Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Translation: Privileges to those who deserve them

A Cuban youth committed to the Revolution speaks his mind in this Granma letter to the editor. 

The emigration of disenchanted Cuban youth to countries such as the US, Spain (where youth unemployment hovers around 50%), Mexico and Ecuador seems to be one of the few remaining taboo topics in the Cuban press. 

Many seek higher salaries that would allow them to better support family in Cuba or abroad; some just want to experience more of the world than their Caribbean island and escape its economic hardships; others chase the "American Dream". Not all those who emigrate find what they're looking for, though some do. 

The exodus of highly educated youth is not only demoralising, it also has serious economic consequences despite the flow of remittances back to Cuba. Some of Cuba's best young minds in the technical sense are serving capitalist corporations in other countries rather than Cuba's socialist revolution.

The US government's infamous Cuban Adjustment Act aims to deprive Cuba of skilled workers by encouraging risky and illegal crossings of the Florida Straights in small craft, creating the propaganda spectacle of Cubans "fleeing the communist dictatorship". Any Cuban citizen who reaches the US coastline can stay and apply for US citizenship after a year.

Haitians and other Caribbean nationals who land on US shores without authorisation are sent back to where they came from.

A key objective of the "updating" of Cuba's socialist-oriented
 economic model, though not one that is explicitly stated in the Guidelines, is to make employment for skilled workers more rewarding in every sense, above all in terms of remuneration, so that, for example, a surgeon does not have to drive a taxi on the weekend to make ends meet. 

The dedication of such workers in the face of the hardships and privations of the Special Period is what has kept the Revolution afloat in the chilly waters of neoliberal globalisation. Behind the impressive statistics on health care and education are millions of committed human beings imbued with revolutionary spirit.

A substantial minority of Cubans think and act very differently, however, as illustrated in the candid vignette below. 
The struggle to renew Cuba's socialist project is the struggle of the former to prevail over the latter in the spheres of economics, ethics and ideology. The economy of the socialist-oriented Cuba that is emerging must "privilege those who really deserve it". 

Privileges to those who deserve them

Letter to the editor, Granma, March 2, 2012

Translation: Marce Cameron

I’m one of the many youths who is concerned about the future of their country. I feel proud of its gains and advances in various sectors
, thanks to the socialism we’ve defended for 50 years. I consider it to be the most just country and socialism to be the most viable option for saving humanity.

But I’m also the first to acknowledge the mistakes we’ve make in its construction and improvement. With constructive criticism I open the door to the empty minds of those who care only about the good life and who salivate at the American Dream.

I once read a commentary by Commander in Chief Fidel Castro that contained a phrase which made an impression on me. From that time on I’ve carried it with me wherever I may go as a devastating weapon, firing it at point blank range at whoever dares to make a superficial criticism: “Anyone who wants more than what is indispensable in order to live is worth less as a human being.” Most people are speechless at such a magisterial phrase; life shows that this is how it is.

Recently I graduated from law school, and ever since I was a student I’ve read and analysed the letters pages of this newspaper, created so that the people could raise their problems and propose solutions. I’d like to take up an issue, one of many that concerns me and makes me feel uncomfortable: the wholesome recreation of young people, whether students or not, for an affordable and fair price.

For some years there was a scheme organised by the Union of Young Communists in which entry was granted to discos, cabaret tables, swimming pools and camping cabins at a price that, while it was out of reach of most parents, did make them more willing to fork out for it. They could give a treat to their son or daughter, but they’d have to earn it by getting good grades; this is something any honourable family educated by the Revolution should do without hesitation. However, it’s true that it didn’t work well, and neither should granting subsidies be a function of the organisation.

Today, these kinds of activities are organised in some educational institutions, but it’s still insufficient, given that it doesn’t meet the needs of all youth who need this type of entertainment. In addition, while the entry price may be affordable, the prices of drinks and food are unchanged. If you go to a disco, the entry price ranges from 2, 3, 5, 10 and up to 20 Cuban convertible pesos. What son or daughter of a worker or farmer with an average income, what intellectual or official in the armed forces or the police, could pay such a sum of money? The same is true of the products sold in these places.

I’m aware that the world finds itself in a deep economic-financial crisis and that our country is not unaffected by this, so we have to eliminate excessive wastage, superfluous spending and gratuities, among other problems that were addressed in the Sixth Communist Party Congress, but this doesn’t justify these unaffordable prices. Why the difference in prices between the products sold in the chain of convertible currency stores and those in the recreational venues previously referred to? Why double or triple the prices in convertible pesos if wages are static and most of the people who frequent them are young students? Are they higher quality products? We all know this isn’t the case, they say it’s because of the venue and what it offers. It seems to me this justification is for the rich in capitalist societies, and not for a young person of modest means born in a socialist Revolution who burns the midnight oil studying in order to be able to contribute to their country in the future, or he or she who makes sacrifices by working in any state sector that contributes to economic development and they just want to go out with their friends or their girlfriend or boyfriend.

I think that if one of these venues attracted 50, 100 or more people at an entry price of 2 convertible pesos and with reasonable prices for additional purchases, it would be able to cover its costs and contribute to tax revenues.

Despite the high prices y
ou see many youth frequenting the best places and consuming large quantities of the aforementioned products as if they were sold in regular Cuban pesos. There’s no doubt that the great majority of them neither study nor work, they live off the black market which does so much harm to those who really strive to take the country forward. Those who sell their bodies or do all kinds of denigrating acts also abound, as do the kids of the new rich, and I ask myself: is it for them that these recreational venues exist? If so, it’s not in keeping with the truly revolutionary youth in which our top leaders have placed their trust. 

It’s hardly gratifying to arrive at work or school exhausted and see how in the corner of any square you meet a childhood playmate who spends the day lazing about, drinking beer, driving around and of course, entering and leaving nightclubs in the fanciest clothes and believing themselves to be the master of the universe. If you ask them what’s happening in Cuba or in the world, they tell you they couldn’t care less what’s going on, that they just want to leave the country, and other things I’m not going to repeat given their obscene and offensive content.

These and other related issues have been the subject of debate on various occasions by university students, revolutionaries, humble people, those willing to give their lives for the country and in honour of those youths that died throughout our history for the cause that the new generations enjoy today. Despite this, we lack things needed by young people that up to know only exist in dreams given the economic situation. If we oriented the social pyramid the way it should be we’d rescue ethical values and incentivise the importance of study and work, but for this we have to begin privileging those who really deserve it.

J. Martos Yapur


  1. Cuba is not socialist, it is a deformed workers state. A state were capitalism has been destroyed, but were the workers hold no political power.

    1. So who does hold political power in Cuba, if not the vanguard of the working class organised in the Cuban Communist Party?

  2. "deformed workers state" - the trotskyist position of reaction and fantasy


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