El Corralito*


Every night in the cabaret of a luxury hotel a European businessman goes from table to table making an unusual request. He approaches the guests and asks that when their bill comes, they let him pay it with the colored vouchers that he has in his pocket. In exchange, they will give him the amount in convertible pesos, which he can then turn into dollars or Euros which he can take far away. This man is a victim of the financial “Corralito” that prevents many foreign investors from taking their earnings out of the country. So that they don’t utterly despair, the Cuban authorities allow them to consume the length and breadth of the Island, paying with pieces of paper lacking any real worth.

Today the frozen funds drama touches many businessmen who, after the 1995 passage of the Foreign Investment Law, were ready to invest in our economy. They enjoyed the privilege of running a company, completely forbidden to those of us born here. They came to be a new business class in a country where the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968 had confiscated even the chairs of the shoeshine boys. The huge profits they were managing to extract turned them into very attractive targets for the hustlers, rental house landlords, and members of State Security. Many of them were seen in the most expensive restaurants, choosing appetizing dishes while accompanied by very young women. Others, the minority, gave additional gifts to their employees to compensate them for their low salaries in Cuban pesos paid by the State, through which the foreign companies contracted for their labor.

These representatives of a “corporate scouting party” were prepared to lose a little capital provided they could—starting now—be established in a place that one day would be like a pie cut into slices. However, those on the Island who signed contracts and drank the champagne with them, after an agreement, considered them just a necessary and provisional evil, a diversion that would be eradicated as soon as the Special Period ended. After all the guarantees promised a few months ago, they have learned that the coffers are empty, while hearing the repeated, “we cannot pay you.” Suddenly, these businessmen have begun to feel the impotence and the scream—half stuck in the throat—that we Cubans are burdened with every day. Still, they are so much less unprotected than we are, against the depredation of the State; a passport from another place allows them to get on a plane and forget everything.

Translator’s note: El Corralito was the common name given to the Argentine government’s freezing of bank accounts, and most strictly U.S. dollar deposits, between December 2001 and December 2002, when the nation was in a financial crisis. The word comes from the word “corral” which has the same meaning in Spanish and English.

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55 thoughts on “El Corralito*

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  2. Cuba makes good money off much of the food purchased from the US. I just bought a package of chicken legs for 49 cents a pound- about 12 legs for $3.00. In Cuba I purchased 2 chcken leg/thigh pieces for $2.75 CUC, or$3.50 US. This worked out to about $3.00 US per pound. Now if I can buy chicken for 49 cents a pound, and Cuba buys a Ship load of chicken, what do you suppose they pay. Less than 49 cents a pound, and then they are selling for $3.00/Lb to their Own Citizens, they are making Plenty of money. And all paid for by the remissions from the US, and those taxed at 20% upon arrival in Cuba. These are the Most inefficient group of Gangsters to ever Hijack a Country.

  3. macheteamor

    You are full of brilliant observations. Cuba shouldn’t have a capitalist system, the hard cash the cuban government pays the US for agricultural products is the reason they are cash strapped. Do you have anymore excuses for the cuban government? What’s your next suggestion? That Cuba follow Argentina’s model of efficiency and respect for democratic institutions? What Cuba needs is to erradicate every aspect of the pseudo-communist and pseudo-socialist pathetic excuse for a governement currently in power. Cuba’s model for the future is not Argentina, Venezuela or Bolivia or any other two-bit latin-american country with their traditions of corrupt governments and taste for strongmen. Capitalism, freedom of choice, the right of self-determination that is what is needed as exemplified by the US and other western democracies. No amount of anti-American or left leaning proclivities excuses what the castro government has perpetrated on the Cuban people for over 50 years.

  4. And Sr. de la Yncera I congratulate you as well for your informative posts. Please continue to expose this Communist Mafia of Two for what they have Done to Cuba. Today Cuba is the World’s 137th richest Economy, below Albania and Swaziland. In 1958 Cuba ranked 22nd in per capita Gross Domestic Product- equal with Italy. What a Difference 51 years of Totalitarian Rule has made! No One wants another Batista, but it is evident that Fidel Castro is Not, and Never was, the Answer. And they can’t even make Ketchup! In a Tropical clime. All the Ketchup I have seen in Cuba was imported from Mexico or Spain. I mean- Ketchup, for crying out Loud! It’s not a rocket to the Moon. It is tomatoes, water, a little bit of salt, vinegar and sugar. Can’t the New Socialist Man produce Ketchup in the Socialist Paradise? Evidently not.

  5. I appreciate the Intelligent and knowledgeable posts from Iain. Would you please visit the Cuba Site at the Miami Herald and post some of your Wisdom for the cadre posting from Habana that infest the site? I love to see them Rant, and you would Positively set them Off!

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