—Without having even begun my work life, I already feel the fear that Cubans have due to the circulation of two currencies in my country. My salary as a university graduate in nuclear chemistry will not be over 450 Cuban pesos, equal to 18 CUC (US $22.00), our hard currency.
This realization puts to rest any dream of acquiring a place of my own to live at some time. After resigning myself to living forever in my mother’s house I begin to think about what I will do to survive on such a salary that can’t even guarantee the month’s food. Even though the government sells some food supplies at very low prices to the population, it is far from sufficient.
My situation over the next few years is the same as that facing the majority of Cuban families today. We are trapped in the consequences of the measures taken at the beginning of the nineties to avoid a shipwreck following the collapse of the socialist bloc.
One of the most damaging has been the dollarization of the economy. I was only six when it began in 1993. Other measures were the implementation of mixed (private and public) enterprises and the decentralization of commerce. Each of these has profoundly marked our society today.
The hard currency stores [tiendas de recaudación de divisas or TRD], originally created for that sector of the population who had dollars to spend, have become stores that all the population must obligatorily use, since they are practically the only place where you can acquire basic articles such as personal hygiene and cleaning supplies, clothing and shoes.
Almost all the Cuban recreation centers, such as discotheques, cafeterias, bars and swimming pools charge CUC (Cuban dollar equivalencies) to enter or to eat or drink. All of this opens an ever wider abyss between those who have dollars and those who don’t.
The creation of mixed enterprises has caused the rise of new jobs in which the workers are paid in CUC. As a consequence of this, workers have migrated from all different professions to work in tourism or other business with the same characteristics. Today, this has resulted in an enormous lack of teachers and construction workers, two types of employment that are not well paid in Cuba despite the fact that they are so necessary.
The mixed enterprises are found in the telephone services, food and beverage industries and others and this increases the price of products made in Cuba, selling them principally in CUC. These measures serve to increase the social disparities.
The result has been a pre-capitalist tendency that may grow worse, given the lack of worker control and the permanency of a bureaucracy that is not subject to popular political control. Left unchecked, it threatens to destroy all of the ideas of creating a more just society that for decades has been the incentive of the great majority of Cubans.