I walk down the street and the only thing I hear is the issue of “the stores”, it seems that the technique is infallible. I’ve seen some documentaries about civil actions to pressure the government and in various countries they’ve used an economic boycott to bring about political change (South Africa, Chile).
What’s happening gives me the impression that in Cuba there is another dynamic; the economic boycott is used by the government to put pressure on us. It was about a month ago that some of the convertible money stores (the only ones where you can get the basic market basket of goods) have closed and those that are still open are emptying out bit by bit. The other day I was desperately looking for any kind of detergent, and I went into a store where the only thing they had were shelves and shelves of glass cleaner (something like ten different brands). Who buys glass cleaner in Cuba?
Best of all are the conclusions of the victims; one hears, as always, several versions: 1 – All the stores are going to close little by little to become part of the FAR (Revolutionary Armed Forces). 2 – What’s happening is there are no longer foreign investors located in Cuba selling their products because they can’t get their money out of the banks in Cuba and they can’t make transactions in their own countries. 3 – The problem is that Cuba doesn’t have any money now to buy products, and what’s in the stores are the products that were already there and that no one ever bought.
I like conclusion number three because it’s related to the glass cleaner, and I wonder who would think of buying such clean glass in a country where almost all the windows are made of wood. On the other hand it seems that the foreigners aren’t the only ones who can’t get their money out of the banks; a friend told me that in order to collect the 5,000 pesos his father left him as an inheritance he has to do so much paperwork he no longer knows if he’ll ever get his hands on the money.
As none of this is discussed in the newspaper Granma, I don’t know which version is true, or semi-true, or completely false. Now I have to walk six hours to be able to wash the dishes at night. As I go and walk through the streets I wonder, what good does it to do for the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) and Raúl Castro to have the economy of the country in this state? Crisis number what are we entering now? Why is there toilet paper in only one store in all of Havana? Are these economic balancing acts caused by the crisis, or is it what is commonly called the internal blockade?
This is an excerpt to a version of the song, Epitaph for Vladimir Visotski by Karsmarski Jacek (Polish dissident songwriter), which includes Ciro Diaz in his latest album, The Blue Slug, that I listened to compulsively for at least two months, especially on the street with my mp3 inherited from a friend who now has an I-pod. (Download the lyrics here) (Download the recording and album cover here) The song (in summary, which runs about ten minutes) is about a desperate artist going through the circles of hell in search of an answer or death, and at the end of his journey there is only loneliness and the weight of the supreme power above himself. So I found myself at times catching the bus across Havana at 12 noon in August under the perennial sunshine and with the distressing feeling of not going anywhere, or arriving too late, or going for pleasure ... I feel that I have already arrived at the eighth enclosure (this is the finale of the song) where there is nothing, and I feel useless and empty, and I look at people without faith who walk along the street and who have so much fear that they no longer know they're afraid, and who have seen so many Roundtables and so many news broadcasts that they no longer know what belongs to reality or just to the TV screen. They cannot discern that they no longer believe, but cannot disbelieve either, and just move along past me not going anywhere.