Cuba’s Slow Awakening

Erasmo Calzadilla

Photo: Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES — The following is an excerpt from a piece published in the “Letters to the Editor” section of the Spanish edition of the official Granma newspaper:

“There might be other reasons to explain why productivity hasn’t increased, but what has been demonstrated so far is that the methods adopted haven’t succeeded, despite the years they’ve been employed.

“A completely different situation is happening with the prices of products and services that people have to buy for their everyday household needs.

“With the exception of the few products that are still on the ration book, but that only cover the needs for a part of the month, the other prices are constantly increasing. Some of those are because they’re imported and prices are increasing globally, while others are because these are artificially increased by self-employed vendors.

“Such prices are rising beyond the reach of the average family, whose situation is becoming extremely tense and in time will become unbearable.”    — E. Naranjo Torres

Almost all the letters in that section have a similar ring, with the fault being directed at and falling on self-employed workers, bureaucrats or capitalism – though the system itself remains intact.

The part saying the ration book “only covers the needs for a part of the month” is an inaccurate expression; it covers only some basic products for a fraction of the month. But apart from these digressions and inaccuracies, I think the man made some very bold statements: the economic reforms “haven’t succeeded” and “the situation is becoming extremely tense.”

If this same thing had been said by some blogger, no supporter of the revolution from abroad would have believed it. It’s true that there’s no starvation or a humanitarian crisis, but things are looking ugly and in time it’s likely “they’ll become unbearable.”

Raul’s reforms, at least in the capital, haven’t been successful. The GDP* has been on an uphill march since 1994, but the purchasing power of the average Cuban family seems to be going backward. It’s the same with health care, education, the availability of food and public transportation.

I sense a growing discomfort, but one that shows no signs of evolving into any kind of new political consciousness. It’s as if they’ve administered a vaccine against it.

If disturbances were to occur in the future, the political and economic elites would make the most of that at the expense of those who are the most passive and unorganized: the general public and the workers.

The distortion of political consciousness is a key in the construction of “socialism” – but it’s also its weakness.


32 thoughts on “Cuba’s Slow Awakening

  • Lawrence:

    Again I repeat: It’s not up to me to give Cuba democracy and human rights. I say only that I am in favour of those things for Cuba. It is up to Cubans to demand their rights. What they then do with them, will be their business.

    It’s ironic to read Lawrence claiming the Occupy Movement is a blood brother of Cuban activists. I don’t imaging very many Cuban human rights activists would be much impressed by the Occupy protesters carrying portraits of Che and Mao and chanting Marxist slogans. And I haven’t seen any Cuban dissidents smashing up storefronts and throwing molotov cocktails like the Occupy thugs have done.

  • Does anyone else find ‘Griffin’ becoming a tad strident lately – “Larry buddy” – hardly; ‘smelling’ “personal insecurity” – the pot calling the kettle black?, “bullish*t” and “sh*t” – the use of swear words? Just noting the obvious.

    On to more meatier matters. Quoting half of a very short article and omitting the rest, thus changing its meaning, is a technique of propaganda.

    ‘Pointing out that ‘Griffin’ is a merchant of propaganda is viewed by him as a personal attack. If it was a false charge it might be construed as such but all the evidence indicates it is not. Why is ‘Griffin’ so fanatical about selling capitalism on a Cuban website? He claims “it’s for democracy and human rights” yet ignores the obvious breaches in his own country, instead choosing to support ‘democracy and human rights’ in Cuba? Spare us. Speaking of bad smells…

    ‘Griffy’ writes, “Larry doesn’t like facts”. I post lengthy comments chock full of facts that never get answered by ‘Griffy’. Now I know why – he obviously has difficulties differentiating facts from propaganda.

    ‘Griffin’ claims I have a “vision of the socialist paradise in Cuba”. Certainly nothing I’ve written would indicate that to anyone other than a propagandist erecting a false premise. I wouldn’t be reading Havana Times if I thought that, would I? What I mostly do, for perspective, is point out flaws in the vision of a capitalist paradise that folks like ‘Griffin’ forever foist on us.

    ‘Griffin’, knowing almost nothing about what I do in Canada states categorically, using a cuss word no less, that I’m doing nothing. Without realizing it, he’s giving away a lot about himself. The one thing he does know from what I’ve written is that I have been an active supporter and worker for the Occupy Movement in Toronto which is a blood relation to the activist groups in Cuba that are seeking changes in support of a better way of life for Cuban people – the same symbolic 99% that Occupy is focused on.

    Knowing of my support for Occupy and writing that I am doing nothing for Canada tells us what ‘Griffin’ thinks about movements that support the interests of the 99%. Yet he wants to “fix Cuba” by giving its people “democracy and human rights”. The bad smell is becoming really awful.

  • Oh, what’s this:

    “For our family these are important items, from a little soap to a backpack for school,” a woman identified as Loraine wrote on the state-run Cubadebate website. “We all make sacrifices to help them. Nothing falls from the sky. Why are they turning their backs on reality? Knowing how many shortages there are in the country, why be so strict?”

    While President Raúl Castro has tried to expand the private sector, the government has done little to provide wholesale outlets where businesses can buy parts and materials for the goods they sell, so many supplies are either unavailable or prohibitively expensive due to high government retail markups.”

    So not only are the reforms not going far enough, the government is jacking taxes on imports so high they’re adding to inflation and making it hard for the new self-employed to be successful. That doesn’t sound like revolutionary socialism to me. It sounds more like old school gangsterism taking a cut of the action.

    And that is why the democracy and human rights are essential.

  • Larry buddy, you wrote,

    ‘Griffin” as usual is compelled to bring to our attention an HT item, hardly necessary one would think as most folks like me peruse all of the material on HT”

    I detect the scent of a personal insecurity there, does anybody else see what I’m talking about?

    Yes, I think so. Larry doesn’t like facts being pointed out to him. His reaction is to make personal attacks on those who ask a few questions or point out a few contradictions in the official story. This is typical symptom when somebody is insisting on an slogan he doesn’t really believe in, when he knows it’s bullish*t.

    I didn’t ignore anything in the report, that’s why I linked the whole thing. But thanks for pointing out the call for further, real reforms to help the Cuban economy. The reforms Raul introduced don’t go near far enough to help. And that’s only on the economy. To really fix Cuba, the people need democracy and human rights.

    Now if I’m a propagandist, it’s for democracy and human rights. You have a problem with that? Are those things incompatible with your vision of the socialist paradise in Cuba?

    Oh, and drop the faux heroic posturing, “staying and working for change in (your) country” … you’re not doing sh*t for Canada. You’re enjoying the easy living and whining about it to make yourself fell better.

  • ‘Griffin’ and ‘ viva cuba libre’ pretty much echo the same refrain, – if I don’t like life under capitalism, why don’t I move to Cuba or another country? I habitually point out I come to this website to read and learn about Cuba and write about the ills of capitalism to balance the one-sided propaganda designed to sell it, posted as comments.

    I’m doing exactly what Cubans writing in Havana Times are doing – staying and working for change in their country. Our two little capitalist propagandists, however, seem to have problems with this.

  • Lawrence,

    If life in capitalist Toronto is as bad as you say, when are you moving to Cuba?

  • I used to post in this blog pretty often, but after while I just got tired to read the same comunist propaganda day after day…surprisingly coming from the same few people that are today living in a capitalism system, does not anyone find that odd! Is quite simple, if you dont like and do not support your country capitalism system please do yourself a favor and leave, instead of continuing crying about it. Obviously you are a comunist so perhaps you can exile in cuba, china, north korea, etc…take your pick and I guess be happy. It does not matter how much experience, talent, courage or well updated google fanatic you are if your replay against the US comes while living under the same country…Why? Because it’s difficult to imagine such rats loving the feeding but not sharing the cheese.

  • ‘Griffin” as usual is compelled to bring to our attention an HT item, hardly necessary one would think as most folks like me peruse all of the material on HT, insufficiencies in the new reforms, but he fails to note there are NO significant reforms being proposed to address the global economic disaster we are currently in as documented in Wikipedia.

    He also conveniently omits the last two paragraphs: “The urgency of institutional reforms is crucial,” said De Miranda, who proposes issuing new commercial and labor codes, as well as new laws relating to taxes, banking, housing and foreign investment, and making transactions more flexible. De Miranda, a university professor in Colombia, added his views to those of five other Cuban-born economists in this book being promoted on the online edition of the magazine.”

    So the news item is really a constructive piece offered by a Columbian professor and five Cuban economists.

    Just business as usual posted by a notorious propagandist. Be aware.

    ‘Griffin’ asks if the Occupy Movement got “the whole apparatus of police state repression, to truly appreciate what the Cuban people endure.” He of course is not really interested, only looking for an excuse to demonise the Cuban government.

    We got what was necessary to break up the Occupy camp by force. It took place at night as is customary with police actions here. The police came in buses and other vehicles.

    Riot gear, also customary, was not used this time. There was a great deal of media attention that guaranteed they would be on their best behavior. Their very ugly performance during the recent G20 protests in Toronto where beatings, police charges in full riot gear, the use of pepper spray and massive arrests took place with some notoriety also helped.

    When states use force to thwart popular protests, there’s not much to choose from. I don’t think Torontonians who participated in these demonstrations would be unduly surprised by tactics used in Cuba. It’s same old, same old, when governments utilise forces supposedly created to help them to repress popular dissent. It’s an old principle – power always does what it can do to maintain its power.

  • ‘Moses’ writes “denigrating the US and Canada does not change Cuban reality’. No but it certainly changes one’s perspective when barraged by rightwing propaganda emanating from the US that is designed to make you think the Cuban government is the great evil. That fact that ‘Moses’ continually squirms at reading about the reality in his own country, a reality he would prefer folks not to know, as he relentlessly denigrates Cuba, shows he doesn’t much appreciate the perspective.

    When he stops, of course, I stop, but he seems too obsessed to do that. That’s okay. I hadn’t realized how many truly ugly stories I know about the US until starting to comment here. There’s no reason to tell them except to balance the propaganda being posted.

    ‘Moses’ writes, ” Poorly installed windows in newly built condos in Toronto is your comparison to entire buildings falling down on children in Havana?” And a very ugly comparison it is. The windows shatter and fall from a great height, risking the lives of men, women and, yes, children. But the most damning thing is, old buildings falling in Havana is due to age and lack of resources to maintain them. The impoverishing embargo doesn’t help matters so Americans are complicit.

    But windows falling from newly constructed buildings, caused by real estate developers trying to make as much money as possible, is nothing short of DESPICABLE! Capitalism on display.

    I brought in race to highlight what many Cubans may not know when ‘Moses’ presents his rosy picture of life in America. There is a strong class system there he doesn’t like to write about where low income people – pretty well the whole of the African-American community – are not able to jet around the same as white folks. This creates a de facto segregated society.

    Note ‘Moses’ careful choice of words: “black folks are able to travel all over the place these days in the US…by airplane.” Sure, and they can become president, but it seems to be a once in a 250-year possibility.

    Jim Crow laws forced blacks to ride in the back of buses. Economic inequality forces them to ride on buses and not airplanes.

  • ‘Griffin’ claims my facts are wrong regarding the financial crisis, ignoring the fact I posted the source – Wikipedia – a peer-reviewed publication, unlike the one ‘Griffin’ is fond of quoting, the CIA website. Ideologues, of course, only find truth in ideological sources and propagandists find it in their own propaganda. It’s obvious what we are looking at.

    ‘Griffin’ claims “Inequality actually decreased in the US and Europe”. Wikipedia gives the figures that refute this spurious claim. You can check it out on their site. ‘Griffin’, in common with folks who like to confuse when they have no valid argument, loves to cite statistics. I didn’t give them but you can easily look them up. I have no need to cause confusion. Logic serves me well.

    It’s a minor point but ‘Griffin’ states European tourism to Cuba may decrease in the current economic downturn. There has been at least one article in a US paper noting that European tourism to Cuba is actually increasing due to unrest in the Middle East where Europeans normally go for affordable holidays. Griffin’s ignorance serves to show that ideologues, who tend to have their heads firmly implanted up their derrieres, are not a reliable source for reality.

    ‘Griffin’ exhorts me not to “try to use the old ‘false dichotomy’ trick’ to make tired Marxist critiques of capitalism”. I think this is actually a meaningless statement – at least, I can’t make a meaning of it. It seems to be based on a misunderstanding of what a false dichotomy is -“a situation in which two alternative points of views are presented as the only options, whereas others are available” – according to the best definition I found.

    By what he wrote immediately before it, “This is a blog about Cuba”, I assume he is signaling displeasure in what another of his ilk had trouble with, posted under ‘Susan L’. They don’t seem to appreciate me offering a perspective on what’s wrong in Cuba by pointing out what’s wrong with the capitalist system they are relentlessly selling. Are we surprised? Funny, I thought perspective was good.

    And then ‘Griffin’ offers us another tired refrain of, “Capitalism has it’s troubles, yet it muddles through”. We should note the propaganda here whenever it occurs. This is a key excuse I’ve heard over and over from Americans in response to noting their sins. They are not propagandizing, only exhibiting they are the victims of their own state propaganda. It has allowed their government to do monstrous things.

    ‘Griffin’ claims “Marxism has been an utter failure”. Marx was a theorist, respected by anyone who has read and understands what he wrote, similar to Freud in many ways. Sins have been carried out by followers of both. I suppose the same can be said for Christianity. Dogmatic followers of leaders are a problem. This has been graphically pointed out by HT writers.

    ‘Griffin’ claims to have “the deepest admiration for the Cuban people, they struggle to survive, they’re incredibly resourceful and creative, and yet they do despair that nothing will really improve.” If he really cared, would he not be telling us about the effort he has spent trying to end the embargo that he claims to support? Rather, he seems focused on spending an inordinate amount of time telling us about the deepest admiration he has for the Cuban people, whilst promoting policies that benefit the elite class in his country.

    We are not as stupid as ‘Griffin’ assumes we are. And he is not as concerned with Cubans’ best interests as he claims. On the evidence he offers, there is none.

  • You did not see ONE black face at Chicago O’Hare!! You MUST be blind! BTW, black folks are able to travel all over the place these days in the US…by airplane. Even to the White House, in case you hadn’t heard. Anyway, you seem fixated on race. By the way, I spoke to lots of Occupiers too. Just not relevant to my comments. Poorly installed windows in newly built condos in Toronto is your comparison to entire buildings falling down on children in Havana? Finally, denigrating the US and Canada does not change Cuban reality.

  • Some food for thought, from a brief item posted elsewhere at Havana Times:

    HAVANA TIMES — The current economic reforms being implemented by Cuban President Raul Castro will be insufficient to raise the living standards of the island’s people, according to a study released on Monday in Havana by the local Catholic magazine Espacio Laical.

    According to Cuban-born economist Mauricio de Miranda, writing in the issue titled “Cuba: Towards a Development Strategy for the Beginning of the Century,” the island needs to open more to the market, change its monetary system and acquire a new legal framework to establish clear and transparent rules.

  • Lawrence wrote: “There was music, teach-ins and camaraderie that is difficult to find outside Cuba. It was an incredibly heady experience, a brief glimpse of a better way to run the world.”

    Did they also have Cuban style repudiation gangs attacking the Occupy protestors? Busloads of police, clubbing them? Police dogs biting their legs? Because if you really admire the way Cuba does things, you have to get the whole apparatus of police state repression, to truly appreciate what the Cuban people endure.

  • Lawrence, your facts are wrong. The financial crisis reduced the income and net worth of the wealthiest by a greater percentage than it did for the lower income population. Inequality actually decreased in the US and Europe. That’s what happens when everybody’s income falls. If you don’t understand that, go do the math and figure it out yourself.

    I do understand the financial crisis is a serious one, but they will sort it out before the Cuban government does. Keep in mind, if the European situation gets worse, tourism to Cuba will be hard hit too. But that’s enough about the US and Europe. This is a blog about Cuba. Don’t try to use the old “false dichotomy” trick to make your tired Marxist critiques of capitalism. Capitalism has it’s troubles, yet it muddles through, while Marxism has been an utter failure.

    The economic reforms recently introduced in Cuba are a start, but they don’t go anywhere near far enough to actually liberalize the economy. The self-employed must pay a hefty monthly license fee, and then they pay an income tax on earnings. They have to buy their supplies from the state-run stores at the same retail prices as everybody else. Again, the government takes their cut, while the self-employed take all the risks and do all the hard work for little gain.

    The tourism industry is controlled by GAESA, the vast and growing holding company run by the Cuban army. They own hotels, trucking, tour busses, restaurants, farms and sundry other enterprises. Through this state-corporation, the military& party elite are building the foundation of their control of the Cuban economy and state power in the post-Castro era. You call this “socialism”? We’ve all seen this system before and know it by it’s real name: Fascism. Unless the people can gain real political power and stop this process, the future of Cuba is very bleak indeed.

    When I asked a young Havana taxi driver if things were getting better, he held his thumb and fingers up an inch apart and said , “A little bit”, then he squeezed his digits together and added, “…a very little bit.” He mentioned he had a recent degree in engineering but the gov’t had no job for him in his field, so he drives his uncle’s cab a few hours a day to get some money.

    I have the deepest admiration for the Cuban people, they struggle to survive, they’re incredibly resourceful and creative, and yet they do despair that nothing will really improve. Meanwhile, police repression of the Cuban people increases and thousands of young people continue to flee the island. Even the daughter of the Vice President!

  • The number of tourists visiting is up by 12% but that does not translate to an increase in of 12% in income for the island. As I mentioned earlier, the two currency system distorts the economy. Bringing more tourists in adds to the distortion. Those Cuban’s with access to dollars are seeing a rise in their standard of living, but the rest who are stuck in the local peso economy are falling. This arrangement cannot continue indefinitely.

  • My, my, ‘Moses’ certainly does get around – Cuba, New York and California in the space of less than a year. Most Americans could only wish to have his travel budget, especially African-Americans. I once flew to the US from Toronto, changing planes in Chicago, witnessing for the first time a phenomenon that I’ve now seen several times. Toronto is a highly multicultural city. Thirty percent of its population was born overseas. At the airport in Toronto you see a representation of this diversity, including black people, mostly from the Caribbean and Africa.

    Thus, the contrast at Chicago’s O’Hare airport was graphic. Chicago has a large African-American population. It was a destination for the mass migration of blacks out of the US South during the Jim Crow years, now several generations ago. Despite this fact, I did not see ONE black face at the airport. On the other hand if you take a Greyhound bus in the US, the passenger makeup usually is mostly African-American.

    The point in all this being, I don’t think ‘Moses’ is traveling around by bus, certainly not to Cuba. He is obviously not your typical American, but part of the elite class that does quite well at the expense of the rest of us. Would you trust him to be knowledgeable about the Occupy Movement? He would have us believe that “most of the protesters are street people”, “disenchanted, unemployed and disenfranchised”, “a group of rabble rousers looking to damage public property or simply mix it up with the police” who break public laws and sleep in parks, burn trash cans (shock, horror). Note how ‘Moses’ “personally spoke to two policeman” yet spoke to no one from the Occupy Movement.

    I have a confession to make, I was a huge supporter of the Toronto Occupy Movement and I never damaged public property, mixed it up with the police, broke public laws, slept in parks (although if it had been warmer I would have considered it. It was legal at first but of course they passed a bylaw outlawing it later), burned trash cans (not even to keep warm). I don’t recognize ‘Moses’ description of my fellow Occupiers, who I talked with regularly. There was never a need to talk to policemen.

    In Toronto, we established a library with thousands of donated books. It was a focal point for the Movement. The park, St James Park, had a dozen or so ‘regulars’ – street people who slept in the park who benefited from the free food kitchen and donated clothing and blankets that the Occupiers provided. There was music, teach-ins and camaraderie that is difficult to find outside Cuba. It was an incredibly heady experience, a brief glimpse of a better way to run the world.

    When the police raided the park, Occupiers piled up wooden skids around the library, trying to save them as the police confiscated and binned whatever the Occupiers had. Some were saved and they felt good about it.

    So yes, through the use of force, the Occupy Movement was broken up, but it has hardly gone away. These kinds of protests never go away. Cubans are certainly aware of that.

    Btw, I was in Cuba more recently than ‘Moses’. On the subject of falling buildings, there is a big scandal taking place in Toronto which has become the ‘condo capital of North America’, building more condominium apartments than any other place. Brand new buildings and the windows keep popping out, crashing to the ground. The electrical wiring and water systems are also shoddy, many times having to be redone by the new occupants before they can live in them.

    Why? Greedy developers out to make a fast buck before there’s a housing market crash. Nobody is being charged and owners who try to take the developers to court are tied up in litigation and legal fees for years. Just another story from the naked city of capitalism.

  • “Griffin” trivializes the ongoing worldwide economic downturn as “some recent trouble”. Don’t worry if you don’t know what he’s writing about. Wikipedia refers to it by its more familiar names – the “2007–2012 global financial crisis”, also known as the “Global Financial Crisis” and “2008 financial crisis”.

    “It is considered by many economists to be the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. It resulted in the threat of total collapse from large financial institutions, the bailout of banks by national governments, and downturns in stock markets around the world. In many areas, the housing market also suffered, resulting in evictions, foreclosures and prolonged unemployment.

    “The crisis played a significant role in the failure of key businesses, declines in consumer wealth estimated in trillions of US dollars, and a downturn in economic activity leading to the 2008–2012 global recession and contributing to the European sovereign-debt crisis… The bursting of the U.S. housing bubble, which peaked in 2006, caused the values of securities tied to U.S. real estate pricing to plummet, damaging financial institutions globally.”

    Remarkably ‘Griffin’ refers to this capitalist debacle as “some recent trouble in Europe and the US”. Is he wearing rose-coloured glasses or is he trying to cover up a very real capitalist mess? If he is a 1 percenter, of course, his rosy world would not be affected. But there are 99% others who will not feel quite so content.

    Wikipedia notes that “The very rich lost relatively less in the crisis than the remainder of the population, widening the wealth gap between the economic class at the very top of the demographic pyramid and everyone else beneath them. ”

    ‘Griffin’ writes that “Cuba is still struggling to build a viable economy,” omitting a rather startling observation – remarkably little struggle is taking place in the capitalist world to rectify its mistakes. But if you are from the 1% class that didn’t suffer – the same class that calls the shots in the capitalist world, there is no motivation to rectify anything.

    The 99% bear the brunt as usual. The elite class uses economic crises – the “Shock Doctrine” strategy described so eloquently by my fellow Canadian, Naomi Klein – to cut government spending, exclusively affecting the 99%. It’s also used as an excuse to cut or freeze salaries and benefits. As I’m writing, I’m hearing news of Paul Ryan’s Republican convention speech calling for billions to be cut from US government spending.

    Flying in the face of conventional capitalist policy that you increase spending in times of unemployment, this will obviously create even more unemployment but the class that Ryan supports, in common with ALL US politicians that stand any chance of being elected, won’t be affected. Ryan stands a reasonable chance to be the next vice-president in the US according to polls.

    But Americans are free to elect whoever they want in the US according to ‘Griffin’. Why would they vote against their own best interests? Something doesn’t add up. The elections must only be a rubber stamp for validating what the elite want. You know, like in Cuba! Son-of-a-gun, isn’t that ironic.

    Is there something ‘Griffin’ isn’t telling us? Of course – he’s a propagandist. That what propagandists do. And why does he feel a need to sell his ideas so relentlessly? It’s a truism in marketing that the amount of money and effort spent selling a product is inversely proportional to its qualitative advantage over other products of its type. That is, if a product is the same or inferior to other products, then more marketing propaganda is required to sell it.

    That’s why in capitalist societies there is a preponderance of advertising for certain items, like tooth paste, cosmetics, automobiles and vacuum cleaners. We can add to that, capitalism.

    So the proliferation of folks like ‘Griffin’ who persistently troll the pages of HT provides us with graphic evidence that the economic system and government they are pumping is no better, and probably worse than what Cuba has. If it was inherently superior, there would be no need to sell it so relentlessly.

    At least Cuba is discussing and undertaking reforms whilst in the US, according to Wikipedia, ” the lack of fundamental changes in banking and financial markets, worries many market participants.”

    ‘Griffin’ is offering to bet that “the US will resolve their current economic troubles long before the Castros ever will solve Cuba’s.” I’m not a betting man, I tend to rely on reason and logic, not luck, but it would be a sucker’s bet, anyway. The Castros are senior citizens so the time frame is short. Folks like ‘Griffin’ seem to be obsessed with the Castros – or are they just offering us a convenient ‘bad guy’ to focus on? Everything I saw in Cuba and read in the pages of HT makes me strongly feel there will be a healthy future for Cuba long after their passing, and it won’t be as a lackey of the US empire.

    Sorry ‘Griffin’, I don’t think you stand much chance selling many vacuum cleaners at this door but you can keep on trying. It is certainly offering an excellent opportunity to point out the really bad things in capitalism.

  • the cuban economy is not shrinking. the standard of living is not falling. reuters had an economic report on cuba recently. tourism was up 12%. certainly, the economy is not growing fast enough to keep everyone happy. reuters news agency is not communist. starting from such a low base i believe tourism could be tripled in 5-7 years at most. it’s simple. the ministry of tourism should concentrate on new groups, not the old ones. there are plans to restore habana viejo with tourism profits. the roads looked pretty good to me. new trains from china have improved the service. the municipal buses have a problem. an embargo on spare parts for american engines in the buses. i constantly read gloom and doom on the cuban economy in havana times. only a couple of commenters + me are upbeat and looking at the bright side. i know many cubanos are doing it hard. i send paquettes to cuba with things suitable for making a living.

  • personally, i would prefer to live in a low crime country. i assume that moses refers to the islands. the british virgin islands is a tax haven with income derived from keeping the money of billionaires safe.

  • You have commented several times regarding the Occupy Movement. I have personally witnessed two separate but similar Occupy protests here in the US. First, in New York City (the original) and later in Oakland, California. Let me tell you, if you are hanging your hopes on this movement to initiate some sort of 99% revolt against the status quo, you are out of luck. Not that the Movement does not have merit but there is no “there, there”. Most of the protesters are street people. Sure there was a contingent of the disenchanted, unemployed and disenfranchised but it is by and large a group of rabble rousers looking to damage public property or simply mix it up with the police. This movement is nothing like the Anti-war movement of the 1970’s or the Civil Rights Movement of the ’60’s. There simply are not enough “true believers” to keep the momentum going. Yes the police have sometimes overreacted. But the reaction was due to public laws being broken (sleeping in the park, burning trash cans, etc.) and not to the principles behind the protest. I personally spoke to two policeman in NY who were completely sympathetic but said they had to clear the tents out of the park. Please don’t use the Occupy Movement as proof that the US system is coming to an end. One more thing, you do realize that apartment buildings are falling down almost every week in Havana and sometimes killing people? I was in Cuba in January when the building fell in Central Havana near my casa particular and killed four young people. The situation is pretty bad there. You obviously have not been to Cuba in awhile.

  • Your weak assertion that the problems facing the capitalist world are worse than this facing Cuba are easily dismissed. Europe and the US have some recent trouble, while Cuba has had 53 years of economic failure. US GDP dropped 7% during the financial crisis of 2008. Cuba’s GDP dropped 35% during the Special Period. Cuba is still struggling to build a viable economy, with no success.

    You may quake at the prospect of the results of the coming election. Oh my oh my! If only the Cuban people had the opportunity to worry about the results of their next election! But no worries there, Fidel & co made sure of that!

    I’ll bet you one thing: the US will resolve their current economic troubles long before the Castros ever will solve Cuba’s.

  • ‘Griffin’ writes that “Market driven systems have their own problems, but that does not contradict the fact that the centrally planned system in Cuba is a failure.” Here we go again, careful wording that dwells on Cuba’s failures in detail, acknowledging but ignoring ones in his own country which are on an order of magnitude, measured in lives and dollars, immensely more serious than Cuba’s.

    This one-sided nit-picking leads you to think that whilst not perfect, capitalism is a superior system, a dominant technique in capitalist propaganda. Self-propaganda as well, I might add, done to excuse in their own consciousness any flaws in thinking or outrages they have committed.

    We need to keep in mind the current state of the capitalist empire, possibly even rockier than that of Cuba. The signs abound – not only in the Occupy Movement phenomena but in the current US presidential election where at the moment there is an even possibility the results will see the most radical government it has ever had elected. The populace is dissatisfied and without having any possibility of achieving representation that serves their interests, it could easily lash out in the only way available to them short of armed insurrection.

    The scenario is well known, and has a name. We last saw its ascendancy in the 30’s. The signs are all around us, predicted by many wise heads if you look at what they have to say.

    Under the circumstances, anyone encouraging Cuba to join a sinking ship should be viewed in context. In the 50’s, a novel by Neville Shute, “On The Beach”, envisioned an island/continent in the South Pacific, Australia, as being the last refuge from a nuclear holocaust. Cuba may just be another island closer to home that will be the last refuge from the current capitalist holocaust, whose fallout can easily cause massive unrest – or worse.

  • Luis,

    Market driven systems have their own problems, but that does not contradict the fact that the centrally planned system in Cuba is a failure. After three decades of massive Soviet subsidies the Cuban govt failed to build a viable self-sustaining economy. Today the infrastructure is collapsing, economic output is shrinking and the standard of living is falling. Thousands of young people continue to flee the island every year. If it were not for Venezuelan oil Cuba would be in a 2nd Special Period by now. Raul can tinker at the margins all he likes, but he is not going to solve the Cuban problem.

  • This false God-market is so efficient that makes 1/3 of food production go to waste globally, in the USA it’s even higher – 40% according to FAO. A collection of examples of supposed ‘durable goods’ can be found here:

    The market is not rational when it comes to allocation of resources – it needs to expand, expand and expand in a positive feedback loop.

    But your remarks on the double currency are correct.

  • No it wouldn’t. Because in the way the GDP is calculated if the parallel market is included we’d have a positive net balance of (consumption – imports). Those “risks of purchase” you talk about are nothing much further than an economical LSD trip.

    And it’s interesting to note that many of the countries you listed are fiscal paradises. Of course their GDP per capita will be astronomic.

  • You say, brother Erasmo, that “I sense a growing discomfort, but one that shows no signs of evolving into any kind of new political consciousness.” Interestingly, this is the same lack of consciousness among the people that we in the US are having to confront.

    The “new political consciousness” you are referring to–and presumably are hoping for–would be a new political program for the development of a workable social and economic system, that is, authentic socialism.

    How can the people of any suffering country be expected to achieve a corrective political consciousness if the patriotic intellectuals–such as yourself–cannot or will not propose a new political program?

    In the US we are putting forward a program for a socialist cooperative republic. On the basis of this we hope to regroup the Left and win several hundred million people to our transformationary movement. We may fail in this, but at least we understand that the lack of consciousness of the people is the fault of the leaders.

    Perhaps you can take a look at our proposal for cooperative, state co-ownership socialism, and see if it might build the political consciousness of which you speak. Best wishes.

  • Taken right out of the CIA web site,right up your alley Moses.

  • Whether one looks at GDP or PPP the numbers are skewed by the fact Cuba has a two currency system. The effect of the two currencies distorts the perceived value of the foreign currency economy, making it appear to be productive and efficient, and undervalues the local peso economy making it appear unproductive. The classic problem of the centrally planned economy is the inefficient allocation of resources. The two-currency system extends that problem while making it even more difficult to analyze or correct it.

    The economic reforms introduced by Raul Castro will not fix this basic contradiction. In fact, the distortions will continue to grow. The reforms are not true market liberalization, but merely a scheme through which foreign currency will flow into the state coffers and into the pockets of the new elite. The average Cuban will not benefit as the local peso will continue to lose value, purchasing power will shrink along with their rations.

  • Luis, including items purchased on the black market would WORSEN Cuba’s ranking in any objective analysis using PPP figures because black market goods must include the purchase price the costs associated with the risks of purchase. In many cases this risk is obviously immeasurable. At the very least it skews the PPP off the chart. Cuba ranks lower then Barbados, Aruba, Trinidad and Tobago,Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Chile, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Curacao, St. Kitts, St. Marten, Mexico, Virgin Islands, Panama, Grenada, St. Lucia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Peru and your beautiful Brazil among many other developing and underdeveloped nations. – .

    Objectively speaking.

  • According to your reasoning, if goods and services provided by the “well-established black market” were put into account, Cuba would be better-off ranked. And it is not accurate to say that “Using PPP figures, Cuba compares poorly with most third-world countries” because heck, Brazil is only 9 positions ahead of Cuba in terms of GDP (PPP) per capita (!) –

    Be objective for a change.

  • GDP figures out of Cuba are absolutely worthless because Cuba fudges the labor costs inputs which are used to compute productions costs.The GDP numbers that Cuba generates do not reflect the real costs associated with production. Using Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) numbers to compare Cuban economic health is still highly inaccurate because of the well-established black market that is integral to Cuban life. Still, as a means to compare it is better than nothing. Using PPP figures, Cuba compares poorly with most third-world countries and worse, obviously, with developed economies. Still, the lack of a political capacity and will to change the system among average Cubans assures the totalitarian regime of little resistance to the snail’s pace of economic reforms. The only good news is no one lives forever.

  • The GDP itself says little about purchasing power. In Brazil we in the 80’s had one of the largest GDP’s in the world but the purchasing power of the majority of the population was laughable. One must look at the GDP per capita according to the PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) to get a slightly better idea of the situation. Even so, the data from ecured shows that for the last 3 years Cuba’s GDP’s growth was very, very low…

    Ah and the ‘blame’ of those letters that are selected for publishing aren’t very different from our newspapers. The tone is the same, nobody says a thing about the system – the difference is that the problems are target at ‘corrupt politicians’ and the ‘low-educated masses’.

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