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The Direst Effect of the Tarea Ordenamiento: Citizen Protest Throughout Cuba

The economic restructuring of the "Ordering Task" may become the Trojan Horse that will deliver the coup de grace to 62 years of dictatorship.

A dilapidated factory in Havana. March 2021.
A dilapidated factory in Havana. March 2021. Diario de Cuba

The Tarea Ordenamiento, as the shock therapy imposed on a moribund and unreformable economy has been dubbed, far from bringing hope to Cubans, has only aggravated uncertainty in a population that sees the gap separating the current situation from what happened in the Special Period of the 90s shrinking.

In reality, the effects of the "Ordering Task" in the first two months have been multiple and disastrous. To implement such a restructuring in a dysfunctional economy like Cuba's, in the way it has been done, without liberating the country's productive forces or creating a free market based on supply and demand and rational prices, is to further exacerbate the chaos that already exists.

The Government's lurching and swerving since the Venezuelan crisis worsened, and the supply of oil began to decline, the liquidity crisis deepened; and exports, tourism and remittances began to dwindle, added to Covid-19, has strained the economy to such an extent that it has pushed the country to the brink of famine.

In the midst of this scenario, the Government launched the Ordering Task, in itself nothing more than the nadir of a long process of the national economy's involution going all the way back to January 1, 1959. The latest attempt to reform the irreformable is already beginning to show its first "results".

The most visible effects of the Tarea Ordenamiento

The formula of raising wages, and also the prices of products and services, has yielded the magical result of further undercutting Cubans' purchasing power. If salaries were not enough for 15 days, now they can hardly be stretched for a week.

This is followed by a devaluation of the currency, on the informal market already trading at more than double its quoted value at banks and state exchange houses. Despite the measures and limitations imposed, the informal market prevails.

To this it must be added that citizens' savings in dollars, deposited in banks, have been converted into national currency by means of the Ordering Task. The self-employed, doctors and workers abroad, in addition to all those naive people who entrusted their savings to Cuban banks, have seen their years of efforts disappear in the blink of an eye.

To this list we must add that the State pays workers in pesos, but charges them in dollars, for basic necessities, preventing them from being able to buy currency at banks and exchange houses. This means a total dependence on remittances. Why work if your salary is worth nothing?

Moreover, the Ordering Task has not eliminated the monetary duality. Three markets and two currencies continue to operate in the country: the state market, managed in pesos; the dollarized market, controlled almost 95% by GAE S.A. (the military); and the informal market, which operates in both dollars and pesos. In practice, the economy maintains the old scheme under which the State pays its workers poorly in national currency, but monopolizes and imposes a dollarized market, maintained and financed from abroad, through tourism and remittances - two sources that, in practice, have been shut down by Covid-19 for the last 12 months.

In other words, the Ordering Task has not altered the dynamic by which the internal market is maintained from abroad. There is no stimulus for Cuba's productive forces. Companies do not produce because workers have no incentive to do so.

And, as if that were not enough, the Ordering Task has dealt a terrible blow to the self-employed. Between the rise in the prices of supplies, the price cap imposed by the Government on what is sold in the non-state sector, the high fines and the demonization of entrepreneurs in the press, a death knell is being sounded for the self-employed, even with the 2,000 new modalities approved. These actions have set the stage for the burial of the fastest-growing and best-performing workforce the country has had in the past six years.

What has the Ordering Task achieved, then?

Popular protest

The direst and most dangerous effect for the Government is the growth of popular frustration, evidenced in burgeoning protests by citizens. In a country where dissent has been prohibited for more than six decades, where for decades it was unusual to see a protest, the opposition has been repressed, and an independent press has not been allowed, hundreds of thousands of Cubans flood social media every day with complaints about the Ordering Task.

Popular levels of discontent and frustration are the highest they have been in the last 62 years. Access to the Internet and the impact of social media have transformed the opposition, now able to overcome the government's media monopoly and control.

Events now go viral in a question of seconds, and, although the Government controls Internet access, it cannot prevent news and events from spreading almost instantaneously, and belying the claims of the entire state propaganda machine.

A recent report by the Cuban Conflict Observatory points to an increase in protests in Cuba, noting that 122 public demonstrations took place in December 2020, almost three times the number there had been in September. In January 2021 public protests totaled 137 (compared to 122 in December), of which 79 were political and the rest (58) were related to socio-economic demands. In February, the protests continued to escalate, up to 159. Undoubtedly, this data shows how the deterioration of the economic, political and social situation in the country in the midst of the pandemic has gathered steam and momentum, and the willingness of citizens to publicly protest as a result.

Figure 1: Public protests in Cuba, September-December 2020.

Public Demonstrations For Economic and Social Reasons For Political and Civil Reasons TOTAL
FEBRUARY 49 111 159
JANUARY 58 79 137
DECEMBER 26 96 122
NOVEMBER 19 91 110
OCTOBER 33 55 88
SEPTEMBER 16 26 42
TOTAL 152 347 499


This psychological turning point, precipitating Cubans' loss of fear of a repressive Cuban government, is the most important effect that the Ordering Task has had to date, exposing the Government's mediocre handling of the crisis, and its lack of common sense, which can be appreciated in the clearly specious arguments and vapid rhetoric from officials who are obviously out of touch with reality, not professionally prepared, and ignorant of the most elementary laws governing how a market should work. This denotes the lack of a coherent strategy allowing them to recognize what their vulnerabilities are, and how to rectify them to extract the country from the crisis in which it is mired.

To render a parasitic economy fertile, you do not need an Ordering Task supported by resolutions whose fine print only tends to stifle any real change. What is needed is a single resolution that, in very large print, guarantees and establishes the liberation of the country's productive forces, and establishes a market of free enterprise, based on supply and demand, and price freedom.

The Government does not need to mull the issue over any further. This is the only solution that will allow the country to overcome the crisis. There is no other way. If it does not take this road, the Ordering Task will be the Trojan Horse that will deliver the coup de grace to 62 years of dictatorship.

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