Elio Delgado Legon

Havana street. Foto: Elio Delgado Valdes

HAVANA TIMES — I frequently come across the comments and articles written by those who are always criticizing the Cuban revolution, pointing out Cuba’s economic problems time and time again. These are partly right: no one can deny that Cuba has economic problems. Now, I ask you: is Cuba the only country in the world with economic problems? Is Cuba the country with the most economic problems?

In a globalized world in which one country’s problems invariably affect others, the economic crisis that began in the United States in 2008 and has not yet ended has had an impact on the entire world (hitting some countries harder than others). And even though Cuba is subjected to a blockade with the declared aim of bringing its people to its knees through hunger and disease (in order to make its political and economic system fail), it is making much more progress than the majority of countries in the Third World.

What critics always pass over in silence is that the UN places Cuba among the countries with the highest human development in the world, that infant mortality on the island (4.2 for every thousand live births) is the lowest in the continent (lower than that of the United States and Canada), and that it has one of the highest life expectancies (79 years).

These critics also ignore – some even deny – that Cuba is a leader in terms of its healthcare system, not only regionally, but internationally as well. The country has the highest number of medical doctors per inhabitant in the world and also exports medical services to over 70 countries, offering these free of charge in poor countries that are unable to pay for them (as is the case of Haiti).

No mention is made of the fact that Cuba has given sight back to 3.4 million Latin Americans who were blind or visually impaired because they had been unable to pay for a simple cataract operation.

Cuba’s scientific development in all fields is also ignored. The country has made particularly noteworthy strides in the fields of biotechnology and medicine: 80 percent of the medications used in the country are manufactured domestically. These (some of which are only produced in Cuba) are exported to several countries and have a significant impact on human health in general, as is the case of Herprot-P, used to treat ulcers on diabetic feet (speeding up scarring and preventing amputations). In 2012, according to the yearly statistical report, ten percent of Cuban exports consisted in medicines and medical products.

Over the past 50 years, art and culture have seen a degree of development that no other country has witnessed during this time. These areas also generate considerable incomes for the country abroad.

Last but not least, Cuba has developed its tourist industry, a sector that hasn’t stopped growing, despite the fact that the world economic crisis has reduced the possibilities that the citizens of developed countries have to engage in tourism.

One fact clearly tells us that Cuba’s economic problems are not as serious as those of other countries: the first source country in terms of tourism in Cuba is Canada, but the second is Cuba itself. In 2013, more than 300,000 Cuban tourists stayed at hotels in the Varadero beach area.

I could mention many more examples, but I don’t want to make this post too long. I believe this suffices to enlighten those who are always talking about Cuba’s economic problems.


Elio Delgado Legon

Elio Delgado-Legon: I am a Cuban who has lived for 80 years, therefore I know full well how life was before the revolution, having experienced it directly and indirectly. As a result, it hurts me to read so many aspersions cast upon a government that fights tooth and nail to provide us a better life. If it hasn’t fully been able to do so, this is because of the many obstacles that have been put in its way.

17 thoughts on “Cuba’s Economic Problems

  • Mr. Delgado,
    It is refreshing to read someone else’s post about Cuba then mine that share the positive aspects of the Revolution that normally gets drowned in the propaganda to bring about regime change in Cuba. Continue spreading the positive you know exist to balance all the negative propaganda from the Right.

  • Elio has a point on the eye surgeries. That is true. Otherwise he wears rose-tinted spectacles. For example the Cuban tourism sector can only grow while global capitalism is successful and produces enough excess money to be spent on holidays in Cuba. As soon as global capitalism falters Cuba will falter. Cuba lives of the breadcrumbs of the Western world.

  • …and anyone lauding the “accomplishments” of the revolution should be ethically bound to acknowledge the complete failures of a communist system that creates the physical and social ennui that brings about this migration, the risking of life an limb to escape a situation Elio say aint that bad. The “revolution” is a failure of central planning, a police state that controls all aspects of your life.

    And stop it with this “attempting to build socialism” crap. What you really have in Cuba is a Fidelista brand authoritarianism (mixed with all the ugly parts of communism) with the Castro family holding key economic, political and military positions, a sort of mafia draining the Cuban people of what little they already have. It’s their own little fiefdom. Why you fail to acknowledge that is beyond me!

  • Migrants from different countries come for different reasons. The Cubans who continue to come to America do so for economic and political reasons. The Cuban migrants say so themselves.

  • Contrary to Elio’s claim, Cuba did not build up their tourism sector. Foreign hotel operators invested the capital to build up the Cuban tourism sector. Cuba’s contribution was to sell cheap Cuban labour to the foreign corporations, while the regime pockets the lion’s share of the money.

    Defenders of the Castro regime blame the US embargo for any and all of the economic problems the island faces. One can debate the extent of the negative effects the embargo has had, but it is not the main cause of Cuba’s economic woes.

    The inefficiencies of a central planned economy must take a major share of the blame. So to the the wild schemes and dreams forced onto Cuba by the quixotic leadership; the 10 Million Tonne Harvest being just the worst example of that madness. The corruption which necessarily breeds in the shadows of the totalitarian single party police state has also harmed the economy, diverting revenue and resources from legitimate projects.

    However, the central issue of Cuba’s chronic economic malaise is the lack of capital formation. For decades, Cubans could neither buy nor sell their homes. It was illegal. Nor could they even borrow money on the equity of their homes to fund renovations or repairs. Larger buildings, facing even higher costs for renovations & repairs, but with Cuba’s vague property ownership laws, no Cuban would spend their own money fixing the roof of an apartment building. As a consequence, buildings aged, decayed and crumbled. The value of the buildings was locked up in the bricks and plaster, but without any way to borrow against it, the equity was lost as dead capital.

    This principle was present throughout the Cuban economy, in agriculture, industry, infrastructure and so on. The dearth of capital and the inability to borrow money on the collateral of equity has starved the Cuban economy for 5 decades. This chronic condition is the the direct consequence of the Marxist ideology of the Revolution. By essentially outlawing property ownership, capital formation became illegal and impossible and slow withering demise of the Cuba economy was inevitable. Only the external subsidies provided by the USSR, and Venezuela have allowed Cuba to survive. Tourism and the sale of cheap medical workers abroad keeps the regime afloat a little longer in a perpetual state of economic parasitism.

    Yes Elio, other countries have economic troubles, from time to time. But only the Cuban people have been forced to survive for 55 years under such senseless misery as the Castro regime has inflicted on the island.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *