14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 16 December 2022 — It’s only been six years but it seems like a century. From then until now, the official discourse has been turned around, said and unsaid, confirmed and denied countless times. In 2016, an angry statement by the National Association of Small Farmers (Anap) slammed Washington’s proposal to buy directly from Cuban coffee growers. This December, however, an official almost begged for US support for the island’s private sector even if this is intended to “undermine the Revolution.”
In the time between that rejection and this request, our country sank into one of the deepest economic crises in its history. National coffers were emptied, and the interest of the international press and big companies turned the other way while hundreds of thousands of Cubans packed their bags to escape this failed system. This disaster could be due to the change of course in official oratory. Perhaps biting the dust of the popular protests of last year and not being able to sustain the expenses of its political police or its extensive internal propaganda have also taken the wind out of the sails of the regime.
However, the announcement that the Cuban authorities could accept agreements and funds destined for the island’s entrepreneurs – even if these do not benefit the ailing socialist state company or official institutions – points to something more than the current poor state of the economy. In six years, which seems a short time but is one that an authoritarian system that controls every inch of our lives can take advantage of very well, businesses with little transparency and obscure owners have been built that target the families in power or their “blessed” figureheads.
How many of those enterprises that today dominate the captive Cuban market lack a blood or obedience bond with the small group of nonagenarians that controls this Island? They have plenty of time to sweep away those who did not want to yield, to push into exile or bankrupt local businessmen who did not abide by their impositions, and create an entrepreneurial laboratory class: ready to receive the resources that arrive from abroad with full hands and pay the bribe of survival. A bribe that enters with money and silence.
Now, having created the theme park for MSMEs* that are favorable to or linked to the olive green hierarchs, they feel now is time to raise the flag for US support. For the poor coffee growers in the eastern part of Cuba, impoverished and with production in the basement, this moment has come late. But to the bars with imported whiskey run by ‘father’s sons’, and the ‘prop’ estates managed by town informers and those that bring in foreign visitors, this announcement is music to their ears.
There will always be some official who explains the change, makes use of some argument and tries to divert the gaze. As it once appropriated the concepts of human rights, democracy and freedom, the pro-government oratory has just carried out the hijacking of the term “private sector.”
*Translator’s note: Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.
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