Reports from Cuba: No ‘summer’ for Cubans without MLC or remittances

Osmel Ramirez Alvarez writes from Mayari, Cuba via Diario de Cuba:

No ‘summer’ for Cubans without MLC or remittances

‘This country is only good if you come to visit, and with money, so you can enjoy it. Whoever has to stay here is screwed,’ said a student

Cubans on a beach in Holguin.

Summer officially began in Cuba on July 2. This is a time of the year when, all over the world, most families try to take a break from school or work activities to enjoy rivers and beaches, travel to visit relatives in other places and, in some cases, when their finances allow, go sightseeing.

This year the summer will not be restricted by the Covid-19, which has not been stamped out, but remains at controllable levels —or at least that is what the official data say—. The main calamity remains, however: the crisis of the socialist state’s planned economic system, which clashes with those around the rest of the world and limits Cubans’ access to any level of leisure or recreation.

“If it weren’t for the fact that they are announcing summer on television as something extraordinary, I wouldn’t have even noticed. Who’s going to think of any kind of fun with this situation we are living in, with no electricity, no sugar, no oil, no anything? There’s no time for that when you?re busy just trying to get by, day after day,” said Ismaray, a mother from Holguin whose family’s summer is looking bleak.

“The children are even still in school. What kind of summer is that! This is a hell hole we are living in! Besides, who has money to go anywhere? Everything is sold in MLC and, if it’s not, it’s even more expensive, because the MLC items are resold. You have to have family outside the country to send you dollars. There?s no other way and I don’t have any,” he lamented.

Dania and Rafael are more fortunate. They will spend a weekend on the beach in Guardalavaca staying at a hotel paid for by their daughter, who emigrated to Texas. “My little girl went for this, so that we would be well off here. She’s pole dancing there, she makes sacrifices for us, and for her son, who we have here. We lack nothing, thanks to her,” Dania said.

“She always pays for everything we need: medicine, food, everything. Even a good vacation. We go to hotel pools from time to time, and also campgrounds, which are now very expensive,” he adds.

“The truth is that if you don’t have someone helping from abroad, it’s impossible with what you earn here. My husband is retired on 1,540 pesos a month. That’s barely enough to pay for the electricity. This country is designed for those who receive remittances. Luckily, we are in that group,” she explained.

But the life of 21-year-old Javier is, like most, at the opposite extreme. “Here there is no fun or life of any kind. I finished my preparation and began studying Hydraulic Engineering in Santiago de Cuba, but I dropped out. Many are leaving because there’s no future for those who are studying. They’re all thinking of some kind of business to make money and leave. Nothing else.”

“What fun is there here? Where can you go with everything as expensive as it is, and the state of things? What chance does a young person have to get what they need, and go somewhere to have a little fun, being a student or working for the state, even if they’re a professional? Absolutely none. Young people aren’t stupid. This country is only good to come to visit, and with money, so you can enjoy it. Those who have to stay here are screwed, and their lives just pass them by,” the young man said.

On July 3, Miguel Díaz-Canel, the official responsible for the policy of sustaining the same system that led to this crisis, urged Cubans via Twitter to “look for and find the charms of this intense hot weather.” Many took his words as a bad joke. It is hard for the average Cuban to understand their ruler when they have no electricity, transportation, food or enough money to pay the soaring prices generated by inflation.

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