Returning to the scene of the crime?
JOSÉ HUGO FERNÁNDEZ | Miami | 4 Nov 2015 – 11:17 am.
More than a few Cuban immigrants plan to return, hoping to invest their
savings in small private businesses.
There is increasing talk, in Miami and in Havana, about Cuban emigrés
who are showing interest in returning to the island. In fact, more than
a few have already done so, including many who have gone back with the
hope of investing their savings in small private businesses, such as
restaurants, public transport and other services.
Mathematically, their calculations seem to be sound, given the rather
low prices at which they can still buy property and hire workers in
Havana, in addition to the rising demand for the services in which they
plan to invest. They have also, presumably, thoroughly studied the very
peculiar ground rules on the island. And if they have, they should know
that they will be operating in a market where illegality is like oxygen,
essential to remain standing, the supreme law, that of the strongest,
remaining the only one, just like always.
Apart from this, this is a decision that deserves more praise than
criticism. Not only because everyone has the right to settle wherever
they like, with due permission, but because, even if unintentionally,
these Cubans could be taking an important step towards the future of
integrity and civil society that we all dream of, however far out of
sight it still seems.
These emigrants, due to their experiences, have presumably become
accustomed to living in democratic environments and acting under binding
laws that cannot be violated. Hence, it is to be expected, and
desirable, that in their new businesses on the island they will choose
to uphold those customs, though it remains to be seen how they will
grapple with that challenge in the face of reality.
I personally know more than one business owner who has failed in his
effort to insist on total honesty and respect for the laws, no matter
how bad they may be. I also know several who gave up, or are on the
brink of economic strangulation due to, among other pleasantries, the
endless outlays they have to make to bribe inspectors and corrupt
officials. Not a day passes, not one, in which a restaurant owner in
Havana is not forced to shell out serious amounts in response to extortion.
Some cope with it better than others. There are two types of owners.
First, there are the genuine strugglers, who invested everything they
had in a small business, and are now giving it all they have to keep it,
even with minimal profits. Then there are those “lucky” ones who managed
to set up one, two or even more prosperous businesses at once, and
without scrimping, thanks to miraculous contacts with people at the top.
For the latter, the threat of closure is not the same nightmare that the
former have to deal with every single day. But even they have to pay, in
their own way.
Of course, those countrymen who return from abroad will have to join
that class of authentic fighters (with exceptions), since the other
category is a closed circle made up of relatives of higher-ups, more or
less covert agents of the political police, and those favored by
patronage. No one can have two restaurants in Havana without being an
agent or accomplice of the dictatorship. And, unless he falls into one
of those two categories, no entrepreneur can prosper much without
suffering constant harassment by the system. No one, in short, is spared
the constant fear of seeing their business closed.
Perhaps this is why, among other things, there are those skeptical of
this endeavor by some emigrants, which, if looked at in a certain light,
could be described as a kind of return to the scene of the crime. And
yet, in this case those returning are not the criminals (who never left)
but rather their victims.
Not long ago the Center for Psychological and Sociological Research
(CIPS), based in Havana, concluded that more than 90% of Cuban families
commit crimes as the only way to meet their basic needs. Had they dug
even deeper, I’m sure that the remaining 10% would have made the list
too. Illegality has for too long been our indispensable raft upon which
to stay afloat, and it is also the regime’s oxygen and hydrogen. It
needs lawbreakers to keep us subjugated and manageable. Particularly
now, and especially those who are struggling to get ahead.
These are things of which Cuban emigrants eager to return and make good
on the island might be aware. If they are, and still prefer to bite the
bullet, despite the Biblical adage that “haste is the mother of
imperfection,” then we can only tip our hats to them.
Source: Returning to the scene of the crime? | Diario de Cuba –