Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fearing a Prosperous People

Fearing a Prosperous People
Posted on February 19, 2014
By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

On the very day that the government "freed" the sale of domestic
automobiles for working people, imposing tariffs only a millionaire
could afford, my son stood transfixed before a shop window displaying
those little toy cars that our leaders sell in hard currency for the
equivalent of an average person's monthly wage.I could not ignore the
obvious analogy.

A few days earlier I was reading something in the newspaper Granma that
for a moment made me happy. But then I immediately read something like,
"prices will be adjusted based on agreement between the parties…" and
something began smelling rotten to me. It was too good to be true. This
allows the state to quadruple the price for everything it sells us in
one fell swoop.

It isn't enough that they charge us an average of 5,000 to 6,000 CUC
(between 5,500 and 6,600 U.S. dollars) for used rental cars the tourist
industry no longer wants — cars which have logged thousands of miles and
whose manufacturers' warranties are invariably no longer valid.

During all those years that the Ministry of Transportation's notorious
"letter of authorization" for auto sales was in effect, private cars
were basically assigned to artists, athletes and public health employees
voluntarily working overseas, and then only in certain select cases.

The fact of the matter was that a doctor or athlete, overwhelmed by more
pressing needs — like housing, for example — more often than not decided
to sell his letter of authorization to the highest bidder. Over time the
price went from an initial 5,000 CUC to between 10,000 and 12,000 CUC.

For obvious reasons this meant the total price for any second-hand sale
varied from 15,000 or 17,000 up to 25,000 CUC, depending on the car's
make and model. And this was for low-cost, used cars — prices that in
other countries would get you a new car with a warranty, which you could
buy on credit or on other favorable terms, or with an extended warranty,
which would never add more than 2,000 to 3,000 (or up to 5,000 dollars).

But here we have the Cuban state once again playing the role of
street-corner thug, ready to openly commit assault with a deadly weapon
using a new form of attack on a people who no longer expect anything but
low blows. They could not even bring themselves to honor the thousands
of letters of authorization that still remain unredeemed.

Nor could they bring themselves to adjust the price by a prudent amount,
considering that the cars had already been paid off years ago through
rental fees. The temptation was too great. Too much money danced in the
hoodlums' heads. There was too much "ham" for them to keep quiet.

They licked their chops and sharpened their claws until they could not
stand it any longer and finally launched the attack. They use the
extortionist's most basic logic: After all, if anyone is going to get
paid, it may as well be me since I am the one who most deserves it!

But in essence this is really nothing new, nothing that we have not seen
many times before. What can else one expect from a state that has a
monopoly on everything, one which for decades — long before the 2008
global financial crisis — sold us all the crap it bought at a 500 to
1,000 percent markup?

Or was it not the Cuban state which issued and enforces the resolution
that automatically increased by 250% the price of all goods exiting its
ports? These goods then head to the stores where corporate entities and
retail outlets have you by the balls, continuing the slaughter by
multiplying these prices several times over.

Who else but the Cuban government increased the price of almost every
item in its TRD* stores by a massive 30% — this for goods of the poorest
quality — at the end of 2004? Or is it not the Cuban state which now
leases us a 10 kg cylinder of liquid gas for 500 pesos, a price greater
than the average Cuban's monthly salary?

Who is it that sells us a roll of toilet paper for almost 40 Cuban
pesos? Who among us has never spent several months' wages on a pair of
dilapidated shoes? Who but our own state sets the price of the tiniest
toys — toys for children who were born to be happy — at between 300 and
500 Cuban pesos, or the price for ordinary jeans at roughly 700 Cuban
pesos? Who decided that we must work an entire year in order to spend
three days in a mid-priced resort hotel?

Now they want to shift responsibility by having us pay the price for
their bad policy decisions while cynically making sure that the
dividends from this scam go to pay for improvements to public
transportation. Implementing these measures only serves to discredit
them. Meanwhile we Cubans simply laugh at our misfortune, choosing to
see it as yet one more screwup. By treating it as nothing more than a
bad joke, we rely on our Creole humor to dispel our anger.

But this writer has chosen to take the matter seriously, no matter how
great the temptation to engage in irony and ridicule — how easy that
would be — and no matter how much the white-collar criminals operating
throughout the country, who make such decisions with the full consent of
the nation's highest political and governmental authorities, might
warrant it.

They — the same ones who decided that my children, not theirs, could not
drink milk past the age of seven — "pay" us not with salaries but with
rubbish that vanishes within in a few days.

This is the essence and heart of the matter: they fear a prosperous
people because such a people would be less easily manipulated and less
servile. They know that prosperity ignites too dangerous a light in
men's eyes, which makes them irreverent and resolved. Sooner or later
these men end up clamoring for openness and freedoms, something the mind
of Caesar could never have imagined.

*Translator's note: TRD Caribe S.A. is chain of retail stores owned and
operated by the Cuban military. "TRD" is the acronym for Hard Currency
Collection Stores, by which the military makes clear their purpose for
being in the retail business.

5 February 2014

Source: Fearing a Prosperous People / Jeovany Jimenez Vega | Translating
Cuba -

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