Economic Crime, the Pitfall in the Path
14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 22 May 2017 — The saleswoman
described her merchandise in a murmur: loggerhead turtle steaks, beef
and shrimp. The man salivated, but replied that he could not buy any of
those products, the most persecuted in the informal market. Every
opponent knows that the authorities would want to try him for an
“economic crime,” and perhaps that saleswoman was just the bait.
The techniques used by an authoritarian government to control citizens
can be as varied as the fertile imagination of the repressors. Some are
designed in air-conditioned offices using studied methodologies, while
others arise on the fly, from seemingly fortuitous situations.
Are the economic constraints that we live under a calculated scenario to
keep Cubans locked in a cycle of survival? Do so many prohibitions seek
to leave us civically paralyzed, feeling ourselves guilty and with one
foot in a prison cell?
Beyond the conspiracy theories, officialdom has managed the informal
market as trap for the nonconforming, a framework for gathering
information about the deep Cuba, an element of blackmail against
its citizens and a lure to hunt down political opponents.
The Plaza of the Revolution has turned its bad economic management into
another way of keeping society in its fist. It knows that families will
do everything possible to put food on the table and will turn to the
underground networks to buy everything from their children’s shoes to
the dollars that at the official currency exchanges are taxed at 10%.
In many cases it is just about waiting, like the spider who knows that
sooner or later the little insect will fall into its sticky
threads. State Security only has to wait for a dissident to buy coffee
“under the table” or to dare to have the bathroom retiled by an
unlicensed tile setter.
Although it is a practice that has been engaged in for many years, in
recent months there has been an increased tendency to accuse activists
of alleged economic infractions. They are charged with crimes that
ordinary Cubans commit every day under the patronizing eyes of the
police and with the complicity of officials or state
administrators. However, in the case of an opponent, the law has the
capacity to be narrower, more rigid and more strictly observed.
In all international forums, Raúl Castro’s government boasts of not
having political prisoners and it supports this argument by severely,
but politically selectively, criminalizing such trivial matters as
keeping four sacks of cement or a few gallons of fuel at home, without
being able to show the papers that prove they were purchased in state
Journalist Henry Constantin is accused of “usurpation of legal capacity”
for working as a reporter in an independent publication, but dozens of
ex-military are appointed managers of tourist facilities without ever
having studied hotel management or business management. None of them
have been reprimanded for serving in a position for which they are not
Karina Gálvez, a member of the Coexistence Studies Center, is being
prosecuted for alleged “tax evasion” during the purchase of her
home. However, before the new tax imposed on real estate transactions
came into force, thousands of Cubans thronged the notaries to complete
their paperwork under the previous tax laws, far removed from the real
estate market rates. Not one was sanctioned.
Eliécer Ávila, leader of the Somos+ Movement, had his home broken into
in a police raid and is charged with the offense of “illicit economic
activity.” His “crime”: possessing a laptop, rewritable discs and
several disposable razors. Unlike those thriving artists who import the
latest iMac from the market or “Daddy’s kids” – children of the regime’s
leaders – who have a satellite dish to watch Miami television, the
activist committed the offense of saying he wants to help change his
The lesson is that no matter what degree of economic illegality
you commit, keep your mouth shut and don’t criticize the government. It
is not the same to buy beef in the informal market when you pretend
ideological fealty to the regime, than it is to do the same when you
belong to an opposition movement.
The black bag can become a wall, a noose, a hidden trap for those who do
Source: Economic Crime, the Pitfall in the Path – Translating Cuba –