When Change Arrives

Foto: @pulinas1 via Twenty20

by Ely Justiniani Pérez

Before learning that the word REVOLUTION meant change, I used to think it was a noun exclusively used to refer to the Cuban government. Years later, and no longer a child, I can’t quite settle on whether this system picked the right ‘name’ or not, because while some transformations seem to arrive by our slow-moving train, in other respects we are excessively variable, unstable.

What today is a crime may be applauded tomorrow, what one month is the law is repealed the next. Older friends tell me about the people who went to prison years ago for having dollars; about how when someone left the country the best they could hope for was being called gusano (maggot), and in the worst of cases they’d get eggs thrown at their backs.

Today the green bills turn out to be the solution, and the old defectors who send them are the heroes who save the party, because –for those who still don’t know it– remittances represent, along with tourism and services, one of the three main sources of income for the Cuban economy. At the moment, it’s the main one.

Remittances are now the main source of income for the Cuban economy.

And so we live through changes that are sometimes crazy, sometimes sane, and sometimes inexplicable.

  • The intentions of a few months ago of unifying the currencies has mutated into the existence of not one, but three different currencies.
  • The tax imposed when depositing dollars into cards (which was supposedly applied because of the blockade and so on) disappears (fortunately) without the external blockade having been ended.
  • The shops that until yesterday were empty due to a lack of prime materials and the siege laid on ships, are today filled as if by magic in ways we’ve rarely seen, but it’s been made clear that only those with dollars will be able to enjoy them.

Personally, it pains me to see some so empty and others so full of food. It pains me because since I was a child I was taught that ‘you don’t fool around with food’, and I heard countless times that ‘in this country, we’re all the same’.

It pains me because you don’t buy a TV set or a washing machine every day, but you do buy food, and I can’t comprehend that a large part of the working people of this country should have to consume (after much trouble and standing in lines) only low-quality products, because those in the middle and top ranges are destined exclusively for people with dollars. It doesn’t matter if you’ve worked your whole life if you have a master’s degree or a doctorate if you’re a prominent surgeon or a retired senior citizen; it doesn’t even matter if you have a little money saved in your own currency.

As a friend says, what matters now is having FA: Family Abroad.

I can’t help feeling distrust for rulers and measures that are so variable, but, on the other hand, I must reluctantly recognize that the current proposals, by now, are practically the only option left for the Cuban state to breathe some life into an economy that’s been deformed for years by inefficient management, generalized corruption, the US blockade –which is often an excuse but does exist–, the harassment of our neighbor’s retard in chief and, in the last few months, to boot, COVID-19, which locked tourists away in their houses and announced that things would be grim for quite some time.

We can’t just sit around and kick the dog, saying that those strategies had to be applied earlier and that the lemon took too long to have an effect on the president because we’ve all known for a long time that we had to open up small and medium enterprise and decentralize government control. The dog would have to take the kicks because they’re deserved. But one can also choose to help the dog do better differently, and see if the kicks make it change, improve, or bite.

It seems to me that the new regulations respond to the current and highly complex necessities of the country, and that, though they might to some extent piss us off, they are the oxygen this nearly sunken submarine needed.

The new regulations are the oxygen the economy needed right now, like a submarine that’s about to sink.

All that’s left now is to demand that the collections of these ‘wonder shops’ be used to stock the others, and so make the lives of those of us who don’t get remittances a little easier… that the sacrifice lasts as little as possible. Let’s hope that the opening up of the small and medium enterprise and their importing capabilities not be used by the State to make more profit than the producers themselves (as it’s usually the case), but rather that they become the mechanism for economic growth which has been so fruitful for other countries with socialist systems, like China or Vietnam.

It would also be very good that, if the Cuban community abroad is practically saving the economy, we keep that in mind and extend a friendly hand: let us reduce the exorbitant cost of passports and their extensions, and stop setting conditions on the time citizens remain abroad. Let us respect and recognize, not create divisions.

Let us eliminate bureaucratic obstructions for the establishment of businesses, and with the same force that we persecute onion dealers, let us control the government officials who traffic with our resources, the policemen and auditors who fail to do their jobs and all those who cause that Cubans lack quality products and services.

Let us make sure that Revolution doesn’t mean change for the sake of change, but rather change with logic, change for good. Let’s make sure that the necessary changes don’t take decades, and arrive in one of those fast trains that exist elsewhere and that, like many other things, haven’t gotten here yet. Let’s make it so that FA doesn’t mean FAMILY ABROAD, but Faith and Aspiration that everything will be alright; a trust to be deposited on someone deserving. Let’s earn that trust!

Translated from the original