Sunday, October 27, 2013

Two Currencies, Two Realities

Yoani Sanchez Award-winning Cuban blogger

Cuba: Two Currencies, Two Realities
Posted: 10/26/2013 10:48 pm

The lady counts the coins before leaving home: she has fifty-five cents
in convertible pesos. It is the equivalent of a full day's pay and
barely fills a corner of her pocket. She already knows what she is going
to buy... the same as always. She has enough for two chicken bouillon
cubes and a bar of bath soap. So eight hours work is just enough to
flavor some rice and work up a few suds in the bathroom. She belongs to
that Cuba that still calculates every price in national currency -- the
Cuban peso -- a part of the country that doesn't receive remittances,
has no special privileges, no family abroad, no private businesses,
nothing going on under the table.

Just before arriving at the store to buy her Maggi cubes, she stops to
stare at those drinking beer at a snack bar. Every can of this
refreshing drink is the equivalent of two days' pay. However the place
is full, packed with couples and groups of men who talk loudly, drink,
try some of the food. It is the other Cuba, with hard currency, with
relatives abroad, with their own businesses or some other illicit source
of income. The abyss between the two is so great, the divide so major,
they seem to be running in parallel, never touching. They have their own
fears, different dreams.

When the beginning of a timeline to eradicate the dual currency was
announced this week, the two countries that converge on this Island
reacted differently. The Cuba that lives only on its miserable wages
felt that finally they had started to put an end date to an injustice.
They are those who cannot even have a photo taken on their birthday, pay
for a collective taxi, nor imagine themselves traveling anywhere. For
them, any process of unifying the currencies can only bring hope,
because it couldn't be any worse than it is now. The other country, in
convertible pesos, received the news with great caution. How will the
exchange rate change relative to the dollar or the euro? How much will
the buying power of those who live better today be devalued? Their
thoughts were pragmatic.

In a society where the social abyss is increasingly unfathomable and
economic inequalities grow, no measure helps everybody, no relaxation
will make life better for each person. Twenty years of monetary
schizophrenia have also created two hemispheres, two worlds. It remains
to be seen whether a simple change of banknotes can bring closer these
two countries that comprise our reality, these two dimensions. If it can
make it so that the lady who -- almost always -- eats rice flavored with
a little soup cube, can one day sit down in a snack bar and order a beer.

Source: Cuba: Two Currencies, Two Realities | Yoani Sanchez -

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