The Feet Under the Covers / Miriam Celaya

"The business is to deny visas, not grant visas" Granma newspaper, 28 June 2013

“The business is to deny visas, not grant visas” Granma newspaper, 28 June 2013

There is an old tale about a husband who comes home unexpectedly and finds his wife in bed with a pair of men’s feet sticking out from under the covers. Angered by her infidelity, he challenges: “Slut!, whose feet are those?” To which she, serenely, replies: “Oh, husband, you never ask me where the food you enjoy so much comes from, which we could never afford on your salary, or how I manage to pay all the bills with the meager amount you give me, and how we get to the end of the month without any hardships…” to which the husband, after pondering for a minute, wisely answered: OK, wife, but at least cover those feet”.

Obviously, the husband in this story was not exactly a two-timed husband; he had simply miscalculated. Just like what happened to the official organ of the Cuban Communist Party, the Granma Newspaper, when it recently published an accusation, without names, proof, or foundation, against executives of the Interest Section of the United States in Cuba (SINA) for “having accepted bribes from Cuban citizens for granting them visas” and to the US government in Washington for “profiting from applicants who want to travel for family reasons”.

The source Granma echoes, without investigation or process, is an article published on the blog of one of the most perverse Talibans of the regime, which is, so far, just a scam designed to create some new intimation in the regime’s ever-belligerent relations with the U.S. government, who knows with what dark intentions.

But the net they cast is not entirely barren: the use of calculations using the official media is always a good opportunity for reviewing one’s math, which never lies. Managing the numbers involves the possibility of multiple interpretations about the same phenomenon, not necessarily what the sources of the data intended, as in this case.

I would suggest to readers, for their entertainment, a practical exercise: let’s assume for a moment that Granma’s information was completely accurate and that the figures provided by the author of the scam-article are also accurate. That is, in an infinite display of our imagination let’s play at pretending that Granma is a trustworthy newspaper and let’s do the same calculations from the opposite angle.

We would have to assume, then, a scene of 600 Cubans applying for visas every day in the U.S. Interests Office in Havana, each of whom had paid 100 CUC at the offices of the Ministry of the Interior to get their passports, leaving the regime a profit of 60,000 CUC per day, 300,000 weekly and 3,000,000 every ten weeks. All this in a country where 100 CUC is the equivalent of about six or seven times the average monthly salary of ordinary Cubans. And these would be just those Cubans who apply at the USIS and not all those who apply for visas in many other diplomatic offices throughout the capital, who also must have spent staggering amounts to acquire their Cuban passport.

We could add to that the minor detail that most of these Cubans who want to emigrate received the US dollars needed to get their passports from relatives living in the U.S., which turns the ugly little blue book which officially makes you a Cuban traveler –always a potential emigrant and a source of tension at each border where it’s presented- into one of the most lucrative businesses that the government has ever devised at the expense of its peoples. Barely without investing any more than cardboard and ink, with horrible print quality, the emigration industry continues to contribute, directly or indirectly, to the gerontocracy’s juicy dividends, essential principle and reason of the existence of some three million Cubans and their descendants scattered throughout the world.

And let’s not discuss the additional revenues, such as the famous health check to be performed on those wishing to emigrate permanently, at a cost of 400 CUC per adult and 200 per child, which will go directly into the Castro coffers. If the U.S. government approves 20,000 visas per year, and we assume, hypothetically, that half of them are intended for adults and half for minors: the Castro profit would be a total of 4 million CUC for adults and 2 million for children on an annual basis. We would still need to add the title certificates and other documents, with a cost of 200 CUC each in the International Consultancy. Add it up: the result it a not so negligible currency harvest, I’m just saying.

But this is only an imaginary calculation, since we have no official statistics from emigration offices. In fact, statistics in Cuba are like diseases: they make use of them only when they want to realize some advantage.

Now let’s focus on the sociological aspect of the matter. There are no precedents in Cuba’s history of such a huge number of nationals who want to travel, with a large percentage of those eager to emigrate permanently. Without stopping to find out among categories of political or economic émigrés, somewhat absurd in the case of Cuba, where the policy of a dictatorship of more than half a century has devastated the country’s economy, the steady exodus of nationals of all ages and backgrounds has become a plebiscite, especially since, for decades, most of those who leave the country are not the representatives of the clichéd “predatory oligarchies, sellers of the homeland and exploiters of the humble masses,” but the prospects of the New Man, born and raised under the ideological doctrines of the communist party, planted into power, i.e., the peoples; and because even those who only stay away from the country temporarily are part of a family fractured by emigration, a clear demonstration of the political and economic failure of the system.

Granma does itself quite a disservice with the publication of such an unfortunate article. Not only because it is the most eloquent manifestation of the huge levels of shamelessness achieved by the regime, but because it honors that sentence about excessive pride clouding reason.

At this point, I return to the story with which I began this review, where the Cuban government parallels the “cheated on” husband, the people: the wife whose favors ensure prosperity at home, and the “imperialist enemy”: the lover whose feet poke out from under the covers. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate if, instead of accusing someone, the regime took care to cover its own feet?

Translated by Norma Whiting

1 July 2013