A step forward

tarjeta_vendedor-copy2-copy.jpg

Andy is one of those who doesn’t wait.  He had a mobile phone when they were only for foreigners, bought an apartment at the margin of the obsolete housing law and sells—since last year—the toasters the newspaper Granma announced for 2010.  He wanders around to the large stores that sell in convertible pesos and offers his merchandise, diverted from state warehouses.  He’s a man of these times and at the same time a step forward into the future, a complete product of a long era of illegalities.

He rents movies and soap operas copied from a satellite dish that he hides in a supposed water tank.  His clients always ask for something with sex, a lot of action and little politics.  He satisfies them.  Whatever is banned is the direct source of his earnings and as there is so much one can’t do, he is a king in the country of the forbidden.  This young man, not yet forty, sniffs out any restriction that creates a niche market.  His long experience in subterfuges has taught him that respecting the penal code and survival are contradictory actions.  So, in the face of criticism for his work as an illegal vendor, he says he only provides that which the State doesn’t offer or sells at prohibitive prices.

His pocket dictates his ethics and he has scammed some who trusted him too much.  Nothing keeps him from sleeping peacefully at night because he knows that among his victims there are those who cheat others to obtain dividends.  He belongs to that generation that has seen their parents steal from the State, grew up with the black market and taught their children the ruthless code of taking everything within their reach.  It could be that one day they’ll nab him, put him behind bars for getting too far ahead of himself, but it won’t change anything.  In this town there are many Andys.

Advertisements

23 thoughts on “A step forward

  1. If not you shoul be over there for a week. You will see the reality is not about economy is about Liberties and right to do a bussines or just to create good with your work.

    We blane our govermnt for control of the peoples willing to be creatives.

  2. I’m a keen follower of this blog but I’m also with some who shrug at some of the stories and wonder if Yoani knows about similar or identical problems elsewhere. “Diverting” goods from warehouses goes on everywhere in the world -if not from warehouses then from dockyards and container storage yards- and is simple theft for illegal profits no matter how you colour it. I always note the news stories about the starving folk in Haiti or Somalia or other troubled spots “forced to live” on “a dollar a day” or “less than two dollars a day” when I know that Cubans are in many cases living on the equivalent of fifty cents per day and their children are not standing naked in the streets with inflated bellies.
    Theft of goods in Cuba to resell to the privileged with CUCs from abroad or from their profitable tourist industry jobs should not be lauded (and I’m not assuming that Yoani supports this practice) no matter how much you would like to blame the “need” on the government. Heck, we ALL blame our governments for our “poor economic situations”; in Cuba it’s just a matter of degree.

  3. Yea but patricio, posters like otropogo are so great for comic relief. The CIA was behind 9/11, the CIA is behind the drug cartels, the CIA killed JFK, and in otropogo’s fevered imagination, the CIA (and the RCMP) are apparently behind the FLQ October crisis in 1970. Have to admit, that last one is a new one at least for me.

    The problem with conspiracy theories is that they give the CIA (and the RCMP) way more credit than I ever would. As a friend of mine likes to say, if the CIA were as all knowing and all powerful as the conspiracy theorists seem to think they are, you figure they would have been able to plant a few WMDs in Iraq.

  4. Otro, when you write books like you do here, it’s hard to avoid you. You are here for one reason and one reason only, to pee in someone else’s cornflakes. You are an ideologue who isn’t interested in “debate.” All you do is slam the blog-owner. You think that is healthy debate? You just want to fight and argue with people responding to Yoani. You aren’t interested in Yoani or her blog. You are a coullion and you obviously have too much time on your hands. I can smell you from a mile away (or beyond in this case).

    You aren’t going to change any minds here and no one is going to change yours, so maybe you could just appreciate what Yoani is saying and give the rest of it a break. No one is really interested in your political BS diatribes. Ya se acobo con el pedo!

  5. John Two dice: 13 Enero 2009 a las 20

    “… The War Measures Act was invoked because of an armed insurrection by a group of violent terrorists who had kidnapped the British Trade Commissioner and murdered a Quebec Cabinet Minister.”

    That was the pretext, alright. But it has never been explained how a rag-tag group of a dozen or so people who had reportedly been thoroughly infiltrated by RCMP informers could ever constitute a threat to the government of Quebec, let alone Canada.

    Trudeau obtained the support of the Official Opposition in the House by promising to reveal within six months the justification for invoking War Measures. But that promise was broken, and we’re still waiting…

    All indications are that the so-called “FLQ terrorists” were dupes of the the CIA which, with the co-operation of the RCMP, manufactured this crisis in order to create a conservative electoral backlash in Quebec and thus stave off a sharp turn to the left in Quebec politics. It succeeded quite nicely.

    As for Tommy Douglas being posthumously voted “Greatest Canadian” in some meaningless unofficial poll (is the NDP any closer to forming a national government as a result?) – what is your point? Dead favourites are little threat to the establishment. When it counted. his popularity was no match for the might of combined American and Canadian mass media ranged against him.

    It’s remarkable that, almost four decades after the events and aftermath of the Quebec Crisis, one cannot find anything online connecting the dots.

    Many years after the Quebec Crisis, Ron Haggard, a respected columnist with the Toronto Star wrote that a former RCMP officer, retired in South Africa, had told him that during the “crisis” American forces were readied on the border of Quebec and plans were in place for a simultaneous entry of Canadian and US troops into the province. The story was quickly recanted by the Mountie in question, and no trace of it can be found online.

    It is inconceivable that an established journalist such as Haggard would risk his reputation by inventing such a story. I can only conclude that he was “suckered” in order to discredit him because his investigation of the Quebec Crisis was getting uncomfortably close to the truth.

    The only reference to Mr. Haggard I can find online now is, ironically, on a website of the Canadian armed forces at

    http://www.forces.gc.ca/site/Commun/ml-fe/article-eng.asp?id=1947

    wherein he uncritically reported the government line on the deployment of troops in Quebec under the War Measures Act.

  6. @ otropogo “This is how our democracy works when the chips are down.”

    Well why didn’t you tell me this earlier?!?!?!? I had NO IDEA! Geez Louise. You know the chips are down a lot. So clearly democracy is a VERY BAD THING. So… I have an idea…

    I hear they have a really experienced corpse sitting on ice on an island called Cuba….hell… let’s just prop him up and make him DICTATOR OF THE AMERICAS. (sorry, rest of world, you’ll have to find your own) Because by God if things aren’t going to go well in these damn democracies “when the chips are down” let’s do away with a whole form of government… it’s clearly a REALLY bad idea and we’d all be MUCH BETTER OFF under someone with such a LONG HISTORY of DEMONSTRATED SUCCESS leading a prosperous country of contented ‘citizens’. Wait… did I say “citizens”??? Hmmm… serfs? slaves? Remnants of the 14th century?

  7. otropogo, what incredible distortions in your post above. The War Measures Act was invoked because of an armed insurrection by a group of violent terrorists who had kidnapped the British Trade Commissioner and murdered a Quebec Cabinet Minister. These extremists actually drew their inspiration from the violent revolution that led to Fidel Castro seizing power in Cuba thinking they could pull off something similar in Quebec. The FLQ October crisis was resolved when some of the terrorists (the ones involved in the kidnapping, not the murder) were allowed to fly to Cuba to avoid facing justice for their crimes in Canada.

    And how did these FLQ terrorists like their new life in Cuba? Well, apparently not so much. Within four years, they escaped to Paris where they claimed political asylum. To its credit, the French government refused them asylum, and they were returned to Canada where they served some prison time. All later repudiated terrorism (thought not the Quebec sovereignty movement) and became contributing members of Quebec society.

    Ah yes, and Tommy Douglas paying so dearly for opposing the War Measures Act did not preclude him from later being voted ‘The Greatest Canadian’ ever in a nation wide poll.

  8. correction: the War Measures Act was invoked by the Canadian Parliament in October, 1970, NOT 1969, as I mistakenly wrote above.

  9. Iain Salisbury dice: 13 Enero 2009 a las 11:07

    “… A Trinidadian does not risk a jail sentence and “re-education” if caught with a copy of “Animal Farm.” … The distinction between a tyranny like Cuba and a democracy is that, in the latter, a citizen is entirely free to strive for a change of government. Indeed, … the “Opposition” is seen as so vital that, far from facing a multi-decade prison sentence, its leader holds a salaried appointment. And, ultimately, under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (to which Cuba is a signatory), a citizen has the right to leave the country to enjoy a more congenial regime.”

    Despite the “generally high” academic standards from which I presumably benefited as a citizen of the “Commowealth”, I regret that I don’t feel qualified to comment on your characterization of Trinidad and its citizens. I do, however, recall how the UK undermined and caused the fall of the democratically elected Marxist government of Cheddi Jagan in neighbouring Guyana at the behest of the US, installing instead a racist government based electoral fraud and urban thuggery a la Peron.

    As for the “Loyal Opposition” you laud, it generally offers a meaningless choice between Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

    When a real alternative threatens the status quo, as happened in Quebec in 1969, when the Separatists were knocking on the door of the provincial legislature, and the socialists were poised to take control of Montreal City Council, a crisis was manufactured, martial law was declared, hundreds of people (none of whom were ever tried) were thrown in jail without charge, and the army was called out to patrol the streets of Montreal.

    No meaningful justification for these draconian actions have ever been offered. But the result was massive fearfulness of any political change in the public, and the failure of either Separatist or Socialists to make further electroal progress in Quebec for nearly a decade.

    Tommy Douglas, the widely esteemed leader of the socialist New Democratic Party in the Canadian House of Commons, called the day martial law was declared “Black Friday”, and paid dearly for his opposition.

    His daughter, Shirley Sutherland, then wife of prominent Hollywood actor Donald Sutherland, was subsequently indicted by a Grand Jury in Los Angeles for allegedly supplying arms to the Black Panthers.

    This news was then trumpeted uncritically across Canada by the mass media, and her father subsequently lost the leadership of his party and was effectively sidelined as a political force. No charges were ever laid against his daughter, and she was expelled from the US as an “undesireable alien” without ever having the opportunity to defend her reputation in a court of law.

    This is how our democracy works when the chips are down.

    As for the universal right to go abroad – this was undoubtedly the source of some comfort to the tens of thousands of citizens murdered in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Guatemala, and El Salvador by regimes supported and guided by the democratic USA, or at least, to their surviving families, friends, and associates.

    Of course, only the tiny wealthy minority have the means to avail themselves of this freedom. The majority must pay with harassment, imprisonment, torture, and death for exercising their democratic “rights” at home.

  10. It is incredible how this story reminds me of the stories my parents told me from Poland before 1989. People everywhere are the same and they react the same to inhumane treatment.

  11. erratum: sorry, a bit of text somehow became misplaced. The second sentence should read:
    “As I point out above, internationally audited figures for literacy in most countries compare well with the doubtless grossly inflated claims of the Cuban tyrants (the latter give a figure to the UN of $6,000 for per capita income) and this is seen as a means for personal enrichment rather then as just another avenue for brainwashing through puerile propaganda.”
    sorry, again, Iain

  12. Were “otropogo” to offer “intelligent” commentary, it would certainly provide a welcome novelty. Academic standards are generally high in the British Commonwealth, especially so in Canada, and I can confirm that his ignorance concerning the rudiments of democracy and civil liberty is not common. As I point out above, internationally audited figures for literacy compare well with the doubtless grossly inflated claims of the Cuban tyrants in most countries (the latter give a figure to the UN of $6,000 for per capita income) and this is seen as a means for personal enrichment rather then as just another avenue for brainwashing through puerile propaganda. A Trinidadian does not risk a jail sentence and “re-education” if caught with a copy of “Animal Farm.” Unlike “otropogo,” he or she will also understand the implications of enfranchisement.
    For those less well informed, I should explain that all governments impose restrictions on their citizens, some of which seem arbitrary and pointless (although those whose intellectual property is being plundered through illicit satellite receivers might feel differently). The distinction between a tyranny like Cuba and a democracy is that, in the latter, a citizen is entirely free to strive for a change of government. Indeed, in most Commonwealth countries, including Britain and Canada, the “Opposition” is seen as so vital that, far from facing a multi-decade prison sentence, its leader holds a salaried appointment. And, ultimately, under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (to which Cuba is a signatory), a citizen has the right to leave the country to enjoy a more congenial regime.
    But most will, like Yoani, elect not to do so and will strive in such ways as are open – however limited in a Stalinist dictatorship – to improve the things they care about. Those who suggest here that she should abandon her native land, or have remained abroad, presumably also feel that it would have been better had Nelson Mandela lived quietly in exile?

  13. patricio dice: 12 Enero 2009 a las 22:28

    “BTW, if you don’t like reading the blog, then don’t read it. Quit pissing in everyone’s cornflakes, or at least Yoani’s. Good grief.”

    I enjoy reading and offering intelligent, knowledgeable, and critical commentary on Yoani’s musings. Your vulgar outburst, on the other hand, contributes nothing but a bad taste. However, I don’t whine about it, because this is an inescapable cost of having free speech.

    Is some one forcing you to read my postings? I rather doubt that Yoani is even aware of them. She must be kept very busy reading the thousands of adulatory posts on the Spanish pages.

  14. Andy Williams ha dicho:

    “People who do this aren’t necessarily sociopaths at all.”

    Reread the quote below

    Yoani ha dicho:

    “His pocket dictates his ethics and he has scammed some who trusted him too much. Nothing keeps him from sleeping peacefully at night….He belongs to that generation that has seen their parents steal from the State, grew up with the black market and taught their children the ruthless code of taking everything within their reach.”

    This certainly is a description of a sociopath in any culture. And in fact, if this is a good translation, then Yoani is describing the entire Cuban population as sociopaths. It’s just another example of her reckless exaggeration.

    My point is that there’s absolutely no reason to believe that Andy would have turned out any better had he grown up in a middle class or upper class environment in Canada or the US. There’s nothing unique about his behaviour and it simply laughable to blame it on Castroism or socialism.

    “Why would someone who provides you a multimeter from the US be a sociopath?”

    Now you’re being ridiculous. My American friend helped me as a favour. She didn’t scam me or rip me off. I was referring to “Andy” and Conrad.

    My point there was simply that impediments to trade occur for various reasons in even the most developed and “free” countries, and that it wasn’t Fidel Castro who created smugglers and grey market operators.

    Satellite reception of US signals was illegal in Canada for many years, even if you bought the whole installation including code cards legitimately in the US, because the signals were not approved for reception in Canada. And from time to time government agents raided private premises and confiscated the lot. It happened to the sysop of a Calgary bulletin board to which I subscribed, in the days before the WEB.

  15. otropogo, what this has to do with Castroism is that the black market and criminals are strengthened and aided by artificial shortages and laws which the people don’t support. You have your stories about satellite television (I don’t think I understood you though, you weren’t allowed to have satellite television, or it was pirated?), and health supplements, and Cubans have Andy and his toasters. Here in the U.S. we have the same situation with black market drugs. I am sure it is possible to think of any stupid restriction anywhere which creates such a profitable underground market.

    People who do this aren’t necessarily sociopaths at all. Why would someone who provides you a multimeter from the US be a sociopath?

  16. BTW, if you don’t like reading the blog, then don’t read it. Quit pissing in everyone’s cornflakes, or at least Yoani’s. Good grief.

  17. What she is talking about is a kind of survival on the island. Nothing more, nothing less. Stay focused.

  18. And what has Andy’s way of making money got to do with Castroism? Exactly the same sort of entrepeneurial predation occurs here in Canada.

    We had illicit satellite television installations and sales when none were allowed by the government. My favourite bank manager bought one. Canadians had to smuggle in health supplements such as vitamin K, melatonin, chromium picolinate, etc., etc., while waiting for the government to approve their use. These are now allowed, but others continue to be prohibited and confiscated.

    Now that we have the North American Free Trade Agreement, even items that are not prohibited in Canada and easily available in the US can’t be bought by Canadians. A multimeter with an RS232 port for saving measurements to PC, for instance. One could buy this at any Radio Shack store in the US, but no retailer in Canada carried it, not even Radio Shack. I tried to buy one over the phone and over the internet, but was told that I would have to use an American credit card, and it would have to be shipped to a US address. To obtain this $80 item, I had to get a friend in the US to buy it and ship it to me.

    And does Yoani really believe that scamming is somehow unique to Castroism or socialism? She should look up the meteoric career of Conrad Black. He didn’t have the excuse of economic deprivation. He was born to wealth and privilege, and apparently endowed with considerable intellectual talent.

    But instead of applying those advantages for the betterment of the world, he chose to waste them on self-glorification and self-indulgence at the expense of his associates and the public at large.

    While his orgy of self-agrandisement lasted, the government of the UK dubbed him a “Lord”, and he enjoyed the company and esteem of some of the most powerful and influential people in the world, Henry Kissinger among them. Now he languishes friendless in a Florida prison, but many others like him continue to prey on society on a grand scale.

    Sociopaths exist in every society. But nowhere do they have more opportunity to flourish than in the upper echelons of North American society. Cuba’s Andys will have a hard time of it when they have to compete directly with the alumni of Upper Canada College and their ilk.

  19. Senor Tartufo

    Sabemos que te encanta la literatura y el humor, por eso escogistes este nickname o pseudonimo. Debes tener en casa un enorme mamotreto a medio escribir con retazos de cien obras diferentes, sigue asi a ver si publicas y un dia te veamos firmando ejemplares en la Feria del Libro de Miami y tambien en la de La Habana, ?Por Que no?. Tu socio del pre, el jacker divertido, ya ubico tu e mail, y te sigue triangulando, lo otro es cuestion de tiempo. Toma precausiones para que abortes el viaje de quien quieres que se reuna contigo, has entrado en terreno cenagoso y aun no te has dado cuenta ( vamos a ver si todo temrina en la cienaga de Zapata o en los Everglades).
    Salu2

    PanchoAD

  20. Just a tiny translation point: I think the last paragraph should start, “His pocket dictates his ethics … .” Prior to the revolution, Cuban democracy was corrupt and the island harboured many criminals. Today, democracy doesn’t exist and the regime’s own statistics show that few but criminals can survive. The most startling figure I’ve seen recently, however, concerns the sacrifices that the people of the “evil” Soviet Empire were required to make to keep Castro in power. Immediately after World War II, the US launched the “Marshall Plan” for the recovery of Western Europe. This example of “enlightened self-interest” cost around 13 billion dollars and rescued hundreds of millions of people from starvation, and preserved them in freedom and democracy. The Soviet Union spent five times as much* to keep less than a twentieth of that number in serfdom and penury. It tells us everything we need to know about socialism, really.
    *Maite Rico, Spanish EL PAIS. Other figures: Sugar production:1958: 5.9 million tons, 2007: 1.2 million tons. Milk: 1958: 765,000 tons, 2007: 485,000 tons (and no, the US embargo is NOT preventing the cane growing, the fruit trees blossoming, the hens laying, or the cows lactating). Over the same period, literacy rose from 76% (one of the best in Latin America) to 96% (still 1% ahead of Trinidad, allegedly) but the number of newspapers has fallen from 58 to 2.

Comments are closed.