Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Strings of the Piñata / Yoani Sánchez

The Strings of the Piñata / Yoani Sánchez
Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sánchez

I remember very well the children's parties that ended with the pushing
and shoving and laughter of those who wanted to grab a candy or a gift.
The piñatas, shaped like a clown or a boat or resembling some cartoon
character, were the funnest part of every birthday. But that time has
passed and what is being distributed now in our country is not sweets or
balloons, but properties. Like the Nicaraguan Sandinistas once did, or
the leaders of the Communist Party in Russia, Cuban leaders are
distributing — at their convenience — rental properties, cars,
businesses, houses.

Yesterday's publication of Decree 292 — for the ownership transfer of
motor vehicles — has been the culmination of a several decade's wait.
For far too long obtaining a car has been a perk earned through
unconditional ideology. Now, they have added a few pinches of this
ingredient called "market" to a mechanism that has been ruled for half a
century. Even with this new legal reform, however, the great majority of
citizens are only allowed to buy a used car, which in Cuba means
vehicles more than 15 years old, and in particular Russian Ladas or
Moskvitches, or Polish Fiats, which were previously marketed through a
meritocracy. Some modern cars in State service will be sold to those who
meet the strict requirements of belonging to an institution and
demonstrating their fidelity to the Government. And those impeccably new
ones, recent imports, are destined for a Revolutionary elite that has in
their pockets money sanctified through official channels. To drive a
shiny Citroen or a late model Peugeot will continue to be a sign of
being a member of the powers-that-be.

Another revealing detail in this resolution is the emphasis given, in
its pages, to the concept of "final departure" for those who relocate
abroad. If, as Raul Castro himself has said, we are committed to
migratory reform, what is the significance of not repealing this
shameful category? Those who leave may not sell their cars before
departing, they may only transfer them to their closest relatives. The
penalization of emigration, then, remains in place. But what is most
worrying is the already visible composition of the piñata, the structure
of a sharing out among equals, embodied in cars taken out of tourist or
business use which will be marketed to a very select group of people.
The existence of such a mechanism will undoubtedly feed corruption,
"socialism," and put into the hands of government sympathizers the
fattest strings for when it becomes necessary to pull on them in unison.
I have no doubt that to this party, which they have already begun to
prepare, we Cubans will not be invited.

29 September 2011

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