An Obsolete Argument / Miguel Iturria Savón

Cartoon: Soon you will recover from unemployment and we can return to uncertainty.

Unemployment is the topic of conversation in thousands of Cuban homes, the layoff plan like a bird of ill omen in the minds of half a million people who will be thrown in the streets by the end of 2010, plunging into uncertainty even the elderly retirees, who worry about the fate of a son or daughter who will hang up their gloves and lose their salary.

Not least because the layoffs announced by the government will reach one million three hundred thousand, although gradually, in three stages, with the Union supporting the State employer and without any rights to strike, prohibited since 1959.

Although the granting of permits to engage in self-employment in dozens of rural and urban occupants has been announced as a palliative, uncertainties remain. Some wonder: who will make the initial investment in a country were almost everyone depends on a state salary?

Many doubt the intentions of the bureaucracy to, in fact, authorize the new trades. They remember that three hundred thousand Cubans agreed to start their own business in 1994, and had to abandon them in the fast of a government offensive against the self-employed, besieged by an army of inspectors and by the impossibility of acquiring raw materials, destined for the network of state workplaces.

The most cynical believe that the government is looking for a way to get out of its predicament while avoiding public disorder. How can you trust them if just two years ago every workplace had to analyze General Raul Castro’s speech that denigrated the self-employed and lambasted them for the diversion of resources?

There are answers from all sides, some completely childish, like those elderly who are unable to retrain themselves to understand the reality. These people put an end to the household gossip, saying, “The Revolutionary Offensive of 1968 was necessary,” and “private property is the cause of exploitation,” or, “collectivism fails because of the egotism of a handful the shameless.”

I heard the last straw yesterday at the home of a friend who worked as an electrician at the West Indian Steel, in southeast Havana, where the layoffs will affect 500 workers by the end of 2010, although this metal monster already dropped four thousand workers between the late eighties and 2006.

The friend and his father-in-law were speaking calmly about the subject, when the old man recalled that he was the union leader at West Indian Steel and he knows that behind the problems of that country is the long arm of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Faced with such a long arm, my friend smiled.

Maybe he’s right, with the eloquence of an ostrich… But the elderly who wield childish arguments to justify the unjustifiable have nothing to contribute to the changes looming on the horizon in Cuba.

October 15, 2010