Among Thieves: Who Robs Whom?
Hablemos Press, Yixander Doimeadios, Havana, 25 July 2105 – Theft is institutionalized in Cuba. It is a pseudo-culture, endured and practiced from one end of the Island to the other, and the excuses for it are: “I have to live, life is hard….” as if the parasitic “living” were something that must be accepted.
The fees tacked on to products sold in the hard currency stores* are insulting. Discounts on them, even hours before their sell-by dates, are notable in their absence.
And what to say about the private-sale merchandise added to the inventory by the shopkeepers? Nothing is direct from the producer or manufacturer, and everything has a shady provenance because it comes in “under the table.”
In Cuba, the merchant is asked if he has any under the table cooking oil in stock, or the butcher if there is any chicken available that was obtained through the same supply route – that same route where the dollars go that fall into the hands of the bus driver, or through which the lard is filtered that doesn’t make it into the rationed bread.
The issue here is a mutation in the evolution of the Cuban species, where only the most capable and strongest survive. You either get used to it, or you die, and if you can’t beat them, you must join them.
Everyone seeks a way to recover what the other has stolen from him.
The inspectors extort the self-employed, the housing bureaucrats receive a “gift” for the paperwork they should put through at no cost whatsoever, and anyone who is not generous or open-handed will suffer the consequences of having what should be a simple process take six months or more to complete.
While the winds of change blow above, down in the underworld of the ordinary Cuban, all we can smell is the same flatulence as always, and the only change in the air is for the worse.
Therefore, there is only one way out: if you can’t beat them, join them.
*Translator’s Note: The official name of these stores is “Hard Currency Collection Stores” – meaning that their purpose is to collect, via the sale of highly overpriced goods, the cash from the remittances sent to Cubans from their family and friends abroad.
Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison