A Frowned-Upon Character / Fernando Dámaso

In my country a moneylender was called “the brakeman,” due to the high interest charged on borrowed money, which multiplied if the loan is not repaid without the agreed-upon time frame. Also, in extreme cases, physical violence was brought to bear on the defaulters. He was a person frowned-upon by decent citizens, who tried not to have need of his services.

When the State became the brakeman of the citizens, the situation became more complicated and terrible because of the legal helplessness they find themselves in, tied hand and foot. Let’s look at an example, among many, that illustrates this reality.

If you, by chance, are invited to travel abroad by a family member or friend, they will have to pay the government, in freely convertible money (CUC) or hard currency, 250 CUC (hard currency) for the Letter of Invitation. You will have pay 55 CUC for your passport; 150 CUC as a Travel Tax (the well-known Permission to Leave or “White Card”); take out Travel Insurance, for 2.50 CUC for every day abroad, without the right to cancel it if you cut short your trip.

In addition, after thirty days established in your travel permit, if you want to stay longer, you have to pay to corresponding Cuban Consulate 2.50 CUC (equivalent in foreign currency). At the airport there is a 25 CUC TAX to leave. On returning, they weigh all your luggage and everything you brought and you pay whatever exceeds the authorized weight in National Money (Cuban pesos), as well as the value of anything you acquired, also in National Money, based on an inspection of the same by Customs.

If you are one of the citizens who enjoys a PRE (Permanent Residence in the Exterior) or simply an emigrant, the situation is complicated: to leave, in addition to what every citizen has to pay, you must pay 400 CUC for a medical check-up, independently of what you have to have and pay for from the Consulate of the receiving country. When you renew your passport abroad, this costs 450 CUC (or equivalent in hard currency) to the Cuban Consulate, and when you visit your own country, just like all other citizens on returning, you have to pay more than 100 CUC (hard currency) as Medical Insurance, even though you already have medical insurance where you live.

If you add all these expenses, as required by the State to travel or return, the character of the moneylender, in comparison, seems like pitiful little angel. What would be just for the State to do, instead of bleeding its citizens and creating an ordeal for them, would be to worry about giving them facilities and treating them respectfully. Unfortunately it is not that way, and those who travel and return, or who live abroad and come to visit, are seen only as an easy source for obtaining financial resources.

March 17 2011