Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Real Enemies of Raul Castro's Reforms / Iván García

The Real Enemies of Raul Castro's Reforms / Iván García
Iván García, Translator: Regina Anavy

It's a war of power against power. On one side, General Raúl Castro
manages military counter-intelligence, pulls the strings in the major
economic sectors of the nation and has consolidated his cabinet with
loyalists as bullet proof as atomic bombs.

But behind the scenes, his adversaries look at him sideways. They are
high-flying bureaucrats, local business managers, heads of large
wholesale storehouses for food, textile and electronics waste,
construction materials, and managers of tourist facilities.

This fat layer of bureaucrats has dedicated itself to creating a dense
network of diversion and theft at the expense of state resources. They
have created a parallel economy.

For many years, the envelopes with thick wads of cash and all types of
gifts have landed happily in the pockets of certain senior party
officials and dishonest government employees. The local bureaucracy has
taken root in the bone marrow at almost all levels of society.

Like the marabú weed, it will be difficult for Raúl Castro to cut them
off at the root. They are enemy number one. Forget about internal
dissent; for the moment, it doesn't count. It's a fight against the
demons that provoke these systems of command and control and the
military economy.

There are tangible indications that at the first sign of change, the
true opponents of Castro II will go on strike to pull the floor out from
under him in order to slow the economic reforms.

See for yourself. According to the official press, in August the
production of beans tripled over the past six months: 90,000 tons. This
is no small thing. That figure is the amount of grain that is consumed
annually on the island.

However, despite the high cost of black and red beans, which are sold in
private markets at 12 and 15 pesos a pound (half-kilo), only 9% were for
sale. The rest was bogged down in the warehouses.

Or they were distributed by the usual clandestine channels that permeate
life in Cuba. And that work like a Swiss watch. It happens that beans
are sold in the state market at 8 pesos.

The corrupt bureaucrats who control the supply chain prefer to hold onto
them and sell them out the back door, to supply the black market or the
private agro-markets. So they always have beans.

The marketing network is an unresovled matter for the Ministry of
Agriculture. Tons of bananas, fruit or tomatoes rot after harvest, for
lack of packaging or means of transport.

This leaves the door open to the czars and clans who control the food
supply. Who for years have made money thanks to the inefficiency of the
Ministry of Agriculture. To this add the absurd policies of the
government, which stipulates that 80% of the agricultural production of
private farmers must be sold to the state.

At laughable prices. So private farmers must cheat to keep more of their
crop. Or they let their cattle and oxen graze on railroad tracks or the
highway, to be killed by "accident."

Cuban farmers own the livestock, but they cannot market or sell the
meat. Only the state is allowed to do that.

The pricing policy is irritating. A kilo of onions costs one peso and 30
cents in the store. With one peso in Cuba you can only buy a newspaper,
take a city bus, or get a cup of coffee.

Now many farmers steal from their own production. To sell in markets
governed by supply and demand. There a pound of onions sells for 10 pesos.

It's precisely in the collection centers, refrigerated storage and
warehouses where the cartels and mafias operate at full throttle,
enriching themselves and profiting from the food supply.

Right now Raúl Castro is someone they can't stand, someone who is going
to fuck up their business dealings. The only thing left is to fight him.

They use devious strategies. They don't show their true feelings. Nor do
they publicly complain about the government and its policies. They are
kings of pretense. They know how to pull the strings.

To create obstacles they have a panoply of excuses. From lack of oil,
transport, spare parts or a shortage of workers. They know how the
system works better than anyone; they have lived off it for years.

The same thing is happening with construction materials. According to
the official media, industry warehouses are over-stocked with cement,
slabs, floor tiles and toilets.

However, despite being sold without subsidies in the municipal markets,
people who try to repair or build a house always get "No" for an answer
when they ask for certain materials.

Only low-quality materials are for sale. Or something else that is so
expensive that many prefer to buy it on the black market or with hard
currency, for a better rate. Remember that 60% of homes in Cuba are
technically in fair or poor condition.

Therefore, construction materials are in demand and urgently needed to
prevent roof collapses. General Raúl Castro wants the street stalls and
agricultural markets to be saturated with products. So families can have
a glass of milk.

And for the disappearance of so many absurd regulations for traveling or
buying a car or a house. But his wishes and reforms go cautiously
forward at a turtle's pace.

As an adversary, he has a monolithic wall of corrupt people and
bureaucrats who have joined ranks. There are two options: Either he will
demolish them, or they will demolish him.

Translated by Regina Anavy

September 15 2011

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