Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

Sept. 29, 1999.

MANY MUST 'PLAY' THE GAME OF "THE CAT & THE RATS" By Tania Quintero, Cuba Free Press.

HAVANA - The number of Cubans managing to eak out a living in an illegal fashion keeps growing each day. So long as the regime remains unconvinced that the shortages and the lack of freedom force the population to find remedies outside the law, many Cubans will have to play the "game" of the cat and the rats.

The "invento" (literally "invention," contemporary Cuban slang meaning 'a creative and not always legal way to solve a problem') is a fabrication of the Cuban of these times. The majority of the population makes a living that way. The headquarters of the "inventos" is our capital city. One of the most recent 'game' involves the private route to the Internet network. The average rate is US$5 per hour. It also is possible to place ads and to send or pass messages by e-mail. The price depends on the length.

The big business of the "Havana mice" {Translator's note: Maybe the word "rodents" is more appropriate here, since the writer alternates with rats and mice, somewhat common in Spanish due to the similarity of the words "rata" and "ratón," but not in English) is that of video movies. The more exclusive the neighborhood, the better: in Nuevo Vedado, Miramar and Siboney, banks are better endowed and therefore they offer greater possibilities for the consumer.

The videos are clandestine. Any V.I.P. (very important person ) from the world of politics or business has the opportunity to watch for 10 pesos (50 U.S. cents) one of Hollywood's newest releases. In other areas of lesser buying power and less cultural-educational studies, the trade often involves violent films.

On evenings during which the television channels are broadcasting some governmental speech, a worker visiting a video parlor can decide between "The Vampires" and "Life is Beautiful." An intellectual might perhaps choose "Instinct."

The video-film banks are clandestine and the police go after them. That has prompted their owners to create the position of "bank messengers" or watchmen in charge of delivering the telephone orders.

Video rent is 5 pesos Monday through Friday but it goes up to 7.50 on weekends. The "bankers" pay their messengers one peso for each rented movie or 2.50 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Working in this business, which involves thousands of pesos in Havana, are film suppliers, equipment technicians, "paladares" (small privately owned restaurants) that offer home service, people offering new cassettes at a price cheaper than in the shopping center and secretaries who, at their state-employment workplaces take advantage of their bosses' inattention to type and print labels with their computers so as to label the cassettes.

The "mice" (or rats or rodents) alone cannot sustain the business. If they do, it is only because the rope they swing on is tied high up, even in the official residence of the cat!

Tania Quintero, Cuba Free Press.

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