Veiled confession

“It will be resolved in another way,” Jorge told his brother when he learned of the abolition of lunch at several workplaces. His job as a cook in a state agency had made him live on the margin of the symbolic salary he received every month. Thanks to the diversion of food and its subsequent sale in the black market, he managed to exchange his small house for a more ample one. He acquired a DVD player that let him avoid the boring television programming and even took his kids on vacation to Varadero in the past. His business was simple: he was in charge of providing rice to a kiosk that offered boxed lunches, he supplied oil—that he got from a warehouse—to an entrepreneur, and a sandwich seller paid him for those breads that never made it to the trays of the workers.

Now, everything seems to be over for this agile trader at the margins. Several ministries will begin to distribute 15 Cuban pesos for the employees to arrange for their own midday meal. The figure has surprised many, especially those who earn less than that amount for an eight hour working day. If the amount dedicated to lunch reaches such a number, then the Cuban State is recognizing that to cover the costs of food and transport they would have to pay, at least, three times this amount for each day of work.

Now Jorge is thinking about changing jobs within the same company and taking on the position of manager. Until a week ago, this was a job with too many responsibilities and too few “perks”, but suddenly it has become an attractive position. It will be in his hands to confirm how many days an employee worked and was entitled to the lunch payment. He is already planning to take a broad view towards employee absences and divide the lunch allotment between himself and the employee who didn’t come. He will happily change the sacks of beans and flour for the names and cards where attendance is recorded. Maybe by next year he’ll be able to take his family to the far off beach at Baracoa.


14 thoughts on “Veiled confession

  1. Tu coraje es no tiene fronteras, de verdad viendo y leyendo tus lineas me dan tanto aliento a mi a muchas de las personas en Venezuela a las cuales les enviare este link.

    Desde New York te envio un rayo de luz para que continues tu mision…. “Libertad”


  2. I don’t think American crazy wild capitalism is the answer either. Cuba is trying to make their system better. You can see their efforts to improve. But at the core, you can see good people in Cuba. People who hold family and friends as most important. People who care about the community. In America, we constantly praise ourselves about what good people we are but really, what do we do to help others? Not really much (unless there is a profit to be made!).

    Sigmund Freud, dude, I think you’re right to be concerned about giving out information. I traced this website and found the network from my house goes to Washington DC before it arrives in Germany where this website is hosted. It’s funny how paranoid and afraid Washington DC is of little tiny Cuba. ;-) Maybe they are afraid Americans will learn something!

    Oh, and my wifes country was forced into communism. They rebelled thinking America would help. Nope. No help and a lot of people died. During communism, a lot of good and bad things took place. Some good things were the people became very family and community oriented. Plus, great education and health services. You would just be surprised. So please have a more open mind, folks. Since Capitalism came in, there are many homeless everywhere and nobody seems to have time for family and friends and stress is very high.

  3. Sigmund Freud
    Octubre 5th, 2009 at 16:04

    Dear commenter, I want to prevent all of you about giving your personal information and email address to unknown people in this and other internet sites. Be careful, don’t let you lure to give information that can be used for revealing you personal identity to persons or organization that may have second intentions.

  4. If someone, Jorge, were to do these things in the US and discovered he would find himself fired at the very least if not arrested and put in jail. So what is the point here? That in the transition to Socialism corruption will still exist? What makes the Cuban revolution differnt is its Internationalism. What lead to the defeat of Socialism in Russia was the corruption brought on by impoverishment leading to Stalin, his crimes and his Socialism in one country theory. Of all the old bolsheviks who were rehabilitated by Stalins heirs the one who was never rehabilitated was Trotsky. His writings have always been legal in Cuba unlike the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and China.

  5. the system is irreparably broken. not amount of tinkering around the edges is going to fix it. Too bad all that ingenuity and resourcefulness is not harnessed into productivness.

  6. MacheteAmor, I think Yoani is just pointing out that Jorge has found a way to scam the new system.

    If the Castro government was smart (which it is not) they would just abolish the whole system of paying for lunches and instead add the 15 pesos to the pay packages of its employees. This would do more than just end the possibility of graft. That way the employees could decide whether they wanted to eat out or perhaps bring a bag lunch. Doing the latter would save them money for other essentials.

    I live in Canada and have a good paying job. While it’s occasionally nice to go out for lunch, 90% of the time I bring a bag lunch from home because it’s more economical. So do most of my co-workers.

  7. The best part of this post is when Jorge decided to switch jobs in the same company.
    By doing so he is giving up, he will never try to change the system, he is just trying to survive. Can we blame him.? Absolutly not. He does not have the power to change anything.He is just trying to navigate the best way he can in a very turbulent waters.

    In essence, Socialism as social political-economic system is irreversibly broken.

    Jorge in a country like the USA, being in the same position, will act in a different way. He will try to make his company better.

  8. Very few capitalist economies “frighten” people into working. Life on state benefits in Britain would be seen as Utopian by all but the party elite in Cuba. It’s just that working is even better.

  9. Getting ride of subsidized lunches is a part of the sweeping changes Raul is currently implementing… including getting rid of rationing which this Blog, more or less, supported a few months ago.

    I still think that these changes will only push the majority of Cubans further into poverty and onto the margins. Rather than increase workforce productivity and encouraging people to find legitimate jobs I think it will end up increasing the black market activity. Until you completely restructure the economy (and we can argue about how to restructure till the cows come home) these changes are only rearranging the deck chairs on the titanic.

    They are not concerned one way or the other about people having the freedom to choose what they eat. That’s not the point. They are concerned about the flourishing black market and the inclination among many to simply make money a la izquierda. The goal of this restructuring is to force people, by manipulating food distribution, to work above the table. And maybe even increase production more by working 2 jobs (which is now legal). Its more of the same old authoritarianism … and how cynical to force people to work by with holding food from an already impoverished population.

    Maybe they should question exactly *why* people are not working in legitimate sectors of the economy. The primary reasons would probably be: workplace safety and pay. Fix those two problems and more people would work.

    You don’t need to starve (or frighten them with the threat of starvation) people to force them to work …. isn’t that what capitalist economies essentially do ?

  10. Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) talks on the floor of the house about the hunger strike by pro-democracy Cuban leader Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez”. Antunez is a former political prisone…

  11. ***
    People do a lot better with a free economy. We make better decisions than the government.
    La gente esta mejor con una economia libre. Hacemos mejores decisiones que el gobierno.
    John Bibb

  12. Every few months the Cuban Government makes a change like this, hoping it will improve the economy or that it willthwart the black market economy, or oping that it will keep its critics at bay for another day, year or decade. Things will not improve for Cubans until Cuba is controlled by Cubans, not by the U.S. or the Castro Brothers.

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