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Not Guidelines, Civic Rights

Not Guidelines, Civic Rights / Miriam Celaya

Miriam Celaya, Translator: Norma Whiting

They say God can write straight with crooked lines. I would say that, in

Cuba's case, we should sign God up for a crash course in calligraphy. We

have had a half-century of crooked lines and nothing indicates that they

will straighten out. Adding to the confusion, the more talk there is in

the official press about "clarity and transparency," the more muddled

the waters become. Still, some wonder naively when they will apply all

the guidelines of the Sixth Congress of the CCP, as if they constituted

a kind of spell that might turn the chaos and poverty into order and

prosperity. Fourteen months after the quasi-secret meeting of the

Druids, we continue to move ahead into the abyss envisioned by the boy

promoted to captain of the rickety vessel, whose DNA, by the grace of

some coincidence, matches his predecessor's,

So here we have a "reformist " whose innovations have only

managed to further thin the social climate and emphasize the life of

those supposedly benefitting by the reforms, such as the people. Among

the better known reforms of the new octogenarian occupying the olive

green throne, for example, is the liberalization of the sale of

agricultural products by street vendors, known as the elegant term of

"street cart operators", duly certified licensed to carry out their

duty. The sellers were to increase the variety of produce offered to the

starving city dwellers, which they in fact have done, and, in turn,

result in lowering prices that would enable ordinary people to raise

their nose half a centimeter over the level of insolvency that is

choking them.

But the latter has not happened for many reasons (or better yet, for

lack of reasons) among them, the high taxes implied obstacle, and the

countless fines whose minimum amount is 500 pesos of the so-called

"national currency" (CUP) applied by a diligent team of state inspectors

for any minor infractions or suspected infractions, such as, for

instance, keeping the cart on one spot for too long (not defining how

long), for not being able to give an explanation as to the origin of the

cart or even the source of the wheels of the aforesaid device used by

the operator. As a result of these and other obstacles the "signal" of

prosperity sent out by the elusive president has only meant less buying

power for the people and a larger number of corrupt individuals… I mean,


The most sarcastic thing is that many foreign friends who visit us

perceive the proliferation of vendors and small businesses as a sign of

prosperity and not as the screen hiding the battle that takes place

behind the scenes: the proto-entrepreneurs struggling to survive and

advance, and the authorities intent in preventing prosperity and the

revival of a truly independent middle class. The cat and mouse, now

licensed to keep up the appearance of legality of some, and of good

intentions of the others. Behold, the government has achieved a new

source of income: legitimizing the potential crime and charging for the

inevitable violations. It's twisted and perverse, but its brilliance

cannot be denied.

The opening of private ownership kiosks has also brought about another

problem it was supposed to solve. The absence of wholesale markets and

the instability of the supply of any product in the retail market have

resulted in an incredible imbalance in some of their prices. To mention

just one example, in recent weeks, purchasing a cloth to clean floors

has become an unattainable dream for more modest budgets.

The product, already priced at an altered 0.90 CUC (equivalent to 21.6

pesos CUP) suddenly disappeared from the stands at the stores selling

only in dollar currency (TRD). Right now, they can only be found at 40

pesos CUP among licensed and unlicensed street vendors, that is, twice

their official price.

It turns out that the guidelines also announced a crusade against

corruption and activity, which means they are seeking to wipe

out the people of Cuba completely. Because, who doesn't constantly

violate the law in this country, starting with the government itself?

What common Cuban can survive, if not on the fringes of the law? Raise

your hand if you haven't bought anything on the black market –groceries,

medicine, cleaning or office products or anything else, even a place to

live, a car, an airplane ticket…

Stand up if any of you has not bribed an official in any capacity to get

some benefit, from a telephone line to the promise of a job,

college registration, dentures or surgery? Who has not rented movies in

underground places or played the numbers in a similarly underground

place? And in Cuba, even boarding a through the back door is a

crime. So it's not unusual that lately the official press has been

reporting an avalanche of violations being detected by the Comptroller

of the Republic, except that these purges, rather than marking the end

of impunity, are uncovering the uncontrollable and irreversible

corruption of the system from top to bottom

There still seems to be a long stretch to cancel the dual currency,

another promise of the April 2011 conclave of Communists, and for the

implementation of the much-publicized -and expected- reforms,

always being postponed or in a "study" phase (of which our leaders are a

bit slow on the uptake). Many other delayed promises have been bulking

up the lack of credibility in the government, suggesting that there will

be no real changes as long as they are proposed by the government. In

short, it is obvious that all the eternal dictators are seeking is to

gain time… and we're giving it to them. In reality, we don't need

guidelines but rights, and those are not included in the depressing

package of government measures.

Translated by Norma Whiting

June 11 2012

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