Thursday, November 22, 2012

Salary in Kilowatts

Salary in Kilowatts / Rosa Maria Rodriguez Torrado
Rosa Maria Rodriguez Torrado, Translator: mlk

He works driving a truck for the electric company. He is married, has
three kids, and his wife is a nurse at the 10th of October Mother and
Child Hospital, better known by its previous name of Daughters of
Galicia. The petroleum truck that hedrives all day has no air
conditioning, not even a little fan. The heat is great, and the pay is
little. The co-worker that they assigned to work with him has a similar
financial situation. "In Cuba salaries are symbolic," they told me while
they were getting thebulb out of its new, nylon, factory-packagedbox.
That was in front of a house of a friend who paid 30 CUC (more than $30
U.S.) to those workers from the Electric Union (UNE) so that they would
replace thebulb of the street light that is opposite her house and that
has been blownfor more than two years.

The suicidal "move"took placeat two in the afternoon and soon attracted
the attention of the president of the block's Committee for the Defense
of the Revolution, who directed herself to the workers "to communicate
to them" that the posts on the corners also had broken bulbs and that it
was better to replace those than to put one in the middle of the block.

"For today, we are finished, comrade," they told her, "because this is
the last one we have, but there is an order by the minister to change
them all as soon as the boat from China arrives. So don't worry."

And the watchful presidentwent awaybetween satisfied and doubtful,
because everyone knows that in Cuba general corruption exists, but that
at that level it is only enough to survive. So the workers in Cuba go
sidestepping the difficulties that the state economic helplessness
imposes on them. The majority of those who are linked to the sectors
that generate no income in convertible currency have to "invent" in
order to be able to make ends meet. With thelow salaries that they
receive in national money, they also have to engineer for themselves and
buy hard currency in order to feed, clothe and buy shoes for their families.

An unpleasant situation is confronting some friends with the UNE. Their
consumption is aboveaverage after the most recent increase. Summer is
already past and they continue the same. I ask myself if the
arrangements that they make with those who enjoy air conditioning in
their homes "are taking by the guts" those who don't have it.

The bill collector, the intermediary between the UNE and the residential
sector, is the friendly face of that business, which undoubtedly must
justify before higher agencies the quantity of megawatts that the
township consumes.

According to my deduction, the kilowatts they readjust on the bills of
those who possess a cooled air system, in order to charge them less and
pocket a share of the difference, they must be obligated to distribute
them among those who don't have ar conditioning.

Tired of them taking the kilo in kilowatts, they went to protest at the
municipal electric business which is located at Josefina and the 10th of
October. Along the way they asked themselves how to defend their right
to be charged withoutpenalties for what they consume without betraying

By luck, they had already hinted to the collector their suspicion of how
they believed the mechanism worked so that he could alert his crew, and
when they arrived there the clerks were very friendly.

They asked the UNE for areview of the meter and the electric bill and
they ended up sending a technician, but he still has not appeared. Some
days ago the bill arrived with an amount visibly smaller than the month

But the next months? My friends ask themselves if they are going to have
to continuegetting annoyedand going to demand periodically that they not
steal from them. It is not easy to beat your head without a helmet
against the wall of corruption.

Translated by mlk

November 20 2012

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