In the face of a luxury hotel opening in Cuba, and the Government taking advantage of this situation, official media have adopted their typical “mote that is in your brother’s eye” attitude.
By Alejandro Armengol
HAVANA TIMES — With Raul Castro’s government in power, Cubans are now less equal than others, but among them: it’s still very hard to be like a foreigner. What a country to establish itself as a colony and metropolis at the same time, while declaring its own citizens inferior to others.
At the 7th Cuban Communist party congress that took place last year, the government recognized the existence of private property in regard to certain modes of production and the rise of the private economic sector. However, it also made it very clear that it was forbidden for any Cuban citizen to pool assets and wealth. That is to say, it’s forbidden to be rich… although there are rich Cubans and they themselves say as much, but official Cuban media doesn’t.
With such a law, much more was established than a mere legal framework, which exists in any country, a straitjacket was placed on progress too. While legal property was granted to private modes of production, not only was accumulating property banned, but accumulating wealth too.
Although, on the other hand, the government increasingly needs and depends on the rich. It has always been like this, but beforehand, certain countries served this function with their subsidies, financial aid or simply by giving funds. Now that this path has narrowed down to one street, doors to millionaires have never been more open.
The Kempinski run Gran Hotel Manzana, a super luxury hotel in front of the Parque Central and Havana’s Gran Teatro, is the last indication of ordinary Cubans’ inferior status in our society. Meanwhile, the “other” – visitors, foreign tourists – continues to be the privileged, while ordinary Cubans see their role reduced to their eternal role of “outsider”. Where the distinction used to be made by a doorman beforehand, who used to say that entrance was “only for tourists”, now everyone knows that this place is “only for the rich”.
It just so happens that it is very easy to be poor in Cuba but nearly impossible to be rich. This also happens in other parts of the world, you could argue and you’re right, but then at least official media would save you their out-of-date rhetoric.
In the face of signs of showing off luxury – which the government and especially the ruling elite, such as military leaders, are benefitting from – Cuban press have at least three dominant trends.
One of which is to ignore them. For example, Granma still hasn’t even mentioned the opening of the new 5-star-plus hotel on Manzana de Gomez.
The second is to adopt a village priest attitude and stereotypical and provincial viewpoint, with the argument of “poor but happy” or “you the rich and we the poor”.
The third is the typical biblical attitude of “the mote that is in your brother’s eye”.
An example of this? On May 22nd, Juventud Rebelde newspaper published that the hotel inauguration “forms part of a strategy that will allow Cuba to attract a high quality market.” Using the euphemism “high quality”, they are referring to those who are able to pay $440 per person a night for a basic room and $2485 for a presidential suite, in a country where the average monthly salary is around $29.
However, before that, on March 27th, the same newspaper published an article – with the headline – about the luxury Dynamic Tower Hotel in Dubai, where it stated: “It’s just that, in the midst of a region subjected to bloody wars, with tens of thousands of people dead and millions of displaced refugees, a building like this could be seen as a slap in the face, a human misery, which highlights the poverty that even Aladdin’s lamp hasn’t been able to get rid of…”.
And with the obvious exceptions, can’t we say the same thing about the Kempinski’s Gran Hotel Manzana, in the middle of an impoverished and crumbling Havana?