Cautious Optimism / Fernando Dámaso

1. Once again small businesses have begun to appear all over the city, even on my Tulipan Avenue, where only five months ago they were wiped out. It’s like a weed no one can kill, but in this case weeds that should never die, and that should be transformed into strong and leafy trees, with well-established roots to resist the battering of the cyclones that are sure to come. Depending on the possibilities of each one, some better conceived than others, but all with the desire to prosper, something innate in human being. It is to start again.

2. We must look on their resurgence with optimism, although we can’t be too confident in their permanence. We have already seen several negative experiences previously (remember the “Kingbird On The Wire*” operations against the artisans and artists in the Plaza of the Cathedral, Adoquin and Maceta, against the self-employed, and others, to cite some of the glaring examples). Reality obliges us to be cautious. Some people have already begun to blame them for some of the product shortages in the stores.

3. Analyzing what’s in writing and talking about it with the self-employed, their efforts arise from the necessity to save the drowning, from conviction of the advantages, and we discover that to launch such a business they must pay the state between 30% and 35% in taxes on profits, spend (it’s calculated) up to 40% on expenses (legal proof must be provided for half), and earn not more than 25% (not enough to get rich). In other words, the State appropriates 75%, in one form or another (through expenses, that include energy, materials, etc purchased from the state, the only source and one that sets exorbitant prices), and the self-employed person gets 25%. Not even the demonized savage capitalism acts like this.

4. It’s as if someone on the point of drowning asks for help and his savior demands that he buy the rope and the life jacket with which he will be rescued, and at a fixed price. It would be absurd. As we can see, the self-employed, despite what they say, is still seen as an undesirable traveling companion, an ideological enemy, someone being used because there is no alternative, with the intention of disposing of him as soon as possible. It continues to focus on the failed socialist enterprise, that has never functioned anywhere where it has been tried. It is the contradiction between the efficient and productive and the inefficient and unproductive.

5. Despite these concerns, it’s healthy that something has started to move, even if the movements are minimal and with many strings attached. In short, the creature, if is manages to gain strength and develop itself, little by little it will be capable of freeing itself and picking up speed.

*Translator’s Note: A kingbird (pitirre in Spanish) is an aggressive little bird that will attack larger birds and even people. “A kingbird on the wire” is a common Cuban expression warning that someone is eavesdropping, or there is a snitch, with bad intentions.

Translated by Ariana

January 29 2011