Cuba: The Tricks of the Embargo / Ivan Garcia
Posted on June 23, 2014
In Havana, the good medical specialists always have at hand two kinds of
treatment for their patients.
“If it is a person with family abroad or of high purchasing power, I
propose that he go to the international pharmacy to buy the medications
in foreign currency because they are of higher quality and more
effective. Those who cannot, then I prescribe the treatment approved by
the ministry of Public Health with medicines of low quality manufactured
in Cuban laboratories or of Chinese origin,” reports Rigoberto (name
changed), an allergist with more than two decades of experience.
When you visit one of the 20 international pharmacies located in the
Cuban capital, you can find a wide range of medicines patented by
pharmaceutical companies of the United States.
From eye drops, syrups, tablets and ointments. Their prices instill
fear. Lidia, an engineer, browses the shelves meticulously in search of
Voltaren eye drops, indicated by the ophthalmologist to begin a
treatment of her mother who underwent cataract surgery.
“It costs a little more than 10 CUC (the minimum monthly wage in Cuba).
I have to buy two bottles, 20 CUC, which is my monthly salary. Thanks to
relatives living in Europe I can get it,” says Lidia.
In the same pharmacy, Yamila, a housewife, waits to pay for 15 envelopes
of Inmunoferon AM3 stabilized in an inorganic matrix that doctors
usually recommend for allergic patients or to raise the body’s defenses
after a prolonged treatment with antibiotics.
“It is shameless of the government to sell it so high. My sister who
lives overseas sends me the boxes with 90 envelopes and each one costs
her 18 dollars. In the international pharmacies they sell you 15
envelopes for 8 CUC. And then they fill their mouths talking about the
blockade (economic embargo) of the United States against Cuba,” says Yamila.
On the island, the “blockade” is at fault for almost everything that
does not work: the dirtiness of the streets, empty warehouse shelves and
cracked buildings in danger of collapse. A perfect alibi where
lazinesss, low productivity and the lethal Creole bureaucracy are hidden.
A government never had such a powerful weapon for justifying its
impotence. “Whether lack of soap, toilet paper or condoms, the blockade
is to blame. There exists a vast catalog of jokes at the expense of the
blockade. And it has become a joke,” says a newspaper vendor.
“The blockade,” says a pre-university student, “affects only people who
have no access to hard currency. With hard currency everything is in the
stores. From toiletries, food, computer equipment and domestic appliances.”
When you travel the stores located inside the Miramar Center complex,
you will notice the wide range of products with US patents.
In a repair shop for electronic equipment, refrigeration and home
appliances of the CIMEX chain, which is controlled by military firms, on
San Lazaro and Carmen, in the 10th of October township 30 minutes from
downtown Havana, you can see great publicity about the qualities of RCA,
Hamilton Beach, Black & Decker and other brands patented in the United
States and which sell like hotcakes in the hard currency stores.
Speaking of the embargo has become a cliche. People mechanically repeat
the official line. I asked 7 people between ages 18 and 35 about the
reasons the United States government instituted it, and they did not
know how to explain it to me.
“I believe it was because Fidel promulgated socialism in Cuba.” “I don’t
really know, but it is unfair, their fault that many Cuban children do
not have the medicines they need.” “They should lift it immediately, so
that these people (the Castros) will not continue the same old story
(line),” were almost all the answers.
No one knew how to answer why then Coca-Cola and HP printers are sold
and the regime acquires a bus with parts and additions Made in the USA.
But the average Cuban is as tired of the embargo as of his aging rulers.
They intuit that the blockade is not at fault for the marabou weed that
overruns the countryside, the scarcity of oranges or the astronomical
prices of meats, fruits and vegetables in the farmers’ markets. They
live with their backs turned to the furious anti-embargo lobby that is
happening on the other side of the pond.
Fermin, a cobbler who works in a doorway of Calzada in 10th of October,
was unaware that a delegation of the United States Chamber of Commerce
visited the island and, among its objectives, is to create mechanisms
for granting credit to small businessmen.
“You speak seriously or it’s a joke. I cannot believe that I am a small
businessman. I doubt that if they someday award loans to individuals, we
will be the beneficiaries. The favored will be the same as always, the
children of ministers and retired ex-military who have businesses. We
screwed will always be screwed,” vows Fermin.
What it has to do with, in this new dynamic to improve relations and
relax the embargo, is that there exist multiple legal tricks and legal
created by the olive green regime in order to control the emergence of a
class with economic power.
In the first utterances of the Economic Guidelines approved by the last
Communist Party Congress in April 2011, the government of General Raul
Castro plays its cards face up, signalling that the measures are
designed so that citizens involved in self-employed economic activities
cannot accumulate capital.
Evidently, the “fine print” has not been read by the politicians and
businessmen who in the United States are carrying out the campaign to
lift the embargo.
The cobbler Fermin is clear: “Here the private worker who makes a lot of
money is labelled as ’criminal.’ And what awaits him might be jail.”
Translated by mlk.
21 June 2014
Source: Cuba: The Tricks of the Embargo / Ivan Garcia | Translating Cuba