Luck is Crazy, and Anyone can be on the Receiving End

Rosa Martinez

HAVANA TIMES – After the tough years we experienced in the ‘90s (which I don’t even want to remember), our country still hasn’t found a way to free itself of economic hardship.

In the nearly 30 years after Fidel declared a state of “Special Period in Peace Time”, we have received aid from many brotherly nations along this difficult journey, especially Venezuela, but not even low oil prices could help us get back up on our feet and not have to depend on foreign powers again, nor be crushed by the US blockade, which does exist and harms us whether we like to admit it or not.

Forced to be ingenious because of shortages since then, Cubans have found many ways to survive, like, for example, living at the expense of government resources that they are meant to look after, read here: car, oil and other goods; working “on the side” when self-employment still hadn’t been legalized; taking state products which isn’t recognized nationally as theft, but as a way of “struggling”; and lastly, emigrating.

Emigration has been one of the main consequences of the excessive shortages we have suffered here in Cuba. Like everywhere else in the world, people emigrate for many other reasons, including politics, but the state of our economy has been the main driving force behind thousands of our fellow countrymen risking their lives to cross the Florida Strait, crossing through several countries, dangerous jungles and forests, unknown rivers, or getting on a plane heading anywhere, even Iceland, a place that is just as cold as it is unknown.

Well there you have it, when people can’t invent anymore; when your job or the struggle can’t give you anything else; when getting through the day to the next is impossible without being in constant danger of being put away; when your children grow up and feel like they don’t have any opportunities to grow, then many of our relatives, friends and neighbors decide to leave for good, even though they leave many loved ones behind, especially the elderly, like their parents and grandparents.

After the Wet-foot/Dry-foot Policy was revoked, which used to grant Cubans the right to stay in the US if they arrived by sea or land, many people who had been planning on heading North were left with their dreams unfulfilled.

Last month, in October and up until early November, a lottery opened up, which involves the US offering 50,000 visas to immigrants from different countries, Cuba being allocated 3,500 visas.

At least 3,500 Cuban nationals, out of the many thousands who have surely registered, will be able to make their dream of stepping foot on US soil true, starting their lives over in a developed country, trying to better their lives and to help their family members who have stayed behind.

Let’s hope that 2019 and 2020 (when the result of this visa lottery, or bombo as we call it) marks a new path for the chosen ones.  This seems to be the last lottery of this kind. Everyone who applied is expectant right now because luck is a crazy thing and anyone can be on the receiving end…

Rosa Martínez

Rosa Martinez: I am another Havana Times contributing writer, university professor and mother of two beautiful and spoiled girls, who are my greatest joy. My favorite passions are reading and to write and thanks to HT I’ve been able to satisfy the second. I hope my posts contribute towards a more inclusive and more just Cuba. I hope that someday I can show my face along with each of my posts, without the fear that they will call me a traitor, because I’m not one.



2 thoughts on “Luck is Crazy, and Anyone can be on the Receiving End

  • Will someone give examples of how The Embargo is hurting the Cuban economy?
    Is not importing from many other countries possible?
    I have seen there, Chinese made cars, air-conditioners, refrigerators and many other appliances, etc. (Also French, Korean and many others. So what is the problem? My guess it has to do with the centrally controlled economy, which has been shown to be very inefficient in the former communist and other authoritarian governments..

    Reply
  • Victor, its about much more than potential trading partners and Chinese-made air conditioners. There exists a campaign of pressure exerted on potential trading allies that seriously curtails their dealings with Cuba.

    What’s more, as USD is the world reserve currency. For instance, it’s very difficult to find a Chinese manufacturer that will transact in any currency other than USD. For that they need permission which is rarely granted. The US monitors and controls the amount of USD being transacted by Cuba (and every other entity and country). Anything outside of the permissible amounts and transaction types transacted often ends with massive fines for the institutions involved. Most are not even US banks but pay the heavy fines as they need to maintain a presence in the US. So you can imagine that banks that chose commit such “crimes” are assessing fees to assure they are not out of pocket. This type of laundering costs Cuba untold millions just to be able to transact USD internationally. Which they then use to buy the Chinese air conditioners…

    Travel by American to Cuba is severely limited. This alone potentially costs Cuba Billions annually in unrealized revenues.

    Remittances, of which the lion’s share originate in the US is a source for USD to the Cuban government, at least from those that are foolish enough to send the money denominated in USD (Cuba fines USD at about 8% whereas CAD, EUR, GBP, etc. are a simple conversion to CUC). For the USD portion, they are again severely limited on how and where to transact it and face eye-popping fees for this service.

    Cost of transporting goods from Europe and Asia is much more expensive than from the US. During the Soviet times, Russia and it’s satellite States exported Billions of dollars of goods every year to Cuba. This was under the false Soviet economy where massive subsidies existed and eventually contributed to that system’s collapse. No such “deals” exist today nor since 1990.

    Back to “trading partners”. There are a series of middlemen (corporations) set up in banking havens such as Panama, the Caymans, Switzerland, Hong Kong, etc. that act as intermediaries providing State actors with cutouts to transact through and offering them deniability when it comes to certain items Cuba needs to purchase. These cutouts don’t work for free. Far from it. As they are the only games in town and often collude with each other, the markups earned in those entities is impressive to say the least. This of course significantly increases the cost of these goods to the Cuban State corporations that buy them. This is pervasive. From furniture to food to auto parts. Cuba also has itself to blame in this arrangement as it authorizes a handful of entities to effect these transactions, thus limiting their procurement options and exposing them to the rampant collusion within this select group.

    There are more factors involved in hurting the Cuban economy with the Embargo. This is just a partial list.

    Reply

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