A resident of the Mayabeque province, south of Havana, Twitter name @PedroPerezCuban, recently regretted the lack of basic foods such as chicken, milk, cheese and coffee, even in the new stores created by the government to collect convertible currency. He concluded by saying: “The question Cubans ask themselves is: “What do they do with the dollars they collect? “
“Where is my money?”, also ask themselves the doctors sent to provide medical services abroad, to whom the government of the island plunder 75 to 90 percent of the salaries paid by the host countries. These doctors know very well that the Cuban health system lacks basic resources and patients cannot find the medicines they need.
“People are dying here (…) without medicines or anything,” says Alexander Jesús Figueredo Izaguirre, a doctor who works in the Easgtern city of Bayamo. He swears that the US embargo is not to blame, since the medical missions in which he participated in Venezuela are supplied by the Cuban government with all the resources needed (doctors, medicines, equipment). This export of medical services is a large inflow of convertible currency for Cuba -6 thousand 400 million in 2018- yet no one is held accountable for its destination.
There are other important hard-currency revenues that no one controls, such as those collected by the military business group GAESA in the fields of tourism, remittances, foreign exchange stores and telecommunications, among other sectors controlled by that octopus. Tourism workers themselves are robbed by resorting to magician tricks made possible by Cuba’s various currencies: for instance, if the foreign firm pays a monthly salary of $ 420 per month, the Cuban worker receives 260 Cuban pesos, equivalent to $ 9.80, then the employing agency Almacenes Universal, another tentacle of the military, keeps the remaining $ 410.20.
So, the Cubans ask, what do they do with the dollars they collect?
Luckily enough, in these times when information runs like a hare through cyberspace, the whereabouts of that money are becoming known.
A couple of weeks ago, the Cuba news outlet Cubanet published a report entitled “Grandchildren and relatives of Raúl Castro, the other sack of rotten potatoes”, exposing the privileges enjoyed by relatives of the Army general, former ruler and first secretary of the Communist Party: Those include luxurious houses for rent, bars and other businesses in Cuba; they are partners or representatives of international businesses, drive brand new cars and live in mansions, vacation in Europe or in the family bungalow in Varadero Beach, are connected with the international jet set and are thankful for their blue blood dispensing them of the deprivations and obligations of ordinary Cubans.
How do they justify such lifestyle? In fact, they don’t need to, because neither the Comptroller’s Office nor the Prosecutor’s Office, nor the National Assembly are going to hold accountable these father’s children and grandfather’s grandchildren, members of a caste that has taken over everything that generates foreign exchange on the island, plus they use the intelligence apparatus and their relationships with criminals and terrorists to generate other illicit and secret dividends outside of Cuba.
What other destinations do “the dollars they collect” have? Well, strengthening the repressive forces as well as that same intelligence and counterintelligence apparatus, which is not so much concerned with external enemies as with keeping at least threatened and watched over -if not subdued- a citizenry that has become fed up with so much oppression and misery.
An example: exiled journalist Juan Juan Almeida revealed this past week details of the new Monitoring Center created by the Castroist Interior Ministry to spy on the internet, social networks and even in the streets the opinions of dissidents, independent journalists and the general public.
Located in the cozy Kohly neighborhood, working 24/7, the center has been allocated a seven million dollar budget, as well as state-of-the-art Chinese equipment for electronic espionage. It also has two Kia vans equipped for mobile “monitoring” in public spaces. According to Almeida, the facilty’s director, named Midala, dispatches every Thursday with three high-ranking counterintelligence officers. But lately the meetings have been joined by the all-powerful MININT Colonel Alejandro Castro Espín, the only son of Raúl, Cuba’s one and only Army General.
It is obvious that the untouchables of post Castroism not only spend the money they steal on pleasures and corruption. Unlike Shakespeare’s Macbeth, they feel in their guts no longer impossible that the forest of the people’s anger could begin to approach their palaces. So, in the midst of the Cuban people’s plight, they spend millions trying to avoid it. Until, one day, the forest catches fire around them.