Strange Leases / Fernando Dámaso

Photo: Peter Deel

The Ministry of Interior Trade, part of the Central State Administration, is a purely socialist invention. It did not exist during the Republic. Created to control and distribute the misery, its physical inventory consisted of businesses, shops, warehouses, and other facilities that were seized or nationalized, before and during the infamous revolutionary offensive of the early sixties, which liquidated the remaining private property, nationalizing everything from department stores to fried food booths and shoeshine stands, to make them disappear in a demonstration of administrative incompetence and inefficient services. Living examples are the dark, unsanitary, and dilapidated warehouses that still survive, bearing little resemblance to the establishments they once were.

With a history of failures, regardless of who was in charge, the agency has tried out the most absurd methods of sales and service, each more outlandish than the last, from check-in by telephone in order to buy goods or receive services, to boxes in coupon books for food and industrial products, product convoys, long and unbearable lines, etc., up to the present when, pressured by the economic crisis, it has been forced to turn over to private individuals a few of its minor functions – mainly in the service sector, beginning with the lease of premises for hairdressers and barbers.

These places, mostly in poor condition and with outdated equipment, left to decay for decades, are leased under contract for up to 10 years, with a limit of three chairs per establishment. What a way to get started! The absurdity is that the Ministry’s Personal and Home Technical Services Company (what a name!) which has always demonstrated its incompetence, continues to manage the state property and assets that are included in the lease.

I wonder: How can the tenant invest to improve the building and its equipment? Does the Company deal with this? Do you need its approval? I really do not understand how two administrations can coexist on the same property: one real and the other virtual. A government bureaucracy has a hard time giving up its possessions and always tries to maintain an umbilical cord of control. After so many years of absolute ownership, however incompetent, it is not inclined to lose its privileges. If the cord is not cut outright, failure will continue playing at our doorstep, in any one of these convoluted new management systems.

December 13 2011