Merchant, That Dirty Word

Photo by Silvia Corbelle

If reality could personify itself, climb into a body, have physical contours. If a society could be represented by a living being, ours would be a growing adolescent. Someone who will stretch out his arms and legs and throw off paternalism to become an adult. But that beardless boy is wearing clothes so tight they hardly let him breathe. Our daily life has been compressed by the corset of a legality with excessive prohibitions and by an ideology as outdated as it is dysfunctional. This is how I would draw the Cuba of today, this pubescent but repressed form would represent the context I live in.

The governmental trend is not moving to recognize our needs for economic and political expansion. Rather it is trying try to squeeze us into absurd molds. This is the case with the limited occupations allowed to self-employed workers, the sector that in any other country would be classified as “private.” Instead of expanding the number of licenses to included many other productive activities and services, the authorities are trying to cut reality to fit within the accepted list. The law doesn’t work to encourage creativity and talent, but rather to constrain the limits of entrepreneurship.

The latest example of this contradiction is seen in the operations against those who sell imported clothes, primarily from Ecuador and Panama. According to the official media, many of these merchants are licensed as “Tailors,” which allows them to market articles coming from their own sewing machines; and instead they offer industrially manufactured blouses, pants and bags. Violators are punished by confiscation of their merchandise plus heavy fines. The inspectors attempt, in this way, to force our reality into the straitjacket regulated by the Official Gazette.

Why, instead of so much persecution, don’t they authorize the work of “merchant.” Buying, transporting and reselling articles in high-demand should not be a crime, but rather a regulated activity that also contributes to the treasury through taxes. To deny this key piece in the machinery of any society is to misunderstand how to structure its economic fabric. The legal framework of a nation shouldn’t condemn it to the infancy of timbiriches — tiny Mom-and-Pop stands — and to the manufacture and sale of churros, but rather it should help us expand professionally and materially. As long as the Cuban government doesn’t accept the ABCs of development, our reality must grow and stretch its arms towards illegalities and the underground market.

164 thoughts on “Merchant, That Dirty Word

  1. I would hasten to add that I do not hold any contributors here personally accountable for the actions of their Government.
    ….and that the British have done some weird stuff too.

  2. It has also been doubted here that the USA uses taxpayers’ money is used to fund Cuban ‘dissidents’ such as the redoubtable Ladies in White.
    I’m amazed that anyone would still doubt that this is the case.
    Yoani’s husband has spoken in an interview of this very matter and of the rights and wrongs of accepting such money.

    If anybody choose to believe the line that these Ladies are some bunch of angels who just keep on getting harassed on their way to church, then that’s fine.
    But I suggest that a delve into the nether regions of the world-wide web will reveal an alternative reality.
    I think that with all the bickering and squabbling within the ranks of these ‘Ladies’, the fact that they are being bankrolled by USA’s ‘pro-democracy in Cuba fund’ (or whatever its called) it has been pretty much well established.
    It’s odd how Congress can squeeze out money for this but not for healthcare for USA’s marginalised poor.

    In Cuba the general attitude to this seems to be: ‘If the USA wants to dish out some money then dish out some in my direction please, but don’t expect me to dress up in white and parade around a square waving a flower like some ‘crap-eater’.

    I know that USA funds Cuban ‘dissidents’ because Cuban ‘dissidents’ have told me to my face that this is the case.

    This ain’t no secret in Cuba.

  3. There seems to be a mini wave of dissent when it comes to the validity of some of my list entries.
    A rolling ripple of ripostes refuting some of the contents.
    It is interesting to note who has an issue with which entry.
    Hank seems particularly concerned about pigs.

    Hank have you heard about Operation Northwoods? This was the CIA programme of bombings and sabotage in the USA to be blamed on the Cubans in order to stir up anti Cuban sentiment and support for intervention (such a tactic was used in Vietnam to stir up hatred towards the V.C. with far more lethal results).
    I don’t think anyone even bothers to deny this Northwoods ‘project’ anymore.

    So what makes you think that the CIA, in league with some Miami hardliners would not resort to trying to unleash the swine flu virus in Cuba?
    Do you think this would be too extreme? Extreme in comparison to Operation Northwoods??

    Late 60s early 70s it was.
    Thousands of pigs in Cuba were destroyed or quarantined to stop the spread of the virus.
    Pork is Cuba’s favourite protein source. Makes sense Hank. If you want to bring a country to its knees then cut off its main source of protein.
    Makes more sense than some off the stuff those fellas tried.

    You say it’s a whacko theory?
    Well all those stories about plots against Fidel Castro were thought to be ‘whacko’ theories at one point (exploding cigars, poison in the wetsuit, LSD in the drink, drugs to make his beard fall out etc). However, point a documentary camera at some balding, jowly, old ex-CIA agent a few decades later and he’ll tell it straight with a good old twinkle in his eye that all these so called whacko stories were true and alls fair in love and war etc etc etc

    Can I provide incontrovertible proof?
    Do I have a CIA agent locked in a cage in my basement clutching a vial of swine flu virus in one hand and an airline ticket to Santiago de Cuba in the other?

    The file has been opened on certain CIA ‘projects’ but not on all of them.
    When they do open it up and reveal the swine flu chapter, then you just think to yourself Hank:
    That Nick on Yoani’s blog…
    He wasn’t kidding.
    If you can’t wait till then. Go to Cuba and ask someone about it…

    As regards ‘other diseases’…
    638 plots to kill Cuba’s leader and just the one sole attempt at unleashing a virus???
    Gimme a break.

    And by the way, am I to understand that if it were to be admitted that US taxpayers money has been used for the attempted spreading of pig poison, would this not meet with your approval Hank??
    Am I to infer from your comments that you would not condone such actions???

  4. Pingback: Please Read Directly From the Critical Cuban Left | garden variety democratic socialist


    NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO AUDIO STORY: ‘Castro-Care’ Divides Doctors in Cuba, Brazil – Lourdes Garcia-Navarro
    Call it Castro-Care. Cuba’s former leader Fidel Castro sent doctors abroad for decades to work throughout Latin America and as far away as Africa.

    In some cases, like Haiti, the medical missions were seen as purely humanitarian. In other places, like Venezuela, it was a form of barter that provided Cuba with subsidized oil imports.

    Jose Roberto Murisset, the human rights secretary of the National Doctors Federation, says that the Cuban government takes most of the money that is paid for the doctors. The Brazilian government has also decreed that the Cuban doctors have no right to ask for asylum in Brazil.

    “Brazil has strong labor rights, but these Cuban doctors don’t have their rights guaranteed,” he says.

    The main bone of contention is that foreign doctors arriving under the new program don’t have to take the Brazilian medical exam to practice. He claims many of the doctors coming from abroad would fail the test and are underqualified.

    “Maybe the government thinks that these regions don’t need a full doctor. Maybe they think they need only a half doctor,” he says.
    He says the Cuban doctor agreed to come even though the Cuban government gets the lion’s share of her salary paid by the Brazilian government. Still, the Cuban physician will make more in Brazil than she would in Cuba. And that will help her 15-year-old daughter.

    “I don’t think its correct. We are a democracy. Why aren’t we giving them the same rights we have?” he says.


    Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (a latina with balls) studied international relations at Georgetown University and later obtained a Master’s degree in journalism at the City University in London.-Garcia-Navarro started her career working as a freelance journalist for the BBC World Service and Vo…ice of America. She is Panamanian and British, as she was born in GB and her parents are Panamanian. Yes, she has two passports legally, British and Panamanian, in addition she is a US resident. Her grandparents were Cuban, but they left Cuba as Castro came to power!

  6. Neutral Observer,

    Agreed. All of the garbage we keep seeing from the likes of Nick is nothing more than horse hockey wrapped up in mule fritters.

    A pleasant good night to you.

  7. Yes I do believe that. It was a relative statement as far as economic justice and part of a balanced critique. There is no economic justice on Hispaniola. I talk about Hispaniola a lot in my pamphlet. I describe acute desperation there which I have witnessed. I have not been to Cuba. I am not a journalist but a concerned human being. (If the travel ban is lifted I may visit one day.)

    Did I imply that there are not abuses in Cuba? No. I have been very critical generally of actually existing socialist unelected authoritarians the world over in part because of the very Animal Farm tendency to which you refer. The party leaders and members get to live better than the people. That is wrong.

    Chinese princelings I know more about, for whom I point out reported abuses in the pamphlet footnote 1. I will read or watch everything you link and try to learn more. If I need to be more critical in the future I will consider that if it is important to the issue I am discussing.

    I am not a propagandist. I am a supporter of brave people in Cuba who are dissenters on the democratic left. I want political democracy in Cuba and everywhere.

    Thank you for commenting and for all the information you provide. I just read the two currency article you linked. Is there a place where I can learn more about your personal story? I want to understand your experiences.

  8. Nick,

    You keep saying you have a “a rational point of view,” but then you make wild, insane allegations from the lunatic fringe that you can’t back up with facts. Why should anyone believe you?

    Which is it, Nick? Do you have “a rational point of view” based on facts, or do you make stuff up to support your lunacy?

    For example:

    (a) You have no proof of the US introducing Swine Flu into Cuba, yet you say that the US did this.

    (b) You have no proof that the US introduced any other diseases into Cuba, yet you say that the US did this.

    This is an “either,” “or” proposition, Nick. Either you have facts to back up your wild allegations—or you are a lunatic from the lunatic fringe. Which is it?

    Your lunacy amounts to accusing the US of biological warfare against Cuba. Is that really what you want to assert?

  9. Hank,

    I believe I saw the swine flu conspiracy in a Hollywood film many years ago.

    So it must be true.

    Castro says it’s true too.

    I believe each time Maduro or Castro sneezes, it counts as another CIA assassination attempt.

  10. The wet foot/ dry foot policy was meant to discourage Cubans from leaving Cuba, while leaving a few political breadcrumbs for some US anti-Castro politicians.

    It is incredible how every policy the US federal government enacts is turned upside down by the Castro PR machine and how clueless Castro’s followers are.

    The wet foot / dry foot policy was enacted by the US government as a favor to Fidel Castro to discourage his slaves from trying to escape.

    It was meant to thaw relations.

    It is now almost impossible to get to the US from Cuba, but thousands of Cubans keep risking their lives to flee every year.

    They’re the regular Cubans who don’t benefit from free health care in Cuba, like Nick and the Castro bourgeoisie do.

    The only thing most Cubans get for free is a boot in the rear end if they complain.


    LOVE THIS LINE: “Shaking up the dual currency system risks spiking inflation and creating new winners and losers, always dangerous on an island that embraces the goal of egalitarianism.”


    ABC NEWS: Cuba Faces Challenges in Push to End Dual Currency – by Peter Orsi

    Cuba is the only country in the world that mints two national currencies, a bizarre system that even President Raul Castro acknowledges is hamstringing the island’s socialist economy and must be scrapped.

    Exactly how to do that is the problem.

    Months after Castro made currency unification a centerpiece of a forceful address to parliament, no details have been made public. But a pilot program operating under the radar might hold clues to a way out.

    Since the system was created in 1994, most islanders have been paid in national pesos worth 24 to the dollar in exchange houses, while tourists and the Cubans who attend to them receive a much more valuable peso pegged at 1-to-1 with the U.S. greenback.

    The imbalance means doctors and physicists can make more money driving taxis or renting rooms than they can working in the professions for which they spent years preparing. In his July speech, Castro denounced the setup as having a warping effect on the economy and society in general.
    While the rate in exchange houses is 24 pesos to 1 convertible peso, or CUC, the Cuban government treats them as equal in official accounts, meaning state entities are getting them at a 1-to-1 subsidized rate.

    “Whoever is getting these dollars at one-to-one is doing well, and that’s the official sector,” said Rafael Romeu, former president of the U.S.-based Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy.


  12. Nick,

    Many thanks for your non-answer to my post last night. I take your non-answer as an admission that you know your allegations to be completely untrue and made up. In other words, Nick, you tell lies.

    So we are clear, you admit that:

    (a) You have no proof of the US introducing Swine Flu into Cuba.

    (b) You have no proof that the US introduced any other diseases into Cuba.

    (c) Your statement that “[t]he wet foot/dry foot policy encourages Cuban people to risk their lives trying to cross the sea in unsuitable vessels” is insane.

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