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Regina Coyula, 17 February 2017 — The long laissez faire of the government with the “if you behave well, I look the other way” has given birth to a generation (just one?) of the cheerfully shameless, known generically as “fighters.” The nice denomination that began by being applied a few, no longer has color, sex or occupation. The common denominator is a very short wage for very long prices. Yes, those same people who cried in front of a photo with flowers* not yet three months ago.

Poles as distant as commerce and culture converge on this news that can only be half-confirmed because the official press never covers it without prior permission, and the friends, family, or co-workers of the enthroned acquired long ago the Pavlovian reflex of “not getting involved in things.”

The first of the cases, is in the Puentes Grandes Shopping Center, not yet three years from its opening and it already seems like a place in decline. There is an internet navigation room equipped on its opening with five computers and air conditioning. Something happened there that we have already become accustomed to. The PCs didn’t always work, the air conditioning didn’t either. In the room itself there was a counter with electronic devices such as USB memories, keyboards, headphones and the like, which was a point of sale for ETECSA, the Cuban Telecommunications Company that runs the place and maintains the monopoly of communications and as such keeps its users in a state between dissatisfaction and disgust.

And I speak about this in the past because no one can tell me if it will ever operate again; just very hastily in the parking lot an employee with a corporate image in a uniform one size smaller than necessary, acrylic nails, keratin-strengthened hair, and black-lace leggings, without raising her eyebrows or her voice, told me there had been a “tremendous explosion.” An informal taxi-driver on the hunt for a home refrigerator, was the one who told me that she was very pleased to be selling articles privately, much more cheaply than in the store.

It’s not just the stores. I remember, many remember, some fifteen or twenty years ago, the scandal in the International Relations Department of the Ministry of Culture, where artistic delegations were assembled without artists for the modest price of 500 CUC. Now it was the turn of the Council of Scenic Arts, and the information came from Colombia, Mexico or Central America with all the migratory connections, where some of the vigorous claimants of rights overseas, both university professors and lowlifes, learned to act although they never made it on stage. They demanded a red passport, that is an official one, authorized by the aforementioned Council that is supposed to authorize the travel of actors and theater groups.

Before, the same or similar matters had been in Heritage and Cultural Welfare and because of something missing in the works of art and some surplus in the construction works, appears to have been the reason for the exit through the back door of the previous Minister of Culture.

Even an octogenarian revolutionary fighter had amassed a modest fortune for the future, the future that was supposed to belong entirely to socialism. Barely two months after an anodyne article in the ’90s by Fidel Castro in the already anodyne newspaper Granma.

Nothing astonished Cubans, and from time to time we notice that corruption accompanies us wherever we go. The employee with the corporate image and the cultural officials as I already said, share the salary as a symbol. In the other case, I don’t know about you, but to me to the affair of the octogenarian fighter (for the uninformed his name is Héctor Rodríguez Llompart), tells me something about how things go among “the historicals” — as the original leaders and fighters of the Revolution call themselves.

*Translator’s note: A reference to Fidel Castro’s death

Translated by Jim


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