Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 29 July 2020 — Granma, on its website, says that complaints from readers about so-called “dishonest speculators” are accumulating. Really, you can’t fall much lower or be worse. On the part of Granma, of course.
The article, I can’t remember the author, describes the long lines and the coleros, who are people who are paid by others to stand in line for them. Both things are plentiful in these months of COVID-19 in Cuba, but the most important question isn’t asked: Why do the lines and coleros exist? It’s curious that the article doesn’t mention Miami, Madrid or Mexico City, where no Cuban has to get up at dawn and spend sleepy hours of sweat standing in interminable lines in order to get groceries. It’s unthinkable.
In Cuba, the line is a hardship, something that can’t be avoided if you want to eat every day and have some basic cleaning product to combat the dirt. And Granma, instead of going to the root of the problem, which they know perfectly well, attacks and insults the “dishonest speculators”, who are just the tip of the iceberg.
The article describes the numerous and varied behaviors of “resolving” that Cubans practice, as if it were a matter of a crime, “like standing two or three times in line for several people, selling their spots to anyone who can pay at high prices, to accelerate their moment of buying”. Serious crimes, no doubt. They don’t say, however, that this happens when the consumer, after desperately trying to buy a product for several unfruitful days of standing in line, ends up running to the service that assures him of being among the first to have access to one of the scarce products for sale.
Equally condemned are those who “whisper in your ear that you can have what you want (wet wipes, diapers, chicken, picadillo, oil, air conditioners, freezers…), but only if you’re ready to pay double, triple or who knows how much in Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) over the price in the State stores”. It’s normal; for a start, these people can communicate their services however they find it convenient, and, in addition, they have every legitimate right in the world to profit from an activity in which they spend time, strength and, in many cases, economic resources.
And of course, immediately the Ministry of Interior arrived and ended the fun, with the emission of sanctions for more than 1,285 coleros from the beginning of the pandemic, with the certainty that not everyone who received a fine actually engages in these activities. There’s always a threat of repression thrown in, just in case.
So that, in order to be prepared for what the Ministry views as a growing phenomenon, and thus nothing is said about how to address it with economic measures that are necessary and advisable, the Government announces through Granma more repression against what it calls “the indolence of people with no social commitment, dedicated to accumulating products needed by families in the midst of a context of shortages and a national health emergency”. Once more, incredible but true. Insults, condemnations, judgments about presumed crimes, lack of respect for the principle of presumed innocence. For the Communists, the guilty are the innocent.
The columnist even “doubts the humanity of these beings, who, motived by individualism, forget that the children, elderly, pregnant and sick won’t have the opportunity to get what they need”, without realizing that thanks to these dehumanized beings, many of the above-mentioned people now manage to have access to the goods and services they need but can’t get in any other way, not even in their dreams. Rather than committing crimes, these beings are providing a benefit to many people who are willing, logically, to pay for that. Nothing is free, and the Communists know it, although they toe the Party line when it’s convenient.
The amount of the fines is also questionable, because they don’t bring in a lot of money. If the fines were excessively high, the sanctionable act would demand a higher price from the client, which would reduce the size of the demand and, thus, the potential capacity of the offer. So these fines of 100 to 300 pesos are perfectly designed by the Government to keep the coleros and “dishonest speculators” continue to offer their services. Ask the authorities why.
The article continues along other paths, pointing out that many coleros are the same people in charge of organizing the lines in these establishments, which makes the crime worse, but without recognizing that the problem could be solved by supplying enough products in the shops. Then in Havana, as in Madrid, the lines would disappear, along with the coleros and the speculators. An impossible dream for several generations of Cubans who know that their economic system is incapable of accomplishing this basic life goal.
Proposals like scanning identity cards to organize the lines, improving control inside the shops, using the ration card, administrative surveillance of workers, etc. are the Communist solutions to this phenomenon, which, if applied, would surely multiply. Don’t be deceived. These proposals are the ones that Granma says must reach online readers of the newspaper. I’m afraid there are many people who are ignorant about economic matters and only see the situation through an absurd ideological lens that has reached its end. Perhaps the moment for education has arrived.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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