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September 2014
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Have You Tried Cyanide… General?

Have You Tried Cyanide… General? / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on September 4, 2014

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 1 September 2014 – Today is Zero Day,
the fateful date, the day the General Customs of the Republic enacts
its new restrictions for non-commercial imports. The measure called to
mind an old joke that circulated in the nineties and is still heard
today. In this humorous story, a foreign journalist interviewed Fidel
Castro and he listed all the obstacles we had faced. “The Cuban people
have survived the collapse of transportation, the food crisis and power
cuts,” the delusional politician said proudly. The reporter interrupted
him and asked: “And you haven’t tried cyanide, Comandante?”

Nearly two decades have passed and they are still imposing limits and
prohibitions incompatible with development and with life. As if in this
social laboratory they want to test what they can do to get the guinea
pigs—which are us—to keep breathing, clapping, accepting. The new
experiment doesn’t come in the form of a syringe, but through customs
rules governing the luggage of every traveler. Measures that were taken
without previously allowing commercial imports that favor the private
sector. As if in the closed glass box in which we are trapped, they are
cutting off the oxygen… and watching from the other side of the glass to
see how much we can stand.

And you haven’t tried cyanide, Comandante? echoed in my head while I
read “The Green Book” with the new prices and limits applied to imports
from electric razors to disposable diapers. We lab rats, however, have
not remained calm and quiet, like so often in the past. People are
complaining, and with good reason, that these restrictions are
suffocating self-employed labor and the domestic economy. Everyone is
upset. Those who receive parcels from abroad as well as those who don’t,
because some of those bouillon cubes or rheumatism creams end up
reaching their hands through the black market or the solidarity of a friend.

The reason is not an altered chromosome, but a system that has failed to
maintain a stable and high-quality supply of almost any product … except
canned ideology and the insipid porridge of the cult of personality

It’s not that we Cubans have a specific gene to accumulate things
and—out of pure neurosis—throw stuff into our suitcases from toilet
paper and toothpaste to lightbulbs. The reason is not an altered
chromosome, but a system that has failed to maintain a stable and
high-quality supply of almost any product… except canned ideology and
the insipid porridge of the cult of personality. While the shelves of
the stores are empty, or filled with the worse quality merchandise at
stratospheric prices, we have to bring from outside what we don’t have
here. A law on commercial imports was not what we needed and the knife
of customs restrictions falls very heavily upon us.

That the measures have come into force is still more evidence of the
divorce between the Cuban ruling class and the people’s reality. In
their mansions there is no lack of resources, food, nor imported
products! They, of course, have no need to bring them home in their
luggage. To stock up they reach out to the Ministry of Foreign Commerce,
to the official containers that arrive at our ports, and a network of
transport that brings chlorine for their swimming pools and French
cheese right to their doors. The customs rules do not affect them,
because they don’t pay excess luggage fees on their luxuries, which are
not considered sundries, household items or food. They live outside the
law and watch us locked behind the thick glass of the laboratory they’ve
built for us.

Have you tried cyanide… General? Perhaps it would be faster and less

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