HAVANA, Cuba, October 4, 2013, Victor Ariel Gonzalez / www.cubanet.org.- In the heat of what appears to be a crusade against clothing and shoe retailers, this reporter interviewed vendors in the capital who expressed their worries about recently enacted measures and warnings issued by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MTSS) in the media. According to the newspaper Granma, “as part of the new arrangements to go into effect as of Thursday, September 28, MTSS officials affirmed that the sale of industrially manufactured products, or products purchased abroad by seamstresses or tailors (…) will constitute an infraction and lead to the charge of a misdemeanor against those who perform this activity.” ( Granma, page 8, October 2, 2013).
A week has passed and the vendors continue on in their usual places “waiting” for them to come and close them down. The first complaint from one of them was the lack of foresight on the part of the government: since they started issuing licenses to seamstresses and tailors a vast network of clothing sellers has appeared who considered themselves enabled within the legal framework; some entrepreneurs mortgaged their small family fortunes and created an entire employment sector. The authorities remained silent, watching as the activity prospered.
“And now they’re going to close us done, after I put my money into it?” asked a trader who did not want to be identified.
Facing the fear of permanent closure, some are lowering their prices to recoup at least some of their investment in the shortest possible time. One self-employed woman suggested that at least they should establish a window for getting rid of the merchandise they already have.
Everyone agrees that they would liked for a State wholesale market to have been created, so as not to have to go shopping in Mexico, Panama or Ecuador, the leading suppliers of the independent market on the Island. But the Cuban government takes the opposite path and insists on disrupting this market niche.
“They say we have to change our mentality, but they keep doing the same things as always,” said one of those affected in reference to the current official discourse, which contrasts with the announced measure.
Interestingly , in trying to interview venders at the Gaya shop on Carlos III Avenue, they refused to express an opinion on the grounds that “they had been directed” not make any statements. This shows that there is also fear on the part of the authorities towards the negative reaction triggered by the enactment of new legislation in the coming days, when the inspectors and police visit the bazaars one by one.
Referring to the possible problems that may arise, another respondent felt that it will be difficult to get some people to accede to the orders without protest, especially those who have put all their effort into their business. In any event, clearly the government will arrange things so that the discontent does not become a moderately important popular movement.
After all, it isn’t the first time they decided to remove a visible group of individuals who are successful in their private economic management.
Victor Ariel Gonzalez
4 October 2013