Yenisel Rodriguez Perez
HAVANA TIMES, 18 abr — A few days ago I was walking through the always surprising streets of Havana’s Vedado district, where each block constitute its own micro-world environment with trees and shadows.
While looking for a friend’s house, I came upon one of those mansions that were confiscated from some bourgeois owner by the new revolutionary government back in the 1960s and converted into the headquarters of some government institution or office.
Behind a well maintained fence, what hit my eyes was a brightly lit sign that read: GEASP, el Grupo Empresarial de Apoyo a la Salud Pública (Public Health Business Support Group).
“What the hell is this?” I wondered, surprised.
Like the trees in that district, the lush local bureaucratic imagination has continued to sprout self-perpetuating conditions over time (what could be called the “expanded reproduction of administrative capital”) to the extent they have quashed our ability to understand what they’re doing with our lives and the implications of their actions.
So what is the “Public Health Business Support Group”?
As I was reaching 26th Street, it had already occurred to me that I wasn’t going to be able to have an answer to this question to write this post. I wasn’t going to have the time or obtain the authorization to interview the staff at that place.
I wasn’t going to be able to do what they call “investigative journalism,” what journalists themselves — here and everywhere else — know is something difficult to do.
This is because after any investigation comes “ideological normalization,” a fundamental part of the standardized production and mass reproduction of (mis)information by those rapscallions of the news industry, those who are committed to the global status quo, one in which our country is like so many others.
Nevertheless when I got to my friend’s house, I asked him for the telephone book, the 2009-2010 Havana directory, which was the most up-to-date one he had. I searched under “P” for Public Health Business Support Group, but I didn’t find it. However to my surprise, I counted 76 “business groups” listed in the Cuban capital.
Within this corporate matrix I found entities like the “Ministry of Higher Education Business Group,” the “Capital Goods Business Group,” the “State Activities Attention Group of the Ministry of Agriculture,” the “Mountain Agriculture Business Group,” the “Science, Technology and Environment Business Group,” the “Local Industries Business Group of Havana,” “Fruit Growing Business Group,” the “Marlin Nautical and Marine Business Group Ltd.,” the “Electronic, Computer Science, Automation and Communications Business Group,” and so on.
After leafing through the directory and taking mental notes, I began to feel like I was sharpening the initial idea I had for this article, and at the same time I felt surer of the utility of writing it. It could contribute to making understandable this dark hole, one as immense and expansive as those in the cosmos.
It was understandable that “my” Public Health Business Support Group wasn’t listed. With this sweeping institutional reorganization that the commanders of the revolution are carrying out — from their air-conditioned offices, and without informing anyone — it’s hard to find out anything that’s going on.
Beyond the concrete existence of the Business Group, what the telephone book showed me was something that I was already sensing the moment I saw the solitary light of the GEASP sign: these are the concrete and materially existing institutions that make up what only a few people today understand as Cuban state capitalism.
They are a conglomerate of companies that have no direct relationship with any social institutions, with any municipality, with any People’s Council or any Zone Committee or community initiative.
In exchange, the socialist state sucks from these any possible chance of functioning like proper businesses in order to fill its coffers while making itself appear in the aura of a manna-giving God. Miraculously, a small part of these resources are provided to society, for which we’re convinced we should be grateful – like eternally incapacitated children.
This is what the “socialist order” means for the commanders of the Cuban revolution: a great work of philanthropy that allows them to live comfortably like eccentric millionaires and intellectually exhaust four generations in the moral quagmire of the “freebies of the revolution.”
Perhaps others can research and investigate this in more detail and greater depth, but broadly speaking, what else could the Public Health Business Support Group be?