National Geographic : 2012 Nov
• to be dismantled, is a sobering experience. Take Higuera and Fernández: eir private, for-pro t business and their ten employees are legal under the new self-employment laws, as long as they pay their taxes. But business taxes, in themselves a relatively new concept in Cuba, increase sharply as em- ployers hire more people. e system is weighted against much private expansion while Cubans experiment with new tax and regulation policies, and this question of limits---of just how suc- cessful individual entrepreneurs should aspire to become---is a matter of great philosophical and political contention in the New Changing Cuba. Last year, after months of discussions around the country, a remarkable o cial docu- ment called "Guidelines for the Economic and Social Policy of the Party and the Revolution" was published---313 guidelines, to be exact, each one addressing a speci c subject, like land use or the civic importance of sports. Guideline number three declares that the "concentration of property" by individuals, as opposed to the state, "will not be permitted." What does that mean, exactly? e guide- lines don't say. e cynical will tell you it means the government shall countenance no threat, no real business competition, to the bureau- cracies and personal efdoms of government companies. e less cynical will tell you that it means Cuba must manage this move toward privatization carefully, while trying to protect the services Cubans have come to expect---that there remains some genuine national conviction in Cuba, no matter how exhausted the - slogans may now appear to the young, that it's deeply wrong for certain citizens of a nation to make themselves thousands of times wealthier than others. "We just don't know yet," a veteran University of Havana economist named Juan Triana Cordoví told me, when I asked about guideline number three. "You can do this big bang style, as Rus- sia did, but I don't think that worked very well. Or you can do it step-by-step, watching what will happen. I am one of the ones who prefer step-by- step. I think of it as testing the stones of the river, one foot at a time, to see if each stone will hold." I could see how the guidelines, which were released to great fanfare, might look from a certain perspective like one more saltshaker only a quarter full. is is why so many young people spend a lot of time talking to their peers about their futures in Cuba, about whether to stay or go. ere are multiple routes away now, most much safer than little boats pushed out to sea in the dark. Family members wait out the long delays for visas to join relatives abroad. Professionals overseas on Cuban service mis- sions, like the thousands of medical profes- sionals and sports trainers now working in Venezuela, sometimes decline to return home. "You're always trying to convince people not to leave," Higuera said. "Always. I have a friend in Madrid now. He got there just in time for the crash." What might he and Fernández say, I won- dered, if they could talk directly to a Cuban I knew, halfway between their two ages, buying canned tuna this very week for an illegal depar- ture into the Straits of Florida? Higuera sighed. "I'd say to him, If you're going to do this thing, do it," he said. I had heard this before, after asking other Cubans the same question, and it still surprised me a little; I expected to hear the word gusano, worm, which in an earlier era was the famous public castigation for anybody who abandoned WHAT MIGHT THEY SAY, I WONDERED, IF THEY COULD TALK DIRECTLY TO A CUBAN I KNEW BUYING CANNED TUNA THIS VERY WEEK FOR AN ILLEGAL DEPARTURE INTO THE STRAITS OF FLORIDA?