Pedro Campos

Container terminal at Mariel Port.
Container terminal at Mariel Port.  Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — Ana Teresa Igarza, director general of the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM) Regulations Office, recently announced that a special hard-currency exchange rate had been established for Zone employees.

Contracted employees will receive 80 percent of the salaries agreed to by Cuban employment agencies and investors, and payments are to be made in regular Cuban pesos (CUP), at a “special” exchange rate of 1 Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) to 10 CUP. This is as “special” as the Special Period.

That is to say, if the employment agency negotiates a 1,000 CUC salary (or its equivalent in US dollars) for a Cuban worker, the agency will pocket the 1,000 CUC (or its equivalent in US dollars) and pay the Cuban worker (in CUP) 80 percent of the sum agreed to, at the special exchange rate of 10 CUP to 1 CUC.

If mathematics hasn’t also been deformed by “State socialism”, this means the worker will receive 10 Cuban pesos for each CUC, which means that their salary would be 8,000 CUP (10 x 800).

When that worker comes out of the ZEDM, in order to purchase anything at the hard-currency stores operated by Cuba’s military monopoly, they will have to resort to government exchange locales (or CADECAS), where they are required to buy CUC at an exchange rate of 25 to 1. Thus, their 8,000 Cuban pesos become 320 CUC.

This means that, of the 1,000 CUC (or their equivalent in US dollars) paid by the investor, Cuban workers will only receive 32%. To this, we must add that the wage worker must pay an additional 5 percent for State “social security”, which means that they are ultimately only receiving 27 percent of the original 1,000 CUC.

A total of 63 percent will go to the State, which will sit back and not “get its hands dirty” – it will pocket this only for acting as an “intermediary” between the investor, a euphemism for a foreign capitalist exploiter, and Cuban salaried workers.

A crafty maneuver, true, but it can’t hide the double exploitation they would submit Cuban workers to, between the foreign capitalists and the extortionist State which, to add insult to injury, leaves workers helpless, deprived of laws that could protect them from their employers.

Having accustomed Cuba’s working class to hyper-exploitation, the State of course expects workers to content themselves with 32 % of their salaries. The other 68 % goes to the “nation.”

The benefits that the Mariel port mega-project brings the Cuban working class are becoming clear.

The much publicized Mariel project thus takes off its “progressive” mask to show its true face, to reveal itself as the extortionist of Cuban wage workers.

It is a clear illustration of the sought-after alliance between Cuba’s State monopoly capitalism (which has sought to pass itself off as “socialism”) and international capital, coming together to jointly exploit Cuba’s workforce.

35 thoughts on “Cuba’s Mariel Development Zone Unmasked

  • The US travellers to Cuba didn’t come to Cuba for tourism, but for academic and cultural purposes (tourism to Cuba is a no-no under US law). Also, when Cuba says the blockade impedes access to the IMF and World Bank, they mean to say that Helms-Burton allows the US to vote against Cuba’s entry to both institutions, not to forget that Cuba withdrew from both IMF and World Bank in 1960s on the grounds that those institutions were symbols of so-called “Yankee financial imperialism”. Someday, Cuba may simply apply for re-admission to IMF and World Bank in defiance of Helm-Burton.

    Personally, I consider Helms-Burton’s provisions on trade ineffective because the US cannot tell a country not to trade with Cuba.

  • Moses,
    careful, Burma is not quite yet a democracy.

  • To be sure, Mandela, while giving high praise to Cuba,
    was careful to avoid comparing Cuba’s contribution to African independence to the efforts of any other country. He said, “Cuban internationalists have done so much for African independence, freedom, and justice. We admire the sacrifices of the Cuban people in maintaining their independence and sovereignty in the face of a vicious imperialist campaign designed to destroy the advances of the Cuban revolution.” He was also careful, and you should be as well, to acknowledge Cuban efforts without diminishing the efforts of other countries to the same end. Additionally, your racists undergarments are showing. Why would you presume that the three notable African-Americans you mentioned should speak for the entire diaspora of such a diverse and beautiful people. As a white boy, does Jesse Helms speak for you? Why not? He was as white as you are. Stop while you are ahead.

  • The black Cuban dissident Sonia Garro is still in prison after two years.

    By 2012 Ms. Garro already had experience with state violence. Her record of counterrevolutionary activities included running a recreation center in her home for troubled youths. For that she was twice beaten by government-sanctioned mobs. She suffered a broken nose in police detention in 2010.

    When security agents took her home to put her under house arrest ahead of the pope’s visit, she was met by a mob sent to harass her. Her husband, Ramon Alejandro Muñoz, had climbed to the roof and was chanting anti-dictatorship slogans. Two neighbors took the couple’s side. Special-forces police were called in. They raided the home, shot Ms. Garro in the leg with rubber bullets and hauled the couple and two neighbors to jail.

    Eighteen months later prosecutors charged Ms. Garro with assault, attempted murder and public disorder. Her husband and one neighbor, Eugenio Hernández, are accused of attempted murder and public disorder. The prosecution is seeking a 10-year prison sentence for Ms. Garro, 14 years for Mr. Muñoz, and 11 years for Mr. Hernández.

  • Prominent black Americans condemn Cuba on racism

    A group of prominent black Americans has for the first time publicly condemned Cuba’s rights record, demanding Havana stop its “callous disregard” for black Cubans and declaring that “racism in Cuba . . . must be confronted.”

    “We know first-hand the experiences and consequences of denying civil freedoms on the basis of race,” the group said in a statement Monday. “For that reason, we are even more obligated to voice our opinion on what is happening to our Cuban brethren.”

    Among the 60 signers were Princeton professor Cornel West, actress Ruby Dee Davis, film director Melvin Van Peebles, former South Florida congresswoman Carrie Meek and Dr. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of President Barack Obama’s church in Chicago.

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