Cuba: Having to “Eat Crow”

Dariela Aquique


HAVANA TIMES — “Eating crow” is a less formal way of expressing the humiliation of having been proven wrong after taking a firm position.

For some time now in Cuba, such a kick in the teeth has been reflected in new organizational arrangements such as joint ventures, corporations and foreign investment, which are currently quite common.

These operations have much to do with the market economy that is so criticized by the government while it strives to conceal its involvement with them.

When the Eastern European socialist bloc collapsed in the early 1990s, the classically dimwitted attitude of the government became once again evident in its desperate decision making.

Because of this, priority was given to the development of the tourism industry, putting on the back burner other strategic sectors such as sugar production, to cite only one example.

Although it is undeniable that tourism in Cuba has guaranteed substantial flows of hard currency, we must admit that it has been a gradual and not an immediate process, and that it has also brought certain social ills along with it.

Communities submerged in poverty and ill-educated in indifference to work tended to see their values subverted. As a consequence their rates of prostitution, drug abuse and sexually transmitted diseases soared.

The forces of repression began to crack down sharply on hustlers and prostitutes; in fact, special prisons (euphemistically referred to as “centers for secured women”) were created for the new prostitutes.

Class differences became accentuated as did the marked increase of small-scale theft by workers, who didn’t miss an opportunity to take home supplies and food that they couldn’t buy in hard-currency stores at ridiculous prices compared to their miserable wages.

Likewise, grand larceny became evident in the embezzlement and misappropriation of funds — even money laundering — by managers and senior officials. This made up the other part of the tragedy.

In one of his speeches, Fidel Castro himself publicly acknowledged that tourism fostered these obstacles. Nonetheless, the country increasingly turned to this source for multiplying its new source of income.

Indeed, tourism, family remittances from abroad, and international “assistance” missions (by professionals from the health care, educational and sports fields) have now become the three fundamental sources of cash income for the island.

Why produce… we produce practically nothing.

Now, with the withdrawal of Repsol from Cuba after finding no oil in its first drill, hopes are dissipating for our being able to self-supply and also export “black gold.” If that weren’t enough, the possible seriousness of Chavez’ health puts in danger the large quantities of fuel we currently receive daily.

But, like in the ‘90s, there’s already a plan B of contingencies. These include the development of the “Punta Colorada Cuba Golf Marina,” which entails the construction of numerous golf courses, recreation centers, luxury hotels, hunting lodges and docks for VIP tourism.

Although this plan is not talked about in detail, it’s known that the laying of its foundation has already begun.

But isn’t this maneuvering just another pillar of social corruption and perversion? – as the ex-president said on one occasion.

What is this project other than a flagrant example of the introduction of that same market economy that the socialist government has criticized for so long? It appears there’s no choice but to “eat crow.”


3 thoughts on “Cuba: Having to “Eat Crow”

  • Hey, Michael Landis – I like your two-bit ideas! They make sense to me.

  • That the tourist industry worldwide is going after the high-end tourist reflects the new economic realities of the First World (whose class structure is ever-more reflecting the oligarchic arrangements of most of the Third World!). Still, with everyone–including Cuba, apparently–going after this comparatively small sector (in order to service the recreational needs of the 1%)–it is unlikely that the investment, let alone the degredation of the environment, will be worth it. Such ventures remind me of those post-industrial towns up here in the States who are forever pinioning their hopes on a major manufacturing somehow locating–or relocating–to their moribund berg, rather than to some grimy and gritty industrial city in China, where foks will work for $75 or $100/week, rather than the prevailing minimum wage in the U.S.A., let alone those former hourly rates typical of factory production twenty or thirty years ago. Since the middle-class in the States and Western Europe is shrinking, and those who remain within it have to work two- or three-jobs just to maintain their status (now that using the equity in their homes to finance a continuation of their former life styles has ended, and adding more to the balances on their credit cards is imprudent), to build such golf-courses, high-end condos and links-side luxury homes, reflects magical thinking as hilarious as that of the cargo cultists of Borneo who, after W.W.II, would carve out primitive air strips from the jungle in the hopes that the “magic birds” (i.e. transport aircraft, laden with supplies) would land, bringing them goodies. What should Cuba do instead? Guess that’s for the Cubans to determine. One suggestion: I’d concentrate on quantity, as well as quality. Construct more modest condo and rental facilities where Canadian, European and American retirees come come, either as snow-birds, or all year round, to spend their remaining years. Also, in view of the ongoing crisis in the health care “industry” up here, further development of health care tourism would bring better returns on investment (and also, more of Cuba’s doctors could remain at home, but still bring in hard currency, rather than sending so many abroad, which often increases complaints at home. Also, since Cuba’s life expectancy acturial rates are roughtly those of the First World, instead of putting the tourists in special, “tourist aparteid” facilities of their own, it would be better to use this added income source to bring health care resources of Cubans up to the levels expected for the medical tourists. I would develop eco-tourism, and low-end tourism, such as youth hostels, * and ** and *** hotels; once youth come to Cuba, chances are that later, when they can afford higher end tourism, they will return. Just my two cents.

  • Dariela, your analysis is honest and well-written. Along with polo, there is no sport more than golf the world over, that better symbolizes all that is wrong with capitalist indulgences. I can just see it now…wide expanses of manicured fairways and pampered greens circled by luxury homes and enjoyed by titans from the capitalist world. Other than the greedy government funcionarios whose pockets will be filled by resort and greens “fees”, Cuban doctors and other professionals will have the opportunity to earn more money as caddies through their hard currency tips. Cuban teenagers who don’t like the beach or the discos will have another shot at hustling foreigners by working the clubhouse. Whole new vistas of exploitation are opened up by these new courses. Which chapter of the “Manifesto” encouraged golf courses?

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