What Will I Buy Myself at Cuba’s New Dollar Stores?

By Julio Antonio Fernandez Estrada  (El Toque)    

Illustration: Wimar Verdecia: (elToque)

HAVANA TIMES – The Cuban government’s new economic measure of introducing foreign currency bank accounts suits me just great. I’ve been saving a whole booty of Danish krones for years and had no idea what to do with them. Now, I can take them, along with my trunk of euros and jar of Mexican pesos, and head to the nearest bank to open up a bank account and get a card, which will be like a magic wand that will allow me to buy domestic appliances, motorcycle engines, car parts, electric mopeds and then a lot more, a whole lot more.

Plus, I’ll be able to check import contracts with Cuban companies so I can order them to bring large fridge/freezers and anything else my buried money can afford.

The Cuban people are very happy, as thousands and thousands of people hoped to buy things cheaper with their foreign currency than their official prices in CUC and not have to bring excessive baggage from remote places, flat-screen Tvs and air-conditioning units, so they can sell them for three times the price on Cuba’s black market.

As guest officials on Mesa Redonda TV show so accurately said, this measure will benefit a specific population segment. However, they didn’t say that this segment is very small, that most Cubans will continue to wait and hope a euro falls into their lap, because nobody and nothing pays for our work in euros and we don’t even know where the Count of Montecristo’s treasure map is.

My mother didn’t leave a single ring behind when there was the campaign of gold and silver, back in the day, (which has now made a comeback), when Cubans had to ask a foreigner to buy a pair of shoes or a TV unit at a “Diplo” Store with the foreign currency they had saved.

The measly sum we got in return for the gold and silver we had, was enough for us to buy a few things, which would need to last another 30 years. Now, we are being told to take our hidden treasure out again and hand it in in exchange for top-of-the-range washing machines and fridge-freezers.

Like the Cuban president himself said when he announced the “temporary period” which will never end, the Cuban people laughed about all of this, like I have right up until the very end of this article.

However, reality isn’t a joke, it’s a real cause for concern. When we were waiting for measures to free up the country’s productive forces, when we need measures to encourage production, the incorporation of young people in the workforce, measures to attract new generations to a viable economic project, that make them want to stay in Cuba, when we desperately need policies that join old and new ones to form a democratic and inclusive national project, this is when we are instead thinking about changing Danish krones for flat-screen TVs.

Where are the policies for the majority of the Cuban people, not segments, but for everyone?

Let me say, yet again, that democracy isn’t an embellishment used by the State. It needs to be a constant exercise, a means of government, or like the Constitution itself says, a foundation of the Cuban State’s organization and work.

The State, the Government, the Communist Party, need to start listening to the Cuban people, not to take measures that apparently solve our problems, that make a couple of thousand people happy to keep things the same for millions, but to really sit down and listen to what the people have to say about our real expectations.

Socialism is only a viable option if it saves us as a species, as people, as a family, as a nation, as individuals. Those who think up unpopular policies in a State that is supposed to be socialist, are enemies of socialism and democracy, because they are putting control in the hands and mouths of new well off capitalist apologists and giving elaborate arguments about our decadence and irrationality.

Socialism isn’t, nor can it ever be, business of officials clinging to power and their privileges. This was one of the main reasons for the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in Eastern Europe, and of nearly every socialist experience we know of. The people need to be the ones deciding, legislators translate what the people want into laws. Those governing will break into a cold sweat in the face of the responsibility of serving their country, but they must never think that we trust them to handle our future in air-conditioned rooms.

The Cuban people are peaceful, hard-working, imaginative, simple, frugal, if we compare ourselves to other people in the region. We are happy with little and we can invent a vaccine against a terrible disease and then be content with a plate of pork rinds. However, we have the right to be respected, when they tell us that there are actions for segments of the population that we don’t fit into, as if we don’t matter, as if it’s unimportant to know we don’t have and never will have something to spend, not even a single Danish krone.

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