Haroldo Dilla Alfonso
HAVANA TIMES — I have two pieces of news laying in front of me. One is about the situation of Cubans now in Ecuador. Those who remain alive are sleeping in a square outdoors. The dead are frozen in a morgue without being able to return to their loved ones to be buried in the land that they were born in. All of them are victims of the irresponsible and criminal behavior the Cuban government has adopted when it has anything to do with its emigrated citizens, who are considered despicable subhumans of the island’s society. And who they don’t take into account for anything.
The other piece of news is about the image of Colonel Idael Fumero, a high-ranking MININT official, who has declared, before a committee of the Cuban legislature – nothing less than national defense – that secret investments are being made by Cuban emigres in private initiatives on the island, which he classifies as “money laundering.” He was very clear and let me quote him: “Among the main illegal activities which the country faces is the persistent interest of emigrants and foreigners to introduce illicit funds to invest in the private sector and in real estate, which is known as money laundering.”
Both of these pieces of news highlight the serious problem of the discriminatory, predatory and – why not? – anti-national relationship the Cuban State has with its emigres. And in the Colonel’s case, this is just another way to demonize the relationship between these two communities, on the island and the one that emigrated.
I don’t doubt that there are cases of money laundering in money transfers to the island from some emigrated Cubans. But I also don’t believe that the Cuban government – or the official – has a special sensitivity on the complicated issue of money laundering. If this was the case, an investigation would be underway and there would be explicit information revealed about the Mossack Fonseca (Panama Papers) leak, about the dozens of Cuban companies or companies who have strong ties with Cuba, and in which the Castro family itself has been accused of using offshore firms. Is there even a self-criticism about the way the Cuban government gave refuge to international conman Robert Vesco?
However, even if these cases were to be proven or if this sensitivity were to be justified, it’s still criminal to relate “money laundering” with the indirect micro investments Cuban emigres make on the island.
It’s no secret to anyone that, if you want to talk about a dynamic Cuban community, you have to look for it, first of all, in its emigration. It’s not that this community – something like 15% of all living Cubans – who, with their work, maintain a good part of the consumption of around half of the island’s population. Just like it’s well-known by now that Miami is a market that provides seasonal jobs, milk powder, medicines, car parts, school uniforms and anything else that might be in shortage on the island, that is to say, nearly everything.
It’s completely natural that these Cubans look for a way to invest in Cuba on a small scale with what they can afford out of their pocket. And if they can’t do it the “clean” way, among other reasons because the government doesn’t allow them to do so, they invest using trustworthy intermediaries. This, in turn, takes off the great burden of monthly remittances off of their backs.
If Cuba was a normal country, the government would be facilitating all of this process as it creates jobs, stimulates the services sector and helps to create a better suited logistics base for tourism. In other words, people can live and eat with what they earn, with dignity, and not because of external help. And if Cuba was normal, it would take advantage of the resources this especially successful emigration provides – economically, politically, culturally and professionally speaking – in exchange for an open borders policy in accordance with the transnational status of Cuban society. A policy which must lead to returning all the civil rights that have been taken from Cuban emigrants over the course of decades.
However, Cuba isn’t a normal country because the government chooses instead to have a hostile relationship with its emigres – the opposite of what happens everywhere else in the world, including in the Dominican Republic – and prefers to overexploit them with exorbitant fees with its inefficient consulate services, or by buying in the most expensive half-empty stores in the world. That is to say, the government keeps on milking them to take, one by one, the three billion dollars a year that maintains their decrepit national economy. And this also ensures that the elite get richer as they become a new bourgeoisie, the real reason for the “updated socialism” which the political class proclaims and it’s paid off supporters repeat.
Today, normalizing relations between the island community and the emigre community, ceasing government hostilities and returning all of their rights to Cuban emigres, is an essential step in creating a better future which we all deserve.