New Economic Actors in Cuba

Puesto de Buenas Vibras [Good Vibes Post], a private business, at the Linea Cultural Station Fair, in El Vedado. (14ymedio)
14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Corzo, Miami, July 29, 2023 — I have rarely addressed Cuban economic issues or those of any other country, but upon receiving my fellow prisoner and friend Juan José Estrada a statement from the Vice Minister of the Food Industry of Cuba, Midalys Naranjo Blanco, I have no choice but to venture into one of the great failures of Castroism.

The official stated that the Cuban seas did not have enough fish to feed the population, a sovereign nonsense that shows the stupidity of those who hold power in Cuba, never because of competition, but because of their unrestricted submission to totalitarianism, distinguishing themselves among all of them, Miguel Díaz -Canel.

I share the vision of many friends that the most capable assets of the regime have always worked in two ministries, the Police and the Armed Forces,  and it cannot be denied also in Foreign Affairs, but this is a unit of the branch that directs the repressive forces.

It must be remembered that, despite the corruption that existed in Cuba and with all the money that Fulgencio Batista and the hierarchs of his regime allegedly stole, in 1958 our country ranked third in Latin American reserves of gold, dollars and convertible securities. Gold: with 373 million dollars was only below Venezuela (1,050 million) and Brazil (465 million); and sixth place in the continent in gross national income, 2,834 billion for a population of 6.6 million inhabitants.

It is worth noting that contrary to what is currently happening, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in calorie consumption, Cuba was only behind Argentina with 2,730 calories per person. In 1957, the FAO itself highlighted that Cuba was the largest exporter of agricultural products in Latin America in proportion to its population. Today it imports a large amount of food, including from the United States, 328 million dollars, and this, with the embargo.

True, we did not live in a paradise, nor in the hell of the present, but we were the third country in the region, in 1958, with the most number of telephones, newspapers and cars per 1,000 inhabitants.

I recently read that the dictatorship, through the State-run Cubatramite [literally “Cuba paperwork”] agency, is promoting MSMEs ( micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises), as Estrada affirms, “a socialist invention to save the economy that they themselves sank when they abolished private companies,” particularly small businesses, including the most insignificant, creating countless government companies that confused the population while still having fun, such as the famous Ecochinche, the Consolidated Company of bedbugs.

Let’s remember, including the blind, who did not want to see the disaster, in 1968 all self-employment was prohibited. Even the shoe repairer, the traditional scissors sharpener and the home-based barber, was eradicated, on pain of going to prison.

They must remember, especially the Castroites of the time, that on March 13, 1968, the government expropriated 11,878 bodegas, 8,101 restaurants, including street frita stalls — which sold the Cuban hamburger — 4,544 mechanics shops, 3,345 carpentry shops, 6,653 laundries, and an endless list of small businesses passed to the State.

The confiscation and closure of the 3,198 bars was the only time I saw the drunk on the block upset with the dictatorship, the one who most vehemently calling for an execution, and it was because his favorite bar, El Hatuey, had been closed. Overnight it was politically incorrect to have a drink.

Those entrepreneurs,  or as they say today, better still, with pure Castroite language, “new economic actors,” had their assets confiscated regardless of whether the workplace was in their own home.

I clarify that the seizures would have been many more, but the inventory of small businesses had been reduced, among other reasons because people who were sentenced to prison for political reasons, had all their assets confiscated, however modest they were. And I am not mentioning the large companies that had disappeared from the economy several years earlier.

In short, Fidel Castro and his henchmen, in one of those many crazy nights, robbed 55,636 MSMEs that were on the Island, all Cuban properties, most of which were staffed by family and friends, employing more than two million people.


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