11/01/13 - Havana Times - Tensions Rise for Cuba's Clothes and Footwear Sellers
Daniel Palacios Almarales (Cafe Fuerte)
Establishment selling clothes in a neighborhood in Havana. The Cuban
government will begin to shut these businesses down as of 2014.
HAVANA TIMES - Tensions between the self-employed who sell articles of
clothing and footwear and the Cuban government have been on the rise in
recent weeks as January 1, 2014 approaches, the date when these
establishments are to be closed by authorities.
Numerous store-owners have been expressing their refusal to suspend the
sale of their products, in a heated atmosphere that reached its boiling
point on October 10, when nearly a hundred people protested in front of
Havana's Capitolio building.
The protesters demanded the revocation or revision of the government's
decision barring the sale of imported clothing and footwear during a rally
which led to the detention of several demonstrators, as well as two
journalists from the independent agency Hablemos Press who attempted to
cover the event.
Abuse of Power
Similarly, several web-sites have been publishing more and more posts
calling for citizen action against this government decision. The well-known
classifieds page Revolico (blocked in Cuba) published an ad titled "No to
the abuse of power by inspectors. STRIKE. This is an abuse of power by the
government." ("No al abuso de poder los inspectorers. HUELGA. Es un abuso
"There is no law [that supports this decision], they're simply imposing
this on the self-employed. They want to stifle the people, after they left
a ton of people without work. It's all a big lie, they're clamping down on
the self-employed. The offices of the DIS (Inspection and Sanitation
Department, attached to the Comptroller General's Office of the Republic)
don't have the laws that inspectors use. We have to join together to
protest this injustice," said a person in their comment.
At the close of September, the Cuban government issued a new series of
regulations that broadened the list of job categories for the self-employed
and redefined the scope of previously authorized ones, such as the category
of tailor or fashion designer. These regulations established that the
latter only encompassed dressmaking activities by those who make and repair
items of clothing and that it does not include the sale of
industrially-produced or imported garments.
These new measures affect hundreds of establishments that sell articles of
clothing brought to Cuba from Ecuador, Panama, Mexico and the United States
through so-called "mules" or through personal arrangements by the sellers
themselves, through transactions which have entailed considerable
hard-currency investments for many of them.
Sales to Continue
Several of those interviewed by CafeFuerte claimed they would continue to
sell clothing, be it in the locales they currently operate or "under the
table" (without State permission), for they consider the government's
decision to be rash and unjust.
"I've invested too much money to stand back and let them come shut us down
so unfairly. If they use force to impose decisions on us, we're going to
respond with firmness. We have rights, as workers," Roberto Garcia, owner
of a kiosk at one of the fairs located in the busy avenue of Calzada de
A DIS official who chose to remain anonymous stated that such resistance is
unjustified, as the law was clear from the very beginning.
"The license is geared for tailors and fashion designers that make clothing
on order. It doesn't authorize the import and sale of clothing. That falls
outside the bounds that the license establishes, a license these people
signed and accepted. They've been in violation of the law from the
beginning and the government has decided to take more vigorous action," the
Some have made strong demands calling for the authorization of this type of
commercial activity, which has not been legalized to date.
Fear of Competition
"Since the problem's come up, they should issue a new license for this and
put an end to the dilemma. But they're afraid and it's not in their
interests to do this, because we're competing with their stores and they
can't keep up. There isn't a single State store that sells clothing that's
both in style and good quality, as we do, and that's why people are buying
less from the government. That doesn't sit well with them," Maritza
Hernandez, the owner of a sales establishment in the municipality of La
Others accept their fate with a certain degree of resignation: "What can we
do, we're going to lose a lot of money, but you can't go against the
government, we'd be putting a lot at risk if we did. We'll look for an
alternative," Reymundo Sanchez, a store owner located in the neighborhood
of Diez de Octubre, says.
Empty spaces at many of the crafts and clothing fairs located at different
commercial areas in Havana are already being noticed and much speculation
surrounds the direction in which developments are heading. It is believed
that people are no longer what they were years ago and measures of this
nature can no longer be imposed on them that easily.
President Raul Castro has impelled a series of economic and social reforms
since taking office after his brother Fidel Castro stepped down because of
serious health issues.
One of the most significant of such reforms was the authorization of
private (or "self-employed") businesses, a regulation which, since first
seeing the light of day, has experienced a number of changes that have not
always been welcomed by the population. Currently, the government
authorizes 191 categories of self-employed commercial activity and more
than 430 thousand Cubans hold State licenses to operate private businesses.
Visible links 1. http://www.cafefuerte.com/
Original Source / Fuente Original: http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=99760
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