Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Living or Not in Cuba Today

Whereas the Obama administration wanted to open doors to Cuba… on the assumption that more contact between America and Cuba would advance the cause of democratic reform in the island nation… the Trump administration has cracked down on the Caribbean Communist tyranny… on the assumption that it might therefore cease supporting the Venezuelan dictator Nicholas Maduro. You see, Cuban troops are stationed in Venezuela, the better to defend Maduro against any attempts to overthrow him.

In a sense you have two different approaches to reforming leftist dictatorships. We already know that the Obama approach merely helped to save Cuba from disintegration. We will see how the Trump approach works.

Now, Reuters reports on life in today’s post-Castro, still Communist Cuba. (via Maggie’s Farm) The story shows that life in the Worker’s Paradise is not very paradisal for workers. One might ask, because leftist American politicians continue to do so, whether Communist dictatorship has brought more equality to Cuba. In fact, it seems to have done that… up to a point. All Cubans are equally impoverished and starving… like their comrades in Venezuela. The sole exceptions, we imagine, are party officials and perhaps government bureaucrats, who live in a different world.

As always, Cubans begin by blaming America. Here is daily life in Cuba, as described by Reuters:

Long lines outside shops with mostly bare shelves are increasingly common in Cuba, and the government has indeed signaled that things are going from bad to worse.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, in a speech last month, accused the Trump administration of engaging in an “asphyxiating financial persecution that makes the import of goods and resources of primary necessity particularly difficult.”

The degree to which new U.S. sanctions, due in part to Cuba’s support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, have compounded its economic woes is open to debate.
The economy had already stagnated in recent years in tandem with the implosion of strategic ally Venezuela, resulting in cuts in fuel and energy use by state entities and this year shortages of basic goods such as bread, chicken and eggs.

But the increase in sanctions, which have hit the key tourism sector and added to investor and bank jitters about dealing with Cuba, has some economists predicting the economy will slip from stagnation into a full-blown recession later this year.

In truth, Communist Cuba has always been on life support. It was supported by the Soviet Union until the Soviet Union imploded three decades ago. Then, it was sustained by the largesse of Venezuelan dictators like Chavez and Maduro. Once the largesse ran out, Cuba was in big trouble. The problem was that Communist economic policies never work:

Some Cuban economists say the developing crisis stems fundamentally from an inefficient centrally-planned economy that imports more than two thirds of its food needs. Calling rationing little more than a short-term solution, they say the government must open up to a series of market-oriented economic reforms before the crisis deepens.

“This could be a critical moment that generates the consensus necessary to apply changes,” said Vidal. “The government needs to give more space to the private sector and investment.”

Cuba has enacted some economic reforms in recent years, including expanding the private sector from 2010 onward and introducing a new foreign investment law that cut taxes by around 50% in 2014.

But local economists like Omar Everleny say the reforms undertaken have been too cautious so far. The government has backtracked on overhauls of areas like agriculture and the dominant public sector remains deeply inefficient.

How are American sanctions contributing to the situation?

U.S. sanctions against its old Cold War foe are also hitting the two bright spots in the otherwise glum economy: tourism and foreign investment. Both had boomed briefly after the announcement of a Cuba-U.S. detente in 2014.

And then there is this:

Meanwhile the Trump administration has activated a long dormant law under which Cuban-Americans can sue foreign companies that profit from their properties nationalized during the first years of the 1959 Revolution.

Western diplomats and businessmen have called the threat of potentially costly U.S. court battles another clear disincentive for banks and outside investors to do business with Cuba.

The United States has also threatened to further tighten restrictions on travel and to impose a cap on cash remittances to Cuba, measures that could hit the economy hard.

Of course, these policies are part of the American effort to cause Cuba to cease supporting the dictator Maduro in Venezuela. To be fair and balanced, it might not work:

Instead of opening the economy further, some Western diplomats and analysts say there is risk Cuba’s leadership will adopt a siege mentality in the face of increased U.S. hostility. That could mean turning to allies like Russia, Vietnam and China for help to muddle through while keeping its stranglehold on economic life.

“The U.S. sanctions could be counterproductive,” said one diplomat who asked not to be identified. “Cuba has historically closed up at times like these.”

Cubans are not going hungry like they did during the so-called “Special Period” after the collapse of the Soviet Union. But they are increasingly connected to the rest of the world via the internet and foreign travel, and many have grown weary of government attempts to blame the U.S. embargo for the bulk of their country’s woes.

As the old saying goes, the jury is still out. People are starving in Venezuela. People are starving in Cuba. It is long past time that they both chose to enter the modern world and to give up on their discredited socialist policies. It’s not too much to ask, is it?


Sam L. said...

"As the old saying goes, the jury is still out. People are starving in Venezuela. People are starving in Cuba. It is long past time that they both chose to enter the modern world and to give up on their discredited socialist policies. It’s not too much to ask, is it?"
Silly Stuart! Of COURSE it is too much to ask for the Maduros and Castros to "Set their people free".

UbuMaccabee said...

No, it is too much to ask. The Europeans and Canadians and Lain American elites all enjoy their time on the prison island where they can step on the poor people in Cuba and have sex with 2 prostitutes for $20 Euros per night—while telling themselves what progressive people they are for vacationing there. If Cuba were free, they might lose their privileges to feel like feudal lords while they espouse the virtues of socialism for Cuba, and tell their friends how poverty makes the Cuban people happier and more decent than the wealthy nations they hail from. I meet these types all the time; just ran into a group of middle-aged losers in Toronto who go every year. Garden variety whoremasters.

UbuMaccabee said...

Years ago I read a very sharp observation from David Horowitz who said that for decades, leftists around the world blamed American economic influence for why Cuba was poor, and that once the Yankee imperialism ended Cuba would be wealthy. Now their argument, after decades of becoming even poorer, is that the US refusal to trade with Cuba is the primary reason Cuba remains destitute.

Sam L. said...

"In fact, it seems to have done that… up to a point."

I would say, "...down to the flat line."

sestamibi said...

Time to break off diplomatic relations again--unless, of course, a district court judge in Hawaii rules otherwise.