Those Poor Cubans (II)

Fernando Ravsberg*

TAXI - Photo: Claire Villuame

HAVANA TIMES, Feb. 26 — I admit that I like to challenge clichés and puerile generalities; further I have a passion for debate.

These must be the two reasons that lead me to write once again about a topic that generated great polemic.  ( See Part 1)

Actually, I’m not going to write myself, I’m merely going to reproduce what some people had to say on one of the blogs that published my piece.  I’m talking about a web page so far removed from Communism that its motto is: “the right builds, the left destroys.”

The most interesting thing is that many have written of their personal experiences with the theme. “Placeta”, a Chilean in his fifties, tells us that some time ago he traveled to the island and visited the mother of two Cuban girls who live in Concepción.

The surprised “Placeta” says that while he was in Cuba the woman gave him an envelope for her daughters and told him, “Please, I know that they are having a hard time (in Chile) and haven’t yet managed to get firmly on their feet.  There are 1,000 dollars here.  Could you deliver it to them?”

Upon returning to his country he asked the two young Cuban women how it was possible that their mother had access to that much money in Cuba.  They responded with great aplomb that she works as a waitress in a Havana cafeteria.

MLMatanzas, who apparently writes from Miami, claims to know people who have taken large sums of money out of the island. He speaks of “another person whose father sent him money (from Cuba) to pay the deposit on an apartment – not a very luxurious one, but in a great location.”

But yes, “MLMatanzas” questions the idea that a Cuban has been able to gather 3 million dollars in a bank on the island.  If he had taken the time to reread my note more calmly and with less emotion he would have noticed that I never claimed that the bank was in Cuba.

“PPP357” affirms that he knew Cubans on the island who were earning “hundreds of dollars daily, and who lived in as much luxury as anyone outside the island, and I’m not speaking of favorite sons of rich daddies, although of course they had connections, since it’s impossible to make money in Cuba without them.”

“Omivale”, a Cuban woman who lives in Spain and proclaims herself to be anti-Castro had “a friend who worked in the Hotel Commodore and was a ‘thousandEuroist’ (earning 1,000 Euros a month) selling soft drinks, snacks, etc.  She took them from home and they sold before those of the hotel.”

“Glezbo” expressed doubt that the owner of a private restaurant could send his wife to give birth in Miami.  Right away, “Prietopicudo” responded saying, “it’s true because I know who it is and they didn’t only do that; when they were going to have their second child, they went to Spain.”

“Deleste” questions my objectivity, but curiously then recognizes that before emigrating he worked in tourism and that his position opened many possibilities for getting by in those times via two routes: legally, through the payments he received in CUC from the company he worked for; and illegally, through the scams or under the table business that he carried out.”

I believe that these stories are interesting above all because they have to do with personal experiences.  In addition, they appeared in a blog in which almost all the forum participants attack Fernando Ravsberg without the least compassion.

But that’s not all.  On August 15 a cable from Reuters informed us that: “For the first time in a half century, Cuba is taking advantage of the Cubans with hard currency who have occupied 10% of the capacity of the luxury hotels on the island this summer.”

In an “Everything included” the agency interviewed “Alexis” a simple worker in a State store.  The young man, who was staying there together with his girlfriend declared that, even though he had to save a lot it was worth it because, “this is the very best.”

On September 19, the Spanish news agency EFE interviewed José, a private taxi driver without a license who admitted earning 15,000 pesos a month (around $600).  I would add that there are people who own various taxis that are out working in the street.

I feel more relaxed now that I’m not the only one who knows some Cuban taxi drivers with good incomes, people who earn “hundreds of dollars a day”, others who send money to their family members outside the country and those who spend their vacations in “luxury hotels.”

An authorized translation by Havana Times (from the Spanish original) pulished on Feb. 11 by BBC Mundo.

One thought on “Those Poor Cubans (II)

  • Your article, Fernando, (I & II), is an eye-opener for socialists living in the US. Yes, we tend to have the impression that most Cubans are impoverished. It’s enlightening to discover that the figure is more like 50%.

    I think one of the most destructive ideas that the capitalists imported into the socialist movement is that material prosperity is capitalistic. That is, the idea that having a good life materially is somehow the substance of capitalism, and is somehow morally wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Socialism–authentic socialism, that is–is not about making everyone equally poor. It’s about stopping the exploitation of those who work and produce real wealth, and allowing them to achieve prosperity by not being the victims of capitalist owners.

    By redefining “real” socialism as a modern socialist cooperative republic, rather than a state socialist bureaucratic republic, material prosperity can be the acquisition of all Cubans.

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