On June first what everyone predicted was confirmed: General Motors declared bankruptcy. National television aired reports on the fallen giant while in our streets the old models, from fifty years ago, are still rolling. The tall silver tower that houses the headquarters of the firm has become the symbol of the current global economic crisis. Within Cuba there are other signs of these bad times: the blackouts return, tourists are scarce and public transport suffers another cutback. Financial shares don’t crash because they don’t exist; companies hide their bankruptcies because being state-owned they don’t report their finances to the public.
Another business conglomerate fell apart on our side, but the national news avoided mentioning it. The powerful CUBALSE, which had among its powers that of employing those who work in embassies and diplomatic residences, has just disappeared. Even the most absent-minded Cuban knows that to be a gardener at an embassy or a manager at a foreign exchange store you have to pass a powerful ideological filter and, in certain cases, monetarily reward those who select the staff. CUBALSE had been a pioneer in selling in convertible currency in a country where the majority are paid in Cuban pesos, its employees seeming to be a mix between capitalist entrepreneurs and soldiers in a commercial army.
A discrete document detailed the dismemberment of the Company for the Provision of Services to Foreigners, whose pieces went to other institutions. A whole structure of powers, loyalties and personal interests must have come crashing down when they announced the death of this “small giant.” The requiem was played in hushed tones, however, so as not to unduly alarm us. We don’t need to look at the collapse of General Motors to make unnecessary comparisons, to conclude that this is happening not only outside our borders, but also within them.