With the End of Summer, Shock Therapy Starts in Cuba / Iván García

On September 6th when their children start the school year, many Cuban parents won’t have to get up early to go to work. In the summer of 2010, they joined the contingent of the unemployed.

This is the case for José Benítez, 48-years-old, an electrician who is scratching his head thinking how he can look for a fistful of pesos to maintain his wife and three children. They don’t have relatives overseas, they don’t receive dollars nor euros. Neither do they have the money to start up a private business.

“My future is uncertain. To get cash, I’ll probably do private wiring jobs. My wife, who was a housewife, got a temporary contract cleaning in a hospital. I don’t want to think about tomorrow. While the more I analyze, the less solutions I find for our economic and material problems. God squeezes, but doesn’t kill”, says Benítez, while he watches a Brazilian soap opera.

Many families like that of the electrician José know that they have to warm their chairs more than they should in front of the television. In an attempt to recover the paltry economy, the Cuban leaders have foreseen sending a million people to the street.

This time, the State will only pay 60% of their salary. To find a fix to the difficult labor situation, it is expected that the government will free up even a little more on private work.

One can already sell mangos, avocados, and plantains if you have a plantation on your patio. By whatever means, people are already doing it. René Fiallo, 60-years-old, lives in an old residence in the Sevillano neighborhood. Although the authorities would prohibit him from selling so many mangos and avocados from his trees, René pokes fun at the means.

“Fruit sales constitutes a fundamental source of money in our family. Now I’ll do it legally”, assures Fiallo, who from now on must pay a 5% share of his income in tax.

It is far from being the solution to the traumatic food situation in Cuba. A little patch. In the case of the leasing of lands,  expectations are more reserved. The independent economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe thinks that the regime should open its hand without fear.

For Chepe, leasing the land for 10 years isn’t a good solution. “If they want people to work those lands at full steam, they should grant a lease of no less than 50 years. Like in China. If you know that you will occupy a piece of land for only 10 years, you won’t be motivated to continue investing in it when you make certain profits”, affirms the economist.

The end of this summer’s vacations marks the start of a stage of uncertainty for many families. And despite the increase in private work, the majority don’t have a nickel to invest in a small enterprise.

On top of that, every day the people have to put up with a ferocious media blast about the critical work situation in the United States and the European Union. The capitalist countries aren’t doing well. That’s certain.

But the Cubans wish that their leaders wouldn’t bury their heads in the ground before their problems. That is what’s happening. Fidel Castro has eyes for nothing other than to read news about a supposed nuclear war. And predict catastrophes.

As if it weren’t enough with those who in their homes have so many unemployed Cubans.

September 7, 2010