Castroism’s Sleight-of-Hand Tricks / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 10 February 2021 — These days we are witnessing the most recent Castroist sleight-of-hand: the Cuban government has just announced that it has eliminated the list that defined the activities authorized to be carried out by the private sector — called “One’s Own Account” (Self-Employment) due to a phobia of this “cursed word” — and instead, it has established another where more than 120 activities will remain prohibited for that management approach.

Immediately the trigger of mistrust jumps when living in a country where everything private has been demonized and all the fruit of individual work stigmatized, almost synonymous with selfishness and indolence in the face of common needs. It is when we see that the magician with his gadget makes that absurd list of permitted activities disappear, and then makes appear, like a prodigy, another one of prohibited activities! And that is where we wake up, we get suspicious, and we wonder if it is not the same shit.

How will the current dynamics of the labor market change having eliminated a list that could easily be published in Charlemagne’s Europe – because all the authorized trades had a frankly medieval profile – and implement another where they continue to veto the professions of the 21st century that demand university training –precisely those destined to have a greater economic and social impact?

If you ask me, I will say that as things are, that dynamic will change very little, and that the impact will be very little, or zero, as long as the Havana regime persists in its confessed intentions to restrict the management of the private family business and punish the success of its initiative.

Of course, the moment when the Cuban government announces this display of openness is not free. Castroism is an old fox that knows well how and when to play its cards to achieve the best effect. You have already heard that Joe Biden is excited about the idea of empowering Liborio* [the Cuban ’everyman’] and that is why in Havana they file their teeth.

Someone must alert Mr. Biden that eliminating that list was nothing more than a trap, an invitation to Washington’s naivety to spread its legs again, a trap that will only serve for 10 million Cubans to confirm, when some months have passed, that this dictatorship, whose genes dictate a perpetual crusade against any hint of individuality, will never give in on it.

I expect to find among the more than 120 activities on which the prohibition of the principal professions, to wit: the legal profession, the principal engineering professions, those of the highest-end pedagogical sciences, computer science, and of course all those related to Medicine and Dentistry, as well as everything that implies access to financial management.

But beyond that, we all know that in Cuba from announcing to doing there are always large stretches, and this “opening” will be of no use if the regime insists with the same stubbornness on boycotting the private sector. Take as a timid sample the limitation on the exercise of Veterinarian to the care of pets, as if this science were not extended to the rest of the animal kingdom.

If something has always marked Castroism, it has been the demagogic inconsistency between what was said and what was done. Let us remember how the magician told me yesterday that I, a peasant, would be the owner of the land that he confiscated on behalf of the people, but later he forced me to join cooperatives and deprived me of all rights.

He told me that I, a small entrepreneur, could manage my own private restaurant, but he immediately set the dogs on me and put up so many obstacles that they made me give up.

He told me that I could study medicine for free and apparently that was the case, but then I worked for decades for $20 a month, I did a thousand free shifts and in the official mission of collaboration abroad he robbed me blind, and with all the freebies!

Then he assured me that I, a worker in short, could already buy a car, and to prove it he offered me used Chinese carcasses for $35,000 in US dollars.

This magician, a typical Creole joker, told me one day that I, a humble worker of this century, could already access the Internet, but until just a few months months ago he forced me to connect under the sun in a park, and today, now more comfortable in my house, he charges me triple my salary(!) for 30 hours a month of lousy censored service.

This conjuror insists that he has reformed the immigration law, when he reserves the right to allow me to leave my country or return, and “regulates**” me whenever he wants; in short, a masterful wizard, this rogue who never gives you the last in his surreal game where nothing is what it seems; A game in which you will never win because you will never know which ace is up his sleeve and, in the end, he will always screw you in some way.

Joe Biden does not seem impressed with the overwhelming evidence that the Obama opening in no way empowered the Cuban people, but since Castroism has always opted to create its own semantics to mask its nonsense, it has us long accustomed to the unbridled use of euphemisms. The most accused of all would be the one that, due to its foundational nature, paved the way for the subsequent triumphal entry of all the others, and that was to call the disaster that followed the war of liberation against the Batista dictatorship: “Revolution”.

As a revolution in historical terms implies evolution, a leap forward, progress and social conquests for the benefit of the people, it is worth exposing here why the Cuban Revolution ceased to be an authentic Revolution as soon as Fidel Castro passed the aspirations of my people through the triumphal arch and he betrayed them to the point of welding himself to power, which is why it is still inappropriate to call this brutal regression to the 19th century a revolution, caused by a gerontocracy whose real achievement was to create, in its futile search for the “new man”, an anodyne two-faced being, capable of betraying himself in exchange for a Chinese television.

Authentic revolutions do not last 60 years, but once consummated they can only follow one of two divergent paths: they evolve naturally towards a genuine rule of law, or instead they drift inexorably into the swamp of dictatorship.

Fidel Castro chose the second trail, and when the product of his egotism exploded in his face in the 90s, to disguise it he renamed the creature and decided, with a hilarious euphemism, to call the worst nightmare known under his regime “Special Period in a Time of Peace.”

As the son of a cat he always hunts a mouse, so it is natural that today Raúl Castro, through the mouth of his puppet Diáz-Canel, calls the irreversible aggravation of the dying person a “temporary period”; temporary when he knows that he has no solution or possible solution!!!???… Sleight-of-hand tricks and crazy things!

If, in the 80’s, Fidel Castro called his string of follies and improvisations a “Process of rectification of errors and negative tendencies” – a desperate response to the imminent socialist “falling apart” in Europe – then why not call this madness of indiscriminately raising wages and prices, ignoring all modern economic maxims, without any support in production and supply, which will only aggravate an already rampant inflation, a “Reordering.”

All crazy, but whoever dies for his pleasure, death tastes glorious. Now, no one is fooled, because the magician, in his eagerness to dazzle Biden, can pull even more surprises out of his hat, even though in this Cuba, so drowned in despair and boredom, no one believes his tall tales or his fairground tricks. We are already on to the falsities of the conjurer, we know his corner tricks and we are tired of his promises of gold in exchange for mirrors, of his trifles for naive tourists who do not understand that some vices will never be remedied.

  Translator’s notes:

*Liborio is a character in the novels of Cuban journalist and author Carlos Loveira (1882-1928) who has come to be a symbol of the Cuban Everyman.

**”Regulated” is Cuban government-speak for the condition of a Cuban citizen who is prohibited from traveling outside the island. People commonly find out they are ’regulated’ when they are already at the airport, ticket in hand, and told they cannot board their flight.