Take that you intransigent hardliners! Chalk up another one for the ruling military junta. Not because as the media would have you believe, it is a sign of the eroding support for holding said misgoverning body accountable, but rather because it is a win-win situation for the Havana strongmen. They have gained untold millions without losing a single cog in the machinery of repression. Because of today’s announcement, tomorrow, no independent librarian is going to be able to enter a bookstore and buy a copy of Animal Farm. No newspaper is going to print an op-ed piece by Maria Beatriz Roque or Hector Palacios. Not a single prisoner of conscience is going to see the dawn a free man. Nothing has essentially changed. Well, almost nothing.
700 million dollars. That is the total of remittances sent to Cuba under the much maligned Bush rules which allowed Cuban Americans to send 1200 dollars a year-300 hundred a quarter- to relatives on the blighted island. Some calculate the figure at a billion dollars. Of that money, about 25% goes directly into the pockets of the regime in the form of a punishing exchange tariff. Ka-ching. The rest, as it makes its way to the street vendor, the black market, whatever, supplies desperately needed- since the country suffers from a chronic case of Marxist induced anemia- lifeblood to the economy. Ka-ching. Finally, by easing the pressure created by perpetual want on the regime…. Priceless.
Essentially, by lifting the restrictions on remittances, the American government has moved to provide a subsidy to the moribund Communist dictatorship. Yes, there are humanitarian considerations. No one is more aware of these. To us Cubans are not an abstraction. They have names: Nito and Berta and Fefa and Blanca and Juan. They have titles: Mami, Abuela, Tio, Prima. But there is a difference between sending over enough to keep the wolf from the door and feeding the beast.
As always seems the case, common sense never seems to inform our policies. The previous rules denied the importance of uncles, aunts, cousins, an important consideration now that the older generations are dying off. The new ones make dorming with a Cuban roommate a qualification for sending money. The limit on remittances under the old policy was generous for a population with an average income of 20 dollars a month. Under the new rules, I fear our tendency to get carried away and turn a seemingly beneficent gesture into financial bovine the likes of which fidel never even envisioned for his mini cow.