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The Conspiracy of “The Divine Shepherdess”

The Conspiracy of “The Divine Shepherdess” / Miriam Celaya
Posted on October 1, 2013

A title that cheesy might seem like something straight out of the most
mediocre thriller, but it refers to real events: The Divine Shepherdess
restaurant, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Gaviota corporation of the
Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (MINFAR), tucked away in an
area of the Historic Morro-Cabaña Park, has been closed to start a
bidding process. Its workers have been made “available” on the
“employment exchange,” in hopes of future “relocation.” They are the new
victims of another conspiracy of the olive-green mafia.

None of them saw the blow coming. Frustrated and deeply worried about
the loss of their income and anxious about unemployment, the 23 workers
have addressed letters of complaint to different agencies, including the
Ministry of Labor and Social Security. To date, they haven’t received
any responses.

However, many of them resist assimilating what happened, without
understand that the conspiracy was planned in careful detail by the
uniformed leaders. There are those who, naively, still believe there is
hope of a solution. But theirs is a lost battle: from the beginning the
die was cast and their fate sealed. The economic interests of the
military leadership would not stop for trifles such as respecting the
work of a handful of perfectly dispensable individuals.

The Plot

Months ago it began to be rumored that The Divine Shepherdess would be
among the restaurants that would form part of the pilot experiment of
non-agricultural cooperatives that the Government proposed to develop,
immersed in its controversial “reforms.” In the beginning, the workers
were concerned about the possibility that this would give rise to a
layoff plan to increase profitability and efficiency, characteristics of
a cooperative; but soon their enthusiasm over the idea of working
autonomously and increasing their personal incomes, without incurring
the risk of the illegalities that abound in all state institutions, in
particular in those operating in convertible currency, as this one did.

Given a major venture “from above,” they were assured there would be no
layoffs. This dispelled their initial reserves and raised the
expectations of those who thought it would be a new and advantageous
start of a restaurant in a privileged position, right at the entrance to
Havana Bay, within La Cabaña fort, on the other side of the city: a
panoramic view of the capital and a place frequented by numerous foreign
tourists.

The first surprise surfaced when, on a Roundtable TV show dedicated to
the topic, a journalist declared that “the workers of The Divine
Shepherdess” didn’t want to form a cooperative. Astonished at such a
slander, they wrote the program demanding that the Institute of Radio
and Television elevate their written complaint to the most diverse
authorities. The official media have not rectified the mistake and, with
the passing of days, they took the incident as a small involuntary slip
up, perhaps due to misinformation or confusion on the part of those
responsible for the program.

Shortly after, the president of Gaviota corporation appeared before the
workers at the restaurant in person, conciliatory and paternal and,
among other things, explained to them that the cooperative would be
positive, favorable to everyone, and was an essential part of the
economic transformations that were imperative for the country. It was a
plan prioritized by the Government, ineluctable. So, they had to elect
four workers who would represent all of them, to attend a seminar about
what a cooperative enterprise would be and the characteristics of the
transformation process to the new way of operating the restaurant.

The elected representatives, in effect, went to the seminar and gave
their utmost to educate themselves about the issue, while the
expectations of their comrades rose given the imminent change.

The Blow

The first blow to their illusions came when, at another meeting, they
talked to the employees aspiring to be cooperative members about taxes
and concrete figures. They were simply astronomical. According to the
parameters imposed, they would have to pay, in addition to all the taxes
imposed by disimilar concepts, 40 CUC for each square yard of occupied
space, including the parking areas, which, for obvious reasons, don’t
generate the same income as the lounge-restaurant itself.

And this was the least of the figures they heard: to start the
cooperative they would need an advance of 116,000 CUC, a definitely
shocking sum. A sense of unreality started to set in, expanding like a
solid body in the middle of the meeting and sparking a general outcry.
This must be an error, they couldn’t be serious. Surely someone made a
mistake. Where could they get such a huge sum of money? But no, the
number had already been assigned by the specialists and Gaviota’s board.
Ah, comrades, we must ask for a bank loan and accept the repayment terms
and interest rate!

They decided that a representation of the workers would go to the bank
to apply for the loan and make the arrangements. Nobody wanted to be
discouraged.

MINFAR: A Tax Haven in Itself?

The friendly bank employee didn’t understand what these people were
asking for. What credit were they talking about? Based on what funds did
they believe they could qualify for a loan, and especially such a large
one? In fact, she explained to them, The Divine Shepherdess had never
invested a single cent in the coffers of the bank. What’s more, Gaviota
itself hadn’t realized any income in all the years of its existence,
from any concept, as if it were a ghost entity. But then, what could the
workers do? The kind bank employee didn’t know; she only knew what they
couldn’t do: obtain credit.

But, beyond the drama of a work collective, this leads to considerations
of another kind in a country where, at least by right, there is a tough
battle being fought against corruption and illegalities, for which the
General-President has created an implacable Controller who conducts the
most rigorous searches and who operates through an inflexible body of
inspectors in coordination with the People’s Revolutionary Police (PNR).
Those with carts, hustlers, small traders and every kind of operator of
a timbiriche — a very small business — could attest to the frequent
operations and physical inspections that regularly subjects them to a
ton of fines, in addition to the other scoldings at the slightest
violation (or suspicion of it).

But, assuming it’s true that there are no visible traces of the
financial transactions of the “state” corporation Gaviota in the bank
(also a state entity), if we ignore that their income, investments and
accounts are absolutely unknown, how can they be subjected to the
controller’s checks? By virtue of what supra-constitutional rights would
a military corporation be exempt from fiscal scrutiny? Do they consider
their finances to be “sensitive information” and so secret, simply
because they are an economic entity of MINFAR, though eminently capitalist?

And is it that this is a corporation which includes both restaurants and
hotels in the country’s different tourist sites, transport bases, stores
and other establishments, with significant income, and in which, in
addition, thousands of civilian employees work, paying social security
and earning salaries, vacations, and other benefits such as maternity
and sick leave, etc. Are there no bank records of their costs and
incomes from these concepts.

Undoubtedly, there are dozens of unanswered questions in this as in
other macro-businesses of the olive-green elite. We know that the elite
doesn’t market through timbiriches. At least no one has seen anyone with
military epaulets dragging a cart with food, fruits and vegetables
through our streets, nor selling jewelry or other merchandise in little
stalls; humility is good only in speeches. Everything suggests that in
Cuba there are three currencies circulating, two of them visible, the
Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) and the Cuban Peso (CUP), and an invisible
and untraceable one, the capital of the military monopolies.

So it’s no surprise that, given the obvious financial incapacity of The
Divine Shepherdess workers, and given their complaints and demands, the
director of Gaviota stood before them again, this time frowning,
authoritarian and invested with all the powers, and he unceremoniously
snapped that the assigned figures for the taxes on the space, as well as
the initial capital, “were not negotiable.” Curtain.

Epilogue

The beleaguered workers were told that on Friday, September 20, 2013 the
restaurant would be closed and a bidding process would proceed. Because
it turns out that there already is (and in reality, always has been) an
investor with disposable capital to take over the “cooperative.?” As
readers may have guessed, it is a prominent member of the anointed caste
who surely did not need a bank loan or an income statement to amass the
money needed.

As for the workers, well — and thank you for asking — each one is at
home trying to swallow the bitter pill. You might be wondering what use
it was to them to pay their union dues promptly for years, to attend
“Revolutionary” marches called by the same power that has now evicted
them, and that — trying “not to distinguish themselves” — meekly and
without question obeyed every direction from the heights. For now, they
are just waiting for someone to explain to them what the president of
Gaviota meant when he told them that “no one would be left defenseless.”

From Diario de Cuba

30 September 2013

Source: “The Conspiracy of “The Divine Shepherdess” / Miriam Celaya |
Translating Cuba” –
http://translatingcuba.com/the-conspiracy-of-the-divine-shepherdess-miriam-celaya/

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