Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 24 July 2020 — A few days ago the government of Diaz-Canel slipped us all a surprise. Finally, after multiple postponements we got to the long-awaited end to dual currency, and, so in order that we didn’t complain, in effect, there will be no more circulation of TWO (national) currencies in our country, and, from now, we will start to use THREE! …
Obviously the first reaction of every Cuban who has lived on the island for the last 25 years was to swing between astonishment and disbelief, until they realised this was not just the moronic Castro successor fucking about, or some kind of bad taste joke, and, having searched in vain for the hidden camara, they realised that our shiny new “president’ was absolutely serious.
You can understand the astonishment when you remember that decades ago Fidel Castro, that pimp who implemented the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) rip-off, had already been speaking of eliminating the dual currency, which existed for the time being, that the tricky topic was a temporary thing which featured in Raul Castro’s policy slogan only to be delayed while he was in power, and that the Havana government had kept this aberration going as its big unresolved business up to this morning because its latest administrator up to now had done nothing more than imitate his mentors who had left him holding the hot potato.
Instead of promoting conditions and necessary mechanisms to put right the present damaging situation in an orderly and progressive way, Diaz-Canel’s government surprises everyone with a new grinding of the gears in the opposite direction, taking an obvious step backwards, doing the exact opposite of what was expected, and everything announced and recognised as the first essential step towards sorting out our finances and reorganising the economic chaos and at least regaining a thousandth part of their zero credibility.
Once more, the magical realism of the Castro regime shows us one of its most surprising facets: its amazing capacity for saying something and doing the exact opposite right in front of our noses without the slightest embarassment, and, as always, assuring us that its decision is for our own good. You would laugh if it wasn’t so serious!
Because if there is anything the kids in the Plaza are really good at, it is their amazing talent for cynicism. It’s exactly what we heard Fidel Castro say when he beat his chest for the liberty of the poor people of the world while here he was squeezing our nuts, prohibiting us from travelling, humiliating us at the doors of the dollars-only shops for foreign diplomats and of all the hotels in Cuba, and, at the same time assuring us that the results of this “necessary sacrifice” would be for the benefit of all of us, which never happened.
What did happen, along with the power cuts of the Special Period, was the dual currency, which remained with us. As far as that’s concerned, I don’t know of any other country which has used two national currencies at the same time, although there are lots of cases where, along with the national currency there has circulated another foreign currency, with the close-to-home example of pre-revolutionary Cuba, where the peso and the US Dollar circulated at the same time. But there has been no example of two national currencies, as we have now in Cuba with the Cuban peso (CUP) and the CUC.
This was, without doubt, one of Fidel Castro’s most shameless swindles perpetrated on the Cuban people. During more than 25 years in Cuba we have been paid miserable salaries in a national currency (the CUP) with an arbitrary exchange rate relative to the CUC (currently 25 for 1 at the exchange bureaux of the Cuban National Bank), a device which has guaranteed the Cuban regime that remittances from abroad in the sum of billions of dollars, euros, or other currencies have gone straight into its coffers while they have handed over CUCs (unsupported bills which can’t be used outside the island) to Cuban families.
Well, as from now, both national currencies (the shameful CUP and the devalued CUC) will have to cohabit with the dirty imperial dollars, the same ones which Fidel Castro ranted and raved about in his fiery delusionary historic speeches.
But it won’t be that way for long because the useless CUC has its days numbered. In the midst of a calamitous economic crisis – for many people worse than the one in the ’90’s – the CUC has been for many months getting knocked backward, setting repeated devaluation records, and today it has a street value of about 1.20 CUCs to the dollar. In the meantime, up to a few days ago, before ending the tax on the US dollar, the National Bank exchange rate was 0.87 CUC per dollar, showing a complete detachment from reality.
You can’t help but notice, nevertheless, that only now Havana decides to end this awful 10% tax on US Dollars – another arbitrary dodgy move by Fidel Castro – after having blustered from the Obama opening-up that they would only do it when the economic sanctions were withdrawn by the US., something which certainly has not occurred, and it is being withdrawn now, when the CUC is worth less and less – a tax which, quite definitely, never had any effect on Obama’s pockets, or Trump’s, but did directly affect those of us Cubans.
Although, if anyone lost out in this sad tale, it has been the Cuban nation – meaning the Cuban people – whose economy has paid an incalculable price due to the brutal financial distortion generated on every level by the dual currency, particularly, of course, in those businesses operating in CUC – the biggest and most strategic in the country.
In trade carried out in this currency at that level the CUP/CUC relationship of 25/1, valid for the rest of the system, ceases to function, and, ignoring economic principles, becomes 1/1 thanks to the efforts of the all-powerful Castroism. This serious distortion has become an immovable obstacle since it prevents any objective valuation, makes any control extremely difficult, obstructs and renders inoperable accounting procedures, impedes ability to pay, and seriously discourages productivity.
Because of the resulting chaos, Cuba’s macroeconomic indicators are ignored, or viewed sceptically, by analists, and although this has ever-more profoundly discredited the already inefficient state-owned socialist business, we need to bear in mind that putting right this sorry state of affairs, should be easy for the Castro government: it could all be fixed if – always dependant on the elimination of this disastrous financial ambiguity – along with an effective decentralisation of state management, they legalised and stimulated family and private business – another unfinished business for the administrator Diaz-Canel.
Oh! but this is where Castroism crashes into a problem which up to now has been insoluble: the economic situation which would result from implementing the necessary, fair, and profound changes, would result in greater prosperity and autonomy for the Cuban people, a “risk” that the dictatorship could not possibly permit.
The Castroistas would never accept any change or formula which would result in the improved wellbeing of my people, because that would imply a bigger dose of liberty, which, sooner rather than later, would lead to political demands which would then – by way of the Marxist dialectic which opposes until death antagonistic contradictions – turn radical and in a short space of time my people would shake the chains that tyrannise them.
There is no other way of looking at it: it is that simple, and the solution to our problems would be just as simple. The only thing standing between us and prosperity is a cynical and brutal dictatorship which continues to put the rights of the Cuban people through a triumphal arch (the one in Cienfuegos which commemorates Cuban independence).
Translated by GH