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Topics of Interest in the Caribbean Blogosphere

The Caribbean blogosphere has been talking about an array of different issues over the last week or so. Here's a look at some of them…

Jamaica

Concerns about the quality of education in the country were top of the list as Jamaica Woman Tongue wondered whether The Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) was a Ponzi scheme of sorts:

LET’S FACE It. The [test] isn’t just about measuring the academic accomplishments of primary school students. The test is a clear sign of the failure of our educational system to make adequate provisions for all children to access high-quality secondary education.

In a culture of scarce benefits and educational spoils, it’s not just the academically fit who survive. There are other factors that determine performance. In the war for places in ‘good’ schools, the wealthy usually beat the poor.

Ponzi schemes sell the illusion that everyone can get rich by ‘investing’ in a dubious enterprise. In the case of the GSAT, the Ministry of Education is selling the illusion that all students who achieve can get into ‘good’ secondary schools. The people who get in on the Ponzi scheme early in the game do get back their money. But those at the very bottom of the predatory feeding chain don’t stand a chance. Poor people’s children at the lowest levels of the GSAT pyramid have a very hard time collecting any benefits and spoils from the system. Most of them leave school barely literate and completely unprepared for the job market.

Cuba

Bloggers were still talking about the human rights situation on the island following the recent papal visit. As diaspora bloggers marveled at the sheer number of arrests (760 reported for the month of March), Iván García, who lives in Havana, wrote:

Today, Cuba is among the five countries with the highest prison population in the world. The future is a bad word. There are so many prostitutes it’s scary. And psychotropic drugs are as common among adolescents as drinking rum.

Benedict could not spend ten minutes taking a picture with the Ladies in White, who for nine years, since April 2003, have been attending Mass every Sunday in the Church of Santa Rita. Or five minutes to give a rosary to a representation of the opponents who have professed Catholicism their whole lives. But in his busy schedule he had half an hour with Fidel Castro. Perhaps, as Juan Juan Almeida wrote, the meeting between the Pope and the ex-leader, also served to give the last rites to the one responsible for the endless nightmare of the Cuban people.

The Archbishop should pressure the government to engage with the opposition. Sit down and negotiate inescapable rights such as freedom of expression and association, which allow independent groups in society, whether or not they are protesters. Jaime Ortega should have more tact in dealing with dissent. While in Cuba, by tradition, the Catholic hierarchy has always rubbed shoulders with the power, the Cardinal could rethink their strategies. Keeping the smiley face just for those in power, the Church of Christ will lose more members. Cubans continue to baptize their children at home and keep the images of the Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Charity. But prefer to bet on other religions. This is what is happening.

Cuban bloggers also covered the case of Jeovany Jimenez, who went on hunger strike demanding his right to return to his practice as a physician. Generation Y provided a bit of background:

He had been expelled from his profession in 2006 when he protested a miserable wage increase for public health personnel. Along with the administrative action applied to him, he was also expelled from the Communist Party in which he was active. In late 2010 and in the absence of any institutional response to his complaints, he opened the blog Citizen Zero on the Cuban Voices platform.

After sending the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) a score of letters over these last five years, the proscribed Dr. Jiménez resorted to a desperate strategy, to stop ingesting food until reinstated in his position. From March 5, he refused to eat and saw only two options: abandoning his strike without achieving his goals, or ending up in a coffin. The most unlikely scenario was his legal reinstatement as a doctor, given the stubbornness of our institutions when it comes time to rectify an injustice. And yet, the miracle happened.

This protest didn’t have a political slant, it was work, relying on the magnificent tool of the Internet to give it visibility, along with the microphones of journalists from foreign radio and television stations who shed light on such a disproportionate administrative punishment. But the final touch was his own body. That body that he was sworn to care for in others and that he put at risk in himself to return to the right to heal.

Of interest too was a conference held by the Cuba-American businessman and politician, Carlos Saladrigas. Without Evasion noted that:

Representatives from official sectors — such as academics, university professors, political scientists, etc. — as well as numerous representatives of independent civil society generally labeled as dissidents or opponents, shared the space and the microphone without our attacking or assaulting each other, and without dismissing or offending each other, evidence that a context of respectful debate is only possible in spaces not controlled by the government.

There was everything, from condemnations of U.S. government policy, to nostalgia for what was the revolutionary project, and there were also references to the families who emigrated…Perhaps that is why it was so refreshing to hear other proposals, such as that made by friend and colleague Reinaldo Escobar to demand the decriminalization of differences of opinion; or the contribution by the young man who put on the table, among other questions, the urgent need for all Cubans to have access to the Internet and to end government’s prohibitions on the free circulation of information and ideas on the Island.

Iván García, who also attended the event, concluded that:

Carlos Saladrigas sees it all very clearly. Too clearly. I noticed that he did not question the hundreds of detentions of dissidents for the visit of the German Pope, or the spontaneous blow to someone who shouted ‘Down with communism’ in the Plaza Antonio Maceo in Santiago de Cuba. Nobody else asked, either.

Finally, at Translating Cuba, Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada made the point that:

The right not to be subjected to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or penalties should be addressed in several ways in the context of HIV in Cuba, for example in the treatment of prisoners who are sick.

Trinidad & Tobago

Of the country's new oil discovery, aka_lol said, tongue firmly in cheek:

Now that some oil was found after many years of not being found, the population can stop burning tires to fix roads…The showing off of the latest oil find with numerous ads in the press and on radio can be seen as a way to boost the local economy with misplaced confidence and without cement.

The new oil discoveries are being seen by both analysts and optimists as the tip of the iceberg of more oil discoveries that will help propel an idea-starved government back into the old ways of the country and in power.

Finally, still on the topic of the Cheryl Miller fiasco, The Eternal Pantomime quipped:

I get up this morning to read that Miller will be getting private tests done to find out if the drugs she has been given have harmed her in any way; and that Khan has called a Council of the Ministerial Suspects. If you ask me, that meeting isn’t going to be about finding out who is at the bottom of this, because something tells me Khan already knows, and has known since Holy Thursday. This meeting may well be to strategise on how to cover their asses, and find a way to placate a very angry public.

I’m glad that Cheryl’s colleagues and indeed many other citizens did make a fuss about this, and voiced their displeasure and kept questioning the authorities. At the bottom of it, this has…everything to do with how we as citizens are treated by people in positions of power.

Too often in matters like this the state authorities does wine on us…and wine hard too. I am hoping, that given the details of this case, and Cheryl Miller’s battery of lawyers that she ain't just get to wine back on the state, I want she tremble it and raise a leg too…because they damn well deserve it!

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