Cuba Faces Crisis with Depleted Resources and Uncertainty

By Rogelio M. Diaz Moreno  (photos: Juan Suarez)

HAVANA TIMES — Over the last few days, the Cuban landscape has been clouded over by news about economic crises, migration problems and even sport delegation scandals. Today, we’re witnesses to a display of problems and reactions which, like few times before, reveal this obsolete system’s inherent limits and malformations.

It’s already been a few weeks since workplaces were given instructions about how to deal with the new economic hardships we face. Orientations about the cutbacks in resources, activities and timetables indicate that this Special Period is being drawn out, which some people still refuse to accept as they stand firm in their belief that we’ve already overcome this crisis. Finally, Cuban Economy Minister Marino Murillo officially informed the National Assembly of the People’s Power about the financial restrictions that were on the horizon.

Those who have recently landed on planet Earth may ask how it’s possible for a supposedly “planned economy” like ours, to be taken by surprise in this way. The conflicts in Venezuela, our main ally, have been developing for quite some time now, and our government should have had the foresight to plan how they’d deal with its repercussions.

Similarly, they’ve also known for quite some time now that oil prices have dropped and that its derivatives account for the most sold product by our country. All of the factors that had some influence in the negative outcome of the last sugar harvest, including the bad weather, were foreseeable.

A few years ago, the government promised us that the flow of capital that would result from the Foreign Investment law and the free trade zone of Mariel would lead to the successful development of Cuba. But it never materialized. The US blockade or embargo has been lifted slightly, but it still exists. And if the national financial administration in Havana continues to follow the disastrous plan of action they always do, it will only result in the same resounding demise; or rather, we’ll never be able to stand up on our own two feet.

Amidst all of this, sports leaders have also passed by the National Assembly to talk about how wonderful Cuba will perform at the upcoming Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro. The vice-president of the Cuban Sports Institute, Jorge Polo, spoke cheerfully about athletes, different sports and categories, to the same legislators who had sat and listened to everything about the crisis. And nobody in the auditorium questioned the cost to maintain the high performance sports program, including the constant trips of Cuban delegations across the world, and the expenditure on expensive sports that aren’t very popular amongst the people.

If there had been a hint of democracy in budget allocations, maybe more pressing issues in everyday life would receive the important financial help they need. For example, our rundown hydraulic network, which continues to lose half of the water pumped towards thirsty towns.

At the end of the day, it’s not like the Cuban Parliament members can resolve a lot. At the most, out of modesty, they could abstain from validating, with their presence, an entity that not even the Cuban government authorities respect, like the outraged journalist Francisco Rodriguez Cruz noted.

The new blunders reveal the lack of foundations these programs dressed up by the local elite have, aimed at a progress that they’re never able to quite reach. Their inability to create overall progress can be seen in multiple ways. Agricultural produce is becoming more and more expensive or it’s sold on the black market, when they try to fix prices. Entire harvests have been lost in the furrows for the umpteenth time, in order to refute the hypothesis that increasing production will automatically lower prices.

The loss of qualified professionals robs the King of his fundamental resources, which the boasting facade of a prosperous and sustainable socialism has to conform by 2030. Quite simply, only a few of us are willing to wait that long, 71 long years after the day they promised the Cuban people happiness, when the Revolution succeeded.

If that wasn’t enough, the way in which power is distributed over different levels of government, only facilitates corruption. This diversion of resources, financial fraud and other illegal activities are our daily bread, which the desperate comptroller campaigns do nothing about. Calls to a working class consciousness are even less effective, as it is completely alienated and controlled by the leading protagonists of corruption.

Some low lever leaders and young intellectuals within the system warn, in fits of sincerity or courage, that the system is reaching its end. And in response, the government  reinforces socio-political restrictions. This is the typical government response, but it doesn’t only apply to these kinds of daring acts. At times of economic boom, maybe they would have let it slide. But now we’re dealing with a financial crisis.

Therefore, this response is the last and best display of the ruling elite’s inability to channel the hopes and needs of a suffering people who have already made all the sacrifices they can. They order us to be silent. To wait for the circus that is the Olympics in order to distract ourselves from problems at home. They tell us that we’re not allowed to speak, unless it’s to discuss how bad the world is outside of Cuba.

With a bit of luck, we’ll slowly continue to internalize this “normal” capitalism law of the jungle, by ourselves, and without causing the government too much of a headache, while the last historic figures leave and the new generation of powerful men and women greedily take to the podium.

20 thoughts on “Cuba Faces Crisis with Depleted Resources and Uncertainty

  • Many small shop owners and farmer would like to work with people like me from Canada. We are working with the Cuban goverment but the Cuban goverment has not given us the freedom to bring in items needed like seeds fertilizer batteries small equipment solar cells and food processing and refridgeration equipment 3 wheeled bikes e assist. Stephen Webster . 5193578686

  • OK, I’ll take the bait. What did Mark Twain say….?

  • Moses, I am going to start heeding the advice of Mark Twain, which is what I should have done many responses back.

  • How do you explain what happens to the once “barefoot and happy” Cubans once they leave Cuba? Why don’t they remain “simple folk” once they get to Miami or Madrid? In fact, when they leave Holguin for Havana, the changes take place. The problem with people who think like you do is that you don’t want to believe that you are an elitist. Your heart is probably in the right place. But to assume that poor people are happy to be poor because they don’t sit around and mope all day long is ignorant. Cubans want iPhones and big flatscreen TVs just as much as anyone else.

  • Moses, I find it incredulous that you sit in California and tell me what I see with my own two eyes and experience what I do while living in Cuba. Did you even look at the photos?

    Your playing the race card simply does not work.

  • Happiness has always and should always be measured by the freedom one has to pursue their individual goals. In Cuba, this individual freedom is severely curtailed. As I shared with Bob, to assume that Cubans want any less than you do is disgusting and elitist.

  • Rogelio mentions the lack of foreign investment as one of the factors slowing development in Cuba. He blames the continuing US embargo for this situation. However, the US embargo doesn’t prevent investors form Europe, Canada. Latin America or Asia from investing. So what is holding them back?

    The factors holding back foreign investment are the heavy weight of Cuban government regulations, the policy of forcing every foreign investor to take on the Cuban military as a silent partner in the venture, and the limited ability to take profits earned on the investment out of Cuba. Add to that the uncertainty and risk that the Castro regime may at anytime seize the assets and personal of the foreign investors. I’m referring to what has happened to British, French and Canadian investors over the past few years.

    Foreigners looking for a good return on investment have better options to chose from than investing with the Castro regime.

  • Rich, you are confused and incorrect. The vote at the UN includes North Korea, Syria, China, Venezuela and several others which like Cuba have propaganda departments. They cannot possible be properly described as: “non-propagandized”. Surely as a Republican you understand that those countries do not permit freedom of speech. How the US manages “feasting off the island” is to me a mystery. is that why obesity in the US is ‘expanding’?

  • Great foto essay, Bob. And I also whole-heartedly agree with your assessment of the Cuban mind-set in relation to there quality of life on the island. That continues to be my experience too in the barrio where I live part time. The Cuban people are far from “living in hell”. It’s unfortunate that some regular posters here on HT find it absolutely impossible to measure happiness in anything other than dolares y centavos.

  • Bob, with respect, your perspective disgusts me. Its analogous to what well-meaning white Europeans would say when visiting southern plantations in the antebellum South. Standing on shaded verandas sipping mint teas, these overfed whites would see the black slave singing while working in the hot and humid weather and remark, “They emphasize less directly measurable aspects of life such as social structures, care of the very bottom economic tier, and enjoyment of the basic aspects of life. Undoubtedly, part of this comes from the [African] cultural trait of focusing on positives while de-emphasizing negative aspects”. Cubans want exactly what you want. If given the opportunity to have it. If that were not the case, explain what happens to Cubans the second they arrive in Miami?

  • You make it seem as if the Castros are innocent bystanders. THEY ARE DICTATORS. We can disagree about the relative impact of the US embargo but surely you are not in support of the dictatorship. Surely, you understand that the Castros, through failed central management of the economy have failed to meet many of the most basic needs of the Cuban people. Basic needs like food and shelter. Have I overestimated you?

  • The common factor in the countries you list Ben is that they were unfortunately colonized by Spain which has an unmatched record of genocidal colonialism and as I have previously pointed out, the results can be seen today in the economic performances of those countries. Cuba also suffered Spanish rule for over four centuries and a succession of Cubans led revolutions against the Spanish.
    Just as you list a succession of former Spanish colonies in recognizing the evil that bestrode them, I list countries that have been beset by communism and/or socialism. There relevance is that they are allies of the Castro regime. You provide me with opportunity to present a more complete list of those “friends and allies” They include:
    Bolivia, Argentina (until Macri was recently elected putting Argentina in the CELAC and ALBA doghouse),Brazil which paid $5 billion to build Mariel, Equador, Uruguay, North Korea, Syria, China, Venezuela and Russia.
    Syria and North Korea are particularly significant in that they are family dictatorships like Cuba.
    Have you examined the countries (I think thirteen in total), where the Castro communist regime intervened militarily? You must admit it takes gall for Fidel and Raul Castro to criticize the US for military intervention when examining their own military history and their support for the actions of the USSR and Putin’s Russia.
    Finally a question based upon your name, is the Mennonite Church still opposed to communism?

  • I think it is more appropriate to compare Cuba with countries such as Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Latin American countries all, with their drug cartels, corruption, abject poverty, violence and crime I’ll take Cuba hands down. I think the Cuban Government is doing the best they can under the circumstances. Providing quality health care and education to all its citizens. Even Mexico has very serious problems with drugs, corruption,violence and crime which they have not been able to bring under control. Your hatred of Cuba’s Socialist System knows no bounds. I always get a chuckle how you like to though Syria, Zimbabwe and North Korea into the mix.

  • Rogelio’s words do a good job of describing the economic problem and relating it to the political situation. Unquestionably the Achilles heel of the Revolution is it’s overall economic performance. If one wants to find fault with the Cuban government, they only have to aim at the bullseye that their overall economic performance has painted on their back.

    However, I see the Cuban people assigning a lower priority to economics than they do to quality of life. It is not all about money to them the way so many foreigners evaluate everything. Sure they would like to have a better economic situation but that is a universal truism in all countries. They emphasize less directly measurable aspects of life such as social structures, care of the very bottom economic tier, and enjoyment of the basic aspects of life. Undoubtedly, part of this comes from the Cuban cultural trait of focusing on positives while de-emphasizing negative aspects. Certainly economics is not their only priority or even their top priority. In my view, that is why I see so many happy content Cubans and not the “living in hell” scenario some paint here.

    This overall happiness over quality of life seems to cause a satisfaction with their government in spite of economic problems. Here is a 2:21 minute, 41 photo slide show I did at the Primero de Mayo festivities for my friends in Cueto.

  • The grand socialist experiment failed some type ago. Just part of the transition to something else.

  • An excellent article. Small, non-targeted nations also have problems. But Cuba is a small nation targeted for over a half-century by nefarious exiles and their self-serving sycophants who hide behind the skirts of the world’s superpower to inflict turmoil on a vulnerable, near-by population while feasting off the island on the spoils. Neither realms of one-sided propaganda nor intimidation will ever manage to disprove those basic facts. In the UN each year the non-propagandized world votes 191-to-2 in support of an analysis that shames America and democracy, but the benefactors could care less.

  • That idea of comparing the plight of Cubans with countries with even worse conditions such as Zimbabwe, North Korea, Syria and now Venezuela, and you Dan suggest the Dominican Republic makes the Castro family regime look less repressive. It mimics the frying pan being preferable to the fire. With that approach in mind, I note that Cuba is now no longer listed as one of the ten most censored countries in the world, having risen to become eleventh! Real success!

  • You pose a reasonable question Dan. Using Cuba as equivalent to a plimsoll line, whether other countries are as likely to sink.
    Certainly there are other countries in an even worse position than Cuba, for example Zimbabwe, Syria and now Venezuela. So I guess that you are correct in that Cubans ought to be relieved that things could be even worse than they are?
    But, it is possible that they will become so under the proven inept incompetent Castro communist regime which has had fifty seven years preparing for even more economic failures.

  • I’m not so sure. Look at the Dominican Republic. They got rid of Trujillo, (and then Johnson intervened), but they are an electoral, capitalist democracy, not subject to an embargo, with lots of remittances and tourism from the US, and yet, I doubt that life there is any easier than in Cuba. They have blackouts and balseros as well without the social protections the Cubans have. The US is flooded w/ undocumented Dominicans, just like the Cubans, with the only differences that the Dominicans are less educated and healthy and can’t walk into USCIS and ask for a greencard.

  • Wow! Powerfully written analysis. As I have commented for years on this blog, the Castros revolution is a failure. While some good has come out of it, it is quite likely that Cuba today would be much better off had the Castros failed to overthrow the horrible Batista dictatorship. That dictatorship, like so many others in Latin America, would not have survived much longer than it did. Of course there is no way of knowing if what would have come after it would have been better or worse for Cuba. What is clear is that the biological and political clock is running out on the Castros regime. It’s imminent demise can not come soon enough.

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