The Stations of the Cross of Self-Employment

Not so long ago self-employment began to materialize, in keeping with a medieval list of approved occupations, and now dissatisfaction proliferates among those who pinned their dwindling hopes on it. Among the absurd regulations, improvised inspectors, and highway robbery taxes, the only beneficiary is the State, leaving the citizen sunk in misery, with barely enough to survive in precarious conditions.

The city, which in the early fifties had a modern network of stores, is now filled with little kiosks, makeshift stalls in windows and doors, tables in doorways and on sidewalks, the majority unsightly and lacking minimum hygienic conditions (for food products). What’s on offer is pretty shabby, too commonly repetitious, without any kind of variety. Everyone sells the same thing. It’s as if there’s been a time warp and we landed in the Middle Ages.

Those who offer services and products in Tulipán Street, opposite the mini-railroad station, to mention just one example, have to do so outdoors, under the tropical sun and blocking pedestrian traffic. Coexisting in a tight space are salesmen and saleswoman of shoes, ornaments, jewelry, cleaning products, hardware, leather belts and Santeria items (including pigeons and birds for sacrifice). Also people who repair and fill cigarette lighters, manufacturers of pizzas, sandwiches, sweets and soft drinks. A real tropical Tower of Babel.

The content of these businesses is at the discretion of the inspector concerned, as there are no specific regulations in this regard. For example, the manager of travel calls out loudly the in the parks the destinations of taxis and buses, but he is not the one who organizes the trips. An ambulatory seller of iced drinks must always be on the move with his cart, and can’t stop in any public place longer than the appropriate inspector decides. It seems absurd but that’s the reality of everyday life in this country, where the authorities and officials have become so bureaucratic they’ve lost the ability to think and reason.

I once wrote that self-employment was a forced fellow traveler, unwanted by the regime, regardless of speeches and public declarations. In the short duration of its exercise this has already been proven. There are many today who are quick to turn in the licenses they once requested, when they hoped something would begin to change. The harsh reality has beaten them and, once again, proved that they were misled: there is nothing more, here, than a game to gain time, without real intentions to change anything. This is what those who marched on April 16 in the Plaza and elsewhere in the country on May Day ratified.

May 14 2011

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