Yes, Biden Struck, but He Did So with Kid Gloves
Undoubtedly, the new measures announced by the Biden administration are welcomed by the regime for what they are: a life vest amidst turbulent waters.
The formula to eliminate restrictions on remittances from the United States and to support a “private sector” that does not exist as such in Cuba, is not going to work, at least not in preventing the migration stampede, which must be the principal motive that has driven the president to do what he said he would never do back when repression was unleashed against the July 11th demonstrators. At that time, he even promised more severe measures than those of his predecessor, Donald Trump.
Well, he has definitely chosen his best kid glove to “strike” the promised blow. That glove is so soft and warm that if I were ever punished that way, being padded in the back and having my pockets filled with money –my pockets or my cousin’s or brother’s pocket- I would welcome such punishment.
Taking into consideration how the Cuban economic-financial scheme is designed, how the regime has dressed it up cosmetically after Barack Obama warned that he would only send money to independent entrepreneurs, there isn’t a single American dollar sent to Cuba from the U.S. that doesn’t end up in the regime’s coffers.
It matters little whether the intermediary’s name is Fincimex or Coppelia Icecream, the fact is that there is no way to avoid that funnel-effect slot machine called “MLC” –the Spanish acronym for “moneda libremente convertible”, or freely convertible hard currency- that also turns green dollar bills into air, toxic, bad, unbreathable air. In search of those green bills, Cubans here will continue to flee in a stampede, and Cubans abroad will continue to dance to the beat of Cuba’s Communist Party’s drum under the direction of [the military at] GAESA.
Let us keep in mind that Biden’s economic scenario is not the same as was Obama’s. Today’s scenario, above and beyond the crisis, inflation and “continuities”, is barely a theater play that the regime has set-up in a hurry so as not to miss a penny when the money begins to roll.
The regime regarded Obama as a threat greater than any other when in March of 2016 he spoke of “empowerment”, referring exclusively to independent entrepreneurship, i.e., not linked to the Cuban government. They blocked not only the help intended for incipient entrepreneurs by setting limits and legal and bureaucratic impediments to its expansion, capitalization and diversification, but also, they wasted no time in camouflaging about one hundred state companies as private companies in order to syphon off the economic aid. A disloyal competition that has reached the pinnacle with the MIPYMES, the Spanish acronym for “micro, pequeñas y medianas empresas” or micro, small and mid-size companies.
Undoubtedly, the new measures announced by the Biden administration are welcomed by the regime for what they are: a lifeline amidst turbulent waters. This is so because the domestic theater as well as the actors have been trained to give a better performance than when Obama showed up out of the blue talking about worrisome topics like putting the money in “the wrong hands”! No doubt, they were not going to allow that to happen then, and they won’t allow it now.
Biden can say anything he wants, but there will be no money that gets away, not even by chance, from the government’s scheme, a scheme that is only “continuity” because that word sounds pleasing to many ears even if pronounced by some while they bite their tongue. Someone was already mentioning, rightly so, that with these new measures, Cuban communists were preparing for a similar process by which Soviet rulers transformed themselves into the present Russian oligarchs. Sad, but everything seems to indicate that we will soon experience a strong and prolonged déjà vu.
However, none of this feels like a bucket of ice water over our heads. We suspected that under the negotiating table where migratory topics were being discussed last April in Washington, there would be talks about other matters beyond the topic that was announced. Although both sides gave assurances that no other topics had been discussed, we have known, even long before the Obama thaw, that the negotiation tables, the formal and informal meetings, the telephone calls, the declarations and even the denials before public opinion are the first things that are negotiated –even rehearsed and acted out- having made vows of strict silence, In other words, when both parties enjoy quite frequently making claims that they did not say what we all heard them say perfectly loud and clear.
The announcement of a return to the policies of Barack Obama has not taken the communist government by surprise. They have been waiting for it for months, even before last summer when things in the island seemed finally to be taking a less uncertain course.
Proof that our rulers here were expecting this outcome are evident in the huge stack of all kinds of laws and economic measures that they adopted in desperate hurry: the changes toward the MIPYMES; the permits to financial intermediation to unknown companies like Orbit S.A.; the license that OFAC granted a few days ago for capital investment in an alleged Cuban private company; and all the way up to recent statements about the future sale of MLC –convertible hard currency- to certain actors of the economy, the flash visit to Cuba by Mexican president López Obrador who was probably mediating “in honor of our friendship”.
Let’s face it: few things are left to chance when it comes to politics, especially if pertains to relations between Cuba and the United States, where every time things get too tense, someone comes out of nowhere and greases the rope at both ends.