14ymedio, Havana, 13 November 2020 — Since the coronavirus pandemic reached Cuba eight months ago, most private sector workers have been unable to perform their jobs. Many had to surrender their licenses and others, in the absence of solutions, stretch their savings to try to withstand the blow until they can start their businesses again.
The photographer Pedro Luis García has denounced the Sub-Directorate of Self-Employed Work on his social networks for “malfunctioning, irresponsible, bureaucratic runaround and lack of respect for the population.” According to García, this department belongs to the Municipal Directorate of Labor and Social Security of the Plaza de la Revolución Municipality. “I hope that my case is resolved by this institution at some point,” he said.
“I am a self-employed person, I have my license and I pay Social Security. Last month they told me to present a letter to the Municipal Labor Directorate to release me from payment for the months of the pandemic.” They told him that he should have canceled the license for those days, but because he was considered “high risk” he was not able to leave his home.
Now, the authorities tell him that he must pay for the months he didn’t work. He made a claim last month but they have yet to respond.
He went to see the deputy director of that agency and spent hours waiting for him and when he finally met with him he was told to go to the National Tax Administration Office (ONAT) to see if he was already freed of the obligation to pay. When he arrived at ONAT, they informed him that his name was not on the list provided by the municipal work department of those exempt from payment.
“I am a victim of a runaround and the bureaucracy of the municipal deputy director of Labor and Social Security of the municipality of Plaza de la Revolución. I denounce my case and the lack of respect shown to self-employed worker. I feel helpless in the face of the Government; since we are living in limbo in this time of pandemic, because the regime does not offer benefits; they force us to hand over our licenses,” he denounced.
In mid-April, the Minister of Labor placed the number of personnel in the private transport sector who suspended their activity at the request of the Government at 52,000, and explained individuals could also request to suspend their activity, an option that 139,000 people had accepted. At that time, an impact of about 99 million pesos was calculated, both for the monthly tax payments*, and for the 10% of the services or sales that are no longer captured.
Since then, the private sector has requested access to a rescue package that includes preferential credits, and has requested authorizations to import and export without going through the State. All without success, since the Government only offers these benefits to state companies, along with other solutions that do not apply to the self-employed.
*Translator’s note: Individuals licensed to work as self-employed in Cuba must pay flat rate monthly taxes simply to maintain their licenses, in addition to taxes on income.
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