The Self-Employed and the “Mules”

The control tower at Havana's José Martí airport. Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

The control tower at Havana's José Martí airport.

The pepper is of carved wood and a seasoning container on the table says “Sedano’s” in green letters. The private restaurant waits for the supplies that will arrive this Saturday in an enormous delivery transported by a “mula” — a mule. If the delivery is even a day late, many of the items offered on the menu might not be available because a good part of “the pots, the condiments, the supplies for the tables, the cream, and even the coffee” comes from Florida, according to what the owner of the place tells me. Since they opened the doors they have been sustained thanks to a flood of food and supplies coming in through the Havana airport. “It’s not that we don’t like domestic products, it’s that there isn’t a steady supply of them of the necessary quality. So we have to go with what is safe,” the Chef tells me, while opening a package of imported pasta.

The alarm extends among the small private businesses created in recent years. Of the 387,275 self-employed workers as of the end of May, it’s difficult to estimate how many of them depend on what travelers carry in their luggage. But the number must be very high. The manicurist needs the nail polish and the polish remover sent by a relative in Miami and the man who organizes children’s parties receives balloons and candy from his brother living in Orlando. Now, this semi-alternative commercial network is in danger from new customs regulations. The first of them went into effect on June 18, and reinstated the taxes on food imports. A common measure in many countries around the world, but one that puts a brake on small business development in a nation marked by shortages, the absence of wholesale markets, and the high price of food products. If we have seen a flourishing of snack bars on the central streets of the capital, and yellow pages filled with ads, it has been, to a great degree, thanks to the package services from the north.

The situation will become more difficult once the new regulations announced Monday go into effect; starting on September 3 a tariff will be levied on personal items whose value exceeds 50 Cuban pesos, about two dollars. A tough blow to the self-employed and also for all Cubans who have managed to improve their diets and wardrobes with these foreign products. If the measures are focused on raising as much cash as possible through customs and legally regulating what was working outside its control, the government will probably achieve its objective. But it will also have an immediate and extremely negative impact on the development of the private sector. It won’t be unexpected if, within days, we hear from the mouths of the self-employed phrases such as “we can no longer do this work because the package of raw materials hasn’t come yet,” or “we used to prepare this dish when the mulas came more often.” And only then will we perceive the real importance of this commerce — incalculable and vital — that travels inside suitcases.

—————-

If the concept of “mule” is taken in the rest of the world as someone who transports drugs, in Cuba it refers to those who — particularly from the United States — carry packages that almost always contain such things as clothing, shoes, non-perishable food, small appliances, food mixes, medicines and household items. The mula is paid for this messenger service and often the cost of the ticket to the island is paid for as a part of the agreement with the agency that hires them.

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69 thoughts on “The Self-Employed and the “Mules”

  1. So, “friendly translator”!!!

    Still at expressing your frustration by posting under my name?

    Pathetic. Old age, just like the rest of your crony “revolutionaries” here.

    And every day there are less and less of you.

    Natural atrittion and no one really gives a shift.

    You SHOULD take a note of these FACTS.

  2. Fast forward 10 years: I am now an out gay man. Many times people ask me, “Do you think it’s nature or nurture?” I always respond by telling them it really doesn’t matter, because either Hashem “natured” me to be gay or put me in the environment that nurtured me to be gay.

  3. And let me dismantle another of many st**d lies from the team :yoani” and their little pioneers foaming here about a thing that does not exist. A family from Cuba I had met some years ago have left Cuba for Canada just recently. Contrary to the nazist propaganda here, conjured up in the corridors of hell called cia and usa nazist dictatorship, they are a regular family with next to no ties to communist party or Cuban government and yet they were able to obtain necessary paperwork and emigrate to Canada.

    The whole family: husband, wife and their children. No issues, no problems, did not even have to renounce their home in Cuba.

    So it is NOT true that it is impossible and reserved for the party-faithful few, as claimed by the team “yoani” and their ignorant pioneers.

    In fact, they are not even the only ones. The team “yoani’s” OWN video posted on Cuba actually makes a mockery of themselves and their pin-up granny who turns up ina

    F U L L

    emigration office in Cuba and pretend to being denied documents to travel out of the country!!!!

    If it were impossible, how many people would even try to go to the office.

    And then, the brainless traitor gave herself out when she wrote an article about flying to Bahamas!!!! It was immediately clear that she was the “mysterious” woman traveling

    OUT OF CUBA.

    A bunch of failed delusional and compulsive liars.

    Come on Fdel and Raul!!!

    Apply that “democratic” usanian law and bring all the traitors to the execution squad!!! Show them what the usa-style “democracy” means.

  4. Neandertal looking ignorants are still hellbent on supporting the team “yoani” in their nazist and criminal activities. Last I heard about the usa law, terrorism was punishable by death. Why is not Cuba applying this “democratic” law and clean up the house?

    It’s long overdue. Their own site collapsed under the weight of their own ex***ment! Let us keep in mind that these nazists, professing some sort of “democracy”, ARE actually nazists and nothing else.

    They employed hundreds of nazist “experts” in war, experiments on humans, nuclear and rocket science, spies.

    One fine example how the usa is really just a nazist gulag is Klaus Barbie, cia operative in Germany and Bolivia. That nazist war criminal was even boasting to have been instrumental in killing Che Guevara.

    A NAZIST and a WANTED WAR CRIMINAL was EMPLOYED by usa to KILL Che. Now another terrorist and a criminal, who will soon be a WAR CRIMINAL, teh pinup sold souls and a traitor “yoani” is also PAID by usa. This despicable person is PAID by usa to KILL HER OWN COUNTRY!!!!!

    Can this jinetera go any lower than that?

    NAZISTS CAN ALWAYS GO LOWER than that.

    All for a fistful of dollars from their white “gods”, who drink their coffee, smoke their cigars and have their way with Cuban women.

    This traitor here, signing all these lies and disgusting comments, obviously enjoys the way they have it with her.

  5. JACK SPITZ your gay fag and should seek therapy. You story is very GAY and maybe you and RAUL CASTRO have something in common. Your on the wrong Blog if that is what you wish to share. Yikes.

  6. Jack Spitz!! I LIVE IN VENICE BEACH, CALIFORNIA! WANT TO COME OVER FOR TEA AND CRUMPETS?

  7. Jack Spitz !! THE STANDARD TACTICS BY CASTRO AGENTS ONLINE WHEN FACED WITH CRITICISM BY DISSIDENTS OR OTHERS (including on comment sections) OF THE CASTRO “GOVERNMENT” IS TO ATTEMPT TO DEFAME, PLANT DOUBT ABOUT THAT PERSON, THEIR WORK AS WELL AS USE PROFANITY! IF THE CASTRO AGENT SHOE FITS, THEN WEAR IT! AND THANKS FOR ALL YOUR INSULTS IT JUST PROVES MY POINT! JE JE JE!

    CUBANS IN THE UNITED STATES- Pew Hispanic Center- August 25, 2006
    There are approximately 1.5 million Cubans in the United States. Cubans make up about 4% of the Hispanic population, which in 2004 was estimated at about 40.5 million people.
    The median household income for Cubans is $38,000, higher than for other Hispanics ($36,000) but lower than for non-Hispanic whites ($48,000). Nativeborn Cubans have a higher median income than non-Hispanic whites ($50,000 vs. $48,000). Among foreign-born Cubans, those who arrived before 1980 have the highest median income ($38,000). However, those who arrived between 1980 and 1990 have a lower median income compared with those who arrived in 1990 or later ($30,000 vs. $33,000). Cubans living outside Florida have a higher median income than those living in Florida ($44,000 vs. $36,000).
    Poverty rates for Cubans are generally lower than for other Hispanics, with some notable exceptions. About 13% of Cubans under 18 are in poverty, less than half the rate for other Hispanics (27%). About 11% of Cubans between 18 and 64 are in poverty, also lower than among other Hispanics (17%). However, older Cubans, those 65 and above, have considerably higher poverty rates than Hispanics or non-Hispanic whites. (24% vs. 18% and 7%, respectively).

    http://pewhispanic.org/files/factsheets/23.pdf

  8. Humberto is back on here again; he is so dumb he can only reprint the trivial nonsense of Yoani, the American agent. Miami Cubans were responsible for that city becoming the drug capital of the world, as well as the murder capital of the world. All these Miami Cubans living off the taxpayers gave them more time to deal drugs and kill each other. As one policeman told me about Cubans in Miami: we let them kill each other and even encourage it because it gets rid of another parasite who will end up selling drugs or killing people as soon as they get to be twelve years old. That is a god policeman; need more like him. Seems a good solution for getting rid of Cubans in Miami; better than paying the parasites to move to New Jersey. Where do yo live Humberto: Miami or New Jersey?

  9. Simba: you cannot answer either. Or will not. I am an American citizen, not a parasite living off the American taxpayers as all the Miami Cuabns do. I pay taxes to support you lazy Cubans who come to this country, get on welfare, take up space in schools and rob SSI of benefits. Many of you live in Miami for tens of years and cannot speak English you are so dumb. If case you do not know it, and you probably do not since you support parasites such as Yoani, those of us who pay the bills expect to have answers. Yoani is being paid by the eU.S. government, with my money, and probably so are you. You characters do not know anything, have zero reasoning power, and are hated by the decent people of Florida who have been chased out of their city by people who are of “that kind”, i, e, not nice and not clean of productive but depend on the state and U.S. taxpayers for their existence . Yes, I am sure you do not want to answer questions because you do not want to further expose all you parasites living off my taxes! I asked for someone who had a little sense–I do not expect very much from parasites–but you fail to make the grade; get off the computer and let one of your parasites that has a bit of a brain try to justify your support for an American agent.

  10. WHY SHOULD WE BELIEVE THE CASTROFASCISTS?? THEY ARE SERIAL LIARS! THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME THEY HAVE LIED ABOUT AN EPIDEMIC OUTBREAK!

    Desi Mendoza Rivero is sentenced to eight years in prison
    Desi Mendoza Rivero, a 43-year-old doctor and father of four children, has been sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment in connection with his critique of the authorities’ handling of a fever epidemic in Cuba.
    Arrested on June 25, 1997, Dr. Mendoza was tried on November 18, and currently is held in Boniato Prison, just outside Santiago de Cuba. The charge against him stemmed from statements he issued, which were later disseminated by foreign newspapers and broadcast media, regarding an epidemic of dengue fever in Santiago de Cuba which reportedly had caused several deaths. Dr. Mendoza accused the authorities of covering up the true extent of the epidemic and of not taking sufficient measures to control it. He was charged with having violated an article of the Penal Code which refers to the dissemination of “enemy propaganda" through the mass media.

    (Source: Amnesty International USA’s Freedom Writers Network, January 1998.)

    http://www.cs.utexas.edu/~vl/notes/rivero.html

  11. Humberto #55. Thanks for clarifying. I see Yoani has posted a new blog entry with more information. The source of information I was relying on was the error message generated when the site was down.

  12. YOUTUBE: Real reason for Ochoa’s execution

    Division General Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez, commander of the Cuban Expeditionary Force in Angola between November 1987 and January this year the man, in other words, sent in to clean up the mess after Unita and the SADF had thrashed the MPLA and its Soviet advisers at Mavinga was executed on charges, principally, of attempting to smuggle cocaine to the US in cahoots with Columbias notorious Medellin cartel. Or so at least the Cuban people and the world have been asked to believe. The transcripts of those sections of Ochoas “trial” that were broadcast on Cuban television, and other evidence, suggest that the truth is rather different. The general may, tangentially, have been involved in the drug trade, but that was not the reason for his arrest and liquidation. Ochoa, according to those who knew him (including diplomats involved in the Angola/Namibia settlement process), was a man of striking countenance and much intelligence and charisma. He knew his mission was to preside over Cubas last hurrah in Angola and that the “heroic” defence of Cuito was, therefore, a vainglorious fraud, designed to cover a retreat that had already been decided. The 15 000 new troops who followed Ochoa came to save Cuban face, not the MPLA. Defence Minister Raul Castro, Fidels brother, quoted the general as saying: “I have been sent to a lost war so that I will be blamed for the defeat.” That was, indeed, his view.

  13. HUFFINGTON POST: The Day My Mother Lost Her Faith in Fidel and the Revolution – by YOANI SANCHEZ

    My mother, devoted to Fidel, sat in front of the television. A few days later her two daughters understood that a transcendental and irreversible change had come over that compulsive 30-something. A former militant in the Young Communist Union, she had suffered a degree of ideological disillusionment in the late eighties, but the trial of General Arnaldo Ochoa was too much for her revolutionary illusions.

    I remember seeing her sitting in that easy chair in front of the television thinking that her “Commander” was more than a father — much more than the nation itself — and observing, from my naïve adolescent perspective, her transformation. Her anger, her sadness, while the farce of the judicial process continued. Later I heard from my school friends that a similar metamorphoses occurred in many of their homes. “What have we come to,” seemed to spread among a good part of Fidel’s faithful followers.

    Why, 23 years after that “reality show” televised throughout the country, is what is called “Case No. 1 of 1989″ still considered a point of rupture? How did this moment become one of the dates marking the decline of the Cuban Revolution?

    I do not think it was solely because of popular sympathy for the haughty and handsome man who was in the dock. Nor for the false note of the generals — chubby cheeked from the good life — blaming one of their colleagues for enjoying a luxury here, an extravagance there. Nor can it be said that it was just the evident contrast between the soldier who had led battles in Africa, and the Commander in Chief who played at war from afar, from the comfort of his office.

    I think it all came together for many Cubans, in that moment, that the train of the political process had gone off the rails. But undoubtedly added to this was the desire to find a good excuse for a break, a sufficiently strong pretext to show the door to an ideology that had defrauded so many. We children saw this metamorphosis in our parents… there was no way we could emerge unscathed in the presence of such a mutation.

    For four weeks, the small screens in every Cuban household were tuned to these courtroom images, where the great majority of those present wore olive green uniforms. We heard the witnesses testify, the accused shift from a tone of alarm to the stuttering of terror as many of them declared that the highest levels of the Cuban government were not aware of the drug trafficking.

    Raúl Castro talked about how he had cried in front of his bathroom mirror, thinking about Ochoa’s children, but he still approved his execution, and that of three other defendants.

    And all this happened before our eyes in the same year in which the Berlin Wall would fall and many Eastern European regimes would crumble like illusory castles in the sand. It wasn’t possible to separate what was happening outside our borders from that Military Tribunal that indicted Arnaldo Ochoa for “high treason against the country and the Revolution.” Difficult to separate the crisis of faith that the Cuban process was passing through at the moment of this public lesson broadcast to millions of TV viewers.

    The authorities — intending to teach us a lesson — wanted to show that they were still capable of striking a blow against any ideas of a tropical Perestroika that might be lurking on the island. A self-inflicted wound in their own ranks was a very clear way of warning that there would be no mercy for those who crossed a certain line. Parallel to the official version of the trial ran a thousand and one popular rumors about the most decorated General in Cuba overshadowing Fidel Castro.

    Many analysts argued that what was really playing out was a rivalry for power. It was not surprising, therefore, that so much of the evidence presented in the trial ultimately did not convince the audience. “There’s something more going on here,” said the older people… “there’s something fishy,” they repeated, with the wisdom of those who had seen many others fall, be ousted.

    At dawn on July 13, 1989 Arnaldo Ochoa, Antonio de la Guardia, Amado Padrón and Jorge Martinez were shot. My mother had turned off the television just as the sentence was announced. I never saw her look at the screen with rapture again; nor meekly consent when the figure of Fidel Castro appeared.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yoani-sanchez/the-day-my-mother-lost-he_b_1673038.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

  14. John Two ! ACTUALLY, YOANI WAS ON MARTI NOTICIAS YESTERDAY EXPLAINING HOW MANY HACKING ATTACKS THE “DESDE CUBA” BLOGS GET, INCLUDING LAST NOV. WHEN IT GOT OVER 15,000. THE LINK BELOW TAKES YOU TO HER AUDIO INTERVIEW!

    El blog más famoso de Cuba está “fuera de servicio” – sábado, julio 14, 2012, 3:01 pm
    Yoani Sánchez, la multipremiada autora del blog Generación Y, explicó que ha podido conocer de la situación y destacó que el portal Voces Cubanas ha sido blanco de innumerables ataques, pero afortunadamente han podido resolverse.

    The most famous blog out of Cuba’s is “out of service” – Sat. July 14, 2012
    Yoani Sanchez, the multi-author blog Generation Y, who has learned explained the situation and stressed that the Cuban Voices website has been the target of countless attacks, but fortunately have been resolved.

    http://www.martinoticias.com/content/yoani-sanchez-blog-fuera-de-servicio/12770.html

  15. While the website was down, there was a message saying there is no evidence that the cause was a cyberattack. Nor is Yoani making such a claim in her tweets.

    Yoani’s blog is just one of 28 that makes up desdecuba.com. It’s important to remember that this is primarily a Spanish language site where each of Yoani’s postings regularly draws thousands of reponses. The Spanish version of the above posting clocked in at 3124 responses so far. It is the volume of these millions of combined reader responses that was identified as a possible cause for the website being down.

    Good luck to those trying to fix the technical problems. I really miss this website when it is down.

  16. THE CASTROFASCISTS ARE LYING THRU THEIR TEETH ABOUT THIS CHOLERA EPIDEMIC, JUST LIKE THEY DID ABOUT THE DENGUE EPIDEMIC IN 1997! SLOWLY THE TRUTH WILL COME OUT, JUST LIKE IT DID FOR THE DENGUE OUTBREAK!

    HAVANA — Cuba’s Health Ministry on Saturday reported 158 cases of cholera, nearly three times as many as previously disclosed, but said there were no new deaths and the outbreak appears to have been contained and on the wane.

    The ministry said Intensive efforts to quarantine those infected, hand out chlorine tablets and educate the population has meant a drop in cases transmitted by water, and there is no evidence of the disease spreading through the food supply.

    Virtually all of the cases have come from the city of Manzanillo, in eastern Granma province some 430 miles (700 kilometers) east of the capital, or from people who recently traveled from the area.

    “We have diagnosed isolated cases in other regions of people that were infected in Manzanillo, all of whom were treated and studied quickly,” the ministry said. “There has been no spread of the outbreak.”

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE!

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/cuba-reports-more-cholera-cases-but-no-new-deaths/2012/07/14/gJQACAQ5jW_story.html

  17. Thank Humberto Capiro, your posts are always pertinent to the Cuban Island and what happens there. I thank you for the posts that keep everyone and the Regime supporters in check. Free press is what the oppressive regime most and I’m glad some have the courage to confront rather than “get on there knees”. I hope one day everyone in Cuba will be liberated from the REGIME that makes life a living hell. Those who have been supporting the regime should also be punished for their actions. Yoani’s Blog is WORLDWIDE and famous because of all those who come here to read her words and help spread her text, so that future generations do not fall in the same TRAP. FIDEL who sold to the world the idea of a MEDICAL WONDERLAND is experiencing an OUTBREAK OF CHOLERA that was his own making. Living in Cuba is like living in the MIDDLE AGES. Shame on everyone who supports such a tyrant and repressive DICTATOR.

  18. THEIR ONLY CRIME WAS WANTING TO LEAVE THE PRISON ISLAND OF CUBA! 72 WERE ON THE BOAT, 41 TOTAL WERE MURDERED INCLUDING 12 CHILDREN – WE WILL NEVER FORGET!

    CUBA ARCHIVE’ TRUTH & MEMORY PROJECT: THE TUGBOAT MASSACRE OF JULY 13, 1994 – By Maria C. Werlau, March 2007

    As the “13 de Marzo” sailed ahead, the pursuing tugboats kept spraying the high -pressure water andgetting in its way to make it stop. After around forty-five minutes, when the “13 de Marzo” had reached approximately seven miles out to sea, the pursuing tugboats began ramming it. Although the “13 deMarzo” had stopped and signaled its willingness to surrender and turn back, the relentless attack continued. The pilot of the “13 de Marzo” attempted to radio an SOS, but the pounding water had damaged the electrical equipment. A vessel belonging to the Cuban Coast Guard had arrived on the scene, a Soviet-built cutter referred to as “Griffin.” 5. But, it stayed back, simply observing the spectacle. The adults brought out the children on deck to see if this would deter the incessant jet streams and collisions. In desperation, parents held their children up in the air and pleaded for their lives, putting them in front of the powerful reflector lights pointed at them. But, the attackers disregarded their cries and continued to bombard the powerless passengers with the high pressure water. The mighty streams scattered them all over deck, ripped clothing off, and tore children from their parents? arms.Some were swept into the ocean immediately.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE REPORT!

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/15969852/Cuba-The-Tugboat-Massacre-of-71394-M-Werlau-307

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