Ladies in White

If Trump Ends Our Remittances? / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 8 July 2017 — Without too much caution, the CUPET tanker
truck painted green and white begins to deposit fuel in the underground
basement of a gas station located at the intersection of Calle San
Miguel and Mayía Rodríguez, just in front of Villa Marista, headquarters
of State Security, in the quiet Sevillano neighborhood, south of Havana.

The gas station, with four pumps, belongs to the Ministry of the
Interior and all its workers, even civilians, are part of the military
staff. “To start working in a military center or company, be it FAR
(Revolutionary Armed Forces) or MININT (Ministry of the Interior),
besides investigating you in your neighborhood and demanding certain
qualities, you have to be a member of the Party or the UJC (Union of
Young Communists),” says one employee, who adds:

“But things have relaxed and not all those working in military companies
are 100 percent revolutionary. And like most jobs in Cuba, there are
those who make money stealing fuel, have family in the United States and
only support the government in appearances.”

Let’s call him Miguel. He is a heavy drinker of beer and a devotee of
Santeria.

“I worked at the gas station six years ago. It is true that they ask for
loyalty to the system and you have to participate in the May Day marches
so as not to stand out. But it is not as rigorous as three decades ago,
according to the older ones, when you could not have religious beliefs
or family in yuma (the USA). I do not care about politics, I’m a
vacilator. I have two sons in Miami, and although I look for my
shillings here, if Trump cuts off the remittances to those of us who
work in military companies, Shangó will tell me what to do,” he says and
laughs.

If there is something that worries many Cubans it is the issue of family
remittances. When the Berlin Wall collapsed and the blank check of the
former USSR was canceled, Fidel Castro’s Cuba entered a spiraling
economic crisis that 28 years later it still has not been able to overcome.

Inflation roughly hits the workers and retirees with a worthless and
devalued currency, barely enough to buy a few roots and fruits and to
pay the bills for the telephone, water and electricity.

Although the tropical autocracy does not reveal statistics on the amount
of remittances received in Cuba, experts say that the figures fluctuate
between 2.5 and 3 billion dollars annually. Probably more.

Foreign exchange transactions of relatives and friends living abroad,
particularly in the United States, are the fundamental support of
thousands of Cuban families. It is the second national industry and
there is a strong interest in managing that hard currency.

“Since the late 1970s, Fidel Castro understood the usefulness of
controlling the shipments of dollars from the so-called gusanos
(’worms,’ as those who left were called) to their families. When he
allowed the trips of the Cuban Community to the Island, the Ministry of
the Interior (MININT) had already mounted an entire industry to capture
those dollars.

“Look, you can not be naive. In Cuba, whenever foreign exchange comes
in, the companies that manage it are military, or the Council of State,
like Palco. That money is the oxygen of the regime. And they use it to
buy equipment, motorcycles and cars for the G-2 officials who repress
the opponents and to construct hotels, rather than to acquire medicines
for children with cancer. And since there is no transparency, they can
open a two or three million dollar account in a tax haven,” says an
economist.

The dissection of the problem carried out by the openly anti-Castro
exile and different administrations of the White House is correct. The
problem is to find a formula for its application so that the stream of
dollars does not reach the coffers of the regime.

“The only way for the government not to collect dollars circulating in
Cuba, would be Trump completely prohibiting transfers of money. It’s the
only way to fuck them. I do not think there is another. But using money
as a weapon of blackmail to make people demand their rights, I find
deplorable. I also have the rope around my neck. I want democratic
changes, better salaries, and I have no relatives in Miami. But I do not
have the balls to go out in the street and demand them,” says an
engineer who works at a military construction company.

Twenty years ago, on June 27, 1997, the Internal Dissident Working Group
launched La Patria es de Todos (The Nation Belongs to Everyone), a
document that raised rumors within the opposition itself. Economist
Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, along with the late Félix Antonio Bonne
Carcassés, Vladimiro Roca Antúnez and lawyer René Gómez Manzano, tried
to get those Cubans who received dollars to commit to not participate in
government activities or vote in the elections, all of them voluntary.

It is true that the double standards of a large segment of Cubans upset
the human rights activists. With total indifference, in the morning they
can participate in an act of repudiation against the Ladies in White and
in the afternoon they connect to the internet so that a family member
expedites the paperwork for them to emigrant or recharges their mobile
phone account.

This hypocrisy is repulsive. But these people are not repressive. Like
millions of citizens on the island, they are victims of a
dictatorship. In totalitarian societies, even the family estate is
perverted.

In Stalin’s USSR a ’young pioneer’ was considered a here for denouncing
the counterrevolutionary attitude of his parents. There was a stage in
Cuba where a convinced Fidelista could not befriend a ’worm’, or have
anything to do with a relative who had left the country or receive money
from abroad.

I understand journalists like Omar Montenegro, of Radio Martí, who in a
radio debate on the subject, said that measures such as these can at
least serve to raise awareness of people who have turned faking it into
a lifestyle. But beyond whether regulation could be effective in the
moral order, in practice it would be a chaos for any federal agency of
the United States.

And, as much frustration as those of us who aspire to a democratic Cuba
may have, we can not be like them. It has rained a lot since then. The
ideals of those who defend Fidel Castro’s revolution have been
prostituted. Today, relatives of senior military and government
officials have left for the United States. And the elite of the olive
green bourgeoisie that lives on the island likes to play golf, drink
Jack Daniel’s and wear name-brand clothes.

If Donald Trump applies the control of remittances to people working in
GAESA or other military enterprises, it would affect more than one
million workers engaged in these capitalist business of the regime,
people who are as much victims of the dictatorship as the rest of the
citizenship.

The colonels and generals who changed their hot uniforms for white
guayaberas and the ministers and high officials, do not need to receive
remittances. Without financial controls or public audits, they manage
the state coffers at will. One day we will know how much they have
stolen in the almost sixty years they have been governing.

Source: If Trump Ends Our Remittances? / Iván García – Translating Cuba
translatingcuba.com/if-trump-ends-our-remittances-ivn-garca/

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