of these stores.  I just want to look at the prices because I don’t really have dollars right now.

So, how do we eat? 

On one hand: the ration book (that we luckily still have – the rationed basics do have higher prices but afordable for all) now this guarantees us a big part of our needs (and everyone gets this same basic starting point) 

Then, on the other hand, we buy at the privately owned neighborhood agro markets.  The private sector has been very damaged by the Donald Trump measures and covid and also its reorganizing to the monetary unification process that the government finally implanted. 

The third element is a policy our local People’s Power (neighborhood government) has of helping the most vulnerable sectors of the population which includes me (being over 65) We get priority on line at the stores once a month.  

Those stores are also monopolized by Cuban speculators that buy everything in sight for resale at higher prices.  So, we actually (and I must say incredibly) are eating very well at our house. One thing that gives our household an advantage is that we have no elders or children in our household. 

The most incredible thing about all of this totally new phenomenum of “protests” is to see the July 11th protests (which truly, were NOT peaceful ones) NOW! -after almost every major dramatic reform that we all have struggled for for years have been reformed by the government! I could give you a pretty long list.

And if you think about it, five years back when the POTUS visited Cuba & walked around with his wife & kids and was on the most popular Cuban TV show and spoke to the nation live on TV…  (I guess he forgot to reciprocate the invitation for Cuba’s president)

Everything was really better for people in Cuba and Cubans outside of Cuba.  The private sector in Cuba…everybody!! Better!

He said “the US blockade hadn’t worked for almost 60 years And that it was time to try something else”. (towards the same objective of regime change) but Donald Trump really put his mind (?) and might into the job of making it work.

But, if this was true with the removal of just s part of the 60 year old sanctions, what would life be like with no blockade? Who can say?! The US has NEVER removed it in spite of the demands of all the world’s nations over 28 times!

Now, I think a lot of people that worked at not steady jobs in the private sector ARE now having more extreme difficulties.

Also people that didn’t work at all but lived on remittances from the US and now don’t get any (mostly because of the Trump measures) are mad too.

Basic logic would have it that it would not be in the self interest of the Cuban government to make things worse for the people or to repress them in any dramatic way in times of crisis. No?

I think basic logic is that, as one sees every day on Cuban Television, they are hard at work trying to solve our problems together with us. 

More transparent than ever. In fact when Cuban immigrants in the United States started to replace the slogan Patria o Muerte with the slogan Patria Y vida, our president changed His slogan to “Ponle corazon a Cuba!”

Yes things are tight – yet, as you see if you compare our numbers with practically any other country including the US, the government is taking very good care of us with the Covid programs (I had Covid and was in a regular Cuban isolation center so I can tell you firsthand) in spite of all of the incredible intensification of the US embargo as they call it in the US but the rest of the world (and votes in the General Assembly against it) calls it, “the US blockade”, which really is similar to the knee of a cop on our throat.

“We can’t breathe!”


I really have to add one thought: Cuba is not perfect and no one says it is, not even our president. But last year the world saw the worst side of humanity talk about possible flaws of George Floyd while everyone watched two cops with arms drawn back up the murderer who slowly killed him. 

Is the question here to analize Cuba’s “problems vs virtues” or actually do something to stop what the world calls genocide against the people of Cuba?

But it seems the world is organizing Solidarity, sending medical supplies that are hard to get for us to test and vaccinate (with the Cuban vaccines!!!) all 11 million Cubans.

Where do you stand? 

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