How Much Is a Contract Worth in Cuba?

Manuel Alberto Ramy  (Progreso Semanal)

cuba-gaceta-a-685x342HAVANA TIMES — A small group of former state employees in the city of Artemisa, the capital of the western province that shares the same name, who became independent workers due to the new self-employment law laid out by the Cuban government, face a critical situation.

They had signed a 10-year contract with the government’s Services Company in the city so they could develop their work and now they are being forced to leave their site and lose the small investments they made to improve it. The building no longer belongs to them they were told, “Because now it belongs to the government’s Retail Sales Enterprise (Comercio) and not the Services Company anymore.”

To be precise: they feel “unemployed and helpless.”

Published in the provincial newspaper El Artemiseno, this piece of news forces us to reflect upon, at least, three points:

How valid is a contract signed with a government entity when this can be broken with one fell swoop? Is it possible that the conditions stipulated in the contract can be nullified via a verbal order from “the comrade responsible for the renovation work.”  No manager came to see us, they didn’t meet with us and explain anything to us about the problem, until a few days ago when they came to give us an ultimatum”?

Instead of waiting for an answer from the official, which is what the attitude of those affected seems to be, it would be worth filing a lawsuit, with the help from lawyers, and therefore let their differences be settled in court. Every Cuban citizen should put the Cuban judicial system to the test, a valid, legal attitude, a right they are entitled to by law and which shouldn’t be understood as challenging the socialist system but as a way to strengthen it making it more transparent via people exercising their civil rights.

If our immediate future depends on legality and institutionalism, which has been repeated by the highest ranking politicians, the report of this case gives us doubts as it questions essential certainties for the entire population. No civil servant should be above the law or outside of it, no matter what position they hold. Justice courts exist for some reason.

Progreso Semanal reproduces the information published in the aforementioned newspaper on July 12.

Self Employed Workers in Artemisa Await an Answer

By Yusmary Romero Cruz

A short time ago, we received a letter from Elier Estevez, Yurisan Rojas, Jose Alberto Martinez, Ediel Gutierrez and Esteban Pereira, self-employed workers in Artemisa, who have been asked to leave the worksite belonging to the government’s Services Company, which they’ve rented out for 10 years, bound by a contract.

“They are renovating the bouvelard, and this worksite doesn’t belong to us, because it now belongs to the Retail Trade Company and not the Services Company anymore,” they were told.

This information, they said, “was passed on by a colleague responsible for the renovation work, as no manager came to see us, they didn’t meet with us and explain anything to us about the problem, until a few days ago when they came to give us an ultimatum.”

“They gave us this worksite in a depressing state and we’ve fixed it up a little. We were state workers and then we became independent renters. They told us how everything would be, and that we wouldn’t end up helpless or unprotected: then this happens, violating everything we agreed on. As the damaged party, where do we stand? Unemployed, helpless?” they summarized.

“We were the first ones in Cuba to work under this new initiative, and will we be the first ones to disappear too? The decision taken isn’t the right one, when laws and ideas are being approved to open up the market further to independent workers, cooperatives and contractors.”

Their letter went on to give other facts and details which we don’t have the space to publish here. However, they explained how the pedestrian boulevard needed a number of services, “Why don’t they include us like we have been up until now, and together the government’s Services and Trade companies can continue working in harmony with this new layout for the boulevard?”

This is a regretful situation and we hope the independent workers get a rapid answer, and that public services aren’t affected, one of the stated missions of this new kind of employment.

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15 thoughts on “How Much Is a Contract Worth in Cuba?

  • August 23, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    In many respects Steve, the more one experiences of Cuba, the more one detests the communist system which the Castros imposed on them. There is no way for Cubans to escape the repression which affects all aspects of their lives.
    So many good people struggling to find some degree of individual expression and action. There is no intention by the Castro communist regime to allow actual change to occur for they have the country in a vice-like grip.
    Although there is no freedom, social life is based upon ‘la familia’ and the soul of Cuba is its music – but note, both are free!

  • August 23, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    The is much poverty there and many good people waiting for a direction that things will change, but at this time I got impression that land and people were going to continue to be underused .

  • August 23, 2016 at 11:50 am

    They were set up as micro loans to farmers and food processing plant all the money went a Cuban bank and was registered so that both us and the Cubans had a paper trail that way we had no direct Cuban employees. They allowed us to bring certain needed items and pay tariffs as if the farmer were bring them some items had no duty . Our business was registered to do social good with a group that manage to status as social enterprise making the leader a minister and able to travel back and forth to other countries including Canada. We are being very careful at this time but also warning others to be careful.

  • August 23, 2016 at 11:49 am

    No cash was given, only a certain number of very small items that were not on the selves in Cuba in the stores. The government wants have a piece of every pie and would sooner work with large companies that are more interested in making money . Our goal was only to work with very hard working (little people) The airport deal was needed to handle the increased planes coming to Cuba. We refused to do any deal were the Cuban government was paying for the items as their payment record is not very good. We only had Cubans working for Cubans with no one having more than one employee. The fact that I have a Russian wife helped a lot as Russians are still respected in Cuba and that opened many doors. Until the government opens up small enterprise no real improvement will happen. I do not think this will happen without large scale hunger and protests.

  • August 22, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    Thanks, Steve. It looks like small firms don’t have a chance. Big players feel they have more of a chance–L’Oreal, Nestle and the firm that’s going to run the Havana airport. They are all dealing with Havana at high levels.

    I suppose those donations had to be in cash….

  • August 22, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    I can say with a degree of authority, that there is no evidence of a “substantial small business activity in Artemisa” which I have visited, unless one regards the occupations which are permitted by the regime – haircutting, pushing wheelbarrows etc. as such.
    Artemisa however does fairly represent average Cuba, having virtually no tourists although on the Caratera Central. For four years now, it has been the provincial capital of the new Province of Artemisa which was created along with Mayabeque by carving up the Province of Havana. The red soils in that area are particularly fertile although some fields are being allowed to revert to bush.
    I would be interested if not astonished, if evidence of substantial small business activity in Artemisa was revealed.
    You may have read in these pages a couple of months ago about some unfortunate young people, several of who died when endeavouring to reach Florida by sea. They came from Candaleria which also lies on the Caratera about halfway between Artemisa and Soroa (which does receive tourists).

  • August 22, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    Were these “commercial projects” carried out by a commercially registered business or by a charitable group?
    If a commercial business, then the Cubans employed would have to be paid by the state (or a GAESA subsidiary) at their rates (under $1 US per day). How much did your commercial business have to pay the state – or GAESA subsidiary per worker per month?

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