Cuban Professionals do Business Under the Table / Ivan Garcia
Posted on June 30, 2015
Ivan Garcia, 28 June 2015 — Already by noon, Óscar has downloaded two
terabytes of audiovisual material from the Internet. Taking advantage of
his lunch hour some place nearby, he hands over the flash drive to the
person who is in charge of loading the “weekly packet,” a compendium of
documentaries, serials, soap operas and sports, which later will
circulate clandestinely throughout the Island at the speed of light.
Óscar has worked for a decade in a State organization where he can
capture the television satellite signal. “They don’t only hack private
businesses. The State is a big pirate; without paying for authors’
rights, under the pretext of the blockade (the embargo), it transmits
U.S. programs on public television. I also take advantage of this and
sell audiovisuals under the table, and a guy pays me 40 CUCs for two
Valeria, surreptitiously, also is involved in piracy. “I work in a
center where they send the international cable signal to tourist
centers. Sometimes they ask me to upload a series or the last part of
the NBA play-offs. They pay me well and it’s something I can do without
The powerful State control implemented by the olive-green autocracy has
for 56 years found multiple fissures with the arrival of new
technologies. And like dust, censured news and MLB games with Cuban
baseball players spread throughout Cuba.
These information leaks come from anonymous professionals who have set
up small businesses that let them get some extra money, five times more
than their laughable salaries.
Rogelio works for an Internet distributor in Havana. During the day he
uploads Android and Windows applications for mobile telephones, tablets
and computers, which he later sells to the owner of a repair workshop
for computer equipment.
Taking advantage of the high volume of calls to Florida, some have
managed to divert technologies and software from ETECSA, the State
telecommunications monopoly, and they have set up telephone booths in
their homes for international calls, at 25 cents for one minute, 60%
cheaper than what the State offers.
Frequently, forces joined with State Security and the Ministry of
Communications and Computer Information unleash operatives in order to
dismantle parallel Wi-Fi networks, Internet connections and clandestine
international telephone calls.
For every network that is illegal, two new ones show up quickly. “It’s
like cutting the head off a snake; several more grow.” As long as the
Government controls, prohibits and over-prices the Internet and
international calls, clandestine networks will exist,” argues Miguel,
who, after several years of designing parallel networks, has become a
real expert at camouflaging cables, illegal Wi-Fi connections and
satellite television signals.
Orlando, an economist, considers that in addition to the absurd
prohibitions typical of closed societies, the Government laws that
prevent professionals from doing private work have opened a discrete
revolving door that is being used to make money during the work day.
“It happens everywhere. In a hospital, a nurse or a doctor steals
medications and sells them on the black market. Or a computer technician
uses his work computer to create a web site for the owner of a
particular business,” explains the economist.
It’s not news that some doctors consult in their own homes with trusted
patients who pay them under the table. “A mutual trust is created. The
doctor can take care of you personally. He writes a prescription and
gets the medication for you if it’s not in a pharmacy. Or he gives you
an exam that you would normally have to wait months for. People give
them 20 or 25 CUCs, more if it’s a serious illness. Silently, we have
passed from the family doctor created by Fidel Castro, already in low
supply, to the private doctor,” says Luís, who goes to a doctor outside
For the last six years, Norma takes her son to a dentistry professor.
“For each consult, I discreetly give her 20 CUCs. First, it’s the
attention. And while they don’t have anaesthetics and equipment in the
dental clinics, when you pay a dentist, everything appears as if by magic.”
The low salaries of primary and secondary school teachers are the
genesis of the explosion in furtive tutors. Frequently the teachers who
give classes during the day, in the afternoon or nights, for 5 CUCs a
month, tutor primary or secondary school students in their homes.
“Families that can do it pay for tutoring for their kids. It’s not easy
to suspend a kid who is tutored by an active teacher. There are school
directors who also are tutors. The lack of money forces them to do it,”
says the mother of a child who attends these sessions.”
Cases have been brought to light in Havana of notorious frauds where
professors and directors sell exams at prices that fluctuate between 15
and 25 CUCs. Now the fraud is more subtle.
The day before the test, the teacher whispers it into the ears of the
students she tutors, so they can pass.
Photo: While she rode in a convertible along the Malecón, many Cubans
were able to photograph the singer Rihanna (b. Barbados, 1988) with
their cell phones. At the beginning of June 2015, Rihanna was in Havana
to do a fashion shoot and make a video. Owing to the increase in
smartphones, laptops and tablets in Cuba, there is a lot of business
under the table for the repair of these devices. Taken from the magazine
Translated by Regina Anavy
Source: Cuban Professionals do Business Under the Table / Ivan Garcia |
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