Going after the whistleblower rather than the culprits: the tobacco
conflict continues in Mayarí
OSMEL RAMÍREZ ÁLVAREZ | Holguín | 29 de Mayo de 2017 - 17:25 CEST.
Criminalizing the disclosure of violations to the public, rather than
those who perpetrated them, seems to be the approach taken by the
authorities in the conflict between producers in Mayarí, Holguín, and
the state company Cubatabaco for unfair payments for crops.
In previous articles I have discussed the plight faced by we producers
as a result of the prices of so-called "affected tobacco," or category-3
tobacco, a completely useable and marketable class of the plant that
generates major profits for Cubatabaco, but is paid for as if it were
garbage, at just a third of its production cost.
The situation has worsened because the volume of this type of tobacco
increased in the last harvest due to the adverse effects of a mysterious
and unavoidable malady called "green spot."
Attempts to seek redress undertaken by the cooperative of producers from
the state company's management and technicians have all been in vain,
with no grievances properly channeled. The agreement of the Assembly of
Members ((Asociados)) not to sell the tobacco until the problem of
unfair prices was solved, was violated by all of them - beginning with
the president of the cooperative, who evidently feels a greater
allegiance to the interests of the State than those of the farmworkers.
In the midst of this controversial situation, a rumor spread that the
authorities were finally taking the price problem seriously.
Unfortunately, this was not due to the fact that the payment was, in
fact, unfair, but rather because of the coverage of the issue in
Of course, the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP), charged
with detecting any injustices suffered by farm laborers, and fighting
for a solution, has done nothing, despite the fact that we producers
support the organization with levies on our income.
The municipal managers of the ANAP and those of the cooperative are
grappling with "the problem of Osmel Ramírez," not that of the unfair
price. They are proceeding cautiously, because they know that I am
advancing a whole collective's complaint, and any move against me would
put me in the spotlight.
In mid-May a commission came to my home to analyze my articles on
nonconformities in the harvest price. It was made up of the director of
the tobacco company in the municipality, along with the deputy director,
deputy agricultural director, and legal counsel, all at the provincial
level. They were all very friendly and receptive.
It was a heated but respectful exchange in which the initial
disagreement evolved into tacit consensus. "Do you think that the price
of 292 pesos per quintal of category-3 tobacco is fair, when it is paid
for at just 30% of its production cost, and the product generates
thousands of pesos in profits?" was my question.
First they tried to change the subject to avoid the heart of the matter,
but they ended up recognizing reality, and promised to pass on this
source of discontent to their superiors. They called the situation a
"problem," while I insisted that it was an "injustice" and assured them
that I would continue to fight for our interests.
I defended my right to freely write about the reality around me and to
publish it on the Internet. They did not overtly question that
contention. And I stressed my commitment to the strictest ethics of
honest writing, and being true to the facts.
Minutes after the meeting, several farmworkers came to my house. One of
them, coincidentally, had come by in the middle of our talk, and told
the rest. They wanted to know what had happened and, to my surprise,
they knew about my articles, because the rumors had circulated widely.
Of course, they do not surf the Internet, as this is something
inaccessible for most people, due to the high prices of Wi-Fi hotspots.
Those who do, usually use it to communicate less expensively on IMO, or
check Facebook, not to read news and, much less, articles. This is why
it is easy to distort and stigmatize anything that is published, and to
frighten many people. But this issue is very sensitive because it
affects income that is vital of thousands of families, while swelling
state coffers with undeserved profits.
This issue shall be addressed again at a meeting of the cooperative.
Although it seems very difficult to win this battle, it is a duty to
fight for a fair price for all the tobacco we harvest.
We are required by law to negotiate with Cubatabaco, the only company of
its kind existing in the country. The alternative we have is to live in
dishonorable complicity with injustice, an option that we cannot
consider. Hence, the conflict continues.
Source: Going after the whistleblower rather than the culprits: the
tobacco conflict continues in Mayarí | Diario de Cuba -