“Un arañazo por aquí, otro arañazo por allá“
“A scratch here, another scratch there”
Like most idiomatic phrases, their true meaning is lost once they are translated into a language other than the original. But after reading this news story in Reuters about the Cuban dictatorship’s new requirement for tourist visas, there is no phrase in English that describes the regime’s new policy as well as this Spanish term for ripping someone off.
Cuba to require medical insurance for visitors
HAVANA, March 6 (Reuters) – Cash-strapped Cuba will require visitors to buy health insurance if they want to enter the country, according to a new government measure disclosed on Saturday.
Under the measure, which takes effect in May, the insurance will be sold by foreign companies approved by the Cuban government or by Cuban firms at ports of entry to the communist-led island, the government said in the online edition of Cuba’s Official Gazette.
The measure decrees that tourists, foreigners with temporary residence in Cuba and Cubans living abroad who return to visit will have to be insured.
For those unfamiliar with the colloquial term “arañar,” the literal meaning is to scratch someone or something. However, when used to describe business transactions, it refers to someone unscrupulously scratching a small amount of money for themselves through devious methods. Since the amounts are small, there are always numerous scratches that when added up, the total amount one has been scratched becomes considerable. Hence the use of the term scratch: not a large chunk cut out of you at one time, but many little pieces that are hardly perceptible. It is a very effective method to steal money since you do not realize you have been had until you suddenly find yourself covered in scratches.
And that is one of the ways the Cuban regime likes to do business; they scratch a little here and they scratch a little there. They scratch tourists with entry fees, exit fees, passport fees, mandatory currency exchanges at ridiculously high rates. Bringing some soap, toothpaste, or a few pairs of jeans for the family? You get scratched with exorbitant import duties. Have some cash for tío Pepin? They will scratch you with a 20% fee off the top. Now, tourists arriving at the island prison will be scratched with health insurance fees. Forget about your own insurance, you have to buy the regime’s insurance; they can’t scratch your insurance company.
Add up all the scratches and what have you got? A whole lot of cash going directly into the pockets of the dictatorship’s elite. But hey, maybe if we let Castro, Inc. scratch us enough they will consider democratic reforms on the island. That makes sense, doesn’t it?