Economic Disorder, Castroism’s Vocation / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 15 Dec 2020 (Readers note: This article is more than three years old, but has just been translated for this site]We are so accustomed to Castroism’s autocratic punches that we end up reacting in the same way every time the Cuban authorities announce with suspicious solemnity some “set of new measures”, so that, without being able to help it, the ordinary Cuban in the street puts his hands to his head and enters into the same state of anxiety as when an arrogant hurricane arrives. It is a basic conditioned reflex that time has turned into an inevitable sensation, and so as not to break his old habit, Raúl Castro has just left us his farewell gift: a combo designed in the galleys of the Council of State with the connivance of the politburo that blackens the horizon and our Dantesque future.

The year that is ending had already witnessed how the Castro technocracy closed the doors to the private sector that supplied the informal market by means of mules importing clothes, footwear and other supplies, and we saw how, full of malice, it imposed the onerous MLC shops – operated by magnetic cards that can only be recharged abroad – to hoard all the currency in its coffers and limit as much as possible its circulation on the island. The result? An exchange rate devaluation of the CUC and the CUP that broke historical records at the year end. This measure revived the passport-only shops of the 1980s and only paved the way for the second step of a plan euphemistically called “monetary unification”, postponed since 2011 and aimed at remedying an evil that kept business management inoperative with its serious distortion for almost three decades.

“Unification” is a euphemism because when the devalued CUC says goodbye in January 2021, the country will again be left, in practical terms, with two currencies, given that the CUP/DIVISA duo will replace the CUP/CUC pair in force until now – quite apart from the certainty that the virtual currency MLC shops, even if precariously, will be the only ones with supplies. In other words, the supposed “unification” will be more fictitious than real and will solve nothing, just as it will be useless to abandon the disastrous practice up til now of equalising only in business transactions the 1 CUC/1 CUP ratio because the new rate of 24 CUP/1 USD will not be realistic either, but just one more arbitrary measure that will continue to distort production indices.

But as if that were not enough, Raúl Castro closes this grey year with a flourish and launches a final shit decision to fuck up the lives of 95% of Cubans. Because that is the only way a pensioner could look at it, even if his monthly chequebook is quintupled, if he still sees his electricity tariff quintupled and the cost of every food item in his shopping basket increased in the same proportion. It is pointless  throwing into circulation millions of pesos if they are going to be devalued on the spot: without properly addressing demand we will have our hands full of fake currency, volatile paper, and we will be faced with a useless attempt to weather the storm without really solving any problem.

Hopelessly doomed to failure, and coming at the wrong time, a policy that does not even mention measures to emancipate SME activity, to stimulate and protect small entrepreneurs or agricultural producers, or the product of their work, or to provide them with a legal personality that would make it possible to legalise orderly trade and provide for a universal, egalitarian, fair and sensible system of taxation; then, and only then, would another cock crow.

This pig´s breakfast calls for another comment, for being an arbitrary immorality, the icing on the cake for Cuban emigrants: the obligation to pay to Havana 4% of the gross monthly income earned from their work abroad while they hold the status of permanent resident in Cuba, even if they do not permanently reside in the country. The measure, which has been contemplated in Law 113 since 2013 (an ugly tale) would come into force from January 2021, a decision that has been received with open hostility by our emigrants wherever they live and their families in Cuba.

This unfair imposition is an armed robbery and will be very difficult to deal with for those who do not physically reside on the island, but who visit their family for a few days each year and are permanent residents only in the migratory sense – which is, of course, pure semantics – and who therefore have not made effective use of public services on the island for years, or decades, but only from time to time, Cubans who also work their asses off abroad under different circumstances to support their families inside and outside Cuba, but who above all – and this is the big issue – already pay taxes in those respective countries, where of course they pay social security and make effective use of public services. This double taxation now demanded by the regime in Havana is unacceptable, and will never be logical for an emigrant who must also pay double taxes to the same shameful regime that forced him to leave his homeland.

There are of course other, less radical measures that could be considered to cover the expenses of Cubans who do not wish to change their migratory status because they eventually visit the island while living abroad – there is travel insurance, possible differentiated rates during their visits for certain services, to cite just a few examples – but something very different presupposes putting one’s hand in the pockets of emigrants every month, because in this case we are dealing with an excessive abuse, a real armed robbery, and evidence of the bad faith of those who are once again blackmailing with the idea of prohibiting emigrants from entering their own country – for such will be the punishment of the insubordinate – and taking millions of families in Cuba hostage as a bargaining chip in this dirty game of late-Castro Stalinism.

Although calling this blunder an unauthorised decision would only make sense in the light of the Creole joke, because evidently we are facing a package of measures as draconian as they are well premeditated. Something so comprehensive and complex to implement can only be the deliberate perversity of some opportunistic son of a bitch. Something like this implies an intentional decision to fuck up our lives, and is the tacit answer to those who still do not understand why Raúl Castro left unratified those Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that in a fit of puerile boasting and waste of consummate demagogy was signed by Fidel Castro in February 2012.

Will these measures solve the Cuban problem? Raúl Castro’s secretary himself, his wimp Díaz-Canel, made it clear to all of us that they will not. Will they alleviate the shortages on our table, or will they fill some basic basket of goods? Even pre-school kids in Cuba know the answer to that. Or will they only aggravate the public debt and further jeopardise the already astronomical budget deficit? This is something that even the stupidest person  understands. Isn’t increasing wages without an increase in production and without a proportional increase in supply the same as filling a bottomless bucket and will only devalue the current currency even more brutally? This is something that even the least gifted student learns from his first class in any economics faculty, even at the University of Havana.

It is obvious that the most stubbornly uncooperative Castroism has opted to continue ploughing the sea. The clique of opportunist henchmen in power know perfectly well that this is just another mental straw, and they know this because they also know very well what could be done to get the country out of the quagmire. Of course they know it perfectly well, but the alternative of giving up their class privileges and giving the people back their real rights would be to the detriment of their selfish and bourgeois way of looking at things.

Although nothing more could be expected of Castroism than for it to persist to the end in its anthological parasitism. But these delusions may be its final death rattle, the definitive confession of an agonising regime that knows it has failed, that recognises it is incapable of generating wealth and therefore goes out to steal it from the world. In the event, they only have in mind Louis XV’s maxim which the octogenarian minor military man seems to repeat when he throws everything into the shit while thinking – if he still thinks – after me the deluge!… and the Cubans can go fuck themselves!

Translated by GH