‘Illegalities’ in Cuba: A Two-Level Issue

Starfish Cayo Largo (Source: Hotel website)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 5 November 2022 — In a previous post we highlighted the actions of confrontation with illegalities that have been launched by the communist regime in Havana. The state press reported actions of control and monitoring in establishments and points of sale in the capital in the local development project of Recreatur Paseo Marítimo 1ra and 70, in the municipality of Playa, where, among other “illegalities,” workers were detected illicitly selling 39.47 pounds of lobster and nine pounds of shrimp. The official note said that equally abusive and speculative prices were found with excessive profits in products such as soft drinks and canned beers, mineral water and cans of Redbull. We have to see what illegalities are so serious.

As a result, the so-called municipal confrontation groups concerned with the illicit sale of food, hoarding, diversion of resources and abusive prices carried out four confiscations and imposed 41 fines, of which 37 were by the Directorate of Inspection, two by the Provincial Directorate of Finance and Prices and two by the National Directorate of State Inspection of the Food Industry (ONIE).

Another official report said that an operation in the Melones store, in the municipality of Diez de Octubre, found as “illegalities” that workers retained goods, and that 6,129 pesos were missing, corresponding to the sales of the day. In this case, the communist authorities seized 11 packages of chicken, six of minced meat, three cartons of H. Upman cigarettes, 14 Sedal shampoo bottles and three bottles of conditioner, which were later sold to the population.

A night inspection was also carried out in the Cuba-Italia, Ciro Redondo and Gran Esfuerzo bakeries and detected that the standardized bread was low in weight and didn’t meet the quality parameters established in the technical standards charts. For these “illegalities,” master bakers and administrators were fined 8,000 pesos for violating the provisions regarding rules and prices.

There were also sanctions in the area of El Lido, in Havana, where the inspection bodies imposed fines of 8,000 pesos on a group of self-employed, for the fixing of abusive prices. On the other hand, in the municipality of Playa, the owner of a private cafeteria was fined 1,500 pesos for not being able to justify his possession of soft drinks, rums, sweets and cookies with the corresponding invoices. Two forklift operators were also fined 8,000 for establishing abusive prices on the sale of onions (600 pesos per pound), tomatoes (300 pesos per pound), lemons (250-300 pesos per pound) and peppers (350-400 pesos per pound).

The official note reports that in the Cojímar People’s Council two citizens were detected and arrested for the illegal sale of medicines; and in Guanabo the Police were led to an individual for illegal sale of shrimp. Finally, in an operation carried out at the Víbora Park People’s Council, in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, 116 cartons of eggs, 43 packs of detergent, 34 bath soaps, 29 packs of wet wipes and 23 packs of sanitary napkins were dealt with in a home-warehouse.

The official press wants to draw attention to all these “illegalities” without granting to those sanctioned the right to a defense. They are simply fined, which in many cases, amounts to a month’s income.

The logical thing is that many of these producers stop providing their services and, as a result, consumers will find stalls closed and less merchandise to buy. It’s the same story of the last 63 years, and in addition, the communist regime warns of it even in the constitution: in Cuba private enrichment is not allowed.

The informal market can arise to satisfy the social needs not met by the state, but at any time, the authorities can persecute, harass and eliminate it with a stroke of a pen and that’s it. There is no country in the world where it’s so risky to engage in a private economic activity. Yes, the communist regime says it is fighting against “illegalities” that harm the national economy. But this is not entirely true.

For example, add up the amount of those “illegalities” that appear in this article, and you will see that it doesn’t exceed 200,000 pesos [ed note: $8,000 US as of today’s exchange rate]. That may not even be the total figure. We are talking about a ridiculous amount by Western standards, which may not even cover the salaries of police, inspectors and snitches, but in Cuba, the sanctioned will have a very bad time. There is no doubt about it. And this is what is intended with this type of repressive action.

In addition, everything happens because, according to the communist economic model imposed on the country, certain activities are qualified as “illegal” by the government. Of course, these activities aren’t illegal elsewhere, but in Cuba the parameters are different, and it depends on how it looks.

A good example of the parameter of “illegalities” in this case, committed by the regime that punishes Havana sellers, is how, for example, the hotel exploitation system of Cuba works.

It turns out that the state press these days has reported that Blue Diamond Resorts, exclusively, will begin operations in Cayo Largo del Sur. The Canadian hotel company Blue Diamond Resorts together with its Cuban counterpart in the business, the Gran Caribe Group, whose shareholding is known for its links with the regime, announce that four of 11 renovated properties in Cayo Largo del Sur will open their doors on November 4. The hotels that welcome the renovated destination are Memories Cayo Largo, Starfish Cayo Largo, The Villas Linda Mar and Marina.

When was the bidding and awarding of this business carried out? Was there any kind of oversight or was it awarded by decree. We find ourselves suddenly tongue-tied at witnessing a first “illegality”: in recent months the regime had been planning to transfer the hotels, which supposedly belong to the people, as productive assets to this Canadian hotel group.

In addition, the award has been made according to the global interests of citizens around the world, since Cubans will find the prices beyond their reach when these resorts open. Second “illegality.” Cubans cannot enjoy tourism in their own country.

So with these two sonorous “illegalities,” easy to appeal in independent courts, the first doesn’t invite other international companies to participate; and the second, the objective difficulty that those who are paid their salaries and pensions in Cuban pesos would have to be able to stay in these resorts. However the communist regime pursues the illegalities of poverty, of the eternal “resolving a problem,” of unmet needs, specifically for the Havana merchants, accusing them of illegalities and destroying their small businesses.

On the other hand, the same communist regime, with high-caliber “illegalities,” has made Blue Diamond Resorts Cuba the fastest growing hotel management company in the country, leaving behind other companies that already operated with the favor of the regime.

In reality, when we talk about illegalities in Cuba, we access a whole universe of injustices that have their most evident example in the crony capitalism and illicit pacts that exist in the tourism system. There is no need to think too hard. Someone will have taken a cut from the Blue Diamond deal. From time to time. So yes, there are illegalities… and multimillionaires.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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